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WIDOWHOOD IN APOSTOLIC CHURCH
1-16. Primitive Christianity is all luminous with spiritual wisdom. Widowed saints over sixty years were utilized in the Lord’s work, “spending night and day” in prayers and supplications, and, of course, receiving temporal sustenance as beneficiaries of the Church. As they spent all of their time in prayer and soul-saving labor, they must be supported by Christian benefaction. This organization of venerable widowed saints, unencumbered with temporal affairs and devoted to incessant prayer, is a lost institution of the apostolic age, which should by all means be revived. The superficial religion of our day is poorly competent to appreciate this apostolic institution. Up in the mountains of West Virginia, years ago, a Methodist Church flourished, and shed her light over all the land. Ere long some of the members went to heaven, others to the wild West, and others to the devil, leaving a few to transfer their membership to other Churches. However, Aunt Peggy says she is too old to go off to meeting, and she will finish her pilgrimage alone in old Mount Tabor. The house is neglected, chinking out, chimney fallen down, and roof caving in, but Aunt Peggy spends the Sabbath there on her knees, often getting happy and arousing the citizens by her shouts. One Sunday afternoon, some mischievous juveniles say, “Let us go and scare the old woman.” Halting in hearing distance, and listening to her supplications, behold! she is pleading with God to save the wicked young men of the neighborhood. Smitten by the thunderbolts of conviction, they come in, fall on the floor, and ask her to pray for them. This was the beginning of a great revival, resulting in hundreds converted and house rebuilt. Dr. Finney used to carry around with him a simple-hearted, illiterate old man, who had power with God to pull down salvation on the people. He would stay in his room, and pray while Finney preached. The Doctor said he could tell while he was preaching how the old man was getting along in prayers.
As you who read the “Life of Finney” will certify me, frequently the power came on his congregations, knocking the people down on all sides, till they would lie prostrate for hours crying to God. The world gives Finney credit for these mighty works, when God did them in answer to the prayer of that old saint. O how we need to revive our praying bands of sainted widows in every Church! “The power of prayer is actually unknown in the popular Churches of the present day.”
2. “ Elderly women as mothers, younger women as sisters in all purity. ” God help us all to heed this admonition! I have been lied on from every point of the compass; beaten with dirt, stones, frozen potatoes, and eggs; mobbed, threatened with immediate death, and twenty-six years ago hauled out of my circuit as a crazy man, and repeatedly rejected and forced to travel; but never was a scandal raised against me. I have been astonished that Satan did not utilize this powerful weapon against me; perhaps it is because I have always observed Paul’s injunction here to Timothy, Treat the “ younger women as sisters in all purity. ” Do not forget this. You can not be too careful in your deportment toward young women. Many an innocent man has been ruined influentially by mere indiscretion.
4. “ If any widow have children or grandchildren, ” they should take care of them, thus relieving the Church.
6. “ But she who is wanton living is dead; ” i. e., she is backslidden through wantonness, and spiritually dead though physically alive.
8. “ But if any one provides not for his own, and especially the inmates of his home, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. ” This is a terrible condemnation on lazy people who do not provide for their homes. God is so good pouring out the bounties of nature into the hand of industry on all sides, that almost any person with a very small effort can provide temporal sustenance. In Washington they claim to grow eight hundred bushels of Irish potatoes per acre. A person can live well on the potato and a little salt. This verse covers all the ground, and turns condemnation on all who do not provide for their families.
10. “ If she has washed the feet of saints. ” Here Paul lays down foot- washing in the catalogue of Christian benefactions. In Oriental countries, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and Arabia, they do not wear shoes but sandals, to protect the bottoms of their feet from the burning sand. On arrival, hospitality greets the guest at the door, removes the sandals, and washes the feet. When Jesus was washing Peter’s feet (John 13:0), responsive to the remonstrances of the latter, he said, “What I do thou knowest not now, but shalt know hereafter.” Peter did know that Jesus was washing his feet. So that was not what Jesus was doing, but teaching him a profound lesson in Christian humility, which he could only receive after the consumption of all his blinding depravity by the fires of Pentecost. This statement of the Savior, and the historic fact that the primitive Church did not practice foot-washing, is demonstrative proof that it was not an ordinance of the Apostolic Church, like baptism and the eucharist, but simply an impressive lesson in humility, deduced from a long-standing custom of Oriental hospitality, now paralleled (especially in our northern latitudes, where sandals are not used), by blacking the shoes.
11-13. These verses refer to the sad fact of apostasy on the part of young widows through wantonness, whose provided remedy, along with the grace of God for keeping or reclamation, is matrimony.
14. Here Paul advises the younger widows to get married; as this institution is a blessed Christian privilege, and a powerful fortification against temptation and sin.
16. “ If any faithful woman have widows, let her support them, and let not the Church be burdened, in order that she may give her attention to those who are widows indeed. If your mother, daughter, or sister is left in widowhood, take care of her, thus relieving the Church. ” This paragraph on widowhood is characterized throughout with good common sense, prudence, and wisdom. O that the Church would heed it, coming back to first principles!
17. “ Let the elders, who stand before you in the beauty of holiness, be considered worthy of double remuneration, especially those who labor in word and teaching. ” This does not mean simply a ruling elder, as in E.V., but the teachers and preachers of mature years, experience, and learning. The Greek, proestotes, in E.V. translated “rule,” is from pro, before, and istemi, to stand. Hence, it simply means standing before you in the attitude of a teacher. Kalos, “well” in E.V., literally means beautifully. Therefore the elderly brother and sister who stand before you preaching and teaching, adorned with the beauty of holiness, are to be counted worthy of double pay for their service. “ Especially those who labor in word and teaching. ” Preach means simply proclaim the Word of God as revealed in the Bible, while teach involves the deep subtleties of exposition. As the Bible was written in Oriental languages not now used by any living people, we must be educated and thus prepared to go down into the dark mysteries of these dead languages, and haul up the sparkling gems of inspired truth, that they may dazzle the illuminated eye of the faithful inquirer, exploring the deep things of God. In view of the time, money, and labor needed in the qualification to labor in “word and teaching,” the Holy Ghost here enjoins double remuneration in behalf of the elders, who “ labor in word and doctrine. ” In this and many other instances the E.V. bends the translation into favoritism with ecclesiastical authority, which at that time was so prominent in the Episcopal Church. But this passage has no intimation of official rank or prerogative, but simply exhorts the people to confer double remuneration on the elderly brothers and sisters who “ stand before them in the beauty of holiness, laboring in word and instruction, ” while hundreds of others around, with no costly education nor long years of experience, may preach the living Word with a small remuneration.
18. “ For the Scripture says, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his hire. ” This verse is confirmatory of the preceding. When I was in Egypt and the Holy Land, I saw the oxen, everywhere I went, going round on the threshing-floor, treading out the wheat and barley and other grains (there never having been any American corn in that country). Why don’t they use steam threshers? The iron horse is there, thundering along the railroad. Why do they not let him thresh out their wheat? The customs of the patriarchal age must abide there, witnesses to the truth of the Bible, till the Lord comes. Why do they not have steam mills to grind their wheat and manufacture their flour? Still, two women sit down on either side of the little hand mill, and grind flour for dinner. They are waiting till the Lord comes for his Bride, taking up the one and leaving the other.
19. We have no right to conclude that this is only an official elder, as the original meaning of the Greek is simply of mature years. As people get old, extraordinary deference is due them. Hence, we should go slowly in their accusation and condemnation, keeping quiet till we can prove the allegations by two or three witnesses.
20. “ Convict those who sin in presence of all, in order that the rest may indeed have fear. ” O how plain and explicit the duty of the preacher is here specified! In the great congregation, God requires him to lift up his voice like a trumpet, sparing neither friends nor foes, but exposing all sin, and convicting all sinners. The word which I here translate “convict,” is elegche. It is the Greek word for the sentence of the criminal judge, when he gives his verdict against the accused, condemning him for the penitentiary or the gallows. It is the strongest condemnatory word in the Greek language. Do you know that condemnatory preaching is rapidly becoming a lost art, as very few Churches have the grace to tolerate it, and equally few preachers the heroism to give it?
21. “ I testify before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, that you may guard these things without prejudice, doing nothing according to partiality. ” You see Paul solemnly obligates Timothy before God and the angels sent forth to help him, and the people to whom he preached to secure their heavenly election, that he will guard all these truths like a soldier standing sentinel, as that is the word here used. It was a penalty of death for a Roman soldier to go to sleep on guard. Every preacher is God’s sentinel under the eye of Omniscience and the elect angels standing to guard immortal souls against the invasions of the devil. Woe unto the pastor who permits the Lethean slumber so to somnify him that he shall fail to sound the alarm on every approach of the enemy! “Prejudice” is one of the meanest things ever hatched in hell. It is from the Latin, pre, beforehand, and judicium, judgment. Hence, it means a verdict given before the evidence is heard. I heard of a judge in the Emerald Isle who said he always gave his decision when he heard one side of the evidence; for if he waited and heard the other side he would get puzzled so he would not know how to decide. We have no right to have prejudice against anything, not even the devil; for God is going to give all the devils a fair trial in the judgment-day. Prejudice killed Jesus and two hundred millions of his faithful followers. All the opposition to holiness is the work of Satan’s prejudice. John Fletcher well says, “Perfect love is an angel so lovely and beautiful that the devil can’t get his hell-hounds to chase it till he covers the amiable form with a bearskin.” Then they will go for the bearskin, but not for the angel; so all the hell-hounds barking on the track of holiness are just after the bearskin, which the devil has thrown on it. “ Doing nothing according to partiality. ” To this Paul solemnly adjures Timothy. No wonder our Lord required even his own apostles to get sanctified wholly as a qualification to preach the Pentecostal gospel, as nothing but the fires of the Holy Ghost can burn the prejudice and partiality all out of the heart.
22. “ Lay hands suddenly on no one, lest you participate in the sins of others. ” This is very appropriate admonition. When they sent out men and women to preach, they gathered around them, laying hands on them, and invoking the descension of the Holy Ghost on them, with his extraordinary spiritual gifts, to empower them for the responsible conflict with sin and Satan, invariably incident to soul-winners. Before we thus commission people for responsible posts of duty, we should test them thoroughly, and be satisfied that they have a genuine case of personal salvation, lest they prove traitors, and bring reproach on the cause of God. “ Keep yourself pure. ” “Pure” in this charge not only includes experimental holiness, but emphasizes personal chastity, so preeminently imperative in the preacher of the gospel.
23. “ Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and frequent sickness. ” While Timothy was an exceedingly valuable preacher, he had a feeble constitution and a weak stomach. In my camp-meeting tour I traveled through the great South every summer and fall, where a diversity of febrile diseases are constantly prevalent, and ever and anon the pestilential yellow-fever visits the land. When he comes, I always pay him the courtesy of an orderly retreat. In case of all the other fevers, I stand my ground so far as possible, ceasing to drink the ordinary waters, which are frequently warm and malarious, but resorting to the medical springs, which, in the goodness of God, prevail in that country, determining the location of almost every camp; having never yet yielded to the importunities of the natives to use coffee as an anti-malarial. The word used by Paul means neither fermented nor alcoholic wine, but the unadulterated fresh juice of the grape, which is nutritious, reviving, and sanitary. Mark the specification here, “ Use a little wine; ” i. e., not much.
No person acquainted with the facts in the case can criticize Paul in this advice. Doubtless the water in that country at that time was not first-rate, and the atmosphere malarious.
24. “ The sins of certain men are manifest beforehand, going before to judgment, but to certain people, indeed, they follow afterward. ” This is a plain statement of universally prevailing occurrences. The two most prominent men in your village are your pastor and your saloon-keeper. All enlightened people condemn the latter, and deplore the evil employment in which he spends his life, not only poisoning and killing the bodies, but destroying both soul and body in hell. Not so with the pastor. All believe he is spending his life for the good of humanity. At the judgment he turns out to be a Judas Iscariot, who sold his Master for filthy lucre. A preacher in Brother Carradine’s revival was on his knees at the altar seeking sanctification. An ecclesiastic passes by, stoops down, and, putting his hand on his shoulder, whispers to him, “If you do not get away from there, you go to the piny woods.” He arose, and left, never to return; for he was in a fifteen-hundred dollar station. He beat Judas one hundred-fold, as he only got fifteen dollars.
25. You can hide your works here, and pass them for good when they are bad; but you can not hide them when we all stand before the great white Throne.
1,2. The world was full of slavery in Paul’s day. While the gospel provides for every relation in this life, it puts the plowshare down deep, and plows out all evil in due time. Rapidly is human slavery evanescing before the advancing light of Christian civilization.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 5". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent