On the First Epistle to Timothy

Chapter 1:5-11.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 333 - February 1884


Chapter 1:5-11

The notion that " commandment" here has any, thing to do with the law has wrought widely and disastrously, not merely so as to lose the true scope of what the apostle urges on Timothy, but alas! to insinuate the direct reverse of the truth. If the word had meant "command" or "injunction" as in ver. 1, there would not have been one whit more of real ground for dragging in the law: only those carried away by sound would have thought of it. For even "command" there is in relation with God, not as Judge according to law, but as our Saviour in mercy. It is well accordingly to adhere to the strict expression in 5, as it stands related to verses 3 and 18, which it would be absurd to connect with the law. It is rather in contrast, as an evangelical charge on which the apostle insists with his wonted force, and incisive keenness, and antithetical manner, which go for nothing where the ordinary confusion prevails. For thereby the blessing here and truly bound up with the gospel is attributed to the law. The apostle is really explaining, in connexion with his charge to Timothy, how God's dispensation that is in faith, acts.

1"Now the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned; which things some having missed, turned aside unto vain talk, desiring to be law-teachers, not understanding either what they say, or whereof they affirm" (ver. 5-7).

The apostle is setting the face of Timothy against those who would put the Christian under law. He does not allow their motives to be good in guarding souls from evil ways, nor does he fear their outcries against his teaching as antinomian. He maintains that the end of the charge he is giving is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. These are the effects of the gospel brought home to the believers: of which things the law is essentially incapable. It may convict of the enmity and impurity of the .heart; it may prove that the conscience is evil; and it is not of faith in any way, as we are told expressly in Gal. iii. 12. The law works out wrath, not grace, and thus becomes death, not life; not because it is not good and holy, but because man is evil, ungodly, and powerless. It is by faith that the heart is purified (Acts xv. 9), in virtue of obeying the truth unto unfeigned brotherly kindness, that we may love one another out of a pure heart fervently; and so it is through the word of God, but it is the word that is evangelized, not the law, but the gospel contrasted with it.

Those whom the apostle characterizes were Judaizing adversaries; and he tells them plainly that they had missed their aim. Could they really pretend to a pure heart, or a good conscience, or unfeigned faith? They were manifesting not love but vain talk. Through Christ the feeblest Christian walks in truth and love. Being loved perfectly we love; the heart is purged according to the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice, as the conscience is made good by it; and faith, knowing that all the evil and ruin are fully met in Christ's death and resurrection, now rests at ease without feigning anything, because all good is truly given of God and secured in His Son.

But, cries a would-be law-teacher, does not Rom. xiii. 10 identify the "charge" here with the "law" after all? The very reverse is proved by it; for the Christian, in the new nature which characterizes him now, does love, not as requirement under law, but as the outflow of his life in Christ. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; love therefore is the fulfilment, or full complement of law, but this by being under grace, and not law. The interpretation of too many, ancients and moderns, is the very principle here denounced. Their ignorance, according to the apostle, is complete. They understand neither what they say nor the question on which they thus dogmatize. At the same time grace, while it detects and rejects the misuse of law to puff man as he is and obscure the intervention of divine mercy in Christ, vindicates its true place as a matter of spiritual knowledge of which all Christians are conscious.

"Now we know that the law [is] good if one useth it lawfully, knowing this that law is not laid down for ii righteous person, but for lawless and insubordinate, for ungodly and sinful, for unholy and profane, for smiters of fathers and smiters of mothers, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, menstealers, liars, perjurers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine, according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I was entrusted" (ver. 8-11).

The fables of human imagination were evil acid incapable of any profitable use. Truth is the answer to the wants of a troubled heart and the questionings of an exercised conscience; but endless genealogies were trash and could only give rise to questions. But there was another and more subtle danger— man's misuse of God's low, which has misled more widely and permanently, and alas! godly souls too often. But this is not God's dispensation, which is in faith, any more than it is the end of the charge to Timothy. Yet the law is good, if one uses it lawfully. Have the misusers the inward consciousness that law is not made for a righteous man but for lawless and unruly, &c? Far different was their thought. Herein, then as now, men betray their inability to discern God's revealed mind. Law does not contemplate the good but the bad. Law is enacted to detect, convict, and punish. Law never made a "just man," still less "the good" man, if one may cite the distinction in Rom. v. 7. It is a sharp weapon to wound and kill transgressors; it never was designed to form motives of integrity or a walk of true righteousness. Its excellence lies in its unsparingness of evil, and man is evil; and this by nature. Grace, not law, saves sinners. Not law but grace teaches us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Here theology revolts from the truth, and even good men ignore the source of all that made them what they are, through the redemption that is in Christ and the faith that casts them thus on God. It matters not that the apostle elsewhere declares that by law is knowledge of sin, that it works wrath, that it is the power of sin, that it is a. ministration of death and condemnation, that as many as are of its works .are under the curse, that it was added for the sake of transgressions. They will have it that the law was made for the righteous as a rule of life, though it is the plain unavoidable inference from the words before us that this is precisely what the apostle explicitly denies of all law. It is Christ who above all acts by faith on the believer's soul. Hence he needs the word of God as a whole throughout his life, and the Spirit helps him to apply it in practical detail. Such is the Christian's secret of true morality; which in divine wisdom binds the heart up with the Saviour habitually, and makes the written word to be matter for constant pondering, for comfort and conscientious application in the Spirit, but all in the Sense of the true grace of God in which we stand and are exhorted to stand. For such exceeding privileges are meant to deepen our dependence on God and confidence in His love day by day.

Entirely is it not admitted only but insisted on, that the Christian is bound to do the will of God at all cost, and is never free to gratify the flesh. He is sanctified unto the obedience of Jesus Christ no less than to the sprinkling of His blood. Self-pleasing is Satan's service. But the law is not the measure of God's will for the Christian. It was for Israel; but we, even if by nature Israelites, were made dead to it through the body of Christ, that we should belong to Another—Him that was raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God. This is the method of divinely wrought freedom from the law, only to obey God with a nearness, fulness, and absolute devotedness unknown to a Jew.

Can anything be. less satisfactory, yea more nugatory, than the ordinary assertion of the divines that Paul still leaves it open, so far as the scripture speaks, for the law to be the directory of Christians, and that he simply means to exclude it from justifying the soul? Now it is undeniable that in Rom. vi. vii. he is treating of Christian walk, not of believing in order to justification; and he there lays down that we are not under law but under grace, and this as a principle of dealing on God's part, the expression of which is therefore put anarthrously, so as to go beyond "the" law, though fully including it. It is just the same here; so that Dean Alford errs in thinking that verse 9 does not go farther than 8 where the article appears. It is not "the" nor but "law" as such; and the οὐ negatives any such thing as law being enacted for a righteous person. Against the fruit of the Spirit, as the same blessed apostle writes in Gal. v., there is no law. The general form is intended in all cases with or without prepositions, where the article is not. Winer has misled people by his list of words (Ch.iii.xix.),which really fall under rule. Bishop Middleton was nearer the truth, though he mistakenly made prepositions exceptional.

But it is a mere assumption, not only groundless but anti-scriptural, that law is made for a righteous man as well as a sinful, so that "the apostle's meaning doubtless (!) is that it was given, not for the purpose of justifying the most righteous man that ever lived, but, for restraining the wicked by its threatenings and punishments." (Macknight's Apostolical Epp. 512. Tegg, 1835.) This is to subvert, not expound, scripture. Nor is Whitby in the least better, who takes it as "to condemn the righteous." Justification and condemnation are out of the question here, where the Apostle speaks of the object contemplated in the enactment of law, and declares it to be, net for righteous, but for sinners.

And is it not painfully instructive to see how an error once let in works to ungodliness? For those who so strenuously contend against the uniform doctrine of the New Testament, and place the Christians under law as his rule of life, contend that, if he offend as we all do too often, he is not under its curse! Is this to establish the law, or to annul it? If Christ died and bore its curse, and we too died with Him and now are no longer under law but under grace, the truth is kept intact, the authority of law is maintained, and yet we who believe are in full deliverance. If we were really under law for walk, we ought to be cursed, or you destroy its authority; if we are not under it, the true provision for one's sin is Christ's advocacy with the Father, which brings us to repentance, by the washing of water with the word.

Law then is established for lawless and unruly,. ungodly and sinners, unholy and profane, beaters of fathers and beaters of mothers. Such are the pairs in this dark list of human depravity: first, the inner spring of self-will and its more open insubjection; next, irreverence God-ward, and evil man-ward; thirdly, impiety and positive profanity; fourthly, insolent violence towards parents, without going so far as killing. Compare Exod. xxi. 15. For this last extreme introduces the general group, wherein one follows after another,—murderers, fornicators, sodomites, men-stealers (or kidnappers), liars, perjurers, and if any thing else is opposed to the sound doctrine.. Truly the law is a ministry of condemnation: what then can minister life, righteousness, and the Spirit? The gospel of salvation based on Christ and His work, which faith only receives; "and the law is not of faith" as we repeat from scripture. Blessing is inseparable from Christ; and it is of faith that it might be according to grace. They then that are of faith, whose principle is faith, are sons of Abraham, and blessed with the faithful Abraham. Those that speak of law may speak out of the abundance of their heart, as they certainly do out of want of faith, never shew the good works for which they call, but prove the wretchedness of slighting Christ. For the Spirit is sent to glorify Christ, and will never decorate or deceive self by vain hopes of amelioration.

But the Apostle is careful to add the concluding clause, "according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I was entrusted" (ver. 11). The glad tidings may not assert man's condemnation which is assumed in the strongest way. It is occupied with good for the worst of sinners, for it is the message of grace .from the God who was glorified in the Son of man and has now glorified Him in Himself, before the kingdom comes wherein He will display His power and glory to every eye. The gospel only went out in all the creation under heaven, after the proved guilt and irremediable ruin of all mankind; se that, as God's righteousness is therein revealed from faith unto faith, therewith is revealed, not such temporal judgment as we see under law, but God's wrath from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness pf men that hold the truth in unrighteousness. For it is the gospel of God's glory, not "the glorious gospel," as the Geneva V. led the way unhappily for the Authorised, but, as Wiclif, Tyndale, and all others, "the gospel of the glory." Such is the hope in which we rejoice, and such the standard by which He would have us measure and reject all evil: a standard therefore which suffers no compromise in view of man's hardness of heart, as the law did, but is absolutely intolerant of all that is antagonistic to God's nature and presence en high. And God is now revealed as "the blessed God," because He speaks to us, not in Sinai's fire and darkness and tempest and words yet more awful, but in the fulness of race and truth of Him who declared Him on earth and is now set down in the heavenly places where we who believe are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him. The atonement once accomplished and the Saviour gone up into glory, God was "happy" in acting freely in love to the lost; for grace could then reign through righteousness onto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Such is the gospel which the apostle (here and in Tit. i. 3) says was entrusted to him; as m Gal. ii. 7 he says it was and is, the abiding state and not the fact only, which now sufficed. The Authorised Version alone of English versions is accurate in this.



1) There is not the least need of the parenthesis (here to ver. 17 inclusively) marked by Griesbach, Scholz, Knapp, Lachman, etc.