Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
proceeds to describe the qualifications of the pastors of congregations, as if to imply that the pastorate did not belong to all men.
I. THE OFFICE OF PASTOR IS A GOOD WORK. "Faithful is the saying, If any one seeketh the office of pastor [or, 'bishop'], he desireth a good work."
1. The office in question was held by persons called by the two names of bishop and elder.
(1) The apostle uses the terms of the same office (Titus 1:5-7).
(2) The terms came from two different quarters. The term "elder," or "presbyter," was of Jewish origin, and was earlier than the other, having been long in use in the synagogue administration. It had respect primarily to the age of those presiding over the religious community, but came by-and-by, and especially in the Christian Church, to signify its head, and was a title of dignity and gravity. The other term, "bishop," came from the Greek world, and was a designation of the duties of the office as involving an oversight of the Churches.
(3) The term "bishop" is, therefore, mostly employed of the Churches in Asia Airier, consisting of converted Greeks, but the Jewish term "elder" had precedence of it at that earlier stage when the Church consisted of a nucleus of converted Jews. In Crete, where the Greek and Jewish elements were about equally powerful, both terms are used.
2. The office in question is a good work. This was one of the faithful sayings of the apostle. It was
(1) a work, not a sinecure, or title of honor, but a laborious office, and therefore pastors are called "laborers in the Word and. doctrine;"
(2) a good work, being excellent in itself, and in its aims as for the good of men and the glory of God.
II. THE PASTORATE IS A WORTHY OBJECT OF AMBITION. "He desireth a good work." It may be laudably desired, not as an office of profit or honor, but with a supreme regard to the glory of God and the welfare of man, and ought not to be undertaken except by those who have a real delight and pleasure in acting upon these great principles. - T.C.
I. QUALIFICATIONS OF A BISHOP. Preliminary direction to Timothy. "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." The Scripture idea of the episcopate is that of oversight, viz. of souls. A bishop was one who had the duty of overseeing a congregation in spiritual matters, being, in respect of gravity and dignity, called presbyter or elder. Timothy was to encourage any who sought to enter into the episcopate. The saying in Christian circles was to be relied on, "If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." It is not a sinecure, but a work or employment taxing the energies. Its excellence lies in its having respect to men's highest interests. But if he was to encourage entrance into the episcopate, he was not to do so without regard to the proper qualifications which he has laid down for him. "The bishop therefore must be without reproach." This is a general qualification. A minister is not to be chosen without regard to character. If a man gives just ground for reproach - has not character behind his gifts - he is not fitted for the office of a minister, which is to influence men in the production of Christian character. "The husband of one wife." Some high authorities take the meaning to be that the contraction of a second marriage, even after the death of the first wife, was a disqualification for the office of a bishop. But this forbidding to ecclesiastics of what in the New Testament is expressly permitted to others, seems to belong to a post-apostolic asceticism. The language seems to be directed against "any deviation from morality in respect of marriage, whether by concubinage, polygamy, or improper second marriages." "Temperate, sober-minded, orderly." One who is to be chosen as a minister must be temperate, i.e. must have command of his desires and his temper. He must also be sober-minded, i.e. must bring sound sense to the consideration of all matters, He must also be orderly, i.e. must have a love for good rules. "Given to hospitality." He must be raised above all meanness toward those whom he ought to entertain. How is he to commend the generosity of God, if he is niggardly in his own dealings? "Apt to teach." This is a special qualification. With all that is righteous and sensible and even lovely in his character, he must have skill in teaching - in opening the Word, and in bringing it to bear for all its uses on the wants of men. However excellent a man's character is, he is not fit for being a minister if he cannot skillfully handle Divine truth. "No brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious." A disqualification is being quarrelsome over wine, and consequently coming to blows. He must, on the other hand, be gentle; i.e. while he is to be thoroughly reasonable, he is to be kindly and forbearing, waiving even his rights for the sake of gaining his end as a minister, viz. the spiritual good of those with whom he deals. It is a disqualification to be contentious, i.e. to be in one's element, and to give way to unholy feelings, in fighting. "No lover of money." It is a further disqualification to have a groveling desire for money, instead of having a feeling of responsibility with regard to its proper uses. "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity." This is in one view an ordinary qualification, inasmuch as it is what is expected of every one who is in authority in a house. It is expected even of a man who is not qualified to teach that he can rule well his own house, i.e. lay down proper rules for his household, and see to their being carried out. The apostle's idea of ruling the house well, is the having the children in subjection with all gravity. "In the phrase, 'all gravity,' he is looking at a kind of obedience that touches the deepest notes of principle and character. Contrary to this, there is an obedience without principle, which is obedience with all levity; that which is paid to mere will and force; that which is another name for fear; that which is bought by promises and paid by indulgences; that which makes a time-server, or a coward, or a lying pretender, as the case may be, and not a Christian. This latter - that which makes a Christian - is the aim of all true government, and should never be out of sight for an hour." Parenthesis showing how a bishop ought to be able to rule his own house well. "But if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?" A bishop has to manage men. The Church of God is the family enlarged and heightened. If one fails in the lower sphere, how, can he be expected to succeed in the higher sphere? Even Confucius had before this time said, "It is impossible that be who knows not how to govern and reform his own family should rightly govern and reform a people." "Not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil." By a novice we are to understand a recent convert to Christianity. Such a one being necessarily inexperienced in the truth, and also in the evil of his own heart, was unfitted for office. And the putting him into office was fitted to have a bad effect upon him. The introducer of evil into the universe was in high position, but gave way to a feeling of pride. How this feeling operated is described by a word, which means enveloped with smoke, as if that were the kind of atmosphere that pride throws around a person. In some matter in which his rank was involved, under the clouding of pride, instead of bending to the will of God, which would have been his approval, he asserted his self-importance, which was his condemnation. So the novice, instead of being weighed down under the responsibilities of office, is more likely, under the clouding of pride occasioned by his elevation, to fall into the condemnation of the devil. "Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without lest he fall into reproach; and the snare of the devil." He must be able to command the respect of non-Christians, especially for his acting in a way consistent with his professions. For if he falls so low as not to be respected by those, then this want of respect is sure to be used as a snare by Satan for his destruction.
II. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS. "Deacons in like manner." Deacons, originally the almoners of the Church, came to be regarded as assistants of the eiders, having the oversight of the temporal affairs as these of the spiritual affairs of a congregation. "Must be grave." They must feel the responsibility of life, and especially the responsibility connected with their office. "Not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre." Of the three disqualifications, the first has respect to a temptation connected with the desire for public favor, the second has respect to a temptation connected with the enjoyment of hospitality, the third has respect to a temptation connected with the use of office. Those who serve God in the management of the temporal affairs of a congregation must be free from obsequiousness, from intemperate habits, from avarice. "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." Their duty to the truth, regarded as the object of faith which was formerly concealed from men, was not to teach it, but to enshrine it in a holy life, characterized by the power which has to do with the production of it. "And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless." The deacons, no more than the bishops, were to be put suddenly into office. Opportunity was to be given for their being proved, and, if found to be blameless in the estimation of those who had opportunity of watching their conduct, they were to be appointed to service.
III. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONESSES. "Women in like manner." The apostle has not yet given all the qualifications of the deacons; we must, therefore, think of these women as closely associated with the diaconate. We might think of the wives of the deacons, but, as nothing has been said about the wives of bishops, and as by the insertion of the phrase, "in like manner," we are led to think of the election of women to office, it is better to think of deaconesses. We have an example of a deaconess in Phoebe of Cenchrea, mentioned in Romans 16:1. They were probably assistants in the same way as the deacons, in so far as they had the care of the sick and the destitute. "Must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things." It was fitting that those who were engaged in such service should be women who were serious, or free from frivolity. They were not to go about from house to house as bearers of evil reports. They were to be temperate, or free from all unholy excitement. And they were to be faithful in all things, not abusing their charge.
IV. QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS RESUMED. "Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own house well." In these two particulars the apostle requires the same qualifications of the deacons as of the bishops. "For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." The old translation is preferable here - "purchase to themselves a good degree." The idea is that they obtain for themselves a step, or get higher up. In those days this might mean their elevation to the episcopate. They also obtain Christian boldness, such as was especially required in those days of peril. For getting up, and the encountering of greater difficulties, go together. - R.F.
I. HE OUGHT TO BE BLAMELESS. It may be hard for a faithful man to avoid the censure of a critical society, but he must be irreproachable as being guilty of no scandal, and, above all, free from the vices enumerated under the negative aspect of his qualifications. He must be held in high moral repute by the community around him.
II. HE IS TO BE THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE.
1. This condemns the rule of celibacy in the Church of Rome. It is quite absurd to say that the "one wife' is the Church; for the context regards the minister as having relation both to a Church and to a wife (ver. 5). Besides, this Roman ides would make the Church the wife of many husbands. Where the apostle, in the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, seems to favor a celibate condition "on account of the present distress," it is not on account of any superior holiness belonging to the unmarried state, but because it sometimes affords a better opportunity for pursuing Christian work under trying conditions.
2. It does not necessarily compel pastors to marry, like the Greek Church, which yet inconsistently reserves its bishoprics for unmarried monks. But it clearly gives the preference to a married ministry.
3. It does not mean that a pastor is to avoid a second marriage - as the Greek Fathers generally understood it under the growing influence of Eastern asceticism - because the apostle sanctions such marriages (1 Corinthians 7:1); and, secondly, because a remarrying does not make a pastor more than the husband of one wife.
4. It seems, then, to mean that the pastor was to be "the husband of one wife," avoiding the polygamy that was then so common among the Jews, and the system of divorce still so common in that age, and remaining faithful to the wife of his choice.
III. SOBER. He must be not only so in eating and drinking, but watchful over himself, his work, and his actions.
IV. DISCREET. With a sound judgment and good understanding, capable of directing himself wisely in the midst of difficult situations.
V. ORDERLY. With a due proportion in his life, modest in deportment, courteous to all, of a calm temper and grave demeanor.
VI. GIVEN TO HOSPITALITY. In an age when Christians traveled from place to place, and were exposed to the risks of evil companionship in public inns, it was important that pastors should be able to show hospitality, and assist with their counsel as well as with the necessaries of life.
VII. APT TO TEACH. The pastor must have the capacity to impart Christian knowledge, the ability to interpret Scripture, to explain its doctrines, to enforce its precepts, and to defend it against errorists of every class. He must possess the gifts of utterance and knowledge. He must have both "skill and will, ability and dexterity, being neither ignorant of his duty nor negligent in the performance of it." - T.C.
I. NOT VIOLENT OVER WINE. In allusion not so much to drunkenness as to the noisy and quarrelsome temper which is generated by wine bibbing. The word impliedly condemns both cause and effect.
II. NO STRIKER. In evident allusion to the previous temper. The pastor must never lift his hand in anger or violence.
III. FORBEARING. Reasonable and gentle, rather disposed to take wrong than avenge it.
IV. NOT CONTENTIOUS. Neither litigious nor quarrelsome, seeking peace with all men.
V. NO LOVER OF MONEY. He must appear to be perfectly disinterested, not mercenary in his aims, not seeking his own things rather than the things of Jesus Christ; but, on the contrary, he must himself be generous and hospitable and kind, with a heart and a hand ever ready to relieve distress. - T.C.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF A WELL-ORDERED HOUSEHOLD. "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity."
1. The pastor is no ascetic recluse, but shares in the everyday life of the world.
2. He must have firmness and authority to rule his family - wife, children, and servants; not slack in his rule like old Eli, but faithful as Abraham, who not only taught but commanded his children and household to keep the way of the Lord.
3. He is to rule gently yet firmly, so as, while securing subjection in his household, he creates that gravity of deportment which is the accompanying grace of obedience in children reared under wise and loving mastery.
II. THE WELL-ORDERED HOUSEHOLD THE TEST OF FITNESS FOR THE RULE OF THE HOUSE OF GOD. "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?"
1. The argument is from the less to the greater. The family is the lesser sphere, the Church the larger family. The family needs much prudence, care, forethought, affection. But while it is the narrowest sphere, it is governed with peculiar advantages, arising from the feelings of love and dependence on the part of the children. If there is failure here, there is a self-evident unfitness for the wider and more complex administration of the Church.
2. The Church of God is to be a subject of anxious care to the pastor. The Greek word implies this thought. The apostle himself had the care of all the Churches upon him. But the pastor has a care for the individual members of his flock, to seek the conversion of sinners, to instruct the ignorant, to guide the perplexed, to comfort the doubting, to check the wayward, and to defend the flock against errorists. "Who is sufficient for these things?" - T.C.
I. THE ADVANTAGES OF EXPERIENCE IN A PASTOR. The apostle does not refer to youth, but to inexperience. Yet the qualification must be regarded relatively; for a longer or a shorter probation might be required, according to circumstances. The Church at Ephesus had been long enough established to admit of a selection being made out of men of Christian experience and wisdom. It is significant to remark that no definite age is assigned for candidates for the ministry. In a Church like that of Ephesus, threatened with heresy within and violence without, it was necessary that the elders should be men with a rare understanding of the mysteries of the faith, and with a large fund of sanctified experience.
II. THE REASON OR GROUND OF THE APOSTLE'S COUNSEL. "Lest, being besotted with pride, he should fall into the condemnation of the devil."
1. The risk of the novice is an undue self-elation, arising from the thought of the dignity of his office and of the estimation in which he is held on account of his gifts. His judgment would thus become clouded, and he would fail to see the true relation of things.
2. The consequence would be his falling under the very condemnation pronounced upon the devil. Thus a blinding pride would receive its just retribution.
3. It is evident that the apostle believed in the existence of a personal evil spirit, the adversary of God and man. It is equally evident that he regarded the fall of the devil as clue to pride, and that he regarded him as the tempter of man. - T.C.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF AN UNBLEMISHED REPUTATION. "But he must also have a good testimony from them that are without."
1. It is a mistake to ignore or defy the opinion of the world in matters falling fairly within its judgment. What we do ought not only to be "acceptable to God, but approved of men" (Romans 14:18). "Let not your good be evil spoken of" (Romans 14:16). The world understands the principles of natural justice. The minister cannot violate these without loss of reputation and influence.
2. A blameless life is calculated to make a deep impression on the world. "Let your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Your holy walk ought to attract "those that are without" into the happy communion of the Church.
3. It is a great evil to blast the reputation if Christian ministers, for it undermines their influence for good.
II. THE DANGERS OF A DOUBTFUL REPUTATION BEFORE THE WORLD. "Lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." It would be a great risk to introduce into the ministry one who had once followed a loose life, because those who were familiar with his history would be ready to suspect the purity of his congregation from the blemished reputation of its pastor. The effect in the minister might be diverse.
1. He might be excited to an angry resentment of such disagreeable attacks.
2. He might fall into despair, and thus become reckless, and ultimately justly the worst imputations of the world.
3. He might cease to reprove transgressors because he had not the courage to condemn faults which were only too observable in himself. Thus the devil would set its snares around him for his undoing. When George III. was asked to give a bishopric to a clergyman who had made a serious lapse from virtue, and was told that the clergyman had long ago repented of it, his appropriate answer was, "I would rather appoint bishops who had not that particular sin to repent of." - T.C.
I. THE ORDER OF DEACONS.
1. Their origin. We find the first trace of the order about two years after the Ascension (Acts 6:1-4). It owed its origin to a necessity that arose from the extension of the Church. Seven deacons were appointed as almoners. They are not so called, but their name is traceable in the two terms which indicate the sphere of their office, "serving tables" and "ministry" (διακονία διακονεῖν τραπέζαις).
2. Their sphere of duty. It is expressly distinguished from "the ministry of the Word" and "prayer" (ver. 4), and was therefore, as the "serving of tables" signifies, an office for the care of the poor and strangers who might be connected with the Church. The deaconship was, therefore, a purely secular office.
3. Historic notices of deacons. The earliest notices of the order are apparently in Romans 12:7, "Or ministry (deaconship), let us wait on our ministering" (deaconship); in 1 Corinthians 12:28," helps" (ἀντιλήψεις); and at a later time in 1 Peter 4:11, "If any man minister" (διακονεῖ). We read in Philippians 1:1 of "the bishops and deacons," and in Romans 16:1 of Phoebe as "a deaconess" of the Church at Cenchrea.
II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS.
1. "Grave." Of a serious demeanor, befitting the position of responsibility held by them.
2. "Not double-tongued." Not saying one thing to one person and another to another, under the pressure, perhaps, of applications for assistance; or, not promising aid which is afterwards withheld. Misunderstandings would necessarily arise from any kind of prevarication.
3. "Not addicted to much wine." The deacons must not be given to pleasures of the table, which render people unfit for disagreeable duty, and tempt to the consumption of the wealth committed to their keeping.
4. "Not lovers of base gain." There might otherwise arise a Judas among the deacons to embezzle the Church funds.
5. "Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."
(1) The mystery is what faith is conversant with - a thing once secret, but now revealed by Christ's gospel; called variously "the mystery of God," "the mystery of Christ," "the mystery of his will," "the mystery of godliness," and "the mystery of the gospel," which is the great subject of gospel-preaching. It was the mystery of redemption through the blood of Christ.
(2) The mystery of faith was not to be speculatively, but practically, held and maintained. "In a pure conscience." The deacons were to be sincerely attached to the truth, and to realize its practical power in their life and experience.
(3) They are to "hold the mystery," not to preach it. There is no intimation that the deacons, as such, were preachers, though two of them (Stephen and Philip) are afterwards found acting as evangelists.
III. THE METHOD OF THEIR APPOINTMENT. "And these also let them first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they are without blame."
1. The election of the seven deacons was left in the hands of the Christian people themselves. (Acts 6:3.)
2. There is no formal method prescribed for testing their qualifications. Their fitness could be easily judged of without any regular investigation. The moral element, however, was to be supreme in such appointments; for they were not chosen unless they were "without blame."
3. Their formal appointment to service. Let them serve in the various branches of their office as deacons. - T.C.
I. IT IS CHRIST IN ALL HIS RELATIONS AS THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS. This implies that he is the Revelation of God to man; for God "has made known what is the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the Hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Thus Christianity is Christ. He is the Center of Christian theology, as he is the Object of Christian faith and love.
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST. He is set forth as the Life of the Church, and if he were not God as well as man, the mystery would not be so obvious to our understanding.
1. He was "manifested in the flesh." This very expression implies the divinity of Christ; for it would be superfluous, if not absurd, to say these words of any mere man. The words imply
(1) that it was essential Deity that was manifested;
(2) that it was a manifestation made, not to our understanding, but to our senses;
(3) that there was a real incarnation, for he was manifest in the flesh, or, as John says, "The Word was made flesh." It was not only by the flesh, but in the flesh.
2. He was "justified in the spirit." He was approved to be righteous in the higher principle of spiritual life within him. There is no allusion to the Holy Spirit. The spirit here is the counterpart of the flesh. Christ fulfilled all righteousness. If his manifestation in the flesh exhibited his true and real humanity, his justification in the spirit exhibited his holiness and perfection. The passage consists of a series of parallel clauses, of which every two form a connected pair.
3. He was "seen of angels." In the sense of showing himself to them in his incarnation. They announced his advent, they ministered to his wants, they heralded his resurrection, they attended him in his triumphant return to heaven, and they now see him in his glorified humanity.
4. He was "preached among the Gentiles." Here, again, is another pair of opposites; the angels inhabitants of a holy heaven, the Gentiles inhabitants of a sinful earth. It was one of the six glories of our Redeemer that he was to be a "Light to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 49:6).
5. He was "believed on in the world." Christianity is a world-wide religion, embraced by men of all nationalities; unlike Mohammedanism and Buddhism, which are restricted to the East. The gospel finds acceptance alike in East and West.
6. He was "received up in glory." In reference to Christ's historical ascent to heaven amidst circumstances of marvelous glory. The last pair of opposites is the world and glory. How far they are apart! Yet they are brought nigh by the blood of Christ. This passage, from its antithetical structure, would seem to have been an ancient hymn of the Church, setting forth the leading facts of the Messianic story. - T.C.
I. THE ORDER OF DEACONESSES. There was evidently such an order in the primitive Church. Phoebe of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1), Euodias and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2), and probably the association with which Dorcas was connected at Joppa (Acts 9:36-41), seem to have belonged to the order. The order did not cease to exist till the fifth century in the Latin Church, and till the twelfth in the Greek Church. It had its origin, probably, in the extreme jealousy which guarded the relations of the sexes in early times, for women were comparatively secluded from the society of men. Deaconesses were, therefore, appointed to maintain the religious intercourse of Christian women with a Church whose ministrations were in the hands of men.
II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONESSES.
1. "Grave." Not given to levity or gay manners, but sober in speech, gesture, and dress.
2. "Not slanderers." Not too ready to take up an accusation against the poor, or too ready to use the tongue in the way of false insinuation.
3. "Sober." Not to be given to pleasures of the table, but showing a seemly abstemiousness.
4. "Faithful in all things." Faithful in all ecclesiastical duties.
(1) Faithful to the poor, whose secrets are to be jealously kept;
(2) faithful to the Church, which entrusts its funds to their wise and discriminating distribution; and
(3) faithful to God in all religious obligations whatsoever. - T.C.
I. THE DEACONS' DOMESTIC RELATIONS.
1. "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife." The same qualification is needed for deacons as for bishops, for their houses were to be examples of purity, peace, and orderliness.
2. "Ruling their children and their own houses well." The father of a loving household would be best fitted for the sympathetic administration of funds allocated to the poor, while the pious order of his family would enhance the public confidence in the reality of his religious character.
II. REASON FOR THE VARIOUS QUALIFICATIONS DESCRIBED. "For those who have done the work of a deacon well obtain for themselves a good degree, and much boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."
1. The good degree does not refer to promotion to higher ecclesiastical office. The idea, indeed, would be quite an anachronism.
2. It refers to the place of honor and distinction that will be given to the faithful deacon in the day of final recompense. The doctrine of rewards is that of Scripture, and especially of our Lord's parables (Matthew 25:45; Luke 19:11-27).
3. There is the further idea of the joyful confidence toward God which would characterize him in view of a faithful discharge of his duties - a confidence springing out of faith resting in Jesus Christ. - T.C.
I. THE NECESSITY OF A DUE ORDER IN THE CHURCH.
1. Darbyites suppose that it is wrong for man to make arrangements in God's Church - that it is the Holy Ghost who should regulate the order of worship and service, and that his presidency should be recognized in everything. In that case why should the apostle have been at such pains to regulate even the ministrations of prophets and speakers with tongues at Corinth? God is a God of peace, not of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).
2. It was not enough for Timothy to stir up his own persona! gifts and do the work of an evangelist, but he must execute the special commission he had received from the apostle, to regulate the appointment of the office-bearers of the Church, and the details of Church worship. The Church was to be guided in choice of ministers by the considerations suggested by the apostle.
3. There was special reason for these instructions in the rise of heresies at Ephesus and elsewhere. (1 Timothy 4:1-3.)
II. THE DIGNITY AND OFFICE OF THE CHURCH. It is "God's house, which indeed is the Church of the living God, the pillar and basement of the truth."
1. It is the Church of the living God.
(1) It is so, regarded either as the Christian congregation with a local reference, or as the whole Church of the redeemed, in communion with Christ and with each of its members.
(2) Its internal glory consists in the fact that it is no material temple of dead deities, like the proud temple of Diana which reared itself aloft over the roofs of Ephesus; but a spiritual community, realizing the living and personal presence of God in the midst of it.
2. It is the house of God.
(1) This term denoted primarily the temple at Jerusalem, and secondarily the covenant people (Numbers 12:7; Hosea 8:1), who had God for a Sanctuary or Dwelling-place (Psalm 90:1; Ezekiel 11:16). There was a mutual indwelling - they in him, and he in them.
(2) It now denotes the Church of God, represented variously as
(a) a spiritual building resting on Christ as chief Corner-stone (Ephesians 2:20);
(b) as the true temple in which God dwells (1 Corinthians 6:16);
(c) as the household or "house of God," over which is Christ as Son (Hebrews 3:6) - "whose house are we." Moses was servant in this house, Jesus a Son over it; it was, therefore, the same house in the two dispensations. A proof, in opposition to Darbyism, that the Church existed in Old Testament times, and did not first come into existence at Pentecost.
3. It is the pillar and basement of the truth.
(1) Negatively, Christ, and not the Church, is the only ground of truth. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 3:11). This passage implies that the Church rests upon the truth rather than that the truth rests on the Church. But a misapprehension arises from confounding the truth as it is in itself with the truth as apprehended by believers and acknowledged before the world. Further, the truth does not derive its authority from the Church, but from Christ.
(2) Positively, the passage sets forth
(a) the presentative manifestation of the truth; for "the Church is the pillar of the truth." The Church is to hold up the saving truths of the gospel before the eyes of men. It is a pillar inscribed all over with the truth. Without the Church "there would be no witness, no guardian of archives, no basis, nothing whereon acknowledged truth would rest." It is the Church which holds the deposit of truth, and perpetuates it from generation to generation.
(b) The passage sets forth the stability of the truth. "The Church is the basis of truth." The truth finds its true basis in the hearts of believing men, who hold forth the glories of redemption amidst all the fluctuations of the world. There is nothing in this exposition to sanction the assumptions of the Church of Rome, because she must first substantiate her claims to be a teacher of the truth before she can be regarded as "a pillar and ground of the truth." - T.C.
I. REASON FOR GIVING TIMOTHY WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS. "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Paul hoped to come to Timothy at Ephesus shortly; there was a possibility, however, of his hope not being realized. In the event of his tarrying long, Timothy had written instructions for his conduct as an ecclesiastic. It would be held to be of great consequence that any one who officiated in the temple of Diana should be in a fit state of body and of mind, and should be conversant with the ceremonial. It was of far greater consequence that Timothy should know what was suitable behavior for the house of God. This was not the temple of a dead idol, but - passing over from the material structure to what was typified by it - the Church of the living God. It was "a living and spiritual community, a life-stream of believers in an ever-living God." It was fitting, then, that there should be those arrangements which are most conducive to the life of the community. This Church of the living God is declared to be the pillar and ground of the truth. There was a singular appropriateness in the language. The columns in the temple of Diana were one hundred and twenty-seven in number, sixty feet high, each the gift of a king. Massive in their form, substantial in their basement, they gave promise of the structure being upheld in its integrity down: through the centuries. And such it seemed to Paul was the Church - a columnar structure, substantially based, by which the truth is to be upheld from age to age. It is a great honor which God has laid on such imperfect believers as we are; and we should see to it that we do not belie the representation, that we do nothing to take away from the strength of the structure, that we preserve the continuity of the Church's life, that we witness faithfully to what God is and to what he has done.
II. GRANDEUR OF THE TRUTH UPHELD BY THE CHURCH. "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness." The truth is here called "the mystery of godliness." A mystery is that which, being concealed for a time is brought out of concealment by a revelation. It is also something above our comprehension. And that meaning is not excluded here. For it is the mystery of godliness or piety. It is the mystery by which the Divine life is nourished in the soul. As religious beings, we need something that stretches away into infinitude. We can only breathe freely in an element of mystery. All religions that have ever been have sought to provide for the appetite for the wonderful. And where there has not been found real mystery, there have been dark inventions. But composedly great is the mystery, which the Christian religion provides for our nourishment. It is pronounced great by all who are capable of judging. And even those who reject it do so not infrequently on the ground of its being incredible, or too great to be true. The subject of the mystery is Christ. As set forth in the language which follows it is entirely Christ, or the facts about Christ. And the teaching is that it is by meditating upon these facts that we become pious or religious. Of the facts themselves we can take tangible hold; it is when we try to explain them to ourselves that we rise into the region where our religious feelings are excited and receive their nourishment. The rhythmic way in which the facts are presented has led some to suppose that they are taken from a Christian hymn in existence at the time when Paul wrote. We can believe them to have been written by Paul. In either case they have the stamp of the Holy Ghost. They are to be divided into threes, the first two in each division pointing to earthly relations, the third to heavenly. Of the earthly relations, the first in each division is external, the second internal. Facts particularized. "He who was manifested in the flesh." There is good reason for the change from "God" to "He who." We are not dependent on the old reading for the proof of our Lord's divinity. The manifestation of Christ implies previous concealment. And the language is more suggestive of the concealment of pre-existence than of the concealment of non-existence. The beginning of the mystery is Christ coming out of that concealment. "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." The Creator descended into the conditions, circumstances, of a creature. He was made of the substance of a woman. The almighty Builder of the universe was a helpless infant on a mother's knee. The eternal Son was the infant of days. He descended so low that he had to proceed from weakness to strength, from ignorance to knowledge. That, however, is only part of the mystery. It is said here that he was manifested in the flesh, and that means, not our nature as it came from the hand of God, but our nature as it has suffered from the fall. He descended into our weak, passable, mortal nature, to which the unfallen Adam was a stranger. He was in a state of utter bodily exhaustion from want of food when he was tempted in the wilderness. He sat down wearied with his journey at Jacob's well. He was often worn out with the arduous nature of his work. His compassion brought sorrow to his heart, which found vent in tears and sighs and groans. At last his flesh succumbed, could not bear any longer the burden laid on it; and his lifeless body was laid in the tomb. But still, as we consider, the mystery deepens. He died, not as paying the common debt of nature, but under the stroke of the Divine vengeance. "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, against the Man that is mine equal, saith the Lord of hosts." This is not so much for the understanding as for the inner sanctuary of the heart. It is not so much to be fixed in words as to be pondered and admired and felt. "Justified in the spirit." In the flesh he did not appear to be the pre-existent Son of God, and the Sent of God to be the Savior of the world; but he was this in his spirit or higher nature, and was vindicated as such both in the Divine marks which were put upon him, and in the principle which pervaded his life. There was a mark put upon him at the very first in his being separated from the taint of our nature through the power of the Holy Ghost. The glimpse we have of him in his youth shows him right in spirit both toward his Father and that Father's earthly representatives. At his baptism he received not the Spirit by measure, and there was the attestation of the voice from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." At the outset of his public career, under extreme temptation, he showed that he was not to be turned aside from his mission. His starry pathway of miracles witnessed to the truth of his claims. And not less did his opening of the mind of God, and application of the truth to human need, witness to the singleness and loftiness of his spirit. There was a reiterated attestation from heaven to his Divine nature and mission at his transfiguration. But especially was he justified in the manner in which he died. He resisted unto blood, striving against sin. As we with some degree of resignation may bear a light trial, so he with perfect resignation bore the unmitigated weight of the Divine vengeance. As we with some degree of self-forgetfulness may labor for those who are near to us, so he with perfect self-forgetfulness and magnanimity sacrificed himself for sinners. That death in all its terribleness, reaching far beyond our conception, was what pre-eminently made proof of him, and it showed his spirit to be in perfect accord with the will of God in salvation. Last of all, he was justified by his resurrection. It is said, in Romans 1:4, that by this he was declared with power to be the Son of God. It was God setting his seal upon his whole career. Because he was pleased with the manner in which he had acted all along, saw the ends of justice and mercy carried out successfully in human salvation, therefore it was that he raised him from the dead. "Seen of angels." He was an object of interest to the heavenly world. We find angels jubilantly ushering him into this world, within sight and hearing of men. They appear at the commencement of his ministry, strengthening him after his temptation. And again they appear at the close, strengthening him after his agony, and also watching over his tomb. But were they not always there behind the veil? Unseen by us, they go about our world ministering to the heirs of salvation. Would they not minister, more than was seen, to the Author of salvation? They came forward upon the scene at critical times. It was enough; we can imagine the rest. But the language seems also to point to the fact that, in becoming incarnate, Christ made himself to be seen by angels. In the human form assumed by him he held them in rapt gaze. They could not turn away from beholding and wondering. They saw the Son of God in a form that was level to them, that was even below them; for he was made a little lower than the angels. What cause for wonder in the change from that ineffable, unapproachable glory to this frail flesh; from that God most high, to this infant lying in a manger! And as the mystery was developed, how would their wonder increase! He was degraded until he could to no lower depth be degraded. Well might they be overwhelmed with wonder as they looked on at Calvary. Having a desire to look into these things, as we are told, they would be lost in trying to account for them. Even when knowing the object contemplated, they would be amazed to think that, for the accomplishment of it, the Divine Son should descend into such a condition of mortal woe. "Preached among the nations." This is quite a new interest. Angels merely saw, admired from a distance. They were spectators contemplating that in which they were not directly involved. It was different with men. He was the subject of an evangel to them. He was proclaimed as their personal Savior, without whom they were lost, in whom alone they had standing before God and everlasting blessedness. But stress is laid upon the universal reference of the preaching. He was preached, not to one nation, but among the nations (Jews included), without distinction. This was being realized as historical fact. He was being proclaimed without respect to national distinction, without respect to social condition, without respect to culture, with respect simply to the fact that all were sinners and in need of salvation. Following upon his having taken the common nature, and his having wrought out the common salvation, the message of salvation was being conveyed with the utmost impartiality. This was part of the mystery which was then being disclosed, and which the unprejudiced agreed in calling great. It was impressive to the early Church to witness the proclamation of a world-wide salvation. "Believed on in the world." God does not force us to believe. There must be a sufficient cause for our faith, sufficient to move our hearts and gain us over. Our faith must be caused in a rational way, in a way consistent with the nature of God and our own nature. The cause must be homogeneous with respect to the effect; spiritual as faith is a spiritual effect. How, then, is Christ to be believed on in the world, i.e. in that which is naturally unbelieving, which contains no germ of faith which can be cultivated? How can light be brought out of darkness, how can faith be brought out of unbelief? And yet what have we here? There is such a potency in the fact of God incarnate as to work a moral miracle, to evoke faith from that which is naturally incapable of faith. And wherein does the potency lie? It is in the love which the fact manifests. "The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me." He did not spare himself all the humiliation of the death of the cross. That is a fact which requires to be contemplated; but, as it is contemplated, it asserts its power over hearts, so as to make the insensate feel, the unbelieving believe. Now, the apostle regards it as glorious testimony to the greatness of the mystery that Christ should actually be believed on in the world, that there should be some trophies of the power of his love over unbelief, that there should be some to offer him a home in their hearts. "Received up in glory." In the biographies of great men we are told of one achievement gained after another, of one honor conferred after another. But however long and glorious the scroll which can be shown, it has to end with their bidding a long farewell to all their greatness. And, though monuments are raised to their memory, it cannot take away the essential ingloriousness of the termination to their career. With Christ it is at the earthly termination that to outward appearance he becomes great. He had indeed, like others and more than others, to undergo the ingloriousness of dying, and of being laid in the tomb. But that ingloriousness was completely reversed by his resurrection. He lingered long enough on earth for history to attest the fact that he was indeed risen. And then he made his triumphal entry into heaven. "Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive." He was received up into glory - into glorious exaltation in our nature at the right hand of God - and in glory he forever remains. This is conclusive evidence to the greatness of the mystery. The godly delight to dwell upon and to feed their life, not only with the humiliation, but, beyond that, with the exaltation. - R.F.
do may be accidental; what I am is everything. Paul has been addressing pastors, deacons, women professing godliness, and wives. He has dealt with marriage, and the ruling of children; and now he speaks to the Church about the conduct of men in church. WHAT IS BEHAVIOR? A man's behavior reveals much of what he is. Earnest or frivolous; gentle or hard; forgiving or unforgiving; selfish or generous; pitiful or censorious; appreciative or unthankful. Behavior is an every-hour sermon. It corrects the notion that a man's religion is mainly in his doctrine or opinions, his ritual or ceremonial. Manners are not to be put on like a garment, nor can we masquerade in them and pretend to be what we are not. Bending the knee is nothing, if we are not reverent at heart. A gift is nothing, unless given from love. Prayer is nothing, unless our life is a prayer. Praise is nothing, unless our life be a garment of praise. Manners are not etiquette, nor best dresses, nor courtesies of speech; they are the expressions of a life. In this aspect their potency is wonderful. In church we are to behave well; not to give ourselves airs, as rich, or learned, or superior people, but to remember that we are bought with a price. But behavior is not much thought about. There is an idea that some men are good at heart, though they are brusque, if you knew how to approach them. This is nonsense. The flower does not wait for me to unfold it; it does not say, "If you knew how to tempt my kindness, I would give you fragrant incense." It is a flower everywhere, to everybody. - W.M.S.
Kurios oikos. These two words abbreviated make "church" or "kirk."
I. IF IT BE THE CHURCH OF GOD, IN OUR BEHAVIOUR THERE MUST BE REVERENCE. Reverence is at the root of all religion. Flippancy of manner, indevoutness of heart, will destroy the best service. We read the old command, "Ye shall reverence my sanctuary, saith the Lord;" and wherever we meet together, even in the humblest church, "the Lord is in his holy temple," and we are to "keep silence" or "be reverent" before him.
II. BEHAVIOUR MEANS LIFE. It is the Church, not merely of the God of Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, but of the living God. We do not build temples as monuments of a past glory. Christ said, "Do this in remembrance of me." Before his departure he said, "I go away and come again;" and wherever two or three are gathered together in his Name, there he is in the midst of them. This Church of God is further described as the pillar, or ground and stay, of the truth; that is to say, that no sacred books will preserve religion without a sacred life. Men may answer an argument or adopt a theory, but the victory of the early Church was won by the Church's life or behavior. "See how these Christians love one another." Learn, then, the great lesson, that behavior is everything. "How unblamably we behave ourselves," says Paul to the Thessalonians. "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way," says the psalmist. - W.M.S.