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A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus


You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; 2and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. 3Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. 5And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. 6It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.

8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11The saying is sure:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;


if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he will also deny us;


if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

A Worker Approved by God

14 Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. 16Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, 17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.”

20 In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. 21All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. 22Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, 25correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 26and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

1 Be strong in the grace As he had formerly commanded him to keep, by the Spirit, that which was committed to him, so now he likewise enjoins him “to be strengthened in grace.” By this expression he intends to shake off sloth and indifference; for the flesh is so sluggish, that even those who are endued with eminent gifts are found to slacken in the midst of their course, if they be not frequently aroused.

Some will say: “Of what use is it to exhort a man to ‘be strong in grace,’ unless free-will have something to do in cooperation?” I reply, what God demands from us by his word he likewise bestows by his Spirit, so that we are strengthened in the grace which he has given to us. And yet the exhortations are not superfluous, because the Spirit of God, teaching us inwardly, causes that they shall not sound in our ears fruitlessly and to no purpose. Whoever, therefore, shall acknowledge that the present exhortation could not have been fruitful without the secret power of the Spirit, will never support free-will by means of it.

Which is in Christ Jesus. This is added for two reasons; to shew that the grace comes from Christ alone, and from no other, and that no Christian will be destitute of it; for, since there is one Christ common to all, it follows that all are partakers of his grace, which is said to be in Christ, because all who belong to Christ must have it.

My son. This kind appellation, which he employs, tends much to gain the affections, that the doctrine may more effectually obtain admission into the heart.

2 And which thou hast heard from me. He again shews how earnestly desirous he is to transmit sound doctrine to posterity; and he exhorts Timothy, not only to preserve its shape and features, (as he formerly did,) but likewise to hand it down to godly teachers, that, being widely spread, it may take root in the hearts of many; for he saw that it would quickly perish if it were not soon scattered by the ministry of many persons. And, indeed, we see what Satan did, not long after the death of the Apostles; for, just as if preaching had been buried for some centuries, he brought in innumerable reveries, which, by their monstrous absurdity, surpassed the superstitions of all the heathens. We need not wonder, therefore, if Paul, in order to guard against an evil of such a nature and of such magnitude, earnestly desires that his doctrines shall be committed to all godly ministers, who shall be qualified to teach it. As if he had said, — “See that after my death there may remain a sure attestation of my doctrine; and this will be, if thou not only teach faithfully what thou hast learned from me, but take care that it be more widely published by others; therefore, whomsoever thou shalt see fitted for that work, commit to their trust this treasure.”

Commit to believing men He calls them believing men, not on account of their faith, which is common to all Christians, but on account of their pre-eminence, as possessing a large measure of faith. We might even translate it “faithful men;” 156156     “Loyaux et digne auxquels on se fie.” — “Faithful and trustworthy.” for there are few who sincerely labor to preserve and perpetuate the remembrance of the doctrine intrusted to them. Some are impelled by ambition, and that of various kinds, some by covetousness, some by malice, and others are kept back by the fear of dangers; and therefore extraordinary faithfulness is here demanded.

By many witnesses 157157     “Entre plusieurs tenmoins, ou, en presence de plusieurs temoins.” — “Among many witnesses, or, in presence of many witnesses.” He does not mean that he produced witnesses in a formal and direct manner 158158     “Il ne vent pas dire qu’il ait appele des tesmoins, comme c’est la coustume es contrats et autres actes solennels.” — “He does not mean that he called witnesses, as is customary in contracts and other solemn acts.” in the case of Timothy; but, because some might raise a controversy whether that which Timothy taught had proceeded from Paul, or had been forged by himself, he removes all doubt by this argument, that he did not speak secretly in a corner, but that there were many alive who could testify that Timothy spoke nothing which they had not formerly heard from the mouth of Paul. The doctrine of Timothy would therefore be beyond suspicion, seeing that they had many fellow-disciples, who could bear testimony to it. Hence we learn how greatly a servant of Christ should labor to maintain and defend the purity of doctrine, and not only while he lives, but as long as his care and labor can extend it.

3 Do thou therefore endure afflictions Not without strong necessity has he added this second exhortation; for they who offer their obedience to Christ must be prepared for “enduring afflictions;” and thus, without patient endurance of evils, there will never be perseverance. And accordingly he adds, “as becomes a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” By this term he means that all who serve Christ are warriors, and that their condition as warriors consists, not in inflicting evils, but rather in patience.

These are matters on which it is highly necessary for us to meditate. We see how many there are every day, that throw away their spears, who formerly made a great show of valor. Whence does this arise? Because they cannot become inured to the cross. First, they are so effeminate that they shrink from warfare. Next, they do not know any other way of fighting than to contend haughtily and fiercely with their adversaries; and they cannot bear to learn what it is to

“possess their souls in patience.” (Luke 21:19)

4 No man who warreth He continues to make use of the metaphor which he had borrowed from warfare. Yet, strictly speaking, he formerly called Timothy “a soldier of Christ” metaphorically; but now he compares profane warfare with spiritual and Christian warfare in this sense. “The condition of military discipline is such, that as soon as a soldier has enrolled himself under a general, he leaves his house and all his affairs, and thinks of nothing but war; and in like manner, in order that we may be wholly devoted to Christ, we must be free from all the entanglements of this world.”

With the affairs of life By “the affairs of life”, 159159     “By τοῦ βίου πραγματείαις is meant the business of life in general, the plural being used with allusion to the various kinds thereof, as agriculture, trade, manufactures, etc. Now, by the Roman law, soldiers were excluded from all such. See Grotius.” — Bloomfield he means the care of governing his family, and ordinary occupations; as farmers leave their agriculture, and merchants their ships and merchandise, till they have completed the time that they agreed to serve in war. We must now apply the comparison to the present subject, that every one who wishes to fight under Christ must relinquish all the hindrances and employments of the world, and devote himself unreservedly to the warfare. In short, let us remember the old proverb, Hoc age, 160160     “Brief, qu’il nous souvienne du proverbe ancien duquel les Latins ont use en faisant leurs sacrifices, Hoc age, c’est a dire, Fay ceci, ou, Pense a ceci, ascavoir que tu as entre mains, lequel signifie, que quand il est question du service de Dieu, il s’y faut tellement employer, que nous ne soyons ententifs ni affectionnez ailleurs.” — “In short, let us remember the old proverb which the Latins used in offering their sacrifices, Hoc age, that is to say, ‘Do this,’ or, ‘Think of this,’ ‘Do (or think of) what thou hast in hand,’ which means, that when the worship of God is the matter in question, we must be employed in it in such a manner that we shall not give our attention or our heart to anything else.” which means, that in the worship of God, we ought to give such earnestness of attention that nothing else should occupy our thoughts and feelings. The old translation has, “No man that fights for God,” etc. But this utterly destroys Paul’s meaning.

Here Paul speaks to the pastors of the Church in the person of Timothy. The statement is general, but is specially adapted to the ministers of the word. First, let them see what things are inconsistent within their office, that, freed from those things, they may follow Christ. Next, let them see, each for himself, what it is that draws them away from Christ; that this heavenly General may not have less authority over us than that which a mortal man claims for himself over heathen soldiers who have enrolled under him.

5 And if any one strive He now speaks of perseverance, that no man may think that he has done enough when he has been engaged in one or two conflicts. He borrows a comparison from wrestlers, not one of whom obtains the prize till he has been victorious in the end. Thus he says:

“In a race all run, but one obtaineth the prize;
run so that ye may obtain.” (1 Corinthians 9:24.)

If any man, therefore, wearied with the conflict, immediately withdraw from the arena to enjoy repose, he will be condemned for indolence instead of being crowned. Thus, because Christ wishes us to strive during our whole life, he who gives way in the middle of the course deprives himself of honor, even though he may have begun valiantly. To strive lawfully is to pursue the contest in such a manner and to such an extent as the law requires, that none may leave off before the time appointed.

6 The husbandman must labor before he receive the fruits I am well aware that others render this passage differently; and I acknowledge that they translate, word for word, what Paul has written in Greek; but he who shall carefully examine the context will assent to my view. 161161     “Je scay bien que les autres ont tradoit ce passage autrement: Il faut que le laboureur travaillaut (ou, qui travaille) prene premier des fruits.” — “I am well aware that others translate this passage differently: The husbandman laboring (or, who laboreth) must first partake of the fruits.” Besides, the use of (κοπιῶντα) to labor instead of (κοπιᾷν) to labor, is a well-known Greek idiom; for Greek writers often make use of the participle in place of the infinitive. 162162     “The agonistic metaphor now passes into an agricultural one, (such as we find at 1 Corinthians 9:10; James 5:7.) The sense, however, will depend upon what πρῶτον is to be referred to. It is most naturally connected with μεταλαμβάνειν, and such is the construction adopted by the generality of Expositors, ancient and modern. The sense, however, thus arising, either involves what is inconsistent with facts, or (even when helped out by the harsh ellipsis of ἵνα κοπιᾷ, ‘in order that he may be enabled to labor,’) contains a truth here inapposite; and the spiritual application thence deduced is forced and frigid. It is not, however, necessary, with some, to resort to conjecture. We have only to suppose, what is common in his writings, a somewhat harsh transposition, and (with many of the best Expositors) to join πρῶτον with κοπιῶντα, as is required by the course of the argument; the true construction being this: — δεῖ τὸν γεωργὸν πρῶτον κοπιῶντα τῶν καρπῶν μεταλαμβάνειν, where κοπιὦντα is the participle imperfect, and the literal sense is, — It is necessary that the husbandmen should first labor, and then enjoy the fruits (of his labor.)” — Bloomfield.

The meaning therefore, is, that husbandmen do not gather the fruit, till they have first toiled hard in the cultivation of the soil, by sowing and by other labors. And if husbandmen do not spare their toils, that one day they may obtain fruit, and if they patiently wait for the season of harvest; how much more unreasonable will it be for us to refuse the labors which Christ enjoins upon us, while he holds out so great a reward?

7 Understand what I say 163163     “Enten ce que je di, of, Considere.” — “Understand what I say, or, Consider what I say. He added this, not on account of the obscurity of the comparisons which he has set forth, but that Timothy himself might ponder, how much more excellent is the warfare under the direction of Christ, and how much more abundant the reward; for, when we have studied it incessantly, we scarcely arrive at a full knowledge of it.

The Lord give thee understanding in all things The prayer, which now follows, is added by way of correction. Because our minds do not easily rise to that “incorruptible crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25) of the life to come, 164164     “De la vie eternelle.” — “Of eternal life.” Paul betakes himself to God, to “give understanding” to Timothy. And hence we infer, that not less are we taught in vain, if the Lord do not open our understandings, than the commandments would be given in vain, if he did not impart strength to perform them. For who could have taught better than Paul? And yet, in order that he may teach with any advantage, he prays that God may train his disciple.

8 Remember that Jesus Christ, being raised from the dead. He expressly mentions some part of his doctrine, which he wished to go down to posterity, entire and uncorrupted. It is probable that he glances chiefly at that part about which he was most afraid; as will also appear clearly from what follows, when he comes to speak about the error of “Hymenaeus and Philetus,” (2 Timothy 2:17;) for they denied the resurrection, of which we have a sure pledge in this confession, when they falsely said that it was already past.

How necessary this admonition of Paul was, the ancient histories shew; for Satan put forth all his strength, in order to destroy this article of our faith. There being two parts of it, that Christ was born “of the seed of David,” and that he rose from the dead; immediately after the time of the Apostles, arose Marcion, who labored to destroy the truth of the human nature in Christ; and afterwards he was followed by the Manichaeans; and even, in the present day, this plague is still spreading.

So far as relates to the resurrection, how many have been employed, and with what diversified schemes, in laboring to overthrow the hope of it! This attestation, therefore, means as much as if Paul had said, “Let no one corrupt or falsify my gospel by slanders; I have thus taught, I have thus preached, that Christ, who was born a man of the seed of David, rose from the dead.”

According to my gospel He calls it “his gospel,” not that he professes to be the author but the minister of it. Now, in the resurrection of Christ we all have a sure pledge of our own resurrection. Accordingly, he who acknowledges that Christ has risen affirms that the same thing will take place with us also; for Christ did not rise for himself, but for us. The head must not be separated from his members. Besides, in the resurrection of Christ is contained the fulfillment of our redemption and salvation; for it is added, from the dead. Thus Christ, who was dead, arose. Why? and for what purpose? Here we must come to ourselves, and here too is manifested the power and fruit of both, namely, of his resurrection and of his death; for we must always hold by this principle, that Scripture is not wont to speak of these things coldly, and as matters of history, but makes indirect reference to the fruit.

Of the seed of David This clause not only asserts the reality of human nature in Christ, but also claims for him the honor and name of the Messiah. Heretics deny that Christ was a real man, others imagine that his human nature descended from heaven, and others think that there was in him nothing more than the appearance of a man. 165165     “Que seulement il y avoit en luy une apparence d’homme, et non pas une vraye nature humaine.” — “That there was in him only an appearance of man, and not a real human nature.” Paul exclaims, on the contrary, that he was “of the seed of David;” by which he undoubtedly declares that he was a real man, the son of a human being, that is, of Mary. This testimony is so express, that the more heretics labor to get rid of it, the more do they discover their own impudence. The Jews and other enemies of Christ deny that he is the person who was formerly promised; but Paul affirms that he is the son of David, and that he is descended from that family from which the Messiah ought to descend. 166166     “If we wish to be victorious over all the temptations of Satan, we must have great steadfastness, and must know that it is not at random that we believe in Jesus Christ, that this is not a doubtful matter, but that he came to us from God to be our Redeemer. And for this reason Paul here points out that he is of the lineage of David, and of his seed, for we know the promises that are contained in the Holy Scriptures, namely, that the whole world should be blessed in the seed of Abraham. Now, God confirmed this to David, by shewing that from him the Redeemer should proceed, that is, from the tribe of Judah, and from the house of David. Thus, the reason why Paul claims for him this title is, that, having the promises which God had formerly made to the fathers, concerning that Redeemer who hath been given to us, we may not doubt that we ought to receive him with full conviction, and have no reason to doubt whether he is, or is not, the Messiah. Why? He is descended from the house of David; and, although at that time, it had no royal dignity, yet that defect could not lessen the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, but, on the contrary, was fitted to confirm more fully our belief that it was he who should be sent. And why? The Prophet Isaiah did not say that he would be born in a palace, or that he would be brought up in great splendor; but he said, that he would grow as a small twig (Isaiah 11:1) from the root of Jesse; as if he had said, that, although Jesus Christ was of royal lineage, nevertheless his parents were poor, and were held of no account in worldly matters, having no rank or grandeur.” — Fr. Ser.

9 In which I am a sufferer This is an anticipation, for his imprisonment lessened the credit due to his gospel in the eyes of ignorant people. He, therefore, acknowledges that, as to outward appearance, he was imprisoned like a criminal; but adds, that his imprisonment did not hinder the gospel from having free course; and not only so, but that what he suffers is advantageous to the elect, because it tends to confirm them. Such is the unshaken courage of the martyrs of Christ, when the consciousness of being engaged in a good cause lifts them up above the world; so that, from a lofty position, they look down with contempt, not only on bodily pains and agonies, but on every kind of disgrace.

Moreover, all godly persons ought to strengthen themselves with this consideration, when they see the ministers of the gospel attacked and outraged by adversaries, that they may not, on that account, cherish less reverence for doctrine, but may give glory to God, by whose power they see it burst through all the hindrances of the world. And, indeed, if we were not excessively devoted to the flesh, this consolation alone must have been sufficient for us in the midst of persecutions, that, if we are oppressed by the cruelty of the wicked, the gospel is nevertheless extended and more widely diffused; for, whatever they may attempt, so far are they from obscuring or extinguishing the light of the gospel, that it burns the more brightly. Let us therefore bear cheerfully, or at least patiently, to have both our body and our reputation shut up in prison, provided that the truth of God breaks through those fetters, and is spread far and wide.

10 Wherefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect From the elect he shews, that his imprisonment is so far from being a ground of reproach, that it is highly profitable to the elect. When he says that he endures for the sake of the elect, 167167     “It might be replied, that it is superfluous that Paul should ‘endure for the elect.’ ‘Cannot God save those whom he elected and adopted before the creation of the world, without the assistance of men? Has the immutable decree of God any need of human help, or of creatures? Why then does Paul say that he endures on account of the elect?’ Now, it us true that God will conduct his people to the inheritance which is prepared for them but yet he is pleased to make use of the labor of men. Not that he is under a necessity of borrowing anything from us, but he confers on us this honor by his undeserved goodness, and wishes that we should be instruments of his power. Thus Paul does not boast that the salvation of the children of God depends on his steadfastness or on the afflictions which he had to endure; but he only means that God wishes to conduct his people by means of the word, and that he employs men whom he has chosen for that purpose, as for his own work, and makes them instruments of the power of his Holy Spirit.” — Fr. Ser. this demonstrates how much more he cares for the edification of the Church than for himself; for he is prepared, not only to die, but even to be reckoned in the number of wicked men, that he may promote the salvation of the Church.

In this passage Paul teaches the same doctrine as in Colossians 1:24, where he says, that he

“fills up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ, for his body, which is the Church.”

Hence the impudence of the Papists is abundantly refuted, who infer from these words that the death of Paul was a satisfaction for our sins; as if he claimed anything else for his death, than that it would confirm the faith of the godly, for he immediately adds an exposition, by affirming that the salvation of believers is found in Christ alone. But if any of my readers wishes to see a more extended illustration of this subject, let him consult my Commentary on the chapter which I have just now quoted — the first of the Epistle to the Colossians.

With eternal glory This is the end of the salvation which we obtain in Christ; for our salvation is to live to God, which salvation begins with our regeneration, and is completed by our perfect deliverance, when God takes us away from the miseries of this mortal life, and gathers us into his kingdom. To this salvation is added the participation of heavenly, that is, divine glory; and, therefore, in order to magnify the grace of Christ, he gave to salvation the name of “eternal glory.”

11 A faithful saying He makes a preface to the sentiment which he is about to utter; because nothing is more opposite to the feeling of the flesh, than that we must die in order to live, and that death is the entrance into life; for we may gather from other passages, that Paul was wont to make use of a preface of this sort, in matters of great importance, or hard to be believed.

If we die with him, we shall also live with him The general meaning is, that we shall not be partakers of the life and glory of Christ, unless we have previously died and been humbled with him; as he says, that all the elect were

“predestinated that they might be conformed to his image.” (Romans 8:29.)

This is said both for exhorting and comforting believers. Who is not excited by this exhortation, that we ought not to be distressed on account of our afflictions, which shall have so happy a result? The same consideration abates and sweetens all that is bitter in the cross; because neither pains, nor tortures, nor reproaches, nor death ought to be received by us with horror, since in these we share with Christ; more especially seeing that all these things are the forerunners of a triumph.

By his example, therefore, Paul encourages all believers to receive joyfully, for the name of Christ, those afflictions in which they already have a taste of future glory. If this shocks our belief, and if the cross itself so overpowers and dazzles our eyes, that we do not perceive Christ in them, let us remember to present this shield, “It is a faithful saying.” And, indeed, where Christ is present, we must acknowledge that life and happiness are there. We ought, therefore, to believe firmly, and to impress deeply on our hearts, this fellowship, that we do not die apart, but along with Christ, in order that we may afterwards have life in common with him; that we suffer with him, in order that we may be partakers of his glory. By death he means all that outward mortification of which he speaks in 2 Corinthians 4:10. 168168     The reader will do well to consider the author’s Commentary on that remarkable passage. — Ed.

12 If we deny him, he will also deny us A threatening is likewise added, for the purpose of shaking off sloth; for he threatens that they who, through the dread of persecution, leave off the confession of his name, have no part or lot with Christ. How unreasonable is it, that we should esteem more highly the transitory life of this world than the holy and sacred name of the Son of God! And why should he reckon among his people those who treacherously reject him? Here the excuse of weakness is of no value; 169169     “On ne gaigne rien yci de se defendre et excuser, en alleguant son infirmite.” — “Here nothing is gained by defending and excusing ourselves on the ground of our weakness.” for, if men did not willingly deceive themselves with vain flatteries, they would constantly resist, being endued with the spirit of strength and courage. Their base denial of Christ proceeds not only from weakness, but from unbelief; because it is in consequence of being blinded by the allurement of the world, that they do not at all perceive the life which is in the kingdom of God. But this doctrine has more need of being meditated on than of being explained; for the words of Christ are perfectly clear,

“Whoever shall deny me, him will I also deny” (Matthew 10:33.)

It remains that every one consider with himself, that this is no childish terror, but the judge seriously pronounces what will be found, at the appointed time, to be true.

13 If we are unbelieving, he remaineth faithful The meaning is, that our base desertion takes nothing from the Son of God or from his glory; because, having everything in himself, he stands in no need of our confession. As if he had said, “Let them desert Christ who will, yet they take nothing from him; for when they perish, he remaineth unchanged.”

He cannot deny himself This is a still stronger expression. “Christ is not like us, to swerve from his truth.” Hence it is evident, that all who deny Christ are disowned by him. And thus he drives away from wicked apostates the flatteries with which they soothe themselves; because, being in the habit of changing their hue, according to circumstances, they would willingly imagine that Christ, in like manner, assumes various forms, and is liable to change; which Paul affirms to be impossible. Yet, at the same time, we must firmly believe what I stated briefly on a former passage, that our faith is founded on the eternal and unchangeable truth of Christ, in order that it may not waver through the unsteadfastness or apostasy of men.

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