PERSONAL CHARGES TO TIMOTHY
1 Tim 5:21-23 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.
The solemn sincerity of Paul's admonitions in this letter to the young preacher, Timothy, is expressed in the lesson text. Without any doubt, everything men and women say and do - that is, any interaction between themselves and others on earth, is heard and seen in heaven. This being true, the charges Paul directed toward Timothy were, at the same time, openly expressed in the presence of God, His Son, Jesus Christ, and all the hosts of heaven. Timothy was to observe,that is,to note, and carry out, all the instructions Paul gave to him in this letter.
Not only was Timothy to obey these commands, but he was to teach them to others, and do so without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Here in just a few words, Paul warns Timothy, as well as all elders, deacons, preachers, and teachers, that serve, teach, and lead the body of Christ, to consider, and treat, all members of the congregation without bias or prejudice. Within the church of Christ, each member is a child of God. They are equal in His sight regardless of age, wealth, education, position, or rank in society. Therefore, all Christians are to be treated equally. If God's law applies to one, it applies to all. If God requires one to hear His word, believe it, and, to become His child, repent of their past sins, confess Jesus Christ to be His Son, the Savior of the world, be immersed in baptismal waters, for the remission of their sins, and live an obedient life thereafter, in order to have the hope of eternal salvation - then all must do exactly the same thing. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and neither should an elder, deacon, preacher, teacher, or any other member of the church of Christ, show any partiality toward their fellow Christians, or toward the world at large.
Timothy was told to lay hands suddenly on no man. At the beginning of the Christian era, the apostles were given the power to impart miraculous gifts of God to others by the laying on of their hands. Not only did they impart to them knowledge and understanding, which enabled them to preach and teach the gospel message of salvation to the world, but the power to establish it as the true word of God by miraculous works. The laying on of hands, during that era, also had another meaning that was not miraculous in its nature. It was a custom of that day. The laying on of hands was a form of agreeing to, encouraging, and blessing preachers and teachers sent on missionary journeys (See Acts 13:1-3). This custom was also used to demonstrate the ordination of, and submission to, the leadership of duly qualified Christian men as elders and deacons of each particular church of Christ. Having just discussed elders, this is the context in which the laying on of hands is used in the lesson text.
In appointing qualified men to fill the office of an elder, Timothy was told that the act of laying on of hands indicated the approval of a congregation, for the elders selected to rule over them. As important as it is, the selection and approval of elders was not to be done suddenly, and with haste. By inference, this selection process would apply as well to deacons. Each candidate selected for these offices must be thoroughly tested, by comparing all aspects of their character, and life style, to the standards that elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7) and deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13) must meet. This process is not to be done with sudden haste, lest some qualifications are not met, or may be overlooked.
In the absence of the divine guidance of apostles and those given miraculous gifts, the selection of elders and deacons for the church of Christ today, is not to be made by any individual, whether he is another elder, deacon, preacher, or teacher. Although encouraged by some of these individuals to seek the position, a candidate for the office of an elder or a deacon must first, with righteous intentions, desire the office and let it be known to the entire congregation of the church. And it is by the entire body of Christ that the approval and election process is made.
Continuing in the same context, that is, in regard to selecting and ordaining elders or deacons by the custom of laying on of hands, Timothy was not to be partaker of other men's sins, by appointing unqualified men to these positions within the church of Christ. To do so, Timothy would be participating in, and partially responsible for, the sins of others, in the appointment of a man unfit to hold such a position.
The final personal charge to Timothy by Paul was to drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. Here we have personal advice given to Timothy that seems to have no bearing on the verses preceding it, or on those following. Before commenting on this particular verse it is necessary to state that much debate has been made, and bible scholars have written much about this subject. In most of these lengthy arguments there are wide disagreements to its meaning. From these differing opinions, we have been made aware of historical Jewish, Egyptian, and Roman laws about the drinking of wine. Both in those days, as well as in today's society, the "legal" ages of men and women are the main determinant in the approval, prohibition, or limitation of drinking of alcoholic beverages. This, too, has given rise to much debate as it relates to this particular scripture.
The point missed in discussing this verse, is the fact that Paul was not giving Timothy Holy Spirit-inspired advice governing his social conduct. The advice given was wise medical counsel. The proper, and limited, use of wine for medicinal purposes was valid when this letter was written to young Timothy. Wine not only has intoxicating qualities, but it also had medicinal values. This fact is not only true of wine but it is also true of many other alcoholic beverages and narcotic drugs that contain pain relieving, as well as disease preventing, controlling, and curing qualities, when rightly prescribed and used in proper quantities and dosages.
Paul knew the health of this young man. And for whatever the reason may be, he knew that the water Timothy had available to drink would harm, more that help his physical health. He also knew that the medicinal qualities of a little wine, taken, not for personal "pleasure," would physically soothe and correct an existing medical problem that Timothy had with his stomach. The medical qualities of a little wine would also alleviate and cure some other physical infirmities that Paul knew were affecting the health of Timothy. Read and understood as it is written, Paul is not encouraging Timothy to indulge in strong drink for the purpose of becoming drunken. He is prescribing wine for medicinal purposes, and in a quantity that is needed to cure the stomach problems and the infirmities, from which Timothy was known to have been suffering.
These are some of the charges given personally to Timothy in the lesson text. He was charged to observe and obey them because the apostle Paul gave them to him before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels. Where applicable, these charges should be observed by Christians of all ages, but only in the context in which they were given by this inspired apostle.