In his opening words, presenting his apostleship, Paul strikes a
note which is prominent all through this epistle. He is an apostle, not
only "by the will of God"-that gave him his authority-but also
"according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus"-that
conferred upon his apostleship an unconquerable character. Nature
furnishes us with many illustrations of the extraordinary power of
life. Here is a green sapling so tender that an infant could crush it
in its tiny fist yet under certain conditions the life that is in it
will force it through pavements or cause it to displace great stones
weighing hundredweights. Here again is life of a certain order with its
distinguishing characteristics. From these characteristics no one can
divert it try as they will. Neither training nor cajoling nor whip will
make a dog express its pleasure by purring nor a cat do so by wagging
its tail. The life of the animal with its innate characteristics will
conquer all your efforts.
In nature life is an immense force, but the life in Christ Jesus is
unconquerable. The life of nature in all its forms, the life of
Adam-which is human life-included, ultimately meets its match and is
conquered by DEATH. The life in Christ is beyond the reach of death,
for it was as having died and risen again that He became the
Fountain-head of life to others. That life was promised before the
world began (See, Titus 1: 2) and brought to light in the Gospel (See,
verse 10 of our chapter). Its fruition will be seen in ages yet to
come. Hence it is spoken of as a promise here.
We start the epistle therefore with that which will survive all the
failures and defections of believers and all the other ravages of time.
How good to be connected with a sheet-anchor which never moves before
we face the storms indicated in the epistle. Everything that is "in
Christ Jesus" abides to eternity.
Having saluted Timothy the Apostle in verse 3 expresses his
prayerful remembrance of him; in verses 4 and 5 he calls to mind the
features in him which were to be commended, and then from verse 6 and
onwards he exhorts and encourages him in the fear of God.
Both Paul and Timothy came of good stock. The former could speak of
serving God from his forefathers with a pure conscience; that is,
without defiling his conscience by doing that which he knew to be
wrong. He was true up to his light, though, as he confesses elsewhere,
once his light was so defective that he was found opposing Christ with
conscientious zeal Timothy was the third generation to be marked by
faith. Indeed his faith is called "unfeigned," and faith of a very
genuine order is a prime necessity when times of declension and testing
set in. Moreover the Apostle can speak of his tears and these indicated
that he was a man of deep feeling and of spiritual exercises.
The very remembrance of Timothy's tears filled Paul with joy. How
would he feel about us? Would he turn from us sad and disappointed at
our feeble faith and general shallowness of conviction and feeling?
Depend upon it, unfeigned faith, the maintenance of a pure conscience
and the deep spiritual feelings which express themselves in tears are
immense assets wherewith to face the difficulties and perils of "the
Timothy possessed in addition a special gift from God, which had
been administered to him through Paul, and gift carries with it a
responsibility to use it in a proper and adequate way. A person of
quiet and retiring mind, as Timothy seems to have been, is sorely
tempted to lay up his pound' in a napkin when confronted by trying
circumstances. On the contrary, difficult circumstances are really a
trumpet call for the stirring up of any gift that may be possessed, and
this is possible for God has given to us His Holy Spirit, and thereby
we have a spirit of power and love and a sound mind and not a spirit of
"Power" here does not mean "authority" but rather "might" or "force"
We have the force but it needs to be controlled by love, and both force
and love must be governed by "a sound mind" or "wise discretion" if the
energy that we have by the Holy Spirit is to be rightly employed. We
are not therefore to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.
There was no danger of Timothy being ashamed of the testimony in
earlier days when as recorded in Acts 14-19, it was triumphing in spite
of bitter opposition. Now however it was in reproach, believers even
were growing cold and Paul, the chiefest of its heralds, was in prison
with no hope of release. There is nothing more trying than to come into
a movement when it is on a rising tide of prosperity and then to see it
pass its crest and a heavy ebb tide set in. This is the thing to test
Timothy's mettle was being tested, but the Apostle's call to him was
that he should now partake of the afflictions of the Gospel. We are all
glad to partake of the blessings of the Gospel, and many of us are glad
to have a share in the work of the Gospel so that we may partake of its
successes, and finally of the rewards in the coming kingdom for
faithful service in it, but to partake of its afflictions is another
matter. This is only possible "according to the power of God." Here as
in Colossians 1: 11, power is connected not with that which is active
but with that which is passive-suffering.
Power is in itself a cold impersonal thing. In this passage however
the warm personal touch is given to it by verses 9 and 10. The God,
whose power it is, is known to us as the Author of both our salvation
and our calling. These two things ever go together, for they give us
what we may call the negative and positive sides of the matter. We are
saved from that we may be called
to. We are delivered from the misery and peril into which sin has plunged us in order that we might be designated
to the place of favour and blessing which is to be ours according to the purpose of God.
What God does in saving and calling is always according to His
purpose. It was so when He saved Israel out of Egypt, for He called
them to bring them into the land that He had purposed for them. There
is a great difference however between Israel's salvation and calling
and ours. They were saved in a national way from foes of flesh and
blood in this world. We are saved from every spiritual foe and in an
individual way. They were called to the Land of Promise with its
attendant earthly blessings. We are called into heavenly relationships
with their attendant spiritual and heavenly blessings. The kingdom, of
which Israel will be the centre-piece was purposed by God "from the
foundation of the world" (Matt. 25: 34), and their land was mapped out
for them from the time when "the Most High divided to the nations their
inheritance" (Deut. 32: 8), that is, from the time of Babel. Our
calling, as we are told here, is according to divine purpose which
dates back "before the world began."
Moreover the calling which we enjoy as Christians is according to
grace as well as purpose. In this too we see a contrast, for Israel
brought out of Egypt was put under law, and being thus put on their own
responsibility they very soon forfeited their inheritance. Our calling
rests upon what God Himself is and does on our behalf, and therefore it
can never pass away. Yet once again, both our salvation and our calling
were given us in Christ Jesus," and this could not be said of Israel in
the Old Testament. The covenant established with them addressed them as
natural men and all stood upon a natural basis, and hence did not stand
for long. All that we have is ours not as natural men having our
standing in Adam, but as those who are before God in Christ Jesus.
Our holy calling was thus purposed before the world began, and its
full blessedness will abide when the world has passed away. As yet we
have not entered into its full blessedness, still it has been made
manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, and we have a foretaste of it
inasmuch as death has been annulled by His death and resurrection and
life and incorruptibility have been brought to light in the Gospel.
"Annulled" and not "abolished" is the right translation. Death most
evidently is not yet abolished, but its power is annulled for those who
believe in Jesus. Also "incorruptibility" is the word and not
"immortality." The souls of the wicked are not subject to death, but we
have the larger hope of being finally placed beyond corruption, where
the last breath of it can never touch us.
Paul had been appointed a herald of this Gospel in the Gentile world
and his diligent labours had brought him into all this suffering and
reproach. Men were beginning to shrug their shoulders and say that his
cause was a lost one. He himself began to see the glint of the
executioner's axe as the termination of the dark tunnel of his
imprisonment. How did he feel about it?
"Nevertheless I am not ashamed" were his words. Of course not! How
could he be? The very Gospel he carried was the glad tidings of life in
the present and a glorious state of incorruptibility to come,
consequent upon the breaking of the power of death. Who is there that
really believing and understanding such tidings as these will be
ashamed of them? Moreover his mission and authority proceeded from One
whom he knew and believed, and this knowledge gave him the persuasion
that all was safe in His hands.
Paul had committed his all to Christ inasmuch as he was a man that
had "hazarded" or "delivered up" his life "for the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ." (Acts 15: 26). He had "suffered the loss of all things"
(Phil. 3: 8). He had deposited his reputation and his cause in the
hands of his Master, and he had the full assurance that in the day of
Christ he would be fully vindicated and recompensed. With that blessed
assurance in his heart how could he be ashamed?
All this has been mentioned by the Apostle in order to enforce his
earlier exhortation to Timothy that he should not be ashamed of the
testimony in days when reproach was increasing. In verse 13 he gives
him a second exhortation of great moment. If the adversary cannot
intimidate us into defection from the truth he may nevertheless succeed
by filching away the truth from us.
Now the truth to be of any practical use to us must be stated in
words, and in this the devil may find his opportunity. Timothy had
heard the truth from the lips of Paul to whom it was first revealed. It
was a good thing-a good deposit-entrusted to him and it was to be kept
by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but it only could be preserved intact as
he held fast the form, or outline, of sound words in which Paul had
conveyed it to him. There are plenty of deceivers today who under cover
of zeal for the "idea", the "conception," the "spirit" of the truth
advocate extreme latitude as to the words used. They ridicule verbal
accuracy and especially "verbal inspiration;" but this in order to make
it very easy for them to abstract from the minds of their dupes the
divine idea and substitute for it ideas of their own. We have never
heard Paul personally but we have the form of sound words in his
He can say to us, as well as to Timothy "Hold fast the form of sound
words, which thou hast heard of me"-only we have received it not from
his living voice but through his pen, which is after all the more
reliable way. If held fast "in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus
the truth will be operative in ourselves and effective in others.
Alas! it is very easy to turn away. All in Asia had already done so.
The context would indicate that this turning away from Paul was in
connection with his inspired unfolding of the truth, to which he had
just referred. These Asians were evidently ashamed of Paul and of the
testimony. On the other hand there was Onesiphorus who was not ashamed
and for whom a bright reward is waiting in "that day."