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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Timothy 2

Verse 2

2 Timothy 2:2. And the things that thou hast heard of me The apostles alone had the whole scheme of the Christian revelation from our Lord Jesus Christ. The prophets, evangelists, and elders, of the Christian church, as well as other Christians, learned it from the apostles; who desired and ordered that there should be a succession of men to teach it.

Verse 4

2 Timothy 2:4. No man that warreth entangleth himself, &c.— The Roman soldiers were not suffered to be tutors to any person, curators of another man's estate, proctors for other men's causes, or to undertake husbandry or merchandize.

Verse 5

2 Timothy 2:5. If a man also strive for masteries, And if a man combat in the public games, he is not crowned, unless he has observed the rules prescribed. Heylin. If, in the Grecian games, they contended according to the rules prescribed, and came off conquerors, they were honoured with a crown of parsley, laurel, or bays: in like manner, if Timothy, through thepower of grace, divested himself of the inordinate love of temporal things, and contended according to the Christian rules, he was at last, through the mercy of God, to attain an incorruptible crown of glory.

Verse 6

2 Timothy 2:6. The husbandman that laboureth, &c.— Or The husbandman must first labour, to partake of the fruits. Heylin, and Bowyer.

Verse 7

2 Timothy 2:7. Give thee understanding in all things. Grant you industry in all things. Castalio. Some read, Consider what I say, for [if you do so] the Lord will give you understanding in all things. Others connect all things with the next verse;—In all things remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead, &c.

Verse 8

2 Timothy 2:8. According to my gospel: That is, "The gospel which I have preached." St. Paul seems to say, My Gospel, by way of emphasis, in opposition to the false gospel delivered by Hymeneus and Philetus; who perhaps preached, That the resurrection was past: therefore the apostle calls upon Timothy, To remember Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, raised from the dead,—the true Messiah, lineally descended from David; who, like David, endured a variety of sufferings; but being raised from the dead, affords a thousand arguments to his followers to support their sufferings like him, in confident hope of the same resurrection.

Verse 9

2 Timothy 2:9. Wherein For which. Heylin and Whitby.

Verse 10

2 Timothy 2:10. For the elect's sake, By the elect, St. Paul here seems more particularly to mean the Gentile converts: for He suffered as the apostle of the Gentiles; and he often intimates, that unless he through grace had so laboured and suffered, and they persevered in holiness and piety, both he and they would have missed of salvation and eternal glory. See 1 Thessalonians 3:5.

Verse 11

2 Timothy 2:11. It is a faithful saying: Some refer these words to the concluding clause of the former verse; but it seems much more reasonable to connect them with what follows; as, generally speaking, this phrase is introductory to the weighty sentence which it is intended to confirm. Heylin reads, This is a certain truth; if we die with him, &c. Archbishop Tillotson thinks, that this was a celebrated saying among the Christians, which was derived by tradition either fromChrist, or some of his apostles: and it had so powerful a tendency to keep them steady to their holy religion, that it is no wonder it was in frequent use.

Verse 13

2 Timothy 2:13. If we believe not, If we are unfaithful,—yet he continues faithful; [as well in his threatenings as in his promises;] he cannot contradict himself. Heylin. A man may be unfaithful, by denying the Christian religion, or rejecting it; by corrupting it, or mingling another doctrine with it; or, by living unworthy of it. If we should prove unfaithful any of these ways, yet Christ is faithful, and must disown us, as being none of his disciples. The unfaithfulness here spoken of, seems to have been, denying the Christian religion in time of persecution, in order to avoid sufferin

Verse 14

2 Timothy 2:14. Charging them before the Lord There is a most awful solemnity in this charge; which plainly shews the great folly and mischief of striving about little controversies: and it would be well if all the ministers of Christ were deeply affected with a sense of this, lest what they profess to hold most sacred, be itself torn in pieces, while they are struggling about its fringes.

Verse 15

2 Timothy 2:15. Rightly dividing the word of truth. The Vulgate, no doubt, has given in general the true sense of this expression, by rendering it, Recte tractantem verbum veritatis, "rightly handling the word of truth:" but it is not so easy to determine, whence in particular the metaphorical word 'Ορθοτομουντα, cutting aright, or straight, is taken. Some suppose it alludes to the cutting up and dividing the sacrifices by the Levitical priests; others, to the dividing and dispensing food at a table, or to the distribution made by a steward, in delivering out to each person under his care such things, as his office and their necessities required. Compare Luke 12:42. Price refers it to the exact cutting, or polishing of stone or marble: Chrysostom, Theophylact, and OEcumenius explain it of cutting off all superfluous and useless matter in preaching God's word, (as curriers do, in skins that they are preparing for use; compare 2 Timothy 2:16.) but Theodoret thinks it is a metaphor taken from husbandmen. "We commend (says he,) even those husbandmen who cut straight furrows: so, that preacher is worthy of praise, who follows the rule of the divine oracles." And to this last interpretation I must confess myself most inclined,—because our blessed Lord himself illustrates the duty of a minister of his gospel by a similar allusion, Luke 9:62.—because St. Paul had just before called Timothy Εργατην ; which, though applied to other workmen, properly signifies a husbandman; — and also because the word ορθοτομειν in the LXX. signifies to cut, or make straight, in the only two passages of that version where it occurs; namely, Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 11:5. To all which we may add, that, though it may be doubted whether the verb ορθοτομειν be ever in the Greek writers applied to husbandmen's ploughing, yet in Theocritus, Idyll. x. l. 2 we have the term ογμον αγειν ορθον, — to draw, or make a straight furrow.

Verses 17-18

2 Timothy 2:17-18. Of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; Among the various conjectures concerning the opinions of Hymeneus and Philetus, it seems most probable that they insisted, that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was to be understood only in a spiritual or figurative sense; or that it was the same with regeneration, or being born of God.

Verse 19

2 Timothy 2:19. Nevertheless, the foundation, &c.— The word עיקר, oiker, which originally signifies a foundation, has sometimes been applied by the Hebrews to an article of faith; sometimes to a covenant, bill of contract, bond or obligation. St. Paul has more than once used Greek words in the same latitude with the Hebrew, as he seems to have done here. Indeed Grotius, who took the word θεμελιος for "the foundation of a building," interprets it, "the seal of all inscription upon the foundation stone," and refers to Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10. Upon which Archbishop Tillotson has very justly observed, that in the words of this text the apostle declares to us the terms of the covenant between God and man; for the word θεμελιος, which is here translated foundation, according to the usual signification, is likewise (as learned men have observed) sometimes used for an instrument of contract, whereby two parties obliged themselves mutually to each other: and this notion of the word agrees very well with what follows, concerning the seal affixed to it, which is very suitable to a covenant, but not at all to a foundation. It is true, indeed, as Grotius has observed, there used antiently to be inscriptions on foundation stones; and the word σφραγις, which we render a seal,—may likewise signify an inscription;—and then the sense will be very current, thus: The foundation of God standeth sure, having this inscription. But it is to be considered, that, though the word σφραγις may signify an inscription, yet it is only an inscription upon a seal; which has no relation to a foundation, but is very proper to a covenant, or mutual obligation; and accordingly, the seal affixed to this instrument or covenant between God and man, is, in allusion to the custom of those countries, said to have an inscription on both sides; on GOD's part there is this impress or inscription, The Lord knoweth them that are his; that is, "God will own and rewardthose that are faithful to him:" and on our part,—Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. See 1 Timothy 6:19. Numbers 16:5.

Verse 21

2 Timothy 2:21. If a man therefore purge himself from these, &c.— The meaning seems to be, that Timothy and other Christians were carefully to avoid the faults of the Judaizers, keeping themselves pure and clean from their corrupt doctrines and practices, and exerting themselves to promote the true Gospel of Christ; and then, instead of being vessels merely useful in some capacity, they would be vessels unto honour, fitted for the use of the master of the family, the greatest and most honourable person there. God is the great Master of this large house, 2Ti 2:20 and good men are like the consecrated vessels in the temple, fitted for his use and service.

Verse 22

2 Timothy 2:22. Flee also youthful lusts: "Flee from all occasions of exciting or gratifying the passions of youth; whether, on the one hand, the love of sensual pleasure; or, on the other, rashness, contention, pride, and vainglory; to which young persons are peculiarlyobnoxious." These are youthful passions,of the imminent danger of which, some heady young men, who may value themselves for their freedom from other scandals, seem to think but little; yet it is plain from the opposition between this and the latter part of theverse, that they were particularly in St. Paul's mind, when he gave this caution.

Verse 26

2 Timothy 2:26. And that they may recover themselves And that they may awaken out of the snare of the devil, who have been taken captive by him at his pleasure. In order to understand the beautiful image before us, it is proper to observe, that the word 'Ανανηψωσιν properly signifies "to awake from a deep sleep, or from a fit of intoxication;" and refers to an artifice of fowlers, to scatter seeds impregnated with some drugs, intended to lay birds asleep, that they may draw the net over them with the greater security. Some, however, read and connect this verse with the foregoing: God, peradventure, will give them repentance,—that they may recover themselves to his will, out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him.

Inferences.—There is not perhaps a single precept in the whole sacred volumes which would be more extensively useful to ministers, or to private Christians, than that of the apostle in this chapter, taken in all its extent,—Remember Jesus Christ. Many a sweet memorial has he left us of himself. Often, very often, have we been called solemnly to survey them, and yet how ready are we to forget him, and by a natural consequence to forget ourselves, our duty and interest on the one hand, and our danger on the other! "Blessed Jesus! may we daily and hourly remember thee! that thou hast died, that thou art raised from the dead, and that thou art ever near to thy believing people, to protect, to comfort, and to bless them. If, for thy cause, we should be called to suffer evil, as evil doers, whether in our persons, or reputations, may we not be discouraged, but rather rejoice in the honour thou doest us in appointing for us such a conformity to thyself! The enemies of thy gospel may indeed oppose it, they may bind its most faithful preachers; but their opposition, their persecution, is vain." The word of God is not bound; and divine grace, operating by it, will sooner or later give it the intended, the promised, triumph; that all the faithful saints of God may obtain salvation by Jesus Christ, and may not only escape the condemnation and ruin of the impenitent world, but may finally be crowned with eternal glory.

May we ever be mindful of this faithful word, that if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him too; and may we endure the greatest hardships to which we can be called out, as considering that the sufferings are momentary, but the reign will be eternal. Never may we, for any allurements or terror, deny him, as we would not finally be denied by him; when no other honour will remain but that which he confers, no other happiness but that which he bestows.

In the mean time, as we desire the prosperity of his kingdom, let us earnestly pray that he will raise up to his church a multitude of faithful ministers, who may govern themselves by these truly apostolical canons; ministers, who may not contend about words in a manner unprofitable and vain, who may not amuse their hearers with empty harangues about insignificant curiosities or perplexing subtleties; but may, in the integrity of their hearts, endeavour to approve themselves to God, as workmen who need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. And may divine grace preserve the church from those seducing teachers, whose doctrine, like a secret gangrene, might spread itself so that the faith of many might be overthrown.

But how affecting a representation is here made of the wretched state of sinners! they are described as sleeping in Satan's snare, like birds in a net, taken alive, and at the fowler's mercy; while they imagine they can spring up whenever they please, and range at full liberty. Alas! they will soon perceive their fatal captivity: but they will perceive it too late, if they be not quickly awakened. Who would not wish to do something for their recovery? Let the ministers of the gospel pity them. Let us pray that God would give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth. Let us try every gentle method which the sincerest compassion can dictate, toward effecting so happy a design, and not suffer ourselves to be transported to undue severities of language, or of sentiments, even though we should receive the greatest injuries where we intend the most important kindness.

Let those that have the honour to bear the most holy character, which any office can devolve on mortal man, avoid, with the greatest care, every thing that would bring a stain, or even a suspicion upon it. Let them revere the voice of the great apostle, while it animates them to pursue righteousness and faith, love and peace, with all their fellow-Christians of every denomination, with all that invoke Christ, and that trust in him. So shall they be vessels of honour; so may they humbly hope that their Lord will condescend to make some special use of them, for the purposes of his own glory, and the salvation of their fellow-creatures.

To conclude. What is it to us, that the Lord knows, distinguishes, and favours his saints, and that his almighty power protects them, if we are ourselves found among the wicked, with whom he is angry every day,—among the workers of iniquity, whom he will publicly disown, and to whom he will say, I know not whence you are. To name the name of Christ with dispositions like these, will be to injure and profane it; and our profession itself will be interpreted as an act of hostility against him, whom we have presumed so vainly to call the Foundation of our hopes, and the Sovereign of our souls.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle in this chapter continues his exhortations. Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, sensible of thy own weakness, and dependant upon him who alone can enable thee for the arduous work. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, publicly declared, and proved by numerous testimonies of the law and prophets, the same commit thou to faithful men, whose sincerity and abilities have been tried and approved, who shall be able to teach others also, and preserve the glorious truths of gospel grace unadulterated. Thou therefore endure hardness, all those persecutions and afflictions to which, in the gospel warfare, thou mayest be exposed, acquitting thyself as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, fighting manfully under his banners with such courage, patience, and perseverance, as may effectually secure the crown. No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; his military service is incompatible with the pursuit of any other trade or profession; he must be at the General's call, and ever ready to obey his orders, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier; so must every minister of Christ be disengaged from worldly concerns, that he may be wholly employed in the service of the great Captain of our salvation, and make it his whole study and care to please him, and advance the interests of his kingdom. And if a man also strive for mysteries in the Olympic games, yet is he not crowned with that fading crown the reward of victory, except he strive lawfully, according to the rules prescribed; and much more should they, who have before them a crown of glory incorruptible, exert every effort according to the orders of their divine Master, to win the eternal prize. The husbandman that laboureth, must be first partaker of the fruits; or the husbandman must labour first, before he partakes of the fruits: so must the faithful minister labour for the good of immortal souls, and patiently wait for the success of his ministry, and the expected reward in the day of Christ. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things, enabling thee to make deep application of these things to thy own soul; and, as a valiant soldier, a brave combatant and laborious husbandman, to acquit thyself in thy ministerial office. Note; Let all who look to the ministry, consider these things, and count the cost before they presume to appear candidates for the service.

2nd, To encourage him boldly to suffer, the apostle suggests,
1. The grand foundation of their hope, as built upon the resurrection of Jesus. Remember that Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, of the seed of David, in his human nature, was raised from the dead, shewing thereby the complete atonement he had made for the sins of the world, and the full redemption which he had obtained for all his faithful saints, according to my gospel which I preached unto you.

2. He sets before him his own example: wherein, that is, for preaching which gospel, I suffer trouble as an evil doer even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound: even in my prison the gospel still runs and is glorified in the conversion of many souls, and others boldly labour at large, though I am confined. Therefore, dependant upon the power of God, I endure all things for the elect's sake, willing to endure, if I am called thereunto, even death itself, that they may also obtain (confirmed in the faith by my unshaken steadfastness in suffering for it) the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory, of which he is the author, finisher, and bestower, on all those, and only those, who perseveringly believe in him. Note; A noble example is a powerful encouragement to follow on.

3. The reward of faithful suffering should engage him boldly to take up the cross. It is a faithful saying: for if we be dead with him, as vitally united to him in death, or if called to die for his cause, as he died for us, we shall also live with him, planted also in the likeness of his resurrection, and raised up to immortal life and glory: if we suffer for him, we shall also reign with him, sitting down on his throne: but if we prove faithless, and deny him in the hour of temptation, he also will deny and disown us in the great day of his appearing: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; his promises and threatenings will surely be accomplished, whether men believe them or not: he is immutable, and cannot deny himself, or falsify his word. Note; (1.) It is our privilege to suffer, when we see that the issue will be so glorious. (2.) The hope of life with Jesus, should raise us superior to all the fears of death, though in its most tremendous form. (3.) They who, for any worldly interest or advantage, or to avoid shame, reproach, or suffering, disown the Lord Jesus, his gospel, and suffering servants,—they shall bear in eternity their burden, and be driven from his presence with everlasting contempt.

3rdly, The apostle proceeds to give further exhortations to Timothy:
1. To seek the edification of those who were under his charge. Of these things put them in remembrance; charging them, with all solemnity and authority before the Lord, as in his presence, that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers, drawing them from the purity of the gospel, instead of promoting godly edifying. Note; Any trivial matter will afford occasion of strife to a contentious spirit.

2. He enjoins him to shew himself an able minister of Jesus Christ. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, diligent, faithful, laborious, skilful, rightly dividing the word of truth, and giving to each his portion in due season, according to the various cases and conditions of the people's souls. But shun profane and vain babblings, the dreams of the Judaizing teachers, for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and lead to the most pernicious errors in principles and practice. And their word will eat as doth a canker, corroding the hearts of the hearers, and threatening their eternal death: of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus, the chief heretical seducers; who concerning the truth have erred, saying, that the resurrection is past already; probably they asserted, that the resurrection was only mystical and spiritual, not of the body but of the soul; and have overthrown the faith of some. Note; (1.) Error is as spreading as a gangrene; and, though it may appear little at first, threatens the most fatal consequences. (2.) They who love to hear themselves talk, will be sure to prove the truth of that scripture, that in the multitude of words there wanteth not folly. (3.) A true minister will labour to speak ever to the purpose, not curious about a fine harangue, but careful to apply the word of truth to the consciences of his hearers.

4thly, Among all the errors of deceivers, this is nevertheless our comfort:

1. That the foundation of God standeth sure. Let not these and the like false, impious, heretical teachers move you; for God will certainly perform his promise to all his faithful saints: his bill of contract in Christ with such, his decree and purpose towards them, remains unchangeable, being under seal; and the seal of this contract has two impresses: on one side this, The Lord knoweth them that are his, God is sure to all those that are faithful to him, to reward them both in body and soul to all eternity. The impress on the other side is, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity; every Christian obliges himself to a holy life (quite contrary to the experience and practices of the deceivers here referred to) by undertaking the faith of Christ.

2. But as 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, and some to dishonour, so it need not be thought strange, that in the visible church, while some professors adorn the gospel, others appear a scandal to the name they bear, a dishonour to the Redeemer, and will at last be rejected by him. If a man therefore purge himself from these errors and practices of the seducing teachers, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work, employed by him on earth with approbation, and, after having finished the work which he hath given him to do below, shall be removed to shine in his better temple of eternal glory above. Lord, may my lot be with these!

5thly, Some personal directions are here given to the young evangelist.
1. Flee youthful lusts, not merely those of the flesh, but the still more dangerous ones of pride, love of pre-eminence, and popular applause, those fatal rocks against which so many make shipwreck, and which need to be shunned with peculiar care. But,

2. Follow righteousness towards God and men, faith, charity, peace, with all the other train of heavenly tempers which abide in them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Note; They who are Christians indeed, are constant at a throne of grace, and, in purity of heart and life, prove their professions sincere.

3. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes, and open a field of endless and unprofitable controversy. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; the follower of the Lamb of God should copy the pattern of his meekness, not be quarrelsome, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach in the most inoffensive way, patient under the provocations of the most untractable, and the prejudices of the weak; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves against the gospel doctrines; mildly arguing, and gently remonstrating, desirous to win them by love, and overcome them with kindness; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, as it is in Jesus; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will, as the birds in the snare of the fowler, where they must lie and perish, unless through the power of divine grace they turn to God, and yield themselves to his holy will and service. Note; (1.) Nothing is more necessary for a minister than unwearied patience and meekness. (2.) The gospel word is the great instrument which the Lord employs for the conversion of the heart. (3.) They are the vilest of slaves who are led by the devil's beck to the service of divers lusts and pleasures; and happy is it for the soul that is delivered from this dreadful servitude by the power of divine grace, and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.