Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

Instructions for the church family

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Instructions for the church family

This bible study is part of a series on the book of 1st Timothy, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of 1st Timothy for other studies in this book. 

When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.

Let’s start in verse one of the fifth chapter of First Timothy.

Instructions for the Church 

1st Timothy 5:1 (ESV) Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

I have heard people question if this is a contradiction in the bible that Timothy is told to command the congregation and lead by example and here we read that he is not to rebuke an elder. The two commands are one and the same. Paul is telling Timothy that he has to have a respect and reverence for those who are elder.
 
Dealing with Elder men

Really, like so much else it is about the heart that you approach it in. A young leader may wish to show his dominance by making a mark on the older generation but that is not wise in the slightest. If these men are aged and more aged in the faith than you are, then they are a valuable resource. A young leader can learn from their mistakes, their experience and have access to a valuable resource.

If the elder man is a new believer and in error then he must be dealt with as any other man in error, with love and respect. Not with berating and dishonor. The word is also translated “to strike out or strike at” and is similar to the English term, “to lash out” and this is not an effective form of correction. Let’s face it we all are knuckleheads and get things wrong, that is us being human, but we are not to berate or tear down in our exhortations.

Paul states that Timothy should “encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers” and that is what we have stated above, it should be done in love and in a relational status. We have to be gentle in our rebukes, yes Titus does state to “rebuke without fear” but you will have to use wisdom as to what approach to use. If you are approaching a brother for the first time about his sin it would not be good practice to go in all guns blazing. (If that would be an effective practice at all)

Dealing with Elder ladies

Paul also deals with the relationships between Timothy and the women when he states “older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” and although this may seem obvious to the experienced Christian, Paul sets the bar for dealing with women in the church. I find it amusing when critics of the church advise that it is a “male orientated religion” and that “women are 2nd class citizens” and Paul is keen for that to be established.

Like the older men, Paul states that the older women had to be treated with reverence and respect, they should be treated as mothers in the faith. They must be honored and treated with the respect that they are due as elder women in the faith. I have seen in my experience that they have ministered to their husbands and their husbands have ministered to church leadership so all in all I see a valuable role for these ladies (much as Paul did)

These ladies also have an invaluable role in counselling and guiding the younger women in the faith. Much like the older men they have a wealth of experience and they can pass on lots of valuable things to the current generation of the church. They have much value and are a valuable resource to be used for Gods work.

Dealing with younger ladies 

The younger are to be treated as sisters, Paul is much like any godly man and has younger ladies in his fellowship that he sees as younger sisters and wanted the men of the fellowship to treat them as such.  Much as the standards for overseers states that he has to be above reproach and keep his conduct “above board”.

That is to say that he should not engage with any conduct that would compromise himself, the young lady or either ministry for the LORD. They have to be accountable and often times if I am messaging a sister in the LORD I will copy in my wife (or perhaps speak to that lady and their husband) as too not have any doubt that anything that would be regarded as impropriety has occurred. It is not for my reputation that I am concerned with, but the reputation of the other party or the witness or ministry that we are doing in the LORD’s name as to not cause an affront. You can’t be too careful and these are sensible precautions to take.

We have to use the three standards when dealing with younger ladies…

Not flirtatious or provocativeBe above reproach in actions and wordsHave clean conduct with a pure heart. 

Honor the widows

V3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives

Paul talks about what we would call today “social assistance” and in those days the old were not really cared for in the way they are now with things such as a Government pension and other things that can help with retirement. In fact there were no retirement plans and if you were not a rich person, once you were past working age it was very uncomfortable for you in your old age.

The widows with families

If she has family to help her, then it is both honorable and right to let her be helped by them first. Not only is this a good stewardship but it creates a certain responsibility and ownership of families to look after their own people if they are unable to provide for themselves. Paul uses the term allowing the children to “make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God” which is true, these people raised the children and now it is their turn to be helped.

Of course these days we have such things as retirements and people save for those “golden years” in which they will no longer be working, but you have to remember that this was quite the burden on the churches at that time. In the Ten Commandments we are commanded to “honor our mother and father” and how honorable would it be to let them not have the basics. This is basic theology at the most basic level.

Really when the man of the house has gone, the widow should be taken care of by the son (usually the eldest son) but if it is too much of a burden for one child to bear then it should be taken on by them all in a cooperative fashion. We are commanded to “love one another” and how could anyone who professes this and leaves their mother destitute be one and the same?

The widows with no families

V5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.

Paul is talking about these people, the ones who are truly widows, and the ones that have no-one to help them. Paul is essentially stating that the church should provide for “the least of these”. Paul is fully aware of the heart of man and knows that people will try to get something for nothing so in the next few verses he makes recommendations to test if they really need help from the church.

The word honor is similar to the word sustain or provide and this is a literal meaning in this case. These people are still people at the end of the day and should be treated with no less honor than the less affluent, (See the book of James on that one!) but these circumstances are difficult for those who genuinely need help and these people still need a little respect. Yes the church should help and they should be gracious (not lord over the one who needs help) but at the same time be conservative and be careful and be a good steward of the LORDs money.

I have been in this situation where I have had more month than money as the saying goes. I have had people helping me and it is humbling when the people of God get together and help one another. The ones who truly need it and are truly in a bind are the ones who follow up with you, and the ones who thank you.

I say being conservative with Gods money because, let’s face it, people are not always honest. To quote the great fictional doctor “Gregory House M.D.” Everybody lies and it would be naive to believe that even in the church we would see that. Don’t discount this as a notion as the church is filled with people much like you and me, imperfect sinners some of whom have found their savior and some have yet to make that choice. Paul mentions this possibility in the verse below…

V6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.

And herein lies the danger and this can only be judged by the recipient and God, they could bring a very good story and seem very holy and ask as if they are asking in the right way and for the right things but are asking without a genuine need or asking in order to use her money not for the essentials of life but to use them for self-indulgence or frivolous things.

We have to be wise and help people but we also have to have wisdom as to not enable people in their bad choices. If someone is spending money like Congress and seeking help from the church, that is not going to fly for too long. There has to be growth on a personal level and assistance has to help.

This does not mean also that the church will also help, if a church is for example supplying all the groceries to a house that uses their grocery money to buy drugs or alcohol and there is no move in the direction to provide the basics for their family after a period of time, it would be appropriate for the church to back away and no longer enable them to make bad choices.

I have heard of a situation before when a family requested help and when the Pastor visited on an unrelated matter he realized that the family had an expensive hobby and could have easily have provided for their family by selling some of the more expensive pieces they used for that hobby. They could have made what I make in six months had they been willing to live within their means. The Pastor used wisdom in that situation by advising them accordingly.

Worse than an unbeliever

V7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Strong words from Paul at the end up here! Much as stated before he who does not provide for his relatives, Paul opens it up to the whole family first and then for members of his own household has denied the faith. So Timothy has to teach these things, that we should be working hard to provide for our own and if we don’t we are worse than the unbeliever.

Paul sets the minimum standards that should be expected from the Christian men, to provide for his family. It is God’s will that we do this. If someone in the assembly is on low pay or has no work, then we should be helping that man (if he is able and willing) to find better ways of providing for his family. 

Then and only then if he is too lazy to do this then he is denying the faith.

Thank you again for finding this article and I pray these bible studies are a blessing. Please feel free to comment, like or share as the LORD leads you to.
TGBTG
TTE

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