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

Analysis

As a Bishop is charged with the superintendence of his entire flock. Hence, in this chapter the Apostle instructs Timothy in the duties he owes even the most destitute and lowly among his people, viz., the Christian slaves. He should instruct them in the duty of obedience, as well to their unbelieving, as to their Christian masters (1, 2). He denounces the men who taught a different doctrine (3); these he declares to be corrupt in heart, making piety the means for obtaining gain (5). He treats of the dangers of avarice (8, 9), and cautions Timothy, and through him, all the ministers of the Gospel, against this damning vice, and implores them to observe the precepts delivered in this Epistle (13, 14–16). He points out the duties of the rich (17–19), and finally, through Timothy, exhorts all Bishops to guard the deposit of faith, and fly foolish novelties originating in the vain opinion of false science.

Paraphrase

1. Whosoever are in the condition of slaves, under the yoke of servitude, let them regard their masters, although unbelievers, with feelings of reverence, serving them with prompt obedience, and respectful submission, lest, on account of their disobedience, the name of God be blasphemed and the doctrine of the gospel spoken ill of, as sanctioning this disobedience of slaves.

2. But such slaves as have Christian masters, far from showing them less respect and serving them with less promptitude, on account of being their brethren in Christ, should, on the contrary, redouble their zeal in serving them, because they are Christians, and they should become dear to them, as being sharers in the same benefits of Christianity with themselves. Do thou teach them, so that they may know these things, and exhort them to the practice of the same.

3. But if any man teach otherwise than we have taught, and refuse assent to the salutary and wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that sound doctrine of the gospel, which promotes true piety,

4. Such a man is inflated with empty pride, he knows nothing, but is sick (and raving) about futile questions, and mere verbal disputes, which are the source of envy, of contentions, wrangling, of reproachful invectives against man, as well as blasphemies against God, of evil suspicions, or perverse dogmas and opinions,

5. Of foolish and pernicious disputations of men corrupt in mind, who are deprived of the light of truth, making piety serve the purposes of gain and avarice.

6. And, truly, piety accompanied with contentment of mind, which it insures, and which the necessaries of life satisfy, is a great gain.

7. For it teaches us, that as we have brought nothing with us into this world, so, undoubtedly, we will carry nothing out of it.

8. Having, therefore, the necessary food and clothing, with these let us be content.

9. For, those who wish to become rich and indulge in the pursuits of avarice, fall into several temptations to sin, in which, as in so many snares, they are caught by the devil; and into many foolish and noxious desires, which involve men in miseries of all kinds.

10. For, the love of money is the root of all evils, and in consequence of eagerly indulging this passion, some persons have deserted the faith, and transfixed themselves with many sorrows.

11. But thou, O man of God, fly this vice of avarice, and all these other sins which follow in its train, and zealously cultivate Christian sanctity and its concomitant virtues, viz., piety, faith, love, patience, meekness.

12. Engage bravely in the glorious struggle for the faith, grasp the prize of eternal life to which thou hast been invited, and in pursuit of which thou hadst made a glorious confession in presence of many witnesses.

13. I command and conjure thee before God, who vivifies all things, and before Christ Jesus who rendered publicly under Pontius Pilate a glorious testimony to truth,

14. To observe, in their full integrity, without any admixture of error, or without incurring any reprehension for their violation, all the precepts delivered to thee in this Epistle, until the final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15. Which glorious coming of Christ, he shall display at the proper time, who alone is essentially happy, and alone enjoys of himself sovereign sway, the King of kings, and the Lord of those that rule.

16. Who alone is, of his own nature, unchangeably immortal, and inhabits light inaccessible to mortals, whom no man ever saw in this life, or ever can see by the sole aids of nature, to whom belong honour and empire for endless ages. Amen.

17. Charge those who possess the goods and riches of this life, not to indulge in feelings of pride, and not to place their trust in frail, fleeting, uncertain riches, but to place their entire trust and confidence in the ever living God, who abundantly furnishes us with all things necessary for use.

18. Charge them also to do good and grow rich in the fruits of good works, to be liberal to the poor, and to make the indigent and distressed sharers in their wealth.

19. To amass for themselves treasures of merit, which will serve as a secure and solid foundation in future, so as to insure for them the secure possession of eternal life.

20. O Timothy, carefully guard the treasure of sound doctrine, which, as a sacred deposit, has been confided to thy keeping; and, for this purpose, shun all vain novelties of words which profanely express doctrines at variance with those confided to you, and spurn the objections proposed to you by heretics, who falsely claim to themselves the character of possessing superior knowledge

21. Of which false knowledge certain persons making a profession have fallen away from the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.

Commentary

1. “Their masters.” He speaks of unbelieving masters. In the next verse, he speaks of Christian masters. “Lest the name of the Lord (in Greek, of God) and his doctrine be blasphemed,” lest these infidel masters should blaspheme the name of God and the doctrine of the gospel, as sanctioning rebellion on the part of slaves, and the dissolution of social order. This conduct on the part of the slaves would estrange the infidels from the faith; whereas, the Apostle tacitly conveys an admonition to slaves to render the faith commendable, by their obedience to their unbelieving masters, and thus induce them to embrace it.

2. “Because they are brethren,” i.e., because their masters are their brethren in Christ. This is no reason why they should, in a civil point of view, dispute their superiority, and refuse them obedience. On the contrary, it is an additional motive to serve them with greater zeal. “And beloved.” The Greek, ἀγαπητοὶ, means, and deserving to be loved, because their masters are sharers with them in the same blessings of Christianity. Others make the words, “who are partakers of the benefit,” refer to the slaves, as if he said, that the slaves are made partakers of the beneficence of their masters; the rigour of servitude being greatly relaxed under Christian masters, who also feed, clothe them, and allow the free exercise of their religious duties. “Teach these things” to the ignorant, “and exhort” those who already know them, to practise them.

3. It appears, that certain false teachers, confounding the spiritual liberty into which Christ had asserted us with civil liberty, taught, that slaves, on becoming Christians, were freed from all human servitude. Such men are here denounced by the Apostle, as the enemies of the gospel and disturbers of social order; while, at the same time, he denounces all teachers of error, as he had already done, chapter 1 of this Epistle.

4. “He is proud,” in the Greek, τετύφωται, he is swollen, the meaning of which is well conveyed in the words of the Vulgate, swollen and inflated with empty pride. The word also conveys an idea of the mental disease of the man, who recedes from the truth. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ are all sound; they are the wholesome ailment of the soul; whosoever refuses assent to them is sick in soul, of a distemper analogous to bodily swelling. “Knowing nothing.” Such a person is destitute of all true and solid knowledge, being deprived of faith. “Sick about questions and strifes of words.” In the Greek, logomachies. “From which arise envies.” Every one of these affecting the mastery envies such as appear to excel him. “Contentions,” verbal wranglings, having for object superiority rather than the discovery of the truth. “Blasphemies,” i.e., reproachful and injurious language both to God and man. “Evil suspicions.” The Greek, ὑπόνοιαι πονηραὶ, also means, pernicious opinions or dogmas.

5. “Conflicts.” The Greek word, παραδιατριβαὶ, means, useless, noxious disputations. St. Chrysostom and others give it another signification which the word bears, “contagious communications of men corrupted in mind.” These persons communicate corruption and spiritual distemper to such as come in contact with them. “And who are destitute of truth.” Such persons are corrupted in mind, because blinded, by being deprived of the light of truth, and corrupted in heart, as is proved from their making religion a matter of traffic, looking upon it in the light of a means to subserve the purposes of gain and avarice. In the Greek are added to this verse the words, ἀφίστασο ἀπὸ τῶν τοιούτων, keep aloof from such persons. These words were found in the version used by St. Chrysostom. It is likely that they were admitted into the text, from the margin, or, from some commentary on the passage.

6. This is a sort of rhetorical correction; the Apostle corrects himself and says, that piety is a great gain in quite a different sense from that in which these corrupt men viewed it; it is a great gain joined to “contentment,” by which is meant, a mind content with the necessaries of life. So, it implies both a contented mind, and also the supply of the necessary means of life, without which no man can be content; piety insures this contentment; for, the Apostle learned to be satisfied in whatever state he was (Phil. 4:11), and it also secures the necessaries of life, having the promise of the life that now is, &c. (4:8). “Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice,” &c. In a word, piety is a great gain on account of the contentment, &c., which it insures.

7. Piety is apt to beget this contentment, for, it teaches us, that “we brought nothing,” &c.

8. And it enables us to draw infallibly this conclusion, that as we will take out of this world, when leaving it, none of our possessions, we should, therefore, be content with the necessaries of life, food, and clothing. The Greek word for “we are content,” αρκεσθησόμεθα, shows that the word “contentment,” in verse, 6, supposes a supply of the necessaries of life, without which, no one can be content, or life prolonged.

9. Another reason for avoiding the pursuits of avarice, “they that will become rich.” He does not say, they that are rich; he only speaks of the inordinate desire of amassing riches—it is this that makes one avaricious, and not the actual possession. “Fall into temptation,” of fraud, injustice, perjury, &c., “and into the snare of the devil.” In the Greek, we have only the words, into a snare. The words, “of the devil,” are wanting. They may have been introduced from chap. 3:7, and they merely express the sense of the passage more fully. They are, however, found in several manuscripts, and in the several Greek and Latin interpreters. “And into many unprofitable and hurtful desires.” In some Greek copies, the reading is, unto many foolish and hurtful desires. Foolish, because opposed to reason; and hurtful, because they “drown men into destruction and perdition,” i.e., they involve them both in present misfortune and future misery. This is particularly true of the class whom St. Paul here instructs in the person of Timothy. The desire of amassing riches is seldom exempt from the sins and dangers here enumerated; hence the difficulty in the salvation of the rich.—(Luke. 18)

10. “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” because, there is scarcely a sin which it would not impel a man to commit, such as perjuries, rapines, homicides, and even Deicide, as in the case of Judas. Pride is said to be “the beginning of all sin,” (Eccles. 10:15), because it was the first sin ever committed; hence, it is said of it in quite a different sense from that in which it is said of avarice here. “And have entangled themselves.” In the Greek, “and have transfixed themselves,” &c., περιέπειραν. Hence, it is, even in this life, the source of countless miseries, as melancholy experience every day testifies.

11. “O man of God,” Every minister of religion is like Timothy, “a man of God,” wholly devoted to him, enlisted in his service, his representative before men, consequently, entitled to the utmost respect. But he should, at the same time, fly avarice and its attendant vices, so opposed to the exalted disinterestedness, which should distinguish the man who, at his first entrance into the sanctuary, had chosen God for his inheritance, and practise “justice,” i.e., Christian justice or sanctity, and its concomitant virtues of “piety” towards God; “faith,” which points out to us heavenly goods; “charity” towards our neighbour, which inspires us with liberality towards him, so opposed to cupidity; “patience,” in adversity, and when in want of temporal goods; “mildness,” even when offended and maltreated by those, whom we served on former occasions.

12. In order to incite Timothy to labour with greater zeal in shunning vice, and practising virtue, the Apostle alludes to the Grecian exercises of the gymnasium, of which the people of Asia Minor were so fond, and particularly to the exercises of the racecourse, to which he so often assimilates the course of a Christian life (1 Cor. 9; Philip. 1:29; Hebrews 12:1), and compares the struggle in which Timothy is engaged for the faith, in which struggle faith alone can insure success, to these different bodily exercises. “Lay hold on eternal life.” This is the prize held out by God, as master of the course, to such as gain the victory. “And hast confessed a good confession before many witnesses,” and in pursuit of which Timothy made this public confession, which some understand of the profession of faith, which he publicly made at his baptism; others, of that which he made at Ephesus on the occasion of the tumult referred to (Acts, 19:25); and a third class, of the public promise, which he made at his Episcopal consecration, of faithfully discharging the duties of a bishop.

13. He conjures him in the presence of God, who gives life to every creature that lives, and of Christ, who sealed with his blood the testimony which he bore to truth, and gave him the example of declaring the truth at the risk of his life.

14. “The commandment,” is commonly understood of all the precepts given in this Epistle, “without spot,” “blameless,” can, according to the Greek, ἄσπιλον, ἀνεπιληπτον, affect either Timothy, or the commandment; “without spot,” is commonly understood of the precepts, which should be kept without the alloy of falsehood or error; “blameless,” of Timothy, who should not incur reprehension, by violating the commandments given him. “The coming (in the Greek, της ἔπιφανείας, unto the Epiphany or manifestation) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Writing to Timothy, he wishes to instruct all bishops, that to the end of time these precepts are obligatory. And he also, by reference to the coming of Christ, which will virtually take place for all at the hour of death, wishes to remind Timothy and all bishops, that they will be judged for the observance of the precepts which he is after delivering.

15. “Which” i.e., apparition or coming, “in his time,” i.e., at the period he has destined and decreed. “He shall show,” i.e., openly and publicly reveal. “Who is the blessed and only Mighty,” i.e., who is alone essentially happy, and alone, of his own nature, possesses absolute sway. “The King of kings, and the Lord of lords,” who, of himself, enjoys absolute, independent authority, of which all created power is but a mere emanation and dependent participation.

16. “Who only hath immortality,” i.e., has life essentially of himself, with perfect incorruptibility and immutability. “And inhabiteth light inaccessible,” which light is God himself; for, God exists in himself. Hence, the words mean, that God is an uncreated, immense, infinite light, and so, “inaccessible” to mortals. “Whom no man hath seen or can see,” i.e., in this life, or ever can see, since this vision of God is reserved as the great reward of the life to come; and even there, the sole aids of nature will not suffice, nor the grace of this life; the light of glory must elevate created faculties, to the power of seeing God. What an idea of God, alone immortal and invisible, alone sovereignly powerful, alone supremely happy! To serve him is to reign. He alone is capable of satisfying the desires of our hearts; he has made us for himself, nor can our hearts find rest until they rest in him.—St. Augustine.

17. Having spoken in very strong terms (verses 9, 10) of the dangers of riches, the Apostle now shows the rich in what manner they are to sanctify themselves, the vices they ought to avoid, and the virtues they ought to practise. They should not entertain thoughts of pride, which riches are apt to engender, nor place their confidence in riches, which are so frail and fleeting; but all their hopes should be in God, from whom proceeds every blessing, both in the order of nature and grace. God is “living,” and a certain object of our confidence.

18. They should practise good works, and become rich in the treasures of merit. They should particularly be constant in the exercise of the good works of liberality towards the poor, and make the indigent and distressed sharers in their blessings. The goods of this life are intrusted to them as stewards to dispense them; the supreme dominion belongs to God.

19. They should lay a solid foundation in merit, particularly in almsdeeds, for that future edifice which they are building up for themselves in heaven. On works of charity is reared a spiritual structure, wherein are deposited true life and everlasting treasures, “which the moth does not consume,” &c.—(S. Matthew, 6:20).

20. “Keep that which is committed to thy trust.” This is commonly understood of the doctrine of Christ, which is left, whole and entire, to the guardianship of the bishops of the Church, without admitting either of diminution or addition, to be handed down to their successors, to the end of time. The same is expressed by the Apostle (2 Epistle 1:14, 15, 2:2), and he supposes here that it may be destroyed by “false science.” Hence, he refers to true science, or, the doctrine of the gospel, as “the trust committed” to him. “Avoiding the profane novelties of words;” that is to say, new words which express a new and false doctrine, such as special faith, imputative justice, impanation, &c., which alone can be called “profane,” because they alone express doctrines at variance with the sacred treasure, or deposit, and hence, it would be profane to employ them. But words which express revealed doctrines with greater clearness and precision, and are virtually found in the SS. Scriptures, such as Trinity, Incarnation, Transubstantiation, &c., are not contemplated, since they help to guard the deposit against the refined subtleties of heresy. The Greek reading for “novelties of words,” κενοφωνιας, means, foolish terms. The change in a single Greek letter causes the difference. The Vulgate interpreter must have read a Greek edition different from the present. The meaning, however, is the same; for, the word “profane,” shows that he refers to words, expressive of a new and false doctrine. “And oppositions,” i.e., objections proposed by men who falsely claim the repute of science, or, objections proposed from principles, which are falsely called principles of knowledge; since truth cannot be opposed to truth, and no true science can be opposed to the truths of faith, which are of eternal, unchangeable verity. God, the source and fountain of all truth, whether natural or revealed, cannot be opposed to himself in the different orders which he himself has established. St. Chrysostom thinks that, in the preceding, the Apostle alludes to the Gnostics. It is likely, however, as the Gnostics were not known under this name (which implies superior knowledge) in the days of the Apostle, that he refers to all heretics, whose wonted boast it has always been, in imitation of the first blasphemer against God’s truth, that they were the apostles of knowledge and enlightenment, and that they have been divinely commissioned to rescue men from the darkness and ignorance in which the Church has kept them. By telling him to “avoid the oppositions” or objections “of false knowledge,” the Apostle does not prevent him from refuting the doctrine of heretics, when they require refutation, and in proper circumstances; for, by requiring that a bishop should be a “teacher,” chap. 3, and “be able to convince the gainsayers” (Titus, 1), he evidently requires of him sometimes to refute them. But there are certain false doctrines assumed by heretics, which they should prove before they can expect that the possessors of the ancient faith would undertake their refutation. The onus probandi devolves on them, as is here clearly insinuated.

21. Hence faith is not inamissible; for these men fell away from the faith and deserted the Christian religion.

The common Greek subscriptions have—(The first to Timothy was written from Laodicea, the metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana.) These subscriptions, however, are not always of undoubted authority. The common opinion is, that this Epistle was written from Macedon, whither St. Paul went after leaving Ephesus (Acts, 20), and it is insinuated in chap. 1:3, of this Epistle, that he had been in Macedon while writing this. Moreover, it is certain that he had not been at Laodicea.—(See Epistle to the Coll. 2, written subsequent to this Epistle.)








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