Bible Commentary in 8 Volumes
Paul the Apostle to Timothy
Chronological Notes relative to this Epistle.
Notes on Chapter 1.
Verse 1. Paul an apostle— St. Paul at once shows his office, the authority on which he held it, and the end for which it was given him. He was an apostle — an extraordinary ambassador from heaven. He had his apostleship by the will of God — according to the counsel and design of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. And he was appointed that he might proclaim that eternal life which God had in view for mankind by the incarnation of his Son Jesus Christ, and which was the end of all the promises he had made to men, and the commandments he had delivered to all his prophets since the world began. The mention of this life was peculiarly proper in the apostle, who had now the sentence of death in himself, and who knew that he must shortly seal the truth with his blood. His life was hidden with Christ in God; and he knew that, as soon as he should be absent from the body, he should be present with the Lord. With these words he both comforted himself and his son Timothy.
Verse 2. To Timothy, my dearly beloved son— See the note on 1 Timothy 1:2.
Verse 3. Whom I serve from my forefathers— Being born a Jew, I was carefully educated in the knowledge of the true God, and the proper manner of worshipping him.
With pure conscience— Ever aiming to please him, even in the time when through ignorance I persecuted the Church.
Without ceasing I have remembrance of thee— The apostle thanks God that he has constant remembrance of Timothy in his prayers. It is a very rare thing now in the Christian Church, that a man particularly thanks God that he is enabled to pray for OTHERS. And yet he that can do this most must have an increase of that brotherly love which the second greatest commandment of God requires: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. It is also a great blessing to be able to maintain the spirit of a pure friendship, especially through a considerable lapse of time and absence. He that can do so may well thank God that he is saved from that fickleness and unsteadiness of mind which are the bane of friendships, and the reproach of many once warm-hearted friends.
Verse 4. Being mindful of thy tears— Whether the apostle refers to the affecting parting with the Ephesian Church, mentioned Acts 20:37, or to the deep impressions made on Timothy’s heart when he instructed him in the doctrine of Christ crucified, or to some interview between themselves, it is not certainly known. The mention of this by the apostle is no small proof of his most affectionate regards for Timothy, whom he appears to have loved as a father loves his only son.
Verse 5. The unfeigned faith that is in thee— Timothy had given the fullest proof of the sincerity of his conversion, and of the purity of his faith.
Which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois— In Acts 16:1, we are informed that Paul came to Derbe and Lystra; and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, who was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek. Luke, the historian, it appears, was not particularly acquainted with the family; Paul evidently was. Luke mentions the same circumstance which the apostle mentions here; but in the apostle’s account there are particulars which argue an intimate acquaintance with the family and its history. Luke says Timothy’s father was a Greek, consequently we may believe him to have been then in his heathen state; Paul, in mentioning the grandmother, mother, and son, passes by the father in silence; which intimates that either the father remained in his unconverted state, or was now dead. Lois and Eunice are both Grecian, and indeed heathen names; hence we are led to conclude that, although Timothy’s mother was a Jewess according to St. Luke, yet she was a Grecian or Hellenist by birth. Lois, the grandmother, appears to have been the first convert to Christianity: she instructed her daughter Eunice, and both brought up Timothy in the Christian faith; so that he had a general knowledge of it before he met with St. Paul at Lystra. There, it appears the apostle was the instrument of the conversion of his heart to God; for a man may be well instructed in Divine things, have a very orthodox creed, and yet his heart not be changed. Instruction precedes conversion; conversion should follow it. To be brought up in the fear of God is a great blessing; and a truly religious education is an advantage of infinite worth.
Verse 6. Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee— The gift which Timothy had received was the Holy Spirit; and through him, a particular power to preach and defend the truth. This gift is represented here, under the notion of a fire, which, if it be not frequently stirred up, and fresh fuel added to it, will go out. This is the precise idea which the apostle had in his mind; hence the term anazwpurein, which signifies to stir up the fire; to add fresh fuel to it. From this it plainly appears, that if Timothy had not continued to be a daily worker with God, he would have received the grace of God in vain. The Latins have a similar metaphor, excitare igniculos ingenii, to stir up the sparks of genius.
By the putting on of my hands.— See on 1 Timothy 4:14.
Verse 7. God hath not given us the spirit of fear— Here is an allusion to the giving of the law on mount Sinai. This was communicated with such terrible majesty as to engender fear in all the Israelites: even Moses, on the occasion, did exceedingly fear and tremble. The Gospel was ushered in, in a much milder manner; every thing was placed on a level with the human intellect; and within reach of every human spirit. Nothing was terrific, nothing forbidding; but all was inviting. The very spirit and genius of it was a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.
Instead of deiliav, fear, some MSS. and versions have douleiav, servitude or bondage; God hath not given unto us the spirit of BONDAGE-but of power, dunamewv, to work miracles, to confound enemies, to support us in trials, and enable us to do that which is lawful and right in his sight. And of love, which enables us to hear, believe, hope, and endure all things; and is the incentive to all obedience. Of a sound mind, swfronismou, of self-possession and government, according to some. But a sound mind implies much more; it means a clear understanding, a sound judgment, a rectified will, holy passions, heavenly tempers; in a word, the whole soul harmonized in all its powers and faculties; and completely regulated and influenced so as to think, speak, and act aright in all things. The apostle says, God hath given the spirit of these things; they are not factitious; they are not assumed for times and circumstances; they are radical powers and tempers; each produced by its proper principle.
Verse 8. Be not-ashamed of the testimony— The testimony of Christ is the Gospel in general, which proclaims Christ crucified, and redemption through his blood. In the sight of the world, there appeared to be reason why a man should be ashamed of this; ashamed of him who was crucified as a malefactor; but, when this Gospel became the power of God to the salvation of every one that believed, it was a subject to exult in. Hence the apostle, Romans 1:16, said, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; where see the note.
Nor of me his prisoner— When our friends are in power and credit, we can readily acknowledge them, and take opportunities to show that we have such and such connections; but when the person falls into disgrace or discredit, though we cannot pretend not to know him, yet we take care not to acknowledge him. This induced Cicero, in relation to friendships, to give for a maxim-Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur: “A true friend is known in adverse circumstances;” and from this we have borrowed our proverb, A friend in need, is a friend indeed.
Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel— No parent could love a child better than Paul loved Timothy; and, behold! he who could wish him nothing but what was great, honorable, and good, wishes him to be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel! Because, to suffer for Christ, and suffer with Christ, was the highest glory to which any human being in this state could arrive. The royal way to the crown of glory, is by the cross of Christ.
According to the power of God.— While thou hast no more affliction than thou hast grace to sustain thee under, thou canst have no cause to complain. And God will take care that if a faithful discharge of thy duty shall expose thee to afflictions, his power manifested in thee shall be in proportion to thy necessities. His load cannot be oppressive, who is strengthened to bear it by the power of God.
Verse 9. Who hath saved us— From sin; the spirit of bondage, and all tormenting fear. This is the design of the Gospel.
And called us with a holy calling— Invited us to holiness and comfort here; and to eternal glory hereafter.
Not according to our works— We have not deserved any part of the good we have received; and can never merit one moment of the exceeding great and eternal weight of glory which is promised. See the notes on the parallel passages.
Before the world began— pro cronwn aiwniwn. Before the Mosaic dispensation took place, God purposed the salvation of the Gentiles by Christ Jesus; and the Mosaic dispensation was intended only as the introducer of the Gospel. The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, Galatians 3:24. See the parallel places, and the notes there.
Verse 10. But is now made manifest.— This purpose of God to save the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and call them to the same state of salvation by Jesus Christ, was, previously to the manifestation of Christ, generally hidden; and what was revealed of it, was only through the means of types and ceremonies.
Who hath abolished death— katarghsantov men ton qanaton. Who has counterworked death; operated against his operations, destroyed his batteries, undersunk and destroyed his mines, and rendered all his instruments and principles of attack useless. By death here, we are not to understand merely natural death, but that corruption and decomposition which take place in consequence of it; and which would be naturally endless, but for the work and energy of Christ. By him alone, comes the resurrection of the body; and through him eternal life and glory are given to the souls of believers.
Brought life and immortality to light— The literal translation of the original is, He hath illustrated life and incorruption by the Gospel. Life eternal, or the doctrine of life eternal, even implying the resurrection of the body, was not unknown among the Jews. They expected this, for they found it in their prophets. It abounded among them long before the incarnation: and they certainly never borrowed any notion in it from the Christians; therefore the Gospel could not be stated as bringing to light what certainly was in the light before that time. But this doctrine was never illustrated and demonstrated before; it existed in promise, but had never been practically exhibited. Jesus Christ died, and lay under the empire of death; he arose again from the dead, and thus illustrated the doctrine of the resurrection: he took the same human body up into heaven, in the sight of his disciples; and ever appears in the presence of God for us; and thus, has illustrated the doctrine of incorruption. In his death, resurrection, and ascension, the doctrine of eternal life, and the resurrection of the human body, and its final incorruptibility, are fully illustrated by example, and established by fact.
Verse 11. Whereunto I am appointed a preacher— khrux, a herald. See the notes at Matthew 3:17.
And an apostle— Sent immediately from God to man.
A teacher— One whose business it is to instruct men, and particularly the Gentiles, to whom he was especially sent; to proclaim the doctrines of eternal life, the resurrection and final incorruptibility of the human body; and, in a word, the salvation both of the body and soul of man by Christ Jesus.
Verse 12. I am not ashamed.— Though I suffer for the Gospel, I am not ashamed of the Gospel; nor am I confounded in my expectation; his grace being at all times sufficient for me.
For I know whom I have believed— I am well acquainted with the goodness, mercy, and power of Christ; and know that I cannot confide in him in vain.
That which I have committed unto him— This is variously understood. Some think he means his life, which he had put, as it were, into the hands of Christ, in order that he might receive it again, in the resurrection, at the great day. Others think he means his soul. This he had also given into the hands of his faithful Creator, knowing that although wicked men might be permitted to take away his life, yet they could not destroy his soul, nor disturb its peace. Others think that he is speaking of the Gospel, which he knows will be carefully preserved by the great Head of the Church; for, though he shall be soon called to seal the truth with his blood, yet he knows that God will take care that the same truth shall be proclaimed to the world by others, whom God shall raise up for that very purpose.
Verse 13. Hold fast the form of sound words— The word upotupwsiv signifies the sketch, plan, or outline of a building, picture, etc.; and here refers to the plan of salvation which the apostle had taught Timothy. No man was left to invent a religion for his own use, and after his own mind. God alone knows that with which God can be pleased. If God did not give a revelation of himself, the inventions of man, in religious things, would be endless error, involving itself in contortions of unlimited confusion. God gives, in his mercy to man, a form of sound words or doctrines; a perfect plan and sketch of the original building; fair and well defined outlines of every thing which concerns the present and eternal welfare of man, and his own glory.
In faith and love— Faith credits the Divine doctrines. Love reduces them all to practice. Faith lays hold on Jesus Christ, and obtains that love by which every precept is cheerfully and effectually obeyed.
Verse 14. That good thing— The everlasting Gospel, keep by the Holy Ghost; for without a continual spiritual energy man can do nothing. This indwelling Spirit will make them effectual to thy own salvation, and enable thee to preach them to the salvation of the souls of others.
Verse 15. All they which are in Asia— It seems as if the apostle must refer to the Asiatic Christians which were then at Rome, or had been lately there. Finding the apostle in disgrace, and thinking it dangerous to own him or his cause, they neither visited him, or confessed Christianity. He cannot be speaking of any general defection of the Asiatic Churches, but of those Asiatics who had professed a particular friendship for him.
Phygellus and Hermogenes.— These were two of the persons of whom he complains; but who they were, or what office they held, or whether they were any thing but private Christians who had for a time ministered to St. Paul in prison, and, when they found the state determined to destroy him, ceased to acknowledge him, we cannot tell.
Verse 16. The Lord give mercy— Onesiphorus had acknowledged him, and continued to do so; he, and his house, or family, ministered to him in prison, and were not ashamed of their imprisoned pastor, nor of the cause for which he was in disgrace and suffering. As he showed mercy to the apostle, the apostle prays the Lord to show mercy to him.
Verse 17. When he was in Rome— Onesiphorus was no doubt an Asiatic, (probably an Ephesian, see below,) who had frequent business at Rome; and when he came sought out the apostle, who, it is supposed, had been confined in some close and private prison, (see the preface,) so that it was with great difficulty he could find him out. This man had entertained the apostle when he was at Ephesus, and now he sought him out at Rome. Pure love feels no loads. Here was a true friend, one that sticketh closer than a brother.
Verse 18. The Lord grant-that he may find mercy of the Lord— Some think that this is a prayer to God the Father to communicate grace to him, that he might find mercy in the great day at the hand of Jesus Christ the Judge. It is probably only a Hebraism for, God grant that he may here be so saved by Divine grace, that in the great day he may receive the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. See a similar form of expression, Genesis 9:16; 19:24; Exodus 24:1, 2.
IT is impossible to read this chapter over without feeling deeply interested for this most noble and amiable of men. To what trials did God expose him! His life was a life of perils and tribulations, his labors were superabundant, and his success all but incredible. Wherever he went, he left a track of light and life behind him. To him, as the grand instrument of God, the Gentiles, the whole habitable world, owe their salvation. Yet see him, in his old age, neglected by his friends, apparently forsaken of God, and abandoned to the hands of ruthless men; in prison and in chains; triumphing over sufferings and death; perfectly unshaken, unstumbled, with the evils with which he is obliged to contend, having the fullest persuasion of the truth of the doctrines which he had preached, and the strongest and most encouraging anticipation of the glory that was about to be revealed. He felt no evil, and he feared none. Sin had lost its power, and death its sting; the grave its victory, and hell its horrors. He had the happiness which heathenism spoke of, but could not attain, because it knew not the great Source whence it must proceed. This God he knew, feared, loved, obeyed, and was happy. Who but the righteous man can sing:
Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas;
Atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari! —
Illum non populi fasces, non purpura regum
Flexit, et infidos agitans discordia fratres;—
Non res Romanae, perituraque regna.
VIRG. GEORG. ii. v. 490.
No murmur is heard from his heart; he is persuaded that all things work together for good to them that love God; the miserable uncertainty of friendship, the defection of cowardly brethren, and the apostasy of once zealous professors, did not move him. As far as it is lawful, he courts death, knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Glorious system of truth by which such an apostle was formed! and glorious apostle by whom this system was illustrated and confirmed! The character and conduct of St. Paul must make Christianity doubly amiable to believers and highly respectable even to its enemies.