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1. Warning Against False Teachers
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope; 2unto Timothy, my true child in faith: Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, 4neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now. 5But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned: 6from which things some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking; 7desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm. 8But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully, 9as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for menstealers, for liars, for false swearers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine; 11according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. 12I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service; 13though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; 14and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: 16howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 18This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare; 19holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith: 20of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme.
1 Paul an apostle If he had written to Timothy alone, it would have been unnecessary to claim this designation, and to maintain it in the manner that he does. Timothy would undoubtedly have been satisfied with having merely the name; for he knew that Paul was an Apostle of Christ, and had no need of proof to convince him of it, being perfectly willing, and having been long accustomed, to acknowledge it. He has his eye, therefore, chiefly on others, who were not so ready to listen to him, or did not so easily believe his words. For the sake of such persons, that they may not treat lightly what he writes, he affirms that he is “an Apostle of Christ.”
According to the Appointment of God our Savior, and of the Lord Jesus Christ He confirms his apostleship by the appointment or command of God; for no man can make himself to be an apostle, but he whom God hath appointed is a true apostle, and worthy of the honor. Nor does he merely say, that he owes his apostleship to God the Father, but ascribes it to Christ also; and, indeed, in the government of the Church, the Father does nothing but through the Son, and therefore they both act together.
He calls God the Savior, a title which he is more frequently accustomed to assign to the Son; but it belongs to the Father also, because it is he who gave the Son to us. Justly, therefore, is the glory of our salvation ascribed to him. For how comes it that we are saved? It is because the Father loved us in such a manner that he determined to redeem and save us through the Son. He calls Christ our hope; and this appellation is strictly applicable to him; for then do we begin to have good hope, when we look to Christ, since in him alone dwells all that on which our salvation rests.
2 To Timothy my own son This commendation expresses no small praise. Paul means by it, that he owns Timothy to be a true and not a bastard son, and wishes that others should acknowledge him to be such; and he even applauds Timothy in the same manner as if he were another Paul. But how does this agree with the injunction given by Christ, (Matthew 23:9,) “Call no man your father on the earth?”
Or how does it agree with the declaration of the Apostle,
“Though ye have many fathers according to the flesh, yet there is but One who is the Father of spirits.” (1 Corinthians 4:15; Hebrews 12:9.) 22 Our author, quoting from memory, blends the two passages, not quite accurately, yet so as to convey the true meaning of both. — Ed.
I reply, while Paul claims for himself the appellation of father, he does it in such a manner as not to take away or diminish the smallest portion of the honor which is due to God. (Hebrews 12:9.) It is a common proverb “That which is placed below another is not at variance with it.” The name father, applied to Paul, with reference to God, belongs to this class. God alone is the Father of all in faith, because he regenerates us all by his word, and by the power of his Spirit, and because none but he bestows faith. But they whom he is graciously pleased to employ as his ministers for that purpose, are likewise allowed to share with him in his honor, while, at the same time, He parts with nothing that belongs to himself. Thus God, and God alone, strictly speaking, was Timothy’s spiritual Father; but Paul, who was God’s minister in begetting Timothy, lays claim to this title, by what may be called a subordinate right.
Grace, mercy, peace. So far as relates to the word mercy, he has departed from his ordinary custom in introducing it, moved, perhaps, by his extraordinary affection for Timothy. Besides, he does not observe the exact order; for he places first what ought to love been last, namely, the grace which flows from mercy. For the reason why God at first receives us into favor and why he loves us is, that he is merciful. But it is not unusual to mention the cause after the effect, for the sake of explanation. As to the words grace and peace, we have spoken on other occasions.
3. As I besought thee Either the syntax is elliptical, or the particle ἵνα is redundant; and in both cases the meaning will be obvious. 33 “The construction here is tortuous and elliptical. Πορευόμενος εἰς Μακεδονίαν must be construed between καθὼς and παρεκάλεσα, and the protasis at καθὼς is without its apodosis, οὕτως, which must be supplied. The simplest and most natural method is to understand οὕτω καὶ νῦν παρακαλῶ.” — Bloomfield. First, he reminds Timothy why he was besought to remain at Ephesus. It was with great reluctance, and through hard necessity, that he parted with a companion so dearly beloved and so faithful, in order that he might laboriously hold the part of his deputy, which no other man would have been competent to fill; and, therefore, Timothy must have been powerfully excited by this consideration, not only not to throw away his time, but to conduct himself in an excellent and distinguished manner.
I wish that thou shouldst forbid any. Thus, by way of inference, he exhorts him to oppose the false teachers who corrupted pure doctrine. In the injunction given to Timothy, to occupy his place at Ephesus, we ought to observe the holy anxiety of the Apostle; for while he labored so much to collect many churches he did not leave the former churches destitute of a pastor. And indeed, as an ancient writer remarks, “To keep what has been gained is not a smaller virtue than to make new acquisitions.” The word forbid denotes power; for Paul wishes to arm him with power to restrain others.
Not to teach differently The Greek word (ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν) which Paul employs, is a compound, and, therefore, may either be translated, “to teach differently,” or after a new method, or, “to teach a different doctrine.” The translation given by Erasmus, (sectari,) “to follow,” does not satisfy me; because it might be understood to apply to the hearers. Now Paul means those who, for the sake of ambition, brought forward a new doctrine.
If we read it, “to teach differently,” the meaning will be more extensive; for by this expression he will forbid Timothy to permit any new forms of teaching to be introduced, which do not agree with the true and pure doctrine which he had taught. Thus, in the Second Epistle, he recommends ὑποτύπωσις, 44 “Il ne recommande pas simplement a Timothee de retener sa doctrine, mais il use d’un mot qui signifie le vray patron, ou vif portraict d’icelle.” — “He does not merely advise Timothy to hold by his doctrine, but employs a word which denotes the true pattern or lively portrait of it.” that is, a lively picture of his doctrine. (2 Timothy 1:13.) For, as the truth of God is one, so is there but one plain manner of teaching it, which is free from false ornament, and which partakes more of the majesty of the Spirit than of the parade of human eloquence. Whoever departs from that, disfigures and corrupts the doctrine itself; and, therefore, “to teach differently,” must relate to the form.
If we read it, “to teach something different,” it will relate to the matter. Yet it is worthy of observation, that we give the name of another doctrine not only to that which is openly at variance with the pure doctrine of the gospel, but to everything that either corrupts the pure gospel by new and borrowed inventions, or obscures it by ungodly speculations. For all the inventions of men are so many corruptions of the gospel; and they who make sport of the Scriptures, as ungodly people are accustomed to do, so as to turn Christianity into an act of display, darken the gospel. His manner of teaching therefore, is entirely opposed to the word of God, and to that purity of doctrine in which Paul enjoins the Ephesians to continue.
4 And not to give heed to fables He applies the term “fables,” in my opinion, not only to contrived falsehoods, but to trifles or fooleries which have no solidity; for it is possible that something which is not false may yet be fabulous. In this sense, Suetonius speaks of fabulous history, 55 “Et c’est en ceste signification que Suetone, en la vie de Tibere, dit que cest empereur la s’amusoit fort a l’histoire fabuleuse.” — “And it is in this sense that Suetonius, in his life of Tiberius, says that that emperor amused himself very much with fabulous history.” and Livy employs the word fabulari, “to relate fables,” as denoting useless and foolish talk. And, undoubtedly, the word μῦθος, (which Paul here employs,) is equivalent to the Greek word φλυαρία, that is, “trifles.” Moreover, by bringing forward one class by way of example, he has removed all doubt; for disputes about genealogies are enumerated by him amongst fables, not because everything that can be said about them is fictitious, but because it is useless and unprofitable.
This passage, therefore, may thus be explained: — “Let them not give heed to fables of that character and description to which genealogies belong.” And that is actually the fabulous history of which Suetonius speaks, and which even among grammarians, has always been justly ridiculed by persons of sound judgment; for it was impossible not to regard as ridiculous that curiosity which, neglecting useful knowledge, spent the whole life in examining the genealogy of Achilles and Ajax, and wasted its powers in reckoning up the sons of Priam. If this be not endured in childish knowledge, in which there is room for that which affords pleasure, how much more intolerable is it heavenly wisdom 66 “Here we see more clearly, that Paul did not merely condemn in this passage doctrines which are altogether false, and which contain some blasphemies, but likewise all those useless speculations which serve to turn aside believers from the pure simplicity of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what Paul includes under the word “fables,” for he means not only deliberate and manifest falsehoods, but likewise everything that is of no use, and this is implied in the word which he employs. What, then, does Paul set aside in this passage? All curious inquiries, all speculations which serve only to annoy and distress the mind, or in which there is nothing but a fair show and display, and which do not promote the salvation of those who hear them. This must be carefully remembered, for we shall afterwards see that the reason why Paul speaks of them in this manner is, that the word of God must be profitable. (2 Timothy 3:16.) All who do not apply the word of God to good profit and advantage are despisers and falsifiers of good doctrine.” — Fr. Ser. ?
And to genealogies haste have end 77 “᾿Απέραντος properly signifies interminable. Hence there is also an implicit sense of what is unprofitable. This, indeed, some, but I think injudiciously, make the principal one.” — Bloomfield. He calls them endless, because vain curiosity has no limit, but continually falls from labyrinth to labyrinth.
Which produce questions He judges of doctrine by the fruit; for every thing that does not edify ought to be rejected, although it has no other fault; and everything that is of no avail but for raising contentions, ought to be doubly condemned. And such are all the subtle questions on which ambitious men exercise their faculties. Let us, therefore, remember, that all doctrines must be tried by this rule, that those which contribute to edification may be approved, and that those which give ground for unprofitable disputes may be rejected as unworthy of the Church of God.
If this test had been applied during several centuries, although religion had been stained by many errors, at least that diabolical art of disputing, which has obtained the appellation of Scholastic Theology, would not have prevailed to so great an extent. For what does that theology contain but contentions or idle speculations, from which no advantage is derived? Accordingly, the more learned a man is in it, we ought to account him the more wretched. I am aware of the plausible excuses by which it is defended, but they will never make out that Paul has spoken falsely in condemning, everything of the sort.
Rather than the edification of God. 88 “Rather than godly edifying,” — Eng. Tr. Subtleties of this description edify in pride, and edify in vanity, but not in God. He calls it “the edification of God,” either because God approves of it, or because it is agreeable to the nature of God. 99 “This word edify is sufficiently common in the Holy Scripture, but is not understood by all. In order to understand it aright, let us observe, that it is a comparison which is set before us; for we ought to be temples of God, because he wishes to dwell in us. — Those who profit in a right manner, that is, in faith, in the fear of God, in holiness of life, are said to be edified; that is, God builds them to be his temples, and wishes to dwell in them; and also that we should unitedly form a temple of God, for each of us is a stone of that temple. Thus, when each of us shall be well instructed in his duty, and when we shall all be united in holy brotherhood, then shall we be edified in God. It is true, that men may sometimes be edified in pride: as we see that they who take delight in their vain imaginations, and who spread their wings, and swell themselves out like toads, think that they are well edified. Alas! what a poor building is this! But Paul expressly says, that we must be edified according to God. By which he shews, that when we shall be instructed to serve God, to render to him pure worship, to place all our confidence in him, this is the edification at which we must aim; and every doctrine that has that tendency is good and holy, and ought to be received; but all that is opposed to it must be rejected without farther dispute: it is unnecessary to make any longer inquiry. And why must this or that be rejected? Because it does not contribute to the edification of God.” — Fr. Ser.
Which consist in faith. He next shews that this edification consists in faith; and by this term he does not exclude the love of our neighbor, or the fear of God, or repentance; for what are all these but fruits of “faith” which always produces the fear of God? Knowing that all the worship of God is founded on faith alone, he therefore reckoned it enough to mention “faith,” on which all the rest depend.
Those unprincipled men with whom Timothy had to deal, boasted of having the law on their side, in consequence of which Paul anticipates, and shews that the law gives them no support but was even opposed to them, and that it agreed perfectly with the gospel which he had taught. The defense set up by them was not unlike that which is pleaded by those who, in the present day, subject the word of God to torture. They tell us that we aim at nothing else than to destroy sacred theology, as if they alone nourished it in their bosom. They spoke of the law in such a manner as to exhibit Paul in an odious light. And what is his reply? In order to scatter those clouds of smoke, 1010 “Pour demesler tout ce qu’ils entassoyent pour esblouir les yeux des simples.” — “In order to sweep away all that they heaped up for the purpose of blinding the eyes of plain people.” he comes frankly forward, by way of anticipation, and proves that his doctrine is in perfect harmony with the law, and that the law is utterly abused by those who employ it for any other purpose. In like manner, when we now define what is meant by true theology, it is clearly evident that we desire the restoration of that which had been wretchedly torn and disfigured by those triflers who, puffed up by the empty title of theologians, are acquainted with nothing but vapid and unmeaning trifles. Commandment is here put for the law, by taking a part for the whole.
Love out of a pure heart If the law must be directed to this object, that we may be instructed in love, which proceeds from faith and a good conscience, it follows, on the other hand, that they who turn the teaching of it into curious questions are wicked expounders of the law. Besides, it is of no great importance whither the word love be regarded in this passage as relating, to both tables of the law, or only to the second table. We are commanded to love God with our whole heart, and our neighbors as ourselves; but when love is spoken of in Scripture, it is more frequently limited to the second part. On the present occasion I should not hesitate to understand by it the love both of God and of our neighbor, if Paul had employed the word love alone; but when he adds, “faith, and a good conscience, and a pure heart,” the interpretation which I am now to give will not be at variance with his intention, and will agree well with the scope of the passage. The sum of the law is this, that we may worship God with true faith and a pure conscience, and that we may love one another. Whosoever turns aside from this corrupts the law of God by twisting it to a different purpose.
But here arises a doubt, that Paul appears to prefer “love” to “faith.” I reply, they who are of that opinion reason in an excessively childish manner; for, if love is first mentioned, it does not therefore hold the first rank of honor, since Paul shows also that it springs from faith. Now the cause undoubtedly goes before its effect. And if we carefully weigh the whole context, what Paul says is of the same import as if he had said, “The law was given to us for this purpose, that it might instruct us in faith, which is the mother of a good conscience and of love.” Thus we must begin with faith, and not with love.
“A pure heart” and “a good conscience” do not greatly differ from each other. Both proceed from faith; for, as to a pure heart, it is said that “God purifieth hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9.) As to a good conscience, Peter declares that it is founded on the resurrection of Christ. (1 Peter 3:21.) From this passage we also learn that there is no true love where there is not fear of God and uprightness of conscience.
Nor is it unworthy of observation that to each of them he adds an epithet; 1111 “Il donne a chacune vertu son epithet.” — “He gives to each virtue its epithet.” for, as nothing is more common, so nothing is more easy, than to boast of faith and a good conscience. But how few are there who prove by their actions that they are free from all hypocrisy! Especially it is proper to observe the epithet Which he bestows on “faith,” when he calls it faith unfeigned; by which he means that the profession of it is insincere, when we do not perceive a good conscience, and when love is not manifested. Now since the salvation of men rests on faith, and since the perfect worship of God rests on faith and a good conscience and love, we need not wonder if Paul makes the sum of the law to consist of them.
6 From which some having gone astray He continues to pursue the metaphor of an object or end; for the verb ἀστοχεῖν, the participle of which is here given, signifies to err or go aside from a mark. 1212 “Here he makes use of a metaphor taken from those who shoot with a bow; for they have their mark at which they aim, and do not shoot carelessly, or at random. Thus Paul shews that God, by giving us the law, has determined to give us a sure road, that we may not be liable to wander like vagabonds. And, indeed, it is not without reason that Moses exhorteth the people, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ as if he had said that men do not know where they are, till God has declared to them his will; but then they have an infallible rule. — Let us carefully observe that God intends to address us in such a manner that it shall not be possible for us to go astray, provided that we take him for our guide, seeing that he is ready and willing to perform that office, when we do not refuse such a favor. This is what Paul meant by this metaphor; as we are told that all who have it not as their object to rely on the grace of God, in order that they may call on God as their Father, and may expect salvation from him, and who do not walk with a good conscience, and with a pure heart toward their neighborhood, are like persons who have wandered and gone astray.” — Fr. Ser.
Have turned aside to idle talking This is a remarkable passage, in which he condemns for “idle talking” 1313 “De vanite et mesonge.” — “For vanity and falsehood.” all the doctrines which do not aim at this single end, and at the same time points out that the views and thoughts of all who aim at any other object vanish away. It is, indeed, possible that useless trifles may be regarded by many persons with admiration; but the statement of Paul remains unshaken, that everything that does not edify in godliness is ματαιολογία, 1414 “Ματαιολογία has reference to the interminable and unprofitable ζητήσεις mentioned at 1 Timothy 1:4, and called κενοφωνίας at 1 Timothy 6:20; this vain and empty talk being, by implication, opposed to the performance of substantial duties.” — Bloomfield. “idle talking.” We ought; therefore to take the greatest possible care not to seek anything in the holy and sacred word of God but solid edification, lest otherwise he inflict on us severe punishment for abusing it.
7 Wishing to be teachers of the law He does not reprove those who openly attack the instruction of the law, but those who boast of belonging to the rank of teachers of it. He affirms that such persons have no understanding, because they harass their faculties to no purpose by curious questions. And, at the same time, he rebukes their pride by adding, —
Of what things they affirm, for none will be found more bold in pronouncing rashly on matters unknown to them than the teachers of such fables. We see in the present day with what pride and haughtiness the schools of the Sorbonne pronounce their authoritative decisions. And on what subjects? On those which are altogether hidden from the minds of men — which no word of Scripture, and no revelation has ever made known to us. With greater boldness do they affirm their purgatory 1515 “And in Popery what are the articles that shall be held as most certain? What angel, or what devil, revealed to them that there is a purgatory? They have fabricated it out of their own brain, and, after having attempted to produce some passages of the Holy Scriptures, they have at length become bewildered, so that they have no defense of their purgatory, but its antiquity. ‘There it is! It has been always held.’ Such is the foundation of faith, according to the learned Papists. And then we must not call in question that we ought to apply to the departed saints as our advocates and intercessors. To go to God without baying as our guide St. Michael, or the Virgin Mary, or some other saint whom the Pope shall have inserted in his calendar for the occasion, would be of no avail. And why? On what ground? Will they find in all the Holy Scriptures a single word, a single syllable, to shew that creatures, that is, deceased persons, intercede for us? For in this world we ought to pray for one another, and that is a mutual obligation; but as to deceased persons, not a word is said about them.” — Fr. Ser. than the resurrection of the dead. As to their contrivances about the intercession of the saints, if we do not hold them to be an undoubted oracle, they cry out that the whole of religion is overturned. What shall I say as to their vast labyrinths about the hierarchies of heaven, relationships, and similar contrivances? It is a matter that has no end. The Apostle declares that in all these is fulfilled what is said in a well-known ancient proverb,
“Ignorance is rash;” as he says that, “puffed up by their carnal mind, they intrude into things which they know not.”