3. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
3. Gratias ago Deo, quem colo a progenitoribus in conscientia, ut assiduam tui mentionem facio in pecibus meis die et noctu,
4. Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
4. Desiderans to videre, memor tuarum lacrymarum, ut gaudio implear,
5. When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, in which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
5. Memoria repetens eam, quae in to est, sinceram fidem, quae et habitavit primum in avia tua Loide, et in matre tua Eunice; persuasum habeo quòd etiam in to.
3. I give thanks. The meaning usually assigned to these words is, that Paul “gives thanks to God,” and next assigns the cause or ground of thanksgiving; namely, that he is unceasingly mindful of Timothy. But let my readers consider whether the following sense do not suit equally well and even better: “Whenever I remember thee in my prayers, (and I do so continually,) I also give thanks concerning thee;” for the particle wJv most frequently has that meaning; fb4 and, indeed, any meaning that can be drawn from a different translation is exceedingly meager. According to this exposition, prayer will be a sign of carefulness, and thanksgiving a sign of joy; that is, he never thought of Timothy without calling to remembrance the eminent virtues with which he was adorned. Hence arises ground of thanksgiving; for the recollection of the gifts of God is always pleasant and delightful to believers. Both are proofs of real friendship. He calls the mention of him (ajdia>leipton) unceasing, because he never forgets him when he prays.
Whom I worship from my ancestors. This declaration he made in opposition to those well — known calumnies with which the Jews everywhere loaded him, as if he had forsaken the religion of his country, and apostatized from the law of Moses. On the contrary, he declares that he worships God, concerning whom he had been taught by his ancestors, that is, the God of Abraham, who revealed himself to the Jews, who delivered his law by the hand of Moses; and not some pretended God, whom he had lately made for himself.
But here it may be asked, “Since Paul glories in following the religion handed down from his ancestors, is this a sufficiently solid foundation? For hence it follows, that this will be a plausible presence for excusing all superstitions, and that it will be a crime, if any one depart, in the smallest degree, from the institutions of his ancestors, whatever these are.” The answer is easy. He does not here lay down a fixed rule, that every person who follows the religion that he received from his fathers is believed to worship God aright, and, on the other hand, that he who departs from the custom of his ancestors is at all to blame for it. For this circumstance must always be taken into account, that Paul was not descended from idolaters, but from the children of Abraham, who worshipped the true God. We know what Christ says, in disapproving of all the false worship of the Gentiles, that the Jews alone maintained the true method of worship. Paul, therefore, does not rest solely on the authority of the fathers, nor does he speak indiscriminately of all his ancestors; but he removes that false opinion, with which he knew that he was unjustly loaded, that he had forsaken the God of Israel, and framed for himself a strange god.
In a pure conscience. It is certain that Paul’s conscience was not always pure; for he acknowledges that he was deceived by hypocrisy, while he gave loose reins to sinful desire. fb5 (<450708>Romans 7:8.) The excuse which Chrysostom offers for what Paul did while he was a Pharisee, on the ground that he opposed the gospel, not through malice, but through ignorance, is not a satisfactory reply to the objection; for “a pure conscience” is no ordinary commendation, and cannot be separated from the sincere and hearty fear of God. I, therefore, limit it to the present time, in this manner, that he worships the same God as was worshipped by his ancestors, but that now he worships him with pure affection of the heart, since the time when he was enlightened by the gospel.
This statement has the same object with the numerous protestations of the apostles, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles:
“I serve the God of my fathers, believing all things that are written in the law and in the prophets.” (<442414>Acts 24:14.)
“And now I stand to be judged concerning the hope of the promise which was made to our fathers, to which hope our twelve tribes hope to come.” (<442606>Acts 26:6.)
“On account of the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” (<442820>Acts 28:20.)
In my prayers night and day. Hence we see how great was his constancy in prayer; and yet he affirms nothing about himself but what Christ recommends to all his followers. We ought, therefore, to be moved and inflamed by such examples to imitate them, so far, at least, that an exercise so necessary may be more frequent among us. If any one understand this to mean the daily and nightly prayers which Paul was wont to offer at stated hours, there will be no impropriety in that view; though I give a more simple interpretation, that there was no time when he was not employed in prayer.
5. Calling to remembrance that unfeigned faith. Not so much for the purpose of applauding as of exhorting Timothy, the Apostle commends both his own faith and that of his grandmother and mother; for, when one has begun well and valiantly, the progress he has made should encourage him to advance, and domestic examples are powerful excitements to urge him forward. Accordingly, he sets before him his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, by whom he had been educated from his infancy in such a manner that he might have sucked godliness along with his milk. By this godly education, therefore, Timothy is admonished not to degenerate from himself and from his ancestors.
It is uncertain whether, on the one hand, these women were converted to Christ, and what Paul here applauds was the commencement of faith, or whether, on the other hand, faith is attributed to them apart from Christianity. The latter appears to me more probable; for, although at that time everything abounded with many superstitions and corruptions, yet God had always his own people, whom he did not suffer to be corrupted with the multitude, but whom he sanctified and separated to himself, that there might always exist among the Jews a pledge of this grace, which he had promised to the seed of Abraham. There is, therefore, no absurdity in saying that they lived and died in the faith of the Mediator, although Christ had not yet been revealed to them. But I do not assert anything, and could not assert without rashness.
And I am persuaded that in thee also. This clause confirms me in the conjecture which I have just now stated; for, in my opinion, he does not here speak of the present faith of Timothy. It would lessen that sure confidence of the former eulogium, if he only said that he reckoned the faith of Timothy to resemble the faith of his grandmother and mother. But I understand the meaning to be, that Timothy, from his childhood, while he had not yet obtained a knowledge of the gospel, was imbued with the fear of God, and with such faith as proved to be a living seed, which afterwards manifested itself.