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THE NEW TESTAMENT EPISCOPACY
The New Testament knows nothing about the modern bishopric, such as prevailed in the dead national Churches of the Old World, a separate and distinct ecclesiastical order. It was the fatal point of departure from apostolic simplicity, developing into priestcraft, progressing into prelacy, and culminating in the papacy. These high ministerial orders, unknown in the New Testament, are awful temptations to ambition, and enemies to sanctification; as you can not be sanctified in a candidacy for anything but heaven. Well does the Methodist simply apply the term superintendent, recognizing the so-called episcopacy as no separate order from the eldership. Good Lord, fortify Methodism against the Oriental episcopacy! So when you read about the bishop in the New Testament, understand the meaning is simply the leader of those little houseless, moneyless, and persecuted holiness bands, by the Holy Ghost denominated Ecclesia; i. e., the people called out of this wicked world and separated unto God, “ to await his Son from heaven, ” thus representing the ascended Lord during his absence, hated, despised, and maltreated by the world as he was. Bishop is the Greek episcopos, from epi, over, and skopeo, to see. Hence, it means a shepherd overseeing his flock. The Latin translation is pastor, which has been adopted into the English language, and is now correctly used as a translation of the Greek episcopos. Hence, bishop in the Pauline epistles, as well as throughout the New Testament, simply means the pastor of the church, or circuit, or district. Hence, the New Testament episcopacy is simply the pastorate.
1. “ It is a faithful saying, If any one desires the episcopacy, he is seeking after a beautiful work. ” It is perfectly laudable and right in the sight of God and man to desire and seek after the pastorate as a laudable work, in which to save souls and glorify God. Aspiration to the modern episcopacy would be ambitious and condemnatory in the sight of God and man.
2. “ Therefore it behooveth a bishop to be blameless. ” The code of Lycurgus, the great Spartan lawgiver, remained in force fourteen hundred years, thus surviving every other human code in the world’s history. When out in life’s evening, he secured a pledge from the people that they would obey his laws, at least till they heard of his death. Then he went into lonely exile, never seen nor heard of again, leaving the people thus obligated to obey his laws forever. Prominent in the Lycurgian code was the law that no man could be senator till he had passed his sixtieth year, and sustained an irreproachable character. (Under that law, I fear, we would have to import our senators.) Here we see the Holy Ghost requires an irreproachable character, appertaining to every pastor. “ The husband of one wife; ” i. e., polygamy prohibited. “ Watchful. ” The faithful shepherd must stand on his watchtower, and see that none of his flock go astray, and neither wild beast nor robber purloin nor slay. “ Prudent. ” The pastor is to have a well rounded Christian character, amply fortified against fanaticism, carnal oddities, and eccentricities. “ Orderly. ” He is to be a man of order; having everything in its right place, prompt in all of his duties, and a good organizer. “ Hospitable. ” His habitation is the retreat of the homeless, widows, orphans, and all in distress. “ Competent to teach. ” The pastor is ex-officio the teacher of his Church, the school of Christ. Hence, he is to be so cultured by the Holy Ghost as to be competent to teach his people the Holy Scriptures. O what an awful delinquency on this important line of pastoral duty this day! How few Churches are really the school of Christ! “ Not given to wine! ” At that time Satan had never taught the people how to manufacture alcoholic wine. Coffee had not been discovered and brought into use. The people used wine on their tables, like coffee and tea at the present day. The ordinary sweet wine was harmless, nutritious, and reviving; simply the expressed juice of the grape. (Acts 2:13.) E.V., “ These men are drunk on new wine, ” is erroneously translated, the Greek being gleukous, fermented wine, the only sort that would make them drunk. “ Not a controversialist. ” An old schoolmaster in the administration of discipline to his fighting pupils made it a rule to hit the one who struck the second blow twice as many licks as the aggressor who struck the first, alleging that it was not the first lick that caused the fight, but the second; for if a boy gets mad and strikes another, and he does not strike back, the aggressor gets ashamed, and strikes no more. Hence, there is no fight. So it is the second lick, retaliatory of the offense given, that really brings up the fight. The meaning of this Scripture is, that the pastor is not to strike back, but meekly to bear assaults and insults for Jesus’ sake. If he preaches the truth, the ecclesiastical pugilist can not overthrow it. If he should preach error, it will be a great blessing to him and to others to have it overthrown. Hence, like his Master, meek and lowly, he is to retaliate nothing. “ Gentle. ” A good case of salvation invariably makes you a model gentleman. You need not read Chesterfield nor go into the society of the world to learn politeness. At the feet of Jesus, taught by the Holy Ghost, you soon become a model gentleman. “ Peaceable. ” The pastor of the Church must not only have the peace of God in his own heart, but God wants to honor him as a peacemaker throughout his bailiwick. “ Free from the love of money. ” This is a deadener on the money loving and salary-seeking pastors of the present age. They have all missed their calling. God does not want them in the pastoral charge of his Churches. They ought to read Ezekiel 44:0 and 1 Peter 5:0, consider the irreconcilable disharmony of their attitude with God’s Word, and either wallow in the straw till God sanctifies out of them every vestige of money love, or go out of the pastorate forever.
4. “ Ruling their own family in the beauty of holiness, having their children in subordination with all gravity.
5. ( “ But if any one does not know how to rule his own family, how will he take care of the Church of God? ” ) These two verses sweep many a metropolitan pastor out of his stilted pulpit. The Bible is a plain book, and, with candor and honesty, easily understood. If a man can not save his own home, he is incompetent to fill the office of pastor; from the simple fact that the wicked example of his own ungodly family will rear a Popocatepetl between him and his people. Despite all he can do, they will stumble over the profligate example of the pastor’s family headlong into hell. Let such a man labor as an evangelist, seeking his field beyond the influence of his own incorrigible and ungodly family. Remember the Bible makes no mistakes. Hence, it is the inalienable duty of God’s people to enforce all of these restrictions, and see that the pastor is in full harmony with the laws of God regulating his ministry.
6. “ Not a novice ” (Greek, a new shoot). The old Methodists strictly obeyed this injunction, never committing a pastoral charge to a young preacher but always sending him out as the junior of a senior pastor. In these times, in which we sadly see the rapid apostasy of the Churches on all sides, so fearfully fulfilling the latter-day prophecies, the fallen worldly Churches are everywhere clamorous for juvenile pastors, whose inexperience and worldliness will be to them a guarantee of loose administration and carnal pleasures. Good Lord, help us back to first principles lest, having been puffed up, we may fall into the condemnation of the devil. “What is so calculated to inflate a boy preacher with vanity, foster egotism, inflame carnal passions of lust and covetousness, and expose him to Satan’s lasso, as to promote him to the pastorate, thus giving him authority over people old enough to be his grandparents, and exposing him to the attractions of the giggling girls and carnal youths who constitute the devil’s choir! Though he does not fall into public scandal, he simply apostatizes from God;” thus falling into the condemnation of the devil, becoming a cultured, popular pastor, but shorn of his spiritual locks, he spends his life grinding in the mills of Dagon.
7. “ It behooveth him to have a good report from outsiders, lest he may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. ” Satan’s people have more sense than we give them credit for. In a revival where many were getting saved, I finally got a hard rowdy in the rear of the audience down on his knees, and prayed for him. When he consented for me to go to the altar, and bring a preacher back there to pray for him (as this occurred in my boyhood), I said, “Which one?” “Bring old Thompson, for he has got more religion than all the balance.” Depend on it, the outsiders measure up every pastor in your town; they don’t miss the mark; if you are money-loving, worldly, cold, formal, and unspiritual, they find it out. What a deplorable pity that every Church on the globe does not enforce the laws of God relative to the pastorate! If it had been done, the world would have been conquered long ago, and our glorified Lord, in the splendors of his millennial glory, reigning from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. The holiness movement is God’s relief train, sent to the Churches wrecked by the world, the flesh, and the devil. God help us to be true and stick pertinaciously to the letter of the law! Do that, and you will come out right every time. The enforcement of the positive law of heaven here revealed would de-episcopate the great majority of the Churches in all lands. But God would raise up pastors in harmony with his Word to supply them all. The Protestant Churches have really gone into the wildest fanaticism on the subject of pastoral education. If a man has a collegiate diploma, and passes through the prescribed theological course, he is admitted with a clamorous welcome, though he be radically deficient in the qualifications here laid down by the Holy Ghost through the apostle Paul. The truth of it is, they will admit him and promote him to a metropolitan pulpit without so much as having investigated this inspired catalogue of indispensable pastoral graces. God help you all to study, appropriate, and do your utmost, by the grace of God, to confer them on every candidate for the pastorate!
The organization of the New Testament Church is wonderful for its simplicity. The greatest mistake of the ages has been the departure of the Church from that beautiful original. O that all would come back to it! Human institutions, alien from the inspired original, have built mountains on the visible Church too heavy to be borne. Hence, they weight her down to carnality and diabolism. The Gospel Church has but two offices in her organization; i. e., the pastorate, Conservatory of her spiritual interest; and the diaconate, the temporal. The union of these two offices in the same person is out of harmony with the original economy. It is all right for the deacon to preach with the evangelistic fire and vehemence of Philip in Samaria, and Stephen amid the stony shower, as God wants to fill us all with the Holy Ghost, giving us tongues of fire and turning us loose against the devil. But the deacon is the official custodian of the local institution, whose duty it is to look after every temporal interest the house, the finances, the pastor, the widows, the orphans, the poor, the meetings, etc. The Alma Mater Church at Jerusalem had seven deacons; of course, little organizations would frequently need but one. The diaconate is an office of most vital importance, involving the very existence of the local Church. Fortunately, we here have a graphic delineation of the qualifications required by the Holy Ghost in the deacon of a Gospel Church. While we deplore the departure of our predecessors from the New Testament organization, God help the holiness people in all lands to profit by the mistakes of our predecessors, and ever stick pertinaciously to primitive simplicity! The moment you create a human office, you open a door and invite carnality to walk in. Then the devil always comes in uninvited. In Methodism the deacons, in Bible phraseology, are called stewards, the diaconate having been transferred to the pastorate. The Baptist economy is Scriptural at this point.
8. “ Likewise let the deacons be grave; ” i. e., sober, sedate, not given to hilarity, jocosity, or frivolity, or trivial things grievous to the Holy Ghost. The deacon should be filled with the Holy Ghost, who will not stay with people if they indulge in vanity and folly. “ Not double-tongued ” Greek, double-worded; i. e., having two kinds of language to suit his company. When with the worldly he speaks the language of Ashdod; but with the saints, the language of Canaan. The tongue is the exponent of the soul, which goes out at the end of the tongue, visits the world, and comes back the same way. Paul’s double-tongued man is identical with James’s double-souled man (E.V., double-minded). The sinner has but one soul, and that is a bad one. The sanctified man has but one soul, and that is a good one. The double-souled and double-tongued are the unsanctified Christians, having the two natures in them belligerent with each other. Hence, we see that the New Testament deacon must be sanctified wholly, thoroughly expurgated from the carnal mind, and having only the mind of Christ. Then he will no longer speak the language of Ashdod, but that of Canaan only, having but on mind and one language. “ Not given to much wine. ” The grape-juice in the Holy Land is exceedingly delicious and nutritious; though ordinarily innocent, the temptation to a farmer in the “land of corn and wine” to partake excessively justifies timely admonition. “ Not fond of disgraceful gains ” E.V., “ greedy of filthy lucre. ” All accumulation out of harmony with perfect honesty is disgraceful in the sight of God and all good men. Here is an unanswerable argument in favor of the entire sanctification of the deacon, as this is the only grace that perfectly saves him from filthy lucre. O how we need such men to officer the Church of God!
9. “ Having the testimony of faith in a clean conscience. ” The Holy Ghost is here powerfully explicit for the sanctification of all the deacons, knowing that this is the only way to keep the Church loyal to God. If once the deacons are caught by the devil, it will be very hard to keep him from lassoing the Church, as he has sadly done in myriads of cases. The soul, heart, or spirit (as these terms are used interchangeably in pulpit and pew), consists in the conscience, will, and affections. The conscience is the only spiritual element that survived the fall, thus constituting a medium through which God can speak to the soul. Without this survival of the Edenic original, man would be hopeless as a devil. Through the conscience God speaks, convicting the sinner. The will is the king of humanity ingeniously subordinated, manipulated, and utilized by the devil in human damnation. In conversion, the will is wrested out of Satan’s hands, and turned over to God, who subsequently rules the man through his will. Still a terrible civil war rages in the deep regions of the affections, till everything disharmonious with the Divine will, and heterogeneous to the character of God, is extirpated by the cleansing blood, and exterminated by the consuming fire of the Holy Ghost in entire sanctification. Here it is enjoined upon the deacon to have a clean conscience, and witness to it.
The conscience is a constituency of the heart, the specific for the generic, involving the unequivocal conclusion that the deacon must have a clean heart; i. e., be sanctified wholly.
10. “ But let them first be proven, then let them exercise the office of a deacon, being irreproachable. ” As the deacon is the custodian of the local Church, there is a great risk in his office, lest he let the devil in. Hence, no one is to be entrusted with the office of deacon till he has been thoroughly tested on all lines of these specified qualifications. After he has given ample proof, then he shall he solemnly consecrated to the office of deacon with fasting, prayer, and the imposition of hands.
11. “ Likewise let the women be grave, not tattlers, vigilant, faithful in all things. ” This verse describes the qualifications of the women, who shall be entrusted with the office of deacon. You see they are substantially identical with the preceding already described, with the single exception of “tattling.” As women are much about houses and in company, and thus exposed to extraordinary temptations in the direction of loquacity, perhaps the additional warning is given to avoid all gossip, talking only for Jesus.
12. “ Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses in the beauty of holiness. ” Here we see the same restriction laid on the deacon as on the pastor. If a man’s family are not an example and an inspiration to the Church, and thus an auxiliary to the deacon or the pastor in his momentous and responsible leadership of souls, such a one shall not be trusted with either of these responsible offices. They must be content to work for the Lord without thus jeopardizing the spiritual interest of the Church. Bear in mind that the Holy Ghost, through his servant Paul, emphatically specified this prohibition in case of both pastor and deacon, the only officers of the New Testament Church, that their families, the inmates of their houses, must be faithful examples for the members of their Churches, cooperative with them in their responsible work as officers representing the Church of the living God.
13. “ For those who have administered the office of a deacon in the beauty of holiness, appropriate to themselves, beautiful progress, and much boldness in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus. ” Certainly the person enjoying all the graces here required in the experience of a deacon, augmented constantly by the wonderful means of grace incident to the faithful performance of official duties, will make rapid progress in the Divine life, growing into spiritual gianthood, and becoming a tower of strength in the Lord’s war. What can we do to bring the Churches back to the glory, simplicity, beauty, and victory of the New Testament organization, disencumbering her of the unscriptural human institutions which weight her to death? If she would only return to first principles, the earth would tremble and quake with pentecostal revivals.
THE CHURCH, GOD’S FAMILY
15. “ I write these things to thee, hoping to come to thee more speedily. ” Evidently Paul’s plan was to spend the oncoming winter at Nicopolis in Southern Macedonia, and return to Asia the ensuing spring. This he never did; but saw Timothy no more till they met in bright glory. Instead of spending the winter at Nicopolis, he was arrested, carried to Rome, and
incarcerated in that filthy old Mamertine prison; out of which he was led to Nero’s bar, and thence to the executioner’s block. “ But if I delay, in order that you may know how to deport yourself in the family of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. ” The Greek, oikos, so frequently in the New Testament translated “household,” is the regular word for family. It is used constantly in reference to Abraham, who never owned a house, but spent his life in a movable tent; “house of Abraham,” simply meaning his family. The apostolic Churches had no houses, and never built any till A.D. 150. Since the devil turned on the Church such a flood of idolatry i. e., ecclesiolatry; i. e., Church worship I sometimes think it would have been better if the Church never had built a house. Let the edifice burn down, and the pastor defraud the bank and run off, the whole congregation feel they have no religion, and surrender to the devil. Here it says “at the house of God;” i. e., the family of God, not the building for they had entrusted none the Church of the living God. So, if you want to know whether you are in the true succession of the apostolic Church, you have but one question to settle: Does the Spirit himself bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? If you can answer this question solidly in the affirmative, you can shout down all the pretentious hierarchies and ecclesiastical tyrants in all the ages intervening between you and Paul’s sermon on the Areopagus. Here we see positively revealed the identity of the apostolic Church with God’s family. We also have the affirmation that the Divine Ecclesia i. e., the New Testament Church is the “pillar and support of the truth.” Hence, we see the immeasurable responsibility, the illimitable enterprise, and the ineffable glory of the holiness people, as the only true and faithful custodians of the truth in all the world, on whom God can depend to preach it unequivocally and unreservedly, fearlessly of men and devils. We can not depend on the creed-bound and priest-ridden Churches to do this work, so grand and noble that the archangels would vacate their thrones to enjoy the privilege. The holiness people, though identified more or less with all of the various Churches, are the only people in the world who take the Bible as their only authority in all matters appertaining to the kingdom of grace and glory, unencumbered by human creeds and uninspired authorities. Let any others go out preaching, and they will mix up their creeds and humanisms with the gospel. Hence, the latitudinous and longitudinous opportunities and responsibilities of the holiness movement. The Churches became so corrupt that God could no longer rely on them to proclaim his unadulterated truth to all the world. Hence, he called out, and is still calling, his true and humble saints of all nationalities, sects, and races, and separating them unto himself, that he may make them the faithful custodians of his truth revealed in the Bible, and send them out to preach it to every nation. Consequently he is raising up great armies of evangelists in every land and nation, to carry this gospel to the ends of the earth. We have this glorious heavenly treasure in these frail earthen vessels. The available material is so scarce, in proportion to the demand, that God will take you without regard to age, sex, or race, if you will only meet the conditions; i. e., come out of the world and separate yourself unto him, so he can manage you in his own way.
16. “ Confessedly great is the mystery of godliness. ” It is certainly great, for that mystery is none other than the Incarnate God-man, who came in the lowly manger, and was nailed to the cruel cross to redeem you and me from sin, death, and hell, and is coming again in glory unspeakable to redeem the world, taking the devil out of it, judging the wicked, and inaugurate his glorious millennial kingdom . “ Who was manifested in the flesh. ” The incarnation of Christ in his first advent is the great centralizing event of the world’s history the last six thousand years, fulfilling the old dispensation, and inaugurating the new. “ Was justified in the Spirit. ” Christ needed no justification from sin, but he was abundantly justified in the sense of approval by the Holy Ghost, who descended on him in the form of a heavenly dove when John at the Jordan consecrated him to his official Messiahship, speaking aloud, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” thus filling him for the great work of preaching his gospel to the world. “Was seen of angels.” They called the shepherds from the fields of Bethlehem to recognize him in the manger; meanwhile hovering over him, they sang their song of triumph. They ministered to him after the devil’s temptations, accompanying him in all his earthly life, one hundred and twenty thousand gathering over Mount Calvary, administering comfort and anxious to interpose in his rescue. “ He was preached among the Gentiles. ” Christ was truly the herald of the gospel to all nations during his first advent, verifying all the types and shadows of Levitical restriction, and unfurling the banner of his redeeming love to all the nations of the earth. “ Was believed on in the world. ” While haughty Jew and warlike Roman alike rejected the incarnate Christ, diabolically uniting in his crucifixion, he was not left without witnesses, many true hearts having believed on him in his peregrinations through Galilee and Judea. “ Was received up in glory; ” not into glory as R.V. reads, as if he had to go up to heaven to receive his glory. But the Greek says, He received it right there on Mount Olivet when his body was transfigured, eliminating mortality, and rising, ascending triumphantly into heaven amid the contemplative multitude. The moment his feet vacated the summit of Olivet, he entered the glorious transformation, then and there receiving again the glory which he had with his Father before the world began. Thus invested with his transfiguration glory, leaving the world, he ascended up to heaven.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 3". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12