by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 Lincolnton, NC March 6, 2005
15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
1901 ASV Translation:
15 but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
There are no textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26.
I. Paul's "possibility" [his "But if..."] -- that his "shortly" will turn into a relatively long delay (indeed, it might never happen in the mystery of God's dominion over His creation; a dominion which He seldom shares with His people in terms of "future events").
A. The indication of the "But if..." is that there is something sufficiently "needful" that it cannot be permitted to be tied to the vagaries of "my personal future developments".
1. This means that, in the prioritizing of what is needful, the "instruction" of 1 Timothy is of greater necessity than the accomplishing of Paul's "hopes".
2. This also signals Paul's conviction that God's plan for the Church "must" be established even if his own plans go completely awry.
a. It is an odd thing that the "Church" does not share the apostolic commitment. The noticeable absence of "polity" according to 1 Timothy/2 Timothy/Titus in the modern "church" is an indisputable manifestation of the absence of this commitment.
b. The "glaring" difficulty: Paul, as an appointed "apostle", was "one man" making a demand that the "church" never be under the leadership of "one man". And not only this, but "one" man was telling another "one" man to set things up so that "one" man is never the dominating force in the local church. It looks a lot like "do as I say and not as I do".
c. The "solution" to the "glaring difficulty": Paul was an "apostle". This means that he was representing Christ, the Head of the Church (the ONE MAN Who does have final authority over the Church). Thus, the question becomes: Does Timothy share the "apostolic" position? And, if Timothy, why not all the "one" men who want their own show down through all the ages? Why set up the polity of the church with multiple men in joint-responsibility if a godly ministry can be set up and function under the oversight of "one"? Why has God, throughout the ages, presented at least an appearance of choosing "one" man through whom He focuses His energies and accomplishments? It is not a New Testament fact that the "apostles" traveled in concert with each other to set up the churches. But this fact does stand: settingup churches to function is not at all the same thing as making the daily decisions that have "governance" over the life of the local church. It is one thing to use "one" man to establish a principle and pattern; it is another thing for "one" man to be the final authority day in and day out. In the history of God's dealings with mankind, He has pretty consistently used "one" to get the ball rolling, but every time the "one" tried to keep the ball rolling, the process fell on hard times. However, it is also true that "dispensationally" all of the processes have always fallen on hard times because of the breakdown of the divine "principles-in-application".
B. The reference to "tarrying long".
1. The word is used only twice in the New Testament; here and in 2 Peter 3:9, though variations of it are also found another three or four times.
2. In the real world of word-use, the word signalled a rather "ponderous progression toward some objective" -- a "slowness" to reach the desired end.
3. Paul is simply addressing the possibility that his plans will not unfold within the time-frame for which he "hoped" (i.e., "wished").
a. The problem of "unfolding plans" in respect to "hoped for goals" is a real one. There is not a person alive who has not been seriously "angered" because a "hope" was either denied or postponed. And the "ministry" seems to be dominated by the "five-year-plan" mentality; a foolish mindset from the get-go in light of the fact that God, for the most part, didn't even let His "apostles" in on how their daily futures would unfold. For any man to set up a "plan of results" is a tacit arrogance in the assumption of "sovereignty" over God and His real will in this world. That is not to say that men should not set up "plans of action", for all "actions" should be "planned" under the "will of God", but it is a far different thing to set actions in motion than to decree their outcome.
b. In 1 Timothy 2:1-8 Paul clearly esablished the "divine" method for ascertaining His "will" for the churches: multiple men are to pray without wrath and argument in 'holiness of hands'. When this is done, the will of God unfolds for the good of the church. When it is not done, the impetuous will of a man will unfold to the detriment of the church. The "multiple men" are characterized in 3:1-7 as "overseers" who must have the godly character that only exists in the long-term disciple.
1. I say "only exists" because the depravity of man is real and the processes of God in gaining dominion over a man's heart and mind are incremental, amazingly tolerant of the man's resistance, and, from man's point of view, intolerably slow ("ponderous").
2. No man is qualified to be in the position of ascertaining the will of God for a church who has not been a long-term disciple in real terms and is willing to work in concert with other men of like character.