Having thus laid down the sacred deposit, new as well as old, in its divine authority and edifying fulness, the apostle proceeds in the beginning of the fourth chapter to urge the earnest ministration of it with all solemnity.
"I testify earnestly [or, charge] before God and Christ Jesus that is about to judge living and dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; convict, rebuke, encourage, with all long-suffering and doctrine" (vers. 1-2).
Here there is no small discrepancy, not only as to the right reading among the ancient witnesses, but also as to the just reflection of the original text. That text which has been vulgarly received accredited a connecting particle with the preceding chapter, or at least with its closing topic. This, a more careful examination, or certainly a more spiritual judgment, would have shown to be uncalled for and out of place; as well as the personal emphasis of the subject. On the contrary, Paul evidently desired rather to put forward God Himself and the risen Man, Who is to deal with mankind supremely in the coming day. The order of His name, and the omission of "the Lord", are sustained by the best authorities of every kind, and fall in admirably with the context. It would seem also that the conjunction before τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν was not understood, and got supplanted by the preposition in order to ease the construction; which really had for effect to alter the connection of the sentence by severing "His appearing and His kingdom" from the verb at the beginning, and attaching them to the judging of the quick and dead as a date.
So it stands in the Authorized and other Versions; but if we connect "His appearing and His kingdom" with the verb, a choice of version lies open to us. For we may regard the accusatives as the complement of διαμαρτύρομαι, and translate as in Deu_4:26, which some prefer, in the sense of calling Christ's appearing and His kingdom to witness against Christendom. But this seems far from a just analogy. Heaven and earth we can easily apprehend as thus invoked; but how about summoning Christ's appearing and His kingdom? It would be harsh indeed. How could Paul call Christ's future appearance and His kingdom to witness then, as Moses invoked heaven and earth that day to witness against Israel? The construction is therefore not really the same.
Christ's appearance and His kingdom are therefore suited and most impressive grounds of appeal by which he was solemnly charging Timothy, or others like-minded and responsible, to preach the word. The acuss. object) appears thus quite untenable. Hence most prefer, with the Revisers, to understand the apostle to testify earnestly, without specifying Timothy, before God and Christ Jesus, and by His appearing and His kingdom, as that which gave the charge incalculable weight and awe. If κατά be read, it is hard to see how it can be connected with the verb; for where is the sense of "I charge [thee] at His appearing and His kingdom"? The preposition compels us to make these words dependent on the participle.
Turning from this brief but dry discussion of text and translation, which nevertheless is a duty owing to the proper clearance of scripture, obscured as it has been by defective knowledge and insight, we may now the more intelligently admire the apostolic appeal. That solemn testimony, of which Paul speaks, is before God and Christ Jesus, Who is about to judge living and dead. This is looked at as ever imminent; or, as another apostle puts it, Christ "is ready to judge living and dead" (1Pe_4:5). Only our text speaks of the judgment as a continuous process, the other sums it up in its conclusion. The continuous character of our Lord's judging is made if possible more evident in Act_17:31, where its object is defined clearly as the habitable earth, not the dead (whose judgment will follow in its season) but the quick: a truth, which, though owned in the ordinary symbols of Christendom, has practically dropped out of mind even for earnest and sober Christians, who are apt to fasten their eyes exclusively on the great white throne (Rev_20:11-15).
In this solemn matter they, and the Jews, fall into opposite faults. For the Jews were full of the earthly judgment which the Messiah is assuredly to execute over all the earth, when no nation can escape; whilst they in effect ; thought little or nothing of the everlasting judgment of the dead. But the Lord Jesus, as Peter solemnly testified to Cornelius, is the One ordained by God as Judge of living and dead (Act_10:42).
As we know the generality of Christians slur over the judgment of living men on the earth, it is the more important to unfold it somewhat at length. Nothing demonstrates the need of this more than the citation of 1Co_15:51-52, and 1Th_4:16-17, as bearing on the judgment of living and dead. "We, the living that remain", we who without having fallen asleep shall be changed, are not in the least included in the mere quick and of course not in the dead, of the text before us. "We" are Christian believers, who consequently do not come into judgment, as our Lord ruled in Joh_5:24, but shall be changed without death any more than judgment, and brought up with the dead but risen saints to meet the Lord Jesus at His coming.
There is no such thought in scripture as a future judgment of those spiritually alive, though all must be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ. This to "the spiritually dead" will of course be nothing short of coming into judgment; but the saints will be none the less manifested there that they may know even as they are known, and that each may receive the things done in the body, according to those he has done, whether good or bad (2Co_5:10). Having Christ as their life and His redemption, they were saved even here by grace through faith; they are not to be put on their trial there, as if the salvation of God were a doubtful thing. For such it will simply be manifestation in this solemn but blessed way, and this with special view to the place of each in the kingdom; for there is the revealed certainty among the saved of each receiving his own reward according to his own labour. But judgment by-and-by for him that has eternal life and is saved is not only flat contradiction of the express word of Christ, but irreconcilable with all that eternal blessing which the gospel attests as due to Him and His work for the believer.
The passage then does not speak of the heavenly saints, still less of those privileges of grace which are theirs in Christ, but of the judgment to come which awaits quick and dead when He is revealed to this end according to the scriptures. Other passages of holy writ show that the quick are to be judged, not only when Christ appears in glory, but all through His kingdom, which is said to be "for ever", because it closes only with the dissolution of the heaven and the earth that now are, and the subsequent judgment of the dead, the wicked dead, who small and great stand before the throne. Their manifestation is judgment in the fullest and eternal sense; because, having rejected Christ, or at the least failed to profit by any and every testimony God gave them, it remains only that they be judged each according to his works. Their works being evil on the one hand, and on the other not one found written in the book of life, all they themselves were cast into the lake of fire. Theirs is therefore a resurrection of judgment: so the Saviour calls it in Joh_5:29; as that of believers is a resurrection of life - life for the bodies of all who through faith had here below received life in Christ for their souls. The apostle however is here treating of judgment, first of the quick on earth at and during the kingdom of Christ, and lastly of the dead before it is given up to Him Who is God and Father, that God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) may be all in all, in the eternal state.
It will be observed that the contextual language of the apostle is most precise and explicit. When he thus testifies before God and Christ Who is about to judge quick and dead, he adds "and by His appearing and His kingdom". "His coming", or presence, would not at all have suited; for unless it be specially qualified (as by the term "of the Son of man" et al.), it has no proper relation to the divine dealings in judgment, but rather to God's counsels of grace. Hence the presence or coming of Christ is connected with the translation of the saints on high. When it is a question of judicial action, "His appearing" is the exactly right expression as it is here; and either this, or His revelation, or His day, will ever be found in this connection.
Accordingly here "His appearing" is followed by "and His kingdom," with no less accuracy; for "His appearing" alone would not have sufficed for more than the earlier judgments to fall on the guilty living generation of that day. To cover His judging the world throughout His long reign, and particularly the dead which remain to be raised for judgment at the close, we need and have "His kingdom" also. Every word is written wisely; all is required to complete the full picture of His judging. Hence we see the mistake of those who speak of the "modificated eternity" of His mediatorial kingdom (regnum gratiae) to be succeeded by the kingdom of glory to commence at His ἐπιφάνεια, or appearing. Not so; the reign for a thousand years (Rev_20:1-7) does begin, to speak generally, when Christ is manifested in glory (as the preceding chapter, Rev. 19 clearly points out). And it may be described as a "modificated eternity", because it introduces His kingdom, a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all previous kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever, i.e., as long as the earth endures (Dan_2:44). It is absurd to apply this to the church (or to the gospel) now; for the church, if true to its principles, is called ever to suffer, not to reign, till He appears in glory. The bride is to bear herself in holy separation from the world, cast out like her crucified Master, till glorified with Him at His coming. The eternal scene which knows neither end nor modification is after the kingdom is given up, the kingdom given Him as Man, and shared by Him with the risen saints, reigning together as they suffered together, but given up at the end, when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For Christ must reign till then; throughout eternity God as such, not the exalted Man, will be all in all (1Co_15:28).
With this in view, then, the apostle gives the charge, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; convict, rebuke, encourage, with all long-suffering and doctrine." The structure of each verb implies prompt action. This of course is quite consistent with persevering continuance; but continuance might be, and often is, without such intensity of devotedness as is here insinuated by the rapid succession of pressures on Timothy, which did not put even a particle to connect one with another. Proclaiming the word has the first place; urgent heed to the work in season, out of season, follows up the preaching; convicting in the sense of proving home or reproving is enjoined as a wholesome duty, even though irksome to a tender spirit; rebuke comes afterwards as necessary where fault was plain or out? as on the other hand encouragement or exhortation, where this rather was called for. In every case there was to be all long-suffering and doctrine. Who was sufficient for these things? Timothy's sufficiency, as the apostle's, was from God. So may ours be in our little measure!
There is a fresh reason which the apostle now puts forward for urgent and assiduous zeal in every possible way - another grievous feature of the grievous times of the last days.
"For the time will be when they will not endure sound teaching; but according to their own lusts they will heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear; and from the truth they will turn away their ear, and will be turned aside unto fables" (vers. 3, 4).
It is not here the leaders whose fault is in the foreground, but the people. Elsewhere we see false teachers, and self-willed chiefs, misleading such as put their trust in them. Here, though the time was not yet come for so widespread evil, the Spirit of God speaks of it as imminent: "For the time will be when they will not endure the sound teaching." This is clearly descriptive of the prevalent state to overspread Christendom, not among Jews nor heathens. It supposes those who were used to hear the truth. But now the truth becomes unpalatable, and "the sound teaching" of it cannot be endured: a truly frightful time for men bearing the name of the Lord. For it is evident that out of an impure heart they must call on Him. Sound teaching is ever welcome to those whose desire is to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and this that all may issue in a life of increasing obedience and devotedness.
How deep and bold then the enmity of heart when those who have every motive to love the truth, far beyond those of old, will not endure it! "Oh, how I love Thy law! it is my meditation all the day." "How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" "It is time for Thee, LORD to work: they have made void Thy law. Therefore I love Thy commandments like gold, yea, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right: I hate every false way." "Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Thy commandments." "Thy word is very pure; therefore Thy servant loveth it. I am small and despised; yet I do not forget Thy precepts. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy law is the truth. Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me; yet Thy commandments are my delight. Thy testimonies are righteous for ever: give me understanding, and I shall live."
These are but a few extracts from a psalm (Psa_119:97-144) devoted as a whole to setting forth the characteristic virtues of divine revelation as possessed by the house of Israel before Christ, and therefore very short of the later and yet more profound communications since redemption, and Christ's ascension, and the personal presence of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, all of which incalculably blessed facts enhance what God has revealed since. Yet we can see, and especially as in a composition which by the Spirit expresses the feelings of the heart, how deeply the sound teaching of that early day was valued; as it will be as much or more when God in the latter day stirs the godly remnant to say in heart, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah." The full Christian testimony comes between the advents of the Lord, and so yet more after the early days of Jewish enjoyment before the children relish the word beyond what their fathers did. In that interval comes Christianity, as well as the corruption of it in Christendom, one of the direct symptoms of which is the disgust at, and intolerance of, "the sound teaching" here announced.
But there is also positive evil, as well as the dislike of what is divine. And whilst both evils have long verified the solemn warning of the apostle, it is easy to understand that the dark sketch of a time then at hand becomes more and more dismal as the Lord tarries and lawlessness acquires audacity and force. The prevalence of education in modern times leads to a great deal of reading even in the humblest class; so that the desire to hear what pleases the mind, the taste, and the natural aspirations of man, modified as all is by the governing spirit of the age, becomes even more active and pretentious. "According to their own lusts they will heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear." Can there be a more graphic anticipation of what is found everywhere in our day, at least where the Bible is universally circulated? Even this is sometimes openly left out by men calling themselves Christians. But Satan can, and does, sadly neutralize it where it is nominally in use as a mere suggester of themes for the adventuresome and profane wit of man. Indeed no other book is so fertile in raising and satisfying the most profound enquiries as to God and man and all things. And the intellect can readily cast aside its authority while it enters on its flight of universal discussion, being as doubtful of the divine as it is credulous of the human. Christ, the centre and expression of grace and truth, is practically lost, and the more guiltily because it is in the sphere where once He was all.
What becomes of those who, having once known, turn their back on His glory? First, as we have seen, according to their own lusts they heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear. The full revelation of God, though no longer held in faith, leaves a craving to hear something new; and for this end heaps of teachers are resorted to in profound unbelief of the word of God and of the power of the Spirit to guide into all the truth. The efficacy of neither can be enjoyed, where redemption does not purge the conscience and where Christ Himself is not the object and rest of the heart. God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap; because he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life eternal (Gal_6:8). If openly unrighteous man give himself up to pleasure, religiously unrighteous man occupies himself zealously with teachers, both in default of having Christ. In Him alone can God or man find life, objects, and satisfaction; in Him faith finds all fully. Without this all is a waste for one's own lusts to heap up what can never satisfy; and the less if there be departure in heart from Him known ever so slightly: an itching ear can aggravate but can never remedy.
"Heaping up teachers" is but the excessive carrying out of an evil principle which prevails in evangelicals of all sorts, established as well as dissenting. It passes as a maxim among them that one is as free to choose one's teacher, or minister, as to choose one's doctor, lawyer, or any other professional help; and this, on the ground that they are paid for their services. No wonder that superstition revolted from ideas so gross in spiritual things, and clothed ministry with mystic rites in order to elevate it above matters of everyday life and to retain it within a strictly clerical enclosure; as others fell back on patronage to redeem it from the vulgar and keep it as much as possible within more refined hands directly or indirectly.
But scripture rises far above these earthly and contending schemes of men, and shows us that Christ is the source of ministry, not merely at the starting-point, when He chose the twelve and the seventy, sending them forth on their respective missions, but as the risen, glorified, and ever-living Head, Who gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ (Eph_4:11-12).
It is in vain to argue that this mode of working could only be when Christ was here upon earth. The remarkable fact is that the grand revelation just referred to in Eph_4:8-13 ignores all action of this kind on the earth, and speaks only of ministerial gifts conferred on the church by our Lord, since He ascended up on high. Now this is to set them on a ground which cannot change till our Lord comes again. Till then He never ceases to be the unfailing spring of supply; and, as if to make this certain and clear even to reluctant ears, it is added, "till we all attain unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (ver. 13). Scripture allows of no other source, and assures of this one for every need of saints now on earth. But we must always bear in mind, what the same Epistle (Eph_2:20) distinguishes, that the apostles and prophets constitute the foundation on which we are built; the evangelists, pastors, and teachers, are those gifts which carry on the work. As this is the unforced and unequivocal intimation of God's word, faith reckons on Christ's faithfulness to the wants of souls and love to the church which is His body.
Hence there is no room for men's own lusts in choosing, any more than in rejecting, those whom Christ has given to do ministerial work. The gift is proved by the energy of the Spirit in effecting what it is given for: the evangelist by winning the unconverted to God; the pastor and teacher (not always, though often, united) by leading on and instructing the saints. It is on the same principle as a believer is recognized by his good confession of Christ, not in word only, but in deed and truth. Neither crown nor congregation, neither bishop nor patron, have anything to do with the choice.* All such human gifts or calls are wholly irregular, not unscriptural only, but anti-scriptural, whatever pleas good men may have set up for each of them. Those whom Christ gives for spiritual service the Christian is bound to own, as he has to beware of all whom Christ did not so give. The sheep know His voice in His servants; and they know not the voice of strangers. Assuredly, the sheep may err in this case or in that; for they are in no sense infallible, and they have to act responsibly by grace. But the Lord's eye is on all, and He honours His own word, as He loves His own sheep. The sad and shameful fact is that for centuries the sheep have let slip their looking to Him in this matter, and have accepted one or other of those human ways which ignore His giving the needed supply spiritually. And as some have sinned by the unwarrantable system of one man concentrating all gifts in his person or authority, so others by heaping up to themselves teachers after their own lusts.
* This is quite compatible with the congregation choosing persons to dispense their gifts or bounty, as We see this is clearly of the Lord from Acts 6. Diaconal service is quite distinct from Christ's gifts for spiritual service-in the word. Where man gives, he is warranted in choosing, where the Lord gives, man's title is excluded, it is his obligation to receive. Such is the principle, which all scripture sustains. Again, the choice of elders in scripture was clearly apostolic directly (Act_14:23) or by delegates (Tit_1:5), as being a question of government which the Lord vested in the apostles. Gifts descend from Christ immediately, even though some gifted men might also be elders or deacons; but the gifts themselves are wholly distinct from these charges. An apostle was in the highest sense both an organ of government, and a gift of the ascended Christ.
The only remedy is looking in faith to God, and to the word of His grace which furnishes the true key to the fact that the gifts still abide, rarely indeed concentrated, but as the rule distributed in no small variety and measure of spiritual power. In the present state of God's church they are, like the saints, painfully scattered as well as shrouded and hindered. But no change of circumstances alters the vital constitution of the church, any more than it does the principle of those members of it which are so important for its extension and well-being, namely, the gifts before us. What the faithful ought to do is to judge themselves by God's word to learn how far they have departed, and in order to submit themselves to His will, knowing that he who does so abides for ever (1Jn_2:17). None but Christ's gifts have His title and competency in the Spirit; and no saint can justify himself in refusing such or in accepting other men whom He has not so given; for either way is to deny His rights and to prefer man's will against Him. But heaping up to themselves teachers (and is it conceivable that these could be His gifts when consenting to His dishonour?) is yielding to men's own lusts, to the excess of self-will in despite of Christ.
But there is more still. "And from the truth they will turn away their ear, and will be turned aside unto fables" (ver. 4). Here is the fatal result. Who can measure the dishonour thus done to God and His word? Who can tell the loss to their own souls, not only by their alienation from the truth, but by their actual appetite for imaginative falsehood? So Satan would have it, who likes no one thing so much as a direct affront put on Christ, which all this implies. Thereby evil ensues in every way. The conscience is no longer governed by the sense of God's presence. Grace is unfelt, and thus the constraining power of Christ's love no longer operates. The holy fear of displeasing God vanishes. There is no consciousness of being set apart by the Spirit to the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. As He is altogether a nullity to such, so the god of this world blinds their thoughts that the radiancy of the gospel of Christ should not shine forth. There is no treasure consequently in the earthen vessels, any more than ever bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in the body; still less is there exposure to death on account of Jesus, that His life also might be manifested in their mortal flesh, so that death should work in them but life in the objects of divine love (1Co_4:4-12).
Hence present things fail not to rush in and fill the void according to Satan's pleasure. The age asserts its influence, and the world is loved and the things that are in it. On the one hand, the poor saints seem vulgar and forward; and the trials of the assembly become odious and contemptible. On the other, how much there is in the world that begins to look fair and pleasant! Then excuses sound plausible for the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. How narrow-minded and weak appear the once decided grounds to stand aloof! Thus as the word of truth is the means of practical sanctification, so the fabrications of the enemy undermine and supplant till there is nothing that the Holy Spirit can use to warn the soul or deliver from this corrupting and malignant power.
The "fables" here are not qualified as "Jewish", as in Tit_1:14, nor are they connected with "genealogies" as in 1Ti_1:4 which points in the same direction. It seems a sound deduction therefore to regard them as of a larger character, and open to the workings of Gentile fancy no less than Jewish. But it is vain to speculate on what was then impending. Suffice it for us to know that they are here unlimited and are the sure accompaniment of turning away from the truth. One of admirable judgment infers from the structure of the phrase that their being already turned aside to fables leads them to turn away their ear from the truth. [See note in J. N. D.'s New Translation.]
Very different from that melancholy and humiliating picture of the course of Christendom is the stand to which the apostle proceeds to exhort Timothy.
"But be thou sober in all things, suffer evils (hardship), do an evangelist's work, fully perform thy ministry. For I am already being poured out, and the time of my departure is all but come. The good combat I have combated, the course I have finished, the faith I have kept: henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me in that day; and not to me only, but also to all those that love His appearing" (vers. 5-8).
Here therefore, as in 2Ti_2:1, the charge is emphatically personal. To be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus has its own weighty place. But more is needed for a workman and leader in a day of general and dangerous declension, when intoxicating influences were as rife as they were various: "But thou, be sober in all things." Vigilance (γρηγορεῖν) is not the thought as in the Authorized Version, nor yet a sound mind (σωφρονισμός),however nearly allied, but sobriety of judgment. The Greek answers fully to the English usage, and from the primary sense of drinking no wine comes to the ready metaphor of being sober, or wary, in all things. Timothy was to stand clear of that which might excite or stupefy, in contrast with those drifting into a mass carried away from the truth into fables.
Further, he is called to "suffer evils",* or hardships, and this in the most general way. In 2 Tinothy 1: 8, it was to suffer evil "with the gospel", a favourite personification of the apostle, who was not ashamed of it, and would have the faithful servant identified with its afflictions here below. 2 Tinothy 2: 3 presents the different thought of Timothy's taking his part in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, without expressing or understanding any special comrade. Here all idea of "staring" is left out. Readiness to endure ills in his place and service is what the apostle claims. Paul did not lay a burden on his young colleague which himself had not long and fully borne. It is but fellowship with the Master's sufferings here below: only these, without of course speaking of the unique sorrows of atonement, went far deeper than those of His servants, which differences such as have experienced most would most freely own.
* It is the aorist here and in both the exhortations that follow - the simple act when the occasion arises, not the constant duty as in νῆφε "be sober," which precedes.
The next call appears to be often strangely misunderstood, as if the apostle meant Timothy to do an evangelist's work, when he had not that gift, and consequently was not really an evangelist! For such a construction there is not the shadow of a sound reason. The danger rather was that the increasing difficulties and troubles of the assembly might distract the young and sensitive labourer, calling him to forego the exercise of that which was truly his gift without, though not his only one, because of the demands from within. Work so blessed to which the Lord has called him must not be intermitted. The evangelist is not a preacher only: work of faith and labour of love in quest of souls characterize him who presses the glad tidings on souls individually as well as publicly.
But it is a mistake not to be passed over, that the evangelists did not form a special and separate class. It is more correct so to designate them than even the teachers, for Eph_4:11 couples the pastor with the teacher in a way in which he joins the evangelist with no other class; yet is the teacher elsewhere viewed as a distinct gift, though here, as often in fact, combined with pastorship. All gifts were certainly subordinate to apostles; yet neither evangelists nor any others were missionaries of the apostles, but of the Lord. He it is Who sends labourers into His harvest, as He is the Lord or it. The apostles were servants, though set by God first in the church. They could not send; still less could the church in this sense. Nor is it well founded to say that this was the work to which Timothy was called when he journeyed with the apostles. In all probability Timothy evangelized when privileged with that companionship; but the gift in itself had no connection with such a journey. On the contrary, Timothy would properly be intent on learning all he could in such circumstances, as it would be his joy to serve in every way personally and ministerially, if one may so say, to give the greater effect to the beloved and honoured chief, as this is implied in Act_16:3; Act_19:22.
That this is no question of working as subordinates and missionaries of the apostles is made still clearer by the case of the only one whose course as an evangelist is traced in the Acts. Philip officially was one "of the seven" (Act_6:5), but as a gift was an evangelist, and he is so designated (Act_21:8). When his office lapsed through the dispersion of all who composed the assembly in Jerusalem, he is seen (Acts 8) in the active exercise of his gift as an "evangelist", and with signal blessing both to a whole city and to an individual. In no case is Philip seen journeying with an apostle, but rather as one of a special and separate class. The apostles, on hearing that Samaria had received the word of God, sent Peter and John who put the seal of the Spirit on Philip's work (Act_8:14-17); for indeed lowly love had wrought, and rivalry was as far from the evangelist as fording it from the apostles. But the characteristic of what is described is the free and sovereign action of the Lord; and as the two apostles did not think it beneath their exalted place to evangelize "many villages" of the Samaritans during their return to Jerusalem, so Philip went on his unfettered way under the Lord's direction, evangelizing "all the cities" till he came to Caesarea. There was no question of a sphere circumscribed by the presence or the absence of an apostle. The world is in principle the evangelist's province: journeying or abiding is a question of his subjection to the Lord.
Lastly, Timothy is told "fully to perform (πληροφόρησον) his ministry" (ver. 5). It seems more than πλήρωσον (Act_12:25; Col_4:17), judging by the emphatic usage of the word where it occurs as verb or noun elsewhere. To translate with Beza, to "give full assurance of thy ministry," may sound more literal but hardly suits the subject before us' which wholly differs from faith, hope, or understanding. For these mean subjective enjoyment, the other would be objective proof; neither of which can rightly apply here, but filling to the full the measure of his service. Evangelizing, however incumbent on him who has the gift, was not the whole of the ministry which Timothy had received in the Lord: to fulfil all of it he is here enjoined.
A weighty and affecting enforcement follows in the approaching departure of the apostle: "For I am already being poured out, and the time of my departure is all but come" (ver. 6). The Authorized Version by no means conveys correctly the form; "now ready to be offered" is in several respects different from "am already being poured out," which exactly reproduces the original. It is not the first time that the apostle employs the same figure of a drink-offering. To his beloved Philippian brethren, he had written a little before, "But if also I am poured out as a drink-offering (libation) on the sacrifice and service of your faith . . ." (Php_2:17). Now he drops all condition, as his release is before his eyes. He speaks as though the libation were already being made. Again, ἐφέστηκεν is hardly the same as ἐνέστηκεν, though the difference be the merest shade, which is sought to be expressed in "is all but come," as compared with "is present," or "come". "Is at hand", as in the Authorized Version, is the true rendering of neither, but of ἐγγύς or ἠγγικεν.
Few even of the apostles could say as Paul does at this solemn moment, "The good combat I have combated, the course I have finished, the faith I have kept" (ver. 7). The imputation of vainglory to the apostle, with death (and such a death!) before his eyes, is unworthy of anyone but a rationalist. It was of the utmost moment, not only for Timothy but for all who might follow, to know what grace can, and does, accomplish amidst the general wreck. Neither 1Co_4:3-4, nor Php_3:12-14, is inconsistent; whereas Php_4:13 affords direct ground for its realization.
How are we to account for such inability in some to conceive the power of grace by faith? Is it not that so many excellent men, through a false system, are still grovelling in the fleshy combats of Rom. 7, and ignorant of that deliverance which Rom. 8 proclaims in virtue of a dead and risen Saviour, that is, of our death with Him and the power of the Spirit of life in Him. Under law they look for failure, and failure is theirs according to their unbelief, however grace may interfere sovereignly spite of the error.
But that battle of which the apostle speaks is the honourable combat which befits the soul set free, who has Christ before him, and has to face in his measure what Christ faced in the days of His flesh. It is the holy struggle for God's glory in a hostile world, end not merely the struggling against self in the despairing strife of Rom. 7. The latter we learn experimentally to teach us what we are even when converted, and also that the law aggravates our distress instead of giving us practical victory. Then we find that victory comes solely from giving ourselves up as good for nothing to find all in Christ dead and risen. Thenceforth begins the proper and good combat of us Christians, now not converted only but delivered, those in whom the Holy Spirit works in power with Christ before our eyes, Whose grace is sufficient for us. Paul had triumphed day by day, and so we also are called to defeat the enemy here below.
Next Paul writes, "the course I have finished." There is the general idea of the games narrowed to the race only; and he looks back on the course as "finished". At an earlier day in writing to the Corinthians, familiar as they were with the Isthmian Games in their neighbourhood, he had applied the theme to the life and service of the saints in general, introducing himself as an example of one running not uncertainly, not beating the air but buffeting, or bruising, his body, and bringing it into bondage instead of surrendering it to relaxation, and indulgence, and luxury (1Co_9:24-27). In Php_3:13-14, we hear him expressing the utmost ardour of devotedness in that race for the prize. The general reference recurs in 2Ti_2:5, in just the same spirit in which it was first urged in 1Co_9:25. Now the apostle applies it to his own case, not for self-applause, as a bad conscience and an envious heart might think, but transferring these things in application to himself for Timothy's sake, and for all who afterwards in faith read these words. Boasting was far indeed from one who had one foot in the grave and all his heart with Christ in heaven.
Finally, he adds, "The faith I have kept." This Christendom has sought to make easy and sure by the regular profession of the three creeds. But alas! all who look below the surface know how pitiable is the failure, when the most heterodox leap over all bounds in the solemn and habitual repetition of every word; while godly, but weak souls, are too often stumbled at that in them which they fail to comprehend; and thus on both sides endless mischief ensues. The faith was really kept when creeds did not exist. The word and the Spirit of God are all-sufficient for him whose eye is on Christ by faith. And then keeping the faith to the end, as Paul did, was a blessed test of fidelity to the Master. How many have turned aside, following their own minds and lusts, without creeds at first and now with them! The creeds are but puny and human barriers and of necessity powerless, the inventions of men when the word and Spirit of God were losing power through unbelief.
The sense of all being closed here below is what gives force to his looking onward to the kingdom, and this prospect now follows most appropriately (ver. 8). For responsibility and service are bound up, not with the Son's coming to take us to the Father's home, but to the Lord's appearing, when fidelity to His name on earth, or the lack of it, will be made manifest.
It will be observed that it is the epiphany of the Lord which is presented in these pastoral Epistles rather than His presence or coming; because it is throughout a question of work done in and for the Lord, with its specific reward "in that day" from His hand. It is not heavenly grace with the blessed issues of Christ's love in heaven before the day shines. Here the necessary principles of righteousness and of order, ecclesiastical or moral, are laid down, and the work on that foundation is insisted on, with its reward to the faithful. Both aspects are true and important, each in its place, and can never be confounded by us without loss. Which of the two is before us in verse 8 is beyond controversy: "Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall award to me in that day; and not only to me but to all those that love (ἠγαπηκόσιν have loved and do love) His appearing." Is not this precious? The promise is sure to the apostle, but he is careful to ensure it to all that love the Lord's appearing, which will put all evil down, judge the indifferent as well as the rebellious, and establish peace and righteousness over the earth, with the display of all the saints in whom He is glorified.
The apostle now turns to his companions in service with varied expression of feeling; and to Timothy first as one specially near to his heart.
"Use diligence to come unto me quickly; for Demas, having loved the present age, forsook me and went unto Thessalonica; Crescens unto Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Take up and bring Mark with thee, for he is useful to me for ministry. But Tychicus I sent unto Ephesus. The cloak which I left behind in Troas with Carpus bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments" (vers. 9-13).
Without doubt, deep solemnity pervaded the apostle's spirit in the thought of his speedy departure and especially of the Lord's appearing; and no wonder: it is the goal of responsibility, the moment when all shall be brought to light and the mind of the Lord pronounced accordingly. Early in the Epistle Paul had expressed his great desire to see Timothy, whom he regarded with especial affection. Now he urges upon him to be zealous in coming quickly to him, and assigns the reason. He was deserted by a fellow-labourer. This affected his heart deeply. He felt, therefore, the greater wish to have Timothy with him. It would be the last opportunity, and as we saw in the first chapter, his mind called to remembrance the past, so here he could not but look onward to the future, as he thought of those who were to continue the work of the Lord here, when he himself was gone.
Not long before, in writing to the Colossians, the apostle conveyed to them the greetings of Luke and Demas, with those of Epaphras and his own (Col. 4: 19-14); and in writing to Philemon, probably about the same time, he conveys the salutation of Demas once more to his dearly-beloved Philemon, distinguishing him with others as his fellow-labourer (vers. 23, 24). Now he has the sorrow to write, as one reason more for Timothy's presence, "For Demas deserted me through love of the present age, and proceeded unto Thessalonica" (ver. 10).
This is sorrowfully explicit. To say that Demas left the apostle to go on an evangelistic tour is to slight the word, blot out the revealed motive, and to confound his case with that of the others who follow. It has been conjectured that the departure of Demas for Thessalonica was due to love for his birth-place. Others have guessed that it was for trading. We are not at liberty thus to speak; and the less because the Holy Ghost stamps the motive as love for the present age. The first was rather the fault of Mark and Barnabas in earlier days; but it had no deep root, and grace had long given self-judgment. The failure of Demas was far more serious, not merely because it was late in the day, but because love of the present age utterly opposes the moral purpose of Him Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age. It is not said that Demas forsook Christ, still less that Christ forsook Demas; but the sin was a grievous one, as is the endeavour to put the stigma of it on evangelizing. This was an insult reserved for folly and bitterness. Preaching the gospel is certainly not everything, but it is the foundation of all, as the evangelist is the gift of Christ. It is mare than probable that the fellow-labourers took their share in gospel work, as we know the apostle Paul always did with the utmost zeal and devotedness; but here it is not expressly said of anyone. To drag it in and connect it with the only one who is named as sinning against the Lord, is a very great affront to Him, unless it were said as an idle jest; but, if so, it is a jest that manifests a heartless feeling against the gospel or its heralds,
Of Crescens, we are only told that he went to Galatia. This is the sole mention of him in scripture. For what purpose he went we are not told, but it can scarcely be doubted that it was in the Lord's service. Tradition, and this the earliest, tells us that he went there to evangelize; but a later one speaks of him as labouring in Gaul. And it is well to note now that two of the earliest uncials (the Sinaitic and the Rescript of Paris) read here Gaul for Galatia, as do several cursive manuscripts, the Ethiopic Version of Rome, and other authorities. So early did ignorance or evil intent tamper with the copies of holy scripture.
Of Titus we are told that he went to Dalmatia. We may gather from this that he had finished his work in Crete, had joined the apostle, and was now gone in another direction. This is the last notice of him which scripture affords. There is not the smallest ground, therefore, for the tradition that he was diocesan of Crete. A singular fatality of error appears to pervade these extra-scriptural notices, which seem to be mere legends of imagination, grafted upon a mast superficial use of scripture. It is altogether an exception to find a single one of the old traditions containing an atom of truth. How deeply then should we feel the blessing of having God's perfect word!
"Only Luke is with me. Mark take up and bring with thyself, for he is to me profitable (useful) for ministry" (ver. 11). It is interesting to observe that the verse brings before us these two inspired writers of Gospels. They were not apostles, but are none the less authoritative. They were doubtless prophets, which gift was in exercise indeed for Matthew and John also, in so writing the prophetic writings, or scriptures, as the apostle designates the Books of the New Testament in Rom_16:26.
The context of this passage is decisive, not to speak of the absence of the article, that the Authorized and the Revised versions are wrong in giving "the scriptures of the prophets." For the apostle is speaking of the "revelation of the mystery which had been kept in silence through times everlasting, but nowis manifested." In Old Testament times the silence was kept; now is the time for its manifestation by New Testament prophets, who, instead of testifying to Israel only, make known that mystery, according to the commandment of the Eternal God, unto all the nations for obedience of faith. It is the gospel in short, and here specifically Paul's gospel in contrast with the law. And it is only confusion to mix this up with what God had promised before by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures at the beginning of the Epistle (Rom_1:1-5), where accordingly there is no allusion to "the mystery", which is fittingly introduced at the close only.
Luke, then, was the only companion of the apostle. He had been his fellow-labourer during much of his ministry; he abides with him before his death. But, not content with this, the apostle desires Timothy to take up Mark on his way and bring him along with himself, for he adds with exceeding grace, "he is to me useful for ministry." We know how greatly grieved Paul had been with Mark's desertion in early days, and how it had led even to a breach with Barnabas (Acts 15: 37-10). But this was long blotted out by the healing goodness of God. And already the apostle had joined Mark with himself as one of the few fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God which had been a comfort to him; as in the same Epistle to the Colossians he alludes to charges they had received to welcome him if he came to them (Col_4:10-11). But now he goes farther and reinstates him in personal nearness of service to himself, the very thing in which he had originally failed. In nature a breakdown is irreparable, not so where grace prevails; for "we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Rom_8:37).
"But Tychicus I sent unto Ephesus." The Revised Version is right, the Authorized Version wrong; for the apostle draws a slight distinction here, which is expressed by "but", rather than by "and". The others had proceeded on their own responsibility. Tychicus was sent by the apostle to Ephesus. Here, again, it is in vain for us to conjecture the special object of his mission. We may assure ourselves that faith in the Lord and love to the saints were the motives. But it is well to take notice of an authority that sent him, to which none can now lay claim.
Here follows (ver. 13) a new command by Paul of exceeding interest in the midst of these interesting notices of his fellow-labourers: "The cloak which (that) I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments."
Some pious men have allowed themselves the narrow and unseemly thought that inspiration is confined only to matters of spiritual truth. This is to lose a great deal of the grace of the gospel, and to shut out from our souls the interest which the Lord takes in what concerns the body as well as the mind. The truth is that the grace of our God occupies itself with everything that relates to us, and our wisdom is to take up nothing in which we cannot look for the favour, guidance, and blessing of the Lord. Such is the wondrous fruit, not only of the incarnation of the Son, but of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. He makes the body the temple of God. If it were not so, the ordinary matters of this life would be left outside and clothed with nothing but a human connection. We wrong the Lord and defraud ourselves of much where we do not bring Him into even the least of the things that perish: "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1Co_10:31).
Hence the cloak that the apostle left with Carpus at Troas is not left for an uninspired note. It forms a direct part of this solemn Epistle, written for all times. God led His servant to direct Timothy to bring it, when he came. Winter was approaching, and the cloak would be needed. It is good for our souls to believe that God takes a personal interest even in so small a matter. Where God is left out, even saints become a prey to personal vanity or worldly fashion.
But Timothy was to bring also the "books", "especially the parchments." The latter were probably not yet written upon: as being valuable material and suited to transmit more permanently, we cannot doubt that the apostle destined "the parchments" for the edification of the saints and the glory of the Lord in an especial manner. "The books" may not have been inspired writings, and the indefinite language here used would rather imply the contrary. But they were not therefore devoid of interest to the apostle, even with death and the appearing of the Lord before his soul.
From fellow-labourers gone or sent away and from the desire to have Timothy with him, the apostle turns to an open adversary and to those who forsook him in his recent hour of need.
"Alexander, the coppersmith, did (lit., showed) many evil things against me: the Lord will render to him according to his works; of whom be thou ware also, for he exceedingly withstood our words. At my first defence no one took my part, but all deserted me: may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, that through me the proclamation might be fully made, and all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of a lion's mouth. The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve for His heavenly kingdom; to Whom [be] the glory unto the ages of the ages. Amen." (vers. 14-18).
We may profitably notice the different form which evil takes in the several adversaries of the apostle. Phygellus and Hermogenes were prominent in personal disaffection (2Ti_1:15). Among those who, in Asia, turned away from Paul, Hymenaeus and Philetus (2Ti_2:17) have a far darker character, for in their case profane folly wrought, and this, advancing to greater impiety. They were teachers, it would appear, but not of God. "Their words", said the apostle, "will spread as a gangrene." The character of their error was the destructive fable that the resurrection has taken place already, which, as it overthrew the faith of some, could not but falsify the walk and testimony of all led astray by it. But even as to these, he does not deal with the same solemnity as John applies in his second Epistle to those who denied the person of Christ; for this demands the strongest reprobation of the Christian heart, as nothing else ought. Of Demas (2Ti_4:10) we have seen enough already. The smith, Alexander, appears rather in the character of an active personal enemy of the apostle; and the more, because he seems to have been once in fellowship, which would give him no small advantage in mischief as in opportunities. The many evil things may not all have come to effect, but he did them and showed what he was in doing them.
Yet one cannot but feel that the critical text, which follows on the highest authority, is a great relief to the spirit: "the Lord will render to him according to his works." That this verb should be turned into the optative, as in the common text, with a few uncials, most cursives, and many of the ecclesiastical writers, et al., one can understand; for man readily falls in with Jewish feeling. On the other hand, that the Lord will render him according to his works is a certain truth which every Christian conscience must feel; while it also is truth in special accordance with these pastoral Epistles which bring into distinctness the Lord's appearing.
Against Alexander, Timothy also was to stand on his guard. It is clear, therefore, that he was an adversary still bent on evil to the saints and on opposition to the work. The gentleness of Timothy's character might expose him to a mistaken kindness, where caution was imperatively required: "for", says the apostle, "he exceedingly withstood our words." More than the apostle had warned or entreated the evil-doer, and it may be Timothy himself among others.
The apostle now turns to his own great and recent trial at Rome, and the experience, bitter in many respects, but not without deep thanksgiving to the only One Who never fails and Who gives us to know that all things work together for good to those who love God - to those that are called according to purpose. "At my first defence no one stood with me, but all deserted me: may it not be laid to their account!" (ver. 16). How keenly painful and humiliating this was to the apostle few can estimate, because so few make the least approach to him either in faith or in love. Not a soul on earth could feel as he felt what such failure was to the Lord Himself; which feeling gave, therefore, immense emphasis to his prayer, "May it not be imputed to them." Psa_105:13-15 makes evident what the Lord felt of old when His chosen ones went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people: "He suffered no man to do them wrong, yea, He reproved kings for their sake, saying, 'Touch not Mine anointed and do My prophets no harm.'" Now, He may let any or all men do them wrong, and for the present may reprove neither kings, nor subjects, nor serfs, when they scorn His anointed, and do His servants all the harm they can. Another day He will render to each according to his works. But what does He feel now? What in any place where His own betray and desert those He honours, and those who, for His sake, served them best in the hour of deepest need? May it not be laid to their charge!
Christ, however, never fails. So the apostle in verse 6 says, "But the Lord stood with me and gave me power." This was more than strengthening him personally - "gave me power that through me the proclamation might be fully made, and all the Gentiles might hear." Thus, to Christ's glory, and in suffering for His sake, did the apostle bear witness of the truth, and the gospel, and the Lord, before the highest authorities that govern the world. There was no fawning on great men, no patronage on the world's part. "And I was delivered out of a lion's mouth." Whether this alludes to the Emperor in particular, or to his representative in a more general way, men say they are not able to determine. The phrase clearly means rescued from most imminent or overwhelming danger.
But the apostle enlarges as he looks onward. "The Lord will deliver me from every evil work" - not necessarily out of a lion's mouth another day, but from all real evil, and "will preserve for His heavenly kingdom." Earth might yield still more of sorrow and of human persecution to the uttermost. For the apostle it was no question of flesh being saved, but of preservation for the Lord's heavenly kingdom, to Whom be the glory unto the ages of the ages. His and our every prayer may well end in a continual Hallelujah.
The apostle now salutes some that were dear to him, whose names are familiar to us throughout the inspired history.
"Salute Prisca and Aquila and the house of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick. Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus saluteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord [Jesus Christ be] with thy spirit. Grace be with you" (vers. 19-22).
"Salute Prisca and Aguila and the house of Onesiphorus." The two former were early associates, who remained faithful to the last. With them he associates the household of Onesiphorus, of whom he made mention at the close of the first chapter of this Epistle. The apostle deeply felt the identification of Onesiphorus with his own circumstances as a prisoner: "He often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain." He was no longer in Rome, though perhaps not then at Ephesus, his usual dwelling place. When he was in Rome, he zealously sought out the apostle and found him. God prospers earnest love for Christ's sake. It was indeed no other love than what the apostle had proved at Ephesus, and nobody knew better than Timothy what service had been rendered there. These dear saints now receive together the last salutation of the apostle, once more the prisoner of Christ.
"Erastus abode in Corinth; and Trophimus I left at Miletus sick."* There was no compulsion in regulating the labours of his fellow-ministers, even by an apostle. They were servants of the Lord, and none would have pressed this more solemnly than Paul, none have shrunk more than he from setting up a directive authority between the Lord and His servants. There were urgent calls elsewhere, no doubt; but Erastus abode at Corinth. It was he probably who was once treasurer of the city. Very different were the circumstances of Trophimus. Him the apostle left at Miletus sick. Miraculous power was never used by the apostle either for the relief of a brother or even for the progress of the work. Here, again, the Lord only was looked to, and His glory was the sole motive either for working miracles or for abstaining. So we find in the former Epistle the apostle prescribing to Timothy that he should be no longer a water-drinker, but use a little wine for his stomach's sake and his often infirmities - just as any Christian friend might do at this present time, but without having the Spirit's inspiration.