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


In this chapter, the Apostle, after the usual Apostolical salutation, renews (verse 3) instructions which he gave Timothy, on leaving Ephesus, to denounce certain false teachers, who had altogether mistaken the aim and object of the law, of which they constituted themselves the expounders (5, 6, 7). He guards against the calumny, with which he was often charged, of being the enemy of the law itself (8), and points out the end for which the law was given (9, &c.) He gives thanks to God for having called him to the sacred ministry, notwithstanding his unworthiness (12, 13, 14, &c.) And, finally, he recommends Timothy to attend to the precepts contained in the entire chapter (18, &c.)


1. Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the authority and commission of God the Father, who has saved us through his son, whom he sent, and of Jesus Christ, who is both the meritorious cause and object of our hope.

2. (Writes) to Timothy his genuine son in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ our Lord.

3. I once more repeat the earnest entreaty which I formerly addressed to thee, when I was leaving for Macedonia, to remain at Ephesus, and to command certain false teachers to cease from propounding erroneous doctrines opposed to those of the Apostles.

4. And also to cease from devoting their entire time and attention to idle fables, and endless genealogies, which have the effect of raising useless, foolish disputations, rather than of advancing true sanctification, which proceeds from active, operative faith.

5. Now, the scope and end of the divine law, both in the Old Testament and in the New, for which these teachers affect so much zeal, is to bring men to charity, the characteristics of which are, that it proceeds from a heart pure and free from guilt, a clear conscience, and sincere faith.

6. Which charity, as well as its accompanying virtues, certain persons missing, as their proper aim, have turned aside to foolish babbling.

7. While they ambition the honour and title of teachers of the law, they neither understand the law, nor the scope of the law of which they speak, nor do they know the persons in regard to whom they confidently assert the law and its ceremonies to be so necessary.

8. (While thus censuring the wrong and abusive application of the law, I am not to be understood as finding fault with the law itself). For, I well know and admit, that the law itself, both in its nature and end is excellent, provided it be applied agreeably to its object.

9. Knowing this, in the first place, that the law was not given to restrain the just, but the unjust and disobedient, the ungodly and sinners, the wicked and defiled, murderers of fathers, and murderers of mothers, manslayers,

10. Fornicators, those who defile themselves with men, men-stealers, liars, perjurers, and in general all these sinners whose lives are opposed to the sound doctrines of faith and morals;

11. Which sound doctrine of faith and morality is in perfect accordance with the glorious gospel of the sovereignly happy God, the preaching of which gospel is divinely intrusted to me.

12. I give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, for having strengthened me by his grace for so arduous an undertaking, and for having confided to me so important a ministry, one of the chief requisites of which is, fidelity.

13. Who, before, had been a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and a contumelious enemy of God. But God took compassion on me, because I acted from ignorance, while I was yet in the darkness of unbelief

14. He not only pardoned me, but the grace of our Lord superabounded in me, so as to overcome my perversity in a signal degree, by conferring on me the fruits of Christian faith and love.

15. It is a certain, undoubted truth, and worthy to be received with all thankfulness and gratitude, that Christ Jesus came into this world for the purpose of saving sinners, of whom I am the greatest and most unworthy.

16. But it was on account of this very excessive unworthiness and sinfulness, that Christ Jesus showed mercy to me, selecting me as a great object of mercy, for the purpose of displaying in me, the most unworthy of sinners, his great patience and compassion, and with a view of making me serve as a great exemplar and model for all future penitents who are to believe in him, and by this means, expect eternal life.

17. For this, may eternal honour and glory be rendered to the one only true God, the immortal and invisible King of ages.

18. The entire preceding doctrine, or the precepts contained in this chapter, I commend to you, my son, Timothy, according to the prophecies which had preceded your ordination, so that corresponding with them, thou mayest fight the good fight.

19. Keeping a firm hold of the faith, and a good conscience, the result of a holy and upright life; owing to the loss of which pure couscience, or rather, to the crimes against morality which destroyed it, some persons have suffered a shipwreck of their faith.

20. Among whom are Hymeneus, and Alexander, whom by excommunication I handed over to Satan, to be tortured even in body, that thus they may learn to speak with more becoming reverence and respect of the holy things of God, and the unerring truths of faith.


1. “According to the commandment of God our Saviour,” i.e., God the Father, because the mission of an Apostle being, what is usually termed, an actus ad extra, is common to the Trinity. Hence the acts of the Holy Ghost, “Separate unto me Saul and Barnabas,” &c. (Acts, 13:2), as also of the Son, “For unto the Gentiles afar off will I send thee,” (Acts, 22:21), are the acts of God the Father also.

“And of Christ Jesus.” In Greek, and of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “Lord,” is rejected by critics generally.

2. “His beloved son.” In the Greek, it is, γνησίῳ τέκνω, his genuine son; he may be called the son of St. Paul in the faith; because, although Timothy had learned the faith from his infancy, and before the arrival of St. Paul at Lystra; still, the Apostle more fully developed the truths of faith; and confirmed him in it. Again, he might be called “his son,” from the assiduity and fidelity with which he served him in preaching the gospel (Philippians, 2:22); and because he so perfectly imitated the Apostle, as to reflect in himself most perfectly his life and morals. “Mercy;” the fountain of “grace” and “peace;” or, it may mean, merciful meekness and clemency—a gift so necessary for a young Prelate. “From God the Father.” In Greek, our father. The Vulgate reading is commonly preferred, although St. Chrysostom has the Greek reading.

3. This verse is evidently elliptical, and is generally filled up, as in Paraphrase. The word for “desired,” παρεκαλεσα will signify either a request or command. The first thing he requests or commands Timothy to do is, “to remain at Ephesus;”—residence being the first and chief duty obligatory on a Pastor charged with the care of souls (see Council of Trent, ss. 23, c. 1., de Reform.), and also to denounce such as taught doctrines “otherwise” than as the Apostles taught. Besides the evidence of the fact supplied by these Epistles, we have the authority of Eusebius (lib. 3, c. 4, of his history), asserting that St. Paul ordained Timothy Bishop, or rather, Archbishop of Ephesus, since he orders him to ordain and appoint Bishops throughout the other cities of Asia Minor; the Apostle now reminds him of the charge which he gave him, when leaving Ephesus.

4. “To fables,” which word probably refers to the fabulous traditions of the Jewish Rabbins, many of which are to be seen in the Talmud. “And endless genealogies,” which are understood by some of the Eons of the Gnostics. They are, however, more commonly understood to refer to the Jewish practice of enumerating their ancestry, and claiming a descent from Abraham, as if a carnal descent from that Patriarch were sufficient to make them heirs of his glorious promises, an error which the Apostle ably refutes, chap. 9 of his Epistle to the Romans. St. Chrysostom understands it to refer to the heathenish fables respecting the origin of the Pagan divinities. “The edification of God,” i.e., true piety, whereby our souls, which are so many temples of the Holy Ghost, are advanced in the knowledge and love of God, and thus his glory, promoted. This piety is founded on, and perfected by faith, animated with charity. Instead of “edification of God,” some Greek copies have, the economy of God. According to this reading, the Apostle refers to the economy or design of God in bringing man to salvation through faith, and not through the observance of the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic law, or, by the force of human reasonings.

5. The Apostle in this verse shows, that the teachers to whom he refers, have erred from the end and scope of the law of God, by teaching vain and useless things, because these things never conduce to charity. The marks given by him of this charity distinguish it from the impure love and profane affection which associates in crime may entertain for each other. The teaching of these men does not beget “faith,” or the knowledge of God, nor does it stimulate to good works, which alone beget a conscience free from guilt or remorse, nor does it conduce to that purity of heart, that destruction of the passions, which are the marks of charity, the end of the law. By “end” some understand, the fulfilment, of the law; because, the abstract and compendium of the entire law is the love of God and of our neighbour.

6. “Going astray.” The idea conveyed by the Greek word, αστοχησαντες, is allusive to marksmen who miss their aim.

QUERITUR.—Do not St. Matthew and the Book of Paralipomenon recount genealogies? Yes; because such were then useful to know the rights and privileges of each man in the Land of Promise, and St. Matthew wished to show that Christ was descended, according to promise, from David. Whereas, now, since the time of Christ, they are quite useless, and only tend to divert and distract the mind from the necessary and useful duties of religion.

7. These men vainly ambition the title and dignity of teachers of the law, and yet are ignorant of the scope of the law, and of the persons to whom the legal ceremonies ought to be applied. Hence, they stray far from the end or scope of the law, which is Christ and charity, the legalia being no longer applicable to Christians, for whom these false teachers hold them to be necessary. How many vain and foolish preachers are there now-a-days, who aspiring after the empty bubble of fame and human applause, incur the reproach of the Apostle, understanding not the aim nor the object of all Christian preaching, which is “charity,” i.e., the advancement of the glory of God and the good of our neighbour.—(See Council of Trent. c. 2, ss. 5, de Reformatione, both as to the manner and matter of preaching).

8. The Apostle guards against a calumny frequently charged upon him, of being an enemy to the law. Hence, he says, that while denouncing the abuses and misapplication of the law, he by no means finds fault with the law itself. The law itself is “good.” commanding good, prohibiting evil, and leading us by the hand to Christ. But this law, in itself good, is to be used for the purposes which it was intended to subserve—namely, to bring them to charity and to Christ. The false teachers had perverted it to quite different purposes.

9. “Knowing this, that the law is not made for the just man,” &c. No matter how zealous the Jew may be for the law—no matter how much he may boast of it, he should still, for his humiliation, bear in mind, that the law is but a proof of the prevarications of the Jewish people, since its minatory precepts would have never been imposed, had the Jews not been guilty of the crimes, which these precepts are intended to prevent and punish. The law has a triple object—to oblige, to direct, to punish. With the two former, requisitions of the law, the just, spontaneously and through the love of justice, comply. In the latter respect of punishing, under which the Apostle considers it here, “the law was not made for the just.” It was not held as a terror over them; since the just man may set its threats and menaces at defiance. (“Against such there is no law.”—Gal. 5:23). By this, the Apostle confounds the vain glorying of the Jews in the law, which should be to them a source of confusion, as furnishing a proof of their own prevarications, as well as those of their fathers; for had they lived in innocence, like the Holy Patriarchs, the law, with its threats and menaces, would never have been imposed, “but for the ungodly,” &c.

10. “And whatever other things is contrary to sound doctrine.” Under this general head the Apostle comprehends all sinners whose lives, may, in any other way, not included in the foregoing, be opposed to the sound doctrine of faith and morals. The Apostle insinuates against the Jews the charge of having committed the foregoing crimes, as it was to restrain these, and the like, that the law was given.

11. The gospel is the rule of true doctrine, and so perfect a rule is it, that anything opposed or conformable thereto, is opposed or conformable to sound doctrine.

This verse is an explanation of the preceding, showing what is meant by sound doctrine—viz., that which is conformable to the gospel, or, it may mean, that in this the law and gospel agree. “The gospel of the glory,” i.e., the glorious gospel, or the gospel which promotes the glory of God, and promises eternal glory to us.

12. The mention of the gospel ministry intrusted to him, puts the Apostle in mind of his former sins and unworthiness. He renders thanks to God for his special goodness towards him, which his former sinfulness and unworthiness render the more illustrious. “For he that had counted me faithful, putting me in the ministry,” is a phrase signifying, that God called him to his sacred ministry, wherein the chief requisite is fidelity, which must be secured by his own grace. It by no means signifies that God was moved by the provision of fidelity and of the good use of grace in St. Paul, as a motive for calling him to the ministry. This would savour of semi-Pelagianism.

13. He recounts his former sinfulnes for the purpose of displaying in a stronger light, the infinite goodness of God towards him, and of exciting himself to more intense feelings of gratitude. He was a “blasphemer” by words, a “persecutor” by his deeds, and he was a “contumelious” enemy by the unjust violence to which he had resorted. But he “obtained mercy,” because his ignorance was an extenuation of his guilt, and he placed a lesser obstacle to grace, than if he had sinned knowingly, through malice. Others interpret the words, “because I did it ignorantly in unbelief,” thus: because the greatness of my misery and spiritual blindness was such as to render me a fit subject for the exercise of divine mercy; sins of ignorance constitute, above all others, the greatest misery. Of course, the Apostle by no means insinuates that his ignorance and spiritual misery was anything else than the occasional cause of his justification, the mercy of God being the real cause.

14. “Hath abounded exceedingly,” i.e., the grace of God far exceeded his iniquity. God not only pardoned him, and showed him mercy, but he also bestowed on him the gifts of his grace and its fruit—“faith,” which was opposed to his former incredulity, and “love,” to his former hatred of Christ.

15. He says, this mercy shown himself, should inspire all other sinners with hope, and hence he announces a general and important proposition on the subject. “Of whom I am the chief.” This he might say, looking to himself, and abstracting from the sins of others—or, by looking to his own nature without grace, there was no sin ever committed, that he too might not commit, if left to himself.—(See Philip. 2:3).

16. “For the information of them that shall believe,” &c. The Greek for “information,” ὑποτυπωσιν, means, to serve as a type or model, so that, after his example, all future sinners who are to believe in God, would have recourse to the divine clemency, and learn to hope in God, and thus gain eternal life. As a physician, for the purpose of rousing the drooping and desponding spirits of his patient, points to some instance of recovery from a similar and almost incurable disease; so, had God placed St. Paul, whose blindness and obstinacy were apparently incurable, as a model, an example to animate other sinners to hope for forgiveness in the depth of their miseries and sins.

17. God is by nature “immortal,” and incorruptible, and “invisible,” he cannot be seen by the aids of nature,—even in the life to come the saints require the lumen gloriæ to see him as he is, “face to face.”—(See 1 Cor. 13:12). “Only God.” In Greek, only wise God. The epithet, wise, is, however, wanting in the oldest manuscripts and versions, and generally rejected by critics.

18. “This precept,” is referred by some to the precept of denouncing false teachers (verse 3), and these say, the ellipsis observable in verse, 3, is filled up here. “As I desired thee,” &c. (verse 3) … verse 18, “this precept I commend to thee, O Timothy.” By others it is referred to the following words:—“War a good warfare.” Others refer it to the precept of preaching the truth enunciated, verse 15. It more probably regards the precepts of faith contained in the entire chapter. “According to the prophecies,” &c. It is likely, that St. Paul was induced to consecrate Timothy, owing to the revelations from the Holy Ghost regarding his zeal and fitness. Others, by “prophecies,” understand, the hopes and expectations given of him by his fellow-citizens. “That thou war in them,” or, in correspondence with these prophecies, “a good warfare.” The life of a pastor of souls, is a life of labour, vigilance, and warfare, against the visible and invisible enemies of the salvation of his people. By taking on himself voluntarily the charge of souls, he enters into an implicit contract with God and the Church, to devote his entire energies to the sublime work of co-operating with Jesus Christ, in the salvation of his people. Woe, then, to him, if like the sluggish watchman in the house of Israel, he permit the wicked man, without being warned of it, to die in his sins!—or like the faithless pastors of Israel, he attend only to his own gain and emolument, without attending, as he is in duty bound, to the spiritual wants and necessities of his flock! On the day of reckoning, he shall give life for life And blood for blood.—(Ezechiel, 33:6, &c., 34:4, &c.)

19. The arms of the Christian warfare, particularly in a pastor, are a firm faith, a pure and holy life. “Have made shipwreck concerning the faith.” Hence, faith is not inamissible. How many melancholy instances does not history supply of men, who to gratify abominable lust, or avarice, have flung aside the livery of Christ and deserted to the camp of his enemies.

20. “Hymeneus” denied the Resurrection.—(2 Ep. 2:17). “And Alexander,” probably, the silver-smith, to whom he refers, chap. 4 of second Epistle. These he excommunicated by driving them out of the pale of the Church, and placing them in the kingdom of Satan, to be bodily tormented by him. Bodily afflictions by the demon, as we are informed by St. Chrysostom, Theodoret, &c., were one of the results of excommunication, in the early ages. These men, by being driven out of the Church, were placed in the kingdom of Satan, since his is the other kingdom that is arrayed against the Church, or kingdom of God. The end and object of this wholesome castigation was, by being excluded from all intercourse, they should cease from announcing, heretical doctrines, which are so many blasphemies against God the sovereign truth.

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