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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

On 1 TIMOTHY 5: 21- 6:11

HOMILIES OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO TIMOTHY, EXCERPTS FROM HOMILIES XIV TO XVIII

1 TIMOTHY 5:

Ver. 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 hastily 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 thy often infirmities."


HAVING spoken of Bishops and Deacons, of men, and women, of widows and elders, and of all others, and having shown how great was the authority of a Bishop, now he was speaking of judgment, he has added, "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." Thus fearfully he charges him. For though Timothy was his beloved son, he did not therefore stand in awe of him. For as he was not ashamed to say of himself, "Lest by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away"; much less would he be afraid or ashamed in the case of Timothy. He called the Father and the Son to witness. But wherefore the elect Angels? From great moderation, as Moses said, "I call heaven and earth to witness"; and again, "Hear ye, O mountains, and strong foundations of the earth." He calls the Father and the Son to witness what he has said, making his appeal to Them against that future Day, that if anything should be done that ought not to be done, he was clear from the guilt of it.

"That thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality." That is, that thou deal impartially and equally between those who are upon trial and are to be judged by thee, that no one may pre-occupy thy mind, or gain thee over to his side beforehand.

But who are the elect Angels? It is because there are some not elect. As Jacob calls to witness God and the heap, so we often take at once superior and inferior persons to witness; so great a thing is testimony. As if he had said, I call to witness God and His Son and His servants, that I have charged thee: so before them I charge thee. He impresses Timothy with fear; after which he adds, what was most vital, and bears most on the maintenance of the Church, the matter of Ordinations. "Lay hands," he says, "suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins." What is "suddenly"? Not upon a first, nor a second, nor a third trial, but after frequent and strict examination and circumspection. For it is an affair of no common peril. For thou wilt be responsible for the sins committed by him, as well his past as his future sins, because thou hast delegated to him this power. For if thou overlook the past unduly, thou art answerable for the future also, as being the cause of them, by placing him in that station, and of the past too, for not leaving him to mourn over them, and to be in compunction. For as thou art a partaker of his good actions, so art thou of his sins.

"Keep thyself pure." This he says with reference to chastity.

"Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thy often infirmities." If one who had practiced fasting to such an extent, and used only water, so long that he had brought on "infirmities" and "frequent infirmities," is thus commanded to be chaste, and does not refuse the admonition, much less ought we to be offended when we receive an admonition from any one. But why did not Paul restore strength to his stomach? Not because he could not--for he whose garment had raised the dead was clearly able to do this too,--but because he had a design of importance in withholding such aid. What then was his purpose? That even now, if we see great and virtuous men afflicted with infirmities, we may not be offended, for this was a profitable visitation. If indeed to Paul himself a "messenger of Satan" was sent that he should not be "exalted above measure", much more might it be so with Timothy. For the miracles he wrought were enough to have rendered him arrogant. For this reason he is left to be subject to the rules of medicine, that he may be humbled, and others may not be offended, but may learn that they who performed such excellent actions were men of the same nature as themselves. In other respects also Timothy seems to have been subject to disease, which is implied by that expression, "Thy often infirmities," as well of other parts as of the stomach. He does not however allow him to indulge freely in wine, but as much as was for health and not for luxury.

Ver. 24. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some they follow after."

In speaking of ordination, he had said, "Be not partaker of other men's sins." But what, he might say, if I be ignorant of them? Why, "some men's sins are open beforehand, going before them to judgment, and some they follow after." Some men's, he means, are manifest, because the, go before, whilst others' are unknown, because they follow after.

Ver. 25. "Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they that are otherwise cannot be hid."


1 TIMOTHY 6:

Ver. 1. "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their masters worthy of all honor, that the Name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed."

Let them count them "worthy of all honor," he says; for do not suppose, because thou art a believer, that thou art therefore a free man: since thy freedom is to serve the more faithfully. For if the unbeliever sees slaves conducting themselves insolently on account of their faith, he will blaspheme, as if the Doctrine produced insubordination. But when he sees them obedient, he will be more inclined to believe, and will the rather attend to our words. But God, and the Gospel we preach, will be blasphemed, if they are disobedient. But what if their own master be an unbeliever? Even in that case they ought to submit, for God's Name's sake.

Ver. 2. "And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved partakers of the benefit."

As though he had said, If ye are thought worthy of so great a benefit, as to have your masters for your brethren, on this account ye ought more especially to submit.

"Going before to judgment." This he had said, implying that of evil actions here some are concealed, and some are not; but there neither the good nor the bad can be concealed. And what is that going before to judgment? When one commits offenses that already condemn him, or when he is incorrigible, and when one thinks to set him right and cannot succeed. What then? 'What is the use of mentioning this? Because if here any escape detection, they will not hereafter. There all things are laid open; and this is the greatest consolation to those who do well.

Then because he had said, "Do nothing by partiality," as if under the necessity of interpreting it, he adds, "As many servants as are under the yoke." But you will say, What has a Bishop to do with this? Much surely, for it is his office to exhort and to teach these too. And here he makes excellent regulations with respect to them. For we see him everywhere commanding the servants rather than their masters, showing them the ways of submission, and treating them with great regard? He exhorts them therefore to submit with great meekness. But the masters he recommends to forbear the use of terror. "Forbearing threatening" , he says. And why does he thus command? In the case of unbelievers, naturally, because it would have been unreasonable to address those who would pay no heed to him; but where believers were concerned, what was his reason? Because masters contribute greater benefits to their servants, than servants to their masters. For the former furnish the money to purchase for them sufficient food and clothing; and bestow much care upon them in other respects, so that the masters pay them the larger service, which is here intimated, when he says, "they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. " They suffer much toil and trouble for your repose, ought they not in return to receive much honor from their servants?

And it is not merely so great honor, that we enjoy from the King of the universe. What master ever gave his own son for his servant? No one, but all would rather choose to give their servants for their sons. Here on the contrary, "He spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all," for His enemies who hated Him. Servants, though very hard service is exacted of them, are not impatient; at least, not the well-disposed. But how many times do we utter discontent? The master promises to his servants nothing like what God promises to us; but what? Freedom here, which is often worse than bondage; for it is often embittered by famine beyond slavery itself. Yet this is their greatest boon. But with God there is nothing temporal, nothing mortal; but what? wouldest thou learn? Listen then, He says, "Henceforth I call you not servants. Ye are my friends."


Ver. 2-7. "These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."

A TEACHER has need not only of authority, but of gentleness, and not only of gentleness, but of authority. And all these the blessed Paul teaches, at one time saying, "These things command and teach"; at another, "These things teach and exhort." For if physicians entreat the sick, not for the benefit of their own health, but that they may relieve their sickness, and restore their prostrate strength, much more ought we to observe this method, of entreating those whom we teach. For the blessed Paul does not refuse to be their servant: "We preach not ourselves," he says; "but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake"; and again, "All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos." And in this service he serves with alacrity, for it is not slavery, but superior to freedom. For He says, "Whoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."

"If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing." Presumption therefore arises not from knowledge, but from "knowing nothing." For he that knows the doctrines of godliness is also the most disposed to moderation. He who knows sound words, is not unsound. For what inflammation is in the body, that pride is in the soul. And as we do not in the first case say that the inflamed part is sound, so neither do we here consider the arrogant. It is possible then to be knowing, and yet to know nothing. For he that knows not what he ought to know, knows nothing. And that pride arises from knowing nothing is manifest from hence. Christ "made Himself of no reputation", he therefore who knows this will not be high-minded. Man hath nothing except from God, therefore he will not be high-minded. "For what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" He washed the feet of His disciples, how can he who knows this be setting himself up? Therefore He says, "When ye have done all, say we are unprofitable servants." The publican was accepted only from his humility, the Pharisee perished by his boastfulness. He who is puffed up knoweth none of these things. Again, Christ Himself says, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?" (John xviii. 23.)

"Doting about questions." To question then is to dote. "And strifes of words"; this is justly said. For when the soul is fevered with reasonings, and stormy, then it questions, but when it is in a sound state, it does not question, but receives the faith. But from questionings and strifes of words nothing can be discovered. For when the things which faith only promises are received by an inquisitive spirit, it neither demonstrates them, nor suffers us to understand them. If one should close his eyes, he would not be able to find anything he sought: or if, again with his eyes open, he should bury himself, and exclude the sun, he would be unable to find anything, thus seeking. So without faith nothing can be discerned, but contentions must needs arise. "Whereof come railings, evil surmisings"; that is, erroneous opinions and doctrines arising froth questionings. For when we begin to question, then we surmise concerning God things that we ought not.

"Perverse disputings," that is, leisure or conversation, or he may mean intercommunication, and that as infected sheep by contact communicate disease to the sound, so do these bad
men.

"Destitute of the truth, thinking that gain is godliness." Observe what evils are produced by strifes of words. The love of gain, ignorance, and pride; for pride is engendered by ignorance.
"From such withdraw thyself." He does not say, engage and contend with them, but "withdraw thyself," turn away from them; as elsewhere he says, "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject." He shows that they do not so much err from ignorance, as they owe their ignorance to their indolence. Those who are contentious for the sake of money you will never persuade. They are only to be persuaded, so long as you give, and even so you will never satisfy their desires. For it is said, "The covetous man's eye is not satisfied with a portion." From such then, as being incorrigible, it is right to turn away. And if he who had much obligation to fight for the truth, is advised not to engage in contention with such men, much more should we avoid it, who are in the situation of disciples.

Having said, "They think that godliness is a means of gain," he adds: "But godliness with contentment is great gain, not when it possesses wealth, but when it has it not. For that he may not despond on account of his poverty, he encourages and revives his spirit. They think, he says, that godliness is a means of gain, and so it is; only not in their way, but in a much higher. Then having demolished theirs he extols the other. For that worldly gain is nothing, is manifest, because it is left behind, and does not attend us, or go along with us at our departure. Whence is this plain? Because we had nothing when we came into this world, therefore we shall have nothing when we depart from it. For nature came naked into the world, and naked she will go out of it. Therefore we want no superfluities; if we brought nothing with us, and shall take nothing away with us.

Ver. 8. "And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content."

Such things, and so much ought we to eat, as will suffice to nourish us, and such things should we put on, as will cover us, and clothe our nakedness, and nothing more; and a common garment Will answer this purpose. Then he urges them from the consideration of things here, saying,

Ver. 9. "But they that will be rich"; not those that are rich, but those who wish to be. For a man may have money and make a good use of it, not overvaluing it, but bestowing it upon the poor. Such therefore he does not blame, but the covetous.

Ver.9. (continued) "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition."

He has justly said, "they drown men," since they cannot be raised from that depth. "In destruction and perdition."

Ver. 10. "For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Two things he mentions, and that which to them might seem the more weighty he places last, their "many sorrows." And to learn how true this is, the only way is to sojourn with the rich, to see how many are their sorrows, how bitter their complaints.

Ver. 11. "But thou, O man of God."

This is a title of great dignity. For we are all men of God, but the righteous peculiarly so, not by right of creation only, but by that of appropriation. If then thou art a "man of God," seek not superfluous things, which lead thee not to God, but

Ver 11. (continued) "Flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness."

Both expressions are emphatic; he does not say turn from one, and approach the other, but "flee these things, pursue righteousness," so as not to be covetous.

"Godliness," that is, soundness in doctrines. "Faith," which is opposed to questionings. "Love," patience, meekness.