I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favouritism. (verse 21)
“I charge you.”
This is no throw-away line. It’s not an off-hand remark, nor is it simply a piece of warm-hearted advice. This is weighty instruction, indeed compelling command.
It calls Timothy to understand that he is standing under open heavens, in the full view of the Father and the Son and all the angelic hosts. His response to this charge will be seen by all. It is full of consequence.
What, then, is the charge? “Keep these instructions without partiality, and … do nothing out of favouritism.” The stand-out words are “partiality” and “favouritism” – these inclinations are to be completely set aside. It’s a tall order for fallible human beings.
But before we get there, we need to examine the phrase “keep these instructions.” What does Paul mean?
He’s referring to the instructions he’s just given Timothy in the preceding verses regarding how to deal with church leaders. Accusations against leaders are not to be entertained when raised by single voices – for an accusation to be considered and weighed it must be brought by at least two or three witnesses (verse 19), the minimum standard mandated by Old Testament law. Equally, those leaders who “are sinning” (verse 20) must be rebuked publicly, rather than simply ignored. This was particularly crucial in the Ephesian church where it seems some of the leaders were actually promoting false teaching, having “shipwrecked their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19).
With integrity, then, deal with church leaders without partiality and without favouritism. Refuse to allow room for partisan attacks. Equally, don’t back away from necessary correction and rebuke.
Wow. Such simple, healthy instruction for church life, both then and now. Honour leaders well, but don’t turn a blind eye to sin. It’s a weighty charge.
It’s also helpful (indeed weighty) instruction for other areas of life.How easily we become partial, showing favouritism to some while demanding unrealistic standards of others. How easy to be motivated by partisanship, readily seeing faults in those we dislike while remaining blind to the foibles of those we admire, or of those we deem to be “on our side.”
Think of the workplace, the school, the neighbourhood, the church community, the family, the political arena. What difference would it make if you consistently lived by the guidelines Paul gives to Timothy? How are you doing at the moment? Are you treating those around you “without partiality”? Is it true of you that you “do nothing out of favouritism”?
Maybe this is simply another way of saying “love your neighbour as yourself,” which pairs so perfectly with that other command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Love him by living consciously under his watchful, loving gaze. Honour him by loving others – without partiality or favouritism.
O Sovereign Lord – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – I want to honour you in every way, acknowledging your presence in all I do. Help me to love others as I love myself, without partiality or favouritism. Help me to extend your grace, even when confronting sin and error and false perspectives. May your kingdom come, your will be done. Use me for your purposes. To your glory. Amen.
Pray: Ask the Lord for discernment: Is there a circumstance in which you are currently showing partiality or favouritism? Ask for his wisdom to help you change your perspective, attitudes, and behaviour.