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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 2

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

2 Timothy 2:1. Thou therefore, i.e. as following the example of Onesiphorus.

Be strong. The Greek verb, passive and not middle, implies at once the being strengthened, and the continuance in the state thus reached; and this process and state find the element of their life in the grace which is found in Christ.

Verse 2

2 Timothy 2:2. The things that thou hast heard. Probably the same as the ‘sound words’ of 2 Timothy 1:18.

Among many witnesses. Better ‘ with’ or ‘ through,’ the presence of the witnesses, presbyters and others, being thought of as a condition of the act referred to. This, as the right rendering, ‘ which thou heardest, ’ implies, was a charge as to the substance of the Christian faith delivered when Timothy was appointed by the laying on of hands to his special work.

Commit thou. The idea of the trust or deposit is continued. There is to be a perpetuation of the trust, and each man’s work for the time being is to choose faithful successors, who in their turn shall teach what they have learnt to others.

Verse 3

2 Timothy 2:3. Endure hardness. The word is the same as that rendered in 2 Timothy 1:8, ‘be thou partaker of the afflictions.’ ‘ Take thy share in hardships’ would express its meaning. We lose the emphasis of repetition by the change of the English words.

Verse 4

2 Timothy 2:4. No man that warreth. Better, ‘no soldier on service.’

Affairs. The Greek word had acquired the secondary sense of affairs of trade, the businesses of this life. In Roman practice a soldier could not make a trade contract, or be plaintiff in a lawsuit

Who hath chosen him to be a soldier. The Greek word is-technical: the commander of a band which he himself has raised. As such it has a manifest fitness as applied to Christ, the great ‘Captain of our salvation.’ It was perhaps natural that the analogy thus stated should have developed in ecclesiastical legislation into a rule forbidding the ministers of the Church from engaging in any secular pursuits as a means of livelihood. Such a rule has much to be said in its favour on grounds of general expediency, but it should be remembered that it rests on them and not on St. Paul’s words. They are wider in their application, and extend to all soldiers of Christ, i.e. to all Christians, and they warn us, not against engaging in secular callings, but against so ‘entangling’ ourselves in them that they hinder the free growth of our higher life.

Verse 5

2 Timothy 2:5. Strive for masteries. St. Paul’s habitual way of looking at the Christian life led him to pass naturally from the thought of the soldier to that of the athlete. We want some word to express this more adequately in the English. ‘Strive in the games’ would perhaps answer the purpose, as bringing out more distinctly the new comparison.

Lawfully. The phrase, which is found in precisely the same connexion in Galen ( Comm. in Hippocr. I. 15), was technical, half medical, and half belonging to the training schools of athletes, and implied the observance of all rules of life prior to the contest as well as during it. Failure to keep to the appointed diet and discipline, no less than taking an unfair advantage at the time, excluded the competitor from his reward.

Verse 6

2 Timothy 2:6. The husbandman that laboureth. The Greek, which expresses the qualifying clause by a present participle, implies labour during the (harvest or vintage rather than in the earlier stages of growth. Thus taken, the precept is parallel to that of not muzzling the ox as he treads out the corn, and urges to persevering labour when the harvest is ready, i.e. when the ministerial work seems crowned with success, as well as during the preliminary work of planting or watering. The words probably refer to the actual practice of Jewish or Greek agriculture.

Verse 7

2 Timothy 2:7. Consider what I say. St. Paul contents himself with suggesting the analogies of the two previous verses, and leaves it to Timothy’s reflection to see their bearing on himself.

And the Lord give thee. The better reading gives ‘for the Lord will give thee.’ This gives also a better meaning: ‘Make the effort to reflect, for if thou do, the Lord will give thee the discernment which thou needest.’

Verse 8

2 Timothy 2:8. Remember Jesus Christ. The exhortation, seemingly so abrupt and unconnected, looks both before and after. Quoting words which were probably part of some formulated confession of faith, St. Paul calls on Timothy to remember the two great truths of the Resurrection and the Incarnation. If that remembrance were clear and strong, he could not fail to be ready to take his share of hardships; he would be ready also to take a firm stand against the false teachers who, by saying that the resurrection was past already, reduced both truths to the level of fantastic myths. Special stress is laid on ‘the seed of David’ as indicating that Jesus was a historical, not an ideal Messiah (comp. Romans 1:3).

According to my gospel. The oral, not the written, Gospel delivered by St. Paul.

Verse 9

2 Timothy 2:9. Wherein I suffer trouble. The same emphatic word as the ‘endure hardness’ of 2 Timothy 2:3, the ‘be partaker of afflictions’ in 2 Timothy 1:8. The way in which St. Paul dwells upon the actual chains that were the outward marks of what men thought shame is eminently characteristic. So, at the outset, he is ‘for the hope of Israel bound with this chain’ (Acts 28:20), so at a later stage he is ‘an ambassador in bonds’ (Ephesians 6:20).

The word of God is not bound. The words have a wide range of meaning. His hands are manacled, but his tongue is free, and with it he can still speak the word of God. Apart even from any action of his own, that word was working actively outside his prison walls. There was no ground for fear that its course was over.

Verse 10

2 Timothy 2:10. Therefore. Better, ‘ for this reason, so as to leave the English, like the Greek, to point either to what precedes or follows. Here the latter seems to give the preferable meaning, as in the like construction in 1 Timothy 1:16; Philemon 1:15. He is content to endure all things that God’s chosen ones may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. The thought of the apostle is, that God has throughout the world those whom He has chosen to eternal life; that this election depends for its results on human instrumentality, and may be frustrated by human negligence. For their sake, whether already converted or waiting to be called, he is content to suffer whatever God appoints for him. Those sufferings are part of the agencies by which God is working out for them salvation now and eternal glory hereafter.

Verse 11

2 Timothy 2:11. It is a faithful saying. The rhythmical form of the sentence that follows suggests the thought that we have a fragment of one of the ‘spiritual songs’ of Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, uttered under prophetic inspiration, accepted by the Church, used in its worship, taught to children and to converts.

If we be dead with him. The Greek tense points to a definite act, ‘if we died,’ and interpreted by Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12, throws us back upon the mystical union with the death of Christ into which believers enter at their baptism.

Verse 12

2 Timothy 2:12. Shall also reign with him. The thought, though not the words, enters into our Lord’s teaching: ‘Ye shall sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Matthew 19:28).

He also will deny us. The words clearly point to our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 10:33, and, like other passages in these Epistles, indicate that there was a widely-diffused knowledge of it.

Verse 13

2 Timothy 2:13. If we believe not. The antithesis in the Greek is better expressed by, ‘If we lose our faith. He still remains faithful.’ The special reference is of course to the words of Christ just cited. We may turn a deaf ear to them, refuse to believe them, but they will be found true at last. The faithfulness of Christ is pledged to the words of judgment as well as those of promise. The perfection of His nature excludes the thought of inconsistency or self-contradiction.

Verse 14

2 Timothy 2:14. Put them in remembrance. No persons have been mentioned, but St. Paul clearly has in his mind the teachers who tend to strivings about words. A various reading of some authority gives, ‘Put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord; strive not about words,’ but the text is preferable.

But to the subverting. The English ‘but,’ which has nothing answering to it in the Greek, introduces a touch of sarcasm. St. Paul says simply ‘ useful for nothing,’ working for the ruin of them that hear.

Verse 15

2 Timothy 2:15. Study, Strictly, ‘ be eager, be zealous.’

Approved, i.e. tried and standing the trial.

Rightly dividing. The literal meaning, ‘ cutting straight, ’ admits obviously of many figurative applications, and the word has been referred accordingly to the work of the sculptor, the road-maker, the carpenter, the ploughman, the carver at table, the sacrificing priest. Of these, that of the ploughman seems to give the best meaning; but I am disposed to think that we may perhaps class this among the medical words with which these Epistles abound, and see in it a reference to the work of the surgeon, in which any deflection from the true line of incision might be perilous or even fatal. The reference in 2 Timothy 2:17 to the gangrene or cancer seems to carry on the train of thought.

Verse 16

2 Timothy 2:16. Shun. The word gives the sense, but hardly the force of the Greek: ‘ Draw back from,’ as a group of men draw back from something horrible and loathsome.

Will eat. Again a strictly medical term: ‘ Will take its course, as if feeding on the flesh.’

Verse 17

2 Timothy 2:17. Canker. Another medical word - Literally ‘gangrene,’ the state between inflammation and entire mortification. The word is used by Hippocrates sometimes in this special sense, sometimes of cancer.

Hymen├Žus and Philetus. The former has been mentioned already (1 Timothy 1:20). Of the latter nothing more is known.

Verse 18

2 Timothy 2:18. Saying that the resurrection is past already. In the absence of clearer evidence, we cannot speak with certainty of the nature of the error, but the words apparently point to a Gnostic idealizing, and therefore anti-Jewish, school of speculation. Probably caricaturing St. Paul’s own teaching (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), they taught that baptism or conversion was the true resurrection, and so came by a roundabout way to the same conclusion as the Sadducee. In so doing, St. Paul, as he had felt in arguing against a like error at Corinth, felt that they were overthrowing men’s faith and robbing them of their hope.

Verse 19

2 Timothy 2:19. The foundation of God standeth sure. The Greek requires, ‘ The strong (or firm) foundation of God stands fast.’ What is this ‘strong foundation’? And what is the imagery employed? The idea was, as we have seen, a familiar one with St. Paul, and is referred sometimes to Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 3:11), sometimes to good works (1 Timothy 6:19). Here it would seem to represent the thought that God’s unchanging truth is the foundation of His Church.

Having this seal. The figure is probably drawn from the practice of engraving inscriptions on one or both sides of the foundation stone. So in Revelation 21:14 the names of the twelve apostles are found on the twelve foundations of the mystical Jerusalem.

The Lord knoweth them that are his. Not as expressing the knowledge that flows from an inscrutable decree, but, as in 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 Corinthians 13:12, John 10:14, the knowledge, implying love and approval, which Christ has of those who are truly His. This represents one side of the life of the believer, but, lest men interpret the truth wrongly, the other side also needs to be put forward, and that is found in personal holiness. Every one who names the name of the Lord, who speaks of Christ as His Lord, and therefore calls himself a Christian, is bound by so doing to depart from iniquity. Though not a quotation, we may perhaps recognise an echo of the ‘Depart ye, depart ye’ of Isaiah 52:11.

Verse 20

2 Timothy 2:20. In a great house. The words imply a parable which is not formally interpreted. Rising as it does, however, from the thought of the ‘foundation’ in 2 Timothy 2:19, we shall not be far wrong in assuming that the ‘great house’ is (as in 1 Timothy 3:15) the Church of God. The sequel of the parable presents questions of greater difficulty. Are we, with the majority of interpreters, to identify the vessels made to honour with those of silver and gold, those of wood and earth with the vessels made to dishonour? In this case the difference between the two sets of vessels is, in the interpretation of the parable, purely ethical. All true members of Christ are as the gold and silver, all unworthy members as the wood and clay. And as the material of which the vessel is made does not depend upon itself, it might seem at first as if we had here, as in the parable of the Tares and the Drag-net, to interpolate the thought that the man whom the vessel represents may by purifying himself transmute his nature, and pass from the one class to the other. I venture to think that a different interpretation gives a far truer meaning. The classes of vessels correspond to the gifts which men have received (as in the parable of the Talents we have the five, the two, the one), and each has its proper use and honour in the great house of the Church of God. But in each case, of the gold as of the clay, it is true that purity is the one essential condition of honourable use. The man of poorer gifts (to pass from the sign to the thing signified) may, if he keeps himself pure, be a vessel made to honour. If the silver and the gold are allowed to be defiled by that which is unclean, if ‘holiest things find vilest using,’ then even they are in danger of serving only as vessels for dishonour, of showing (not ceasing even then to fulfil a Divine purpose) that the righteous judgment of God is against them that commit such things. In this case the words, ‘If a man purge himself,’ retain their full significance, and we have no need to interpolate the idea of a self-transmuting process changing the earthen vessel into gold.

Verse 21

2 Timothy 2:21. If a man purge himself from these. Better, ‘cleanse.’ The pronoun, on the view just given, refers to the concrete acts implied in the ‘iniquity’ of 2 Timothy 2:19.

Sanctified. In the liturgical rather than the ethical sense, ‘ consecrated or ‘ hallowed.’

Verse 22

2 Timothy 2:22. Flee also youthful lusts. The English suggests too exclusively the thought of simple sensual desires, and these were doubtless prominent in St. Paul’s thoughts, but the words have a wider range, and include a young man’s vanity or ambition or impressiveness as well.

Peace, with them. Better, ‘ peace with them,’ without the comma, as connecting the last words of the verse with the word to which they of right belong.

Verse 23

2 Timothy 2:23. Unlearned questions. The English adjective does not quite represent the force of the Greek, but it is not easy to find a better. ‘ Undisciplined,’ perhaps, comes nearest. What is meant are the questionings which suggest themselves to untrained, uneducated minds, and which a true intellectual culture would lead men to avoid. What these were we cannot definitely say.

Strifes. Better, ‘fightings,’ in the literal sense of the word.

Verse 24

2 Timothy 2:24. Patient. The Greek is more expressive, ‘ patient under, or putting up with, evil.’

Verse 25

2 Timothy 2:25. Instructing. Better, as in Hebrews 12:6 and elsewhere, ‘ chastising’ or ‘ correcting.’ The word never means simple instruction, but always education and discipline, and is obviously used here in contrast to the ‘undisciplined’ questioning of the preceding verse.

If God peradventure. The Greek includes the idea of time, ‘ If at some time or other God should give repentance.’ Even in the work of opposing or correcting, the servant of Christ is to keep that possibility in view.

To the acknowledging of the truth. The verb is used in its older English sense of ‘knowing fully,’ rather than ‘confessing.’ As the error contemplated was one of false doctrine springing from corrupt life, so the remedial process was to begin at the beginning, first amendment of life, and then intellectual perception of the truth.

Verse 26

2 Timothy 2:26. That they may recover themselves. Literally, ‘that they may awake as from a drunken sleep.’

Taken captive by him at his will. The English presents no difficulty, but in the Greek the two possessive pronouns are not the same, and are, apparently at least, presented in direct contrast. If we accept them as pointing to different agents, then the probable meaning is, ‘that they may awake sobered from the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him (the devil), unto ( i.e. awaking unto) His will (the will of God);’ and this rendering is adopted by many commentators, and appears in the Revised Version of the New Testament. There seems, however, sufficient reason for supposing that the change of pronoun was determined by the desire of avoiding the repetition of the same word rather than by any purpose to distinguish between the two.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/2-timothy-2.html. 1879-90.
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