2 Timothy 2St. Paul having acquainted Timothy with the hard things which he had suffered from the gospel of Christ, and withal informed him how many had flinched for fear of suffering forsaking him and the cause of God defended by him; in this verse he exhorts Timothy to courage and holy resolution for Christ; Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus: That is, when others shew pusillanimity and cowardice, do thou shew thyself a strong and valiant man, not being affrighted at the dangers that threaten thee in publishing and defending the gospel of Jesus Christ. Be strong in the grace of Christ; that is, in the gospel of Christ, which contains a discovery of the riches of his grace, or be strong through the influences of the grace of Christ.
Note, 1. That as all Christians in general, so the ministers of Christ in particular, do need courage, Thou, my son, be strong; nothing he does, but is an act of valour, all duties are attended with difficulties, which put the Christian upon disputing every inch of his way; they are only a few gallant spirits that dare take heaven by storm: And the ministers of Christ do meet with more difficulties than other men.
Learn, 2. That our strength, both as Christians and as ministers, lies in Christ, and not in ourselves: Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; the strength of every saint, yea, of the whole host of saints, lies in the Lord of hosts.
A second charge given to Timothy, is to take special care that the doctrine of the gospel, and the precepts of holy living, which he had heard St. Paul deliver, in the presence of many witnesses, should be handed down and transmitted to men of great fidelity and ability, whom he was to ordain and impower to teach it unto others.
Where note, 1. A direction given to the guides and governors of the church, how they ought to manage themselves in the ordination of the ministerial offices: This office is to be committed unto faithful able men, many may be useful in the church, that cannot be excellent, but he that is unfaithful, is only fit to make atheists.
Note, 2. That such as have the gospel deposited with them, may and ought to deposit it with others, and they with others, to the end of the world, thereby to prevent all innovations and diversity of opinions in matters of religion: When thou hast heard, commit to faithful men.
Still we find our apostle prosecuting the great and general design of this epistle, which is to direct Timothy in the faithful discharge of his office, as a minister of the gospel, and particularly to prepare for sufferings, and to inure himself to hardship, and to encounter with difficulties and dangers:
Hence, he compares him to a soldier, to a wrestler, and an husbandman:
1. To a soldier; endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Learn hence, That every faithful minister is a spiritual soldier, warring under Jesus Christ, his captain and chief commander:
Must the soldier be called and to do all by comission? so must the minister.
Must the soldier be armed, trained up, and disciplined, and made fit for service? so must the minister.
Must the soldier shun no dangers, stick at no difficulties, pass through thick and thin?
must he use allowed weapons, approved armour of his general's directing, not of his own inventing? all this must the minister be and do.
In a word, must the soldier please him that hath chosen him to be a soldier, and in order thereunto, not entangle himself with the affairs of this life? Such a life of freedom from incumbrance by secular affairs, should the minister of God desire and endeavour after.
Soldiers must be as free as may be from distractions; a soldier that fights in fetters, fights thereafter: he must put off his fetters before he puts on his armour; the ministers work lies in the affairs of the other life:
Now, he that is entangled in the affairs of this life, will do little about the affairs of the next.
He must also please his captain, not please himself, his appetite, his pride, his covetousness, much less must he please the enemy he is to fight against, the devil, the world, and the flesh.
Again, 2. The minister here is compared to a wrestler; If a man strive for the mastery: that is, for the prize, the garland, the crown, at the end of the race; he shall be crowned if he strives lawfully, if he runs fairly according to the rules of the game, and perseveres finally till he comes to the end of the goal.
Thus must the ministers of the gospel strive for the crown of life, by putting forth all their strength, exerting theri utmost endeavours; such as are now wrestlers, shall ere long be conquerors.
Lastly, Timothy, and all with him in the work of the gospel, are here compared to husbandmen: As the husbandman must first toil and labour before he can partake of the fruits of the earth, he must plough and sow before he can reap and gather; so must the minister of God, by a laborious diligence, cultivate and improve the people, before he can hope to reap that great fruit and benefit, by gaining and converting of souls to Christ. God will regard no ministers but the laborious, he will never dignify drones in the church triumphant.
Farther, by comparing Timothy to an husbandman, he intimates to him his duty, not to be discouraged if he doth not reap fruit presently; the seed sometimes lies under the clods long before it does appear; we must not despair of men too soon.
And, lastly, By comparing Timothy to an husbandman, he seems to intimate, that he was to be sustained and maintained by those for whom he laboured.
Thus having laid Timothy's duty before him, under the metaphor of a soldier, a wrestler, and an husbandman; he counsels him to consider what he had said unto him, and desires of God to give him a right understanding and sound judgment in all things; intimating that they that will have God's word and good counsel blessed by God to their understanding and practice, must ponder upon it, consider of it, and duly apply it to themselves; Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
Our apostle having, in the foregoing verses exhorted Timothy to patience and constancy under suffering, comes now to direct him as to the matter and subject of his preaching, particularly, that he insist upon the incarnation and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; Remember that Jesus Christ was the promised Messias of the seed of David not of Joseph.
Timothy is here called upon to assert the incarnation of Christ, there being some heretics which did very early deny the truth of his human nature, as the Marcionites and Manichees; as there were others that denied the reality of his divine nature, particularly Ebion and Cerinthus.
Secondly, He calls upon Timothy to preach and press the doctrine of Christ's resurrection also, both because upon that depended the great evidence of his divinity, that he was really God, (his resurrection by his own power declared him to be God, Rom 1:4) and also because upon that depends the consolation and salvation of all believers.
Remember, and frequently inculcate, that Christ was raised from the dead, according to my gospel; that is, according to the gospel of Christ preached by me. Christ's incarnation and resurrection, are truths much to be preached and inculcated by ministers, and frequently remembered and thoroughly considered by their people.
It follows, Wherein I suffer trouble as an evil-doer, even unto bonds: but the word of God is not bound: that is, for which gospel, and for preaching which resurrection, I suffer as a criminal and reputed malefactor, yea, I suffer to that degree, that I am bound with chains for preaching Jesus and the resurrection: But the word of God is not bound; though they have restrained me, they cannot restrain that; that is loose and at liberty; when the dispensers of it are in bonds, that has its free course.
Learn, That the preachers of the gospel have, from the beginning, met with great persecutions, they have suffered trouble as evil-doers, even unto bonds.
Learn, 2. That the persecution of preachers doth not hinder the progress and liberty of the word; when ministers are in prison, the word may have free passage, and holy men rejoice at its liberty, under their own confinement: Yea, the providence of God so ordered it, (see Acts the last) Acts 28:1-31 that St. Paul, even during his imprisonment, preached the word with all boldness; his confinement had caused the gospel to spread in Rome. Thus God out-shoots Satan in his own bow: He thinks when he has the ministers of God in prison, he has done his work, but God over-rules and causes their imprisonment itself to fall out rather to the furtherance of the gopsel; I suffer bonds, says the apostle, but the word of God is not bound.
St. Paul having acquainted Timothy in the foregoing verses with his sufferings, even unto bonds, here he lets him understand and know, why, and for whose sake, he did so cheerfully endure all these things, namely, for the elects sake. Though the rest of the world rejected the gospel, yet the elect would be confirmed by his example, and obtain that salvation which in and through Jesus Christ was offered and tendered to them.
Here note, That there is a certain election of God, which hath infallibly chosen to salvation all those who make their calling and election sure, by perseverance in holiness and good works.
Note, 2. That the faithful ministers of Christ do think no sufferings to much, or too dear, for the sake of God's elect, (for the sake of believing Christians, who are a chosen generation) so that their sufferings may but further their eternal glory, happiness and salvation.
To encourage yet again to a patient enduring of all sorts of afflictions, he assures Timothy, that if we be rendred comformable to Christ in his sufferings, we shall be also in his glory: If we suffer for him, we shall reign with him: if we be dead with him, dead to sin, and dead to the world, we shall also live with him, in conformity to his resurrection; but if for fear of suffering we disown him, he will also deny us; if we believe not, if we be unfaithful and forsake him, yet he will be true to his word, he will not forsake his own cause, but make good his threatenings, his own veracity stands firm, and is as much engaged to execute the threatening, as to fulfil the promise.
Observe here, 1. The excellent advice which St. Paul gives to Timothy, to all the ministers of the church, and to all the Christian churches far and near, that they spend not their time in disputes, that they contend not about words, which have no tendency to make men either wiser or better, but serve only to violate the laws of charity, and cause men to wrangle eternally, and persecute one another with hard names and characters of reproach.
Here note, 1. What those things are which ought not to be matters of contention among Christians; namely,
1. Such things in which we differ from each other, rather in words, than in sense; ofttimes opponents mean the same things, but differ only in the way and manner of expression.
2. Such things as tend to little or no profit, either as to edification in faith, in love, or in practical godliness.
Observe also, The apostle's argument, why we should not contend about these things; because they tend to beget strife and contention among Christians, by dividing them into factions and parties, and also tend to the subversion of the hearers, causing them to doubt of the truth of the faith, about which the contending parties cannot agree; "Charge them therefore, that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers."
Observe next, The solemn charge given to Timothy, as to the matter, manner, and method of his preaching; that the matter of it be the word of truth, the pure word of God, that it be divided rightly, to every one his portion, to every hearer his due, methodizing and distributing truth, as God would have it; terror to whom terror is due, comfort to whom comfort belongs.
The original word rendered rightly to divide, some think a sacrifical word, alluding to the right dividing of the sacrifice; which was laid upon the altar, separating the precious from the vile, and severing the parts which were not to be offered from them that were, and cutting out the sacrifice in such a manner as all had their share in them. As if St. Paul had said, "Study not for the applause of men, but for the approbation of God, as becometh a good workman, who needeth not to be ashamed of his work, whoever looks upon it; but let thy preaching and living be strait and conformable to the gospel, and thus study to shew thyself approved of God"
Hence learn, That although curious and unprofitable trifling with words in a pulpit be vain and sinful, yet it is the part of a skillful teacher, to order, methodize, and distribute truth in its proper place, and give every hearer his part and portion.
St. Paul having now finished the exhortatory part of this chapter, and acquainted Timothy what he would have him practise and do, now comes to a dehortation, advising him what he would have him avoid and shun; and here, first, he bids him shun profane and vain babblings; the vain babblings of the Heathen philosopers, and the profane notions of heretical and seducing teachers, particularly the Gnostics, the followers of Simon Magus and Menander, who were guilty of an apostasy from Christianity, by turning the resurrection into an allegory; affirming that the resurrection of the soul to piety and virtue, was the only resurrection to be expected, disowning the resurrection of the body, and asserting, that the flesh was unfit to rise.
Observe, secondly, The nature of erroneous doctrine declared; it is of a devouring, spreading and destroying nature, their words will eat asdoth a gangrene.
Quest. How doth a gangrene eat?
Ans. It eats speedily, it eats incurably, it eats mortally, as it is well known the gangrene doth.
Quest. But what is it that heresies eat?
Ans. Faith, peace and godliness; so here, they overthrow the faith of some, and increase unto more ungodliness.
Quest. How comes it to pass that they so eat?
Ans. The spreading and prevailing of heresies, may be ascribed partly to the subtility and activity of seducers, partly to the curiousity and simplicity of the seduced, and partly to the justice of God, for the manifestation of those that are sincere, and the punishment of those that receive not the truth in the love of it.
As if our apostle had said, "Notwithstanding that Hymeneus and Philetus, with others, are fallen away, nevertheless we know that the foundation of God, his holy covenant, standeth firm and sure, having a seal annexed to it, (as usually contracts have, whereby two parties do oblige themselves mutually to each other,) which seal on God's part has this impress or inscription, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and on our part it is written, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
Learn hence, 1. That the covenant of God made with us in Christ Jesus is a firm and sure foundation to build our hopes of perseverance and eternal life upon: The foundation of God standeth sure.
Learn, 2. That the covenant (according to the nature of all covenants) is conditional; on God's promising assistance, acceptance, and rewards; on our part a departing from all iniquity, and an obligation to the love and practice of universal holiness. All that make a profession of Christianity ought to take especial care that their lives may answer their light, their practices correspond with their profession; Christianity being not a speculative science, but a practical art of holy living.
Our apostle had told us at verses 17 and 18, of certain heretics; such as Hymeneus and Philetus, whose doctrines did eat like a canker or gangrene: he tells us here, that it is not to be wondered at, that there should be such persons in the church, because the visible church is God's great house, now it is no uncommon thing in great men's houses, to have vessels of all sorts, some of wood and earth, others of gold and silver, some to honourable uses, and others to dishonourable.
In like manner it is in the church of Christ, there will be number of orthodox and also of heterodox Christians, hypocrites and sincere Christians. He also advises Timothy, therefore, not to be scandalized at them, but to purify himself from them, to keep himself pure from heresy and impiety; hereby he would manifest himself to be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master's use; that is, for the service and glory of God, and disposed for every good work.
Learn hence, That all Christians, but especially the ministers of Christ, ought to be, like the consecrated vessels of the temple, dedicated and set apart for our Lord's especial use and service: we are not only with other Christians dedicated by baptism, but consecrated at our solemn ordination: so that there is a sacredness upon our persons; and to prostitute ourselves to any lust, is a greater profanation than Belshazzar was guilty of, when he desecrated the holy vessels of the temple.
Still our apostle proceeds in his holy, cautionary directions to Timothy what to avoid, and what to follow.
He advises him, 1. To avoid and flee youthful lusts: by which may be understood, not only the lusts of the flesh, but also the lusts and vices of the mind, as ambition and pride, vain-glory and ostentation.
Where note, That the flesh, with its affections and lusts, are such dangerous enemies to our holiness and salvation, that the holiest of ministers and best of men have need, very great need, to be warned of them, and cautioned against them: flee thou, O Timothy, also youthful lusts.
2. He advises Timothy also to avoid foolish and unlearned questions, that is, controversies and disputes, knowing that such contentious wranglings do but engender strife.
It is not unworthy our observation, that no less than four times in these two epistles, do we meet with this precept from the apostle, to avoid questions and disputes, and to apply to that which is practical, showing of what great importance it is so to do; and we shall meet with it again in the epistle to Titus. Titus 3:9
From whence learn, That disputes about matters which only serve to beget strife and contention, but tend little to edification in faith and holiness, are vain talking, unprofitable disputes, and as such to be avoided.
Observe next, he directs Timothy what to follow, having shown him what to avoid; namely, to follow after righteousness and faith, peace and charity with all persons, but especially with all our brethren and fellow-Christians calling on the same Lord, and professing the same faith with us.
Where note, That we ought to have charity for, to maintain peace with, and by no means to separate from our communion, any person who serves Christ with a pure heart: Follow, says our apostle, charity and peace, with all those that call on the Lord Jesus Christ out of a pure heart.
By the servant of the Lord, we are here to understand all the bishops and governors, the pastors and teachers, of the church; by not striving, that they are not to irritate and provoke such as dissent and differ from them; not to strive indecently with the tongue, but by soft and gentle words, by close and hard arguments, endeavour to convince their judgment; for no man that is in an error thinks that he is so; therefore if we go about by violence to rend men's opinions from them, they will but hold them so much the faster; but if we have but so much patience and charity as to unrip their errors by degrees, they will at last fall into pieces of themselves. The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all, and patient; it follows farther, in meekness instructing, --if God, peradventure, &c.
Where note, 1. The duty directed to; and that is, without bitterness and passion, but with great lenity and meekness, to instruct the erroneous, even when the oppose the truth; such especially as do it out of ignorance, and for want of better information, are particularly to be pitied, and patiently borne with, together with those who labour under the prejudices and prepossessions of a contrary education; in meekness instructing those that oppose.
Note, 2. The benefit hoped for, and the advantage expected, by such meek and gentle methods of instruction as are here directed to;
1. That Almighty God may peradventure give them repentance, blessing such prudential and pious means for their conversion from error and seduction; and
2. That they may be recovered out of Satan's snares and temptations, they being at present captivated by him according to his will.
Learn, 1. That if erroneous and misled persons will not bear gentle teaching, much less will they yield to sharp invectives, or provoking disputes.
Yet, 2. Disputations wisely managed, like defensive wars, are both useful and necessary in defence of the truth, though they do not bring over gainsayers.
Learn, 3, That until erroneous and misled persons can be brought by consideration to be agents in recovering themselves, no teaching or disputing will be sufficient or effectual to recover them: That they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him.
Lastly, error is the devil's snare as well as sin: error is as dangerous as vice; the one is an open road, the other is a by-path, to hell and destruction; consequently, such a Christian as has a due regard to, and value for his own salvation, will be as much afraid of erroneous principles as of debauched practices: That they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
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