《Coffman Commentaries on the Bible – 1 Timothy》(James B. Coffman) Commentator

for already some are turned aside after Satan


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for already some are turned aside after Satan.

It was no theoretical danger Paul guarded against. Only God can know what shame and loss had already come to the church in Ephesus from the very situation Paul was dealing with in this passage.

Verse 16
If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, and let not the church be burdened; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.

This merely applies all that was said of a man having widows in his household, earlier in this chapter, with equal force to affluent or wealthy widows, who are here made responsible in the same manner as were the men.

And let not the church be burdened ... The thought is not that the church would not step in,"[19] where those responsible were not doing their duty, but that they should not be called upon to do so.

Relieve them ... No definite method is suggested, but there are many instances in which one widow can provide a home for another.


[19] Ibid., p. 678.

Verse 17

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in the teaching.

All of the elders were "apt to teach" by definition, and all were associated together in the rulership of the church; and therefore there is no distinction here between so-called classes of "elders," a conceit that finally issued in the development of the monarchical bishop of later ages. Timothy had just been instructed to show the proper regard and respect to all elderly persons; and here is the admonition to let that honor be even more conspicuous in his dealings with the elders of the church. It is true enough that financial remuneration seems to have been a part of the honor owed, as evidenced in the next verse; but this writer agrees with Gould, who has this:

It is difficult to believe that this means simply "a double stipend" as the New English Bible (1961) renders it ... The day had not yet arrived when the church's ministers would receive full support. It was still customary for the church's leaders to support themselves, just as the apostle himself did.[20]SIZE>


[20] J. Glenn Gould, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. IX (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), p. 608.

Verse 18
For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his hire.

Thou shalt not muzzle the ox ... This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 25:4, one of Paul's favorite passages, which he also quoted in his advocacy of support for gospel preachers in 1 Corinthians 9:9. From both this and the second quotation he was about to give, it is certain that 1 Timothy 5:17 has reference to financial remuneration.

And, The laborer is worthy of his hire ... There is absolutely no doubt that Paul here classified this second quotation as "Scripture," to which he attributed both this remark and the one from Deuteronomy. But, where is this Scripture? It is certainly not in the Old Testament. It is in the New Testament:

Matthew 10:10 has this: "The laborer is worthy of his food?' Luke has the words verbatim, "even to the omission of the verb (in the Greek)."[21] "For the laborer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7).SIZE>

Thus Paul here quoted from the Christian gospels, extending to them the full authority and status of Scripture. As 1Timothy was written during that period shortly before Paul's second imprisonment, the bearing of this on the date of Luke's gospel, which he here quoted, should not be overlooked. Here is an insurmountable denial of the late dating of Luke. "The conclusion is inevitable that the writer of this epistle was acquainted with and quoted from the gospel of Luke."[22]

Of course, some of the critics are "perplexed" by Paul's equating a word of Christ (quoted from the gospels) with the Law of Moses, charging that he evidently "forgot what he was doing"! Such are the writhings of a wounded serpent. As White said, given the respect and honor and adoration in which Paul held Jesus Christ, "It would have been surprising were he not to have esteemed his words at least as authoritative as the Law which he superseded."[23]

[21] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 99.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 134.

Verse 19
Against an elder receive not an accusation, except at the mouth of two or three witnesses.

The instruction here is that no charge is to be received unless it is substantiated by two or three witnesses, not merely that two or three are to be called to hear the accusation presented, as some have alleged. The case in view here is that of a ruler of the church who is indeed guilty of sinful conduct; and, in order to keep trivial, untruthful and irresponsible charges from being made, the apostle instructed that two or three witnesses were to be ready to testify against an elder before any charge would even be considered. Hervey said this means: "Suffer no man to accuse a presbyter unless he is accompanied by two or three witnesses able to back up the accusation."[24]


[24] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 100.

Verse 20

Them that sin reprove in the sight of all, that the rest also may be in fear.

This is a special instance and does not nullify the instructions of Christ in Matthew 18:15ff (see discussion of this in my Commentary on Matthew, pp. 279-282). In the case of an elder, or other church leader, who is fairly convicted of gross wrongdoing, he should be rebuked and denounced publicly. The wise words of Lipscomb on this are:

When we cover up sins in the church, we corrupt the morality and virtue of the church and destroy its efficacy to honor God or to save men. Evil teachers and evil men must be exposed and purged out of the church, or the church becomes corrupt and becomes a synagogue of Satan instead of a church of Jesus Christ.[25]SIZE>


[25] David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 173.

Verse 21

I charge thee in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality.

The elect angels ... are here represented as witnessing the work of Christians on earth, as in Hebrews 1:14. The word "elect" in this place has the meaning of the faithful angels, the ones not carried away by the rebellion of Satan. "The epithet elect probably has the same force as HOLY in our common phrase, the holy angels."[26]

Without prejudice ... Absolute fairness on the part of any person charged with the solemn duties of hearing complaints and solving difficulties in a church is a basic requirement if there is to be either peace or justice in a church. Hervey pointed out that this word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament and suggests that our English word does not do full justice to the term in the Greek, which also carries with it the meaning of "preference."[27]

Doing nothing by partiality ... An elder, or a minister, must not be partial as regards his activity among the members. Many a ministry has been wrecked on this shoal. There is a kind of partiality that develops a little "clique" of the preacher's special friends, or gives undue attention and publicity to the work of a few, instead of to the many, which is critical of conduct in some which is allowed in others, etc., etc. All such partiality is self-destructive of the minister's effectiveness and unproductive as far as the church is concerned.

[26] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 100.

[27] Ibid.

Verse 22

Lay hands hastily on no man, neither be partakers of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.

Lay hands hastily on no man ... means, "Do not get in a hurry to name any man as an elder." The imagery is that of the laying on of the hands of the presbytery which accompanied the ceremony in the earliest times.

Neither be partakers of other men's sins ... This warns that the person responsible for appointing elders who prove unfaithful is, in a sense, partaker of their sins, unless due deliberation, investigation and testing preceded such unfortunate appointment. However, the share of the sins of others is not borne by the minister who properly observes these restrictions, restraints and precautions. The same applies to the presbytery itself in the normal situation where they name additional elders to aid in the guidance of the church.

Keep thyself pure ... This has primary reference to the matter of irresponsible appointment of church elders, just mentioned.

Before leaving this verse, it may be inquired, "Why has the laying on of hands largely disappeared from the ceremonial in churches?" Lenski's answer is as good as any:

It is only symbolical, confers no divine power or gift of the church of God that would bless a person; but it accompanied the prayers of the church that God would bless the person with all that he needs for his Christian life, or in the case of the minister, for his holy office and work.[28]SIZE>

Although the laying on of hands has ceased, in large degree, it is fervently to be hoped that the prayers for those charged with solemn responsibility have not!


[28] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 688.

Verse 23

Be no longer a drinker of water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and for thine often infirmities.

This little verse is a jewel. It reveals Timothy as a total abstainer from alcohol; but it is amazing what the commentators make of this. One asserts that since the drinking water was bad in those times, Paul is here admonishing Timothy to use wine instead of water. The restriction "little wine," of course refutes that notion. Others have thought that Paul here advised Timothy to "liquor himself up a bit" in order to improve his courage and ability to carry out Paul's orders!

It was the illness of Timothy that led to this instruction; and one cannot help wondering if perhaps the good physician Luke had a hand in this prescription.

Of extremely great value is the bearing this verse has on the authenticity of 1Timothy. Spence said:

Those who argue that this Epistle is an artificial composition of an age subsequent to that of Paul's ... have no little difficulty in accounting for such a command as this. It can in fact be explained only upon the supposition that the letter was, in truth, written by St. Paul to Timothy ... No ecclesiastical forger of the second or third century would have dreamed, or had he dreamed, would have dared to have included a verse like this.[29]SIZE>

If, despite the hardship and the universal custom of wine-drinking, Timothy refrained from the use of it in order to be a good example, consenting to use it only upon a doctor's prescription, is there not in this sufficient motivation for "teetotalers" today? Indeed there is!


[29] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 207.

Verse 24

Some men's sins are evident, going before unto judgment; and some men also they follow after.

This is merely a comment to the effect that, in spite of all proper investigations, it is impossible, always, to know whether or not a given candidate is fitted for holy office in the church. The next verse would assure Timothy that his best judgment would be sufficient.

Verse 25
In like manner also there are good works that are evident; and such as are otherwise cannot be hid.

This means that "the truth will out" eventually, as it regards any man, however discreet, secretive or hidden may be his actions from the public scrutiny. The effect of both of these last two verses is to stress the importance of not being hasty in the ordination of elders.

This verse (1 Timothy 5:25) is to warn Timothy against hasty condemnation, as the former (24) had been to warn against hasty approval.[30]SIZE>


[30] Alford, as quoted by Hervey, op. cit., p. 102.
06 Chapter 6

Verse 1

This final chapter has a pungent paragraph on the reciprocal duties of slaves and masters (1 Timothy 6:1-2), stern warnings against senseless disputations and covetousness (1 Timothy 6:3-10), a beautiful admonition for the man of God to live a life worthy of the good confession (1 Timothy 6:11-12), a great Christological doxology (1 Timothy 6:13-16), instructions for the rich Christians in Ephesus (1 Timothy 6:17-19), and the final word to Timothy, concluded with a brief benediction (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

Let as many as are servants under the yoke count their own masters as worthy of all honor, that the name of God and the doctrine be not blasphemed. (1 Timothy 6:1)

Let as many as are under the yoke ... How many were these?

It is estimated that there were sixty million slaves in the Roman Empire at the time of the writing of this letter; and it is hardly necessary to detail the facts concerning their miserable lot.[1]SIZE>

The ancient empire was built upon slavery, at that time a world-wide institution, recognized and practiced in every nation under heaven. That slaves formed a considerable portion of all the congregations of Paul's day may be inferred from the extensive teachings on the subject in 1 Corinthians 7:21-24; 12:13; Ephesians 6:5:8; Colossians 3:11,22; 1 Peter 2:18 and also in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

The holy gospel must have been especially welcomed and appreciated by slaves who, despite being at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, were nevertheless qualified to receive the glorious promises of Christian truth. "It must have been an unspeakable comfort to the poor slave."[2] In addition to large numbers of slaves being Christians, there is also the likelihood that some of them were even elders. "C. K. Barrett suggested that Paul may have had in mind elders who were slaves."[3]

Under the yoke ... There are two words in this little paragraph that carry inherent criticism of the institution of slavery. "Yoke" is one of them, and the other is "master," coming from a particular Greek word "[@despotes] (from which our "despot" is derived), meaning one who has dominion."[4] Nevertheless, there is no militant condemnation of slavery in the New Testament; and, of course, modern critics have been very unfair and unperceptive in commenting on this. See below:


For the apostles to have attempted to eradicate slavery "by preaching it as hateful to God and degrading to men would have produced rebellion and revolution in its darkest and most violent form; and Christ did not propose to break up such relations by violence."[5] There was also another side to the problem. If becoming a Christian had been equated with emancipation, the churches would have been overwhelmed with a flood tide of unregenerated men, seeking not Christ or holiness, but freedom from their chains, creating circumstances which would immediately have destroyed Christianity from the earth. "It would have been impossible for the Christian church to strike overtly in any effective way at the institution of slavery; but indirectly the church sounded the death knell of the institution."[6] This was done by teaching the dignity of man, the supreme value of the individual, and those very Christian graces admonished in this chapter.

In any kind of a revolution attempted by Christians, the entire movement would not only have been crushed; but horrible and extensive bloodshed, famine, death and pestilence would have prevailed. The great principle of Christianity looking to the reform of existing social evils is that of working "as leaven," and not as "dynamite."

Count their own masters as worthy of all honor ... This was the basic requirement for all slaves, upon penalty of death for violation; so the sanity of such instruction is apparent; but the new-found liberty in Christ would have tempted some, due to human nature, to despise their masters. Thus, the thought here is to the effect that Christianity makes anyone a better person, therefore a better employee, a better master, or even a better slave. And those slaves fortunate enough to have Christian masters were to be willing to extend even more and higher honor to them. Of course, the master, if a real Christian, would respond in kind, which would benefit his slaves, some of whom, no doubt, received their freedom as a result. The principle behind this was thus stated by White:

The Christian slave is to remember that the fact of his master being a Christian, believing and beloved, entitles him to better service, if possible, than that due to a heathen master ... If the spiritual status of the master be raised, the quality of the service rendered is not to be lowered, but rather idealized.[7]SIZE>

Men may despise this ethic if they choose to do so, but it was this very thing that broke the back of the institution and lifted the yoke of slavery from the back of humanity.

That the name of God and the doctrine be not blasphemed ...

The name of God ... is here placed upon a coordinate basis with "the doctrine," showing the highest esteem in which the apostles held the sacred doctrine of the faith. The current downgrading of doctrine is hurtful, sinful and contrary to divine law.

Be not blasphemed ... The word "blaspheme" here has its general meaning of "spoken against." As Spence pointed out:

Any action on the part of professed servants of God which gives the enemies of the Lord an excuse to blaspheme, is ever reckoned in the Scripture as a sin of the deepest dye. Compare Nathan's words to King David (2 Samuel 12:14) and Paul's reproach to the Jews (Romans 2:24).[8]SIZE>

[1] Paul F. Barakman, The Epistles to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1962), p. 68.

[2] A. C. Hervey, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 21,1Timothy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 118.

[3] J. Glenn Gould, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. IX (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), p. 613.

[4] R. C. H. Lenski, St. Paul's Epistles ... 1Timothy (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), p. 694.

[5] David Lipscomb, Commentary on 1Timothy (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1942), p. 176.

[6] J. Glenn Gould, op. cit., p. 613.

[7] Newport J. D. White, Expositor's Greek Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 140.

[8] H. D. M. Spence, Ellicott's Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII, 1Timothy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 209.

Verse 2
And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but let them serve them the rather, because they that partake of the benefit are believing and beloved. These things teach and exhort.

Believing masters ... By spelling out slave duties to both kinds of masters, Paul left no room to be misunderstood. See under preceding verse.

Let them not despise ... Lipscomb concluded from this and the following verses that "We may justly conclude that evil-disposed persons had been teaching differently and arousing discontent and a rebellious spirit."[9] It is a strange paradox of human nature that the more mild and tolerant any authority may be the less respect it is likely to command. This is not to be the attitude of Christian slaves.

Let them serve them rather ... means let them serve them, if possible, with even better service.

They that partake of the benefit ... as rendered here indicates the masters, who, because they are believing and beloved, should receive of this better service. Some commentators render the words differently, applying them to the slaves, who by better service may receive more considerate treatment. As a matter of fact, both interpretations are true. The principle is also applicable to all human relations and all human institutions, regardless of their desirability. Christianity pours in the oil that lubricates and improves even the most unsavory situations.


[9] David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 177.

Verse 3

If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;

The character in view here would be denounced in the most vehement language in the next verse; but this description of the one to be denounced should be carefully noted.

Different doctrine ... The very fact of a doctrine's being new to the New Testament is enough to condemn it. Paul's opinion of "new ideas" in the realm of theology was simply to the effect that their advocates were both evil and "sick." As Stibbs put it:

There is a contrast here between teaching which is "healthful" and teachers who are "sick" (see the English Revised Version margin (1885)). Teaching is continued as "sound" or "wholesome": (1) by having Christ as its author and (2) by the God-fearing conduct of the teacher.[10]SIZE>

Lenski denied that this verse has primary application to the false teaching leading to the insubordination of slaves; but Spence felt that this may be allowed:

There is little doubt that some influential teaching, contrary to St. Paul's, on the subject of the behavior and disposition of slaves was in the apostle's mind when he wrote 1Tim. 6:3,1 Timothy 6:4.[11]SIZE>

[10] A. M. Stibbs, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 1175.

[11] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 209.

Verse 4

he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,

This is a rather salty speech! A glance at the way various translations have rendered this is interesting:

He is blinded with conceit and really knows nothing, but is crazy with discussions and controversies about words, - Richard Francis Weymouth.

He is a conceited idiot! His mind is a morbid jungle of disputation and argument. - J. B. Phillips.

He is a conceited, ignorant person, with a morbid craving for speculations and arguments - Edgar J. Goodspeed.

He is a conceited, ignorant creature, with a morbid passion for controversy and argument - James Moffatt.SIZE>

As Gould remarked, "This is about as close to invective as the apostle ever came!"[12] Of course, as we have already seen, any overt assault upon the established institution of slavery in ancient society would have been an unqualified disaster for the world; and the sheer insanity of any who might have advocated it shines in this passage. Of course, other forms of senseless argument and disputation were also likewise condemned.


[12] J. Glenn Gould, op. cit., p. 614.

Verse 5

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