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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.

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.

14 Remind them of these things. The expression (ταῦτα) these things, is highly emphatic. It means that the summary of the gospel which he gave, and the exhortations which he added to it, are of so great importance, that a good minister ought never to be weary of exhibiting them; for they are things that deserve to be continually handled, and that cannot be too frequently repeated. “They are things” (he says) “which I wish you not only to teach once, but to take great pains to impress on the hearts of men by frequent repetition.” A good teacher ought to look at nothing else than edification, and to give his whole attention to that alone. 170170     “When any person comes to the sermon, let it not be to hear something that tickles the ears, or that gives pleasure; but let it be to make progress in the fear of God, and in humility, and to excite to prayer, and to confirm him in patience. If we have heard an exhortation today, and if tomorrow it is repeated to us, let us not think that this is superfluous, let us not be annoyed at it; for every person who carefully examines this subject will find it to be highly necessary for him to be reminded of the lesson which he had learned, that he may practice it well. If, therefore, God refreshes our memory with it, he has conferred on us a great favor. That is what we have to remark on this passage, when Paul says, ‘Remind them of these things.’ For undoubtedly he intended to prevent what we frequently meet with, when it is said, ‘We have heard this before. Is not that a very common remark? Where is the little child that does not know it?” Such things are said by those who would wish to be fed with useless questions. But here the Holy Spirit desires that what is useful should be brought forward every day, because we have not sufficiently understood it, and because it must be put in practice.” — Fr. Ser. On the contrary, he enjoins him not only to abstain from useless questions, but likewise to forbid others to follow them. 171171     Mais de defendre aussi aux autres qu’ils ne s’y amusent point.” — “But likewise to forbid others to entertain themselves with them.”

Solemnly charging them before the Lord, not to dispute about words. Λογομαχεῖν means to engage earnestly in contentious disputes, which are commonly produced by a foolish desire of being ingenious. Solemn charging before the Lord is intended to strike terror; 172172     “Est pour donner crainte a ceux qui voudroyent faire autrement.” — “Is intended to strike terror into those who would wish to act differently.” and from this severity we learn how dangerous to the Church is that knowledge which leads to debates, that is, which disregards piety, and tends to ostentation; of this nature is the whole of that speculative theology, as it is called, that is found among the Papists.

For no use, On two grounds, λογομαχία, or “disputing about words,” is condemned by him. It is of no advantage, and it is exceedingly hurtful, by disturbing weak minds. Although in the version I have followed Erasmus, because it did not disagree with Paul’s meaning, yet I wish to inform my readers that Paul’s words may be explained in this manner, “That which is useful for nothing.” The Greek words are, εἰς οὐδὲν χρήσιμον, and I read χρήσιμον in the accusative case, and not in the nominative. The style will thus flow more agreeably; as if he had said, “Of what use is it, when no good comes from it, but much evil? for the faith of many is subverted.”

Let us remark, first, that, when a manner of teaching does no good, for that single reason it is justly disapproved; for God does not wish to indulge our curiosity, but to instruct us in a useful manner. Away with all speculations, therefore, which produce no edification!

But the second is much worse, when questions are raised, which are not only unprofitable, but tend to the subversion of the hearers I wish that this were attended to by those who are always armed for fighting with the tongue, and who, in every question are looking for grounds of quarreling, and who go so far as to lay snares around every word or syllable. But they are carried in a wrong direction by ambition, and sometimes by an almost fatal disease; which I have experienced in some. What the Apostle says about subverting is shown, every day, by actual observation, to be perfectly true; for it is natural, amidst disputes, to lose sight of the truth; and Satan avails himself of quarrels as a presence for disturbing weak persons, and overthrowing their faith.

15 Study to shew thyself to be approved by God Since all disputes about doctrine arise from this source, that men are desirous to make a boast of ingenuity before the world, Paul here applies the best and most excellent remedy, when he commands Timothy to keep his eyes fixed on God; as if he had said; “Some aim at the applause of a crowded assembly, but do thou study to approve thyself and thy ministry to God.” And indeed there is nothing that tends more to check a foolish eagerness for display, than to reflect that we have to deal with God.

A workman that doth not blush Erasmus translates ἀνεπαίσχυντον that ought not to blush.” I do not find fault with that rendering, but prefer to explain it actively, “that doth not blush;”, both because that is the more ordinary meaning of the word as used by Greek writers, and because I consider it to agree better with the present passage. There is an implied contrast. Those who disturb the Church by contentions break out into that fierceness, because they are ashamed of being overcome, and because they reckon it disgraceful that there should be anything that they do not know. Paul, on the contrary, bids them appeal to the judgment of God.

And first, he bids them be not lazy disputants, but workmen. By this term he indirectly reproves the foolishness of those who so greatly torment themselves by doing nothing. Let us therefore be “workmen” in building the Church, and let us be employed in the work of God in such a manner that some fruit shall be seen then we shall have no cause to “blush;” for, although in debating we be not equal to talkative boasters, yet it will be enough that we excel them in the desire of edification, in industry, in courage, and in the efficacy of doctrine. In short, he bids Timothy labor diligently, that he may not be ashamed before God; whereas ambitious men dread only this kind of shame, to lose nothing of their reputation for acuteness or profound knowledge.

Dividing aright the word of truth. This is a beautiful metaphor, and one that skillfully expresses the chief design of teaching. “Since we ought to be satisfied with the word of God alone, what purpose is served by having sermons every day, or even the office of pastors? Has not every person an opportunity of reading the Bible?” 173173     “We shall find fanatics who think that it is a loss of time to come to the church to be taught. ‘What? Is not all the doctrine of God contained in the Bible? What more can be said on the subject?’ It is making them little children (they will say) to come here to be taught; but grown people may dispense with it. What? Must there be all this preaching? There are but two points in Scripture, that we ought to love God and to love our neighbor. We have not heard these things merely from those who come to relate them; but the most distinguished scholars of those who vomited out these blasphemies have themselves declared them to us. I could name the day when it was said, and the houses, and the hour, and the people who were present, and how wicked men poured out their venom and their passion against God, to overthrow and destroy all religion, if it were possible; that is but too well known. On the contrary, Paul shews us here, that if we have only the Holy Scripture, it is not enough that each of us read it in private, but the doctrine drawn from it must be preached to us in order that we may be well informed” — Fr. Ser. But Paul assigns to teachers the duty of dividing or cutting, 174174     “De couper et tailler.” — “Of cutting and carving.” as if a father, in giving food to his children, were dividing the bread, by cutting it into small pieces.

He advises Timothy to “cut aright,” lest, when he is employed in cutting the surface, as unskillful people are wont to do, he leave the pith and marrow untouched. Yet by this term I understand, generally, an allotment of the word which is judicious, and which is well suited to the profit of the hearers. Some mutilate it, others tear it, others torture it, others break it in pieces, others, keeping by the outside, (as we have said,) never come to the soul of doctrine. 175175     “A l’ame de la doctrine.” To all these faults he contrasts time “dividing aright,” that is, the manner of explaining which is adapted to edification; for that is the rule by which we must try all interpretation of Scripture.

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