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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Timothy 2

 

 

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Verse 1

II. CONFIRMATION OF TIMOTHY IN THE COMING FUTURE, 2 Timothy 2:1-26.

1. Personal appeal for boldness, hardihood, endurance of sufferings, in hope of final glory, 2 Timothy 2:1-13.

1. Thou—The Greek thou, in itself emphatic, and also by position in strong antithesis to the deserters of 2 Timothy 1:15, and in accordance with Onesiphorus. 2 Timothy 1:16-18.

Be strong—Warned by the first and confirmed by the second.


Verse 2

2. Not only must Timothy be strong for the gospel, but he must plan for its future permanence.

Heard… among… witnesses—The Greek aorist requires not hast heard, but heardst, that is, heard on a particular occasion, namely, at his ordination. 2 Timothy 1:6; and 1 Timothy 4:14. The Greek is, through many witnesses, referring, perhaps, to the elders present at the laying on of hands, through whom, as testifiers, Paul’s charge was confirmed unto Timothy.

This verse commends successionalism as a method of continuing faith and piety in the Church; a successionalism authenticated by ordination. But the succession and the ordination are a means, and not an end. The end is the transmission of a true doctrine and a genuine piety. Where the ordination would transmit a false doctrine and a spurious piety the ordination loses its power. The ordination is as truly tested by the faith and piety, as the faith and piety by the ordination.

The verse also indicates that a genuine tradition, handed down from apostolic authority, has a valid authority. Only, first, its genuineness is to be completely proved; and, second, it must appear that the tradition was intended by the apostolic authority to be a law for the Church. But as complex doctrinal traditions, orally transmitted, are liable to corruption, we have the written word as the sure ultimate test. This is recorded tradition, and where the text is well verified, this becomes the safe criterion of doctrine. It is notable, that, though Paul claims apostolic authority in delivering sure Christian truth, he claims not, nor seems to realize, that his own written words were to be the future Scripture of the Church. By the mind of the Church it was, that when the spoken words of the apostles began to fade from memory, the written word was placed in the position of Scripture authority.


Verse 3

3. Endure—The English translation omits the prefix that implies fellowship of endurance, co-suffering; endure-hardness-with-me; co-suffer as a good soldier, who shares with a fellow, shoulder to shoulder, the privation and the fight. And this endurance St. Paul now enforces from the analogy of the soldier, the gymnast, and the husbandman.


Verse 4

4. Warreth—Is engaged in the actual war.

Affairs—Mercantile or other engagements.

Him—His general or his king. The rule excluding the soldier from trade or other civil employments is strongly expressed by ancient writers. “Unworthy and disgraceful to a man in arms is business.” “He who fights for a commander is prohibited from undertaking litigation, the practice of law, and mercantile occupation.”


Verse 5

5. Crowned—Notes on 1 Corinthians 9:25.

Lawfully—This implies not only that he loses his crown by any unfairness, or violation of rule in the race, but by any such violation of the laws of diet and training as were necessary to his ability to win.


Verse 6

6. First—Many commentators think that St. Paul’s first should be so placed as to qualify laboureth, and so should mean that there must first be labour before there can be enjoyment of fruits. But the emphasis must be on laboureth, and the meaning is, that it is he who laboureth that has the first, and best, and, in truth, only, right to the fruits. He who laboureth but slightly, or not at all, comes after, or is nowhere.


Verse 7

7. Consider—A cautionary hint, not based upon the difficulty of interpreting the above figures, but upon the weightiness of the meaning they embrace. Hence they are to be revolved in the highest region of mind, and transformed into permanent principle of action.

Understanding—The highest intuitive penetration, the deepest spiritual insight, in all things of divine truth and ministerial management.


Verse 8

8. Remember—Not only consider, 2 Timothy 2:7, but the antithesis of the two foundation truths do you remember.

Seed of David—And so a true-born man.

Raised from the dead—And so exalted to the head of humanity.

My gospel—Note, 2 Corinthians 4:3. The gospel by me now most carefully committed to your charge.


Verses 8-13

8-13. Incitements from the truths of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection.


Verse 9

9. Suffer trouble—Fair justification for calling it my gospel.

Word—That same gospel.

Not bound—The apparent defeat of the preacher prevents not the triumph of his gospel.


Verse 10

10. Therefore—The commentators seem to miss the inference indicated by this connective. Bengel and Huther interpret it: The word of God is not bound, therefore I endure, etc. But Alford clearly shows that this is neither the inference nor a valid one. But Alford equally misses by making the therefore indicate a reason about to be given, namely, the elect’s sake.

But clearly therefore connects back with 2 Timothy 2:8, my gospel, as embracing the two memorable facts of the incarnation and resurrection. Christ was born and raised according to my irrepressible gospel, therefore do I endure all things for the elect’s sakes. And then he runs the antithesis of the born and raised, the incarnation and the exaltation, through every verse to 18. And thus 2 Timothy 2:8 is keynote to the whole paragraph, and 2 Timothy 2:9 is no interruption between 8 and 10.

For the elect’s sakes—Those elect in consequence of faith; but whose future obtain the salvation is dependent upon the three ifs of the three following verses.


Verse 11

11. Saying—Rather, faithful is the saying; for (omitted in the English) it is a changeless truth that if we, etc.

Be dead—Christ’s human antecedent before his resurrection. But the Greek aorist requires the rendering, If we died with him. Hence many commentators refer it (Romans 6:8) to spiritual death, “the negative side of our regeneration,” as Huther expresses it. Alford fixes the time at baptism. Huther, perhaps more correctly, refers it to the real or virtual martyrdom the Christian undergoes in identity with Christ’s death, quoting Philippians 3:10.

Live—The glorified life of Revelation 20:4.


Verses 11-13

11-13. The dead, suffer, believe, of these verses present us in the humble side of the antithesis of 2 Timothy 2:8. The live, reign, abideth, furnish the exalted side.


Verse 13

13. Abideth faithfulFaithful to what? Not faithful to restore us from our apostasy and still save us. Nor, as Alford, (and, indeed, all the commentators we consult seem to miss here,) faithful to his promise above to deny us if we believe not. But faithful to the very one to whom we are unfaithful and unbelieving—himself. He will be true to his own identity, his own glorious self. That he will be firm to his purpose to deny us for our unfaithfulness is, however, inferentially included.

Cannot deny himself— His own glorious nature will forever unequivocally assert itself, both in being what he is, and doing with absolute perfectness all that becomes his nature. And that nature will take all who are in accordance with it into glorious unity with itself, and reject all that are discordant with it from itself.


Verse 14

2. Timothy’s duty of warning the people against the noisy errors of apostates from the sure foundation, 2 Timothy 2:14-19.

14. These things—The entire statement of my gospel, 2 Timothy 2:8-13; namely, Christ’s incarnation and resurrection, with our parallelism thereto.

Them—The errorists; especially in regard to the resurrection, 2 Timothy 2:18; who are hitherto unnamed but not far out of mind

Before the Lord1 Timothy 6:13.

Strive not about words—Not practice logomachy, or word-fight. 1 Timothy 6:4. These dreamers, having little real knowledge of the nature of things, formed systems of words for which there was no answering object. The realistic sense of St. Paul rejected such word-fabrics without ceremony.

Subverting—Overthrow, as of a house or city.


Verse 15

15. Study—Be earnest or zealous.

A workman—A labourer, whether husbandman or artisan.

Rightly dividing the word—Commentators greatly differ as to the figure. Melanchthon supposed the allusion to be made to the priest dividing the sacrificial victim; but this suits not the word workman. A similar objection lies against Calvin’s applying it to a carving carver cutting bread. The applying it to a ploughman cutting a furrow makes no apposite illustration. The most suitable is the image of a carpenter or architect rightly, with square and compass, dividing the parts of a timber. The thought as regards the preacher is not so much that he divides for each class of persons their own appropriate share; but that he so distributes the doctrines of the gospel as to give each its proportion, place, and measure, so as to preserve the symmetry of Christian truth, in order to assign to each class of errorists their proper representation and antidote.


Verse 16

16. Babblings—Greek, empty-vocalities; like logomachy, words to which there was no correspondent thing. Both designate those truthless systems set by Timothy’s opposers over against St. Paul’s type of saving doctrine (see note, 2 Timothy 1:13) given in 8-13, especially as appears by 2 Timothy 2:18 against the doctrine of the resurrection.

Unto more ungodliness— From their unmeanings they will advance to bad meanings, and from bad meanings to bad purposes and actions. This is indicated by St. Paul’s prophetic description of their future in 2 Timothy 3:1-9. It is the impiety resulting from errorism that awakens St. Paul’s deep concern and calls forth his warnings to Timothy.


Verse 17

17. Canker—A gangrene; called by some “an incipient mortification.” A corrupted spot, eating in every direction from its centre, until it corrupts and destroys the whole. So one fatal error or sin may spread its influence over the whole character, destroying the moral nature. And so, collectively, (as St. Jerome quoted by Huther says,) “a perverse doctrine, commencing with one individual, at first scarce finds two or three listeners, but by degrees it creeps like a canker over the whole body.”

Philetus—Only mentioned here.

Hymeneus—Note, 1 Timothy 1:20.


Verse 18

18. Resurrection is past—As being nothing more than the spiritual recovery of man’s dead soul to life. By this view, the true identification of our life and glorification with the incarnation of Christ and his glorification (2 Timothy 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:10-13) is obscured.

Overthrow the faith—As a structure is overthrown.

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Verse 19

19. Nevertheless—Although the faith of some is overthrown, the basis of faith is permanent; for God’s foundation standeth (as Alford rightly renders) firm. What is that foundation? Alford and Huther both answer, the Church. But surely the Church has a deeper foundation than itself, namely, the incarnate and risen Saviour of 2 Timothy 2:8; the relation of the Church to whom is described in 2 Timothy 2:11-13. And although the denial of the resurrection, 2 Timothy 2:18, obscures Christ, and overthrows the structure of the faith of some, still that foundation, Jesus Christ, born and raised, standeth sure, the moveless basis of the faith of all persevering believers.

Having this seal—The seal suggests the motto inscribed upon the seal, yet the seal itself implies the surety of the foundation. Motto first:

Lord knoweth—An allusion to Numbers 16:5, “The Lord will show who are his;” in the Septuagint, “The Lord knoweth (or knew) who are his.” That is, Jehovah knew who of Israel were true worshippers, in contrast to Korah and his company. That seal-motto St. Paul declares is still unobliterated. Those who suffer and believe with him, 2 Timothy 2:11-13, will be by him confessed. Motto second:

Depart—A clear allusion, as Ellicott rightly suggests, to Numbers 16:26, where the true Israel are bidden to “Depart… from the tents of these wicked men,” the Korahites. So must the true believers in Christ depart from the iniquity of these deniers of the resurrection.

Nameth the name—As acknowledging him to be what his name means, the Lord.


Verse 20

3. Personally purged and pure both from lusts and heresy, he may meekly instruct others, 2 Timothy 2:20-26.

20. But—Although this separation of characters is necessary, yet there surely will be a mixed whole.

A great houseThe Church, as Alford and Huther say. But were the errorists (who are clearly represented by the vessels to dishonour) part of the Church? More strictly the house is the great body of thinkers with whom Timothy had to do; and, perhaps still more comprehensively, the great world of free agents, as the same two classes of vessels in Romans 9:21-22, signify.


Verse 21

21. Purge himself (in obedience to the second motto in 2 Timothy 2:19) from these modern Korahites, the vessels of dishonour. The simile is carried out with much completeness. The cleaned dish is ready for all cleanly use by the owner.


Verse 22

22. Also—More truly, but, the incorrect rendering of which obscures the connexion. But in order to purge thyself, as just directed, flee… youthful lusts. The connexion is not, as Alford thinks, back to 2 Timothy 2:16, nor is the intervening part, 17-21, “a digression;” but the line of direct thought is carried on from 2 Timothy 2:21.

Lusts—In the Greek not mainly a sexual term. It is used in a good sense as desire in Philippians 1:23; so worldly lusts, Titus 2:12. Timothy was now near forty, and it was doubtless time to renounce the impulses and ambitions of a young man. But (in contrast flee) follow righteousness, or rectitude of conduct.

Them… heart—In distinction from the errorists, with whom peace may be impracticable.


Verse 23

23. But—In order to attain peace, even with these, avoid foolish questions, inquiries, and discussions about subtle unrealities.

Strifes— Literally, fights; that is, quarrels; contests where truth is not the object, but in which the selfish or malign emotions are engaged.


Verse 24

24. Servant of the Lord—Who serves or represents the Lord’s side in the great discussion.

Strive—Our translators have consistently given the verb strive to correspond to strifes in the previous verse, but it fails to correspond in meaning because our English word strive, unlike its noun, is almost uniformly used in a good, or at least innocent, meaning. The word quarrel would, perhaps, serve in both places both as noun and verb. The Greek is, literally, fight, used in both cases with a malign sense.


Verse 25

25. Meekness—Disarming hostile feeling in order to give fair play for conviction.

Give them repentance—In consequence of their readiness of conviction produced by your mildness of dealing.

Repentance—That is, the power, not the act, of repentance; namely, from their guilty error, which becomes a conversion to the acknowledging of the truth.


Verse 26

26. That—Supplied by the translators, is superfluous.

May recover themselves—Literally, may awake in soberness; a metaphor taken from persons who have been asleep in drunkenness. By a slight but not ungraceful mixture of metaphor the drunkenness is a snare of the devil. They awake sober from the devil’s snare.

Taken captive—Carrying out the image of a snare.

By him—The devil. At—Captured by him into (into obedience to) his own will.

From the fact that him and his in this last clause are different pronouns, ( αυτου and εκεινου) Ellicott, Alford, and others refer the last his to God; captured by the devil into God’s will! The only reason for this preposterous perversion is, that such a use of different pronouns, though confessedly referable to the same person, requires that the last pronoun should be emphatic. Yet that requirement is amply satisfied (as Huther truly notes) by the rendering: Captured by the devil at his own will.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-timothy-2.html. 1874-1909.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
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