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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL TO TIMOTHY - Chapter 6 - Verse 5

Verse 5. Perverse disputings. Marg., gallings one of another. In regard to the correct reading of this passage, see Bib. Repository, vol. iii pp. 61, 62. The word which is here used in the Received Text—paradiatribh—occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means mis-employment; then, idle occupation. (Rob. Lex.) The verb from which this is derived means to rub in pieces, to wear away; and hence the word here used refers to what was a mere wearing away of time. The idea is that of employments that merely consumed time without any advantage. The notion of contention or dispute is not necessarily implied in the passage, but the allusion is to inquiries or discussions that were of no practical value, but were a mere consumption of time. Comp. Koppe on the passage. The reading in the margin is derived from the common usage of the verb to rub, and hence our translators attached the idea of rubbing against each other, or of galling each other, as by rubbing. This is not, however, the idea in the Greek word. The phrase "idle employments" would better suit the meaning of the Greek than either of the phrases which our translators have employed.

Of men of corrupt minds. That is, of wicked hearts.

And destitute of the truth. Not knowing the truth; or not having just views of truth. They show that they have no correct acquaintance with the Christian system.

Supposing that gain is godliness. That that which contributes to an increase of property is of course true religion; or that it is proper to infer that any course which contributes to worldly prosperity must be sanctioned by religion. They judge of the consistency of any course with religion by its tendency to promote outward prosperity. This they have exalted into a maxim, and this they make the essential thing in religion. But how could any men do this? And what connection would this have with the subject under consideration—the kind of instruction that was to be given to servants? The meaning of the maxim seems to be, that religion must necessarily promote prosperity by its promoting temperance, and industry, and length of days; and that since this was the case, it was fair to infer that anything which would not do this could not be consistent with religion. They adopted it, therefore, as a general rule of judging, and one in entire accordance with the wishes of their own hearts, that any course of life that would not do this must be contrary to the true spirit of religion. This maxim, it would seem, they applied to the relation of the slave and his master; and as the tendency of the system was always to keep the servant poor and in an humble condition, they seem to have inferred that the relation was contrary to Christianity, and hence to have excited the servant to disaffection. In their reasoning they were not far out of the way, for it is fair to infer that a system that tends to produce uniform poverty, and to perpetuate a degraded condition in society, is contrary to the genius of Christianity. They were wrong

(1.) in making this a general maxim by which to judge of everything in religion; and

(2.) in so applying it as to produce insubordination and discontent in the minds of servants towards their masters; and

(3.) in supposing that everything which produced gain was consistent with religion, or that they could infallibly judge of the moral quality of any course of life by its contributing to outward prosperity. Religion will uniformly lead to that which conduces to prosperity; but it does not follow that every way of making money is therefore a part of piety. It is possible, also, that in some way they hoped for "gain" to themselves by inculcating those principles. It may be remarked here, that this is not an uncommon maxim practically among men—that "gain is godliness." The whole object of life with them is to make money; the rule by which they judge of everything is by its tendency to produce gain; and their whole religion may be summed up in this, that they live for gain. Wealth is the real object of pursuit; but it is often with them cloaked under the pretence of piety. They have no more religion than they suppose will contribute to this object; they judge of the nature and value of every maxim by its tendency to make men prosperous in their worldly business; they have as much as they suppose will promote their pecuniary interest, and they sacrifice every principle of religion which they suppose would conflict with their earthly advancement.

From such withdraw thyself. That is, have no communion or fellowship with them. Do not recognize them as religious teachers; do not countenance their views. Timothy was, in no way, to show that he regarded them as inculcating truth, or to patronize their doctrines. From such men, as having any claim to the character of Christians, every man should withdraw with feelings of unutterable pity and loathing. This passage 1 Ti 6:1-5 is often appealed to by the advocates and apologists for slavery, to prove that Christianity countenances that institution, and that no direct attempt should be made by the ministers of the gospel, or other Christians, to show the evil of the institution, and to promote its abolition, and to prove that we have no right to interfere in any way with what pertains to these "domestic relations." It is of importance, therefore, in view of the exposition which has been given of the words and phrases in the passage, to sum up the truths which it inculcates. From it, therefore, the following lessons may be derived:

(1.) That those who are slaves, and who have been converted to Christianity, should not be indolent or disorderly. If their masters are Christians, they should treat them with respect, and all the more because they are fellow-heirs of the grace of life. If they are not Christians, they should yet show the nature of religion on themselves, and bear the evils of their condition with patience—showing how religion teaches them to endure wrong. In either case, they are to be quiet, industrious, kind, meek, respectful. This Christianity everywhere enjoins while the relation continues. At the same time, however, it does not forbid the slave earnestly to desire his freedom, or to use all proper measures to obtain it. See 1 Co 7:21.

(2.) That the ministers of religion should not labour to produce a spirit of discontent among slaves, or excite them to rise upon their masters. This passage would undoubtedly forbid all such interference, and all agencies or embassies sent among slaves themselves to inflame their minds against their masters, in view of their wrongs; to put arms into their hands; or to induce them to form combinations for purposes of insurrection. It is not so much in the true spirit of Christianity to go to those who are wronged, as to those who do the wrong. The primary message in such cases is to the latter; and when it does go to the former, it is to teach them to be patient under their wrongs, to evince the Christian spirit there, and to make use only of those means which are consistent with the gospel to free themselves from the evils under which they suffer. At the same time, nothing in this passage, or in any other part of the New Testament, forbids us to go to the master himself, and to show him the evil of the system, and to enjoin upon him to let the oppressed go free. Nothing in this passage can be reasonably construed as teaching that an appeal of the most earnest and urgent kind may not be made to him; or that the wrongs of the system may not be fully set before him; or that any man or set of men may not lawfully lift up in his hearing a loud and earnest voice in favour of the freedom of all. And in like manner there is nothing which makes it improper that the slave himself should be put fully in possession of that gospel which will apprize him of his rights as a man, and as redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Every human being, whether held in bondage or not, has a right to be made acquainted with all the provisions and truths of that gospel, nor has any man or class of men a right to withhold such knowledge from him. No system of things can be right which contemplates that that gospel shall be withheld, or under which it is necessary to withhold it in order to the perpetuity of the system.

(3.) The passage teaches that it is possible that a man who is a slaveholder may become a Christian. But it does not teach that, though he may become a Christian while he is a slaveholder, that it is proper for him to continue this relation after he becomes such. It does not teach that a man can be a Christian and yet go into the business of buying and selling slaves. It does not teach that a man can be a Christian and continue to hold others in bondage, whatever may be true on that point. It does not teach that he ought to be considered as maintaining a "good standing" in the church, if he continues to be a slaveholder; and whatever may be the truth on these points, this passage should not be adduced as demonstrating them. It settles one point only in regard to these questions—that a case was supposable in which a slave had a Christian master. It settles the duty of the slave in such a case; it says nothing about the duty of the master.

(4.) This passage does not teach that slavery is either a good thing, or a just thing, a desirable relation in life, or an institution that God wishes to be perpetuated on the earth. The injunctions to slaves to be patient, meek, industrious, and respectful, no more demonstrate this, than the command to subjects to be obedient to the laws proves that God regarded the government of Nero as such an administration as he wished to be perpetuated on the earth. To exhort a slave to manifest a Christian spirit under his oppressions and wrongs, is not to justify the system that does him wrong, nor does it prohibit us from showing to masters that the system is contrary to the gospel, and that it ought to be abandoned.

(5.) This passage, therefore, furnishes no real support for slavery. It can no more be adduced in favour of it than any exhortation to those who are oppressed, or in any degrading situation in life, to be patient, proves that the system which oppresses and degrades them, is a good one. Nor does the fact that a man might be converted who was a slaveholder, and might be spoken of as a pistov, or believer, prove that it would be right and desirable that he should continue that relation, any more than the fact that Saul of Tarsus became a Christian when engaged in persecution, proves that it would have been right for him to continue in that business; or than the conversion of the Ephesians who "used curious arts," Ac 19:19,) proved that it would have been proper for them to continue in that employment. Men who are doing wrong are converted in order to turn them from that course of life, not to justify them in it.

{3} "perverse disputings" "gallings one of another" {b} "from such withdraw" Tit 1:1

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