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1 Timothy 6:17-21

17. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

17. Iis, qui divites sunt in hoc saeculo, praecipe (vel, denuntia) ne efferantur, neve sperent in divitiarum incertitudine, sed in Deo vivo, qui abundè suppeditat omnia ad fruendum;

18. That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

18. Ut benefaciant, ut divites sint in operibus bonis, faciles ad largiendum (vel, ad communicationem,) libenter communicantes.

19. Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

19. Recondentes sibi ipsis fundamentum bonum in posterum, ut vitam aeternum apprehendant.

20. O Timothy keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

20. O Timothee, depositum custodi, devitans profanas clamorum inanitates, vaniloquia et oppositiones falsò nominatae scientiae.

21. Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.

21. Quam quidam profitentes aberrarunt a fide. Gratia tecum. Amen.

The first to Timothy was written from Laodicea, which is the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana.

Ad Timotheum prima missa fuit ex Laodicea, quae est metropolis Phrygiae Pacatianae.

17 Command (or charge) those who are rich There being many among Christians who were poor and in a mean condition, it is probable that they were despised (as usually happens) by the rich; and especially this might be common at Ephesus, which was a wealthy city; for in such cities, for the most part, pride is more extensively prevalent. And hence we infer how dangerous is a great abundance of riches. Nor are there wanting good reasons why Paul addresses so severe an admonition to the rich; but it is for the purpose of remedying faults which almost always follow riches in the same manner as the shadow follows the body; and that through the depravity of our natural disposition, for out of the gifts of God we always draw an occasion for sinning.

That they be not haughty, nor hope in the uncertainty of riches He expressly mentions two things against which rich men ought to be on their guard, pride and deceitful hope, of which the former springs from the latter. Accordingly, Paul appears to have added, in the same place, “nor hope in the uncertainty of riches,” in order to point out the source of all pride. For whence comes it, that rich men grow insolent, and take extreme delight in despising others, but because they imagine that they are supremely happy? Vain confidence goes first, and then arrogance follows.

Rich in this world When Paul wishes to correct those faults, he first speaks contemptuously of riches; for the phrase, in this world, is intended to lower them in our esteem. All that is in the world has the taste of its nature; so that it is fading, and quickly passes away. The uncertainty and vanity of the hope that is placed in riches are shewn by him from this consideration, that the possession of them is so transitory that it is like a thing unknown; for, while we think that we hold them, they slip out of our hands in a moment. How foolish is it, therefore, to place our hope in them!

But in the living God He who understands this will find no difficulty in withdrawing his hope from riches; for, if it is God alone who supplies us with everything for the necessary purposes of life, we transfer to riches what is this prerogative, when we place hope in them. Now observe that there is an implied contrast, when he affirms that God giveth abundantly to all. The meaning is, that, although we have a full and overflowing abundance of all things, yet we have nothing but from the blessing of God alone; for it is that blessing alone which imparts to us all that is needful.

Hence it follows, that they are egregiously mistaken, who rely on riches, and do not depend entirely on the blessing of God, in which consists a sufficiency of food and of everything else. Hence also we conclude, that we are forbidden to trust in riches, not only because they belong to the use of mortal life, but likewise because they are nothing but smoke; for we are fed, not by bread only, but by the blessing of God. (Deuteronomy 8:3.) 133133     “It will be useless to say to us, What are the riches of this world? We see that there is no certainty of them. What are honors? They are but smoke. What is even this life? It is but a dream. There is but a turn of the hand, and we become dust and ashes. It will be useless to argue with us on these grounds. All this will serve no purpose, till God has been presented to our minds, till it has been demonstrated to us that we must direct all our affections and confidence to him alone. And that is the reason why all the fine remonstrances urged by the philosophers had no effect. For they spoke of the frailty of this earthly life and the uncertain condition of men. They showed that it was vain to think of finding happiness in our possessions, in our lordships, or in anything else. They showed that it is delusive to think of having anything here below on which we might vaunt ourselves. Those great philosophers knew nothing about God, yet being convinced by experience, discussed and argued ably on these subjects. But still they did no good, because they did not seek the true remedy, to fix the hearts of men on God, and to inform them, that it is He alone in whom they can find contentment, and till we have come to this, we shall always be involved in many perplexities.” — Fr. Ser.

When he says πλουσίως εἰς ἀπόλαυσιν, abundantly for enjoyment, he describes how kind God is to us, and even to all men, and to the brute beasts; for his kindness extends far and wide beyond our necessity. (Psalm 36:6.)

18 To do good He adds another remedy to the former, for correcting the sinful dispositions of rich men, by stating authoritatively what is the lawful use of riches; for the richer any man is, the more abundant are his means of doing good to others; and because we are always more tardy than we ought to be in giving to the poor, he employs many words in commendation of that virtue.

19 Laying up for themselves a good foundation Besides, he adds an incitement drawn from the promise of a reward; that, by bestowing and communicating, they will procure for themselves a better treasure than they can have on earth. By the word foundation he means a firm and lasting duration; for the spiritual riches which we “lay up for ourselves” in heaven, are not exposed to the ravages of worms or thieves, (Matthew 6:20,) or fires, but continue always to be placed beyond all danger. On the contrary, nothing on earth is solidly founded; but everything may be said to be in a floating condition.

The inference drawn by Papists from this passage, that we therefore obtain eternal life by the merit of good works, is excessively frivolous. It is true that God accepts as given to himself everything that is bestowed on the poor. (Matthew 25:40.) But even the most perfect hardly perform the hundredth part of their duty; and therefore our liberality, does not deserve to be brought into account before God. So far are we from rendering full payment, that, if God should call us to a strict account, there is not one of us who would not be a bankrupt. But, after having reconciled us to himself by free grace, he accepts our services, such as they are, and bestows on them a reward which is not due. This recompense, therefore, does not depend on considerations of merit, but on God’s gracious acceptance, and is so far from being inconsistent with the righteousness of faith, that it may be viewed as an appendage to it.

20 O Timothy, guard that which is committed, to thee Though interpreters differ in expounding παραθήκην, a thing committed, yet, for my part, I think that it denotes that grace which had been communicated to Timothy for the discharge of his office. It is called “a thing committed,” for the same reason that it is called (Matthew 25:15,) “a talent;” for all the gifts which God bestows on us are committed to us on this condition, that we shall one day give an account of them, if the advantage which they ought to have yielded be not lost through our negligence. The Apostle therefore exhorts him to keep diligently what had been given to him, or rather, what had been committed to him in trust; that he may not suffer it to be corrupted or adulterated, or may not deprive or rob himself of it through his own fault. It frequently happens that our ingratitude or abuse of the gifts of God causes them to be taken from us; and therefore Paul exhorts Timothy to endeavor to preserve, by a good conscience and by proper use, that which had been “committed” to him.

Avoiding profane vanities of noises The object of the admonition is, that he may be diligent in imparting solid instruction; and this cannot be, unless he detest ostentation; for, where an ambitious desire to please prevails, there is no longer any strong desire of edification. For this reason, when he spoke of “guarding the thing committed,” he very appropriately added this caution about avoiding profane talkativeness. As to the rendering which the Vulgate gives to κενοφωςίας, vanities of voices,” I do not so much object to it, except on the ground of an ambiguity which has led to a wrong exposition; for “Voces“ is commonly supposed to have the same meaning here as “Vocabula,” “Words,” such as Fate or Fortune.

But, for my part, I think that he describes the high-sounding and verbose and bombastic style of those who, not content with the simplicity of the gospel, turn it into profane philosophy.

The κενοφωβίαι 134134     Κενοφωνίαι, derived from κενός, “empty,” and φωνὴ, “a voice,” literally signifies “empty voices” or “words.” — Ed. consist, not in single words, but in that swelling language which is so constantly and so disgustingly poured out by ambitious men, who aim at applause rather than the profit of the Church. And most accurately has Paul described it; for, while there is a strange sound of something lofty, there is nothing underneath but “empty” jingle, which he likewise calls “profane;” for the power of the Spirit is extinguished as soon as the Doctors blow their flutes in this manner, to display their eloquence.

In the face of a prohibition so clear and distinct, which the Holy Spirit has given, this plague has nevertheless broken out; and, indeed, it showed itself at the very beginning, but, at length, has grown to such a height in Popery, that the counterfeit mark of theology which prevails there — is a lively mirror of that “profane” and “empty noise” of which Paul speaks. I say nothing about the innumerable errors and follies and blasphemies with which their books and their noisy disputes abound. But even although they taught nothing that was contrary to godliness, yet, because their whole doctrine contains nothing else than big words and bombast, because it is inconsistent with the majesty of Scripture, the efficacy of the Spirit, the gravity of the prophets, and the sincerity of the apostles, it is, on that account, an absolute profanation of real theology.

What, I ask, do they teach about faith, or repentance, or calling on God; about the weakness of men, or the assistance of the Holy Spirit, or the forgiveness of sins by free grace, or about the office of Christ, that can be of any avail for the solid edification of godliness? But on this subject we shall have occasion to speak again in expounding the Second Epistle. Undoubtedly, any person who possesses a moderate share of understanding and of candor; will acknowledge that all the high-sounding terms of Popish Theology, and all the authoritative decisions that make so much noise in their schools, are nothing else than “profane κενοφωνίαι,” (empty words,) and that it is impossible to find more accurate terms for describing them than those which the Apostle has employed. And certainly it is a most righteous punishment of human arrogance, that they who swerve from the purity of Scripture become profane. The doctors of the Church, therefore, cannot be too earnestly attentive to guard against such corruptions, and to defend the youth from them.

The old translation, adopting the reading of καινοφωνίας instead of κενοφωνίας, rendered it novelties of words; and it is evident from the commentaries of the ancients, that this rendering, which is even now found in some Greek copies, was at one time extensively approved; but the former, which I have followed, is far better.

And contradictions of science falsely so called This also is highly exact and elegant; for so swollen are the subtleties on which men desirous of glory plume themselves, that they overwhelm the real doctrine of the gospel, which is simple and unpretending. That pomp, therefore, which courts display, and which is received with applause by the world, is called by the Apostle “contradictions.” Ambition, indeed, is always contentious, and is the mother of disputes; and hence it arises that they who are desirous to display themselves are always ready to enter into the arena of debate on any subject. But Paul had this principally in view, that the empty doctrine of the sophists, rising aloft into airy speculations and subtleties, not only obscures by its pretensions the simplicity of true doctrine, but also oppresses and renders it contemptible, as the world is usually carried away by outward show.

Paul does not mean that Timothy should be moved by emulation to attempt something of the same kind, but, because those things which have an appearance of subtlety, or are adapted to ostentation, are more agreeable to human curiosity, Paul, on the contrary, pronounces that “science” which exalts itself above the plain and humble doctrine of godliness — to be falsely called and thought a science. This ought to be carefully observed, that we may learn boldly to laugh at and despise all that hypocritical wisdom which strikes the world with admiration and amazement, although there is no edification in it; for, according to Paul, no science is truly and justly so called but that which instruct us in the confidence and fear of God; that is, in godliness.

21 Which some professing, have erred concerning the faith. From the result, also, he demonstrates how dangerous a thing it is, and how much it ought to be avoided. The way in which God punishes the haughtiness of those who, through the desire of obtaining reputation, corrupt and disfigure the doctrine of godliness, is, that he allows them to fall away from soundness of understanding, so that they involve themselves in many absurd errors. We see that this has taken place in Popery; for, after they began to speculate in profane manner, about the mysteries of our religion, there followed innumerable monsters of false opinions. Faith is here taken, as in some former passages, for the summary of religion and sound doctrine. Warned by such examples, if we abhor revolt from “the faith,” let us adhere to the pure word of God, and let us detest sophistry and all useless subtleties, because they are abominable corruptions of religion.


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