Comments On First Timothy
This epistle, and that to Titus, were written about the same time, the date considered to be 64 A.D., three years before the martyrdom of Paul. Only his second epistle to Timothy is written later, evidently just immediately before his death. The apostle had in his many previous epistles communicated the truth of God so necessary for the saints of God collectively and corporately. But it remains that there must be good, solid instruction to be pressed upon the individual child of God in connection with his responsibilities in fellowship with the assembly, the Church of God. These epistles, therefore, are addressed personally to Timothy and Titus, as was that to Philemon just two years before. (In this, however, Paul had not written as an apostle, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ.) While the unity of the Church of God is a matter of vital importance, as all the epistles to the assemblies bear witness, yet the obedience of the individual is most vital to that unity: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Moreover, whatever the response of the assembly unitedly may be, the individual is fully responsible still: there is no reason for us individually to be wrongly affected because of wrongs collectively.
The epistle to Titus emphasizes that truth is "according to godliness": it is not mere cold, isolated statements of fact, but requires a consistent, godly walk. On the other hand, Timothy (called a "man of God") shows evidence of godly character and sensitive conscience; so that this epistle to him emphasizes the other side of things, that is, that godliness must be according to truth. Godliness itself is not enough, but must have the clear truth of God as its pure guide, not merely conscientious scruples or commandments of men. This too accounts for the fact that Paul writes simply as an apostle, while in Titus his servant character is added; for the apostle presses the authority of the truth, while the servant encourages godliness.
Thirteen years previous to this Timothy had joined Paul and Silas in the work (Acts 16:1), evidently at an early age, for even at this time his youth is referred to (ch. 4:12). His background had been one of good instruction in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15) - the Old Testament, of course - his mother and grandmother being women of faith (2 Tim. 1:5). He was Paul's child in the faith (cf. 1 Cor. 4:15, 17), evidently converted at Paul's first visit to Lystra and lconium (Acts 14).
Both epistles to Timothy are authoritative, urgent, taking the form of a solemn charge, to which every believer should take heed. And yet in these the tenderness and love of the apostle's heart beautifully mingle with the seriousness of his message.
The reason for this first epistle is plainly recorded in chapter 3:15, that Timothy, the individual, might know how to behave himself in the house of God. A more normal state of the Church is contemplated here, before disorder had so largely affected it; for the second epistle presses the responsibility of the individual when disorder has caused such damage that the Church is no longer called the house of God, but "a great house" (ch. 2:20). Not that the present disorder does away with the responsibilities of the first epistle; but the second adds that which is necessary in the face of general departure. Let us take both deeply to heart, for present-day declension is the result of neglecting such vital truth.
The apostleship of Paul is shown here to be no light matter. His was a call totally independent of the other apostles, but "according to the command of God." We have, therefore, no liberty to regard his epistles as merely his personal convictions, but must recognize them as being that which God required him to write, having in them the supreme authority of God. Yet God is here called "our Savior." Titus also uses this expression, both in regard to God and in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ. This certainly involved the revelation of God's saving grace in the person of the Lord Jesus and in His atoning sacrifice. But if His authority is first affirmed, yet it is not merely authority, but that of Him who is Savior, in matchless goodness, grace, and compassion. Similarly, Christ Jesus, though risen, exalted, and supreme in glory, is "our Hope": we shall not always be in the place of lowly humiliation: in His person is all that the heart of the believer longs for, so that it is but a little while that we are called to endure.
Timothy was Paul's "true child in the faith," a genuine convert of Paul's, in whom he therefore had such confidence as to speak his heart with no evident reservation. The word here is "child" rather than "son," for it speaks of actual spiritual birth rather than the dignity of position. It is not simply that Timothy's character was patterned after that of Paul, but that "in Christ Jesus" Paul had "begotten" him through the gospel. Compare 1 Corinthians 4:14, 15, where "sons" is properly translated "children."
Paul wishes Timothy "grace," which is the divine favor sufficient to lift one above whatever the circumstances may 'be; and "mercy," God's showing compassion in the midst of circumstances; and "peace," the tranquility of soul given of God to calmly pass through all circumstances in unbroken, unruffled communion with the Lord Jesus. Such blessing too is based upon the unity of the Father and the Son: it is found from no other source, but perfectly there.
Verse 3. Though Paul had spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31), in ardent labors, teaching, testifying, and warning; and though to the Ephesians he was able to communicate in his epistle the truths of highest Christian blessing and position; yet he was persuaded that their souls' condition needed the ministry of Timothy to labor with the sad tendencies of departure that were present. There were "some" at least who were inclined to teach doctrine other than the truth of God. It did not need superior intellect to counteract this, but the faithfulness that honors God; not the communication of new truth, but applying to heart and conscience the truth which had been before communicated.
Timothy then was to charge or to command them that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies. Even those who had been taught a good deal of truth could be affected by a show of superior knowledge. Truth is solid and real, not fantastic, not appealing to man's love for sensationalism, but precious, vital, practical. Those things that merely impress the intellect or the imagination are not those which feed the soul. To trace one's genealogy back to some illustrious ancestor may be exciting, but only to the flesh. It is mere hollow vanity, for "all flesh is as grass." Occupation with such things will raise questions of no profit, and serve to destroy rather than to edify or build up. There is no power of faith in it, as there is in godly edifying.
"The commandment" in verse 5 refers to verse 3, speaking of that which is charged or enjoined. It is the solemn charge which Christianity rightly lays upon the shoulders of the saints, not a legal commandment, but that which is consistent with the grace of Christianity. Certainly on this account it is no less solemn and important to the heart renewed by grace through faith, but claims our willing, wholehearted obedience.
The charge has in view an end of purest moral blessing - "love out of a pure heart" first. The law actually required this, but furnished no power for it. In Christ that love is perfectly seen, and has been shed abroad in the believer's heart by the Spirit of God so that, being so blessed, he has no excuse for failing to manifest this love in his ways. "Out of a pure heart" too surely requires that we should not allow the intrusion of impure motives.
Secondly, a good conscience. This of course, is very personal, while the first is inclusive of others. To maintain a good conscience we must be obedient to what we have learned from God. "Faith unfeigned" completes this triplet, and, of course, connects the soul directly with God: it is the bringing of God into everything, in simple, unaffected confidence that He is supreme and at the same time vitally interested in all that concerns my path, His will perfect and good and acceptable. If these three things were always in vital, active exercise, how precious would be the testimony to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!
But some had turned aside from these ends of true soul-prosperity, to "vain jangling." This is simply idle, empty talk that ministers no good to the hearers. Their desire was to be teachers of the law, yet Scripture solemnly declares that they understood neither what they said, nor "concerning what they so strenuously affirm" (New Trans. of J. N. Darby). Bold, arrogant, dogmatic language does not necessarily indicate honest persuasion as to the truth of what one asserts: it may instead imply a pathetic ignorance of the entire subject with which he deals. And there is nothing more ignorantly used than the law, by many who suppose themselves authorities on the subject. For they would fain be in the place of judge, rather than to have the law judge and expose their own hearts, which is the purpose for which it was primarily given. Having not submitted to the law's judgment concerning themselves, they use it rather as though it were their own personal property, a weapon with which to force others into subjection to their conceptions.
But the law itself is good, and its lessons valuable indeed if it is used lawfully, that is, for the purpose for which God gave it. Too many use it only to bolster their own selfrighteousness, a thoroughly false use, for it was not even given for a righteous man, but for the lawless, disobedient, ungodly, and sinners. It will unsparingly expose and condemn sin, and leaves the sinner (that is, all mankind) under condemnation. It has no power whatever to forgive nor to justify, nor to take away the sin it exposes.
Verse 9. An X-ray will reveal the presence of gallstones in the human body, but it will neither remove the stones nor ease the pain they may cause. And after the X-ray has done its work, who would be inclined to boast that he depended on the X-ray and did his best to go by it entirely, when the gallstones were still doing their damaging work in his body? The remedy for his ailment is not in the X-ray, no more than the remedy for sin is in keeping the law. When the X-ray has revealed disease in the body, then the physician or surgeon is required; and the law, having revealed sin in mankind, then the Divine Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only resource for the soul.
The X-ray is not used in the case of those who are perfectly healthy, but to discern what may be wrong in the body. So, the law is not made for a righteous man, but rather to expose the many moral ailments that afflict mankind - lawlessness, disobedience, ungodliness, and all these dreadful evils that follow here, of which there is no need to speak in particular, but including everything that is contrary to sound doctrine.
The apostle adds here, "According to the glad tidings of the glory of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted" (J. N. Darby Trans.). The gospel then is no less exclusive of evil than is the law; but the gospel of the glory of the blessed God is the great remedy which brings health and soundness to the sick. And in this God's glory is revealed as it could not be in the law, which indeed declared God's righteous judgment, but could not reveal the love and grace of His heart. Paul too feels deeply the honor of being entrusted with this message of transcendent blessedness, to be dispensed in love for the sake of all mankind.
"The gospel of the glory of the blessed God" is, of course, the same gospel as "the gospel of the grace of God," but regarded in a distinct aspect, for this emphasizes not so much its gracious message for men, but its wondrous revelation of God's own glory, in character pure, holy, and precious, a revelation infinitely higher than law.
Verse 12. The apostle's profound thankfulness to God seems only to have increased with the years, as he contemplated the pure grace with which God had dealt with his soul from the time of his miraculous conversion. Power for his ministry had come from Christ Jesus our Lord, for He had counted Paul faithful. His appointment to ministry was in fact immediate upon his conversion, so that in his being abruptly stopped in his course of evil, and brought in true faith to bow at the feet of Jesus, there was such a change that from that moment he could be counted faithful. This was no work of human education or diligent training; but the powerful intervention of the pure grace of God. In fact, he was before a well trained, educated man, set in determined opposition to the very name of Jesus. Only a revelation from heaven made the difference; and the very best the flesh could produce is broken and crumpled before the name of Jesus. From then on, Paul is seen to be simply a broken vessel for the use of One infinitely superior, whose grace and power are strikingly displayed, not only in his conversion, but in his path of lowly, submissive service.
Verse 13. Paul could never forget what he had been before his obtaining mercy - first "a blasphemer," that is, one who brought gross dishonor upon the name of God (cf. Rom.2:24). Secondly, "a persecutor," which involves his cruel actions against the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 9:4). And thirdly, "an insolent, overbearing man," which, of course, was his attitude of antagonism against his fellowman. Certainly, before his conversion, he would never have applied such terms to himself. Far from thinking he was blaspheming God, he was fully certain he was doing God service. And far from considering himself a persecutor, he doubtless felt himself a faithful champion of the cause of truth. His overbearing insolence he no doubt looked at as commendable zeal. Such is the blindness of the unregenerate heart. He "did it ignorantly in unbelief." He was not, therefore, the willful manslayer, guilty of the premeditated, cold-blooded murder of the Lord Jesus; but rather the manslayer, killing "unawares and unwittingly" (Josh. 20:3). For such cases God appointed "cities of refuge." His mercy was available for such. Doubtless, the same blessed truth is evident in the word of the Lord Jesus from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34).
Let us notice how grace closely follows mercy. Mercy had compassionately dealt with him in his condition and circumstances of ignorance. Now grace is exceeding abundant, enabling him to triumph over every circumstance, for it is the power that elevates above circumstances. Faith and love in Christ Jesus are here intimately associated with this grace, for faith is that personal confidence in Him (God-given, in fact) by which grace is appropriated; and love is the accompanying warmth of the very nature of God shed abroad in the heart by the Spirit of God.
The apostle cannot too strongly emphasize the truth and value of such a message as that with which he was entrusted. it is basic to all true Christianity - simple, yet marvellously sublime; "a faithful saying," true to fact, dependable; "worthy of all acceptation," commended to the wholehearted acceptance of all mankind, without reserve. "That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Who can measure the wonder of such a message? How can the preciousness of this ever be exhausted? It is grace supreme and eternal: the Creator stooping to the place of lowly Manhood, not only to show a condescension of sympathetic consideration, but to willingly bear the awful judgment of God in order to save sinners. What matchless kindness! - to those who deserved not the slightest consideration, but who were enemies of God, lost, ruined, guilty, deserving only of judgment.
And Paul adds, "Of whom I am chief," considering him, self the most guilty of all. Not that he had been of a low, debased, repulsive character, but rather religious, self, righteous, proud; and this he knew now to be thoroughly sinful. But certainly, anyone, when he discerns the fact of his own dreadful guilt before the eyes of God, may say the same of himself: he sees himself to be the sinner, as though none others were worse than he. When the bottom is in this way reached, then the perfection and beauty of the grace is God in Christ Jesus is brought home to the soul, and there is peace in. the knowledge of eternal forgiveness, based entirely upon the blessed person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 16. While certainly the personal blessing of pa.., was a good reason for his obtaining mercy, yet divine wisdom had a higher reason than this. Paul is here seen to be an example or pattern in regard to conversion, a most striking illustration of the fact that the grace of God alone saves. He was one zealously pursuing a self-willed course which he thought was right. Naturally speaking, nothing would change him. But he was arrested by the light from heaven, and the voice of the Lord Jesus speaking from heaven. The Lord had borne with him in kindest longsuffering, and his soul was awakened at a time when he found it hard "to kick against the pricks." Others may not appear to be such decidedly "black and white" cases of conversion, yet in every case the same principles are involved, whether clearly seen or not. Conversion is always a work of marvellous grace, and must be directly connected with light from heaven and the Lord Jesus speaking from heaven. Not that this is naturally visible and audible, but nonetheless real. The soul must realize its having to do with the Lord Jesus Himself, for it is He who saves. Every true conversion is just as real as was that of Paul, though it may not be as pronounced in its circumstances. His was the more effective as a pattern through its being so clearly pronounced.
In his own person Paul illustrates the more clearly the great distinction between the principles of law and grace, between earthly religion and heavenly association with Christ. The former he completely gives up for the sake of the latter. Law is nevermore his standard, but Christ in glory the one Object of his soul. Certainly we who have since then "believed to life everlasting" should pay close attention to such a pattern.
Verse 17. It is precious indeed here to be reminded of the sovereign greatness and glory of the King of the ages, who is both infinitely superior to those who desired to be teachers of the law, and whose grace could so marvellously change a zealous law-keeper into a lowly, submissive servant, and give him a spirit of utter adoration and worship of Him whose glory is so great. As King of the ages, He is in absolute authority over all ages. Are we not also reminded here that the Lord Jesus Christ is called in Isaiah 9 "the Father of eternity"? How stupendous a thought! Again, as "incorruptible," He is an infinite contrast to those whom Timothy must withstand. "Invisible" implies certainly the inscrutable nature of the eternal God, He whose glory is beyond the highest conception of our own hearts or minds. "Only God." "Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts, 'I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God"' (Isa. 44:6). This chapter and the next two (Isa. 45 and 46) are full of such precious declarations. Power and glory Paul ascribes altogether to Him interminably, to the ages of ages. This surely puts us in our own place, yet is unspeakably blessed in giving us a completely satisfying Object and a spirit of deepest adoration and worship, so necessary for the creature.
"This charge" of verse 18, refers again to verse 3. For the precious revelation of the grace of God must not be kept in men's hands to trifle with as they desire. Those who regard grace as mere indulgence will soon turn it into lasciviousness, and God supplied guards against this from the beginning. Timothy had been marked out by prophecy beforehand as one who should maintain a true warfare against such abuse. God chooses His servants long before they are aware of it, but it is important that they fulfill the purpose for which they are chosen. What form these prophecies took it is not essential to know: no doubt Timothy knew what it was to which Paul referred. They may have been given through other saints of God before ever Timothy was called to the work. But they were not to be forgotten.
Faith is imperative to be maintained, as that which objectively connects the soul directly with God. It is personal and vital. This is true of conscience also, which, having to do with the subjective state of the individual, is necessarily, properly speaking, of a sensitive character, necessarily to be held in delicate adjustment. Faith must ever have the Word of God as its food, for it is a vital belief of the revelation of God. Conscience is secondary, but must be governed by the Word, or may lead us badly astray. For conscience involves a sense of responsibility as to what is right or wrong, and the only reliable judge of this is Scripture. But some had let conscience slip, and with it faith. This is, no doubt, the secret of many tragic falls, that conscience is not good, and being ignored, leaves the soul exposed to ruin. Confidence in God suffers along with it, of course, and shipwreck is the result.
Two men are here mentioned of whom this was true, and whom Paul had delivered unto Satan, that they may learn "not to blaspheme." There was apostolic authority in this.
No mention is even made of any assembly action in excommunicating these men. But their doctrinal evil had progressed far enough that discipline was required. Today no man individually can take the authority for putting another away: we are not apostles. In fact, an assembly cannot even claim the authority to "deliver to Satan"; but it is responsible to put away one who is guilty of a course of evil, whether doctrinal or moral. Hymenaeus means "a wedding song," and would perhaps indicate the subtle evil that would merrily wed Christianity with corruption. In 2 Timothy 2:17 we see that, though excommunicated, he still advanced in evil, his doctrine being wicked, and another man, Philetus, being also linked with him. Alexander means, "man defender," and would seem to imply opposition to the truth Paul taught as to the thorough judgment of man in the flesh. He too had not been restored by discipline later on, for Paul speaks of his doing him "much evil" (2 Tim. 4:14). How solemn to think of these men's names being recorded in Scripture in so dreadful a way! Proper discipline had not yet arrested their blasphemous rebellion, though this was the object in view. Sad indeed that an object so honorable may yet fail of its purpose!
We have seen in chapter 1 that the grace of God must predominate as the one principle of true blessing, and the one corrective when falsehood threatens. Chapter 2 now calls for an attitude consistent with this grace, in the face of all the inconsistency that prevails around us. Here is true Christian character in connection with the house of God: prayer is of utmost importance.
This word "exhort" is the same as "charge" or "command" previously seen, a responsibility placed solemnly upon Timothy's shoulders, and certainly intended for all saints. And "first of all" surely impresses upon us the fact that earnest prayer on behalf of others is of vital consequence, not only for the sake of their blessing (which is deeply important), but for the maintaining of true Christian character in the house of God, the Assembly.
"Supplication" involves earnest entreaty, certainly no mere "saying of prayers," but the desire earnestly expressed. "Prayer" is making request in a dependent spirit. "Intercessions" refers to having an audience with God on behalf of others. But "giving of thanks" is most salutary here. We may little think of this in regard to "all men," but it is the Word of God. All are His own creatures, and whatever their character or conduct, we are told to give thanks for them, as well as to pray for them. Let us never forget it. This will serve to help us to maintain a proper attitude toward them.
Kings and all who are in authority are specially singled out as to this. It is God who has put them in this place, whatever the form of government may be, or whatever abuses of true government may appear. Elsewhere we are told to obey those who are in authority, but never told to use our influence in reference to who should rule, or how he should do it. Of course, obedience to God is supreme above all obedience to government; and there may be occasions when one must deliberately disobey the government in order to obey God. But in the main, a spirit of obedience to God will be seen in an attitude obedient to government. Add to this prayer and giving of thanks, and the tendency will always be toward our leading a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty. No doubt abnormal conditions may exist where government is viciously determined to destroy Christianity; but here a more normal condition of things is contemplated.
Being "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior" certainly implies that such prayer is a verbal offering to God who is pleased with it. And though He is the eternal God, His very character is that of "Savior" - certainly manifested as such in the person of Christ - and prayer of this kind is consistent with His own gracious desire that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. To be saved certainly comes first, yet it does not end here: the knowledge of the truth is a matter also of great importance; so that our prayers for others are not to be confined to requests for salvation, but for their learning the precious truth of God.
It may be a question with us as to why others are in Scripture called "gods," as in John 10:35: "He called them gods unto whom the Word of God came." But the answer is given us in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6: "There is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one lord, Jesus Christ, and we by hirn." If idols are called this, it is mere vanity: the believer does not acknowledge it at all. Or if God calls the elders of Israel "gods," it is simply as being representatives of the true God: in any full, proper sense, there is only one God, as Israel well knew. But if this is true, then He is not the God of Israel only, but also of Gentiles.
The one Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus, was as necessary for Jews as for Gentiles: neither could actually be brought to the true God except by and through Him. And His becoming Man was an absolute essential, in order that any man might really know the eternal God. He is the "Daysman," of whom Job speaks, one who might lay His hand both upon God and upon man (Job 9:33). For of necessity there is between God and man a naturally impassable barrier. How can mere finite, earthbound man comprehend an infinite, eternal, omniscient God? In fact men commonly use this argument to dismiss any consideration of their responsibility Godward. Of course, this is vain, for the fact is that God is a God who reveals Himself. Admittedly, in the Old Testament this was only a partial revelation, though progressive. But this is completely changed in the person of the Man Christ Jesus. His incarnation involves more than mediatorship, for He is Himself the revelation of the eternal God in human form; but His mediatorship is of vital consequence for all men, for only through Him may anyone actually be brought into contact with the Living God.
Moreover, He is available for all; in fact has given Himself a ransom for all. This word holds the thought of loosing or setting free by means of substitution. If one was to be a mediator, this too was requisite, for man's sin had estranged him from God, a question that must be settled as part of a mediatorial bringing of men to God. Not that all are actually ransomed, but the ransom is fully sufficient for all. To be applicable, it must be received by faith in the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of God.
"To be testified in due times" refers to the testimony now declared after man's time of testing and probation had shown every other alternative powerless: for long years God had patiently borne with and waited for man to be given every opportunity to prove himself apart from the necessity of a Mediator. Now the precise time has come for the revelation and testimony of the One Mediator.
Verse 7. Paul's first designation of himself here, "a preacher" or "herald" involves his being sent to publish the truth of Christianity. This was God's appointment, as is that of apostle and teacher. Apostle, however, adds the character of God-given authority to his message, an authority that rightly requires subjection in the hearer. None can claim this today: apostles are no longer appointed of God: their authority rather remains for us in the Scriptures they have written, though they themselves have long since departed this scene. But here Paul inserts the arresting parenthesis: "I speak the truth in Christ: I lie not." If one would question Paul's apostolic authority, it is solemnly imperative that this issue must be fairly faced: it can be no matter of indifference: it is either fully true, or wickedly false. He will allow no neutrality in regard to the matter. Let us therefore acknowledge it with wholehearted acceptance, as God manifestly intends. "A teacher of the nations in faith and truth" is added here, for this is more than publishing and calling for subjection to the message. The orderly teaching of the fullness and significance of that message was another spiritual gift communicated to Paul. It was necessary that Paul speak firmly and decidedly of these functions for which he was appointed of God; though, on the other hand, he makes no mention whatever of the particular gift or gifts possessed by Timothy. In this matter it is wise and right for us to be as Timothy, expecting no definite characterization of our gift, but doing what we can in a spirit of true godly subjection and faith. The results will manifest the gift; but there is no need for us to know or to declare what gift we have, for we shall never be in the position of the apostle Paul, to whose message God drew such attention as to require obedience. This message was particularly to "the nations," not Israel alone. In fact elsewhere we are told he himself was wrought upon mightily by God toward the Gentiles, in contrast to Peter's distinctive ministry to the Jews (Gal. 2:8). His last expression in 1 Timothy 2:7, "In faith and truth," certainly presses the deep importance of this ministry as a special communication from God.
It will be seen in these verses (8 to 15) that in reference to prayer there is a decided difference insisted upon between men and women. Men were to pray everywhere, which would of course include the public place, which is not that of the woman. A brother in the Lord should be prepared at all times to rise to the occasion of lifting his voice in audible prayer. We see this preeminently in the Lord Jesus (Jn. 6:11; 11:41, 42; 12:27, 28), but in the apostle Paul also (Acts 27:35, etc.), and certainly with the lifting up of holy hands. If one's hands are soiled by questionable works, he is generally loathe to pray publicly (and should be), for this will draw more attention to his hands. Let the man not ignore his responsibility to pray; but let him back this up with becoming honorable conduct.
It may seem strange that it is necessary to add here, "without wrath and doubting (or reasoning)." Yet how solemn a warning that public prayer must not be taken advantage of to express one's displeasure in another. This has too often been done. Even Elijah prayed against Israel (Rom. 11:2, 3); and on one occasion we read, "Moses was very wroth, and said unto the Lord, Respect thou not their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them" (Num. 16:15). This is not true prayer, for prayer must express both submission to, and dependence upon, the grace of God. Wrath must here give place to true concern for the blessing of others. Let us not abuse the sacred privilege of publicly addressing God in such a way that God is not really honored. But doubting or reasoning is another grave hindrance to true prayer, for it is the opposite of simple confidence in the Lord. Doubtful rationalizing is certainly offensive to a God of pure love and grace, who delights to answer prayer in the best possible way for His beloved saints. It is insulting, particularly in public, to address Him without some simple, honest confidence of faith, that He will answer according to His perfect will.
Though the man is responsible to take the public place in regard to speaking on behalf of God, the emphasis as regards the woman is rather upon her deportment as before the eyes of others. The man is to have the spirit of subjection in the manner of his praying: in like manner the woman is to have the spirit of subjection in her silent, lowly conduct of godliness. Decent deportment is to be coupled with decent dress: nothing should be ostentatious in one way or the other. The unseemly drawing of attention by means of costly attire, jewelry and gold, is far from reflecting the character of her Lord and Master. Equally offensive of course would be a slovenly, careless deportment, for this has its roots in the same pride and self-will as does the other. The details of dress, etc., would surely be easily and rightly adjusted where faith and godliness are in true exercise, as opposed to the common selfwill and self-expression of our day. But positive "good works" stand over against the negatives that are to be avoided.
1 Corinthians 14 is clear that the woman is not to speak at all in the assembly. In our present chapter it is shown that teaching is not for her, whether in the assembly or elsewhere, if any public character of things is involved. At least, if men are present, it is not the woman's place to teach. The instructing of women or of children in less public circumstances could hardly come under the same restriction, but the woman must be careful that her teaching in any case does not put her in a place of any kind of prominence. It is in fact her glory to be in quietness. The reason for this given here is to be closely observed! Adam was first formed, then Eve. It is-simply order in God's creation, with no question of moral superiority or inferiority involved at all, nor any question of ability. It is God's order, and any infraction thereof is disorder.
This is emphasized too by the fact that Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression. The woman did have a safeguard if only she had remembered the woman's place. When Satan tempted her, she could simply have referred the matter to Adam; for here was a case of the tempter ignoring her head, and coming to the weaker vessel. Adam was not deceived, but sinned with his eyes wide open, no doubt out of affection for his wife. Certainly he is no less responsible: it is guilt in both cases; but this still illustrates the fact that man, being characterized particularly by intelligent and deliberating judgment, is fitted for the public place; and woman, more rightly marked by her feelings and intuition, is fitted for the more quiet place of subjection.
Childbearing is consistent with this lowly place, but a blessed honor nevertheless which is not given to the man. If any woman is inclined to question these things, she may well be greatly benefited by considering the many godly mothers of Scripture, whose subject lowly character shines with a beauty that can be seen in no other way. Yet, let us notice too that her being "saved in childbearing" is conditional not only upon her own continuing in faith and love and holiness with discretion, but upon this being true of both husband and wife: "If they continue." This surely impresses upon us the vital value of true spiritual unity in the marriage relationship: a woman who marries an ungodly husband could not claim such a promise as this.
If before we have seen personal conduct that is to be consistent with assembly character, this chapter, while dealing with personal character still, connects it directly with the order of the assembly. The work of the overseer, or elder, is a good work. It is not actually an "office" one is to desire here, but the work. The bishop is simply the overseer, one who cares for the state of the assembly, and watches over its spiritual interests and conditions. Acts 20 shows these men as "the elders of the assembly" (v. 17, 28); and Titus 1 confirms this also. "Overseer" indicates the work he was given: "elder" describes the person; for he must be a man of experience. Never is one said to be "the overseer" or "the elder" of an assembly; for this was not a place one person was allowed to take exclusively. Philippians 1:1 is addressed to the saints, and to the bishops (overseers) and deacons; and the appointment of elders (not an elder) is seen to be "in every assembly" (Acts 14:23; Ti. 1:5). This appointment in the various Gentile assemblies established by Paul was undertaken by Paul and Barnabas, and in Crete was delegated to Titus by Paul. Never was this left to the assembly to do. It is possible Paul also gave Timothy the authority to make such appointments, though this is not directly stated here; but the important matter here is rather the qualifications of the overseer. No apostle is here now to delegate authority for appointing elders, and therefore the official appointment is scripturally impossible. But the work of the elder is still to be done, and where there are proper qualifications, and willingness to do this work, the saints must certainly be prepared to recognize and respect men of such character.
As to his character, an overseer is simply to be thoroughly Christian: these same characteristics ought to be seen in all saints. But added to this, he must be an elder man, a man of some experience, the husband of one wife, and apt to teach.
The word for "vigilant" here is more correctly sober or circumspect, while that for "sober" in the Authorized Version has the force of "a sound mind." His behavior is to be orderly, and in his home he is to practice hospitality. Having one wife would evidently indicate that he must be proven in family life. Doubtless many were converted in those days who had more than one wife. This would disqualify them from the place of an overseer, even though the grace of God had wrought mightily in their souls. For there had been a basic character displayed of insensibility to God's order even in creation. This was not to be ignored even after conversion, as to governmental matters. In such cases problems would no doubt arise that would call for real exercise of soul, as to what must be done, but Scripture gives no instruction as to what a man must do who had already married two wives.
It was not required that an elder should be a teacher, but that he should have sufficient knowledge of the Word that he was "apt to teach," having a heart to instruct the saints in the things of God, whether or not he had the gift of teaching.
If one did not control himself as regards the drinking of wine, he could have no place in the control of the assembly; and this was true too as regards being "a striker," which involves lack of control of his own temper. Similarly, he must not be a lover of money, for this evidences lack of control over his own selfishness. Patience on the other hand involves having rule over ones spirit. This is rendered "mild" in the Darby Translation. A contentious attitude is the destruction of such things.
Moreover, his own house must be orderly, his children in subjection, for this was the very proving ground of his ability to keep order in the assembly. Therefore, he must not be a "novice," one who was only new in the knowledge of Christ, for experience was a real necessity; and premature lifting up of one to a conspicuous place could result in his being puffed up with pride, that which was the downfall of the Devil. We must have enough concern to preserve souls from this grave danger.
Finally, the outside world must see in him that which is honorable and righteous. If his dealings with the world are questionable, he would himself fall into reproach and involve the assembly with him, if he had any place of eldership. And here the snare of the Devil is laid for him, for the Devil gloats over being able to speak reproachfully of the child of God and the assembly of God.
Verse 8. The deacon is simply a ministering servant, occupied particularly with the care of temporal arrangements and necessities in connection with the local assembly. In Acts 6 there were seven of these appointed to wait on tables. In this case the brethren were told to look out from among themselves seven men of honest report, and these were appointed. The apostles left the assembly free to choose these men. This was not so as to elders, who were rather appointed by apostles or by one who had been specifically delegated by an apostle. The saints are not allowed to decide who is to have spiritual oversight in the assembly: God decides this independently of them. But for the care of their temporal things the assembly is perfectly right to decide who is to assume responsibility.
However, even for temporal matters, it is essential that one should have spiritual qualifications, for he is responsible to act with fullest integrity and proper care for the interests of the assembly. The requirements of a deacon are similar therefore to those of an elder, except that it was not necessary that he be an elder man or have special experience; but he must be of solid character, not using his tongue in political maneuvering, controlling his appetite, not fond of money; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience that is, that the truth of Scripture must have vital control in his conscience, thereby maintaining it uncontaminated. Time was first to be allowed to prove the character of the man, before giving him this work.
Besides this however, their wives must have a character of dependability, not slanderers; for the wife may too easily influence her husband, and this can be of serious importance in the temporal affairs of the assembly. Again, the deacons were to be those who had only one wife, having their children in subjection, for their work was connected with governmental administration in the assembly, and ability to keep proper order was imperative.
The summing up of this in verse 13 involves a principle of vital importance. One whose work of a deacon was well done, by this very means found great blessing for his own soul, gaining much strength by way of being "faithful in that which is least." This always leads to greater things, being entrusted with "much." It is illustrated beautifully in
Stephen and Philip, both chosen as deacons in Acts 6, and both later given "great boldness" in declaring the precious truths of God, whether truth, as in Stephen's case, that struck home to the consciences of Israel (Acts 7); or as in Philip's case, the gospel of grace that reached the hearts of the Samaritans (Acts 8).
The importance of Paul's subject in this epistle was such that, though expecting to see Timothy, he must not think of delaying his message as long as he himself might be delayed. It is with similar urgency that John writes his second epistle (to the elect lady, 2 John 12), for she must be warned of the danger of receiving false teachers into her home. Does this not teach us that we too must allow ourselves no delay in obeying such vital truths as are here expressed? The chief reason for the writing of this epistle is that the individual may know how to conduct himself in connection with the house of God, the Assembly. Is this a matter of real concern to every child of God? How little, sadly, is this the actual case! The unity, prosperity, strength, and growth of the assembly is too often completely ignored, while we think only of personal interests, blessings, testimony, or perhaps of a few others, who are special friends. If God's interests are truly ours, then let us remember that the house of God is "the assembly of the Living God, the pillar and base of the truth.,' This surely involves all the beloved saints of God, though all as united together in one by the power of the Spirit of God. It is only here that the truth today is properly displayed. Ignoring God's Assembly is ignoring the truth. And the Assembly remains "the pillar and base of the truth," though she has been guilty of too greatly compromising her place in practice, so that the truth does not shine out in the clearness with which it should. All true believers form that Assembly in which God delights, though in 2 Timothy 2 "a great house" is found, which involves a mixture of falsehood with the true, and this is foreign to the truth, so that the individual, in order to rightly behave in the house of God, must purge himself from the vessels to dishonor, and "follow righteousness, faith, love, and peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
In the first epistle this had not yet appeared, of course; and if every individual had always rightly conducted himself in the house of God, such disorder would not have appeared. Nevertheless, the responsibility of every saint remains the same as to his proper conduct: the failure of the mass does not give the individual liberty to also disobey. In fact, it becomes more imperative that he have sober wisdom and exercise to discern the mind of God as to his proper behavior, with full purpose of heart to obey.
Verse 16 expresses the marvellous truth which the assembly is here to bear as a precious witness before all creation. There is no question as to the greatness of the mystery of piety. This does not mean that we have any excuse to remain ignorant of it. Speaking of this word, "mystery," or in the Greek, "musterion," Vine's Dictionary says, "In the New Testament it denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit." Therefore, it is not only difficult, but impossible for unbelief to understand. Yet for faith it is made known in its grandeur and greatness such as draws out the marvelling adoration of the heart.
"God was manifest in flesh." It is impossible to overestimate the wonder of this matchless revelation. Very possibly the proper translation here may be "He who was manifest in flesh"; but the truth remains the same; for this was certainly not an angel so manifested, and of man this form of speech could never be used, for man is flesh. But Philippians 2:6, 7 and Colossians 2:9 are as clear as can be that this One existed first m the form of God," and that now In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Precious, wonderful revelation of infinite love and grace! What natural mind could conceive a miracle so great as that of the incarnation of the Eternal Deity, the Creator, in lowly human form - indeed as a dependent Babe in His mother's arms? How this could be is beyond the reasoning of our minds; but the fact is proven abundantly in the Word of God. Many things in the history of the Lord Jesus can be attributed only to the fact that He is God, for instance His "knowing all things" (Jn. 18:4, 21:17); His answering the unspoken thoughts of men's minds (Mk. 2:6-8); His calming of the sea (Mk. 4:39); His walking on the sea (Mt. 14:25); His raising the dead (Mk. 5:41, 42; Lk. 7:14, 15; Jn. 11:43, 44); and His many other miracles of grace.
On the other hand, many things about Him can be traced only to the fact that He is truly Man: His weariness at the well of Sychar (Jn. 4:6); His fourteen prayers of lowly dependence inthe Gospel of Luke, and perhaps specially that in the Garden of Gethesemane where He was prostrate in agony, with 1,strong crying and tears" (Lk. 22:41-44; Heb. 5:7); His actual death (the spirit leaving the body); His literal resurrection in bodily form (Lk.23:46, 47; 24:36-43). These sublime witnesses to His eternal deity and perfect manhood are unspeakably
us to the believer, filling the heart with thanksgiving for the amazing truth that He is manifest in flesh.
" justified in the Spirit." The significance of this is shown in Scripture to be of great importance. This was thirty years after His incarnation, when about to begin His public ministry. Being baptized by John in the river Jordan, He came up out of the water to be greeted by the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Father's voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt. 3:16, 17).
This was a public justification for every observer, of the truth of every claim of the Lord Jesus: the Spirit of God coming upon Him, the Father's voice giving His unqualified approval of Him. Perfectly sufficient witness is in this way borne to Him, a witness which was of course continued in the evident fact of the power of the Spirit being evidenced in every detail of His life. But the initial fact could not be disputed, being observed by many witnesses, of whom John the Baptist is rightly the chief spokesman, his witness clearly recorded in John 1:32-34.
Though chronologically the fact of His being "seen of angels" comes before His being "justified in the Spirit," yet it was of more importance that God's own approval of Him by the descent of the Spirit should be first mentioned here: the wondering admiration of angels is secondary. Yet this too is intended to engage our deep attention. Is it not a marvelous indication of the fact that in the incarnation of the Lord of Glory is the first time that angels have ever truly seen God? In the greatness of His effulgent glory, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, there is brightness beyond any creature's ability to behold; and though for ages existent, angels had never known a true manifestation of the glory of God until the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
The reader may find greatest blessing in considering the many occasions on which angels are spoken of in connection with the entire history of the Lord Jesus, from before His birth until taken up after His resurrection. It is most precious to observe the evident vital interest these took in everything concerning Him.
"Preached unto the Gentiles" is again a matter of wonderful importance. The Old Testament had no message to be proclaimed to Gentile nations; and four thousand years of history passed by before the message of God could be sent world-wide. Only the manifestation of the glory of God in the person of Christ could provide so vital a message. Israel had b: en given the law of God, accompanied by "blackness and darkness and tempest," with smoke and the sound of a trump - a law cold and hard as the stones upon which it was v, ritten, inexorable in its penalties against disobedience; which held no gospel, no message of grace, no forgiveness, no justification, no rest. But grace now invites all nations to come to the knowledge of the Son of God. He Himself is preached: He Himself is "the way, the truth, and the life."
Another fact worthy of attention here is simply that He has been "believed on in the world." There are those who, in the face of the world's concerted unbelief, take a stand of implicit faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: their number is not the important thing, but their acceptance of the pure truth of Him who is God manifest in flesh, a precious witness in the eyes of God.
Last of all mentioned is His being "received up in glory" (though this of course actually preceded His being preached to Gentiles). For God in human form, a miracle of this kind is of course no difficulty whatever. And He remains true Man, in whom all the glory of the Godhead is manifested for eternity. Here ends the apostle's treatment of the mystery of godliness. Wonderful witness indeed, which the Assembly, the house of God, is intended to present to all creation.
The solemn warning here is in startling contrast to the preciousness of what we have considered as to God manifest in flesh. How cold is the heart of man that he will turn deliberately from a faith so vital and valuable! Not that this verse 1 speaks of a general apostasy, as will be true in the last days, for the apostle speaks only of "some" apostatizing. Yet it is a determined effort of Satan to corrupt the truth of the sacred Word of God and to obscure the glory of the manifestation of God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us observe the unusual expression here, "The Spirit speaks expressly." He speaks certainly in all the Word: but this matter is one of specially serious import, a prophecy to be taken deeply to heart, for it indicates the subtle way in which the truth of God would be glossed over by the introduction of proud human merit, self-abnegation, etc., not an outright denial of the truth, but a cunning displacing of it. Some are greatly attracted by this kind of thing, but the Spirit of God calls it no less than apostasy, that is, an actual giving up of true Christianity. It is direct entertaining of the suggestions of seducing spirits and teachings of demons-that which is spoken of in Colossians 2:23 as "will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body."
This kind of teaching always involves "lies spoken in hypocrisy." Appearing very specious and plausible, the
hypocrisy of it snares unwary souls who have not learned that "the flesh profiteth nothing. But those who propagate such things ignore their own consciences to such a degree that they become seared as with a hot iron, and of course eventually become without proper feeling. We must not dare to treat conscience in this way, but allow it always its true, sensitive activity. Sensitive members of our body are vitally important to warn us against dangers that threaten health and even life. To be deprived of their ability to function may come without warning. If the lens of a lighthouse lamp is covered with grime, the warning light will not be seen.
Notice in verse 3 the negative character of the teachings of such deceivers. "Forbidding to marry" may sound very holy and self-denying, but it is not so. A sect may be easily formed on a basis of this kind, but it is opposed to the truth of Christ. They may justify it by insisting that Christ was unmarried, and Paul was unmarried, which two facts are true. But the Lord Jesus nevertheless confirmed and emphasized what Genesis had declared, that "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh" (Mt. 19:5). And Paul no less strongly declares the truth of the purity of the marriage bond in Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 5:14; Hebrews 13:4; and 1 Corinthians 7:28. He himself had voluntarily made himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake (Mt. 19:12), willingly foregoing marriage that he might the more fully serve the Lord. But he would adamantly oppose any suggestion of men to make such a thing a rule: this would be utter evil.
The same may be said of making any rule of abstaining from meats. Paul himself tells us that, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend" (1 Cor. 8:13)'
Here is the very real personal exercise of one whose care for souls is such that he will gladly sacrifice his personal rights for the sake of the blessing of another. But this is far removed from making any rule as to abstaining from meats. Nor does he consider that eating or refraining from eating has any effect on the spiritual state of his own soul (1 Cor. 8:8). These things must be kept clearly distinct. Meats themselves have been created by God to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
Under law it is true that certain meats were forbidden to Israelites (Lev. 11); but not because the eating of those meats was in itself sinful. Rather, it was a symbolical lesson to Jews as to their maintaining a distinct separation from the Gentile nations, and impressing upon them the rigidity of the legal covenant. This is plainly indicated in Acts 10, when Peter was given a vision by God in which every type of animal was depicted in a vessel let down from heaven, and Peter was told to "Rise, slay, and eat." When he objected, God told him, "What God hath cleansed, that call thou not common." This was done three times to emphasize its importance (Acts 10:9-16). The dispensation of law was over: its regulations must not be carried into Christianity. The middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles had been broken down by means of the cross; and with it, of course, the regulations concerning the abstaining from meats were done away (Eph. 2:14, 15).
Verse 4. "Every creature of God is good." There is no evil whatever in the fact of eating any of the various meats therefore. The question of what may be harmful to health in specific cases, is not, of course, considered here, but the spiritual implications of eating. If one knows he cannot tolerate certain foods without suffering for it, then it is only sensible for him to avoid these. But eating or not eating makes no spiritual difference. "If it be received with thanksgiving" is an important condition noted here. If I do not thank God for my food, then whatever I eat, the spiritual implications are bad. That which sets the food apart as God's provision is the Word of God and prayer.
These things had been faithfully taught before, but to put the brethren in remembrance of them is a matter that must constantly exercise the servant of God. Timothy was not told to concern himself with teaching new things, but to unwearyingly go over that which had been known before, to present it as the ever fresh ministry of the Spirit of God vitally needed as food for the soul. In so doing he would be a good minister of Christ Jesus, his own soul not only instructed, but nourished, and therefore fitted to nourish others. For it is surely not because of intellectual ignorance that men give heed to seducing spirits, but because their souls are not nourished satisfyingly with the pure truth of God. "Words of faith and of good doctrine" then are in contrast to "seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." And the measure to which one has attained is in proportion to the nourishment digested in his own soul.
Verse 7. Profane and old wives' fables are of one piece with what is seen in verses 2 and 3: a true connection with God is lacking in it all. People may claim these things are only supplemental to the truth of Christianity; but if it is not Christianity, then in no way does it supplement Christianity: it must be refused. "Profane" is simply secular, as distinct from what is sacred, and in fact in contrast to it. It must be kept distinct: it cannot add one iota to the truth of God. In fact, such fables may sound very flattering and confirming to the truth, but this is one of Satan's most cunning methods: if he can persuade Christians to accept such things, the door is open to any untruth, and the truth itself is soon displaced.
But besides "profane" these are called "old wives' fables," that is, they are perpetuated and disseminated by idle gossip, not by the pure energy of the Spirit of God. This type of thing is to be resolutely refused, and the positive exercise of godliness cultivated. This calls for a constant stirring up of the heart in concern for the glory of God and conformity to His own character. As physical exercise promotes the health and vigor of the body, so this spiritual exercise is necessary for the normal health of the soul.
Bodily exercise, it is conceded, does profit for a little while, that is, it is of value temporarily (therefore not to be ignored): but godliness has both present and eternal value: this life is benefited by it inestimably, and it has in it a character that reaps eternal results. How well worth cultivating!
Verses 9 to 11 emphasize the importance of these things, for these are matters of more importance than we are naturally likely to attribute to them, and Timothy is urged to keep in mind the fact that for these very things the true servant of God both labors and suffers reproach, his trust being in the Living God. Unfeigned faith is to be a consistent motivating power in all this, and this same spirit of faith is that which the servant seeks to cultivate in the hearers. The eye is to be undividedly upon the Living God, and if this is true, then the servant's labors will certainly bring reproach, but will gain the approval of God, who is Himself the Preserver of all men, specially of those who believe. All men are dependent upon His preserving care in the very details of their lives: if so how much more believers should depend on Him fully; for whatever the reproach they may bear, they will be unfailingly preserved of God.
Timothy was to command and teach these things: Divine authority was behind them: they must not in the least be compromised. He was not to allow men to despise his youth. This could only be accomplished through what follows. Young man though he was, he was to be an example of the believers, not one merely following passively the example of others. "In word" is first mentioned, for it is this that others will first observe. "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Words reveal that which most occupies the heart.
"In conversation" is rightly translated "in conduct," (Darby Trans.), and refers to conversing not only audibly, but in our actions. This too will claim the observation of others, who should see in it a godly example. "In love" is a precious addition to conduct, for this is the warming, attracting character that draws souls, and does require true cultivation. "In faith" is surely no less important, for the soul must learn to always look out from mere circumstances to the Living God, with unfeigned confidence in His truth and faithfulness, drawing from Him the grace to meet the many problems of the way. If this is true, how precious an example for others! "In purity" evidences a single heart that allows no admixture of principles, no adulteration of truth, but honestly keeps separate the precious from the vile. This certainly will be noticed too, not always appreciated by men, but valuable in the eyes of God, and a necessary example for others.
Verses 13 and 14 have direct reference to Timothy's service to others, while the last two verses are personal to him. His giving attendance to reading then is doubtless reading in public for the sake of others. It is evident, however, that if he was to do this effectively, he would first have to read privately. Reading would provide food for the mind: exhortation would stir the heart and conscience as regards what has been read: doctrine, or teaching, would give the accurate, clear significance of what has been read.
The danger was present too of Timothy's neglecting the use of the gift God had given him. The timidity of his nature was evidently such that he needed this exhortation. In fact, one is saddened to think that he did not sufficiently take to heart this admonition; for in the second epistle (ch. 1:6) the apostle uses a much stronger expression, "That thou rekindle the gift of God which is in thee" (Darby Trans.). If we pay close attention to the first, we shall not need the second. Yet the grace of God is still available should we have so neglected our gift that it requires the more radical energy of rekindling.
The way in which Timothy's gift was given was evidently exceptional, for we read of nothing like this of others. "By prophecy" seems to indicate that God revealed beforehand to at least one other what character of gift Timothy was to have. 2 Timothy 1:6 appears to show that this exercise of prophecy was on the part of Paul, for the gift was given, he says, "by the putting on of my hands." It is not "by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery," but "with"; so that apparently the actual gift was given by God by means of Paul's putting on of his hands, but accompanied by the same gesture of fellowship on the part of elders, simply as expressing their concord with this. It does not, of course, deny the fact that "one and the selfsame Spirit divides to every man severally as he will" (1 Cor. 12:11), but in this exceptional case the Spirit used the apostle Paul as the medium of the communication of the gift. The general rule is Plainly the free and independent action of the Spirit of God in giving gift according to His own will.
In caring for the needs of others, Timothy must not neglect the inward prosperity of his own soul. Indeed, how can service for others be right if the laborer is not enjoying personal communion with his Lord? And meditation is the means whereby the precious truth of the Word is worked livingly into the heart, of which chewing the cud is an apt symbol. These things were to be Timothy's very life, he himself completely given to them. This surely is not asking too much, yet alas, how far short we fall of such simple, single-hearted devotion! If it were true of us, others would certainly see the value of it in our lives.
He must "take heed," be concerned and watchful as to his own spiritual state and conduct, and also as to "the doctrine," the teaching of the truth of God. This cannot be maintained in its truth and purity apart from an exercised heart and conscience. These two things were imperative in order that he might save himself and those who heard him, from the subtle snares of the enemy of souls. For it is, of course, a present, practical salvation of which the apostle speaks, a salvation from the dangers that would work spiritual harm to saints of God. Let us weigh well here both the serious question of our own preservation from the horrible pitfalls of evil on almost every side; and the influence of our own lives upon others also.
In this section we are faced with more detailed, practical responsibilities in reference to the various relationships in which one may be found. This is wholesome, sobering instruction. First, a young man must have a proper respect for an elder. It is certainly not necessarily an official elder of which the apostle speaks, for this would leave us with no true application of the instruction for today, there being no authority left us at all for the official appointment of elders. But any older brother is entitled to such respect, that, if he should be wrong, he is to be exhorted in kindness, not sharply rebuked. With the same respect that is due a father, so any elder brother should be treated. While the relationship with the younger men is not precisely the same, yet there is to be similar consideration. With these, however, on certain occasions, a rebuke may be more necessary than with the elder, but always this should be brotherly, not censorious.
Similarly, the elder women were to be treated as mothers, the younger as sisters, with the necessary addition here, "with all purity." The assembly is seen here to be, as regards its order, patterned after proper family life, not as a business, nor as an army, either of which may be eminently efficient in a cold, impersonal way, but could never represent the interest in the individual that is characteristic of the love of our God and Father.
Not every widow was to be given the same honor, but if she were "a widow indeed" she was entitled to particular attention and respect. She is one who, while feeling the sorrow of her widowhood, nevertheless puts her confidence in the Living God, and manifests her dependence upon His love and grace, by prayer and supplication consistently. If she were in any need, this "honor" would certainly involve the alleviation of those needs by temporal support. Yet, if she had children or descendents, these were certainly responsible for her care, and they should learn to show piety at home by relieving her need, in some measure returning the care of the mother or parents in former years. God expects and accepts this. It is, of course, evident that if this were callously ignored by descendents not in the assembly, then the assembly would be responsible. But if the widow lives in self-indulgence, she is dead while she lives, and in such a state she could certainly claim no support from the assembly. Indeed, their supporting her in such a case would be an unseemly encouraging of her irresponsible ways.
It was necessary that these things should be solemnly charged upon the saints in order to preserve them from the blame that wrongdoing brings: they must not be ignorant of these serious matters. Verse 8 of course refers to one whom we have seen to have responsibility for his close relatives, including widows. He should provide, at least if he is at all able, for his own near relatives who require care, but, of course, specially for those of his own house. If by irresponsible neglect he does not do this, in practice he denies the wholesome truth of Christianity; and his practice being in opposition to his profession (for this refers to one claiming to be a saint), he is worse than an unbeliever; it is virtual hypocrisy.
Taken into the number would mean being made a regular dependent of the assembly. This was not to be the case if she were under sixty years of age, for she could support herself by working. Of course, this is not a rigid law, for there would naturally be exceptions in cases of disease or accident having caused permanent incapacitation. On the other hand, it may be necessary on occasion that relief should be given to a younger widow who is manifestly in need, even though the assembly ought not to support her regularly.
Again, one could not expect to be "taken into the number" if she had not in previous life manifested some measure of godliness. Fidelity is of course the point in view in her having been the wife of one man. If after her first husband's death, she had remarried and been widowed a second time, this would not invalidate her (1 Cor. 7:39), but cases of bigamy or of divorce and remarriage are evidently in view here.
But the past record of a widow should show some evidence of hospitality, and of having "washed the saints' feet," that is, having in measure at least sought to apply the Word of God in kindness for the welfare of the saints of God; also that she had relieved in temporal ways those in affliction, and had followed diligently every good work. These were marks to look for, in some no doubt evident in large measure, in others in lesser.
Verse 11. For the assembly to support younger widows is here shown to be likely harmful to the state of their own souls. It may not always be the case, but it is the general tendency. To grow wanton against Christ is just the opposite of the subject, subdued spirit that ought to characterize a widow: it is bold, brazen, self-willed. Desiring to marry while in such a state is certainly dangerous - not that desiring to marry is in itself wrong, for this is almost immediately recommended (v. 14). But if the widow does not have wholesome occupation to maintain her own support, her attitude may become one of casting off her first faith, forsaking her previous confidence in the God who had blessed her with a husband, and in wisdom had taken her husband away again. If faith is to remain constant and steady, it requires the teaching of God by means of the wise government of His hand; and well-meant efforts of others to relieve temporal needs may actually defeat this working of God. It may encourage idleness, and too many unprofitable visits to the houses of others, with its attendant gossip and meddling in other people's matters.
The apostle has written elsewhere that "the wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:39). In the same chapter, however, he gives advice which may seem to be in conflict with that which he gives here in 1 Timothy 5:14. For he writes, "But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God" (v. 40). He makes it very clear that he is expressing a strictly personal opinion here, in contrast to what is the commandment of the Lord. He himself remained unmarried in order to more fully and undividedly serve the Lord, and if such motives influence the younger women in remaining unmarried, who can question that it is the happier path for them? Yet, it must be faced that this is not the general attitude among women, or men either; and 1 Timothy no doubt expresses that which is generally most appropriate while 1 Corinthians 7 makes allowance for the exception.
If a young widow's tendency were to learn to be idle, etc., then to be married is more preferable than this. Guiding the house, bearing children could be spiritually rewarding; a
wholesome guard too against the danger of Satan's accusations and reproach. For some had already turned aside after Satan, succumbing to the temptations of idleness and selfindulgence, which Satan will use to the full.
But if a widow did require support, then her own relatives were primarily responsible for this, that the assembly might be left the more capable of relieving those who were widows indeed, desolate and of godly character.
Verse 17. Clearly, an elder may be thoroughly reliable in qualities of leadership, even though he may not be a capable teacher of the Word of God; and if so, he is entitled to double honor, but specially if he labors in the giving of the Word, and teaching. True spiritual qualifications should earn the respect of saints: a mere formal appointment would not do this. The ox not to be muzzled would teach us that a laborer is entitled to partake of the fruits of his labor; and in this case, if one devotes such time to the work of the Lord that other regular employment is not sufficient to support him, then the saints of God are to consider themselves responsible for this: "The laborer is worthy of his reward."
Accusations against anyone must certainly be thoroughly substantiated, or refused. But this was all the more imperative if against an elder; for it is evident that Satan would particularly attack them with such things, since they were in a place of prominence and rule, or leadership. Two or three witnesses must be present to hear the accusation. Let this rule never be forgotten. A case of evil must be clearly proven before action is taken.
On the other hand, if there should be a case of public sin manifest, it must not be ignored. To rebuke before all them that sin, would be most solemn treatment. Nor does this refer to every case of failure in a saint. The chapter does make plain what is involved in this: it must be a case of sin publicly known and persisted in. One living boldly in self-indulgence (v. 6), one utterly careless as to providing for his own house (v. S), one wandering about from house to house in idleness and gossip (v. 13), are cases such as would require a public rebuke, if after personal remonstrance they continued their sinful course. Even then, a rebuke must not be merely angry criticism, but solemn, humble, gentle, firm reproof that carries conviction.
In verse 21 is it not peculiarly solemn to note the urgency of this charge to Timothy? These were matters he must not ignore, however painful the responsibility of facing them might be. And favoritism must be most carefully avoided: the same measure must be used for all. Indeed, in any Christian's life, partiality is to have no place whatever: we must be constantly on our guard against this. The glory of God, the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the dignity of the elect angels should have deep effect upon us in the consideration of such matters. It is far too easy to allow strong feelings to influence us in any matter. Indeed, the godly qualities of a saint might so attach us to that one as to favor him though he may be wrong in a certain case. Or, if I should have a disagreement with one in a certain matter, I may be easily predisposed to hold him in disfavor without perfectly fair reason. How subtle is the flesh in every one of us! Of course, there are obvious excuses besides these for partiality, but we must be unsparing in our self-judgment as to all of these.
This same spirit of impartiality is a preservative from the dangers of identifying ourselves with any man with due knowledge and consideration. For the laying on of hands signfies willing identification in fellowship. If I do not know the individual either personally or reputation I may find myself identified with sins I did not suspect. To accept him in fellowship in the work of the Lord or in the worship of the Lord would make me a participator in that which he practices. This is a more serious matter than even saints of God generally think. If the man should be guilty of evil practice or evil doctrine, and I have associated myself with him, I make myself impure. Let us be watchful against such mixtures.
It may seem strange that at this point verse 23 is inserted. Timothy is told to drink no longer only water, but use a little wine for his stomach's sake. But the connection is important. No doubt Timothy's true desire was to maintain purity, and his sensitive conscience needed to be enlightened to the fact that in using a little wine for his stomach's sake, he would not be courting grave danger such as he would in laying hands suddenly on one he did not know. Too frequently Christians have these things completely in reverse. They feel it impure to drink wine at all, even for their health's sake; and think nothing of the danger of associating themselves with a stranger.
In both of these cases, of course, the believer is responsible to use godly caution and good judgment. It is only "a little wine" Timothy is told to use; nor is it to be taken simply for pleasure's sake, but for his health. One who is frequently affected by bodily infirmity can well sympathize with Timothy, as well as to take encouragement by the fact of this spiritually-minded young man being tried by such afflictions.
But verse 24 returns to the direct consideration of associations. Some men's sins are open beforehand: their character is that of an open book, and is very easily discerned: we may judge of their sins without difficulty. It is not God's judgment of which the apostle speaks, but that which others may easily and rightly form with very little acquaintance.
But some men they follow after: these may be proficient at concealing their true character if you do not know them: it will only be later that their sins are laid bare for proper judgment. It is simply a warning that we do not know every man's character on first acquaintance, and must be on our guard not to be deceived.
There is, of course, the other side to this also: the good works of some are manifest beforehand. These may actually indicate a good character, but are not sufficient proof before further knowledge; for what may at first appear good may yet have hidden motives of evil behind it. The good of another may not be seen until he is well known, and others may be surprised at how much goodness there is present when it did not first appear. Personalities are completely different, and only time will actually prove one's character. But works that are otherwise than "good" cannot be hid: it does not take too long before one may be known by his works: if they are evil, how can he hide them indefinitely?
It may be noted that in this epistle the relationships of husband and wives, children and parents, are not mentioned, as are the questions of elders, widows, and now servants. For family ties are not at all the subject here, but godly order as to the assembly, therefore that which is more before the public eye. Bondslaves were, of course, in a position that God never intended for man, but introduced by men's perverse wills. What was the Christian slave, therefore to do? Bitterness of rebellion against "the establishment" would accomplish no good end. Nor was he even to run away, as did Onesimus before his conversion, and was sent back after Paul brought him to the Lord (Phm. 10-17). Some may feel this to be hard treatment, but we must learn to bow, not to sin, but to the governmental results that have plagued the world because of sin - even though we feel them unjust and objectionable.
The slave, therefore, was to count his master as worthy of all honor - no doubt not an easy thing for a slave to do; but this subject spirit was essential in order that the name of God and His doctrine should not be blamed for a rebellious attitude on his part; and others, therefore, heap dishonor 111)011 the One he professed to serve. If the master were a believer, the slave might be inclined to despise him for the fact that he actually promoted the principle of slavery; while he himself was a brother. But no, the slave was all the more responsible to do his master service because the master was "faithful and beloved, partaker of the benefit." A true regard for another believer is always pressed upon us, for, let us remember, they too are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." And to learn to serve well is one of the blessed glories of true Christianity. "These things teach and exhort": they are of no small importance.
The spirit abroad today, so highly publicized and advocated, of self-expression, self-assertion, self-determination, resistance against authority, is hereby solemnly condemned, and those who teach it, Scripture does not hesitate to characterize with a dreadful denunciation. For this teaching is directly antagonistic to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ - words, in fact, carried out in His own life of pure obedience and subjection to proper authority - words which are of true power in maintaining righteousness in the midst of abounding unrighteousness - doctrine consistent with godliness.
The man who teaches otherwise is "puffed up": his own self-importance has inflated him: self-judgment he has not learned, as one who has seen himself as in the light of the cross of Christ, a sinner condemned and worthless. He is "sick about questions and strifes of words." He has no spiritual health, for though he may love to argue about the logic and virtue of human rights, he is flatly ignoring the rights of God. This leads to envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. It gives occasion only to the strong activity of the flesh, with its confusion and corruption - no rest, no peace, no quiet calmness as in the presence of God. Such doctrine would encourage a servant to envy his master, then to strive, then to rail against his master-or any authority then to surmise the worst things about him. How repulsive is this entire concept of self-willed men!
But they are adept at manipulating and wrangling, which, of course, is noisy quarreling, because their minds are corrupted: the truth is really foreign to them: they are empty, yet consider that material gain is godliness. Timothy is told to withdraw himself from such: they must not be given the satisfaction of his disputing with them, but must be left alone. It is, of course, the teachers of this kind of thing to whom Paul refers, not to those likely to be misled by them; for the sheep must, of course, be protected.
Verse 6 gives the precious positive side of this matter. If the two things are present, godliness and contentment, this is a great gain. Contentment alone could not be this, for it would then be that in which the flesh would glory; but godliness must come first, and be the root cause of contentment. Paul was himself a true example of this. Compare Philippians 4:11-13. If Christ is truly the Object of the soul, will this not produce a contented spirit? And it is a most pertinent reminder for us that in entering the world we had nothing, and in leaving it we shall take nothing. Why then grasp all that we can, as though it is this upon which we depend? How many are like the apostle Paul in this matter, honestly content with the simple necessities of life? This should be no small exercise to our souls, and specially in a civilization that today places great emphasis on material comforts and luxuries. How subtle a snare this becomes to any of us who may be attracted by it!
In verse 9 it is not the riches or the money that is condemned, but the will to be rich and the love of money. One who has nothing may still will to be rich, and if so is on dangerous ground. And it is possible for one who has riches to be preserved from setting his heart upon riches, and instead to be rich in good works, using his wealth for the Lord, to relieve the need of others compare verses 17 and 18). But the love of money is simply a sign of lusting after those
things which may be bought with money. When this is so, it is a great mercy for many a man that he does not get the money he wants, for it would only lead him into more sin. These are the very things that drown men in destruction and perdition. A believer certainly will have no such end, but he is yet seriously warned against any polluting of himself with those things that cause the ungodly to perish. Let us guard continually against the selfishness of our own hearts. The expression here is properly translated, "The love of money is a root of every evil," that is, that it is a root that bears all manner of evil, not that it is the only root. Covetousness will lead one far astray from the faith, and some had already been so overcome, piercing themselves through with many sorrows. It will always defeat its own ends.
In verse 11 is the only occasion in the New Testament where one is called a "man of God." Doubtless there were others also, but Scripture only sparingly uses the expression, which surely involves a character of faithfulness in the representation of God. This was true of Timothy, yet being of a timid nature, he doubtless needed the encouragement of being so addressed; and he is strongly exhorted to be true to character. "Flee these things" is an urgent admonition: the danger of them should drive the soul far from even contact with them. In this case the believer is not to "fight," but to "flee": it is a danger to be completely avoided.
But along with this is the positive character of faith: "Follow after righteousness." Righteousness has been said to be "consistency with relationship": and this involves serious exercise to maintain conduct in accord with any relationship in which one may be placed. Then, "godliness," which evidences a habit of communion with God. "Faith" is the confidence that depends upon His faithfulness in every circumstance. "Love" is the very energy and warmth of the
nature of God, that which is shed abroad in the believer's heart by the Holy Spirit, bringing a genuine concern for the good of others. How deeply "patience" is needed in connection with all of this: it can bear long in cheerful continuance and quietness, and must be over and over again impressed upon us. And "meekness" is an essential addition to this also, that character of lowly submission that insists not upon personal rights. How contrary are all these things to mere natural conceptions and practice! They cannot be followed without serious self-judgment and exercise of soul. May our God and Father give us more to know this in experience.
But if we are first to "flee," then to "follow," it is also necessary to "fight." We are given no path of ease, and no room for indolence. Indifference is really shameful defeat. Faith will stand up to the battle. Not that this is mere fighting against people, least of all against the saints of God. But the fight must be against every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Ephesians 6 shows this to be against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (v. 12), that is, every kind of Satanic influence that would drive one off the ground of faith, down to an earthly level, a level of rationalism and present self-interest, a level of personal pride and earthly advantage. Let us fight resolutely against all such wretched tendencies in our own hearts and rather make a living faith the ruling principle of our lives. This is worth fighting for. It is the only way to "lay hold on eternal life." For though every redeemed soul possesses this matchless gift of eternal life, yet to lay hold of it is another matter, a matter of making it a practical reality in daily life. Timothy had been called to this, as is every believer; but of him also it could be said that he had confessed a good confession before many witnesses: let him remain true to this honorable stand.
In verse 13 another charge, peculiarly solemn, is given to Timothy: it is "before God, who preserves all things in life,, (Darby Trans.), not only creating life, but continually sustaining it in all His creation. How needful a reminder to impress upon us the fact of our continual dependence, moment by moment, upon Himself, and that those to whom one bears witness are also as fully dependent upon the same life sustaining God. But also the charge is "before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession." Here was God's true Representative in the world, standing before the man who represents the world. How precious and clear His witness, though His words were few. He bore witness to the truth: His kingdom was not of this world; but He was a King indeed, God's King, high above all that was merely temporal: He sought no prominence in this world, but the glory of His Father (Jn. 18:33-37). This gives precious character to the commandment Timothy is told to keep "without spot, unrebukeable." There is to be no lapse, no tarnishing of this testimony, so as to leave him open to rebuke; for it is in view of the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And He would, in duly appointed time, show in His own person, the glory of God, the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords. To us who are saved, such glory manifested in the person of Christ is a blessed reality now; but the full display of it to all creation we may with patience and confidence await unashamed meanwhile to bear a true witness for Him, though it may be that even falsehood is in public authority now. It is He only, the Eternal, who has immortality: others who receive it do so only as a communication from Himself 1 Cor. 15:53, 54). Intrinsically it is His alone. He dwells in light unapproachable, not in darkness, but in light infinitely brighter than creature eyes can endure. Honor and power everlasting are His alone: the heart that gladly subscribes to this ascription to Him, will bear willingly a place in which he himself is given no honor or power.
If there are those among Christians who do possess some apparent measure of honor or power now, being rich in this world, Timothy is to charge them to guard against the natural pride that uses such things to exalt the flesh; and also against the evident danger of trusting in riches. Constant exercise must be maintained to trust in the Living God, He who gives richly all things to enjoy. If this trust is real, then it will reflect His own character of unselfish giving. Positive good was to be done with what they possessed: let them be rich in good works, not merely in possessions; ready on any occasion of need, to distribute, gladly willing to share what God has entrusted to them. This is true investment, a laying up in store a good foundation against the time to come: it is true wisdom in view of the future; and it is present true enjoyment of what is really life, a real grasp of true living.
With so serious and vital themes engaging him, the apostle cannot but be deeply affected to urge upon his beloved child in the faith the firmness of proving faithful in the trust of God's Possessions. The entrusted deposit is the truth of God committed to us for the present age. As the treasures brought from Babylon were weighed both before and after the journey to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:24-34), nothing to be missing; so we must expect a close check of all with which we have been entrusted, and zealously keep in purity what actually belongs to God. Mere profane and empty babblings are to be avoided, for what we have is precious and real, and we must not waste time on unprofitable speculations and things that claim to be intellectual and appealing to human pride, yet are actually void of true spiritual good. Today the world is full of this kind of thing. Young men may be too easily deceived into thinking this to be a helpful addition to Christianity, while actually it will prove not only of no profit, but positively damaging to spiritual growth and blessing. So Timothy is warned, and we must not ourselves ignore such a warning: it is needed. Those who adopt such things have "missed the faith." We must resist to the very end every determined effort of Satan to bring Christianity down to an earthly level, whether it be by means of the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life. If the epistle seems to end on a negative note, let us all the more take heed.
Yet, the last word is beautifully positive, "Grace be with thee." In grace, the pure favor of God, is the power for meeting and rising above all the opposition that may ever present itself. And it is available for the personal joy, blessing and strength of the individual, not only, as in other epistles, for the collective company of the saints. Let us but identify ourselves with Timothy's needs and exercises, and the value of this epistle we shall learn in vital experience.
Leslie M Grant