v. 1. Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
v. 2. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
v. 3. Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
v. 4. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
v. 5. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive awfully.
v. 6. The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits.
v. 7. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
The discussion is still dominated by the thought of chap. 1:8, that Timothy should not be ashamed of the Gospel, of the testimony of the Lord. For that reason the apostle summarizes all his wishes and hopes for his favorite pupil in the urgent appeal: Thou, then, my son, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. The fatherly feeling and attitude of Paul, as brought out in his kind address, is intended to remind Timothy of the obligations which his spiritual sonship places upon him. He was to become and be, he was to show himself strong, Eph_6:10. This strength, however, for patient endurance, for victorious warfare, he could find and receive only in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. The unmerited grace and mercy of God, which was revealed to us and is given to us in Christ Jesus, is a source, not only of comfort in richest measure, but also of the true strength which enables us to overcome all spiritual enemies and obtain the victory. The grace of God in Christ was to be the sphere, the element in which Timothy was to have his spiritual being; through it he was to keep the apostolic doctrine pure and unadulterated in the Church.
This St. Paul expressly demands: And the things which thou hast heard from me through many witnesses, these transmit to faithful men, such as will be able to teach others also. This gives us an idea of the manner in which the apostle taught the candidates for admission into the Christian Church. He expounded the doctrine to them by word of mouth, and accompanied this teaching with a continual reference to the Old Testament, the many proof-passages being his infallible witnesses. Thus Timothy had a certain foundation under his feet concerning the doctrine which he had heard from Paul. He could assent to this doctrine cheerfully and confidently, knowing that God Himself had substantiated its truths. But for this reason he could also pass on the doctrine which he had received without the slightest hesitation: he could, in turn, instruct faithful, trustworthy men, preparing them for the work of the ministry. Such men as have a most thorough understanding, a perfect knowledge of the doctrines as taught by Paul, and are, moreover, faithful and trustworthy, may be chosen as ministers of the Church. Incidentally, the words of the apostle imply a certain amount of natural or acquired aptitude to teach. The possession of a certain amount of knowledge alone is not sufficient in a teacher, but it is absolutely necessary for him to be able to impart the Christian doctrine to others in the form of proper teaching. To this end the Holy Spirit Himself must be the instructor of all the teachers in the Church; for their sufficiency in office is of God, 2Co_2:16-17; 2Co_3:4-6.
It was to be expected, of course, that Timothy, in the fulfillment of this work, would not always find smooth sailing. Anticipating this, the apostle writes: Join me in bearing suffering, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. It is the lot of the messengers of Christ to endure various sufferings for the sake of the Gospel. As the work of a soldier in this world is connected with many difficulties and hardships, even so it holds true also, in a far greater measure, that a soldier of Jesus is beset with many difficulties and hardships, since the enemies with whom he is obliged to battle are skillful, powerful, and dangerous in a much greater degree than any earthly foes, Eph_6:12. In addition to that, immeasurably more important matters, the soul's salvation and eternal life, are here concerned. It is only by patient suffering, by cheerful endurance, that a servant of Christ will perform his work properly. There is at least a measure of comfort, at the same time, in the fact that other soldiers of the Master are subject to the same hardships.
The apostle now illustrates his admonition by referring to three examples, by every one of which he wishes to emphasize some specific phase in the work of a minister. The first picture develops the comparison with the life of a soldier: No member of the army becomes entangled in the business pursuits of life, in order that he may please him that hired him. The apostle speaks of a person belonging to an army, not of a soldier on duty. As soon as a man joins the army, and even before he has seen active service, he leaves all matters of business behind him, he is no longer concerned about his food and clothing, that being supplied by the quartermaster's department. The recruit is supposed to strain his every effort in the direction of serving in the army to the best of his ability, to give the best account of himself. Thus the service of a Christian minister demands full concentration of all bodily, mental, and spiritual powers; his one aim is to please the great Master in whose service he is laboring. There is included here an indirect admonition to the congregations to take such care of their pastors as to prevent their being forced to worry about the necessaries of life for themselves and their family. If this is done in the proper manner, the cares and worries of daily life will be taken from the shoulders of the pastor, and he mill thus have all the more leisure and energy to devote to the proper execution of the work of his office.
The second picture which the apostle uses is taken from the athletic games of the Greeks: But even if a man competes in the games, he is not crowned unless he complies with the rules. In the national athletic games of the Greeks the prize had little material value, consisting merely of a wreath: but the honor connected with the gaining of the prize was such as to cause the victor to become the subject of countless hymns throughout the Greek world. But the much-coveted prize was given only on one condition, namely, that the competitor in the games had complied with all the rules, both as to training and as to behavior during the games. In the same way every servant of the Word is bound by the rules which the Lord has laid down in His Word. All other considerations, from the standpoint of man, no matter with what intention they are brought forward, must be set aside. The pastor is to devote himself to his work with a cheerful intensity that seeks the welfare of the souls entrusted to him.
The third picture of the apostle is taken from the work of a field-laborer or a farmer: The farmer that has labored hard should be the first partaker of the fruits. Everyone that earns his living from the soil, that labors in the field in the sweat of his face, should at the same time have the comforting assurance that he may be the first to enjoy the results of his toil. This idea is applied to the work of the Christian pastor. The men engaged in this work are not only obliged to toil unceasingly, but they also must receive the fruits of their labors as they present themselves. Whether their preaching be a savor of life unto life or a savor of death unto death, they must be faithful. Whether their fruit consists more of joy or more of suffering and misery makes no difference. The final blessed change to glory everlasting will not take place until the last day.
The apostle realizes that the application of the three parables is not easy, and therefore adds: Mark what I say; for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. Timothy was to apply the lessons of the pictures following the admonition to his own case. He was to solve his specific problems in accordance with these reminders of the apostle. Since this understanding, however, is not a matter of mere mental ability, but of the Lord's enlightenment, therefore the apostle says that this will come to him by the gift of the Lord. If there is any Christian that should feel the necessity of praying for strength and light, for understanding and knowledge from above, it is a servant of the Word. And in the measure in which he asks the blessing of God success will attend his work.