From June to September, in these Bible readings, we are going to be reading Paul’s two letters to Timothy. These Bible readings were written by the Rev James Philip, formerly Minister of Holyrood Abbey Church in Edinburgh and are used with permission. They have been taken from the newly-digitised archive found at:
Sunday 1st June
1 Timothy 1:1-11
The two epistles to Timothy, and that to Titus, were written towards the close of Paul’s life and ministry, after the close of Acts. It is likely that the Apostle was released from his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28) and was able to continue his work for a year or two before being re-arrested. Coming at the end of his missionary career, they reflect both Paul’s own maturity of character and outlook, and also the more settled life of the Christian Church after the first flush of Pentecostal grace and power. Throughout there is a marked emphasis on Christian character, and on conscientious and consistent behaviour in the midst of the growth of dangerous heresies in the realm both of doctrine and behaviour. This emphasis is made in the context of the instructions he gives to his two young associates about matters of procedure they are to follow in the churches for which they are responsible.
Monday 2nd June
1 Timothy 1:1-2
We can usually learn a great deal from Paul’s introductory greetings, and this one is no exception. He calls himself an apostle ‘by the command of God’ (1). This is a characteristic emphasis, rendered necessary in some of his other epistles by the constant challenge to his authority. Here it serves to remind us of the constraint of God that lay upon him in the work of the gospel. If we are tempted to think that this kind of authority is not much in evidence in the Church today, we should realise that it needs first of all to be where the command of God can be heard. Perhaps the Church as a whole is not near enough to God to hear His voice speaking like this. Remember, it was after Isaiah was cleansed that he heard the voice of God saying, “Whom shall I send…?” We should note also that Paul speaks of “God our Saviour”. This is an unusual expression, but it emphasises an important truth, namely that it is in fact God Himself Who, in the Person of His Son, is our Saviour. It was God, in Christ, Who reconciled the world unto Himself. This is the answer to those who think the biblical doctrine of the Atonement represents God as a bloodthirsty, vengeful Jewish deity who demands propitiation for sin at the cost of the death of Jesus, and portrays Jesus as somehow persuading an unwilling God to forgive sin. Not so, Paul indicates in this phrase. It is God Himself that makes the propitiation. In Christ, He Himself grapples with the enormity of sin, taking it to His Own bosom to destroy it. It is God Himself Who provides the sacrifice for sin. These words are the mature fruit of Paul’s long theological insight. How much they say to us, and how deep their roots!
Tuesday 3rd June
1 Timothy 1:1-2
Timothy was Paul’s own son in the faith. We first hear of him in Acts 16:1-3, which see. The likelihood is that he was converted during the visit to Lystra Paul paid on his first missionary journey in A.D. 48/49. If at the time of the writing of this epistle Timothy was still a young man (cf 4:12, “Let no man despise thy youth”) – this would be at least after A.D.62 and probably nearer A.D. 65/66 -then he must have been very young indeed when he became a believer, it may be just a boy. This should encourage those who work with the young in Sunday School and Bible Class to remember that God’s ideal is for children so to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord that they will come early to a knowledge of salvation. Timothy was instructed from childhood in the Scriptures and in the things of God (see 2 Tim 1:5, 3:15ff) and the disciplines of the home joined the disciplines of the fellowship in which he was reared to produce in him a genuine and living faith which grew and developed steadily until he was in a position to enter the glad service of the gospel. Why should it be supposed that a period in the ‘far country’ is inevitable for the children of believers before they finally ‘settle down’ in the Christian faith? When this does happen, surely the responsibility must lie with the home and the fellowship, not with the provision of God. ‘Mercy’ is added to ‘grace and peace’ in the apostolic benediction here only and in 2 Timothy of all Paul’s epistles, as if, nearer eternity, the consciousness of the need for mercy is all the greater; or perhaps with reference to Timothy’s difficulties in Ephesus (3) he invokes for his son in the faith the mercy that had sustained him in all his own travails.
Wednesday 4th June
1 Timothy 1:3-4
The NEB and RSV renderings of 3 make it clearer than the AV does that Paul had already urged Timothy, and was not repeating that admonition, to remain on at Ephesus. It would seem that for some reason the young Timothy was tempted to leave that place. What lies behind this? It looks as if Timothy had become much discouraged at the state of affairs in Ephesus – the heresy, the unfaithfulness – and was disposed to withdraw, but Paul says, “Stay on”. He would scarcely have said this, if there had not been doubt or hesitation in Timothy’s mind about staying. If this be the correct interpretation of the situation, then two important issues are raised. The first is this: the temptation to pull out of a difficult and discouraging situation may be very real and understandable, but it is not thereby the right thing to do in such circumstances; and this applies equally to a difficult mission station or a difficult office or workshop. Paul says, “Stay on!” The ultimate consideration is not whether or not things are difficult, with awkward and cantankerous colleagues on the station, or no other believers in the office, but whether the Lord has placed us there. If He has placed us there, we are not at liberty to leave, on any consideration, except He Himself should make it plain. We must not ask for easier tasks, but rather pray to be made stronger men and women, and more effectual witnesses. Why, after all, should we expect an easy time?
Thursday 5th June
1 Timothy 1:3-4
The second issue raised in these verses is the still more agonising one of whether, because of ‘other doctrines’, heresy and unfaithfulness, a man should ‘pull out’, and withdraw and dissociate himself from a fellowship. And Paul says, “Stay on!” This is of wide import for evangelical thinking today. The question is whether one is justified in withdrawing if heresy creeps in, or unfaithfulness. In the missionary situation of our own denomination, for example, it is a great and major tragedy that there have been so many who have withheld themselves from foreign mission work with the Church of Scotland and gone to other societies because of this unwillingness to stay on. What an impoverishment it has brought to the Church! How are we ever to correct false doctrine within the Church if all who could do so with effect withdraw from it? It is possible to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” only from within, not from the outside.
Friday 6th June
1 Timothy 1:3-4
Fables (4) probably have reference to Jewish traditions added to Old Testament stories. Genealogies may refer either to Old Testament lists of names to which wild allegorical interpretations, purely fanciful, were given (there is always a tendency in the carnal mind to find in Scripture what is not there, and miss what is!); or to the early heresy of Gnosticism, which invented and introduced a whole system of intermediate beings – angels or ‘aeons’ – standing between Christ and sinners, mediating between Him and them. Paul scotches this idea more fully in 2:5 (which see). The great test of such fanciful interpretations is, “Does this build up in godliness?” Why should we be bogged down with speculative trivialities, asks Paul, when everlasting splendours await due training and preparation? Why indeed! This is a question that must embarrass all fruitless speculators and titivators of Divine truth.
Saturday 7th June
1 Timothy 1:5
The AV rendering of this verse scarcely brings out the richness and significance of what Paul is saying here. Of the modern translations, that of J.B. Phillips comes nearest to the meaning: “The ultimate aim of the Christian minister, after all, is to produce the love which springs from a pure heart…” Substitute ‘ministry’ here for ‘minister’ and the true meaning becomes plain. The reference first of all is to “the charge that Timothy has to give” (Lock), but may be extended to include the whole scheme of salvation as preached in the gospel. Here, then, is what the Christian ministry is designed to produce – its grand fruit and fruition in the lives of men is love; and the means, so to speak, by which this is produced are – a pure heart, a good conscience, and unfeigned faith. This is an impressive statement and it provides a searching test both of the validity and the effectiveness of any ministry. This Paul sets over against the profitless speculation already mentioned in 4, and serves to remind us that doctrine is never meant merely to make us knowledgeable, but to make us godly. All knowledge must be converted into godliness. The progression – heart, conscience, faith – can be taken either way, with the thought of a living faith being the first-fruit of the preaching of the Word, purging the conscience and cleansing the heart; or, on the other hand, with the thought of the work of the gospel being to create in us a new heart, pure and clean, single and undivided, which leads in turn to that open willingness for all God’s perfect will that means a good conscience. This in turn leading to a purity of faith that will be increased and nourished and made strong in the process. Such was the ministry that Timothy was to be exercising in Ephesus.
Sunday 8th June
1 Timothy 1:6-7
In these verses, the contrast with what precedes them is complete. They speak of the barrenness and fruitlessness of dead orthodoxy. The word translated ‘swerved’ means “not having aimed at”, and makes us ask ourselves the challenging question, “What are we aiming at in our spiritual lives? Religious diversion (vain jangling) or moral and spiritual transformation? Do we come under the sound of the Word to be interested, or knocked into shape? Some nowadays, having been saved from the world of entertainment, are determined nevertheless to satisfy that side of their life through their religion, instead of allowing religion to make them! If a man is honest enough to face the faults and blemishes of his nature, temperament and character and come to the Word determined that it shall change him and make him into another man, nothing is surer than that he will be shattered and humbled in the process – but at the end of it he will be a man. This is the real issue. The word ‘desiring’ in 7 has the force of ‘ambitious striving’, and reminds us of something that everyone who takes upon himself to speak in God’s name has to be clear about in his heart – the motive for wanting to speak and teach. Is it for the honour and glory of God, or is it a secret desire for self-display, or a coveting of place? Of all human deceptions this is probably the most subtle and dangerous. Those who practise it are rarely aware of how deeply they are deceiving themselves, but their hearers generally are, for the living message does not come through such a ministry. However impressive it may sound, it misses the real point of the law (7b) which is moral and spiritual, not speculative and merely clever. Such men are blindly unaware that they have nothing to say.
Monday 9th June
1 Timothy 1:8-11
The misunderstanding of the law is a subject that repeatedly crops up in Paul’s epistles, notably Romans and Galatians. Here, the apostle states the function of the law as being for the lawless and disobedient, and gives an impressive list (in line with the Ten Commandments, although not covering them all) of those who are the objects of the Law’s abiding challenge. This echoes what he teaches in Galatians 3:19, where he says, “The Law was added because of (or, in relation to) transgressions”, that is, as a restraint against sin, and for its control, and as a revelation of sin, to bring men to a knowledge of their need of Christ. It is not therefore for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient. This means, when once the love of God comes to possess a man’s heart, there is no longer any need to appeal to the Law’s sanctions, for love is the fulfilling of the Law, and the believer is not under the Law but under grace. But this raises another matter. For who is righteous? There is none righteous, except One. The most righteous of men is also at the same time unrighteous, the believer is also at the same time an unbeliever, and therefore needs the Law as a restraint upon his unrighteous tendencies, and to hedge him up in his unbelief unto faith. Thus, even when he is most truly a righteous man and a believer, the sanction of the Law remains. Even though he does not need the commandment, it is still wrong for him to break it. And if he is tempted to break it, then he still needs it to control and restrain him. And when he is not tempted to break it, he delights to honour it. It is his pleasure. To him the Law is ‘good’ (the Greek word means ‘beautiful’). Note that in 11 Paul finely relates the Law to the gospel. It is as if he were saying, “This is how the gospel understands and interprets the Law”. Only thus can its proper function and purpose be discerned.
Tuesday 10th June
1 Timothy 1:12-13
The reference in 11 to the gospel committed to his trust prompts Paul to an expression of thanksgiving as he thinks of the wonder and mystery of his calling. His words could be rendered, “I thank the empowering Christ Who counted me faithful and put me in the ministry”. Is it not wonderful that Christ should have committed His gospel and its propagation to sinful men? Was not this a hazardous thing to do? Ah, but for His Own empowering, it would be disastrous. But when He calls, He enables, and this is the abiding confidence of all whom He calls to the work. But Paul’s thanksgiving is due to the special circumstances of his own call which was a source of wonderment and mystery to him because he was not only a sinful man, but a blasphemer and a persecutor. It was this that magnified the mercy of God in Paul’s eyes. But what does it mean that he obtained mercy because he “did it ignorantly in unbelief”? At first glance this seems a dubious and even questionable assertion. How could Paul say that he persecuted the Church in ignorance? When he stood watching the martyrdom of Stephen, consenting to his death, was this ignorance? Did he act in ignorance when he persecuted believers even to strange cities and committed them to prison? Was there not deliberate malevolence in what he did? And does he mean that mercy is given only when sin is committed in ignorance, but not when committed deliberately? But Paul’s statement is in fact analogous to our Lord’s words on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, and this affords us a key to the problem. For in the deepest sense these men could not fully know what they were doing because in the foul deed they committed their minds were blinded by the god of this world (see 2 Cor 4:4). It is in this sense that their sin could be attributed to ignorance and unbelief, and for this reason therefore it was forgivable. Likewise, we conclude, Paul was the dupe and tool of Satan in the terrible persecution he led against the Church, and his sin, though great and terrible, was mercifully forgiven. But more of this in the next note.
Wednesday 11th June
1 Timothy 1:12-13
What lies behind our consideration in the previous note is the fact that there are two different elements in sin that require to be distinguished. On the one hand, there is that of human frailty and weakness, which calls forth the compassion and mercy of God. To be the dupe of the devil is to be an object of pity, and when we are, we never know in the fullest extent just how pathetic and miserable creatures we are. On the other hand, however, there is that in sin which is deliberate and malignant, and which does not spring from the weakness or sensual part of our nature, but is the mark of our revolt and rebellion against God. In Satan, sin is purely spiritual (in the evil sense), and unmixed with any frailty or sensual weakness; it is pure and utter rebellion. And this is why Satanic sin is unforgivable. But in men, sin is rarely, if ever, pure revolt, but generally mixed to a greater or lesser degree with sensual weakness, and for this reason it is forgiven. But the nearer to the satanic man’s sin comes, the more dangerous and critical it is, since it approaches, so to speak, a point of no return, beyond which forgiveness becomes impossible. This is the sin against the Holy Ghost, about which our Lord speaks with such solemnity, elsewhere (Heb 10:26) spoken of as wilful sin. It may be that one reason why Paul calls himself the chief of sinners is that, looking back on his pre-conversion days, he realised just how near he had come to that dread point when
his sin could no longer be said to contain any element of ignorance or blindness in it. If his rebellion and revolt had gone on much longer, it may well have come to this. Viewed thus, it should be clear that Paul has no thought of offering the plea of ignorance as an excuse for his sin. Ignorance can never be an excuse for guilt; but it does constitute a plea for mercy.
Thursday 12th June
1 Timothy 1:14-15
The thought of Christ’s super-abundant grace in 14 reminds us of Paul’s still more famous words in Romans 5:20, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”. This is certainly what he is indicating here, for what he says about God’s grace is set in contrast to what he had been in his opposition to the gospel. We should notice also the order in which the words grace, faith and love stand. It is grace that produces and creates both faith and love in Christian experience. Indeed, these are the only indisputable evidence that grace has been at work in the soul, just as a new-born baby’s cry is the evidence of life. Faith does not bring grace, but rather vice versa. The ‘faithful saying’ in 15 is one of several found in the Pastoral epistles (see 3:1, 4:9, 2 Tim 2:11, Tit 3:8), and it is thought that these were credal statements in common use in the early Church, in much the same way as the Shorter Catechism is a collection of doctrinal statements used widely in the instruction of believers. There is a monumental simplicity about this ‘saying’ as it makes its categorical pronouncement on the meaning of Christ’s coming into the world. It precludes, for example, the possibility of regarding Christ merely as a great Teacher or religious Leader. It is true that what Paul does here is to place a certain interpretation on the fact of Christ; it is true that to speak of Him as a Saviour and Redeemer rather than as a Teacher is to adopt a particular theory about Him. But this happens to be the biblical interpretation and the biblical theory, and therefore it is the only right one. It is this interpretation of Christ’s coming, not any other, that constitutes the gospel, and that makes it a gospel. Nor are we at liberty to adopt any other alternative interpretation that diverges from the biblical one and still call it Christian! There is one interpretation of the coming of Christ that merits the name Christian, not many; and it is found in such statements as this that Paul makes here.
Friday 13th June
1 Timothy 1:16-17
There are two wonderfully encouraging thoughts in 16. First of all, in the reference to longsuffering (Christ’s, not his own) what Paul means is this: “Christ showed mercy to me, the chief of sinners, to make clear to all the world that there are no limits to His mercy and longsuffering grace. If such a one as I can be saved, then I will despair of no- one”. This is comfort and assurance not only to those who tend to despair of themselves, but also become discouraged in their praying for others. “Remember Christ’s longsuffering and patience to me”, cries Paul, “and pray on!” The second point has to do with the word translated ‘pattern’, which, the scholars tell us, means ‘an incomplete sketch in contrast to the complete picture’. The idea conveyed is: All the evidence of sanctification we see in the apostle, the moral transformation, the Christ likeness of spirit, is but a rough sketch, a faint shadow of what will yet be in the eternal glory. This is a marvellously graphic way of saying that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20). It is little wonder that Paul breaks into doxology (17) at the thought he has just expressed. The contemplation of what Christ has done, is doing, and will yet do, is surely a sufficient incentive for praise and adoration! The language of this doxology is august and majestic, befitting its subject; befitting also the work of which Paul has just been speaking. It is the “King of the ages” who will finally clothe the soul with immortality and imperishable honour and glory, but it will be His honour and glory spilling over, so to speak, and enveloping us, for heaven is all God and Christ, and to be clothed in Him is the ultimate beatitude.
Saturday 14th June
1 Timothy 1:18
The charge referred to here takes us back in thought to 5 which, it will be remembered, we translated thus: “The aim of the Christian ministry is to produce…” The ‘prophecies’ were utterances made by Christian prophets in the fellowship (at Lystra) indicating for Timothy a fruitful and profitable future in the work of the gospel. It is clear that Paul took these as authentic and Spirit-inspired, and made them the basis both of his charge to Timothy and also of his exhortation to him to wage a good warfare, as if to say, “This is what God has appointed for you, therefore rise to it and realise your destiny as a child of God”. Something of considerable importance arises from this, however. We are accustomed, and very properly, to speak of the necessity of a Divine call to the work of the gospel. “How shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom 10:15). But Paul here seems to indicate that such a call can come to a man through some Spirit-filled men saying to him, or of him, that in their conviction he is destined, ‘cut out’ for the work of the ministry. Is there a place, then, for the wise and discerning in a fellowship not only encouraging but actually pressing someone to enter the ministry? It is true that we must listen to no-one but God alone in matters of spiritual guidance, but what if God should choose to speak to us through other people? And what if He should in fact endue some in the fellowship with this gift for this purpose? Is there not something here that requires to be thought about very carefully?
Sunday 15th June
1 Timothy 1:18-20
The charge given Timothy by Paul is in military terms. The Apostle, looking back on his life, calls it warfare, and gives it its proper name. Timothy is to wage a good warfare ‘by’ the prophecies, or ‘in’ them, as in Christian armour; they are to be his inspiration, constantly to be remembered and used as a spur to his endeavour, to enable him to be the best he could be. Faith and a good conscience (see 5) are almost equivalent here to the whole armour of God in Ephesians 6 (which see). Faith may be taken in both its senses, as “the faith once delivered to the saints” and as that grace which enabled us to lay hold of the promise of God. Both belong together. To swerve from that sacred deposit of truth committed to us in the Scriptures will mean that faith will wax faint within us. Furthermore, faith is strong only when the conscience is clear and the heart is pure. It is as the influence and power of the blood of Christ goes ever deeper into the intricacies of our hearts that faith will rise within us. A spring of water will not bubble up freely and gush forth if it is checked with sludge and impurities. Furthermore, faith and a good conscience belong together. Conscience is, one might say, the rudder of the ship of faith, and when it is jettisoned, shipwreck is inevitable (19, 20). The danger this can bring to the soul is amply underlined in what the Apostle says of Hymenaeus and Alexander. To be delivered unto Satan seems clearly to be some kind of sentence of excommunication. This need not indicate anything final, indeed 20 suggests the opposite, for Paul shows it to be disciplinary in intent – “that they may learn not to blaspheme”. But it is very terrible nevertheless, for it surely indicates that by our deliberate and continued sin and impenitence we may withdraw ourselves from, and cause to be withdrawn from us, the Divine protection which preserves His own from the dread machinations and assaults of the devil (see 1 Cor 5:5; 1 John 5:16, 17; 1 Cor 11:30; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 13:11 for further instances of this solemn judicial enactment). How careful and earnest we should be to hold faith and a good conscience!
Monday 16th June
1 Timothy 2:1-4
We may take what Paul says in these verses as being part of the charge committed to Timothy (1:18) and as one of the ways in which he is to wage a good warfare. We should not miss the significance of this priority given to prayer. Nor should we miss the distinction that is implied in the Apostle’s words between what may be called ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ prayer. The prayer for kings and those in authority is not that they might be saved (although it is also a duty laid upon us to pray for the conversion of our rulers – much do they stand in need of this!) but that we lead a quiet and peaceable life. That is to say, such prayer is designed to bring the restraints of God upon those in authority, that they will so govern as to give that measure of peace and order which will enable the work of the gospel to proceed with maximum effectiveness and the minimum of difficulty and obstruction. This is a very important consideration, and we require to distinguish this in our prayer life. There is prayer with the definite view of backing home the work of the gospel and bringing men to a saving knowledge of Christ; but there is also prayer in the sense that it spreads the canopy of Divine grace over the whole human situation, keeping the forces of evil in restraint so that men may live in peace and quiet and honesty, and the possibility of godliness emerge in society. Far more emphasis should be given to this aspect of prayer than often is. This is the Church’s function as ‘the salt of the earth’, as direct evangelism is its function as ‘the light of the world’, and the one should not be without the other. In this respect, it is not fanciful or arrogant to think that our country is all the better a place because the Church prays for those in authority over us.
Tuesday 17th June
1 Timothy 2:1-4
It will be noticed that Paul makes a very marked emphasis on the word ‘all’ in these verses – ‘all men’ – ‘all in authority’ – ‘all men to be saved’, ‘ransom for all’ (6). There are two possible explanations of this striking repetition. One is that it may be a counteractive against one of the ancient heresies, Gnosticism, which spoke of a favoured few rather than all as being the object of the Divine salvation. The other possibility is that what Paul has in mind is Jewish exclusivism, as if he were reminding his own people that God had called them, not to exclusivism, but to be a light to lighten the Gentiles. One cannot but be impressed with the universality of Paul’s gospel, and in this connection it is necessary to mention at least the doctrine of limited atonement. This doctrine maintains that Christ died only for the elect, and not for all mankind, and that His atonement was therefore limited. What lies behind this assertion, which certainly, on the face of it, stands in contradiction to what Paul says here about a ‘ransom for all’ and about God Who “will have all men to be saved”, is the seemingly impossible and unthinkable alternative that would require to be accepted if limited atonement is not true, namely, that Christ’s atonement would need to be regarded as in effectual for some, i.e., those who refused to repent and believe the gospel. This, to those who hold limited atonement, is to cast doubt on the omnipotence and sovereignty of God. One understands this reasoning, of course, but it is open to the same criticism as that which leads men to holding the ‘double decree’ in predestination – the unbiblical doctrine that God predestines men to everlasting torment as well as to everlasting salvation. The mistake here is to apply logical categories where they are not strictly applicable. Paul stops short, in Romans 9, of drawing such a logical conclusion, and one could have wished that others had shown a similar restraint. The doctrine of limited atonement is, it would seem, a logical inference from certain plain biblical statements; but then, logic is not the ultimate criterion, and is seen not to be, when we read statements such as Paul makes in 4 and 6. To be the victim of one’s logical processes is a common way of falling into error in the spiritual life.
Wednesday 18th June
1 Timothy 2:5-6
The connecting particle ‘for’ makes this wonderful statement about the Mediator the ground of the prayer for all men that is enjoined in 1-4. It is because Christ gave Himself a ransom for all that all are to be the objects of believing prayer. It is typical of Paul’s writings that he should utter such a tremendous truth almost incidentally, in making a point of another sort, and we should be grateful for this enriching habit of his. But now to the statement itself. Again there is probably in Paul’s mind a concern to refute the teaching of Gnosticism which held that there were many mediating ‘aeons’ or powers between God and man, Christ being only one among many others. Gnosticism is not an issue for us today, but Paul’s emphasis on the unique Mediatorship of Christ should serve to refute the errors of the Roman Catholic heresy of praying to the virgin Mary and to the saints, as if they could ever intercede for men and mediate between them and God. A mediator, by definition, is one who stands in between two opposing parties, with the purpose of bringing them together and reconciling them. This is the work Christ performs in His death on the Cross, as a ransom for the sins of men. The controversy, for which His death is the sufficient and complete solution, is a double-sided one in which not only man stands in alienation from God, through sin, and guilty before Him, but also the Divine wrath is kindled against him. Indeed, this latter is so incomparably more serious that the other is overshadowed. The blood of the Cross – Christ’s mediatorial virtue – must therefore be seen to have a twofold reference, Godwards as well as manwards. It not only ‘speaks’ to man, in the sense that it takes his guilt away and reconciles him to God but – even more important – it ‘speaks’ also to the heart of God, turning His anger away, so that He can say, “Your sins and your iniquities will I remember no more”. Just how the Divine anger is turned away by the blood of the Cross will be the theme of the next note.
Thursday 19th June
1 Timothy 2:5-6
Christ met a twofold problem in the death that He died on the Cross, in that there was a double liability involved in the sin that He bore. On the one hand, sin is transgression and violation of the divine law, and as such the penalty of the law must be exacted and paid to the full. On the other hand, sin is something more than this – it is an insult to the divine majesty, and this also must be dealt with, in any atonement that is real. A simple illustration here will help to make this clear. A thief breaks into my house and steals a valuable picture. The police are informed, and in due course the thief is arrested, tried, found guilty and sent to prison for his pains. In other words the law has been vindicated, its penalty having been imposed and exacted. But this in itself does not suffice to put matters right; it does not atone for – ‘make up for’ – my loss. I want my picture back; and only when it is safely returned can I regard matters as having been put right. Here, then, are two distinct ideas – the punishment of the offence, and the repair of the injury; and both are necessary in order to put matters right. And it is so also in the spiritual realm. The offence of sin must be punished; but the repair of the injury to the divine majesty must also be done. As well as having His law vindicated, God wants His picture back, the lost image in which He created man and which sin has defaced. And the death Jesus died not only paid the penalty of sin, it also restored to God what sin had stolen from Him – a perfect manhood, lived without sin, and offered to God on the altar of Calvary. Thus all that had awakened the divine anger – the broken law and the loss of holiness – was dealt with once for all, the righteous peace was securely made. The atonement is the answer to sin for God first, and then for man. It is when God is finally at peace about sin that man can find rest and forgiveness.
Friday 20th June
1 Timothy 2:7-8
The connection between these verses and what is said in 6 is surely clear. The good news of the divine ransom is to be borne witness to in all the world, and God Himself appoints His servants for this very task (7), and it is for this reason that men are to pray everywhere, in order that the word of salvation might have free course and be glorified (see 2 Thess 3:1). Here, then, is the true apostolic succession, bearing witness to the work of the Mediator, to His substitutionary, atoning sacrifice, to the ransom price paid by His precious blood, to a plan laid in eternity and wrought out once for all in time. True succession has to do not with persons but with the message that is handed down. We should notice also the various offices which Paul is conscious of fulfilling in the will of the Lord. This reminds us that although it is clear in the Scriptures that God anoints specially some men for special work – e.g. evangelism – a man may more usually have several offices to fulfil in the work of the gospel. Men called to full-time work in the ministry have to be their own evangelists, as well as being pastors and teachers. Paul is both preacher and teacher, a fact which underlines the very necessary task of ministering to the ever-deepening understanding of those who have been reached by the proclamation of the gospel by teaching them the whole counsel of God. The ‘everywhere’ in 8 surely refers to every fellowship. Paul is legislating for all the churches under his influence. The ‘holy hands’ and ‘without wrath and doubting’ seem to link with the Apostle’s earlier reference to ‘holding faith and a good conscience’, and remind us that the cardinal element in true prayer is no mere outward ritual but the inward, moral state of the one who prays. If we are not right, our prayers cannot be.
Saturday 21st June
1 Timothy 2:9-10
It will help us to remember that Paul has behaviour in public worship in mind here. It is not easy to see the connection between his words on prayer in 8 and what he says here about women, and some have thought that the words ‘in like manner’ begin a new section and a new subject. Nevertheless, we incline to think there is a connection, especially since there seems to be a similar idea expressed, with a similar connection, in 1 Pet 3, where Peter speaks of the influence that can be brought to bear on an unbelieving husband without the Word by the chaste demeanour of the wife. It would almost seem that what Paul is suggesting here is that “the same result will come through women who show a true Christian modesty in demeanour as is effected by men in their prayer”. Whether this be the connection between the two statements or not, it is clear that Paul regarded seemliness in women as extremely important, and that it could be expressed, or shown to be lacking, by the nature of their outward adornment. It is impressive to see how Paul deals with this very ‘mundane’ subject from a strictly biblical standpoint, taking us back to origins in the book of Genesis and to the orders of creation. In this connection we should remember that the purpose of clothes as originally instituted by God was to promote modesty and seemliness – a fact which becomes increasingly neglected and discounted in modern times. It is certainly a Christian duty for a Christian woman to dress well, but to dress well will mean to do so in a seemly and modest fashion. There is all the difference in the world between the natural grace and charm and winsomeness of an attractive personality and the studied elegance of the fashion-conscious, who dress explicitly to attract men or – worse still – with a desire to outdo their fellows. Such usually have their reward, for they succeed in their aim; succeed, but at the same time expose themselves in their rather pathetic idolatry as having a quite mistaken notion of what it is that makes women attractive, to anybody. It is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit that shows a woman to have realised her true destiny as a woman.
Sunday 22nd June
1 Timothy 2:11-12
These verses show that behind these injunctions in 9, 10 there are basic spiritual principles. Women are to dress and behave thus because thus they reflect the inward reality of their submission to men. This is evidently a hard doctrine for some women to accept (although it is surprising just how many women do, not only without reluctance but without hesitation), but we should realise that Paul is not implying that women are inferior to men. He is not disputing the equality of the sexes in dignity and status in the sight of God, but indicating a differentiation of function. It is in this functional differentiation that man is constituted as head of the woman, having authority over her. Nor does Paul teach, here or anywhere else, that a man’s lordship (“Sarah called Abraham lord” – 1 Pet 3:6) can ever justify lording it over woman. But it does mean that certain duties and responsibilities are man’s prerogative rather than woman’s, and she may not usurp them without transgressing the Divine order. There are those, we know, who take issue with Paul in this doctrine, and flatly disagree with him. What we cannot understand, however, is the attitude of those who blandly declare that there is no scriptural evidence for excluding women from the teaching ministry in the Church. It is surely an impeachment of a man’s intelligence, let alone of his moral integrity, for him to state, in spite of the evidence of these verses, that there is nothing in the Scriptures to forbid women teaching in the Church. Is it that they are afraid to admit to themselves that they are flatly in disagreement with the Scriptures? But would it not be more honest to say, “I am in disagreement with what the Scriptures teach on this subject”? Nobody can possibly accept the idea of women in the ministry without disagreeing with Paul and the teaching of the Scriptures.
Monday 23rd June
1 Timothy 2:13-15
Paul gives reasons in 13 and 14 why woman is to be in submission and subjection to man. First, he points out that she was made second, not first, in creation, made moreover of a rib taken from man’s side, thus signifying her dependent existence. Second, as Barnes puts it, “in the most important situation in which she was ever placed, she had shown that she was not qualified to take the lead”. Satan looked for a weak point in the human order, to accomplish his purposes, and the fact that he succeeded in finding it proves Paul’s point. The woman, being deceived, was in the transgression. Paul’s next statement is very difficult. What does it mean that women shall be saved in childbearing? (15). On the face of it, it would almost seem that Paul is guarding against a possible misinterpretation of his teaching in 14, which might make him seem to be suggesting that because of her part in the fall of man woman had put herself beyond the pale of salvation; and Paul hastens to correct such a false notion, held perhaps by some who (see 4:3) depreciated marriage as involving sin or uncleanness. If this is what lies behind Paul’s words, he is saying that marriage and childbearing are not to be regarded as dishonourable (see Heb 13:4) or as a hindrance to salvation. The reference, however, may be more general, pointing back to Genesis 3:16, where the pains of childbirth are said to be woman’s sentence for her sin. In undergoing them she finds her salvation, in the same way as toil, which was man’s sentence, can become a stepping stone to fulfilment for him. Thus, the more submissive to her womanly calling she is, fulfilling her destiny by acquiescing in all the conditions of a woman’s life -the duties of home and particularly that of being a mother – the more she will find God’s will for her, which is salvation. Not that – as Ellicott puts it – a woman satisfies the conditions of her life by merely fulfilling the duties of a mother. Faith, love, holiness – these are the paramount spiritual realities, but these will lead her to the acceptance of the other, and together to life that is life indeed.
Tuesday 24th June
1 Timothy 3:1
It is not certain whether the ‘true’ or ‘faithful’ saying is in the previous verse (2:15) or in what follows, but most commentators relate it to what Paul now proceeds to say about the office of a bishop. The subject of this whole chapter, as we see from 15, is the promotion of good order in the Church. The ‘bishop’ of New Testament times seems to have been the same as the ‘presbyter’, the duties assigned to each, and the requisite character of each, being almost identical (Lock), as will be seen from a comparison between this passage and Titus 1:5,6. One question that arises is whether Paul means that it is the desire for the office, or the office itself, that is good. Commentators refer it to the desire for the office, but surely, if we remember Heb 5:4, referring to the priesthood, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God”, it should be clear that Paul would never encourage men to covet place and position in the Church. We should recall also what Jeremiah said to his servant, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not” (Jer 45:5). All the available evidence in Scripture shows that men whom God has called to high duty in His kingdom have tended to shrink from, rather than aspire to, such a responsibility (cf Exo 4:10, Jer 1:6). The emphasis, then, is on the solemn dignity of the office, and Paul is saying that if a man desires this, he must be very sure of the motives which prompt him to do so. “Zeal for the glory of God, love to the Lord Jesus Christ, and a desire for the salvation of men” must be “the great motives and chief inducements to enter” into such a ministry. Anything other than this is suspect.
Wednesday 25th June
1 Timothy 3:2-3
The impressive list of moral and spiritual ‘qualifications’ Paul enumerates here is surely sufficient to daunt the boldest and most self-confident who would aspire to office, and this is surely the Apostle’s intention. One is reminded of our Lord’s reply to the disciples who wished to sit on His right hand and left in His kingdom: “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink? For this is the kind of person you will have to be”. So Paul, here. ‘Blameless’ means irreproachable, unimpeachable in character. “Husband of one wife” has been taken in different ways, to imply (a) that he must be a married man, (b) that he must not be a polygamist, (c) that he must be a faithful husband, (d) that he must not have divorced one wife and married another, (e) that he must not have married a second time after his first wife’s death. This last is disputed on the ground that elsewhere Paul permits the remarriage of widows (cf 1 Cor 7:8,9), but here he is speaking not of ordinary believers but of those in office in the church. It is difficult, however, if not impossible, to decide categorically that this is what Paul has in mind. What is clear, however, is that the ‘blamelessness’ of the bishop must apply to his home-life as well as to his relations with others outside. ‘Vigilant’ means ‘temperate’ in the sense of having balanced judgment. How very necessary this is in the proper conduct of the affairs of God’s house, bringing a wise and mature mind to problems and difficulties that cannot afford to be surrounded by emotional thinking!
Thursday 26th June
1 Timothy 3:2-3
We must look again at these verses. They are too full of teaching to be lightly passed by. Hospitality is a duty, not indeed solely for the ‘bishops’ of a fellowship to exercise, but for all members (Heb 13:2). The word literally means “the love of strangers” (from ‘xenos’, meaning strange or unusual). Obviously there are some more in a position to fulfil this ministry than others, but it is still true that many homes that could be opened to the stranger, the lonely, and the unusual in the fellowship, aren’t. These, however, are the very people who by their need have a claim on Christian care and understanding, and we must learn to put the burden of befriending those who seem ‘out of it’ because of painful shyness or ‘surface’ unattractiveness before the personal satisfaction and pleasure of entertaining people we naturally like and know well. ‘Apt to teach’ does not necessarily imply preaching, for not all in the eldership are called to such a work; but if as believers we are all expected to be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us, it should not be too much to ask of an elder that he be able to instruct others in the way of salvation, either in pastoral oversight or in, say, Sunday School teaching. Ellicott thinks “not given to wine” refers not to drunkenness but to “the habit of frequenting noisy banquets where wild and imprudent words are often spoken”. This, and the other qualities warned against in 3, would seem to underline the need for not only godly but circumspect behaviour. A man of God can never be too careful about where or what he is seen to be or do, for it is seldom that the eyes of men are not assiduously watching him.
Friday 27th June
1 Timothy 3:4-5
There are two opposite dangers to be avoided in the discipline of bringing up children in a Christian home, over-strictness on the one hand, and laxity on the other. What needs to be recognized is that these are false alternatives, and no-one in seeking to avoid the one need fall into the other. Discipline there must be, for letting children please themselves is the surest way of letting them go to the devil. But that discipline must be wise and understanding, not harsh and unfeeling and imperious, for this can reap frightful harvests in later years in young people kicking over the traces, not to say abandoning altogether the faith of their fathers. This, however, requires to be added here: parents should not allow themselves to be haunted by the fear that they are being too strict with their children. The real indictment is not against strict upbringing as such, but only against strictness that is lacking in understanding, and above all in real love and humanity. Let there be real love and caring in the home, and even extreme strictness will do the children no harm. Patient, kindly, loving firmness that will stand no nonsense – this is what Paul means by ‘ruling well’. And if a man fails here, what warrant do we have for supposing that he will rule any better in the house of God? If he is unfaithful in the ‘few things’ (Matt 25:23), is this likely to make him an effective ruler over ‘the many’?
Saturday 28th June
1 Timothy 3:6-7
Paul enumerates two further qualifications for the bishop or elder in these verses. He must not be a novice, that is one who has recently come into the faith. He must first prove himself, and show by steady progress and consistent development in the Christian life that not only is he worthy to assume such a solemn responsibility, but also that he is able to stand it. It is sadly true that there are those who, finding themselves elevated to a position of authority for which neither training nor experience has adequately fitted them, fall sometimes imperceptibly and sometimes headlong into attitudes of pride and vanity. This is much more likely to happen, says Paul, with someone young in the faith, who has not learned how deceitful his own heart is. It is certain that when a man is lifted up with pride in this way, all possibility of usefulness in the service of God is lost, and a fellowship is very fortunate if much worse does not follow. Further, the man chosen must be one who is held in respect by the community as well as by the Church. It is scarcely possible to over-emphasise the importance of this. It is all too possible for a man to be one thing to his associates in the Church and quite another in the outside world. Those outside have a shrewd and sometimes unerring aptitude for penetrating a religious guise; they know when a man is real and when he is not, and are often better able to assess this than those within the fellowship to which he belongs. If a man passes the acid test of the world’s critical scrutiny, he may be brought forward with confidence; but if he does not, then not only will the fellowship be well advised to have second thoughts about his ordination, it will be disastrous if they do not, and it will bring the Church’s good name – and the name of Christ – into disrepute. We can never be too careful in such matters.
Sunday 29th June
1 Timothy 3:8-12
The qualifications for the office of deacon are similar to those for that of bishop or elder given in the previous verses. Deacons were first appointed in Acts 6 ‘to serve tables’, i.e. undertake the responsibility of the ‘daily ministrations’ in the fellowship, handling, so to speak, the material concerns of the Church. ‘Wives’ in 11 is taken by some to refer, not to the wives of the deacons (nothing is said in earlier verses about the wives of bishops), but merely to ‘women’ who are involved in ‘official’ duties in the Church, deaconesses. If this be so, then Paul is stating a common standard of moral and spiritual integrity for all who are called to service in the fellowship, bishops, deacons and deaconesses alike. In this he simply echoes Acts 6 itself, where the great, overriding consideration is that it should be men filled with the Holy Ghost as the apostles themselves were that were to be appointed to the work. Since this is so, it can hardly be thought that the deacons were considered as holding an inferior office to the bishops’, but merely a different one, a point which has relevance, as we shall see, in the interpretation of 13. It would be good for the life of the Church if we thought less in terms of ‘promotion’ in the Church’s service, and more of the one essential qualification required for any service that is to be done, the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit.
Monday 30th June
1 Timothy 3:8-12
There are one or two points of detail to be looked at in these verses before leaving them. ‘Double-tongued’ in 8 could mean ‘repetitive’, and the warning would then be that deacons must not be talebearers, gossiping round the fellowship. But it can also mean saying one thing to this man and another to that, like Mr Facing-both-Ways in Bunyan. There are people who can be very ‘spiritual’ in spiritual company and very ‘unspiritual’ in other company, in with one crowd one day, and in with another the next. They cannot stand being unpopular, because lacking in moral courage and integrity; they are therefore not dependable in the spiritual sense, and ought not to be given responsibility in the work. The commentators say that the stress in 9 is on the phrase ‘in a pure conscience’, as ‘the casket in which the jewel is to be kept’ (one recalls Paul’s phrase in 2 Cor 4, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels”). A jewel, we should remember, is always seen at its best in a proper setting. A godly and circumspect life is the best environment in which to display the glories and beauties of the faith once delivered unto the saints.