Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE CONDUCT OF TIMOTHY TOWARD ELDERLY MEN. "Reprimand not an elderly person, but exhort him as a brother." The allusion is not to an official elder of the Church, but to any elderly member of it.
1. Such persons might possibly be guilty of serious shortcomings, warranting private admonition, if not the exercise of discipline. Their conduct would have a worse effect than that of more youthful offenders.
2. Timothy must not use sharpness or severity in dealing with such persons, because he must remember what is becoming on account of his own youth. He should rather use "entreaty" on a footing of brotherly equality. His zeal ought not to interfere with the reverence due to age. Let the old be treated with humility and gentleness.
II. THE CONDUCT OF TIMOTHY TOWARD YOUNGER MEN. The younger men as brothers." He may use greater freedom with them, as being on an equality as to age. He must not show airs of assumption toward them, but may use more freedom in reproving their faults.
III. HIS CONDUCT TOWARD ELDERLY WOMEN. "Elderly women as mothers." He must show them due deference and respect. If they should err on any point, they must be entreated with all tenderness, as children entreat their mothers.
IV. HIS CONDUCT TOWARD THE YOUNGER WOMEN. "The younger as sisters, with all purity." There must be, on the one hand, the freedom of a brother with sisters; but, on the other hand, a marked circumspection so as to avoid all ground of suspicion or scandal. - T.C.
I. THERE IS TO BE REVERENCE FOR AGE. We are to entreat the elder rather than to rebuke them. Scolding is often mistaken for fidelity; and there is a scolding preaching which holds up mistake and error to scorn rather than to pity. The Bible reverences age. The elder, if he be here, must have seen and known terrible troubles and fierce temptations. His bark has been in many seas. His sword has been almost shivered, in many fights. His countenance tells of tears and tribulations. He has known defeat as well as victory. Rebuke him not. With the soft down of youth on your cheek, deal reverently with the gray-headed men. If evil seems to be getting the mastery, and the lingering angels are about to leave, entreat age by the memories of the past and the great hopes of the reward so nigh at band.
II. THERE IS TO BE FELLOWSHIP WITH YOUTH. Be a son to the aged, but a brother to the young. "And the younger men as brethren;" not as a proud priest sent to rule them and to shrive them, but as one who has the passions and. the hopes, the duties and the dangers, of a brother. - W.M.S.
I. BEHAVIOR OF TIMOTHY TOWARD THE ELDER AND YOUNGER CHURCH MEMBERS OF BOTH SEXES. "Rebuke not an eider, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brethren: the eider women as mothers; the younger as sisters, in all purity." A minister has to deal with people differing in age and sex. If he is a young minister like Timothy, he has a difficult part to act. It may happen that one who is very much his cider is guilty of an offence. How is he to conduct himself toward him? He is not to rebuke him sharply, as the word means, being different from what is employed in 2 Timothy 4:2, where authority is given to rebuke. Along with the authority that belongs to his office, there is to be such respect as is due by a child to a father. Entreaty will therefore not be separated from the presentation of duty. If it is younger men that offend, there is not to be wanting the respect that is due to brethren. If it is the elder women who are faulty, they are to be addressed as mothers. "Plead with your mother, plead" (Hosea 2:2). If it is the younger women who have to he dealt with, there is to be sisterly regard, without the slightest departure from propriety.
II. THE CHURCH ROLL OF WIDOWS. "Honor widows that are widows indeed." The honor requires to be restricted, to harmonize with the definition of them that are widows indeed. It comes to be their being placed (ver. 9) on the special roll of Church widows. Let the honor not be lowered by being too widely extended; let it be confined to them that are really deserving.
1. Exclusion of those who have claims on children or grandchildren. "But if any widow hath children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to requite their parents: for this is acceptable in the sight of God." The Church is not to be charged with the care of widows who have children or grandchildren able to care for them. Upon them the duty falls, before failing upon the Church. This is only how a sacred regard for parents should show itself. It is a duty founded on natural justice, viz. requital for services rendered to them by parents. And it cannot but be pleasing to God, who has laid the foundations of it in nature, and who is represented by the parents, so that what is rendered to them is regarded as rendered to him.
2. Qualification of being desolate. "Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate." The widow indeed is defined as desolate or left alone, i.e. who, needing to be cared for, has none of her own to care for her.
(1) Religion of her position. "Hath her hope set on God, and continueth in supplication and prayers night and day." Having no expectation from any earthly helper, she hath her hope set on God, i.e. primarily for earthly blessings that she needs. She is also by her destitution led- to dwell more upon the future than upon the present. She is also by her loneliness led to be much with God. She addresses God in connection with her own requirements, but she does not forget the requirements of others; for her prayers extend from day into the night, from night into the day. Thus is her position made helpful to her religious life.
(2) Irreligion of a desolate position. "But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth." In the absence of children or grandchildren that can care for her, the temptation is, where a woman has not a lawful way of making a living, to seek a living by giving herself up to unlawful pleasure. Such a one necessarily loses any Christian status that she had entitling her to be cared for by the Church. It can be said of her more radically, that she makes a contradiction of her life. While living, she is making of herself moral rottenness. As in this state she is a fit object for Christian sympathy. And, if she comes to see herself to be in this state, there is hope for her from him who hath said, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." But that is the true reading of her state upon which all effort after her salvation must proceed, "She is dead while she liveth." Reason for insisting on the qualification. "These things also command, that they may be without reproach." The requirement was to be laid authoritatively upon the Church, in the interest of the widows themselves. There was their character as a class to be protected. Let none be admitted into their number who were not fit subjects for Church support. General principle by which this case is ruled. "But if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." The law for the believer is that he is to provide, more widely, for his own and, less widely, for those who belong to the family. He who does not observe this is virtually unchurching himself. He is falling below the unbeliever, who is taught by nature, or by his religion which is wrong on so many points, to do as much. With regard to caring for parents, Plutarch says that all men, though some may think otherwise, say that nature and the law of nature requires that parents should have the highest honor next the gods; that men can do nothing more acceptable to the gods than by readily heaping favors upon their parents; and that nothing is a greater evidence of atheism or impiety than to despise them. On the other hand, there is a clear obligation also founded in nature for parents to provide for their children while they are in a state of dependence. This obligation is violated by the man who spends on his own lusts what should be spent on his family.
3. Qualification of age. "Let none be enrolled as a widow under threescore years old." In accordance with what has gone before, we are to think of a roll of widows supported by the Church, for which the minimum requirement of age is here laid down as sixty.
4. Qualification of regularity of marriage. "Having been the wife of one man." It is difficult to see how such second marriage as is sanctioned in ver. 14 should exclude from the roll. It is better, therefore, to think of some irregularity, such as unlawful divorce from a first husband.
5. Qualification of serviceableness. "Well reported of for good works; if she hath brought up children, if she hath used hospitality to strangers, if she hath washed the saints' feet, if she hath relieved the afflicted, if she hath diligently followed every good work." Some of the works are mentioned for which she is to be well reported of. First, what she has done for children, either her own or orphans. To bring up children well implies great self-denial and power of management, and is to do a great service to the Church. Secondly, what she has done for strangers. We are to think of their being entertained for the Church. If they were not Christians, they would be sent away with a good impression of Christianity. Thirdly, what she has done for the saints. The washing of the feet is common in the East. We need not wonder at stress being laid on her performing a humble service. Humble services are to be performed toward the members of the Christian circle, for the sake of Christ and after the example of Christ. Fourthly, what she has done for the afflicted, or hard pressed in any way. We are to think of relief being afforded by a visit of sympathy, a word of encouragement, the undertaking of work as well as the bestowal of charity. It is added generally, "If she hath diligently followed every good work." It is evident that one who had been so serviceable to the Church would, in case of her destitution, have a claim to be supported by the Church. It can easily be seen, too, how, with such qualifications, she would be expected, in lieu of the support rendered to her, to render such service to the Church as was in bet' power. Thus the roll of Church widows would have the honorable character of a roll of Church workers. And we can think of widows being admitted upon the roll who did not need Church support, but wanted to do Church work. And there seems to have been, in accordance with this, in the early Church, an order of presbytery widows, who, under the sanctions of the Church, attended to the sick and instructed and advised the younger members of their sex.
6. Exclusion of younger widows. "But younger widows refuse." They were not to have the honor of being put upon the roll, though, in case of destitution, not beyond Christian help.
(1) Their changeableness. "For when they have waxed wanton against Christ, they desire to marry; having condemnation, because they have rejected their first faith." Under the influence of grief, their first thought might be to devote themselves to Christian service, and with that view to apply to be admitted on the roll of Church widows. But there would be danger of their departing from that idea of their life. The fact of their desiring to marry being regarded as a waxing wanton against Christ implies that the being admitted to the roll was a coming under some obligation to continue in widowhood for the sake of such services as they could render. Their being taken off the roll implies the condemnation of their rejecting their first faith, i.e. departing from the idea which, at the first, with sacred feelings, they had adopted for their future earthly life.
(2) Their triviality. "And withal they learn also to be idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." This was a second danger, while remaining in widowhood and having their names on the roll, their departing from the seriousness of the life which they had chosen. There is a way of going about from house to house which is simply a wasting of time. This leads to a habit of gossiping, and a habit of intermeddling. Things are said which ought not to be said - as being colored and mischievous in their consequences.
(3) His advice to them confirmed by experience. "I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give none occasion to the adversary for reviling; for already some are turned after Satan." In view of the dangers mentioned, the apostle appoints, for the younger widows, marriage and its duties. That would take away occasion for reviling. Some who had given themselves to Christ as presbyter-widows were turned after Satan, i.e. married, or given up to idle habits.
(4) Such as needed to be relieved. "If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, and let not the Church be burdened; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." This touches the former point of support. If they married, then they did not need Church support. But what was to be done with lonely and destitute young widows who remained unmarried? The apostle lays the burden of their support upon a believing female relative (on the supposition that there was such). She is to undertake the burden, rather than that the Church should be burdened. It is implied that, in the event of there being no one to undertake the burden, the Church is to step in and act the part of the relative, without, however, placing her meantime upon the honorable roll of Church widows. - R.F.
1. Mothers were our first pastors.
2. Mothers were our earliest examples. The younger as sisters, with all purity. Beautiful is the holy grace of purity, and sensitive is the girl-heart to the loveliness of true virtue! Put them not into confessionals to suggest sins that they never knew, and deprave the nature under the pretence of absolving it. - W.M.S.
I. THE CLAIMS OF WIDOWS.
1. These were abundantly recognized in Old Testament times. The fatherless and the widow were commended, to the special care of the Israelites. The garments of widows were never to be taken in pledge. The man was cursed who perverted the judgment of the widow. The widow was never to be afflicted or made a prey (Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 27:19; Jeremiah 7:6; Isaiah 10:2).
2. The claims of widows were officially recognized in New Testament times. The order of deaconship arose out of the necessity of widows (Acts 6:1-7).
II. THE DIFFERENT CLASSES OF WIDOWS IN THE CHURCH. "Honor widows that are widows indeed." There are three classes of widows referred to by the apostle.
1. There are widows who are not only deeply religious, but quite destitute. She who is a widow indeed is "desolate, has set her hope in God, and abides in supplications and prayers night and day."
(1) There are widows without husband, without children or grandchildren, and. without means of living. They have no friends to cheer the loneliness or relieve the necessities of their widowed life.
(2) They are deeply religious and trustful. "She has set her hope in God," who is the Husband of the widow; and is constant in prayers like Anna the prophetess, to that God who gives her a daily supply of comforts, and cheers her in her solitude.
2. There are widows who are not so destitute, for they have children and grandchildren to provide for their wants.
3. There are widows who are fond of gaiety and pleasure, and destitute of religion. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." They are dead spiritually, like those who "have a name to live, but are dead" (Revelation 3:1). "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" (Romans 8:13). This class of widows resembled the daughters of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49). There was in their case the union of soul and body, but no quickening principle of spiritual life. They savor the things that be of men rather than the things that be of God.
III. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH IN RELATION TO THESE DIFFERENT CLASSES OF WIDOWS.
1. The Church was not bound to support or assist widows with children or grandchildren, who were therefore to he taught "to show piety at home, and to requite their parents." The Church was not to be burdened with their support. Their relatives were not exempt under the gospel from the necessity of providing for them. The apostle adds that the discharge of this off-forgotten duty is "good and acceptable before God" (Ephesians 6:2, 3; Mark 7:10, 11).
2. The Church owned no obligation of any sort to pleasure-loving widows, except to warn them of the sin, folly, and danger of their life.
3. The Church was to pay due regard to "widows indeed who were destitute of all resources. Honor widows that are widows indeed." The term implies more than deference or respect; such widows were entitled to receive relief from the Christian community. It was a loving duty to provide for such sad-hearted, friendless beings.
IV. THE NECESSITY OF MAKING A RULE FOR THE CHURCH'S GUIDANCE. '"These things command, that they may he without reproach." The injunction was necessary for the Church's sake, that it might not neglect its proper duty to this destitute class, and for the sake of the various classes of widows and their relatives, who needed to be without reproach, as they were supposedly members of the Church. - T.C.
indifference. Let the Church counteract the neglect of the world.
I. THE SPIRIT OF CHILDREN. If they have children, or, as sometimes happens, nephews - or sister's children - who lost their mother in life's dawn of morning, let them show piety at home - the piety of gratitude, the piety of help, the piety of reverence, the piety of requital. How large a word "piety" is! An ungrateful child, who never thinks on a parent's past self-denial in its education, a parent's watchfulness in times of weakness and sickness, a parent's interest in its pleasures and counsels as to its companionships, and a parent's long interest in all that relates to mind and heart, is an impious child. Quick, clever, it may be flattered by new friends, and favored by fortune with pleasant looks, and yet be selfish, indifferent, and forgetful.
II. THE REQUITAL TO BE GIVEN. Remember, young friends, that you have to requite your parents, not with the patronage of commercial payment when you succeed, but with the requital of the tender inquiry, the watchful love, the jealous service, the gracious respect. - W.M.S.
I. AVOID MISTAKES IN CHILD TRAINING AND TEACHING. I am one of those who think that it is a monstrous mistake to fill their hymns with rich rhapsodies about heaven, about wanting to be angels, and about superior emotions, when the very things next to them are seldom referred to at all. To the father the son must always be a boy, and the daughter to the mother a girl; so that all manner, even which is high-flown and independent, or brusque and irreverent, is painful, and brings tears to the hearts of parents.
II. REMEMBER THE RELIGIOUSNESS OF HOME-LIFE. "Piety at home," by which is not meant precocity of religious opinion, or plentifulness of religious phraseology, but the piety of respect, attention, obedience, requital, and reverence. This is "good and acceptable before God." - W.M.S.
I. DESOLATE. That is the revealing word. "Desolate." She may be poor and desolate, or she may he competent and desolate, or she may be rich and desolate - all surrounding things making her feel more the loss of that which is not; all framing "emptiness;" all but reminders of the presence which gave value to them all.
II. DESOLATE; FOR THE LIFE-PATH IS AND MUST BE TRODDEN ALONE. The wakeful hours find her alone; the hours when pain and weariness come to her find her alone; for the difficult problem of thought has none to aid in its solution now - she is alone. So desolate; for other fellowships are not for life; they only help to vary her life. Desolate; for none can quite understand her care and grief, and think that she will soon put them, off with the weeds and crape. - W.M.S.
her case experience has ratified truth. She will need no elaborate arguments for the truth, because -
I. SHE HAS THE EVIDENTIAL PROOF WITHIN. Did she not in the dark hours fling her arms around her Father's neck; did she not tell him that she would fear no want, though she felt such change? Did not that trust - simple trust - do her more good than all human words, all kindly letters, all change of place and scene? Others wondered at her, rising up in her poor strength to arrange, to order, to readjust life to means and circumstances, to do her best for the little flock that she was shepherdess to in the wilderness.
II. SHE HAS THE FELLOWSHIP OF PRAYER. Yes, O man of the world, O scorner of truth, O soft-spoken atheist, she prays! Makes the air quiver, yon say. Hears the echo of her own cry, you say. Bends before an empty throne, you say. It may be you, have never felt to need God as she needs him now. Her need is an instinct and an argument; for somehow in this world there is a Divine revealing, call it what you like, that satisfies the desire of every living thing. And sloe has prayed, and the secret of the Lord has been made known; and that it is no empty experience, is now to be proven in this way.
III. SHE REVEALS ITS POWER BY HER PERSEVERANCE IN IT. She "continueth in prayers and supplications night and day." Then there must be relief. The burden must be lighter, the load must be easier, the vision must be clearer. None of us continue in that which mocks us. The invisible world is as real as the visible one. We know when there is a whisper within us and an arm around us, and so does she. Surely you would not rob her of her only wealth - her trust. But you cannot. "Night and day." Mark that. She finds in the night an image of her grief. She finds in the night silence. The children, if any, are asleep. She whose tears have watered her couch, whose hand has reached forth into the empty space, whose every movement would once have awakened solicitude, as of pain, or weariness, or sleeplessness, is now alone. But not alone; for the lips move and a great cry goes up: "O God, be not far from me! Listen to the voice of my cry, my King and- my God. My heart within me is desolate. Hear me out of thy habitation, thou Father of the fatherless, thou Judge of the widow. I mourn in my complaint and make a noise. Oh, when wilt thou come to me?" And God does come; and. it may help Timothy to know that this gospel which he has to preach is a Divine living seed, bearing its harvests in the hearts and homes of the eiders and of the widows. We shall see in our next exposition that St. Paul knows that there are worldly hearts to whom affliction brings no gracious fruit; and if there be a sight on earth more appalling than another, it is the frivolous widow whose very mourning is a pride and a study, whose manner is that of a pleasure-seeker, and whose heart is unaffected by the reverences of the memories of love and death. It is very evident that the gospel which Timothy was to teach and preach was no mere creed, no mere perfect ritual or ceremonial, but. a religion human and Divine, a religion that anticipates the changes and sorrows and dangers of every individual life. This Book is a vade-mecum. Here we go for all the medicines of relief and hope that our poor humanity needs. We shall never outgrow the Book. Its leaves are still for the healing of the nations, and it makes life calm, restful, and beautiful. How comes it that we have known the sweetest angels in such guises as these afflictions and bereavements bring? Yet so it is. Where shall we go? Oh, life has many roads; banditti lurk here and there, and there are swollen rivers to be forded, and dangerous passes to be entered. How shall we go? With this rod and staff we may go anywhere. If we take a fable, let it be the ancient stone: if you look therein, strange transformations take place - you ask me what I see? Now a sword; now a mountain; now a simple loaf of bread; now a touchstone of evil and of good; now a rock high above the waters; now a pilot on a dangerous sea; now a pillar rising on the plain of time; now a harp from which sweetest music breathes; now a pillow - a simple pillow. Cowper puts aside his own 'Task' and takes God's Testament; so will we. On these promises of God we will fall asleep. - W.M.S.
I. THE IMMOBILITY WHICH CHARACTERIZES THE DEAD BODY CHARACTERIZES THE DEAD SOUL. There is no movement of thought towards God; no feet swift to do his will; no heart that beats in sympathy with his Law. Instinct is alive; but the brightness of the eye, and the music of the voice, and the activities of lift, are like flowers upon graves.
II. THE INSENSIBILITY OF THE DEAD BODY CHARACTERIZES THE DEAD SOUL. All around there may be signs of outward life. As the body lies in the churchyard, the murmuring river flows by its banks, the birds make their summer music in the trees, and men, women, and children stay to rest, and to read the inscriptions on the graves; but to all these things the sleepers in the tombs are insensible. So the dead soul is insensible to the august realities of religion, to the voice of God, and to the visions of the great day.
III. THE CORRUPTION OF THE DEAD BODY CHARACTERIZES THE DEAD SOUL. This is the dread thought in connection with death, that we must bury it out of sight. When decay commences, corruption begins; and he, who knows all that is in man, tells us that out of the sepulcher of the unrenewed heart of man come evil desires, murders, and adulteries. "They that sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption" These aspects of the case show us that, as there are graveyards in the crowded cities with all their busy life, so in the unrenewed heart of man there is death in the midst of life. - W.M.S.
I. THE DUTY HERE ENJOINED. "If any provides not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever."
1. This passage asserts the obligations that spring out of family relationship. It points to the duty of supporting relatives, and all who live under one roof, who through poverty may have become dependent upon us.
2. The gospel does not relax, but rather strengthens, the ties of natural kinship. The Essenes would not give relief to their relatives without the permission of their teachers, though they might help others in need.
II. THE NEGLECT OF THIS DUTY INVOLVES A PRACTICAL DENIAL OF THE FAITH.
1. It is a denial of the faith, not in words, but in works, for it is a denial of the duty of love, which is the practical outcome of faith; for "faith worketh by love." There may have been a tendency at Ephesus, as in Churches to which James wrote, to rest contempt with a mere profession of the truth, without the habit of self-denial.
2. Such conduct would place the Christian professor in a position far below that of the heathen unbeliever, who recognized the duty of supporting relatives as one of his best principles. It would be a serious dishonor to Christ and the gospel to neglect duties held in highest honor by the heathen. The light of the gospel greatly aggravates the sin of such persons. - T.C.
I. MAN HAS "HIS OWN." He is to care for his own soul. He is accountable for his own influence. He is the father of his own family, and, up to a certain age, his will is their law. He is to provide for his own; his thought and skill and care are all to be laid upon the altar or' the household. It is sad to see men sometimes flattered by the world, and welcomed to every hearth, who yet leave "their own" slighted and neglected at home. The gospel says that the husband is the head of the wife; and the gospel evidently understands the design of God, that man should be the hard worker and- bread-winner of life.
II. HE HAS A FAITH TO KEEP. What is meant here by denying the faith, and being worse than an infidel? Surely this, that the faith is meant to make us Christ-like; one with him who pleased not himself, who ministered to others, and who revealed to us that great law of love by which every Christian life must be inspired. The word. "infidel" has often been used. to represent mere skeptical unbelief. It really means "wanting in faith;" and the man who, whatever he professes, does not live out the spirit of the gospel (which sanctifies, above all things earthly, the marriage life, and makes it the image of the union betwixt Christ and his Church), that man is worse than an infidel, if by infidel we mean a man who intellectually has not accepted the Christian faith. - W.M.S.
I. THE ENROLMENT OF WIDOWS IN THE ALMONER'S LIST OF THE CHURCH. "Let none be enrolled as a widow under threescore years old."
1. The existence of such a list is implied in Acts 6:1, where a murmuring is said to have arisen because "the widows were neglected in the dally ministration." There are also traces of such a list in the earlier Christian writers.
2. Such a class would be recruited from the ordinary vicissitudes of life, from the special persecutions that followed the gospel, and perhaps also from the separations from polygamous husbands brought about through the influence of Christianity.
II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF WIDOWS FOR A PLACE IN THE CHURCH'S LIST.
1. As to age. "Not under threescore years old." As this age marks a relatively greater degree of senility in the East than in the West, the widows must be regarded as of the infirm class, and therefore as not in any degree able for the active duties of limb. This one consideration inclines us to believe that they did not belong to the order of deaconesses or presbyteresses. If widows had been enrolled at a much earlier age, they must have become a serious burden for a great length of time upon the Church's liberality. Therefore young widows were not to be enrolled at all.
2. As to her previous married life. "The wife of one man."
(1) This does not mean that she should not have been twice married, because
(a) the apostle counsels the younger women to marry again (ver. 14), and sanctions second marriages (Romans 7:1);
(b) because the ascetic idea of married life, which some would associate with widows holding a certain ecclesiastical rank, received no sanction from the apostle.
(2) It does not mean that she should not have had several husbands at one time, for polyandry was quite unusual.
(3) It signifies that she should never have stood related but to one living husband; not divorced from one husband and then married to another - a chaste and faithful spouse, true to her marriage vow.
3. As to her reputation for good works. "Well reported of in respect to good works." There must not only be no evil spoken of her, but she must have a reputation for good works. This reputation covers live facts of goodness.
(1) "If she hath brought up children." This would imply self-sacrifice, sympathy and zeal for youthful training. She would train her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, commanding them like Abraham to keep the way of the Lord, from which they would not so easily depart in after-life.
(2) "If she hath lodged strangers." She may have seen better days, and had frequent opportunities of showing hospitality to Christian travelers moving from place to place. The readiness to welcome strangers was most characteristic of the early Christians.
(3) "If she hath washed the saints' feet," in token, not only of conventional hospitality, but of deep humility after the highest of all examples.
(4) "If she hath relieved the afflicted." Not by mere gifts, but by matronly sympathy and encouragement, implying the visitation of the distressed in their homes.
(5) "If she hath diligently followed every good work." She must not have wearied in well-doing, but have followed that which was good with eagerness, constancy, and true fidelity to God and man. - T.C.
I. THE YOUNGER WIDOWS WERE NOT TO BE ENROLLED ON THE LIST OF THE CHURCH'S PENSIONERS. "Younger widows decline." This did not imply that destitute widows, however young, would be excluded from occasional help from the Church's funds, but they were not to be made a permanent charge upon the resources of the Church. They were young enough to labor for their own living, or, as the apostle advised, they might marry a second time, and thus obtain a provision for themselves.
II. THE REASON FOR DECLINING- SUCH WIDOWS. "For when they shall wax wanton against Christ, they desire to marry."
1. This language does not imply that they had, to speak, taken Christ for their Bridegroom, and then proved shamelessly unfaithful to their vows. This thought belongs to the ascetic ideas of a later period, as if the widows in question had taken the irrevocable engagement of nuns or of other ecclesiastical persons. They might, indeed, have remarried not only without blame, but by the direct counsel of the apostle himself.
2. Neither does it imply that they had been untrue to the memory of their first husbands.
3. The case supposed is that of some young widows, who had taken their place among others of their world-renouncing class in the list of the Church's widows, and had drawn back into a luxurious, pleasure-loving habit of life. There is no breach of the promise of widowhood either expressed or implied in the passage, and such a breach could not be interpreted by itself as equivalent to a renunciation of the Christian faith. The case supposed is that of a departure from the proprieties of widowed life, in connection with a Christian profession, which only too surely indicated a virtual repudiation of the faith.
4. The judgment that attached to their conduct implied this virtual renunciation of faith. "Having condemnation because they set at naught their first faith."
(1) Not their faith to their first husbands;
(2) not their vow or promise to remain in widowhood, which might be called their former faith, but not their first faith; but
(3) their simple faith in Christ, when they were baptized into his Name and devoted themselves to his service. They set it at nougat by not walking according to it, their conversation not becoming their profession of it. Their condemnation, or, rather, their judgment, is not to be regarded as eternal, because it might be removed by a timely repentance.
III. THE INJURIOUS AND SCANDALOUS EFFECTS OF SUCH A LIFE. "And withal they learn also to be idle, going about from house to house; and not only idle, but talkers and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." These young widows, being under no necessity to labor for their living - for they were supported by the funds of the Church - used their leisure badly.
1. They were idle.
(1) This habit of life is forbidden; for Christians are to be "not slothful in business."
(2) It leads to misdirected activity; for such widows "wander from house to house," because they have no resources within themselves.
2. They become loose talkers, babbling out whatever comes into their minds. "From leisure springs that curiosity which is the mother of garrulity" (Calvin).
3. They become busybodies, with a perverted activity in the concerns of others which implies a neglect of their own. This meddling spirit leads to misunderstandings and mischiefs of many kinds.
4. They become talkers of scandal, "speaking things which they ought not" - things which may be false, or, if true, are not to be repeated from house to house. - T.C.
I. WE MAY LEARN TO BE IDLE. There is no life so undignified as that which is busy in trifles, which has learned to enjoy listless hours. For the wandering thought produces the wandering life. "Wandering about from house to house;" and, having nothing else to build with, too often build aerial structures of untruths and half-truths.
II. NOT ONLY IDLE, BUT TATTLERS. The harm that has been worked in this world by busybodies cannot be over-estimated. It is easy to send an arrow into the air, but not to gather it up again. It is easy to poison the river of good reputation, but we cannot re-purify the stream. It is easy to pluck the flower of a good man's fame, but we cannot restore its beauty. "Speaking things which they ought not." Holy few really make "I ought" govern their lives! Custom and convenience and pleasantness too often constrain our speech. People like to startle others, to give the shock of a new sensation, to amuse them, to please them. And, alas! it is too true that tattlers and busybodies know how to gratify those they visit. St. Paul thinks in this next verse (14) that marriage and care of children and housewifery are good things (which the ascetic Roman Church seems not to think), and that women so occupied give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. - W.M.S.
I. A RETURN TO THE SPHERE OF DOMESTIC DUTIES IS ADVISED BY THE APOSTLE. "I wish, therefore, that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no occasion for the adversary to reproach."
1. There is nothing in this counsel, to encourage a resort to ascetic life, or an escape from the ordinary obligations of society. The over-valuation of ascetic life has been the great means of disparaging and discouraging the piety of common life. Religion was made, not for an idle, but fur a busy world.
2. The return to home-ties would probably break the force of temptations to loose living. Idleness would thus be counteracted, as well as the wantonness against Christ previously censured. The woman would thus be "saved by child-bearing, it she continued in faith and holiness with sobriety" (1 Timothy 2:15).
3. Mark the variety of her new relations. First to her husband, then to her children, then to her servants. She is to discharge each duty faithfully, so as to avoid the reproach of the adversary.
III. THE REASON WHY SUCH COUNSEL IS GIVEN. "Give no occasion for reproach to the adversary; for already some have been turned away after Satan."
1. The adversary is not necessarily the devil, nor any particular individual, but that collective society around the Church which is always watchful for the halting of God's servants. For good cause or bad the reproaches will come, but they ought not to be justified by the injurious, or frivolous, or licentious conduct of professors.
2. Mischief of this sort had already accrued to the cause of Christ. Some widows had given evidence of the idle, wanton, worldly behavior already condemned, showing a distinct swerve toward the adversary of souls and the accuser of the brethren. "Christ was the true Spouse; Satan the seducer." - T.C.
I. THE DUTY OF CHRISTIAN WOMEN TO SUPPORT THEIR WIDOWED RELATIVES. "If any woman that believes hath widows, let support be given to them." The allusion is probably to the younger widows, whose future would be very uncertain till, at least, they should marry. The apostle had already provided for the case of aged widows. It was the plain duty of relatives to watch over the welfare of the younger women, who might be sisters, sisters-in-law, or nieces. The apostle founds the duty upon the principle that the gospel has not superseded, but rather strengthened, the claims of kinship.
II. REASONS FOR THE DISCHARGE OF THIS PRIVATE DUTY. "And let not the Church be burdened, that it may relieve those that are widows indeed."
1. It would burden the Church greatly to increase the number of the pensioners on its generosity.
2. The exercise of private beneficence would allow a fuller provision to be made for those aged widows who were really friendless, homeless, and destitute. - T.C.
I. THE CLASS OF PERSONS HERE REFERRED TO.
1. It is evident that the apostle knew of no officers in the Church at Ephesus but these elders, with the deacons.
2. Their principal duty was government. It was at least the prominent element in their calling.
3. The passage suggests that, while all the elders governed, all did not labor in the Word and doctrine. Each Church in that day had its band of elders at its head, but the teaching function was not universal, though by-and-by assumed greater prominence and commanded greater distinction and respect.
II. THE HONOR DUE TO ELDERS. They were to be counted worthy of double honor; that is, they were to be liberally provided for by the Church, as a special mode of showing respect to their office.
III. THE GROUND FOR THIS INJUNCTION. "For the Scripture saith, Thou shall not muzzle an ox while treading out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his hire." These two sayings, one contained in Scripture (Deuteronomy 25:4), the other a proverbial saying used by our Lord himself (Luke 10:7), affords an argument for the support of Christian laborers.
1. This shows that both the Law and the gospel sanction the due support of the ministry.
2. It shows that the minister's support is a matter of right, and not of compassion or kindness. The animals that labored had a right to the fruit of their labors. - T.C.
I. HONOR DUE TO ELDERS. "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching." As associated with Paul, Timothy was to be classed as an extraordinary office-bearer in the Church. He had the organizing of the Ephesian Church, but it was intended that the rule should permanently reside in a class of ordinary office-bearers who are here called ciders. The fact is plainly stated that elders were ordained by the apostles in every Church (Acts 14:23). It appears that the organization of a Church was regarded as defective without the appointment of elders (Titus 1:5). In the Church of Ephesus, as in all other Churches that we read of, there was a plurality of elders. All the elders are regarded as ruling or presiding, i.e. over the brethren who composed the Church. To elders it belongs to administer the laws which Christ has laid down for the government of his Church, and to take the general superintendence of the affairs of the congregation over which they are placed. It is a rule in which good qualities may be evinced, such as fidelity, diligence, impartiality, affectionateness, a habit of dependence upon Divine grace. Elders as such are to be counted worthy of honor, but those that rule well are to be counted worthy of double honor, i.e. the honor of excellence in the discharge of their duties added to the honor belonging to their office. There are two classes of elders - those who merely rule, and those who, besides ruling, are charged with the Word and with teaching. It is an honor by itself to have to do with the Word, and especially with the teaching of it, i.e. to be teaching elders; but those who have not only the office, but do well in it - suggested by the word "labor" - are to becounted worthy of double honor.
II. THEIR MAINTENANCE. "For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his hire." Under the honor to be done especially to the laborious teaching elder, is brought maintenance. This is enforced by a reference to Deuteronomy 25:4. The Jewish law showed consideration for an animal that had to labor. The ox was not to be muzzled when, in Eastern fashion, treading out the corn. It was not to be prevented from enjoying the fruit of its labors. The application is given at some length in 1 Corinthians 9., but it is simply brought out here by a proverb, which is also made use of by our Lord. The Christian teacher labors as really as the ox that treads out the corn. Not less than the ox he is to have the condition of labor, viz. maintenance. He is to have it not as a necessity, but on the principle that he is entitled to it as the reward of his labor.
III. THEIR JUST TREATMENT UNDER ACCUSATION. "Against an elder receive not an accusation, except at the month of two or three witnesses." There is reference to a well-known regulation of the Jewish law. It was especially to be observed in the case of honored or doubly honored elders. No weight was to be attached to unproved private complaints. "It might easily happen in a Church, so large and mixed as the Ephesian, that one or another, from wounded feelings of honor, from mere partisanship, or some selfish motive, would seek to injure a presbyter, and drag him down from his influential position; and against this the precept of the apostle was the best safeguard."
IV. DISCIPLINE IF SHOWN TO BE SINNING. "Them that sin reprove in the sight of all, that the rest also may be in fear." The apostle has been treating of elders; he is still treating of elders in ver. 22. If, then, ordinary weight is to be attached to the context in interpretation, the conclusion seems certain that public reproof was only enjoined in the case of sinning elders. We are to understand that the accusation against them has been substantiated by two or three witnesses, and that by continuing in sin they exhibit no signs of repentance. Let such be publicly reproved, that, if the publicity does not do them good, it may at least cause a wholesome fear to fall upon others of their class.
V. SOLEMN ADJURATION. "I charge thee in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality." The form of the adjuration is remarkable for the proximity in which Christ Jesus stands to God. If we are led to think of God as being omniscient, we are as naturally led to think of Christ Jesus as being omniscient, i.e. Divine. The form of the adjuration is also remarkable for the bringing in of the elect angels, i.e. honored to be the chosen objects of God's love. Their omniscience does not belong to them singly, but to their class, which is frequently represented as very numerous. As witnesses of what is now done on earth they will be present with their Lord on the day of judgment. The matter of the adjuration is the upholding of the presbyterate. Let none of the order be prejudged unfavorably; let none, through favor, be spared, if their sin is patent. We may learn from the solemnity of the adjuration, how highly the apostle valued the honor of the order.
VI. CARE IN APPOINTING TO THE ORDER. "Lay hands hastily on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure." The laying on of hands in ordination, which is clearly referred to here, is symbolic of the communication of spiritual gifts. We also learn from the language here, that it is equivalent to recognition on the part of those ordaining. They are accountable thus far, that if, through hastiness, they have admitted unworthy persons into the order, then they are partakers of their sins. As having to pronounce upon others, Timothy was to keep himself pure; his own conduct was to be above suspicion.
VII. TIMOTHY CAUTIONED. "Be no longer a drinker of water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." Paley makes a point of the want of connection. "The direction stands between two sentences, as wide from the subject as possible." He, however, puts more upon this than it will bear. There is a certain Epistolary negligence, but there is connection. It occurs to the apostle that the command to keep himself pure might be too strictly interpreted by Timothy. He was not to be regarded as enjoining the utmost abstinence on him. On the contrary, his opinion was that Timothy was abstinent beyond what his health demanded. He was a drinker of water, i.e. accustomed to the exclusive use of water as a drink. Whatever his reasons for adopting this course, it was too rigorous for him. He needed a little wine for his stomach's sake and his often infirmities. This is not certainly to be construed into a license for the unlimited use of wine. He is only recommended the use of a little wine. And the very reason which is given for its use is against its use where the same reason does not exist. It is only too obvious that alcohol is destructive to the stomach, and the fruitful cause of infirmities. It is destructive to the brain as well as to the stomach. "There is quite a marked type of mental degeneration which may result from continuous drinking during ten years without one instance of drunkenness. We have, as a statistical fact, that from fifteen to twenty per cent of the actual insanity of the country is produced by alcohol." In the name of health, then, its use is to be feared; but, where health demands the use of wine, it is a sin not to use it. For the servant of the Lord must have his strength of body at a maximum for him.
VIII. A POINT TO BE CONSIDERED IN THE JUDGING OF MEN FOR OFFICE. "Some men's sins are evident, going before unto judgment; and some men also they follow after. In like manner also there are good works that are evident; and such as are otherwise cannot be hid." Present judging has a look forward to future judging. To future judgment all actions, bad and good, are regarded as going forward. But there is a difference, both in the ease of bad actions and of good actions. Some men's sins are notorious; and, as heralds, go before them to judgment, proclaiming their condemnation. With regard to such, judging for office is an easy matter; but it is not so with others. "Their sins are first known after and by the judgment, not known beforehand like the first named. In regard to those whose character is not yet clear, circumspection in our judgment cannot be too strongly urged." The same difference applies to good works. Some are as clear as noonday; and therefore there can be no hesitation in regard to the doers of them. There are, however, other good works which are not thus clear; these cannot be hid longer than the judgment. In view of the discovery of good deeds at present unknown, we cannot be too circumspect in our judgment of men, lest by our hastiness we do injury to any. - R.F.
I. ELDERS MAY BE EXPOSED TO SUCH ACCUSATIONS BY THEIR VERY ZEAL AND FAITHFULNESS.
1. Their duty being to convince the gainsayers and to reprove the faults of men, they would be exposed to the risk of false accusation. Good ministers would be oftener accused if their accusers could but find judges willing to receive their charges.
2. It is the interest of the Church of Christ to maintain the reputation of its ministers unchallenged. It involves a sort of scandal for them to be accused at all, even though they should afterwards be cleared.
II. THE COURSE RECOMMENDED IN CASES OF THIS SORT.
1. It diminishes the chances of such charges being made, that the testimony of a single malicious witness will not suffice to have an accusation even formally considered.
2. It would be a serious discouragement to a good minister for such charges to be entertained upon partial or defective evidence.
3. The deference due to the position of a man chosen by the Church as its pastor demanded a wise caution in the reception of charges against him.
4. Yet it was the duty of Timothy to make an investigation supported by adequate evidence. There is nothing in the minister's position to exempt him from a just inquiry and its due consequences. - T.C.
I. THE PUBLICITY OF REBUKE. "Those that sin rebuke before all."
1. The class referred to consists not of those merely overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6:1), but, as the tense of the word signifies, persons given to sinning. Thus great consideration and caution are to be exercised. The casual transgressor might be dealt with privately, and would not need further dealing on his exhibiting evidence of repentance.
2. It was to be merely rebuke, not exclusion from the Church. If the rebuke was unheeded, the extreme sentence would follow.
3. The rebuke was to be public.
(1) The transgression may have been very public, to the scandal of religion;
(2) the publicity would involve the full disclosure of the sin, and involve shame.
II. THE DESIGN OF PUBLIC REBUKE. "In order that the rest also may fear." Such a discipline would have a deterrent influence upon others. The strictness of the law would not be without effects upon conscience. - T.C.
I. THE SOLEMNITY OF THE CHARGE. "I solemnly charge thee before God, and Jesus Christ, and the elect angels."
1. Timothy, who is exhorted to faithfulness in judgment, is himself brought face to face with his Lord and Judge, who will appear along with the elect angels as assessors or executors of the Divine commands.
(1) God is omniscient and he is righteous, for with him is no respect of persons, and Timothy was a minister in the house of God, answerable for his discharge of all ecclesiastical duty.
(2) Christ is likewise omniscient as well as righteous, Head of the Church and Judge of the quick and the dead, before whose judgment-seat all must stand.
(3) "The elect angels."
(a) These, who left not their first estate, but have been preserved in their integrity by Christ, who is the Head both of angels and of men, are the ministers and attendants of God.
(b) There is nothing here to warrant the worship of angels, because they are not here regarded as judges, but as witnesses; neither are they sworn by nor appealed to by the apostle. The heavens and the earth are often summoned as witnesses in the same sense.
2. This high appeal was designed to elevate the mind of Timothy above all sinister motives, and secure him against the dangers of a timid compliance with evil.
II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE CHARGE. "That thou keep these things without prejudging, doing nothing by partiality." He refers to the judicial inquiries respecting eiders and members of the Church.
1. There was to be an absence of prejudice. There must be no prejudging a case before it is heard, under the influence of party feeling. Timothy must calmly hearken to the case presented by both sides, and weigh the evidence without haste or favor to either side.
2. There was to be an absence of all partiality. "Doing nothing by partiality." There must be no leaning to one side more than another. The scales of justice must be held evenly in Church affairs. Eiders and members were alike to be judged with all fairness. - T.C.
I. THERE MUST BE DUE CARE IN ORDAINING RIGHT PERSONS TO THE MINISTRY. "Lay hands on no one hastily."
1. This does not refer to the practice of receipting offenders back into the Church by the imposition of the bishop's hands. No such practice can be identified with the apostolic age, or with that immediately succeeding it.
2. It refers, as the usage of the pastoral Epistles suggests, to "the laying on of hands in ordination."
(1) Saul and Barnabas were thus designated to their missionary tour (Acts 13:1). Timothy was thus ordained by the hands of the presbytery. It was the solemn recognition by the Church of the call which the minister-elect had received from on high.
(2) Timothy was to guard against the possibility of rash appointments to the ministry by a due inquiry beforehand into the spiritual character and pastoral qualifications of the candidates for office. The glory of God, the salvation of man, the honor of religion, were all involved in such appointments.
II. THE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES OF SLACKNESS IN THE DISCHARGE OF SUCH A DUTY. "Neither participate in other men's sins." Timothy would "adopt the sins he overlooked' if he did not rightly distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy.
III. THE NECESSITY OF PERFECT PURITY ON TIMOTHY'S OWN PART. "Keep thyself pure." He must be pure who is called to judge others. There must be no shadow of evil attaching to his character or conduct. Any impurity of character would utterly destroy his influence, and silence his rebukes of others. - T.C.
I. THE APOSTLE LENDS NO ENCOURAGEMENT TO AN ASCETIC ATTITUDE TOWARD MEATS OR DRINKS. The Essenes abstained altogether from wine, and as there was a close connection between Ephesus and Alexandria, where such views were held by a small section of Jews, it is not improbable that such views may have reached Ephesus. There was no harm in Timothy abstaining from wine, as a protest against excess in wine, but rather something highly praiseworthy. It was not through any deference to Essene asceticism, but through such a consideration as is here suggested, that Timothy was an habitual water-drinker.
II. THE APOSTLE HAS EXCLUSIVE REGARD TO TIMOTHY'S HEALTH. The use of wine was regarded in its purely medicinal aspect, and not as a mere pleasant beverage. Timothy was engaged in a service that demanded the fullest exhibition of all mental and bodily hardihood, as well as an iron endurance of disappointment and opposition. Under such influences, he would become depressed with effects most prejudicial to his health. The counsel shows the deep interest of the apostle in the young evangelist's comfort and welfare. - T.C.
I. A CAUTION AGAINST HIS BEING TOO PRECIPITATE IN ABSOLVING MEN FROM CENSURE. "The sins of some men are manifest, going before to judgment; with some again, they follow after." The judgment is God's, without excluding man's.
1. One class of sins is public and open. They reach the Judge before the man himself who commits them. The sins are notorious. Timothy will have no excuse for absolving such persons.
2. Another class of sins is not so manifest. Unknown for the time to all but the all-seeing eye of God, yet going leeward notwithstanding to the final judgment, where nothing can be hid. The judgment of man may have meanwhile absolved such a sinner, but the mournful secret comes out after all.
II. A CAUTION AGAINST BEING TOO PRECIPITATE IN HIS CENSURES. "In like manner also the works that are good are manifest, and those that are otherwise cannot be hid." Some are open witnesses, others are secret witnesses; but there can be no effectual suppression of their testimony. God will bring works of all kinds into light. But it is the duty of Timothy and ministers in general to use due diligence to have the truth brought to light respecting such works. Therefore Timothy was not to be rash in condemning where hidden worth had not disclosed itself sufficiently to his eye. The good tree would by-and-by justify itself by its fruits. - T.C.
that go before. They have outriders. As with a trumpet-peal attention is called to their advent. We see the evil-doers; vile in countenance, shambling in gait, dishonored in mien. These sins are revealed. We mark lost delicacy, honor, purity, peace, principle, reputation, joy!
I. THIS IS SPECIAL OR EXCEPTIONAL. "Some men's sins." Do not, in observing them, draw an argument for the necessary goodness of others. The openness of some judgments does not give, necessarily, fair fame to others. In the most decorous life there may be secret sins. The slumbering fire may be in the hold of the stately ship. The hidden vulture may be waiting for the carrion of the soul. But here there is judgment. We look around, we see it. Our newspapers, our neighborhoods say, "Behold the hand of God here." Faith is departed; hope is blighted; beauty is destroyed; the dark outriders are here.
II. THIS IS A SPECTACLE TO MEN. "They are open beforehand," and not made manifest merely in the sense of being sins, but their judgment is with them. For there are two ideas - you may see a sin to be a sin, but you need not have its judgment open. But the translation here requires that we should understand that the judgment is open, as well as the sin. You see not only men's corruption, but their misery; not only their guilt, but their shame. A child might see a poison berry, and know that it is such; or see a snake, and be told it has a sting; but how clear the judgment if, under the one tree, a little child lay dead; and beside the serpent a man was struggling in throes of agony!
III. THEY ARE OPEN BEFOREHAND. That implies they are hints in this world (where there is a place for repentance) of troubles yet to come. They do not exhaust judgment; they are premonitions of it. The light of mercy plays all around even the paths of judgment here; for the Savior of men is able to deliver from every prison-house. The beforehand judgment may be a merciful thing, but let no man deal tightly with it. The gathering clouds presage the fury of the storm; the pattering drops herald the hail and rain; the reddening light of the volcano tells of the desolating lava. "Some men's sins are open beforehand." - W.M.S.
I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN A MAN AND HIS SINS. "And some men they follow after." Our sins are like us; they reflect our faces; they are mirrors which will one day show us ourselves; they follow after us by a moral individuality; they will each fly to their own center. Our sins are not resolvable into some generic whole as the sin of man. The blight in the summer-time is not so disastrous in defacing beauty, the locusts of the East are not so devastating in their all-devouring flight, as are our troops of sins. They follow after us, and blight our immortality.
II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SHAME AND SIN. "They follow after." That is the reason we are not ashamed of them. Shame for sin is not sorrow for sin. The Hindu is only ashamed when he is discovered. That is not grief at sin: it is horror at being found out. Sins that follow after are not much thought about. The world has given us carte blanche if we preserve our position in society. What men shrink from is exposure and shame. It' all sins were revealed, who could bear it? If the earth were a moral mirror, who could walk upon it? But detection surely comes in God's way - in God's great day when he shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. - W.M.S.