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In these verses, we have the penman of this epistle described, by his name, Paul; by his office, an apostle; by the person that sent him, Jesus Christ; by the end of his mission to preach, the promise of life; that is, the gospel in which the promise of life eternal is contained.
Note here, 1. That it is God's call, and not barely God's permission; his commanding will, and not barely his permitting will, which must warrant a person's undertaking the sacred office, and prove him a true minister of Jesus Christ; Paul an apostle by the will of God.
Note, 2. That as Adam brought the sentence of death upon us all, and the promise of life is made to us in and through Jesus Christ; so that the promise of life must have ministers to proclaim it, and to preach this promise is their proper work.
Observe, 2. The person described, to whom this epistle is directed, and that by his name, Timothy; by his relation, a son; by his affection. a beloved son, a dearly beloved son.
Some think St. Paul calls him his son, because converted by him to Christianity; others, because more thoroughly instructed, edified, and encouraged by our apostle; possibly because he was assistant to him, a co-worker and fellow-labourer with him in the work of the gospel, and for that reason most affectionately beloved by him.
From whence learn, With what fervour of sincere affection the ministers of Christ should love one another, speak respectfully of each other, secure the reputation one of another, strengthen each other's hands, and encourage one another's hearts in the work of God. We have little love from the world;
Lord! how sad is it that we should have less one for another? Behold here how St. Paul's and his assistant Timothy's heart were knit one to another; like father and son, to the great reputation, as well as successful furtherance, of the gospel.
Observe, 3. The apostle's salutation, in form of a prayer; Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Learn hence, That all spiritual blessings flow from God as the Father in Christ unto us; and that no grace, mercy, or peace can be had from God the Father, but in, by, and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But how could Paul, before conversion, be said to serve the God of his forefathers with a pure conscience, when he was a persecutor, and the chief of sinners?
Ans. The meaning is, That he worshipped the same God, and the only true God, which his forefathers worshipped, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and that he worshipped him in sincerity, according to his conscience, and the measures of light then received.
Learn hence, That the church before Christ had the same faith, the same object of faith, and worshipped God, the same God, under the law, with us under the gospel: I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers.
Behold here the ministers duty in a more especial manner, to be much in prayer one for another; they stand greatly in need of this mutual help to strengthen each other's hands, and encourage one another's hearts in the ways of God: They should therefore, without ceasing, remember one another at the throne of grace.
Observe here, The vehemency of affection which our apostle expresses towards Timothy; he desired, greatly desired, to see him, and with the sight of him to be filled with joy.
Note, That though we must love all Christians, with a sincere love, yet we may love some Christians with a more fervent love than others; choice and useful Christians, endearing and endeared friends, may and must be beloved above others: I desire greatly to see thee, &c.
Observe farther, St. Paul declares how mindful he was of Timothy's tears; perhaps a flood of tears were shed at their last parting one from another. The best of men have a propension to weeping, and upon occasion, have shed tears; so had Jacob, Joseph, David, and Christ himself. True goodness promotes compassion; good men ever have been, and are men of tender and compassionate dispositions.
This is another reason why St. Paul so earnestly desired a sight of his dear son Timothy, namely, a remembrance of his faith, as well as of his tears; which faith is described by the qulaity of it, unfeigned; by the effect of it, it dwelt; by the subjects wherein, in Lois, Eunice, and Timothy; by the order in which, first, in the grandmother Lois, then in the mother Eunice, and lastly, in the child Timothy.
Learn hence, That it is a most desirable and blessed thing when there is a succession of believers in a family, and to see faith transmitted down to posterity, when grandmother, mother, and grandchild, all walk in the truth.
Thus here: And whereas Timothy received the advantage of a religious education from those two holy women, Lois and Eunice, we learn, That God often blesses the labours and examples of holy women, to raise up excellent instruments in his church.
Observe here, 1. St. Paul's care in putting Timothy in remembrance of his duty, though he very well knew it before: Wherefore, I put thee in remembrance. None are so well instructed in their duty, but they may and ought sometimes to be put in remembrance of what their duty is.
Note, 2. The duty which St. Paul puts him in remembrance of; namely, to stir up the gift of God, which was in him, by putting on of the apostle's hands.
Where observe, 1. What the gift was which he advises should be stirred up: namely, the Holy Ghost, in its ministerial gifts and sanctifying graces; particularly, a divine power, which disposed and enabled him to teach and live, to act and do, answerably to the duties incumbent upon him as a minister of Jesus Christ.
Observe, 2. What care Timothy must take of this gift; namely, to stir it up: The word is a metaphor taken from fire, which, if not stirred up, grows dead, and gives little heat. They that have received much grace, and many gifts from the Holy Spirit, may yet be wanting to themselves in stirring them up. This stirring up the gift of God in Timothy, respects either the means that are to be used in order to the duty, such are prayer, reading, meditation; or the duty itself, which consists in feeding the flock of God, in reforming abuses in the church of God, and in enduring hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Observe, 3. How this gift was bestowed upon Timothy; namely, by putting on of the apostle's hands, together with the hands of the presbytery, 1 Timothy 4:14. The authority and power was given by the apostle, the presbytery concurring as his assistants. St. Paul did not lay on hands without the presbytery, much less did the presbytery lay on hands without the apostle, but he and they in conjunction.
From the whole, learn, That no persons, especially ministers, ought to suffer the gifts and graces of God's Holy Spirit to remain in them unexcited and unstirred up: Stir up the gift of God that is in thee.
Here our apostle exhorts Timothy to an holy courage and undaunted resolution in the execution of his office. As if he had said, "Be not discouraged by persection: for God hath not given us, his messengers, the spirit of fear, but of courage and fortitude; fearless we are of the frowns of men: Also the spirit of love, love to God and the souls of men, which will make the ministers of God indefatigable in their endeavours for the good of souls; Likewise the spirit of a sound mind, which enables God's ministers to curb their passions, inordinate lusts, desires, and perturbations of mind; an admirable spirit to know when to be angry and severe, and when to be mild and gentle."
Learn hence, That love is the genuine principle of obedience, and ought to be that frame of spirit, that inward affection of mind, from whence all our services to God and our neighbour do proceed.
Thus having fortified Timothy against fear, in the seventh verse, he next fortifies him against shame, in the eighth verse: "Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord; that is, of giving testimony of the gospel of our Lord, whether by preaching of it, or suffering for it; Nor be ashamed of me his prisoner: for I do not suffer as a malefactor; nay, be thou a cheerful partaker of the same sufferings as myself, and for the same cause with myself, according to the power of God; that is, being strengthened with the almighty power of God."
Learn hence, That the ministers of the gospel are to take great care that they be always ready to suffer reproach for the gospel, but that they never be a reproach unto the gospel. Suffering for Christ will be sweet, if it be not imbittered by sinning against Christ.
As if the apostle had said, "To fortify thee against the fear of those persecutions, and to arm thee against the shame of those reproaches, which may probably attend thee in the work of the gospel, consider, that the God whom thou servest in this employment, is he that hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling: Called us first, to Christianity, and then to this holy function of the ministry; but to neither of them according to the merit of our works; as if we had done any thing to deserve either of these favours at his hands; but according to his own purpose and grace, given us in Christ before the world began: that is, which from all eternity he decreed and determined to accomplish by Jesus Christ: which gracious purpose of his is now clearly discovered by our Saviour Jesus Christ's coming into the world; who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light; that is, made a fuller and clearer discovery of it by the gospel; to preach which gospel I am a commissioned apostle, and for this I suffer; and God help you, when thereunto called, to suffer with me."
Learn hence, 1. That God himself is the author of man's salvation; He hath saved us: That effectual vocation doth accompany salvation; That the Christian's calling is an holy calling; that it is also an act of free and gracious favour in God to call; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace.
Learn farther, That God's purpose or eternal decree to save before all time was manifested by Christ's appearing in time; But now is made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Observe also, The happy effects of Christ's appearing:
1. To abolish death; not to root it at present out of the world, but to take away its dominion, its dread and terror, the whole power and disposal of it, I am alive, and have the keys of life and death. Revelation 1:18
2. To bring life and immortality to light; that is, immortal life more clearly manifested and discovered.
Note here, 1. That the soul of man is immortal, and that there is another state, an immortal state, which remains for men after this life; otherwise, the justice of God's providence could not be sufficiently vindicated; but upon the supposal of a future state of immortality, it may. An account of the unequal providences of God in this world, is easy to him that believes the certainty of another; as good and evil are at present different in their natures, so shall they be in their rewards.
Note, 2. That the greatest discovery that ever was made of life and immortality to lost sinners, is made by Jesus Christ in the gospel. It was discovered, though darkly, to the Old Testament saints; but the discovery made of it by the gospel, as it was an unexpected discovery, a free and gracious discovery, so was it a more clear, more full, and final discovery of it; Christ hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, &c.
For which cause, that is, "For the sake of the gospel, and not as an evil doer, I suffer patiently all afflictive evils, without either fear or shame, well knowing in whom I repose my faith and hope, my trust and confidence; and firmly believing that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, my temporary life, yea, my eternal life, the life of my soul, my reward in heaven; I have committed all unto, and deposited all in God's hand, and I am sure he is both able and willing, he both can and will keep in safety, that which I have thus committed to him."
Note here, 1. That the knowledge of God must precede, or go before faith in God. I know in whom I have believed: Faith sees not him, in whom it believeth, but it knows him in whom it believeth.
Note, 2. There is no such way to secure the soul, as to commit it into God's hand; the way to make the soul safe, is to commit it to him to keep, and that in the way of well-doing.
By sound words, we are to understand the doctrine of the gospel; by a form of sound words, the truths and doctrine of the gospel methodically disposed and digested; to hold it fast, is, not to swerve from it in the course of our ministry, but pertinaciously to adhere to it, not parting with it ourselves, nor suffering it to be adulterated and corrupted by others.
This form of sound words some take to be the articles of our creed, in the words wherein we now have them, probably the same in sense, if not in words. This is called, That good thing 2 Timothy 1:14 which was committed to Timothy to keep: meaning, that summary of Christian doctrine which was committed to his care and keeping.
Learn hence, 1. That evangelical words are sound words: All gospel- truth is of an healing nature.
Learn, 2. That a form of sound words, or a methodical system, of gospel- truths, is very profitable both for ministers and people.
Learn, 3. That such a form of sound words is very faithfully to be retained, and very carefully to be kept unto.
Learn, 4. That faith and love are the hands whereby we are to hold fast gospel-truth; Hold fast the form of sound words in faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus.
Learn, 5. That as Christians are to hold these evangelical truths fast in their judgments, so are they to hold them forth in their lives and practices: Keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us; that is, the power and assistance of the Holy Ghost will not be wanting to our endeavours, to help our memory, love, and practice, if we be not wanting to ourselves.
By all in Asia, we are to understand very many, almost all, not every individual person: Some think they were teachers in Asia, others that they were private Christians; some that they were his companions and followers, who, when they saw him imprisoned, deserted and left him; and particularly, Phygellus and Hermogenes.
Yet, note here, 1. That he doth not tax them of apostasy from Christ, when he accuses them of forsaking him; it is too harsh to say, that those that forsake a particular ruler of the church, do forsake Christ himself.
Note, 2. In that he says, All that are in Asia are turned away from me, that sin may, and oft-times has the major vote on its side, the generality go one way, and usually the wrong way; sinners, like sheep, run after one another: like fish, swim down the stream together.
Our apostle having complained of many in Asia forsaking him, in the day of his sufferings in the foregoing verse; in this, he makes a grateful commemoration of the kindness of Onesiphorus towards him, who refreshed him with his Presence and relief, and was not ashamed of his chain, of his imprisonment, as others were.
Learn, 1. It is no new thing for the most holy and innocent servants of Christ to suffer hardship, imprisonment, banishment, yea, even death itself, for the sake of Christ; and when they do so, to have friends forsake, and turn their backs upon them. Prosperity affords many friends, more flatterers; but who regards the prisoner in bonds? who cares for looking upon the dial when the sun is off?
Learn, 2. That not to be ashamed of the saints in the day of their sufferings, but to own them, and administer to them in such a condition, is a certain sign of a sound and sincere Christian. Good Onesiphorus had this, amongst other evidences of his gracious state, that he was not ashamed to own a persecuted Paul in chains. Nay, he searched for the apostle very diligently, and found him; so far was he from hiding his eyes from him, and forsaking him, as the men of Asia did.
Observe next, Our apostle's fervent and affectionate prayer to God, abundantly to recompence this labour of love in Onesiphorus towards him: First, He begs mercy for his whole household, The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus.
Note, 1. How thankful the saints of God are for mercies received from God, by the hands of men.
Note, 2. That acts of Christian chrity to the suffering servants of Christ, do receive a considerable part of their reward, even here, in the hearty and affectionate prayers of the people of God on their behalf. How well did it fare with Onesiphorus and his household upon the score of St. Paul's prayer, "The Lord shew mercy to the house of Onesiphorus;" next he prays for Onesiphorus himself, The Lord grant that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day; that is, in the great day of judgment.
Learn hence, 1. That the holiest of men, and best of saints, will stand in need of mercy, much mercy, when they stand before God at the great day.
Learn, 2. That the merciful Christian, which was here shewn mercy to the ministers and members of Jesus Christ, may expect, and shall find mercy in that day, when they stand in need of mercy. They that shew mercy in the evil day, shall certainly find mercy in the great day; The Lord grant that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25