1 Timothy 3:8-13
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;…
I. Now there is a prevailing error to which we are exposed in the present day, of NOT SUFFICIENTLY RECOGNIZING IN REVEALED TRUTH MYSTERIES WHICH LIE BEYOND THE REACH OF HUMAN COMPREHENSION. By far the greater portion of the doctrines which compose the scheme of Christianity are mysteries which pass man's understanding. Such, for example, is the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. Here, however, let me observe that although a mystery, it is a mystery of faith. It is not a revelation of which the mystery affords any excuse for unbelief. It is a mystery, I confess, upon God's part, of incomprehensible wisdom, power, and love; but yet it is a mystery upon which we may rely with the fullest assurance. It is the more important to observe this, because there are many minds before which the mysteries of Divine truth present themselves as an apology for unbelief. The facts of Christianity, and the doctrines which flow out of them, are amply attested. There is a marvellous self-evidencing property in the Gospel. Crowded though it be with mysteries, it is so constructed as to bespeak its suitableness to the moral necessities of the fallen. We appeal, then, not only to the evidence upon which the truth of the gospel rests, as contained in God's Word, but also to the results which have attended its proclamation, in corroboration of its claim, mystery though it be, to implicit faith. It is this mystery which has conferred upon mankind ten thousand blessings for time, the pledges and foretokens of yet richer blessings in eternity.
II. But here the practical question arises, WHAT IS IT TO "HOLD THE MYSTERY OF THE FAITH IN A PURE CONSCIENCE"; or, in other words, to what course of action are we summoned by the direction which the apostle here gives? Now, a pure conscience is "a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man." It is a conscience enlightened by the Holy Ghost, and free from accusation, whether on the ground of duty omitted or of precept infringed. To hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, is therefore to be so under the influence of revealed truth as to be thereby impelled to practise all that God has enjoined, and to avoid whatsoever God has forbidden. Now, for nothing is the Bible more remarkable than for the practical nature of all its disclosures. There is not a doctrine of revealed truth which is not both designed and adapted to influence the daily life and conversation; and never can the truth be held in a pure conscience but where the creed which is professed is exemplified in the conduct. Take, for example, any of the elementary truths of revelation, and you may discern at once their practical character. There is the revealed truth of the omnipresence of God, a truth which no man can hold the mystery of the faith and yet deny. According to this doctrine, we believe that God is everywhere and at all times present. Never can we escape from His observation — never elude His watchful inspection. This is a part of the mystery of the faith. And so with regard to every component part of the mystery of the faith. To hold it in a pure conscience is to allow every Christian doctrine to have its legitimate influence over the entire walk and conversation. This, then, it is to "hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience." It is to make every revealed doctrine a fresh motive for striving after moral perfection. Alas! there may be a "holding the mystery of the faith," but not "in a pure conscience." There may be familiarity with Christian truth, orthodoxy of creed, clearness in the enunciation of the Gospel mysteries, zeal in the maintenance of the truth, and skill in contending against error, where, nevertheless, we look in vain for a correspondence between the profession of the lip and the language of the daily life. The mystery of the faith is held; it is expounded, professed, defended, and yet it is not held in a pure conscience. Its influence is counteracted by a life not regulated by the principles confessed.
Parallel VersesKJV: Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;