“Confession in the presence of many witnesses”: in addition to the day of his consecration (cf. 1 Tim 4:14), Timothy would have often had occasion to make public confession of his faith. However, this phrase is couched in such formal terms that it seems to refer rather to the profession of faith which has been made at Baptism ever since the early years of the Church (cf. Acts 2:38-41).
13-14. “Keep the commandments”: the Greek may be referring to one specific commandment (as the RSV reflects); but it can also mean law as a whole and, more likely, the truths of Revelation, that is, the deposit of the faith professed at Baptism.
St Paul very formally calls in, as witnesses to this instruction, God the Father and Christ Jesus, “who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession”. Jesus’ “testimony” includes his entire passion and the declaration he made to the Roman procurator about messianic kingship and his true identity (cf. Jn 18:36-37).
“Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”: when referring to the second coming of Christ the New Testament often uses the term “parousia” (cf. 1 Cor 15:23; 2 Pet 3:4) or “revealing” (cf., e.g., 1 Cor 1:7); the Pastoral Epistles prefer “appearing”, epiphany, manifestation (cf. 2 Tim 4:1, 8; Tit 2:13), which better reflect the coming of Christ in glory as Savior (cf. 2 Tim 1:10). There is, of course , a wonderful continuity between the redemptive work of Christ, the action of the Church in conserving Revelation and passing it on, and the final coming of Christ at the end of time.
15-16. This doxology or hymn of praise, one of the richest and most beautiful in the New Testament, may have been taken from the Church’s liturgy (which may also be the case with the other hymns in this letter: cf. 1:17 and 3:15 -16). It was possibly a reply to pagan hymns honoring rulers and emperors as gods. However, it is more likely that this particular hymn was inspired by the Old Testament, which speaks of God in similar language. Whatever its origin, the important thing about the hymn is that it expresses faith in God who merits all praise.
At a time known only to him (cf. Mt 24:36), God the Father will bring about the glorious manifestation of Jesus Christ. The text refers to four attributes which show the power and sublimity of God: he is the “only Sovereign”, from whom all lawful rulers on earth receive their authority (cf. Jn 19:11). He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (literally, “the King of those who reign and the Lord of those who wield lordship”); this is not, then, a merely honorific title: he does actually exercise sovereignty over those who claim to possess it (cf. Rev 17:14; 19:16). He is “immortal”, for immortality is proper to God, who is Life (cf. Jn 1:4); angels and souls are immortal only by virtue of the nature given them by God. Finally, he is “light” and brightness: these are attributed to God (cf. Ps 104:2) to show his sublimity: God transcends all created things and cannot be fully comprehended by man. St Thomas explains that an object can be invisible on two counts either because it lacks brightness, as occurs with things which are dark and opaque, or because it is too bright, as occurs in the case of the sun, which is so br ight that the human eye cannot look at it; God is so far beyond the capacity of the human mind that man cannot entirely take him in even though what we can learn about him by the right use of reason and through revelation is true and accurate (cf. “Commentary on 1 Tim, ad loc.”). The conclusion of the hymn, which is liturgical and pedagogical in style, is similar to that found in 1:17: there it says “honor and glory”, here “heaven and eternal dominion”, putting more stress on God’s sovereignty.
This and the other hymns which appear in the letter show that the first Christians were fully aware that man’s true purpose in life is to give glory to God. “We do not live for the world, or for our own honor, but for the honor of God, for the glory of God, for the service of God. That is what should motivate us!” ([St] J. Escriva, “The Forge”, 851).
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
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