Westminster Assembly Project

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Westminster Assembly Project

The Westminster Assembly Project exists to make the writings of the Westminster Assembly and its members available to scholars and to the general public. It is the umbrella title for several subprojects, one of which seeks to publish the minutes and papers of the Westminster Assembly. We hope that as this site develops it will prove useful for researchers focusing on Puritanism, the English civil-war, post-Reformation theology, or the history of Presbyterianism and Congregationalism.

The Commisioning and Calling of Timothy


As we come to the end of Chapter 1 of Paul’s First letter to Timothy there are in these last 3 verses a plethora of interesting and downright mysterious phrases. Though before we look at the individual clauses here are the last three verses

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.

The first thing that should pop out to you is the question of “What command?”, what is Paul referring to when he speaks to Timothy concerning his “command”? Well if we go back to verses 3 and 4 we see that Paul has charged Timothy with setting up a Seminary of sorts here in Ephesus so that the Elders (who we will get to in due time) can properly instruct the people in True Doctrine so that they will not go astray. Now I am sure that if Paul just knew better and he went to a mainline Seminary he would understand that Orthopraxy is more important than Orthodoxy. But what is that you say? Oh yeah Paul has already discussed this way back in Romans 4. What good is right action if it is not accompanied by right knowledge. Even the Pagans do good works. But what the Pagans do not have are the words of eternal life which Paul has entrusted with Timothy. (Seem to remember Peter telling Jesus this somewhere????).

The next curious clause is also in verse 18. Paul says, “in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you”. What can Paul possibly mean here? Calvin has this to say concerning the phrase:

In order to encourage him still more, he reminds him what kind of testimony he had obtained from the Spirit of God; for it was no small excitement, that his ministry was approved by God, and that he had been called by divine revelation before he was called by the votes of men. “It is disgraceful not to come up to the expectations which men have been led to form; and how much more disgraceful will it be to make void, as far as lies in thy power, the judgment of God?” But we must first ascertain what are the prophecies of which he speaks. Some think that Paul was instructed by revelation to confer the office on Timothy. That I acknowledge to be true, but I add that others made revelations; for it was not without reason that Paul made use of the plural number. Accordingly, we conclude from these words that several prophecies were uttered concerning Timothy, in order to recommend him to the Church. Being still a young man, he might have been despised on account of his age; and Paul might also have been exposed to calumnies, on account of having ordained youths, before the proper time, to the elder’s office. Besides, God had appointed him to great and difficult undertakings; for he was not one of the ordinary rank of ministers, but approached very closely to that of the apostles, and frequently occupied the place of Paul during his absence. It was, therefore, necessary that he should receive an extraordinary testimony, in order to make it manifest that it was not conferred on him at random by men, but that he was chosen by God himself. To be adorned with the applauses of the prophets was not an ordinary occurrence, or one which was common to him along with many persons; but because there were some circumstances to Timothy, it was the will of God that he should not be received by men until he had been previously approved by his own voice; it was the will of God that he should not enter into the exercise of his office until he had been called by the revelations of the prophets. The same thing happened to Paul and Barnabas, (Acts 13:2,) when they were ordained to be teachers of the Gentiles; for it was a new and uncommon occurrence, and they could not otherwise have escaped the charge of rashness. It will now be objected by some, “If God had formerly declared, by his prophets, what kind of minister Timothy should be, what purpose did it serve to admonish him, to show that he was actually such a person? Could he falsify prophecies which had been uttered by divine revelation?” I reply, it could not happen differently from what God had promised; but at the same time it was the duty of Timothy, not to give himself up to sloth and inactivity, but to render a cheerful compliance with the providence of God. It is therefore not without good reason, that Paul, wishing to stimulate him still more, mentions the “prophecies,” by which God might be said to have pledged himself on behalf of Timothy; for he was thus reminded of the purpose for which he was called.

Amazing how much one person can say about a single word. Interestingly enough Calvin spends the most time in Chapter 1 on this subject. Those of us who have been called to the Gospel ministry would do well to take heed the words of Paul in this pericope.

The final part we will look at on this subject is the words concerning Hymenaeus and Alexander who have been excommunicated, given over to Satan, because they have “shipwrecked” their faith. This of course points one back to the episode with the man who was sleeping with his Step-Mother in 1st Corinthians 5. Now these are especially hard words for us to here in our day and time mostly because any idea of discipline in the mainlines and even the more “orthodox” Presbyterian denominations have started to slide in this regard. Why is it we are so afraid to discipline? Is it because we refuse to even discipline ourselves or can it be that we fear the condemnation of the world more than the leavening of the whole loaf?

A Little About Me

Well, that’s a first. It seems I’ve been “tagged” by Rev. Fishcler at The Reformed Pastor to provide “six unimportant facts/quirks/habits about myself” . It’s one of those Internet things. But I do appreciate him thinking of me. So here goes:

1. I have 4 Flags on my wall: State Flags of Ohio, WV, and North Rhine-Westphalia and the U.S. Flag

2. I was Co-Defensive Player of the Year my Freshman year of college (Soccer Goalkeeper).

3. I prefer Canadian Beer.

4. My middle name was originally going to be Thomas but my Grandfather changed it to Paul.

5. I am a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans

6. I always wear house slippers when at home.

Now, Rev. Fischler went on to list six bloggers, including me, whom he “tagged,” so I reckon I need to do the same. Those would be:

Steven Carr at Beholding the Beauty

Rev. Tim Phillips at Gairney Bridge

Jason Foster at Reformed Musings

Gary Cole at Musings of a Twisted Mind

Jon Wagner at The Daily Show

Rev. Brian Carpenter at The Happy TR

Paul’s Personal Testimony


One of the drawbacks to living in Seminary Housing is (the best part is that your rent is part of your financial aid) that the Internet can be a little skittish. So I have been without it (how did we ever live without it???) for the last couple of days. So here we go back to 1st Timothy. Today’s passage is 1 Tim 1:12-17.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul in this pericope is building upon his own call as he spells out at the end of verse 11. He says in verse 11 “according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” Any Baptist worth his salt would point to this passage for an excellent example of what a testimony looks like (I by the way am in favor of Testimonies). Here we have Paul bearing his soul to his protege Timothy. He begins with a statement of where he is now, a follower of Jesus Christ and a teacher of His Gospel. He then speaks of the lows that Christ brought him out of; he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and he was a “violent aggressor” against all that Christ is for his people. Yet what does Paul say next? Even though Paul was all these things “the foremost sinner”, (And this next point is huge!!!) CHRIST CAME TO HIM!!! With his mercy and grace. Paul did nothing of his own account but because Jesus decided by his providential design to show this mercy upon Paul it is incumbent upon Paul to share this message with those whom he as been called to serve. Paul then in the last couple of verses completely spells exactly what is the message of the Gospel. So I end with Paul’s words in verses 15-17 so that you to may know the good news that Paul wants Timothy to know and trust:

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

We Understand That The Law is Good


As we move on in the 1st Letter of Paul to Timothy who was at Ephesus the second pericope I will take a look at is Chapter 1:8-11. This short passage follows the instruction given by Paul in what is wrong with the teachers of the law who are ignorant about what they are to be teaching and the assumptions that should be made from the law. We read in verse 6 and 7 for a refresher:

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion. Wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

But what conclusions are they making from the law that Paul here is wanting Timothy to avoid himself and in teaching his students? Well to understand that we first need too understand what Paul has already written concerning this. We know that we can recall with certainty that Paul’s use of the phrase “Teachers of the Law” is not innocuous. He most assuredly means the Jews, his former brethren. We also can point back to any number of places in the rest of Paul’s letters to receive his full instruction on the Law, that Timothy must know already, but specifically I want to look back at Romans 3:19-20 because this other pericope I think encapsulates the use of the law Paul is highlighting here in 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Paul says:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The last clause is vitally important for what Paul is about to say in 1 Timothy 1: 8-11, that:

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals (here Arsenokoitais, cf. Robert A.J. Gagnon‘s The Bible and Homosexual Practice for further understanding of this word) and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

So in this short section of 1 Timothy 1 we see Paul laying out for Timothy and for us a proper understanding of the Law of God (as given to Moses) and how the Law is to be properly understood in the context of Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone through Grace Alone. That, as Paul says in Romans 3, through the Law comes the knowledge of Sin.

(By the way make sure and check out Spurgeon’s Morning lesson for today.)

The First Seminary Professor


The Pastoral Letters of Paul have always been my favorite Pauline material and despite what my well-intentioned Seminary Profs at Pittsburgh Seminary have taught I do believe Paul (the real one not a fake Paul or a ghostwriter etc…) wrote the Pastoral Epistles. So for the time in between terms (PTS has a two-week break while RPTS only has one-week, but I have a Presbytery meeting that will cause me to miss the first week of class at RPTS so I still have two-weeks off anyway 😉 ) I would like to take a look at the Pastorals. I am sure you will find much to disagree as well as much to agree with in my exposition of these great texts.

First we of course come to the 1st Letter to Timothy who is at Ephesus. After the first 2 verses

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

which are Paul’s usual words of introduction we have Paul’s first exhortation to Timothy. Paul instructs Timothy that he had him stay on at Ephesus so that he could

“Teach certain men not to teach strange doctrines nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.” V. 3-7

So here we have the Apostle Paul instructing Timothy to open up a Seminary here in Ephesus, making sure that the men who are teaching are not leading their people astray with silliness that wastes their time and to focus on the simplicity of the Gospel message. This last direction is encompassed in Paul’s mission statement for this Seminary in verse 5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

As you look at this pericope text think back to (or currently at) your Seminary experience and think how much time was/is wasted paying attention to myths, genealogies, and endless speculation that leads directly to neither edifying or fruitful discussion. One wonders if we spent our time in Seminary being taught as Paul instructs Timothy to teach his students how much more we would actually learn?

A Few Words To End the Week

Here are a couple MP3’s from J.I. Packer on the Sufficiency of Scripture. The greatest mistake we have made in the modern Church is denying the power and the veracity and most especially the reality of Holy Scripture. Hopefully these will help move you to understanding why it is we can trust Scripture (look at Dr. Wilson’s quote to your right)…

J.I. Packer on Sufficiency

J.I. Packer on the Unity of Scripture Part 1
Part 2
Part 3