John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 4:16 - 4:16

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 4:16 - 4:16


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16Give heed to thyself, and to the doctrine There are two things of which a good pastor should be careful; to be diligent in teaching, and to keep himself pure. (83) It is not enough if he frame his life to all that is good and commendable, and guard against giving a bad example, if he do not likewise add to a holy life continual diligence in teaching; and, on the other hand, doctrine will be of little avail, if there be not a corresponding goodness and holiness of life. With good reason, therefore, does Paul urge Timothy to “ heed,” both to himself personally, and to doctrine, for the general advantage of the Church. On the other hand, he commends his constancy, that he may never grow weary; for there are many things that frequently happen, which may lead us aside from the right course, if we do not set our foot firmly to resist.

If thou shalt do these things, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee It is no ordinary spur to excite the thoughtfulness of pastors, when they learn that their own salvation, as well as that of the people, depends on the industry and perseverance with which they devote themselves to their office. And as doctrine, which solidly edifies, is commonly attended by little display, Paul says that he ought to consider what is profitable. As if he had said, “ men who are desirous of glory be fed by their ambition, let them applaud themselves for their ingenuity; to you, let it be enough to devote yourself to your own salvation and that of the people.”

Now, this exhortation applies to the whole body of the Church, that they, may not take offense at the simplicity which both quickens souls and preserves them in health. Nor ought they to think it strange that Paul ascribes to Timothy the work of saving the Church; for, certainly, all that is gained to God is saved, and it is by the preaching of the gospel that we are gathered to Christ. And as the unfaithfulness or carelessness of the pastor is ruinous to the Church, so the cause of salvation is justly ascribed to his faithfulness and diligence. True, it is God alone that saves; and not even the smallest portion of his glory can lawfully be bestowed on men. But God parts with no portion of his glory when he employs the agency of men for bestowing salvation.

Our salvation is, therefore, the gift of God alone, because from him alone it proceeds, and by his power alone it is performed; and therefore, to him alone, as the author, it must be ascribed. But the ministry of men is not on that account excluded, nor does all this interfere with the salutary tendency of that government on which, as Paul shews, the prosperity of the Church depends. (Eph_4:11.) Moreover, this is altogether the work of God, because it is he who forms good pastors, and guides them by his Spirit, and blesses their labor, that it may not be ineffectual.

If thus a good pastor is the salvation of his hearers, let bad and careless men know that their destruction must be ascribed to those who have the charge of them; for, as the salvation of the flock is the crown of the pastor, so from careless pastors all that perishes will be required. Again, a pastor is said to save himself, when, by faithfully discharging the office committed to him, he serves his calling; not only because he avoids that terrible vengeance which the Lord threatens by Ezekiel, — “ blood will I require at thy hand,” (Eze_33:8,) but because it is customary to speak of believers as performing their salvation when they walk and persevere (84) in the course of their salvation. Of this mode of expression we have spoken in our exposition of the Epistle to the Philippians, (Phi_2:12.)

(83) “Et de se garder pur de tous vices.” — “ to keep himself pure from all vices.”

(84) “Quand is cheminent et perseverent.”