International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: 1 Timothy 5:1-8, 17-22Lesson Title: Worship Inspires Service
Communicating God’s truth can often be challenging. Learning to communicate effectively means learning not only how to phrase a message but also how to communicate it nonverbally in one's tone, posture, and facial expressions. We have no video or audio of Timothy’s teaching and leadership, but we can be sure he was a true “man of God” in all he did (1 Timothy 6:11). Timothy’s task was not an easy one as he attempted to communicate truth to the Ephesian church. He was younger than many of those who taught, but he had been given authority by the Lord and commissioned by Paul to “…charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3).
Timothy, although pastor of the church at Ephesus, was a part of the spiritual family located in Ephesus. Those whom he led and taught were also his brothers and sisters in Christ. He did not abuse or misuse his authority when he confronted their error. The spiritual condition of some of the members of the church needed to be addressed and in some cases rebuked and corrected. It was part of Timothy’s role as a leader in the church to confront sin.
Question: As a pastor, teacher, or church leader, do you enjoy confronting sin? Does it give you a sense of authority or superiority when you teach a truth that reveals a fellow believers error? If so, you have the wrong attitude and understanding about church leadership. Read Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, especially chapter 2, verses 1-8. It is never a joy to confront sin.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 5 instructs the young pastor, Timothy, concerning how to relate to different problems and people in the church at Ephesus. The body of Christ includes people of all ages, abilities, and levels of maturity. Paul instructs Timothy to be aware of this diversity and minister accordingly. An overall view of the chapter is as follows: How to admonish men and women of all ages (verses1-2); How to honor and provide for widows (verses 3-16); How to meet the needs of the pastor (verses 17-18); How to rebuke church leaders who are sinning (verses 19-20); Personal counsel and instructions to Timothy (verses 21-25).
Everything that takes place in the body of Christ eventually affects the way we worship the Lord. Our doctrine, our demeanor and our diversity are all connected. Timothy not only served the Lord in the public worship services but he also served the Lord in his willingness to accept Paul’s instructions and confront error. When this type of service is necessary, it is important that it is handled in a way that glorifies God and strengthens the church.
Serving Men (1 Timothy 5:1)
First, Paul speaks of how Timothy is to treat the older men at Ephesus. “Rebuke not an elder” means a sinning Christian is not to be hammered with harsh words. “Rebuke” is a strong term referring to “harsh” or “violent” treatment. “Elder” is from the Greek word presbuteros. Paul, however, isn’t using the term in this verse to describe the office of an elder but an “older man.” To talk rough or harsh to older men would have been disrespectful (Proverbs 30:17). Rather, Paul tells Timothy to “intreat him as a father.” “Intreat” suggests “concern” and “personal involvement.” When correcting older people it is our biblical duty and Christian responsibility to preserve their dignity and value (Proverbs 20:29)
Illus. Daniel showed respect for Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:27)
Second, Paul speaks of how Timothy is to treat “younger men” at Ephesus. “Younger men” simply means those near Timothy’s age or younger. Just because some at Ephesus were the same age or younger than Timothy did not give him the right to be harsh or violent when he corrected them. But it did mean he didn’t have to approach them as gingerly as he did “older men.” In fact, Timothy was to view them as “brethren” or “brothers.” That means Timothy felt no air of superiority or spiritual superiority. There is nothing worse in church that to feel like your pastor or teacher is always “teaching down” to you. By that I mean their preaching and teaching makes you feel like they know more than you and you will never be on their spiritual level. The Apostle John describes how our teaching and preaching should be when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
Serving Women (1 Timothy 5:2)
First, Paul addresses the “elder women.” “Elder women” or “older women” are to be treated as “mothers.” Older women, too, must be handled with respect and consideration. The comparison to “mothers” means when they need to be confronted that is to be handled with love, respect, tenderness, and honor (Proverbs 1:8).
Illus. Paul confronted Euodias and Syntyche at Philippi by urging them to live in harmony. He rebuked them but did it in a gracious manner including them among the brethren (Philippians 4:1-3).
Second, the “younger” is synonymous with the “younger men. “As sisters, with all purity” is simply saying Timothy should treat the younger women with the same love, respect, and protection that he would his own sister. “With all purity” is a reference to morality. Timothy, if called upon to confront a “younger” woman, must do so with respect, honor, and love. And, he should keep his relationship with her pure, avoiding any immorality that would put her in a compromising position.
Note: Nothing so easily makes or breaks a church leader, especially a pastor than his relationship with women. Pastors, teachers, and all church leaders should take seriously Paul’s words to Timothy.
Father, brethren, mother, sister. These are family words. We can worship while we serve as long as we never forget that the body of Christ is a family. The church is not a corporation, it’s a family. The church at Ephesus needed Timothy. They needed each other. And Timothy needed them.
Serving Widows (1 Timothy 5:3-8)
Deciding how to care for widows was one of the earliest concerns in the New Testament church (Acts 6:1-7). Throughout the Bible, God reveals His heart of compassion towards needy people, including the orphan and the widow (Exodus 22:22, 23; Deuteronomy 27:19; Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 1:17). God wants to see that these people receive their daily necessities, and the burden of responsibility falls not upon the government but the people of God. The church cannot care for everyone, however, and that's why families must understand their obligations to one another.
Jesus revealed the loving heart of God the Father toward widows (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 7:11-17). In the story of the poor widow in Mark 12, we see a story of how many widows lived during the time Jesus was on earth. They were usually poor and often in need. Because women were not allowed to publicly work outside the home, they were dependent upon others to survive. The biblical pattern for how to care for widows has been blurred by feelings and frustrations. To help Timothy lead the church at Ephesus and understand their responsibility to widows, Paul gave these clear instructions.
Note: In his commentary on First Timothy, Doctor John Phillips writes, “Paul had great compassion for widows. As the arch-persecutor of the church in his unregenerate days, he had made many women widows. Doubtless they were always on his conscience. The rules he laid down for Timothy, however, were not based on sentiment; they were based on sanctified common sense.
“Honour widows that are widows indeed” refers to women who were once married and their husband has passed away. “Honour” is the same word used in 1 Timothy 5:17 in regard to “elders.” The word has financial implications; yet it goes beyond just material provisions. It refers to “giving the proper recognition” to widows and not casting them aside as if they are not valuable or worth anything. Give them the respect and dignity they deserve.
A “widow indeed” is a widow who has no living relatives to support her. The church is not obligated to financially support all widows, only those who are “widows indeed.” This thought is continued and further explained in verse 4.
Widows with “children” or “a child of natural descent” and widows with “nephews” who probably refers to grandchildren and other relatives of close descent are not to be supported by the church. “Them” refers to the widows relatives. Her relatives are to “learn first to shew piety at home, and to require their parents…” “First” means it should be a priority for the relatives to take care of their widowed relative. “Piety,” or godliness, begins with one’s immediate family. When relatives take care of their widows it is not only a mark of godliness, but also of obedience. “Requite their parents” means that we owe a debt to those who brought us in the world and took care of us, therefore caring for a widowed relative in her time of need is but a small return for what our parents have done for us.
“For that is good and acceptable before God” means God is pleased when children take care of their parents and when they go beyond that and provide for their widowed mothers and grandmothers as well. This runs contrary to our culture where children are raised to believe that they deserve everything their parents give them.
Paul returns to the subject of “widows indeed” and gives a more detailed definition of who she is. A “widow indeed” is one who is “desolate.” That means she has been left alone. She is without relatives and resources. She is one who “trusteth in God.” This means she is a widow who is anchored in Jesus Christ and her faith is real (Jeremiah 49:11). She looks to God for her help and is not ashamed to declare publicly her faith in Jesus Christ. “Continueth in supplications and prayers night and day” reveals the fact that a “widow indeed” is not a selfish, self-seeking individual. By her supplications and prayers “night and day” or all the time, she reveals her heart and burden for others. Churches have no problem supporting this type of widow.
Personal note: It has been by experience having been a pastor for 35 years that godly widows are the heart of all successful churches and ministries. They are the backbone of most congregations and the first to show up for prayer meeting. If you removed godly widows from congregations across America, most churches would die spiritually.
“But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” is a contrast to a godly “widow indeed.” A widow who lives a promiscuous lifestyle is not to receive support from the church. “Liveth in pleasure” means that this widow lives with only the world in view. She gives no thought to what is biblically right or wrong. She makes her own rules as she goes. Paul says she is “dead while she liveth.” Although she may be breathing, there is no spiritual life or spiritual value in her life.
“And these things give in a charge” is Paul’s command to Timothy to declare what he has just written concerning widows, their families and the churches obligation. Why do these truths need to be declared? In order that widows, families, the church and Timothy “may be blameless.” Paul didn’t want anyone to find fault with the Ephesian church and their families in this matter.
Question: Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we desired to obey the Scripture in matters of faith and practice rather than worrying about what our family or neighbors think?
Paul wanted Timothy to teach the truth and part of the truth is that just because the Ephesians were now saved, they were still obligated to their families. It is a shame when people profess to be Christians and will not provide for their own family. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” The word “provide” means “to plan before.” A Christian should give forethought to how he is going to provide care for the widows in his family. Don’t wait till death comes and then try to come up with something. Plan now!
Look at the homes we build. Is any thought given to providing shelter and care for a widowed grandmother or mother? In most cases the answer is no. We build for our own pleasure and future. But Paul says that lack of preparation is sinful. Failing to provide for our families for the immediate and the future means we have “denied the faith” and are “worse than infidels.” Wait a minute. Hitler was an “infidel.” Saddam Hussein was an “infidel.” Or were they? Maybe we have the wrong perception of an “infidel” or maybe we have just used the word improperly. Paul says if you don’t make plans for taking care of your family now and in the future, you have “denied the faith” or, you have failed to practice love which is the heart of the Christian faith. He further states that you are an “infidel” which means in practice you are acting worse than those who are lost. It is a sad day when the government and lost people who never read a Bible treat their widows and families better than those who profess to be saved!
Caring for widows is our responsibility. First, in our personal families and extended families we must be preparing for that possibility. Second, as a church we must obey the word of God and respond to helping “widows indeed.” It is part of our service to the Lord.
Note: General categories of widows in this section: Widows indeed (verses 3, 5, 16b); Widows with relative (verses 4, 8, 16a); Widows living unholy lives (verses 6, 11-13, 15); Widows on the list (verses 9-10).
Serving Elders (1 Timothy 5:17-22)
In this section, Paul addresses the welfare of those who serve as “elders.” On their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas appointed “elders” in their new churches. They were appointed, not elected. From the text before us it is evident that the office was gradually assuming importance as the original leaders of the churches passed on their tasks to other leaders.
“Elders” refers to the office of the elder or overseer. The history of the church is that of shared leadership. This does not contradict with pastoral authority and the role of the pastor. However, the Bible does not teach the rule and authority of one man in all matters. From within the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit gifts and uses a variety of godly men to carry out the work of the Lord. In Baptist faith, the “elder” is commonly identified as the pastor. And while there is nothing wrong with that identification, “elder” does go beyond a one-man rule in the life of the church. Maybe the church where you are a member only has one pastor. If so, he should be treated as the Bible teaches in this passage. Maybe the church where you are a member has numerous men serving with the pastor and under his leadership. They too should be treated biblically.
If the “elder” or “overseer” is one that “rules well,” he should “be counted worthy of double honour.” “Rule well” means “working hard at preaching, teaching, and leading God’s people.” It speaks of those men who have a mark of excellence about what they do for the Lord. That is emphasized in the meaning behind the words “…especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” Paul probably has in mind here what we would describe today as full-time pastors. However, there are many bi-vocational pastors who are equally as deserving of “double honour” as a full-time pastor. “Counted worthy” means “evaluated.” A pastor is not to be considered worthy just because he holds the office. “Honour” is related to what we call today the “honorarium.” It refers to monetary worthiness. “Double” means just that, twice as much. The “double honor” is not a gift, but something they deserve.
The church should not pay their pastors based on worldly principles. The pastor should not preach and teach because of monetary gain. The church is not a business! If church leaders will seek the Lord’s wisdom and guidance He will direct them as to what is worthy compensation for God’s man and those who serve. We should be wise stewards in every aspect of church life.
Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to illustrate verse 17 and applies it to a pastor’s income and the congregation’s responsibility to support him (1 Corinthians 9:3-18). Commentators Barton, Veerman, and Wilson explain: Often oxen were used to tread out the grain on a threshing floor. The animal was attached by poles to a large millstone. As it walked around the millstone, its hooves trampled the grain, separating the kernels from the chaff. At the same time, the millstone ground the grain into flour. Muzzling the ox would prevent it from eating while it was working. Productive pastors should receive financial support while they faithfully labor. The fact that a person is in Christian ministry doesn’t mean that he should be poorly paid.
“Double honor” should not be limited just to money. God-called pastors deserve respect, honor, and appreciation by those they serve.
Again, Paul is addressing the “elder” as the pastors but the word can also extend to a wide range of church leaders as called by God and appointed by the church. Pastors, preachers and church leaders sin. Some engage in sinful behavior. And there is usually very little mercy and forgiveness when a pastor or preacher falls, especially from his preacher brethren. That being said, it is a sacred trust to be in the ministry. However, in spite of that fact, there is a proper way to confront sin in the life of the sinner pastor and church leader.
“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” People are sometimes quick and eager to falsely accuse a man of God. Because of that possibility, Paul uses an Old Testament principle when accusations against God’s man are made (Deuteronomy 19:15). Paul is saying that an accusation against God’s man should not even be considered or taken seriously unless it is investigated and proven by “two or three witnesses.” This instruction was not given by Paul to make it difficult to confront a sinning pastor, but it was given to control baseless and frivolous accusations by those who oppose God’s men.
“Them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear” is a reference to elders who continue to sin after they are confronted. Pastor’s and church leaders are not immune from church discipline and the consequences of sin. “Sin” in this verse is not any particular sin. It means “to miss the mark.” “Rebuke” means “to expose.” The pastor who continues to sin should be exposed in a proper biblical manner. One of the purposes for exposing his sin openly is “that others also may fear.” “Others” refers to other elders. “Fear” is speaking of the reality of how God hates sin. By confronting the sinning elder it helps other pastors and leaders remember that sin is no trivial matter. It’s not okay to have your affair! It’s not okay to continue a life of greed and selfishness. Sin must be dealt with in the family of God (Matthew 18:17).
There is no place for preferential treatment in the family of God. Paul “charged” Timothy “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels” that he not show partiality or treat some of the Ephesian believers different from others. Paul reminded Timothy that even the “elect angels” were watching how he would handle the sinning elders. God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ were also watching. Paul seems to be saying that the church that tolerates sinning pastors and sinning leaders in order to look good on earth will inevitably loose her reputation in heaven. Those are powerful words.
“Without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” simply means we cannot afford to play favorites when it comes to ministry and God’s work. Remember who is watching!
One way to avoid all the trouble with “elders” and church leaders is to be careful in the selection process. “Lay hands suddenly on no man…” means the church should not be hasty in selecting church leaders, especially a pastor. The “laying of hands” is the public identification and authorization of the church upon a man to preach, or in some cases lead the church. In Baptist faith and practice this process is known as ordination. God’s people should not quickly identify or place their approval upon a man just because he says he is called to preach or has some specific area of ministry in which he desires to serve.
“Neither be partaker of other men’s sins” means if Timothy did “lay hands” then part of the responsibility of that man and ministry falls on him. If simply saying “Good-bye” (God be with you) to a heretic makes us partakers of his evil deeds (2 John 10-11), then how much guiltier are we if we ordain people whose lives are not right with God? By using caution Timothy could keep his own life and testimony pure. “Keep thyself pure” literally means “honorable” or “free from sin.”
The church is a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. Within that family God has appointed leaders such as pastors, teachers, and others to help us worship the Lord and grow in grace. We all have our responsibilities to care for one another and maintain spiritual purity and integrity. Taking care of our widowed family and having a biblical plan to provide is all part of serving the Lord.
Disciplining and correcting church leaders is also part of our service. Remember, the purpose of church discipline is not vengeance or to make ourselves look good at the expense of others. When we confront sin, even sometimes in the lives of our leaders, we do so with the goal of restoration and purity in mind.
There are no perfect church members, pastors, deacons, or leaders. However, we have become careless in our selection of pastors, teachers, and church leaders. Sin is no longer taken seriously and the results of all of this showing up in our worship and service to the Lord. May Paul’s charge and commands to Timothy strike a chord of conviction in our hearts and may God send a revival of commitment to His Word as our standard of church policy and practice.
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