He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
I. THE NATURE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CHARGE. "I charge thee... that thou keep the commandment without spot and without reproach."
1. The commandment is the Christian doctrine in its aspect as a rule of life and discipline.
2. It was to be kept with all purity and faithfulness - "without spot and without reproach" so that it should be unstained by no error of life, or suffer from no reproach of unfaithfulness. He must preach the pure gospel sincerely, and his life must be so circumspect that his ministry should not be blamed by the Church here or by Christ hereafter.
II. THE SOLEMN APPEAL BY WHICH THE CHARGE IS SUSTAINED. "I give thee charge in the sight of God, who keepeth all things alive, and Christ Jesus, who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate." The apostle, having referred to Timothy's earlier confession before many witnesses, reminds him of the more tremendous presence of God himself, and of Christ Jesus.
1. God is represented here as Preserver, in allusion to the dangers of Timothy in the midst of Ephesian enemies.
2. Christ Jesus is referred to as an Example of unshaken courage and fidelity to truth in the presence of death.
III. THE CHARGE IS TO BE KEPT WITHOUT SPOT OR REPROACH TILL CHRIST'S SECOND COMING. "Until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ." He was to be "faithful unto death," yea, even unto the second advent.
1. It is according to apostolic usage to represent the end of Christian work as well as Christian expectation as terminating, not upon death, but upon the second advent. The complete redemption will then be fully realized.
2. It is not to be inferred from these words that the apostle expected the Lord's coming in his own lifetime. The second Thessalonian Epistle, written many years before, dispels such an impression. The words in ver. 15, "in his own times," imply a long succession of cycles or changes.
3. The second advent is to be brought about by God himself. "Which in his own times he shall manifest, who is the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords." This picture of the Divine Majesty was designed to encourage Timothy, who might hereafter be summoned to appear before the little kings of earth, by the thought of the immeasurable glory of the Potentate before whose throne all men must stand in the final judgment.
(1) He who is possessed of exhaustless powers and perfections is essentially immortal - "who only hath immortality" - because he is the Source of it in all who partake of it; for out of him all is death.
(2) He has his dwelling in the glory of light ineffable - "dwelling in light unapproachable, whom no man ever saw or can see."
(α) to the eye of sense,
(β) but he will be visible to the believer in the clear intellectual vision of the supernatural state.
4. All praise and honor are to be ascribed to God, "to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen." The doxology is the natural ending of such a solemn charge. - T.C.
I give thee charge in the sight of God.
I. THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST is suggested in the allusion made to —
1. His good confession before Pontius Pilate. It is well for us when we either suffer, or compel, all the incidents of life to lead our thoughts back to Christ. It was partly in order to make this possible that the details of His life and ministry are so fully given in the Gospels. Temptations, troubles, friendships, joys, conflicts, all that go to make up our experience, find counterparts in Him. He witnessed a good confession, though He knew the price of it would be agony, shame, and death! There was a difference, however, between the Lord's confession and Timothy's or ours. Timothy "confessed" the good confession, Christ Jesus "witnessed" the good confession. Christ "witnessed" because He was identified with the truth He confessed, and was the source of every such confession after. Timothy "confessed," for his confession was responsive and secondary, and found. its inspiration in that of his Lord.
2. Christ's achieved victory is another source of encouragement to His faithful followers. The Cross of Calvary was the immediate result of our Lord's good confession; but that was not its final result. God, who quickeneth all things, has raised Him from the dead, and amongst the glorified and redeemed He already appears as Prince and Saviour. The victory of Christ is the encouragement and inspiration of all who are engaged in the conflicts of truth with error, of holiness with sin. Notice how this description of the expected appearing of Christ leads to the noble doxology which celebrates —
II. THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF GOD, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen." If He be for us, who can be against us? Timothy is fittingly reminded that —
1. God is eternal. All time is at His disposal.
2. God is the blessed and only Potentate. If you substitute for "blessed" its synonym in modern English, you get the beautiful truth, that ours is a happy God — full of joy in Himself, the source of joy to all His creatures.
3. "God quickeneth all things." He can so quicken us that out of sadness and difficulties and torpor He can raise us to newness of life.
4. God is incomprehensible — as yet to us — in Himself and in His doings; "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto." It is a beautiful thought, that He is not hidden from us through absence of light, but through excess of light. Therefore, amid the gradual development of His purposes, we have only to witness a good confession, leaving all the results to Him.
5. God is Almighty, "the only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords," the King of those who reign, the Lord of those who rule. All authority is in His hands. Let us not lose sight of Him to whom in this passage the great apostle ascribes honour and power everlasting. We too often regard ourselves as the rulers of the world, and forget our absolute dependence; but, in relation to the blessed and only Potentate, we are far more insignificant than insects are in relation to us.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
The blessed and only Potentate
II. was scourged by monks before the shrine of Canterbury; when John received back his crown from Pandulf; when Godfrey refused to wear a crown of gold where his Saviour had a crown of thorns; when Rudolf of Hapsburg, not finding the sceptre in the temple of his coronation, seized upon the crucifix and swore that that should be his sceptre; when the most ancient crown of Europe was made, not of gold, but of iron, and that iron hammered, as men believed, out of a nail of the true cross — what was this but the homage of earthly kings to a Diviner royalty! Yes; and no power on earth has ever been able to resist Christ. Tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King! Greece despised Him, and Greece glimmered into a dream; but the Cross remains. Rome hated Him, and Rome has crumbled into the dust; but the Cross remains. Philosophy rejected Him, and philosophy has sunk into impotence; but the Cross remains, Is ire your King? Or will you choose in His place some vile and worth less tyranny, some evil spirit, some despotic and besetting vice? Three centuries ago the Spaniards were besieging the little town of St. Quentin, on the frontiers of France. Its ramparts were in ruins, fever and famine were decimating its defenders, treason was gliding among its terrified population. One day the Spaniards shot over the walls a shower of arrows to which were attached little slips of parchment, promising the inhabitants that if they would surrender, their lives and property should be spared. Now, the governor of the town was the great leader of the Huguenots, Gaspard de Coligni. As his sole answer he took a piece of parchment, tied it to a javelin, wrote on it the two words, Regem habemus — "We have a king", and hurled it back into the camp of the enemy. Now that was true loyalty, loyalty in imminent peril, loyalty ready to sacrifice all. But who was that king for whom, amidst sword and flame, amid fever and famine, Coligni was defending those breached and battered walls? It was the weak and miserable Henry II. of France, whose son, Charles IX., was afterwards guilty of the murder of Coligui and the infamies of St. Bartholomew. Have you a king? Is Christ your King? All, if He be, He is not a feeble, corrupt, false, treacherous man like Coligui's master, but a King who loves you, who died for you, who pleads with you even now on the right hand of the Majesty on High. Is Christ your King? If you are selfish and frivolous; if you are a better and a gambler; if you are a whisperer and one who delights in lies; if you are a fornicator or a "profane person, as was Esau"; if you worship Mammon; if your god is your ledger and you mind earthly things; if you are double-tongued, shifty, stingy, worldly — say not that Christ is your King. Is Christ your King? If in sincerity and truth you will take Christ for your King and Captain I promise you two things. First, I promise you security. Principle is a noble thing; but in the fatal mirage of the passions principle is lost sight of, and amid the glamour of temptation principle not only loses something of its pristine splendour, but it becomes as if it were not. And the other blessing which Christ will give you is joy.; for .Christ says," Peace I give you, My peace I leave with you; not as the world giveth give I unto you." "Not as the world giveth!" There has been a joy in dungeons and on scaffolds passing the joy of the harvest. Christ does not delude as Satan does with promises as. "Serve me, and you shall be rich."
(Archdeacon Farrar.)1. Jesus is a King in His own eternal and essential right. He is the Creator of all things; He is the Preserver of all things; He is the sovereign Lord and Proprietor of ell things. But, then, He is a King in another sense, and it is to that, that allusion is here made.
2. He has a mediatorial kingdom which was given Him by the Father as a recompense for His great and glorious undertaking on behalf of our world: and thus He is a mediatorial King. Now, in this view of the subject as a mediatorial King, and having mediatorial kingdom committed to His care, trust, management, and government, we may observe that this kingdom was small in its origin. At its first rising after His resurrection and ascension, the dimensions were small.
3. But, then, there is a third kingdom: if I may so speak, another kingdom within this kingdom — a kingdom in the hearts of His beloved people. "The kingdom of God," it is said, "is within you." It is in vain for men to pretend that they are the subjects of Christ merely because they are so outwardly.
4. I say He is a very bountiful Sovereign in whom you have trusted. He has promised to give everything which He possesses that He can give, and that His subjects can receive. He has made a covenant with them which is well ordered in all things and sure. "All things are yours."
5. Observe, again, He is a tender-hearted and sympathizing Sovereign. He feels for all His subjects; for every one of you, and for the meanest subject that He has; so that everything which concerns them concerns Him. There is no trial which presses sore on the mind which He does not feel, and in which He does not participate.
6. Then, observe, He is a condescending Sovereign. He entreats you to come to His bosom — to make known to Him your every concern. Solomon has this expression, "In the light of the king's countenance is life." There is doubtless here an allusion to the language of his royal Father: the father said, "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." So he says again, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple." Then again it is said, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Whom no man hath seenI. Consider WHAT THE EYE ITSELF IS, THE POOR IMPLEMENT OF WHICH WE DEMAND SO MUCH. A ball of clay and mortality, it can act only on what is material and corruptible like itself. It is limited to a certain province even among these surrounding things. How delicate an organ it is, that is yet capable of taking in the broad scenes of the ocean and the land, and reaching as it were the stars at their immeasurable distances! At very short intervals of time it must be shut up within its fringes from the very light that it lives by; and when it is in its utmost vigour, the direct flash of a single sunbeam is more than it can bear. A tear dims it. A mote takes away from it every capacity but that of pain. A spark destroys it for ever. It cannot penetrate even the thin veils of outward nature. The true light may shine inward, though the body be dark. The soul sees otherwise and more nobly than through that narrow window. Is it through these lenses of flesh — so easily distempered, so often giving false pictures, so soon to perish — is it through these that we would gaze on the King Eternal?
II. Think, further, WHO HE IS WHOM WE ASK TO BE THUS MANIFESTED TO US. The very idea of God absolutely excludes the possibility of His being an object of sight. He is a pure Intelligence, circumscribed by no form, bounded by no space, and to be communicated with only through the Spirit which Himself imparts. But the unconvinced may say: This is not what we seek, or have ever imagined. But we would lay our eyes upon some undeniable signs and representatives of the Almighty Providence. Yet the Scriptures tell them, and their own religious reason tells them, that they are actually surrounded with just such signs and representatives in the natural creation. It is His spirit that gives it life. It is His wisdom that gives it law. It is not, however, with such as these, they may reply, that we are satisfied. We would have testimonies strictly miraculous, transcending all the powers of nature, and thus exhibiting an immediate connection with the Almighty One. The Scriptures and our religious reason then take up the word again and say: Foolish and slow of heart! unless ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. It does not seem, then, that there is the virtue you fancy in the spectacle that you ask. And why should there be? Why should transient visions and strange occurrences impart a steadier trust than the perpetual marvels of this glorious world, and the eternal chain of decrees and providences that can be held but in one sovereign hand? One thing more may be urged by those who withhold or utter faintly the ascription in the text, "To whom be honour and power ever lasting," because "no man hath seen nor can see Him." They may say, It is not even such wonders as you have alluded to that we crave. They are for the individual only, or at most have their chief concern with but a tribe or a generation of men. We would have a supernatural sign that should be permanent and universal. It should be for all eyes. To this suggestion we need not call on the Scriptures for a reply. It demands an open impossibility, and is inconsistent with itself. Whatever should be thus associated with the works of nature must necessarily be regarded as one of them, however marvellous and inexplicable it might appear. We can scarcely conceive of anything more wonderful than is somewhere or other already presented. From what has been said, I hope it has been made clear, that no one has cause for objection or mistrust because the Lord is invisible, for it is inconceivable how He should be otherwise. "To Him, whom no man hath seen or can see, be honour and power everlasting." "What we adore under the affection of our senses," says an old writer, "deserves not the honour of so pure a title. Nor is it strange that we should place affection on that which is invisible. All that we truly love is thus." The soul itself — is it not invisible, like its Source? To be born as we are, animal and moral beings, into two states at once — to dwell in a world like this we inhabit of pale reflections and shadows, where what is the most real is the least obvious — and at the same time to think the outward shape everything, and the secret intelligence and power that makes all to be what it is, nothing — this is to want the very sense that best becomes and exults us. The Scriptures, with a beautiful boldness of expression, speak of "seeing Him who is invisible." And when they thus speak, their meaning is twofold — to acquaint ourselves with him and to rejoice as in His presence. "He that doeth evil," says John, "hath not seen God." But" Blessed are the pure in heart," it is for them that the double privilege is reserved of knowing and enjoying Him.
(N. L. Frothingham.)1 Timothy 6:16).
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