Adam Clarke Commentary
2 Timothy 2
He exhorts Timothy to constancy, fidelity, and courage; and to acquit himself as a true soldier of Jesus Christ; and patiently expect the fruit of his labors, 2 Timothy 2:1-7. What the apostle's doctrine was relative to Christ, 2 Timothy 2:8. He mentions his own sufferings and consolations, 2 Timothy 2:9-13. What Timothy is to preach, how he is to acquit himself, and what he is to shun, 2 Timothy 2:14-16. Of Hymeneus and Philetus, and their errors, 2 Timothy 2:17, 2 Timothy 2:18. Of the foundation of God, and its security, 2 Timothy 2:19. The simile of a great house and its utensils, 2 Timothy 2:20, 2 Timothy 2:21. Timothy is to avoid youthful lusts, and foolish and unlearned questions, 2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Timothy 2:23. How he is to act in reference to false teachers, 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
Be strong in the grace - Though the genuine import of the word grace is favor, yet it often implies an active principle communicated from God; light directing how to act, and power enabling to act according to the light.
The things that thou hast heard of me - Those doctrines which I have preached the most publicly, and which many persons can attest. But he seems to refer here to the doctrines delivered to him when, in the presence of many witnesses, he laid his hands upon him; see 1 Timothy 6:12. Then the apostle gave him the proper form of sound words which he was to teach; and now he tells him to commit those truths to faithful men in the same way that they were committed to him, that the truth might be preserved in the Church, and holy men appointed successively to preach it. These truths are still continued in the Church, and still there are faithful men who proclaim them. But where is the uninterrupted apostolical succession! Who can tell? Probably it does not exist on the face of the world. All the pretensions to it by certain Churches are as stupid as they are idle and futile. He who appeals to this for his authority as a Christian minister, had best sit down till he has made it out; and this will be by the next Greek kalends.
Endure hardness - He considers a Christian minister under the notion of a soldier, not so much for his continual conflicts with the world, the devil, and the flesh, for these are in a certain sense common to all Christians, but for the hardships and difficulties to which he must be exposed who faithfully preaches the Gospel of Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth, etc. - It is well remarked by Grotius, on this passage, that the legionary soldiers among the Romans were not permitted to engage in husbandry, merchandise, mechanical employments, or any thing that might be inconsistent with their calling. Many canons, at different times, have been made to prevent ecclesiastics from intermeddling with secular employments. The who will preach the Gospel thoroughly, and wishes to give full proof of his ministry, had need to have no other work. He should be wholly in this thing, that his profiting may appear unto all. There are many who sin against this direction. They love the world, and labor for it, and are regardless of the souls committed to their charge. But what are they, either in number or guilt, compared to the immense herd of men professing to be Christian ministers, who neither read nor study, and consequently never improve? These are too conscientious to meddle with secular affairs, and yet have no scruple of conscience to while away time, be among the chief in needless self-indulgence, and, by their burdensome and monotonous ministry, become an incumbrance to the Church! Do you inquire: In what sect or party are these to be found? I answer: In All. Idle drones: -
Fruges consumere nati,
"Born to consume the produce of the soil,"
disgrace every department in the Christian Church. They cannot teach because they will not learn.
If a man also strive for masteries - Εαν δε και αθλῃ τις· If a man contend in the public games - the Olympic or Isthmian games among the Greeks, so often alluded to and particularly explained in the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, to which the reader is referred for a full illustration of this verse.
Is he not crowned - Though he may have conquered, except he strive lawfully - unless he enter according to the rules of the athlete, and act as these direct. No man, however zealous he may have been, is to expect the Well done, good and faithful servant, from Jesus Christ, unless he have labored in the word and doctrine, preached the truth as it is in Jesus, and built up the Church upon Him who is its only Foundation.
The husbandman that laboureth - That is: The husbandman must first till his ground before he can expect a crop; and he must till it according to the proper rules of agriculture, else he cannot have a crop. The combatant must fight and conquer, and fight according to the laws of the agones, before he can be crowned; so the Christian minister must labor in the spiritual vineyard, and labor too under the eye and according to the direction of his Master, before he can expect that crown of righteousness that fadeth not away.
Consider what I say - Apply my metaphors and similitudes in a proper manner.
And the Lord give thee understanding - But instead of δῳη, may he give, ACDEFG, several others, besides versions and fathers, have δωσει he will give. Consider thou properly, and God will give thee a proper understanding of all things that concern thy own peace, and the peace and prosperity of his Church. Think as well as read.
Remember that Jesus Christ - The apostle seems to say: Whatever tribulations or deaths may befall us, let us remember that Jesus Christ, who was slain by the Jews, rose again from the dead, and his resurrection is the proof and pledge of ours. We also shall rise again to a life of glory and blessedness.
According to my Gospel - The false teaching of Hymeneus and Philetus stated that the resurrection was past already. Paul preached the resurrection from the dead; and founded his doctrine on the resurrection and promise of Christ. This was his Gospel; the other was of a different nature.
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer - This verse contains one of the proofs that this epistle was written while St. Paul was a prisoner the second time at Rome. See the preface, where this is particularly considered.
For the elect's sake - For the sake of the Gentiles, elected by God's goodness to enjoy every privilege formerly possessed by the Jews, and, in addition to these, all the blessings of the Gospel; the salvation of Christ here, and eternal glory hereafter.
If we be dead with him - That is: As surely as Christ rose again from the dead, so surely shall we rise again; and if we die for him, we shall surely live again with him. This, says the apostle, is πιστος ὁ λογος, a true doctrine. This is properly the import of the word; and we need not seek, as Bp. Tillotson and many others have done, for some saying of Christ which the apostle is supposed to be here quoting, and which he learned from tradition.
If we suffer - with him - These are other parts of the true doctrine, which the apostle mentions above.
If we believe not - Should we deny the faith and apostatize, he is the same, as true to his threatenings as to his promises; he cannot deny - act contrary to, himself.
That they strive not about words - Words, not things, have been a most fruitful source of contention in the Christian world; and among religious people, the principal cause of animosity has arisen from the different manner of apprehending the same term, while, in essence, both meant the same thing. All preachers and divines should be very careful, both in speaking and writing, to explain the terms they use, and never employ them in any sense but that in which they have explained them.
The subverting of the hearers - This is the general tendency of all polemical divinity and controversial preaching, when angry passions are called in to support the doctrines of the Gospel.
Study to show thyself approved unto God - Endeavour so to cultivate and improve thy heart and mind, that thou mayest not be a reproach to him from whom thou professest to receive thy commission.
Rightly dividing the word of truth - It is generally supposed that the apostle alludes here to the care taken to divide the sacrifices under the law; the priests studied, in dividing the victim down the spine, to do it so scrupulously that one half of the spinal marrow should be found on each side the backbone. Probably nothing was much farther from the apostle's thoughts than this view, which is now commonly taken of the subject. Indeed this scrupulously dividing does not appear to have been any original ordinance among the Jews; much stress was laid upon it in later times, but from the beginning it was not so. The word ορθοτομειν signifies,
Shun profane and vain babblings - This is the character he gives of the preaching of the false teachers. Whatever was not agreeable to the doctrine of truth was, in the sight of God, empty and profane babbling; engendering nothing but ungodliness, and daily increasing in that.
Their word will eat as doth a canker - Ὡς γαγγραινα· As a gangrene; i.e. as a mortification in the flesh, where the circulation is entirely stopped, and putrefaction takes place, which continues to corrupt all the circumjacent flesh, spreading more and more till death takes place, unless stopped by a timely and judicious application of medicine. Such is the influence of false doctrine; it fixes its mortal seed in the soul, which continues to corrupt and assimilate every thing to itself, till, if not prevented by a timely application of the word of life, under the direction of the heavenly Physician, it terminates in the bitter pains of an eternal death. To such a gangrene the apostle compares the corrupt doctrines of Hymeneus and Philetus.
Who concerning the truth have erred - They had the truth, but erred or wandered from it, saying the resurrection was already past, and thus denying the resurrection of the body, and, by consequence, future rewards and punishments; and this necessarily sapped the foundation of all religion: and thus the gangrene had, in reference to their unhappy votaries, a rapid and unchecked operation.
The foundation of God standeth sure - The word θεμελιος signifies literally a foundation, and especially the foundation of a building; and metaphorically, the building itself, and often a noble mansion or palace. In this place the apostle compares the religion of Christ to a great or noble mansion. See 2 Timothy 2:20. And as this religion is founded on the authority and power of the Almighty, it necessarily must stand sure and be permanent. This house has an inscription on it, for so σφραγις, seal, is frequently understood; and this is evidently an allusion to the ancient temples. Above the door of the temple of Delphi there was the Greek word ει thou art, on which Plutarch has written an express treatise. In many of the Mohammedan mosques the walls are covered with inscriptions, which are ordinarily sentences taken from the Koran, relative to the majesty of God, or the nature of his worship. And we know that there was an inscription on the mitre of the high priest among the Jews, viz.: ליהוה קדש kodesh laihovah, "Holiness to the Lord;" Exodus 28:36; Exodus 39:30. See also Zechariah 14:20. And this inscription may here be represented as being made with the seal of God, for he stamps this on all things belonging to himself and his worship.
But some suppose θεμελιος here to signify a contract or covenant by which two parties are bound to fulfill certain conditions and duties, the obligation to which, each takes on him by sealing the instrument with his seal. Among the Asiatics, these seals have scarcely ever any image or figure on them, but always some very expressive inscription. I have seen many of these, and several of them are now before me. The twofold inscription, i.e. one on the seal of each party, may be here alluded to; that on God's seal is, Εγνω Κυριος τους οντας αὑτου· The Lord approveth of them that are his. That on the seal of his followers is, Αποστητω απο αδικιας πας ὁ ονομαζων το ονομα Κυριου . Let every one who nameth the name of the Lord (every Christian) depart from iniquity. Thus each has his peculiar inscription.
Κυριου, Lord, instead of Χριστου, Christ, is the reading of almost all the MSS. of importance, and the principal versions.
The Lord knoweth - i.e. Approves, watches over, and provides for, them that are his true followers. To this his followers most cheerfully subscribe, and say: Let every one that nameth this Lord avoid every appearance of evil.
But in a great house - Here the apostle carries on the allusion introduced in the preceding verse. As the foundation of God refers to God's building, i.e. the whole system of Christianity, so here the great house is to be understood of the same; and the different kinds of vessels mean the different teachers, as well as the different kinds of members. In this sacred house at Ephesus there were vessels of gold and silver - eminent, holy, sincere, and useful teachers and members, and also vessels of wood and of earth - false and heretical teachers, such as Hymeneus and Philetus, and their followers. There are also in such houses vessels employed, some in a more honorable, others in a less honorable, office. To these he seems also to compare the same persons.
If a man therefore purge himself from these - He that takes heed to his ways and to his doctrines, and walks with God, will separate himself, not only from all false doctrine, but from all wicked men, and thus be sanctified and proper to be employed by the Master in every good word and work. The apostle has not made the application of these different similes, and it is very difficult to tell what he means.
Flee also youthful lusts - Not only all irregular and sensual desires, but pride, ambition, and, above all, the lust of power, to which most men will sacrifice all other propensities, their ease, pleasure, health, etc. This is the most bewitching passion in the human heart. Both in Church and state it is ruinous; but particularly so in the former. Timothy was now between thirty and forty years of age, the very age in which ambition and the love of power most generally prevail. Carnal pleasures are the sins of youth; ambition and the love of power the sins of middle age; covetousness and carking cares the crimes of old age.
Follow righteousness - Flee from sin, pursue goodness. Righteousness - whatever is just, holy, and innocent. Faith - fidelity both to God and man, improving that grace by which thy soul may be saved, and faithfully discharging the duties of thy office, that thou mayest save the souls of others. Charity - love to God and man. Peace among all the members of the Church, and as far as possible with all men; but especially among those who invoke the Lord out of a pure desire to glorify his name.
Foolish and unlearned questions - See the notes on 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7; (note), and Titus 3:9; (note).
The servant of the Lord must not strive - See on 1 Timothy 3:2; (note), 1 Timothy 3:3; (note).
Those that oppose - Αντιδιατιθεμενους . This seems to refer to those who opposed the apostle's authority; and hence the propriety of the allusion to the rebellion of Korah and his company. See observations at the end of the chapter.
If God peradventure - He was to use every means which he had reason to believe God might bless; and the apostle intimates that, bad as they were, they were not out of the reach of God's mercy.
And that they may recover themselves - The construction of this verse is extremely difficult, though the sense given by our translation is plain enough. I shall set down the original, and the principal English translations: -
Και ανανηψωσιν εκ της του διαβολου παγιδος, εζωγρημενοι ὑπ ' αυτου εις εκεινου θελημα .
And thei rise agein fro snaaris of the debyl, of whome thei ben holde captyffis at his wille. - Wiclif. First translation into English, 1378.
And to turne agayne from the snare of devell, which are holden in prison of him at his will. - Coverdale. First printed English Bible, 1535.
That they may come to themselves agayne out of the snare of the devyll, which are now taken of him at hys will. - Edward VIth's Bible, by Becke, 1549.
And they may recover their senses to perform his will, after being rescued alive by the servant of the Lord out of the snare of the devil. - Wakefield; who refers αυτου, him, to the servant of the Lord, 2 Timothy 2:24.
And being caught alive by him out of the snare of the devil, they may awake to do his will. - Macknight; who remarks that αυτου, the relative, means the servant of the Lord; and εκεινου, the demonstrative, refers to God, mentioned 2 Timothy 2:15.
I leave these different translations with the reader.
I Have referred, in the preceding notes, to inscriptions which appear on the buildings and coins of the Asiatics; such inscriptions are, in general, very curious, and carry with them a considerable show of piety to God, in the acknowledgment of his providence and mercy. I shall quote one merely as a curiosity, without supposing it to be immediately applicable to the illustration of the text.
There is extant a gold circular coin of the Great Mogul Shah Jehan, struck at Delhi, A. H. 1062, a.d. 1651, five inches and a half in diameter; on each side of this coin is a square, the angles of which touch the periphery; within this square, and in the segments, there are the following inscriptions: -
On these inscriptions it may be just necessary to observe that Abu Beker, Omar, Othman, and Aly, were the four khalifs who succeeded Mohammed. Abu Beker was the father of Ayesha, one of Mohammed's wives. Othman was son-in-law of Mohammed, having married his two daughters, Rakiah, and Omal-Calthoom. And Aly, son of Abi Taleb, Mohammed's uncle, was also one of the sons-in-law of Mohammed, having married Fatima, the daughter of his favourite wife, Ayesha. The Ottoman empire was not so called from Othman, the third khalif, but from Ottoman, the successful chief, who conquered a small part of the Grecian empire in Asia, and thus laid the foundation for the Turkish.
Grotius and others have supposed that the apostle alludes to the custom of putting an inscription on the foundation stone of a city or other building, giving an account of the time in which it was founded, built, etc. Sometimes engraved stones were placed over the principal gates of cities and fortresses, particularly in the east, specifying the date of erection, repairs, etc., and containing some religious sentiment or verse from the Koran. But I do not think it likely that the apostle refers to any thing of this kind. There appears to be an allusion here to the rebellion of Korah and his company against the authority of Moses, Numbers 16:5, where, it is said: The Lord will show who are his: here the words of the Septuagint are nearly the same that the apostle uses in this verse, εγνω ὁ Θεος τους οντας αὑτου· God knoweth or approveth of them that are his. And the words in Numbers 16:26, Depart from the tents of these wicked men, are similar to those of the apostle, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. We may therefore take it for granted that those false teachers, the chief of whom were Hymeneus and Philetus, had risen up against the authority of St. Paul; and he, in effect, informs Timothy here that God will deal with them as he did with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and their company. And as the true Israelites were to separate themselves from the tents of those wicked men, so he and the believers at Ephesus were to hold no sort of communion with those workers of iniquity. This subject he farther illustrates by a contract between two parties, each of which sets his seal to the instrument, the seal bearing the motto peculiar to the party. This I conceive to be the meaning; but the common mode of interpretation will, it is probable, be most commonly followed.
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