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This chapter, 2 Timothy 2:0, is made up of various exhortations and encouragements to duty. The apostle exhorts Timothy to be strong in the Christian graces 2 Timothy 2:1; to commit the great trust which he had received to faithful men 2 Timothy 2:2; to endure hardships like a good soldier 2 Timothy 2:3-7, and refers him:
(a)To the case of one who goes to war, whose great business it is to please him in whose service he is 2 Timothy 2:4;
(b)To the case of one who strives for a crown at the games 2 Timothy 2:5, and,
(c)To the husbandman who looks onward for the reward of his labor; 2 Timothy 2:6.
He then, in order to encourage him to be patient in enduring the trials to which he would be exposed, refers him.
(a)To the certainty of the truth of that religion in whose cause he would suffer 2 Timothy 2:8;
(b)To his own case, reminding him how much he had endured in that cause 2 Timothy 2:9-10;
(c)To the fact that our sufferings here will be crowned with certain glory hereafter 2 Timothy 2:11-12; and,
(d)To the assurance that the Lord Jesus will be faithful to all his promises to his people; 2 Timothy 2:13.
These things the apostle then exhorts him to press upon the hearts of others, that they might not waste their time in unprofitable pursuits, but might engage in the same great and arduous struggle for securing the reward; 2 Timothy 2:14. He then exhorts Timothy to study to perform his duties in such a way that he would not be ashamed and to avoid the unimportant strifes which were then raging; and to enforce this, he refers to a real case with which Timothy was acquainted - that of Hymeneus and Philetus, who, by unprofitable speculations, had been led to deny a fundamental doctrine of religion; 2 Timothy 2:15-18. Yet, Paul says, he should not be discouraged because some had been led into dangerous errors. The foundation of God remained firm. Those that were truly his were known, and would not apostatize; 2 Timothy 2:19. In illustration of this, and to show that it was to be expected that all would not honor religion, the apostle refers to a house in which there were all sorts of vessels, some to honor and some to dishonor, and says that, if any one would endeavor to free himself from all that was base and impure, he would be a vessel meet for the use of the Master; 2 Timothy 2:20-21. To accomplish this, he gives Timothy various directions respecting his conduct. He was to flee from youthful lusts; he was to follow righteousness, faith, charity, and peace; he was to avoid foolish questions; he was to be an example of gentleness and meekness, and he was patiently to instruct those that were of a different character; 2 Timothy 2:22-26.
Thou therefore - In view of the fact stated in the previous chapter, that many had turned away from the apostle, and had forsaken the paths of truth.
Be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus; - compare the notes at Ephesians 6:10. The meaning is, Be strong, relying on the grace which the Lord Jesus only can impart.
And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses - Margin, “by.” Before, or in the presence of, many witnesses. Perhaps he refers to a solemn charge which he gave him, in the presence of the church, when he was ordained. It is by no means improbable that such a charge was given then to a newly ordained minister, as it is now. On such an occasion, the apostle would be likely to state a summary of Christian doctrine, - (compare the notes at 2 Timothy 1:13), - and to exhort Timothy to a faithful adherence to it.
The same commit thou to faithful men - In the same way as those things have been committed to you. The reference is undoubtedly to ordination to the ministerial office. Timothy was to see that those only were admitted to the ministry who were qualified to understand the truths of religion, and to communicate them to others. This is a clear warrant for ministers to set apart others to the same sacred office. It does not prove that the people are not at liberty to choose their own pastor, but only that those in the ministry are to set apart others to the same office with themselves. There is, doubtless, to be a “succession” of ministers in the church; but the true line of the “succession” is to be found in good men who are qualified to teach, and who have the spirit of Christ, and not merely in those who have been ordained.
Who shall be able to teach others also - On the qualifications of ministers, see the notes at 1 Timothy 3:2-7.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ - Such hardships as a soldier is called to endure. The apostle supposes that a minister of the gospel might be called to endure hardships, and that it is reasonable that he should be as ready to do it as a soldier is. On the hardships which he endured himself, see the notes at 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. Soldiers often endure great privations. Taken from their homes and friends; exposed to cold, or heat, or storms, or fatiguing marches; sustained on coarse fare, or almost destitute of food, they are often compelled to endure as much as the human frame can bear, and often indeed, sink under their burdens, and die. If, for reward or their country’s sake, they are willing to do this, the soldier of the cross should be willing to do it for his Saviour’s sake, and for the good of the human race. Hence, let no man seek the office of the ministry as a place of ease. Let no one come into it merely to enjoy himself. Let no one enter it who is not prepared to lead a soldier’s life and to welcome hardship and trial as his portion. He would make a bad soldier, who, at his enlistment, should make it a condition that he should be permitted to sleep on a bed of down, and always be well clothed and fed, and never exposed to peril, or compelled to pursue a wearisome march. Yet do not some men enter the ministry, making these the conditions? And would they enter the ministry on any other terms?
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life - Having alluded to the soldier, and stated one thing in which the Christian minister is to resemble him, another point of resemblance is suggested to the mind of the apostle. Neither the minister nor the soldier is to be encumbered with the affairs of this life, and the one should not be more than the other. This is always a condition in becoming a soldier. He gives up his own business during the time for which he is enlisted, and devotes himself to the service of his country. The farmer leaves his plow, and the mechanic his shop, and the merchant his store, and the student his books, and the lawyer his brief; and neither of them expect to pursue these things while engaged in the service of their country. It would be wholly impracticable to carry on the plans of a campaign, if each one of these classes should undertake to prosecute his private business. See this fully illustrated from the Rules of War among the Romans, by Grotius, “in loc.” Roman soldiers were not allowed to marry, or to engage in any husbandry or trade; and they were forbidden to act as tutors to any person, or curators to any man’s estate, or proctors in the cause of other men. The general principle was, that they were excluded from those relations, agencies, and engagements, which it was thought would divert their minds from that which was to be the sole object of pursuit. So with the ministers of the gospel. It is equally improper for them to “entangle” themselves with the business of a farm or plantation; with plans of speculation and gain, and with any purpose of worldly aggrandizement. The minister of the gospel accomplishes the design of his appointment only when he can say in sincerity, that he “is not entangled with the affairs of this life;” compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.
That he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier - That is, him who has enlisted him, or in whose employ he is. His great object is to approve himself to him. It is not to pursue his own plans, or to have his own will, or to accumulate property or fame for himself. His will is absorbed in the will of his commander, and his purpose is accomplished if he meet with his approbation. Nowhere else is it so true that the will of one becomes lost in that of another, as in the case of the soldier. In an army it is contemplated that there shall be but one mind, one heart, one purpose - that of the commander; and that the whole army shall be as obedient to that as the members of the human body are to the one will that controls all. The application of this is obvious. The grand purpose of the minister of the gospel is to please Christ. He is to pursue no separate plans, and to have no separate will, of his own; and it is contemplated that the whole “Corps” of Christian ministers and members of the churches shall be as entirely subordinate to the will of Christ, as an army is to the orders of its chief.
And if a man also strive for masteries - As in the Grecian games. See this favorite illustration of Paul explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:24 ff.
Yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully - In conformity with the rules of the games. See Grotius, in loc. No one could obtain the prize unless he had complied with all the laws of the games, and had thus given to those with whom he contended, a fair opportunity to succeed. “In those contests, he who transgressed the rules in the least matter, not only failed of the prize, even though the apparent victor, but was sometimes disgraced and punished.” Pictorial Bible. So the apostle here represents the Christian minister as engaged in a struggle or conflict for the crown. He says that he could not hope to win it unless he should comply with all the laws by which it is conferred; unless he should subdue every improper propensity, and make an effort like that evinced by the combatants at the Olympic games; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.
The husbandman that laboureth - The margin is, “labouring first, must be partaker.” The idea, according to the translation in the text, is, that there is a fitness or propriety (δει dei) that the man who cultivates the earth, should enjoy the fruits of his labor. See the same image explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:10. But if this be the meaning here, it is not easy to see why the apostle introduces it. According to the marginal reading, the word “first” is introduced in connection with the word “labour” - “labouring first, must be partaker.” That is, it is a great law that the husbandman must work before be receives a harvest. This sense will accord with the purpose of the apostle. It was to remind Timothy that labor must precede reward; that if a man would reap, he must sow; that he could hope for no fruits, unless he toiled for them. The point was not that the husbandman would be the first one who would partake of the fruits; but that he must first labor before he obtained the reward. Thus understood, this would be an encouragement to Timothy to persevere in his toils, looking onward to the reward. The Greek will bear this construction, though it is not the most obvious one.
Consider what I say; - see the notes at 1 Timothy 4:15. The sense is “Think of the condition of the soldier, and the principles on which he is enlisted; think of the aspirant for the crown in the Grecian games; think of the farmer, patiently toiling in the prospect of the distant harvest; and then go to your work with a similar spirit.” These things are worth attention. When the minister of the gospel thinks of his hardships, of his struggles against an evil world, and of his arduous and constant discouraging toil, let him think of the soldier, of the man who struggles for this world’s honors, and of the patient farmer - AND be content. How patiently do they bear all, and yet for what inferior rewards!
And the Lord give thee understanding in all things - Enable you to see the force of these considerations, and to apply them to your own case. Such are often the discouragements of the ministry; so prone is the mind to despondency, that we need the help of the Lord to enable us to apply the most obvious considerations, and to derive support from the most plain and simple truths and promises.
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead - Or rather, perhaps, “Remember Jesus Christ; him who was raised from the dead.” The idea seems not to be, as our translators supposed, that he was to reflect on the fact that he was raised from the dead; but rather that he was to think of the Saviour himself. “Think of the Saviour, now raised up from the dead after all the sorrows of this life, and let this encourage you to bear your trials.” There is nothing better fitted to enable us to endure the labors and trials of this life, than to think of the Saviour. On the phrase “seed of David,” see the notes at Romans 1:3.
According to my gospel - The gospel which I preach; see the notes at 2 Thessalonians 2:14.
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil-doer - as if I were a violator of the laws. That is, I am treated as if I were a criminal.
Even unto bonds - As if I were one of the words kind of malefactors; see the notes at Ephesians 6:20. During the apostle’s first imprisonment at Rome, he was permitted to “dwell in his own hired house,” though guarded by a soldier, and probably chained to him; see the notes at Acts 28:16, Acts 28:30. What was his condition in his second imprisonment, during which this Epistle was written, we have no means of knowing with certainty. It is probable, however, that he was subjected to much more rigid treatment than he had been in the first instance. The tradition is, that he and Peter were together in the Mamertine prison at Rome; and the place is still shown in which it is said that they were confined. The Mamertine prisons are of great antiquity. According to Livy, they were constructed by Ancus Martius, and enlarged by Servius Tullius. The lower prison is supposed to have been once a quarry, and to have been at one time occupied as a granary. These prisons are on the descent of the Capitoline Mount, toward the Forum. They consist of two apartments, one over the other, built with large, uncemented stones. There is no entrance to either, except by a small aperture in the roof, and by a small hole in the upper floor, leading to the cell below, without any staircase to either. The upper prison is twenty-seven feet long, by twenty wide; the lower one is elliptical, and measures twenty feet by ten. In the lower one is a small spring, which is said at Rome to have arisen at the command of Peter, to enable him to baptize his keepers, Processus and Martianus, with 47 companions, whom he converted. No certain reliance can be placed on any part of this tradition, though in itself there is no improbability in supposing that these prisons may have been used for confining Christians, and the apostle Paul among others. Dr. Burton says that a more horrible place for the confinement of a human being can scarcely be conceived.
But the word of God is not bound - This is one of Paul’s happy turns of thought; compare the notes at Acts 26:29. The meaning is plain. The gospel was prospered. that could not be lettered and imprisoned. It circulated with freedom. even when he who was appointed to preach it was in chains; see Philippians 1:13-14. As this was the great matter, his own imprisonment was of comparatively little consequence. What may befall us is of secondary importance. The grand thing is the triumph of truth on the earth; and well may we bear privations and sorrows, if the gospel moves on in triumph.
Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes; - see the notes at 2 Corinthians 1:6. The sense is, What I suffer is in the cause of the church, spoken of here, as it is often, as chosen, or elected; see the notes at Ephesians 1:4.
That they may also obtain the salvation, ... - Their salvation, though they, were elected, could not be secured without proper efforts. The meaning of the apostle here is, that he was willing to suffer if he might save others; and any one ought to be willing to suffer in order to secure the salvation of the elect - for it was an object for which the Redeemer was willing to lay down his life.
It is a faithful saying - Or, rather, that which he was about to say was worthy of entire credence and profound attention; see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:15. The object is to encourage Timothy to bear trials by the hope of salvation.
For if we be dead with him - see the notes at Romans 6:8.
We shall also live with him - This was a sort of maxim, or a settled point, which is often referred to in the Bible; see the Romans 6:3-5 notes; John 11:25 note; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 note.
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him - The meaning is, that the members will be treated as the Head is. We become united with him by faith, and, if we share his treatment on earth, we shall share his triumphs in heaven; see the notes at Romans 8:17.
If we deny him, he also will deny us; - see the notes at Matthew 10:32-33.
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful - This cannot mean that, if we live in sin, he will certainly save us, as if he had made any promise to the elect, or formed any purpose that he would save them; whatever might be their conduct; because:
(1) He had just said that if we deny him he will deny us; and,
(2) There is no such promise in the Bible, and no such purpose has been formed. The promise is, that be that is a believer shall be saved, and there is no purpose to save any but such as lead holy lives. The meaning must be, that if we are unbelieving and unfaithful, Christ will remain true to his word, and we cannot hope to be saved. The object of the apostle evidently is, to excite Timothy to fidelity in the performance of duty, and to encourage him to bear trials, by the assurance that we cannot hope to escape if we are not faithful to the cause of the Saviour. This interpretation accords with the design which he had in view.
He cannot deny himself - Implying that it would be a denial of his very nature to save those who are unfaithful. He is holy; and how can he save one who is unholy? His very nature is purity; and how can he save one who has no purity? Let no one, then, suppose that, because he is elected, he is safe, if he lives in sin. The electing purpose of God, indeed, makes salvation sure; but it is only for those who lead righteous lives. Nothing would be mere dishonorable for God than to resolve to save a man that lived habitually in sin; and if that were the doctrine of election, it would deserve all the opprobrium that has ever been heaped upon it.
Of these things put them in remembrance - These great principles in regard to the kingdom of Christ. They would be as useful to others as they were for Timothy, to whom they were specially addressed.
Charging them before the Lord - In the presence of the Lord, implying that it was a very important matter; see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:18.
That they strive not about words to no profit; - see the notes at 1Ti 1:6; 1 Timothy 6:4.
But to the subverting of the hearers - Turning them away from the simplicity of faith. It is rare, indeed, that a religious controversy does not produce this effect, and this is commonly the case, where, as often happens, the matter in dispute is of little importance.
Study to show thyself approved unto God - Give diligence 2 Peter 2:10, or make an effort so to discharge the duties of the ministerial office as to meet the divine approbation. The object of the ministry is not to please men. Such doctrines should be preached, and such plans formed, and such a manner of life pursued, as God will approve. To do this demands study or care - for there are many temptations to the opposite course; there are many things the tendency of which is to lead a minister to seek popular favor rather than the divine approval. If any man please God, it will be as the result of deliberate intention and a careful life.
A workman that needeth not to be ashamed - A man faithfully performing his duty, so that when he looks over what he has done, he may not blush.
Rightly dividing the word of truth - The word here rendered “rightly dividing,” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, “to cut straight, to divide right;” and the allusion here may be to a steward who makes a proper distribution to each one under his care of such things as his office and their necessities require; compare the notes at Matthew 13:52. Some have supposed that there is an allusion here to the Jewish priest, cutting or dividing the sacrifice into proper parts; others, that the allusion is to the scribes dividing the law into sections; others, to a carver distributing food to the guests at a feast. Robinson (Lexicon) renders it, “rightly proceeding as to the word of truth;” that is, rightfully and skillfully teaching the word of truth. The idea seems to be, that the minister of the gospel is to make a proper distribution of that word, adapting his instructions to the circumstances and wants of his hearers, and giving to each that which will be fitted to nourish the soul for heaven.
But shun profane and vain babblings, - see the notes at 1 Timothy 6:20.
For they will increase unto more ungodliness - Their tendency is to alienate the soul from God, and to lead to impiety. Such kinds of disputation are not merely a waste of time, they are productive of positive mischief. A man fond of contention in religious things is seldom one who has much love for the practical duties of piety, or any very deep sense of the distinction between right and wrong. You will not usually look for him in the place of prayer, nor can you expect his aid in the conversion of sinners, nor will you find that he has any very strict views of religious obligation.
And their word - The word, or the discourses of those who love vain and idle disputations.
Will eat as doth a canker - Margin, “gangrene.” This word - γάγγραινα gangraina - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is derived from γραιω graiō, γραινω grainō, to devour, corrode,” and means “gangrene” or “mortification” - the death of a part, spreading, unless arrested, by degrees over the whole body. The words rendered “will eat,” mean “will have nutriment;” that is, will spread over and consume the healthful parts. It will not merely destroy the parts immediately affected, but will extend into the surrounding healthy parts and destroy them also. So it is with erroneous doctrines. They will not merely eat out the truth in the particular matter to which they refer, but they will also spread over and corrupt other truths. The doctrines of religion are closely connected, and are dependent on each other - like the different parts of the human body. One cannot be corrupted without affecting those adjacent to it, and unless checked, the corruption will soon spread over the whole.
Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus - In regard to Hymenaeus, see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:20. Of Philetus nothing more is known. They have gained an undesirable immortality, destined to be known to the end of time only as the advocates of error.
Who concerning the truth have erred - To what extent they had erred is unknown. Paul mentions only one point - that pertaining to the resurrection; but says that this was like a gangrene. It would certainly, unless checked, destroy all the other doctrines of religion. No man can safely hold a single error, any more than he can safely have one part of his body in a state of mortification.
Saying that the resurrection is past already - It is not known in what form they held this opinion. It may have been, as Augustine supposes, that they taught that there was no resurrection but that which occurs in the soul when it is recovered from the death of sin, and made to live anew. Or it may be that they held that those who had died had experienced all the resurrection which they ever would, by passing into another state, and receiving at death a spiritual body fitted to their mode of being in the heavenly world. Whatever was the form of the opinion, the apostle regarded it as a most dangerous error, for just views of the resurrection undoubtedly lie at the foundation of correct apprehensions of the Christian system; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.
And overthrow the faith of some - That is, on this point, and as would appear on all the correlative subjects of Christian belief; compare 1 Timothy 1:19-20.
Nevertheless the foundation of God is sure - Margin, “steady.” The meaning is, that though some had been turned away by the arts of these errorists, yet the foundation of the church which God had laid remained firm; compare Ephesians 2:20, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” As long as this foundation remained firm, there was no reason to be troubled from the few instances of apostasy which had occurred; compare Psalms 11:3. It is not uncommon to compare the church to a building erected on a solid foundation; Ephesians 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 3:9-10; Matthew 16:18.
Having this seal - Or rather a seal with this inscription. The word “seal” is sometimes used to denote the instrument by which an impression is made, and sometimes the impression or inscription itself. A seal is used for security Matthew 27:66, or as a mark of genuineness; Revelation 9:4. The seal here is one that was affixed to the foundation, and seems to refer to some inscription on the foundation-stone which always remained there, and which denoted the character and design of the edifice. The allusion is to the custom, in rearing an edifice, of inscribing the name of the builder and the design of the edifice on the cornerstone. See Rosenmuller, Alte undneue Morgenland, No. 405. So the church of Christ is a building reared by the hands of God. Its foundation has been firmly and securely laid, and on that foundation there is an inscription always remaining which determines the character of the edifice.
The Lord knoweth them that are his - This is one of the inscriptions on the foundation-stone of the church, which seems to mark the character of the building. It always stands there, no matter who apostatizes. It is at the same time a fearful inscription - showing that no one can deceive God; that he is intimately acquainted with all who enter that building; and that in the multitudes which enter there, the friends and the foes of God are intimately known. He can separate his own friends from all others, and his constant care will be extended to all who are truly his own, to keep them from falling. This has the appearance of being a quotation, but no such passage is found in the Old Testament in so many words. In Nahum 1:7, the following words are found: “And he knoweth them that trust in him;” and it is possible that Paul may have had that in his eye; but it is not necessary to suppose that he designed it as a quotation. A phrase somewhat similar to this is found in 1 Numbers 16:5, “the Lord will show who are his,” rendered in the Septuagint, “God knoweth who are his;” and Whitby supposes that this is the passage referred to. But whether Paul had these passages in view or not, it is clear that he meant to say that it was one of the fundamental things in religion, that God knew who were his own people, and that he would preserve them from the danger of making shipwreck of their faith.
And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity - This is the other seal or inscription which is made on the foundation which God has laid. The foundation has two inscriptions - the first implying that God knows all who are his own people; the other, that all who are his professed people should depart from evil. This is not found in so many words in the Old Testament, and, like the former, it is not to be regarded as a quotation. The meaning is, that it is an elementary principle in the true church, that all who become members of it should lead holy lives. It was also true that they would lead holy lives, and amidst all the defections of errorists, and all their attempts to draw away others from the true faith, those might be known to be the true people of God who did avoid evil.
But in a great house - Still keeping up the comparison of the church with a building. The idea is, that the church is a large edifice, and that in such a building we are not to expect entire uniformity in all the articles which it contains.
There are not only vessels of gold and of silver, ... - You are not to expect to find all the articles of furniture alike, or all made of the same material. Variety in the form, and use, and material, is necessary in furnishing such a house.
And some to honour, and some to dishonour - Some to most honorable uses - as drinking vessels, and vessels to contain costly viands, and some for the less honorable purposes connected with cooking, etc. The same thing is to be expected in the church. See this idea illustrated at greater length under another figure in the notes at 1 Corinthians 12:14-26; compare the notes, Romans 9:21. The application here seems to be, that in the church it is to be presumed that there will be a great variety of gifts and attainments, and that we are no more to expect that all will be alike, than we are that all the vessels in a large house will be made of gold.
If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour - If a man “cleanse” or “purify” himself; compare the notes on John 15:2. The word “these” refers, here, to the persons represented by the vessels of wood and of earth - the vessels made to dishonor, as mentioned in the previous verse 2 Timothy 2:20. The idea is, that if one would preserve himself from the corrupting influence of such men, he would be fitted to be a vessel of honor, or to be employed in the most useful and honorable service in the cause of his Master. On the word “vessel,” see the notes at Acts 9:15.
And meet for the master’s use - Suitable to be employed by the Lord Jesus in promoting his work on earth.
Flee also youthful lusts - Such passions as youth are subject to. On the word “flee,” and the pertinency of its use in such a connection, see the notes at 1 Corinthians 6:18. Paul felt that Timothy, then a young man, was subject to the same passions as other young men; and hence, his repeated cautions to him to avoid all those things, arising from his youth, which might be the occasion of scandal; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 5:2. It is to be remembered that this Epistle is applicable to other ministers, as well as to Timothy; and, to a young man in the ministry, no counsel could be more appropriate than to “flee from youthful lusts;” not to indulge for a moment in those corrupt passions to which youth are subject, but to cultivate the pure and sober virtues which become the ministerial office.
But follow righteousness, ... - compare the notes at Hebrews 12:14. The general meaning here is, that he was to practice all that is good and virtuous. He was to practice righteousness, or justice and equity, in all his dealings with men; faith, or fidelity in his duties; charity, or love to all men (see the notes at 1 Corinthians 13:0); peace, or harmony and concord with all others. What virtues could be more appropriate for a minister of the gospel?
With them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart - That is, with all Christians, who are often characterized as those who call on the Lord; 1 Corinthians 1:2; compare Acts 9:11. In all his social contact with them, Timothy was to manifest the virtues above recommended. But not with them alone. It would be incumbent on him to exhibit the same virtues in his intercourse with all.
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid; - see the notes at 2 Timothy 2:16; compare the notes at 1Ti 1:4, 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 4:7. The word “unlearned,” here, means “trifling; that which does not tend to edification; stupid.” The Greeks and the Hebrews were greatly given to controversies of various kinds, and many of the questions discussed pertained to points which could not be settled, or which, if settled, were of no importance. Such has been the character of no small part of the disputes which have agitated the world. Paul correctly says that the only effect of such disputes is to engender harsh contention. Points of real importance can be discussed with no injury to the temper; but people cannot safely dispute about trifles.
And the servant of the Lord - Referring here primarily to the Christian minister, but applicable to all Christians; for all profess to be the servants of the Lord.
Must not strive - He may calmly inquire after truth; he may discuss points of morals, or theology, if he will do it with a proper spirit; he may “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” Jude 1:3; but he may not do that which is here mentioned as strife. The Greek word - μάχεσθαι machesthai - commonly denotes, “to fight, to make war, to contend.” In John 6:52; Acts 7:26; 2 Timothy 2:24;, it is rendered “strove,” and “strive;” in James 4:2, “fight.” It is not elsewhere used in the New Testament. The meaning is, that the servant of Christ should be a man of peace. He should not indulge in the feelings which commonly give rise to contention, and which commonly characterize it. He should not struggle for mere victory, even when endeavoring to maintain truth; but should do this, in all cases, with a kind spirit, and a mild temper; with entire candor; with nothing designed to provoke and irritate an adversary; and so that, whatever may be the result of the discussion, “the bond of peace” may, if possible, be preserved; compare the notes at Romans 12:18.
But be gentle unto all men; - see the notes at 1 Thessalonians 2:7. The word rendered “gentle,” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means that the Christian minister is to be meek and mild toward all, not disputatious and quarrelsome.
Apt to teach; - see the notes at 1 Timothy 3:2.
Patient - Margin, “forbearing.” The Greek word here used does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means, patient under evils and injuries. Robinson, Lexicon. Compare the Ephesians 4:2 note; Colossians 3:13 note.
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves - That is, those who embrace error, and array themselves against the truth. We are not to become angry with such persons, and denounce them at once as heretics. We are not to hold them up to public reproach and scorn; but we are to set about the business of patiently “instructing them.” Their grand difficulty, it is supposed in this direction, is, that they are ignorant of the truth. Our business with them is, “calmly to show them what the truth is.” If they are angry, we are not to be. If they oppose the truth, we are still calmly to state it to them. If they are slow to see it, we are not to become weary or impatient. Nor, if they do not embrace it at all, are we to become angry with them, and denounce them. We may pity them, but we need not use hard words. This is the apostolic precept about the way of treating those who are in error; and can any one fail to see its beauty and propriety? Let it be remembered, also, that this is not only beautiful and proper in itself; it is the wiseST course, if we would bring others over to our opinions. You are not likely to convince a man that you are right, and that he is wrong, if you first make him angry; nor are you very likely to do it, if you enter into harsh contention. You then put him on his guard; you make him a party, and, from self-respect, or pride, or anger, he will endeavor to defend his own opinions, and will not yield to yours. “Meekness” and “gentleness” are the very best things, if you wish to convince another that he is wrong. With his heart first, and then modestly and kindly show him “what the truth is,” in as few words, and with as unassuming a spirit, as possible, “and you have him.”
If God peradventure will give them repentance, ... - Give them such a view of the error which they have embraced, and such regret for having embraced it, that they shall be willing to admit the truth. After all our care in teaching others the truth, our only dependence is on God for its success. We cannot be absolutely certain that they will see their error; we cannot rely certainly on any power which argument will have; we can only hope that God may show them their error, and enable them to see and embrace the truth; compare Acts 11:18. The word rendered “peradventure,” here - μήποτε mēpote - means, usually, “not even, never;” and then, “that never, lest ever” - the same as “lest perhaps.” It is translated “lest at any time,” Matthew 4:6; Matthew 5:25; Matthew 13:15; Mark 4:12; Luke 21:34; “lest,” Matt, Luke 7:6; Luke 13:29; Luke 15:32; “et al.: lest haply,” Luke 14:12; Acts 5:39. It does not imply that there was any CHance about what is said, but rather that there was uncertainty in the mind of the speaker, and that there was need of caution LesT something should occur; or, that anything was done, or should be done, to prevent something from happening.
It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament in the sense which our translators, and all the critics, so far as I have examined, give to it here - as implying A hope that God would give them repentance, etc. But I may be permitted to suggest another interpretation, which will accord with the uniform meaning of the word in the New Testament, and which will refer the matter to those who had embraced the error, and not to God. It is this: “In meekness instructing ‘those that oppose themselves’ (ἀντιδιατιθεμένους antidiatithemenous) ‘lest’ - μήποτε mēpote - God should give them repentance, and they should recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,” etc. That is, they put themselves in this posture of opposition so that they shall not be brought to repentance, and recover themselves. They do it with a precautionary view that they may not be thus brought to repentance, and be recovered to God. They take this position of opposition to the truth, intending not to be converted; and this is the reason why they are not converted.
And that they may recover themselves - Margin, “awake.” The word which is rendered “recover” in the text, and “awake” in the margin - ἀνανήψωσιν ananēpsōsin - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means, to become sober again, as from inebriation; to awake from a deep sleep, and then, to come to a right mind, as one does who is aroused from a state of inebriety, or from sleep. The representation in this part of the verse implies that, while under the influence of error, they were like a man intoxicated, or like one in deep slumber. From this state they were to be roused as one is from sleep, or as a man is recovered from the stupor and dullness of intoxication.
Out of the snare of the devil - The snare which the devil has spread for them, and in which they have become entangled. There is a little confusion of metaphor here, since, in the first part of the verse, they are represented as asleep, or intoxicated; and, here, as taken in a snare. Yet the general idea is clear. In one part of the verse, the influence of error is represented as producing sleep, or stupor; in the other, as being taken in a snare, or net; and, in both, the idea is, that an effort was to be made that they might be rescued from this perilous condition.
Who are taken captive by him at his will - Margin, “alive.” The Greek word means, properly, to take alive; and then, to take captive, to win over Luke 5:10; and then, to ensnare, or seduce. Here it means that they had been ensnared by the arts of Satan “unto (εἰς eis) his will;” that is, they were so influenced by him, that they complied with his will. Another interpretation of this passage should be mentioned here, by which it is proposed to avoid the incongruousness of the metaphor of “awaking” one from a “snare.” It is adopted by Doddridge, and is suggested also by Burder, as quoted by Rosenmuller, “A. u. n. Morgenland.” According to this, the reference is to an artifice of fowlers, to scatter seeds impregnated with some intoxicating drugs, intended to lay birds asleep, that they may draw the snare over them more securely. There can be no doubt that such arts were practiced, and it is possible that Paul may have alluded to it. Whatever is the allusion, the general idea is clear. It is an affecting representation of those who have fallen into error. They are in a deep slumber. They are as if under the fatal influence of some stupefying potion. They are like birds taken alive in this state, and at the mercy of the fowler. They will remain in this condition, unless they shall be roused by the mercy of God; and it is the business of the ministers of religion to carry to them that gospel call, which God is accustomed to bless in showing them their danger. That message should be continually sounded in the ears of the sinner, with the prayer and the hope that God will make it the means of arousing him to seek his salvation.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent