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Johann Gerhard on St. Timothy

During 1 and 2 Timothy’s introductions, we see a small snapshot of the fatherly affection that Paul has for Timothy. We watch as Paul takes Timothy on his journeys, teaching him in the faith and wishing for him to continue preaching the faith even after Paul has passed. On January 24, the Church celebrates St. Timothy’s life. Read an excerpt from Johann Gerhard’s Commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy that explains the introduction to Paul’s second letter and shows Paul and Timothy’s relationship: 

2 Timothy 1:2

“To Timothy, true son in faith.” [Paul] calls him “son”: (1) Because he had instructed him in the Christian faith. (2) Because he held him in fatherly love (1 Corinthians 4:17). (3) Because Timothy in turn held him in filial love. Therefore he calls him “son” with respect to instruction and mutual love.

The Vulgate rendered this dilecto [“beloved”], but the Greek more signifies “true son”—that is, with respect to teaching and imitation, not merely age … Therefore, he calls him his “true son”—that is, genuine, sincere, sharia’ (“true,” as the Syriac rendered it)—in that beyond others and as close as possible he approached similarity to Paul in faith, confession, and life (Philippians 2:20).

“Grace, mercy, peace.” These three are combined only in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus. They are distinguished as cause and effect. “Grace” means the undeserved kindness and favor of God toward us, which is the source of all good things He bestows upon us.

“Mercy” means the undeserved forgiveness of sins and the restoration of the image of God.

 “Peace” denotes a peaceful conscience, joy from knowing the favor of God, and true blessedness. Mercy comes from grace, for it is graciously given to us who are in need of mercy; and peace of conscience comes from mercy (Romans 5:1). In other places he connects grace and peace, but here he inserts mercy as the source of grace and peace and all of God’s benefits.

2 Timothy 1:4

“Longing to see you.” This does not give the theme of his prayers but states absolutely that [Paul] longs to have Timothy present.

“Remembering your tears.” (1) Some understand this as being about tears Timothy shed out of earnest contrition for sins and love for God. (2) Others take it as being about tears Timothy shed out of sympathy for the calamities that befell the apostle. (3) But it is more correct to take them as being about the tears he and the others bishops of Ephesus shed when Paul left (Acts 20:37). By these tears he had testified to his own devotion and love for his teacher.

“That I may be filled with joy.” This should be taken with the words at the beginning of the verse: “Longing to see you so that your presence may bring me comfort and joy in these chains of mine.”

2 Timothy 1:5

“Keeping remembrance of the sincere faith that is in you.” “When I recall to mind your sincere faith that lacks any hypocrisy, I cannot but fervently hope and long for you to come.” Therefore this is another thing on Timothy’s part that moves the apostle to long for the presence of his student.

He calls “sincere” that faith which is true, living, and saving, by which Timothy has believed in Christ from the heart without hypocrisy. But did the apostle know this for sure since he was unable to know the heart? I respond. Either he is making his judgment based on love, because Timothy had made his faith known by good works, or by revelation from the Holy Spirit he knew that Timothy’s faith was unfeigned.

“Which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois.” “Which first dwelt,” that is, “she had it steadfast and firmly seated.” “It was rooted and implanted, so to speak, in the heart of your grandmother.” The Vulgate adds the copulative et [“also”] which is not in the Greek.

By grandmother he means maternal grandmother, for Timothy was born to a Gentile father (Acts 16:1). Hence the Syriac rendered it bema’ de’mak (“in your mother’s mother”).

“And in your mother, Eunice.” She was a Jew by birth but had married a Gentile and later was converted to Christ. Hence she is called “faithful” (Acts 16:1).

Apparent contrariety. Christians are made, not born. So how can one say that sincere faith was propagated to Timothy from his grandmother and mother? I respond. This did not happen through the generation of the flesh but through faithful teaching and instruction.

“And I am convinced that also in you,” understand “dwells sincere faith.” The Vulgate rendered the verb πέπεισμαι certus sum [“I am certain”]; others have it persuasum habeo or persuasus sum [“I am convinced”].

The Papists want to show from this passage that “certainty of grace cannot be proven from Romans 8:38 since here he is talking only about moral certainty but not the immovable certainty of faith, as also in Romans 15:14.”

I respond. (1) The verb πέπεισμαι can be understood in two ways. First, abstractly, and then it often signifies some sort of probable opinion. Second, concretely or materially. In this way it has a different meaning for different subjects. “Words for things that are spoken of in various ways … come to have different means for different subjects.” When the word πέπεισμαι is used about others, then it signifies [certainty] that is not conclusive (ἀποδεικτικήν) but probable (τοπικήν), not the certainty of faith and infallible truth but the conviction of love, that is, a probable opinion. You see, we cannot make a determination about our neighbor a priori but a posteriori, that is, from his doing or actions. But when it is used about ourselves, then is signifies a certain, unmovable conviction, which is the certainty of faith and truth, for it relies on the unmoving, unchanging foundation: the promise of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit.


Lord, let me be strong in the faith such as Timothy, learning from those around me and helping others to strengthen their trust in our Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

To continue reading about 1 and 2 Timothy, purchase Gerhard’s commentary below. 

Order Commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy



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