CHAPTER 1:1-5 There is a great and felt difference
between the first and second epistles to Timothy. The former contemplates the
assembly in its pristine order, with everything regulated by the divine word;
the latter deals with the path of the faithful in a time of confusion and
departure from the truth. There are two verses which express this difference.
In the first, the Apostle writes of the "house of God, which is the church of
the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15); whereas in
the second, he speaks of some "Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that
the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless
the foundation of God standeth sure," etc. (2 Tim. 2 :18, 19.)
This was now the consolation that, if confusion reigned in the house of God, if vessels to dishonour had become mingled with the vessels to honour, the foundation, laid of God Himself, was immovable. Still it must have been an unspeakable sorrow to the Apostle to behold the outward decay and corruption of Christianity, the almost open departure of the Church from the holy ground on which he, by the grace of God, had been enabled to plant it. In truth it was an exhibition of what has been seen in every age and in every dispensation; namely, the failure of that which had been entrusted to the responsible hands of men. For if Christ, on the one hand, builds the Church, and builds that, as He surely does, which is imperishable and indestructible, He, on the other hand, permits His servants to build also; and many of these as surely build up upon the foundation wood, hay, stubble (1 Cor. 3), and thereby the outward form and presentation of the house of God are corrupted. This, as we have said, had already taken place in the days of the Apostle; and in this epistle he not only expresses the feelings of his own heart with respect to this sorrowful state of things, but he is also led to give such directions as avail for the guidance and conduct of exercised souls in the midst of the prevalent disorders. The first two verses contain the address and the greeting. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." In other epistles he presented himself as a "servant" (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:1); but here he views himself in his apostolic character, as one sent and commissioned by the Lord Himself, and, as such, having authority which no unfaithfulness on the part of others could nullify. He might be, as indeed he was, forsaken, if not refused, by many; but the authority entrusted to him survived. It is the same now as to gift. Wherever this is found, the privilege and responsibility to use it abide, even though it may not be acknowledged by the saints. The Head of the Church who bestows it counts upon, and holds the person on whom it is bestowed responsible for, its faithful employment. (Compare Matt. 25:14-30.)
He was, moreover, Apostle by the will of God. This, and nothing less than this, was the ground and source of his office. Called by the Lord Himself, he was called by the will of God; and this certainty in his soul was the secret of his courage and devotedness in the Lord's service. (Compare Josh. 1:9.) And if by the will of God, it was "according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus." The truth may be departed from, and the testimony be consequently surrendered, but the life which is in Christ Jesus - eternal life - is indestructible, as it is also outside of and above all question of failure or corruption.
The Apostle therefore takes this ground in this inspired communication to Timothy; for grievous as it must have been to him to see the light of the golden candlestick (Rev. 1) dimmed if not extinguished, the thought of the immutable character of life, secured in Christ Jesus by the unchangeable promise of God, could not fail to minister powerful consolation to his soul. It is well to keep these two things distinct. As to life and salvation, every believer will be kept through faith by the power of God (see 1 Pet. 1 :3-5); but the place of testimony, whether corporately or individually, may be, and often is, forfeited through unfaithfulness, or through succumbing to the influences of this present evil age.
"To Timothy, my dearly beloved son," etc., more exactly, "my beloved child." In the first epistle, Paul names him, "my true child in the faith" (J.N.D. Trans.), thus pointing him out as one that walked in his own footsteps in regard to the truth; here it is the expression of his own heart for the one who, as a son with his father, had served with Paul in the gospel. In truth, the heart of the Apostle clung to Timothy at such a moment of sorrow; and his pouring out his heart in this way became the basis of the appeals and exhortations he was about to address to his beloved child. This is divine in its method, for it is ever God's way to reveal the depth of His affections for the saints before giving to them words of guidance or admonition. (See 1 Cor. 1, and Col. 3:12-17.)
"Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." It has often been noticed that, when writing to assemblies, the Apostle, in his salutation, says grace and peace, but in the epistles to individuals, he says mercy.* The reason is that as individuals we need mercy, because of our weakness and infirmities every step of the road (see Heb. 4:14-16); whereas the Church is regarded as on the perfect ground of redemption before God, without any consideration of weakness or even failure. It is, as another has written, the perfect grace of God by Christ, the perfect peace of man, and that with God; it was this which he (the Apostle) brought in the gospel and in his heart. These are the true conditions of God's relationship with man, and that of man with God, by the gospel - the ground on which Christianity places man. The grace, as well as the truth, came by, and was perfectly expressed in, Jesus Christ. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son"- this is pure and sovereign grace. And the first announcement the Lord made to His assembled disciples, on the evening of the first day of the week, was, "Peace be unto you." In this salutation therefore we find the revelation of the heart of God, and the effect of the finished work of Christ, together with the provision of mercy, secured by the present ministration of Christ on high, for the pathway through this scene while awaiting His return.
Verses 4, 5. First, in thanking God, the Apostle makes the remarkable statement, "Whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience." He had said the same thing in effect when standing before the sanhedrin (Acts 23:1; see also 24:16); and it is necessary to seize the true import of these words. That his forefathers had been godly persons is manifest, as also that they had been distinguished by a conscientious observance of the law, walking according to the light they had received, being governed by the Word as far as they comprehended it. And this, as we understand, is what Paul here affirms of himself, that while he was in Judaism he maintained a good conscience, did not permit himself any known violations of the law, being even then, as "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil. 3:6). But this has nothing to say as to the state of his heart when a Jew; only he insists that he preserved, until of course the light flashed into his soul when on his way to Damascus, an upright conscientious course; and also that this characterized his service after his conversion as an apostle. He ever pressed this point as of the utmost importance (see 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 4:2; Titus 1:15; Heb. 13:18); and we would do well to remember it, for nothing more exposes the Lord's servant, and Christians indeed generally, to the darts of Satan than a bad conscience. It is to lack the breastplate of righteousness, without which our most vital parts are laid bare to his weapons.
The subject of the Apostle's thanksgiving is, "that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day." It is a striking way to put it, one that would not ordinarily be adopted by saints, because perhaps we are less mindful than he was, that we are entirely indebted to the grace of God for power to remember anyone incessantly in prayer. Paul therefore gives thanks that he had been able to bear up Timothy before the Lord - a sure sign, too, it may be added, inasmuch as he penned these words under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that Timothy needed his prayers, and thus that Paul was in communion as to him with the mind of God.
Then follow expressions which reveal the Apostle's fervent affection for his beloved child in the faith; "Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy." v. 4. Recalling Timothy's affection inflames his own; and while expressing it, consolation is doubtless ministered to his own heart. The occasion of Timothy's tears is not revealed; but it was probably at the time of some separation, bidding him farewell, it may be, when leaving him in captivity, as he departed to his own service. Whenever it might have been, it plainly shows that the affection of Paul was fully reciprocated, and that it was no common tie that knit together the hearts of these two servants of the Lord. It was the recollection of this parting, combined with his own ardent love, that led him to desire to see Timothy that he might be filled with joy; for to him the Apostle could unburden his heart, and be refreshed in the enjoyment of Timothy's love and fellowship. Many a servant, in times of declension, has thus learned the sweetness and encouragement of real heart fellowship concerning the work of the Lord. Then, putting Timothy in this respect in a similar position to his own in relation to his ancestors, he adds, "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded in thee also." v. 5. The position is similar, but it is not, as in Paul's case, a good conscience, but "unfeigned faith"; for Timothy had no Jewish ancestry, for his father was a Greek. And hence, though his mother was a Jewess, he was unclean according to the Jewish law. He is thus traced back only to the commencement of the Christian faith in his family, which dated from his grandmother.
It is a beautiful picture, drawn for our instruction; for we learn from this same epistle that Timothy from a child had known (and who can doubt, through the teaching of these pious women, or at least his mother) the Holy Scriptures. Both the grandmother and mother, as well as Timothy, had embraced the Christian faith; and the Apostle seems to regard this fact as proving the greater reality of "the faith" in Timothy's soul, and as laying him, as will afterward be seen, under all the more solemn obligation of faithfulness to the Lord in this loose and corrupt epoch of the Church. The reflection cannot but be evoked from the mind of every reader, that it is a priceless blessing to have godly parents, and such godly parents as seek to bring up their children in the nurture arid admonition of the Lord. The judgment seat of Christ alone will reveal how much Timothy was indebted, in the grace of God, to the instructions of his mother Eunice. May such parents ever abound in the Church of God!
CHAPTER 1:6, 7
The expression of the Apostle's heart to Timothy, as well as his longing desire to see him, is but preparatory to the appeal contained in verses 6-8. It is indeed the groundwork on which he builds up his exhortations. He thus drew the heart of Timothy to himself, to prepare him to receive his message. "Wherefore," he says, "I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." v. 6.
By the light of the first epistle we may understand the whole history of Timothy's gift. In chapter 1 we find that he had been pointed out as a chosen vessel of gift by prophecies (of course, in the assembly), and that Paul accordingly committed to him a "charge." Chapter 4:14 further teaches that the bestowment of the gift, "given thee by prophecy," was accompanied by "the laying on of the hands of the presbytery"; and now we learn that it was the Apostle himself, "the presbytery" being associated with him, who was the instrument or channel appointed by the Head of the Church for the actual communication of the gift to Timothy. It is the ascended Christ who, having led captivity captive, gave, and still gives, gifts to men, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. And Timothy was honoured, in the sovereign favour of God, in being made a vessel for the blessing of the saints. It is of this he is reminded by the Apostle, and charged at the same time to "stir up" the gift of God.
Previously he had been warned not to "neglect" it (1 Tim. 4:14); now he is more urgently exhorted on the same subject. This points to a common danger. When there is a real action of the Spirit of God among the saints, when His power is demonstrated in edification and restoration, or in conver-sion, the ministry of the Word is welcomed and appreciated. But in times of coldness, indifference, and apostasy, the saints will not endure sound teaching, but after their own lusts they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they will turn away from the truth (chap. 4:3, 4).
Then comes the danger to the servant of the Lord. Seeing that his ministry is no longer received, he is tempted to retire, to lapse into silence, or to resolve with Jeremiah not to speak any more in the Lord's name to the people (Jer. 20:9). As knowing the heart and the tendency of Timothy, Paul provides against this snare by urging him to rouse himself, and to stir up by constant use the gift he had received for the correction and edification of the Lord's people. The greater the confusion and departure from the truth, the greater the need for a real and living ministry; but in order to maintain this, the servant must learn to draw strength and courage, not from the faces of people, but from abiding and secret communion with the Lord.
If the Lord, through His Apostle, summons Timothy to more diligent service, He also draws his attention to the source of his power. "For," continues the Apostle, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of sound mind." v. 7. The first clause, which might be rendered the spirit of "cowardice," reveals Timothy's especial weakness. He evidently was a man, like Jeremiah, of a timid, shrinking spirit - one who only with difficulty, unless under the sway of the Holy Spirit, could face dangers and opponents. But while the servant of the Lord "must not strive; but be gentle unto afl men, apt to teach, patient" (chap. 2:24), he must be also as bold as a lion in the defence of the truth, and in maintaining the honor of his Lord. Timothy is therefore taught that the spirit God gives is not one of fear or cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
These are three remarkable words, and they require a little examination. First, it is a spirit of power; for if God bestows gift, He gives also the power to exercise it; that is, should be added, if there is the state of soul for its use.
It is indeed of the last importance to remember the connection between state of soul and the power of the Spirit. The gift may abide even in one who is unfaithful or indifferent; but the power to use it will not be present unless its possessor is walking in dependence upon God, unless he lives in the acknowledgment that power is outside of himself, and in the realization of his own utter weakness. This is the Apostle's point: "God," he says, "hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power." If therefore the servant, and Timothy was to learn it, is animated with fear or timidity, he should know that this is not the spirit God gives, for His Spirit is one of power.
These two things are to be noted - the source of the power, and the character of the spirit given. Moreover, the spirit is also "of love." The Apostle follows in this the same order as in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 12 he speaks of spiritual manifestations in the assembly; and, at the end of the chapter, of workers of miracles, gifts of healing, and speaking with tongues - all of which are connected with displays of power.
And then in the next chapter, he proceeds to speak of love, teaching that if anyone spoke with the tongues of men and angels, and had not love, he would become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal; for in truth divine power can only be wielded by the Spirit, through a divine nature; for of this it is that love is the expression. The flesh, man's sinful nature, can never be used in the Lord's service; and thus power and love - divine, holy love - can never be dissociated. There will also be, as a consequence of love, a sound mind, or, as it has been translated, "a wise discretion"; for when governed by the Spirit of God, the servant will always exhibit divine wisdom in his work, and be kept in quiet control and subduedness in the presence of God. He will know when to speak and when to be silent, when to be in season and when to be out of season; for he will be maintained in communion with the mind of his Lord.
Such being the characteristics of the spirit God gives to His servants, the Apostle proceeds to exhortation: "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." v. 8.
There is, perhaps, an implied contrast in this exhortation; thus, many are becoming ashamed of the testimony (see v. 15), but be not thou ashamed. And the danger, as before indicated, might have beset Timothy at this moment when almost all were turning aside, and when the elect vessel of the testimony was a poor despised prisoner. It is a remarkable fact that, so early in the history of the Church, as once before indeed at Antioch when Paul withstood Peter to the face, the maintenance of the truth of God depended upon the faithfulness of one man, and he a captive. Courage, and such courage as God alone could give, was requisite at such a crisis, that spirit of power which alone could enable Timothy to stem the adverse currents that were sweeping by him on every side with such velocity and force. Did he waver at this time in his allegiance to the testimony of the Lord? God only knows; but we may be sure that this fervent, pleading exhortation reached him at the needed moment. Mark, too, that the vessel of the testimony is identified with the testimony; for the Apostle adds, "nor of me His prisoner." Many profess to hold and to love the truth, while they would fain stand apart from those to whom the testimony is committed. But this can never be, as our passage shows, according to the mind of God; and hence it would have been as displeasing to Him, if Timothy had been ashamed of Paul, as if he had been ashamed of the testimony. Or to put it still more strongly, to have been ashamed of Paul, being what he was, would have been to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord.
There is however more: not only was he not to be ashamed either of the message or the messenger, but he was also to be fully and openly identified with both. "Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." Another translation will bring out more clearly the Apostle's meaning: "Suffer evil along with the gospel." The gospel is in a way personified, and Timothy is urged to cast in his lot with it fully and entirely, at whatever cost, that the reproaches which might fall upon it might also be borne by him (compare Rorn. 15:3); and the significant words are added, to encourage him in this course, "according to the power of God," the power which God bestows upon His servants to sustain them in the presence of the adversary, and to maintain His truth in the face of all danger; for no human energy, no steadfastness of purpose, nothing short of divine power, will avail in the conflicts of service in the gospel.
The mention of the power of God leads the Apostle back and upward to the source of all the blessing which was flowing out through the gospel; namely, to God's purpose and grace, as the immutable foundation on which God was working, and as the assurance that no efforts of the enemy could frustrate the accomplishment of the thoughts of God. "Who ha.th saved us," he says, "and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality rendered] to light through the gospel." vv. 9, 10.
What a comprehensive statement! What a sweep of vision, first, back into eternity, and then onward to the time when death will be swallowed up in victory! For what is it the Apostle here brings before us? First, that if God has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, it is not because of anything (meritorious) we are or have done, but according to His own eternal counsels of grace, and grace given to us (let the reader mark the language - "given to us") in Christ Jesus before the world began. Then he points out that the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ was in pursuance of God's purposes, and that by His death and resurrection death has been abolished; and life and incorruptibility, the resurrection of the body, have been brought to light through the glad tidings which were now being proclaimed. As has been written, "It is a counsel of God, formed and established in Christ before the world existed, which has its place in the ways of God, outside and above the world, in union with the Person of His Son, and in order to manifest a people united with Him in glory. Thus it is a grace which was given us in Him before the world was. Hidden in the counsels of God, this purpose of God was manifested in the manifestation of Him in whom it had its accomplishment. It was not merely blessings and dealings of God with regard to men - it was life, eternal life in the soul, and incorruptibility in the body. Thus Paul was an apostle according to the promise of life."
There are several distinct steps in the unfolding or realisation of these blessings. After the purpose of God there was the appearing of Christ in this world; there were His death and resurrection, the means of the accomplishment of the divine counsels; there was, together with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, the proclamation of the glorious message of the gospel; then, those who by grace received the message were saved and called with a holy calling, and made to know, at the same time, that all was of grace; and, last, there was the possession of life, eternal life, along with the prospect of the resurrection of the body - incorruptibility. It was Paul's mission to unfold these things in his preaching, as he says, "Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles." v. 11; see also 1 Timothy 2:7. The solemnity of the times led the Apostle, it might be said, to magnify his office, to insist upon the fact that he had been divinely appointed as a herald, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles; and, by the grace of God, his life was consecrated to his work, so that no adversities, no hindrances, could daunt his courage or extinguish his zeal; for he was able to say, as we find in another epistle, "To me to live is Christ."
In the preceding verse the Apostle explains that he had been appointed (not of man, as he informs the Galatians, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead) as the herald and apostle of the gospel; and now he speaks of the consequences of his mission as to himself, together with his sustainment and consolation: "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." His present sufferings were those resulting from his captivity (v. 8), and from the opposition now everywhere encountered by the gospel, as also from being deserted by so many professed believers, and perhaps teachers (v. 15). And he regards these sufferings as flowing out from the position he occupied in reference to the gospel (chap. 2 :9) ; that is to say, the faithful prosecution of his mission entailed upon him these sorrows and persecutions. Nor could it be otherwise at such a moment, nor indeed at any moment. For wherever a servant of the Lord seeks to serve Him alone, and to cling to His Word in spite of all opposition, against that man will be arrayed all the forces of the enemy. It was so with Paul, so that (as he tells us in the next chapter) he suffered trouble in the work of the gospel as an evildoer, even unto bonds, therein following, if at a distance, the footsteps of his Master, who suffered unto death, and that the death of the cross, because of His fidelity, perfect fidelity, as God's witness on the earth.
But if the Apostle was in his service encompassed by suffering, he knew where to turn for comfort and strength. On man's part it was trouble and persecution, but when he looked up, all was assurance and confidence; and hence he could say, "Nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed"; and he could leave himself and his circumstances entirely in His hands. Moreover, man was powerless as to the eternal issue before his soul. He might apparently succeed in hindering the testimony by shutting up the Apostle in prison; he might, as the tool of Satan, drive away many of his companions; he might even be permitted to make a martyr of Paul; but if so, he would have to learn that he had but been yoked to the chariot wheels of God's purposes, and that he had not been able to touch that which was most precious as to Paul, so also to Christ. Man may kill the body, but can do no more; and knowing this, the Apostle was confident that the Lord could and would keep that which he had committed unto Him against that day - the day when all things will be made manifest, when the Lord will come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that have believed. It is to that period the Apostle looks; and meanwhile he was able to trust the Lord, not only for his own salvation and eternal happiness, but also for the recompense of his service. The enemy could do nothing with such a man, because his hopes and joys were outside of the scene through which he moved.
Having given the ground of his own confidence in the midst of his present circumstances, he turns again to exhortation. "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." vv. 13, 14. These are very important exhortations, and require careful attention. The form of sound words is rather an outline - an outline of the truth in the inspired words which Timothy had heard from the Apostle. Elsewhere Paul affirms that his teaching was "not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (1 Cor. 2:13). He thus claimed inspiration, not only for the matter, but also for the words in which his apostolic communications were made; and hence it is, as another has said, that we are never sure we have the truth unless we have the very language which contains it. In a day when rationalism and infidelity (both springing from the same root, the latter being but the full development of man's reason) are seeking to pervert the foundations of God's revelation to man in the Scriptures, it is necessary to reassert the truth which the Apostle affirms; for the infallible certainty of the Word of God is the only rock on which the soul can securely repose amid the changing sea of the speculations of man's wandering mind.
It is for this reason that Paul exhorts Timothy to have an outline of Scripture teaching in inspired words, that he might ever be prepared to authoritatively instruct the enquirer, or to confute the adversary. The difference between this that Paul pressed on Timothy and creed lies in this: Timothy's outline was to be in divine words, whereas the creeds of Christendom are expressed in human language; and on this very account they fail, even when "orthodox," to express the full truth of revelation. Timothy's outline was inspired without any human admixture; the creeds are composed by human minds, taking Scripture, as far as their authors understood it, as the basis, and given in the words of man's wisdom. Paul had taught Timothy, as already said, in divine words; and these words were to be used by him in the way directed, forming a compendium in scriptural language of Christian doctrine, as there were but few New Testament scriptures at that time in existence. Timothy then was to have and to hold fast the form of sound words; but if he was enjoined to do this, the manner in which it was to be done is also given. It was to be "in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." Dissociate even the truth from Christ, and it will become a dead thing; use it apart from faith and love, and it will be a powerless weapon.
The Apostle therefore guards his "son" Timothy in his service by reminding him of his need of using nothing but the truth in his conflicts, of holding the truth in the living activities of his soul, and as flowing from and being the ex-pression of the glory of Christ. Faith comes by hearing the Word; but if it is produced by it, in its presentation of a God of grace in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, it leads back to it, not only as the foundation on which it is based, but also as containing the sources of all divine knowledge. Faith, moreover, in attaching itself to its object, Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures, works by love, or rather, apprehending the divine and infinite love unfolded in Christ; love also is immediately begotten in the soul, for we love Him who first loved us. And faith and love are necessarily in Christ Jesus - in Him, for He is the source, object, and sphere of both alike. (Compare 1 Tim. 1 :14.)
If Timothy was to hold fast the objective truth, there was also another thing he was to keep; namely, "that good thing committed unto thee." In verse 12 the Apostle had said that he was persuaded that the One whom he had believed was able to keep that which he had committed to Him against that day. Literally, it is "my deposit"; and in verse 14 the rendering should be "the good deposit keep," etc. If on the one hand we have a "deposit" (all our hopes of glory) with Christ, He on the other hand entrusts His servants with a deposit. The question then is, What is this good deposit? It cannot be eternal life, or salvation; for the keeping of this belongs to Christ Himself, and hence it is probably the truth - the truth as committed to the stewardship of His servants - to be maintained by them in all fidelity while serving in the prospect of that day. (Compare 1 Tim. 6:13, 14.)
Timothy's gift was also a deposit, and that, as we have seen, he was to hold and use in the service of his Master; but the connection here points rather to the interpretation we have given. And, indeed, unless we guard, and carefully guard, the truth in our own souls, we shall never be able to use it rightly in service. It is thus the first thing, in connection with the whole armor of God, that the loins should be girt about with truth (Eph. 4). If, therefore, we would be faithful witnesses for Christ in a day of declension, the truth must first have its rightful place over our own hearts and consciences, and must be jealously watched over and guarded if the witness-bearing is to be continued. The Apostle reminds Timothy that the only power for this is the Holy Ghost, and also that he already possessed that power. "Keep," he says, "by the Holy Ghost which dwells in us, the good deposit" (J.N.D. Trans.). It is well to remember that if the Lord send us on any service, or if He set us for the defense of the truth in a day of difficulty, He has given us a power that is equal to all the demands that can be made upon us. We are too often occupied with the sense of our own feebleness, instead of with the power possessed through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle turns again to his own circumstances; but if he does so, it is but to bring out into bright relief the contrast between unfaithfulness and fidelity, as also to teach us how precious the latter is to God. First, we have the dark side: "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermo genes." v. 15. It was through Paul's preaching that "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10); and thus they were, in no small degree, his debtors. But now, together with the aged and devoted Apostle's being in prison, they had lost their first love; the fervency of their zeal had cooled, and they had become ashamed of God's chosen vessel of the truth. It was not that they were not really Christians, nor, perhaps, that they had become open backsliders, much less apostates; but they were not prepared to suffer from identification with the rejected servant. They had undoubtedly fallen in with the course of this age, and would thus be tempted to regard Paul as an extreme man, as too exclusive, as an enthusiast, as one who imperiled the progress of Christianity by his fanaticism. They thus turned away from him, seeking smoother paths, where the cross would be lighter.
Two names of those who forsook Paul are given - Phygellus and Hermogenes - and the fact that their names are given shows that they were well known, probably leaders among the saints - those, therefore, who would lend a sanction to this unfaithful course. It may be that the teaching of these men had adapted itself to the currents of the moment; for the tendencies of any age always find expression through some who claim the place of teachers. Be this as it may, it was a sad spectacle-public Christianity, that is, the outward form of it in this world, severing itself from the chosen vessel of the truth! On the other hand, there is no grander sight than that of Paul - deserted, alone, in captivity - retaining through grace his confidence in the Lord, and in the truth committed to his charge. If faint, he was still pursuing; and if he were weary in his lonely conflict, his hand still clave to his sword (see 2 Sam. 23:10).
There was one ray of light amid the gloom of the moment, one rill of consolation flowing into the heart of the Apostle from the heart of God, through His servant Onesiphorus. This godly man, so far from being ashamed of Paul or his chain, being in Rome, sought him out very diligently, and rested not until he had found him, and was used of the Lord to minister refreshment to the captive Apostle. Precious privilege vouchsafed to Onesiphorus! Precious also to the weary soul of Paul were these cups of cold water which Onesiphorus put to his thirsty lips! And the Lord saw this blessed serv-ice, and esteemed it as rendered unto Himself. "I was in prison, and ye came unto Me" (Matt. 25:36).
The gratitude of the Apostle's heart turned into a prayer for Onesiphorus. "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well." vv. 16-18.
The Apostle's prayer embraces a present and a future blessing. He desires present mercy for the house of Onesiphorus; that is, he prays for the members of Onesiphorus' family, of his household indeed, and also that the Lord would grant Onesiphorus himself to find mercy from "the Lord in that day." "That day" refers to the Lord's appearing (see v. 12), when He will display His own in glory, and when the recompense, in grace, of each of His servants will likewise be exhibited. Onesiphorus had already been the object of mercy in his salvation; but, as passing through the wilder-ness, he was "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 21). And it is this, mercy in its full fruit and consummation, that Paul prays he may find in that day.
The closing statement shows that it was not the first time Onesiphorus had been of service to Paul. In Ephesus too he had ministered in many things to the Apostle, and the Spirit of God has caused it to be recorded here, as it is also recorded in heaven, to teach us that He marks and appreciates the slightest kindness shown to His servants in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The connection of this chapter with that which precedes it is both intimate and striking. The Apostle was led to depict his circumstances and his situation in the darkest colours; for in truth nothing could be gloomier to the outward eye than the outlook at that moment. He himself was a prisoner, and "all they which are in Asia" had turned away from him. It was therefore a grave crisis in the history of Christianity, and one in which divine wisdom was required to guide aright the feet of the faithful. What then are the counsels which, at such a time, the Apostle gives to his "son" Timothy? First, he says, "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." v. 1. It Is not what most would have expected. At a time when so many were turning their backs upon God's chosen vessel of the truth, surely some degree of severity, some little sharpness, would be advisable to recall the saints to a sense of their responsibility before God in acknowledging the authority of His servant. Such might have been the thoughts of man; the thoughts of God were of another kind. Timothy was to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus - the grace given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began - that grace of which Christ in His incarnation and death, was and is the expression, and which is stored up in Him (see 2 Cor. 8:9). This is full of instruction.
But how was Timothy to be strong in grace? The word is the same, for example, as that found in Philippians 4:13, and this will supply the key to its interpretation. It means that he was to be strengthened inwardly by this grace, so that he would be best prepared to stand in an evil day, and to cope with its prevailing evils. There is no weapon we are so often tempted to lay aside as grace; but we learn here that it is in proportion to outward decay, unfaithfulness, and corruption, that we need to be built up, fortified by it, in order to deal effectually with the difficulties of the path. The man of God himself therefore must be continually established in grace, as well as be unfailing in its presentation as the mightiest means, in the power of the Holy Ghost, both to confirm the wavering and to recover the backslider.
In the next place, he says, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." v. 2. This remarkable instruction is very significant. It shows clearly that no further revelation was to be expected, and that the provision contemplated, as a barrier against the inroads of false doctrines and pernicious errors, was the transmission of the truth as it had been received of the Apostle (and certified to be apostolic teaching by many witnesses) to faithful men who should be competent to hand it on unadulterated to others. Not a hint is given of any successors of the apostles, or of any authority whatever in the Church, to whom an appeal might be made to define the truth and to expose false doctrines. The Apostle's confidence is in God and the word of His grace (see Acts 20:32); only he would have Timothy to be diligent in imparting the truth to such as would be thereby qualified to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. The waves of error were already rolling in from every quarter, and the inspired Apostle urges his beloved Timothy to raise up in this manner breakwaters to intercept their force, and to guard the saints from their destructive power. So now our safety is to be found first in building ourselves up on our most holy faith, and then in diligently instructing the saints, that they may know how to discern between truth and error, and thus to detect the artifices of the adversary.
The Apostle proceeds to insist upon some necessary personal qualifications for the work to which Timothy was called: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits." vv. 3-6. Every servant of the Lord should ponder, and ponder again and again in the presence of God, these grave and weighty words - words which will never lose their solemn force as long as labourers are found in the Lord's work. First then the servant must know how to endure hardness,1 for such must be expected by every "good soldier of Jesus Christ." None knew this better than he who penned these words, who, after recounting his persecutions and dangers, adds, "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." 2 Cor. 11 :27. If therefore he exhorted Timothy to take his share in suffering, he had himself trodden the path, and thus does but encourage him to follow in the same steps. And where is the servant, it may be inquired, who does not need this admonition? To shun the cross is a common temptation, and it is only when we are under the power of the constraining love of Christ, with a single eye to His glory, that we are impelled to a joyful identification with the sorrows and sufferings of His interests here upon the earth.
The figure employed institutes a comparison. A soldier on service expects to endure "hardness," and so also should the soldiers of Christ. The Apostle therefore adds, that no man that warreth entangles himself with the affairs of this life. He makes arrangements, on the other hand, to lay aside all his business responsibilities that he may be absolutely free from all other claims so as to be at the absolute disposal of his commander. Are the soldiers of Christ to be on any lower level? Are they to seek to serve two masters? Are they to engage only in the conflict when they can spare time from other engagements? Most blessed is it when busy men devote their leisure to the Lord's work, preferring His interests to their own ease and comfort; but the Apostle speaks here of another class of servants who, in the power of the Holy Ghost, disengage themselves from every human claim because they desire to please, to be under the absolute control of, the Captain of their salvation. It will be a sad day for the Church and for the saints when such are no longer found, and a sure sign of the decay of the energy of the Holy Ghost in their midst.
Another figure is next introduced for further instruction. In the olden games and contests, those who strove were bound to observe the rules, if they would obtain the prize. So likewise those who engage in the Lord's conflicts have to remember that they must "strive lawfully," be in subjection to His conditions of service, which must be carried on in conformity to His will and His Word. This is of the utmost importance; for many a right thing is done, even by otherwise good soldiers of Jesus Christ, in a wrong manner or at a wrong moment, whereby the end is defeated. The Lord's servants must wait entirely upon the Lord's will, both for the time and the mode of their warfare, or they will not gain the crown of His approval. Nowhere is this more plainly taught than in the siege of Jericho. To human eyes the manner of conducting it, the method of warfare, was nothing but folly; but it was the Lord's way (and "the foolishness of God is wiser than men"), and the victory was assured.
In addition, the husbandman (and this introduces yet another comparison) must first labour before he can partake of the fruits.2 Our Lord reminded His disciples of the same principle when He said, "He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." John 4:36. It is indeed a universal law, that labour must be expended before the harvest can be enjoyed; and it is this which Paul recalled to the mind of Timothy. The tendency of all, and especially of the Lord's servants, is to forget this salutary truth in the intense desire to gather in and feast upon the fruit. It should therefore be remembered, and thereby we should be saved from many disappointments, that now is the time of labour, and that it will be the time of labour until the Lord's return, and hence that our only concern should be to be found diligent and faithful in our service. The time of partaking of the fruit is future, and the knowledge of this will encourage Our hearts to persevere in service, and all the more in that our enjoyment of the fruit will be in communion with the Lord. "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Psa. 126:6.
The Apostle, having placed these things before Timothy, urges them upon his attention: "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things." v. 7. If we take these words as they stand, they contain an exhortation and a prayer, or at least the expression of a strong desire, which directs Timothy at the same time to the Lord as the source of the power to understand divine things. It would seem, however, as stated below, that the better reading is, "The Lord shall give thee understanding in all things." This gives a slightly different, though very important, meaning. While equally reminding Timothy of his dependence on the Lord for power to apprehend His mind, it gives also a connection between considering, or thinking upon, the apostolic communications, and the action of the Lord in opening his mind to understand Paul's inspired words. And this connection always subsists. The more we consider, weigh, meditate upon the Scriptures, the greater will be the activity of the Holy Spirit in unfolding their teachings to our souls. It is indeed when we are occupied with the Word of God in calm and peace, in the presence of God, that the Lord draws near and gives us understanding; and hence this exhortation to Timothy. It is therefore not by the application of the mind, but by the operation of the Holy Spirit, that divine things are entered into and understood - a lesson much needed in a day of mental activity and intellectual research.
The transition from a consideration of the needed personal qualifications for the work to which Timothy was called to the motives which would sustain him is in the highest degree significant. In one word, the Apostle sets Timothy down in the presence of the Lord - "Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel" (I believe this to be a more accurate translation). The differ-ence is important; for, taking them as they stand in the original, it is at once perceived that "Jesus Christ raised from the dead" is the prominent thought, and also more especially connected with the words, "according to my gospel." For it was indeed the gospel of the glory of Christ, "who is the image of God," that was committed to Paul (2 Cor. 3:4), the gospel that proclaimed that Jesus Christ, the Christ who had been here and was crucified, had been raised from the dead and glorified as man at the right hand of God, having the glory of God displayed in His face. The expression, "of the seed of David," tells us that Christ was true man, and what He was on earth in His presentation to the Jews.
In the epistle to the Romans the same two things, if not in the same order, are linked together. Giving them as they really stand, we read, "The gospel of God, . . . concerning His Son, . . . which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." "Jesus Christ our Lord." Chap. 1:1-4.
As to the force of the combination of these two aspects in Timothy - Jesus Christ raised from the dead, and His being of the seed of David - we may give the language of another: "The truth of the gospel (dogma is not the subject here) was divided into two parts, . . . the fulfillment of the promises, and the power of God in resurrection. These, in fact, are, as it were, the two pivots of the truth - God faithful to His promises (shown especially in connection with the Jews), and God mighty to produce an entirely new thing by His creative and quickening power as manifested in the resurrection, which also put the seal of God upon the Person and work of Christ." It was Jesus Christ, therefore, in all this wide-embracing character, as born into this world of the seed of David, but as having been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, that Timothy was to remember to have ever before his soul, as containing the whole truth of his message, and as supplying him with an all-powerful motive for fidelity and endurance in his work.
This was, as we have seen, Paul's gospel; and now we learn once again (see chap. 1 :8-12) that its proclamation entailed persecution. He thus continues: "Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound." v. 9. This was true at the moment of the Apostle's writing, and we have only to read the record of his activity in The Acts to discover, as indeed was testified to him by the Holy Ghost, that bonds and afflictions awaited him in every city. Bearing the precious message of the gospel, the ministry of reconciliation, and, as an ambassador for Christ, as though God did beseech by him, entreating men everywhere to be reconciled to God, not only was his message constantly refused, but he himself was looked upon as a disturber of the world's peace, and, finally, was shut up in prison as a malefactor! So completely, however, did the Apostle lose sight of himself in his concern for the interests of God in the gospel, that he found his consolation in the recollection that, if he were in captivity, the word of God could not be confined. A like contrast is often found in The Acts. In chapter 12 Herod puts James the brother of John to death, and "proceeded further to take Peter also." But this very activity of the enemy brought in the interposition of God. Peter is delivered from his captivity, Herod is smitten, and then the significant statement is added, "But the word of God grew and multiplied." v. 24. In such ways, when the enemy deals proudly, God steps in and shows that He is above him. Paul has even a deeper consolation: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." v. 10. It has often been remarked that the Lord Himself might have used these words, and hence only one in the enjoyment of fellowship with the Lord's own heart as to His people could employ such language; for, in truth, the object of the Lord's own sufferings was the salvation of His people. He suffered, as we all know, as no other could, because He made expiation for our sins; but the point of the Apostle's statement is not the character but the object of his sufferings.
By the grace of God, therefore, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, he was enabled to suffer all that came upon him, in connection with his testimony, for the elect's sake. He was made willing, nay more; with something of the love of Christ for His people animating his soul, he even desired to endure persecution if so be they might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with all that was connected with it, even eternal glory. And it should be ever remembered that the same path is opened to every servant of the Lord. If smaller vessels than the Apostle, they may yet have the same desires, aims, and objects; and they will have them just in proportion as the affections of Christ fill their hearts. Intense love for His people, because they are His people, is one of the most essential qualifications for service; for this will become, in the power of the Holy Ghost, the spring of unwearying devotedness to Christ for their eternal welfare.
In verses 9 and 10 the Apostle seeks to encourage Timothy in an evil day by a reference to his own path, and by the exhibition of the motives which, through grace, governed his own soul. He now proceeds to remind him of certain divine principles, or of certain infallible consequences resulting both from identification with, and from unfaithfulness to, Christ in His rejection.
"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us: if we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself." v. 11-13.
The exact significance of "It is a faithful saying," or, literally, "faithful is the word," is not at once perceived. It may be the solemn asseveration of the truth of the following sentences; or it might mean that these truths were current among the saints, and that the Apostle takes them up to apply them to the matter in hand. To Timothy they would, at such a moment, have great force and solemnity. Tempted at least to shrink from the cross involved in his service, nothing could be more seasonable than to be recalled to the truth, that if we have died with Christ, we shall also live with Him.
Now death with Christ lies at the very foundation of our Christian position; but blessed as it is in delivering us from all that would enslave us in this scene, it involves certain responsibilities. The Apostle thus wrote to the Colossians: "If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" Chap. 2:20. Having been associated with Christ in His death involved their acceptance of the place of death in this world. So with Timothy, with us all. If we take the place of being dead, no persecutions, no dangers, could turn us aside from the path of service. It will moreover encourage us always to consider ourselves dead, and to bear about in the body the dying of Jesus, to remember that our living together with Him is the divine consequence of association with Him in death. For, as the Apostle says elsewhere, "If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." Rom. 6 :5.
It is the same with the next statement: "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (v. 12). Not that our reigning with Christ is in any way dependent upon our present suffering, but rather it is that suffering here is the appointed path for those who will be associated with Christ in His kingdom. This was shown out in type in the direction that the purple cloth was to be spread upon the altar before it, with its vessels, and was covered with badgers' skins for its transport through the The word "for" should be inserted before the last clause; thus, He abideth faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.
Being what we are, and the world, the flesh, and the devil being what they are, suffering with Christ is a necessity, and especially in the path of service; but if it is so, He sustains us by the prospect of association with Himself in the glories of the kingdom. These are encouragements, but there are also warnings. Should we, alas! deny Him (and denying Him here has its full force of absolute apostasy), He will deny us. (See Luke 12:9.) If, moreover, we believe not, the Lord will not fail to accomplish all the purposes of His heart, all the thoughts of His love; for He cannot deny Himself. He is in no way dependent upon our fidelity or service, though He may be pleased to bestow upon us the privilege of being His servants, of labouring in His vineyard.
Daunted by constant opposition, we may be disheartened, fall into despondency, be tempted to think that the light of the testimony is altogether extinguished, and thus come under the power of doubt and unbelief. But the Lord will work on, in spite of all our faithlessness, in the accomplishment of His will, and in His own time will infallibly present the Church to Himself, "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).
The knowledge then that God is faithful, and that He cannot deny Himself, is assuredly a rock on which the feeblest and most timid of His servants may repose in the darkest moments; and it affords also an encouragement to look beyond the confusion and the ruin, to that blessed future when every thought of the heart of God for His Church and for His people will have its perfect and eternal realization in the glory.
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