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Observe here, 1. St. Paul asserts his apostolical authority, calling himself an apostle; not that Timothy questioned it, but he writes it for their sakes over whom he was now presiding at Ephesus, that neither ministers nor people might despise what Timothy did, it being enjoined both him and them by so great an authority as was that of an apostle; Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Observe, 2. What authority St. Paul had for executing this office of an apostle: it was by the commandment of God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, by the appointment, injunction, ordination, and immediate commission, of the Father and of Christ, by his voice from heaven, as the rest of the apostles were called by a voice from Christ on Earth. In 1 Corinthians 1:1, he is said to be called by the will of God; not by his permissive will barely, but by his preceptive will particularly.
Observe. 3. The title given to our Lord Jesus Christ; he is styled our hope, that is, the author of our hope, the object of our hope, the purchaser of what we hope for, the declarer to us of the hopes of glory expected by us.
Where note, That our Lord Jesus Christ is undoubtedly and undeniably God, because he is our hope and trust: now if he were no more than a man, though never so excelling, to make him our hope would be to make ourselves miserable; for cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm. Jeremiah 17:5.
Observe here, 1. That endearing title which our apostle gives to Timothy, he calls him his son, his own son, his own son in the faith because, as some think, converted by him to the Christian faith; others, that he was more thooughly instructed, edified, and and encouraged, by St. Paul, but converted before; possibly also he may call him his son, because he was as assisting to him, as obsequious and observing of him, as a son is to a father, he being a young man, and the apostle now aged, or it may be he calls him his son, because he resembled him in faith and doctrine, preaching and conversation, as a son resembled a father in face and manners.
Consider Timothy as a spiritual son to St. Paul, begotten to the faith by him, and then the note is this, that the ministers of Christ cannot but bear a fervent and affectionate love to those that are their spiritual children, their sons in the faith, and converted to Christ by their ministry; consider him as an assistant to St. Paul, a co-worker and fellow-labourer with him in the work of the gospel, and thus affectionately beloved by him, and we may learn for our instruction, how fervently the ministers of Christ should love one another, speak respectfully of each other, secure the reputation one of another, strengthen each other's hearts in the work of God. We have little, God knows, very little love from the world: Lord, how sad is it that we should yet have less one for another! See how the heart of St. Paul and his assistant Timothy were knit together in love like father and son, to the great reputation, as well as the successful furtherance of the gospel.
Note here, 1. The tender care which St. Paul took of the new planted church at Ephesus; when his office called him into Macedonia, he leaves Timothy behind him at Ephesus, to water what he had planted, and to build upon that foundation which he had laid; When I went into Macedonia, I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus.
Note, 2. The charge and command which St. Paul left with Timothy at his departure from him, to take care that no new or strange doctrine be taught, or any other doctrine received by the church, than what was delivered by him: Charge some that they teach no other doctrine.
But who are these?
Very probably they were the judaizing teachers, who strenously endeavoured to corrupt the purity, and deprave the somplicity of the gospel.
Thence learn, 1. That though the doctrine of Christ and his apostles was abundantly sufficient to salvation, yet the church of Christ, even in the earliest days of Christianity, were in very great danger of being corrupted early by other doctrines than those delivered by them.
Learn, 2. That it is the great duty, and ought to be the special care, of the ministers of God, that no new or strange doctrine be broached in the church of Christ; I besought thee--that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.
A farther and more particular charge is given here in 1 Timothy 1:4, that the church at Ephesus give not heed to fables or endless genealogies, which rather occasion wrangling disputes, than tend to edification in faith and holiness.
By fables, we may understand vain and idle speculations, Jewish scruples, frivolous observances: whatsoever in preaching is delivered by us, which doth not answer the great end of preaching, namely, to build up men in faith and holiness, is trifling, and not preaching; what we deliver signifies no more than a fable, or an imaginary tale that is told.
But what were these endless genealogies here spoken of?
Ans. Not scripture genealogies, for those are not vain, but useful; not endless, but determinate; but these were endeavours of some particular persons, who, that they might have a pretence to claim kindred with Christ, did make their genealogies endless, drawing down their line of descent from David, &c.; or else endeavoured to prove themselves sons of Abraham and Isaac, privileges which they highly valued themselves upon, and rested in, saying, We have Abraham to our Father.
Whatever they were, our apostle charges Timothy, that the church at Ephesus give no heed to them, nor to the preachers of them; and the reason is given, because they only occasion disputes, and tend not to edification.
In these words our apostle smartly reflects upon the judaizing teachers, who were so zealous for their ceremonial law, that they mingled works with faith in the point of justification: the apostle tells them that the end of the law, aye, and of the gospel too, is love; the end, that is, the aim, the scope, the design, the perfection and consummation, the perfecting end; the sense is, that all the duties which the law of God and the gospel of Christ do enjoin, are designed only as means to advance and perfect our love both to God and man; the end of all Christ's doctrine is charity, or the bringing of men to love God and their neighbour.
Observe next, the apostle describes the nature and quality of that love which is the end and design, the intention and perfection, of the law, and the fountain from whence this love must spring and flow, namely, from a pure heart, or heart purified by the Spirit of Christ; from a good conscience, or a conscience purified by the blood of Christ; and from a faith unfeigned: implying, That love either to God or man is not sincere, unless it proceed from a clean heart, and is accompanied with an holy and innocent life, and has faith for the root and principle from which it flows.
Observe lastly, How he taxes these judaizing and false teachers, with swerving from charity, purity, and faith, and turning aside to vain janglings; and that whilst they affect to be thought learned teachers, and expounders of the law, they betray their ignorance, not understanding either what they say, or whereof they affirm.
Lest any should have apprehended, from the reflection he made upon the teachers of the law in the foregoing verse, that he did disparage and undervalue the law itself, our apostle in this verse declares, that the law, rightly understood and preached, was very good, given for, and serves unto, excellent purposes, if we use it lawfully; that is, as we ought to use it, as God intended it, namely, as a perfect rule of life to direct us in our obedience to God, but not so good as to expect justification by it; not good in opposition to the gospel, but in subserviency to the gospel; The law is good, if used lawfully.
Observe, 1. Something implied, namely, that the law of God may be used unlawfully.
But how and when may it be said to be so?
Ans. When it is converted to unprofitable disputes, as was the case here; when men oppose it to Christ, when they seek justification by it, and the like.
Observe, 2. Something expressed, namely, That the law of God, considered in itself, is good and excellent; it is good in regard of its author, it hath the authority of God instamped upon it; good in regard of the matter contained in it; good in regard of the end of it, to lead us unto Christ, Christ is the end of the law; Romans 10:4 good in regard of the use of it, and that,
1. To the ungodly, to restrain them from sin, to convince them of sin, to condemn them for sin.
2. To the godly, to discover sin more clearly, and more fully to drive them out of themselves, and from all expectation of righteousness and justification by any thing in themselves, or done by themselves; or to cause them to put the higher value, esteem, and price, upon Jesus Christ, and the benefits received by him.
Thus the law is good: and if so, woe to the Antinomians, who deny the use and excellency of the holy law of God, who vilify it, trample upon it, and, because it is not good for justification, affirm it is not good at all.
What, is not gold good, because you can not eat it for food?
It was never intended for that purpose.
Is not obedience to the law as an eternal rule of holy living, and good works, agreeable to the demands of the law, necessary and good, though they never had the impress of God's ordination for our justification in his sight, he having provided a perfect and spotless righteousness for that purpose, which is highly pleasing to him?
Lord! in the day when thou shalt come to plead with the world for transgressing thy law, how shall these men, who with tongue and pen have cried down the use and excellences of thy law, show their heads before thee?
Our apostle here declares the persons,
1. whom the law was not made for; and,
2. them for whom it was made.
It was not made for a righteous man, that is, say some, it was not made for him as a burden, to be an uneasiness to him, because he has a love to it, a delight in it, and does voluntarily comform himself to the observations of it;
others say thus, The law was not made for a righteous man, that is, the righteous man is not under the coercive or vindictive, but directive, power of the law only: he is not under the curse of the law actually, though all are under it meritoriously; adn accordingly the law was never made to terrify, and affrighten, and condemn them.
Next the apostle declares for whom, for what persons, and for what purposes, the law was made, intended, and designed; namely, for restraining and condemning first, in general, all lawless persons, sons of Belial, as the scripture calls them, that is, men without yoke; the moral law in general is a rule of holy living, and the gospel in particular is Christ's yoke; now such as will not wear the yoke of Christ, must expect no benefit by the cross of Christ: then he instances in particular, what and whom the law was made for, namely, to deter and restrain persons from all impiety and profaneness, from all disobedience and stubbornness, from murder and manslaughter, from sodomy, from whoredom, and all manner of uncleanness, either natural or unnatural, from theft, from perjury, from lying and falsehood; and, summarily, to curb and restrain wicked men from the practice of every thing which is contrary to the pure and holy nature of God.
Learn hence, That there is such a propensity and inclination in the corrupt and depraved nature of man to the practice of all sins, even the greatest, the vilest, and the worst of sins, that the law of God, with all its threatened punishments, is not sufficient to deter, to terrify, or restrain sinners from the commission of them; but such as will not be under the restraining, must lie under the condemning, power of the law.
Note here, 1. The title given to the gospel: it is called the glorious gospel of the blessed God: partly, because the glorious attributes and excellences of God are more resplendent in the gospel, than in the law of God; as also because the gospel brings more honour and glory to God than all the works of creation put together.
Note, 2. He styles God the giver of that gospel, the blessed God; to signify thereby unto us his transcendent mercy and excelling goodness, in that being infinitely happy in the enjoyment of himself and his divine perfections, and incapable of any profit from, or advantage by, his creatures, he was yet pleased to give us his Son, his gospel, his Holy Spirit, to qualify us for, and bring us to, the enjoyment of himself: According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
Note, 3. What humble and thankful returns St. Paul makes to Christ for the high honour, the rich and special favour, conferred upon him, in calling him to dispense this glorious gospel, in calling him to it, in enabling him for it, and rendering him faithful and successful in it: I thank Christ Jesus, who enabled me, and counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.
Where note, That all the fidelity, ability, zeal, and courage, which the apostle had exercised in the whole course of his ministry, is attributed and ascribed unto Christ, and not to himself; his faithfulness was not the cause or motive, but effect and fruit, of the grace of God in calling him to the ministry, 1 Corinthians 7:25, having obtained mercy to be faithful. Had our Saviour only discovered this faithfulness in him, and not conferred it upon him, there had not been such reason for this affectionate thanksgiving, which here we find from our apostle: I thank Christ who hath enabled me, counting me faithful.
Note here, 1. What a prodigious sinner St. Paul represents himself before conversion; I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious; a blasphemer, the highest sin he could commit against God; a persecutor, the highest sin he could commit against saints; injurious, the highest wickedness against mankind: sins of such aggravated and accumulated guilt, that they wanted but one ingredient, namely, sufficient knowledge, to render them the sin against the Holy Ghost.
Be astonished, O heavens, at the great and infinite mercy of God towards great sinners! Even persecutors and blasphemers may be, and sometimes are, converted, and brought home to God.
Note, 2. That reason asigned by him, why such distinguishing mercy was dispensed to him: he obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly in unbelief. The word because doth not import or imply that ignorance in the apostle was the proper cause of mercy in God, but that it made St. Paul a more capable subject for receiving mercy than he would have been, if he had maliciously sinned against knowledge; nor that St. Paul by less sinning did merit the mercy of God, but his ignorance and unbelief being in a sort invincible, through the prejudice of education, they did much abate the malignity of his sin; for he was bred a Pharisee, which was a sect that had an implacable enmity against Christ and his holy religion.
Observe lastly, The end and design of St. Paul in relating that his bitter persecution of Christianity was in the time of his ignorance, and not done deliberately, knowingly, and maliciously; partly, to justify the divine mercy and free grace of God, which pardoned his fury, his rage, and madness against Christ and his saints; for, had he done thus deliberately and maliciously, for secular ends and worldly advantages, it had been the sin against the Holy Ghost, which was unpardonable; and partly he mentions his ignorance, to prevent the abuse of the divine mercy in men, and to let the world know that none might or ought to take encouragement from his example, to be of a persecuting spirit, and yet hope for mercy, when at the same time they sin against light and knowledge.
I would to God the persecuting spirit amongst us would consider this, which is as bitter as ever in the breasts of some against their protestant brethren; but, blessed be God, legally restrained. They cannot now afflict those whom they do not affect; yet it is evident they do not rejoice, and are not so thankful for their own liberty as they should, because those whom they hate enjoy theirs: their case is vastly different from our apostle's; they cannot pretend to do it ignorantly, though through infidelity in some sort they may.
Still our apostle goes on magnifying the transcendent mercy and abundant grace of God, that called him first to be a Christian, and then an apostle; and he shows, that this great mercy of God had great effects in him of faith and love, both towards God and his saints.
Where note, how St. Paul after his conversion abounded and excelled in those graces which were opposite and contrary to the sins committed in his carnal and unregenerate state: he abounds in faith, in opposition to his former unbelief; and in love, in opposition to his former rage and cruelty.
A Christian's fruitfulness in grace and holiness after his conversion, ought to bear some proportion to his unfruitfulnes in a sinful state, before conversion; the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love; he now glorifies God by excelling in those graces which were opposite to his former sins.
Observe here, 1. What an humble apprehension this great apostle had of himself, though then the greatest of saints in the esteem of others, yet the chiefest of sinners in his own account: for he doth not say, I was the chief of sinners, but I am so; notwithstanding his repentance and remission, still he reflects upon his former unregenerate state and sinful condition.
Learn hence, That when sin is mercifully pardoned, and cast behind God's back, the penitent sinner will and ought to set it continually before his own face, to keep him humble, sensible of, and thankful for, the rich grace of God dispensed to him, and received by him: Sinners of whom I am chief.
Observe, 2. A most comfortable revelation made by the gospel concerning the redemption and salvation of a lost world by our Lord Jesus Christ. He came into the world to save sinners.
Where note, That the promised Messiah is come into the world; that Jesus Christ is that promised Messiah: therefore he was before he came, his divine nature pre-existing from all eternity; and in the fulness of time he assumed the human nature into an union with his Godhead.
Note farther, That the design of his coming was to save sinners; therefore if man had not sinned, Christ had not come into the world: what need of a mediator, had there been no breach? No need of a physcian, had there been no disease.
Farther, it was not absolutely necessary that Christ should come into the world to save sinners; but supposing God's purpose of saving sinners by way of a price or satisfaction, Christ's coming into the world was indispensably necessary; for no mere creature could lay down a price satisfactory for the salvation of lost man.
Observe, 3. The truth and certainty, together with the worth and excellency, of the gospel revelation: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation; for what is the gospel but a revelation of pardon to condemned malefactors, a declaration of peace to proclaimed enemies, a proclamation of liberty to enslaved captives, an offer of cure to diseased persons? Oh! with what fervent zeal should this acceptable doctrine be preached by us, and embraced by our people; That Jesus Christ is come into the world to save sinners!
Note here, That God is pleased some times to magnify his mercy in the conversion and salvation of the most notorious sinners, that so the greatest of sinners may take encouragement from thence to hope and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ for pardoning mercy; thus here, this great blasphemer and persecutor was received to mercy, for a pattern and example to all such sinners as should hereafter forsake their evil and wicked ways, and give up themselves sincerely to the obedience of the gospel; For this cause I obtained mercy.
Such a conspicuous example of Christ's clemency and grace towards so great a sinner, whom he not only pardoned, but preferred to the dignity of an apostle, and sent forth to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, would be a strong motive to the Gentiles to receive the gospel with faith and obedience: there could be no reason for any of them to despair of mercy, when they saw such a pattern, such an illustrious instance of pardoning mercy before their eyes: In me first Jesus Christ showed forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him.
Our apostle being ravished with a sweet sense of the greatness of God's pardoning mercy towards himself, concludes this whole matter with a pathetical doxology, and an affectionate thanksgiving unto God. As if he had thus said, "The sense of the afore named unspeakable mercy calleth up my soul to speak with joy the praises of our God, who is eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only God, absolutely wise, over angels and all creatures: to him be honour and glory, for ever and ever."
What charge? To stay at Ephesus, say some, for the benefit of the church there: to charge the false teachers not to give heed to fables, say others; to keep the doctrine committed to him by St. Paul, as a faithful minister and soldier of Jesus Christ, against all opposition: these were the charges given.
Next St. Paul encourages Timothy to go on in the course of his ministry with courage and faithfulness, according as it had been foretold or prophesied he should do.
Here note, That amongst the gifts of prophecy, which were found in the apostle's time, and the discerning of spirits, this was one, to foretell and choose out persons meet and fit to do God service in the ministry. Timothy was thus chosen by prophecy, that is, by the direction of the Spirit of prophecy, and therefore the apostle bids him, as it had been foretold he should be a faithful minister, to approve himself to be such: According to the prophecies which went before on thee, war a good warfare.
Learn hence, That young ministers ought to take heed, that what hopes, expectations, and good opinions others have of them, and what prayers, promises, and engagements have been made for them, may not be made void, but made good by them, in the future course of their ministry.
St. Paul had exhorted Timothy in the foregoing verse to war a good warfare; here he directs him to two weapons which he would have him use in that warfare, namely, faith, and a good conscience; neither will do alone: not faith without a good conscience, nor a good conscience without faith; hold both faith in thy teaching, and a good conscience in thy practice: hold them fast; for faith stands with a good conscience, and falls with a bad one.
Learn hence, That in the most perilous times, when some lose their graces and comforts, their present peace and future hopes, that we may not lose what we have on earth, and what we look for in heaven, one continual care must be, to get and keep, to have and hold, faith and a good conscience.
And mark the encouragement given to exercise this care; some, through the neglect of it, concerning faith have made shipwreck. Our life is a sea-faring condition; a good conscience is the ark in which we are secure, made by God's own direction, (as was that of Noah,) and pitched within and without, as was his: a window it had in the top to let in the light of heaven, but not the least crack or crevice below, to let in a drop of guilt, or endanger its own safety: it shoots off all the showers that fall downwards, and all the floods that rage upwards. Such a security is an innocent mind and a clear conscience; but if we do not hold fast a good conscience, but let it go, we have seen the last of faith; it sinks, it shipwrecks presently. Concerning faith have made shipwreck.
That is, of the number of those who have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience are these two men. They made shipwreck of faith. But how: by renouncing Christianity expressly? No, but implicitly, by denying the resurrection, and maintaining such doctrines as utterly subverted and totally overthrew the faith.
Whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
That is, whom I have inflicted the church's censure of excommunication upon, cast them out of the church, and delivered to Satan as God's executioner, who oft-times tormented the person with greivous diseases and bodily pains, called elsewhere, the destruction of the flesh, 1 Corinthians 5:5
Learn hence, That excommunication rightly administered is a very solemn ordinance, a shutting out of heaven him who is justly cast out of the church's communion here on earth.
But observe, The charitable intention of the apostle in denouncing this sentence of excommunication; it was, That they might learn not to blaspheme.
Mark, it was none of Satan's desire, but the apostle's that they might learn not to blaspheme. Satan was then God's executioner, when the church wanted the countenance of the Christian magistrate; and his design was destruction, but the apostle's was reformation; not to ruin, but reclaim.
Learn, That the end of the church's censure, in particular if excommunication, is not to serve to the destruction of the censured, much less to the private revenge of the censurer; but to reform and reclaim the offender, that others may be warned, and the infection stayed: Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30