Here the apostle, to confirm Timothy in that way wherein he walked,
I. Sets before him his own example, which Timothy had been an eye-witness of, having long attended Paul (2 Tim. 3:10): Thou hast fully known my doctrine. The more fully we know the doctrine of Christ and the apostles, the more closely we shall cleave to it; the reason why many sit loose to it is because they do not fully know it. Christ’s apostles had no enemies but those who did not know them, or not know them fully; those who knew them best loved and honoured them the most. Now what is it that Timothy had so fully known in Paul? 1. The doctrine that he preached. Paul kept back nothing from his hearers, but declared to them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), so that if it were not their own fault they might fully know it. Timothy had a great advantage in being trained up under such a tutor, and being apprised of the doctrine he preached. 2. He had fully known his conversation: Thou hast fully know my doctrine, and manner of life; his manner of life was of a piece with his doctrine, and did not contradict it. He did not pull down by his living what he built up by his preaching. Those ministers are likely to do good, and leave lasting fruits of their labours, whose manner of life agrees with their doctrine; as, on the contrary, those cannot expect to profit the people at all that preach well and live ill. 3. Timothy fully knew what was the great thing that Paul had in view, both in his preaching and in his conversation: “Thou hast known my purpose, what I drive at, how far it is from any worldly, carnal, secular design, and how sincerely I aim at the glory of God and the good of the souls of men.” 4. Timothy fully knew Paul’s good character, which he might gather from his doctrine, manner of life, and purpose; for he gave proofs of his faith (that is, of his integrity and fidelity, or his faith in Christ, his faith concerning another world, by which Paul lived), his long-suffering towards the churches to which he preached and over which he presided, his charity towards all men, and his patience. These were graces that Paul was eminent for, and Timothy knew it. 5. He knew that he had suffered ill for doing well (2 Tim. 3:11): “Thou hast fully known the persecutions and afflictions that came unto me” (he mentions those only which happened to him while Timothy was with him, at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra); “and therefore let it be no surprise to thee if thou suffer hard things, it is no more than I have endured before.” 6. He knew what care God had taken of him: Notwithstanding out of them all the Lord delivered me; as he never failed his cause, so his God never failed him. Thou hast fully known my afflictions. When we know the afflictions of good people but in part, they are a temptation to us to decline that cause which they suffer for; when we know only the hardships they undergo for Christ, we may be ready to say, “We will renounce that cause that is likely to cost us so dear in the owning of it;” but when we fully know the afflictions, not only how they suffer, but how they are supported and comforted under their sufferings, then, instead of being discouraged, we shall be animated by them, especially considering that we are told before that we must count upon such things (2 Tim. 3:12): All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution: not always alike; at that time those who professed the faith of Christ were more exposed to persecution than at other times; but at all times, more or less, those who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. They must expect to be despised, and that their religion will stand in the way of their preferment; those who will live godly must expect it, especially those who will live godly in Christ Jesus, that is, according to the strict rules of the Christian religion, those who will wear the livery and bear the name of the crucified Redeemer. All who will show their religion in their conversation, who will not only be godly, but live godly, let them expect persecution, especially when they are resolute in it. Observe, (1.) The apostle’s life was very exemplary for three things: for his doctrine, which was according to the will of God; for his life, which was agreeable to his doctrine; and for his persecutions and sufferings. (2.) Though his life was a life of great usefulness, yet it was a life of great sufferings; and none, I believe, came nearer to their great Master for eminent services and great sufferings than Paul: he suffered almost in every place; the Holy Ghost witnessed that bonds and afflictions did abide him, Acts 20:23. Here he mentions his persecutions and afflictions at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, besides what he suffered elsewhere. (3.) The apostle mentions the Lord’s delivering him out of them all, for Timothy’s and our encouragement under sufferings. (4.) We have the practice and treatment of true Christians: they live godly in Jesus Christ—this is their practice; and they shall suffer persecution—this is the usage they must expect in this world.
II. He warns Timothy of the fatal end of seducers, as a reason why he should stick closely to the truth as it is in Jesus: But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, etc., 2 Tim. 3:13. Observe, As good men, by the grace of God, grow better and better, so bad men, through the subtlety of Satan and the power of their own corruptions, grow worse and worse. The way of sin is down-hill; for such proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. Those who deceive others do but deceive themselves; those who draw others into error run themselves into more and more mistakes, and they will find it so at last, to their cost.
III. He directs him to keep close to a good education, and particularly to what he had learned out of the holy scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14, 15): Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned. Note, It is not enough to learn that which is good, but we must continue in it, and persevere in it unto the end. Then are we Christ’s disciples indeed, John 8:31. We should not be any more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, Eph. 4:14. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines; for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace, Heb. 13:9. And for this reason we should continue in the things we have learned from the holy scriptures; not that we ought to continue in any errors and mistakes which we may have been led into, in the time of our childhood and youth (for these, upon an impartial enquiry and full conviction, we should forsake); but this makes nothing against our continuing in those things which the holy scriptures plainly assert, and which he that runs may read. If Timothy would adhere to the truth as he had been taught it, this would arm him against the snares and insinuations of seducers. Observe, Timothy must continue in the things which he had learned and had been assured of.
1. It is a great happiness to know the certainty of the things wherein we have been instructed (Luke 1:4); not only to know what the truths are, but to know that they are of undoubted certainty. What we have learned we must labour to be more and more assured of, that, being grounded in the truth, we may be guarded against error, for certainty in religion is of great importance and advantage: Knowing, (1.) “That thou hast had good teachers. Consider of whom thou hast learned them; not of evil men and seducers, but good men, who had themselves experienced the power of the truths they taught thee, and been ready to suffer for them, and thereby would give the fullest evidence of their belief of these truths.” (2.) “Knowing especially the firm foundation upon which thou hast built, namely, that of the scripture (2 Tim. 3:15): That from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.”
2. Those who would acquaint themselves with the things of God, and be assured of them, must know the holy scriptures, for these are the summary of divine revelation.
3. It is a great happiness to know the holy scriptures from our childhood; and children should betimes get the knowledge of the scriptures. The age of children is the learning age; and those who would get true learning must get it out of the scriptures.
4. The scriptures we are to know are the holy scriptures; they come from the holy God, were delivered by holy men, contain holy precepts, treat of holy things, and were designed to make us holy and to lead us in the way of holiness to happiness; being called the holy scriptures, they are by this distinguished from profane writings of all sorts, and from those that only treat morality, and common justice and honesty, but do not meddle with holiness. If we would know the holy scriptures, we must read and search them daily, as the noble Bereans did, Acts 17:11. They must not lie by us neglected, and seldom or never looked into. Now here observe,
(1.) What is the excellency of the scripture. It is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16), and therefore is his word. It is a divine revelation, which we may depend upon as infallibly true. The same Spirit that breathed reason into us breathes revelation among us: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men spoke as they were moved or carried forth by the Holy Ghost, 2 Pet. 1:21. The prophets and apostles did not speak from themselves, but what they received of the Lord that they delivered unto us. That the scripture was given by inspiration of God appears from the majesty of its style,—from the truth, purity, and sublimity, of the doctrines contained in it,—from the harmony of its several parts,—from its power and efficacy on the minds of multitudes that converse with it,—from the accomplishment of many prophecies relating to things beyond all human foresight,—and from the uncontrollable miracles that were wrought in proof of its divine original: God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will, Heb. 2:4.
(2.) What use it will be of to us. [1.] It is able to make us wise to salvation; that is, it is a sure guide in our way to eternal life. Note, Those are wise indeed who are wise to salvation. The scriptures are able to make us truly wise, wise for our souls and another world. “To make thee wise to salvation through faith.” Observe, The scriptures will make us wise to salvation, if they be mixed with faith, and not otherwise, Heb. 4:2. For, if we do not believe their truth and goodness, they will do us no good. [2.] It is profitable to us for all the purposes of the Christian life, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. It answers all the ends of divine revelation. It instructs us in that which is true, reproves us for that which is amiss, directs us in that which is good. It is of use to all, for we all need to be instructed, corrected, and reproved: it is of special use to ministers, who are to give instruction, correction, and reproof; and whence can they fetch it better than from the scripture? [3.] That the man of God may be perfect, 2 Tim. 3:17. The Christian, the minister, is the man of God. That which finishes a man of God in this world is the scripture. By it we are thoroughly furnished for every good work. There is that in the scripture which suits every case. Whatever duty we have to do, whatever service is required from us, we may find enough in the scriptures to furnish us for it.
(3.) On the whole we here see, [1.] That the scripture has various uses, and answers divers ends and purposes: It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction of all errors in judgment and practice, and for instruction in righteousness. [2.] The scripture is a perfect rule of faith and practice, and was designed for the man of God, the minister as well as the Christian who is devoted to God, for it is profitable for doctrine, etc. [3.] If we consult the scripture, which was given by inspiration of God, and follow its directions, we shall be made men of God, perfect, and thoroughly furnished to every good work. [4.] There is no occasion for the writings of the philosopher, nor for rabbinical fables, nor popish legends, nor unwritten traditions, to make us perfect men of God, since the scripture answers all these ends and purposes. O that we may love our Bibles more, and keep closer to them than ever! and then shall we find the benefit and advantage designed thereby, and shall at last attain the happiness therein promised and assured to us.