On the First Epistle to Timothy

Chapter 1:18-20.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 335 - April 1884


Chapter 1:18-20

The "charge" here clearly, connects itself with ver. 3 and 5, which refer to the same thing, not to 15 in particular however momentous; the practical purpose follows to the end of the chapter. The man of God must be prepared to war the good warfare.

"This charge I commit to thee, child Timothy, according to the prophecies on thee going before, that by them thou mightest war the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust away made shipwreck concerning the faith; of whom is ΗymenŠus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may be taught not to blaspheme" (ver. 18-20).

As the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them (probably through one of the prophets at Antioch), so it appears that Timothy had prophecies leading the way to his work. Indeed in the case of the apostle the Lord had revealed his mission from his conversion. That the prophecies were uttered over Timothy at his ordination is absolute assumption. It was certainly not a part of the service whence the first and greatest of those sent to the Gentiles went forth recommended to the grace of God by the laying on of their brothers' hands. The prophecy preceded and led to that separation for gospel work; and so analogy, if not express intimation here and in chap. iv. 14, compared with 2 Tim. i. 6, might give us to infer.

It is no mere battle but a campaign that the apostle puts before his "child" and fellow-labourer. He must war the good warfare, but he is not asked to go at his own risk. The Master had given the word: if ever so gentle, sensitive, timid, he might trust Him, who by His servants had prophesied about Timothy. There is no necessity, nor sufficient reason, to understand with the grammarian Winer that in these prophecies lay his spiritual protection and equipment, the armour as it were in which he was to wage his good warfare. This is to narrow and emphasize unduly the force of the preposition. The English Authorised and Revised Versions seem to me more simple and correct. So again the transient form of the verb (adopted by Tischendorf and Tregelles on the meagre authority of the first hand of the Sinaitic and the Clermont MSS.) does not commend itself in comparison with the ordinary text (as in all other copies) which has the present. Observe also that "faith" as an inward state is different from "the faith" or truth believed.

But condition of soul has much to do with warring the good warfare. Faith must be kept up, bright and simple and exercised, the eyes of the heart ever on the things unseen and eternal. Withal a good conscience is imperative. For if faith bring God in, a good conscience judges self and keeps sin out. This, of all moment for every christian, is pre-eminently needful for him who is devoted to the service of Christ. There is nothing which so hardens the heart as the continual giving out of truth apart from one's own communion and walk. Take the extreme case of Judas falling under the power of the Devil; but look also at Peter, who was far from a traitor, himself betrayed into the denial of his Master. Here, however, it is the maintenance not only of faith, but also of a good conscience, "which some having thrust away made shipwreck concerning the faith."

Rarely, if ever, does the heterodox soul maintain a good conscience; and as there cannot be a good conscience without faith, so on the other hand, where the conscience becomes practically bad, the faith is lowered, and it is well if it be not at last wholly perverted. A man is uneasy at continuing burdened with the sense of his own inconsistency. He is thus tempted to accommodate his faith to his failure, and what he likes he at last believes to the destruction of the truth; or, as the apostle puts it here, "some, having thrust away" a good conscience, "made shipwreck concerning the faith."

The apostle gives examples then living; "of whom is HymenŠus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may be taught not to blaspheme."

This is not ecclesiastical discipline, or excommunication pure and simple, but the apostle's own act of power. Indeed it is questionable whether the assembly ever did or could, without an apostle, hand over to Satan. Certain it is, that in 1 Cor. v. the apostle connects himself with a similar exertion of power:

"For I, as absent in body and present in spirit, have already judged as present as to him that so wrought this thing, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (ye and m,; spirit being gathered together with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ) to deliver him, being such an one, to Satan, for destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

So another apostle exercised the power given him of the Lord, to deal extraordinarily with Ananias and Sapphire when they sinned unto death. The Lord, it would seem, thus by His servant judged them by so solemn a chastening, that they might not be condemned with the world.

But if, according tπ scripture, the assembly be not invested with such power, it is none the less under obligation to purge out the old leaven, "that ye may be a new lump, according as ye are unleavened." The standing is the ground of responsibility. If unleavened by and in Christ, we are bound to tolerate no leaven. Practice must be conformed to principle, and so the Spirit works by the word; not high or heavenly principle brought down to low and earthly practice. "For also Christ, our passover, was sacrificed for us; wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." If the assembly cannot and will not judge those that are within, it forfeits its character as God's assembly. Hence, even in the lowest condition, that which claims to be God's assembly is bound to put away the wicked person from among them. Responsibility to put out of church communion is the inalienable duty of the christian assembly, whenever a professed member of Christ can be justly designated as a "wicked person." But this is a distinct thing from the apostolic power of delivering over to Satan, which might or might not accompany that extreme act of the assembly.

It is well, however, to notice that even the apostle's act of delivering over to Satan, here spoken of, apart from the assembly, had the merciful as well as holy object in view, "that they may be taught not to blaspheme." It is a consoling thought, that even such evil-doers are not irrecoverably beyond the reach of divine grace. The terrible sentence which befel them was, on the contrary, t π teach by discipline those who refused to be taught by the truth, whose unjudged evil led them to depart from the faith which condemned them. Even Satan's power in dealing with the outer man, and perhaps in the infliction of anguish of mind, may be used under the hand of God to bring down the haughty spirit and make past blasphemy to be seen in all its offensive pride and opposition to God.

It is singular that Calvin, on this passage, chooses rather to explain it as relating to excommunication, of which not a word is said, though probably this may also have been the fact. But the opinion, as he calls it, that the incestuous Corinthian received any other chastisement than excommunication, he ventures to say, is not supported by any probable conjecture. Now this confusion we have seen to be in direct opposition to the plain declaration of 1 Cor. v., which distinguishes the apostolic energy and its effect from the inalienable call of the assembly to put away those who cast deliberate and manifest affront on the Lord's name. It is only when Paul joins himself to the assembly that he speaks of delivering to Satan. When he treats of their purging leaven that had entered, he speaks of putting out, and not a word more.

In short, then, delivering over to Satan was not a form of excommunication from the church, but an act of apostolic power, which might or might not accompany the act of putting out, and manifested its effect in bodily pains or even death itself. The distinction is of importance for this reason among others, that we can see clearly how the obligation abides to purge out the leaven that has got in; whilst it would be unbecoming to arrogate to the assembly that which scripture never speaks of apart from au apostle's power. Those who have Christ that was sacrificed as their centre cannot escape from the holy responsibility of keeping the feast with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, purging out what practically denies and dishonours Him. Power is another element, and as distinct from form as from duty; and, power or no power, we are bound to do our duty, as in the end of 1 Cor. v. it is no less obvious than momentous, if indeed we lire Christ's.