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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
1 Timothy 2

 

 

Verse 1

II.

(1) I exhort therefore.—Now Timothy was to begin to carry out his master St. Paul’s great charge—the charge which bade him teach all men to put their entire, their perfect, trust in the Saviour of sinners—by instructing the Church of Ephesus, in the first place, to pray constantly for all sorts and conditions of men. The detailed injunctions how the charge was to be carried out are introduced by the Greek particle oun, translated in our version by “therefore;” it may be paraphrased thus: “In pursuance of my great charge, I proceed by special details; in the first place, let prayers for all be offered by the congregation.”

Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.—Many attempts, some of them not very happy ones, have been made by grammarians and commentators to distinguish between these terms, each of which denotes prayer. On the whole, it may be assumed that the Greek word translated “supplications” signifies a request for particular benefits, and is a special form of the more general word rendered “prayers.” The third expression in the English version translated “intercessions” suggests a closer and more intimate communion with God on the part of the one praying. It speaks of drawing near God, of entering into free, familiar speech with Him. The Greek word suggests prayer in its most individual, urgent form. The fourth term, “giving of thanks,” expresses that which ought never to be absent from any of our devotions, gratitude for past mercies. Archbishop Trench remarks how this peculiar form of prayer will subsist in heaven when, in the very nature of things, all other forms of prayer will have ceased in the entire fruition of the things prayed for, for then only will the redeemed know how much they owe to their Lord. The word eucharist is derived from the Greek word used in this place—eucharistia—for in the Holy Communion the Church embodies its highest act of thanksgiving for the highest benefits received.

For all men.—Professor Reynolds well comments on the hardness of the task set us here—“It is difficult for us always to love all men, to think of all men as equally dear to God, or to regard all men as equally capable of being blessed. Timothy, after reading this letter, probably walked along the marble colonnade of the great temple of Artemis, or heard the hum of some twenty thousand Asiatic Greeks crowded in the vast theatre to witness the gladiatorial fight, or encountered a procession of Bacchantes, or turned into the synagogue on the side of the Coresias and saw the averted looks, and felt the bitter hatred of some old friends. We, with some knowledge of the modern world, have to look into the ‘hells’ upon earth; to survey the gold-fields and battle-fields; the African slave-hunts; the throngs and saloons of Pekin, Calcutta, and Paris; the monasteries of Tibet; and make prayers, petitions, intercessions, and thanksgivings, too, on behalf of all men. In the beginning of the Gospel, Timothy received this quiet injunction from the Apostle Paul. Now the once whispered word peals like the voice of many waters and mighty thunderings over the whole Church of God.”


Verse 2

(2) For kings, and for all that are in authority.—Without any special reference to the Roman emperors, the expression simply directs that prayer should be offered in all Christian congregations for the supreme authorities of the Roman empire, and especially of that particular province in which the church, where the prayer was offered, happened to be situate. Josephus especially mentions how a refusal on the part of the Jews to pray for Roman magistrates led to the great war with the empire which ended in their destruction as a separate nation.

A well-known passage in the Apology of Tertullian, written about a century and a quarter after St. Paul sent his first letter to Timothy, shows how well and carefully this charge of the great teacher, written to the Church in Ephesus, was kept in distant Carthage:—“We Christians. . . . do intercede for all the emperors that their lives may be prolonged, their government be secured to them, that their families may be preserved in safety, their senates faithful to them, their armies brave, their people honest, and that the whole empire may be at peace, and for whatever other things are desired by the people or the Cæsar.”

Early in the second century, Polycarp of Smyrna bears similar testimony to this practice in the early Church of praying publicly for their heathen rulers:—“Pray for all the saints; pray, too, for all kings and powers and rulers, and for your persecutors, and those that hate you, and for your cruel enemies.”

That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.—What now is the special object of this prayer for those in high authority and power? First, that through their wise rule the Christians might enjoy peace; and, second, that the temper of the people who prayed thus for the ruling powers might be so affected the constant repetition of such prayers: that all thoughts of revolt and resistance would be gradually stamped out.

St. Paul knew whom he was addressing. The Christian congregations of his age were largely made up of Jews. An intense longing to throw off the yoke of Rome pervaded the whole nation. The terrible events of the year 70 (only four or five years at most from the time of writing this Epistle) show how deep-seated was their hatred of the stranger. No Christian, however, was implicated in that fatal rebellion; so thoroughly had the teaching of St. Paul and his fellow Apostles done its work among the Jewish followers of the Crucified.

In all godliness and honesty.—The word rendered “honesty” is better translated gravity, or decorum. These words are only used by St. Paul in his Pastoral Epistles, where “godliness” occurs nine times, and “gravity” three times. The sphere, so to speak, in which St. Paul’s ideal Christian must walk during his quiet, unobtrusive pilgrimage, was reverence and decorum.


Verse 3

(3) For this is good and acceptable.—That prayer be offered for all sorts and conditions of men is good and acceptable before God.

In the sight of God our Saviour.—Here, as in 1 Timothy 1:1, this title of “Saviour” is given to the Father, and is in this place singularly applicable, as it immediately precedes the famous statement of the next verse, respecting the boundless mercy of the Eternal.


Verse 4

(4) Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.—Here St. Paul gives some explanation of his exhortation, that “the congregation should pray for all men.” Our prayers after all—for those far off, as well as for those near—will be in strict harmony with the will of God. “Imitate God,” writes St. Chrysostom;” if He wills that all men should be saved, it is surely natural that prayer should be offered for all; if He willed that all should be saved, do thou will it now; and if in earnest thou wiliest it, then pray.”

One or two points must ever be held in mind when this great statement of St. Paul’s is used as a proof of “Universal Redemption.” We must remember the position it occupies in the argument, it being only introduced as a reason for the exhortation to pray for all. Then the words must be looked at very carefully. God’s-will is not to save (sôsai) all—if that had been His sovereign will He would have saved all; but His will is that all should be saved—all should come to the knowledge of the truth; not to the knowledge of the mere theoretical, but of the practical and saving truth as revealed in the gospel. “In other words, through the sacrifice and the death of Christ all are rendered capable of salvation (salvabiles); that some are indisputably not saved, is not due to any outward circumscription or inefficacy of the divine will, but to man’s rejection of the special means of salvation which God has been pleased to appoint, and to which it is His divine will that man’s salvation should be limited. Redemption is universal, yet conditional—all may be saved, yet all will not be saved, because all will not conform to God’s appointed condition.”—Bishop Ellicott.


Verse 5

(5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.—“For.” This gives the reason why it is good and well-pleasing in the sight of God that Christians should pray for all—for there is one Saviour, God the Father, who wills that all should be saved, and there is one Mediator, Christ Jesus, who has given Himself as ransom for all. Surely then, to us who call ourselves by the name of Christ, the fate of the heathen who as yet know not Christ cannot be a matter of indifference. We must in our praise and prayer include these strangers whom the Father wills should come to Him, for whose sake the Son has given his life.

The man Christ Jesus.—St. Paul with special emphasis speaks of the “one Mediator between God and man” as “the man Christ Jesus,” no doubt wishing to bring into prominence the true humanity of the Lord. It is also a silent refutation of the docetic errors of some of the false teachers, of whose doctrines Timothy was to beware. These would have persuaded men that the Christ Jesus who was nailed to the cross was no man, but simply a phantom.

The human nature of Christ is also specially mentioned because in this state He performed His office as Mediator. In the statement of the next verse we find another reason for St. Paul’s allusion here to the fact of the Mediator being a man. The Messiah must have taken the human nature upon Him before He could have suffered that death which was the ransom of all. Again, the human nature of the Mediator is brought forward to show that the mediatorial office extended over the whole human race—a grand thought, expressed in the following words—“who gave Himself a ransom for all.”


Verse 6

(6) Who gave himself a ransom for all.—The declaration (of 1 Timothy 2:5) that there was one God for fallen man would have been scarcely a joyful proclamation had it not been immediately followed by the announcement that between that one God and sinning man there was a mediator, Now (in 1 Timothy 2:6) we have in a few words the inspired description of the manner in which the Mediator performed His office and work; of His own free sovereign will; He yielded up Himself to death as the price of the redemption of all mankind—His life in exchange for their forfeited lives.

St. Paul’s teaching here is very definite, and is utterly irreconcilable with much of the popular (so-called) theology of the day, which rejects this great Christian doctrine, so clearly taught here by St. Paul, of a “satisfactio vicaria.” This teaching asserts, that without pleading the death of Christ, we may, if we please, approach and find access to the Father, and such teaching as this passage shows is irreconcilable with gospel truth.

To be testified in due time.—Better rendered, “witness of which was to be borne in its own times. The meaning of the words is,” Jesus Christ in the eternal counsels, gave Himself to death as the price of the redemption of fallen man; at the appointed and fitting season He endured this death—this death was the witness to the truth of the tremendous offering made in the counsels of the eternal and ever-blessed Trinity. So St. Chrysostom, who asserts that “the witness to be borne” was given in the death and suffering of the Lord.


Verse 7

(7) Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle . . .—Whereunto, or “for which witness.” To announce which witness—the witness being the suffering and the death of Christ—St. Paul was ordained an Apostle—the reference being entirely to what preceded.

I speak the truth . . . and lie not.—The warmth with which St. Paul here asserted his divinely conferred commission as preacher and Apostle, was not called out by any desire on his part to seize an occasion of asserting in the presence of his enemies, the false heretical teachers of Ephesus, his especial rank and prerogatives as an Apostle chosen and commissioned by the Most High. These fiery and earnest words had no private reference to him, St. Paul, or to his especial claims to be heard, but were uttered solely in view of the surpassing magnitude of the message with which he was charged—solely to bear a weighty and imposing testimony to the truth of his assertion, which so many were ready and eager to dispute—the assertion that the gospel of Jesus Christ was a message of glad tidings, was an offer of salvation, not to a people, but to a world.

A teacher of the Gentiles.—This specifies more clearly the especial duties of his apostleship, not perhaps without some reference to the peculiar fitness which marked him out as the declarer of the divine will in respect to this gracious offer of redemption to the isles of the scattered countless Gentiles.

In faith and verity.—Better rendered, in faith and truth. These words specify the sphere in which the Apostle performed his great mission. The first, “in faith,” refers to St. Paul’s own personal faith in Jesus—the grand motive power of his life and work; the second, “in truth,” refers to the truth of Christianity—to the well-known facts of the gospel story. Or, in other words, St. Paul carried on his ceaseless labours, within gathering fresh and ever fresh strength from the exhaustless spring of his own loving, mighty faith in Jesus, and without appealing to the generally well-known incidents of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the truth of which all might test. In those days there were even many eye-witnesses of the Passion still living.


Verse 8

(8) I will therefore.—The Apostle here again turns to the subject of “public prayer,” now giving directions respecting the persons who should offer their prayers, and also telling them how these public requests to God should be made. “I will therefore” expresses on St. Paul’s part no mere wish or desire, but it is the expression of his solemn apostolical authority. It might be rendered, I desire therefore.

That men pray every where . . .—Better rendered, in every place. The greater liberty which women, under the teaching of Christ, had enjoyed; the new position they occupied in the Christian commonwealth; the distinguished services many of them had been permitted to accomplish in the Master’s service—in such instances as the Marys, Dorcas, Priscilla, Lydia, and others—had no doubt contributed to a certain self-assertion on the part of female converts in the Ephesian congregations, which threatened grave disorders in the conduct of divine worship. St. Paul, in his directions respecting divine service in the Christian assemblies, follows the custom here of the Jewish synagogue, where women were forbidden to speak. Men, said St. Paul, in every place where a congregation in the name of Christ was gathered together, were to be the offerers of prayer. The word “everywhere” seems a memory of the Lord’s words to the woman of Samaria, “Believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.”

Lifting up holy hands.—It was the Jewish practice, not only in taking a solemn oath—or in blessing—but also in prayer, to lift up the hands—Compare Psalms 28:2; Psalms 63:4. This seems to have been generally adopted by the early Christians as the attitude in prayer. See Clem. Rom., To the Corinthians, chap. 29 “Holy hands;” see Psalms 24:4; Psalms 26:6; “holy”—that is, unstained with wanton sins.

Without wrath and doubting.—Here allusion is doubtless made to religious disputes and contentions among the believers themselves—“doubting” is better translated by disputing. These angry feelings can have no place in the heart of one who really prays, whether in public or in private.


Verse 9

(9) In like manner also, that women.—The Apostle continues his official injunctions in reference to public prayer. “Likewise,” he goes on to say, “I desire that women, when they pray”—women also in the congregation had their duties as well as the men—while the latter were directed to conduct and lead the public prayer, the women who worshipped with them were enjoined, as their part of the solemn service, to be present, adorned with neatness of apparel and modesty of demeanour, and the holy reputation of kind deeds.

Adorn themselves in modest apparel.—This direction to Christian women was not intended to apply to their ordinary dress in the world, but simply explained to the sisters of the Ephesian flock that their place in public worship was one of quiet attention—that their reverence and adoration must be shown not by thrusting themselves forward with a view to public teaching or public praying, but by being present and taking part silently—avoiding especially in these services anything like a conspicuous dress or showy ornaments—anything, in fact, which would be likely to arouse attention, or distract the thoughts of others.

With shamefacedness and sobriety.—These expressions denote the inward feelings with which the Apostle desires the devout Christian women to come to divine service; the first signifies “the innate shrinking from anything unbecoming.” The second, sobriety, includes the idea of self-restraint—the conquest over all wanton thought and desire.

Not with broided hair.—Comp. 1 Peter 3:3; Isaiah 3:24. “Broided:” the modern form is “braided.” Some modern editions give “broidered,” apparently by mistake.

Or gold.—Probably, the “gold” is supposed to be twined among the plaits of the hair. These elaborate adornments, so likely to catch the eye at divine worship, were quite inconsistent with Christian simplicity, besides being calculated to distract the attention of their fellow worshippers, male as well as female. On this question of seemly, quiet apparel, in an assembly gathered for divine worship, see the difficult verse, 1 Corinthians 11:10, where another and a still graver reason for modest demeanour and apparel of women is alleged—“because of the angels.”

Pearls, or costly array.—Ear-rings, necklaces, bracelets, are included here; these costly ornaments were worn by the ladies of the luxurious age in which St. Paul lived, in great profusion.


Verse 10

(10) But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.—That is to say, “Let them adorn themselves in that which is befitting women who profess godliness—viz., in good works.” The Apostle, still speaking of women’s true part in public divine service—urges that their works should be in accord with their words of prayer—tells them that a woman’s truest and most beautiful ornament consisted in those tender works of mercy and pity—her peculiar province—in other words, that they, like Dorcas of Joppa, whose praise is in the Book of Life, “should be full of good works and alms deeds” (Acts 9:36).


Verse 11

(11) Let the woman learn in silence.—The thought of public ministration is still in the Apostle’s mind, when he gives this injunction. The very questioning on difficult points is forbidden them at the public assembly (1 Corinthians 14:35). So averse was St. Paul to anything which might mar the quiet solemnity of these meetings for prayer and praise and authoritative instruction.

This prohibition to speak publicly in assemblies for prayer and praise in the case of Christian women, was renewed in the North African Church, at the Council of Carthage, held A.D. 398. The same Council, however, specially permitted women to teach those of their own sex in private; indeed, the power to teach “ignorant and rustic women” was required as one qualification in deaconesses. The employment of deaconesses as private instructors seems to have been the custom generally in the Eastern Churches.


Verse 12

(12) But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.—The whole purpose of these weighty admonitions of the great founder of the Gentile Churches relegates Christian women to their own legitimate sphere of action and influence—the quiet of their own homes. St. Paul caught well the spirit of his Master here. He raised once and for ever the women of Christ out of the position of degradation and intellectual inferiority they had occupied in the various pagan systems of the East and West, and taught with all the weight of an Apostle—of an accredited teacher of divine wisdom—that woman was a fellow-heir with man of the glories of the kingdom,—where sex would exist no longer; but while teaching this great and elevating truth, St. Paul shows what is the only proper sphere in which woman should work, and in which she should exercise her influence and power; while man’s work and duties lay in the busy world without, woman’s work was exclusively confined to the quiet stillness of home. The Apostle then proceeds to ground these injunctions respecting the duties in public and private of the two sexes upon the original order of creation, and upon the circumstances which attended the fall.


Verse 13

(13) For Adam was first formed, then Eve.—The Holy Spirit seems often (comp. especially Galatians 3:16 and following verses, and 4:22 and following verses, and 1 Corinthians 10:1-10) to have moved St. Paul to weave into the tapestry of his arguments and exhortations to the different churches, facts and principles drawn from Old Testament history. His early training in the great Rabbinical schools of Jerusalem had well supplied him with a vast store of this Old Testament learning.

The argument here based on priority of creation is much assisted by the additional statement of 1 Corinthians 11:9, “neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” This teaching of St. Paul’s respecting the public position of woman as regards man, in which he shows that she is to hold a subordinate place—is based upon no arbitrary human speculation, but upon God’s original order in creation—that divine order which first created man, and after man’s creation, formed woman as his helpmeet.


Verse 14

(14) And Adam was not deceived.—Priority in creation was the ground alleged by St. Paul as the reason why the woman was never to exercise authority over man, the eldest born of God. “Adam was not deceived;” the Apostle now refers to the general basis of his direction respecting the exclusion of women from all public praying and teaching contained in 1 Timothy 2:9-12. The argument here is a singular one—Adam and Eve both sinned, but Adam was not deceived. He sinned, quite aware all the while of the magnitude of the sin he was voluntarily committing. Eve, on the other hand, was completely, thoroughly deceived (the preposition with which the Greek verb is compounded here conveying the idea of thoroughness)—she succumbed to the serpent’s deceit. Both were involved in the sin, but only one (Eve) allowed herself to be deluded. So Bengel, “Deceptio indicat minus robur in intellectu, atque hic nervus est cur mulieri non liceat docere.” Prof. Reynolds thus comments on the argument of the Apostle:—“This may sound to our ears a far-fetched argument, when used to discountenance female usurpation of intellectual supremacy. It was, however, a method current at the time to look for and find in the Scriptures the concrete expressions of almost all philosophical judgments. At the present day we could hardly find a more vivid illustration of the essential difference between the masculine and feminine nature. If there be this distinction between the sexes, that distinction still furnishes the basis of an argument and a reason for the advice here rendered. The catastrophe of Eden is the beacon for all generations when the sexes repeat the folly of Eve and Adam, and exchange their distinctive position and functions.”


Verse 15

(15) Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing.—The last words are more accurately and forcibly rendered—through the childbearing. With that tender and winning courtesy to which, no doubt, humanly speaking, the great missionary owes so much of his vast influence over human hearts, St. Paul, now anxious lest he had wounded with his severe words and stern precepts his Ephesian sisters in Christ, closes his charge to women with a few touching words, bright with the glorious promise they contained. Though their life duties must be different from those of men—yet for them, too, as for men, there was one glorious goal; but for them—the women of Christ—the only road to the goal was the faithful, true carrying out of the quiet home duties he had just sketched out for them. In other words, women will win the great salvation; but if they would win it, they must fulfil their destiny; they must acquiesce in all the conditions of a woman’s life—in the forefront of which St. Paul places the all-important functions and duties of a mother.

This is apparently the obvious meaning of the Apostle’s words—all this lies on the surface—but beneath all this the reverent reader can hardly fail to see another and deeper reference (the presence of the article, “through the childbearing,” gives us the clue)—“she shall be saved by THE childbearing” (the Incarnation) by the relation in which woman stood to the Messiah, in consequence of the primal prophecy that her seed (not man’s) should bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), the peculiar function of her sex, from its relation to her Saviour, “shall be the medium of her salvation.” (See Bishop Ellicott, in loco.)

If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.—But let no one think that the true saintly woman, painted with such matchless skill by St. Paul, satisfies the conditions of her life by merely fulfilling the duties of a mother.

She must besides, if she would win her crown, hold fast to the Master’s well-known teaching, which enjoins on all His own disciples, men as well as women, faith and love, holiness and modesty. The last word, “modesty,” or discretion, or sobriety (all poor renderings of the Greek sophrosune, which includes, besides, the idea of a fight with and a victory over self), brings back the thoughts to the beautiful Pauline conception of a true woman, who wins her sweet and weighty power in the world by self-effacement.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-timothy-2.html. 1905.

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Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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