12Fight the good fight of faith In the next epistle he says,
“ who hath become a soldier doth not entangle himself with matters inconsistent with his calling.” (2Ti_2:4.)
In like manner, in order to withdraw Timothy from excessive solicitude about earthly things, he reminds him that he must “” for carelessness and self-indulgence arise from this cause, that the greater part wish to serve Christ at ease, and as if it were pastime, whereas Christ calls all his servants to warfare.
For the purpose of encouraging him to fight such a fight courageously, he calls it good; that is, successful, and therefore not to be shunned; for, if earthly soldiers do not hesitate to fight, when the result is doubtful, and when there is a risk of being killed, (126) how much more bravely ought we to do battle under the guidance and banner of Christ, when we are certain of victory? More especially, since a reward awaits us, not such as other generals are wont to give to their soldiers, but a glorious immortality and heavenly blessedness; it would certainly be disgraceful that we, who have such a hope held out to us, should grow weary or give way. And that is what he immediately afterwards adds, —
Lay hold on eternal life As if he had said, “ calls thee to eternal life, and therefore, despising the world, strive to obtain it.” When he commands them to “ hold on it,” he forbids them to pause or slacken in the middle of their course; as if he had said, that “ has been done, (127) till we have obtained the life to come, to which God invites us.” In like manner, he affirms that he strives to make progress, because he has not yet laid hold. (Phi_3:12.)
To which also thou, hast been called Because men would run at random, and to no purpose, if they had not God as the director of their course, for the purpose of promoting their cheerful activity, he mentions also the calling; for there is nothing that ought to animate us with greater courage than to learn that we have been “” by God; for we conclude from this, that our labor, which God directs, and in which he stretches out his hand to us, will not be fruitless. Besides, to have rejected the calling of God would be a disgraceful reproach; and, therefore, this ought to be a very powerful excitement: “ calls thee to eternal life; beware of being drawn aside to anything else, or of falling short in any way, before thou hast attained it.”
And hast confessed a good confession By mentioning his former life, the Apostle excites him still more to persevere; for to give way, after having begun well, is more disgraceful than never to have begun. To Timothy, who had hitherto acted valiantly, and had obtained applause, he addresses this powerful argument, that the latter end should correspond to the beginning. By the word confession I understand not that which is expressed in words, but rather what is actually performed; and that not in a single instance merely, but throughout his whole ministry. The meaning therefore is: “ hast many witnesses of thy illustrious confession, both at Ephesus and in other countries, who have beheld thee acting faithfully and sincerely in the profession of the gospel; and, therefore, having given such a proof of fidelity, thou canst not, without the greatest shame and disgrace, shew thyself to be anything else than a distinguished soldier of Christ.” By this passage we are taught in general, that the more any of us excels, the less excusable is he if he fail, and the stronger are his obligations to God to persevere in the right course.
(126) “ see princes whose ambition leads them to risk all that they have, and to place themselves in danger of being stripped of all their power. We see soldiers, who, instead of earning wages by laboring in vineyards or in the fields, go and expose their life at a venture. And what leads them to this? A doubtful hope, nothing certain. And though they have gained, and have obtained a victory over their enemies, what advantage do they reap from it? But when God calls us to fight, and wishes us to be soldiers under his banner, it is on no such condition, but we are made certain that the war will be good and successful. And thus Paul intended to comfort believers while he exhorted them, as God also condescends to us by shewing to us what is our duty, and, at the same time, declaring that, when we shall do what he commands us, all will turn to our profit and salvation.” — Fr. Ser.
(127) “Nihil actuam esse.” The expression reminds us of the beautiful encomium pronounced by the poet Lucan on the unwearied activity of Julius Caesar, that he “ nothing done, while aught remained to do.”
“Nil aetum reputans, dum quid superesset agendum.”