1 Timothy 1. We enter now on the confidential communications of the apostle to some of his fellow-labourers, and tonight on the epistles to Timothy. The two have much in common, but they have also not a little that is distinct. The first epistle is characterized by laying down the order which becomes both individuals and the church of God viewed as His house. We shall find, I trust, how remarkably His care for godly moral order, which descends into the family, into the relations of children and parents, of servants and masters, of man and woman, is also bound up with some of the main doctrines of the epistle. At the same time, while this pertains more particularly to the first epistle, there is a striking expression which meets us on the very threshold, and belongs not merely to these two epistles, but also to that addressed to Titus. God is not here regarded as our Father, but as our Saviour God. We have in harmony with this none of the special privileges of the family of God. The relationships before us wear another character. Thus, we have nothing at all about the body of Christ; we hear nowhere again of the bride of the Lamb; but what tallies with God as a Saviour. It is not Christ our Saviour, though, of course, He is so; but there is broader truth pressed — even of God our Saviour, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This prepares for much that we shall find. God, as a Saviour God, is certainly in contrast with His dealings under law, or in government. Nevertheless it takes in also His preserving care, which extends far beyond believers, though very especially toward believers. It embraces also that which is much deeper than presidential care, even the salvation which is in course of accomplishment through Christ. I do not say accomplished; because salvation here, as elsewhere, must not be limited simply to redemption, but goes out into the results of that mighty work on the cross, whereby the soul is kept all the way through the wilderness, and the body of humiliation changed into the likeness of the Lord’s glorious body.
Accordingly, Paul introduces himself as the “apostle of Jesus Christ by commandment of God.” Authority has a large place in these epistles; thence the apostle shows it was not his writing to his child Timothy in this respect without the Lord. It was not merely love, it was not simply that the Spirit of God empowered him to meet need, but he styles himself in it the “apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus, our hope; to Timothy, my true child in faith: grace, mercy, and peace,” etc.
Another feature of these epistles meets us in the place which is given to mercy. I do not merely now refer to what has been often observed — the introduction; but we shall find that mercy is wrought into the tissues and substance of the epistle. Mercy supposes the need, the constant wants, the difficulties, the dangers, of the saints of God. It supposes also that God is acting in love, and in full view of these difficulties. Hence we find that, while there is jealous care, there is also a remarkable tenderness, which appears every now and then, in these epistles; and this is just and beautiful in its season. The apostle was drawing toward the close of his career, and (although all be inspired, and he was a rare jewel even among the apostles) there is, I am persuaded, an evidence of a tone more suitable to the growing trials and necessities of the saints of God; a tenderness towards those that were faithful and tried, that is far more manifest here than in the earlier epistles. I do not say that all was not in its due time and measure, but we can well understand it. As a faithful servant, he had been for many years not only leading on, but sharing too the hardest of the fight, and had gone through perils such as had left many of his companions behind. Shame, afflictions, persecutions, the enticements of Satan too, had drawn away some that had been in the foremost ranks of old. He was now left with comparatively few of the familiar faces of those he had loved and laboured with so long.
We can easily understand, then, how calculated such circumstances were to draw out the expression of a love that was always there, but that would be in a more comely and suitable manner expressed at such a conjuncture of circumstances. This we shall find in these epistles. He writes to Timothy as his genuine child; it is not at all the usual way in the earlier epistles. It was his Bethany, Here and now was the opening of that long pent-up heart. At the same time he was also laying an important commission on one that was raised up of God for the purpose, who was comparatively young, who would soon have to fight his way without the sympathy and the countenance of one that had been so blest to him. Hence he says here,” Grace, mercy, and peace.” He felt his need, but certainly the mercy was not lacking in God, but rich and ready to flow. “Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when. I went into Macedonia.” We see the love that even an apostle adopts towards his child in faith. It was not at all a peremptory word, though full of earnest desire for the work of the Lord. He wishes Timothy to stay, “that thou mightest charge some not to be teachers of other doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than God’s administration1 which is in faith.”
Then he explains what the nature of this charge was. Often, I fear, “commandment” gives the English reader a wrong impression. I do not say that “commandment” is not correct, but that so naturally do people in Christendom turn to what we call the Ten Commandments, or ten words of the law, that whenever the word “commandment” occurs, you may expect many, even children of God, who might and ought to know better, at once unconsciously turning back to the law. But so far was this from being the writer’s thought here, that we shall find him in a moment deprecating most strongly that whole system of idea as a misuse of the law. What the apostle means by the commandment is the charge that he was laying on his child in the faith and fellow-labourer Timothy. The end of the charge or commandment “is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” It was, in point of fact, not merely that charge that he was giving him, but the charge touched the truth of the gospel; it was the care of the faith, jealousy for the revelation of God Himself, our Saviour God in Christ. The end of all this was “love, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned.” And so then, as remarked already, far from leaving the smallest reason for any perversely to confound this with the law, the apostle instantly turns to that perverting of the law, which is so natural to the heart of man. “From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be law-teachers; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm;” and thereupon he parenthetically, as disposing of this matter, shows what the lawful use of the law is. They were not to suppose that he meant that God could make anything without a real use. As there is no creature of God that has not its value, so certainly the law of God has its right field of application, and its own proper use. Thus he vindicates God in what He has given, as well as afterwards in what He has made, and nowhere so much as in this epistle do we find this.
At the same time it is evident that he consigns the law to what we may call a comparatively negative use. The use of the law is to condemn, to kill, to deal with evil. This never could be the full expression of God. It does keep up a witness to God’s hatred of evil no doubt; those that are presumptuous it leaves without excuse. But a Christian, who takes up the law as the rule of his own life, must in the very first instance give up his place as being in Christ, and abandon that righteousness of God which he is made in Him. The law was not enacted for the Christian. It is not, of course, that any Christian deliberately intends such folly; but this is really what the error implies. The very principle of taking the law for himself is the abandonment (without knowing or intending it) of all his blessing in Christ. To apply it thus is ignorance of the mind of God It was never designed for such a purpose. But there remains the lawful use of the law. It was made not for the righteous, but for an unrighteous man. Clearly what Satan here aimed at was to put the saints under the law. But the apostle will not hear of it, treating it as simply condemnatory of the bad, and in no way either the power or the rule of what is good for the believer. “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for lawless and disobedient, for ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for smiters of fathers and smiters of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”
A weighty sentence, and eminently characteristic also of these epistles. The time was appropriate for it. The saints (at Ephesus especially) had heard a great deal of heavenly truth. There was also an effort, as we see, to correct what was supposed to be a defect, in those that were living on heavenly fare, by supplementing their truth with the law. But this is all wrong, cries the apostle. It is an unwitting denial not only of Christians, but even of your place as righteous men. Very different from this is the true and divine principle. But “sound doctrine” is brought in here; and we shall see how very beautifully this is applied in the epistle at a later point. For a moment he just touches on the wholesome thought, then turns to a higher one. There is in Christ that which lifts entirely out of nature, and puts one before God according to all that is in his heart — his counsels of glory for us in Christ. In fact, immediately after this he calls what he preached the “gospel of the glory” (“the glorious gospel,” as it is styled in our version,) “of the blessed God.” “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” He takes great pains to show that no glory that is revealed in Christ, no blessedness in our total clearance from flesh, no setting of the believer free before God in Christ Jesus, impairs, but, on the contrary, gives importance to “sound doctrine.”
By “sound doctrine” we shall find that he brings in the nicest care for the least relations of this life, as flowing from the grace and truth of God. This is the true guard against an abuse of heavenly truth; not putting persons under law, which is inevitable bondage and condemnation, that brings no glory to God, nor power or holiness to the man. But at the same time heavenly truth, so far from being inconsistent, never shines so much as when it is seen in the smallest details of walk in the home, in the family, in the ordinary occupation, in the bearing and tone of a man in his life day by day. It is not merely in the assembly; neither is it in worship only; it is not certainly in ministerial work alone, but in the quiet home. The relationship of a servant to his master gives a blessed opportunity in its place for showing out what the truth of the glory is to faith, and what the strength of the grace which is come to man in Christ the Lord. This is what we shall find in these epistles to Timothy — that the apostle combines in his own wonderful way his reference to ordinary duty, and even enters into the smallest matters of this life, according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. He refers to his own case; for he was so much the better a preacher of the gospel, because he so deeply felt himself an object of the grace of God, who revealed it in Christ to him. What can be conceived more remarkably characteristic of the man? The bearing of the passage is therefore intensely personal and practical. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me unto ministry.” He does not forget this, but he takes care to assert another and a far nearer and more immediate want — “who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and insolent: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
This accordingly brings out a statement of the gospel: “Faithful is the word, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy.” It is always mercy, as may be observed. It is not so much a question of righteousness; justification is not here prominent, as in other epistles. “I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” This draws out his ascription of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord; and then he repeats the words of the fifth verse: “This charge I commit unto thee.” It is not the law, nor any supposed adaptation of it, to direct the path of those who receive the gospel. “This charge,” he maintains, is the commandment of our Saviour God. It is that which He is sending out now, and nothing else. “This charge I commit to thee, child Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou mightest war the good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning, faith have made shipwreck.”
There again we find the same mingling of the faith and good conscience as we had earlier. Some having put away, not the faith, but a good conscience, made shipwreck of the faith. Thus, no matter what you may hold or appear to delight in, abandoning jealousy over your ways, giving up self-judgment in the great or small matters which each day brings before us, is fatal. It may be a very little sin that is allowed, but this, where it is unjudged in God’s sight, becomes the beginning of a very great evil. Having put away a good conscience, their ship no longer answers the helm, and as to faith they make shipwreck: “of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may be instructed not to blaspheme.” Satan’s power is regarded and really is in the outside world. The apostle had delivered these men to him. The power to torment and harass the soul with fears does not belong to the house of God, where, as we shall find, His presence is known, and this is incompatible with fear, with doubt, with question of acceptance and of blessing in His sight. The apostle had given up to the enemy these men, who had abandoned all that was holy, not only in practice, but also afterwards, as a consequence, in faith. They were consigned to Satan, not necessarily to be lost — surely not; but that they might be so troubled, by proving what the power of Satan is by the flesh, and in the world, that they might be thus brought back broken in all their bones, and glad to find a refuge again in the house of God. Better surely not to need such discipline; but, if we do need it, how precious to know that God turns it to account in His grace, that they might be thoroughly dealt with and exercised in the conscience!
In the next chapter (1 Tim. 2) the apostle carries on his care as to what was becoming. This, you will find, is a main topic of the epistle. It is not merely instruction for saints, or conversion of sinners, but also the comeliness that belongs to the saints of God — their right attitude toward those without as well as those within. In it we begin with what is toward those in authority, that are without. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in eminence; that we may pass a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and gravity.” May it not be a question whether we are sufficiently careful and exercised in heart, as to that which becomes us in this respect? Do we really enter on our due place of intercession, and exercise that which becomes us before God, as having so blessed a function — the mind of God in this world, and care for those that seem to be outside our reach? But in truth to stand in this world in known and near relationship with a Saviour God, with One that we know, at once brings before us also those that are outside. Christianity fosters no spirit of harsh: unruly independence. And what then becomes us in respect of them? Prayer, intercession, even for the highest, let them be kings or in eminence; they need it most. Nothing but the strong sense of the infinite blessing of the place that grace has given us could lead to or keep up such prayer. But sometimes we are apt to settle down in the enjoyment of the grace, without reflecting on that which becomes us as to those outside it. From pre-occupation within, how often we forget those without!
But the reason goes deeper. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who desires that all men should be saved:” speaking now of His gracious willingness. Not His counsels but His nature rises before us. We must be blind if we fail to see that a great point in these epistles is the good and loving nature of God, that would have us look at all men without exception. It is another thine, how far the counsels of God work, how far the effectual work of His grace is applied; but nothing alters God’s nature. And this is true both in the spirit of grace that becomes the saints, and also in their zealous care for the glory of God. Hence he says: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men.” This is always the ground and character of the First and Second of Timothy. It is not the Father and His family; it is God and man. And it is not merely God as He once dealt with Israel, for then this Mediator was not. There was a promise, but the Mediator of grace was not come. But now, apart from the heavenly relations that are ours, and much that we know and enjoy by the Holy Ghost in our hearts here below, there is this that needs to be looked after and maintained, that is, the public character — if we may so speak — of the Christian, and that which belongs to him thus broadly before men. It is the testimony of God as a Saviour God, of a God that has to do with men. Accordingly He has revealed Himself in a Mediator. Thus he speaks of Him: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, the testimony in its own season. Whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not), a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth.”
His general exhortation is pursued, but still in view of the due and decent outward order, of that which met the eye even of an unconverted person. “I will therefore that the men” — that is, not women — “that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing.” There are occasions and places where it would be wholly unsuitable for women to speak, but as to men they pray everywhere. There is no place where it is not in season, but let it be “without wrath and disputing.” or “reasoning.” Either would be altogether opposed to the spirit of prayer. Prayer is the expression of dependence on God; and wrangling on the one hand, and all angry feeling on the other, even supposing it might have some righteousness about it, still are unsuitable to prayer. Thus, what may have its place may really be uncomely in drawing near to God. A spirit of reasoning would be quite as out of place.
But with regard to woman he says, “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in orderly guise, with modesty and sobriety; not with plaits and gold, or pearls, or costly array.” It does not matter what may be the particular taste and habits of the day or of the country, the Christian woman, as much as the Christian man, ought to be above the age, and unlike the world. And indeed it is this very want that he here takes occasion to connect with Christianity itself in its outward order before man; so that we may truly desire that our Saviour God should not lose, as it were, His character in and by His people; for this is the great point that the apostle is so full of in these epistles. Such is the way in which a woman can contribute to a right and godly testimony as well as a man.
But he pursues it a little more. He says, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man.” In truth he really goes somewhat beyond this. A woman might say, “I do not usurp authority; I only exercise it.” But this precisely is what is wrong. It is forbidden to be exercised. Nothing therefore can be more exclusive. It does not matter, if the man may be weak and the woman strong; it would have been better they had thought of this before they became husband and wife. But even thus no excuse avails; the woman is not to exercise authority over the man; nor (need I add?) in any other relationship. For this he traces things to their roots. “Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being quite deceived was in transgression.” That is, he decides things with that marvellous power which God gave him beyond any of the other apostles of tracking the stream to its source, both in man and to God; and this ruling of the case he deduces from the unquestionable facts of the beginning of divine history as to the man and woman. The man was not deceived, in a certain sense: so much the worse; he was a bold sinner. The woman was weak and misled by the serpent; the man deliberately did what he did — with his eyes open. Adam sinned against God knowingly. Of course it was dreadful and ruinous; nevertheless this shows the difference in their character from the outset. Men as a class are not so liable to be deceived as woman She is more open to be taken in by appearance. The man may be ruder and worse — bolder in his sin, but still the Lord remembers this even to the last. At the same time the apostle mingles this with that which is the lot of women here below: “But she shall be preserved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” It is not merely if “she,” but if “they” continue. How serious is the word for both man and woman! In the government of God He mingles the most solemn things with that which is the most thoroughly personal, showing how He would have the conscience exercised, and jealous care even on such a matter as this. I do not agree with those who refer the childbearing to the Incarnation.
And now he comes (1 Tim. 3), not so much to comely order as to the outside, or as to the relation of man and woman, but to the ordinary governments and helps of the saints. He takes up what was of a graver kind, and touching more on spiritual things, namely, bishops (or elders); then deacons; and this leads him naturally to the house of God. “Faithful is the word, If any one aspireth to oversight, he desireth a good work. The overseer then must be blameless, husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity.” It is plain that this is not at all a question of spiritual gift. One might be endowed with a good gift and yet not have a well-regulated house. Perhaps the wife might not behave properly, or the children be unruly: no matter what his gift, if the wife, or the family were a dishonour, he could not be an overseer (for this is the simple and true meaning of bishop”).
In early days persons were brought in to the confession of Christ who had been Pagans, and trained up in its habits. Some of these had more than one wife. A true and gifted Christian one might be; but if such were his unhappy position, he was precluded from exercising formal oversight. The evil of polygamy could not be corrected at that time by strong measures. (Since then in Christendom it is dealt with as criminal.) To dismiss his wives would be wrong. But the Holy Spirit by such an injunction applied a principle which was destined to undermine, as in fact it did undermine, polygamy in every form. There was a manifest censure conveyed in the fact, that a man with two or more wives could not be set in the charge of elder or deacon. A man was not refused as a confessor of Christ, nor was he forbidden to preach the gospel, because such might have been his sad circumstances at home. If the Lord called him by His grace, or gave him as a gift to the church, the church bowed, But an elder or bishop was to be one that not only had a suitable gift for his work, but also in the family or in his circumstances must be free from all appearance of scandal on the name of the Lord. He must have a good report, and be morally irreproachable in himself and his household. There might be trial or sorrow, — few families were without both; but what is spoken of here is something that damaged the public repute of the. assembly. For this very reason the grand point for local oversight was moral weight. It was not only the ability to inform, counsel, or rebuke, but in order to do all this efficiently a certain godly influence proved at home and abroad. In the practical difficulties with which an elder or bishop would be called to interfere continually in an assembly, there should never be room for those whose conduct might be in question to point to flaws in his own home, or in his own open life and spirit. Thus wisely and holily did the Spirit demand that he should be a person of good report himself, that neither past ways nor present habits should in the least degree compromise the office; and again, with a stainless reputation as well as a man of some spiritual experience in his family — “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” These things would not apply to a man’s ministry in the word. A Christian may begin to preach almost as soon as he believed the word of truth, the gospel of salvation; but for one to be clothed with a public and responsible place as elder in an assembly is another thing altogether.
As a rule the apostle never appointed persons elders directly after they were converted. A certain time was needful for the Spirit of God to work in the soul, and discipline them in the midst of their brethren. They would then and thus manifest certain capabilities and moral qualities, and acquire weight, which would make them respected and valued, besides gaining experience in godly care for the well-being of the saints of God. All these things, where there were circumstantial requisites, relative and personal suitability, would mark out a person for this office.
Besides, though this is not said here, in order to be an overseer, one must be appointed by a valid authority; and the only one recognised by Scripture is an apostle or an apostolic delegate. Thus the Christians that a superficial. observer of the present day might tax with inattention to godly order in these respects are in truth those alone who are really adhering to it. For manifestly to set up men in such a position of charge without a proper validating authority is really to vitiate all in its very springs. Those who refuse to exceed their powers are clearly in the right, — not those who imitate the apostles without warrant from the Lord. I am perfectly satisfied therefore that those now gathered to His name have been mercifully and truly led of God in not presuming to appoint elders or bishops. They do not possess the needful authority more than others; and there they stop, using, and blessing God for, such things as they have. Appointment must always raise the question, who they are that appoint. And it is impossible for an honest man of intelligence to find a scriptural answer, so as to sanction those who pretend to ordain, or those who claim to be duly ordained, in Christendom. There was no difficulty in primitive days. Here indeed (if we except a debatable allusion in another place) the apostle does not touch the subject of appointment as he does to Titus. He merely puts before Timothy the qualities requisite for both the local charges.
After the overseers he turns to the deacons. “Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved.” The modern deacon in the larger and national bodies has no resemblance to this, and is indeed an unmeaning form. It is a mere noviciate for the so-called presbyters who compose the body of the clergy. Of old no inexperienced man ought to have been in such a position. Even though it was a function about outward things, still they were to be first proved. “Then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave.” It is plain on the face of it that this is more particularly insisted on for the deacons than for the elders. The reason was, that as the deacons had to do more with externals, there was greater danger of their wives making mischief and heart-burning. They might interfere with these matters, which we know are apt to gender strife, as they cast a gloom over the Pentecostal Church at an early day. There was not the same temptation for the wives of the elders or overseers. Hence it is written here, “Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife.” In this we find the same thing as was said of the elders: both must rule their children and their own houses well. “For they that have served well purchase to themselves a good degree, and much boldness in faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Then the apostle sums up these regulations, and says, These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God,” (may we, too, profit by his words, beloved brethren!) “which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The church is the guardian of the truth, its sole responsible witness on the earth. The church owes all in the grace of our Lord Jesus to the truth. It may not be competent to define the truth: inspired men have done so. At the same time it is bound to hold forth God’s word as the truth, and to allow nothing inconsistent with it in the doctrine or ways of the assembly. For we are called to be a manifestation of the truth before the world, even of that which goes beyond that of which the church is the embodiment. The acts done should always be an expression of the truth. It is a most important duty, therefore, and one requiring continual watchfulness. God alone can vouchsafe or keep it good.
Truly, there are often difficulties that arise in the church of God, and prudence might suggest many plans to meet the difficulty; but then it is the house of God, not merely the house of the prudent or the good. It is a divine institution. It has nothing in common with well-intentioned men doing their best. Let the matter be ever so simple, whether it be a question of discipline or order, it should express the truth of God applied to the case. This shows the exceeding solemnity of either advising or resisting any course that might be the will of God in any particular matter. Excellent desires, zeal, honesty, are in no way sufficient for the purpose. God can employ the most feeble member of the assembly; but still ordinarily one looks for better guides. One might expect that while God would give no allowance to a man presuming on gift or experience, — because the moment you begin to assume to yourself or to others, there is danger, — but nevertheless, surely one might expect that God would, by suitable means, bring out that which is wholesome, and true, and godly — in short, what would express His own mind on any given subject.
These are among the reasons why the apostle maintains it here. We have it viewed in its outward comely order in this world, but the principle of the maintenance of this, and nothing less than this, always remains true. No renewed state gives any reason for abandoning it. The great thing is never to let details swamp the principle. There is always a way for those who, consciously weak, distrust themselves; and this is to wait, to refuse to act until God shows His way. Faith waits till it gets a distinct word from God. No doubt it is hard to be at one’s wits’ end, but it is a good thing for the soul. So here: he bids Timothy to take heed to these things, in case he himself tarried.
And what is that truth especially which characterizes the church? This is another instance of the tone of the epistle. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.” Mark the expression “mystery of godliness,” or piety. It is not simply the mystery of Christ in the church, but the “mystery of godliness.” “God2 was manifested in flesh, was justified in Spirit, was seen of angels, was preached among Gentiles, was believed on in [the] world, was received up in glory.” It is not God reigning over a people here below. This was no mystery, but the wonted expectation of all Israel, indeed, of saints before Israel. They expected the Messiah, the Redeemer to come, the One that would make good the promises of God. But now “God was manifested in flesh, was justified in Spirit.” The power of the Holy Ghost had shown itself all through His life, had been proved to the uttermost in His death, and now marked Him out as Son of God in resurrection. He was “seen of angels,” not of man alone; He was “preached among Gentiles,” instead of being found on a throne amongst the Jews; He was “believed on in the world,” instead of manifestly governing it by power. Another state of things altogether is present: it is Christianity; but Christianity viewed in the person of Christ Himself, in the grand bearings of His own person and His work; not as forming a heavenly body, nor even pursuing the special privileges of the habitation of God through the Spirit; but laying the foundation for the house of God, as the scene and support of His truth and moral order before the world. The whole matter is closed by Jesus, not only “believed on in the world,” but “received up in glory.”
Now what is the reason why this is brought in here? It seems to be set in contrast with the speculations of men (1 Tim. 4) who wanted to interweave with Christianity certain dreams of a fancied spirituality above the gospel. What was this scheme? They fancied that the gospel would be a still better system if the converts would eat no meat; if they would not marry, and so on. This was their notion of bringing in some “higher life,” superior to anything that the apostles had taught How does he meet them? He shows here the “mystery of godliness;” but along with this, and immediately after it, he brings in the most necessary fundamental truth. This is the point that has much struck my mind in speaking of 1 Timothy at this time.
That is to say, there is a combination of God’s revelation in Christ, in most essential and even lofty features, with the plainest and simplest truth of God as to creation. Now, you will find that the way in which false doctrine enters habitually is in contrast with this. Men thus break down, who despise common duties; they are far too good or too great for occupying themselves with the homely things that become a Christian man or woman. They may perhaps weave the love of Christ (we will suppose) into some high-flown speculations; but they set aside that which connects itself every day with moral propriety. Oh, how often this has been the case! how one could easily recount one name after another, if it would become any so to do! Such then is the way in which error is prone to show itself. The man who most of all brings out what is heavenly and divine is he who should be devoted and obedient in the simplest duties of every day. This very epistle is the witness of it. Whereas the moment one sanctions the principle of making little of the family relations, setting aside duty, neglecting it personally, and making it even a boast to do so, as if jealousy for the Lord’s glory were mere legalism, the result will be that, while they set aside the common claims of every day’s duty, the conscience is ruined, and shipwreck of the faith is inevitable. They first cast aside a good conscience, and then the faith itself comes to nothing.
Thus the apostle brings the reader into close juxtaposition with the mystery of godliness, or, as it is emphatically called, the mystery of piety. The glorious person of Christ is traced through from His manifestation in flesh, or incarnation, until He is beheld “received up in glory.” The work of God proceeds in the church on earth founded on this. In contrast with it 1 Timothy 4 follows up: “But the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons; in hypocrisy of liars, cauterised in their own conscience, forbidding to marry, [bidding] to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving of those that are faithful and know the truth.” Some necessary changes are here made, so as to convey what seems to me the meaning. Then he proceeds: “For every creature of God is good,” etc. We can hardly descend to anything lowlier than this.
But these airy speculators had completely forgotten God. They despised the simple self-evident truth that every creature of God is good. So, too, we see that they put a disparagement on the basis of family life, and the social system — marriage. Not to marry through devotedness to God’s work may be right and most blessed; but here it was a pretension to superior sanctity. As a principle and practice, Christian people were urged not to marry at all. Now the moment that this ground is taken, the same apostle who tells us what he believed to be the best thing. (namely, to be free from fresh ties, so as to care only for the Lord), defends resolutely the sanctity of marriage, and resents the blow struck at the creatures of God. It was really a slight of His outward love, and of His providential arrangements. Danger threatens wherever there is a virtual setting aside of God’s rights, no matter what the plea. Oriental philosophy, which tinctured some of the Greeks, fostered these high soarings of men. As usual, Paul brings in God, and the dream is dissipated. The moment you use anything so as to set aside the plain duty of every day, you prove yourself to be losing the faith, to have slipped from a good conscience, to have fallen a victim to the enemy’s deceits; and what will be the end of it?
The apostle then gives personal counsel to Timothy, of a very salutary character. As he also desires that none should despise his youth, so he urges that he should be a model of the believers, in word, conversation, love, faith, and purity. He was to give himself to reading, to exhortation, to teaching, and not to neglect his gift, given him through prophecy, in the imposition of the hands of the presbytery or elderhood. Nothing simpler, nor more wholesome. It might have been thought that one so specially endowed as Timothy was not called to occupy himself thus, and be wholly in them, that his profiting should appear to all. But no; grace and gift create a corresponding responsibility, instead of absolving from it. Timothy must give heed to himself, as well as to the teaching; and he must continue in them, instead of relaxing after a rigorous beginning. Depend upon it that those who seek to give out had better take care that they take in; that both labourers and those laboured amongst may ever grow in the truth. Doing thus, Timothy would save both himself and those that heard him.
In 1 Timothy 5 the apostle gives needful directions to Timothy as regards an elder. He was not to be rebuked sharply, but to be entreated as a father. Undoubtedly Timothy stood in a prominent place of trust and service; but this gave no exemption from the comeliness that becomes every one — especially a young man. The apostle had maintained his post of honour in the preceding chapter; now he will not let him forget the due consideration of others. How often does over-frankness drop words which rankle in the memory of an elder, easily floated over when love flows freely, but when it ebbs, an occasion of shipwreck! Again, “younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” Nothing more beautiful, more tender, more holy; nothing more calculated to edify and cement the saints to the glory of God, whilst His wisdom enters into all circumstances with an easy elasticity which is characteristic of His grace.
So too we find divinely-furnished regulations as to those who ought to be chargeable to the assembly — what was right in the case of the younger widows — what was desirable as to younger women in general; and then again the obligations toward elders, not now when faulty, but in their ordinary functions and service. “Let the elders that preside well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” But what if they were charged with wrong? “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Prejudice and partiality must be eschewed at all cost. Finally, care, must be taken to avoid any compromise of the name of the Lord. Thus the well-known sign of blessing in the outward act of laying on hands was to be done circumspectly. “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”
There is condescension even to so small a point seemingly as to tell him not to be a water-drinker. It would seem that Timothy’s scrupulous conscience felt the dreadful habits of those times and lands so as to bring him into bondage but the apostle, not in a mere private note, but in the body of the inspired letter itself, sets aside his scruples, and bids him “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” I am aware that men have cavilled at this, yielding to their own thoughts of what they deem fit subjects for the pen of inspiration; but if we exclude anything whatever from the range of the Spirit of God, we make it to be merely a question of the will of man. And what must issue from this? There is nothing either too great or too little for the Holy Spirit. Is there anything that may not, that ought not, to be a question of doing God’s will? Thus, if a person takes wine, or anything else, except to please God, and is not in danger on the score of morality, certainly he has lost all adequate sense of his own place as a witness of the glory of God. How happy ought we to be that God gives us perfect liberty! only let us see to it that we use it solely for His praise.
In the last chapter (1 Tim. 6) comes the question of servants and their masters, which also it was important to regulate; for we all know that a servant might turn to a selfish account that his master and himself were brethren in Christ. It is all very well for the master to say so; and certainly he should never act without bearing in mind his own spiritual relationship to his servant; but I do not think it becomes a servant to say “brother” to his master. My business is to know him as my master. No doubt it would be grace on his part to own me as his brother. Everything therefore where grace is at work will be found to have its blessed place. Whoever thought differently (and such have never been wanting) was puffed up, and could only suggest evil.
Then he touches on the value of piety with a contented mind in contrast with the love of money, and its various snares in this age as in all that are past. These things will be found dealt with successively, until at last the apostle calls on the man of God to flee these things himself, and to pursue the path of righteousness, etc., as well as strive in the good combat of faith; otherwise a man of God was in no degree free from danger. He was to lay hold of eternal life, to which he had been called, and had confessed the good confession before many witnesses, and this in view of the great event which will display our fidelity or the lack of it — the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in its own time the blessed and only Potentate shall show. At the same time he calls on him to charge them that are rich neither to be high-minded nor rely on aught so uncertain. What would give weight to the charge? That he was above such desires himself, trusting in the living God, who affords us all things richly for enjoyment. Let them be rich in good works, liberal in distributing, ready to communicate, laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold of what is really life. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of false-named knowledge, which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee.”
Turning to the SECOND EPISTLE, we find that, although there is the same grand truth of the Saviour God maintained, the state of things had become sensibly worse, and the hour for the apostle’s departure from the world was drawing near. Accordingly, there is a depth of feeling that one may safely say far exceeds the first epistle, although it had shown so much tenderness and care both for Timothy and the faithful of those days. But now there were other reasons for it, namely, that Christians were neglecting godliness and order. They had been long accustomed to the truth, and alas! human nature began to show itself out in indifference. There was no longer the freshness of a new thing; and where the heart was not kept up in communion with the Lord, the value of divine things was less felt, if it did not quite fade away. Accordingly, in much grief of heart, the apostle writes to his tried and trembling child in the faith, and seeks to strengthen him, above all things not to be discouraged, and to make up his mind to endure hard things. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise.” (2 Tim. 1:1.) It is not “the commandment,” as of authority, but “according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.” The crumbling away of everything here was before the apostle; and accordingly it is one of the peculiar features of this second epistle, that he brings out that which never can decay — which was before there was a world to dissolve — namely, that life which was in Christ Jesus before the world began.
Thus the apostle comes to the close of his ministry, and touches upon the line of St. John. There is no part of John’s doctrine more strikingly characteristic than life in Christ. Now we see that when Paul was touching the confines of that difficult and most perilous moment when John was to be left alone, he brings out as his last note that very truth which John was to develop with special care and fulness. “To Timothy, my dearly-beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers,” — what singular language this from Paul! How comes it so? Paul “the aged,” as he says, was just about to leave this world. Activity of service was no longer before him. This he had known most extensively, but it was closed; no longer had he before him any prospect of having to fight the battles of the church of God. He had fought the good fight of faith. Others must do that kind of work in future. But now before his heart — just as in principle before the dying Lord Himself, wonderful to say — two things come together: a deeper sense of what is in God, as revealed in Christ Himself, before there was any creation at all; and on the other hand so much the deeper sense also of what could be owned in nature. Now these seem to many very difficult indeed to combine. They appear to think that if you hold life in Christ to be the one thing that is most precious, to be the prize that your heart reverts to, all owning of anything short of this would be out of place; but it is exactly the contrary. When the Lord was entering on His ministry He says, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” But when dying upon the cross, He calls to John to behold His mother. We find a precisely similar kind of combination in Paul. Of course it was infinitely higher, it is needless to say, in the Master; but the servant was as closely as possible following in His steps.
It is beautiful to trace this double working and current of the apostle — that is, what is imperishable, above and beyond nature; and, along with this, the utmost value put on everything that he would own in those naturally bound up with him — those of either family that feared God. “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers, with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears.” He had not said a word about them before. There was infirmity in the character of Timothy. There might be a mixture of timid shrinking from pain and shame. He was one that needed to lean on an arm stronger than his own. It was a part of his lot. Thus it was that God had made him: there was no use denying it. But the apostle at the same time owns, and loves to own, that which another might perhaps despise. There was no despising natural links or spiritual here, far from it.
Timothy, again, winced under trials, — too sensitive to slights, disappointments, and the manifold griefs that came upon him. But the apostle remembered it all, felt deeply for if not with him, and greatly desiring to see him once more. His own desire after going to the Lord did not prevent this, but the reverse: “that I may be filled with joy: when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” I refer to this just to remark that such links as these, which are connected with nature, all come before the apostle’s mind, at the very moment when a spurious feeling would have judged it precisely the time to banish and forget them. There are persons who think that the approach of death is intended to blot out everything here. Not so the apostle Paul. In that large heart which weighed so justly and with single eye, there was a deepening feeling as to all that he saw around him; there was a realizing of the importance of things of which he had said not a word before. For him the light of eternity already shone strongly on present things, instead of taking him completely out of them. And this, I believe, is much to be considered.
“I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear” (it was what Timothy was manifesting), “but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (there must, I suppose, have been some ground for the exhortation), “nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Here we have him recurring to that which was entirely outside nature, and before its very platform existed. At the same time there is the carrying on his full notice of everything found here below that would be a source of comfort to one who anticipated the ruin of Christendom.
Afterwards he also speaks of his own work and of that which he was suffering. Instead of hiding either from Timothy, he points all out to him. He wants to accustom his mind to expect hardship instead of shirking it. He tells him further to “hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” At the same time he shows also his sense of the kindness of a particular individual and his family. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but, when. he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.” It appears it was not merely in Rome. “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.” The same tone of mercy is equally promised in this #epistle as in the last. “And in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”
In the second chapter he turns to another theme, he instructs and exhorts Timothy as to communicating (not authority, or status, or gift, but) truth to others. It is not a question here about elders, but what would abide all the same when elders could not be duly appointed. He is now looking at the state of disorder in the house of God, instead of contemplating it in its public integrity, as in the first epistle. There was a state of things coming when it would be impossible to have local charges chosen according to the full sanction which they had in apostolic days. Indeed it may be well to remark here, that we never read of Timothy appointing bishops or elders. Possibly he did appoint them; but there is no scriptural proof of it. Titus, we know, did so; but God took care that it should never be positively stated about Timothy. The peculiar task confided to the latter was care of doctrine much more than of outward order. As far as appointment went, Titus had a commission to establish elders in each city of Crete; but not so Timothy, as far as the inspired records speak.
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men.” (2 Tim. 2:1.) We must not be afraid of a manifest duty because it has been abused. There are those who shrink from helping on others in order to the work and doctrine of the Lord. This I cannot but consider as a proof of want of faith. What is a man well taught in the truth for, if not to communicate his knowledge to others that are faithful, but not equally instructed in the word of God? Surely if it is an urgent call to convey what we know of Christ and the truth to those that know nothing, it is a great privilege to help to contribute a greater knowledge of the truth to those that know little. The great thing is to do the will of God, let others say what they please; and so the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy. It is to be supposed that the younger labourer cowered somewhat, unwilling to incur the odious charge, so easily made but hard to refute, of setting himself up and taking the place of some great one. This might deter a sensitive saint from his duty. But, says the apostle, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This was to touch the right chord in his heart. Had the Lord Jesus not sent him? Why then yield to the enemy? Assuredly he would rejoice to scare Timothy from the field of serving Christ, and would shrink from no means to secure it.
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” He would not have him to be spreading doubtful opinions; but what he had heard from the apostle himself he need not scruple to give out freely. Let me remark, that there are comparatively few indeed that receive truth without help of others directly from God. A great many certainly flatter themselves that they are thus favoured; but the cases are uncommon where it is more than pretence. The fact is that God loves to make His children mutually dependent; and if we are only humble, there are very few saints from whom we may not derive some good, though not always in the same way. Nor do I at all see that any Christians should be above learning, if others can teach. At any rate the apostle presses this very strongly on Timothy. He was to communicate the things he had learnt of Paul, that they might be able to teach others also.
Next he comes to a more personal need. “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” To take pains and to endure are requisite even in what pertains to this life. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life” (he must be unencumbered, and undivided in his object); “that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” He must take care of the manner in which he strives. And then again “the husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” Rather he must “labour before he partake of the fruits.” That is, he must first labour, and then partake of the fruits. God takes care of His people, and ensures them a blessed end. At the same time He will have them undividedly for Himself; and He is also jealous of the way in which they seek even the ends of God.
Then the apostle puts before them a blessed model of that which he had before his own soul. “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” This is a very striking word. For he does not say Jesus Christ simply in. His connection with the church, but “of the seed of David,” the fulfiller of the promises, and object of the prophecies. Even if we look at Him so, He was raised from the dead. Resurrection is the form and character of the lowest blessings of which Jesus is the dispenser; much more is He risen to exalt God in the highest. Death and resurrection, then, are thus put before this servant of God; the more remarkably, because the point here is a practical and not a doctrinal question. He was to remember, then, “that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel: wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil-doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.” Paul suffered as he taught: a single eye to Christ and His grace made him consistent. “Put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings.”
It was thus Paul treated the proud reasonings and speculations of man; withal briefly touching on those that had gone entirely astray — Hymenaeus and Philetus. It was not merely now that they had made their consciences bad and slipped away from faith. Their own word would eat as a canker, and do harm to others as well as to themselves, “who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” This was to reverse the lesson of a risen Christ, and to open the way for all laxity. It was a kindred error, though in an opposite direction, to that which false teachers sought to infuse among the Thessalonians: there that the day of the Lord was come, producing panic; here that the resurrection was past, leading, to ease. The one was suited to upset the young, the other to beguile the old.
Then the apostle brings out most important directions for the days that were then coming in, but now come, and more. Questions are before him more serious than a maintenance of order. How are we to walk so as to please the Lord when disorder reigns, claiming to be the only true order? In a measure, no doubt, the truth is in Christendom, and only there; for one cannot look for the truth in Judaism or heathenism now. Judaism had its divine institutions and hopes, but the truth is found in Christendom only: nevertheless in Christendom, who fails to discern Jewish elements and heathenish enormities? How is a man to walk in such a state of things as this? In the former epistle, Timothy was told how to behave in the house of God, as yet in order; but now we are told how to behave in such a state of things as the present disorder. “The foundation of God standeth sure [or, the firm foundation of God standeth], having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name” — not of “Christ,” but — “of the Lord depart from iniquity.” I must do so, if I own Him only in the indispensable truth of His Lordship — if I own Him simply as the One that has authority over my soul. And a less confession than this God never permitted the church to accept; nor in fact in Jerusalem itself was less ever accepted than the naming the name of the Lord. God had made Jesus to be Lord and Christ, preached Peter on that day of power, when as yet much lay hid, and the great instrument of the revelation of the mystery was still shrouded in the darkness of midnight. But, if one confesses the name of the Lord, the word is imperative: “let him depart from iniquity.” The disorder might be so great that we might make mistakes in our anxiety; but “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” On the other hand, if a soul confesses the name of the Lord, he must have done with iniquity.
This of itself indicates that the epistle provides for a time when it is no longer simply a question of recognising persons coming out of the world. It is needful to exercise judgment now. One must try disorders and prove profession. Truth and holiness and endurance are wanted, not authority or outward order. Why cannot a man be as simple now as in apostolic times? Why not baptize at once every soul around? It would not be accordant with the mind of God. It is a duty in the present state of confusion to use scriptural means; and here we have our warrant, as in the epistles we find more. Whatever therefore may be right in certain cases, the assembly of God ought never to be forced to put every case on the same dead level — ought never to be bound by any special process, as if it were unalterable. The cause of this is the present confusion, and accordingly the apostle brings a picture of it before Timothy’s mind.
“In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” That is, it is not enough that I should walk with the Lord individually, but I must clear myself of association with that which is contrary to His name. Such is the meaning of purging himself. It is not the question of discipline — dealing With evil ways; but here we are in a state of things where we are in danger of being mixed up with vessels unto the Lord’s dishonour. Nothing can sanction this. I am not at liberty of course to leave Christendom, I dare not get out of the great house at all; indeed I cannot (at any rate without becoming an apostate) leave the house of God, however bad its state may be. This is evidently not the true remedy — to abandon the confession of Christ: only an apostate could think of it. On the other hand, it is unholy to tamper with evil. Therefore it is incumbent for the Christian to look to this gravely, — never to be dragged by the fear of breaking unity into accrediting what dishonours the Lord. Now this is in particular a difficulty for saints, when they have revived before the soul the blessedness of maintaining the unity of the Spirit. It can never cease to be a Christian’s duty to maintain the unity of the Spirit; but it is not maintaining the unity of the Spirit to couple with the name of the Lord that which is fleshly and sinful. It is well to be exclusive of sin, but of nothing else. It is well to maintain the largest heart for everything that is really of Christ. But we must exclude that which is contrary to His name; and the very same desire to prove one’s love, one’s faith, one’s appreciation of Christ, will make one anxious not to be dragged into that which is not for His glory. “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
But then another thing. He lets Timothy know that while he laid this on others, he must look carefully to his own ways. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace.” It is not simply now to follow these, as urged in the first epistle (1 Tim. 6:11); but he adds a most characteristic word in the second epistle. And this, I apprehend, is the reason. He forbad his going on in association with those that dishonour the Lord with vessels to dishonour; but he tells him to follow these things “with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Therefore, isolation is never desirable, though it may be sometimes necessary. But no man ought to separate himself from the children of God, unless it be a dire necessity for the Lord; it is clearly not according to Christ. It seems to me, I confess, that if there were simplicity of faith, the Lord would give one eyes to see some at least that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.
Thus we have everything cared for here; the state of confusion is clearly depicted, as it then was beginning, and as results have proved yet more. How gracious of the Lord to point out the path for the saint, separate from that which grieves the Lord, yet enjoying all that He sees good for us of the privileges of Christianity! Otherwise this might have seemed to be (what unbelief taunts and stigmatizes it, spite of His sanction) pride of heart and presumption. And the comfort is that, if prepared to cleave to the will of the Lord alone, we shall have, through His grace, fellowship with the true-hearted. “Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And a servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting those that oppose, if perhaps God may give them repentance for acknowledgment of the truth, and they may for his will wake up out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him.” This was always the becoming tone; but now it is imperiously necessary, as well as wise and good.
Then in 2 Timothy 3 he proceeds to show us not merely a picture of the condition that Christianity will fall into, but, besides, a state of things that would be produced by this confusion. Here we find the perilous times fairly brought before us. “Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Things are very much taking this direction of late, and at the present moment. Take what is called physical Christianity — a stupid, gross, and heathenish phrase, but just enough to show where people are drifting to. It answers not a little to the kind of thing ,;et forth here. As we know, there may be over it all a certain form of godliness, but underneath it is really wickedness. This the apostle guards Timothy against, and indeed ourselves, he warns him how seduction would go on more and more, but “from such turn away.” No matter what the reasons or excuses for joining with them, “turn away.”
Then he points out the two principal guards for the faithful, in such a perilous state. The first is the moral character of the source or channel whence Timothy had derived what he knew. “Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions.” It is the whole spiritual experience, so to speak, of the apostle. He was to continue in the things which he had learned, and had been assured of, knowing of whom he had learned them — a very important point. Persons sometimes say it does not matter who taught; but God does not treat the matter so lightly. It is often a very great safeguard for the saint of God; for, after all, it makes no small difference who says this or that. A word altogether unbecoming in one mouth might be most proper in another. The apostle well knew that the God who had brought these glorious truths to man, the God that had manifested His grace, had given a witness of their reality in the man from whom he had learned them; and this was meant to have an enduring effect on the conscience and heart of Timothy. For it is not dogma pure and simple, it is not mere instruction; and we may thank God for it. It is an immense blessing that we have the truth not only in a book, but in a practical shape, the truth that comes out of the heart and from the lips of living men of God. Accordingly the apostle reminds Timothy of this.
At the same time there is not the smallest slight of the only and abiding standard. He brings out the infinite value of the Scriptures, that is of what was written, the one transcendent resource for perilous times when we have not the presence and personal help of apostles. It is not merely what had been preached, but what is in a permanent shape for the good of the saints of God here below, which elicits the remarkable assertion of its peculiar worth. “Every scripture” — for this is the proper force of the passage — “Every scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
The closing chapter (2 Tim. 4) then gives his solemn charge, and at the same time his own expression of what was before him. As Timothy was about to enter upon a new phase of his ministry, without the apostle’s presence or living counsel, the latter charges him with great emphasis, “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” And the reason why he makes it so urgent not to be turned aside was, that the time would come when men would not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they should heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they should turn away their ears from the truth, and should be. turned unto fables. “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” Thus he looks not to the coming of the Lord to receive him to Himself, but to the “appearing of the Lord,” which is the usual side of the truth taken in these epistles. The reason is obvious. The coming of the Lord will in no way manifest the faithfulness of the servant; His appearing will. At “that day” will be the display of whatever has been endured, as well as done, for the Lord’s sake.
With this prospect he comforts Timothy no less than his own spirit; but at the same time he speaks as to joining him, with a glance at one that had forsaken him. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.” He was comparatively alone. If he does not hide the sorrowful view of an old fellow-labourer’s cooling in zeal, with all its dangers, the consolation is also before Timothy both of those that go on in faithful labour, and of one at least restored. “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” So we find that God knows how to temper the bitter with the sweet, always doing the right thing in the right place and time.
Thus he comforts Timothy at the same time that he admonishes him. In the midst of all, he is told to bring the cloak that he left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, but especially the parchments. This again has stumbled the minds of men. They cannot understand an inspired apostle talking about a cloak in the midst of a divinely given pastoral charge. The reason is manifest: they themselves savour of the things of men, and not of God. There is nothing that more shows God than His ability to combine that which is eternal with care for the smallest things of this life. It was not then an indifferent matter to God. The Holy Spirit would make it to be most practical and precious. Be assured, that if you do not bring the Spirit of God into these matters, perhaps your cloak, perhaps a book, will become a snare to you. To many a man and woman has a little bit of dress done no small injury, just because they think it is too little for the Spirit of God to direct them in. “The cloke,” then says he, “that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books,” — not only the clothing, but even that which he is to read, — “especially the parchments;” — what he was going to write on, probably. “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.”
Finally, we have his assertion of the blessed Lord’s care, and his confidence in Him that He would preserve him from all evil to His heavenly kingdom; closing this solemn and touching epistle (it would seem the last words he wrote) with salutations to various saints.
1 *The true reading, represented by (Cod. Sin.) and all other uncials save the Clermont, and almost if not all the cursive manuscripts, is
οἰκονομίαν, dispensation, in the sense of administration, or stewardship. Even Matthaei joins the rest of the critics, with the Complutensian Polyglott, against the received
οἰκοδομίαν, which he considers a mere blunder of
ν by Erasmus’s printers. But this does not account for the Latin, Syriac (save later), Gothic, etc.; even supposing
δ was the slip of the scribe. It is evident that “edification” is not the point in question, but the right order of the house of God, and this in faith. Internal evidence is thus as strong as external as to the true reading.
2 * Cod. Sin. () agrees with the great authorities which give
ὅς, “who” (or others,
ὅ, “which”) instead of