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The epistles to Timothy and Titus have naturally a peculiar bearing and character, being addressed to persons deputed by the apostle to act in his name, or to care for the churches during his absence. Their application to us is none the less direct on this account, because they not only instruct us with regard to the state of the church, and the pastoral care which the apostle bestowed on it, but the line of conduct in which Timothy is charged to lead the faithful is that which the faithful ought always themselves to follow. Nevertheless to confound the directions given to Timothy and Titus with the words addressed immediately to the faithful, would be to cast confusion upon ministry in its best sense.
A great part of this first epistle to Timothy requires but little development; not because it is without importance, but because it contains directions — so plain and simple that explanation would be superfluous — and practical exhortations which would only be obscured and their force and point taken away by attempting to enlarge upon them.
On the other hand, some general principles of great importance for the position of the assembly in general are contained in this epistle.
God assumes here, in a peculiar way, the character of a Saviour-God with regard to the world: a principle of great importance in all that concerns our conversation in the world and our intercourse with men. We represent in our religious character a God of love. This was not the case in Judaism. He was indeed the same God; but there He took the character of a Lawgiver. All were indeed to come to His temple according to the declaration of the prophets, and His temple was open to them; but He did not characterise Himself as a Saviour-God for all. In Titus we find the same expression.
In these confidential communications to his dear children in
the faith, and companions in the work, we can understand that the
apostle would clearly establish the great principles on which the
administration committed to him rested. That all men were the
objects of God's dealings in grace was the general basis on which
this administration was founded — that the character of God
towards the world was that of a Saviour (compare 2 Cor. 5). The
law has its place and it still has it, as the apostle shows — the
conviction of unrighteous men.* But the sovereign mercy of God was
the starting-point of all that the apostle had to declare. This
thought, this spirit, was to govern the worship even of
believers. Details follow. Notwithstanding this love to the world,
there was upon the earth an assembly of the living God, the pillar
and support of the truth, and the witness to it on earth. The
Person of Christ, and all that concerns Him, is the subject of its
confession, the foundation of its existence, and the object of its
faith. This faith would be assailed in the last days by the enemy,
who, under the pretence of sanctity, would set himself up against
God the Creator and Preserver of all men and of believers in
particular. Directions for the walk of the assembly compose the
remainder of the epistle. Conduct suitable to all is set before
Timothy to make him, as well as ourselves, understand that which
befits the assembly of God. We will now look more closely into the
contents of this epistle.