The pastoral epistles of Paul, all three written we may safely affirm after the termination of the apostle's first imprisonment, now claim our attention. In each of them he presents himself in his apostolic character, and that in connection with God and the Lord Jesus Christ, supplying us, by the way in which he introduces himself in these three letters, with a keynote to the contents of each of them. In the one before us, which contains regulations given to Timothy for the right ordering of God's house on earth, Paul describes himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope. Furnished with such credentials, he was fully competent to give directions for matters concerning the assemblies of God. In the second epistle to Timothy, which enjoins individual faithfulness to the Lord at all cost, Paul writes of himself as "an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus." And in that to Titus, which dwells on practical piety in every condition of life, he reminds his own child after the common faith of his apostleship "according to the faith of God's elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to piety."
Timothy and Titus were apostolic delegates charged with the service of watching over doctrine, and of regulating matters which concerned the well-being and order - the one of the assembly at Ephesus, the other of the assemblies in Crete; and the letters addressed to both would serve among other things to authenticate their mission. (1 Tim. 1:18; Titus 1:5.)
Paul had visited Ephesus on two occasions ere he went to Rome. (Acts 18:19; 19:1.) On the first occasion he was on his way to Jerusalem from Macedonia. On the second occasion Timothy had left Ephesus, sent by Paul into Macedonia (Acts 19:22), whilst he tarried for a season still in that city, the metropolis of proconsular Asia. Hence it is pretty plain, from the circumstances recounted in this epistle (1:3), Timothy being left at Ephesus when Paul went into Macedonia, that it must have been written at a date subsequent to his first appearance before Nero.
Timothy was to keep watch over the doctrine taught in the assembly. There was need for this. Of what would take place in Ephesus after Paul's death he had warned the Ephesian elders years before at Miletus. How the prediction was verified the Lord's address to the angel of that Church surely intimates. (Rev. 2:2.) But whilst he was still in life he saw heterodoxy getting in there, and the saints in danger of being ensnared by fables and endless genealogies, which ministered questions rather than God's dispensation which is in faith; whereas the end of the command, i.e. what was enjoined, is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned, which things some having missed had turned aside to vain talking, desiring to be law-teachers, understanding neither what they said nor whereof they affirmed. Such were the dangers at Ephesus to the maintenance of sound teaching to which Timothy's attention was especially drawn. Paul had pointed them out before leaving for Macedonia; he refers again to them in this letter.
About the fables he says nothing more. They were not in any sense from God, and they did not, it was evident, further God's dispensation which is in faith. Nothing which does not do that is of any real profit in teaching. Questions of this kind might amuse and exercise the intellect, but they did not tell upon the conscience. Of the law which some wished to teach he speaks. That came from God, and is good if used lawfully. It is like a rule which applied to anything crooked shows where it departs from the straight line; and applied to men, when unrighteous and ungodly, shows them what as responsible creatures they ought to be, and wherein they have sinned. Such is its use. It convicts and condemns men of unrighteousness and ungodliness, in a word, of whatever is against sound doctrine according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which Paul was put in trust.
Another revelation then had come from God - "The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," and, consequent on His death, and resurrection, and ascension, the gospel of the glory of God was to be preached. This met men in their need. The law could in a way, yet not fully even, prove to man his need. The gospel shows how fully that has been met, and proves the folly of those, when it is really understood, who would be law teachers, applying the law for a purpose, and to those for whom it was not intended by God. (1:9.) The mention of the gospel recalls to Paul the grace in which he shared, a sample, a pattern of the extent of God's long-suffering goodness. He who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious, characteristics severally true of men in the last days (2 Tim. 3:2), of the Jew in the apostles' time (1 Thess. 2:15), and of the heathen world before the cross (Rom. 1:30), had obtained mercy after having opposed the truth through ignorance and in unbelief, the grace of the Lord having surpassingly abounded with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. What the law could not do was effected by the gospel; and Paul, once the ardent champion of Judaism, here stands out as the fullest illustration of grace. "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation," he writes, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief;" that in him as chief Jesus Christ might show forth the whole long-suffering for a delineation of those about to believe on Him to life everlasting. How different then are these two revelations of the mind of God, both dealing with the sinner - the former to bring out into fuller belief his sinfulness, and to condemn him; the latter to meet him as condemned that he might be saved, and that perfectly. Hence thinking of the gospel of the glory of God, which shows how fully by the atonement He has been glorified in His very nature and character, nothing could be more suited than an expression of praise - "To the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only God, be honour and glory to the ages of ages. Amen."
Now, returning to the purpose for which he wrote this epistle, he commits the charge to Timothy, his child in the faith, who had been marked out by prophecies for this service, exhorting him by them to war a good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. The faith he was to keep, and to maintain a good conscience as well, the effect of putting away the latter being seen in the cases of Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had now made shipwreck concerning the faith, and had in consequence been delivered by Paul to Satan to learn not to blaspheme. Two points are noteworthy here: first, the importance of maintaining a good conscience, and the results that may follow its abandonment; and second, the way God can use the enemy for the profit (if such an one will learn) of the person delivered up to him. Souls once doing his behests are set free from his thraldom by the gospel. (Eph. 2:2.) Professors could be delivered up to him to learn by punishment their needed lesson. Thus God can use him as a creature in the carrying out, of His designs, he himself having no such power over one in the assembly, unless such an one is delivered up to him.*
* He can and does tempt, but has not power over the person unless God permits it.
Following on this exhortation given to Timothy for the fulfilment of the service entrusted to him, we have instructions concerning the Church in general (2:3); and after that those which in an especial way would help to guide Timothy in his work at Ephesus. (4 - 6)
And, first, as to prayer. (2) The gospel of the grace of God being preached, prayer was to be made for all men, and the spirit of supplication might rightly go out on behalf of rulers and all that are in authority, whatever their ways towards Christians might be, that under the shelter of their rule, government being maintained, Christians might lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and gravity. But whilst this could result from prayer on behalf of rulers, no one on earth was excluded from the offer of grace. Thus the everlasting interests of any man, whether a ruler or a subject, might form the burden of a Christian's supplication, and be well-pleasing to our Saviour God, who is willing that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; and this was evidenced by the gospel. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, the testimony to be borne in its own times, for which Paul was appointed a herald and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Having stated for whom we may pray, and the reason for it, since God is not acting in favour towards one nation, but towards men, the apostle proceeds to give directions for the saints when met together for prayer. All one in Christ, the distinction of sexes is, nevertheless, to be maintained in the assembly, and each receives an appropriate word. The men were to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath, and doubting or reasoning. A spirit of that kind would be unseemly for those who were to lead the devotions of others. As to the women, the character of their attire and ways were not subjects beneath the notice of the Holy Ghost. Creation order was to be remembered, and the instruction to be drawn from it was to be put in practice. The woman was to learn in quietness* with all subjection. She was not to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in quietness hesuchia. "For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression." What a simple way of solving the question! God's word in Genesis casts a light on it. His order of acting before the fall, and the history of the fall, both help us in this matter. So not only do these two chapters of Genesis (2:3) acquaint us with facts of which otherwise we might not have been informed, they also furnish guidance on a point of order in the Christian assembly. But more. If God would maintain creation order on such a matter, and would have His people remember it, He would also maintain His character as a Saviour God, and here declares it. He will preserve the woman through child-bearing, her special sorrow, a consequence of the fall, if they - i.e. the man and the woman - continue in faith, and love, and holiness with sobriety.
*Not silence, as in 1 Cor. 14, but quietness - hesuchia. (See 2 Thess. 3:12, "With quietness they work;" and verse 2 of our chapter, hesuchion - peaceable; so also 1 Peter 3:4, "a quiet spirit.")
From this question of order in a prayer-meeting the apostle passes on to that of office-bearers in the assembly. (3) There were such duly appointed in apostolic days. There may be persons fitted for that work still. If any one desired to exercise oversight, he desired a good work. Now since the assembly, and the regulations connected with it, were peculiar to Christianity, directions were needed for the instruction of the saints about this. And since the preaching of grace did not set the world right, nor was intended to do that, it was requisite in the existing state of things to describe the qualifications suited for those who should be elders or deacons. This Paul here sketches out. In apostolic times more than one bishop was met with in the assembly. It was so at Ephesus. (Acts 20:17, 28.) It was the case at Philippi. (Phil. 1:1.) It was the same at Jerusalem. (James 5:14.) What were requisites for an elder or bishop - for the office is the same - we learn about in verses 2-7; and those needful for one doing deacon's work in verses 8-13; coupled, as in the case of the latter, with instructions about their wives. For certainly the order of the subjects here treated of seems to fix the reference to the women (11, 12) (since it is introduced in the middle of the instructions about the deacons) to the wives of the last-named office-bearers. Titus was commissioned to ordain elders. Timothy, as far as we know, was not. But the qualifications needful for one who would fill either of these offices being set forth in this epistle, we learn, as Timothy might, what manner of persons were fitted to fill them. So when we meet with any one willing to undertake such service, and who possesses the requisite qualifications, room should be allowed him thus to labour for the good of all. The wisdom manifested in putting such instruction on record is apparent; and though none have the authority to ordain elders now, this chapter is of real value, and a help to all who would have the assembly ordered in accordance with the mind of God. One qualification common to both these offices we would just notice, for the rest need no comment. Both the bishop and the deacon were to be the husband of one wife, mias gynaikos andra. This does not mean one who has never remarried. The regulation is directed against polygamy, allowed by the law (Deut. 21:15), and practised by the heathen. Christianity forbids the practice of it, taking us back in this, as in other things, to creation order; but it does not enjoin on the polygamist, when converted, the putting away of his wives. How God in His compassion cares for the woman The polygamist, however, was disqualified as such from being an office-bearer in the Church of God. The burden of such a state of things was thus placed by God on the shoulders of the right person - the man, not the woman.
What an interest does God take in the assembly to give such minute directions about its orderly walk and internal arrangements! And no wonder when we learn what it is - the house of God, the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (v. 15.) It is His house, so He gives commandments about it; it is His assembly, called out to own Him the living God in opposition to idols; it is the pillar of the truth, so should uphold and exhibit it; it is the foundation, the base on which alone the truth can find a resting-place on earth. Thus we learn something of the inward character and outward service of the Church. But it is not the truth, nor does it teach it, though it upholds it; yet the truth has been manifested, and the mystery, or secret, of piety has been disclosed, and that in a person. "Without controversy," or, "confessedly, great is the mystery of piety, who* was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." (v. 16.)
*Who - os, not God - Theos. So most textual critics and best uncials, No ancient version has God here.
Now this was to be maintained by the assembly, and the need for this would appear, when in accordance with the Spirit's prophetic, utterance some in latter times would "apostatise from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." Demons trading on man's consciousness of defilement would suggest as the remedy abstinence from meats and marriage, the things which God has provided for His creature's welfare, thus making God the author of man's lack of piety. Man's lack of it is evident; but the mystery, or secret of it, God, not demons, has disclosed, and in the incarnate One has displayed. He who is the life of His saints, and is in them, is the mystery of it; and in proportion as He is really their example, true piety will be developed in each one. Nothing that God has provided for His creature is defiling. Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving ; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer; i.e. by God's grant to Noah (Gen. 9:3, 4), and by the recipient's thanksgiving. Nothing can be conceived more devilish than such doctrine as the apostle here combats, and the source of which he unmasks - men made the mouthpiece of demons (for the demons are represented in the passage as speaking the lies) to inject into the mind such thoughts of God. Putting the brethren in mind of these things, Timothy would be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished up in the words of faith and of the good doctrine (the opposite of demoniacal teaching) which he had followed.
From this point Paul turns to address Timothy more directly, exhorting him, first, as to that which he should avoid; next, what he should cultivate; and then to what he should give himself. He was to avoid profane and old wives' fables; he was to exercise or train himself to "piety, which is profitable for everything, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." In connection with this we meet with the third of those faithful sayings recorded in the pastoral epistles. (1:15, 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8.) "For this cause we labour and suffer reproach, or strive, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." These things he was to teach, and to be an example, young though he was, of believers in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Further, he was to give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, and to be careful not to neglect the gift received through Paul with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, having been marked out for this service, for which he was fitted by the gift, by a prophetic utterance on the part of some member of the assembly. (4)
Timothy then was young, yet he was placed in authority over all in the assembly at Ephesus. Hence regulations are appended for his guidance in dealing with people whether young or old. (v. 1, 2.) Injunctions too he received about widows, and the qualifications and the age of such as might well be put on the list to be chargeable to the assembly. Added to this are wholesome words for those who had widows, and for those who as young women were widows. (v. 3-16.) All this we learn was not beneath the Spirit's notice, for it concerned order and comeliness of behaviour in the house of God.
Further, having set forth the qualifications suited for such as desired to exercise oversight, the word of God testifies of His care of such by bespeaking due honour to be rendered to them if faithfully doing their work; and especially were those to be honoured who laboured in the word and doctrine as well. All such were to be cared for in temporal matters if needing it. In proof of this, the apostle adduces God's mind from both the Old and New Testament revelation. (Deut. 25:4; Luke 10:7.) One sees here distinctly marked out the difference between office and ministry. An elder was such by virtue of his office. He might, or might not be able to minister in the word as well. To the office he was appointed by the Holy Ghost. (Acts 20:28.) In himself, if a labourer in the word, he was a gift from Christ (Eph. 4:11), and received for the exercise of his ministry a gift from the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 12:11.) Further, if any elder was complained of, for in the carrying out of his service he might be exposed to the malice of the unruly, Timothy was cautioned against entertaining a charge against him, unless substantiated by two or three witnesses. Thus God would have such protected from malicious prosecutions and attacks, by which a sensitive and faithful servant might be crushed in his spirit. But offenders, whether elders or others, "them that sin," implying, it would appear, the existence of an evil habit unjudged, rather than an accidental fall, Timothy was to convict before all, that the rest might fear. A solemn office he was entrusted with, in the discharge of which he was to be faithful and just (v. 21), and to avoid any hasty identifying of himself with others. (22-25.)
In the closing chapter (6) two classes of society, widely different, are seen to be objects of the apostle's care - the slave, who might possess nothing that he could call his own on earth (1, 2); and the wealthy, who had it in their power to distribute to others of their substance. (17-19.) As for the slave, subjection to his master he was to exhibit, whether that master was a heathen or a Christian, in order that the name of God and the doctrine should not be blasphemed. If his master was a Christian, there was an additional motive for serving him well. The flesh might suggest the despising him as a master, because the slave was his brother in the faith. God's word would remind him of the propriety of serving him well, because he was a Christian, faithful, i.e. a believer, and beloved. These things Timothy was to teach and exhort.
But all might not receive the exhortation, and a different doctrine might be promulgated. Heterodoxy might rear up its head on this as on other points, proving, however, if it did, that the men who taught it, or supported it, did not consent to wholesome words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, being proud, knowing nothing, but being sick about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, injurious speaking (literally blasphemies), evil surmisings, incessant quarrels of men of corrupted minds and destitute of the truth, supposing godliness to be a means of gain. Here we reach the root whence such teaching comes. Godliness however, with contentment, is great gain. On the other hand, the desire to be rich is fruitful in results, damaging to its pursuer both as regards this world and the next. (9, 10.) Such a pursuit Timothy was to flee from, following after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness; striving, too, earnestly in the good contest of the faith, and laying hold of eternal life, to which he had been called, and had confessed a good confession before many witnesses. For the servant and the soldier must work and fight to the end.
Of this Paul reminds him in a beautiful but most solemn way. When Moses was about to depart this life, by God's command he gave Joshua a charge in the sight of all the congregation. (Num. 27:19.) Now ere Paul departed he gave Timothy a charge, but in the sight of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, putting him consciously in their presence, to keep the commandment without spot and unrebukable until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; for till His appearing - epiphaneia, a different thought and time from His coming for His own into the air - Timothy, as a servant, would not be discharged from his responsibility by the Master taking account of his service. Hence to the appearing of Christ he is here directed. Before God, who keeps all things in life, he was thus put by Paul, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession. The mention of God in this character would embolden him, and the remembrance of Christ Jesus as a faithful witness would encourage him. With their eyes on him he was to go forward, learning how God values a good confession, and will own it, when He, i.e. God, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King* of those who reign, and the Lord of those who exercise lordship, i.e. the fountain of all authority and rule in the universe, who only has immortality, dwelling in light, which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see, will show Christ Jesus to all as His faithful witness here on earth.
*In the Revelation (Rev. 19:16) the Lord has the title of Basileus Basileon and Kurios Kurion, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Here, speaking of God, the terms are different; viz., Basileus ton Basileuonton and Kurios ton kurieuonton.
To what a future does he point him! And surely with that in power in his soul he would warn the rich not to trust in uncertain riches, but in God, who gives us all things richly to enjoy, to do good, to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on that which is really life.*
* ontos, not aioion, is the true reading.
With one word more of exhortation this earnestly written letter closes: "O Timothy, keep the deposit, avoiding profane, vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with you," not "thee;" for though writing to an individual, Paul was wont to remember all the saints.
The wisdom displayed in this epistle in connection with the internal affairs of the assembly, and the earnest and frequent exhortations to maintain and to teach the truth, make it a portion of no little value in these days.
C. E. Stuart.
I don't know that, if anyone wanted to be to the praise of God, he could do it better than by being full of Christ. I meet some aged saints full of Christ, saying, "I've done with this world, but I have Christ. The only thing I have got to speak of is what this Christ of God is - He is All." I don't believe anything is better than that. If I look around me I see in saints - not want of intelligence, not lack of knowledge, not want of activity - but what they want is the affections full of Christ. There's plenty of oil in the machine that's full of Christ. If the heart is full of Christ, and full of joy in the Holy Ghost, then we have got our other portion, our real portion. The early Christians were so full of Christ that all their trials, all their difficulties, sank down into nothing. Why is it not so with us?
G. V. Wigram.