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1. Warning Against False Teachers

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; 2Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

3As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. 5Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 8But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. 12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful 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 first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 18This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 20Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

19 Having faith and a good conscience I understand the word faith to be a general term, denoting sound doctrine. In the same sense he afterwards speaks of “the mystery of faith.” (1 Timothy 3:9.) And, indeed, the chief things demanded from a teacher are these two: — that he shall hold by the pure truth of the gospel; and next, that he shall administer it with a good conscience and holiest zeal. Where these are found, all the others will follow of their own accord.

From which some having turned aside concerning faith He shows how necessary it is that faith be accompanied by a good conscience; because, on the other hand, the punishment of a bad conscience is turning aside from the path of duty. They who do not serve God with a sincere and a perfect heart, but give a loose rein to wicked dispositions, even though at first they had a sound understanding, come to lose it altogether.

This passage ought to be carefully observed. We know that the treasure of sound doctrine is invaluable, and therefore there is nothing that we ought to dread more than to have it taken from us. But Paul here informs us, that there is only one way of keeping it safe; and that is, to secure it by the locks and bars of a good conscience. This is what we experience every day; for how comes it that there are so many who, laying aside the gospel, rush into wicked sects, or become involved in monstrous errors? It is because, by this kind of blindness, God punishes hypocrisy; as, on the other hand, a genuine fear of God gives strength for perseverance.

Hence we may learn two lessons. First, Teachers and ministers of the gospel, and, through them all the churches are taught with what horror they ought to regard a hypocritical and deceitful profession of true doctrine, when they learn that it is so severely punished. Secondly, this passage removes the offense by which so many persons are greatly distressed, when they perceive that some, who formerly professed their attachment to Christ and to the gospel, not only fall back into their former superstitions but (which is far worse) are bewildered and captivated by monstrous errors. For by such examples, God openly supports the majesty of the gospel, and openly shows that he cannot at all endure the profanation of it. And this is what experience has taught us in every age. All the errors that have existed in the Christian Church from the beginning, proceeded from this source, that in some persons, ambition, and in others, covetousness, extinguished the true fear of God. A bad conscience is, therefore, the mother of all heresies; and we see that a vast number of persons, who had not sincerely and honestly embraced the faith, are hurried along, like brute beasts, into the reveries of the Epicureans, so that their hypocrisy is exposed. And not only so, but contempt of God is universally prevalent, and the licentious and disgraceful lives of almost all ranks show that there is either none at all, or the smallest possible potion of integrity in the world; so that there is very great reason to fear lest the light which had been kindled may be speedily extinguished, and God may leave the pure understanding of the gospel to be possessed by very few.

Have made shipwreck: The metaphor taken from shipwreck is highly appropriate; for it suggests to us, that, if we wish to arrive safely at the harbor, our course must be guided by a good conscience, otherwise there is danger of “shipwreck;” that is, there is danger lest faith be sunk by a bad conscience, as by a whirlpool in a stormy sea. 3030     “What is human life, and what is the whole of its course? A navigation. Not only are we travelers, as the Scripture tells us, (1 Peter 2:11,) but we have no solidity. They who travel by land, either on foot or on horseback, have still their sure and firm road; but in the world, instead of being on foot or on horseback, we must be, as it were, on a sea, and we have no solid footing. We are like people who are in a boat, and who are always within half a foot of their death; and the boat is a sort of grave, because they see the water all around ready to swallow them up. Thus is it with us, while we live here below. For, on the one hand, there is the frailty that is in us, which is more fluid than water; and then all that surrounds us is like water, which flows on all sides, while at every minute winds, and storms. and tempests arise. Let us therefore learn that our life is but a kind of navigation, which we perform by water, and that we are, at the same time, exposed to many winds and storms. And if it be so, what shall become of us when we have not a good boat or a good pilot?” — Fr. Ser.


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