The Pastoral Epistles (Volume XXII)
But watch thou in
all things. He proceeds with
the former exhortation, to the effect that the more grievous the diseases
are, the more earnestly Timothy may labor to cure them; and that the nearer
dangers are at hand, the more diligently he may keep watch. And because the
ministers of Christ, when they faithfully discharge their office, are
immediately called to engage in combats, he at the same time reminds Timothy
to be firm and immovable in enduring adversity.
Do the work of an Evangelist.
That is, "Do that which belongs to an
evangelist." Whether he denotes generally by this term any ministers of the
gospel, or whether this was a special office, is doubtful; but I am more
inclined to the second opinion, because from
Ephesians 4:11 it is clearly evident that this was an
intermediate class between apostles and pastors, so that the evangelists
ranked as assistants next to the apostles. It is also more probable that
Timothy, whom Paul had associated with himself as his closest companion in
all things, surpassed ordinary pastors in rank and dignity of office, than
that he was only one of their number. Besides, to mention an honorable title
of office tends not only to encourage him, but to recommend his authority to
others; and Paul had in view both of these objects.
Render thy ministry approved.
If we read this clause as in the old
translation, "Fulfill thy ministry," the meaning will be: "Thou canst not
fully discharge the office intrusted to thee but by doing those things which
I have enjoined. Wherefore see that you fail not in the middle of the
course." But because
means "to render certain" or "to prove," I prefer the following meaning,
which is also most agreeable to the context, -- that Timothy, by watching,
and by patiently enduring afflictions, and by constant teaching, will
succeed in having the truth of his ministry established, because from such
marks all will acknowledge him to be a good and faithful minister of Christ.
For I am now offered
as a sacrifice.
He assigns the reason for the solemn protestation which he
employed. As if he had said, "So long as I lived, I stretched out my hand to
thee; my constant exhortations were not withheld from thee; thou hast been
much aided by my advices, and much confirmed by my example; the time is now
come, that thou shouldst be shine own teacher and exhorter, and shouldst
begin to swim without support: beware lest any change in thee be observed at
And the time of my dissolution is at hand.
We must attend to the modes of expression by which he denotes his death. By
the word dissolution
he means that we do not altogether perish when we die;
because it is only a separation of the soul from the body. Hence we infer,
that death is nothing else than a departure of the soul from the body -- a
definition which contains a testimony of the immortality of the soul.
was a term peculiarly applicable to the death of Paul, which was inflicted
on him for maintaining the truth of Christ; for, although all believers,
both by their obedient life and by their death, are victims or offerings
acceptable to God, yet martyrs are sacrificed in a more excellent manner, by
shedding their blood for the name of Christ. Besides, the word spe>ndesqai
which Paul here employs, does not denote every kind of sacrifice, but that
which serves for ratifying covenants. Accordingly, in this passage, he means
the same thing which he states more clearly when he says,
"But if I am offered on the sacrifice
of your faith, I rejoice." (Philippians
For there he means that the
faith of the Philippians was ratified by his death, in precisely the same
manner that covenants were ratified in ancient times by sacrifices of slain
beasts; not that the certainty of our faith is founded, strictly speaking,
on the steadfastness of the martyrs, but because it tends greatly to confirm
us. Paul has here adorned his death by a magnificent commendation, when he
called it the ratification of his doctrine, that believers, instead of
sinking into despondency -- as frequently happens -- might be more
encouraged by it to persevere.
The time of dissolution.
This mode of expression is also worthy of notice,
because he beautifully lessens the excessive dread of death by pointing out
its effect and its nature. How comes it that men are so greatly dismayed at
any mention of death, but because they think that they perish utterly When
they die? On the contrary, Paul, by calling it "Dissolution," affirms that
man does not perish, but teaches that the soul is merely separated from the
body. It is with the same object that he fearlessly declares that "the time
is at hand," which he could not have done unless he had despised death; for
although this is a natural feeling, which can never be entirely taken away,
that man dreads and shrinks from death, yet that terror must be vanquished
by faith, that it may not prevent us from departing form this world in an
obedient manner, whenever God shall call us.
I have fought the good fight.
Because it is customary to form a judgment from the
event, Paul's fight might have been condemned on the ground that it did not
end happily. He therefore boasts that it is excellent, whatever may be the
light in which it is regarded by the world. This declaration is a testimony
of eminent faith; for not only was Paul accounted wretched in the opinion of
all, but his death also was to be ignominious. Who then would not have said
that he fought without success? But he does not rely on the corrupt
judgments of men. On the contrary, by magnanimous courage he rises above
every calamity, so that nothing opposes his happiness and glory; and
therefore he declares "the fight which he fought" to be good and honorable.
I have finished my course.
He even congratulates himself on his death,
because it may be regarded as the goal or termination of his course. We know
that they who run a race have gained their wish when they have reached the
goal. In this manner also he affirms that to Christ's combatants death is
desirable, because it puts an end to their labors; and, on the other hand,
he likewise declares that we ought never to rest in this life, because it is
of no advantage to have run well and constantly from the beginning to the
middle of the course, if we do not reach the goal.
I have kept the faith.
This may have a twofold meaning, either that to the last he was a faithful
soldier to his captain, or that he continued in the right doctrine. Both
meanings will be highly appropriate; and indeed he could not make his
fidelity acceptable to the Lord in any other way then by constantly
professing, the pure doctrine of the gospel. Yet I have no doubt that he
alludes to the solemn oath taken by soldiers; as if he had said that he was
a good and faithful soldier to his captain.
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.
Having boasted of having fought his fight and finished his course, and
kept the faith, he now affirms that he has not labored in vain. Now it is
possible to put forth strenuous exertion, and yet to be defrauded of the
reward which is due. But Paul says that his reward is sure. This certainty
arises from turning his eyes to the day of the resurrection, and this is
what we also ought to do; for all around we see nothing but death, and
therefore we ought not to keep our eye fixed on the outward appearance of
the world, but, on the contrary, to hold out to our minds the coming of
Christ. The consequences will be, that nothing can detract from our
Which the Lord the righteous Judge will render to me.
Because he mentions "the crown of righteousness"
and "the righteous Judge," and employs the word "render," the Papists
endeavor, by means of this passage, to build up the merits of works in
opposition to the grace of God. But their reasoning is absurd. Justification
by free grace, which is bestowed on us through faith, is not at variance
within the rewarding of works, but, on the contrary, those two statements
perfectly agree, that a man is justified freely through the grace of Christ,
and yet that God will render to him the reward of works; for as soon as God
has received us into favor, he likewise accepts our works, so as even to
deign to give them a reward, though it is not due to them.
Here two blunders are committed
by the Papists; first, in arguing that we deserve something from God,
because we do well by virtue of our freewill; and secondly, in holding that
God is bound to us, as if our salvation proceeded from anything else than
from his grace. But it does not follow that God owes anything to us, because
he renders righteously what he renders; for he is righteous even in those
acts of kindness which are of free grace. And he "renders the reward" which
he has promised, not because we take the lead by any act of obedience, but
because, in the same course of liberality in which he has begun to act
toward us, he follows up his former gifts by those which are afterwards
bestowed. In vain, therefore, and to no purpose, do the Papists labor to
prove from this, that good works proceed from the power of freewill; because
there is no absurdity in saying that God crowns in us his own gifts. Not
less absurdly and foolishly do they endeavor, by means of this passage, to
destroy the righteousness of faith; since the goodness of God -- by which he
graciously embraces a man, not imputing to him his sins -- is not
inconsistent with that rewarding of works which he will render by the same
kindness with which he made the promise.
And not to me only.
That all the rest of the believers might fight
courageously along with him, he invites them to a participation of the
crown; for his unshaken steadfastness could not have served for an example
to us, if the same hope of
obtaining the crown had not been held out to us.
To all who love his coming.
This is a singular mark which he employs in describing believers. And,
indeed, wherever faith is strong, it will not permit their minds to fall
asleep in this world, but will elevate them to the hope of the last
resurrection. His meaning therefore is, that all who are so much devoted to
the world, and who love so much this fleeting life, as not to care about the
coming of Christ, and not to be moved by any desire of it, deprive
themselves of immortal glory. Woe to our stupidity, therefore, which
exercises such power over us, that we never think seriously about the coming
of Christ, to which we ought to give our whole attention. Besides, he
excludes from the number of believers those in whom the coming of Christ
produces terror and alarm; for it cannot be loved unless it be regarded as
pleasant and delightful.
Make haste, to come
to me quickly. As he knew
that the time of his death was at hand, there were many subjects -- I doubt
not -- on which he wished to have a personal interview with Timothy for the
good of the Church; and therefore he does not hesitate to desire him to come
from a country beyond the sea. Undoubtedly there must have been no trivial
reason why he called him away from a church over which he presided, and at
so great a distance. Hence we may infer how highly important are conferences
between such persons; for what Timothy had learned in a short space of time
would be profitable, for a long period, to all the churches; so that the
loss of half a year, or even of a whole year, was trivial compared with the
compensation gained. And yet it appears from what follows, that Paul called
Timothy with a view to his own individual benefit likewise; although his own
personal matters were not preferred by him to the advantage of the Church,
but it was because it involved the cause of the gospel, which was common to
all believers; for as he defended it from a prison, so he needed the labors
of others to aid in that defense.
It was truly base in such a man to prefer the love of this
world to Christ. And yet we must not suppose that he altogether denied
Christ or gave himself up either to ungodliness or to the allurements of the
world; but he merely preferred his private convenience, or his safety, to
the life of Paul. He could not have assisted Paul without many troubles and
vexations, attended by imminent risk of his life; he was exposed to many
reproaches, and must have submitted to many insults, and been constrained to
leave off the care of his own affairs; and, therefore being overcome by his
dislike of the cross, he resolved to consult his own interests. Nor can it
be doubted, that he enjoyed a propitious gale from the world. That he was
one of the leading men may be conjectured on this ground, that Paul mentions
him amidst a very few at (Colossians
4:14,) and likewise in the Epistle to Philemon, (Philemon
1:24,) where also he is ranked among Paul's
assistants; and, therefore, we need not wonder if he censures him so sharply
on this occasion, for having cared more about himself than about Christ.
he afterwards mentions, had not gone away from him but for good reasons, and
with his own consent. Hence it is evident that he did not study his own
advantage, so as to deprive churches of their pastors, but only to obtain
from them some relief. Undoubtedly he was always careful to invite to come
to him, or to keep along with him, those whose absence would not be
injurious to other churches. For this reason he had sent
Titus to Dalmatia,
and some to one place and some to another, when he invited Timothy to come
to him. Not only so, but in order that the church at Ephesus may not be left
destitute or forlorn during Timothy's absence, he sends Tychicus
thither, and mentions this circumstance to Timothy,
that he may know that that church will not be in want of one to fill his
place during his absence.
Bring the cloak which I left at Troas.
to the meaning of the word felo>nh,
commentators are not agreed; for some think that it is a chest or box for
containing books, and others that it is a garment used by travelers, and
fitted for defending against cold and rain. Whether the one interpretation
or the other be adopted, how comes it that Paul should give orders to have
either a garment or a chest brought to him from a place so distant, as if
there were not workmen, or as if there were not abundance both of cloth and
timber? If it be said, that it was a chest filled with books, or
manuscripts, or epistles, the difficulty will be solved; for such materials
could not have been procured at any price. But, because many will not admit
the conjecture, I willingly translate it by the word
cloak. Nor is there any absurdity
in saying that Paul desired to have it brought from so great a distance,
because that garment, through long use, would be more comfortable for him,
and he wished to avoid expense. 7
Yet (to own
the truth) I give the preference to the former interpretation; more
especially because Paul immediately afterwards mentions
books and parchments.
It is evident from this, that the Apostle had not given over reading, though
he was already preparing for death. Where are those who think that they have
made so great progress that they do not need any more exercise? Which of
them will dare to compare himself with Paul? Still more does this expression
refute the madness of those men who -- despising books, and condemning all
reading -- boast of nothing but their own
But let us know that this passage gives to all believers
9 a recommendation of
constant reading, that they may profit by it.
Here some one will ask, "What
does Paul mean by asking for a robe or cloak, if he perceived that his death
was at hand?" This difficulty also induces me to interpret the word as
denoting a chest, though there might have been some use of the "cloak" which
is unknown in the present day; and therefore I give myself little trouble
about these matters.