The Apostle is here instructing Timothy; as a Minister of Christ, how to conduct himself in the Church of God: and especially towards Elders, aged Women, and younger Persons.
(1) В¶ Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; (2) The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. (3) В¶ Honour widows that are widows indeed. (4) But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. (5) Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. (6) But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. (7) And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. (8) But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
I forbear to comment on those directions. They are too plain to need any. I only pause over the last of those verses, to observe the very strong language Paul useth, when speaking of a man's not providing for his own, in calling him worse than an Infidel. And it is the highest reproach to a member of Christ's body, when he passeth by the ties of grace; while we find carnal men are sometimes so eminent for observance of them in the ties of nature. And the argument runs thus: a carnal man, when entering into the concerns of his natural alliances, proves thereby the common nature he feels for those with whom he is interested. If therefore a man professeth to be a partaker of grace, and consequently supposed to be member of Christ's mystical body; and yet can behold another member suffer want in any sense, either spiritual or temporal, and doth not relieve him, he denies the very principle which he professeth; and is worse than the Infidel, who knows nothing of gracious feelings, and makes no profession of them. Reader! if this maxim of the Apostle was made the standard on those occasions, to ascertain a man's faith, is it not to be feared, that very frequently many would be found that do not, come up to it? And yet John, the beloved Apostle, gives it to the Church, for a general rule, to ascertain character. We know (said he) that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. 1 John 3:14.
(9) Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, (10) Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. (11) But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; (12) Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. (13) And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. (14) I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (15) For some are already turned aside after Satan. (16) If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
It is worthy remark, what attention the Holy Ghost hath shown to the honorable women, in every age of the Church, whom He had graciously regenerated, and made eminent for services to his household. What blessed characters are given to the Sarahs, and Rebekahs, and Rachels, and Deborahs, and Jaels, and Hannahs of the Old Testament Scripture: and how interesting the Maries, and Elizabeths, and Joannas, and Dorcases; and other holy women of the New? Mothers in Israel are among the excellent in the earth; and are handed down to us with such marks of blessed testimony as show, that their names are written in the book of life, and are enrolled among those of whom the world is not worthy. Hebrews 11:35 to the end.
(17) В¶ Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. (18) For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. (19) Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (20) Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
It is very blessed to observe how attentive the Holy Ghost is, that none of his household shall be overlooked, or forgotten, in the provision he here makes for his Ministers, to watch over, in their daily ministration. The Elders are here introduced, as being worthy of double honor. Age is honorable. And if they are among the Ministers of Christ; their long services are considered as yet the more entitled to this attention. 1 Corinthians 9:11. The Apostle useth a striking figure to illustrate the precept. He quotes a passage in the Old Testament scripture, of the tenderness shown the ox, when treading out the corn, that he did it unmuzzled: purposely, that as he trod out food from the ears of corn for others, he might himself par take. And the sense is, if a minister of Christ, while laboring like the ox to give food of a spiritual nature to the people, is himself sustained with portions of the same; this is but a just privilege. And who would begrudge him his moiety? And to be ready to receive an accusation against such, must argue a sad mind.
(21) I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. (22) Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. (23) Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. (24) Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. (25) Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
I admire the Apostle's solemn charge to Timothy. Let the Reader figure to himself the venerable Apostle, standing to admonish the Young Bishop, (as he is supposed to have been), on those grand points, which he here enjoins. Modern times can furnish no idea of what this must have been. But if all charges were directed to such a purpose, and delivered as before God, and under his authority, as this of Paul's was, we should form very different judgment to what we are now accustomed to form on this subject. By the elect Angels, we are to understand these chosen to be kept by Christ. Not in union with Christ. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels. Hebrews 2:16. But elect Angels preserved in their integrity by him: and different from those which fell, not being elect. Jude 1:6. Elect Angels therefore preserved by Christ but not as the church is elect and preserved in Christ. And let the Reader here learn, by the way, this precious truth. Election is not confined to men but reacheth to Angels. And all from Him and his pleasure who worketh after the counsel of his own will. But let the Reader no less keep in remembrance this precious truth also. Though there are elect Angels, which are kept by Christ, perfect, and secure from the possibility of falling, yet they have no union with Christ as we have. He is their Lord and Preserver by dominion. But He is our Lord, Head, and Husband by union. Oh! the preciousness of that Scripture, he passed by the nature of angels, and took on him the seed of Abraham. Hebrews 2:16
Now Paul chargeth Timothy before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, to observe these things, meaning the duties of his function. It is a sweet thought! Angels we know are ministering spirits. They attend the Lord's people, watch over them for good, encamp about them, and minister to their comfort. And, as they attended Christ when he returned to glory, so will they grace his triumph when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all that believe. 2 Thessalonians 1:10. See Hebrews 2:16. and Commentary. I do not think it necessary to offer any observations on what follows in this chapter, as they chiefly relate to the persons of the Apostle and Timothy. And I am unwilling to swell our Commentary beyond the limits of what may be proper.
READER! behold how venerable, in the sight of God the Spirit, are the hoary saints considered, when we see such a charge given concerning them. Blessedly God hath said, even to your old age, I am he, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you! And, therefore, the Lord, who watches over them himself, will have no rebuke given them from others. Our fathers in the Church, and our mothers in Israel, are counted worthy of double honor, when the hoary head is found in the righteousness of Christ.
And blessed are those Ministers and Stewards of God's mysteries which labor in the word and doctrine, who do nothing by partiality, but view all the members of Christ's mystical body, equally entitled to their good offices, and to their affection, without preferring one before another. Lord make all thy servants faithful, and let thy people praise thee, that God in all things may be glorified in, and through Jesus Christ.