Thursday, 1 February 2018
I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. 1 Timothy 5:21
Paul now directs his attention to Timothy himself, especially pointing out what is expected of him. He begins with, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word translated as “charge” bears more weight than the translation implies. It is rather, “solemnly charge.” It is a compound word comprised of “thoroughly” and “witness.” Thus, it is a solemn charge or an earnest testimony. Paul’s words then hold great weight as presented to Timothy. This is all the more seen by including both “God” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” as witnesses.
Paul is making the most solemn charge possible by calling the infinite God, and His designated Mediator who comes from Him, to witness Paul’s charge to Timothy. He then calls on “the elect angels” as well. This term is highly debated. Some see this as not meaning “some of the angels,” but “the choice, or preeminent, among the angels” (John Gill). Others see it as all angels which are not fallen. Those which are fallen are then recorded in Jude, where it speaks of “…the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode” (verse 6). In contrast to these fallen angels would be those recorded in Hebrews 12:22. There it says, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels.”
In the end, the term is used just this one time in the Bible. The doctrine of angelology is a valid point of study, but much of it rests on inferences and speculation. Even when these inferences are particularly obvious, it is better to not be overly dogmatic on a subject which is otherwise not explicitly stated. What can be inferred without going beyond what is written, is that Paul is using these “elect angels” in his charge to Timothy, thus implying that they are to be witnesses to Timothy’s life and actions, and they will probably be a special part of testifying to his life’s conduct when he stands at the Bema Seat of Christ. Otherwise, there would be no need for them to be witnesses.
Logically then, it follows through that all saved believers are likewise viewed by this heavenly host. Each of us is implicitly included in this. The charge to Timothy is given in this solemn manner because of the especially weighty position to which he has been elevated. Therefore, he is expected to “observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”
The idea of “prejudice” is that he is to not make a judgment apart from the facts. The word, prokrima, is unique here in Scripture. It is a compound word signifying “to judge before.” He is not to decide before hearing a matter, whether based on the status of another, his affiliation or friendship with another, or for any other reason where he might be inclined to make a pre-judgment based on anything but the facts that will be presented.
The idea of “partiality” indicates a pre-inclination. The Greek gives the sense of a balance-scale inclining one way or another because it is tipped in that direction. Rather than such an attitude, proper application would demand that justice is blind-folded, and that the balances are properly aligned through the entire process of discerning a matter. As the leader of the church, he is to properly weigh out all matters – doctrinal, inter-personal, etc. – fairly and without any sort of bias being allowed to enter into his decision making. He is to hold to the highest standards of fairness and proper discernment.
Life application: Due to presuppositions, and due to our personal likes and dislikes as humans, the words given to Timothy are exceptionally hard to apply to our decisions. But this is what is expected of those in the ministry. If we conduct our affairs with bias, or with pre-judgments, we will inevitably corrupt our doctrine, and err in our decisions. First and foremost, we are to hold to Scripture as the ultimate source of our faith. And then we are to apply its high and noble standards to our decision making process at all times. We are neither to twist the word in the process. Instead, our doctrine should be fixed and unchanging as we deal with such matters.
Lord God, where can we go to find the right way to deal with others in a fair and proper manner? If we trust in our own selves in this, we will surely fail. We are a product of our makeup, and that makeup is faulty. But Your word is not. And so help us to put aside our fallen inclinations, and to apply the precepts of Your word to our lives in all matters. In this, our decisions will be fair, our judgments will be sound, and Your will is what will be revealed in those things we do. Help us in this, O Lord. Amen.