From matters of ecclesiastical and moral order the transition is easy and becoming to the due feelings and conduct of slaves, a burning question for the house of God on earth where materials lay so abundant for mischief at the hands of men rash, heady, and unbroken. Some have yielded to their subjective notions bred in the unhealthy swamps of modern licence, and, with no appreciation of the apostle’s gracious wisdom any more than of his stern disallowance of self-assertion, dare to question the inspired claim of the passage or even its genuine Pauline character. Suffice it to say that to the believer every word is as seasonable and wholesome in itself as the importance of the exhortation is plain for that time and any other. Nor is one without hope of sufficiently indicating its value as we weigh it clause by clause in its bearing for our day on souls who owe domestic service, where the pressure of bondage no longer exists.
“Let as many as are bondmen under yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and the teaching be not reviled. And those that have believing masters, let them not despise [them] because they are brethren, but the more let them serve, because they that partake of the good service are faithful and beloved. These things teach and exhort. If any one teach differently, and accede not to sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is according to godliness (piety), he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but sick about questionings and word-disputes, out of which cometh envy, strife, revilings, evil suspicions, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness (piety) is gain” (vers. 1-5).
The law given by Moses had done much to mitigate slavery in Israel, and this not merely as to a Hebrew sold for debt or selling himself through poverty. A year of release came round speedily, after which his abiding servitude was quite voluntary, with a blessed Antitype in view familiar to the instructed Christian. The old and still prevailing British boast is but an echo of the command that a slave who escaped among them should not be delivered to his master but was free to live unoppressed and free, where he pleased in their midst (Deut. 23:15, 16). This was not however in regard to his social position merely, but still more to his religious status. In this the law of Moses stands in contrast with other codes, yea, with selfish and haughty Christendom. For Jewish slaves were entitled among other privileges to circumcision, enjoyed expressly the Sabbatical rest — indisputably a boon to none more than to them, and had their place at the solemn assemblies of the year, joining in the feasts like others, and in the fruits of the sabbath of the land every seventh year, as well as in the universal joy and liberty of the jubilee. Still it is fully allowed that the law made nothing perfect, as everywhere else so here also; and that in view of Jewish or human hardheartedness not a little under the law was tolerated which was far from God’s mind, till He came Who is the truth in grace. Christ changed all, and the bondman became His freedman, as the freeman rejoices and is honoured in being His bondman. There can now be neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Circumcision or uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian: what matters one or other now? Christ is all things and in all. All is grounded on His death and resurrection Who, ascended into heaven, has formed an entirely new and heavenly relationship, of which the Holy Spirit actually come is the power.
Such is the Christian teaching, and no class seems to have reaped the blessing more bountifully in God’s grace than the slaves who heard the gospel. Here we have most wholesome precepts to which Timothy was called to give heed, and this in view of false teachers, ever ready to abuse the truth for their lusts, as political leaders too have done from time to time in the world’s history.
The first verse, as a maxim of the widest sphere, urges as many as were under yoke as bondmen to deem their own masters worthy of all honour. Some might cry up other masters, others might dislike or disparage their own: neither spirit is of faith or becomes the Christian; and a slave, if a Christian, is no less responsible than another to reflect and live Christ. It is no question what their own masters might be, Jew or heathen, vain or proud, immoral or self-righteous, mean, ambitious, or what not. If God’s providence had cast their lot under the obligations of bondmen, they were responsible to Him for counting them worthy of all honour, not because they deserved this or that praise, but simply as being their own masters. The possession of eternal life, redemption, and glory in prospect, was meant as it is calculated to lift the heart into moral elevation; inasmuch as this can only be truly the case through the sense of sovereign grace on God’s part to a guilty sinner, saved at the infinite cost of His blood Who has thus secured the blessing, and waiting for Him to come, one knew not how soon, to consummate his heavenly hope.
It is not often the Rhemish Version can justly lay claim to exactness, but here through adhering to the Vulgate it may. All the older English seem to me to have failed, as well as the Authorized Version, in not regarding “servants” or slaves as part of the predicate. And so I understand the Pesch. Syr., though somewhat vague, whilst the Philoxenian reflects the more ordinary view. This gives undue prominence to “being under yoke,” whereas the true force is but complemental. It seems to be only a full description of all in bondage, not the peculiar case of some; and hence the general duty of all such fellows. How solemn for the inconsiderate and unwatchful Christian in such a position to remember that his failure toward his master causes God and His truth to be evil spoken of! To light minds their conscious knowledge might expose to a slighting of their own masters more or less destitute or even opposed. But doing the truth in all lowliness and honouring each his own master is the simple, true, and efficient way of bringing glory to God and the truth.
Next come the special circumstances of such as had believing masters. This privilege might seem to promise only comfort and blessing; and doubtless the difference of the atmosphere would be great. But every position has its snares and difficulties; and both masters and servants, if believers, would be as apt to expect a great deal mutually, as sometimes to be sorely disappointed. Hence the apostle guards with care the exception: “And let those that have faithful masters not despise them, because they are brethren, but the more serve, because those that partake of the benefit are faithful and beloved.” It is needless to remark that the Rhemish with Wiclif is nearer the truth, not the other English translations which since Tyndale treat the last clause as part of the predicate
This beyond just controversy the article forbids, the force of which they overlooked. On the other hand Beza, Bengel, et al. are quite mistaken in the thought that the article with
εὐεργεσίας points to God’s beneficence in Christ, which would make here the poorest sense possible. The article is really by implication due, as often happens, to the previous phrase,
μᾶλλον δουλευέτωσαν. Faith does exalt the lowly and humble the proud; but it does not misuse communion in the Spirit to equality in the flesh. Rather would it teach the believers because they know this or that, instead of despising their masters, to render the more service, because those that reap their good service are believing and beloved. And there was then, as now, urgent need to impress these lessons on souls, particularly on such as are in the subject-relationship. With these the apostle uniformly begins, when as in Ephesians and Colossians he exhorts both. A carnal acquaintance with the gospel readily falls in with the selfishness of the humbler class which shuts out Christ, and breeds socialism, the basest caricature in Christendom.
But it seems a strange division which severs that which follows from the foregoing, by taking “These things teach and exhort,” either as the beginning of a new paragraph, like Green, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Webster and Wilkinson, Westcott and Hort, Bengel, Matthaei, or as the end of the previous one, like Ellicott and the Revised Version. It is better with Alford, Bloomfield, et al., to regard this as an unbroken context; and the more as the denunciatory warning which now commences stands in more evident contrariety to the exhortation just concluded. “If any one teach differently [or play the strange teacher] and accede not to sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is according to godliness, he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but sick about questionings, and word-disputes, out of which cometh envy, strife, revilings, evil suspicions, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is gain” (vers. 3-5).
Thus plainly does the apostle prepare his younger colleague to watch against the strange teaching that would undermine the truth in these things, and substitute the proud and reckless will of man under fair pretences.
Some may think it strange that the apostle should speak so decidedly to Timothy; but let them weigh the moral judgment which this eminently sober servant of the Lord pronounces under the immediate power of the inspiring Spirit. None that fears God will tax him with undue severity; yet does he unqualifiedly condemn any man who taught a different teaching from what has been laid down. To undermine the relation of a servant to a master was heinous in his eyes, and not less so because fair pretexts and high-sounding professions were put forward. For the duty of subjection flows from the relation; and it is strengthened, not relaxed, by the faith of those concerned. In every case supposed those under yoke are assumed to be believers: else they would not fall under the apostle’s scope. In the latter case those in authority are represented as believers. In no case is a disrespectful, still less a rebellious, spirit tolerated; but every approach to it is repudiated as dishonouring God and the truth.
Nor is this all. For to teach otherwise is not to accede34 to sound words, even the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the teaching that is according to godliness. The Spirit of God descried socialistic principles impending, if not then at work, which drew out so sweeping and unsparing a rebuke. Can one conceive any censure more suited to check and destroy such a tendency? Who that knows what it is to be a sinner, owing every mercy to grace in Christ, would dare to persevere in a line of direct antagonism to His words Who is the Lord of all and the ordained Judge of quick and dead? Who so satisfied with his own theories and pleadings as to despise the apostolic declaration that his doctrine was incompatible with that which is according to godliness? There is such a thing as, after knowing the way of righteousness, turning back from the holy commandment delivered to us. No true-hearted saint would trifle with so awful an admonition from such a quarter. He who would persist in trusting his own heart, spite of it, must reap the bitter fruit in the ruin not only of his testimony but of his soul; for God is not mocked, if man deceives himself. Corrupt teaching is of the enemy, and, if unjudged in the light that grace gives to expose it, cannot but issue in the worst results, especially for such as teach error where Christ is named, and consequently all are responsible to set forth Him Who is the Truth.
Here too there is no excuse on the score of abstruse thought or of delicate shades of expression. It is a question of fundamental morality, or, as the apostle puts it, “the teaching that is according to godliness.” How blessed for us that Christ covers all truth, the highest and the humblest alike, our heavenly privileges and our most commonplace responsibilities! Nor is anything more perilous than the vaunting spirit that treats these ordinary proprieties of every day as of no moment, in its one-sided zeal for union with Christ on high or the special glories of the Spirit’s ministration. It is clear that our apostle gives no quarter to such shortsightedness; and the less where it is arrogant and vituperative as it is rash and shallow. He is himself the best example of a teaching which rests on foundations morally broad and deep, on which alone can be safely built that which melts into the light and glory of God’s presence.
Hear how the apostle lashes the offender: “He is puffed up, knowing nothing, but sick about questionings and word-disputes.” Is it not a faithful likeness of mind at work without conscience or heart, where Christ is only made the means of exalting the church, instead of the church subserving His glory?
We are sanctified by the, not by a, truth; but human one-sidedness (which ever boasts of its measure as being all that is worth hearing, and so much the more, the narrower it is) is but the knowledge that puffs up. Think of Paul or even Timothy glorying in their friends as the men of intelligence in contrast with Peter or Apollos and with those who appreciated either! No; they left such vain comparisons to the carnal Corinthians. Love builds up. This was the apostle’s aim even in his withering exposure of the true character of this empty inflated teaching, which availed itself of the richest grace and highest truth to set aside the plain duties of every day in human relationships. And a great mercy it is, when simple souls who understand little else take their stand on the Christ they know, rejecting the sacrifice of common morals, whatever the showy pretensions which accompany or even extenuate such laxity. Their conscience, not yet depraved, assures them that it cannot be of God to treat grave sin lightly, while cultivating extreme zeal for ecclesiastical pretension or yielding to excessive pre-occupation with our peculiar and heavenly privileges. Partial views are but “knowledge,” apt to minister directly to the egotism that cherishes only those who hold with self exclusively, to the disparagement, not only of saints less informed, but of those who, better taught and subject to Christ, cleave to the truth unreservedly.
With self-judgment are we best kept both in the sense of our littleness and in love to all the saints, instead of being puffed up in self-complacency and contempt of brethren generally. It is the budding of Gnosticism which is thus nipped by the apostle in more than one passage of the Epistle, though the evil afterwards assumed a far more subtle and malignant shape. But, whatever its form, it is the inevitable enemy that dogs the steps of the truth, ever claiming the highest value for its own chosen line, but none the less betraying its alien source and nature, not only by its pride and party-working, but by its palpable neglect of the teaching that is according to piety. This the truth promotes because it is the revelation of Christ to the soul, and in Him Who fills all things we learn practically as well as dogmatically that, as there is nothing too great for us who are by grace made one with Him, so there is nothing too small for God Who went down to the dust of death in the person of His Son. The most despicable position on earth through the grace of Christ becomes the fairest field for magnifying Him in our body, whether by life or by death.
And equally sorrowful is the fruit: “whereof (out of which) cometh envy, strife, revilings (or blasphemies), wicked (evil) suspicions, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness (piety) is gain.” They are the unmistakable works of the flesh excited by the hopes of turning piety to a selfish account. Far different is it when faith is at work through love! There the fruit of the Spirit cannot be hid in love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22, 23); for Christ is the object, not self veiled under deceptive appearances, which on that account is only the more loathsome to God, and which therefore breaks out ere long into confusion and every evil work.
The last clause of verse 5 in the common text and the Authorized Version is rejected by all critics as destitute of adequate authority, though the Syrr. et al., favour the insertion. It seems to correspond with the last clause of 2 Tim. 3:5, which is unquestionably genuine, though not in exactly the same terms. Here the exhortation is out of place: for it is only the hypothetic case of some one guilty of insinuating the false principles in question; whereas in the Second Epistle it is an evil state that is positively predicated with directions how to act then. Further, the insertion in this First Epistle interrupts the connection of the apostle’s words, as any one can see in the context before us.
The selfish evil of making piety a means of gain has been fully exposed. It is really to turn Christ’s name to the account of present and worldly interests; it is an abuse of grace, an abandonment of truth, save in profession, and also a taking forethought for the flesh in order to satisfy its lusts; it is as alien as can be conceived from all that the Holy Spirit is now working on earth to the glory of God the Father.
“But piety with contentment is,” says the apostle with emphasis, “great gain. For we have brought nothing into the world; because neither can we carry anything out. But having food and covering we shall be therewith satisfied” (vers. 6-8).
Piety as a cloak of covetousness, piety paraded in order to rise in the earth and acquire wealth, is a reversal of that which is everywhere in scripture shown to be a genuinely Christian expectation. When the Corinthians betrayed the desire thus to make the best of both worlds, the apostle reproved them in terms cuttingly ironical: “Already ye are filled full, already ye are rich, ye reign as kings without us; and I would indeed that ye did reign that we also might reign with you. For methinks God hath set forth us the apostles last as men sentenced to death; for we are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are in honour, but we are despised. Even to this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place, being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat; we are become as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Cor. 4:8-13). This speech of his was in grace, but it was unmistakably seasoned with salt. He could not but blame, but it was in loving admonition that they might be sound in the faith and saved from ruinous practice flowing from false principle.
The true course is that which is urged later by the apostle in 1 Cor. 7:29-31: “But this I say, brethren, the time that remaineth is shortened; in order that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep as weeping not; and they that rejoice as rejoicing not, and they that buy as not possessing; and they that use this world as not using it to the full; for the fashion of this world passeth away.” We are but pilgrims and strangers, passing through a world to which we no longer belong; we are of the Father, His gift to Christ, Whose witnesses we are now called to be, as we wait for His coming to be with Him and to share the glorious inheritance along with Him. It is His will to assign us our lot meanwhile; and piety would own with thankfulness His disposal of us, whether as a test of our subjection of heart or as a sphere of serving Him from day to day. For there is nothing right for our souls where He has not His place. It is not enough that there be “contentment.” This alone would be but a heathen sentiment; as in fact not a few pagan authors have expressed it prettily, though (it is to be feared) it was rather what they could see to become man than what they really made good in their daily conversation. The Stoics who most affected such language were hard rather than happy men. Even had they succeeded in practice, how far short of Christ was their self-complacent contentment!
What is here declared to be a great means of gain is “piety” with contentment. This is a state wholly opposed to the pagan self-reliance which leaves out God and dependence on Him. “Piety” cherishes confidence in Him, and looks up to Him habitually, as to One Who does not and cannot fail in His gracious consideration of every need, difficulty, and danger, all being naked and laid bare to His eyes with Whom we have to do. With piety “contentment”35 is the fruit of knowing His love and the assurance of His will as good, acceptable, and perfect. As the same apostle said to the Christian Hebrews, “Let your conversation (or conduct) be without love of money, satisfied with present circumstances, for Himself hath said, I will never leave thee, neither will I forsake thee: so that taking courage, we may say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid: what will man do with met;” (Heb. 13:5, 6). It is the same principle at bottom; but here it is the harm for one’s own spirit that the apostle warns against rather than the apprehension of mischief from others, which he would remove from the believers of the circumcision. Piety with contentment is great gain.
This he illustrates and enforces by the homely yet all the more impressive facts of man’s beginning and end here below; which all can see, but on which only men of faith act: “For nothing have we brought into the world, because neither can we carry anything out” (ver. 7) This is urged with such characteristic brevity and compressed ruggedness that one need not wonder if words once brought in to explain have crept into the text of not a few manuscripts. These apparent interpolations differ. In one of the earliest (D. or the Clermont MS.) which contains an addition prevalent in the West, “[it is] true” appears; and so it substantially stands in the Vulgate, Gothic, et al. Among the Greek early writers as in several late uncials and the mass of cursives, “[it is] manifest” is the word (“known” in the Syr. being perhaps fairly equivalent). The oldest authorities do not allow
ὅτι, but give as the text what is here translated; which turns man’s entrance into the world with nothing into the solemn reminder that thus it will be at the close, so that the two-fold truth may bear on the believer throughout his course. Compare Job 1:21, which is an anciently expressed sentiment, and as simple as sure. But piety with “contentment,” alone makes its weight felt and forms the walk in accordance with the truth.
“But having food and covering we shall be therewith content (satisfied)” (ver. 8). The words translated food and covering are both in the plural which may indicate the variety in each case provided of God. The “covering” too is not limited to clothing, and should not be so translated, as it takes in dwelling as well. The future seems more forcible than the exhortatory tense, and better suits the passive voice. Little reliance can be placed even on the oldest and best MSS. which too often interchange the long with the short vowels, as in this case. The critics generally of late incline to the future.
Let the Christian reader study also the words of our Lord in Matt. 6:19-34, and delight his soul in the incomparable fulness and dignity of that blessed discourse.
With the godly contentment of the Christian, the apostle next contrasts the restless, sorrowful, and perilous path of covetousness in its mildest form. It is a worldly lust to be judged and disallowed like any other.
“But those that desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and many unwise and hurtful lusts, such as sink men into destruction and perdition. For a root of all evil is the love of money, which some eagerly seeking were led astray from the faith and pierced themselves through with many pains” (vers. 9, 10).
As usual, under a plain and unostentatious exterior, the language of the apostle bears the witness and conveys the power of divine wisdom. It is not here the possession of wealth which stands in the soul’s way. This the Lord had laid bare in the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful, because he valued his great wealth too highly to follow Christ at all cost. Moses suffered what the suffering and glorified Son of man never sanctions. The law made nothing perfect. The introduction of a better hope not only gives us to draw near to God instead of maintaining the old distance, but in Christ detects and judges the flesh and the world as enmity against God. Outward advantage becomes a spiritual obstacle. Man is evil; and God alone is good; and the cross becomes the door of salvation from a God to Whom all things are possible, if they that have riches enter with difficulty the kingdom of God. And all things are possible to him that believeth. For faith makes Christ all, which the young man did not: else he had not gone away with a fallen countenance from Him Who never fails to give peace to the most tried believer, and fills with joy the most forlorn.
Here it is the far more common class whose purpose it is to become rich. What does such a desire betray? Discontent with the calling in which one is called; distrust of God’s will, goodness, and wisdom in His dealings with each; the same unbroken, unjudged thirst for the things after which the Gentiles seek. Does not our heavenly Father know what we have need of, and what He deems fitting for us? The word of our Lord is, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not dig through nor steal; for where thy treasure is, there will be also thy heart” (Matt. 6:19-21). Child of God, where is thy treasure? Is it Christ in heaven? If so, happy art thou! If it is wealth or distinction, the Lord warns, There also will be thy heart. What can be more false and beguiling than the fond fancy that prevails among many in direct contradiction of Christ, that, while the life is absorbed in the struggle for riches, the heart is not there but is true to Him! It is not for want of solemn admonition that a Christian can thus stray. The character, the state, is proved in what we are set on and live for from day to day. “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body will be bright.” And if the whole body in one be found dark, is it not because the eye is evil? “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great the darkness!” (Matt. 6:23). So the Lord detected the source and motive, and exposed the blindness that results.
The apostle here dwells briefly on the effects of such a purpose however veiled. They fall into temptation and a snare and many unwise and hurtful lusts, such as sink men into destruction and perdition. But oh! the unbelief of believers where an object other than Christ and opposed to His will and glory carries them away! It is not the riches themselves which are the worst danger, though thereby the path is made more difficult; but the lack of faith that counts them the Lord’s, not our own, and that therefore seeks only to be faithful as a steward according to His mind and to be blessed in doing His will. It is our own will or purpose that is so often wrong and to be dreaded most.
To fall into temptation is quite different from being tempted. The fact of being tempted is trying; but blessed is he that endures temptation. The Lord Himself knows what sore temptations mean, none so much. For as God cannot be tempted by evil things, and Himself tempts no one, thus neither was the Second Man (however the first was at once to his own ruin and that of the race) unto God’s dishonour. But Christ suffered whilst being tempted, instead of weakly yielding to present gratification and lying down afterwards in unavailing sorrow. Temptation in His case, however complete, was apart from sin; whereas Adam was drawn away and enticed by lust with all its bitter results. Christ had no sinful temptations within, as we have. He never fell, never entered into temptation, as He warns us to pray against. To “enter” is fatal, as we see in Peter’s case, though through the Lord’s intercession his faith did not fail absolutely, and, when turned back or restored, he was used to confirm his brethren.
“A snare”36 goes yet farther than temptation, and supposes the deceived soul caught in the net of the enemy, whence only the grace and power of the Lord can extricate.
Further, the desire of riches is not alone, but is also the parent of “many unwise and hurtful lusts.” It feeds vanity. It engenders pride. It ministers to selfishness. It suggests and promotes ambition, and so may be the means of corrupting others. How truly we hear of many unwise and hurtful lusts in its train!
As the way is sad and evil, the end (and here it is shown fully) is unspeakably wretched: “Such as (or, seeing these lusts) sink men into destruction and perdition.” Of course this is said of “men,” not of “saints;” but not the least terrible examples are of those who took their place and were once perhaps without question recognized among the confessors of Christ. The more we may know and possess, the less hopeful and the more unconscientious is our departure, when it comes, from what becomes His name. Their course and end mark such only as “men.” “Destruction” is the general description of their ruin; “perdition” is still more awfully precise. It is part of the snare and folly to presume on the bearing of the Lord’s name as if it must preserve those under it from the baneful consequences of the unbelief which slights the word and gives loose rein to the will. But God is not mocked, and those who sow to the flesh must reap corruption. The end of these things is death, and not the less but the more irreclaimably. where the word which should be living becomes a dead dogma, under which God’s calls to holiness, in disallowance of self and the world, are not heard, and the unwary soul drops into a more and more hardened hypocrisy. Who has not known such instances? Are they exhausted? Is your soul or mine to pay no heed?
“For a root of evil is the love of money, which some, being eager after, were seduced from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many pains (pangs)”. This is a solemn but not too sweeping sentence, which we all should ponder; though some more than others, as the apostle implies, are exposed to the poison. Wealth practically means the possession of much more than we need for ourselves or for the poor from day to day, of what is over and above godly use, of what therefore can only be for show or indulgence, for lavishness or for hoarding.
The language of men betrays their mammon-worship. They conceive money, and the love of it, a root of “goods.” God pronounces it a root of “evils”; and not merely possible but actual
τῶν κακῶν, the evils that exist, subtle or important, of the flesh and of the mind. So the Lord had admonished the disciples against the cares of the age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, entering in (Mark 13:32).
Christianity is no doubt of faith and the “faith;” but, when real, it is a life more than a creed. It is Christ living in each believer, as the apostle says of himself as a saint, not officially, so as to be a sample of the household of faith (Phil. 1:21). But so deadly a root of evils is the love of money that its seductive influence from the faith is singled out for the forefront of resulting danger. And this may help to explain the strength of the language in Eph. 5:5 where a covetous person is styled an idolater, as in Col. 3:5 covetousness is declared to be idolatry. Be it that
πλεονεξία there employed goes beyond
φιλαργυρία here used; still the latter is at least included in that unsatisfied greed which becomes pre-eminently an absorbing idolatrous passion that excludes true homage to the true God.
But the apostle in no way limits the mischief to causing souls to wander from the faith, though surely nothing can be more disastrous. The eager pursuit of money is wont to pierce its votaries through with many pangs or pains. It is hard in that case to avoid deceit here, dissimulation there, hard words and ways to one, soft to another, taking selfish advantage of men and things and times, without account of heart or circumstances, and still less of Christ before God. It is not only failure but success that inflicts the many pangs; yea, the most successful in general have their disappointments, and therefore all the keener.
Still it is hardly exact, I think, to say “the” root, though one knows what has been pleaded on its behalf; because “the” implies naturally an exclusive force, and the love of money, deep and wide as it may be, is not the only root of all men’s evils. But our language hardly admits of a simply anarthrous usage like the Greek, and therefore we make use of the indefinite article, though it may be feeble.
In contrast with those who, through that root of evils, not more wounded themselves than they dishonoured the Lord, Timothy is now exhorted to cultivate all that is suited to and worthy of His name.
“But thou, O man of God, fee these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, meekness of spirit.37 Combat the good combat of faith; lay hold on the life eternal whereunto thou wast38 called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. I charge [thee]39 in the sight of God that preserveth (keepeth alive) all things,40 and Christ Jesus that witnessed before Pontius Pilate the good confession, that thou keep the commandment, spotless, irreproachable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; which in its own times He shall show, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable, Whom none of men saw nor can see; to Whom, be honour and might eternal. Amen” (vers. 11-16).
“Man of God” is a phrase of common occurrence from the Pentateuch, and throughout the historical books of Old Testament scripture. Continually applied to a prophet, it regards him as one identified with the interests and character of God in deed and in truth, though of course liable to failure, and thereon to suffer chastening. In the New Testament it is found nowhere save in the two Epistles to Timothy, here predicated of the one addressed in order to stimulate and warn; in the Second Epistle open to all who in an evil day make good in faithful and holy devotedness to God what is implied in it.
Timothy as a man of God is called to shun the worldly lusts, foolish and hurtful, against which the apostle had been warning. It is vain to affect zeal for what is good, if so dangerous a snare be indulged, source as it is of all evils. But persevering avoidance of evil can hardly be, unless there be also the zealous pursuit of righteousness and godliness, of faith and love, of endurance and meekness of spirit. Practical consistency with one’s relationship is indispensable, as is reverent affection Godward, the light of the unseen let in on the present and the activity of the heart in what is good, the spirit made up to bear evil, and this with meekness, not with resentment and impatience. Such is the morally beautiful path traced here for his young fellow-labourer by one who knew it familiarly and deeply, though its perfection be found only in our Lord Jesus here below.
But more than this is called for, if He is to be magnified in our body, whether by life or by death. The figures are taken as often from the games so familiar to that day. “Combat the good combat of the faith.” Flesh or sight would seek only present things. Christ must be in view.
“Lay hold on eternal life whereunto thou wast called and didst confess the good confession before many witnesses.” As in “fleeing” and “pursuing,” the work is regarded as expressly continuous: not so in “laying hold” of the eternal life. It is a single act, and duration is excluded from the thought, all being summed up in its completion, like the waking up righteously once for all in 1 Cor. 15:34 compared with the habit of not sinning. It is the prize at the end of which faith could have laid hold now, as the good confession is a thing done, not of course done with, nor on the other hand in process of doing. It is the simple act in itself, which is expressed in the aorist, as ought to be well-known. The Authorized Version is doubly wrong in “hast” professed, and “a” good confession. The Vulgate may be supposed to have influenced all from Wiclif downwards. The endeavour to bring in the whole ministry of Timothy as covered by a good confession, as Calvin contends, seems as unfounded as, and only less objectionable than, the strange “oblation” imputed to the phrase by the author of the “Unbloody Sacrifice” (i. 223, ed. of Anglo-Cath. Library). Into what vagaries men wander who slight the truth of Christ for objects of their own!
The apostle rises next to a solemn admonition in this connection, as he does towards the close of his Second Epistle. “Quickening,” or creating however, is not the thought, but “keeping alive.” Here all the older English versions like most others have followed the received reading; not that which suits the context, which has also the better authorities. How Dean Alford could adopt the right reading but give a rendering which suits the wrong, seems unaccountable; but so it is. The usage in the New Testament as in the LXX distinctly points to saving alive or preserving; and here “all things”, not persons, are in question, though some go so far as to teach the contrary. God, Who is the source of life, is also the preserver of all things: on this he who espouses His cause in a hostile scene can reckon and needs to reckon.
Besides, there is One no longer seen, to Whom faith looks with assurance, for not consolation only but also for unfailing support: “Christ Jesus that witnessed before Pontius Pilate the good confession.” He is on high to succour His servants, but He was here as none else “the faithful Witness,” the good Confessor. What cheer to the spirit of him who might flag through timorous counsels or the demoralization of compromise, that dire and corrupting pest for the mouth and heart when evil thickens among the faithful on earth! He has to follow His steps in this as in all things; and if he knows his weakness, as surely he will increasingly in the arduous combat, he has but to spread it before His sight Whose grace suffices and Whose strength is made perfect in weakness. What a joy and honour consciously to witness the “good confession” where our Lord did so before us, He without what we have so abundantly, and with such aggravation as none ever had or can have again!
To have the truth is of capital moment; and this can only be by faith of God’s word. “By the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer” (Ps. 17:4). Thus only can we escape the lie of the enemy who deceives the whole world. But another thing there is, only second — that confession or witness which our lips and lives owe to Him Whose grace has given us the truth; and this not only though chiefly to His honour, but in love according to His will for those that lie as the world does in the wicked one. that they may be sanctified and saved. Before Pontius Pilate, the overwhelming fact came out that (not only did the Gentiles know not the truth, but) the Jews would not have it when before their eyes and ears livingly in Him Who, while the Messiah, was infinitely more. The chosen nation was as unbelieving as the nations generally, and hence as more guilty, so also more unrelentingly cruel unto blood, though it were the blood of Him Who was Jehovah’s Fellow. Jesus confessed Himself not only King of a kingdom not of this world, but born and come to bear witness of the truth that every one who is of the truth might hear His voice. As the Jews alleged, He made Himself equal with God; He was, He is, the Only-Begotten Son of the Father. No wonder even hard-hearted Pilate was afraid, till Caesar’s, the world’s, friendship was seen to be at stake: and so, like the Jews who tempted him, he perished in enmity to God. Such is the end of all indeed, who, as they believe not with the heart to righteousness, confess not with the mouth to salvation, though in this passage no doubt “good confession” is more precise.
The charge to Timothy was “to keep the injunction (or commandment) spotless, irreproachable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is important to notice the accuracy of the thought as well as of the language; and the more so, as erudite ignorance takes the unhallowed licence every now and then of apologizing for scripture, as if even the apostle’s Epistles were deficient in the exactitude which the schools, as they think, alone possess and impart.
But the unction from the Holy One gives quite another character and precision from that which is fed by the midnight oil of human training. This alone forms in the believer the mind of Christ, which, in its surface and in its depths, is alike beyond the wisdom of this age. Take as an instance the epiphany or “appearing” of our Lord (ver. 14) which is never confounded with His “presence” (
παρουσία) or “coming:” the one being bound up with questions of our responsibility in service or testimony, as in the case before us, the other as simply and regularly (unless specifically modified41 otherwise) presenting our hope in all the fulness of divine grace. It will greatly help the Christian student to search the two words and contrast their connections throughout the New Testament.
On the great and instructive theme of the Lord’s return, whether to receive His own to be with Himself above, or to display them already with Him when He comes in judgment of the quick for the kingdom, the distinction becomes evident on examination, as it is of the deepest moment in conducing to an intelligent grasp of revealed truth or of God’s counsels and ways. In sovereign grace Christ will come to gather us together on high to be with Himself for ever; but He will appear also to put down all evil and reign in righteousness; and when He is manifested, we shall be manifested with Him in glory. The object and character differ as much as the time: where grace in its due heavenly power is meant, it is His “coming” to fulfil our hopes: where government and responsibility are in question, it is His “appearing,” “manifestation,” or “day,” as any soul subject to the word may ascertain in searching the scriptures.
And such is the clear connection here, not only as introducing His “appearing” but as following it: “which in its own times He shall show, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings (lit., of those that reign) and Lord of lords” (lit., of those that exercise lordship). None can deny that as Timothy’s responsibility was involved directly in the words preceding, so in these the display of the Lord’s glory is no less distinct; neither of which appears to be the thought where His coming for our translation on high is revealed. One might add its “own times” or seasons as naturally and characteristically mentioned along with His appearing; whereas no such language ever accompanies the gathering of the saints to meet the Lord above. His appearing ushers in the kingdom, as in 2 Tim. 4:1. In its course, first and last, :He will judge living and dead. But this is clearly government rather than grace; at least it is not grace in its heavenly fulness but in contrast with it.
It is not denied that even those who are one with Christ, members of His body, His bride, are also to be viewed as servants to receive each his own reward according to his own labour. And hence the apostle speaks of the saints, responsible for each gift to be used in Christ’s service now, awaiting “the revelation” of our Lord Jesus Christ Who shall also confirm them to the end, unimpeachable in the “day” of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8). But here again we see how responsibility brings in the “day,” etc., whereas grace in its heavenly privileges is ever linked with His “coming” and “presence.” As Christ has to do with both, so shall we; but they are quite different; and it is ruinous to the truth, if we, contrary to the word of God, confound things that are there kept invariably distinct, though occasionally but rarely both may be stated together.
We may notice that even our Lord Himself is here brought forward in just the same way, as Jesus Christ the righteous owned and displayed by God in the glory of that great day. The Spirit speaks of His unseeable and inaccessible glory: our Lord Jesus Christ is the One Whose appearing will manifest God’s glory before the universe in its own seasons.
This manifestation it is which gives occasion for the striking doxology which closes the section, where God as such is presented as He “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable, Whom none of men hath seen nor can see; to Whom be honour and might everlasting, Amen.” On the other hand, “the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh (not Israel only) shall see it together” (Isa. 40:5). But it will be in the appearing of our Lord that God will show His various glories, He “Who only hath immortality,” in and by Him Who died and rose and lives again for evermore, the King of those that reign and the Lord of those that rule, in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, Himself God and Lord, deigned by His abasement unto the death of the cross to lay a new basis in a ruined world, so that grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
All testimony of faith is now seemingly as vain as was the good confession of Jesus our Lord; but His appearing will be the display of divine power, glory, and righteousness to the confusion of all that doubt as well as of proud rebels. Ere that day man will have shown his “rights” to be unmitigated wrongs, and his liberty, equality, and fraternity (vile, false, and selfish as they ever were) to be only the prelude to the most galling slavery of man and Satan that the world ever saw. God will show our Lord’s appearing in its own due times, not merely for the overthrow of apostate wickedness, but for the establishment, in the peace and blessing of man bowing to Jesus, of His own honour and might eternal. May our portion be with the present substantiating energy of faith which the apostle desired for his dear young fellow-servant! It is all revealed by His word to act not only on: his soul but on ours.
Besides, the apostle lays it on Timothy to enjoin the wealthy saints in solemn and searching tones, the counterpart of which it was uncalled for to give to the poor, who never fail to find uninspired abundance of exhortation. The rich are apt to pass easy muster, not because they have not special difficulties and dangers, but because both poor and rich and even those who should be above either are disposed to be less outspoken with them than is well for all and to the Lord’s praise. But not so did Paul walk or direct his fellow-servant.
“Those rich in the present age charge not to be high-minded nor to set their hope on uncertainty of riches, but on a42 God That affordeth us all things richly for enjoyment; to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal in distributing, ready to communicate, laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold of (on) the real43 life” (vers. 17-19).
As our Lord designated wealth “the mammon of unrighteousness,” in the same spirit are the wealthy here characterized as “rich in the present age.” It was certainly not to exalt in their eyes or in those of others what the flesh is sure to overvalue, while it hides the great responsibility of those who have it. Yet there is no fanatical credit given to the garb or habit of poverty, no sanctimonious eschewing of ordinary food or shelter among the abodes of men, still less is there a hint of the superior worth of the monastic life. These anilities were reserved for the deeper gulfs of superstition. But those who are rich in the present age (“this present evil age,” as the same apostle stamps it in Gal. 1:4) have need especially to be on their guard, and to hear, not the voice of flattery so likely to be at hand, but the solemn admonition of the Holy Spirit, that they be not poor toward God in view of “the day of eternity” (2 Peter 3:18). Certainly riches toward God consist neither in lavishing on oneself or one’s own, any more than in laying up for either.
Charge them then, says he, “not to be high-minded.” What so readily or so generally generates haughtiness as the possession of money, The Lord in the parable (Luke 16:1-9) already referred to lays the axe to the root, when He calls on the disciples to make to themselves friends with, or out of, the mammon of unrighteousness, that when it fails they may be received into the eternal tabernacles. The grand principle, He insists, is faithfulness in that which is another’s (God’s), Who will commit to us in glory the true riches — our own and much too, if faithful here and now in a very little. Self-appropriation was the ruinous theory or practice (or both) for the rich man that lifted up his eyes in Hades, being in torment, and forgot that, in a sinful world which breaks the law and rejects the Messiah, wealth is no true sign of God’s favour.
In effect the Lord would have His own sacrifice the present in view of the future, counting that not their own but His, and therefore with all the freedom and cheerfulness that He loves in a giver, with their eyes set on that which seems His only which He will give to be their own with Him for ever. Does this seem folly to any who flatter themselves that they are wise and prudent! What will your wisdom and prudence prove in that day? Our true wisdom as Christians is moulded by the cross of Christ. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. Following Christ is the surest cure of highmindedness, as it ensures also the scorn of the world. “Men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself” (Ps. 49:18): what do they feel at the walk of one who can truly say, “To me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21)?
But there is a danger kindred to highmindedness which is next warned against: “nor set their hope on uncertainty of riches.” On this too many a philosopher of old moralized in vain: not that his words did not sound wise and grand, but that their effect was powerless; for he was either a selfish hypocrite who decried wealth in others to get it for himself as much as possible, or he denounced wealth with a cynical haughtiness of mind more extreme than in any man of wealth. Well then does the apostle first warn against highmindedness, and next on building one’s hopes on the stability of what so quickly takes wings and flies away, whence the possessor is so often summoned in the midst of his self-aggrandizing plans. “Uncertainty of riches” indeed: how true and expressive!
One is never quite right, however, without what is positive; and hence the apostle urges that those addressed should have their hope set, not on a foundation so sandy, “but on God That affordeth us all things richly for enjoyment.” There cannot be conceived a sentence more completely condemning the spirit of asceticism, which is fairer in appearance than the love of ease and luxury. But they are only forms of selfishness, however opposed: neither savours of God, Who has not left Himself without witness of His goodness toward men, even among the heathen allowed to go on their own ways. Surely it is not less among His own family of grace, though He may for higher ends give them the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, being conformed unto His death. But He is none the less the God of all grace, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. And as to real superiority over all circumstances, where there was no wealth of the present age, who could testify better than the apostle? A prisoner in Rome, yet able to write thence, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therein to be content. I know how to be abased, and know also how to abound: in everything and in all things I am initiated both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer want. I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me. . . .And my God shall fulfil every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:11-19). The ungrudging and bountiful Giver of all loves a heart that responds to His grace, as far from legality as from licence.
But He looks also for activity in good on the part of the godly rich, as He Himself is unwearied in good (Acts 14:17). Hence follows the call “to do good, to be rich in good works.” There is an important shade between the two acts, although it is not easy to express the difference except in a paraphrase. By the first (
ἀγαθοεργεῖν) is meant doing, works of kindness or goodness to others; by being “rich in good works (
πλουτεῖν ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς) is meant abounding in fair, upright, works, comely in themselves: the first relatively, and the second absolutely, good works. And very important it is to note how both are pressed in close connection here and elsewhere, for men in general laud the one which affects man, and forget or disparage what is of yet greater moment, what is good in itself before God. Flowing from faith and love, how acceptable are both!
Even this does not express all the generous outgoing of heart the apostle would have the rich exhorted to seek. He adds, as if he could not remember the poor enough, “to be liberal in distributing, ready to communicate,” which, I presume, goes beyond cases of pressing need, where calls arise peculiarly suitable for men of ample means, as in the varied circumstances of the Lord’s work and witness. How many opportunities of promoting His glory, which are not of a kind one would like to lay as a burden on the assembly as a whole! “Charge the rich in the present age.” There is a divine way for all; and those whose privilege it is especially can hear His voice, as the apostle takes care that they shall.
But there is also encouragement specially significant and cheering to those in view: “laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold on the real life” (ver. 19). Here again we may see the close correspondence with Luke 16:11 where “the true” is re-echoed by the last remarkable expression of the apostle, “that which is really life.”
Anxiety for ourselves is one of the snares carefully shut out by our Lord from the disciples: were it even “for the morrow,” it is unworthy of confidence in the Father’s provident love. He knows that we have need of food and raiment, and He will surely provide. We have to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, with the assurance that all these things shall be added unto us (Matt. 6:33). So the apostle bids us in nothing to be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known unto God (Phil. 4:6).
Here he enjoins on the rich saints to lay up in store for themselves a good foundation for the time to come by their generous giving to others. It may not seem good common sense, but it is the surer way of grace in faith. To be consistent with Christ is to treasure up for ourselves, and all the better when so done that the left hand knows not what the right hand does. For that our Father sees in secret is a cardinal truth in Christian practice, as it is also to have by-and-by reward with Him Who is in heaven. Let us then with patience wait for it, as here laying up for ourselves a good foundation for the future, that we may lay hold on the life that is life in earnest. What is now so misjudged even by saints not only slips but disappoints, just because it is not habitually to live Christ, which, if it have its brightness in glory, has here its reality of exercise and enjoyment too.
The conclusion is a solemn appeal, which was never more seasonable than at this moment, when the vanity of scientific speculations misleads souls increasingly to despise revelation.
“O Timothy, keep the deposit, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the falsely-named knowledge, in professing which some missed the mark concerning the faith. Grace [be] with you*” (vers. 20, 21).
* The critical reading (the plural) seems confirmed, contrary to what at first sight would appear natural, by the end of the Second Epistle, where after the benediction to Timothy individually, we certainly close with
ῃ χάρις μεθ᾽ υμῶν without question of
σοῦ. Those with him if not all the saints at large are in view.
“The deposit” here, as in 2 Tim. 1:14, means the truth entrusted by God through His chosen instruments, divine revelation conveyed in words taught of the Holy Spirit, the pattern of sound words which Timothy heard from Paul among many witnesses. It is neither the soul nor its salvation on the one hand, nor yet on the other the ministerial office, nor even the grace of the Spirit. It is the perfect communication of what God is in nature, ways, relationship, and counsels. This revelation alone gave, as inspiration now alone secures. It is not only the material of ministry, but its safe-guard, as it is of those to whom it is ministered; for grace would vouchsafe to all an unerring standard. This the church, the assembly, is not nor in the nature of things can be: the church is not the truth, but its pillar and base, as the truth calls out each member of Christ, forming and fashioning the whole. There only among men is the truth plainly inscribed and maintained. Where else is the word of God responsibly attested or presented here below?
Doubtless Timothy had a special place according to the favour shown, the truth unreservedly made known, the position given, and the charge and work assigned, as we see from the first to the last of this Epistle. But if we may not overstep our measure or intrude into the peculiar duties of that honoured colleague of the apostle, we are no less bound in our place to guard that truth which is now entrusted to our keeping. It is the declared tower of safety in these last days of deception and self-will — to acknowledge and receive every scripture as being inspired of God.
But along with adhesion and subjection to the truth goes the necessity of watching against the false. And so Timothy is exhorted to turn away from “the profane babblings and oppositions of the falsely-named knowledge.” What more thoroughly undermines the power of the truth confessed than the allowance of theories which flatter man, occupy the creature, and, as they ignore or debase God and His Son, so will be found at last really to deny both? “This is life eternal to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). All must be false where the true state of man is unfelt, and where consequently the real character and intervention of God because of that state is left out; for the intervention of God to triumph in His grace over sin and Satan has formed relationships on which our duties depend. “The falsely-named knowledge” attempts to fill the void which unbelief ever finds because it does not really know God and His Son, possessing it only with its profane vapourings and antitheses. It cannot face the stern fact of utter ruin by sin; it shirks therefore the revelation of pure grace and of a righteousness which is God’s and which can justify the ungodly when man was proved to have none for Him. If it introduces Christ at all, which may often be and largely too, it is not as the Saviour of the lost to God’s glory, and as the Judge of all who believe not and so are unjust and have done evil, but only as the flower that adorns the race and bears witness to the moral perfectness of which humanity is capable.
God revealed in man, Christ rejected even to the death of the cross, yet in that cross an efficacious sacrifice for the guiltiest by faith of Him; and now man in Christ accepted in the holiest, and sending down the Holy Spirit to make all that is believed good to those that believe — this is the truth which defeats those babblings and oppositions. And as the centre of it all is He Who was manifested in the flesh, a divine person yet man, the truth is perfectly suited to each soul, Jew or Gentile, barbarian or Scythian, bond or free. It is independent of ruin or development, of learning or the lack of it, forming the believer inwardly and outwardly according to its own character by the Holy Spirit, Who sets Christ as the object and pattern before the eye of faith.
No wonder then that the apostle was not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. And the gospel is not, as is so often thought, a mere display of mercy irrespective of God’s moral glory; for therein is revealed God’s righteousness by faith unto faith. The law was God’s just claim on man; the gospel is the glad tidings of salvation as the fruit of Christ’s death and resurrection, and therein of God’s undertaking for man and delivering him that believes. It is God’s, not man’s, righteousness, and hence is is revealed to faith, so as to be as open to the Greek as to the Jew, faith (not law) being the only source and way and principle of blessing for a lost sinner.
In this Epistle, however, it is not our privileges as God’s children or as members of Christ’s body that we see developed, but the broad and deep foundations of the divine nature and glory as the Saviour God dealing with all mankind through the mediation of Christ. And, in keeping with this, it is not here the heavenly wealth and beauty of the church, but its moral order as the responsible witness and true defender of the faith before the world, the misuse of the law being denounced, and the profane fables and logomachies of man’s imagination yet more, which, if they begin by promising showy and superior sanctity, soon betray their worthlessness and worse by grievous moral laxity. Hence the importance given throughout to everyday duty which the grace and truth which came by Jesus strongly enforces, while making the yoke easy and the burden light.
“The falsely-named knowledge” always subjects God and His revelation to the mind of man. Thus man acquires the place as far as possible of judge ever agreeable to his self-importance, and withal necessary to veil from himself his own guilty and ruined estate in the sight of God. Nay more, in the fulness of his presumption, he avails himself of the human medium to deny inspiration in any true force, so as to sit in judgment upon that word which, our Lord declares, shall judge him at the last day (John 12:48). Thus, in criticizing what God is in the communication of scripture, Who He is gets utterly lost; and sinful man in effect sets up, perhaps without suspecting what he does or its heinous sin, to judge God Himself!
The manner in which God is now and then presented in this Epistle appears to be directly suited to meet and expose such airy and daring speculations, which developed later into all the many vagaries of Gnosticism, sometimes subtle and bewildering, at others low and licentious, but always destructive delusions. The King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, only God, and with that, one God, one Mediator also between God and men, Christ Jesus a man, Who gave Himself a ransom for all; God the Creator and Giver of every creature, the living God the Preserver of all, specially of the faithful; God Who preserves all things in life, Who is about to display the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, whilst He dwells in light unapproachable, Whom no man has seen nor can see — God so revealed consigns to their own nothingness the profane babblings and oppositions of the falsely-named knowledge; as the humble and godly walk produced points to its excellent and wise and holy source, in contrast with the degrading ways which falsehood entails, and on none more surely than on those who once called on the name of the Lord.
Here accordingly the apostle briefly touches on the effect of this spurious knowledge: “in professing which some missed the mark [or erred] concerning the faith.” It is sad to know men loving darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. But there is a deeper sorrow over those who once seemed to run well, thus fatally erring about the faith, not only the victims of folly and evil, but dishonouring blindly the Name which is above every name.
“Grace be with you;” so the most ancient copies say, though one might have expected “thee” as in most manuscripts and some of weight. But compare the closing words of the Second Epistle. There it is the more striking, because they follow a strictly individual prayer that the Lord should be with Timothy’s spirit. Yet I am not aware of a single MS. there that favours the singular, and scarce any version save the Peschito Syriac. The comparison appears to confirm the judgment of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort, as to the close of the First Epistle. The benediction is of few words, but, as ever, weighty. Timothy did surely need grace, and the grace of the Lord would be sufficient for him; but it is the common need, the unfailing support, of all others, who therefore are not forgotten, even in a confidential communication to a tried fellow-servant.
London: C. A. Hammond, 11 Little Britain, E.C.1
34 Bentley’s conjecture is singularly confirmed by the Sinai MS. which reads
προσέχεται (with an itacism). Still there is no sufficient reason to abandon the common text supported by all other authorities.
35 The Peschito Syr. seems to take
αὐταρκείας in the-objective sense of “our sufficiency,” or the use of it, a sense no doubt possible, and as in 2 Cor. 9:8 legitimate, but here inconsistent with the scope of this passage.
36 Not a few MSS. (three of them uncials), versions, etc., add “of the devil:” but this is superfluous if not narrow, no doubt due to 1 Tim. 3:7
37 The older reading
πραῦπάθειαν seems stronger than the ordinary
καί “also” only in some inferior witnesses
σου “thee” is not in the best copies.
40 Authorities are divided between two words that are like, the Sinaitic with the less weighty witnesses supporting the Text. Rec., but A D F G P the critical text.
41 As for example, the presence or coming of “the Son of man” brings in His judicial aspect, and is therefore necessarily tantamount to His “appearing” or “day.”
42 Living” is here added by inferior authorities (and so Text. Rec.), which favour
ἐν also, rather than
43 The ordinary reading is “eternal” as in the lesser witnesses and Text. Rec.; the primary (Vv. as well as MSS.) give “that which is really life.”