The Apostle opens his Epistle with the usual Salutation. He reminds Timothy of the Truth. He speaks very blessedly of the Lord's Grace, and the exceeding Abundance of it in his Conversion.
(1) В¶ Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; (2) Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
I think it not improper to observe to the Reader, that, notwithstanding Paul was well known to Timothy, yet he reminds this youth of his Apostolic authority. His first miraculous call by Christ; Acts 9:3, etc. his after ordination by the Holy Ghost Acts 13:1-5. and the revelation God the Father made of his dear Son in Paul, that he might preach Christ, these things he would not lose sight of. Galatians 1:15-16. And I beg to observe in Paul's address to Timothy in these verses, another thing, which I also think not improper to remark, namely, in calling Timothy his own son in the faith. From whence some have concluded, Paul meant to say, that he was his spiritual father. But, notwithstanding the very great fondness which some have to this title, certain it is, Paul never used it himself. It is well known that Timothy was no relation to Paul after the flesh, his father being a Greek, and his mother a Jewess. Acts 16:1. And it is as certain, that Timothy was not spiritually related, if there be such a thing, (which I much doubt), to the Apostle by conversion, for he was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium, before Paul had ever seen him. Acts 16:2. So that Paul calling him his own son after the faith, certainly had no allusion to this subject, for he was not, in this sense, his spiritual father. This title hath given great occasion to indulge spiritual pride with many in the Church of God, and the enemy of souls, who well knows the weak and vulnerable parts of our nature, hath, in numberless instances, made an handle of it, to induce very unbecoming things being said in the Church. What the Apostle meant by naming those he called children, and of having begotten them to the Gospel by his instrumentality, I would not presume to speak decidedly upon. But one thing I do venture to believe, the Apostle never meant from it, that in the succeeding ages of the Church, any should arrogate to themselves, under cover of his example, such titles. The places in Scripture where this subject is in the least hinted at are but few, and those, if examined closely, nay, perhaps, without violence, be construed to a different meaning. 1 Corinthians 4:14-15; 2 Corinthians 12:14; Gal 4:19; 1 Thessalonians 2:11; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:25. But it shocks the mind, when we hear from pulpits, and read in sermons, and behold in inscriptions on tombstones of ministers, those sacred words of the Prophet, in allusion to Christ, and which, as the Holy Ghost hath himself explained, can belong to no other, as if to be spoken by such worms of the earth at the last day; Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me. Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:13. Supposing everything that can be supposed in favor of this spiritual name, as relating to Paul and his ministry, would any man that considers his miraculous conversion, ordination, and the visions of God given him, take from such an instance confidence to call their ministry in the word by such a term? And is it not to be apprehended, by the very common use made of it in these modern times, that many have called themselves spiritual fathers, in the supposed conversion of others, concerning whom great doubts may be entertained whether they were ever converted themselves? But here I leave the subject.
(3) As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, (4) Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. (5) В¶ Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: (6) From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; (7) Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. (8) But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; (9) Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (10) For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; (11) According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
I consider what the Apostle hath here said on the subject of the law, to be one of the most decisive and unanswerable determinations, (and from inspiration itself), which ever hath been, or can be given, to quiet the minds of the faithful respecting it. And sure I am, if it were attended to, under the divine teaching, it would put an end to all the disputes with which the people of God have been disturbed on the point, by the vain arguments and reasoning's of men. A moment's attention will place the Apostle's statement of the subject, concerning the law, in a clear light.
First. The Apostle sets down the great excellency of the law, as it is in itself. We know, (saith he), that the law is good. And the holiness, perfection, and everlasting blessedness of all that is good, confirms every tittle of the law. Sooner, saith Christ, shall heaven and earth pass, than one tittle of it to fail. Luke 16:17. The law is the very transcript of the mind of God. And, therefore, when Christ came in the purity of his nature to fulfil the law, he sums up the infinite blessedness of it in these words: I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart; or, as the margin of the Bible renders it, in the midst of my bowels; meaning, that his whole human nature was formed in the perfect holiness of it, and wrapped up in it. Psalms 40:8. Seen in this point of view, how truly blessed is it! Well might Paul say, we know that the law is good!
Secondly. Paul qualifies the character of the law, as it relates to a poor sinner who hath broken the whole of it, by adding, that it is good, if a man use it lawfully. That is, if in a conscious sense of the infinite purity of the law itself, and its demands of unsinning obedience, with condemnation to every son and daughter of Adam who breaks it, we so use it, as those who are conscious of having sinned, and come short of God's glory, we lay hold of Christ, as the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. In this sense the law is good indeed, and this is to use it lawfully. For by Christ's perfect obedience to the whole law, in our room and stead, and as the Head of his body the Church, we are accepted as holy in him. And this comes up to what the Lord said by the Prophet; Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. Isaiah 45:24-25
Thirdly. The Apostle next proceeds to define the purposes of the law. Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man. The law, which was delivered on Mount Sinai, the Holy Ghost informs the Church, was added because of transgressions. Galatians 3:19. And Paul, in his own experience, declares, that he should not have known sin but by the law; for he should not have known lust, except the law had said; Thou shalt not covet. Romans 7:7. Hence we learn, that as from the fall of the first man, none was righteous before God, the law was designed to teach sinners God's holiness, and their total depravity. And this became a blessed way to set forth the holiness of the God-man Christ Jesus, who only could, and did, obey the whole law of God. And how blessedly in him is seen, that all his seed are considered righteous and holy before God.
Fourthly. The Apostle closeth this part of the subject, with showing for whom the law was made, and whom it universally condemns, being out of Christ. And a melancholy catalogue it forms! The law against all such stands unrepealed, unalterable, and everlastingly fixed. And in confirmation, Paul adds, according to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God! Reader! ponder the vast subject. Behold! how universally condemning the law is against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men! See, the only possible safety from its condemnation is in Christ! Call to mind that every man by nature is in this state of condemnation, until called by sovereign grace! And when you have duly pondered the subject, and heard the unalterable sentence of all that live and die in the unregenerated state of the unrenewed mind, then ask your heart whether you yourself, personally considered, are interested in the blessed deliverance from it, which Paul describes: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11.
(12) В¶ And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; (13) Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (14) And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (15) This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (16) Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (17) Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Every word, more or less, in this account, Paul gives of his conversion, and the Lord's abundant grace, yea, exceeding abundant grace, as Paul calls it, in this sovereign display of love, is so full of instruction, that I do hope my Reader will not be offended if I call his attention to some of the leading particulars Paul dwells upon, as they affected his own mind. It is evident God the Holy Ghost was pleased, that again and again the Church should be refreshed with the history. And sure I am no child of God can attend to it too often. I refer the Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary to what hath been already offered to his meditation, on the Lord's compelling Kings, and the Gentile Court, in the case of Agrippa, to hear Paul rehearse it; see Acts 26:23. and Commentary; and also before the Sanhedrin and the court of the Jews. Acts 22:21. When the Reader hath turned to those Scriptures, and pondered that part of the subject, I beg his attention to some other observations which arise from the Scripture before us, in Paul's relation of the same wonderful work of his conversion to his beloved Timothy.
And, first. Let the Reader remark the view Paul had of the divine mercy shown him, in putting him into the ministry, who was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious. He evidently alludes here to the awful conduct he was pursuing at the time of his conversion. Paul seems to intimate, that as there is a fullness of the iniquity of the Amorite, before which measure is filled, there is no ripeness for destruction, Genesis 15:16. so there is a fullness of transgression, which the Lord's chosen ones heap up, in the Adam-nature of their fallen-state, before the time of their conversion arrives; the recovery from which tends to heighten to their astonished view, as they look back upon the past, the Lord's long-suffering, and their heights of daring rebellion. In the instance of Paul, he called to mind how he had, by his cruelties, compelled the saints of God to blaspheme; and which seemed to have wrought upon his mind, in the recollection, the bitterest part of his desperately wicked provocations. Reader! observe to what length, God's chosen ones run in offences! And observe in the midst of all, when sinning with an high hand, how the Lord still is watching over them, and, in spite of all hell's temptations, keeping them from the unpardonable sin! Oh! the wonders of grace! What a subject of this nature will be to be opened, in every child of God's life, when we come into eternity?
Secondly. Let the Reader observe, what the Apostle saith of his obtaining mercy, because he did it ignorantly in unbelief. Paul did not mean that this was the cause for which the Lord called him; or for which the Lord pardoned him. His call was, as the Lord told Ananias: because he was a chosen vessel; and from everlasting had been appointed to bear testimony for Christ, before Jew and Gentile. Acts 9:15. Neither was his ignorance the least excuse for his blasphemy, or for the persecution he manifested, to the poor saints of Christ. And Paul plainly testifieth, that he did not conceive his ignorance pleaded excuse; for, in this very account, he declares himself to be the chief of sinners. And how could he be supposed obtaining mercy for ignorance which was determined ignorance? It is plain, that he heard the wisdom of Stephen, and could not resist the spirit by which he spake; though he was among the first of them that stoned him. Acts 6:10. But the whole is designed to show, in Paul's instance, the desperately wicked state of the unregenerate while in nature; to enhance the sovereignty of Almighty grace in the recovery. From both which, it is plain, that the chosen vessels of God are, by nature, and by practice, in the same awful circumstances, as the whole Adam-race, all alike dead in trespasses and sins.
Thirdly, The time of Paul's conversion was a circumstance which in his view tended to heighten still more the unspeakable mercy; and made it, what Paul called it, the exceeding abundant grace of the Lord. It was in the very moment when he was hot in the pursuit of the blood of the saints. Like a savage beast of prey, he was breathing out nothing but threatenings and slaughter against the saints of the Lord. Acts 9:1. The Lord met him, as in the field of battle, and unhorsed him in a moment. And, no doubt, many a time after this, as often as Paul thought of it, his only astonishment was, that the Lord, who struck him to the ground, had not struck him at once into hell. If it be asked, wherefore such forbearance? The Lord himself answered Ananias, when he expressed the same wonder. He is a chosen vessel (said the Lord) unto me. Reader! do you know anything of sovereign grace? If so: say, how was you employed when the Lord called you? If not persecuting as Paul was, the Church of God; yet prosecuting at least the lusts of the flesh, and the desires of an unawakened mind. Oh! what a source of soul-feeling doth the recollection of our ill, and hell-deservings, when the Lord first manifested his grace in conversion, open to all the after reviews of life? And what a spring of true repentance, causing the tears to fall, when we look back, and behold ourselves cast out like the infant to perish, and Jesus passing by, and bidding us in our blood, live? Ezekiel 16:6
Fourthly. What a blessed conclusion the Holy Ghost taught Paul to make, from his conversion, for the instruction of others; when, under the full impression, in the review he cried out: This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Worthy indeed, in every point of view! Worthy, as the gift of God; the price of Christ's blood; the effectual application of it by the Spirit. And it becomes the highest testimony of divine faithfulness; because in it God proves himself the faithful God, being faithful to his Covenant promises in Christ, to a thousand generations. And let not the Reader overlook what a stress Paul lays upon that proof of divine faithfulness, for all acceptation in that, even to him, the chief of sinners, that faithfulness had been shown. There is somewhat very sweet in this. Paul saith, that he is chief of sinners; by which he meant, in greatness, and in the aggravated circumstances of his sins, against the Person of Christ. I beg the Reader to mark this with peculiar notice. Paul takes no count of his morality, and the strict observance of the Pharisee. All these sunk to nothing in his view. But his daring opposition to the Person and Gospel of Christ, made him so odious to himself, that he beheld himself as the chief of sinners. And, in consequence, he always considered himself as such to the close of life. He wrote this Epistle to Timothy towards the end of his ministry; and we see he still retained this view of himself. He doth not say, I was, but I am the chief of sinners.
One word more. Let not the Reader overlook the cause Paul assigns, for this abundant mercy, shown him: that in me, said Paul, first, Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a patters to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. As if the Apostle had said, who shall ever despond, or despair of obtaining pardon, and peace in the blood of the cross, whose heart is broken for sin, while beholding Paul the persecutor, the blasphemer, and injurious brought into the grace of Jesus? In this first, and greatest of all examples, what God can and will do; and what, through the gracious work of God the Spirit on the heart, Christ's blood and righteousness can, and doth accomplish; the vilest of the vile may be encouraged! Blessed be God the Holy Ghost, for causing so illustrious an instance of the sovereignty of Almighty grace, to be recorded, and handed down, through all ages, to the present time, in the Church of God!
Largely as I have trespassed, the case is too interesting to be dismissed, without closing it with an observation or two more. Paul could not fold it up, without ascribing honor and glory, forever and ever, to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God: that is, to the Father; Son, and Holy Ghost, whom all along, in all Paul's writings and preachings, he considered, as the united source of all his mercy, in Christ. And such most every child of God, who can, and doth discover, tokens of regenerating, and converting grace, in his own history. And there is somewhat striking in the circumstances, of every man's conversion, when duly considered, which comes home in characters special, and peculiar, to endear, and recommend it personally to every heart. And though it may not, for it is not necessary it should, be attended with similar circumstances, like those of Paul; yet, in all instances, the Lord's distinguishing love-tokens may be seen in every particular.
Reader! let it be supposed an early conversion of the heart to God, while in youth. Oh! what a mercy is it, when, like this Timothy, it may be said, that from a child, the regenerated soul hath known the holy scriptures. And to whom the Lord saith, as to Israel of old: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; when thou wentest after me in a wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Jeremiah 2:2. And suppose a later conversion is appointed, which, like Paul, or like the thief on the cross at the eleventh hour, think what abounding mercy, where there had been long abounding sin!
There are also special manifestations, which the Lord showeth seasons of conversion, not only in making known the grace itself, but in the manner of its work. Some, like Paul, lay days in the pangs of the new-birth; while others, like Lydia, the Lord at once opens the heart, to attend to the truths of salvation. God is a sovereign, and Almighty Agent, and worketh after the counsel of his own will. Some precious souls, have had so easy a transition, from the death of sin, to the new life in righteousness; that when comparing their call of God with that of others, they have been tempted at times to question the reality of it. But the Holy Ghost hath given the Church by Paul, an infallible testimony, to ascertain every man's election, and call, by the effects which follow. See 1 Thessalonians 1:4. and Commentary. And so far is an early, and an effectual call, from becoming questionable, when the blessed consequences of the new-birth appear, by the actions of the new-life; that it carries with it, sweet testimonies of divine love. The call of Matthew, was of this kind; and the Lord Jesus had so marked it: Matthew 9:9-13. Such Zaccheus; Luke 19:1-10. Such the Philippians 1:5. And such is the blessed variety by which the Lord calls his own, that perhaps, there are scarcely two cases exactly alike. Oh! what a subject of divine love would it open, if all the courtings, and wooings of Jesus, by his Holy Spirit, were made known, by which he wins over the affections to himself, when God the Spirit hath quickened the sinner which was before dead in trespasses and sins! Say, dear Lord! how didst thou work upon my stony heart, the hardest sure, ever wrought upon, when thou didst make me willing, in the day of thy power?
(18) В¶ This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; (19) Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: (20) Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Paul having, in the recollection of his wonderful conversion, in some measure departed from the subject he was before speaking of, concerning the law, and the Gospel, (1 Timothy 1:8-11.) now returns to it, and gives charge to his beloved Timothy, how he should preach Christ, and Christ only, agreeably to the prophecies, which Timothy, who had been taught in them, well understood, as referring to Christ. And he points to the strong assurances of faith, and a good conscience, both God the Spirit's gift; which some who have made a profession, but who never felt the power, had relinquished. Reader! what a beautiful distinction this forms, (and I take occasion by the way to remark it), between the blessed work of God the Spirit in regeneration, from whence come faith and a good conscience; and the mere profession of Christ, taken up for the moment, from hearsay, not heart-felt knowledge, and put down again from the same cause!
This Hymeneus is the same as spoken of 2 Timothy 2:17-18. And Alexander is most likely to be the Copper-smith. 2 Timothy 4:14. Paul's delivery of them to Satan, seems to have been for correction. We have a similar passage, 1 Corinthians 5:5. to the notes on which I refer.
READER! the more we traverse the inspired writings of this great Apostle, the more we find cause to bless God for his ministry. What affection he here manifests, to the Church of Christ! What love to Timothy, as a minister in the Church! What earnestness he expresseth, that he should be found faithful! And what delight he takes, to go over again and again, the wonderful story of his conversion! No expressions can he find, sufficiently humbling, to set forth his own worthlessness: neither any sufficiently exalted, to praise the riches of God's grace. Surely the Holy Ghost intended, from the frequency of this record to be brought before the Church, to show poor sinners, that no state is too polluted, no life or sin too abandoned, to be out of the reach of Christ's blood. Yes! Paul! thou art indeed a pattern of the exceeding riches of grace; yea, and abundant grace, to all that hereafter believe on the Lord Jesus to everlasting life. Oh! blessed Jesus! enable me in thy strength to hold faith, and a good conscience, in thee; and daily to cry out with Paul: Now to the, King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God be honor and glory, forever, and ever. Amen.