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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Preface to the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy
In order to find out who this person was, it will be necessary to consult the Acts of the Apostles, where the first mention is made of him; and by collating what is there said with certain passages in the epistle, we shall find who he was, and the probable time in which the epistle was addressed to him.
Paul and Barnabas, in the course of their first apostolic journey among the Gentiles, came to Lystra, a city of Lycaonia, where they preached the Gospel for some time, and, though persecuted, with considerable success. See Acts 14:5, Acts 14:6. It is very likely that here they converted to the Christian faith a Jewess named Lois, with her daughter Eunice, who had married a Gentile, by whom she had Timothy, and whose father was probably at this time dead; the grandmother, daughter, and son living together.
Compare Acts 16:1-3 with 2 Timothy 1:5. It is likely that Timothy was the only child; and it appears that he had been brought up in the fear of God, and carefully instructed in the Jewish religion by means of the Holy Scriptures. Compare 2 Timothy 1:5 with 2 Timothy 3:15. It appears, also, that this young man drank into the apostle's spirit, became a thorough convert to the Christian faith, and that a very tender intimacy subsisted between St. Paul and him.
When the apostle came from Antioch, in Syria, the second time to Lystra, he found Timothy a member of the Church, and so highly reputed and warmly recommended by the Church in that place, that St. Paul took him to be his companion in his travels. Acts 16:1-3. From this place we learn that, although Timothy had been educated in the Jewish faith, he had not been circumcised, because his father, who was a Gentile, would not permit it. When the apostle had determined to take him with him, he found it necessary to have him circumcised, not from any supposition that circumcision was necessary to salvation, but because of the Jews, who would neither have heard him nor the apostle had not this been done: the Gospel testimony they would not have received from Timothy, because a heathen; and they would have considered the apostle in the same light, because he associated with such. See the notes on Acts 16:3.
It is pretty evident that Timothy had a special call of God to the work of an evangelist, which the elders of the Church at Lystra knowing, set him solemnly apart to the work by the imposition of hands; 1 Timothy 4:14. And they were particularly led to this by several prophetic declarations relative to him, by which his Divine call was most clearly ascertained. See 1 Timothy 1:18, and 1 Timothy 3:14. Some think that, after this appointment by the elders, the apostle himself laid his hands on him, not for the purpose of his evangelical designation, but that he might receive those extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit so necessary in those primitive times to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel. See 2 Timothy 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:7. Yet, it is likely that Timothy had not two ordinations; one by the elders of Lystra, and another by the apostle; as it is most probable that St. Paul acted with that πρεσβυτεριον or eldership mentioned 1 Timothy 4:14, among whom, in the imposition of hands, he would undoubtedly act as chief.
Timothy, thus prepared to be the apostle's fellow laborer in the Gospel, accompanied him and Silas when they visited the Churches of Phrygia, and delivered to them the decrees of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, freeing the Gentiles from the law of Moses, as a term of salvation. Having gone through these countries, they at length came to Troas, where Luke joined them; as appears from the phraseology of his history, Acts 16:10, Acts 16:11, etc. In Troas a vision appeared to Paul, directing them to go into Macedonia. Loosing therefore from Troas, they all passed over to Neapolis; and from thence went to Philippi, where they converted many, and planted a Christian Church. From Philippi they went to Thessalonica, leaving Luke at Philippi; as appears from his changing the phraseology of his history at Acts 16:40. We may therefore suppose, that at their departing they committed the converted at Philippi to Luke's care. In Thessalonica they were opposed by the unbelieving Jews, and obliged to flee to Berea, whither the Jews from Thessalonica followed them. To elude their rage, Paul, who was most obnoxious to them, departed from Berea by night to go to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy at Berea. At Athens, Timothy came to the apostle and gave him such an account of the afflicted state of the Thessalonian brethren, as induced him to send Timothy back to comfort them. After that Paul preached at Athens, hut with so little success that he judged it proper to leave Athens and go forward to Corinth, where Silas and Timothy came to him, and assisted in converting the Corinthians. And when he left Corinth they accompanied him, first to Ephesus, then to Jerusalem, and after that to Antioch, in Syria. Having spent some time in Antioch, Paul set out with Timothy on his third apostolical journey; in which, after visiting all the Churches of Galatia and Phrygia, in the order in which they had been planted, they came to Ephesus the second time, and there abode for a considerable time. In short, from the time Timothy first joined the apostle, as his assistant, he never left him except when sent by him on some special errand. And by his affection, fidelity, and zeal, he so recommended himself to all the disciples, and acquired such authority over them, that Paul inserted his name in the inscription of several of the letters which he wrote to the Churches, to show that their doctrine was one and the same. His esteem and affection for Timothy the apostle expressed still more conspicuously, by writing to him those excellent letters in the canon which bear his name; and which have been of the greatest use to the ministers of the Gospel ever since their publication, by directing them to discharge all the duties of their function in a proper manner.
The date of this epistle has been a subject of much controversy, some assigning it to the year 56, which is the common opinion; and others to 64 or 65. A great balance of probability appears to be in favor of this later date; and it appears to me that the arguments of Drs. Macknight and Paley are decisive in favor of the later date. The former, in his preface, gives a very clear view of the question.
In the third verse of the first chapter of this epistle the apostle says: "As I entreated thee to abide in Ephesus, when going into Macedonia, so do; that thou mayest charge some not to teach differently." From this it is plain,
1. That Timothy was in Ephesus when the apostle wrote his first letter to him;
2. That he had been left there by the apostle, who at parting with him entreated him to abide at Ephesus;
3. That this happened when Paul was going from Ephesus to Macedonia; and,
4. That he had entreated Timothy to abide in Ephesus, for the purpose of charging some teachers in that Church not to teach differently from the apostles.
In the history of the Acts of the Apostles there is no mention of Paul's going from Ephesus to Macedonia but once; viz. after the riot of Demetrius, Acts 20:1, for which reason Theodoret, among the ancients, and among the moderns, Estius, Baronius, Capellus, Grotius, Lightfoot, Salmasius, Hammond, Witsius, Lardner, Pearson, and others, have given it as their opinion, that the apostle speaks of that journey in his First Epistle to Timothy. Yet, if I am not mistaken, the following circumstance will show their opinion to be ill founded: -
1. When the apostle went from Ephesus to Macedonia, as related Acts 20:1, Timothy was not in Ephesus, having gone from that city into Macedonia with Erastus by the apostle's direction; Acts 19:22. And in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which was written after Timothy's departure from Ephesus, we are informed that he was to go from Macedonia to 1 Corinthians 1 1 Corinthians 4:17 : "I have sent to you Timothy." 1 Corinthians 16:10, 1 Corinthians 16:11 : "If Timothy be come, take care that he be among you without fear. Send him forward in peace, that he may come to me, for I expect him with the brethren." But before Timothy returned from Corinth, the apostle left Ephesus and went into Macedonia, where the brethren above mentioned met him, 2 Corinthians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 2:13, having Timothy in their company; as is plain from his joining the apostle in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, which all agree was written from Macedonia, immediately after the brethren from Corinth gave the apostle an account of the success of his first letter. Wherefore, since Timothy was not in Ephesus when the apostle left the city after the riot, it could not be the occasion on which the apostle said to him: "As I entreated thee to abide in Ephesus, when going into Macedonia, so do." But the journey into Macedonia, of which he speaks, must have been some other journey not mentioned in the Acts. To remove this difficulty we are told that Timothy returned from Corinth to the apostle be lore his departure from Ephesus, and that he was left there after the riot; but that something happened, which occasioned him to follow the apostle into Macedonia; that there he joined him in writing his Second Epistle to the Corinthians; and, having finished his business in Macedonia, he returned to Ephesus and abode there, agreeably to the apostle's request. But as these suppositions are not warranted by the history of the Acts, Timothy's joining the apostle in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians may still be urged as a proof that he came with the brethren directly from Corinth to Macedonia. Farther, that Timothy did not go from Macedonia to Ephesus after joining the apostle in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, but returned with him to Corinth to receive the collections, is, I think, plain from Acts 20:4, where he is mentioned as one of those who accompanied Paul from Corinth to Jerusalem with the collections.
2. When the apostle wrote his First Epistle to Timothy, "he hoped to come to him soon," 1 Timothy 3:14; but from the history of the Acts it is certain that in no letter written to Timothy after the riot, till his first confinement in Rome, could the apostle say that he hoped to come to him soon. He could not say so in any letter written from Troas, the first place he stopped at after leaving Ephesus; for at that time he was going into Macedonia and Achaia to receive the collections for the poor from the Churches in these provinces. Neither could he say so after writing his Second Epistle to the Corinthians from Macedonia; for in that epistle he told the Corinthians he was coming to them with the Macedonian brethren, who were commissioned to attend him in his voyage to Jerusalem, with the collections, 2 Corinthians 9:4, and that he meant to sail directly from Corinth to Judea, 2 Corinthians 1:16. As little could he write to Timothy that he hoped to come to him soon, when he altered his resolution on the occasion of the lying in wait of the Jews, and returned into Macedonia, Acts 20:3. For he was then in such haste to be in Jerusalem on the day of pentecost, that when he came to Miletus, instead of going to Ephesus, he sent for the elders of that Church to come to him, Acts 20:16, Acts 20:17. When he arrived in Judea, he could not write that he hoped to come to Ephesus soon, for he was imprisoned a few days after he went up to Jerusalem; and having continued two years in prison at Caesarea, he was sent bound to Rome, where likewise being confined, he could not, till towards the conclusion of that confinement, write to Timothy that he hoped to come to him soon. And even then he did not write his First Epistle to Timothy, for Timothy was with him at the conclusion of his confinement, Philippians 2:19, Philippians 2:23.
3. From the first epistle we learn that the following were the errors Timothy was left in Ephesus to oppose:
1. Fables invented by the Jewish doctors to recommend the observance of the law of Moses as necessary to salvation.
2. Uncertain genealogies, by which individuals endeavored to trace their descent from Abraham, in the persuasion that they would be saved, merely because they had Abraham for their father.
3. Intricate questions and strifes about some words in the law; perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, who reckoned that which produced most gain to be the best kind of godliness.
4. Oppositions of knowledge, falsely so named.
But these errors had not taken place in the Ephesian Church before the apostle's departure; for in his charge to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, he foretold that the false teachers were to enter in among them after his departing. Acts 20:29, Acts 20:30 : "I know that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." The same thing appears from the two epistles which the apostle wrote to the Corinthians; the one from Ephesus before the riot of Demetrius, the other from Macedonia after that event; and from the epistle which he wrote to the Ephesians themselves from Rome, during his confinement there. For in none of these letters is there any notice taken of the above mentioned errors, as subsisting among the Ephesians at the time they were written; which cannot be accounted for on supposition that they were prevalent in Ephesus when the apostle went into Macedonia after the riot. I am therefore of opinion that the first to Timothy, in which the apostle desired him to abide in Ephesus for the purpose of opposing the Judaizers and their errors, could not be written either from Troas or from Macedonia after the riot, as those who contend for the early date of the epistle suppose; but it must have been written some time after the apostle's release from confinement in Rome, when no doubt he visited the Church at Ephesus, and found the Judaizing teachers there busily employed in spreading their pernicious errors.
4. In the first Epistle to Timothy the same sort of persons, doctrines, and practices, are reprobated, which are condemned in the second. Compare 1 Timothy 4:1-6 with 2 Timothy 3:1-5; and 1 Timothy 6:20 with 2 Timothy 2:14; and 1 Timothy 6:4 with 2 Timothy 2:16. The same commands, instructions, and encouragements are given to Timothy in the first epistle as in the second. Compare 1 Timothy 6:13, 1 Timothy 6:14, with 2 Timothy 4:1-5. The same remedies for the corruptions which had taken place among the Ephesians are prescribed in the first epistle as in the second. Compare 1 Timothy 4:14 with 2 Timothy 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:7; and as in the second epistle, so in the first, every thing is addressed to Timothy as superintendent both of the teachers and of the laity in the Church at Ephesus; all which, I think, imply that the state of things among the Ephesians was the same when the two epistles were written; consequently that the first epistle was written only a few months before the second, and not long before the apostle's death.
These arguments appeared so convincing to Pearson, Le Clerc, L'Enfant, Cave, Fabricius, Mill, Whitby, and others, that they were unanimously of opinion Timothy was left by the apostle in Ephesus as he went into Macedonia, not after the riot of Demetrius, but after he was released from his first confinement at Rome. And from that circumstance they infer that he did not write his first epistle till some time in the end of the year 64, or in the beginning of 65. I think it was written from Nicopolis.
To the late date of this first epistle, there are three plausible objections which must not be overlooked: -
1. It is thought that, if the First Epistle to Timothy was written after the apostle's release, he could not with any propriety have said to Timothy, 1 Timothy 4:12 : "Let no man despise thy youth;" but it is replied: That Servius Tullius, in classing the Roman people, as Aulus Gellius relates, lib. x. c. 28, divided their age into three periods: Childhood he limited to the age of seventeen; youth, from that to forty-six; and old age, from that to the end of life. Now, supposing Timothy to have been eighteen years old, a.d. 50, when he became Paul's assistant, he would be no more than 32, a.d. 64, two years after the apostle's release, when it is supposed this epistle was written. Wherefore, being then in the period of life which, by the Greeks as well as the Roman, was considered as youth, the apostle with propriety might say to him, Let no man despise thy youth.
2. When the apostle touched at Miletus, in his voyage to Jerusalem with the collections, the Church at Ephesus had a number of elders, that is, of bishops and deacons, who came to him at Miletus, Acts 20:17. It is therefore asked: What occasion was there in an epistle written after the apostle's release, to give Timothy directions concerning the ordination of bishops and deacons, in a Church where there were so many elders already? The answer is: The elders who came to the apostle at Miletus in the year 58 may have been too few for the Church at Ephesus, in her increased state, in the year 65. Besides, false teachers had then entered, to oppose whom more bishops and deacons might be needed than were necessary in the year 58; not to mention that some of the first elders having died, others were wanted to supply their places.
3. Because the apostle wrote to Timothy that "he hoped to come to him soon," 1 Timothy 3:14, it is argued that the letter in which this is said must have been written before the apostle said to the Ephesian elders, Acts 20:25 : "I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more." But if, by this, the First Epistle to Timothy is proved to have been written before the apostle's interview with the elders at Miletus, his Epistles to the Philippians, to the Hebrews, and to Philemon, in which he promised to visit them, must likewise have been written before the interview; in regard, his declaration respected the Philippians, the Hebrews, and Philemon, as well as the Ephesians; for they certainly were persons among whom the apostle had gone preaching the kingdom of God. Yet no commentator ever thought the epistles above mentioned were written to them before the apostle's interview with the Ephesian elders; on the contrary, it is universally acknowledged that these epistles were written four years after the interview; namely, during the apostle's first imprisonment at Rome. Wherefore, when he told the Ephesian elders that they, and his other converts, among whom he had gone preaching the kingdom of God, should see his face no more, as it was no point either of faith or practice which he spake, he may well be supposed to have declared nothing but his own opinion, resulting from his fears. He had lately escaped the rage of the Jews, who laid wait for him in Cenchrea to kill him, Acts 20:3. This, with their fury on former occasions, filled him with such anxiety that, in writing to the Romans from Corinth; he requested them "to strive together with him in their prayers that he might be delivered from the unbelieving in Judea;" Romans 15:30, Romans 15:31. Farther, that in his own speech to the Ephesian elders the apostle only declared his own persuasion, dictated by his fears, and not any suggestion of the Spirit, I think plain from what he had said immediately before, Acts 20:22, Acts 20:23 : "Behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me." Wherefore, although his fears were happily disappointed, and he actually visited the Ephesians after his release; his character as an inspired apostle is not hurt in the least, if, in saying he knew they should see his face no more, he declared, as I have said, his own persuasion only, and no dictate of the Holy Ghost.
Dr. Paley's arguments are the same in substance; but he does not mention Dr. Macknight, who wrote before him, and whose work he must have seen.
The principal difficulty in this opinion is, that it necessarily implies that St. Paul visited Ephesus after his liberation at Rome; which appears so contrary to what he said to the Ephesian Church, that they should see his face no more. Dr. Paley, however, finds some farther presumptive evidences that the apostle must have visited Ephesus. The Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon were written while the apostle was a prisoner at Rome; to the former he says: "I trust in the Lord, that I also myself shall come shortly;" and to the latter, who was a Colossian, he gives this direction: "But withal, prepare me also a lodging, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you." An inspection of the map will show us that Colosse was a city of Asia Minor, lying eastward, and at no great distance from Ephesus; Philippi was on the other, i.e. the western, side of the Aegean Sea. Now if the apostle executed his purpose, and came to Philemon at Colosse soon after his liberation, it cannot be supposed that he would omit to visit Ephesus, which lay so near it, and where he had spent three years of his ministry. As he was also under a promise to visit the Church at Philippi shortly, if he passed from Colosse to Philippi he could hardly avoid taking Ephesus in his way. See Paley's Horae Paulinae, page 293. This, taken in connection with the preceding arguments, can leave little doubt that the date of this epistle must be referred to a time subsequent to St. Paul's liberation from Rome, and consequently to the end of the year 64, or the beginning of the year 65.
Paul's salutation to Timothy, 1 Timothy 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:2. For what purpose he had left him at Ephesus, 1 Timothy 1:3. What the false apostles taught in opposition to the truth, 1 Timothy 1:4-7. The true use of the law, 1 Timothy 1:8-11. He thanks God for his own conversion, and describes his former state, 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Exhorts Timothy to hold fast faith and a good conscience, and speaks of Hymeneus and Alexander who had made shipwreck of their faith, 1 Timothy 1:18-20.
1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
Paul an apostle - by the commandment of God - We have already seen that the term αποστολος, apostle, literally signifies a person sent from one to another, without implying any particular dignity in the person, or importance in the message. But it is differently used in the New Testament, being applied to those who were sent expressly from God Almighty, with the message of salvation to mankind. It is, therefore, the highest character any human being can have; and he message is the most important which even God himself can send to his intelligent creatures. It was by the express command of God that St. Paul went to the Gentiles preaching the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus.
Jesus Christ - our hope - Without Jesus, the world was hopeless; the expectation of being saved can only come to mankind by his Gospel. He is called our hope, as he is called our life, our peace, our righteousness, etc., because from him hope, life, peace, righteousness, and all other blessings proceed.
2Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
My own son in the faith - Brought to salvation through Christ by my ministry alone. Probably the apostle speaks here according to this Jewish maxim: כל המלמר בן תכירו תורה מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו ילרו He who teaches the law to his neighbour's son is considered by the Scripture as if he had begotten him; Sanhedrin, fol. xix. 2. And they quote Numbers 3:1, as proving it: These are the generations of Aaron and Moses - and these are the names of the sons of Aaron. "Aaron," say they, "begot them, but Moses instructed them; therefore they are called by his name." See Schoettgen.
But γνησιῳ τεκνῳ may mean my beloved son; for in this sense το γνησιον is not unfrequently used.
In the faith - The word πιστις, faith, is taken here for the whole of the Christian religion, faith in Christ being its essential characteristic.
Grace, mercy, and peace -
Grace, the favor and approbation of God.
Mercy, springing from that grace, pardoning, purifying, and supporting.
Peace, the consequence of this manifested mercy, peace of conscience, and peace with God; producing internal happiness, quietness, and assurance.
3As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
I besought thee - The apostle had seen that a bad seed had been sown in the Church; and, as he was obliged to go then into Macedonia, he wished Timothy, on whose prudence, piety, and soundness in the faith he could depend, to stay behind and prevent the spreading of a doctrine that would have been pernicious to the people's souls. I have already supposed that this epistle was written after Paul had been delivered from his first imprisonment at Rome, about the end of the year 64, or the beginning of 65. See the preface. When, therefore, the apostle came from Rome into Asia, he no doubt visited Ephesus, where, ten years before, he had planted a Christian Church, and, as he had not time to tarry then, he left Timothy to correct abuses.
That thou mightest charge some - He does not name any persons; the Judaizing teachers are generally supposed to be those intended; and the term τισι, some, certain persons, which he uses, is expressive of high disapprobation, and at the same time of delicacy: they were not apostles, nor apostolic men; but they were undoubtedly members of the Church at Ephesus, and might yet be reclaimed.
4Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
Neither give heed to fables - Idle fancies; things of no moment; doctrines and opinions unauthenticated; silly legends, of which no people ever possessed a greater stock than the Jews. Their Talmud abounds with them; and the English reader may find them in abundance in Stehlin's Jewish Traditions, 2 vols. 8vo.
Endless genealogies - I suppose the apostle to mean those genealogies which were uncertain - that never could be made out, either in the ascending or descending line; and, principally, such as referred to the great promise of the Messiah, and to the priesthood. The Jews had scrupulously preserved their genealogical tables till the advent of Christ and the evangelists had recourse to them, and appealed to them in reference to our Lord's descent from the house of David; Matthew taking this genealogy in the descending, Luke in the ascending, line. And whatever difficulties we may now find in these genealogies, they were certainly clear to the Jews; nor did the most determined enemies of the Gospel attempt to raise one objection to it from the appeal which the evangelists had made to their own public and accredited tables. All was then certain; but we are told that Herod destroyed the public registers; he, being an Idumean, was jealous of the noble origin of the Jews; and, that none might be able to reproach him with his descent, be ordered the genealogical tables, which were kept among the archives in the temple, to be burnt. See Euseb. H. E., lib. i. cap. 8. From this time the Jews could refer to their genealogies only from memory, or from those imperfect tables which had been preserved in private hands; and to make out any regular line from these must have been endless and uncertain. It is probably to this that the apostle refers; I mean the endless and useless labor which the attempts to make out these genealogies must produce, the authentic tables being destroyed. This, were all other proofs wanting, would be an irresistible argument against the Jews that the Messiah is come; for their own prophets had distinctly marked out the line by which he was to come; the genealogies are now all lost; nor is there a Jew in the universe that can show from what tribe he is descended. There can, therefore, be no Messiah to come, as none could show, let him have what other pretensions he might, that he sprang from the house of David. The Jews do not, at present, pretend to have any such tables; and, far from being able to prove the Messiah from his descent, they are now obliged to say that, when, the Messiah comes, he will restore the genealogies by the Holy Spirit that shall rest upon him. "For," says Maimonides, "in the days of the Messiah, when his kingdom shall be established, all the Israelites shall be gathered together unto him; and all shall be classed in their genealogies by his mouth, through the Holy Spirit that shall rest upon him; as it is written, Malachi 3:3 : He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi. First he will purify the Levites, and shall say: 'This man is a descendant from the priests; and this, of the stock of the Levites;' and he shall cast out those who are not of the stock of Israel; for behold it is said, Ezra 2:63 : And the Tirshatha said-they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim. Thus, by the Holy Spirit, the genealogies are to be revised." See Schoettgen.
Some learned men suppose that the apostle alludes here to the Aeons, among the Gnostics and Valentinians, of whom there were endless numbers to make up what was called their pleroma; or to the sephiroth, or splendours of the Cabalists. But it is certain that these heresies had not arrived to any formidable head in the apostle's time; and it has long been a doubt with me whether they even existed at that time: and I think it the most simple way, and most likely to be the intention of the apostle, to refer all to the Jewish genealogies, which he calls Jewish fables, Titus 1:14, to which we know they were strongly and even conscientiously attached and which, at this time, it must have been extremely difficult to make out.
Instead of γενεαλογιαις, genealogies, some learned men have conjectured that the original word was κενολογιαις, empty words, vain speeches; but this conjecture is not supported by any MS. or version.
Which minister questions - They are the foundation of endless altercations and disputes; for, being uncertain and not consecutive, every person had a right to call them in question; as we may naturally suppose, from the state in which the genealogical tables of the Jews then were, that many chasms must be supplied in different lines, and consequently much must be done by conjecture.
Rather than godly edifying - Such discussions as these had no tendency to promote piety. Many, no doubt, employed much of that time in inquiring who were their ancestors, which they should have spent in obtaining that grace by which, being born from above, they might have become the sons and daughters of God Almighty.
Instead of οικοδομιαν Θεου, godly edifying, or the edification of God, οικονομιαν Θεου, the economy or dispensation of God, is the reading of almost every MS. in which this part of the epistle is extant, (for some MSS. are here mutilated), and of almost all the versions, and the chief of the Greek fathers. Of the genuineness of this reading scarcely a doubt can be formed; and though the old reading, which is supported by the Latin fathers and the Vulgate, gives a good sense, yet the connection and spirit of the place show that the latter must be the true reading. Griesbach has received this reading into the text.
What had Jewish genealogies to do with the Gospel? Men were not to be saved by virtue of the privileges or piety of their ancestors. The Jews depended much on this. We have Abraham to our father imposed silence on every check of conscience, and every godly reproof which they received for their profligacy and unbelief. In the dispensation of God, Faith in Christ Jesus was the only means and way of salvation. These endless and uncertain genealogies produced no faith; indeed they were intended as a substitute for it; for those who were intent on making out their genealogical descent paid little attention to faith in Christ. They ministered questions rather than that economy of God which is by faith. This dispensation, says the apostle, is by faith, οικονομιαν Θεου την εν πιστει· It was not by natural descent, nor by works, but by faith in Christ; therefore it was necessary that the people who were seeking salvation in any other way should be strictly informed that all their toil and labor would be vain.
5Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
Now the end of the commandment is charity - These genealogical questions lead to strife and debate; and the dispensation of God leads to love both to God and man, through faith in Christ. These genealogical questions leave the heart under the influence of all its vile tempers and evil propensities; Faith in Jesus purifies the heart. No inquiry of this kind can add to any thing by which the guilt of sin can be taken away; but the Gospel proclaims pardon, through the blood of the Lamb, to every believing penitent. The end, aim, and design of God in giving this dispensation to the world is, that men may have an unfeigned faith, such as lays hold on Christ crucified, and produces a good conscience from a sense of the pardon received, and leads on to purity of heart; Love to God and man being the grand issue of the grace of Christ here below, and this fully preparing the soul for eternal glory. He whose soul is filled with love to God and man has a pure heart, a good conscience, and unfeigned faith. But these blessings no soul can ever acquire, but according to God's dispensation of faith.
The paraphrase and note of Dr. Macknight on this verse are very proper: "Now the scope of the charge to be given by thee to these teachers is, that, instead of inculcating fables and genealogies, they inculcate love to God and man, proceeding from a pure heart, and directed by a good conscience, and nourished by unfeigned faith in the Gospel doctrine. The word παραγγελια denotes a message or order, brought to one from another, and delivered by word of mouth. The charge here meant is that which the apostle ordered Timothy to deliver to the teachers in Ephesus; for he had said, 1 Timothy 1:3 : I had besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, ἱνα παραγγειλῃς, that thou mightest charge some: here he tells him what the scope of this charge was to be."
Of faith unfeigned - Πιστεως ανυποκριτου· A faith not hypocritical. The apostle appears to allude to the Judaizing teachers, who pretended faith in the Gospel, merely that they might have the greater opportunity to bring back to the Mosaic system those who had embraced the doctrine of Christ crucified. This Is evident from the following verse.
6From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
From which some having swerved - From which some, though they have pretended to aim at the τελος, scope, or mark, have missed that mark. This is the import of the original word αστοχησαντες.
Turned aside unto vain jangling - The original term, ματαιολογιαν, signifies empty or vain talking; discourses that turn to no profit; a great many words and little sense; and that sense not worth the pains of hearing. Such, indeed, is all preaching where Jesus Christ is not held forth.
7Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
Teachers of the law - To be esteemed or celebrated as rabbins; to be reputed cunning in solving knotty questions and enigmas, which answered no end to true religion. Of such the rabbinical teaching was full.
Understanding neither what they say - This is evident from almost all the Jewish comments which yet remain. Things are asserted which are either false or dubious; words, the import of which they did not understand, were brought to illustrate them: so that it may be said, They understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm. I will give one instance from the Jerusalem Targum, on Genesis 1:15 : And God made two great lights, and they were equal in splendor twenty-one years, the six hundred and seventy-second part of an hour excepted: and afterwards the moon brought a false accusation against the sun, and therefore she was lessened; and God made the sun the greater light to superintend the day, etc. I could produce a thousand of a similar complexion.
8But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
But we know that the law is good - The law as given by God, is both good in itself and has a good tendency. This is similar to what the apostle had asserted, Romans 7:12-16 : The law is holy; and the commandment is holy, just, and good; see the note on Romans 7:12, etc.
If a man use it lawfully - That is, interpret it according to its own spirit and design, and use it for the purpose for which God has given it; for the ceremonial law was a schoolmaster to lead us unto Christ, and Christ is the end of that law for justification to every one that believes. Now those who did not use the law in reference to these ends, did not use it lawfully - they did not construe it according to its original design and meaning.
9Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
The law is not made for a righteous man - There is a moral law as well as a ceremonial law: as the object of the latter is to lead us to Christ; the object of the former is to restrain crimes, and inflict punishment on those that commit them. It was, therefore, not made for the righteous as a restrainer of crimes, and an inflicter of punishments; for the righteous avoid sin, and by living to the glory of God expose not themselves to its censures. This seems to be the mind of the apostle; he does not say that the law was not Made for a righteous man, but ου κειται, it does not Lie against a righteous man; because he does not transgress it: but it lies against the wicked; for such as the apostle mentions have broken it, and grievously too, and are condemned by it. The word κειται, lies, refers to the custom of writing laws on boards, and hanging them up in public places within reach of every man, that they might be read by all; thus all would see against whom the law lay.
The lawless - Ανομοις· Those who will not be bound by a law, and acknowledge none, therefore have no rule of moral conduct.
Disobedient - Ανυποτακτοις· Those who acknowledge no authority; from α, negative, and ὑποτασσω, to subject; they neither acknowledge law, nor executive authority, and consequently endeavor to live as they list; and from such dispositions all the crimes in the following catalogue may naturally spring.
For the ungodly - Ασεβεσι· The irreligious - those who do not worship God, or have no true worship; from α, negative, and σεβω, to worship. For sinners, ἁμαρτωλοις those who transgress the laws; from α, negative, and μαρπτω, to hit the mark. This has been elsewhere explained.
For unholy - Ανοσιοις· Persons totally polluted - unclean within, and unclean without; from α, negative, and ὁσιος, holy.
And profane - Βεβηλοις· Such who are so unholy and abominable as not to be fit to attend any public worship; from βε, denoting privation or separation, and βηλος, a threshold or pavement, particularly of a temple. Our word profane comes from procul a fano, "far from the temple." When the ancients, even heathens, were about to perform some very sacred rites, they were accustomed to command the irreligious to keep at a distance; hence that saying in a fragment of Orpheus: -
Φθεγξομαι οἱς θεμις εστι· θυρας δ' επιθεσθε βεβηλοις Πασιν ὁμως.
"I will speak to whom it is lawful; but these doors, O, shut against the profane."
And that of Virgil, Aen. vi. ver. 258.
Procul! O procul! este profani.
Far! ye profane! get hence.
Murderers of fathers - Πατραλῳαις. The murderer of a father or a mother, notwithstanding the deep fall of man, and the general profligacy of the world, has been so rare, and is a crime so totally opposite to nature, that few civilized nations have found it necessary to make laws against it. Yet, such monsters, like the most awful and infrequent portents, have sometimes terrified the world with their appearance. But I think the original does not necessarily imply the murder of a father or of a mother; πατραλῳας comes from πατερα, a father, and αλοιαω, to strike, and may mean simply beating or striking a father or mother: this is horrible enough; but to murder a parent out-herods Herod.
Manslayers - Ανδροφονοις· Murderers simply; all who take away the life of a human being contrary to law. For no crime, unless it be murder, should any man lose his life. If the law did not speak differently, I should not scruple to say that he whose life is taken away, except for murder, is murdered.
10For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
For whoremongers - Πορνοις· Adulterers, fornicators, and prostitutes of all sorts.
Them that defile themselves with mankind - Αρσενοκοιταις· From αρσην, a male, and κοιτη, a bed; a word too bad to be explained. A sodomite.
Men-stealers - Ανδραποδισταις· Slave-dealers; whether those who carry on the traffic in human flesh and blood; or those who steal a person in order to sell him into bondage; or those who buy such stolen men or women, no matter of what color or what country; or those who sow dissensions among barbarous tribes in order that they who are taken in war may be sold into slavery; or the nations who legalize or connive at such traffic: all these are men-stealers, and God classes them with the most flagitious of mortals.
For liars - Ψευσταις· They who speak for truth what they know to be false; and even they who tell the truth in such a way as to lead others to draw a contrary meaning from it.
For perjured persons - Επιορκοις· From επι, against, and ὁρκος, an oath; such as do or leave undone any thing contrary to an oath or moral engagement, whether that engagement be made by what is called swearing, or by an affirmation or promise of any kind.
And if there be any other thing - Every species of vice and immorality, all must be necessarily included, that is contrary to sound doctrine - to the immutable moral law of God, as well as to the pure precepts of Christianity where that law is incorporated, explained, and rendered, if possible, more and more binding.
11According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
According to the glorious Gospel - The sound doctrine mentioned above, which is here called ευαγγελιον της δοξης του μακαριου Θεου, the Gospel of the glory of the blessed or happy God - a dispensation which exhibits the glory of all his attributes; and, by saving man in such a way as is consistent with the glory of all the Divine perfections, while it brings peace and good will among men, brings glory to God in the highest. Sin has dishonored God, and robbed him of his glory; the Gospel provides for the total destruction of sin, even in this world, and thus brings back to God his glory.
12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
I thank Christ - I feel myself under infinite obligation to Christ who hath strengthened me, ενδυναμωσαντι, who hath endued me with various miraculous gifts of his Holy Spirit, and put me into the ministry, διακονιαν, the deaconship, the service of mankind, by preaching the Gospel, for that he counted me - he knew that I would be, faithful to the charge that was delivered to me.
13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
A blasphemer - Speaking impiously and unjustly of Jesus, his doctrine, his ways, and his followers.
And - persecutor - Endeavouring, to the uttermost of his power, to exterminate all who called on the name of the Lord Jesus.
And injurious - Και ὑβριστην· As full of insolence as I was of malevolence; and yet, all the while, thinking I did God service, while sacrificing men and women to my own prejudices and intolerance.
I did it ignorantly in unbelief - Not having considered the nature and evidences of Christianity, and not having believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, I acted wholly under the prejudices that influenced my countrymen in general. God therefore showed me mercy, because I acted under this influence, not knowing better. This extension of mercy, does not, however, excuse the infuriated conduct of Saul of Tarsus, for he says himself that he was exceedingly mad against them. Let us beware, lest we lose the man's former crimes in his after character.
14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant - The original is very emphatic, that grace of our Lord, ὑπερεπλεονασε, hath superabounded - it manifested itself in a way of extraordinary mercy.
With faith and love - Not only pardoning such offenses, but leading me to the full experimental knowledge of Christianity; of that faith and love which are essential to it; and giving me authority to proclaim it to mankind.
15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - This is one of the most glorious truths in the book of God; the most important that ever reached the human ear, or can be entertained by the heart of man. All men are sinners; and as such condemned, justly condemned, to eternal death. Christ Jesus became incarnate, suffered, and died to redeem them; and, by his grace and Spirit, saves them from their sins. This saying or doctrine he calls, first, a faithful or true saying; πιστος ὁ λογος, it is a doctrine that may be credited, without the slightest doubt or hesitation; God himself has spoken it; and the death of Christ and the mission of the Holy Ghost, sealing pardon on the souls of all who believe, have confirmed and established the truth.
Secondly, it is worthy of all acceptation; as all need it, it is worthy of being received by all. It is designed for the whole human race, for all that are sinners is applicable to all, because all are sinners; and may be received by all, being put within every man's reach, and brought to every man's ear and bosom, either by the letter of the word, or, where that revelation is not yet come, by the power of the Divine Spirit, the true light from Christ that lightens every man that cometh into the world. From this also it is evident that the death of Christ, and all its eternally saving effects, were designed for every man.
Of whom I am chief - Ὡν πρωτος ειμι εγω. Confounding Paul the apostle, in the fullness of his faith and love, with Saul of Tarsus, in his ignorance, unbelief, and persecuting rage, we are in the habit of saying: "This is a hyperbolical expression, arguing the height of the apostle's modesty and humility and must not be taken according to the letter." I see it not in this light; I take it not with abatement; it is strictly and literally true: take the whole of the apostle's conduct, previously to his conversion, into consideration, and was there a greater sinner converted to God from the incarnation to his own time? Not one; he was the chief; and, keeping his blasphemy, persecution, and contumely in view, he asserts: Of all that the Lord Jesus came into the world to save, and of all that he had saved to that time, I am chief. And who, however humble now, and however flagitious before, could have contested the points with him? He was what he has said, and as he has said it. And it is very probable that the apostle refers to those in whom the grace and mercy of God were, at the first promulgation of the Gospel, manifested: and comparing himself with all these he could with propriety say, ὡν πρωτος ειμι, of whom I am the first; the first who, from a blasphemer, persecutor (and might we not add murderer? see the part he took in the martyrdom of Stephen), became a preacher of that Gospel which I had persecuted. And hence, keeping this idea strictly in view, he immediately adds: Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy; that in me First, πρωτῳ, Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern To Them which should Hereafter, των μελλοντων believe on him to life everlasting. And this great display of the pardoning mercy of God, granted in so singular a manner, at the very first promulgation of the Gospel, was most proper to be produced as a pattern for the encouragement of all penitent sinners to the end of time. If Jesus Christ, with whom there can be no respect of persons, saved Saul of Tarsus, no sinner need despair.
16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Now unto the King eternal - This burst of thanksgiving and gratitude to God, naturally arose from the subject then under his pen and eye. God has most wondrously manifested his mercy, in this beginning of the Gospel, by saving me, and making me a pattern to all them that shall hereafter believe on Christ. He is βασιλευς των αιωνων, the king of eternities; the eternity a parte ante, and the eternity a parte post; the eternity that was before time was, and the eternity that shall be when time is no more. Therefore, ever living to justify and save sinners, to the end of the world.
Immortal - Αφθαρτῳ· Incorruptible - not liable to decay or corruption; a simple uncompounded essence, incapable, therefore, of decomposition, and consequently permanent and eternal. One MS., the later Syriac in the margin, the Vulgate, one copy of the Itala, and some of the Latin fathers, read αθανατῳ, immortal, which our translation follows; but it is not the original reading.
Invisible - Αορατῳ· One who fills all things, works everywhere, and yet is invisible to angels and men; the perfect reverse of false gods and idols, who are confined to one spot, work nowhere, and, being stocks and stones, are seen by every body.
The only wise God - The word σοφῳ wise, is omitted by AD*FG, Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala. Some of the Greek fathers quote it sometimes, and omit it at others; which shows that it was an unsettled reading, probably borrowed from Romans 16:27 (note). Griesbach leaves it out of the text. Without it the reading is very strong and appropriate: To the only God; nothing visible or invisible being worthy of adoration but himself.
Be honor - All the respect and reverence that can be paid by intelligent beings, ascribing to him at the same time all the glory - excellences, and perfections, which can be possessed by an intelligent, unoriginated, independent, and eternal Being; and this for ever and ever-through eternity.
18This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
This charge - See the note on 1 Timothy 1:5. It was a charge that the Judaizing teachers should not teach differently from that doctrine which the apostle had delivered to him. See 1 Timothy 1:3.
According to the prophecies - This may refer to some predictions by inspired men, relative to what Timothy should be: and he wishes him to act in all things conformably to those predictions. It was predicted that he should have this high and noble calling; but his behavior in that calling was a matter of contingency, as it respected the use he might make of the grace of his calling. The apostle therefore exhorts him to war a good warfare, etc. He was now called to that estate to which the prophecies referred; and now he is to act worthily or unworthily of that calling, according as he fought or did not fight the good warfare, and according as he held or did not hold faith and a good conscience.
Some think that the προαγουσας προφητειας, the foregoing prophecies, refer to revelations which the apostle himself had received concerning Timothy; while others think that the word is to be understood of advices, directions, and exhortations, which the apostle had previously delivered to him; we know that προφητευω signifies to speak to men to edification, to exhortation, and to comfort. See 1 Corinthians 14:3. This is a very sober and good sense of the passage.
War a good warfare - The trials and afflictions of the followers of God are often represented as a warfare or campaign. See Isaiah 40:2; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4; and see the reasons of this metaphorical form of speech, in the notes on Ephesians 6:13.
19Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
Holding faith - All the truths of the Christian religion, firmly believing them, and fervently proclaiming them to others.
And a good conscience - So holding the truth as to live according to its dictates, that a good conscience may be ever preserved. As the apostle had just spoken of the Christian's warfare, so he here refers to the Christian armor, especially to the shield and breastplate; the shield of faith, and the breastplate of righteousness. See on Ephesians 6:13, etc., (note), and 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (note).
Which some having put away - Απωσαμενοι· Having thrust away; as a fool-hardy soldier might his shield and his breastplate, or a mad sailor his pilot, helm, and compass.
Concerning faith - The great truths of the Christian religion.
Have made shipwreck - Being without the faith, that only infallible system of truth; and a good conscience, that skillful pilot, that steady and commanding helm, that faithful and invariable loadstone; have been driven to and fro by every wind of doctrine, and, getting among shoals, quicksands, and rocks, have been shipwrecked and ingulfed.
20Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander - Who had the faith but thrust it away; who had a good conscience through believing, but made shipwreck of it. Hence we find that all this was not only possible, but did actually take place, though some have endeavored to maintain the contrary; who, confounding eternity with a state of probation, have supposed that if a man once enter into the grace of God in this life, he must necessarily continue in it to all eternity. Thousands of texts and thousands of facts refute this doctrine.
Delivered unto Satan - For the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. See what is noted on 1 Corinthians 5:5; what this sort of punishment was no man now living knows. There is nothing of the kind referred to in the Jewish writings. It seems to have been something done by mere apostolical authority, under the direction of the Spirit of God.
Hymeneus, it appears, denied the resurrection, see 2 Timothy 2:17, 2 Timothy 2:18; but whether this Alexander be the same with Alexander the coppersmith, 2 Timothy 4:14, or the Alexander, Acts 19:33, cannot be determined. Probably, he was the same with the coppersmith. Whether they were brought back to the acknowledgment of the truth does not appear. From what is said in the second epistle the case seems extremely doubtful. Let him who most assuredly standeth, take heed lest he fall.
He that is self-confident is already half fallen. He who professes to believe that God will absolutely keep him from falling finally, and neglects watching unto prayer, is not in a safer state. He who lives by the moment, walks in the light, and maintains his communion with God, is in no danger of apostasy.