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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
2 Timothy 1



Verse 6-7


‘Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee is the putting on of mg bands. For God bath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’

2 Timothy 1:6-7

These words were addressed by Paul the aged to the youthful Timothy. They are part of a last message from the veteran soldier of the Cross to a recruit almost new to the field of battle. The tenderness of a father speaks in the opening sentence: ‘To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace.’ The fierceness of the fighter rings through my text: ‘God hath not given us the spirit of fear, of cowardice; but of power.’ To St. Paul, the man of God was no weakling, but a man strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. To him the minister of Christ by the laying on of hands—‘by the heavenly assistance of the Holy Ghost’—was endued in a marked degree with: (1) a spirit of courage; (2) a heart of love; (3) a mind sound and disciplined. Let us consider and earnestly covet these gifts.

I. A spirit of courage.—It is probable that Timothy was constitutionally timid, and that this spirit of timidity had led him to act in a cowardly manner on some special occasion known to the Apostle. We gather this from 2 Timothy 1:8 : ‘Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me His prisoner.’ In the face of personal danger, or through fear of persecution, Timothy had not upheld the Apostle’s teaching, nor acknowledged his connection with Paul the prisoner. Such an act of poltroonery grieved the heroic spirit of the old soldier. Fidelity to Christ—to the truth of Christ—was more to him than life itself. And what about ourselves? Are we quite free from this spirit of timidity, of cowardly fear? Make no mistake—the attitude of the world towards true godliness has not changed. It still hates the Christ. It may manifest its hatred in a different way, but it is there and must be

God give us men. A time like this demands

Great hearts, strong minds, true faith, and willing hands;

Men whom the lust of office cannot buy;

Men who have honour, men who will not lie;

Men who for Christ will live, for Christ dare die.

II. With the spirit of courage the Apostle couples a heart of love.—It is a suggestive association in many ways. Love makes the noblest champions, for perfect love casteth out fear. He who loves most fears least. Yea! love is as strong as death. The world’s most enduring conquests have been conquests of love. Love never faileth.

III. To the spirit of courage and to the heart of love is added another mark of the true minister of Christ.—He must be a man of sound, of disciplined mind. If ever the clergy required a sound mind they require it in our day. We are sending forth from our schools boys and girls, youths and maidens, with just enough knowledge to make them think foolishly, talk dangerously, and often to act stupidly. They know a little political economy and they talk socialism, they know a little science and they talk atheism. We must not, however, take them too seriously. It is the penalty we have to pay in the upward march of intelligence. Our position is clear as clergy of the National Church. We are to guide and lead the thought of our day into right channels, into ways of soberness and truth. But if we are to do so effectively we must ourselves be level-headed men. Men with disciplined minds. Men with balanced intellects. Men who can bring to bear upon the questions agitating the minds of our people a prudent, practical, and discriminating judgment.

—Archdeacon Madden.


‘Think of the men in the past, the men who rebuked kings, withstood tyrants, and wrought righteousness in the earth. Think of Elijah before Ahab, of Daniel before Belshazzar, of John Baptist before Herod. Think of Ambrose at Milan, Savonarola at Florence, Luther at Worms. Think of our own brave Wycliffe; of that undaunted Apostle of Scotland, John Knox; yes, think of that Vicar of Doncaster who courteously but firmly refused to entertain princes and nobles, as a protest against the curse of betting at the Doncaster races.’



The word ‘fear’ in this phrase means cowardice. ‘God hath not given us this spirit of fear.’ God has not given us this spirit of cowardice. Where then did the spirit of cowardice come from? It is one heritage of primitive human imperfection, slowly being conquered by Divine education, a relic of human depravity, a survival from a primitive condition, a barbarous condition. But God does not love His children to wander in a land of terrors. Step by step He educates them. Why are ye then fearful, O ye of little faith? There is therefore now no condemnation to us who are in Christ Jesus, and walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.

I. If there is one great difficulty of the Christian minister in leading many of his people into a right feeling towards God, so that their minds may have a Divine tone about them, it is another great difficulty to remove from the hearts of religious people that terror, that fear which oppresses so many of them.

II. To you who want to believe the truth, who cannot live without a deep, real faith irremovably fastened on the Rock of Ages—to such let me say, ‘Let no cowardly fear affront you from your inquiries.’ You want to know more about your Father and His ways—ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find.

III. And, lastly, there is that unworthy fear which keeps men from adopting and confessing a Christian life, especially of confessing it at the Lord’s Table.

—Dean Page Roberts.


‘I remember a story of Mr. Moody. When he was in the country on one occasion he saw a man with a group of boys round him. Presently the boys climbed on to the top of a high wall. Then the man standing at a little distance from them said, “Jump,” and as they jumped he caught them. But there was one little fellow who could not be induced to leap. Mr. Moody said to the stranger, “My friend, what are you doing with those boys?” “I am teaching them what faith is,” was the answer; “I am teaching them to trust me.” “But,” said Mr. Moody, “that little fellow there would not jump.” “No,” said the man, “he does not know me, he is not my boy.”’

Verse 10


‘Life and Incorruption.’

2 Timothy 1:10 (R.V.)

The more we contrast the conceptions of the life after death in the two Testaments, the more certain does it become that the life and incorruption of which our text speaks is absolutely a New Testament conception, and that it was Christ, and especially His Resurrection, that converted the dim and confused hopes of existence after death into the certainties of a true life in a true and incorruptible body.

I. And yet men often think and speak as if our hope of immortality and of a true life after death could be maintained independently of the historical fact that Christ rose again from the dead, and took again the body which had hung upon the cross. There are indeed, I fear, indications that this inability to recognise the certain and vital truth that not only our own future—the future of the individual—but the future of this world in which we dwell—yea, verily, and of the whole universe—are bound up with the fact of the Lord’s resurrection—there are indications, I say, that the ability to realise this is increasing rather than diminishing.

II. But it is on real union with Christ that the life and in-corruption which He brought to light alone can be vouchsafed to us. Our life is then bound up with His life. As His body was laid in the tomb, so will ours be laid in the chambers of the grave. As He, in soul and spirit, vouchsafed to enter the waiting world of the departed, so shall we enter that mystic realm. As He rose with His own veritable body, so shall we rise with our own bodies as those bodies shall have become inwardly fashioned during our earthly pilgrimage, by our deeds in the body, and by the tenor of our whole life and conversation.

—Bishop Ellicott.

Verse 12


‘I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.’

2 Timothy 1:12

St. Paul knows what none of the wise men of this world know. He knows his Saviour. Here we have an account of this knowledge and the use he made of it.

I. The deposit which St. Paul made.—He speaks of having ‘committed’ something—a remarkable expression, which indicates that the transaction is of great importance. Now what was it that St. Paul had committed? Without a doubt, he committed his soul. Why had he done so? It has been well said, because he was so convinced of its value. You cannot save yourself, you cannot sanctify yourself, and therefore if your soul is to be safe it must be placed in the hands of another. But St. Paul committed not only his soul, though it was the most precious thing he had, but himself, body, soul, and spirit; he committed his cares, his hopes, his prospects, all he desired, wished, and hoped for, he made a complete and entire surrender of everything he had to Jesus Christ.

II. The persuasion which He had about it.—What was the confidence he expressed about this deposit which he had made? What was his persuasion? ‘I am persuaded,’ he says, that ‘He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.’ What did he mean?

(a) That Christ was able to keep him from finally falling away.

(b) That He was able to keep him from being overwhelmed in the days of sorrow, temptation, discouragement, affliction, and darkness.

(c) That God was able to keep the soul which he had thus committed to Him from falling into sin. This is a far greater demand on his faith than any other. He believed Christ was ‘able to guard him from stumbling’ (Jude 1:24).

III. The ground upon which this persuasion rested.—It was personal knowledge of Him Whom he trusted. ‘I know Whom I have believed,’ not ‘what.’ Not the doctrines of the Gospel, though no man knew them better. The writer of the Epistle to the Romans was no novice in Christian doctrine, but he says nothing about doctrines. ‘I know Whom.’ Not a doctrine but a Person.

Rev. E. W. Moore.


‘During the last illness of the late Dr. Alexander, of Princeton, he was visited by a former student. After a few words of conversation had been exchanged, the venerable doctor said to the young disciple, “Give me some text to help me, quote me some text that will strengthen me for the last battle.” And the young man repeated the words, “I know ‘in’ Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” “No,” said the doctor, “that is not right; it is not ‘in Whom,’ it is ‘Whom.’ I will not have even a preposition between me and my Saviour.” “I know Whom.”’

Verse 14


‘That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost Which dwelleth in us.’

2 Timothy 1:14

There is no Church throughout the world that has a nobler or more sublime faith than the Church of England. What are we doing to preserve the sublimity of this faith? Are we trying to preserve its noble simplicity? Are we trying to do honour to our own Church, or are we content to be honoured by her in living on the glory of her past?

I. We ought to support such agencies as the Church uses to promote its efforts throughout the civilised world. Every Churchman ought to be a missionary in the best sense of the word. Every Churchman who believes that the Church represents the best symbol of God’s truth ought to subscribe to the utmost of his power to support the Church in all its agencies—both national and parochial.

II. We ought in our own circles to proclaim the Church’s faith.—We ought to present its claim to our friends; not to let ourselves be held back by that false liberalism which teaches that any form of faith is as good as another. We ought to feel that we have access to the Well of Living Water for which the whole world is athirst.

III. We ought to live our daily lives so as to set forth before men the moral and spiritual loveliness of the faith we have received. It is a shame to us that we see men and women outside the Church who are living holier, purer, and more devoted lives than we are. We ought to see that, little though our life may be, though we may be poor, men may be able to say that the faith in us has helped towards goodness and faithful service. Do not be Church people only in name. Do not let this faith seem to you merely a thing to argue about. Open your hearts to this faith which commends itself to your reason. Open your innermost spirit to this faith which alone can satisfy your soul. Let us live in it! Let us set it forth before men visibly in all that we think, in all that we do, in all that we are.


‘It is the Church of England which represents the religious genius of the country. The Church of England has made the British race what it is. It is the Church of England that struggled for long centuries to secure the liberty and freedom which is our boast to-day; it is the Church of England that broke down the tyranny of kings; it is the Church of England that shattered paralysing ecclesiasticism; it is the Church of England that gave us the Word of God in our own tongue; it is the Church of England which has established the schools, colleges, and universities for the advancement of learning; it is the Church of England that alone until quite recent times provided for the education of the poor. This may seem to us a very boastful theme, but it is a theme that you may take to the highest Court of History and substantiate for yourselves.’


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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