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Personal Instructions and Benediction
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge;
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.