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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 1

The Expositor's Bible CommentaryThe Expositor's Bible Commentary

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Verse 1

, 2 Timothy 1:1, Titus 1:1

Chapter 1



THE first question which confronts us on entering upon the study of the Pastoral Epistles is that of their authenticity, which of late has been confidently denied. In reading them are we reading the farewell words of the great Apostle to the ministers of Christ? Or are we reading only the well-meant but far less weighty counsels of one who in a later age assumed the name and imitated the style of St. Paul? It seems necessary to devote the first of these expositions to a discussion of this question.

The title "Pastoral Epistles" could hardly be improved, but it might easily be misunderstood as implying more than is actually the case. It calls attention to what is the most conspicuous, but by no means the only characteristic in these Epistles. Although the words which most directly signify the pastor’s office, such as "shepherd," "feed," "tend," and "flock," do not occur in these letters and do occur elsewhere in Scripture, yet in no other books in the Bible do we find so many directions respecting the pastoral care of Churches. The title is much less appropriate to 2 Timothy than to the other two Epistles. All three are both pastoral and personal; but while 1 Timothy and Titus are mainly the former, 2 Timothy is mainly the latter. The three taken together stand between the other Epistles of St. Paul and the one to Philemon. Like the latter, they are personal; like the rest, they treat of large questions of Church doctrine, practice, and government, rather than of private and personal matters. Like that to Philemon, they are addressed, not to Churches, but to individuals; yet they are written to them, not as private friends, but as delegates, though not mere delegates, of the Apostle, and as officers of the Church. Moreover, the important Church matters of which they treat are regarded not as in the other Epistles, from the point of view of the congregation or of the Church at large, but rather from that of the overseer or minister. And, as being official rather than private letters, they are evidently intended to be read by other persons besides Timothy and Titus.

Among the Epistles which bear the name of St. Paul none have excited so much controversy as these, especially as regards their genuineness. But the controversy is entirely a modern one. It is little or no exaggeration to say that from the first century to the nineteenth no one ever denied or doubted that they were written by St. Paul. It is true that certain heretics of the second century rejected some or all of them. Marcion, and perhaps Basilides, rejected all three. Tatian, while maintaining the Apostolicity of the Epistle to Titus, repudiated those to Timothy. And Origen tills us that some people doubted about 2 Timothy because it contained the name of Jannes and Jambres, which do not occur in the Old Testament. But it is well known that Marcion, in framing his mutilated and meager canon of the Scriptures, did not profess to do so on critical grounds. He rejected everything except an expurgated edition of St. Luke and certain Epistles of St. Paul, -not because he doubted their authenticity, but because he disliked their contents. They did not fit into his system. And the few others who rejected one or more of these Epistles did so in a similar spirit. They did not profess to find that these documents were not properly authenticated, but they were displeased with passages in them. The evidence, therefore, justifies us in asserting that, with some very slight exception in the second century, these three Epistles were, until quite recent times, universally accepted as written by St. Paul.

This large fact is greatly emphasized by two considerations.

(1) The repudiation of them by Marcion and others directed attention to them. They were evidently not accepted by an oversight, because no one thought anything about them.

(2) The evidence respecting the general acceptance of them as St. Paul’s is full and positive, and reaches back to the earliest times. It does not consist merely or mainly in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Tertullian wonders what can have induced Marcion, while accepting the Epistle to Philemon, to reject those to Timothy and Titus: and of course those who repudiated them would have pointed out weak places in their claim to be canonical if such had existed. And even if we do not insist upon the passages in which these Epistles are almost certainly quoted by Clement of Rome (cir. A.D. 95), Ignatius of Antioch (cir. A.D. 112), Polycarp of Smyrna (cir. A.D. 112), and Theophilus of Antioch (cir. A.D. 180), we have direct evidence of a very convincing kind. They are found in the Peshitto, or early Syriac Version, which was made in the second century. They are contained in the Muratorian canon, the date of which may still be placed as not later than A.D. 170. Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, states that "Paul mentions Linus in the Epistle to Timothy," and he quotes Titus 3:10 with the introduction "as Paul also says." Eusebius renders it probable that both Justin Martyr and Hegesippus quoted from 1 Timothy; and he himself places all three Epistles among the universally accepted books, and not among the disputable writings: i.e., he places them with the Gospels, Acts, 1 Peter, 1 John, and the other Epistles of St. Paul, and not with James, 2 Peter 2:1-22 and 3 John, and Jude. In this arrangement he is preceded by Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, both of whom quote frequently from all three Epistles, sometimes as the words of Scripture, sometimes as of "the Apostle," sometimes as of Paul, sometimes as of the Spirit. Occasionally it is expressly stated that the words quoted are addressed to Timothy or to Titus.

It would take us too far a field to examine in detail the various considerations which have induced some eminent critics to set aside this strong array of external evidence and reject one or more of these Epistles. They fall in the main under four heads.

(1) The difficulty of finding a place for these letters in the life of St. Paul as given us in the Acts and in his own writings.

(2) The large amount of peculiar phraseology not found in any other Pauline Epistles.

(3) The Church organization indicated in these letters, which is alleged to be of a later date than St. Paul’s time.

(4) The erroneous doctrines and practices attacked, which are also said to be those of a later age.

To most of these points we shall have to return on some future occasion: but for the present this much may be asserted with confidence.

(1) In the Acts and in the other Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle’s life is left incomplete. There is nothing to forbid us from supposing that the remaining portion amounted to several years, during which these three letters were written. The second Epistle to Timothy in any case has the unique interest of being the last extant utterance of the Apostle St. Paul.

(2) The phraseology which is peculiar to each of these Epistles is not greater in amount than the phraseology which is peculiar to the Epistle to the Galatians, which even Baur admits to be of unquestionable genuineness. The peculiar diction which is common to all three Epistles is well accounted for by the peculiarity of the common subject, and by the fact that these letters are separated by several years from even the latest among the other writings of St. Paul.

(3, 4) There is good reason for believing that during the lifetime of St. Paul the organization of the Church corresponded to that which is sketched in these letters, and that errors were already in existence such as these letters denounce.

Although the controversy is by no means over, two results of it are very generally accepted as practically certain.

I. The three Epistles must stand or fall together. It is impossible to accept two, or one, or any portion of one of them, and reject the rest. They must stand or fall with the hypothesis of St. Paul’s second imprisonment. If the Apostle was imprisoned at Rome only once, and was put to death at the end of that imprisonment, then these three letters were not written by him.

(1) The Epistles stand or fall together: they are all three genuine, or all three spurious. We must either with the scholars of the Early Church, of the Middle Ages, and of the Renaissance, whether Roman or Protestant, and with a clear majority of modern critics, accept all three letters; or else with Marcion, Basilides, Eichhorn, Bauer, and their followers, reject all three. As Credner himself had to acknowledge, after having at first advocated the theory, it is impossible to follow Tatian in retaining Titus as apostolic, while repudiating the other two as forgeries. Nor have the two scholars who originated the modern controversy found more than one critic of eminence to accept their conclusion that both Titus and 2 Timothy, are genuine, but 1 Timothy not. Yet another suggestion is made by Reuss, that 2 Timothy is unquestionably genuine, while the other two are doubtful. And lastly we have Pfleiderer admitting that 2 Timothy contains at least two sections which have with good reason been recognized as genuine, {2 Timothy 1:15-18; 2 Timothy 4:9-21} and Renan asking whether the forger of these three Epistles did not possess some authentic letters of St. Paul which he has enshrined in his composition.

It will be seen, therefore, that those who impugn the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles are by no means agreed among themselves. The evidence in some places is so strong, that many of the objectors are compelled to admit that the Epistles are at least in part the work of St. Paul. That is, certain portions, which admit of being severely tested, are found to stand the test, and are passed as genuine, in spite of surrounding difficulties. The rest, which does not admit of such testing, is repudiated on account of the difficulties. No one can reasonably object to the application of whatever tests are available, nor to the demand for explanations of difficulties. But we must not treat what cannot be satisfactorily tested as if it had been tested and found wanting; nor must we refuse to take account of the support which those parts which can be thoroughly sifted lend to those for which no decisive criterion can be found. Still less must we proceed on the assumption that to reject these Epistles or any portion of them is a proceeding which gets rid of difficulties. It is merely an exchange of one set of difficulties for another. To unbiased minds it will perhaps appear that the difficulties involved in the assumption that the Pastoral Epistles are wholly or partly a forgery, are not less serious than those which have been urged against the well-established tradition of their genuineness. The very strong external evidence in their favor has to be accounted for. It is already full, clear, and decided, as soon as we could at all expect to find it, viz., in Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. And it must be noticed that these witnesses give us the traditional beliefs of several chief centers in Christendom. Irenaeus speaks with full knowledge of what was accepted in Asia Minor, Rome, and Gaul; Clement witnesses for Egypt, and Tertullian for North America. And although the absence of such support would not have caused serious perplexity, their direct evidence is very materially supported by passages closely parallel to the words of the Pastoral Epistles found in writers still earlier than Irenaeus. Renan admits the relationship between 2 Timothy and the Epistle of Clement of Rome, and suggests that each writer has borrowed from a common source. Pfleiderer admits that the Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp "displays striking points of contact with 2 Timothy." Bauer’s theory, that all three letters are as late as A.D. 150, and are an attack on Marcion, finds little support now. But we are still asked to believe that 2 Timothy was forged in the reign of Trajan (98-117) and the other two Epistles in the reign of Hadrian (117-138). Is it credible that a forgery perpetrated A.D. 120-135 would in less than fifty years be accepted in Asia Minor, Rome, Gaul, Egypt, and North Africa, as a genuine letter of the Apostle St. Paul? And yet this is what must have happened in the case of 1 Timothy, if the hypothesis just stated is correct. Nor is this all: Marcion, as we know, rejected all three of the Pastoral Epistles; and Tertullian cannot think why Marcion should do so. But, when Marcion was framing his canon, about the reign of Hadrian, 2 Timothy, according to these dates, would be scarcely twenty years old, and 1 Timothy would be brand-new. If this had been so, would Marceon, with his intimate knowledge of St. Paul’s writings, have been in ignorance of the fact; and if he had known it, would he have failed to denounce the forgery? Or again, if we assume that he merely treated this group of Epistles with silent contempt, would not his rejection of them, which was well known, have directed attention to them, and caused their recent origin to be quickly discovered? From all which it is manifest that the theory of forgery by no means frees us from grave obstacles.

It will be observed that the external evidence is large in amount and overwhelmingly in favor of the Apostolic authorship. The objections are based on internal evidence. But some of the leading opponents admit that even the internal evidence is in favor of certain portions of the Epistles. Let us, then, with Renan, Pfleiderer, and others admit that parts of 2 Timothy were written by St. Paul; then there is strong presumption that the whole letter is by him; for even the suspected portions have the external evidence in their favor, together with the support lent to them by those parts for which the internal evidence is also satisfactory. Add to which the improbability that any one would store up genuine letters of St. Paul for fifty years and then use parts of them to give substance to a fabrication. Or let us with Reuss contend that in 2 Timothy "the whole Epistle is so completely the natural expression of the actual situation of the author, and contains, unsought and for the most part in the form of mere allusions, such a mass of minute and unessential particulars, that, even did the name of the writer not chance to be mentioned at the beginning, it would be easy to discover it." Then there is strong presumption that the other two letters are genuine also; for they have the external evidence on their side, together with the good character reflected upon them by their brother Epistle. This result is of course greatly strengthened, if, quite independently of 2 Timothy, the claims of Titus to be Apostolic are considered to be adequate. With two of the three letters admitted to be genuine, the case for the remaining letter becomes a strong one. It has the powerful external evidence on its side, backed up by the support lent to it by its two more manifestly authentic companions. Thus far, therefore, we may agree with Baur: "The three Epistles are so much alike that none of them can be separated from the others; and from this circumstance the identity of their authorship may be confidently inferred." But when he asserts that whichever of this family of letters be examined will appear as the betrayer of his brethren, he just reverses the truth. Each letter, upon examination, lends support to the other two; "and a threefold cord is not easily broken." The strongest member of the family is 2 Timothy: the external evidence in its favor is ample, and no Epistle in the New Testament is more characteristic of St. Paul. It would be scarcely less reasonable to dispute 2 Corinthians. And if 2 Timothy be admitted, there is no tenable ground for excluding the other two.

II. But not only do the three Epistles stand or fall together, they stand or fall with the hypothesis of the release and second imprisonment of the Apostle. The contention that no place can be found for the Pastoral Epistles in the narrative of the Acts is valid; but it is no objection to the authenticity of the Epistles. The conclusion of the Acts implies that the end of St. Paul’s life is not reached in the narrative. "He abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling," implies that after that time a change took place. If that change was his death, how unnatural not to mention it! The conclusion is closely parallel to that of St. Luke’s Gospel; and we might almost as reasonably contend that "they were continually in the temple," proves that they were never "clothed with power from on high," because they were told to "tarry in the city" until they were so clothed, as contend that "abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling," proves that at the end of the two years came the end of St. Paul’s life. Let us grant that the conclusion of the Acts is unexpectedly abrupt, and that this abruptness constitutes a difficulty. Then we have our choice of two alternatives. Either the two years of imprisonment were followed by a period of renewed labor, or they were cut short by the Apostle’s martyrdom. Is it not more easy to believe that the writer did not consider that this new period of work, which would have filled many chapters, fell within the scope of his narrative, than that he omitted so obvious a conclusion as St. Paul’s death, for which a single verse would have sufficed? But let us admit that to assert that St. Paul was released at the end of two years is to maintain a mere hypothesis: yet to assert that he was not released is equally to maintain a mere hypothesis. If we exclude the Pastoral Epistles, Scripture gives no means of deciding the question, and whichever alternative we adopt we are making a conjecture. But which hypothesis has most evidence on its side? Certainly the hypothesis of the release.

(1) The Pastoral Epistles, even if not by St. Paul, are by some one who believed that the Apostle did a good deal after the close of the Acts.

(2) The famous passage in Clement of Rome (Corinthians 5.) tells that St. Paul "won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world, and having reached the furthest bound of the West (το τερμα της δυσεως)." This probably means Spain; and if St. Paul ever went to Spain as he hoped to do, {Romans 15:24; Romans 15:28} it was after the imprisonment narrated in the Acts. Clement gives us the tradition in Rome (cir. A.D. 95).

(3) The Muratorian fragment (cir. A.D. 170) mentions the "departure of Paul from the city to Spain."

(4) Eusebius ("H.E.," II 22:2) says that at the end of the two years of imprisonment, according to tradition, the Apostle went forth again upon the ministry of preaching, and on a second visit to the city ended his career by martyrdom under Nero; and that during this imprisonment he composed the Second Epistle to Timothy. All this does not amount to proof; but it raises the hypothesis of the release to a high degree of probability. Nothing of this kind can be urged in favor of the counter-hypothesis.

To urge the improbability that the labors of these last few years of St. Paul’s life would be left unrecorded is no argument.

(1) They are partly recorded in the Pastoral Epistles.

(2) The entire labors of most of the Twelve are left unrecorded. Even of St. Paul’s life, whole years are left a blank. How fragmentary the narrative in the Acts must be is proved by the autobiography in 2 Corinthians.

That we have very scanty notice of St. Paul’s doings between the two imprisonments does not render the existence of such an interval at all doubtful.

The result of this preliminary discussion seems to show that the objections which have been urged against these Epistles are not such as to compel us to doubt that in studying them we are studying the last writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. If any doubts still survive, a closer examination of the details will, it is hoped, tend to remove rather than to strengthen them. When we have completed our survey, we may be able to add our testimony to those who through many centuries have found these writings a source of Divine guidance, warning, and encouragement, especially in ministerial work. The experience of countless numbers of pastors attests the wisdom of the Church, or in other words the good Providence of God, in causing these Epistles to be included among the sacred Scriptures.

"It is an established fact," as Bernhard Weiss rightly points out ("Introduction to the New Testament," vol. 1. p. 410), "that the essential, fundamental features of the Pauline doctrine of salvation are even in their specific expression reproduced in our Epistles with a clearness such as we do not find in any Pauline disciple, excepting perhaps Luke or the Roman Clement." Whoever composed them had at his command, not only St. Paul’s forms of doctrine and expression, but large funds of Apostolic zeal and discretion, such as have proved capable of warming the hearts and guiding the judgments of a long line of successors. Those who are conscious of these effects upon themselves will probably find it easier to believe that they have derived these benefits from the great Apostle himself, rather than from one who, with however good intentions, assumed his name and disguised himself in his mantle. Henceforward, until we find serious reason for doubt, it will be assumed that in these Epistles we have the farewell counsels of none other than St. Paul.

Verse 2

Chapter 2

1 Timothy


IN the relation of St. Paul to Timothy we have one of those beautiful friendships between an older and a younger man which are commonly so helpful to both. It is in such cases, rather than where the friends are equals in age, that each can be the real complement of the other. Each by his abundance can supply the other’s wants, whereas men of equal age would have common wants and common supplies. In this respect the friendship between St. Paul and Timothy reminds us of that between St. Peter and St. John. In each ease the friend who took the lead was much older than the other; and (what is less in harmony with ordinary experience) in each ease it was the older friend who had the impulse and the enthusiasm, the younger who had the reflectiveness and the reserve. These latter qualities are perhaps less marked in St. Timothy than in St. John, but nevertheless they are there, and they are among the leading traits of his character. St. Paul leans on him while he guides him, and relies upon his thoughtfulness and circumspection in cases requiring firmness, delicacy, and tact. Of the affection with which he regarded Timothy we have evidence in the whole tone of the two letters to him. In the sphere of faith Timothy is his "own true child" (not merely adopted, still less supposititions), and his "beloved child." St. Paul tells the Corinthians that as the best means of making them imitators of himself he has sent unto them "Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, even as I teach everywhere in every Church." {1 Corinthians 4:17} And a few years later he tells the Philippians that he hopes to send Timothy shortly unto them, that he may know how they fare. For he has no one like him, who will have a genuine anxiety about their welfare. The rest care only for their own interests. "But the proof of him ye know, that, as a child a father, so he slaved with me for the Gospel." {2 Timothy 2:22} Of all whom he ever converted to the faith Timothy seems to have been to St. Paul the disciple who was most beloved and most trusted. Following the example of the fourth Evangelist, Timothy might have called himself "The disciple whom Paul loved." He shared his spiritual father’s outward labors and most intimate thoughts. He was with him when the Apostle could not or would not have the companionship of others. He was sent on the most delicate and confidential missions. He had charge of the most important congregations. When the Apostle was in his last and almost lonely imprisonment it was Timothy whom he summoned to console him and receive his last injunctions.

There is another point in which the beloved disciple of the Pastoral Epistles resembles the beloved disciple of the Fourth Gospel. We are apt to think of both of them as always young. Christian art nearly invariably represents St. John as a man of youthful and almost feminine appearance. And, although in Timothy’s case, painters and sculptors have not done much to influence our imagination, yet the picture which we form for ourselves of him is very similar to that which we commonly receive of St. John. With strange logic this has actually been made an argument against the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles. Myth, we are told, has given to this Christian Achilles the attributes of eternal youth. Timothy was a lad of about fifteen when St. Paul converted him at Lystra, in or near A.D. 45; and he was probably not yet thirty-five when St. Paul wrote the first Epistle to him. Even if he had been much older there would be nothing surprising in the tone of St. Paul’s letters to him. It is one of the commonest experiences to find elderly parents speaking of their middle-aged children as if they were still boys and girls. This trait, as being so entirely natural, ought to count as a touch beyond the reach of a forger rather than as a circumstance that ought to rouse our suspicions, in the letters of "Paul the aged" to a friend who was thirty years younger than himself.

Once more, the notices of Timothy which have come down to us, like those which we have respecting the beloved disciple are very fragmentary; but they form a beautiful and consistent sketch of one whose full portrait we long to possess.

Timothy was a native, possibly of Derbe, but more probably of the neighboring town of Lystra, where he was piously brought up in a knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. It was probably during St. Paul’s first visit to Lystra, on his first missionary journey, that he became the boy’s spiritual father, by converting him to the Christian faith. It was at Lystra that the Apostle was stoned by the mob and dragged outside the city as dead: and there is no improbability in the suggestion that, when he recovered consciousness and re-entered the town, it was in the home of Timothy that he found shelter. In any case Lystra was to the Apostle a place of strangely mixed associations; the brutality of the pagan multitude side by side with the tender friendship of the young Timothy. When St. Paul on his next missionary journey again visited Lystra he found Timothy already enjoying a good report among the Christians of that place and of Iconium for his zeal and devotion during the six or seven years which had elapsed since his first visit. Perhaps he had been engaged in missionary work in both places. The voices of the prophets had singled him out as one worthy of bearing office in the Church; and the Apostle, still grieving over the departure of Barnabas with John Mark, recognized in him one who with Silas could fill the double vacancy. The conduct of the Apostle of the Gentiles on this occasion has sometimes excited surprise. Previously to the ordination, Paul, the great proclaimer of the abrogation of the Law by the Gospel, circumcised the young evangelist. The inconsistency is more apparent than real. It was an instance of his becoming "all things to all men" for the salvation of souls, and of his sacrificing his own convictions in matters that were not essential, rather than cause others to offend. Timothy’s father had been a Gentile, and the son, though brought up in his mother’s faith, had never been circumcised. To St. Paul circumcision was a worthless rite. The question was, whether it was a harmless one. This depended upon circumstances. If, as among the Galatians, it caused people to rely upon the Law and neglect the Gospel, it was a superstitious obstacle with which no compromise could be made. But if it was a passport whereby preachers, who would otherwise be excluded, might gain access to Jewish congregations, then it was not only a harmless, but a useful ceremony. In the synagogue Timothy as an uncircumcised Jew would have been an intolerable abomination, and would never have obtained a hearing. To free him from this crippling disadvantage, St. Paul subjected him to a rite which he himself knew to be obsolete. Then followed the ordination, performed with great solemnity by the laying on of the hands of all the elders of the congregation: and the newly ordained Evangelist forthwith set out to accompany Paul and Silas in their labors for the Gospel. Wherever they went they distributed copies of the decrees of the Apostolic Council at Jerusalem, which declared circumcision to be unnecessary for Gentiles. Their true position with regard to circumcision was thus made abundantly evident. For the sake of others they had abstained from availing themselves of the very liberty which they proclaimed.

In the Troad they met Luke the beloved physician (as indicated by the sudden use of the first person plural in the Acts), and took him on with them to Philippi. Here probably, as certainly afterwards at Beroea, Timothy was left behind by Paul and Silas to consolidate their work. He rejoined the Apostle at Athens, but was thence sent back on a mission to Thessalonica, and on his return found St. Paul at Corinth. The two Epistles written from Corinth to the Thessalonians are in the joint names of Paul and Timothy. At Corinth, as at Lystra, Iconium, and Philippi, Timothy became prominent for his zeal as an evangelist; and then for about five years we lose sight of him. We may think of him as generally at the side of St. Paul, and as always working with him; but of the details of the work we are ignorant. About A.D. 57 he was sent by St. Paul on a delicate mission to Corinth. This was before 1 Corinthians was written; for in that letter St. Paul states that he has sent Timothy to Corinth, but writes as if he expected that the letter would reach Corinth before him. He charges the Corinthians not to aggravate the young evangelist’s natural timidity, and not to let his youth prejudice them against him. When St. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia later in the year, Timothy was again with him, for his name is coupled with Paul’s: and he is still with him when the Apostle wrote to the Romans from Corinth, for he joins in sending salutations to the Roman Christians. We find him still at St. Paul’s side on his way back to Jerusalem through Philippi, the Troad, Tyre, and Caesarea. And here we once more lose trace of him for some years. We do not know what he was doing during St. Paul’s two years’ imprisonment at Caesarea; but he joined him during the first imprisonment at Rome, for the Epistles to the Philippians, the Colossians, and Philemon are written in the names of Paul and Timothy. From the passage already quoted from Philippians we may conjecture that Timothy went to Philippi and returned again before the Apostle was released. At the close of the Epistle to the Hebrews we read, "Know ye that our brother Timothy hath been set at liberty." It is possible that the imprisonment to which this notice refers was contemporaneous with the first imprisonment of St. Paul, and that it is again referred to in 1 Timothy {1 Timothy 6:12} as "the good confession" which he "confessed in the sight of many witnesses."

The few additional facts respecting Timothy are given us in the two letters to him. Some time after St. Paul’s release the two were together in Ephesus; and when the Apostle went on into Macedonia he left his companion behind him to warn and exhort certain holders of erroneous doctrine to desist from teaching it. There were tears, on the younger friend’s side at any rate, to which St. Paul alludes at the opening of the Second Epistle; and they were natural enough. The task imposed upon Timothy was no easy one; and after the dangers and sufferings to which the Apostle had been exposed, and which his increasing infirmities continually augmented, it was only too possible that the friends would never meet again. So far as we know, these gloomy apprehensions may have been realized. In his first letter, written from Macedonia, St. Paul expresses a hope of returning very soon to Timothy; but, like some other hopes expressed in St. Paul’s Epistles, it was perhaps never fulfilled. The second letter, written from Rome, contains no allusion to any intermediate meeting. In this second letter he twice implores Timothy to do all he can to come to him without delay, for he is left almost alone in his imprisonment. But whether Timothy was able to comply with this wish we have no means of knowing. We like to think of the beloved disciple as comforting the last hours of his master; but, although the conjecture may be a right one, we must remember that it is conjecture and no more. With the Second Epistle to him ends all that we really know of Timothy. Tradition and ingenious guesswork add a little more which can be neither proved nor disproved. More than two hundred years after his death, Eusebius tells us that he is related to have held the office of overseer of the diocese of Ephesus; and five centuries later Nicephorus tells us, that he was beaten to death by the Ephesian mob for protesting against the licentiousness of their worship of Artemis. It has been conjectured that Timothy may be the "Angel" of the Church of Ephesus, who is partly praised and partly blamed in the Apocalypse, and parallels have been drawn between the words of blame in Revelation 2:4-5, and the uneasiness which seems to underlie one or two passages in the Second Epistle to Timothy. But the resemblances are too slight to be relied upon. All we can say is, that even if the later date be taken for the Apocalypse, Timothy may have been overseer of the Church of Ephesus at the time when the book was written.

But of all the scattered memorials that have come down to us respecting this beautiful friendship between the great Apostle and his chief disciple, the two letters of the older friend to the younger are by far the chief. And there is so much in them that fits with exquisite nicety into "the known conditions of the case that it is hard" to imagine how any forger of the second century could so have thrown himself into the situation. Where else in that age have we evidence of any such literary and historical skill? The tenderness and affection, the anxiety and sadness, the tact and discretion, the strength and large-mindedness of St. Paul are all there; and his relation to his younger but much-trusted disciple is quite naturally sustained throughout. Against this it is not much to urge that there are some forty words and phrases in these Epistles which do not occur in the other Epistles of St. Paul. The explanation of that fact is easy. Partly they are words which in his other Epistles he had no need to use; partly they are words which the circumstances of these later letters suggested to him, and which those of the earlier letters did not. The vocabulary of every man of active mind who reads and mixes with other men, especially if he travels much, is perpetually changing. He comes across new metaphors, new figures of speech, remembers them, and uses them. The reading of such a work as Darwin’s "Origin of Species" gives a man command of a new sphere of thought and expression. The conversation of such a man as "Luke the beloved physician" would have a similar effect on St. Paul. We shall never know the minds or the circumstances which suggested to him the language which has now become our own possession; and it is unreasonable to suppose that the process of assimilation came to a dead stop in the Apostle’s mind when he finished the Epistles of the first imprisonment. The re-suit, therefore, of this brief survey of the life of Timothy is to confirm rather than to shake our belief that the letters which are addressed to him were really written by his friend St. Paul.

The friendship between these two men of different gifts and very different ages is full of interest. It is difficult to estimate which of the two friends gained most from the affection and devotion of the other. No doubt Timothy’s debt to St. Paul was immense: and which of us would not think himself amply paid for any amount of service, and sacrifice, in having the privilege of being the chosen friend of such a man as St. Paul? But, on the other hand, few men could have supplied the Apostle’s peculiar needs as Timothy did. That intense craving for sympathy which breathes so strongly throughout the writings of St. Paul, found its chief human satisfaction in Timothy. To be alone in a crowd is a trial to most men; and few men have felt the oppressiveness of it more keenly than St. Paul. To have some one, therefore, who loved and reverenced him, who knew his "ways" and could impress them on others, who cared for those for whom Paul cared and was ever willing to minister to them as his friend’s missioner and delegate all this and much more was inexpressibly comforting to St. Paul. It gave him strength in his weaknesses, hope in his many disappointments, and solid help in his daily burden of "anxiety for all the Churches." Specially consoling was the clinging affection of his young friend at those times when the Apostle was suffering from the coldness and neglect of others. At the time of his first imprisonment the respect or curiosity of the Roman Christians had moved many of them to come out thirty miles to meet him on his journey from Caesarea to Rome; yet as soon as he was safely lodged in the house of his jailor they almost ceased to minister to him. But the faithful disciple seems to have been ever at his side. And when the Romans treated Paul with similar indifference during his second imprisonment, it was this same disciple that he earnestly besought to come with all speed to comfort him. It was not merely that he loved and trusted Timothy as one upon whose devotion and discretion he could always rely: but Timothy was the one among his many disciples who had sacrificed everything for St. Paul and his Master. He had left a loving mother and a pleasant home in order to share with the Apostle a task which involved ceaseless labor, untold anxiety, not a little shame and obloquy, and at times even danger to life and limb. When he might have continued to live on as the favorite of his family, enjoying the respect of the presbyters and prophets of Lycaonia, he chose to wander abroad with the man to whom, humanly speaking, he owed his salvation, "in journeyings often," in perils of every kind from the powers of nature, and from the violence or treachery of man, and in all those countless afflictions and necessities of which St. Paul gives us such a touching summary in the second letter to the Corinthians. All this St. Paul knew, and he knew the value of it to himself and the Church; and hence the warm affection with which the Apostle always speaks of him and to him.

But what did not Timothy owe to his friend, his father in the faith, old enough to be his father in the flesh? Not merely his conversion and his building up in Christian doctrine, though that was much, and the chief item of his debt. But St. Paul had tenderly watched over him among the difficulties to which a person of his temperament would be specially exposed. Timothy was young, enthusiastic, sensitive, and at times showed signs of timidity. If his enthusiasm were not met with a generous sympathy, there was danger lest the sensitive nature would shrivel up on contact with an unfeeling world, and the enthusiasm driven in upon itself would be soured into a resentful cynicism. St. Paul not only himself gave to his young disciple the sympathy that he needed; he encouraged others also to do the same. "Now if Timothy come," he writes to the Corinthians, "see that he be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do: let no man therefore despise him." He warned these factious and fastidious Greeks against chilling the generous impulses of a youthful evangelist by their sarcastic criticisms. Timothy might be wanting in the brilliant gifts which Corinthians adored: in knowledge of the world, in address, in oratory. But he was real. He was working God’s work with a single heart and with genuine fervor. It would be a cruel thing to mar that simplicity or quench that fervor, and thus turn a genuine enthusiast into a cold-blooded man of the world. On their treatment of him might depend whether he raised them to his own zeal for Christ, or they dragged him down to the level of their own paralyzing superciliousness.

The dangers from which St. Paul thus generously endeavored to shield Timothy, are those "which beset many an ardent spirit, especially in England at the present day." Everywhere there is a cynical disbelief in human nature and a cold contempt for all noble impulses, which throw a damp and chilling atmosphere over society. At school and at the university, in family life and in domestic service, young men and young women are encouraged to believe that there is no such thing as unselfishness or holiness, and that enthusiasm is always either silly or hypocritical. By sarcastic jests and contemptuous smiles they are taught the fatal lesson of speaking slightingly, and at last of thinking slightingly, of their own best feelings. To be dutiful and affectionate is supposed to be childish, while reverence and trust are regarded as mere ignorance of the world. The mischief is a grave one, for it poisons life at its very springs. Every young man and woman at times has aspirations which at first are only romantic and sentimental, and as such are neither right nor wrong. But they are nature’s material for higher and better things. They are capable of being developed into a zeal for God and for man such as will ennoble the characters of all who come under its influence. The sentimentalist may become an enthusiast, and the enthusiast a hero or a saint. Woe to him who gives to such precious material a wrong turn, and by offering cynicism instead of sympathy turns all its freshness sour. The loss does not end with the blight of an exuberant and earnest character. There are huge masses of evil in the world, which seem to defy the good influences that from time to time are brought to bear upon them. Humanly speaking, there seems to be only one hope of overcoming these strongholds of Satan, -and that is by the combined efforts of many enthusiasts. "This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith." It will be a grievous prospect for mankind, if faith in God, in ourselves, and in our fellowmen becomes so unfashionable as to be impossible. And this is the faith which makes enthusiasts. If we have not this faith ourselves, we can at least respect it in others. If we cannot play the part of Timothy, and go forth with glowing hearts to whatever difficult and distasteful work may be placed before us, we can at least avoid chilling and disheartening others; and sometimes at least we may so far follow in the footsteps of St. Paul as to protect from the world’s cynicism those who, with hearts more warm perhaps than wise, are laboring manfully to leave the world purer and happier than they found it.

Verses 6-7

Chapter 27

2 Timothy


IN the Second Epistle to Timothy we have the last known words of St. Paul. It is his last will and testament; his last instructions to his favorite disciple and through him to the Church. It is written with full consciousness that the end is at hand. His course in this world is all but over; and it will be closed by a violent, it may be by a cruel death. The letter is, therefore, a striking but thoroughly natural mixture of gloom and brightness. On the one hand, death throws its dark shadow across the page. On the other, there is the joyous thought that the realization of his brightest hopes is close at hand. Death will come with its pain and ignominy, to cut short the Apostle’s still unfinished work, to take him away from the Churches which he has founded and which still sorely need his guidance, and from the friends whom he loves, and who still need his counsel and support. But death, while it takes him away from much to which he clings and which clings to him, will free him from toil, and anxiety, and neglect, and will take him to be with Christ until that day when he shall receive the crown of righteousness which is laid up for him.

If the shadow of impending death were the only source of gloom, the letter would be far more joyous than it is. It would be far more continuously a strain of thanksgiving and triumph. But the prospect of ending his life under the hand of the public executioner is not the thought which dominates the more sorrowful portion of the Epistle. There is the fact that he is almost alone; not because his friends are prevented from coming to him, but because they have forsaken him; some, it may be, for pressing work elsewhere; others because the attractions of the world were too strong for them; but the majority of them, because they were afraid to stand by him when he was placed at the bar before Nero. The Apostle is heavyhearted about this desertion of him, not merely because of the wound which it inflicts on his own affectionate spirit, but because of the responsibility which those who are guilty of it have thereby incurred. He prays that it "may not be laid to their account."

Yet the thought which specially oppresses him is "anxiety about all the Churches"-and about Timothy himself. Dark days are coming. False doctrine will be openly preached and will not lack hearers; and utterly unchristian conduct and conversation will become grievously prevalent. And, while the godly are persecuted, evil men will wax worse and worse. This sad state of things has already begun; and the Apostle seems to fear that his beloved disciple is not altogether unaffected by it. Separation from St. Paul and the difficulties of his position may have told on his oversensitive temperament, and have caused him to be remiss in his work, through indulgence in futile despondency. The words of the text strike the dominant chord of the Epistle and reveal to us the motive that prompts it. The Apostle puts Timothy in remembrance "that he stir up the gift of God which is in him." Again and again he insists on this and similar counsels. "Be not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner; but suffer hardships." "That good thing which was committed to thee guard through the Holy Ghost" (1 Timothy 1:8; 1 Timothy 1:13). "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed". { 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:15} "But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them". { 2 Timothy 3:14} And then, as the letter draws to a close, he speaks in still more solemn tones of warning: "I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, Who shall judge the quick and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching." "Be thou sober in all things, suffer hardships, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry". { 2 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:5} Evidently the Apostle is anxious lest even the rich gifts with which Timothy is endowed should be allowed to rust through want of use. Timidity and weakness may prove fatal to him and his work, in spite of the spiritual advantages which he has enjoyed. The Apostle’s anxiety about the future of the Churches is interwoven with anxiety about the present and future conduct of his beloved delegate and successor.

The Second Epistle to Timothy is more personal than either of the other Pastoral Epistles. It is less official in tone and contents, and is addressed more directly to the recipient himself, than through him to others. Three main subjects are treated in the letter; and first and foremost of these is the conduct of Timothy himself. This subject occupies about a third of the Epistle. The next and longest section treats of the present and future prospects of the Church. {2 Timothy 2:14-26; 2 Timothy 3:1-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-5} And lastly the Apostle speaks of himself.

It is not difficult to understand how even these who condemn the Pastoral Epistles as the product of a later writer, feel almost obliged to admit that at least some of this touching letter must be genuine. Whoever wrote it must have had some genuine letters of St. Paul to use as material. It may be doubted whether any of the writings of that age which have come down to us are more thoroughly characteristic of the person whose name they bear, or are more full of touches which a fabricator would never have thought of introducing. The person who forged the Second Epistle to Timothy in the name of St. Paul, must indeed have been a genius. Nothing that has come down to us of the literature of the second century leads us to suppose that any such literary power existed. Whether we regard the writer, or the circumstances in which he is placed, or the person to whom he writes, all is thoroughly characteristic, harmonious, and in keeping. We have St. Paul with his exquisite sympathy, sensitiveness, and affection, his intense anxiety, his unflinching courage. We have the solemnity and importunity-of one who knows that his days are numbered. And we have the urgency and tenderness of one who writes to a friend who has his faults and weaknesses, but who is trusted and loved in spite of them.

In encouraging Timothy to stir up the gift that is in him, and not suffer himself to be ashamed of the ignominy, or afraid of the hardships, which the service of Christ entails, the Apostle puts before him five considerations. There are the beautiful traditions of his family, which are now in his keeping. There is the sublime character of the Gospel which has been entrusted to him. There is the teaching of St. Paul himself, who has so often given him a "pattern of sound words" and a pattern of steadfast endurance. There is the example of Onesiphorus with his courageous devotion. And there is the sure hope of "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." Any one of these things might suffice to influence him: Timothy cannot be proof against them all. St. Paul is persuaded that he is preserving the heritage of undissembled faith which his mother and his grandmother possessed before him. When he considers the character of the Gospel, of which he has become a minister, and the gift of which he has thereby become a recipient, he cannot now become ashamed of bearing testimony for it. And has the teaching of his old master, separation from whom used once to make him weep, lost its hold upon him? Of the other disciples and friends of the master, some have turned away from him, showing coldness or dislike instead of sympathy and self-sacrifice; while others, at great personal inconvenience, and (it may be also) great personal danger, sought him out all the more diligently on account of his imprisonment, and ministered to him. Will Timothy take his stand with Phygelus and Hermogenes, or with Onesiphorus? And over and above all these considerations, which are connected with this world, there are the thoughts of the world to come. This is no mere question of expediency and opportuneness, Or of personal loyalty and affection to a human teacher and friend. There is the whole of eternity at stake. To have shared Christ’s martyr-death is to share His endless life. To share His endurance and service is to share His royalty. But to reject Him, is to ensure being rejected by Him. Were He to receive faithless followers among the faithful, He would be faithless to His promises and to Himself.

For all these reasons, therefore, the Apostle charges his disciple to "stir up the gift of God which is in him through the laying on of the Apostle’s hands." And the fact that he uses so much argument and entreaty is evidence that he had grave anxiety about Timothy. Timothy’s natural sensitiveness and tenderness of heart made him specially liable to despondency and timidity, especially when separated from friends and confronted by sturdy opposition.

"That thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee." Literally "that thou kindle up and fan into a flame." It does not necessarily imply that there has once been a bright flame, which has been allowed to die down, leaving only smoldering embers. But this is the natural meaning of the figure, as is possibly what St. Paul implies here. He does not explain what precise gift of God it is that Timothy is to kindle into a warmer glow; but, as it is one of those which were conferred upon him by the laying on of hands at the time of his ordination, we may reasonably suppose that it is the authority and power to be a minister of Christ. In the First Epistle St. Paul had given Timothy a similar charge; { 1 Timothy 4:14} and by combining that passage with this we learn that both the Apostle and the elders laid their hands on the young evangelist: "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." This talent, committed to his charge for use in God’s service, must not be allowed to lie idle; it must be used with vigor, and trust, and courage. The very character of the gift bestowed proves that it is to be used, and used freely. "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline." St. Paul includes himself in the statement. He, like his disciple, has received this gift from God, and he knows from long experience what its nature is. It is no "spirit of fearfulness"; no "spirit of bondage leading to fear". { Romans 8:15} It was never meant to produce in us a slavish fear of God, or a cowardly fear of men. To feel awe and reverence when dealing with God, - to feel responsibility when dealing with men, -is one thing. To abstain from action for fear of offending either, is quite another. It is sometimes possible to avoid criticism by refusing to commit oneself to anything; but such refusal may be a sinful neglect of opportunities: and no error of judgment in using the gifts committed to us can be worse than that of not using them at all. Those are not necessarily the most useful servants who make the fewest conspicuous mistakes.

The spirit with which we are endowed is a spirit of power, whereas a spirit of fearlessness is weak. Faint-heartedness cannot be strong. The fainthearted mistrust themselves and others; and they discourage themselves and. others. They anticipate dangers and difficulties, and thereby sometimes create them; and they anticipate failure, and thereby often bring it about. It is only by acting, and by acting vigorously and courageously, that we find out the full power of the spirit with which we have been blessed.

Again, the gift which God has bestowed upon us is a spirit of love: and more than anything else perfect love casts out the spirit of fear. Fear is the child of bondage; love is the child of freedom. If we love God, we shall not live in terror of His judgments: and if we love men, we shall not live in terror of their criticisms. Moreover, the spirit of love teaches us the nature of the gift of power. It is not force or violence; not an imposing of our own will on others. It is an affectionate striving to win others over to obedience to the will of God. It is the spirit of self-sacrifice; not of self-assertion.

Lastly, the spirit with which we are endowed by God is a spirit of discipline. By discipline that cowardly indolence, which the spirit of fearfulness engenders, can be kept down and expelled. If it be asked whether the discipline be that which Timothy is to enforce in ruling others, or that which he is to practice in schooling himself, we may answer, "Both." The termination of the word which is here used ( σωφρονισμος ) seems to require the transitive meaning; and slackness in correcting others may easily have been one of the ways in which the despondency of Timothy showed itself. On the other hand the whole context here speaks of Timothy’s treatment of himself. To take a more lively interest in the conduct of others would be discipline for himself and for them also. There may be as much pride as humility in indulging the thought that the lives of other people are so utterly bad, that it is quite out of power of such persons as ourselves to effect a reformation. This is a subtle way of shirking responsibility. Strong in the spirit of power, glowing with the spirit of love, we can turn the faults of others, together with all the troubles which may befall us in this life, into instruments of discipline.

The words of the Apostle, though primarily addressed to ministers, in reference to the spiritual gifts bestowed on them at their ordination, must not be confined to them. They apply to the gifts bestowed by God upon every Christian, and indeed upon every human being. There is a terrible penalty attached to the neglect of the higher faculties, whether intellectual or moral; a penalty which works surely and unerringly by a natural law. We all of us have imagination, intellect, will. These wonderful powers must have an object, must have employment. If we do not give them their true object, viz., the glory of God, they will find an object for themselves. Instead of soaring upwards on the wings supplied by the glories of creation, and the mercies of redemption, they will sink downwards into the mire. They will fasten upon the flesh; and in an atmosphere poisoned by debasing associations they will become debased also. Instead of raising the man who possesses them into that higher life, which is a foretaste of heaven, they will hurry him downwards with the accumulated pressure of an undisciplined intellect, a polluted imagination, and a lawless will. That which should have been for wealth, becomes an occasion of falling. Angels of light become angels of darkness. And powers which ought to be as priests, consecrating the whole of our nature to God, become as demons, shameless and ruthless in devoting us to the Evil One. Not only every minister of Christ, but every thinking man, has need from time to time "to stir up the gift of God that is in him," to kindle it into a flame, and see that it is directed to holy ends and exercised in noble service. God’s royal gifts of intellect and will cannot be flung away, cannot be left unused, cannot be extinguished. For good or for evil they are ours; and they are deathless. But, though they cannot be destroyed they can be neglected. They can be buried in the earth, till they breed worms and stink. They can be allowed to run riot, until they become as wild beasts, and turn again and rend us. Or in the spirit of power, or love, and of discipline, they may be chastened by lofty exercise and sanctified to heavenly uses, till they become more and more fit to be the equipment of one, who is forever to stand "before the throne of God, and praise Him day and night in His temple."

Verses 12-14

Chapter 5


In the concluding sentence of the preceding paragraph (1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:11) the Apostle points out that what he has been saying respecting the erroneous teaching and practice of the heterodox innovators is entirely in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel which had been committed to his trust. This mention of his own high commission to preach "the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God" suggests at once to him some thoughts both of thankfulness and humility, to which he now gives expression. His own experience of the Gospel, especially in connection with his conversion from being a persecutor to becoming a preacher, offer further points of contrast between Gnosticism and Christianity.

The false teachers wasted thought and attention upon barren speculations, which, even if they could under any conceivable circumstances be proved true, would have supplied no guidance to mankind in regulating conduct. And whenever Gnostic teaching became practical, it frittered away morality in servile observances, based on capricious interpretations of the Mosaic Law. Of true morality there was an utter disregard, and frequently an open violation. Of the one thing for which the self-accusing conscience was yearning-the forgiveness of sin-it knew nothing, because it had no appreciation of the reality of sin. Sin was only part of the evil which was inherent in the material universe, and therefore in the human body. A system which had no place for the forgiveness of sin had also no place for the Divine compassion, which it is the purpose of the Gospel to reveal. How very real this compassion and forgiveness are, and how much human beings stand in need of them, St. Paul testifies from his own experience, the remembrance of which makes him burst out into thanksgiving.

The Apostle offers thanks to Jesus Christ, the source of all his strength, for having confidence in him as a person worthy of trust. This confidence He proved by "appointing Paul to His service"; a confidence all the more marvelous and worthy of gratitude because Paul had before been "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious." He had been a blasphemer, for he had thought that he "ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth"; and he had been a persecutor, for he had punished believers "oftentimes in all the synagogues," and "strove to make them blaspheme." That is ever the persecutor’s aim; -to make those who differ from him speak evil of what they reverence but he abhors; to say they renounce what in their heart of hearts they believe. There is, therefore, thus far an ascending scale in the iniquity which the Apostle confesses. He not only blasphemed the Divine Name himself, but he endeavored to compel others to do the same. The third word, although the English Version obscures the fact, continues the ascending scale of self-condemnation. "Injurious" does scant justice to the force of the Greek word used by the Apostle (υβριστης), although it is not easy to suggest a better rendering. The word is very common in classical authors, but in the New Testament occurs only here and in Romans 1:30, where the A.V translates it "despiteful" and the R.V "insolent." It is frequent in the Septuagint. It indicates one who takes an insolent and wanton delight in violence, one whose pleasure lies in outraging the feelings of others. The most conspicuous instance of it in the New Testament, and perhaps anywhere, would be the Roman Soldiers mocking and torturing Jesus Christ with the crown of thorns and the royal robe. Of such conduct St. Paul himself since his conversion had been the victim, and he here confesses that before his conversion he had been guilty of it himself. In his misguided zeal he had punished innocent people, and he had inflicted punishment, not with pitying reluctance, but with arrogant delight.

It is worth pointing out that in this third charge against himself, as well as in the first, St. Paul goes beyond what he states in the similar passages in the Epistles to the Corinthians, Philippians, and Galatians. There he simply draws attention to the fact that he had been a persecutor who had made havoc of the Church. He says nothing about blaspheming or taking an insolent satisfaction in the pain which he inflicted. This has some bearing on the genuineness of this Epistle.

(1) It shows that St. Paul was in the habit of alluding to the fact that he had been a persecutor. It was part of his preaching, for it proved that his conversion was directly and immediately God s work. He did not owe the Gospel which he preached to any persuasion on the part of man. It is, therefore, quite in harmony with St. Paul’s practice to insist on his former misconduct. But it may be urged that a forger might notice this and imitate it. That of course is true. But if these Epistles are a forgery, they are certainly not forged with any intention of injuring St. Paul’s memory. Is it likely, then, that a forger, in imitating the self-accusation of the Apostle, would use stronger language than the Apostle himself uses in those Epistles which are indisputably his? Would he go out of his way to use such strong language as "blasphemer," and "insolent oppressor?" But, if St: Paul wrote these Epistles, this exceptionally strong, language is thoroughly natural in a passage in which the Apostle wishes to place in as strong a light as may be the greatness of the Divine compassion in forgiving sins, as manifested in his own case. He had been foremost as a bitter and arrogant opponent of the Gospel; and yet God had singled him out to be foremost in preaching it. Here was a proof that no sinner need despair. What comfort for a fallen race could the false teachers offer in comparison with this?

Like St. Peter’s sin in denying his Lord, St. Paul’s sin in persecuting Him was overruled for good. The Divine process of bringing good out of evil was strongly exemplified in it. The Gnostic teachers had tried to show how, by a gradual degradation, evil might proceed from the Supreme Good. There is nothing Divine in such a process as that. The fall from good to evil is rather a devilish one, as when an angel of light became the Evil One and involved mankind in his own fall. Divinity is shown in the converse process of making what is evil work towards what is good. Under Divine guidance St. Paul’s self-righteous confidence and arrogant intolerance were turned into a blessing to himself and others. The recollection of his sin kept him humble, intensified his gratitude, and gave him a strong additional motive to devote himself to the work of bringing others to the Master who had been so gracious to himself. St. Chrysostom in commenting on this passage in his Homilies on the Pastoral Epistles points out how it illustrates St. Paul’s humility, a virtue which is more often praised than practiced. "This quality was so cultivated by the blessed Paul, that he is ever looking out for inducements to be humble. They who are conscious to themselves of great merits must struggle much with themselves if they would be humble. And he too was one likely to be under violent temptations, his own good conscience swelling him up like a gathering tumor. Being filled, therefore, with high thoughts, and having used magnificent expressions, he at once depresses himself, and engages others also to do the like. Having said, then, that the Gospel was committed to his trust, lest this should seem to be said with pride, he checks himself at once, adding by way of correction, I thank Him that enabled me, Christ Jesus our Lord, for that He counted me faithful, appointing me to His service. Thus everywhere, we see, he conceals his own merit and ascribes everything to God, yet so far only as not to take away free will."

These concluding words are an important qualification. The Apostle constantly insists on his conversion as the result of a special revelation of Jesus Christ to himself, in other words a miracle: he nowhere hints that his conversion in itself was miraculous. No psychological miracle was wrought, forcing him to accept Christ against his will. God converts no one by magic. It is a free and reasonable service that He asks for from beings whom He has created free and reasonable. Men were made moral beings, and He who made them such does not treat them as machines. In his defense at Caesarea St. Paul tells Herod Agrippa that he "was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." He might have been. He might, like Judas, have resisted all the miraculous power displayed before him and have continued to persecute Christ. If he had no choice whatever in the matter, it was an abuse of language to affirm that he "was not disobedient." And in that case we should need some other metaphor than "kicking against the goads." It is impossible to kick against the goads if one has no control over one’s own limbs. The limbs and the strength to use them were God’s gifts, without which he could have done nothing. But with these gifts it was open to him either to obey the Divine commands or "even to fight against God"-a senseless and wicked thing, no doubt, but still possible. In this passage the Divine and the human sides are plainly indicated. On the one hand, Christ enabled him and showed confidence in him: on the other, Paul accepted the service and was faithful. He might have refused the service; or, having accepted it, he might have shown himself unfaithful to his trust.

"Howbeit, I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." These words are sometimes misunderstood. They are not intended as an excuse, any more than St. John’s designation of himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" are intended as a boast. St. John had been the recipient, of very exceptional favors. Along with only St. Peter and St. James he had been present at the raising of Jairus’s daughter, at the Transfiguration, and at the Agony in Gethsemane. From even these chosen three he had been singled out to be told who was the traitor; to have the lifelong charge of providing for the Mother of the Lord; to be the first to recognize the risen Lord at the sea of Tiberias. What was the explanation of all these honors? The recipient of them had only one to give. He had no merits, no claim to anything of the kind; but Jesus loved him.

So also with St. Paul. There were multitudes of Jews who, like himself, had had, as he tells the Romans, "a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." There were many who, like himself, had opposed the truth and persecuted the Christ. Why did any of them obtain mercy? Why did he receive such marked favor and honor? Not because of any merit on their part or his: but because they had sinned ignorantly (i.e., without knowing the enormity of their sin,) and because "the grace of the Lord abounded exceedingly." The Apostle is not endeavoring to extenuate his own culpability, but to justify and magnify the Divine compassion. Of the whole Jewish nation it was true that "they knew not what they did" in crucifying Jesus of Nazareth; but it was true in very various degrees. "Even of the rulers many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God." It was because St: Paul did not in this way sin against light that he found mercy, not merely in being forgiven the sin of persecuting Christ, but in being enabled to accept and be faithful in the service of Him whom he had persecuted.

Two of the changes made by the Revisers in this passage seem to call for notice: they both occur in the same phrase and have a similar tendency. Instead of "putting me into the ministry" the R.V gives us "appointing me to His service." A similar change has been made in 1 Timothy 2:7 of the next chapter, where "I was appointed a preacher" takes the place of "I am ordained a preacher," and in John 15:16 where "I chose you and appointed you" has been substituted for "I have chosen you and ordained you." In these alterations the Revisers are only following the example set by the A.V itself in other passages. In 2 Timothy 1:2, as in Luke 10:10, and 1 Thessalonians 5:9, both versions have "appointed." The alterations are manifest improvements. In the passage before us it is possible that the Greek has the special signification of "putting me into the ministry," but it is by no means certain, and perhaps not even probable, that it does so. Therefore the more comprehensive and general translation, "appointing me to His service," is to be preferred. The wider rendering includes and covers the other; and this is a further advantage. To translate the Greek words used in these passages (τιθεναι, ποιειν k.t.λ.) by such a very definite word as "ordain" leads the reader to suppose these texts refer to the ecclesiastical act of ordination; of which there is no evidence. The idea conveyed by the Greek in this passage, as in John 15:16, is that of placing a man at a particular post, and would be as applicable to civil as to ministerial duties. We are not, therefore, justified in translating it by a phrase which has distinct ecclesiastical associations.

The question is not one of mere linguistic accuracy. There are larger issues involved than those of correct translation from Greek to English. If we adopt the wider rendering, then it is evident that the blessing for which St. Paul expresses heartfelt gratitude; and which he cites as evidence of Divine compassion and forgiveness, is not the call to be an Apostle, in which none of us can share, nor exclusively the call to be a minister of the Gospel, in which only a limited number of us can share; but also the being appointed to any service in Christ’s kingdom, which is an honor to which all Christians are called. Every earnest Christian knows from personal experience this evidence of the Divine character of the Gospel. It is full of compassion for those who have sinned; not because, like the Gnostic teachers, it glosses over the malignity and culpability of sin, but because, unlike Gnosticism, it recognizes the preciousness of each human soul, and the difficulties which beset it. Every Christian knows that he has inherited an evil nature:-so far he and the Gnostic are agreed. But he also knows that to the sin which he has inherited he has added sin for which he is personally responsible, and which his conscience does not excuse as if it were something which is a misfortune and not a fault. Yet he is not left without remedy under the burden of these self-accusations. He knows that, if he seeks for it, he can find forgiveness, and forgiveness of a singularly generous kind. He is not only forgiven, but restored to favor and treated with respect. He is at once placed in a position of trust. In spite of the past, it is assumed that he will be a faithful servant, and he is allowed to minister to his Master and his Master’s followers. To him also "the grace of our Lord" has "abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." The generous compassion shown to St. Paul is not unique or exceptional; it is typical. And it is a type, not to the few, but to many; not to clergy only, but to all. "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all His long-suffering, for an ensample of them which should hereafter believe on Him unto eternal life."

Verses 15-18

Chapter 28


WE have here one of the arguments which St. Paul makes use of in urging his beloved disciple to stir up the gift of God that is in him through the laying on of hands, and not allow himself to be afraid of the ignominy and the sufferings, which the service of Jesus Christ involves. After reminding him of the holy traditions of his family, of the glorious character of the Gospel which has been committed to him, and of the character of the Apostle’s own teaching, St. Paul now goes on to point out, as a warning, the conduct of those in Asia who had deserted him in his hour of need; and, as an example, in marked contrast to them, the affectionate courage and persistent devotion of Onesiphorus. Timothy is not likely to follow those in Asia in their cowardly desertion of the Apostle. He will surely bestir himself to follow an example, the details of which are so well known to him and so very much to the point. Timothy’s special knowledge of both cases, so far as the conduct referred to lay not in Rome, but in Asia, is emphatically insisted upon by St. Paul. He begins by saying, "This thou knowest, that all that are in Asia turned away from me!" and he concludes with the remark, In how many things he ministered at Ephesus, thou knowest very well; or, as the Greek comparative probably means, "thou knowest better than I do." And it is worth noticing that St. Paul uses a different word for "know" in the two cases. Of his desertion by those in Asia he uses a word of general, meaning (οιδας) which implies knowledge about the things or persons in question, but need not imply more than hearsay knowledge of what is notorious. Of the devoted service of Onesiphorus at Ephesus he uses a word (γινωσκεις ) which implies progressive personal experience. Timothy had of course heard all about the refusal of Phygelus and Hermogenes and others to recognize the claim which St. Paul had upon their services; what he saw and experienced continually gave him intimate acquaintance with the conduct of Onesiphorus in the Church of which Timothy had the chief care.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the meaning of St. Paul’s statements respecting these two contrasted cases: Phygelus and those like him on the one side, and Onesiphorus on the other: and with regard to both of them a variety of suggestions have been made, which are scarcely compatible with the language used, and which do not after all make the situation more intelligible. It must be admitted that the brevity of the statements does leave room for a certain amount of conjecture; but, nevertheless, they are clear enough to enable us to conjecture with a fair amount of certainty.

And first with regard to the case of those in Asia. They are in Asia at the time when this letter is being written. It is quite inadmissible to twist this plain language and force it to mean "those from Asia who are now in Rome." οι εν τη ασια cannot be equivalent to οι εκ την ασιας. If St. Paul meant the latter, why did he not write it? Secondly, it is the proconsular province of Asia that is meant, that is the western portion of Asia Minor, and not the continent of Asia. Thirdly, the "turning away" of these Christians in Asia Minor does not mean their apostasy from the faith, of which there is no hint either in the word or in the context. St. Paul would hardly have spoken of their abandonment of Christianity as turning away from him. It means that they turned their faces away from him, and refused to have anything to say to him. When he sought their sympathy and assistance, they renounced his acquaintance, or at any rate refused to admit his claim upon them. It is the very expression used by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount; "From him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away." {Matthew 5:42} This was exactly what these Asiatic disciples had done: the Apostle had asked them to lend him their help and Support; and they had "turned away from" him. But what is the meaning of the "all?" He says that "all that are in Asia turned away from" him. Obviously there is some qualification to be understood. He cannot mean that Timothy is well aware that every believer in Asia Minor had repudiated St. Paul. Some have supposed that the necessary qualification is to be found in what follows; viz., "of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." The meaning would then be that the whole of the party to which Phygelus and Hermogenes belong rejected the Apostle. But the arrangement of the sentence is quite against this supposition; and there is nothing either said or implied about these two men being the leaders or representatives of a party. The expression respecting them is exactly parallel to that in the First Epistle respecting those who "made shipwreck concerning the faith: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander" (1 Timothy 1:19-20). In each case, out of a class of persons who are spoken of in general terms, two are mentioned by name. What then is the qualification of the "all," which common sense requires? It means simply, "all whom I asked, all to whom I made an appeal for assistance." At the time when this letter was written, there were several Christians in Asia Minor, -some of them known to Timothy, -to whom St. Paul had applied for help in his imprisonment; and, as Timothy was very well aware, they every one of them refused to give it. And this refusal took place in Asia Minor, not in Rome. Some have supposed that, although these unfriendly Christians were in Asia when St. Paul wrote about them, yet it was in Rome that they "turned away from" him. They had been in Rome, and instead of remaining there to comfort the prisoner, they had gone away to Asia Minor. On this supposition a difficulty has been raised, and it has been pressed as if it told against the genuineness of the Epistle. How, it is asked, could Timothy, who was in Ephesus, be supposed to be well aware of what took place in Rome? And to meet this objection it has been conjectured, that shortly before this letter was written some one had gone with news from Rome to Ephesus. But this is to meet an imaginary difficulty with an imaginary fact. Let us imagine nothing, and then all runs smoothly. Every one in Asia Minor, to whom application was made on behalf of St. Paul, "turned away from" him and refused to do what was asked. Of such a fact as this the overseer of the Church of Ephesus could not fail to have knowledge; and, distressing as it was, it ought not to make him sink down into indolent despondency, but stir him up to redoubled exertion. What the precise request was that Phygelus and Hermogenes and the rest had refused, we do not know; but very possibly it was to go to Rome and exert themselves on the Apostle’s behalf. Of the two persons named nothing further is known. They are mentioned as being known to Timothy, and very possibly as being residents in Ephesus.

Now let us turn to the case of Onesiphorus, whose conduct is such a marked contrast to these others. In the most natural way St. Paul first of all tells Timothy what he experienced from Onesiphorus in Rome; and then appeals to Timothy’s own experience of him in Ephesus. In between these two passages there is a sentence, inserted parenthetically, which has been the subject of a good deal of controversy. "The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day." On the one side it is argued that the context shows that Onesiphorus is dead, and that therefore we have Scriptural authority for prayers for the dead: on the other that it is by no means certain that Onesiphorus was dead at the time when St. Paul wrote; and that, even if he was, this parenthesis is more of the nature of a pious wish, or expression of hope, than a prayer. It need scarcely be said that on the whole the latter is the view taken by Protestant commentators, although by no means universally; while the former is the interpretation which finds favor with Roman Catholics. Scripture elsewhere is almost entirely silent on the subject; and hence this passage is regarded as of special importance. But it ought to be possible to approach the discussion of it without heat or prejudice.

Certainly the balance of probability is decidedly in favor of the view that Onesiphorus was already dead when St. Paul wrote these words. There is not only the fact that he here speaks of "the house of Onesiphorus" in connection with the present, and of Onesiphorus himself only in connection with the past: there is also the still more marked fact that in the final salutations, while greetings are sent to Prisca and Aquila, and from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia, yet it is once more "the house of Onesiphorus" and not Onesiphorus himself who is saluted. This language is thoroughly intelligible, if Onesiphorus was no longer alive, but had a wife and children who were still living at Ephesus; but it is not easy to explain this reference in two places to the household of Onesiphorus, if he himself was still alive. In all the other cases the individual and not the household is mentioned. Nor is this twofold reference to his family rather than to himself the only fact which points in this direction. There is also the character of the Apostle’s prayer. Why does he confine his desires respecting the requital of Onesiphorus’ kindness to the day of judgment? Why does he not also pray that he may be requited in this life? that he "may prosper and be in health, even as his soul prospereth," as St. John prays for Gaius? {3 John 1:2} This again is thoroughly intelligible, if Onesiphorus is already dead. It is much less intelligible if he is still alive. It seems, therefore, to be scarcely too much to say that there is no serious reason for questioning the now widely accepted view that at the time when St. Paul wrote these words Onesiphorus was among the departed.

With regard to the second point there seems to be equal absence of serious reason for doubting that the words in question constitute a prayer. It is difficult to find a term which better describes them than the word "prayer": and in discussing them one would have to be specially careful in order to avoid the words "pray" and "prayer" in connection with them. It does not much matter what meaning we give to "the Lord" in each case; whether both refer to Christ, or both to the Father, or one to Christ and the other to the Father. In any case we have a prayer that the Judge at the last day will remember those good deeds of Onesiphorus, which the Apostle has been unable to repay, and will place them to his account. Paul cannot requite them, but he prays that God will do so by showing mercy upon him at the last day.

Having thus concluded that, according to the more probable and reasonable view, the passage before us contains a prayer offered up by the Apostle on behalf of one who is dead, we seem to have obtained his sanction, and therefore the sanction of Scripture, for using similar prayers ourselves. But what is a similar prayer? There are many kinds of intercessions which may be made on behalf of those who have gone before us into the other world: and it does not follow that, because one kind of intercession has Scriptural authority, therefore any kind of intercession is allowable. This passage may be quoted as reasonable evidence that the death of a person does not extinguish our right or our duty to pray for him: but it ought not to be quoted as authority for such prayers on behalf of the dead as are very different in kind from the one of which we have an example here. Many other kinds of intercession for the dead may be reasonable and allowable; but this passage proves no more than that some kinds of intercession for the dead are allowable, viz., those in which we pray that God will have mercy at the day of judgment on those who have done good to us and others during their life upon earth.

But is the right, which is also the duty, of praying for the departed limited by the amount of sanction which it is possible to obtain from this solitary passage of Scripture? Assuredly not. Two other authorities have to be consulted, -reason and tradition.

I. This pious practice, so full of comfort to affectionate souls, is reasonable in itself. Scripture, which is mercifully reticent respecting a subject so liable to provoke unhealthy curiosity and excitement, nevertheless does tell us plainly some facts respecting the unseen world.

(1) Those whom we call the dead are still alive. God is still the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob: and He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. {Matthew 22:32} Those who believe that death is annihilation, and that there can be no resurrection, "do greatly err." {Mark 12:27} and

(2) the living souls of the departed are still conscious: their bodies are asleep in this world, but their spirits are awake in the other. For this truth we are not dependent upon the disputable meaning of the parable of Dives and Lazarus; although we can hardly suppose that that parable would ever have been spoken, unless the continued consciousness of the dead and their interest in the living were a fact.

Christ’s parables are never mere fables, in which nature is distorted in order to point a moral: His lessons are ever drawn from God’s universe as it is. But besides the parable, {Luke 16:19-31} there is His declaration that Abraham not only "exulted" in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, but "he saw" that coming "and was glad" thereat. {John 8:56} And there is His promise to the penitent thief: "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise". {Luke 23:43} Can we believe that this promise, given at so awful a moment with such solemn assurance ("Verily I say unto thee"), would have been made, if the robber’s soul, when in Paradise, would be unconscious of Christ’s companionship? Could Christ then have "preached unto the spirits in prison," {1 Peter 3:19} if the spirits of those who had died in the Flood were deprived of consciousness? And what can be the meaning of "the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God" crying "How long, O Master the holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge, our blood?," {Revelation 6:10} if the souls of the slain slumber in the unseen world?

It is not necessary to quote Scripture to prove that the departed are not yet perfect. Their final consummation will not be reached until the coming of Christ at the last great day. {Hebrews 11:40}

If, then, the dead are conscious, and are not yet perfected, they are capable of progress. They may increase in happiness, and possibly in holiness. May we not go farther and say that they must be growing, must be progressing towards a better state; for, so far as we have experience, there is no such thing as conscious life in a state of stagnation. Conscious life is always either growing or decaying: and decay is incipient death. For conscious creatures, who are incapable of decay and death, growth seems to be a necessary attribute. We conclude, therefore, on grounds partly of Scripture and partly of reason, that the faithful departed are consciously progressing towards a condition of higher perfection.

But this conclusion must necessarily carry us still farther. These consciously developing souls are God’s children and our brethren; they are, like ourselves, members of Christ and joint-heirs with us of His kingdom; they are inseparably united with us in "the Communion of Saints." May we not pray for them to aid them in their progress? And if, with St. Paul’s prayer for Onesiphorus before us, we are convinced that we may pray for them, does it not become our bounden duty to do so? On what grounds can we accept the obligation of praying for the spiritual advancement of those who are with us in the flesh, and yet refuse to help by our prayers the spiritual advancement of those who have joined that "great cloud of witnesses" in the unseen world, by which we are perpetually encompassed? {Hebrews 12:1} The very fact that they witness our prayers for them may be to them an increase of strength and joy.

II. Tradition amply confirms us in the belief that this pious practice is lawful, and binding upon all who recognize its lawfulness. The remarkable narrative in /RAPC 2 Maccabees 12:1-45. shows that this belief in a very extreme form was common among the Jews, and publicly acted upon, before the coming of Christ. It is highly improbable that prayers for the dead were omitted from the public worship of the synagogue, in which Jesus Christ so frequently took part. It is quite certain that such prayers are found in every early Christian liturgy, and to this day form part of the liturgies in use throughout the greater portion of Christendom. And, although the mediaeval abuses connected with such prayers induced the reformers of our own liturgy almost, if not quite, entirely to omit them, yet the Church of England has never set any bounds to the liberty of its members in this respect. Each one of us is free in this matter, and therefore has the responsibility of using or neglecting what the whole of the primitive Church, and the large majority of Christians throughout all these centuries, have believed to be a means of advancing the peace and glory of Christ’s kingdom. About the practice of the primitive Church there can be no question. Doubt has been thrown upon the liturgies, because it has been said that some portions are certainly of much later origin than the rest, and therefore these prayers may be later insertions and corruptions. But that cannot be so; for the liturgies do not stand alone. In this matter they have the support of a chain of Christian writers beginning with Tertullian in the second century, and also of early inscriptions in the catacombs. About the meager allusions to the departed in our own liturgy there is more room for doubt: but perhaps the most that can safely be asserted is this; -that here and there sentences have been worded in such a way that it is possible for those who wish to do so to include the faithful departed in the prayer as well as the living. Bishop Cosin has given his authority to this interpretation of the prayer that "we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins and all other benefits of His passion." By this, he says, "is to be understood, as well those that have been here before, and those that shall be hereafter, as those that are now members of it": and as one of the revisers his authority is great. And the prayer in the Burial Service, "that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of Thy holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul," is equally patient of this meaning, even if it does not fairly demand it. For we do not pray that we may have our consummation and bliss with the departed; which might imply that they are enjoying these things now, and that we desire to join them; but we pray that we with the departed may have our consummation and bliss; which includes them in the prayer. And the petition in the Litany, "remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers," may, or may not, be a prayer for our forefathers, according to the way in which we understand it.

All this seems to show that neither Scripture nor the English Church forbids prayer for the departed; that, on the contrary, both of them appear to give a certain amount of sanction to it: and that what they allow, reason commends and tradition recommends most strongly. It is for each one of us to decide for himself whether or no he will take part in the charitable work thus placed before him.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1". "The Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/teb/2-timothy-1.html.
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