By Charles H. Welch
The apostle follows the statement that Christ is the Mediator and the One Who gave Himself a ransom for all, with the words ‘To be testified in due time’ (1 Tim. 2:6).
Instead of slowly accumulating Scripture evidence, and then announcing the conclusion to which that evidence points, we open this study with a proposition, and then proceed to establish its truth, the bearing of this proposition upon the words of 1 Timothy 2:6 just recorded will then, we trust, be recognized by all. The proposition is this: ‘Every dispensational change, or every vital link in the dispensational development is the subject of positive witnessin the New Testament’. The word translated ‘to be testified’ in 1 Timothy 2:6 is marturion, the noun ‘witness’ is martur, and the verb ‘to witness’ is martureo. Other variants are made up by combining the root of the word with pro before kata down or against, epi upon and sun with. Lexicographers differ considerably with regard to the supposed etymology of the word martus. One deduced it from the ancient word mare ‘the hand’ another from meiro‘to divide or decide’; another derives it from the root mart which means a mark, and yet another from a Sanscrit root meaning to remember. It is evident that the origin of the word is lost in obscurity, and that it would be very unwise and unsafe to build a doctrine upon such uncertain foundations. No such ambiguity shadows the origin of the English word ‘witness’, it is derived from witan ‘to know’, the synonym ‘testimony’ being derived from the Latin testes ‘a witness’.
The great dispensational change ushered in with the advent of Christ was the change from law to grace, and this in itself was a subject of many subdivisions as we shall see. The first witness of the New Testament is John the Baptist. ‘There was a man sent from God, whose name was John, the same came for a witness ... John bare witness ... John bare record ... I saw and bare record’ (John 1:6,7,8,15,32,34). John’s testimony is that Jesus is the Christ, the Light of men, the Lamb of God, the King. He declares that he himself was sent as a forerunner, in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5, and preached: ‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matt. 3:1,2). This witness of John, was endorsed by the Saviour Who said: ‘Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth’ (John 5:33). An element of miracle is found in connection with the birth of this first witness who was to go before the Lord ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:17). John could say ‘that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water’ (John 1:31).
The second witness is John the apostle. The attention of the reader of John’s gospel is focussed upon the ‘finished’ work of the Son of God (John 4:34; 17:4; 19:30). This last reference is John’s own testimony as to what took place at the Crucifixion.
John has much precious truth to make known, and for the grace and glory revealed in his ‘gospel’ we thank God, but let us never forget that he was also one of a chain of witnesses who ‘saw and heard’ and whose record is an essential link in understanding the purpose of the ages.
The witness of the early Acts is to the Resurrection. ‘Ye shall be witnesses unto Me’ (Acts 1:8).
Here there is an unbroken chain of evidence, from the baptism of John unto the Ascension. To this, of course, could be added the supplementary witness recorded in Acts 5:29-32, ‘and we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost Whom God hath given to them that obey Him’. Or again as it is written in Acts 10:39 and 41. At the conversion of the apostle Paul, another witness appears who was destined to carry the torch of truth to its furthermost bounds. The night following his apprehension by the Roman guard, the Lord appeared to Paul and said: ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome’ (Acts 23:11). Here then is a further extension of evidence, linking the apostolic witness at Jerusalem with far-off Rome.
At his conversion, Ananias, who had been sent by the Lord, said to Paul: ‘The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be His witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard’ (Acts 22:14,15).
The witness of Paul is twofold. The first part of his testimony ended at Ephesus (Acts 20:21), ‘testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’.
This testimony, however, came to an end: ‘And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more’ (Acts 20:25). The reason for this is given in verses 22-24. ‘And now I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem ... bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God’. The twofold witness of the apostle is categorically stated in Acts 26:16. ‘I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness BOTH of these things which thou hast seen (Acts 22:14,15) and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee’. The testimony here is unmistakable. ‘Both’ must refer to two things. It cannot be used of one only.
‘These things’ are set over against another group called ‘those things’. ‘I have appeared’ is placed in contrast with ‘I will appear’, and the whole commission is concluded with a reference to the Gentiles in the present ‘unto whom now I am sending thee’ (as an apostle apostello).
This ‘prison’ ministry to the ‘Gentiles’ constitutes the final witness of the apostle, and leads us to 1 Timothy 2:6,7, ‘to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the GENTILES in faith and verity’. Here is a witness which is upon oath - so solemn, so important, so opposed is the testimony here given. The translation ‘to be testified in due time’ is too tame a rendering to represent the apostle’s intention here. The A.V. margin draws attention to the fact that the original does not use the verb ‘to testify’ but the noun ‘a testimony’, and the words translated ‘in due time’ are in the original kairois idiois ‘seasons peculiar’ or ‘its own season’. We meet the same terms in Titus 1:1-3 where we read: ‘Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect; and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began, but hath in due times (kairois idiois) manifested His word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour’.
Again, in 2 Timothy 1, Paul writes: ‘Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony (the witness still going on) of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner ... according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest ... whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles’ (2 Tim. 1:8-11). Both the passages in Titus and the one here go back to a promise and a purpose made ‘before the world began’, literally ‘before age times’ and which finds the time of its testimony NOW, and the instrument of its revelation Paul in his three fold office.
The time had come when ‘all men’, not Jews and proselytes only were the object of Divine love. This ministry was entrusted to the apostle Paul, the only one designated ‘The apostle of the Gentiles’. This testimony had its ‘own peculiar season’ for making its blessed theme known.
The translation ‘in due times’ entirely hides the peculiar character of these times from the reader. Idios means anything peculiarly one’s own. Thus an idiograph means a trade mark, which must of necessity be ‘peculiarly one’s own’. An idiom is a mode of expression peculiar to a language. An idiosyncrasy is a peculiarity of temperament or constitution, something peculiar to and distinguishing an individual. Even the words idiot and peculiar when taken to mean one who is of weak intellect, are so used because such persons are ‘on their own’, and different from the normal. The word ‘peculiar’ in like manner is derived from the Latin peculium ‘private property’.
We have it, therefore, on the highest of all authority, that:
By the testimony of 1 Timothy 2:6,7, Dispensational Truth is for ever lifted above the fog of speculation and placed upon the unimpeachable ground of accredited testimony - for which let all true Bereans praise God and take courage. Today, no such personal ‘testimony’ can be given. All that we can do as preachers and teachers is to abide by these initial records, and see to it that all our dispensational subdivisions harmonize with the witness that God has appointed. We rejoice that we are not called upon to ‘prove’ by any process of argument the distinctive character of the dispensation of the Mystery. Paul was alone commissioned to make that testimony clear and he has done so for all time.