Having thus considered the labourer, the apostle returns to the details of the work, in which Timothy was to display his diligence and watchful care. Everywhere here the subject is that which is suitable outwardly to an upright walk, that which is seemly, whether with regard to the position of individuals, or with respect to the world. The apostle speaks of elders; of widows, of that which is becoming for younger widows; of the honour due to faithful elders those among them especially who were teachers also. There is nothing inward, nothing of the soul's relationships to God; but everything refers to the public testimony which suited the position of men in this world before God. It is important to remark this that although our joy lies in our heavenly privileges in our communion, yet we can never with impunity neglect ordinary duties or moral proprieties; we must take knowledge of the practical dangers that would beset us, owing to that which the flesh is.
We may notice that provision was made for all widows who had no relatives able to maintain them; and also that there were elders who did not teach.
Against an elder, Timothy was not to receive an accusation, unless there were two or three witnesses.
All this bears testimony to the fact, that the apostle gives these directions with a view to outward order; for the maintenance of that which is respectable in the eyes of all, and of respect for all that ought to be respected. At the same time, Timothy was to be careful not to give by the laying on of hands his sanction to any one who did not offer moral guarantees that, in the position he had taken, he deserved this mark of respect from others. It would be, on Timothy's part, to become a partaker in the sins of which such a one might be guilty. He was not to lay hands hastily on any one.
Some men's sins were open, and proclaimed before hand the judgment that awaited them. The sins of others were hidden: they would find them again at the great day. But this was a reason why he should do nothing in his charge with precipitation; he was also to keep himself pure.
Timothy's habitual temperance is here seen: weak in body, the apostle recommends him to use his liberty by taking a little wine-a pleasing instance of grace. We have here a proof of the habits of this faithful servant. The Spirit shews us how carefully he kept himself from exciting or satisfying his passions in the least thing (at the same time that there is perfect liberty to use everything that is good when there is a true reason for it) and also the apostle's tender interest in his fellow-labourer in the gospel. It is a little parenthesis attached to the expression, " be not a partaker of other men's sins," but it has great beauty. This affectionate watchfulness became the apostle; he desired holiness in his representative, but he well knew how to respect Timothy, and to maintain the decorum which he had enjoined, and to exhibit his heartfelt tenderness. The 24th verse is connected with the 22nd.