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Monday, November 22, 2004

On 1 TIMOTHY 1: 1-7

HOMILIES OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO TIMOTHY

EXCERPTS FROM HOMILIES 1 & 2:


1 TIMOTHY i.

Ver.1, 2. "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord."

GREAT and admirable is the dignity of an Apostle, and we find Paul constantly setting forth the causes of it, not as if he took the honor to himself, but as intrusted with it, and being under the necessity of so doing. For when he speaks of himself as "called," and that "by the will of God," and again elsewhere, "a necessity is laid upon me" , and when he says, "for this I was separated," by these expressions all idea of arrogance and ambition is removed. For as he deserves the severest blame, who intrudes into an office which is not given him of God, so he who refuses, and shrinks from it when offered to him, incurs blame of another kind, that of rebellion and disobedience. Therefore Paul, in the beginning of this Epistle, thus expresses himself, "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God." He does not say here, "Paul called," but "by commandment." He begins in this manner, that Timothy may not feel any human infirmity from supposing that Paul addresses him on the same terms as his disciples. But where is this commandment given? We read in the Acts of the Apostles: "The Spirit said, Separate me Paul and Barnabas." And everywhere in his writings Paul adds the name of Apostle, to instruct his hearers not to consider the doctrines he delivered as proceeding from man. For an Apostle can say nothing of his own, and by calling himself an Apostle, he at once refers his hearers to Him that sent him. In all his Epistles therefore he begins by assuming this title, thus giving authority to his words, as here he says, "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ according to the commandment of God our Saviour." Now it does not appear that the Father anywhere commanded him. It is everywhere Christ who addresses him. Thus, "He said unto me, Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles"; and again, "Thou must be brought before Cæsar." But whatever the Son commands, this he considers to be the commandment of the Father, as those of the Spirit are the commandments of the Son. For he was sent by the Spirit, he was separated by the Spirit, and this he says was the commandment of God. What then? does it derogate from the power of the Son, that His Apostle was sent forth by the commandment of the Father? By no means. For observe, how he represents the power as common to both. For having said, "according to the commandment of God our Saviour"; he adds, "and Lord Jesus Christ, our hope." And observe, with what propriety he applies the titles. And indeed, the Psalmist applies this to the Father, saying, "The hope of all the ends of the earth." And again, the blessed Paul in another place writes, "For therefore we both labor, and suffer reproach, because we have hope in the living God." The teacher must suffer dangers even more than the disciple. "For I will smite the shepherd, (he says,) "and the sheep shall be scattered abroad." Therefore the devil rages with greater violence against teachers, because by their destruction the flock also is scattered. For by slaying the sheep, he has lessened the flock, but when he has made away with the shepherd, he has ruined the whole flock, so that he the rather assaults him, as working greater mischief by a less effort; and in one soul effecting the ruin of all. For this reason Paul, at the beginning, elevates and encourages the soul of Timothy, by saying, We have God for our Saviour and Christ for our hope. We suffer much, but our hopes are great; we are exposed to snares and perils, but to save us we have not man but God. Our Saviour is not weak, for He is God, and whatever be our dangers they will not overcome us; nor is our hope made ashamed, for it is Christ. For in two ways we are enabled to bear up against dangers, when we are either speedily delivered from them, or supposed by good hopes under them.

"Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith." This too is encouraging. For if he evinced such faith as to be called peculiarly Paul's "own" son, he might be confident also with respect to the future. For it is the part of faith not to be cast down or disturbed, though circumstances occur that seem contrary to the promises. But observe he says, "my son," and even "mine own son," and yet he is not of the same substance. But what? was he of irrational kind? "Well," says one, "he was not of Paul, so this does not imply 'being of' another." What then? was he of another substance neither was it so, for after saying "mine own son," he adds, "in the faith," to show that he was really "his own son," and truly from him. There was no difference. The likeness he bore to him was in respect to his faith, as in human births there is a likeness in respect of substance The son is like the father in human beings, but with respect to God the proximity is greater. For here a father and a son, though of the same substance, differ in many particulars, as in color, figure, understanding, age, bent of mind, endowments of soul and body, and in many other things they may be like or unlike, but there is no such dissimilarity in the divine Essence. "By commandment." This is a stronger ex- son," in like manner he says to the Corinthians, "in Christ Jesus I have begotten you," i.e. in faith; but he adds the word "own," to show his particular likeness to himself, as well as his own love and great affection for him. Notice again the "in" applied to the faith. "My own son," he says, "in the faith." See what an honorable distinction, in that he calls him not only his "son," but his "own" son.

Ver. 3. "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia."
Observe the gentleness of the expression, more like that of a servant than of a master. For he does not say "I commanded," or "bade" or even "exhorted," but "I besought thee." But this tone is not for all: only meek and virtuous disciples are to be treated thus. The corrupt and insincere are to be dealt with in a different manner, as Paul himself elsewhere directs, "Rebuke them with all authority"; and here he says "charge," not "beseech," but "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" What means this? That Paul's Epistle which he sent them was not sufficient? Nay, it was sufficient; but men are apt sometimes to slight Epistles, or perhaps this may have been before the Epistles were written. He had himself passed some time in that city. There was the temple of Diana, and there he had been exposed to those great sufferings. For after the assembly in the Theater had been dissolved, and he had called to him and exhorted the disciples, he found it necessary to sail away, though afterwards he returned to them. It were worth enquiry, whether he stationed Timothy there at that time. For he says, that "thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine": he does not mention the persons by name, that he might not, by the openness of his rebuke, render them more shameless. There were in that city certain false Apostles of the Jews, who wished to oblige the faithful to observe the Jewish law, a fault he is everywhere position to him. This is meant by "teaching another doctrine."

Ver. 4. "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies."
By "fables" he does not mean the law; far from it; but inventions and forgeries and counterfeit doctrines. For, it seems, the Jews wasted their whole discourse on these unprofitable points. knowledge and research. "That thou mightest charge some," he says, "that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies." Why does he call them "endless"? It is because they had no end, or none of any use, or none easy for us to apprehend. Mark how he disapproves of questioning. For where faith exists, there is no need of question. Where there is no room for curiosity, questions are superfluous. Questioning is the subversion of faith. For he that seeks has not yet found. He who questions cannot believe. Therefore it is his advice that we should not be occupied with questions, since if we question, it is not faith; for faith sets reasoning at rest. But why then does Christ say, "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you" ; and, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life"? The seeking there is meant of prayer and vehement desire, and He bids "search the Scriptures," not to introduce the labors of questioning, but to end them, that we may ascertain and settle their true meaning, not that we may be ever questioning, but that we may have done with it. And he justly said, "Charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables, and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than the dispensation of God in faith."Justly has he which is the best medicine of our souls. This questioning therefore is opposed to the dispensation of God. For what is dispensed by faith? To recede His mercies and become better men; to doubt and dispute of nothing; but to repose in confidence. For what "ministers questions" displaces faith and that which faith hath wrought and builded. Christ has said that we must be saved by faith; this these teachers questioned and even denied. For since the announcement was present, but the issue of it future, faith was required. But they bring preoccupied by legal observances threw impediments in the way of faith. He seems also here to glance at the Greeks, where he speaks of "fables and genealogies," for they enumerated their Gods.

Ver. 5. "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:"

Nothing is so injurious to mankind as to undervalue friendship; and not to cultivate it with the greatest care; as nothing, on the other hand, is so beneficial, as to pursue it to the utmost of our power. This Christ has shown, where He says, "If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father"; and again, "Because iniquity shall abound, love shall wax cold." It is this that has been the occasion of all heresies. For men, because they loved not their brethren, have envied those who were in high repute, and from envying, they have become eager for power, and from a love of power have introduced heresies. On this account Paul having said, "that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine," now shows that the manner in which this may be effected is by charity. As therefore when he says, "Christ is the end of the Law", that is, its fulfillment, and this is connected with the former, so this a commandment implied in love. The end of medicine is health, but where there is health, there is no need to make much ado; so where there is love, there is no need of much commanding. But what sort of love does he speak of? That which is sincere, which is not merely in words but which flows from the disposition, from sentiment, and sympathy. "From a pure heart," he says, either with respect to a right conversation, or sincere affection. For an impure life too produces divisions. "For every one that doeth evil, hateth the light." There is indeed a friendship even among the wicked. Robbers and murderers may love one another, but this is not "from a good conscience," not "from a pure" but from an impure "heart," not from "faith unfeigned," but from that which is false and hypocritical. For faith points out the truth, and a sincere faith produces love, which he who truly believes in God cannot endure to lay aside.

Ver. 6. "From which some having swerved have turned aside to vain jangling."
He has well said, "swerved," for it requires skill, to shoot straight and not beside the mark, to have the direction of the Spirit. For there are many things to turn us aside from the right course, and we should look but to one object.
Ver. 7. "Desiring to be teachers of the law."
Here we see another cause of evil, the love of power. Wherefore Christ said, "Be not ye called Rabbi" ; and the Apostle again, "For neither do they keep the law, but that they may glory in your flesh." They desire preëminence, he means, and on that account disregard truth.

Ver.7. (continued) "Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."

Here he censures them, because they know not the end and aim of the Law, nor the period for which it was to have authority. But if it was from ignorance, why is it called a sin? Because it was incurred not only from their desiring to be teachers of the law, but from their not retaining love. Nay, and their very ignorance arose from these causes. For when the soul abandons itself to carnal things, the clearness of its vision is dimmed, and falling from love it drops into contentiousness, and the eye of the mind is blinded. For he that is possessed by any desire for these temporal things intoxicated, as he is, with passion, cannot be an impartial judge of truth.

Ver.7. (continued) "Not knowing whereof they affirm."

For it is probable that they spoke of the law, and enlarged on its purifications and other bodily rites. The Apostle then forbearing to censure these, as either nothing, or at best a shadow and figure of spiritual things, proceeds in a more engaging way to praise the law, calling the Decalogue here the law, and by means of it discarding the rest. For if even these precepts punish transgressors, and become useless to us, much more the others.