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1 Timothy 1:1. Commandment of—Christ, which is our hope;— Appointment of—Christ our hope.
1 Timothy 1:2. My own son, &c.— It is not certain from the history that Timothy was converted by St. Paul: See Acts 16:1-2. It seems therefore that he calls him his son, to express the parental affection that he had for him, and the complacency he found in that assistance which he had received from him in the work of the ministry, and in the filial reverence and affection which this excellent young minister expressed to him. Nor can we doubt but Timothy had received much confirmation in Christianity from the apostle.
1 Timothy 1:4. Neither give heed to fables, &c.— Nothing can be conceived more monstrous and absurd than the fables with which the writings of the Jewish rabbies are filled. It is probable this wild romantic humour might in some measure prevail as early as the apostle's days, and may be referred to here. The Jewish Christians valued themselves very much upon their descent from Abraham and the prophets, though possibly some of them could hardly make out the whole genealogy: but if they could have done it ever so exactly, Christians were to regard no man according to the flesh, nor to reject or despise the Gentile Christians for want of such a genealogy or extraction. Holiness and love were chiefly to be looked after in a Christian: he who had these, had all that was truly valuable; and he who wanted them, was of no account in the sight of God.
1 Timothy 1:5. Now the end of the commandment, &c.— "The sum and great end of the Christian doctrine, or of the gospel, is love, &c." See 1 Thessalonians 5:10. Philemon 1:2
1 Timothy 1:7. Desiring to be teachers of the law;— The gospel alone was too simple a thing for the Judaizing Christians; and their partiality for the law of Moses was so great, that they not only considered the whole of it, even the ceremonial part, as obligatory upon themselves, but they would have imposed it upon the Gentile converts; though they understood not the grand design of the law with respect to the Jews, much less the freedom of the Gentile converts from any subjection to it. The law was given because of transgressions, or to restrain the Jews from idolatry and other vices, and to prepare them for the reception of the Messiah and his gospel; when therefore the gospel was come, there was no longer any occasion for that severe tutor. The word Νομοδιδασκαλος means a doctor of the law, a rabbi, or father. See Luke 5:17. Acts 5:34.
1 Timothy 1:8. If a man use it lawfully;— This plainly intimates, that there were some who abused the law, borrowing a pretence from it to condemn some of the best of men, and to subvert the gospel: and whereas some have represented St. Paul as an enemy to the law, he here denies and disproves the charge. The design of the Mosaic law was to direct the conduct of those to whom it was given, to humble them under a sense of their sins, and to lead them to an atoning Saviour; but it could not be intended to save them by a perfect conformity to it, which was το αδυνατον, what the law could not do. Romans 8:3.
1 Timothy 1:9. Knowing this, &c.— The apostle's thought seems to be this, "That a law in the general,—(for there is no article, as in 1Ti 1:8 to determine or confine it to the Jewish law)—is chiefly intended to restrain men from actions injurious to the public:" what it says, therefore,chiefly relates to crimes, and their punishments; but the genius of Christianity is so sublime, that while it brings us to an all-sufficient Saviour, it leads us to all the heights and depths of holiness and love—to a religion which is not supported by slavish fear, but governs the soul by the most liberal and noble principles which can influence and animate an intellectual being.
1 Timothy 1:10. And if there be any other thing, &c.— That was sound doctrine, in St. Paul's account, which condemned wicked practices and evil tempers, and promoted holiness and love; that, therefore, must be unsound doctrine, which encourages the contrary practices, tempers, and experience: here then is a proper test or standard, given by an apostle, by which to judge of the soundness or unsoundness of any doctrine. Some read, To the sound doctrine, (1 Timothy 1:11.) which is according, &c.
1 Timothy 1:12. Who hath enabled me,— "Who hath qualified me with so many, and such extraordinary spiritual gifts and miraculous powers, to enable me for so great and blessed an undertaking," See Acts 1:8. Doddridge renders it, "Who hath strengthened me for the arduous duties of such a calling."
1 Timothy 1:13. But I obtained mercy, &c.— It is not to be supposed that the apostle, by saying because I did it ignorantly and in unbelief, meant that his ignorance and unbelief were deserving; or were a proper cause of his obtaining mercy: for it would be strange indeed to imagine, that there was any merit in an ignorance which was owing to a wilful rejection of the clearest means of knowledge; and in unbelief, which is itself a heinous sin, with an entail of damnation upon it, under the light of the gospel: accordingly the apostle in the next words speaks with high admiration of the grace of the Lord Jesus, as exceeding abundant towards him, who considered himself as the chief of sinners: but his ignorance and unbelief did not shut him out of the sphere of mercy, as it left him a capable subject of it, according to the grace of the gospel; whereas, had his blasphemy and persecutions been maliciously practised, contrary to his knowledge and belief of Christ's being the true Messiah, they would have amounted to the unpardonable sin.
1 Timothy 1:14. With faith and love— When he was a bigotted Jew, he had no love to the Christians, or to the Gentiles, nor any true love to God; but love soon followed faith in Christ Jesus: the benevolent spirit of Christianity, accompanied with the power of divine grace, sweetened his temper, regenerated his soul, and altered his cond
1 Timothy 1:15. Of whom I am chief.— As distance diminishes objects to the sight, and nearness magnifies them, so to holy men their own faults appear greater than those of others; and truth is not injured by expressions which humility suggests, because they speak their real sentiments.
1 Timothy 1:17. Unto the king eternal, &c.— It has been thought that in giving such titles to the true God here, St. Paul, among various other reasons, might possibly glance at the absurdity of idolatrous Ephesus, in worshipping such a visible corruptible image as that of Diana. The apostle therefore plainly intimated, that God is God alone, and there is none besides him.
1 Timothy 1:18. According to the prophesies, &c.— "That according to the predictions made concerning you, you may exert yourself with success in this conflict" See Ch. 1 Timothy 4:14.
1 Timothy 1:19. Holding faith and a good conscience;— "Retaining the great principles of the Christian faith in power, and with it the exercise of a good conscience."
1 Timothy 1:20. Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander;— Probably this Alexander is the person mentioned Act 19:33 who might become worse and worse after St. Paul's departure from Ephesus, emboldened whereto by his absence: so that the apostle might now be determined to deliver him up to Satan; that is,—according to the extraordinary apostolic power with which God had invested him for such purposes,—to inflict upon him certain pains and evils which might possibly under divine grace reclaim him. See 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 2 Timothy 4:14.
Inferences.—How solemn and important, honourable and delightful, is the trust which God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ have committed to gospel-ministers! how thankful should they be for it, and how desirous of an abundance of grace and mercy from these Divine Persons, to help, pity, and prosper them, that they may be supported under their numerous trials from without and from within, and enabled to be faithful in their Lord's work, according to the qualifications that he has given them, and the reasonable expectations which they afford. They may indeed meet with many virulent and subtile adversaries; some, furious persecutors like Paul before his conversion; others, apostates like Hymeneus and Alexander; and others, who would propagate fabulous traditions and strange doctrines, and introduce doubtful disputations and vain janglings, to the overthrowing of the faith of many, instead of promoting spiritual edification. But as all such are to be shunned and rejected, while the truly sincere and pious are to be affectionately loved as genuine children in the faith, with what courage may the servants of Christ stand to their charge, in which they are called to war a good warfare! and with what pleasure may they recommend the glorious gospel of the blessed God, in hopes that other sinners, by their preaching, may embrace the same offers and the same grace which have been proposed and bestowed upon them! for they well know, and can assure all around them, on the credit of a divine testimony, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save even the chief of sinners. O wondrous, superabounding grace! It turns the hearts, and pardons the sins of blasphemers, persecutors, and injurious persons, and frees them from the condemnation of the law, which does not stand in force against those who are righteous through faith in Christ, but only against obstinate, impenitent unbelievers, who persist in ungodliness and immorality, which are forbidden by the good and holy law of God, and are equally contrary to the sound doctrine of the gospel. But how should sinners tremble at the thought of continuing to oppose and reject the gospel, and of making a wrong use of the law: and how solicitous should preachers and hearers be, that they may live under the power of evangelical love, as proceeding from a sanctified heart; and also, that unfeigned faith and a good conscience may be always preserved together; lest, by violating conscience, they soon make shipwreck of faith! and with what gratitude and praise should all who are experimentally acquainted with Christ, according to the gospel revelation of him, unite their adorations of him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as he in his divine nature is inseparably, one with them, the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God! to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have in this chapter,
1. The apostolical inscription. Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, to bear a special witness to him; who was not invested with this office by the authority of men; but was called by Christ himself to fulfil it among the Gentiles, not according to his own deserts, but according to the grace, commandment, and pleasure of God the Father—sends greeting; and the beloved Timothy, a faithful brother in the ministry, concurs in all that is hereafter written.
2. His salutation. Grace, mercy, and peace, be with you, from God our Father, in whose love we have a common interest; and Jesus Christ our Lord, who bought us with his blood, and called us to the obedience of the faith.
3. He reminds him of the design that he had in leaving him at Ephesus, and exhorts him to be faithful to his charge. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine; even those Judaizing teachers, who would corrupt the simplicity of the gospel; be faithful to thy trust, and warn the people to beware of these seducers; neither to give heed to fables, their absurd traditions, and endless genealogies; affecting to trace up their descent from Abraham and the patriarchs, and valuing themselves highly on such an ancestor; which minister questions, and endless disputes, rather than godly edifying, which is in faith. Note; (1.) Unedifying disputes about unessential matters have the most pernicious tendency to destroy vital religion. (2.) There can be no true godliness, but what springs from faith as its principle. (3.) Ministers must watch over the flock, and guard them from the inroads of error, as well as impiety. (4.) Broachers of new doctrines, contrary to the fundamental articles of faith, should receive from the bishops of the church deserved rebuke.
2nd, Having repeated the charge before given to Timothy, concerning the deluding teachers, he
1. Directs him what end he should aim at, the preservation of the church's peace. Now the end of the commandment, (either of the moral law, or of the gospel, or of the charge which the apostle had given him,) is to promote charity, or love towards God and man, flowing out of a pure heart, sanctified by the blessed Spirit; and of a good conscience, purged from dead works by the blood of sprinkling, and of faith unfeigned, the radical grace, whence love and every other divine temper spring: from all which some having swerved, and wandering wide of the mark, have turned aside unto vain jangling, trifling questions, and idle disputes; desiring to be teachers of the law; setting up for great wisdom, as interpreters of it, and zealous to urge the observation of its rites upon the Gentiles, as necessary to salvation; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm; real strangers to its spiritual nature, use, and design. Note; (1.) Love in the heart is the great preservative from all disputes and dissensions. (2.) It is a sad consideration, when ignorant men intrude into the ministry, strangers to the oracles of God, and unacquainted with all the truths themselves in which they pretend to instruct others.
2. The right use of the law is here declared. But, however abused it may be, we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully, and apply it to the purposes for which God gave it,—to convince the conscience of sin; to be a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ; and, though ceasing to be a covenant of works, yet continuing to be a rule and law of duty, according to which God will proceed in his judgment at the last day: knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, nor does the damning sentence of it lie against any faithful soul; but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, who with daring impenitence and wilful obstinacy transgress it, &c. and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; all which, and every other crime, the law condemns; and the judgment denounced by the law is according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust; there being the most perfect agreement in this respect between the law and the gospel, which condemns all ungodliness, and teaches us to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present evil world. Note; The gospel is an awful glorious trust; and while we bless God for the honour that he puts upon us in committing it to our charge, we need tremble for ourselves, lest we should be found unfaithful.
3rdly, The apostle with deep gratitude acknowledges the distinguishing favour shewn him of God, not only in calling him to the knowledge of his grace, but in putting him in trust with the gospel, and qualifying him for the discharge of it. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. Note; (1.)
None are Christ's ministers, but those whom he puts into their office. (2.) Whom he calls, he qualifies for the discharge of their ministry. (3.) Want of ministerial abilities is a sure proof that men run without being sent.
1. The apostle humbly owns the dreadful state out of which by divine grace he was called; who was before a blasphemer of Christ and his gospel, and a persecutor of his people, and injurious, branding the Christian name with every malignant aspersion. Note; (1.) The depth of our guilt serves to magnify but the more the riches of divine grace in our pardon and salvation. (2.) True converts are ever ready to take shame to themselves, and to own their former abominations with deep regret.
2. God had mercy on him; But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; I did it not against knowledge, for I verily thought I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus, Act 26:9 and yet, notwithstanding this, the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant, beyond all conception wonderful, that it should be extended to such a wretch as me; with faith, and love, which is in Christ Jesus, and which in the richest measure the Lord was pleased to bestow upon my soul. So that from the happiest experience I can now declare, that this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief: none, therefore, after the mercy which I have received, need despair. Howbeit, notwithstanding my enormous guilt, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first, or the chief of sinners, Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting; encouraging the vilest to hope and return to him, as being still willing and able to save to the uttermost. Note; (1.) Unbelief is at the bottom of every evil. (2.) The chief of sinners may be saved as freely as the least: those only perish, who will not come to Christ that they may have life. (3.) They who are discouraged under a sense of the greatness of their sins, should remember those who have already found mercy, and from the deepest crimes have risen to the greatest heights of grace; witness David, Manasseh, Peter, and this apostle.
4thly, The apostle repeats his charge to Timothy. This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophets which went before on thee, which held thee forth as one who would be called to an eminent station in the church of God; that, remembering these things, thou mightest be quickened to correspond therewith, and by them mightest war a good warfare; as a faithful soldier of Christ, manfully fighting under his banner against sin and error; holding faith, firmly attached to the purity of the gospel doctrines, and maintaining a good conscience, void of offence towards God and man; which some having put away, rejected and thrust from them, concerning faith have made shipwreck, and apostatized from the life of God; of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, those notorious heretics, whom I have delivered unto Satan; by my apostolic power assigning them over to that tormentor, to inflict upon them severe chastisement; that they may learn not to blaspheme, and that by their sufferings they may be brought to a conviction of their sins, or, at least, be so terrified, as not to dare any longer to persist in their horrid blasphemies. Note; (1.) We are now engaged in a dangerous warfare, and the ministers of Christ especially will meet with the strongest opposition. We have need therefore to hold fast by him who is our strength, that we may stand in the evil day. (2.) None usually turn out so dreadfully, and become such horrid blasphemers, as those who apostatize from the genuine doctrines of the gospel, and from the experience of true religion.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30