About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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1 Timothy 5 to 6:2

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Advice About Widows, Elders And Slaves (ch.5:1 – 6:3)


In chapter 5 Paul gives Timothy some practical advise on a number of points.  He begins in verses 1 and 2 by telling Timothy not “to rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as a father”.  This instruction was obviously based on Timothy’s young age.  Even if at times he needed to bring some correction to “an older man”, he should do it with respect because of the older man’s age and Timothy’s youthfulness.  Correction should not be ignored, but should be done in a respectful way.


In the youth culture of our day, this is one very important lesson for younger people to learn.  Older people, even elderly people, have been around a long time. They have a measure of wisdom and history that can benefit the church.    


Paul goes on to tell Timothy to treat “younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity”.  Note the words “absolute purity”.  Timothy being young himself would have natural feelings towards younger women.  Paul was cautioning him about being pure towards his fellow Christian sisters.  Sexual sins in the church are nothing new.  It is one of the more prevalent reasons why Christian leaders fall into disgrace.


In verses 3 to 8 Paul gives instructions concerning widows. First of all he says that if a widow has children or grandchildren that could look after her, then it is their responsibility to do so, not the churches.  The children and grandchildren should put their religion into practice by looking after their parent or grandparent.  Yet if the widow has no one to look after her, if she is dedicated to the Lord, prays to God night and day for help,  then the church can look after her.  If  the widow is worldly and does not really trust God, then this widow should find help elsewhere.  This is only common sense.  It places the responsibility on the family so the church can care for those who need the care most. 


Here we see the balance between the church looking after its people and the families themselves looking after their people.  Both are important.  It's only my thinking, but so many churches these days have so much overhead expenses, in buildings, programs, and salaries, that they have very little money, or none at all, to help the needy in their midst.  This should not be.   


In verse 8 Paul says that if a person does not provide for his relatives, and especially his immediate family, then that person is worse than an unbeliever, “and has denied the truth”.  What does “denying the truth mean”?  If one claims real faith in Jesus and their actions do not show this faith, then by their very actions, they are denying what they claim to have.  There lips may profess faith, but their actions deny what their lips claim to have.  Either they really don’t have faith, or else their faith is extremely weak. 


I don't believe Paul is saying that the person who does not look after his own family will lose his salvation.  I don't think the word "deny' implies that.  The word "deny" simply implies that the person is not living what he professes.  He's denying the faith, not losing it, or giving it up.


Notice the distinction between "relatives" and "immediate family" here.  Families should look after relatives as well as their immediate family. Only when that is not possible should the church look after them.      


In verses 9 and 10, concerning these widows who have no family to look after her, Paul gives further instructions on how to care for her.  First of all the widow should be over 60 years old, suggesting that she may be too frail to help herself.   Beyond the age factor, she must be  a woman who was faithful to her husband, full of good works and helping other saints who need it.   Paul really doesn’t want to waist valuable money on someone who doesn’t deserve it.  Paul seldom took money from others.  He felt everyone else should be like minded, but if one had to receive financial help, they should be worthy of the help they get.  Therefore widows in the church who worked hard in the church should be financially supported.


Whether our modern church should follow these particular rules exactly as Paul lays out is debatable.  Nevertheless there is a principle that should be followed.  A church does not simply hand out money to whoever wants it.  One must earn the respect in order to find help by the church. If you begin to help someone you don’t really know, and if it turns out that person is wasting church funds, then the church should stop giving to that person.  That person needs to learn respect for money and for those who give it to him.  The same rule should apply in our society and government.


In verses 11 and 12 Paul talks about “younger widows”.  He tells Timothy not to put these younger widows on a list to receive financial help, because sooner or later they will find husbands who will support them. Paul goes on to say that these women when they remarry “break their first pledge and bring judgement on themselves”.  What does this mean?  How would remarrying bring judgement, and what pledge are they breaking.  In 1 Cor. 7 Paul clearly states that there is nothing wrong with remarrying when your spouse dies, even though he would personally not recommend it.  So remarrying is not wrong.  If remarrying is not wrong, the first pledge they are breaking, is not the pledge they made to their first husband who is no longer living. Could the first pledge be speaking of their pledge to give their lives to Jesus?  I don’t think so.  One can still pledge themselves to Jesus and be married at the same time. If this were not the case, we would all be in trouble. 


I don’t think we can say for sure just what Paul meant by these words. Some suggest that the pledge they break, is a pledge to stay single, maybe to serve Jesus better, or maybe to receive financial help from the church.  If a young widow pledges singleness to church elders and receive money as a result, then changes  her mind and remarries, she breaks her pledge to singleness .  The breaking of any commitment in the eyes of Paul, or even God, is serious, thus brings a certain measure of   condemnation on the one breaking the commitment.


If as Christians we say we will do something, then we should do it, without changing our minds.  Ecc. 5:5 tells us that it is better not to make a vow and to make one and not follow through on it.  Broken promises hinders our witness to Jesus.  Our lives are based on trust.  That is, we trust Jesus for our salvation.  He is trustworthy to do what He promises.  He expects us to be trustworthy as well.  When we break our vows, our promises, we better have a very  good reason for doing so.


In verse 13, another reason why Paul tells Timothy not to give financial support to younger widows is because they tend to be idle, going from house to house gossiping and saying things they should not be saying.  Paul then says that he tells younger women to marry, have children, and be busy looking after their family.  By doing this they stay away from any temptation.  Yet even as Paul tells Timothy these words, some women have ignored this advise and have fallen away from the truth, thus “follow satan” instead of Jesus.


Some women may have trouble about what Paul is saying here.  I think the point here is, and he is talking about women, is that idleness breads gossip and other such things.  I think Paul would say men would have the same problem, but he is not talking about men in this verse.  When Paul suggests these young women get married and have children, that sure would not give them any time to run around and gossip.  I think that is why he is suggesting they get married.  Also, as seen in the last couple of verses, when women's sensual desires get too strong they should marry.  Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 7 concerning both men and women.  For this reason as well, women should be married.   


Paul goes on to say in verse 16 that if any woman has a widow in her family, maybe a mother or a sister, then she should look after that widow.  The church should not have to look after her.  Paul says that church funds should “go to the widows who are really in need”, and if one has a family member that can look after her, then she is not really in need.  Again, we see the importance of the family here.  The family in this sense of the word takes priority over the church.  That is to say, families should look after their own so the church can better use their resources to look after those who have no family.  This is simple logic and should be a part of any churches strategy concerning the poor.  


In verse 17 Paul now leaves the topic of widows and turns his attention to elders.  He says “the elders who direct the affairs of the church well should receive double honour, especially those who work in teaching and preaching”.  This sentence tells us a couple of things about the first century church.  First it tells us that church leaders were “elders”, not an elder, as in one elder only.  Elders were those men who qualified by their Godly life to be elders, as described in chapter 3.  The word “elders” when in reference to church leadership always appears in the plural form in the New Testament.  


Note that elders “direct the affairs of the church”, or as the original manuscripts say, “ruling elders”.  Elders rule, or direct the affairs of the church.  They do this jointly, although they do not all have the same talents and job description. Obviously some elders majored in teaching and preaching as Paul says here.  Paul does not say what the rest of the elders do.  Yet by pointing out that some teach and preach, we can only conclude that each man’s duties were different, according to the gift God had given him.  Not all were teachers and preacher.  Note again how Paul distinguishes between teaching and preaching.


Concerning these elders who work hard at teaching and preaching, they should receive double honour.  This most likely means double financial support since in the next verse he says   “a worker deserves his wages”.  Paul often puts an emphasis on preaching and teaching the doctrines of Christ, and therefore anyone who does this should be paid for it, even though he himself doesn’t want to be paid.  He would rather have the church spend their money on needy widows than to give it to him. 


Thus from this verse we see the church having a group of men who direct the affairs of the church.  Some of these men specialize in preaching and teaching, while others specialize in other things according to their gifting.  Even with these words concerning double honour, there is no hint that these men are called “head elders”.  They are still elders, and do not stand above the rest of the elders as in our modern church.


If there is any accusation against one of these elders then, as we see in verse 19, at least two or three people should bring the accusation to Timothy, or in case there was no Timothy, I would suppose they would bring it to the other elders.  The point here is that there needs to be more than one person bringing the accusation. 


In verse 20 we see that there must be a definite problem, not a false accusation by one person.  If it is proved that the elder in question really has sinned or done something wrong, then he needs “to be rebuked publicly so that the others, as in other elders, may be warned. 


In verse 21 Paul charges Timothy before God, Jesus and the elect angels to carry out these instructions without “partiality or favouritism”.  Why?  Because God Himself is partial to no man.  He is just.  There is no place for favouritism in the church.  Just because you like someone does not mean he or she should hold any special position in the church.  Church leadership depends on one’s calling and talents along with the proper qualifications. 


Notice the word "charge".  As an apostle, and a special apostle at that, Paul gives Timothy a command to follow through on.  I believe that Paul is the Moses of the New Testament.  What he has been telling Timothy is the Word of the Lord for Timothy.


Note also the word "elect", as in "elect angels".  This simply means "chosen angels".  Just why Paul uses the word "elect" in reference to angels, I don't really know.  One might guess by saying certain angels are chosen to certain jobs and Paul had certain angels in mind.  We need to realize that Paul knew more about these things than we do.  He had a multitude of visions.  He was taken up into the third heaven and saw things that others hadn't seen, and that he was not permitted to speak about.  So it is my guess that he had good reason to speak about "elect", or, "chosen" angels here.          


In verse 22 Paul says “do not be hasty in the laying on of hands’.  I think this is in reference to the ordaining of elders because of the context of these words.  I don’t think Paul is referring to laying on of hands in the sense of praying for someone’s healing.  Timothy needs to be  certain who he chooses to be elders.  He should not make a hasty decision.  Once the choices have been made then he can lay his hands on them and give them to the service of the Lord.


Paul also tells Timothy to keep himself pure, “and not to share in the sins of others”.  Timothy, in his lifestyle must stand far above the ordinary Christian.  Paul has given Timothy a great responsibility and those in leadership like Timothy needs to be examples for others to follow.  It is clear that there were problems in the church if Paul had to tell Timothy not to participate in other people's sin.  The first generation church was a great church, but it had its problems like any other generation church.


In verse 23 Paul gives Timothy a little personal advice.  It appears that Timothy had some kind of stomach problem that obviously the Lord didn’t heal. Therefore Paul told Timothy to “drink a little wine” to help that problem. Whether Paul understood the science behind what he was saying or not, it is clear that as we understand today, for some stomach problems, wine can be of some assistance . And to make it clear, Paul is not talking about grape juice.  Wine is wine.  When Paul uses the word wine, it is the same Greek word that is used when Jesus turned the water into wine, and also when he tells people not to get drunk with wine.  You cannot get drunk with grape juice.


In verse 24 Paul says, “the sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgement ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them”.  What I believe Paul means here is that obvious sins that can be seen by all often have immediate judgement by God and men.  For example immorality in an elder.  If an elder commits adultery he will be rebuked openly and may loose his eldership.  Judgement has already come to him.  Yet not all sins are so open and evident to see. These sins will not be judged by men, but will be judged by God at some future point.


In verse 24 Paul says that in like fashion when it comes to good deeds.  Some good deeds are obvious for all to see while others are not so obvious, but both will have its rewards, whether now or later.


In chapter 6 verse 1 Paul turns his attention to the practice of slavery.  Paul does not condemn the practice of slavery in these verses, although you must remember in chapter 1 verse 10 he lists slave trading with serious sins, such as murder. Here he tells the slaves to respect their owners, even if they are not Christians, so that the name of Christ will not be “slandered”, and also so that Paul’s teaching may not be  “slandered”.  And if the master of the slave is a Christian (suggesting Christians were slave owners) then even more so should the slave honour his master, and treat him as a brother.  These words are not the full understanding of Paul when it comes to slaves and owners.  Elsewhere Paul tells the slave owners to treat his slaves as brothers in Christ as well.


It is clear that Paul is against trading and misusing slaves.  One thing we need to realize about slaves and the Jews is that the Lord of Moses did not abolish slavery.  Slaves were permitted.  What the Law of Moses did do though was give protection to the slaves.  They were to be treated well, with dignity that a human being should have.  I will not get involved in the details here but slaves is a big subject and needs to be discussed in an article of its own. 


In verse 1 Paul told slaves to respect their masters, and it wasn't because they were slaves.  If slaves had a healthy respect for their masters, Paul viewed that as a good witness to the Lord Jesus. Another reason for this respect was so Paul's teaching would not be slandered.  This is easy to figure out.  Paul taught these Christians to love and respect all people, and if they didn't, than people would not think much of Paul's teaching.


In verse 2 Paul tells Timothy to teach the slaves that they are to respect believing masters as well.  So the respect Paul spoke about in the last verse is clearly for unbelieving masters.  Paul says that just because your master is a believer you should not take advantage of him and give him less respect.  I'm sure Paul would teach the reverse as well.  Masters were to respect their slaves.       


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