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4. Paul's Charge to Timothy
1I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables. 5But be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. 6For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: 8henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing. 9Give diligence to come shortly unto me: 10for Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is useful to me for ministering. 12But Tychicus I sent to Ephesus. 13The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments. 14Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord will render to him according to his works: 15of whom do thou also beware; for he greatly withstood our words. 16At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their account. 17But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 19Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus. 20Erastus remained at Corinth: but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick. 21Give diligence to come before winter. Eubulus saluteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. 22The Lord be with thy spirit. Grace be with you.
6 For I am now offered as a sacrifice He assigns the reason for the solemn protestation which he employed. As if he had said, “So long as I lived, I stretched out my hand to thee; my constant exhortations were not withheld from thee; thou hast been much aided by my advices, and much confirmed by my example; the time is now come, that thou shouldst be thine own teacher and exhorter, and shouldst begin to swim without support: beware lest any change in thee be observed at my death.”
And the time of my dissolution is at hand 197197 “Car de moy je m’en vay maintenant estre sacrifie.” — “For, for my part, I am going to be now sacrificed.” We must attend to the modes of expression by which he denotes his death. By the word dissolution he means that we do not altogether perish when we die; because it is only a separation of the soul from the body. Hence we infer, that death is nothing else than a departure of the soul from the body — a definition which contains a testimony of the immortality of the soul.
“Sacrifice” was a term peculiarly applicable to the death of Paul, which was inflicted on him for maintaining the truth of Christ; for, although all believers, both by their obedient life and by their death, are victims or offerings acceptable to God, yet martyrs are sacrificed in a more excellent manner, by shedding their blood for the name of Christ. Besides, the word σπένδεσθαι which Paul here employs, does not denote every kind of sacrifice, but that which serves for ratifying covenants. Accordingly, in this passage, he means the same thing which he states more clearly when he says,
“But if I am offered on the sacrifice of your faith, I rejoice.” (Philippians 2:17.)
For there he means that the faith of the Philippians was ratified by his death, in precisely the same manner that covenants were ratified in ancient times by sacrifices of slain beasts; not that the certainty of our faith is founded, strictly speaking, on the steadfastness of the martyrs, but because it tends greatly to confirm us. Paul has here adorned his death by a magnificent commendation, when he called it the ratification of his doctrine, that believers, instead of sinking into despondency — as frequently happens — might be more encouraged by it to persevere.
The time of dissolution This mode of expression is also worthy of notice, because he beautifully lessens the excessive dread of death by pointing out its effect and its nature. How comes it that men are so greatly dismayed at any mention of death, but because they think that they perish utterly when they die? On the contrary, Paul, by calling it “Dissolution,” affirms that man does not perish, but teaches that the soul is merely separated from the body. It is with the same object that he fearlessly declares that “the time is at hand,” which he could not have done unless he had despised death; for although this is a natural feeling, which can never be entirely taken away, that man dreads and shrinks from death, yet that terror must be vanquished by faith, that it may not prevent us from departing form this world in an obedient manner, whenever God shall call us.
7 I have fought the good fight Because it is customary to form a judgment from the event, Paul’s fight might have been condemned on the ground that it did not end happily. He therefore boasts that it is excellent, whatever may be the light in which it is regarded by the world. This declaration is a testimony of eminent faith; for not only was Paul accounted wretched in the opinion of all, but his death also was to be ignominious. Who then would not have said that he fought without success? But he does not rely on the corrupt judgments of men. On the contrary, by magnanimous courage he rises above every calamity, so that nothing opposes his happiness and glory; and therefore he declares “the fight which he fought” to be good and honorable.
I have finished my course He even congratulates himself on his death, because it may be regarded as the goal or termination of his course. We know that they who run a race have gained their wish when they have reached the goal. In this manner also he affirms that to Christ’s combatants death is desirable, because it puts an end to their labors; and, on the other hand, he likewise declares that we ought never to rest in this life, because it is of no advantage to have run well and constantly from the beginning to the middle of the course, if we do not reach the goal.
I have kept the faith 198198 “This word ‘Faith’ may indeed be taken for Fidelity; as if he had said that he was loyal to our Lord Jesus Christ, and that he never flinched, that he always performed what belonged to his office. But we may also take this word faith in its ordinary meaning, that Paul did not turn aside from the pure simplicity of the gospel, and even that he relied on the promises of salvation which had been given to him, and, having preached to others, shewed that he was in earnest in what he spoke. For, indeed, all the loyalty which God demands from us proceeds from our adhering firmly to his word, and being founded on it in such a manner that we shall not be moved by any storm or tempest that may arise.” — Fr. Ser. This may have a twofold meaning, either that to the last he was a faithful soldier to his captain, or that he continued in the right doctrine. Both meanings will be highly appropriate; and indeed he could not make his fidelity acceptable to the Lord in any other way then by constantly professing, the pure doctrine of the gospel. Yet I have no doubt that he alludes to the solemn oath taken by soldiers; as if he had said that he was a good and faithful soldier to his captain.
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness Having boasted of having fought his fight and finished his course, and kept the faith, he now affirms that he has not labored in vain. Now it is possible to put forth strenuous exertion, and yet to be defrauded of the reward which is due. But Paul says that his reward is sure. This certainty arises from turning his eyes to the day of the resurrection, and this is what we also ought to do; for all around we see nothing but death, and therefore we ought not to keep our eye fixed on the outward appearance of the world, but, on the contrary, to hold out to our minds the coming of Christ. The consequences will be, that nothing can detract from our happiness.
Which the Lord the righteous Judge will render to me Because he mentions “the crown of righteousness” and “the righteous Judge,” and employs the word “render,” the Papists endeavor, by means of this passage, to build up the merits of works in opposition to the grace of God. But their reasoning is absurd. Justification by free grace, which is bestowed on us through faith, is not at variance within the rewarding of works, but, on the contrary, those two statements perfectly agree, that a man is justified freely through the grace of Christ, and yet that God will render to him the reward of works; for as soon as God has received us into favor, he likewise accepts our works, so as even to deign to give them a reward, though it is not due to them.
Here two blunders are committed by the Papists; first, in arguing that we deserve something from God, because we do well by virtue of our freewill; and secondly, in holding that God is bound to us, as if our salvation proceeded from anything else than from his grace. But it does not follow that God owes anything to us, because he renders righteously what he renders; for he is righteous even in those acts of kindness which are of free grace. And he “renders the reward” which he has promised, not because we take the lead by any act of obedience, but because, in the same course of liberality in which he has begun to act toward us, he follows up his former gifts by those which are afterwards bestowed. In vain, therefore, and to no purpose, do the Papists labor to prove from this, that good works proceed from the power of freewill; because there is no absurdity in saying that God crowns in us his own gifts. Not less absurdly and foolishly do they endeavor, by means of this passage, to destroy the righteousness of faith; since the goodness of God — by which he graciously embraces a man, not imputing to him his sins — is not inconsistent with that rewarding of works which he will render by the same kindness with which he made the promise. 199199 “The Papists themselves ought to observe carefully what was said by one of those whom they call their Doctors. ‘How would God render the crown as a righteous Judge, if he had not first given grace as a merciful Father? And how would there have been righteousness in us, had it not been preceded by the grace which justifies us? And how would that crown have been rendered as due, had not all that we have — been given when it was not due?’ These are the words of Augustin; and although the Papists do not choose to keep by the Holy Scripture, they ought at least not to be so base as to renounce that which they pretend to hold. But even this is not all. It is true that it is a doctrine which well deserves to be embraced, that God cannot be a righteous Judge to save us, unless he have been previously declared to be in the highest degree a merciful Father; that there will be no righteousness in us but that which he has placed there; and that he cannot reward us but by crowning his gifts. But it is also true, that, though God has given us grace to serve him, though we have laboriously done, according to our ability, all that was possible for us, though we have done so well that God accepts of it all; still there will be much to censure in all the best works that we have done, and the greatest virtue that can be perceived in us will be vicious.” — Fr. Ser.
And not to me only That all the rest of the believers might fight courageously along with him, he invites them to a participation of the crown; for his unshaken steadfastness could not have served for an example to us, if the same hope of obtaining the crown had not been held out to us.
To all who love his coming 200200 “Son apparition.” — “His appearing.” This is a singular mark which he employs in describing believers. And, indeed, wherever faith is strong, it will not permit their minds to fall asleep in this world, but will elevate them to the hope of the last resurrection. His meaning therefore is, that all who are so much devoted to the world, and who love so much this fleeting life, as not to care about the coming of Christ, and not to be moved by any desire of it, deprive themselves of immortal glory. Woe to our stupidity, therefore, which exercises such power over us, that we never think seriously about the coming of Christ, to which we ought to give our whole attention. Besides, he excludes from the number of believers those in whom the coming of Christ produces terror and alarm; for it cannot be loved unless it be regarded as pleasant and delightful.