By pointing out these things to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and sound instruction you have followed.
I. THE MINISTER MUST BE ALWAYS TEACHING. "By setting forth these things to the brethren, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ." It was the duty of Timothy to counsel the brethren at Ephesus concerning the present signs of the coming apostasy, and to instruct them how they should counteract its mischiefs. It is probable that some at Ephesus had already been betrayed by ascetic seductions into an unhealthy mode of life. Timothy was to be mindful of the present truth and the present error.
II. THE MINISTER MUST BE ALWAYS LEARNING. "Nourishing thyself up in the words of the faith and of the good instruction which thou hast diligently followed."
1. There must be a continuous and permanent process of self-instruction, as the tense of the participle signifies. The minister must never cease to learn, because he has to set the truth in new lights, and to counteract error out of the large storehouse of Divine truth.
2. The minister's armory is the Word of faith and good instruction thoroughly mastered.
(1) Nothing but God's Word received by faith will enable Timothy to fight the battle of truth. He is not to overcome in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
(2) He is to adhere faithfully to the truth already attained. Progress in knowledge does not imply a constant changing of opinions.
III. THE MINISTER MUST BE ALWAYS WORKING TOWARD A PROFITABLE RESULT. "But the profane and old wives' fables avoid, and rather exercise thyself unto godliness."
1. Negatively, the minister is to avoid foolish and unprofitable studies. The apostle referred to fables familiarily known, Jewish in origin, perhaps with a mixture of Gentile theosophy, which were morally unfruitful, but practically dangerous as preparing the way for the apostasy of the future. The minister must himself stand free from all sympathy with such injurious formalism as was embodied in the rabbinical studies, as leading to the neglect of the weightier matters of the Law.
2. Positively, the minister is to exercise himself unto godliness.
(1) This implies that godliness is a pursuit that demands the strenuous application of all our energies of mind, body, and spirit.
(2) It implies that godliness must be the chief business of a minister as well as the chief aim of his life to promote it among the members of his flock.
(a) It has its inner seat in the heart.
(b) It works outward into the life.
(c) It is a progressive state.
(d) It was the one chief concern of the apostle himself. "One thing I do." - T.C.
&&& If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things.
I. MAKE KNOWN THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH WILL STRENGTHEN YOU. — "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be nourished." The verb used by Paul does not signify, as our translation of it does, the reminding people of what they knew already but had forgotten; it simply means that the doctrine unfolded in the previous verses was to be presented in a suitable way to the minds of others.
1. It is to be noted that neither here nor elsewhere was Timothy called upon to be a dictator, but a teacher, he was to give counsels rather than commands. Religious truth demands the willing assent of mind and of conscience, and is valueless if it is imposed as a creed by force or fraud. Like the germ of life in a seed of corn it must be received into a kindly soil; for only when soil and seed work together is a harvest possible. You may build a wall or a house on any soil — clay, or rock, or chalk — delving away till a smooth surface is prepared to receive the bricks and mortar superimposed upon it, and the stability of your building will not be much affected by the nature of the ground. But it is not thus you can get a harvest. A harvest cannot be had on every soil, because it is the product of life, and life needs to be in contact with certain forces before it can multiply itself. So in the higher sphere. You can make a child learn a creed and repeat it without fault, but that mental structure is only like the dead work of the builder. Truth needs to be welcomed by love, and thought, and will, as the seed must be received into good soil, and then the increase comes.
2. Observe also the reflex action of such teaching. If you put others in mind of these things you will yourself be "nourished." This is but throwing into another form the familiar truths, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth"; "Give and it shall be given you." How true this is, especially in mental and spiritual experience. We give our sympathy, without stint, to some one in trouble, and our tenderness of feeling is thereby intensified. We use what little knowledge we have of God's Word, or of Christian experience, and our knowledge grows.
II. REJECT THE FALSE AND TRIVIAL FOR THE TRUE AND REAL.
1. Timothy is warned against "profane and old wives' fables," or in modern parlance, against stories which are the veriest chatter of old women. Probably Paul alludes to the fables and endless genealogies of which he elsewhere speaks. Foolish and trivial discussions and fanciful theories have often been allowed to overlay the truth of God, to its complete hiding, or at least to its sad enfeeblement. They are like a heap of decaying refuse covering the verdant grass, whose pale and enfeebled shoots show what its effect has been even after it has been cleared away. Let the truth about sin, and about Christ the Saviour from sin, be kept in the light; and beware lest it be covered over and forgotten under oratorical prettinesses, or philosophical speculations.
2. The man of God has something better to do than amuse his imagination or the imagination of others, and must "exercise himself rather unto godliness." God does not ask us to give up pleasures or even follies for the mere sake of cultivating an ascetic temper, but in order that we may be the more free for higher pursuits and a nobler service, knowing that those who would attain unto godliness must "exercise" themselves thereunto. To spend the week in thoughtlessness and triviality, and then to sit with inert mind under the preaching of the truth on Sunday, with an occasional spasm of repentance, or a feeble attempt at the repetition of a prayer, is only to mock God with unreality.
III. KEEP THE BODY IN ITS TRUE PLACE AS SUBORDINATE TO THE SPIRITUAL LIFE. The Revised Version is to be preferred to the Authorized in its rendering of the eighth verse, "bodily exercise is profitable for a little, but godliness is profitable for all things." The apostle's reference is not to the asceticism which by flagellations and vigils kept the body under, but to the gymnastic exercises of the athlete, of which he had been reminded by the verb used in the preceding verse.
IV. LET HOPE IN THE LIVING GOD BE YOUR INSPIRATION IN LABOUR AND SUFFERING. "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe." This verse explains what Paul meant by living a life of godliness. "Life" is not mere existence, however prolonged, nor mere enjoyment of existence; but existence used for others, in the strength and under the blessing of God. The true saint "labours and suffers reproach" — or rather, "toils and strives" — in the service of his God; and he is not troubled when ill-requited, nor disheartened by seeming failure, because he trusts in the living God, in whom he has an endless heritage of peaceful and most blessed life.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)I. A man's goodness as a minister of Christ IS DISCLOSED IN THE FAITHFULNESS OF HIS SUBORDINATION TO THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST.
II. A man's goodness as a minister of Christ is disclosed IN THE PERSISTENCY OF HIS ADHERENCE TO THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.
III. A man's goodness as a minister of Christ is disclosed IN THE STEADFASTNESS OF HIS IMITATION OF THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.
IV. Lastly, a man's goodness as a minister of Christ is disclosed IN THE DEVOUTNESS OF HIS DEPENDENCE ON THE GRACE OF CHRIST.
(J. Brock, D. D.)
(Memoir of M'Cheyne.)
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