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1 Timothy 6:11-16

11. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

11. Tu vero, o homo Dei, haec fuge; sectare vero justitiam, pietatem, fidem, caritatem, patientiam, mansuetudinem.

12. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

12. Certa bonum certamen fidei; apprehende vitam aeternam, ad quam etiam vocatus es, et confessus bonam confessionem coram multis testibus.

13. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;

13. Denuntio (vel, proecipio) tibi coram Deo qui vivificat omnia, et Christo Iesu, qui testificatus est bonam confesionem coram Pontio Pilato,

14. That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

14. Ut serves mandatum immaculatus et irreprehensibilis, usque ad revelationem Domini nostri Iesu Christi;

15. Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

15. Quam suis temporibus manifestabit beatus et solus princeps, Rex regnantium et Dominus dominantium,

16. Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

16. Qui solus habet immortalitatem, qui lumen habitat inaccessum, quem vidit nullus hominum, nec videre potest, cui honor et potentia aeterna (vel, imperium oeternum.) Amen.

11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things By calling him man of God he adds weight to the exhortation. If it be thought proper to limit to the preceding verse the injunction which he gives to follow righteousness, piety, faith, patience, this is an instruction which he gives, by contrast, for correcting avarice, by informing him what kind of riches he ought to desire, namely, spiritual riches. Yet this injunction may also be extended to other clauses, that Timothy, withdrawing himself from all vanity, may avoid that (περιεπγίαν) vain curiosity which he condemned a little before; for he who is earnestly employed about necessary employments will easily abstain from those which are superfluous. He names, by way of example, some kinds of virtues, under which we may suppose others to be included. Consequently, every person who shall be devoted to the pursuit of “righteousness,” and who shall aim at “piety, faith, charity,” and shall follow patience and gentleness, cannot but abhor avarice and its fruits. 125125     “And thus we see that not without reason does Paul add this word piety, which means religion and the fear of God, and that he connects it with faith, saying that, when we have put our confidence in God, and when we expect from him the means of our support, we must also attend to this, not to live in this world as if it were our end, and not to fix our heart upon it, but to look upwards to the heavenly kingdom. Having said this, he next leads us onwards to the love of our fellow-men and to meekness, as we are also bound to walk in all good friendship with our neighbors; otherwise we shall not shew that we have the righteousness which he has mentioned. And thus let us see that, by all these words, he means nothing more than to confirm the exhortation which he had given, to follow righteousness and sincerity. And how shall we follow it? First, by placing our confidence in God; secondly, by raising our thoughts to the heavenly kingdom; and thirdly, by living in good friendship with each other.” — Fr. Ser.

12 Fight the good fight of faith In the next epistle he says,

“He who hath become a soldier doth not entangle himself with matters inconsistent with his calling.” (2 Timothy 2:4.)

In like manner, in order to withdraw Timothy from excessive solicitude about earthly things, he reminds him that he must “fight;” for carelessness and self-indulgence arise from this cause, that the greater part wish to serve Christ at ease, and as if it were pastime, whereas Christ calls all his servants to warfare.

For the purpose of encouraging him to fight such a fight courageously, he calls it good; that is, successful, and therefore not to be shunned; for, if earthly soldiers do not hesitate to fight, when the result is doubtful, and when there is a risk of being killed, 126126     “We see princes whose ambition leads them to risk all that they have, and to place themselves in danger of being stripped of all their power. We see soldiers, who, instead of earning wages by laboring in vineyards or in the fields, go and expose their life at a venture. And what leads them to this? A doubtful hope, nothing certain. And though they have gained, and have obtained a victory over their enemies, what advantage do they reap from it? But when God calls us to fight, and wishes us to be soldiers under his banner, it is on no such condition, but we are made certain that the war will be good and successful. And thus Paul intended to comfort believers while he exhorted them, as God also condescends to us by shewing to us what is our duty, and, at the same time, declaring that, when we shall do what he commands us, all will turn to our profit and salvation.” — Fr. Ser. how much more bravely ought we to do battle under the guidance and banner of Christ, when we are certain of victory? More especially, since a reward awaits us, not such as other generals are wont to give to their soldiers, but a glorious immortality and heavenly blessedness; it would certainly be disgraceful that we, who have such a hope held out to us, should grow weary or give way. And that is what he immediately afterwards adds, —

Lay hold on eternal life As if he had said, “God calls thee to eternal life, and therefore, despising the world, strive to obtain it.” When he commands them to “lay hold on it,” he forbids them to pause or slacken in the middle of their course; as if he had said, that “nothing has been done, 127127     “Nihil actuam esse.” The expression reminds us of the beautiful encomium pronounced by the poet Lucan on the unwearied activity of Julius Caesar, that he “thought nothing done, while aught remained to do.”
   “Nil aetum reputans, dum quid superesset agendum.”

    — Ed.
till we have obtained the life to come, to which God invites us.” In like manner, he affirms that he strives to make progress, because he has not yet laid hold. (Philippians 3:12.)

To which also thou, hast been called Because men would run at random, and to no purpose, if they had not God as the director of their course, for the purpose of promoting their cheerful activity, he mentions also the calling; for there is nothing that ought to animate us with greater courage than to learn that we have been “called” by God; for we conclude from this, that our labor, which God directs, and in which he stretches out his hand to us, will not be fruitless. Besides, to have rejected the calling of God would be a disgraceful reproach; and, therefore, this ought to be a very powerful excitement: “God calls thee to eternal life; beware of being drawn aside to anything else, or of falling short in any way, before thou hast attained it.”

And hast confessed a good confession By mentioning his former life, the Apostle excites him still more to persevere; for to give way, after having begun well, is more disgraceful than never to have begun. To Timothy, who had hitherto acted valiantly, and had obtained applause, he addresses this powerful argument, that the latter end should correspond to the beginning. By the word confession I understand not that which is expressed in words, but rather what is actually performed; and that not in a single instance merely, but throughout his whole ministry. The meaning therefore is: “Thou hast many witnesses of thy illustrious confession, both at Ephesus and in other countries, who have beheld thee acting faithfully and sincerely in the profession of the gospel; and, therefore, having given such a proof of fidelity, thou canst not, without the greatest shame and disgrace, shew thyself to be anything else than a distinguished soldier of Christ.” By this passage we are taught in general, that the more any of us excels, the less excusable is he if he fail, and the stronger are his obligations to God to persevere in the right course.

13 I charge thee The great vehemence of solemn appeal, which Paul employs, is a proof how rare and hard a virtue it is, to persevere in the ministry, in a proper manner, till the end; for, although he exhorts others, in the person of Timothy, yet he addresses him also.

Before God, who quickeneth all things What he affirms concerning Christ and concerning God, has an immediate relation to the present subject; for, when he ascribes this to God, that he quickeneth all things, he wishes to meet the offense of the cross, which presents to us nothing but the appearance of death. He therefore means, that we should shut our eyes, when ungodly men hold out and threaten death; or rather, that we should fix our eyes on God alone, because it is he who restoreth the dead to life. The amount of the whole is, that, turning away our gaze from the world, we should learn to look at God alone.

And Christ Jesus, who testified a good confession before Pontius Pilate. What he now adds about Christ contains a remarkable confirmation; for we are taught, that we are not in the school of Plato, to learn philosophy from him, and to hear him discoursing in the shade about idle disputes; but that the doctrine which Timothy professes was ratified by the death of the Son of God. Christ made his confession before Pilate, not in a multitude of words, but in reality; that is, by undergoing a voluntary death; for, although Christ chose to be silent before Pilate, rather than speak in his own defense, because he had come thither — devoted already to a certain condemnation; yet in his silence there was a defense of his doctrine not less magnificent than if he had defended himself with a loud voice. He ratified it by his blood, and by the sacrifice of his death, better than he could have ratified it by his voice. 128128     “By his silence he confirmed the truth of God his Father, and the death which he underwent was intended to give authority to the gospel; so that, when the doctrine of salvation is preached at the present day, in order that we may be confirmed in the faith of it, we must direct our view to the blood of the Lamb without spot, which was shed. As anciently, under the Law, the book was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice, so now, whenever we are spoken to in the name of God, the blood of Christ must be brought to our remembrance, and we must know that the gospel is sprinkled with it, and that our faith rests upon it in such a manner, that the utmost efforts of Satan cannot shake it.” — Fr. Ser.

This confession the Apostle calls good. For Socrates also died; and yet his death was not a satisfactory proof of the doctrine which he held. But when we hear that the blood of the Son of God was shed, that is an authentic seal which removes all our doubt. Accordingly, whenever our hearts waver, let us remember that we should always go to the death of Christ for confirmation. What cowardice would there be in deserting such a leader going before us to show us the way!

14 That thou, keep the commandment. By the word commandment he means all that he hath hitherto said about the office of Timothy, the sum of which was, that he should show himself to be a faithful minister to Christ and to the Church. What is the use of extending this to the whole law? But perhaps it will be thought preferable to view it as denoting the office which he had received by divine authority; for we are appointed to be ministers of the Church on no other condition than this, that God enjoins upon us whatever he wishes us to do. Thus to “keep the commandment” would be nothing else than to discharge honestly the office committed to him. I certainly view it as referring altogether to the ministry of Timothy.

Spotless and unblameable 129129     “Sans macule et sans reprehension:” — “Without spot and without censure.” Whether we consider the case or the termination 130130     That is, they may be either in the accusative case masculine, agreeing with Τιμόθεον, or in the accusative case feminine, agreeing with ἐντολήν. — Ed. of the two Greek adjectives which are thus translated, they may apply either to the commandment given, or to the person of Timothy; but the meaning which I have assigned is much more appropriate. 131131     “Nonobstant il est beaucoup plus propre de les rapporter a sa personne.” — “Nevertheless it is much more suitable to view them. as relating to his person.” Paul informs Timothy, that he must he wish to discharge his office in a proper manner.

Till the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ It is impossible to tell how necessary it was to all the godly, at that time, to have their mind entirely fixed on the day of Christ; because innumerable offenses existed everywhere in the world. They were assailed on every hand, were universally hated and abhorred, were exposed to the mockeries of all, were oppressed every day with new calamities; and yet they saw no fruit of so many toils and annoyances. What then remained, but that in thought they should fly away to that blessed day of our redemption?

Yet the same reason is in force with regard to us in the present day, and indeed applies equally to almost every age. How many things does Satan constantly present to our eyes, which, but for this, would a thousand times draw us aside from the right course! I say nothing about fires, and swords, and banishments, and all time furious attacks of enemies. I say nothing about slanders and other vexations. How many things are within, that are far worse! Ambitious men openly attack us, Epicureans and Lucianists jeer at us, impudent men provoke us, hypocrites murmur at us, they who are wise after the flesh secretly bite us, we are harassed by various methods in every direction. In short, it is a great miracle that any man perseveres steadfastly in an office so difficult and so dangerous. The only remedy for all these difficulties is, to cast our eyes towards the appearing of Christ, and to keep them fixed on it continually. 132132     “Believers might, indeed, be weakened in their faith, when they looked at present things. For, as to the great people in this world, what would they wish but to rise above the Church, and trample God under their feet? We see that they sport with religion as with a ball. We even see that they are deadly enemies of it, and that they persecute it with such rage that everybody is terrified at them. We see these things. Yet what shall be said of the children of God? They are pointed at with the finger, they are thought to be fools, so that what is said by the Prophet Isaiah is today fulfilled in us, that unbelievers reckon us to be monsters. (Isaiah 8:18.) ‘What? These poor fools? What are they thinking about? What do they mean? We must live with the living, and howl with the wolves. They wish to be always in a state of perplexity. They speak of nothing but eternal life, and have no leisure for enjoyment.’ Thus it is that we are accounted fools and madmen by unbelievers. And Peter says, (2 Peter 3:2-4,) that this must be fulfilled in us, as the prophet Isaiah had made the complaint in his time; Christians must experience the like in the present day.” — Fr. Ser.

15 Which in his seasons he will show We are commonly hasty in our wishes, and not far from prescribing a day and hour to God, as if we should say, that he must not delay to perform anything that he has promised; and for that reason the Apostle takes an early opportunity of restraining excessive haste, by expecting the coming of Christ. For that is the meaning of the words, “which in his seasons he will show.” When men know that the proper time for anything is not fully come, they wait for it more patiently. How comes it that we are so patient in bearing with the order of nature, but because we are restrained by this consideration, that we shall act unreasonably, if we struggle against it with our desires? Thus we know, that the revelation of Christ has its appointed time, for which we must wait patiently.

The blessed and only Prince Those splendid titles are here employed in exalting the princely authority of God, in order that the brilliancy of the princes of this world may not dazzle our eyes. And such instruction was, at that time, especially necessary; for by how much all kingdoms were then great and powerful, by so much were the majesty and glory of God thrown into the shade. For all that governed the kingdoms of the world not only were deadly enemies of the kingdom of God, but proudly mocked at God, and trampled his sacred name under their feet; and the greater the haughtiness with which they despised true religion, the more happy did they imagine themselves to be. From such an aspect of things who would not have concluded that God was miserably vanquished and oppressed? We see to what a pitch of insolence Cicero rises against the Jews on account of their humbled condition, in his oration for Flaccus.

When good men see that the wicked are puffed up with prosperity, they are sometimes cast down; and therefore Paul, for the purpose of withdrawing the eyes of the godly from that transitory splendor, ascribes to God alone “blessedness, principality, and kingly power.” When he calls God the only prince, he does not overthrow civil government, as if there ought to be no magistrates or kings in the world, but means that it is He alone who reigns from himself and from his own power. This is evident from what follows, which he adds by way of exposition, —

King of kings, and Lord of lords The sum of it is, that all the governments of the world are subject to his dominion, depend upon him, and stand or fall at his bidding, but that the authority of God is beyond all comparison, because all the rest are nothing as compared with his glory, and while they fade and quickly perish, his authority will endure for ever.

16 Who alone hath immortality Paul labors to demonstrate that there is no happiness, no dignity or excellence, no life, out of God. Accordingly, he now says that God alone is immortal, in order to inform us, that we and all the creatures do not, strictly speaking, live, but only borrow life from Him. Hence it follows that, when we look up to God as the fountain of immortal life, we should reckon this present life as of no value.

But it is objected, that the human soul and angels have their immortality, and therefore this cannot be truly affirmed of God alone. I reply, when it is said, that God alone possesses immortality, it is not here denied that he bestows it, as he pleases, on any of his creatures. The meaning is the same as if Paul had said that God alone is immortal from himself and from his own nature, but has immortality in his power; so that it does not belong to creatures, except so far as he imparts to them power and vigor; for if you take away the power of God which is communicated to the soul of man, it will instantly fade away; and the same thing may be said about angels. Strictly speaking, therefore, immortality does not subsist in the nature of souls or of angels, but comes from another source, namely, from the secret inspiration of God, agreeably to that saying,

“In him we live, and move, and are.” (Acts 17:28.)

If any one wish to have a larger and more acute discussion of this subject, let him consult the twelfth book of Augustine “On the City of God.”

Who inhabiteth unapproachable light He means two things, that God is concealed from us, and yet that the cause of obscurity is not in himself, as if be were hidden in darkness, but in ourselves, who, on account of the weak vision, or rather the dullness of our understanding, cannot approach to his light. We must understand that the light of God is unapproachable, if any one endeavor to approach to it in his own strength; for, if God did not open up the entrance to us by his grace, the prophet would not say:

“They who draw near to him are enlightened.” (Psalm 34:5.)

Yet it is true that, while we are surrounded by this mortal flesh, we never penetrate so far into the deepest secrets of God as to have nothing hidden from us; for

“we know in part, and we see as by a mirror, and in a riddle.”
(1 Corinthians 13:9-12.)

By faith, therefore, we enter into the light of God, but only in part. Still it is true, that it is a “light unapproachable” by man.

Whom no man hath seen or can see This is added for the sake of additional explanation, that men may learn to look by faith to him, whom they cannot see with the bodily eyes, or even with the powers of their understanding; for I view this as referring not only to the bodily eyes, but also to the faculties of the soul. We must always consider what is the Apostle’s design. It is difficult for us to overlook and disregard all those things of which we have immediate vision, that we may endeavor to come to God, who is nowhere to be seen. For this thought always comes into our mind: “How knowest thou if there is a God, seeing that thou only hearest that he is, and dost not see him?” The Apostle fortifies us against this danger, by affirming that it ought not to be judged according to our senses, because it exceeds our capacity; for the reason why we do not see is, that our sight is not so keen as to ascend to so great a height.

There is a long dispute in Augustine on this point, because it appears to contradict what is said, in the first Epistle,

“Then shall we see him as he is, because we shall be like him.”
(1 John 3:2.)

While he reasons on this subject in many passages, there appears to me to be none in which he explains it more clearly than in the letter which he writes to the widow Paulina.

So far as relates to the meaning of the present passage, the answer is easy, that we cannot see God in this nature, as it is said elsewhere,

“Flesh and blood shall not possess the kingdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 15:50.)

We must be renewed, that we may be like God, before it be granted to us to see him. And that our curiosity may not be beyond measure, let us always remember, that the manner of living is of more importance in this inquiry than the manner of speaking. At the same time, let us remember the judicious caution which Augustine gives us, to be on our guard lest, while we are keenly disputing how God can be seen, we lose both peace and sanctification, without which no man can ever see God.


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