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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 4 - Verse 14
Verse 14. Neglect not the gift that is in thee. An important question arises here, to what the word gift refers :—whether to natural endowment; to office; or to some supposed virtue which had been conferred by ordination—some transmitted influence which made him holy as a minister of religion, and which was to continue to be transmitted by the imposition of apostolic hands.—The word which is here used, is rendered gift in every place in which it occurs in the New Testament. It is found in the following places, and with the following significations:— deliverance from peril, 2 Co 1:11; a gift or quality of the mind, ; gifts of Christian knowledge or consolation, Ro 1:11; 1 Co 1:7; redemption or salvation through Christ, Ro 5:15,16; Ro 6:23; 11:29; the miraculous endowments conferred by the Holy Spirit, Ro 12:6; 1 Co 12:4,9,28,30,31; and the special gift or endowment for the work of the ministry, 1 Ti 4:14; 2 Ti 1:6; 1 Pe 4:10.
The gift then referred to here was that by which Timothy was qualified for the work of the ministry. It relates to his office and qualifications -to every thing that entered into his fitness for the work. It does not refer exclusively to any influence that came upon him in virtue of his ordination, or to any new grace that was infused into him by that act, making him either officially or personally more holy than other men, or than he was before—or to any efficacy in the mere act of ordination—but it comprised the whole train of circumstances by which he had been qualified for the sacred office, and recognised as a minister of religion. All this was regarded as a gift, a benefit, or favour, carisma,—and he was not to neglect or disregard the responsibilities and advantages growing out of it. In regard to the manner in which this gift or favour was bestowed, the following things are specified.
(1.) It was the gift of God, 2 Ti 1:6. He was to be recognised as its source; and it was not therefore conferred merely by human hands. The call to the ministry, the qualifications for the office, and the whole arrangement by which one is endowed for the work, are primarily to be traced to him as the source.
(2.) It was given to Timothy in accordance with certain predictions which had existed in regard to him—the expectations of those who had observed his qualifications for such an office, and who had expressed the hope that he would one day be permitted to serve the Lord in it.
(3.) It was sanctioned by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery. The call of God to the work thus recognised by the church, and the approbation of the Presbytery expressed by setting him apart to the office, should be regarded by Timothy as a part of the "gift" or benefit (charisma) which had been conferred on him, and which he was not to neglect.
(4.) An additional circumstance which might serve to impress the mind of Timothy with the value of this endowment, and the responsibility of this office, was, that Paul himself had been concerned in his ordination, 2 Ti 1:6. He who was so much more aged, (2 Ti 4:6,7); he who had been a father to him, and who had adopted him and treated him as a son, had been concerned in his ordination; and this fact imposed a higher obligation to perform aright the functions of an office which had been conferred on him in this manner. We are not to suppose, therefore, that there was any mysterious influence—any virus—conveyed by the act of ordination, or that that act imparted any additional degree of holiness. The endowment for the ministry; the previous anticipations and hopes of friends; and the manner in which he had been inducted into the sacred office, should all be regarded as a benefit or favour of a high order, and as a reason why the gift thus bestowed should not be neglected—and the same things now should make a man who is in the ministry deeply feel the solemn obligations resting on him to cultivate his powers in the highest degree, and to make the most of his talents.
Which was given thee by prophecy. That is, the prophetic declarations and the hopes of pious friends in regard to your future usefulness, have been among the means by which you have been introduced to the ministry, and should be a reason why you should cultivate your powers, and perform faithfully the duties of your office. See Barnes "1 Ti 1:18".
With the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. It was common to lay on the hands in imparting a blessing, or in setting apart to any office. See Mt 19:15; Mr 6:5; Lu 4:40; 13:13; Le 8:14; Nu 27:23
The reference here is undoubtedly to the act by which Timothy was set apart to the office of the ministry. The word rendered presbytery—presbuterion, occurs only in two other places in the New Testament—Lu 22:66, where it is rendered elders and Ac 22:5, where it is rendered "estate of the elders." It properly means an assembly of aged men; council of elders. In Lu 22:66; Ac 22:5, it refers to the Jewish sanhedrim. See Barnes "Mt 5:22".
In the passage before us, it cannot refer to that body—for they did not ordain men to the Christian ministry—but to some association, or council, or body of elders of the Christian church. It is clear from the passage
(1.) that there was more than one person engaged in this service, and taking part in it when Timothy was ordained, and therefore it could not have been by a prelate or bishop alone.
(2.) That the power conferred, whatever it was, was conferred by the whole body constituting the Presbytery—since the apostle says that the "gift" was imparted, not in virtue of any particular power or eminence in any one individual, but by the "laying on of the hands of the Presbytery."
(3.) The statement here is just such a one as would be made now respecting a Presbyterian ordination; it is not one which would be made of an Episcopal ordination. A Presbyterian would choose these very words in giving an account of an ordination to the work of the ministry; an Episcopalian would not. The former speaks of an ordination by a Presbytery; the latter of ordination by a Bishop. The former can use the account of the apostle Paul here as applicable to an ordination without explanations, comments, new versions, or criticisms; the latter cannot. The passage, therefore, is full proof that, in one of the most important ordinations mentioned in the New Testament, it was performed by an association of men, and not by a Prelate; and, therefore, that this was the primitive mode of ordination. Indeed, there is not a single instance of ordination to an office mentioned in the New Testament which was performed by one man alone. See this passage examined at greater length in my "Inquiry into the Organization and Government of the Apostolic Church" [pp. 221—238. London edition.]
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