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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle exhorts Timothy, to display the spirit of fortitude, in the discharge of his functions (verse 1); and, he adduces the several examples of soldiers, wrestlers, and husbandmen, for the purpose of stimulating him to the faithful, laborious, and exclusive performance of his Episcopal functions (2–7).

He proposes to him several motives of encouragement to suffer for the Gospel. First, the glory of Christ, resuscitated after a course of ignominious suffering (8). In the next place, the example of the Apostle himself, in submitting to suffering, and enduring evils for the dissemination of the Gospel (9, 10). And lastly, the eternal glory of martyrdom, for the attainment of which, a course of suffering, after the example of Christ, is an indispensable condition (11–13). He wishes that Timothy should instruct the faithful in these matters (14).

He next instructs him in the manner in which he is to please God, as minister of the Gospel. He should properly dispense God’s holy word, and avoid profane and impious novelties, put forward by heretics, whose teaching spreads a deadly poison, and corrupts its way, like a gangrene or canker (15–18).

He tells him not to be disturbed at the defection of some. This defection will not become general; for, those on whom God has designs of salvation, will remain firm. The reprobate will remain associated with the elect in the “great house,” or church of God (19, 20). Those who have fallen may be restored by penance (21). Resuming the subject referred to in verse 15, and interrupted at verse 16, he gives further instructions to Timothy, as to the manner in which he may become “a workman agreeable to God.” He should shun the passions of youth, and practise the leading Christian virtues. He should avoid all foolish questions and wranglings, and administer correction, with meekness and gentleness.

Paraphrase

1. Since, therefore, it was a spirit of fortitude that God bestowed on us (1:7), do thou, my son, display this fortitude by the grace of Christ Jesus, which thou hadst received at thy ordination.

2. And what things you heard from my lips, publicly and before many others, who may be witnesses of the same, do thou, in turn, commit to trusty and faithful men, qualified and fit to teach the same to others.

3. Submit to sufferings and privations on behalf of the gospel, like a distinguished soldier of Jesus Christ.

4. Bear in mind that no one who makes arms his profession, ever entangles himself with the duties of any other calling or profession in life for the purpose of securing a livelihood (but confines himself exclusively to his military duties), that he may please him to whom be engaged himself, that is to say, the general, who enrolled him, among the soldiers.

5. Consider, also, that the man who contests the prize, at the public games, will not receive the crown, unless he fights and conquers, according to the laws prescribed for the combatants.

6. Reflect, too, that the husbandman, who toils in the cultivation of the earth, has the first and best right to partake of the fruits of his labour; or, that the husbandman, in order to be entitled to a portion of the fruits of the earth, must first toil and labour, in its cultivation.

7. Understand the application of the three parables which I am after proposing to you. I need not explain their import, for the Lord himself will give you understanding in all things (if you ask his aid by fervent prayer).

8. Bear in mind and frequently reflect, that the Lord Jesus Christ, who was born and assumed flesh of the seed of David, had (after a course of suffering and death) risen glorious, according to the truth of the gospel, which I everywhere preach.

9. In the cause of which gospel I have gone through an ordeal of suffering, even unto chains and imprisonment, as if I were nothing better than a malefactor. But, though my body is bound in chains, still, the word of God is not in chains (for, from my chains I proclaim the gospel).

10. It is for this dissemination of the gospel, that I endure all these afflictions, in order that those who are elected by God to salvation, which is obtained through Christ, may obtain the life of grace here, and heavenly glory, hereafter.

11. It is an undoubted, unquestionable truth, that if we die with Christ, and for Christ, we will rise with him to a life of immortal glory.

12. If we suffer for him, we shall also reign together with him for eternity. If we deny him before men, he will deny us before his angels.

13. If we do not believe in his existence, or his words, he shall, nevertheless, remain the same in himself, faithful and veracious in his promises. He cannot deny himself, i.e., he cannot lose his necessary existence, nor deny his words, by lying (hence, our denial of him, our incredulity will neither add to him, nor take from him).

14. Frequently admonish the faithful committed to your charge, of these things, earnestly appealing to the Lord as your witness, and the avenger of any disrespect shown him. Do not indulge in idle, verbal wrangling and disputation, which is not only useless, but even injurious, calculated to subvert and unsettle the faith of the hearers.

15. Studiously labour to render thyself a workman acceptable and pleasing to God, not ashamed of the reproaches of Christ, dispensing the word of truth in a proper manner, according to the wants and capabilities of your people.

16. But shun profane novelties of words; for they contribute much to engender impiety in the mind.

17. And the language of those who propound new and profane foolish expressions creeps like a canker, or gangrene, diffusing its poison more extensively. Of the number of such heretics are Hymeneus and Philetus.

18. Who have erred regarding the truth, saying, that the resurrection has already taken place, and by their error have subverted the faith of many.

19. But, although some may fall away from the faith, this gangrenous corruption will not extend to the entire body of the faithful: for, the predestined members of the spiritual edifice of God’s Church, firmly founded on a rock, will remain firm and immovable, having as the authentic seal of their stability, the foreknowledge of the Lord, knowing from eternity, by a knowledge of predilection and love, who are his, which loving foreknowledge of God is made manifest, by their observing the precepts of avoiding evil and doing good, aided by the graces administered to them in consequence of this predilection.

20. (It is not to be wondered at, if in the Church there are sinful members, and weak members, liable to seduction); for, as in any spacious house, there are to be found not only vessels of gold, and vessels of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some of each are used for honourable, and others for vile, purposes—(so it is in the great house of the Church).

21. Should any one, then, cleanse himself from the sordid stains of his sins, aided by God’s grace, he shall become a vessel of honour, consecrated, accommodated to the uses of the Lord, prepared and fitted for every good work.

22. But do thou avoid the desires to which young men are subject, and eagerly pursue sanctity of life, faith, charity, and concord with all true and sincere Christians.

23. And reject frivolous questions, and such as nowise contribute to true wisdom, knowing that these questions beget strifes.

24. But the servant of our Lord should, like the Lord himself, not wrangle; but he should be mild towards all, ready to instruct them; patient in enduring adversity and opposition.

25. Instructing and administering paternal correction, with mildness, to such as resist the truth, in the hope that God would inspire them with a spirit of penance, to come to a knowledge of the truth.

26. And thus recover themselves out of the snares of the devil, by whom they were held captive, so as to be the slaves of his will, in the commission of sin.

Commentary

1. He resumes the exhortation to firmness in the discharge of his functions, to which he had referred (1:7). “Therefore,” i.e., whereas, God has given us, bishops, the spirit of fortitude at our ordination. “In the grace,” &c., relying not on your own strength, but on the grace of God, conferred on you at ordination, and which he will bestow, whenever necessary, and when prayed to for it.

2. He not only charges Timothy to display fortitude in preaching the gospel, but also diligence and fidelity, in guarding the purity of the doctrine delivered to him. Oral tradition and verbal preaching were the first methods of propagating the gospel. “Preach the gospel to every creature,” is the precept of our Lord. Write the gospel, is not commanded. It was orally, and not in writing, St. Paul taught Timothy, “which thou hast heard of me,” &c. Hence, tradition was the first, and for some time, the only rule of faith; and although this is the last Epistle written by the Apostle; yet still, it was not to his written Epistles he refers Timothy, as containing the deposit, but to his preaching. “Hold the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me” (1:13.) Tradition was the primary rule of faith, according to the designs of God. The writing of the Scripture depended, in many cases, on mere accidental circumstances.

3. “Labour as a good soldier.” In Greek, labour thou, therefore, as a good, &c. The Greek for “labour,” κακοπαθησον, means, endure hardship or suffering.

4. “No man being a soldier to God.” &c. The words “to God,” are not found in the Greek, nor in all the Latin copies, and they appear, indeed, to be quite redundant, being unnecessary for conveying the meaning of the Apostle; for, he has recourse to three examples, drawn from the conditions of soldiers, wrestlers, and agriculturists, to stimulate Timothy to activity, and exclusive devotion to the duties of his calling. It is likely that the words, “to God,” were added by some persons who thought their addition requisite to complete the sense; and, thus, the addition crept into a good many copies. Their addition only expresses by anticipation the application of the simile, which the Apostle left to be merely inferred—“understand what I say” (verse 7). “Entangleth himself.” In the Greek, εμπλεκεται ταῖς τοῦ βίου πραγματείαις, is entangled in secular business. By “secular business,” is meant a profession in life, such as merchandise, agriculture, or any other calling for gaining a livelihood, from which the laws of military discipline exclude the soldier. This, of course, in its application to the ecclesiastic, who is enrolled in the service of Christ, shows, that the affairs of religion, and the things having reference thereto—viz., prayer, sacrifice, the care of God’s house, the neatness of the sacred utensils and of the holy altar, the confessional, the instruction of every class in their respective duties, especially the catechetical instruction of such, as may be ignorant of the essential points of faith, the fearless and intrepid defence of the poor, and a paternal care of these, the dearest portion of the flock of Jesus Christ, regardless of self-interest, the assertion of their just rights, in a manner not unsuited to the clerical character, when they are trodden under foot from a hatred of the true religion—these and others such should form the great and exclusive occupation of the ecclesiastic. All things else not referrible to these, “entangle” and embarrass him.

5. “He that striveth for the mastery,” has reference to the exercise of wrestling, running, leaping, &c., practised at the Grecian games. Such a person, in order to obtain the prize or crown, should comply with all the conditions of the games; so, in like manner, should Timothy not only struggle manfully in the pursuit of an incorruptible crown; but he should likewise follow the rules and laws prescribed for him by Christ.

6. This verse admits of a twofold interpretation (as in Paraphrase). The first (interpretation) supposes, that the Apostle proposes as a motive to Timothy, the reward which he is to receive, in the same way as the husbandman, according to the laws of justice and equity is the first to partake of the produce of the soil at which he toils; so Timothy, by labouring here for the gospel, shall plentifully share hereafter, in the fruits of the spiritual blessings which he had sown. The second interpretation supposes that the Apostle exhorts Timothy to labour, otherwise he will be entitled to no reward, just as the husbandman should labour before he can claim any of the fruits of the earth; and this latter interpretation is not opposed to the Greek; in which, the word “first,” πρωτον, may be an adverb.

7. Here he leaves to Timothy himself the conclusion or the application of the practical lessons, in which the three parables just mentioned are intended to instruct him. From the parable of the soldier, he should learn to endure patiently for the gospel, to devote himself exclusively to the duties of religion; everything else will “entangle” him. From the case of the wrestler, he was to infer—that in all his functions he should, in order to merit the crown of glory, punctually follow the laws of God and his holy Church. And from the case of the husbandman, he should learn to labour before he could expect a recompense, or, to keep in view the recompense which he will be the first to obtain, if he labour for the glory of God, and the salvation of souls. In the Greek, for “the Lord will give,” it is δῴη σοι, may the Lord give thee understanding.

8. The Apostle now proposes to Timothy the glory to which Christ was raised, after a course of ignominious suffering, as a motive to submit to suffering in the like cause, if he wish to be a sharer in the like glory. Probably, he proposes the article of the resurrection to Timothy, and wishes him to be zealous in inculcating it (verse 14), because it was questioned by many (verse 18), and because it is the foundation of all Christian faith. With this is joined another fundamental article of religion, regarding the Incarnation and the assumption of the real nature of man by Christ, which was also called in question, as appears from St. Augustine and St. Epiphanius. Simon Magus, and the Gnostics, maintained that he had not real, but fantastical, flesh; while St. John tells us, “that there were seducers, who denied that Jesus came in the flesh.”—(2nd Epistle, verse 7).

9. The Apostle proposes his own example, in suffering for the gospel, to stimulate Timothy. The Greek word for “I labour,” κακοπαθω, means, I suffer, or endure afflictions. Though he is bound in body, still his tongue, his power of proclaiming the gospel, is not chained.

10. “Therefore,” i.e., in order that the gospel may be disseminated, and not kept captive, I endure all these evils, that the elect whom God has destined for salvation through our labours, may obtain here, the salvation of grace and faith, which comes from Christ Jesus, and heavenly eternal glory, hereafter.

11. “A faithful saying.” These words are generally used by the Apostle as a preface to some important truth, like “Amen, Amen,” in the Gospel. St. Chrysostom understands them to regard the preceding, as if the Apostle were referring to the salvation of the elect, and their participation in heavenly glory: and the construction of the following—“for if we be dead with him”—would favour this interpretation. It is, however, better refer it to the following, with St. Thomas: for, the entire scope of the Apostle is to excite Timothy to fortitude, by the hope of future glory. Hence, he announces it as an important truth, that if we die with Christ, and for him, we shall share in his glory. Then, “for” will have the meaning of, because.

12. If we deny him before men, he will deny us before his angels, and exclude us from his kingdom.

13. Our incredulity will in nowise affect him; it will only injure ourselves, if we deny him and his promises; nothing will be added to him, or taken from him, by this denial; he will be what he was from eternity, an immutable God, and he is “faithful,” i.e., veracious, being truth itself. Hence, his promises will be always fulfilled. He is true to his words, faithful in his promises, terrible in his menaces.

14. “Charging them before the Lord,” i.e., invoking God, as the witness of the truth of your words, and the avenger of any disrespect or contempt shown them. “Contend not in words.” According to this reading, this command regards Timothy himself. The Greek reading is an infinitive, μή λογομαχεῖν, not to contend in words, according to which, the command regards the people, whom Timothy is told “to charge before the Lord, not to contend in words.” The Greek reading, however, will bear the former interpretation; for, the Hebrews often use the infinitive mood, for the imperative. Our reading is the one adopted by St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, &c., and it is more probable, because the Apostle is here entering on a new topic. After his exhortation to fortitude, he now tells Timothy to render himself a worthy minister of the word of God; and in order to become such, he should avoid certain defects, the first of which is contention in words. A person is said to contend in words, when it is not for the discovery of the truth, but for the vain repute of having obtained the mastery, that he is struggling. The Apostle by no means prevents disputation in proper circumstances.

15. “That needeth not be ashamed,” may also mean, in a passive signification; of whom there will be no reason to be ashamed—of whom the Church need not feel ashamed. “Rightly handling the word of God.” The Greek, ορθοτομουντα, literally means, cutting straight “the word of God.” The idea, according to some, is borrowed from parents and nurses, who cut bread into small particles, accommodated to the wants of children, so that they may the more easily swallow and be nourished by them; or from cooks, who were wont to divide the portions marked out for each; or from the stewards at feasts, whose duty it was to cut for each guest the part most agreeable and best suited to him. So, in like manner, ought the preacher of God’s holy word propose the true doctrine in a perfect, unmutilated form, distinguishing truth from falsehood, accommodating himself to circumstances, and to the capacities of his hearers, treating with the learned on learned subjects; proposing in all simplicity, the elementary truths of faith to the ignorant; not treating of virginity with the married, nor of marriage with virgins; not proposing alarming subjects to the timid, nor holding out promises of pardon to the obstinate in sin, unless they become converted. Others say, the allusion is to husbandmen, who are praised for cutting straight furrows, in cultivating their lands.

16. “But shun profane and vain babblings.” The word “and” is not in the Greek; it is, but shun profane vain babblings. The expression is similar to that (1 Ep. 6:20). The reading adopted by St. Chrysostom is, shun profane novelties in words. The sense will be the same in either reading; for, “protane” shows that the Apostle refers to words conveying a sense, which it would be profanation to mix up with the deposit of faith; the use of such profane language is another fault to be avoided by a preacher.

17. “Spreadeth like a canker.” In Greek, γάγγραινα, gangrene. They communicate the virus of their errors to their neighbours, just as the canker feeds on and corrupts the surrounding flesh. “Philetus,” &c.; these were the principal among those heretics.

18. “Who have erred from the truth.” In the Greek, περὶ τὴν ἀληθειαν, regarding the truth. They maintained, according to St. Thomas, that all things mentioned in the SS. Scripture, regarding the resurrection, are to be understood of the spiritual resurrection of the soul, by baptism and penance. They denied the resurrection of the body, but admitted a spiritual resurrection of the soul here, by grace, and hereafter, by glory. “And have subverted the faith of some;” because the article of the resurrection is the foundation of our faith. Hence, if it be rejected, faith is distroyed. From these words it follows, that faith is not inamissible.

19. In consequence of having said that the pernicious doctrines of heretics crept like a canker, and having instanced some who had fallen away from the faith, there might be reason to apprehend that the same might befall the entire body of the faithful; and so, the Church might be destroyed. He says, no such danger is to be apprehended. Because “the sure foundation of God standeth firm,” i.e., the predestined members of God’s Church, founded on a rock, will firmly persevere in the faith. “Having this seal.” He alludes to the custom of placing certain sentences, sealed, under the foundation stone of buildings—a custom in use, even at the present day. They have impressed upon them the following character: “the Lord knoweth who are his.” The word “knoweth,” means, to know so as to love, a signification it has in many passages of SS. Scripture. And the consequence of this foreknowledge, and love of God, is, first, the ministration of the grace of faith, signified by “naming the name of the Lord” (for one invokes the name of the Lord, because he believes and trusts in him)—and secondly, the grace to avoid evil and do good, “depart from iniquity.” The character impressed is one, “this seal,” comprising these two sentences, “the Lord knoweth,” &c., and “let everyone depart,” &c., one of which is the result and the manifestation of the other. The decree and predestination of God preceded; faith and good works—the fruits of the graces of this predestination—are the manifestation of this seal, on the part of God. The first part—viz., the decree, it is, that guarantees infallibly the second—viz., the grace of faith and good works; and the second, which is, properly speaking, the character impressed, it is, that manifests the first. The words “The Lord knoweth who are his,” are generally supposed to be taken from Numbers, 16:5, according to the Septuagint version. There is, however, some slight change in the Vulgate version by St. Jerome; “let every one depart,” &c., is taken from Numbers 16:26. “Who nameth the name of the Lord;” in Greek, the name of Christ. The Vulgate is supported by manuscripts generally.

20. “The great house” is commonly in its application understood of the Church, which is called, “the house of God.”—(1 Tim. 3:15). In it are to be found, “vessels of gold and silver,” i.e., men of high accomplishments, of great spiritual gifts, eloquent and learned bishops, priests, deacons, &c., and “vessels of wood and earth;” such as the common order of Christians, gifted with no exalted privileges; and of each class, some are destined for the honourable purposes of salvation; and others, for the vile purposes of damnation. Hence, sinners and reprobates may be in the Church. What a subject of alarm is conveyed in this passage to such as occupy, by their learning and station, the place of “vessels of gold and silver,” in God’s Church! The higher their station, the greater their responsibility, and the deeper their damnation, should they deserve to be rejected. “Judicium durissimum his, qui praesunt.” They should, therefore, with fear and trembling, take care, lest in the end it may be found, that they are among the some marked out for “dishonour” and eternal reprobation.

21. The Apostle here says that such persons as have contracted the defilements of sin or error may be purged and cleansed from them, and thus become vessels of honour, “sanctified” by the grace of God, “profitable” for the purposes of the Lord, “and prepared unto every good work.” The grace which he will receive at his conversion will enable such a person to practise all virtues, and perform every good work which the will of God may require of him. “Cleanse” means to cleanse thoroughly. He says, “if any man shall cleanse,” thereby assigning to free, will its share, although grace shall be the principal cause.

22. The Apostle had been exhorting Timothy to become a “workman approved unto God” (verse 15), and to avoid the profane novelties of words, while he introduced other things incidentally. He now resumes his subject, and proceeds to show, how Timothy is to become “a workman” of this sort: viz., by “shunning youthful desires,” not only the passions of lust and intemperance—for Timothy was chaste and abstemious—but, principally, the spiritual interior sins of vanity, ambition, boasting, &c., to which young men, like Timothy, are subject. “Pursue justice,” i.e., Christian justice or sanctity of life. “Faith,” may regard truth and sincerity in his language. “Charity” towards all, and concord with all true and sincere Christians. What a description of Christian virtues obligatory on all; but particularly so, on the minister of religion!

23. He should reject foolish and unlearned questions no way contributing to true knowledge or wisdom. The Apostle may probably be referring to some of the foolish questions of the Simonians.

24. “The servant of the Lord” should imitate the Lord himself, and therefore not indulge in wrangling. By “servant of the Lord,” may be meant, every Christian, but in particular, the minister of religion, in a special manner devoted to his service. “Mild towards all.” This does not interfere with the exercise of stern correction, when necessary. “Apt to teach,” fit and prepared to instruct all persons requiring instruction. “Patient” of reverses and opposition offered him.

25. “With modesty.” In Greek, ἐν πρᾳότητι, with meekness, “admonishing them that resist the truth.” The word “admonish” may also mean, instructing, and combine both, so as to mean, giving instructive admonition. “The truth.” These words are not in the Greek.

26. “At his will,” are understood by some, of the will of God; these men are held captive by the devil, as long as God wills it. The Greek word for “his,” ἐκείνου, would appear to warrant this interpretation. The Paraphrase is, however, the more probable, because “the devil” is the word immediately preceding, and these men are made the instruments of the devil, by performing freely whatever crimes he wishes them to perpetrate.








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