Timothy, my child, I entrust you with this command in keeping with the previous prophecies about you, so that by them you may fight the good fight,
I. IT IS NECESSARY FOR EVEN GOOD MINISTERS TO BE REMINDED OF THEIR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES. "This charge I commit to thee, my son Timothy."
1. The charge may have indirectly alluded to the commands already given, but refers immediately to the good warfare in which he is to war as the fulfillment of his calling.
2. It is committed to him like a precious deposit to be guarded and kept. How anxious the apostle is that Timothy should be faithful to his position and his responsibilities!
II. IT IS A SOLEMN THING TO INVOKE THE MEMORY OF PROPHECIES OR PIOUS ANTICIPATIONS IN AID OF A DIFFICULT CAREER. "According to the prophecies that went before on thee, that by them thou mightest war a good warfare."
1. The allusion is to prophecies uttered probably at his ordination by the prophets of the Church, foretelling his future zeal and success. Such prophetic intimations were not uncommon in the primitive Church. We trace them at Jerusalem (Acts 11:27, 28), at Antioch (Acts 13:1), at Corinth (1 Corinthians 14.), at Caesarea (Acts 21:8-10).
2. Such prophecies would act with a stimulating, self-protective power upon a temperament like that of Timothy, inclined, perhaps, to softness and timidity. They would encourage him in the midst of his present perils and trials at Ephesus.
3. It is a serious thing to disappoint the hopes of the pious.
III. THE PURPOSE CONTEMPLATED BY THE COMMAND AS WELL AS ITS IMMEDIATE SUBJECT. "That by them" - that is, in virtue of them - "thou mightest war a good warfare." The figure is a familiar one with the apostle (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4; 2 Timothy 2:3).
1. Christian life, and above all that of a minister, is a good warfare.
(1) It is good because it is against evil - the world, the flesh, and the devil;
(2) because it is directed toward the good of men;
(3) because it is for a good end, the glory of God.
2. It is to be carried on
(1) under Christ as Captain (Hebrews 2:10);
(3) with an enduring hardness (2 Timothy 2:3, 10);
(4) with self-denial (1 Corinthians 9:25-27);
(5) with prayer (Ephesians 6:18).
IV. THE WEAPONS IN THIS WARFARE ARE FAITH AND A GOOD CONSCIENCE. "Holding faith and a good conscience. The two must go together, but faith must necessarily go first. You cannot have a good conscience without faith, nor faith in its reality without a good conscience. There must be faith in your teaching, conscience in your actions.
1. Faith. There is "the shield of faith." It is not the mere doctrine of faith, but the grace of faith. It is by this faith we overcome
(1) the world (1 John 5:4, 5);
(2) the flesh (Galatians 5:24);
(3) the devil (1 John 2:14);
(4) everything that exalts itself (2 Corinthians 10:5);
(5) death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54, 55).
A mere intellectual belief could not produce such results; for "the devils believe and tremble."
2. A good conscience.
(1) It is good because it is sprinkled with the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:14).
(2) Because it helps to keep the faith in purity (1 Timothy 3:9).
(3) Christians ought to seek the approval of their consciences in all things (Acts 24:16).
(5) Ministers ought always to commend themselves to the consciences of their people (2 Corinthians 4:2).
V. THE WOEFUL SHIPWRECK OF CONSCIENCE. "Which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." The figure is a nautical one. When the cargo or ballast of a good conscience is tossed overboard, the ship becomes unmanageable, and is easily shipwrecked. "Some" at Ephesus resolutely stifled the admonitions of conscience, and thus turned faith into a mere matter of speculation, with no influence whatever upon their practice.
1. These persons made shipwreck of the doctrine of faith; for they held that the resurrection is past already (2 Timothy 2:18).
2. If they made shipwreck of the grace of faith, it may not have been a total shipwreck; for the discipline imposed upon them by the apostle was for the saving of the spirit, "not for the destruction of the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:5).
3. The apostle's method of dealing with these off riders. "Of whom are Hymeaeus trod Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they may be taught not to blaspheme."
(1) Hymenaeus was almost certainly the same as the impugner of a future resurrection (2 Timothy 2:17); and Alexander was probably, but not so certainly, the same as Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14), who was a resolute personal enemy of the apostle.
(2) The apostle delivered them unto Satan, which seems to have included
(a) a solemn excommunication from the Church, carried out no doubt by the Church at the apostle's command; and
(b) the infliction of bodily disease. Cases of the exercise of this terrible apostolic power are those of Ananias and Sapphira, Elymas, and the incestuous person at Corinth.
(3) It was not an irrevocable sentence, for its remission depended upon the return of the offenders to faith and. repentance. "That they may be taught through chastisement not to blaspheme." The design was the recovery of the offenders; but neither this Epistle nor the next throws any light upon the ultimate effect of the severe discipline inflicted by the apostle. - T.C.
This charge I commit unto thee.
I. THE CHANCE, of which Timothy was reminded —
1. Had been indicated by inspired prophets in the Church. Very significantly Paul says these prophecies "went before on thee"; that is, they were not only uttered upon, or over him, but they went forth "before" him in his future course, revealing it and inspiring him to follow it — just as the consciousness of having a courier in front would direct and encourage the traveller. Hence Paul adds that "by them," or in them, Timothy might wage a "good warfare"; he was to feel like one clothed and armed in those prophetic hopes, in those believing prayers. And do not we know something of this? No man has ever done great work in the world unless he has a deep moral conviction that he is predestined to do it; and this was never exemplified better than in General Gordon, who, in more than one campaign, felt that he was invincible and resistless till his work was done. And in our lowlier spheres we should be the more watchful, earnest, and hopeful, because others have had great hopes about us, and because we have been set apart to be God's servants by many an act of dedication. It is a great thing to have prophecies going before us, and the prayers of dear ones encircling us so that in them we may war a good warfare.
2. For this charge involved conflict.
3. And for success in this warfare "faith and a good conscience" are essential. "Faith," without a" good conscience," is like a garrison summoned to defend one gate of the fortress, while a traitor is opening the other gate to relentless foes. This leads the apostle to give Timothy —
II. THE WARNING which is contained in the last two verses.
1. He speaks of some who had put away a good conscience, stifling its voice and thrusting it from them, with this result, that they had made shipwreck of faith. And this experience has often repeated itself in the history of the Church. Balaam put away a "good conscience" when he paltered with his convictions to his soul's undoing. Saul, the king, did so when he disobeyed the distinct command of God, until he was no longer able to hear the Divine voice and resorted to the witch of Endor. Judas Iscariot did so when he resisted the promptings of the Holy Spirit and betrayed his Lord and Master; and in each case the sacrifice of conscience brought about "the shipwreck of faith." May God keep us undefiled, that we may never make shipwreck of faith!
2. Examples of this are pointed out to Timothy: "Hymenaeus and Alexander." The latter was a very common name, so that we cannot confidently identify this man with "Alexander, the coppersmith," who, Paul declares, in the Second Epistle, did him much evil; but Hymeneus was so uncommon a name that we may be sure it was he of whom the apostle says, in the Second Epistle, that he and Philetus were in grievous error, denying the doctrine of the resurrection, and declaring that it was past already. A blunted conscience evidently accompanied a darkened mind.
3. Paul did what he could to save and "warn them, saying of them," Whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." A difficult passage, chiefly because we know so little of apostolic modes of Church discipline. It certainly did not mean that they were given over to perdition, for the object of the punishment was their salvation, "that they might learn not to blaspheme," that is, not to misrepresent and calumniate the truth of God. Here, as well as elsewhere, Satan is spoken of not as an independent hostile power, but as one who is allowed to work evil for a given purpose, which is often beyond the range of men to discover. Thus Job was left in the power of the adversary for a season; and similarly, the Lord Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Paul himself speaks of the "thorn in the flesh" as being "the messenger of Satan to buffet" him. And when in the light of these passages we read this solemn declaration and couple it with 1 Corinthians 5:5, where Paul says of the incestuous offender, "With the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus," we come to the conclusion that the apostles were gifted with, and sometimes used, the solemn power of inflicting disease on the body, in order to awaken in the offender, or in others, convictions of sin and longings for salvation. In the terrible cases of Ananias and Elymas, we see evidences of a power to punish given to those who could heal diseases and cast out devils, a power which no doubt was demanded by the exigencies of the Church, and certainly died with the apostles, who could not transmit it. But underlying its exercise was a principle of Divine discipline, which is applicable in every age; for there is no loss we sustain, no affliction we suffer, but may work for our spiritual welfare, warning us against evil, and stimulating us to holier endeavour and more earnest prayer.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
War a good warfareI. WAR, THEREFORE, IS INEVITABLE. You must fight or fly; be the victor or the vanquished. Nay, if you mean to make sure your own salvation, and please Him who hath called you to be a soldier, there is not even that alternative. You are surrounded with foes you cannot shun. Flight would be ruin. The conflict cannot be avoided. Every step will be contested. Yet be not discouraged. The more strenuous the struggle, the more glorious the achievement. Your aid is omnipotent, your resources are infinite, and you "war a good warfare." Few, indeed, of the warfares waged by the powers of this world are worthy of the means employed and the men sacrificed to win them. But the Christian soldier "wars a good warfare."; emphatically, pre-eminently" and peculiarly good; good in all its agencies, its aspects, and its issues.
II. Have we not A GOOD CAUSE? Did the Israelites glory in a good cause, contending for the Land of Promise? the Crusaders, marching to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre? your forefathers, asserting with the sword their independence of Great Britain? But the Christian cause is the purest and noblest that ever kindled the enthusiasm of a people or won the admiration of the world. It is identified with all that is important in truth, beautiful in virtue, sublime in charity, or glorious in hope. It is the cause that marshals the cherubim, and stirs the deep vengeance of hell; that brought Jehovah from the throne of the universe to the manger. We fight, not to desolate provinces and degrade princes, but to convert earth into a paradise and enthrone humanity with its Redeemer. No wrongs have we to avenge, no malice to gratify, nor cruel thirst for blood.
III. And have we an unworthy CAPTAIN? What Hebrew warrior did not glory in his Joshua or his David? What mediaeval crusader did not proudly follow his Richard, his Philip, or his Bertrand? What Frenchman did not rejoice in the name of Napoleon, what Englishman in the name of Wellington, what American in the name of Washington? Who of all the myriads that took part in your late civil conflict, was not ready to cheer for Grant or Lee, for Sherman or Jackson? But "who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength?" "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." It is the Captain of the Lord's host, the champion of our redemption. He comes to avenge us of our enemies, and lead our captivity captive. What are the qualities most desirable in a military leader? In the highest perfection, they are all found in Christ. Is it wisdom? He is the embodied wisdom of God. Experience? Ever since the original revolt in heaven He has been battling with the hosts of hell. Valour? Single-handed and alone He went forth to meet the Prince of darkness with all his dire array. Success? He foiled the cunning foe in the wilderness of Judaea, and triumphed over his embattled myriads upon the cross. Kindness? Once He died to save His enemies, and now He wears the name of every follower punctured with a spear upon His heart. Ability to reward? The thrones of heaven are His, and a kingdom such as earth never knew He promises hereafter to every conqueror. Such a Captain, who would not joyfully follow?
IV. And what say you of our ARMOIR? Our panoply is ample and impenetrable, and our weapons are effective because they are Divine.
V. And what think you of our SUPPLIES? "Who goeth a warfare at his own charges?" "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." What a measure is that, and what a medium of communication! "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think." "They who trust in the Lord shall not want any good thing." Our Divine commissariat is furnished with all that we can possibly require in any emergency of the campaign.
VI. And how like you our DEFENCES? "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake at the swelling thereof."
VII. And have you not seen the array of OUR ALLIES? "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them." "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even many thousands of angels; the Lord is in the midst of them, as in Sinai, in the holy place." "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" See them leading righteous Lot and his family forth from Sodom, before the fire-tempest descends upon the doomed city. See them deploying from the host of God to meet Jacob, returning from Padan Aram, about to encounter the formidable bands of his offended brother. See them, with their flashing cavalry and flaming artillery, covering all the mountain round about Elisha, and delivering a whole army into the hands of a single man. If heaven could spare so splendid an escort for the patriarch, so glorious a body-guard for the prophet, what millions on millions incalculable must be engaged on behalf of the whole Church militant in the wilderness! And if one angel could slay all the first-born of Egypt in a night, or destroy seventy thousand men of Israel at a stroke, or stiffen in death a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers with a blast of his breath, what have we to fear, around whom encamp myriads of celestial warriors? What power of hell shall scatter the cohorts of heaven?
VII. And who EVER HAD BETTER COMRADES? They are called, and chosen, and faithful. Like Saul and Jonathan, they are stronger than lions and swifter than eagles. Like the intrepid son of Jesse, they can run through a troop and leap over a wall. One can chase a thousand, and two can put ten thousand to flight. The saints of all ages form but "one army of the living God," and the militant rear hold fellowship with the victorious van.
IX. AND WHO EVER FOUGHT WITH GREATER SUCCESS? What power has prevailed against the Lord's redeemed? Their interest is His; and to defeat them were to defeat Omnipotence.
X. AND WHO EVER WON SO RICH A REWARD? Where centres the ambition of earthly heroism? In the victor's palm, the monarch's crown, the empty plaudits of the multitude, "a fancied life in others' breath," a name on the scroll of history, a niche in the temple of fame, a monumental column in the Capitol, a memory embalmed in the nation's heart, a tuneful immortality in the songs of ages. But your reward is "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
(J. Cross, D. D.)
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