Verse 4. Neither to give heed – The verb prosecho sometimes signifies to be attentive to, as in Acts 8. 6; 6. 14. more strongly, to apply one’s self to, to attach one’s self to, to cleave to a person or thing; this is the meaning here, as also in 4. 1, and Tit. 1. 14. In 1 Tim. 3 8, the meaning is to be addicted to and in 4. 13, to devote thought and effort to.
The danger mentioned in this verse was not merely that of giving attention to fables etc., but rather of following such teachings by attaching one’s self to the propagandists.
To fables and endless genealogies – The two words depict the general character of the false teachings. The former, muthos, supplies our word “myth.” The special application would seem to be the imaginative teaching of the Rabbis in relation to Jewish history and doctrine. The Pagan Greek historian Polybius uses both these words with reference to the legends surrounding the origin of the founders of States. In the same way the false teachers in Ephesus were representing the value of legendary stones relating to the ancestors of the Jewish people. There are genealogies in the O.T. which have their own value, being Divinely provided, a value, indeed, greater than what is generally realised. But to these were added a number of fabricated lists and speculative genealogical traditions and allegories, the extensive nature of which is indicated by the word “endless.”
The which minister questionings – The word parecho, which primarily means to offer, has here the fuller significance of providing and so occasioning, a thing. The word zetesis, from the verb zeteo, to seek, signifies not simply “questions” (A.V.) but “questionings” which provoke controversy and disputations.
Similar dangers exist today from fanciful interpretations and imaginative applications of the historical facts recorded in Scripture, and unfounded deductions from its truths.
Rather than a dispensation of God–The word “dispensation” is frequently used as if it meant an age or period, characterized by some particular feature or event; but that is not the meaning of the word. A dispensation is something that is dispensed, and a dispensation of God is that which is ministered by God and which consists of teaching relative to God’s dealings with the world and with His people: such a dispensation involves a stewardship on the part of one who handles these truths.
Which is in faith – This defines the character of the dispensation in its application to those who receive the truth and pass it on. Both the reception and the teaching were to be matters of faith in God, faith which takes God at His word, in contrast to an effort to be “wise above that which is written.” The handling of the Scriptures is ever to be a matter of simple dependence upon God, in the humble spirit that receives the teaching from Him, and realizes the solemn responsibility of ministering the Word of truth for the instruction of others.
Verse 5. But the end of the charge – The word telos, which most frequently denotes a termination, has here its other significance of a purpose or aim, and thus stands in relation to what has preceded in verse 4.
The word parangelia, a charge, signifies a command given by a superior, to be transmitted to others by the recipient. The charge here spoken of does not seem to be simply that conveyed by the corresponding verb in verse 3, it rather embraces all the Christian doctrine, which Timothy was to maintain and pass on to others. Cp. Act 5. 28; 16. 24; 1 Thess. 4. 2, where it is used in the plural.
Is love – That is, love to fellow-believers, and to all whom the truth is ministered. The ministry of one who handles the truth is to be dominated and characterized by love. Since God’s love his been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Rom. 5, 5, it is designed to find its reflection in the life and conduct of the believerse The ministry of the Scriptures is never to be a matter of cold theology. The heart must be aglow with the impulse of Divine love. Its source and character, in the human channel of its exercise, is described in what follows in this verse.
Agape, love, and the corresponding verb agapao, to love, are to be distinguished from philia and the verb phileo. The first noun and verb lay stress upon the practical side of love; the last stress more the emotional side. Both verbs are used in the Septuagint of Gen. 37, agapao in verse 3, phileo in verse 4. The two are used together in Prov. 8. 17. Even in these passages the distinction may be observed It is very marked in John 21, 15, 17, where the Lord stresses the practical side of love in using the verb agapao, and then graciously condescends to use Peter’s more emotional term phileo. Both verbs are used of the love of the Father for the Son, John 3. 35 and 5, 20, and for believers, 14. 21; 16. 27: both of the love of Christ for John, 13. 20-22
Out of a pure heart – The proposition ek, out of, points to the inward seat from which the love springs. The heart, which physically is the mainspring of life, stands in its figurative use, for the hidden seat of the human will, its thoughts, affections, and emotions in general. The pure heart is that which is free from the admixture of everything that is corrupt and false. Cp. 3. 9; 2 Tim. 1. 3; 2. 22. The love thus described is not merely an impulse from natural feelings, it is not simply a sentimental emotion, exercised towards those with whom it finds a natural affinity; it is governed by the will of God, and stands in direct and complete antithesis to self-seeking: see 1 Cor. 13; Phil. 2, 4, 5; Col. 3. 12-14.
And a good conscience – The word suneidesis is, lit., Joint-knowledge. It stands for that faculty which distinguishes between what is morally good and bad, commending the former and prompting to do it, condemning the latter and prompting to shun it, A good conscience involves a consciousness of right conduct, of the fulfilment of that which is pleasing to God, Acts 23. 1; 1 Tim 1. 19; 1 Pet 3 16. 21.
For agathos, good, see at verse 8.
A good conscience is that which has been cleansed from guilt, through the blood of Christ, and as a result of this, responds to the claims of the Lord to exercise love, as being the aim of the charge here mentioned.
And faith unfeigned – The adjective anupokritos, unfeigned, is used again of faith in 2 Tim. 1. 5; it is applied to love (agape) in Rom. 12. 9 and 2 Cor. 6. 6. to love of the brethren (philadelphia) in 1 Pet. 1. 22, and to the wisdom that is from above in Jas. 3. 17. It marks the absence of everything that is contrary to what is, genuine and true. The hypocrite among the Greeks was originally a stage player, one who acted a part other than that of his own character.
The three phrases in this verse intimate the opposite characteristics to those of [he false teachers; in contrast to “a pure heart,” they were corrupted in mind. 6. 5; in contrast to “a good conscience," theirs was a seared conscience, 4. 2, margin; in contrast to “faith unfeigned,” they were reprobate concerning the faith, 2 Tim. 3. 8. In putting faith last the Apostle leads up to the inward power which produces these qualities; for faith purifies the heart, produces a good conscience and so works by love.
Verse 6. From which things some having swerved – “Which things” refers immediately to the three qualities just mentioned, and would therefore include the love by which they are manifested.
The verb astoicheo, which is translated “having swerved” primarily means to miss one’s aim (marg., “missed the mark”). It is used three times and only in these two Epistles. In 6. 21, it is translated “having erred,” and so in 2 Tim. 2. 18.
Have turned aside unto vain talking – The verb ektrepomai, to turn aside, is used four times in the two Epistles, here and in 5. 15, and 6. 20, where the R.V., rightly puts “turning away” instead of “avoiding,” and 2 Tim. 4. 4, where the R.V., rightly has “turned aside.” Elsewhere it is found only in Heb. 12. 13, “turned out of the way.”
“Vain talking” represents the single word matiaiologia, and literally translates it, mataios signifying “vain” in the sense of devoid of results, useless, to no purpose (cp. kenos, which signifies “vain” in the sense of empty, hollow), and logia, “speech.”
Verse 7. Desiring to be teachers of the law – They failed to apprehend the true bearing of the Law of Moses in relation to the Gospel, missing the distinction between the two. To regard the Law as part of the Divine revelation was right enough, but to endeavour to teach it as if it was something superior to the Gospel, and to imitate the Judaizing teachers, as if salvation was conditional upon the fulfilment of its precepts, rightly brought them under the stern denunciation expressed in this verse. These teachers were not necessarily Judaists themselves, though the evil doctrines they taught were much along the same lines. Ministry of the Scriptures without the personal knowledge of Christ and without the experience of the power of the Holy Spirit, consists entirely of unprofitable and ineffective talking.
Though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm – The R.V., “though they understand," serves to bring into greater prominence the contrast between the ambitions of the teachers and their actual condition. The R.V., rendering “confidently affirm," represents one verb in the original, signifying to affirm strongly, to assert confidently. The difference between “what they say” and whereof (or ‘concerning which’) they “confidently affirm" seems to lie in this, and the former applies more especially to the vain talking, the latter to the particular subjects, the objective doctrines, with which they dealt, such as “the knowledge falsely so called," 6. 20, where the Apostle seems to refer to the same two things.
The same verb diabebaioomai is found elsewhere in Titus 3. 3. which enjoins upon the servant of God things which he has to confirm confidently for the sake of the benefit of believers. The contrast between that passage and this is very significant.