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Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 2

Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral EpistlesFairbairn's Commentaries

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Verse 1

Chapter II

Ver. 1. Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. This is the practical result which the preceding statements were intended to produce in the mind of Timothy. The therefore, which indicates the connection, points back mainly to the apostle himself, and subordinately to his sympathizing friend Onesiphorus, who had shown themselves to be possessed of a moral power that was adequate to the greatest trials and emergencies of life. And this power the apostle had also been careful to represent as derived solely from the grace of a redeeming God. Therefore, when calling upon his child Timothy to follow in the same path of suffering and obedience, his primary exhortation is as to the source of strength: Be strengthened ἐνδυναμοῦ not simply “be strong,” for the verb in the passive signifies to become strong, to get strength (comp. Romans 4:20, Ephesians 6:10); and this in the grace that is in Christ Jesus that is, in the supply of the Spirit of life, which is ever ready to be given to those who are savingly united to Him. The being in Christ by a childlike faith is the sphere in -which the gift of grace is to be found. But the injunction to be strengthened therein, implies that, in order to be realized, it must be actively laid hold of by the believer. The grace that is provided to sustain him and carry him forward in the life of faith, is cooperating grace; and at every step it requires his willing respondency and implicit obedience. This is what was seen so nobly exemplified in the case of Abraham (Romans 4:18-22), and is explicitly enjoined upon all believers (Philippians 2:12-13). So that the “more grace” which is said to be given to believers (James 4:6), is always given in proportion as they feel their need of more, and are prepared to receive and use it.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. A direction is now given how best to secure the transmission of the testimony he was called to bear for Christ, and its faithful maintenance in the church: and the things which thou hast heard from me with many witnesses, these commit to faithful men, such as shall be able to teach others also. The things that had been heard are undoubtedly the same as those referred to in 2 Timothy 1:13, and are no more in the one case than in the other to be confined to what was uttered on some particular occasion. It is the whole scheme of doctrine and duty as taught by the apostle, and which Timothy had enjoyed numberless opportunities of listening to, that is here meant; not simply, as many commentators suppose, what was delivered of it at Timothy’s ordination. This were an unwarranted abridgment, and is no way countenanced, but the reverse, by the mention of many witnesses in connection with the things delivered διὰ πολλῶν μαρτύρων , literally, through these; but as at 2 Corinthians 2:4, where the apostle speaks of writing through many tears, meaning with tears accompanying and giving a specific impress to his work, so here the “through many witnesses must signify with them, their presence forming a clear indication of the character of the things spoken and heard. These were no private communications, no secret doctrine delivered in a corner, as if adapted only to the wants of a select few, or intended to minister merely to personal gratification. They were the great things which concern the salvation of men and the glory of God; therefore things which all ears should hear, and which it was important to have committed in every particular church to faithful men ( πιστοῖς ἀνθρώποις , men worthy of such a trust), in order that these might testify aright concerning them, and in turn find others who should receive and deliver the testimony to the generation following. This is the true apostolic succession; the kernel lies here, in the maintenance from age to age of the same grand fundamental principles of faith and practice. External organizations are but the shell which may more or less fitly serve to guard and perpetuate the treasure; and it is by the possession of this, the kernel, or gospel treasure, that the worth of the other is to be tried, not that other which is to determine or modify it. Both the doctrina arcani (the secret traditionary doctrine) of the Catholics, and the so-called impressed character and inherent virtue of a ministerial sacerdotalism in the Christian church, are here virtually struck at the root.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. Suffer hardship with me ( συγκακοπάθησον , the reading of א , A, C, D, F at first hand, is undoubtedly the correct text, not σὺ οὔν κακοπάθησον of the received text), or “take thy share in suffering” (Conybeare), intimating that the disciple in this must not expect to be above his master: if he would do his work faithfully, he must lay his account to experiences of trouble. As a good soldier of Jesus Christ. This is the first of a series of illustrative examples showing the necessity, for those who in any department would do effective service, of being in habitual readiness to endure hardship. Every believer, and preeminently the believer who is also a minister of the gospel, is a soldier of Jesus Christ, enlisted under Him as the Captain of salvation, to contend against the powers of evil; therefore hardship of some sort is inevitable (2 Corinthians 10:3; Ephesians 6:11 sq.).

Verse 4

Ver. 4. No one serving as a soldier (Scholfield, Hints) entangles himself (taking the verb ἐμπλέκεται as in the middle) in the businesses of life that is, in the ordinary affairs and occupations of a worldly calling, such as of the forum or the market-place in order that he may please him who has called him to be a soldier literally, who enrolled him as a soldier, for such is the exact import of the verb στραρολογεῖν , milites conscribere; but, with a very natural extension of the meaning, also to call or choose one so to serve. The fact stated is notorious: no officer engaged in earnest warfare would hire soldiers who did not engage to separate themselves for the special service, so as to be ready at any moment to do his commands. A similar disentanglement is needful to the Christian warrior from everything that might keep him at a distance from his Divine Master, or impede him in the service he is called to render. But only thus far; not that he must absolutely withdraw from all employments of a secular kind. The great mass of believers must serve Christ in these; and even for the Christian pastor, his specific relation to them must depend, to some extent, on circumstances. Ordinarily he should be free from any business of a worldly kind; but like Paul himself, with his tent-making, some work of that description may even form a part of his soldier-service to Christ.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. But ( δὲ , introducing a fresh illustration Winer, Gr. § 53, 7, b; not only so, but there is this further case) if any one also strive in the games another good rendering of Scholfield’s, and decidedly preferable to that of the Authorized Version, “if a man strive for the masteries,” which is too general, and scarcely suggests to the mere English reader the specific kind of striving referred to. It is impossible, except by such a circumlocution, to give the force of the Greek ἀθλῇ . The Vulgate also had to take the same course certat in agone. He is not crowned unless he have striven lawfully adhering with whatever self-sacrifice to the prescribed rules. This alone entitles him, even if his striving have been such as to place him in the foremost rank, to obtain the crown of victory. The inference is plain: if so in the lower sphere, and with respect to a perishable distinction, how much more in regard to the great struggle between righteousness and sin, light and darkness in ourselves and in the world, which carries with it issues of eternal moment!

Verse 6

Ver. 6. The toiling; ( κοπιῶντα , hard-working) husbandman must first partake of the fruits, or, must be first in partaking of them; his very character as a man of hard labour gives him in this respect a precedence and superiority over others: he first partakes, partakes even while he works, somewhat like the ox who might eat while in the act of treading the corn (1 Timothy 5:18). So, the apostle means to say, it is in the Lord’s husbandry. There is here also a compensation; for they who grudge not the hardship, the present sacrifice involved in doing God’s work, have a blessing which others know not they reap, in a measure, while they labour, having an immediate satisfaction in the fruits which they have been enabled to gather. Such appears to be the precise import of the apostle’s statement; and it is one quite suited to the connection, though we would rather, perhaps, have expected him to put it somewhat differently, so as to express the idea that the husbandman must first labour if he is to partake of the fruits, or labour before he can do so. This is, indeed, what many commentators have actually extracted from his words, with so exact a scholar as Winer to countenance the exposition as grammatically tenable ( Gr. § 61, 5, f). But it is without support from any properly parallel passages, and manifestly does violence to the natural order and meaning of the words. The object of the apostle in using the illustration was not, seemingly, to mark the distinction between the active and the idle husbandman: he assumes that Timothy would not be exactly idle, that he would be a worker in the Lord’s vineyard; but he would have him to be a worker in the stricter sense, like the husbandman who labours hard, who toils at his employment, and so reaps the first and fullest recompense. This is so clearly the preferable sense of the passage, that it is needless to recount other interpretations, and equally needless to go into the various applications which have been made of it by the Fathers and others in later times. Some of these are fanciful enough. We must keep hold of the great principle which the statement is brought to establish that the most willing and hard labourer is the most speedily and richly blessed. This holds good in the spiritual as in the natural sphere; and only those things which can be called real exemplifications of such a principle are fair applications of the apostle’s similitude.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. Understand what I say so the verb ( νόει ) properly means, Lat. intellige not simply consider, or observe; and it was said with reference to the figurative language employed in the immediately preceding verses. “For since it was a parabolical mode of speech, it was necessary that he (Timothy) should be stirred up to search into the meaning of the hidden sense” (Theodoret). And he couples with the exhortation an expression of confidence that the requisite assistance would be given from above: for the Lord will give thee discernment in all things. The correct reading seems to be δώσει , not δῴη , having the support of א , A, C, D, F, with the Latin and Cop. versions; and the thing which the apostle expresses his confidence would be given to Timothy is σύνεσιν ἐν πᾶσιν , a complete understanding in all things such an exact and comprehensive knowing as “grasps the connection, with its grounds and consequences” (Beck) or a clear and intelligent discernment. Combining thus personal application with the assurance of divine grace, the apostle virtually said to Timothy, “Seek, and ye shall find.”

Verse 8

Ver. 8. Remember Jesus Christ as having been raised from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel. This I take to be the exact rendering of the original not “remember that Jesus Christ has been raised” with the Vulg. ( Jesum Christum resurrexisse). Authorized Version, and, among others, Alford, who tries to distinguish between the use of an accusative after μνημόνευε , and a genitive, as if in the former case it was a fact that was to be borne in mind, rather than an object or a person. Any one who will compare the following examples, in the two first of which the object of the verb is in the genitive, and the other two in the accusative (Luke 17:32; John 16:21; Matthew 16:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:9), may see that the alleged distinction is entirely fanciful. When in the first of those passages our Lord called His disciples to remember Lot’s wife, He surely meant Lot’s wife as embodying a memorable fact, not less than when in the third of them He called His disciples to remember the five loaves of the five thousand; and so with the others. The verb seems to have been indifferently coupled with a genitive or an accusative of the object in classical writers more frequently with the accusative, in the New Testament more frequently with the genitive; but with whichever case, the import is much the same namely, to remember or bear in mind the person or object expressed in the noun that follows. So here it is, Remember Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ in a specific aspect, as “having been raised from the dead,” while still “of the seed of David.” Why should an injunction have been laid on Timothy to keep so specially in remembrance the fact of a risen Saviour, and a Saviour sprung from the seed of David? We are left to conjecture; but it was partly, no doubt perhaps we should say primarily by way of encouragement: for, having his eye ever fixed on one so sprung and so glorified, he had in a manner before him the fulfilment of all promise, and the pledge of all just hope and expectation. Why should he therefore faint under his duty of service, or quail before the assaults of the persecutor? He knew that his Redeemer, the destined Head of God’s chosen heritage, lived after having triumphed over sin and death, and was set down at the right hand of the Majesty on High. But in the same great facts, grasped by a childlike and reliant faith, he should have a secure position against the more subtle dangers which had begun to arise from that Gnostic spirit which, in its disparagement of flesh, at once ignored the natural descent of Christ, and made void the truth of His literal resurrection. And this also may have been in the view of the apostle, though there seems no reason for supposing, with some, that it was the only consideration to which he had respect in introducing the subject; nor, looking to the connection, even the more prominent one. The more immediate point is, how to endure hardship, to brave persecution, for the truth of Christ; and, surely, holding fast by Christ’s royal lineage, which was essential to His being the Messiah promised to the fathers, and by His resurrection from the dead, which was equally essential to His right to reign over the house of God, could not but form the best preparation, as it was indeed the indispensable condition, of stedfastness.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. The truths respecting Christ, which Timothy in the preceding verse was exhorted to bear in mind, were spoken of in connection with St. Paul’s gospel the gospel which had been committed to him (1 Timothy 1:11); he now adds, in which (that is, the gospel, as his appointed sphere of action) I suffer hardship up to bonds as a malefactor. Corresponding phrases are, Philippians 2:8, μέχρι θανάτου , up to death; Hebrews 12:4, μέχρις αἵματος , up to blood; so in the Vulg., usque ad vincida. But (though as to my personal condition I am in chains) the word of God is not bound: this still ran, and was glorified. It did so partly, indeed, through the apostle himself testifying of it, even in his bonds, before rulers and kings, so that his gospel as well as his bonds came to be known in Caesar’s household (Philippians 1:13, Philippians 4:22), and in his letters sounding it forth far and wide; but partly also through the instrumentality of others who gave themselves to the same blessed work, and some of whom, he intimates, waxed bold through his bonds to speak more abundantly the word of God (Philippians 1:14). Thus, when an arrest is laid on one, freedom and boldness are given to others to spread abroad the good seed of the kingdom.

Verses 9-10

Vers. 9, 10. Likewise also, that women adorn themselves in orderly apparel, with shamefastness and discretion. The passage is obviously elliptical; and the connection with what precedes, indicated by ὡσαύτως (likewise), cannot be very close. Looking to the apostle’s use of it elsewhere (for example, at Titus 2:3, Romans 8:26), we must regard it as intended simply to couple the women with the men in having equally with them a relation to duty, bound to a becoming line of conduct in their own particular sphere. Having expressed his wish in respect to the one class, the apostle now turns to the other, and wishes ( βούλομαι again understood) that they too, on their part, would adorn themselves in seemly apparel, or in seemly apparel would adorn themselves with shamefastness and discretion. The adorning, from the structure of the sentence, seems more directly connected with the two latter epithets, pointing to qualities of mind and behaviour, while the sort of apparel proper to them is implied as a thing that should certainly be possessed, only not of itself sufficient without the other, the adornments of the spirit. That καταστολῇ is properly taken in the sense of apparel, and not, as Ellicott would understand it, deportment, including look and manner as well as dress, there seems no just reason to doubt. It points by its etymology (from καταστέλλω ) to the letting down of things about one’s person, adjusting or arranging them, then the apparel as so arranged (see Alford). The apostle does not further characterize it than that it should be of a becoming or seemly nature ( κοσμίος ), as contradistinguished from gaudy and extravagant as well as slovenly attire. And with this he couples the inward feelings, which should accompany and give adequate expression to this modest apparel with shamefastness (not shamefacedness, as in the Authorized Version, which is a corruption) and discretion. The correct import and mutual relation of the two words here employed ( αἰδώς and σωφροσύνη ) have been, with his usual discrimination and accuracy, exhibited by Trench ( Syn. § 20), and applied thus to the explication of our verse: “If αἰδώς is that shamefastness or pudency which shrinks from overpassing the limits of womanly reserve and modesty, as well as from the dishonour which would justly attach thereto, σωφροσύνη is that habitual inner self-government, with its constant rein on all the passions and desires, which would hinder the temptation to this from arising, or at all events from arising in such strength as should overbear the checks and barriers which αἰδω ́ ς opposed to it.” We have no English word that exactly corresponds to the latter of the two terms; but sobermindedness or discretion substantially coincides with it, though self-control, perhaps, might more closely approach the original.

In the remaining part of the verse we have a further delineation, in a negative form, of the modest or seemly attire which was noticed in the earlier: not in plaitings, namely, of the hair, but obviously meaning excessive refinements in this line, the meretricious plaitings, and modes of dressing up the hair in nicely adjusted tresses, which Clement of Alexandria, for example, condemns as unsuitable to Christians ( Paid. 3:11), condemned also by St. Peter in very similar language to that employed here (1 Peter 3:3). And gold (in rings, bracelets, etc.), or pearls, or costly raiment. These are not to be understood as any further prohibited than they are inconsistent with the seemly apparel previously recommended; only, if used at all, it should manifestly be with moderation, and so as not to befit the impression that they are displayed as the most precious personal adornments. For such the truly Christian mind will look in another direction, and lay the chief stress upon the spiritual and moral qualities, which are the noblest distinctions of rational beings, the only things which are of value in the sight of God. This, therefore, is what the apostle puts in contrast to the worldly equipments of rich jewellery and costly dress: But, which becomes women professing godliness, through good works not (with Theodoret, Œcum., Luther, Calvin, Huther, and many others), but in that which, or according to that which (taking ὅ as = ἐν τούτῳ ) ὅ , or καθ ʼ ὅ , referring back to the ἐν καταστολῇ κοσμίῳ ) becomes women professing godliness, by means of good works. For this has against it both an artificial construction, which should only be resorted to if absolutely necessary, and the coupling of good works with a godly profession in a way which is not usual, as if godliness were a kind of art which Christian women were to show their skill or proficiency in by their works of faith and love. This cannot be called a natural style of representation, and it is certainly nowhere else found in St. Paul’s writings. The expression ἐπαγγελλομέναις must be taken here in the ordinary sense of professing, a sense it unquestionably bears again at 1 Timothy 6:21; while the verb is used in Titus 1:2, with reference to God, in the cognate sense of promising, or giving open exhibition of. By the women in question must be understood those who make profession of godliness θεοσέβειαν only used here, but substantially equivalent to εὐσέβειαν , in the ordinary way such profession was made, by taking up the Christian name, submitting to Christian teaching and ordinances, and mingling in the assemblies of Christian worshippers. And as making this profession, the apostle would have them to understand, first, that the kind of dress which becomes them is of a neat and plain as contradistinguished from a luxurious or costly one; and second, that the distinction which women of gay and worldly dispositions seek to acquire by their splendid ornaments and fine apparel, they should endeavour to reach through their good works, a distinction of a far nobler kind, and the only one that fitly accords with their calling. Such seems to be the most natural and appropriate import of the passage, only, in connection with the latter point, the apostle varies the construction, so as the better to suit the change involved in the subject itself: he does not say with ( ἐν ) good works, as he could say both in regard to the apparel itself, and the outward ornaments on which vain and worldly-minded females prided themselves; but through or by means of ( διά ) good works, since it was not so properly the works themselves which invested true Christian females with their distinctive honour or adornment, as rather the reflex operation of these, the consideration and regard, the spiritual halo, as it were, which the performance of such works threw around those who abounded in them.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, in order that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The connection between this and the preceding cannot be taken so close, as with Bengel, “Because through my chains the gospel runs, therefore I endure.” He, no doubt, has in view the diffusion of the word, because it was in connection with that his sufferings had come upon him; but in the present passage that circumstance rather lies in the background, recognised and felt, yet not distinctly exhibited; for he has a more special point which he wishes to bring into notice in relation to the preaching or diffusion of the word, viz. the salvation of God’s elect. This was the aim of his preaching, yet not of his preaching merely, but also of his sufferings; for these, too, had an important bearing on the contemplated issue. We must therefore connect the διὰ τοῦτο at the commencement with what follows, as is usual in similar constructions, where these words stand related to a succeeding ἵνα , as at 1 Timothy 1:16, “For this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first,” etc. ( διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθην , ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ ), and so again at Philemon 1:15. The explanation of Chrysostom is quite to the point: “For what cause do I suffer these things? For the benefit of others, that they may obtain eternal life. What, then, do you promise? He did not say simply, for the sake of some persons, but for the sake of the elect. If God chose them, we ought to suffer all things for them, in order that they also may obtain salvation. When he says, that they also, he means to say, as also we; for God chose us also; and as for us God suffered, so also we for them.” Under the name of the elect the apostle may certainly be regarded as having primarily in view those who belonged to that number in his own day; for them he was called more immediately to think and act, yet by no means exclusively. His apostolic work, as well in suffering as in preaching and writing, he knew well was for all countries and for all time; and the elect of this present age are in many ways reaping the benefit of his self-denying and devoted labours. Nor is it unimportant to mark how he heightens the good he sought for them not their salvation merely, but the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, and that with eternal glory: so that if their salvation has to be made good through trial and suffering, its connection with Christ, and with the mass of glory laid up with Him in eternity, justifies, and unspeakably more than justifies, the sacrifice. So in 1 Peter 5:10 the present suffering condition of believers generally is, in like manner, connected with their call to God’s eternal glory.

Verses 11-13

Vers. 11-13. Faithful is the saying, For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. Does the saying point to what precedes, or to what follows? Commentators are divided on the question; and as nothing very decisive can be urged for the determination either way, they are still likely to be so. Certainly, as Ellicott contends, and Huther also admits (though he adopts the forward reference), the for ( γὰρ ) which follows the proverbial saying seems to point backwards, and to introduce a confirmatory statement of what had been uttered immediately before; and this is the view taken by all the ancient Greek commentators. But there is no need for pressing the matter closely either way, as it is substantially the same line of thought that is indicated in both the preceding and the following context only in the former more individually, in the latter more generally. Whether viewed with respect to Paul himself and his fellow-labourers in the gospel, or with respect to those who in any place or time would lead the Christian life, one must be prepared to look for the same kind of mixed experience temporal evil followed by a glorious compensation; hardship and suffering as the condition of ultimate victory; death even as the pathway to life, never-ending and full of glory. The truth of the gospel in this respect is a faithful saying: it holds good every way; the apostle himself was in the course of realizing it in his own experience, with the full consent and approval of his own mind. So he had said just before; and now he makes a quite general and comprehensive application of it: For if we died with Him (namely, when by a living faith we embraced Christ as our Saviour, entering into the fellowship of His sufferings and death), we shall also live with Him, sharing at last in His resurrection power and blessedness of life, as spiritually we do in a measure now. If we endure ( ὑπομένομεν , patiently undergo trial and hardship, namely, with Him, or in His cause and service), we shall also reign with Him: as our Lord Himself repeatedly testified (Matthew 16:24-27, Matthew 19:28-29; Luke 22:28-30), and as is stated also in other passages (Romans 5:17, Romans 6:8, Romans 8:10-11, Romans 8:17; Colossians 3:3-4; Revelation 3:21). If we shall deny ( Him), put contingently, as a thing that might possibly happen in the future, He also will deny us; a virtual repetition of our Lord’s solemn words: “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). Finally, if we are unbelieving, ἀπιστοῦμεν , not merely prove unfaithful in times of trial, shrink from confessing what we inwardly feel to be the truth concerning Him, but, rejecting or quitting our hold of the truth, pass over entirely into the region of unbelief, if we should thus estrange ourselves from the common ground of faith, still He abides faithful remaining perpetually true to His declarations and promises, whether we accredit them or not. And the reason follows: For ( The received text omits γα ̀ ρ, but it is found in the best copies, א , A, C, D, F, L, and is admitted by all the best critics.) He cannot deny Himself. This implies that the word given as the ground of our faith in Scripture is the expression of His own essential nature; it reveals what, as possessed of that nature, He is in His relation to us, what He purposes toward us, or has done in the execution of His purposes. To disown this, therefore, were to deny Himself; and that it is impossible He should ever do, seeing He is the unchangeable Jehovah (Malachi 3:6); and so, His word, like Himself, “liveth and abideth for ever.” (As regards the question whether the passage vers. 11-13, from its somewhat measured and rhythmical structure, was not part of some Christian hymn, I would be inclined to give the same judgment as in regard to 1 Timothy 3:16 which see.)

Verse 14

Ver. 14. There follow now a series of exhortations to Timothy, founded upon the important statements contained in the preceding verses, and bearing directly on the manner in which he should ply the work of the ministry, and withstand the errors which were already beginning to prevail in the church. Put them in mind of these things ( ὑπομίμνῃσκε , sup. αὐτοὺς , which in a similar exhortation at Titus 3:1 is expressed). The things meant were, no doubt, those mentioned immediately before. Timothy was first rightly to apprehend and grasp them for himself, and then act as a faithful monitor in enforcing them upon others. Solemnly charging them ( διαμαρτυρόμενος , the διὰ intensifying the meaning of the verb, and the verb, though primarily signifying to bear witness or testify, evidently meaning, in such a connection as this, to deliver a protest or charge, 1 Timothy 5:21) before God not to wrangle about words, a practice already mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:4, and warned against as characteristic of a class of persons who were unsound at the very core, and of itself fitted to produce much mischief. So here it is declared to be profitable for nothing ( χρήσιμον having for its object λογομαχεῖν , the art or practice of mere word-fighting); no one is in a moral respect the better for it. And worse than that, it is upon the subversion of them that hear: an elliptical clause, but plainly meaning that the practice tends to this melancholy result. And the reason is obvious; it serves to beget and nourish a captious, sophistical state of mind, the reverse of that babe-like spirit which receives the sincere milk of the word, and rests with a firm trust in the testimony it brings. If the parties in question were deficient in this before, they were sure to depart further from it by listening to such teaching: it would lead them entirely off from the foundations. (There is some variation both in the reading and the po inting of this text. Instead of μη ̀ λογομαχεῖν, MSS. A, C have μη ̀ λογομα ́ ξει the imperative: Do not wrangle about words; and this forming a clause by itself, necessitates another distribution of the preceding words: Put them in mind of these things, solemnly charging them before God. But this is an unnatural sort of arrangement, and differs from the apostle’s usual practice; for elsewhere διαμαρτυ ́ ρομαι precedes the exhortation to which it belongs: 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 4:1. And though the reading above noticed must have early crept in, appearing as it does in the Latin versions, yet λογομαχεῖν is the text of א , D, F, K, L, and is exhibited in the Syr., Coptic, and Gothic versions.)

Verse 15

Ver. 15. Give diligence to present thyself to God approved: δόκιμον , one who can stand, or has actually stood, the test appointed by God, and come forth stamped with His approval. The object of the exhortation was to lead Timothy, in contrast to the frivolous disputes mentioned before, to realize himself as a servant of God, and to guide his course through the trying and perilous circumstances around him, so as to be able to appear before the Divine Majesty as one that had proved faithful to the trust reposed in him. A workman not ashamed: ἀνεπαίσχυντον , in New Testament Scripture found only here, and in classical Greek signifying shameless, impudent, but used by Josephus in the sense of not being ashamed of, or having no occasion to blush for (Ant. xviii. 7. 1, μηδε ̀ δευτερευ ́ ειν α ̓ νεπαι ́ σχυντον η ̔ γου ͂: “nor think that one should not be ashamed to be inferior to”. . .; so also in Agapetus, quoted by Wetstein). The sentiment is the same as that expressed by Paul respecting himself in Philippians 1:20, ἐν οὐδενὶ αἰσχυνθήσομαι , In nothing shall I be ashamed meaning that his behaviour would be such as to afford no occasion for such a feeling. And as the more special ground of this confidence, we have the still further characteristic rightly handling the word of truth. Here again there is a word of singular occurrence in the New Testament ὀρθοτομοῦντα , primarily signifying to cut straight, with reference, as is supposed by some, to the cutting and distributing of bread (Calvin, Vitringa); by others, to the right division of the victims in sacrifice (Beza, Mel.); by others, to the drawing of straight furrows in ploughing (Theodoret); but by the majority to the cutting of a line of road, in which sense it occurs figuratively in Proverbs 11:5, Sept. The question is, how the word may most naturally be understood when applied, as it is here, to the treatment of God’s word? To divide rightly, in one point of view, might give an appropriate meaning, but scarcely one quite suited to the connection; for as the subject under discussion is the true as opposed to the false, the serious and earnest as opposed to the frivolous and unprofitable, dealing with spiritual things by a minister of the gospel, one does not so naturally think of the mode of distributing or administering the word of truth among the hearers (a matter of tact and wisdom rather than of fidelity), as of a fair and conscientious or straightforward handling of the word itself. This, as opposed to all kinds of tortuous interpretations, or by-plays of ingenuity for sinister purposes, is pre-eminently what becomes the teacher who would stand approved in the judgment of God: like a sincere and honest workman, he must go right on in his use of the word, maintaining it in its integrity, and applying it to the great spiritual ends for which it has been given. This appears at once the simplest and the most suitable explanation of the phrase; it is that which substantially was expressed by the Vulgate , recte tractantem, and is acquiesced in by Huther, Alford, and others. (Deyling has the merit of establishing the correct view in a very full dissertation on the verse; Obs. Sac. vol. iv. p. 2, c. 3. After examining the other views, and stating that here, as in many other compound words, we cannot adhere to the etymological sense of cutting, he adds: Nam quemadmodum καινοτομεῖν non est res novas secare, sed res novas moliri, ita similiter ὀρθοτομεῖν est recte tractare, et ὀρθοτομι ́ α, tractatio recte, prout decet, instituta, traducta significatione a specie ad genus. Idem confirmat versio Syriaca pervetus, quae ὀρθοτ. το ̀ ν λο ́ γον transtulit recte praedica re sermonem veritatis, hoc est, recte tractare et exponere Scripturam sacram, etc.)

Verse 16

Ver. 16. Here, again, the apostle returns to the things to be avoided the corrupt practices of false teachers: But profane babblings shun περιΐστασο , stand aloof from, as one naturally does in respect to any object of dislike or terror. It was used at Titus 3:9, much in the same way, with reference to unprofitable questions about the law, genealogies, and such like contentions. See also at 1 Timothy 6:20, where profane babblings are mentioned as things which Timothy should turn away from. Here it is added, by way of strengthening the exhortation, for they will advance to more of ungodliness; which the succeeding context shows must be understood of the persons who teach the profane babblings, not of the babblings themselves. The sense also requires this; for it is only the teachers of such things, of whom a forward movement in the wrong direction could justly be predicated. But readily enough of them: for exhibiting, as they did, a relish for modes of thought and discourse which could be characterized as at once empty and profane, their downward progress might be reckoned on as certain; the rather so, as now the great moral earnestness which appeared in the true teachers of the gospel would reflect unfavourably upon them, and almost inevitably drive them into extravagances of a more startling and pernicious kind.

Verse 17

Ver. 17. And their word will eat as a gangrene. A gangrene is described by Galen as “an eating sore,” or a tumour in the state between inflammation and entire mortification, and tending to the latter. Though not strictly synonymous with our word cancer, it might not improperly be represented in popular language as a sort of cancerous affection, and, like this, spreading or finding pasture ( νομὴν ἕξει ) on the contiguous parts of the body. It was therefore a fitting image of the evil tendency in such false teaching to diffuse itself among the people, because ministering in one respect or another to the weaknesses and follies of human nature. As the moral disease in the teachers themselves would get worse, so their word would eat outwards, catching hold of others, and bringing them under its noxious influence. It is a general statement, but to what extent applicable then, or to any particular error arising in later times, must always depend, partly on the kind of error which seeks propagation, and partly in the more or less congenial elements amid which it has to work.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. The apostle now points to specific examples of what he meant: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who ( οἵτινες ) concerning the truth swerved (or went astray, see at 1 Timothy 1:6), saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and overthrow the faith of some. One of the names mentioned here, Hymenaeus, occurred in the First Epistle to Timothy, 1 Timothy 1:20; and, as was stated there, the name in both cases had respect, in all probability, to the same person. In the former passage he was represented as a man who had sunk into a bad moral condition had thrust from him faith and a good conscience, and so concerning faith had made shipwreck. It is not materially different to say here of him, that he had gone astray respecting the truth, and did so to such an extent as to overthrow the faith of some. This, of course, implies that his own faith had previously suffered shipwreck that he had virtually abandoned the ground of faith, and discarded the truth of God as taught by His authorized ambassadors. In this apostasy Philetus is coupled with him, of whom nothing is known except what is stated in this brief notice.

The specific error charged upon the persons in question, that they held the resurrection to have already taken place, is no proof of Marcionite teaching, as Baur and his school assert. There was no need of Marcion to account for the broaching of such opinions. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:0) shows plainly enough how ready the Grecian mind was to stumble at the doctrine of a literal resurrection; and no wonder, since the doctrine was so entirely alien to the whole spirit and tendency of the Greek philosophy. Tertullian expressly affirms, that however much the philosophic sects might differ on other points, they were at one in denying that doctrine of the gospel ( De Praescr. Haer. § 7); and hence, when St. Paul, in his discourse before the Athenian Areopagus, came to refer to the resurrection of the dead as a fact in history, already exemplified in Christ, the patience of his audience could stand it no longer; the assembly broke up amid jeers and laughter, as if some incredible absurdity had been uttered in their hearing. This, therefore, was precisely the point in respect to which it might be expected that heathen converts to the gospel would be apt to stagger; and such as were of a more speculative tendency, while admitting it in words, would deny it in reality. Within a few years of the first planting of the church at Corinth certain parties did so there, as several years later others appear to have done at Ephesus. In both places, very probably, the explanations fallen upon were of the kind mentioned by Tertullian: some identifying the resurrection with the soul’s spiritual renewal by the doctrine of the gospel, causing it “to burst forth from the sepulchre of the old man;” while others understood it of the soul’s departure from the body, “the world in their view being only the habitation of the dead” ( De Resurr. § 19). The Hymenaeus and Philetus here noticed must have taken somewhat of the former view, holding, as they did, the resurrection to be already past. It was altogether a spiritual thing in their account, a quickening merely of the soul’s activities to newness of life; and thus, by their excess in spiritualizing, they loosened the very foundations of the Christian system; for the position they assumed involved by necessary inference the denial of Christ’s resurrection, and the saving efficacy of His death (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

Verse 19

Ver. 19. Nevertheless ( μέντοι , here only in Paul’s writings, but frequently in John’s, certe quidem, expressive of opposition to the preceding, and preparing for an announcement of a contrary nature) the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” There can be no doubt that this is the proper mode of rendering not, as in the Authorized Version, “The foundation of God standeth sure,” which is grammatically untenable. The apostle’s assertion is, that, notwithstanding the existence of such cases as he had just mentioned of defection from the truth and the consequent loss of salvation, there is a firm or strong foundation of God which remains stedfast. What, then, is the foundation? To this a great variety of answers have been given: with some it is the doctrine of the resurrection, denied by the heretics of the preceding verse; with others, the word of promise, or the plighted faith of God; with others, Christ or the Christian religion; with others, including Calvin, Calov, Wolf, and various besides, the election of God. It is quite possible to explain the apostle’s assertion in connection with each of these views, and to say only what is in perfect accordance with the truth of things, and has also a certain bearing on the matter immediately in hand. Yet, unless it be the last, they fail in presenting such a contrast to the evil, which the thought here suggested was intended to meet with an adequate corrective, as exactly suits the requirements of the case. The evil was an actual falling away in some from the belief of the truth, and their consequent loss, with all who came under their influence, to the church of Christ. Now, to meet this, and reassure the hearts of believers under it, something more was plainly needed than to point attention to the certainty of the fact itself of a coming resurrection, or of the word generally and promises of God, or of Christ as the manifested Saviour, and the religion introduced by Him. For all these might have been conceded to be as they are represented in Scripture, and yet the defection in question gone on unchecked, nay, possibly spreading and growing till everything was involved in ruin. There was needed to set over against it an objective good, which should practically circumscribe the evil, set bounds to its operation, by securing that there should be a succession of living witnesses to the truth, whom no temptation could mislead, nor false teaching beguile, into a betrayal of its interests. Such a security might be said to be furnished by the election of God, yet in this only as actually realized in a company of faithful men, who abide in the truth, and resist the errors that tend to undermine it. It is also only such a living embodiment of the election of God, not the abstract idea or doctrine itself, which could fitly be designated a foundation; for this necessarily has respect to an objective reality, a structure of some sort (material or spiritual), whereof it forms a part. So that, not precisely the divine act of election, but “the faithful elect,” as put even by the Catholic Estius, or, “which is the same thing, the church in the elect” those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and who are prepared and kept by omnipotent grace for the glory to which from the first they were destined in a word, the members of the true or invisible as contrasted with the simply outward or professing church: these are what we may here most naturally understand by the foundation of God. They constitute His firm foundation, which stands amid both the assaults of adversaries and the defection of unstable souls, because held fast by His own eternal purpose and efficacious grace.

This, accordingly, is the view now generally adopted by commentators for example, by De Wette, Huther, Wiesinger, Ellicott, Alford; and it is the only one that fitly accords with what follows about the sealing, which has immediate respect to Christ’s true people, not to Christ Himself. Of course they are what they are only from their relation to Him; so that by this view He is not excluded from the foundation, but, as it were, subsumed; and they who would find Christ more directly in the passage are still obliged, when they come to the sealing, to couple His people with Him, and even to have special regard to them.

The notion of sealing with reference to a foundation is peculiar to this passage. For a literal foundation it were somewhat out of place, but not so when understood spiritually of those appointed to a particular calling or destination. It is in this way that the action of sealing is commonly employed in New Testament Scripture; it represents persons as somehow certified of God, or having a special pledge of security granted them ( Joh 6:27 ; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30). Such, at least, is the prominent, if not in every case the exclusive, idea conveyed by the expression. It is plainly in that sense used here; the persons spoken of as sealed are those who derive from their peculiar relation to the divine foreknowledge what ensures their permanent stability and progress in the divine life. Genuine believers are God’s firm foundation, because they have their place and calling under this certification: “The Lord knoweth them that are His;” that is, knoweth them as such; and knowledge being necessarily for Him the ground of correspondent action. He regulates His procedure toward them accordingly. The passage itself, thus identified with the seal of God, is taken, with the substitution merely of Κύριος for Θέος , from the Sept. of Numbers 16:5, ἔγνω ὁ θεὸς τοὺς ὄντας αὐτοῦ literally, God knew them that are His (all the verbs in the passage being in the past): He knew from the first who stood in that peculiar relation, and (it is implied) would take steps for making this manifest to all, as the Hebrew, indeed, quite distinctly states: He will show, or give to be known. It was spoken of those whom He had chosen to the priesthood, as contradistinguished from Korah and his company, who were seeking to thrust themselves into the office. When quoted, however, as a general statement, nothing depends upon the particular tense; and we may as well render knoweth as knew who are His. For the knowledge of God is not affected by the evolutions of time: what He knows now. He knew with equal certainty in the past; and it is not the time when the knowledge was possessed by Him, but the manner how it bears on the state and destiny of those who are the objects of it, that is the point of special moment.

The apostle adds another sentence, which cannot, like the former one, be regarded as a quotation, though in substance it occurs in other parts of Scripture: And let every one that names the name of the Lord ( There can be no doubt that Κυ ́ ριου is here the correct reading, being that of א , A, C, D, F, K, L.) depart from iniquity. To name the name of the Lord is to do more than call upon Him, or profess some knowledge of His mind and will; it is to assume that name as the one by which we would be called, or to identify ourselves with the cause and interests it represents. The expression points back to Old Testament usage, where we find not only “naming the name of,” but having “the name named upon,” sometimes “called,” or “put upon” one that is, the name of Jehovah upon the people of His covenant. To have it so named or put upon them, implied the existence or expressed the acknowledgment of such a relationship (Genesis 48:16; Numbers 6:27; Isaiah 26:13, Isaiah 43:7; Amos 9:12, etc.). And for any one to name the name of the Lord, in the sense meant by the apostle, is, in other words, to give himself out for a true believer in Christ, and formally to take up his position among those who look to Him for salvation. Let every one who does this, says the apostle, depart from iniquity, or unrighteousness, because everything of this description is at variance with the position assumed; it would be a practical lie upon it. This call, therefore, to depart from iniquity, expressed in the second apophthegm, we can readily see, forms a fitting sequel and counterpart to that contained in the first: the naming of the Lord’s name, and, in consequence, departing from iniquity, is, on man’s part, the reflex and practical outcome, as well as evidence, of the blessed distinction of being known by God as emphatically His. But it seems rather fanciful to consider the second word, couched in the form of an exhortation, as equally with the first included in the designation of seal, and forming, so to speak, the inscription on its reverse side. For seals had not, like coins, a reverse side, from which another impression different from the primary one could be made. Nor could an exhortation to a particular course of life, like a divine, perpetually influential act, have properly attributed to it anything of sealing virtue. The relation of the two sayings to each other may rather be regarded as corresponding to a similar pair in Ephesians 4:30, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” where the sealing is made to stand simply in the indwelling grace and action of God’s Spirit; and the call not to grieve Him is an exhortation to the line of duty which such a near and blessed relation to the Spirit involves as a natural sequence or imperative obligation. There is no need, or even propriety, in pressing the connection further here. It is God who seals the firm foundation, or secures a living and abiding membership in His church, by choosing and recognising those who belong to it as His; and the proof that this seal really exists in any particular case, because the sure, unvarying result in which it expresses itself, is the departure of him who has it from iniquity his treading in the paths of righteousness. This bespeaks his living connection with the Holy One, while the want of it would as clearly indicate his alienation from Him.

Verse 20

Ver. 20. Here the apostle passes to another and apparently somewhat contradictory aspect of the church from the church viewed as God’s firm foundation, all solid and compact, to the church as a house composed of various and, to a certain extent, heterogeneous materials. The distinction is simply that of the real and the professing, or the invisible and the visible church. But ( δὲ , the adversative, indicating something diverse from the preceding) in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour, others to dishonour. That by the great house is to be understood the church as an outstanding, visible institution, is the nearly unanimous opinion of commentators, although Chrysostom insists on its being taken to mean the world, as the apostle (he says) wished everything in the church to be considered of gold and silver. But the question is as to the facts of the case, not what the apostle might wish to be such; and the whole tenor of his discourse here has respect to what in some way or another stands related to God as His household, in a religious point of view, in which respect there can be no doubt that there is a mixed condition of things a false as well as a true. Considered in this light, there are certain obvious resemblances between it and the utensils of a large dwelling-house, accompanied, no doubt, as usual in such comparisons, with underlying differences, which require to be kept in the background. But, so far as here put, the similitude is apt and natural: the vessels of gold and silver in such a house, being in themselves of costly material, and reserved for honourable uses, differ widely, though pertaining to the same establishment, from those of wood and earthenware, which are of little intrinsic worth, and fit only for meaner services. And such relatively to each other are the two great parties in God’s professing church: the one God’s true elect, His jewels, as He elsewhere calls them, or peculiar treasure, preserved by His faithful guardianship, and destined to His eternal glory; the other, those who have but an outward standing in the household, and if capable, perhaps, of performing some inferior offices, yet never attaining either here or hereafter to the honour of God’s saints, because destitute of the spiritual life which constitutes the essential property of such. This is the highest that can be said of the latter class; for if in certain things they may do a little service to the interests of the church, in others of a more vital nature they cannot; but, as a rule, do much dis -service. In the great conflict which is proceeding between good and evil, God does not receive from them the honour to which He is entitled, and they in turn must be treated by Him with dishonour, awaking at last to “shame and everlasting contempt.” They are of Israel, yet not Israel; called, but not chosen.

Verse 21

Ver. 21. There follows, therefore, a virtual exhortation to separate oneself from this class, and make sure of reaching the state and destination of the other. Without explaining what corresponded to the two kinds of vessels, taking for granted that this was understood, the apostle says, If any one, then, shall have purged himself from these that is, as Bengel well explains, shall by purifying himself have gone out of their number, those, namely, represented by the vessels associated with dishonour he shall be a vessel for honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work. Looking at the matter simply from a human point of view, and as connected with each man’s personal responsibilities, the apostle merely points to the result to be aimed at and attained, leaving it to be ascertained from the great principles of the gospel how the end in question was to be accomplished. He contents himself with putting before men a plain practical issue: moving no question about election, or about adoption into the family of God; but simply teaching, as Calvin well puts it, “that all who would consecrate themselves to the Lord must purge themselves from the filthiness of the ungodly the same, indeed, that God everywhere teaches. For we hear nothing else in this passage than what we find in many other parts of Paul’s epistles, and particularly in his second to the Corinthians: Be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord. It is hence clear beyond contradiction that we are called to holiness. But the calling and duty of Christians is one thing, and it is another whence the faculty or power of effecting it. That the faithful are required to purify themselves, we deny not; but that this is a matter which belongs to the Lord, He declares Himself, when through the prophet Ezekiel He promises to send forth the Holy Spirit, that we may be cleansed (Ezekiel 36:25). Wherefore Ave should rather beseech the Lord to purge us, than vainly make trial in such a matter of our own strength without His aid.” In a word, the thing itself must be done by us: every individual should lay it upon his conscience as a condition he is morally bound to have made good; but when he comes in earnest to attempt it, he finds he can only succeed by throwing himself on the redeeming mercy and sanctifying grace of God.

Verse 22

Ver. 22. But flee, youthful lusts Vulg. juvenilia desideria primarily, no doubt, sensual indulgence, yet not this alone, levity of spirit also, love of pleasure, vainglory, and things of a similar kind (Theodoret). Such an advice was still suitable to Timothy, who, though now in ripe manhood, was yet not beyond the period when the mind is liable to aberration or excess, from the undue impulse of the lower affections (see INTROD. sec. iii.). And the advice is introduced by the adversative particle ( δὲ ), in order more distinctly to mark the importance of the thing here required, if the well-qualified condition for doing good service, noticed immediately before, was to be attained: but remember this at least is indispensable you must keep clear from the gratification of youthful lusts. But (instead of yielding to those lusts) follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace with them that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart; in short, maintain a character such as becomes the gospel of Christ, adorned with the graces and virtues which it especially inculcates. The lesson here comes out again, so often already and in so many ways presented in these Pastoral epistles, that a sound moral condition is above all things essential to fitness for effective ministerial service in the divine kingdom. Other things may more or less be helpful, but this is indispensable. The peace spoken of is undoubtedly to be understood of peace in the closer sense a state of inner harmony and agreeable fellowship; because it is such as is to be maintained with them that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. This connection obviously reflects upon the nature of the peace intended.

Verse 23

Ver. 23. But foolish and ignorant questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. The same advice substantially was given to Titus (Titus 3:9); and the tendency of discussions about questions of the kind here indicated to give rise to fruitless contention, is distinctly stated at 1 Timothy 6:4. The only point which calls for explanation is the precise meaning of the second epithet applied to the questions ἀπαιδεύτους . Our translators have rendered it unlearned, which may be said to express the etymological sense, like the Vulgate’s sine disciplina, or Alford’s undisciplined. But to proscribe unlearned or undisciplined questions, with an implied sanction of such as could fitly be called learned or disciplined, is certainly not what the apostle meant, in the ordinary sense of such expressions. The Greek word nowhere else occurs in the New Testament; but in the Septuagint it is employed in a considerable variety of significations (if we may judge from the Hebrew terms it is taken to represent) not only untaught or undisciplined (Proverbs 5:23), but worthless (1 Samuel 1:16), senseless or foolish (Proverbs 8:5, Proverbs 15:13, Proverbs 15:15), etc. (See Schleusner, Lex., on the word.) Ignorant is probably as good a secondary meaning, and as suitable to the connection here, as any that can be employed, understanding thereby something closely allied to the other epithet, foolish, with which it is conjoined senseless, stupid; such questions as might be raised by persons who had undergone no proper instruction or training in the things of God. Questions of that description the thoughtful and earnest minister of God’s word will do well to eschew: he should feel like one that has no heart or time for them; and a little observation will soon convince him that they are, when entertained, as the apostle intimates, a fruitful source of strife.

Verses 24-26

Vers. 24-26. But the servant of the Lord, it is added, must not strive, but be gentle toward all: not a person of contentious and combative disposition, but of mild and conciliatory bearing. Every one who is a true believer in Christ, and in any sphere of life is called to do service to Him, ought to be such; for it is what Christ Himself, the great pattern of believers, pre-eminently was; but the connection makes it plain that servant of the Lord is here taken in the more emphatic sense of those who, like Timothy, were set apart to special service evangelists and ministers of the word. In such a case it is more in accordance with our idiom to say the than a servant of the Lord, though the δοῦλον of the original is without the article; but the prominent position of the word, at the very commencement of the sentence, and its being coupled also with a defining genitive ( Κυρίου ), serve substantially the same purpose as our definite article. Besides being gentle in his bearing, the Lord’s servant must be apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2, which see), I ( ἀνεξίκακον , enduring evil), in meekness correcting those who oppose themselves meaning thereby persons within the professing church, but who, taking up some false notions, or misled by perverted counsels, set themselves to withstand the pure teaching and goodly order of Christ’s kingdom. Such persons need to be firmly met, and brought under a corrective, wholesome administration ( παιδεύοντα , see at 1 Timothy 1:20, Titus 2:12), yet conducted with a meek and forbearing spirit. And the reason follows: if peradventure, or sometime perchance, God may give them repentance unto the full knowledge of the truth. The form of expression is peculiar, indicative of hope, yet mingled with much doubt and hesitancy: μήποτε δώῃ αὐτοῖς ὁ Θεὸς , literally, lest at any time God may give them. But what is meant is, plainly, not something to be dreaded, but something to be desired and hoped for, only of so uncertain or improbable a kind, that there was only a faint prospect of seeing it realized. Μη ̀ is here used somewhat irregularly, in its dubitative sense; ποτε ̀, with which it is united, is not otiose, but brings its own signification of indefinite time; and while marking clearly the complete contingency of the change, still leaves the faint hope that at some time or other such a change may, by God’s grace, be wrought within” (Ellicott). See also Winer, Gr. § 56, 2, b, note by Mr. Moulton, who suggests as a translation, whether haply; and Scherlitz, Grundzüge der Neutest. Gräcität, p. 365, perhaps fully better, whether God may not still give. It is an elliptical sentence, and cannot, as it actually stands, be very definitely construed; while yet there is plainly enough expressed a hesitating, yet not altogether groundless hope, that the desired good might be ultimately reached. The if peradventure, therefore, of the Authorized Version gives the sense nearly as well as any rendering that could be adopted.

In regard to the good itself to be sought in behalf of the opposers in question, a twofold description is given: first, that through a μετάνοιαν , a benignant change of heart wrought by the grace of God, they might come to the full knowledge ( ἐπίγνωσιν ) of the truth might not know it in part merely, or in so superficial a manner as to leave the spirit and temper of the inner man still unsubdued by its hallowed influence. Only the full knowledge, apprehended and embraced by a properly receptive heart, would be sufficient to win them over to the obedience of Christ. The other aspect presented of the good in question is contained in the next verse, 2 Timothy 2:26: and that they may return to soberness out of the snare of the devil. Such is the only ascertained sense of the verb ἀνανήψωσιν , found only here in the New Testament writings. The parties in question are contemplated as having sunk into a kind of drunken or benumbed state, through the artful devices of the great adversary, and capable only of being recovered to sobriety of thought and soundness of moral perceptions by being dealt with in a kindly and temperate, yet faithful exercise of authority. In that case, with God’s blessing on the means employed, the delusive spell might possibly break, and a position of freedom and safety be gained by them. The sentence is here, again, elliptical; and the full import plainly is, that they may return to soberness, [and so escape] out of the snare of the devil. The bewildered or stupefied state into which they had fallen was as if they had been caught in a snare of the wicked one; and so the dispelling of the one brought an escape from the other.

The remaining clause is attended with some difficulty, and has been variously interpreted: ἐζωγρημένοι ὑπ ʼ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ ἐκείνου θέλημα , being, or having been, taken captive by him, for, or according to the will of him. Such is the plain rendering of the words, which in themselves are simple enough. But in the original there are two pronouns, which are at least most naturally referred to different subjects, as indeed they do refer, in a passage quite near (2 Timothy 3:9), where the one ( αὐτός ) has respect to a nearer, the other ( ἐκεῖνος ) to a more remote party. Cases have been produced in which both pronouns, when occurring in a single sentence, have respect to the same subject (Kühner, § 629, 3). But they are somewhat exceptional, and, as stated by Alford, it took place only when it was sought by such a use of ἐκεῖνος to emphasize the subject. The meaning, therefore, can hardly be that given by the Vulgate, a quo captivi tenentur ad ipsius voluntatem; reproduced in our English version, “who are taken captive by him at his will,” adopted still by De Wette and Huther; for, so rendered, the devil would be the subject of both pronouns, with no more emphasis in connection with the one than the other: αὐτοῦ would have served equally well in both places. The objection applies also to the view of the Greek expositors, who ascribe the taking captive not to the devil, but to God, and as the product of His will, which is liable to the further objection that it represents men, who had just returned to the free use of their intellectual and moral powers, as now taken captive, though in a better sense than before borne away by another power than their own. Nor is the matter much mended by Bengel, Wetstein, and others, who would refer the αὐτοῦ , who takes captive, not to God Himself, but to the servant of God, through whose instrumentality the blessed captivity is effected, and God’s will in this respect made good. This gets rid, indeed, of the objection as to the two pronouns being made to refer to one subject; but there still remains the apparent unnaturalness and impropriety of representing persons, just restored to sense and liberty, going into captivity carried captive, on this supposition, by a human agent, who, immediately before, was taught to regard his working upon them to any good purpose as only a bare possibility. A transition of this sort wants verisimilitude. It seems necessary, therefore, to a satisfactory explanation, that we understand by the power who takes captive the devil, and, as a matter of course, that the captivity so effected be associated with the preceding period of spiritual intoxication, when the parties lay locked, as it were, in a stupefying delusion. The tense also confirms this view the perfect, not the aorist pointing, therefore, not to a single act, but to a continued state: having been taken captive by him. Then the concluding clause, εἰς τὸ ἐκείνου θέλημα , unto (in pursuance of, or for the carrying out of) the will of Him namely, of God: this may grammatically be connected, either with their captivity to the power of evil, which in that case comes to be regarded as under His appointment and control; or, as appears more natural, with their recovery from that state the restoration to sobriety of mind, which is all one with escaping from the snare and captivity of the devil, being the fulfilment, in their experience, of His gracious will. The whole passage, then, might be read, pointed, and slightly paraphrased thus: In meekness correcting those who oppose themselves, if peradventure God may give them repentance [to come] unto the full knowledge of the truth; and that they may return to soberness, [and so escape] out of the snare of the devil ( by whom they had been taken captive), according to the will of Him (God), who for this end seconds the efforts of His servant, by giving the spirit of repentance and true enlightenment.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". "Fairbairn's Commentary on Ezekiel, Jonah and Pastoral Epistles". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbn/2-timothy-2.html.
 
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