Verses 1–4

Here is, I. The inscription of the epistle, from whom it is sent: Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, constituted an apostle by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ. His credentials were unquestionable. He had not only a commission, but a commandment, not only from God our Saviour, but from Jesus Christ: he was a preacher of the gospel of Christ, and a minister of the kingdom of Christ. Observe, God is our Saviour.—Jesus Christ, who is our hope. Observe, Jesus Christ is a Christian’s hope; our hope is in him, all our hope of eternal life is built upon him; Christ is in us the hope of glory, Col. 1:27. He calls Timothy his own son, because he had been an instrument of his conversion, and because he had been a son that served him, served with him in the gospel, Phil. 2:22. Timothy had not been wanting in the duty of a son to Paul, and Paul was not wanting in the care and tenderness of a father to him.

II. The benediction is, grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father. Some have observed that whereas in all the epistles to the churches the apostolical benediction is grace and peace, in these two epistles to Timothy and that to Titus it is grace, mercy, and peace: as if ministers had more need of God’s mercy than other men. Ministers need more grace than others, to discharge their duty faithfully; and they need more mercy than others, to pardon what is amiss in them: and if Timothy, so eminent a minister, must be indebted to the mercy of God, and needed the increase and continuance of it, how much more do we ministers, in these times, who have so little of his excellent spirit!

III. Paul tells Timothy what was the end of his appointing him to this office: I besought thee to abide at Ephesus. Timothy had a mind to go with Paul, was loth to go from under his wing, but Paul would have it so; it was necessary for the public service: I besought thee, says he. Though he might assume an authority to command him, yet for love’s sake he chose rather to beseech him. Now his business was to take care to fix both the ministers and the people of that church: Charge them that they teach no other doctrine than what they have received, that they do not add to the Christian doctrine, under pretence of improving it or making up the defects of it, that they do no alter it, but cleave to it as it was delivered to them. Observe, 1. Ministers must not only be charged to preach the true doctrine of the gospel, but charged to preach no other doctrine. If an angel from heaven preach any other doctrine, let him be anathema, Gal. 1:8. 2. In the times of the apostles there were attempts made to corrupt Christianity (we are not as many, who corrupt the word, 2 Cor. 2:17), otherwise this charge to Timothy might have been spared. 3. He must not only see to it that he did not preach any other doctrine, but he must charge others that they might not add any thing of their own to the gospel, or take any thing from it, but that they preach it pure and uncorrupt. He must also take care to prevent their regarding fables, and endless genealogies, and strifes of words. This is often repeated in these two epistles (as 1 Tim. 4:7; 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:23), as well as in the epistle to Titus. As among the Jews there were some who brought Judaism into Christianity; so among the Gentiles there were some who brought paganism into Christianity. “Take heed of these,” says he, “watch against them, or they will be the corrupting and ruining of religion among you, for they minister questions rather than edifying.” That which ministers questions is not for edifying; that which gives occasion for doubtful disputes pulls down the church rather than builds it up. And I think, by a parity of reason, every thing else that ministers questions rather than godly edifying should be disclaimed and disregarded by us, such as an uninterrupted succession in the ministry from the apostles down to these times, the absolute necessity of episcopal ordination, and of the intention of the minister to the efficacy and validity of the sacraments he ministers. These are as bad as Jewish fables and endless genealogies, for they involve us in inextricable difficulties, and tend only to shake the foundations of a Christian’s hope and to fill his mind with perplexing doubts and fears. Godly edifying is the end ministers should aim at in all their discourses, that Christians may be improving in godliness and growing up to a greater likeness to the blessed God. Observe, further, Godly edifying must be in faith: the gospel is the foundation on which we build; it is by faith that we come to God at first (Heb. 11:6), and it must be in the same way, and by the same principle of faith, that we must be edified. Again, Ministers should avoid, as much as may be, what will occasion disputes; and would do well to insist on the great and practical points of religion, about which there can be no disputes; for even disputes about great and necessary truths draw off the mind from the main design of Christianity, and eat out the vitals of religion, which consist in practice and obedience as well as in faith, that we may not hold the truth in unrighteousness, but may keep the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.