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1 Timothy 4:6-10

6. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

6. Haec suggerens fratribus, bonus eris Iesu Christi minister, innutritus sermonibus fidei, et bonae doctrinae quam sequutus es.

7. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

7. Profanas autem et aniles fabulas devita, quin potius exerce te ipsum ad pietatem.

8. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

8. Nam corporalis exercitatio paululum habet utilitatis; at pietas ad omnia utilis est, ut quae promissiones habeat vitae praesentis et futurae.

9. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.

9. Fidelis sermo, dignusque qui modis onmibus approbetur.

10. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

10. Nam in hoc et laboramus, et probris afficimur, quod spem fixam habemus in Deo vivente, qui servator est omnium hominum, maxime fidelium.

6 Exhibiting these things to the brethren By this expression he exhorts Timothy to mention those things frequently; and he afterwards repeats this a second and a third time; for they are things of such a nature as it is proper to call frequently to remembrance. And we ought to make the contrast which is implied; for the doctrine which he commends is here contrasted by him not with false or wicked doctrines, but with useless trifles which do not edify. He wishes that those trifles may be entirely buried in forgetfulness, when he enjoins Timothy to be earnest in exhibiting other things.

Thou shalt be a good minister Men frequently aim at something else than to approve themselves to Christ; and consequently many are desirous of being applauded for genius, eloquence, and profound knowledge. And that is the very reason why they pay less attention to necessary things, which do not tend to procure the admiration of the common people. But Paul enjoins Timothy to be satisfied with this alone, to be a faithful minister of Christ. And certainly we ought to look on this as a far more honorable title than to be a thousand times called seraphic and subtle doctors. Let us, therefore, remember, that as it is the highest honor of a godly pastor to be reckoned a good servant of Christ, so he ought to aim at nothing else during his whole ministry; for whoever has any other object in view, will have it in his power to obtain applause from men, but will not please God. Accordingly, that we may not be deprived of so great a blessing, let us learn to seek nothing else, and to account nothing so valuable, and to treat everything as worthless in comparison of this single object.

Nourished The Greek word ἐντρεφόμενος being a participle in the Middle Voice, might also have been translated in an active signification, nourishing; but as there is no noun governed by the verb, I think that this would be rather a forced construction; and, therefore, I prefer to take it in a passive sense, as confirming the preceding exhortation by the education of Timothy. As if he had said, “As thou hast been, from thy infancy, properly instructed in the faith, and, so to speak, hast sucked along with the milk sound doctrine, and hast made continual progress in it hitherto, endeavor, by faithful ministration, to prove that thou art such.” This meaning agrees also with the composition of the word ἐντρεφόμενος

In the words of faith and of good doctrine. Faith is here taken for the sum of Christian doctrine; and what he immediately adds, about good doctrine, is for the sake of explanation; 7373     “C’est pour mieux exposer et declarer le mot precedent.” — “It is for the purpose of explaining more clearly and fully the preceding word.” for he means, that all other doctrines, how plausible so ever they may be, are not at all profitable.

Which thou hast followed This clause denotes perseverance; for many who, from their childhood, had purely learned Christ, afterwards degenerate in process of time; and the Apostle says, that Timothy was very unlike these persons.

7 Exercise thyself to godliness 7474     “He who wishes to be faithfully employed in the service of God must not only avoid, as Paul says, the lies and superstitions that tend to poison souls; but he must avoid profane fables, that is, subtleties that cannot edify, and that contain no instruction which is good for the salvation of souls. Here is a passage that well deserves to be considered; for we see that it was a part of the corruptions which came into the world, and which, even at the present day, prevail in Popery. True, there will be doctrines in the highest degree absurd, and errors most foolish and debasing. We know that idolatry is as gross and flagrant among them as it ever was among the heathens, that the whole worship of God is corrupted, and, in short, that there is nothing which is not spurious. Such errors ought to be held in abhorrence by us; but there is an evil which is still more concealed, and which is unknown to the common people. For although the doctrine of the Papists were not false as it really is, though it were not perverse; yet it is “profane,” as Paul calls it here. And why? They have questions which they debate, about things in which there is no profit. Were a man to know all the questions that are debated in the schools of theology of Popery, there would be nothing but wind. Yet they give themselves the greatest trouble about these matters, and can never succeed; for they put forward questions that cannot be answered but by divination; and though a man should wish to search out the secrets of God, about which nothing is said in the Holy Scripture, does he not plunge into an abyss? Now the Papists have had that pride and audacity, to wish to inquire into those matters which ought to be unknown to us. And thus it was that God withdrew his truth, when the world so corrupted it.” — Fr. Ser. After having instructed him as to doctrine, what it ought to be, he now also admonishes him what kind of example he ought to give to others. He says, that he ought to be employed in “godliness;” for, when he says, Exercise thyself, he means that this is his proper occupation, his labor, his chief care. As if he had said, “There is no reason why you should weary yourself to no purpose about other matters; you will do that which is of the highest importance, if you devote yourself, with all your zeal, and with all your ability, to godliness alone.” By the word godliness, he means the spiritual worship of God which consists in purity of conscience; which is still more evident from what follows, when it is contrasted with bodily exercise.

8 For bodily exercise is of little profit. By the exercise “of the body,” he does not mean that which lies in hunting, or in the race-course, or in wrestling, or in digging, or in the mechanical occupations; but he gives that name to all the outward actions that are undertaken, for the sake of religion, such as watchings, long fasts, lying on the earth, and such like. Yet he does not here censure the superstitious observance of those things; otherwise he would totally condemn them, as he does in the Epistle to the Colossians, (Colossians 2:21,) but at present he only speaks slightingly of them, and says that they are of little advantage. So, then though the heart be altogether upright, and the object proper, yet, in outward actions, Paul finds nothing that he can value highly.

This is a very necessary warning; for the world will always lean to the side of wishing to worship God by outward services; which is an exceedingly dangerous imagination. But — to say nothing about the wicked opinion of merit — our nature always disposes us strongly to attribute more than we ought to austerity of life; as if it were no ordinary portion of Christian holiness. A clearer view of this cannot be adduced, than the fact, that, shortly after the publication of this command, the whole world was ravished with immoderate admiration of the empty form of bodily exercises. Hence arose the order of monks and nuns, and nearly all the most excellent discipline of the ancient Church, or, at least, that part of it which was most highly esteemed by the common people. If the ancient monks had not dreamed that there was some indescribably divine or angelical perfection in their austere manner of living, they would never have pursued it with so much ardor. In like manner, if pastors had not attached undue value to the ceremonies which were then observed for the mortification of the flesh, they would never have been so rigid in exacting them. And what does Paul say on the other hand? That, when any one shall have labored much and long in those exercises, the profit will be small and inconsiderable; for they are nothing but the rudiments of childish discipline.

But godliness is profitable for all things That is, he who has godliness wants nothing, though he has not those little aids; for godliness alone is able to conduct a man to complete perfection. It is the beginning, the middle, and the end, of Christian life; and, therefore, where that is entire, nothing is imperfect. Christ did not lead so austere a manner of life as John the Baptist; was he, therefore, any whit inferior? Let the meaning be thus summed up. “We ought to apply ourselves altogether to piety alone; because when we have once attained it, God asks nothing more from us; and we ought to give attention to bodily exercises in such a manner as not to hinder or retard the practice of godliness.”

Which hath the promises It is a very great consolation, that God does not wish the godly to be in want of anything; for, having made our perfection to consist in godliness, he now makes it the perfection of all happiness. As it is the beginning of happiness in this life, so he likewise extends to it the promise of divine grace, which alone makes us happy, and without which we are very miserable; for God testifies that, even in this life, he will be our Father.

But let us remember to distinguish between the good things of the present and of the future life; for God bestows kindness on us in this world, in order that he may give us only a taste of his goodness, and by such a taste may allure us to the desire of heavenly benefits, that in them we may find satisfaction. The consequence is, that the good things of the present life are not only mingled with very many afflictions, but, we may almost say, overwhelmed by them; for it is not expedient for us to have abundance in this world, lest we should indulge in luxury. Again, lest any one should found on this passage the merits of works, we ought to keep in mind what we have already said, that godliness includes not only a good conscience toward men, and the fear of God, but likewise faith and calling upon him.

9 This is a faithful saying He now sets down, at the conclusion of the argument, what he stated twice at the beginning of it; and he appears to do so expressly, because he will immediately subjoin the contrary objection. Yet it is not without good reason that he employs so strong an assertion; for it is a paradox strongly at variance with the feeling of the flesh, that God supplies his people, in this world, with everything that is necessary for a happy and joyful life; since they are often destitute of all good things, and, on that account, appear to be forsaken by God. Accordingly, not satisfied with the simple doctrine, he wards off all opposing temptations by this shield, and in this manner instructs believers to open the door to the grace of God, which our unbelief shuts out; for, undoubtedly if we were willing to receive God’s benefits, 7575     “Si les benefices de Dieu trouvoyent entree a nous, et que nous fussion disposez a les recevoir.” — “If God’s benefits found admission to us, and if we were disposed to receive them.” he would use greater liberality toward us.

10 For in this we both labor and suffer reproaches This is an anticipation by which he solves that question, “Are not believers the most miserable of all men, because they are oppressed by tribulations of every kind?” In order to show, therefore, that their condition must not be judged from outward appearance, he distinguishes them from others, first in the cause, and next in the result. Hence it follows, that they lose nothing of the promises which he has mentioned, when they are tried by adversity. The sum is, that believers are not miserable in afflictions, because a good conscience supports them, and a blessed and joyful end awaits them.

Now, since the happiness of the present life consists chiefly of two parts, honor and conveniences, he contrasts them within two evils, toils and reproach, meaning by the former words, inconveniences and annoyances of every kind, such as poverty, cold, nakedness, hunger, banishments, spoliations, imprisonments, scourgings, and other persecutions.

We have hope fixed on the living God This consolation refers to the cause; for so far are we from being miserable, when we suffer on account of righteousness, that it is rather a just ground of thanksgiving. Besides, our afflictions are accompanied by hope in the living God, and, what is more, hope may be regarded as the foundation; but it never maketh ashamed, (Romans 5:5,) and therefore everything that happens to the godly ought to be reckoned a gain.

Who is the Savior 7676     “The word Savior is not here taken in what we call its proper and strict meaning, in regard to the eternal salvation which God promises to his elect, but it is taken for one who delivers and protects. Thus we see that even unbelievers are protected by God, as it is said (Matthew 5:46) that “he maketh his sun to shine on the good and the bad;” and we see that all are fed by his goodness, that all are delivered from many dangers. In this sense he is called “the Savior of all men,” not in regard to the spiritual salvation of their souls, but because he supports all his creatures. In this way, therefore, our Lord is the Savior of all men, that is, his goodness extends to the most wicked, who are estranged from him, and who do not deserve to have any intercourse with him, who ought to have been struck off from the number of the creatures of God and destroyed; and yet we see how God hitherto extends his grace to them; for the life which he gives to them is a testimony of his goodness. Since, therefore God shows such favor towards those who are strangers to him, how shall it be with us who are members of his household? Not that we are better or more excellent than those whom we see to be cast off by him, but the whole proceeds from his mercy and free grace, that he is reconciled to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, since he hath called us to the knowledge of the gospel, and then confirms us, and seals his bounty toward us, so that we ought to be convinced that he reckons us to be his children. Since, therefore, we see that he nourishes those who are estranged from him, let us go and hide ourselves under his wings; for, having taken us under his protection, he has declared that he will show himself to be a Father toward us.” — Fr. Ser. This is the second consolation, though it depends on the former; for the deliverance of which he speaks may be viewed as the fruit of hope. To make this more clear, it ought to be understood that this is an argument drawn from the less to the greater; for the word σωτὴρ 7777     “Le mot Grec que nous traduisons Sauveur.”The Greek word which we translate Savior.” is here a general term, and denotes one who defends and preserves. He means that the kindness of God extends to all men. And if there is no man who does not feel the goodness of God towards him, and who is not a partaker of it, how much more shall it be experienced by the godly, who hope in him? Will he not take peculiar care in them? Will he not more freely pour out his bounty on them? In a word, will he not, in every respect, keep them safe to the end?


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