Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 353 - October 1885
In contrast with those who, through that root of evils, not more wounded themselves than they dishonoured the Lord, Timothy is now exhorted to cultivate all that is suited to and worthy of His name.
"But thou, O man of God, flee these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, meekness of spirit.1 Combat the good combat of faith; lay hold on the life eternal whereunto thou wast2 called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. I charge [thee]3 in the sight of God that preserveth all things,4 and Christ
Jesus that witnessed before Pontius Pilate the good confession, that thou keep the commandments, spotless, irreproachable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; which in its own times 110 shall show; the blessed am! only Potentate, (lie King of kings and Lord of lords; Who only bath iniinoriality, dwelling in light υτιa1ρrοacl ι nble, Whom /move of men saw nor can see: to Whom [be] honour midi might eternal. Amen " (ver. 11-16).
"Man of God" is a phrase of common occurrence from the Pentateuch and throughout the historical books of Old Testament scripture. Continually applied to a prophet, it regards him as one identified with the interests and character of God in deed and in truth, though of course liable to failure, and thereon to suffer chastening. In the New Testament it is found nowhere save in the two Epistles to Timothy, here predicated of the one addressed in order to stimulate and warn, in the same epistle open to all who in an evil day make good in faithful and holy devotedness to God what is implied in it.
Timothy as a man of God is called to shun the worldly lusts, foolish and hurtful, against which the apostle had been warning. It is vain to affect zeal for what is good, if so dangerous a snare be indulged, source as it is of all evils. But persevering avoidance of evil can hardly be, unless there be also the zealous pursuit of righteousness and godliness, of faith and love, of endurance and meekness of spirit. Practical consistency with one's relationship is indispensable, as is reverent affection Godward, the light of the unseen let in on the present and the activity of the heart in geed, the spirit made up to bear evil, and this with meekness, not with resentment and impatience. Such is the morally beautiful path traced here for his young fellow-labourer by one who knew it familiarly and deeply, though its perfection be found only in our Lord Jesus here below.
But more than this is called for, if He is to be magnified in our body, whether by life or by death. The figures are taken as often from the games so familiar in that day. "Combat the good combat of the faith." Flesh or sight would only seek present things. Christ must be in view. " Lay hold en the eternal life whereunto thou vast called and didst confess the good confession before many witnesses." As in "fleeing," and "pursuing," the work is regarded as expressly continuous: not so in "laying hold" of the eternal life. It is a single act, and duration is excluded from the thought, all being summed up in its completion, like the waking up righteously once for all in 1 Cor. xv. 23 compared with the habit of not sinning. It is the prize at the end of which faith should have laid hold now, as the good confession is a thing done, not of course done with, nor on the other hand in process of doing. It is the simple act in itself, which is expressed in the aorist, as ought to be well-known. The Authorised Version is doubly wrong in "hast" professed and "a" good confession. The Vulgate may be supposed to have influenced all from Wiclif downwards. The endeavour to bring in the whole ministry of Timothy as covered by a good confession, as Calvin contends, seems as unfounded as and only less objectionable than the strange "oblation" imputed to the phase by the author of the "Unbloody Sacrifice" (i. 223, ed. of Engl. Cath. Library). Intro what vagaries men wonder who slight the truth of Christ for objects of their own!
The apostle rises next to a solemn admonition in this connexion, as he does towards the close of his second letter. "Quickening," or creating however, is net the thought, but "keeping alive.' Here all the older English versions like most others have followed the received reading; not that which suits the context, which has also the better authorities. How Dean Alford could adopt the right reading but give a rendering which suits the wrong, seems unaccountable; but so it is. The usage in the New Testament as in the LXX distinctly points to saying alive or preserving; and here "all things," not persons, are in question, though some go so far as to teach the contrary. God, who is the source of life, is also the preserver of all things: on this he who espouses His cause in a hostile scene can and needs to reckon.
Besides, there is One no longer seen whom faith looks to with assurance, for not consolation Only but unfailing support, "Christ Jesus that witnessed before Pontius Pilate the good confession." He is on high to succour His servants, but He was here as none else "the faithful Witness," the good Confessor. What cheer to the spirit of him who might flag through timorous counsels or the demoralisation of compromise, that dire and corrupting pest for the mouth and heart when evils thicken among the faithful on earth! He has to follow His steps in this as in all things; and if he knows his weakness, as surely he will increasingly in the arduous combat he has but to spread it before His sight Whose grace suffices and Whose strength is made perfect in weakness. What a joy and honour consciously to witness the "good confession" where our Lord did so before us, He without what we have so abundantly and with such aggravation as none ever had nor can again! To have the truth is of capital moment; and this can only be by faith of God's word. "By the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. Thus only can we escape the lie of the enemy who deceives the whole world. But another thing there is, only second—that confession or witness which our lips and lives owe to Him Whose grace has given us the truth; and this not only though chiefly to His honour, but in love according to His will for those that lie as the world does in the wicked one, that they may be sanctified and saved. Before Pontius Pilate came out the overwhelming fact that (not only did the Gentiles know not the truth, but) the Jews would not have it when before their eyes and ears livingly in Him Who, while the Messiah, was infinitely more. The chosen nation was as unbelieving as the nations generally, and hence as more guilty, so also more unrelentingly cruel unto blood, though it were the blood of Him who was Jehovah's fellow. Jesus confessed Himself not only King of a kingdom not of this world, but born and come to bear witness of the truth, that every one who is of the truth might hear His voice. As the Jews alleged, He made Himself the Son of God; He was, He is, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father. No wonder even hard-hearted Pilate was afraid, till Caesar's, the world's, friendship was seen to be at stake; and so like the Jews who tempted him, he perished in enmity to God. Such is the end of all indeed, who, as they believe not with the heart to righteousness, confess not with the mouth to salvation, though here no doubt "the good confession" is more precise.
The charge to Timothy was "to keep the injunction (or commandment) spotless, irreproachable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is important to notice the accuracy of the thought as well as of the language; and the more so, as erudite ignorance takes the unhallowed license every now and then of apologising for scripture, and even for the apostle's epistles, as deficient in the exactitude which the schools, as they think, alone possess and impart.
But the unction from the Holy One gives quite another character and precision from that which is fed by the midnight oil of human training, and alone forms in the believer the mind of Christ, which, in its surface and in its depths, is alike beyond the wisdom of this age. Take as an instance the epiphany or "appearing" of our Lord in ver. 14, never confounded with His "presence" (παρουσία) or "coming": the one bound up with questions of our responsibility in service or testimony, as in the case before us, the other as simply and regularly (unless specifically modified5 otherwise) presenting our hope in all the fulness of divine grace. It will greatly help the Christian student to search the words and contrast their connexions throughout the New Testament. On the great and instructive theme of the Lord's return, whether to receive His own to be with Himself above or to display them already with Him when He comes in judgment of the quick for the kingdom, the distinction becomes evident on examination and of the deepest moment in conducing to an intelligent grasp of revealed truth and of God's counsels and ways. In sovereign grace Christ will come to gather us together on high to be with Himself for ever; but He will appear also to put down all evil and reign in righteousness; and when He is manifested, we shall be manifested with Him in glory. The object and character differ as much as the time: where grace in its due heavenly power is meant, it is His " coming" to fulfil our hopes; where government and responsibility are in question, it is His "appearing," "manifestation," or "day," as any soul subject to the word may ascertain in searching the scriptures.
And such is the clear connexion here, not only as introducing His "appearing" but as following it: "which in its own times He shall shew, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings (lit, of those that reign) and Lord of lords" (lit, of those that exercise lordship). None can deny, that as Timothy's responsibility was involved directly in the words preceding, so in these the display of the Lord's glory is no less distinct, neither of which appears to be the thought where His coming for our translation en high is revealed. One might add its "own times" or seasons, as naturally and characteristically mentioned along with His appearing; whereas no such language ever accompanies the gathering of the saints to meet the Lord above. This appearing ushers in the kingdom, as in 2 Tim. iv. 1. In its course, first and last, He will judge the quick and the dead. But this is clearly government rather than grace—at least not grace in its heavenly fulness but in contrast with it.
It is not denied that even those who are one with Christ, members of His body, His bride, are also to be viewed as servants to receive each his own reward according to his own labour; and hence the apostle speaks of the saints, responsible for each gift to be used in Christ's service now, awaiting "the revelation" of our Lord Jesus Christ who shall also confirm them to the end, unimpeachable in the "day " of our Lord Jesus Christ. But here again we see how responsibility brings in the "day," &c. where grace in its heavenly privileges is ever linked with His "coming" and "presence." As Christ has to do with both, so shall we; but they are quite different; and it is ruinous to the truth, if we, contrary to the word of God, confound things there kept invariably distinct, though occasionally but rarely both may be given together.
We may notice that even our Lord Himself is brought forward here in just the same way, as Jesus Christ the righteous owned and displayed by God in the glory of that great day. The Spirit speaks of His unseeable and inaccessible glory; our Lord Jesus Christ is the One Whose appearing will manifest God's glory before the universe in its own seasons. This it is which gives occasion for the striking doxology which closes the section, where God as such is presented as He "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable, Whom none of men hath seen nor can see; to Whom be honour and. might eternal, Amen." On the other hand, "the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh (net Israel only) shall see it together." But it will be in the appearing of our Lord that God will shew His various glories, He " who only hath immortality" in and by Him Who died and rose and lives again for evermore, the King of those that reign and the Lord of those that rule in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, Himself God and Lord, deigned by His abasement unto the death of the cross to lay a new basis in a ruined world, so that grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. All testimony of faith is now seemingly as vain as was the good confession of Jesus our Lord; but His appearing will be the display of divine power, glory, and righteousness to the confusion of all that doubt as well as of proud rebels. Ere that day man will have shown his "rights" to be unmitigated wrongs, and his liberty, equality and fraternity, vile, false, and selfish as it ever was, to be only the prelude to the most galling slavery of man and Satan that the world ever saw. God will show our Lord's appearing in its own due times, not merely to the overthrow of apostate wickedness, but to the establishment, in the peace and blessing of man bowing to Jesus, of His own honour and might eternal. May our portion be with the present substantiating energy of faith which the apostle desired for his dear young fellow-servant. It is all revealed by His word to act not only on his soul but on ours.
1) The older reading πραῦπαθείαν seems stronger than the ordinary πραοτήτα, meekness.
2) καί "also" is only in some inferior witnesses.
3) σον "thee" is not In the best copies.
4) Authorities are divided between two words that are like, the Sinaitic with the less weighty witnesses supporting the Text Rec., but A D P G P the critical text.
5) As for example, the presence or coming of "the Son of man" brings in His judicial aspect and is therefore necessarily tantamount to His "appearing" or "day."