The first design of this epistle seems to have been, to apprize Timothy of what had occurred during the imprisonment of the apostle, and to request him to come to Rome. But being uncertain whether he should be suffered to live to see him, Paul gives a variety of advices and encouragements, for the faithful discharge of his ministerial duties. As this was a private epistle written to St. Paul's most intimate friend, under the miseries of imprisonment, and in the near prospect of death, it shows the temper and character of the apostle, and contains convincing proofs that he sincerely believed the doctrines he preached.
Paul expresses great affection for Timothy. (1-5) Exhorts him to improve his spiritual gifts. (6-14) Tells of many who basely deserted him; but speaks with affection of Onesiphorus. (15-18)
Verses 1-5 The promise of eternal life to believers in Christ Jesus, is the leading subject of ministers who are employed according to the will of God. The blessings here named, are the best we can ask for our beloved friends, that they may have peace with God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Whatever good we do, God must have the glory. True believers have in every age the same religion as to substance. Their faith is unfeigned; it will stand the trial, and it dwells in them as a living principle. Thus pious women may take encouragement from the success of Lois and Eunice with Timothy, who proved so excellent and useful a minister. Some of the most worthy and valuable ministers the church of Christ has been favoured with, have had to bless God for early religious impressions made upon their minds by the teaching of their mothers or other female relatives.
Verses 6-14 God has not given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, of courage and resolution, to meet difficulties and dangers; the spirit of love to him, which will carry us through opposition. And the spirit of a sound mind, quietness of mind. The Holy Spirit is not the author of a timid or cowardly disposition, or of slavish fears. We are likely to bear afflictions well, when we have strength and power from God to enable us to bear them. As is usual with Paul, when he mentions Christ and his redemption, he enlarges upon them; so full was he of that which is all our salvation, and ought to be all our desire. The call of the gospel is a holy call, making holy. Salvation is of free grace. This is said to be given us before the world began, that is, in the purpose of God from all eternity; in Christ Jesus, for all the gifts that come from God to sinful man, come in and through Christ Jesus alone. And as there is so clear a prospect of eternal happiness by faith in Him, who is the Resurrection and the Life, let us give more diligence in making his salvation sure to our souls. Those who cleave to the gospel, need not be ashamed, the cause will bear them out; but those who oppose it, shall be ashamed. The apostle had trusted his life, his soul, and eternal interests, to the Lord Jesus. No one else could deliver and secure his soul through the trials of life and death. There is a day coming, when our souls will be inquired after. Thou hadst a soul committed to thee; how was it employed? in the service of sin, or in the service of Christ? The hope of the lowest real Christian rests on the same foundation as that of the great apostle. He also has learned the value and the danger of his soul; he also has believed in Christ; and the change wrought in his soul, convinces the believer that the Lord Jesus will keep him to his heavenly kingdom. Paul exhorts Timothy to hold fast the Holy Scriptures, the substance of solid gospel truth in them. It is not enough to assent to the sound words, but we must love them. The Christian doctrine is a trust committed to us; it is of unspeakable value in itself, and will be of unspeakable advantage to us. It is committed to us, to be preserved pure and entire, yet we must not think to keep it by our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; and it will not be gained by those who trust in their own hearts, and lean to their own understandings.
Verses 15-18 The apostle mentions the constancy of Onesiphorus; he oft refreshed him with his letters, and counsels, and comforts, and was not ashamed of him. A good man will seek to do good. The day of death and judgment is an awful day. And if we would have mercy then, we must seek for it now of the Lord. The best we can ask, for ourselves or our friends, is, that the Lord will grant that we and they may find mercy of the Lord, when called to pass out of time into eternity, and to appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
1. This Epistle is the last testament and swan-like death song of Paul [BENGEL].
according to the promise of life . . . in Christ--Paul's apostleship is in order to carry into effect this promise. Compare "according to the faith . . . in hope of eternal life . . . promise," &c. ( Titus 1:1 Titus 1:2 ). This "promise of life in Christ" (compare 2 Timothy 1:10 , 2 Timothy 2:8 ) was needed to nerve Timothy to fortitude amidst trials, and to boldness in undertaking the journey to Rome, which would be attended with much risk ( 2 Timothy 1:8 ).
2. my dearly beloved son--In 1 Timothy 1:2 , and Titus 1:4 , written at an earlier period than this Epistle, the expression used is in the Greek, "my genuine son." ALFORD sees in the change of expression an intimation of an altered tone as to Timothy, more of mere love, and less of confidence, as though Paul saw m him a want of firmness, whence arose the need of his stirring up afresh the faith and grace in Him ( 2 Timothy 1:6 ). But this seems to me not justified by the Greek word agapetos, which implies the attachment of reasoning and choice, on the ground of merit in the one "beloved," not of merely instinctive love. See TRENCH [Greek Synonyms of the New Testament].
3. I thank--Greek, "I feel gratitude to God."
whom I serve from my forefathers--whom I serve ( Romans 1:9 ) as did my forefathers. He does not mean to put on the same footing the Jewish and Christian service of God; but simply to assert his own conscientious service of God as he had received it from his progenitors (not Abraham, Isaac, &c., whom he calls "the fathers," not "progenitors" as the Greek is here; Romans 9:5 ). The memory of those who had gone before to whom he is about to be gathered, is now, on the eve of death, pleasant to him; hence also, he calls to mind the faith of the mother and grandmother of Timothy; as he walks in the faith of his forefathers ( Acts 23:1 , 24:14 , Acts 26:6 Acts 26:7 , 28:20 ), so Timothy should persevere firmly in the faith of his parent and grandparent. Not only Paul, but the Jews who reject Christ, forsake the faith of their forefathers, who looked for Christ; when they accept Him, the hearts of the children shall only be returning to the faith of their forefathers ( Malachi 4:6 , Luke 1:17 , Romans 11:23 Romans 11:24 Romans 11:28 ). Probably Paul had, in his recent defense, dwelt on this topic, namely, that he was, in being a Christian, only following his hereditary faith.
that . . . I have remembrance of thee--"how unceasing I make my mention concerning thee" (compare Philemon 1:4 ). The cause of Paul's feeling thankful is, not that he remembers Timothy unceasingly in his prayers, but for what Timothy is in faith ( 2 Timothy 1:5 ) and graces; compare Romans 1:8 Romans 1:9 , from which supply the elliptical sentence thus, "I thank God (for thee, for God is my witness) whom I serve . . . that (or how) without ceasing I have remembrance (or make mention) of thee," &c.
4. desiring--Greek, "with yearning as for one much missed."
mindful of thy tears--not only at our parting ( Acts 20:37 ), but also often when under pious feelings.
that I may be filled with joy--to be joined with "desiring to see thee" ( Romans 1:11 Romans 1:12 , 15:32 ).
5. When I call to remembrance--This increased his "desire to see" Timothy. The oldest manuscripts read, "When I called to remembrance"; implying that some recent incident (perhaps the contrasted cowardice of the hypocrite Demas, who forsook him) had reminded him of the sincerity of Timothy's faith.
faith that is in thee--ALFORD translates, "that was in thee." He remembers Timothy's faith in the past as a fact; its present existence in him is only matter of his confident persuasion or hope.
which--Greek, "such as."
dwelt--"made its dwelling" or abode ( John 14:23 ). The past tense implies they were now dead.
first--before it dwelt in thee. She was the furthest back of the progenitors of Timothy whom Paul knew.
mother Eunice--a believing Jewess; but his father was a Greek, that is, a heathen ( Acts 16:1 ). The faith of the one parent sanctified the child ( 2 Timothy 3:15 , 1 Corinthians 7:14 ). She was probably converted at Paul's first visit to Lystra ( Acts 14:6 ). It is an undesigned coincidence, and so a mark of truth, that in Acts 16:1 the belief of the mother alone is mentioned, just as here praise is bestowed on the faith of the mother, while no notice is taken of the father [PALEY, Horæ Paulinæ].
and--Greek, "but," that is, notwithstanding appearances [ALFORD].
persuaded that--it dwells, or it shall dwell "in thee also." The mention of the faith of his mother and grandmother is designed as an incentive to stir up his faith.
6. Wherefore--Greek, "For which cause," namely, because thou hast inherited, didst once possess, and I trust ("am persuaded") still dost possess, such unfeigned faith [ALFORD].
stir up--literally, "rekindle," "revive the spark of"; the opposite of "quench" or "extinguish" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:19 ). Paul does not doubt the existence of real faith in Timothy, but he desires it to be put into active exercise. Timothy seems to have become somewhat remiss from being so long without Paul ( 2 Timothy 2:22 ).
gift of God--the spiritual grace received for his ministerial office, either at his original ordination, or at his consecration to the particular office of superintending the Ephesian Church fearlessness, power, love, and a sound mind ( 2 Timothy 1:7 ).
by the putting on of my hands--In 1 Timothy 4:14 , it is "with [not by] the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." The apostle was chief in the ordination, and to him "BY" is applied. The presbytery were his assistants; so "with," implying merely accompaniment, is said of them. Paul was the instrument in Timothy's ordination and reception of the grace then conferred; the presbyters were the concurrent participants in the act of ordination; so the Greek, "dia" and "meta." So in ordinations by a bishop in our days, he does the principal act; they join in laying on hands with him.
7. For, &c.--implying that Timothy needed the exhortation "to stir up the gift of God in him," being constitutionally "timid": "For God did not give us (so the Greek, namely, at our ordination or consecration) the spirit of fear." The spirit which He gave us, was not the spirit of timidity (literally, "cowardice," which is weakness), but of "power" (exhibited in a fearless "testimony" for Christ, 2 Timothy 1:8 ). "Power is the invariable accompaniment of the gift of the Holy Ghost. Luke 24:49 , Acts 1:8 ; compare Acts 6:6 , "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," with 2 Timothy 1:8 , "full of faith and power." Fear is the result of "the spirit of bondage" ( Romans 8:15 ). Fear within exaggerates the causes of fear without. "The spirit of power" is the spirit of man dwelt in by the Spirit of God imparting power; this power "casteth out fear" from ourselves, and stimulates us to try to cast it out of others ( 1 John 4:18 ).
love--which moves the believer while "speaking the truth" with power, when giving his testimony for Christ ( 2 Timothy 1:8 ), at the same time to do so "in love" ( Ephesians 4:15 ).
a sound mind--The Greek, is rather, "the bringing of men to a sound mind" [WAHL]. BENGEL supports English Version, "a sound mind," or "sober-mindedness"; a duty to which a young man like Timothy especially needed to be exhorted ( 2 Timothy 2:22 , 1 Timothy 4:12 , Titus 2:4 Titus 2:6 ). So Paul urges him, in 2 Timothy 2:4 , to give up worldly entanglements, which as thorns ( Luke 8:14 ) choke the word. These three gifts are preferable to any miraculous powers whatever.
8. therefore--seeing that God hath given us such a spirit, not that of fear.
Be not thou . . . ashamed--I agree with ELLICOTT, in opposition to ALFORD, that the Greek subjunctive here, with the negative, implies action completed at one time, not continued action, which the present imperative would express; thus implying that Timothy had not decidedly yet evinced such feeling of shame; though I think, Paul, amidst the desertion of others who once promised fair, and from being aware of Timothy's constitutional timidity him against the possibility of unchristian dereliction of duty as to bold confession of Christ. Shame ( 2 Timothy 1:8 ) is the companion of fear ( 2 Timothy 1:7 ); if fear be overcome, false shame flees [BENGEL]. Paul himself ( 2 Timothy 1:12 ), and Onesiphorus ( 2 Timothy 1:16 ), were instances of fearless profession removing false shame. He presents in contrast sad instances of fear and shame ( 2 Timothy 1:15 ).
of the testimony of our Lord--of the testimony which thou art bound to give in the cause of our Lord; he says "our," to connect Timothy and himself together in the testimony which both should give for their common Lord. The testimony which Christ gave before Pilate ( 1 Timothy 6:12 1 Timothy 6:13 ), is an incentive to the believer that he should, after His Lord's example, witness a good testimony or confession.
nor of me his prisoner--The cause of God's servants is the cause of God Himself ( Ephesians 4:1 ). Timothy might easily be tempted to be ashamed of one in prison, especially as not only worldly shame, but great risk, attended any recognition of Paul the prisoner.
be thou partaker--with me.
of the gospel--rather, as Greek, "for the Gospel," that is, suffered for the Gospel ( 2 Timothy 2:3-5 , 1:13 ).
according to the power of God--exhibited in having saved and called us ( 2 Timothy 1:9 ). God who has done the greater act of power (that is, saved us), will surely do the less (carry us safe through afflictions borne for the Gospel). "Think not that thou hast to bear these afflictions by thine own power; nay, it is by the power of God. It was a greater exercise of power than His making the heaven, His persuading the world to embrace salvation" [CHRYSOSTOM].
9. Who . . . called us--namely, God the Father ( Galatians 1:6 ). The having "saved us" in His eternal purpose of "grace, given us in Christ before the world began," precedes his actual "calling" of us in due time with a call made effective to us by the Holy Spirit; therefore, "saved us" comes before "called us" ( Romans 8:28-30 ).
holy calling--the actual call to a life of holiness. Hebrews 3:1 , "heavenly calling" [TITTMANN, Greek Synonyms of the New Testament]; whereas we were sinners and enemies ( Ephesians 1:18 , 4:1 ). The call comes wholly from God and claims us wholly for God. "Holy" implies the separation of believers from the rest of the world unto God.
not according to--not having regard to our works in His election and calling of grace ( Romans 9:11 , Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:9 ).
his own purpose--The origination of salvation was of His own purpose, flowing from His own goodness, not for works of ours coming first, but wholly because of His own gratuitous, electing love [THEODORET and CALVIN].
grace . . . given us--in His everlasting purpose, regarded as the same as when actually accomplished in due time.
in Christ--believers being regarded by God as IN HIM, with whom the Father makes the covenant of salvation ( Ephesians 1:4 , 3:11 ).
before the world began--Greek, "before the times (periods) of ages"; the enduring ages of which no end is contemplated ( 1 Corinthians 2:7 , Ephesians 3:11 ).
10. But . . . now . . . manifest--in contrast to its concealment heretofore in the eternal purpose of God "before the world began" ( 2 Timothy 1:9 , Colossians 1:16 , Titus 1:2 Titus 1:3 ).
appearing--the visible manifestation in the flesh.
abolished death--Greek, "taken away the power from death" [TITTMANN]. The Greek article before "death" implies that Christ abolished death, not only in some particular instance, but in its very essence, being, and idea, as well as in all its aspects and consequences ( John 11:26 , Romans 8:2 Romans 8:38 , 1 Corinthians 15:26 1 Corinthians 15:55 , Hebrews 2:14 ). The carrying out of the abolition of death into full effect is to be at the resurrection ( Revelation 20:14 ). The death of the body meanwhile is but temporary, and is made no account of by Christ and the apostles.
brought . . . to light--making visible by the Gospel what was before hidden in God's purpose.
life--of the Spirit, acting first on the soul here, about to act on the body also at the resurrection.
immortality--Greek, "incorruptibility" of the new life, not merely of the risen body [ALFORD], ( Romans 8:11 ).
through--by means of the Gospel, which brings to light the life and immortality purposed by God from eternity, but manifested now first to man by Christ, who in His own resurrection has given the pledge of His people's final triumph over death through Him. Before the Gospel revelation from God, man, by the light of nature, under the most favorable circumstances, had but a glimmering idea of the possibility of a future being of the soul, but not the faintest idea of the resurrection of the body ( Acts 17:18 Acts 17:32 ). If Christ were not "the life," the dead could never live; if He were not the resurrection, they could never rise; had He not the keys of hell and death ( Revelation 1:18 ), we could never break through the bars of death or gates of hell [BISHOP PEARSON].
11. Whereunto--For the publication of which Gospel.
I am appointed--Greek, "I was appointed."
teacher of the Gentiles--( 1 Timothy 2:7 ). He brings forward his own example in this verse and 2 Timothy 1:12 , as a pattern for Timothy, as a public "preacher," an "apostle," or missionary from place to place, and a "teacher" in private instructing His flock with patient perseverance.
12. For the which cause--For the Gospel cause of which I was appointed a preacher ( 2 Timothy 1:10 2 Timothy 1:11 ).
I also suffer--besides my active work as a missionary. ELLICOTT translates, "I suffer even these things"; the sufferings attendant on my being a prisoner ( 2 Timothy 1:8 2 Timothy 1:15 ).
I am not ashamed--neither be thou ( 2 Timothy 1:8 ).
for--Confidence as to the future drives away shame [BENGEL].
I know--though the world knows Him not ( John 10:14 , 17:25 ).
whom--I know what a faithful, promise-keeping God He is ( 2 Timothy 2:13 ). It is not, I know how I have believed, but, I know WHOM I have believed; a feeble faith may clasp a strong Saviour.
believed--rather, "trusted"; carrying out the metaphor of a depositor depositing his pledge with one whom he trusts.
am persuaded--( Romans 8:38 ).
he is able--in spite of so many foes around me.
that which I have committed unto him--Greek, "my deposit"; the body, soul, and spirit, which I have deposited in God's safe keeping ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23 , 1 Peter 4:19 ). So Christ Himself in dying ( Luke 23:46 ). "God deposits with us His word; we deposit with God our spirit" [GROTIUS]. There is one deposit (His revelation) committed by God to us, which we ought to keep ( 2 Timothy 1:13 2 Timothy 1:14 ) and transmit to others ( 2 Timothy 2:2 ); there is another committed by God to us, which we should commit to His keeping, namely, ourselves and our heavenly portion.
that day--the day of His appearing ( 2 Timothy 1:18 , 2 Timothy 4:8 ).
13. Hold fast the form--rather as Greek, "Have (that is, keep) a pattern of sound (Greek, 'healthy') words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love." "Keep" suits the reference to a deposit in the context. The secondary position of the verb in the Greek forbids our taking it so strongly as English Version, "Hold fast." The Greek for "form" is translated "pattern" in 1 Timothy 1:16 , the only other passage where it occurs. Have such a pattern drawn from my sound words, in opposition to the unsound doctrines so current at Ephesus, vividly impressed (WAHL translates it "delineation"; the verb implies "to make a lively and lasting impress") on thy mind.
in faith and love--the element IN which my sound words had place, and in which thou art to have the vivid impression of them as thy inwardly delineated pattern, moulding conformably thy outward profession. So nearly BENGEL explains, 1 Timothy 3:9 .
14. Translate as Greek, "That goodly deposit keep through the Holy Ghost," namely, "the sound words which I have committed to thee" ( 2 Timothy 1:13 , 2 Timothy 2:2 ).
in us--in all believers, not merely in you and me. The indwelling Spirit enables us to keep from the robbers of the soul the deposit of His word committed to us by God.
15. all they which are in Asia--Proconsular Asia; "all who are there now, when they were in Rome (not 'be' or 'are,' but) turned from me" then; were "ashamed of my chain," in contrast to ONESIPHORUS; did not stand with me but forsook me ( 2 Timothy 4:16 ). It is possible that the occasion of their turning from him was at his apprehension in Nicopolis, whither they had escorted him on his way to Rome, but from which they turned back to Asia. A hint to Timothy, now in Asia, not to be like them, but to imitate rather ONESIPHORUS, and to come to him ( 2 Timothy 4:21 ).
Phygellus and Hermogenes--specified perhaps, as being persons from whom such pusillanimous conduct could least be expected; or, as being well known to Timothy, and spoken of before in conversations between him and Paul, when the latter was in Asia Minor.
16. The Lord give mercy--even as ONESIPHORUS had abounded in works of mercy.
the house of Onesiphorus--He himself was then absent from Ephesus, which accounts for the form of expression ( 2 Timothy 4:19 ). His household would hardly retain his name after the master was dead, as BENGEL supposes him to have been. Nowhere has Paul prayers for the dead, which is fatal to the theory, favored by ALFORD also, that he was dead. God blesses not only the righteous man himself, but all his household.
my chain--Paul in the second, as in his first imprisonment, was bound by a chain to the soldier who guarded him.
17. found me--in the crowded metropolis. So in turn "may he find mercy of the Lord in that day" when the whole universe shall be assembled.
18. grant unto him--as well as "unto his house" ( 2 Timothy 1:16 ).
the Lord--who rewards a kindness done to His disciples as if done to Himself ( Matthew 25:45 ).
of--from the Lord; "the Lord" is emphatically put instead of "from Himself," for solemnity and emphasis ( 2 Thessalonians 3:5 ).
in how many things--"how many acts of ministry he rendered."
unto me--omitted in the oldest manuscripts, so that the "ministered" may include services rendered to others as well as to Paul.
very well--rather as Greek, "Thou knowest better" (than I can tell thee, seeing that thou art more of a regular resident at Ephesus).