John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 1:5 - 1:5

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 1:5 - 1:5


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Those unprincipled men with whom Timothy had to deal, boasted of having the law on their side, in consequence of which Paul anticipates, and shews that the law gives them no support but was even opposed to them, and that it agreed perfectly with the gospel which he had taught. The defense set up by them was not unlike that which is pleaded by those who, in the present day, subject the word of God to torture. They tell us that we aim at nothing else than to destroy sacred theology, as if they alone nourished it in their bosom. They spoke of the law in such a manner as to exhibit Paul in an odious light. And what is his reply? In order to scatter those clouds of smoke, (10) he comes frankly forward, by way of anticipation, and proves that his doctrine is in perfect harmony with the law, and that the law is utterly abused by those who employ it for any other purpose. In like manner, when we now define what is meant by true theology, it is clearly evident that we desire the restoration of that which had been wretchedly torn and disfigured by those triflers who, puffed up by the empty title of theologians, are acquainted with nothing but vapid and unmeaning trifles. Commandment is here put for the law, by taking a part for the whole.

Love out of a pure heart If the law must be directed to this object, that we may be instructed in love, which proceeds from faith and a good conscience, it follows, on the other hand, that they who turn the teaching of it into curious questions are wicked expounders of the law. Besides, it is of no great importance whither the word love be regarded in this passage as relating, to both tables of the law, or only to the second table. We are commanded to love God with our whole heart, and our neighbors as ourselves; but when love is spoken of in Scripture, it is more frequently limited to the second part. On the present occasion I should not hesitate to understand by it the love both of God and of our neighbor, if Paul had employed the word love alone; but when he adds, “ and a good conscience, and a pure heart,” the interpretation which I am now to give will not be at variance with his intention, and will agree well with the scope of the passage. The sum of the law is this, that we may worship God with true faith and a pure conscience, and that we may love one another. Whosoever turns aside from this corrupts the law of God by twisting it to a different purpose.

But here arises a doubt, that Paul appears to prefer “” to “” I reply, they who are of that opinion reason in an excessively childish manner; for, if love is first mentioned, it does not therefore hold the first rank of honor, since Paul shows also that it springs from faith. Now the cause undoubtedly goes before its effect. And if we carefully weigh the whole context, what Paul says is of the same import as if he had said, “ law was given to us for this purpose, that it might instruct us in faith, which is the mother of a good conscience and of love.” Thus we must begin with faith, and not with love.

“ pure heart” and “ good conscience” do not greatly differ from each other. Both proceed from faith; for, as to a pure heart, it is said that “ purifieth hearts by faith.” (Act_15:9.) As to a good conscience, Peter declares that it is founded on the resurrection of Christ. (1Pe_3:21.) From this passage we also learn that there is no true love where there is not fear of God and uprightness of conscience.

Nor is it unworthy of observation that to each of them he adds an epithet; (11) for, as nothing is more common, so nothing is more easy, than to boast of faith and a good conscience. But how few are there who prove by their actions that they are free from all hypocrisy! Especially it is proper to observe the epithet Which he bestows on “” when he calls it faith unfeigned; by which he means that the profession of it is insincere, when we do not perceive a good conscience, and when love is not manifested. Now since the salvation of men rests on faith, and since the perfect worship of God rests on faith and a good conscience and love, we need not wonder if Paul makes the sum of the law to consist of them.



(10) “Pour demesler tout ce qu’ entassoyent pour esblouir les yeux des simples.” — “ order to sweep away all that they heaped up for the purpose of blinding the eyes of plain people.”

(11) “Il donne a chacune vertu son epithet.” — “ gives to each virtue its epithet.”