The apostle exhorts Timothy to persevere with diligence, like a soldier, a combatant, and a husbandman. (1-7) Encouraging him by assurances of a happy end of his faithfulness. (8-13) Warnings to shun vain babblings and dangerous errors. (14-21) Charges to flee youthful lusts, and to minister with zeal against error, but with meekness of spirit. (22-26)
Verses 1-7 As our trials increase, we need to grow stronger in that which is good; our faith stronger, our resolution stronger, our love to God and Christ stronger. This is opposed to our being strong in our own strength. All Christians, but especially ministers, must be faithful to their Captain, and resolute in his cause. The great care of a Christian must be to please Christ. We are to strive to get the mastery of our lusts and corruptions, but we cannot expect the prize unless we observe the laws. We must take care that we do good in a right manner, that our good may not be spoken evil of. Some who are active, spend their zeal about outward forms and doubtful disputations. But those who strive lawfully shall be crowned at last. If we would partake the fruits, we must labour; if we would gain the prize, we must run the race. We must do the will of God, before we receive the promises, for which reason we have need of patience. Together with our prayers for others, that the Lord would give them understanding in all things, we must exhort and stir them up to consider what they hear or read.
Verses 8-13 Let suffering saints remember, and look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God. We must not think it strange if the best men meet with the worst treatment; but this is cheering, that the word of God is not bound. Here we see the real and true cause of the apostle's suffering trouble in, or for, the sake of the gospel. If we are dead to this world, its pleasures, profits, and honours, we shall be for ever with Christ in a better world. He is faithful to his threatenings, and faithful to his promises. This truth makes sure the unbeliever's condemnation, and the believer's salvation.
Verses 14-21 Those disposed to strive, commonly strive about matters of small moment. But strifes of words destroy the things of God. The apostle mentions some who erred. They did not deny the resurrection, but they corrupted that true doctrine. Yet nothing can be so foolish or erroneous, but it will overturn the temporary faith of some professors. This foundation has two writings on it. One speaks our comfort. None can overthrow the faith of any whom God hath chosen. The other speaks our duty. Those who would have the comfort of the privilege, must make conscience of the duty Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, ( Titus 2:14 ) . The church of Christ is like a dwelling: some furniture is of great value; some of smaller value, and put to meaner uses. Some professors of religion are like vessels of wood and earth. When the vessels of dishonour are cast out to be destroyed, the others will be filled with all the fulness of God. We must see to it that we are holy vessels. Every one in the church whom God approves, will be devoted to his Master's service, and thus fitted for his use.
Verses 22-26 The more we follow that which is good, the faster and the further we shall flee from that which is evil. The keeping up the communion of saints, will take us from fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness. See how often the apostle cautions against disputes in religion; which surely shows that religion consists more in believing and practising what God requires, than in subtle disputes. Those are unapt to teach, who are apt to strive, and are fierce and froward. Teaching, not persecution, is the Scripture method of dealing with those in error. The same God who gives the discovery of the truth, by his grace brings us to acknowledge it, otherwise our hearts would continue to rebel against it. There is no "peradventure," in respect of God's pardoning those who do repent; but we cannot tell that he will give repentance to those who oppose his will. Sinners are taken in a snare, and in the worst snare, because it is the devil's; they are slaves to him. And if any long for deliverance, let them remember they never can escape, except by repentance, which is the gift of God; and we must ask it of him by earnest, persevering prayer.
2 Timothy 2:1-26 . EXHORTATIONS; TO FAITHFULNESS AS A GOOD SOLDIER OF CHRIST; ERRORS TO BE SHUNNED; THE LORD'S SURE FOUNDATION; THE RIGHT SPIRIT FOR A SERVANT OF CHRIST.
1. Thou therefore--following my example ( 2 Timothy 1:8 2 Timothy 1:12 ), and that of ONESIPHORUS ( 2 Timothy 1:16-18 ), and shunning that of those who forsook me ( 2 Timothy 1:15 ).
my son--Children ought to imitate their father.
be strong--literally, "be invested with power." Have power, and show thyself to have it; implying an abiding state of power.
in the grace--the element IN which the believer's strength has place. Compare 2 Timothy 1:7 , "God hath given us the spirit of power."
2. among--Greek, "through," that is, with the attestation (literally, "intervention") of many witnesses, namely, the presbyters and others present at his ordination or consecration ( 1 Timothy 4:14 , 6:12 ).
commit--in trust, as a deposit ( 2 Timothy 1:14 ).
faithful--the quality most needed by those having a trust committed to them.
who--Greek, "(persons) such as shall be competent to teach (them to) others also." Thus the way is prepared for inculcating the duty of faithful endurance ( 2 Timothy 2:3-13 ). Thou shouldest consider as a motive to endurance, that thou hast not only to keep the deposit for thyself, but to transmit it unimpaired to others, who in their turn shall fulfil the same office. This is so far from supporting oral tradition now that it rather teaches how precarious a mode of preserving revealed truth it was, depending, as it did, on the trustworthiness of each individual in the chain of succession; and how thankful we ought to be that God Himself has given the written Word, which is exempt from such risk.
3. Thou therefore endure hardness--The oldest manuscripts have no "Thou therefore," and read, "Endure hardship with (me)." "Take thy share in suffering" [CONYBEARE and HOWSON].
4. "No one while serving as a soldier."
the affairs of (this) life--"the businesses of life" [ALFORD]; mercantile, or other than military.
him who hath chosen him--the general who at the first enlisted him as a soldier. Paul himself worked at tent-making ( Acts 18:3 ). Therefore what is prohibited here is, not all other save religious occupation, but the becoming entangled, or over-engrossed therewith.
strive for masteries--"strive in the games" [ALFORD]; namely, the great national games of Greece.
yet is he not crowned, except--even though he gain the victory.
strive lawfully--observing all the conditions of both the contest (keeping within the bounds of the course and stript of his clothes) and the preparation for it, namely, as to self-denying diet, anointing, exercise, self-restraint, chastity, decorum, &c. ( 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ).
6. must be first partaker--The right of first partaking of the fruits belongs to him who is laboring; do not thou, therefore, relax thy labors, as thou wouldest be foremost in partaking of the reward. CONYBEARE explains "first," before the idler.
7. Consider the force of the illustrations I have given from the soldier, the contender in the games, and the husbandmen, as applying to thyself in thy ministry.
and the Lord give, &c.--The oldest manuscripts read, "for the Lord will give thee understanding." Thou canst understand my meaning so as personally to apply it to thyself; for the Lord will give thee understanding when thou seekest it from Him "in all things." Not intellectual perception, but personal appropriation of the truths metaphorically expressed, was what he needed to be given him by the Lord.
8. Rather as Greek, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead." Remember Christ risen, so as to follow Him. As He was raised after death, so if thou wouldest share His risen "life," thou must now share His "death" ( 2 Timothy 2:11 ). The Greek perfect passive participle, implies a permanent character acquired by Jesus as the risen Saviour, and our permanent interest in Him as such. Christ's resurrection is put prominently forward as being the truth now assailed ( 2 Timothy 2:18 ), and the one best calculated to stimulate Timothy to steadfastness in sharing Paul's sufferings for the Gospel's
of the seed of David--The one and only genealogy (as contrasted with the "endless genealogies," 1 Timothy 1:4 ) worth thinking of, for it proves Jesus to be the Messiah. The absence of the article in the Greek, and this formula, "of the seed of David" (compare Romans 1:3 ), imply that the words were probably part of a recognized short oral creed. In His death He assured us of His humanity; by His resurrection, of His divinity. That He was not crucified for His own sin appears from His resurrection; that He was crucified shows that He bore sin, on Him, though not in Him.
my gospel--that which I always taught.
9. Wherein--in proclaiming which Gospel.
suffer trouble--literally, "evil." I am a sufferer of evil as though I were a doer of evil.
bonds--( 2 Timothy 1:16 ).
word . . . not bound--Though my person is bound, my tongue and my pen are not ( 2 Timothy 4:17 , Acts 28:31 ). Or he alludes not merely to his own proclamation of the Gospel, though in chains, but to the freedom of its circulation by others, even though his power of circulating it is now prescribed ( Philippians 1:18 ). He also hints to Timothy that he being free ought to be the more earnest in the service of it.
10. Therefore--Because of the anxiety I feel that the Gospel should be extended; that anxiety being implied in 2 Timothy 2:9 .
endure--not merely "I passively suffer," but "I actively and perseveringly endure," and "am ready to endure patiently all things."
the elect's sakes--for the sake of the Church: all the members of Christ's spiritual body ( Colossians 1:24 ).
they . . . also--as well as myself: both God's elect not yet converted and those already so.
salvation . . . glory--not only salvation from wrath, but glory in reigning with Him eternally ( 2 Timothy 2:12 ). Glory is the full expansion of salvation ( Acts 2:47 Romans 8:21-24 Romans 8:30 Hebrews 9:28 ). So grace and glory ( Psalms 84:12 ).
11. Greek, "Faithful is the saying."
For--"For" the fact is so that, "if we be dead with Him (the Greek aorist tense implies a state once for all entered into in past times at the moment of regeneration, Romans 6:3 Romans 6:4 Romans 6:8 , Colossians 2:12 ), we shall also live with Him." The symmetrical form of "the saying," 2 Timothy 2:11-13 , and the rhythmical balance of the parallel clauses, makes it likely, they formed part of a Church hymn formula, perhaps first uttered by some of the Christian "prophets" in the public assembly ( 1 Corinthians 14:26 ). The phrase "faithful is the saying," which seems to have been the usual formula (compare 1 Timothy 1:15 , 3:1 , 4:9 , Titus 3:8 ) in such cases, favors this.
12. suffer--rather, as the Greek is the same as in 2 Timothy 2:10 , "If we endure (with Him)" ( Romans 8:17 ).
reign with him--The peculiar privilege of the elect Church now suffering with Christ, then to reign with Him salvation ( Romans 5:17 , Revelation 3:21 , 5:10 , Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:5 ).
deny--with the mouth. As "believe" with the heart follows, 2 Timothy 2:12 . Compare the opposite, "confess with thy mouth" and "believe in thine heart" ( Romans 10:9 Romans 10:10 ).
he also will deny us--( Matthew 10:33 ).
13. believe not--"If we are unbelievers (literally, 'unfaithful'), He remains faithful" ( Deuteronomy 7:9 Deuteronomy 7:10 ). The oldest manuscripts read, "For He cannot (it is an impossibility that He should) deny Himself." He cannot be unfaithful to His word that He will deny those who deny Him, though we be not faithful to our profession of faith in Him ( Romans 3:3 ). Three things are impossible to God, to die, to lie, and to be deceived [AUGUSTINE, The Creed, 1.1], ( Hebrews 6:18 ). This impossibility is not one of infirmity, but of infinite power and majesty. Also, indirectly, comfort is suggested to believers, that He is faithful to His promises to them; at the same time that apostates are shaken out of their self-deceiving fancy, that because they change, Christ similarly may change. A warning to Timothy to be steadfast in the faith.
14. them--those over whom thou dost preside ( Titus 3:1 ).
charging--Greek, "testifying continually": "adjuring them."
before the Lord--( 1 Timothy 5:21 ).
that they strive not about words--rather, "strive with words": "not to have a (mere) war of words" ( 2 Timothy 2:23 2 Timothy 2:24 , 1 Timothy 6:4 ) where the most vital matters are at stake ( 2 Timothy 2:17 2 Timothy 2:18 , Acts 18:15 ). The oldest manuscripts put a stop at "charging them before the Lord" (which clause is thus connected with "put them in remembrance") and read the imperative, "Strive not thou in words," &c.
to no profit--not qualifying "words"; but Greek neuter, in apposition with "strive in words," "(a thing tending) to no profit," literally, "profitable for nothing"; the opposite of "meet for the master's use" ( 2 Timothy 2:21 ).
to the subverting--sure to subvert (overturn) the hearers: the opposite of "edifying" (building up) ( 2 Corinthians 13:10 ).
15. Study--Greek, "Be earnest," or "diligent."
to show--Greek, "present," as in Romans 12:1 .
thyself--as distinguished from those whom Timothy was to charge ( 2 Timothy 2:14 ).
approved--tested by trial: opposed to "reprobate" ( Titus 1:16 ).
workman--alluding to Matthew 20:1 , &c.
not to be ashamed--by his work not being "approved" ( Philippians 1:20 ). Contrast "deceitful workers" ( 2 Corinthians 11:13 ).
rightly dividing--"rightly handling" [Vulgate]; "rightly administering" [ALFORD]; literally, cutting "straight" or "right": the metaphor being from a father or a steward ( 1 Corinthians 4:1 ) cutting and distributing bread among his children [VITRINGA and CALVIN], ( Luke 12:42 ). The Septuagint, Proverbs 3:6 , 11:5 , use it of "making one's way": so BENGEL here takes Paul to mean that Timothy may make ready a straight way for "the word of truth," and may himself walk straight forward according to this line, turning neither to the right nor to the left, "teaching no other doctrine" ( 1 Timothy 1:3 ). The same image of a way appears in the Greek for "increase" "dispensing," is, 2 Corinthians 2:17 , "corrupt the word of God."
truth--Greek, "the truth" (compare 2 Timothy 2:18 ).
16. shun--literally, "stand above," separate from, and superior to.
vain--opposed to "the truth" ( 2 Timothy 2:15 ).
babblings--with loud voice: opposed to the temperate "word" ( Titus 3:9 ).
increase--Greek, advance"; literally, "strike forward": an image from pioneers cutting away all obstacles before an advancing army. They pretend progress; the only kind of progress they make is to a greater pitch of impiety.
more ungodliness--Greek, "a greater degree of impiety."
17. will eat--literally, "will have pasture." The consuming progress of mortification is the image. They pretend to give rich spiritual pasture to their disciples: the only pasture is that of a spiritual cancer feeding on their vitals.
canker--a "cancer" or "gangrene." seems to have been readmitted into the Church and again to have troubled it.
18. erred--Greek, "missed the aim" (see 1 Timothy 6:21 ).
is past already--has already taken place. The beginnings of the subsequent Gnostic heresy already existed. They "wrested" ( 2 Peter 3:16 ) Paul's own words ( Romans 6:4 , Ephesians 2:6 , Colossians 2:12 ) "to their own destruction," as though the resurrection was merely the spiritual raising of souls from the death of sin. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:12 , where he shows all our hopes of future glory rest on the literal reality of the resurrection. To believe it past (as the Seleucians or Hermians did, according to AUGUSTINE [Epistles, 119.55, To Januarius, 4]), is to deny it in its true sense.
overthrow--trying to subvert "the foundation" on which alone faith can rest secure ( 2 Timothy 2:19 ; compare Titus 1:11 ).
19. Nevertheless--Notwithstanding the subversion of their faith, "the firm foundation of God standeth" fast (so the Greek ought to be translated). The "foundation" here is "the Church" [ALFORD], "the ground" or basement support "of the truth" ( 1 Timothy 3:15 ), Christ Himself being the ultimate "foundation" ( 1 Corinthians 3:11 ). In the steadfast standing of the Church there is involved the steadfast certainty of the doctrine in question ( 2 Timothy 2:18 ). Thus the "house" ( 2 Timothy 2:20 ) answers to the "foundation"; it is made up of the elect whom "the Lord knoweth" (acknowledgeth, recognizes, Psalms 1:6 , Matthew 7:23 , John 10:14 , 1 Corinthians 8:3 ) as "His," and who persevere to the end, though others "err concerning the faith" ( Matthew 24:24 , John 10:28 , Romans 8:38 Romans 8:39 , 1 John 2:19 ). BENGEL takes "the foundation" to be the immovable faithfulness of God (to His promises to His elect [CALVIN]). This contrasts well with the erring from the faith on the part of the reprobate, 2 Timothy 2:18 . Though they deny the faith, God abates not His faithfulness (compare 2 Timothy 2:13 ).
having--seeing that it has [ELLICOTT].
seal--"inscription": indicating ownership and destination: inscriptions were often engraven on a "foundation" stone ( Revelation 21:14 ) [ALFORD]. This will agree with the view that "the foundation" is the Church ( Ephesians 2:20 ). If it be taken God's immovable faithfulness, the "seal" will be regarded as attached to His covenant promise, with the inscription or legend, on one side of its round surface, "The Lord knoweth (it is 'knew' in the Septuagint, Numbers 16:5 , to which Paul here alludes, altering it for his purpose by the Spirit) them that are His"; on the observe side, "Let every one that nameth (as his Lord, Psalms 20:7 , or preacheth in His name, Jeremiah 20:9 ) Christ."
depart--Greek, "stand aloof."
from iniquity--( Isaiah 52:11 ). In both clauses there may be an allusion to Numbers 16:5 Numbers 16:26 , Septuagint. God's part and man's part are marked out. God chooseth and knoweth His elect; our part is to believe, and by the Spirit depart from all iniquity, an unequivocal proof of our being the Lord's (compare Deuteronomy 29:29 Luke 13:23-27 ). St. Lucian when asked by his persecutors, "Of what country art thou?" replied, "I am a Christian." "What is your occupation? . . . I am a Christian." "Of what family? . . . I am a Christian." [CHRYSOSTOM, Orations, 75]. He cannot be honored with the name Christian, who dishonors by iniquity, Christ, the Author of the name. Blandina's refreshment amidst her tortures was to say, "I am a Christian, and with us Christians no evil is done" [EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 5.1]. Apostasy from the faith is sure soon to be followed by indulgence in iniquity. It was so with the false teachers ( 2 Timothy 3:2-8 2 Timothy 3:13 ).
20. in a great house--that is, the visible professing Christian Church ( 1 Timothy 3:15 ). Paul is speaking, not of those without, but of the [visible] family of God [CALVIN]. So the parable of the sweep-net ( Matthew 13:47-49 ) gathering together of every kind, good and bad: as the good and bad cannot be distinguished while under the waves, but only when brought to shore, so believers and unbelievers continue in the same Church, until the judgment makes the everlasting distinction. "The ark of Noah is a type of the Church; as in the former there were together the leopard and the kid, the wolf and the lamb; so in the latter, the righteous and sinners, vessels of gold and silver, with vessels of wood and earth" [JEROME, Dialogue against the Luciferians, 302] (compare Matthew 20:16 ).
vessels of gold . . . silver--precious and able to endure fire.
of wood and earth--worthless, fragile, and soon burnt ( 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 , 15:47 ).
some . . . some--the former . . . the latter.
to dishonour--( Proverbs 16:4 , Romans 9:17-23 ).
21. If a man . . . purge himself from these--The Greek expresses "If one (for example, thou, Timothy) purify himself (so as to separate) from among these" (vessels unto dishonor).
sanctified--set apart as wholly consecrated to the Lord.
and meet--Some oldest manuscripts omit "and."
the master's--the Lord's. Paul himself was such a vessel: once one among those of earth, but afterwards he became by grace one of gold.
prepared unto every good work--( 2 Timothy 3:17 , Titus 3:1 ). Contrast Titus 1:16 .
22. Flee--There are many lusts from which our greatest safety is in flight ( Genesis 39:12 ). Avoid occasions of sin. From the abstemious character of Timothy ( 1 Timothy 5:23 ) it is likely that not animal indulgences, but the impetuosity, rash self-confidence, hastiness, strife, and vainglory of young men ( 1 John 2:14-16 ), are what he is here warned against: though the Spirit probably intended the warning to include both in its application to the Church in general.
also--Greek, "But"; in contrast to "every good work," 2 Timothy 2:21 .
youthful--Timothy was a youth ( 1 Timothy 4:12 ).
righteousness--the opposite of "iniquity," that is, unrighteousness ( 2 Timothy 2:19 ; compare 1 Timothy 6:11 ).
peace, with, &c.--rather, put no comma, "peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" ( 1 Timothy 1:5 , Ephesians 6:5 , Colossians 3:22 ). We are to love all men, but it is not possible to be at peace with all men, for this needs community of purpose and opinion; they alone who call on the Lord sincerely (as contrasted with the false teachers who had only the form of godliness, 2 Timothy 3:5 2 Timothy 3:8 , Titus 1:15 Titus 1:16 ) have this community [THEODORET]. ( Romans 12:18 ).
23. ( Titus 3:9 .)
unlearned--Greek, "undisciplined"; not tending to promote the discipline of faith and morals ( Proverbs 5:23 ). "Uninstructive"; in contrast with "instructing" ( 2 Timothy 2:25 ), and "wise unto salvation" ( 2 Timothy 3:15 ).
24. not strive--"The servant of the Lord" must imitate his master in not striving contentiously, though uncompromising in earnestly contending for the faith ( Jude 1:3 , Matthew 12:19 ).
gentle unto all men--"patient" (Greek, "patient in bearing wrongs") in respect to adversaries. He is to be gentle so that he may occasion no evils; patient so that he may endure evils.
apt to teach--implying not only solid teaching and ease in teaching, but patience and assiduity in it [BENGEL].
25. instructing--Greek, "disciplining," instructing with correction, which those who deal in "uninstructive" or "undisciplined questions" need
those that oppose themselves--Greek, "oppositely affected"; those of a different opinion.
if . . . peradventure--Greek, "if at any time."
repentance--which they need as antecedent to the full knowledge (so the Greek for 'acknowledgment') of the truth" ( 1 Timothy 2:4 ), their minds being corrupted ( 2 Timothy 3:8 ), and their lives immoral. The cause of the spiritual ignorance which prompts such "questions" is moral, having its seat in the will, not in the intellect ( John 7:17 ). Therefore repentance is their first need. That, not man, but God alone can "give" ( Acts 5:31 ).
26. recover themselves--Greek, "awake to soberness," namely from the spiritual intoxication whereby they have fallen into the snare of the devil.
the snare--( Ephesians 6:11 , "the wiles of the devil": 1 Timothy 3:7 , 6:9 ).
taken captive by him at his will--so as to follow the will of "THAT" (the Greek emphatically marks Satan thus) foe. However, different Greek pronouns stand for "him" and "his"; and the Greek for "taken captive" means not "captured for destruction," but "for being saved alive," as in Luke 5:10 , "Thou shalt catch men to save them unto life"; also there is no article before the Greek participle, which the English Version "who are taken captive," would require. Therefore, translate, "That they may awake . . . taken as saved (and willing) captives by him (the servant of the Lord, 2 Timothy 2:24 ), so as to follow the will of HIM (the Lord, 2 Timothy 2:24 , or "God," 2 Timothy 2:25 )." There are here two evils, the "snare" and sleep, from which they are delivered: and two goods to which they are translated, awaking and deliverance. Instead of Satan's thrall comes the free and willing captivity of obedience to Christ ( 2 Corinthians 10:5 ). It is God who goes before, giving repentance ( 2 Timothy 2:25 ); then the work of His servant following is sure to be crowned with success, leading the convert henceforth to "live to the will of God" ( Acts 22:14 , 1 Peter 4:2 ).