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The Two Lions
Continuing the Journey with Timothy
When the word is that of God who made us, there are certain results that one would expect in view of His majesty, knowledge and power (cf. SMR Chs. 1, 3, 5, 8-10). These include precise information, adapted to the knowledge and capacities of His creatures, when He chooses to speak, enduring truth, calamity when this is confused with the mental productions of His creatures, particularly through folly and rebellion, and insistence on the distinction of alien or other words from Himself, as a warning.
These things are well attested throughout the Bible, and in no small measure in I and II Timothy. In looking at this, we come to the two lions.
The first is growling with gruesome warning, as in I Timothy 6, lest we wander, and the second is instructing with simple clarity, so that we know what is NOT wandering, but the right track. Between them, they perform a most salutary office, and in so doing, they verify the word of God, giving it the office reason would suggest from His sublimity. History does the same in showing the results of ignoring these warnings and advices, these repulsions and impulsions, both when nations come into designated conflict with His word (as with Tyre, Babylon and Nineveh cf. SMR p. 713), and in more general terms, as with Japan in its rampaging in World War II and Russia in its provocative insolence in telling God to "get out").
Because of the nature of the test this world provides, it may take time; but in the end, it occurs; and when it is written, it occurs on time (as in the case of Christ's death cf. Highway of Holiness... Chs. 4, 7, and Judah's exile as in Jeremiah 25). Again the elevation of England the USA, each in its time of comparative splendour for the word of God in its midst, is not only marked and remarkable, but so is their decline when that word has been removed further and further both from Government and from many of the large churches. No more is either nation even safe! How far is each from the assured power and world-presence once felt; for though each is still of some strength, neither is free from the peril of vast desolation through cyber-military assault, radioactive attack of various kinds, and that from comparatively feeble nations, peoples or even agents!
This decline is first of all moral, and then military. How far has Britain already fallen from its vast pre-eminence in the British Empire, which was inclined to tolerate nothing to assail what it deemed correct. To be sure, it was troubled with evils, but it was not entirely given over to them, and vast motions were made from the work of Christianity ostensibly governing it, and certainly playing a large part in many of its programs.
With the USA, the former, the moral decline, is rampant, while the latter awaits, except it repent. Already it is susceptible to terrorism from minor bodies, whipped to hate by religions which are as far from the truth as is the mass of sects and liberal-radical, neo-orthodox and neo-evangelical, New Age and other froth which has so defiled that nation. Righteousness exalts a nation, says the word of God, but sin is a shame (reproach) to any people (Proverbs 14:34)*1.
The truth of the word of God is thwarted, and its teaching aborted in its impact in sex, with that marvellous contemporary combination of shallow marriages, untrustworthy allilances, self-seeking mutilation of sexuality into pleasure pots, denudation of love leading to all sorts of upsets, 'misunderstandings' and law suits lavished like necessary clothing. With this, comes that exquisitely horrible thing, the distortion of what is beautiful, the love that marriage sanctifies, as if to turn it into a creature of tortuous manipulation, leading to a sense of disproportion, always a good resource for fighting and evil thoughts and words, as each accuses the other of what both have soiled in their superficial and offensive misuse of what God has provided. Frustration impels agitation, mutual faults stir conflagration; and the offspring are often burnt.
Children suffer; and recent statistics have been presented showing the liabilities of children in the fragmentation resulting. What would one expect ? Man loves to be loved, and to love: it is a beautiful thing, and a serviceable one, both, and it has reaches from the very hand of that God who is love which makes of it a fulfilment of life in this, that its emblems and kindnesses, being more than cold charity, touch the heart, restore the hope and refresh the mind. It is NATURAL, it is GODLY and it is GOOD for man, and for all.
In the avoidance of this sublime gift, its dismissal, its reduction into inanity or even profanity, go the spurious hatreds, the odious pretences, the calamitous eruptions into their appointed garbage place. Unwise is he who rummages among the garbage, and costly at law has been all this ignorant and reckless, this unreasonable and unfaithful misuse of the gift of God. In turn, we see warning in I Corinthians 5:9-13, with 6:9, concerning these things. Let us consider the two steps.
Not only is it a MISTAKE to play the fool (in biblical terms, acting as if you were God and your being a creation of His were an unimportant addendum or less), and so play, or even work at being autonomous in this area of sexuality, as in any other sphere.
Commitment to such things is even an alternative route to that to heaven. In other words, Paul in specifying sexual follies along with a list of allied ones, in I Cor 6:9, notes that those bound to them will NOT "inherit the kingdom of God." In fact, he requests Christians not even to "keep company" with anyone "sexually immoral" or for that matter covetous, and this case is specific, who claims to be a Christian!
How far removed is this from having those who practise such things in the pulpit, as seems an active question in both Anglican and Uniting Church circles, raising dissension and disturbance, with contrary views being vaunted. Nothing which doubts this need worry about the word of God, since it actively contravenes it; so what has this to do with the divine direction! Hence in Romans 16:17, Paul FORBIDS mixing with such who call themselves Christians, with the simple word "AVOID".
Yet the world smiles, or grimaces, or murders idly as it considers its latest false prophet (as in the jihad movement and Muhammad), millions die and the glowing orb, hot with its follies, continues in its rebellion, filled with its costs, oblivious like some young drunkard. Yet this world, it is not young ... (Cf. John 4:30.)
LION THE FIRST
What then does the Lord say concerning His teachings ?
In I Timothy 6, we find a list in verses 3-5 which is astonishing in its vigour and force, its decisive incisiveness and its scope. First however let us consider to what it refers.
In 6:1, following great emphasis in I Timothy 5*2 on what is seemly, orderly, organised and pure, we discover the topic of non-rebellion on the parts of slaves. Those who become Christians, says Paul, are not to become slack and lax, but to give an account fitting for those who are serviceable saints. Even if they have believing masters (6:2), they should serve in the spirit of love. In other words, the Marseillaise is not being sung by the apostle. He is not seeing the blood of those who are difficult, being used to sludge the fields. It must at once be realised, when one reads Philemon, that Paul is no less emphasising the love, tolerance, forbearance, to be shown in looking on those who are in one's power as slaves, as brothers in the Lord. Let us consider for a moment, that small epistle.
There a runaway slave is to be received back, with the congratulations of Paul for his wonderful aid given to him before he returned to his master, and the latter is exhorted to receive back his slave on account of the apostle: for if Paul helped the owner, so should the owner receive and welcome back the slave without evil to be done to him. Obviously, if Paul is to be so regarded in giving grace to the slave, by the owner, how much MORE is CHRIST is be regarded, who did so infinitely much more than any apostle could do, so that one for His sake regards with love and grace any slave.
It is only a small step to see how the thing is to work out. WHO wants to be a slave ? WHAT brother would wish long to continue such a status for another of his family under his rule ? Hence, there is that subtle but spiritual and powerful thrust towards orderly, gracious, liberal and even costly liberation; but it is NOT to come through rebellion. It is not to be the occasion of uprisings on the part of the slaves; it is rather to be a matter in which grace prevails with wisdom, from the slave owners, who in love must see their own way.
Grace, love and compassion, not force, is the prescription.
Very well. Some would however want uprisings and all the blood and mud resulting. Not so, says Paul. Christianity is not a religion of violence. That of course is no slightest excuse for any who do not see the true path of love, whether with the matter of slavery, an utter abhorrence, or any other field.
What however of those who wish to teach otherwise ? What of those who exhort to rebellion ? What of those who do not consent to the words of moderation, of wisdom, even those of the Lord Jesus Christ (as in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, where the emphasis is not on getting, but giving, not on self-display but on humility, not on enraged, engorged passion but on hungering and thirsting for righteousness) ? Paul in I Timothy 6 then enlarges on the implications for any who wish to be divorced from such a plateau of vision. WHAT PLATEAU of vision ? THIS: the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is to be said of such ? what of those who will not consent to wholesome words from the Lord ? to HIS words, and hence to the doctrine of godliness ? Such are characterised as proud, knowing nothing, obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, which in turn leads to envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men, men who are of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, forgers of gain not godliness.
How could such things be ? While the source of the issue is a particular social situation, the appeal is to the source of wisdom, the word of God as such. If in such a matter as this, the transgression from that standard is so appalling in its implications, what of worse ones, such as those who would make new Christs altogether, rejecting the divine word which contains the continuity of testimony of the Christ whom the Father sent in the magnificence of His love to man ? Surely we are in deep waters when the word of God is mistreated, and presumably this is especially the situation where it is a professing believer who would thus hope to gain the ear of church people with CONTRARY teaching.
Let us survey the scene verbally for such a situation. The perpetrator of such rejection of the Lord's words is said to be:
obsessed with disputes and
arguments over words;
envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,
useless wranglings of men, men who are of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth,
people who suppose that godliness is a
means of gain.
. PROUD ? Is it not proud to contend with God about His own teaching.
KNOWING NOTHING ? Does not Paul in I Corinthians 8:2-3 declare this: "And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him." In other words, knowledgeability in spiritual things which is not bathed, immersed and sourced in the love of God is mere vanity, lacking depth, authenticity, perspective. In church terms, the perpetrator of such things, these excursions without the Saviour's company, is in essential regards, IGNORANT. IF anyone loves Me, Christ indicated, he will keep My words (John 14:21-23).
As a teacher, such a person is like a black hole.
OBSESSED WITH DISPUTES ... ? If you fight with God about what He thinks, what less are you
doing ? If you find it necessary to argue with your Author when you come into His pages of history, this seems clearly to constitute a furore of misplaced fervour, a self-exaltation and an obsession instead of truth.
ARGUMENTS ABOUT WORDS ... ? This has been one of the worst features in much 'theology' which tries to seem godly, but in fact moves far from the word of God. One often finds people trying to import philosophy into the meaning of words, or issues relating, so that fact becomes lost in the passion of pronouncements of emptiness, of virtual vacuity. Thus some might declare this, "repentance" cannot include the action of the spirit of man, since he is too sinful to do it.
However in fact though it is of course God who liberates the heart, it does not cease to be a human heart in the image of God in the process, and the sovereign does not sovereignly torment and distort His own handiwork. Thus in the counsel of God when He declares that one must repent, He is not being playful, as if this were an obvious impossibility with which He charges impotent man! To be sure, it is beyond man so to act, but it is not at all beyond God so to know, foreknow and impart this grace WHERE IT BELONGS, for He is on record in His love for ALL, and His desire that ALL might be saved.
So is 'mystery' inserted into simple divine declaration of His love and its scope, His wish and its coverage, by philosophy misplaced, and it becomes 'arguments about words', not dissertation on the word of God and its direct declaration. (Cf. Chapter 3 above.)
ENVY, STRIFE, REVILING, SUSPICIONS ... ? Yes, where human philosophy is allowed to distort and eventually to declare contrary to the word of God, so that people in Christian clothes waylay others in the church, it leads to PARTIES (such as is forbidden in I Corinthians 3), yes even those who favour 'Paul' or 'Apollos'. It is NOT a question of the spokesman, but of the Speaker who inspires, who is God. Thus one young (apparently) man wrote to the author declaring that if one gained one's salvation from Paul, such and such would follow. One did not even read the rest: the protasis being factually in error, the apodosis was irrelevant. One does not, as one had at length shown in this case, gain one's salvation from Paul. It is one Gospel in Isaiah, in Hosea, in Micah, in the Psalms, in Paul, in the lips of the Saviour Himself (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, A Spiritual Potpourri 9), from the beginning to the end, one of salvation by grace, without works, resulting in godliness.
Heaven forbid one should gain one's salvation through ANY but Christ, and from any written source, ultimately, but the Bible. What is the use of talking about the Bible if you do not even acknowledge what it says!
So come strife, foolish and irrelevant contentions, and in due course (as again happened to the author at one seminary), reviling. One preached a class sermon on John 1-3 and grace, the extent of the love of God, and the professor who dealt with this engaged in a tirade borne of confusion, ignoring the word of God, and seeking to slice marks off the student presentation as if it were some sort of pine log machine for making timber!
Arguments about words however are unprofitable. It is what is written that counts, and this never changes: it is the world which God so loved, and it is man whom He charges with guilt for not responding, not Himself for not enabling. It is not only, indeed, in this world, but in all creation that this applies as in Colossians 1. What is the use of things written from God if vain philosophy against which Paul has warned (Colossians 2) is to be put on a pedestal with it, as if it were some sort of Protestant papacy! Alas, the errors are many, and they divide, leading to suspicions, reviling and the like.
Such things are USELESS WRANGLINGS.
When they come, it is a matter of being DESTITUTE OF THE TRUTH. Now this does not mean that some ignorant error makes the speaker to be of this kind; but when it is a sustained testimony of ignoring the plain teaching of the Bible, as a leaven, this is where it ends! It is God who judges, but this is the severity of the case in the abstract.
Many might think it PROFITABLE, a means of GAIN in some sense so to act - whether for a church, a seminary, or other, whether psychological or moral or ecclesiastical: but it is not. ONLY the word of God written brings gain for the kingdom, enduring riches of righteousness which alone are worth having in this field (cf. Proverbs 8:18). Better than rubies and gold is this gain! (cf. Psalm 119:72 et al).
That is ONE LION! It WARNS, and how strong is its voice!
LION THE SECOND
Now we find an altogether more delightful message. It comes this time from II Timothy 3:16. It is amazing how many significant 3:16 verses there are in the Bible, and here in Timothy is an excellent illustration.
In I Timothy 3:16, as we saw in the last chapter, there is one of the most beautiful, comprehensive and succinct references to the glory of God in the Gospel that one could wish to see; and here in II Timothy 3:16 there is the exposure of the status of the word of God in terms simple, express, explicit and sure, in summary and impactive form and formula. It is of no particular significance that his amazing numerical feature exists; the verses as such are not divisions in the original; but it does help the memory. Let us pursue, then, II Tim 3:16*3.
ALL SCRIPTURE, roars this tawny lion, IS GOD-BREATHED and PROFITABLE for DOCTRINE, for REPROOF, for CORRECTION, for INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Now obviously the apostle is not telling us of this absolute standard in order that we should not know what it is. He is NOT saying that all scripture, in the case where it is God-breathed (undefined therefore) is so profitable. That would be rather like saying that all petrol is good for cars, provided that its hydro-carbon content is *^% , where these terms are not defined. It would be an appallingly useless, undefined, inexpressive jumble of sound, of no value, useless communication, a joke.
The character of inspiration has not been left unknown by Paul in I Corinthians 2:9-13, where first, the revelation in substance is conferred on the apostle, and then the words which provide the verbal assimilation of the revelation, these two are provided. On this topic, see SMR Appendix D. Again in Psalm 119, again and again we find that ALL His testimonies are true, that they last for ever, are enshrined in heaven and such things, as shown in the above reference.
Again, the Greek simply states ALL SCRIPTURE GOD-INSPIRED AND PROFITABLE FOR TEACHING, then listing other features of this focus. The omission of the copula (is) is not unusual. There is no 'which' in the text, no designation of any division, let alone any second verb, which would again have to be added to make any sense of it at all – which is … is. There is no such clause.
If such a gate-crashing were to be followed, this would be adding not only three words but even a clause gratuitously, constituting a form of verbal aggression, with the erratic invasion of a thought from the heart of man to the mouth of God, so that to implant this in the text is merely adding to scripture (against Proverbs 30:6): thus making it trebly ludicrous as an attempt to ignore the fact that man is "live by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). This is shown in Christ's dialogue with the devil, by its being absolutely final once cited, in the classic argumentation and confrontation. In the same way, in Acts 4:25, a given scripture is at once said to have come from God, in this way, "who by the mouth of Your servant David, has said..." What then ?
is solemn farce to act the ventriloquist when God is speaking, spluttering in
own thoughts in His face, even acting as if to force one’s words between His lips.
Such is the audacity of disbelief, and the illustration of the need for the warning of the first lion,
in I Timothy 6. What is written is of another category than culture, than social nuances and desiderata of the flesh. What then is to be found in II Timothy 3:16 with all its allied topical utterances from the Lord in the Bible ? What does it teach about the biblical scripture ? Let us follow the text.
What was written is regarded as an absolute source and recourse, a citable matter of utter authority, without attenuation or mitigation, not a vexed question or a vague shadow in part or in whole. Would not the devil have said, But God has said ... and then put in some thoughts of his own, attributing them to God. Impossible since the word of God was WRITTEN already, so that Christ simply went on to make final demolition of every temptation with the word, "It is written." Or He might say, "It is written again...", thus signifying that SOME, indeed ANY word was final, with no countervailing element possible.
That written, declares Paul in I Tim 6, is profitable for instruction and in this case, for reproof. Any attempt therefore to subvert this clear revelation meets multiple contradiction at once, from the word of God; and further, it would be ludicrous to imagine that the apostle were saying this, All scripture which (not there, but added by the imagination) is inspired by God is A, B, C and so on. That would require one to add three things: the 'which', the first 'is' and the second 'is', a real party of intrusion. In fact, there is simply the quite common omission of the first 'is' in the rather proverbial fashion applicable. Adding to someone else's words fails to render them; it is merely a form of intrusive plagiarism: and we are here concerned with what is being said by the writer, not the reader!
ALL THE GOD-BREATHED SCRIPTURES, as elsewhere defined and here APPLIED, are then of this character. One would expect this since if GOD breathes them, WE should find them PROFITABLE when we want to teach the new Christian or the old, what HE WANTS, HOLDS and DETERMINES. Naturally such a source would provide such a result in terms of being profitable for righteousness and godliness, for who is more godly than God is Himself, or where is RIGHTEOUSNESS but in Him as its moral source and uttermost base!
Further, all scripture is profitable for CORRECTION. How could you correct if the source for correction were incorrect! or how correct if it were not even known, or how use a basis which was unbased, unclear or uncertain! Not so with Christ: one blast of the word of God written and even Satan was powerless. Again, all scripture is profitable for reproof; but how could you reprove if the basis of reproof were reprovable! Hence this lion is roaring: take it all, use it all, it is the basis, the blight for error, the standard for correction, the reservoir for instruction, the module for doctrine.
What it says is correct, clear, basic, assured, God-breathed and ipso facto God ordained, endorsed and provided. Just as departure from the word of God is most horrendous, that lion as we earlier saw roaring with a splendid organ-toned power, so the abiding in this word is wonderful, all of it, not some, all of the Bible in both testaments, not some, all that God has said, every word, not some of His words, whether one likes it or not, whether it hits favourite theories or not, whether it smacks one's hand when one ponders a possible course of action or not: IT IS PROFITABLE to correct, instruct, to show what is right, what is godly, what is rebukable.
THIS is what one would expect when the Maker of Man the Communicator, speaks to man the thinker, the one who engages in abstract thought, who makes rules, who has power to elect perspectives.
and severity is verification in KIND of the expectations from such a source. It
is not a suggestion, any more than our DNA has suggestions.
¨ It is not a cultural offshoot, any more than 2+2=4 is a cultural offshoot, being rather a fundamental reflection in numbers of the divinely ordered creation.
¨ It is not variable, like the thoughts of some genius, often elevated, but sometimes appallingly poor (as when Einstein reputedly made a fundamental mistake on one occasion, yes and a simple one, where perhaps his preference was at stake cf. SMR p. 422D).
¨ It is clearly demarcated as contradistinct in authority and reliability from the words of mankind (cf. Jeremiah 23:28-29); divorced from error in its promulgations, with a refined care (cf. Christ's words on this in Matthew 5:17-20).
Further, and most wonderfully, it is expressly testable, and one is exhorted to consider this in RESULTS, as a scientist might ask of students, when they turn from his lecture to the laboratory! This is seen repeatedly in Isaiah in Chs. 41, 43, 48, and is altogether characteristic of the approach of deity in His word, to the witless wanderings, the thoughtful self-elevations and the capricious foolishnesses of man, who wants to assert himself and in so doing, is about as wise as a moth, asserting itself in the mouth of a lion.
The LION HAS ROARED, as Amos puts it, who will not fear! (Amos 3:8). "Surely," he was saying, "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets."
How He has done this as in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 32, Isaiah 42, 49-55, as in Psalm 2, 16, 22, 102, as in Jeremiah 25, as in Micah 3, 5, as in Zechariah 11-13, as in Zephaniah, in Hosea, in Amos and all the prophets! Alas for Israel, but her end approaches which is full of good things as well as exposure of the ungodly (Romans 11 cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 1, *3, and Ch. 3 *1, SMR Appendix A). How does Micah 7 sketch that end, with Deuteronomy 32 and Romans 11! Already its preliminary events have stretched themselves luxuriously like a cat in the sun, in the lifetime of this author, in their amazing intricacy and prophesied detail (cf. SMR Chs. 8 - 9).
It is wise to hear the lions in their roaring, both lion I and lion 2, and to realise that this is not brute force, but beautiful sovereignty, that of the God who IS love, and whose protestations are GIVEN IN LOVE, that man might live more abundantly, not in the dives of political careering and career-making, philosophical vacuities, irrational premises and hideous ineffectual promises form the premises of mere arbitrary flesh.
Alas for the world, for more and more it moves into this sphere, where the roaring of the lion being ignored, the raw mess of its headstrong precipitancies becomes a stench, rather than mere malodour.
That, however, that too, you would expect it: it is what the world does with itself, ignoring the word of God; and the results are predictable as now they are predicable! This, it is verification as always, however sad, however grievous and however needless. How wise to listen to the roaring of these TWO LIONS!
*1 Cf. The Other News 13, 18, Joyful Jottings 5, 14, 24, News 121, 73, 118, 152, Stepping out for Christ Ch. 1.
EXCURSION on I TIMOTHY 5 also touching Church Government
In I Timothy 5, Paul exhibits certain further features of order and seemliness in the Church, so that the pleas of flesh will not become the pollution of the Lord’s family, yet the needs of life will be met graciously.
Thus the mode of courtesy with the aged is laid down: while the need to be considerate and modest in addressing those whose life experience has been long makes for exhortation rather than rebuke, and older ladies should be thought of rather as mothers than as objects for too brisk treatment, yet of course this domain of courtesy is no substitute for the call to rebuke and correct when this is not a matter of behaviour but of what might be called spiritual crime, assault on the word of God or gross and even outrageous abuse of His will and word (II Timothy 4:2).
Similarly, widows are to be considered in need, and given financial assistance if their own family, perhaps shamelessly leaves them without help; but only those who are not social opportunists, simply using the church; and those over 60 may be conceived as in such need, as a class, and those who have been the wife of one man. Such is the situation in the aggregate pending the individual questions, but younger widows must by no means be aided to become idle tattlers, but rather be ready to have children and bring them up in the ways of the Lord. The devil is apt and even adept at using leisure for his own pleasure, bringing about bad reputation.
Elders of repute and ability, who use their office well should be honoured, especially those whose office is teaching and preaching. This implies that full-time personnel should not be allowed to be without payment from the church, especially pastors, since “the labourer is worthy of his hire” : double honour is meted to such (I Timothy 5:17), who as teachers, have a dedicated work to perform.
Double honour ? This means first of all respect, but it means also the provision of means for their duties to be performed assiduously. Far is this from giving ground for their doing the work FOR filthy lucre, as one old translation has it (I Timothy 3:2 and 8); it is a matter of provision, not motivation: as to the latter it should at all times be Christ! (Colossians 3:17, Philippians 1:21, 2:12, 3:10,14). Here of course, in specifying modes of operation, some in administration some more in teaching (cf. Romans 12), there is the leveling of the elders, for even those who are the preachers are but elders of specialisation: nevertheless their office requires that they be treated with care and respect (cf. Hebrews 13:7).
This is to assist the precious work of their office, like that of physician and surgeon, in the church. It does not however elevate that office to something MORE THAN that of elders, of which category Peter was happy to announce himself part (I Peter 5:1) – “I who am also an elder” or a fellow elder as the NKJV has it. The term ‘supervisor’ rendered ‘bishop’ by some translations, to be found in I Timothy 3:1, has no more connotation in the Greek than that of supervisor. It is not an office, but a function to which ALL elders are called categorically (cf. Acts 20:17-28) and specifically; Paul indeed deemed all the elders to be supervisors to whom the care of the flock was committed, without distinction of any kind as to status. Indeed, even elders (I Peter 5:1) are in no sense to be LORDS over THE LORD’s heritage, but as examples, and as Paul put it of himself, helpers of joy (II Corinthians 1:24).
It is not, says Paul, as if we had dominion over your faith, but we are helpers of your joy. Yet for all that, when the word of God is concerned, the supervisor must be faithful, not to himself, but to the charters of God, and hence you see in II Corinthians 13:2-5) that though Christ was crucified in weakness, He lives by the power of God. “We also are weak in him,” Paul is inspired to continue, “but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith, Of your own selves, do you not know that Christ Jesus is in you.” This then is that fundamental distinction between duty and personal status: for just as ANYONE should hold up and apply the truth of God’s word, and we should all be willing to exhort to this end (Hebrews 3:13, Numbers 11:26-27), much more should elders do their duty with all personal humility, and all spiritual boldness in Christ, whose word rules all and not some other word (II Timothy 3:16, Proverbs 8:30).
Let us apply that. Adding to the word of God in this way, in having classes of pastors or elders, or those somehow to be deemed ABOVE, has been one of the chief fallacies of many churches, and is too obviously a convenience for a number of political and ecclesiastical pastimes of no repute. Thus it is CONVENIENT for a king to have bishops to allow his central authority, or that of his government, to have easy officers in the army of the Church, as it were, to get orders from above (that is from himself or his government); and this is eminently so in Communistic lands, where the ‘registered’ churches are to be spied on and reported, governed and ruled by petty potentates, State appointed or anointed! It is convenient too to have arch-bishops who can order the bishops.
Such things are nowhere to be found in the Bible, for ONE is the Master, even Christ, and in this the Scotch Presbyterians and Covenanters (never wise to have fought in Christ’s name in physical terms – John 18:36) were right, for it is a matter of ultimate principle, not only that Christ is the ONLY SAVIOUR but also that HE ALONE IS LORD (Matthew 23:8-10). All these conveniences soon become conundrums and cases of conscience (John Bunyan enduring 12 years of prison rather than have political dictates to govern the Church), leading to exclusions (as of 2000 blessed Anglicans in the 1660s, who preferred truth and the Bible to money, place, a church and a quiet life, so being removed from their churches with great suffering).
If people engage in public sin, then publicly rebuke (I Timothy 5:20), even if elders; but NO GROUND is to be admitted without MORE THAN ONE WITNESS. Frivolous charges are not to be considered. Nothing must be founded on bias, partiality: God is just (I Timothy 5:21). Further, and for similar reasons, no one is to be made an elder quickly, for this easily becomes a sharing out of their sins, as yet unmet in some prickly crisis of faith or judgment, or indeed, in some pride (I Timothy 3:6), when they may fall into a personal cult and pleasure of pomp or ceremony or the like.
As to Timothy, Paul enjoins on him care in tensions, and the custom of having sweet grape juice in delicious concentrates may be here the intention of the help indicated for the stomach. How refreshing and what a balm such immensely popular and convenient concentrates were, basically non-alcoholic in wide usage One must consider the impact here of Proverbs 21, 31:4-7, 20:1, 23:29-35; for who would want to play with a ‘serpent’, that ‘bites at the last’, to use the framework of Proverbs, or who to fail in duties when called to be sober and reflective! It is rather like DO NOT DRINK-DRIVE, where in this case the ‘driving’ is being in the place of superintendent! And are we not to care for one another, whatever our office in Christ!
In general, says Paul, “some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment”, while with others there can be no hiding of their faithful and temperate occupations (I Timothy 5:24-25).
While of course, this is no ground for acting as second-guess to God in attributing position to people, even Paul declaring that things should not be judged before that DAY when God does it (I Corinthians 4:2-5), while Christ who used the figure of good and bad fruit re trees, in that very same chapter EXCLUDED judging, in which some many seem to want to excel. His main thrust was the fruits of evil men, who speak and act against the Lord, false prophets; and in contrasting the good tree with good fruit He therefore by no means cleared the decks for asinine contemplation of oneself or one’s church as some kind of personal assessor.
To be sure, good things are savoured and ill things not, obvious crimes are censurable and clear errors to be corrected; but this criterion while showing up evil readily, is not the final assessment of what is good, for even the devil can put on a seductive show (cf. II Corinthians 11:13-14) and many may he deceive. Fruits are a function and evil fruit is useful in discrimination; but estimation of final worth and value is for the Lord, in His day. Prior presumption in this field can lead many to pride, intrusion, and others to feckless following of their near-idolatrous magnifications. This is also to be seen in doctrinal matters, where the dogmas of some become the rules of others, even to an outrageous and wholly ungodly degree (cf. I Corinthians 3, where even “I of Paul, I of Apollos” is left in the wreckage of error).
The word of God by whatever agent, in all of the Bible, the book of the Lord, ALL scripture has its place to commend, to exhort, to rebuke, to inform, to educate; but other lords are there NONE, including the ASSESSORS of men, who sit as if a preliminary session to disjoin the Almighty from His chosen place, which Paul so emphatically insists, is NOT to be shared, or activated asininely or arrogantly, as if man were judge, before the end (I Corinthians 4:1ff.).
In all such injunctions you see the consistency of the word of God, the work of the apostle, the qualities and criteria of the Lord, in practical terms, showing its entire homology, as one word of one God with one message, one Gospel and one grace. This is what would expect from such a One; and this assuredly is precisely and constantly in the Bible, just what one finds.
See for II Timothy 3:16, also Pall of Smoke and Diamond of Joy Ch. 8.