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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
2 Timothy 1

 

 

Verses 1-18

Despite the fact of his heart being so drawn out in this epistle, Paul writes as "an apostle," not as a servant, nor even as a brother. Does this not stress the strongly authoritative character of that which he writes? The truth is urged imperatively upon the soul as that which is so vital to godliness in days of lax giving up to weakness and spiritual decay. And he is an apostle "by the will of God," not by his own choice, nor by that of other men, a matter deeply important in days when democracy and human rights become foremost in men's minds, and Christianity itself is invaded by this subtle corruption of the truth. "The will of God" remains paramount, and calls at all times for the true submission of the individual, whatever the condition of things may be publicly.

Moreover, the epistle is characteristically "according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus." Titus (ch. 1:2) shows this promise to have originated "before the ages of time": therefore it is life above and beyond all dispensations and ages: it cannot be affected by all the tests of history: the decay and ruin of all church testimony is no hindrance to this blessed promise. Wonderful encouragement indeed for the child of God! For the promise is "in Christ Jesus," dependent only upon the sufficiency and perfection of His own Person. Precious, stable, faithful resting place for faith!

It is precious to observe how the pressure of affliction more draws out the heart's affections; for the apostle here addresses Timothy as "my dearly beloved child," rather than, as in the first epistle, "my true child in the faith." Nor would this fail to comfort and strengthen the heart of Timothy at such a time. But the same fullness of blessing is desired for him here, the threefold supply of "grace, mercy, and peace," each so necessary and precious in its place, and proceeding "from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord," the fruit therefore of the full revelation of the glory of God in the Person of His beloved Son.

The apostle thanks God, the same God he had served from his forefathers, and this, of course, recognizes the truth he had known before Christianity came, and to which he had been subject "with pure conscience." This does clearly illustrate the fact that conscience is no sufficient guide for the soul; for when Paul (then named Saul) was persecuting Christians, his conscience was actually approving this solemn evil: he thought he was doing God service. But at least, he was not guilty of deliberate dishonesty. And it is with genuine concern that he writes to Timothy, not ceasing to keep him in his prayers "night and day." It is not, of course, that this was the sole occupation of his thoughts, but Paul did not simply pray for Timothy for a few days following his leaving him, and then forget: it was a continuing matter. Night being mentioned first, before day, no doubt indicates that the times of darkness and loneliness were gone through without affecting the ardor of prayer, while in the more pleasant circumstance of "day" it was not neglected either.

Circumstances of pressure and sorrow had the precious effect of drawing out the longing of Paul's heart to see Timothy, whose very character was such as to be a comfort to him, and whose tears (no doubt in connection with the public breaking down of Christian testimony, and departure from Paul's doctrine) were a matter so affecting to Paul that he would not forget them.

And the apostle was free to encourage the younger man by commending "the unfeigned faith" that was evident in him, reminding him too that this dwelt first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. The meanings of the names here are lovely; Lois meaning "no flight," and Eunice, "happy victory." In days of real trial of faith, is it not sweetly true that "no flight," no slipping away, but facing things with God, will issue in "happy victory"? And the issue of this is "Timothy," meaning "honoring God." Can we not imagine how deeply Timothy would appreciate this verse? And whose heart can fail to be stirred with the desire of earning the same commendation?

Whatever was the nature of Timothy's special gift, he had evidently allowed some feeling of discouragement to hinder its proper exercise. The New Translation of J. N. Darby uses the word "rekindle" rather than "stir up." Whatever was to transpire - whether a general turning away from Paul and his doctrine, or even his being put to death - Timothy must not give in to all these pressures of the enemy! God's gift to him remained, and should be rekindled and used in a full and real way, for it surely was the more needed in times of departure. We learn here also that Timothy's gift was given in an exceptional way, by the putting on of Paul's hands. This is certainly extraordinary, for gift is normally given by the independent operation of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). But the Spirit of God in Timothy's case used Paul as the instrument, while accompanied with "the laying on of the hands of the elderhood" (1 Timothy 4:14), that is, with their fully expressed fellowship.

And the Spirit, who communicated the gift and who dwells in every child of God, is not a spirit of fear. If, therefore, we give in to our own fears, we are not walking in the Spirit, for He is the Spirit "of power, and love, and of a sound mind." Observe how power and love are connected here: there is no weakness in the Spirit of God, but love is the very energy by which His power is exercised. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given unto us" (Romans 5:5). The more positive and full the expanding of the heart in love toward others, the more will the liberty and power of the Spirit be in evidence, with calm courage of faith. And He is the Spirit of a sound mind also, for it is He who brings everything to its proper, sober level; who makes all to take its place in consistent balance with all else. If our minds are otherwise, it is because we do not allow Him His proper control over us. Of course the flesh is still in a believer, and he may be mentally unbalanced, but this stems from the old nature, not from the new. The Spirit is still the Spirit of a sound mind, and in certain areas where the knowledge of Christ is concerned, this will be evident even in a believer who in other respects suffers mental aberrations. It is a great mercy this is so; but a believer should seek in every respect to allow the Spirit of God such liberty and control that it will be manifest in every department of life. This is itself a great preservative of the mind's condition, though one could not suppose it to be a guarantee against physical infirmity and deterioration, which ofttimes affects the brain too, the brain being physical, the mind not so.

Verse 8 shows that God's marvellous provision of verse 7, the living presence of the Spirit of God, is not to be considered as operating independently of the exercise and cooperation of the individual. But a due consideration of the fact of such provision will certainly render one unashamed of the testimony of the Lord. The exhortation not to be ashamed has a most solid basis. There is no right reason for fear: therefore we are perfectly entitled to dismiss it totally. In any real sense, no believer is ashamed of the Lord Himself; but the danger is present that he might be ashamed of His testimony, or ashamed of identification with one suffering for His sake. Timothy needed his mind stirred up as to these things, and he is not alone as regards such a need. He is encouraged to "suffer evil along with the glad tidings, according to the power of God." If the gospel is held in contempt of men, let me be willing to share this by fullest fellowship with it. It was thoroughly this for which Paul suffered, and not at all as an evildoer: therefore fellowship with Paul was fellowship with the pure gospel of God.

Moreover, this would be "according to the power of God." How contrary is this to the natural thought of man, the fact that such power is seen in the willingness to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Even Christians are too often deceived by what appears to be great public displays of power, and many desire these things as evidence of God's working. In this case they will as likely as not be deceived by Satanic delusion. Where are we to see the actual power of God? The answer is evident in our verse: the willingness to suffer in lowly faith along with the precious gospel of grace is a wonderful setting in which the power of God is committed to the individual to enable him to bear tribulation and reproach for Christ's sake. That triumphant energy that carries everything before it is not at all for the child of God today. True moral power - the power of God - is seen in the submission of heart that takes its place along with the despised testimony of God.

That same power is seen in the faCt that He "has saved us, and called us with an holy calling." For the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16): it is not simply kindness and mercy involved here, but power acting on behalf of those previously lost in sin, power acting in the midst of all that is so contrary to God. Precious it is to see this wonderful divine workmanship raising up vital, energetic life out of ruins, and in the very midst of ruins!

It is not a questionable thing, but a settled fact: He "hath saved us" - whether Paul, Timothy, or any other true believer - "and called us with an holy calling." This distinctively places us in a position apart from all former identification: it is a "heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1), or "The calling on high of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14 -J.N.D. Trans.), a calling of dignity and blessedness infinitely precious, as high as heaven is above the earth.

It is impossible that this could be "according to our works," for in that case it would be our workmanship, not God's: such a result required infinitely more than mankind could achieve: it required the power of God. Therefore, it is "according to his own purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time." How completely above and beyond man's works are these precious expressions, "His own purpose and grace! "No one was then present to influence His purpose, no one ever having lived to raise a question as to what kind of a life would be blessed with His grace. No, it is rather the grace of God known and believed that rightly forms man's life.

Yet, this was "given us . . . before the ages of time," and this expression would seem to connect with Titus 1:2 : "In hope of eternal life, which God who cannot lie, promised before the ages of time." If the purpose itself was eternal, yet the promise given us is no doubt in the words of God to the woman in the Garden of Eden, that her seed would crush the serpent's head. The promise was given before man was sent out of the garden to be tested by the various dispensations of God; for these ages evidently only began in connection with man estranged from God. But since the purpose was eternal, and the promise given immediately before man was tested in the various ages of time, therefore this absolute purpose and grace is not in the least affected by all that is involved in man's history.

All of this, however, was not made manifest until "the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ," for it is by and in Him that these blessed purposes are fulfilled. Only in Him, the supreme Object of faith, could we possibly comprehend the truth of these things, and find them vitally real: only in Him personally could such a manifestation be possible. He is seen as Savior here, acting in both grace and power on our behalf. In His own death and resurrection He "has annulled death." Mere natural wisdom will not understand this, of course, for man knows in experience that death is in painful evidence everywhere around him. But faith can see that all the power of death is broken for the believer. Christ has triumphed over it in His voluntary humiliation even unto death, and in His being raised from the dead the third day. Therefore death holds no terrors for the child of God: it has no power to hold him a helpless prisoner: if he should die, this is only a step in the fulfillment of God's superior purpose concerning him: his resurrection is as certain a matter as that of the Lord Jesus. For "the sting of death is sin," which has been fully atoned for at Calvary, so that for the believer the sting is gone (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Added to this, He "hath brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel." Paul very simply declares the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, as this, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again from the dead the third day according to the Scriptures." Hence, it is life out of death - resurrection life - spoken of; and with it "incorruptibility," life therefore in a state impossible of being corrupted. The believer certainly has this life now, as identified with Christ in resurrection, though he also has natural life, which is subject to decay and death; and only when Christ comes again will the resurrection life be seen in full display, "death swallowed up in victory," and life and incorruptibility manifested in the saints then as it is now in Christ.

It was of this glorious gospel that the apostle was appointed a preacher, and apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. We must take note of the fact of Paul's appointment here: the Spirit of God required that this be insisted upon. It was no mere appointment of men, and is not by any means intended as a criterion for others to follow. In fact, as to Timothy, no mention whatever is made as to his being appointed to anything, nor are we even told what gift Timothy had been given, though Paul tells him to stir it up, and also tells him to "do the work of an evangelist" (ch. 4:5). But Paul was given the special responsibility of "laying the foundation," as "a wise master builder" (1 Corinthians 3:10), and the Spirit of God therefore emphasizes this in order to press home the authority of the apostle's message. Anyone else attempting this in regard to himself would only display his glaring insubjection to the Spirit of God. As Scripture often notes, so here again, Paul was sent to the nations, not to Israel, though his heart longed after his own people (Romans 10:1).

Those who aspire to some place of official appointment or recognition are not generally those who are fully prepared to suffer persecution for Christ's sake. Paul had not desired the place, but he was thoroughly willing to suffer for Christ if needs be. God put him in the position in which he could not escape suffering. But he was not at all ashamed, for his faith was in the blessed Person of Christ: he knew whom he had believed, not merely what he had believed.

This gives absolute persuasion as to the faithfulness of God in keeping what Paul had committed to Him. Does this not include everything concerning Paul's well-being and his needs of whatever kind? And it is in view of "that day," the day of manifestation, so that the apostle had no slightest doubt as to his being satisfied with the eventual result. The Greek form of the expression here is evidently a noun, literally, ,'my deposit." It is as though he had deposited with God everything concerning himself: there could therefore be no doubt of its being securely held. In fact, who can doubt that in such hands the interest itself will multiply immeasurably?

Having spoken of the perfect faithfulness of God through whatever circumstances of dependent need, the apostle now may turn to the becoming responsibility of his child Timothy. It was most important that he should hold a clear outline (or pattern) of sound words. Paul had communicated these things to him, but he was not to take them merely as a disjointed, unrelated collection of good words. To hold them in the soul, in orderly form, as sound words forming a united pattern, is of great importance. For the truth of God is one. It is true that one may see those things connected in a different way than another sees; and it is no mere formal creed here advocated for the acceptance of everybody; but the exercise of the individual in having sound words rightly formed in his soul in a pattern of consistency with the entire Word of God. This personal enjoyment and comprehension of the Word can be likened to the honeycomb. The Word itself is "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psalms 19:10), but honey is symbolical of the ministry of the Word and the honeycomb would speak therefore of that ministry stored up for use in orderly form, just the thing that is here urged upon Timothy.

But "sound words" are not to be dry or cold: they are to be liberally mixed with "faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." Faith, the reality of confidence in the Living One, will effectually banish dryness; and love, the warmth of unfeigned affection, is the total opposite of coldness. Then being "in Christ Jesus" lifts the whole matter as high as heaven is above earth, giving precious balance and substance, a fullness with no lack.

It has been seen that Paul had entrusted to God a deposit of all that concerned him. Here rather God has entrusted to Timothy a good deposit, which Timothy is enjoined to keep. Would verse 13 not indicate the way in which Timothy was to assess and appreciate the value of this deposit? This is that which belongs to God, the sacred truth of His Word, and to be held in solemn trust by the servant to whose hand it is committed. Indeed it is only right too that the Master should be entitled to interest in view of so valuable a deposit. Compare Luke 19:23 : at least in one case the servant's pound had gained ten pounds, in another five. The one effective way of keeping this deposited trust is by using it for the Master. But it is not ours to give up to the enemy as we please: we must not allow it to be stolen away. If we feel the great responsibility of this, and at the same time our own helplessness to fulfill it, let us but remember that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, abides continually, and we have but to allow Him to exercise His own blessed power in this matter.

Though Timothy knew this, it was necessary to pen this

reminder, both for his own sake, and for ours. How painfully sad, as the apostle neared the end, to be faced with, not only the increased persecution of the enemy, but the turning away of the large number of saints in Asia. Paul had spent 3 years in Ephesus, ceasing not to warn everyone night and day with tears (Acts 20:31). From there the word had gone out to the surrounding areas of Asia, bearing much fruit. He does not say they had turned away from the Lord, but from himself. It seems likely therefore that Paul's doctrines of the gospel of the glory of Christ, that which sets aside man in the flesh and gives the believer a heavenly position apart from the world entirely, had become too unpalatable; and the attitude of settling down in the world was taking the place of a fresh fervent spirit of affection for the person of Christ. It was not apostasy, but an evident ignoring of Paul and his doctrine.

What a leading up to that of which he warned the Ephesian elders: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). This evil did not appear without warning after his death: the seeds of it are plainly present as he here writes to Timothy. Once Paul and his doctrine are ignored, the door is open for "grievous wolves" to enter in, and for even believers to make themselves leaders by means of twisting the truth in some favorite way. What havoc has this very thing wrought in the Church since that day!

And two men are here specifically named, which seems to indicate they were leaders in this defection from Paul. Phygellus means "a little fugitive"; can it suggest a fearful fleeing from the unpopular stigma of being identified with Paul? And Hermogenes means "lucky born." Is there an intimation in this of his having no real sense of divine direction in his soul? At least, these things can certainly be factors that loom largely in any turning away from Paul and his doctrine - whether the names themselves signify this, or not. Were these men really believers or not? It is not said and we must leave it there. But how solemn to have their names recorded in this way in the Scriptures, for eternity!

In chapter 2 we read of two men, Hymeneus and Philetus; who had gone further than ignoring the truth: they were undermining the truth (vv. 17, 18). A further advance in evil is seen in the two men mentioned in chapter 3, Jannes and Jambres (v. 8), who resisted the truth by means of imitation. They were the Egyptian magicians in the time of Moses, and Paul speaks of others in the last days having the same character. In chapter 4, Alexander is the ultimate development in this, doing Paul "much evil," therefore persecuting the truth (v. 14). Another man, Demas, is also mentioned in that chapter, previously, as having "forsaken" Paul because of love for this present world. But it would seem he was a believer, intimidated by the opposition of the enemy, and clinging too much to life in the world. He had been a helper in the work, but as the persecution against the apostle increased, it was too much for him. But it was desertion, at a time the apostle most needed the help of devoted companionship.

How precious a contrast is seen now in this devoted brother Onesiphorus, his name also eternally inscribed in the Word of God! The heart of the apostle is deeply appreciative of the simple faithfulness of this dear man, who evidently had no place of prominence, but a heart devoted to the Lord and to His afflicted servant. It is no great public work he does, but he often refreshed the apostle, and was not ashamed of being identified with one in prison for Christ's sake. In Rome he sought Paul out, no doubt a difficult matter in so large a city, where prisons would be more than few. One could easily excuse himself from such a task, as being unnecessary: but the apostle (and certainly God also) appreciated the faith that persisted until finding Paul. What an indication that things which may appear small in our eyes are not really so in the estimate of God!

As to his finding "mercy of the Lord in that day," it is no doubt the day of rewards. And rewards are not strictly that which is deserved: that would be wages. It is because God's very character is merciful that he gives rewards. Note in Matthew 25:28 that though the one servant had gained ten talents for his master, by use of his master's goods, yet after he brought it to the master, we find that he still had it in his own possession. The master had allowed him to keep it, and in fact gave him more. This is certainly mercy, a reward not really deserved at all. Then is added the many things in which Onesiphorus had previously ministered to Paul. It was not forgotten by him: how much less with God!

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/2-timothy-1.html. 1897-1910.

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