Chapters 4-6 of 1 Timothy are full of exhortations for us.  Let’s begin by reading 1 Timothy 5:21 where the Apostle writes, “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.”  After giving several admonitions, Paul stops momentarily to instruct Timothy (and us) to observe (obey) the instructions that had been given.  In following the Lord’s instructions, we are cautioned that we should not act with prejudice.  Isn’t this a real tendency among us?  In ‘preferring one before another’ we literally pre-judge people.  It would be like sitting on a jury and determining the guilt or innocence of the accused before the trial begins.  To show ‘partiality’ is to lean towards one over the other.  It is so easy to be partial towards a person of wealth, personality, looks, influence…the list goes on and on.  In our dealings with others, especially in matters pertaining to the functioning of the church, we should not be prejudiced against some, while being partial towards others.

Now let’s move on to 1 Timothy 5:22, which says “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”  Let’s break this verse down so that we can understand its meaning.

  • “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” To ‘lay hands’ on someone is a sign of approval and identification with.  We have a good example of that in Acts 13:1-3 where the Lord had a special work that He wanted Barnabas and Saul (later called Paul) to do.  He laid that burden on the hearts of all the saints there so that they might all be in agreement.  Before sending these men off, we read that they fasted and prayed, and then “laid their hands on them.”  Was this an act of ordination?  No, it was simply an outward act which showed their acceptance and approval of the work that Barnabas and Saul were sent to do.  So, we are exhorted that we do not approve of, or identify ourselves with someone until their character has been examined.  We need time to ‘hear the case’ before we are able to put our stamp of approval upon them.
  • “Neither be partaker of other men’s sins.” In accepting someone too quickly, we could very easily become involved in their sinful behavior.  When someone is welcomed into the local church and has the approval of all, he automatically will have an influence on others.  If he is welcomed in without knowing his character, we are exposing everyone to his influence.  This could have a very negative impact if he leads others to partake in his sinful lifestyle.
  • “Keep thyself pure.” Specifically this means not using prejudice or partiality towards others.  It means not being tangled with others so that we become involved in their sinful lives.  In more general terms, this means that we need to keep ourselves from the sins of the world.  To ‘keep’ ourselves pure, means that we are pure, and need to maintain that.  The Greek word for ‘pure’ is translated ‘chaste’ in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

Paul’s exhortations in this verse are so important to us today.  May we take them serious!  We should act without prejudice or partiality.  We should not accept someone into our company too quickly, we should certainly not partake of their sins.  This is not to say we should not minister to others, or share the Gospel with others.  We should share the Gospel freely with all we meet.  (208.4)