THE EPISTLES TO TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND PHILEMON

2nd TIMOTHY CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 4

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
1 Obtestor igitur ego coram Deo et Domino Iesu Christo, qui judicaturus est vivos et mortuos in apparitione sua et in regno suo:

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.
2 Prædica sermonem, insta tempestivè, intempestivè; argue, increpa, hortare cum omni lenitate et doctrina.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
3 Nam erit tempus, quum sanam doctrinam non sustinebunt; sed juxta concupiscentias suas coacervabunt sibi doctores, ut qui prurient auribus,

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
4 Et a veritate quidem aures avertent, ad fabulas autem convertentur.

1. I charge thee, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is proper to observe carefully the word therefore, by means of which he appropriately connects Scripture with preaching. This also refutes certain fanatics, who haughtily boast that they no longer need the aid of teachers, because the reading of Scripture is abundantly sufficient. But Paul, after having spoken of the usefulness of Scripture, infers not only that all ought to read it, but that teachers ought to administer it, which is the duty enjoined on them. Accordingly, as all our wisdom is contained in the Scriptures, and neither ought we to learn, nor teachers to draw their instructions, from any other source; so he who, neglecting the assistance of the living voice, shall satisfy himself with the silent Scripture, will find how grievous an evil it is to disregard that way of learning which has been enjoined by God and Christ. Let us remember, I say, that the reading of Scripture is recommended to us in such a manner as not to hinder, in the smallest degree, the ministry of pastors; and, therefore, let believers endeavour to profit both in reading and in hearing; for not in vain hath God ordained both of them.

Here, as in a very weighty matter, Paul adds a solemn charge, exhibiting to Timothy God as the avenger, and Christ as the judge, if he shall cease to discharge his office of teaching. And, indeed, in like manner as God showed by an inestimable pledge, when he spared not his only-begotten Son, how great is the care which he has for the Church, so he will not suffer to remain unpunished the negligence of pastors, through whom souls, which he hath redeemed at so costly a price, perish or are exposed as a prey.

Who shall judge the living and the dead.

More especially the Apostle fixes attention on the judgment of Christ; because, as we are his representatives, so he will demand a more strict account of evil administration. By “the living and the dead” are meant those whom he shall find still alive at his coming, and likewise those who shall have died. There will therefore be none that escape his judgment.

The appearance of Christ and his kingdom mean the same thing; for although he now reigns in heaven and earth, yet hitherto his reign is not clearly manifested, but, on the contrary, is obscurely hidden under the cross, and is violently assailed by enemies. His kingdom will therefore be established at that time when, having vanquished his enemies, and either removed or reduced to nothing every opposing power, he shall display his majesty.

2. Be instant in season, out of season.

By these words he recommends not only constancy, but likewise earnestness, so as to overcome all hindrances and difficulties; for, being, by nature, exceedingly effeminate or slothful, we easily yield to the slightest opposition, and sometimes we gladly seek apologies for our slothfulness. Let us now consider how many arts Satan employs to stop our course, and how slow to follow, and how soon wearied are those who are called. Consequently the gospel will not long maintain its place, if pastors do not urge it earnestly.

Moreover, this earnestness must relate both to the pastor and to the people; to the pastor, that he may not devote himself to the office of teaching merely at his own times and according to his own convenience, but that, shrinking neither from toils nor from annoyances, he may exercise his faculties to the utmost. So far as regards the people, there is constancy and earnestness, when they arouse those who are asleep, when they lay their hands on those who are hurrying in a wrong direction, and when they correct the trivial occupations of the world. To explain more fully in what respects the pastor must “be instant,” the Apostle adds—

Reprove, rebuke, exhort.

By these words he means, that we have need of many excitements to urge us to advance in the right course; for if we were as teachable as we ought to be, a minister of Christ would draw us along by the slightest expression of his will. But now, not even moderate exhortations, to say nothing of sound advices, are sufficient for shaking off our sluggishness, if there be not increased vehemence of reproofs and threatenings.

With all gentleness and doctrine.

A very necessary exception; for reproofs either fall through their own violence, or vanish into smoke, if they do not rest on doctrine. Both exhortations and reproofs are merely aids to doctrine, and, therefore, have little weight without it. We see instances of this in those who have merely a large measure of zeal and bitterness, and are not furnished with solid doctrine. Such men toil very hard, utter loud cries, make a great noise, and all to no purpose, because they build without a foundation. I speak of men who, in other respects, are good, but with little learning, and excessive warmth; for they who employ all the energy that they possess in battling against sound doctrine, are far more dangerous, and do not deserve to be mentioned here at all.

In short, Paul means that reproofs are founded on doctrine, in order that they may not be justly despised as frivolous. Secondly, he means that keenness is moderated by gentleness; for nothing is more difficult than to set a limit to our zeal, when we have once become warm. Now when we are carried away by impatience, our exertions are altogether fruitless. Our harshness not only exposes us to ridicule, but also irritates the minds of the people. Besides, keen and violent men are generally unable to endure the obstinacy of those with whom they are brought into intercourse, and cannot submit to many annoyances and insults, which nevertheless must be digested, if we are desirous to be useful. Let severity be therefore mingled with this seasoning of gentleness, that it may be known to proceed from a peaceful heart.

3. For there will be a time.

From the very depravity of men he shews how careful pastors ought to be; for soon shall the gospel be extinguished, and perish from the remembrance of men, if godly teachers do not labour with all their might to defend it. But he means that we must avail ourselves of the opportunity, while there is any reverence for Christ; as if one should say that, when a storm is at hand, we must not labour remissly, but must hasten with all diligence, because there will not afterwards be an equally fit season.

When they will not endure sound doctrine.

This means that they will not only dislike and despise, but will even hate, sound doctrine; and he calls it “sound (or healthful) doctrine,” with reference to the effect produced, because it actually instructs to godliness. In the next verse he pronounces the same doctrine to be truth, and contrasts it with fables, that is, useless imaginations, by which the simplicity of the gospel is corrupted.

First, let us learn from it, that the more extraordinary the eagerness of wicked men to despise the doctrine of Christ, the more zealous should godly ministers be to defend it, and the more strenuous should be their efforts to preserve it entire; and not only so, but also by their diligence to ward off the attacks of Satan. And if ever this ought to have been done, the great ingratitude of men has now rendered it more than necessary; for they who at first receive the gospel warmly, and make a show of some kind of uncommon zeal, afterwards contract dislike, which is by and by followed by loathing; others, from the very outset, either reject it furiously, or, contemptuously lending an ear, treat it with mockery; while others, not suffering the yoke to be laid on their neck, kick at it, and, through hatred of holy discipline, are altogether estranged from Christ, and, what is worse, from being friends become open enemies. So far from this being a good reason why we should be discouraged and give way, we ought to fight against such monstrous ingratitude, and even to strive with greater earnestness than if all were gladly embracing Christ offered to them.

Secondly, having been told that men will thus despise and even reject the word of God, we ought not to stand amazed as if it were a new spectacle, when we see actually accomplished that which the Holy Spirit tells us will happen. And indeed, being by nature prone to vanity, it is no new or uncommon thing, if we lend an ear more willingly to fables than to truth.

Lastly, the doctrine of the gospel, being plain and mean in its aspect, is unsatisfactory partly to our pride, and partly to our curiosity. And how few are there who are endued with spiritual taste, so as to relish newness of life and all that relates to it! Yet Paul foretells some greater impiety of one particular age, against which he bids Timothy be early on his guard.

Shall heap up to themselves teachers.

It is proper to observe the expression, heap up, by which he means that the madness of men will be so great, that they will not be satisfied with a few deceivers, but will desire to have a vast multitude; for, as there is an unsatiable longing for those things which are unprofitable and destructive, so the world seeks, on all sides and without end, all the methods that it can contrive and imagine for destroying itself; and the devil has always at hand a sufficiently large number of such teachers as the world desires to have. There has always been a plentiful harvest of wicked men, as there is in the present day; and therefore Satan never has any lack of ministers to deceive men, as he never has any lack of the means of deceiving.

Indeed, this monstrous depravity, which almost constantly prevails among men, deserves that God, and his healthful doctrine, should be either rejected or despised by them, and that they should more gladly embrace falsehood. Accordingly, that false teachers frequently abound, and that they sometimes multiply like a nest of hornets, should be ascribed by us to the righteous vengeance of God. We deserve to be covered and choked by that kind of filth, seeing that the truth of God finds no place in us, or, if it has found entrance, is immediately driven from its possession; and since we are so much addicted to fabulous notions, that we never think that we have too great a multitude of deceivers. Thus what an abomination of Monks is there in Popery! If one godly pastor were to be supported, instead of ten Monks and as many priests, we should presently hear nothing else than complaints about the great expense.

The disposition of the world is therefore such that, by “heaping up” with insatiable desire innumerable deceivers, it desires to banish all that belongs to God. Nor is there any other cause of so many errors than that men, of their own accord, choose to be deceived rather than to be properly instructed. And that is the reason why Paul adds the expression, itching ears. When he wishes to assign a cause for so great an evil, he makes use of an elegant metaphor, by which he means, that the world will have ears so refined, and so excessively desirous of novelty, that it will collect for itself various instructors, and will be incessantly carried away by new inventions. The only remedy for this vice is, that believers be instructed to adhere closely to the pure doctrine of the gospel.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
5 Tu verò vigila in omnibus, perfer afflictiones, opus fac Evangelistæ, ministerium tuum probatum redde.

6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
6 Ego enim jam immolor, et tempus meæ resolutionis instat.

7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
7 Bonum certamen certavi, cursum consummavi, fidem servavi.

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
8 Quod superest, reposita est mihi justitiæ corona, quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die justus judex, nec solum mihi, sed etiam omnibus, qui diligunt adventum ejus.

5. 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 labour 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 immoveable 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 Eph. 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 honourable 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, “Fulfil 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 πληροφορεῖν commonly 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.

6. 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 thine own teacher and exhorter, and shouldst begin to swim without support: beware lest any change in thee be observed at my death.”

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.

“Sacrifice” 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 σπένδεσθαι, 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.” (Philip. 2:17.) 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 from this world in an obedient manner, whenever God shall call us.

7. 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 honourable.

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 labours; 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 than 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.

8. 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 laboured 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 clay 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 consequence will be, that nothing can detract from our happiness.

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 endeavour, 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 with 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 favour, 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 free-will; 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 labour to prove from this, that good works proceed from the power of free-will; because there is no absurdity in saying that God crowns in us his own gifts. Not less absurdly and foolishly do they endeavour, 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.1

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.

9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:
9 Da operam, ut ad me venias cito.

10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
10 Demas enim me reliquit, amplexus hoc sæculum, et profectus est Thessalonicam, Crescens in Galatiam, Titus in Dalmatiam.

11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
11 Lucas est solus mecum. Marcum assume, ut tecum adducas; est enim mihi utilis in ministerium.

12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.
12 Tychicum autem misi Ephesum.

13 The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.
13 Pænulam, quam Troade reliqui apud Carpum, quum venies, affer, et libros et membranas.

9. 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 labours of others to aid in that defence.

10. Having embraced this world.

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 Coloss. 4:14,) and likewise in the Epistle to Philemon, (ver. 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.

Others, whom 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.

13. Bring the cloak which I left at Troas.

As to the meaning of the word φελόνη, 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.

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 (ἐνθουσιασμοὺς) divine inspirations.2 But let us know that this passage gives to all believers3 a recommendation of constant reading, that they may profit by it.4

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.

14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil; the Lord reward him according to his works:
14 Alexander faber ærarius multis me malis affecit: reddat illi Dominus juxta facta ipsius.

15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.
15 Quem et tu cave; vehementer enim restitit sermonibus nostris.

16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.
16 In prima defensione nemo mihi affuit, sed omnes me deseruerunt: ne illis imputetur.

17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
17 Sed Dominus mihi affuit, et corroboravit me, ut per me præconium confirmaretur, et audirent omnes Gentes.

18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
18 Et ereptus fui ex ore leonis, et eripiet me Dominus ex omni facto (vel, opere) malo, servabitque in regnum suum cœleste, cui gloria in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.
19 Saluta Priscam et Aquilam et familiam Onesiphori.

20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.
20 Erastus mansit Corinthi: Trophimum autem reliqui in Mileto languentem.

21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.
21 Da operam, ut ante hyemem venias. Salutat te Eubulus et Pudens et Linus et Claudia et fratres omnes.

22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
22 Dominus Iesus Christus cum spiritu tuo. Gratia vobiscum. Amen.

The second epistle unto Timotheus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome, when Paul was brought before Nero the second time.
Scripta e Roma secunda ad Timotheum, qui primus Ephesi ordinatus fuit Episcopus, quum Paulus iterum sisteretur Cæsari Neroni.

14. Alexander the coppersmith.

In this man was exhibited a shocking instance of apostasy. He had made profession, of some zeal in advancing the reign of Christ, against which he afterwards carried on open war. No class of enemies is more dangerous or more envenomed than this. But from the beginning, the Lord determined that his Church should not be exempted from this evil, lest our courage should fail when we are tried by any of the same kind.

Hath done me many evil things.

It is proper to observe, what are the “many evils” which Paul complains that Alexander brought upon him. They consisted in this, that he opposed his doctrine. Alexander was an artificer, not prepared by the learning of the schools for being a great disputer; but domestic enemies have always been abundantly able to do injury. And the wickedness of such men always obtains credit in the world, so that malicious and impudent ignorance sometimes creates trouble and difficulty greater than the highest abilities accompanied by learning. Besides, when the Lord brings his servants into contest with persons of this low and base class, he purposely withdraws them from the view of the world, that they may not indulge in ostentatious display.

From Paul’s words, (ver. 15,) for he vehemently opposed our discourses,

We may infer that he had committed no greater offence than an attack on sound doctrine; for if Alexander had wounded his person, or committed an assault on him, he would have endured it patiently; but when the truth of God is assailed, his holy breast burns with indignation, because, in all the members of Christ that saying must hold good, “The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.” (Ps. 69:9.) And this is also the reason of the stern imprecation into which he breaks out, that the Lord may reward him according to his works. A little afterwards, when he complains that all had forsaken him, (ver. 16,) still he does not call down the vengeance of God on them, but, on the contrary, appears as their intercessor, pleading that they may obtain pardon. So mild and so merciful to all others, how comes it that he shows himself so harsh and inexorable towards this individual? The reason is this. Because some had fallen through fear and weakness, he desires that the Lord would forgive them; for in this manner we ought to have compassion on the weakness of brethren. But because this man rose against God with malice and sacrilegious hardihood, and openly attacked known truth, such impiety had no claim to compassion.

We must not imagine, therefore, that Paul was moved by excessive warmth of temper, when he broke out into this imprecation; for it was from the Spirit of God, and through a well regulated zeal, that he wished eternal perdition to Alexander, and mercy to the others. Seeing that it is by the guidance of the Spirit that Paul pronounces a heavenly judgment from on high, we may infer from this passage, how dear to God is his truth, for attacking which he punishes so severely. Especially, it ought to be observed how detestable a crime it is, to fight with deliberate malice against the true religion.

But lest any person, by falsely imitating the Apostle, should rashly utter similar imprecations, there are three things here that deserve notice. First, let us not avenge the injuries done to ourselves, lest self-love and a regard to our private advantage should move us violently, as frequently happens. Secondly, while we maintain the glory of God, let us not mingle with it our own passions, which always disturb good order. Thirdly, let us not pronounce sentence against every person without discrimination, but only against reprobates, who, by their impiety, give evidence that such is their true character; and thus our wishes will agree with God’s own judgment; otherwise there is ground to fear that the same reply may be made to us that Christ made to the disciples who thundered indiscriminately against all who did not comply with their views, “Ye know not of what spirit ye are.” (Luke 9:55.) They thought that they had Elijah as their supporter, (2 Kings 1:10,) who prayed to the Lord in the same manner; but because they differed widely from the spirit of Elijah, the imitation was absurd. It is therefore necessary, that the Lord should reveal his judgment before we burst forth into such imprecations; and wish that by his Spirit he should restrain and guide our zeal. And whenever we call to our remembrance the vehemence of Paul against a single individual, let us also recollect his amazing meekness towards those who had so basely forsaken him, that we may learn, by his example, to have compassion on the weakness of our brethren.

Here I wish to put a question to those who pretend that Peter presided over the church at Rome. Where was he at that time? According to their opinion, he was not dead; for they tell us, that exactly a year intervened between his death and that of Paul. Besides, they extend his pontificate to seven years. Here Paul mentions his first defence: his second appearance before the court would not be quite so soon. In order that Peter may not lose the title of Pope, must he endure to be charged with the guilt of so shameful a revolt? Certainly, when the whole matter has been duly examined, we shall find that everything that has been believed about his Popedom is fabulous.

17. But the Lord assisted me.

He adds this, in order to remove the scandal which he saw might arise from that base desertion of his cause.1 Though the church at Rome had failed to perform its duty, he affirms that the gospel had suffered no loss by it, because, leaning on heavenly power, he was himself fully able to bear the whole burden, and was so far from being discouraged by the influence of that fear which seized on all, that it became only the more evident that the grace of God has no need of receiving aid from any other quarter. He does not boast of his courage, but gives thanks to the Lord; that, when reduced to extremities, he did not give way nor lose heart under so dangerous a temptation. He therefore acknowledges that he was supported by the arm of the Lord, and is satisfied with this, that the inward grace of God served for a shield to defend him against every assault. He assigns the reason—

That the proclamation might be confirmed.

The word “proclamation” is employed by him to denote the office of publishing the gospel among the Gentiles, which was especially assigned to him; for the preaching of others did not so much resemble a proclamation, in consequence of being confined to the Jews. And with good reason does he make use of this word in many passages. It was no small confirmation of his ministry, that, when the whole world foamed with madness against him, and on the other hand, all human assistance failed him, still he remained unshaken. Thus he gave practical demonstration that his apostleship was from Christ.

He now describes the manner of the confirmation, that all the Gentiles might hear that the Lord had so powerfully assisted him; for from this event they might infer that both their own calling and that of Paul were from the Lord.

And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

By the word “lion,” many suppose that he means Nero. For my part, I rather think that he makes use of this expression to denote danger in general; as if he had said, “out of a blazing fire,” or “out of the jaws of death.” He means that it was not without wonderful assistance from God, that he escaped, the danger being so great that but for this he must have been immediately swallowed up.

18. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work.

He declares, that he hopes the same for the future; not that he will escape death, but that he will not be vanquished by Satan, or turn aside from the right course. This is what we ought chiefly to desire, not that the interests of the body may be promoted, but that we may rise superior to every temptation, and may be ready to suffer a hundred deaths rather than that it should come into our mind to pollute ourselves by any “evil work.” Yet I am well aware, that there are some who take the expression evil work in a passive sense, as denoting the violence of wicked men, as if Paul had said, “The Lord will not suffer wicked men to do me any injury.” But the other meaning is far more appropriate, that he will preserve him pure and unblemished from every wicked action; for he immediately adds, to his heavenly kingdom, by which he means that that alone is true salvation, when the Lord—either by life or by death—conducts us into his kingdom.

This is a remarkable passage for maintaining the uninterrupted communication of the grace of God, in opposition to the Papists. After having confessed that the beginning of salvation is from God, they ascribe the continuation of it to free will; so that in this way perseverance is not a heavenly gift, but a virtue of man. And Paul, by ascribing to God this work of “preserving us to his kingdom,” openly affirms that we are guided by his hand during the whole course of our life, till, having discharged the whole of our warfare, we obtain the victory. And we have a memorable instance of this in Demas, whom he mentioned a little before, because, from being a noble champion of Christ, he had become a base deserter. All that follows has been seen by us formerly, and therefore does not need additional exposition.

John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

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