Sunday September 5th
1 Timothy 4-5
Some of you might not be aware that today is my birthday. Now that I’m 67 years old, I wanted to get a cool little sports-like car like Roger’s fancy Camaro convertible. So, when I saw my wife holding up a pair of keys in response to Joel’s prophetic word last Sunday, I thought, “Alright! My wife is going to bless me with a new sports car for my birthday!”
But just in case she wasn’t thinking the exact same way as me, when we got home from church I said. “You know, I was hoping to get something for my birthday that goes from 0 to 155 in 4 seconds or less.”
So, she bought me a brand-new bathroom scale.
In the final two chapters of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul is going to cover a wide range of doctrinal topics, from legalism to elders and widows.
He starts out by warning Timothy what might happen in the churches that they have established in “later times”.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.
4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
What Paul was warning about was that some people won’t be content with the simple gospel of faith in Jesus. Instead, they will get drawn into legalism in order to feel more spiritual, things like what you can or can’t eat or whether you can marry or not.
Paul calls this “deceitful spirits and teaching of demons”. The sad thing about deception is you don’t actually know you’re deceived. You’re convinced the others are wrong and you’re right. That’s how people get draw into cults. How do we guard against such deception? We have to establish that the word of God is the final source of what is true or not true. Otherwise, it’s all just people’s opinions, and one person’s opinion is as good (or as bad) as another.
Paul says that Timothy needs to be aware that some people might fall away from the faith. What’s the antidote for falling away? Staying with it – continuing in the faith.
We find this being spoken of in passages like Acts 13:43: “Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”
Do you see phrase? “Continue in the grace of God.”
But you might say, doesn’t that happen automatically once a person becomes a Christian? Why would a Timothy need to remind Christians to “continue in the grace of God”?
Why would Jude have to tell Christians to “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21)?
Why would Peter have to tell believers to be “diligent to make your call and election sure”? (2 Peter 1:10)
Apparently, there is something we are responsible to do with our faith, because all these passages are calling believers to “continue in the faith.”
And what helps us to keep on with our faith? Our old friend, proper doctrine!
6 In pointing out these things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have been following.
Notice the emphasis again on doctrine, just as we saw in chapter one. Paul tells Timothy to give attention to doctrine. He tells him to continue in good doctrine. Salvation is found in the teaching given to us in Scripture. Of course, the real growth only comes when we, not only hear it, but also apply it to our lives, which is why Paul refers to the good doctrine “which you have been following”!
But following good doctrine also requires the presence of another “D-word”, discipline!
7 But stay away from worthless stories that are typical of old women. Rather, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.
Discipline in exercise has certain value in keeping our temples fit for God’s use. Discipline in godliness is even more beneficial, because our spirits will far outlast our bodies. And part of that spiritual discipline is staying away from gossip and “old wives’ tales”.
As he closes out chapter 4, Paul gives Timothy a little personal pep talk, saying “You can do this! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.”
11 Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give your attention to the public reading, to exhortation, and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was granted to you through words of prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to the teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
Some of the things that Paul emphasizes are teaching, public reading of the scriptures, using our spiritual gifts such as prophesy, and personal conduct and purity. We can compare those guidelines to Acts 2:42, which gives us four pillars that guided the life of the early church. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
When a church neglects the essentials of doctrine, fellowship, teaching the word, spiritual gifts, personal holiness and prayer, it grows weak and ineffective. We’re not about to let that happen here!
In the fifth and final chapter of this letter, Paul turns his attention to the “family” relationships within the church family:
5 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, and to the younger men as brothers, 2 to the older women as mothers, and to the younger women as sisters, in all purity.
A healthy church should reflect healthy, respectful interpersonal relationships between people of all ages. Children have value, older people have value, men and women all have value in God’s family.
Verses 3-16 are a detailed plan for how to make sure that widows are taken care of, especially those who don’t have any extended family to help them:
3 Honor widows who are actually widows; 4 but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to show proper respect for their own family and to give back compensation to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 Now she who is actually a widow and has been left alone has set her hope on God, and she continues in requests and prayers night and day. 6 But she who indulges herself in luxury is dead, even while she lives. 7 Give these instructions as well, so that they may be above reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Then Paul draws a distinction between two categories of widows:
9 A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to register younger widows, for when they feel physical desires alienating them from Christ, they want to get married, 12 thereby incurring condemnation, because they have ignored their previous pledge. 13 At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also they become gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, have children, manage their households, and give the enemy no opportunity for reproach; 15 for some have already turned away to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are
I think it’s important to understand all of that discussion in the light of two things:
17 The elders who lead well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while it is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not accept an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest will be fearful of sinning.
Paul says that if the elders are doing a good job, then we should praise them and reward them. But if they are acting outside of God’s will, and several people have witnessed this, then you have a right to question and even rebuke them.
Paul then gives Timothy this passionate charge, along with a little bit of health advice:
21 I solemnly exhort you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too quickly and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
23 Do not go on drinking only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
Timothy is to show no favoritism in how he manages the affairs of the local church, and he is warned not to elevate people too quickly to positions of authority that they may not be ready to handle.
He is also told to keep himself pure spiritually, and take care of himself physically. I wouldn’t read too much into Paul’s instruction that Timothy should “use a little wine” because many commentaries believe that this was probably just an indication that the local water supply was polluted and was making Timothy sick. Paul had lived in that area before so he was most likely aware of the problem.
The last two verses of this chapter are somewhat difficult to grasp, so let’s look into them
24 The sins of some people are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.
A lot of Bible scholars think that these verses are actually connected to Paul’s warning about not putting people into positions of leadership too quickly.
Because in verse 22 he says that if the people that you put in authority too soon prove to be unreliable or unfaithful, then you would, “share responsibility for the sins of others.”
In these verses, 24 and 25, Paul is simply pointing out that some types of sin are clearly obvious, but people are able to hide other kinds of sin for a little while, things that are more on the inside, like pride, anger or jealousy.
Matthew Henry puts it this way in his commentary:
There are secret sins, and there are open sins; but God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.
In some ways, I think this mirrors the journey to personal holiness that we’ve all been called to.
When we first get saved, we know that the obvious outward sins in our lives have got to go, things like cursing, lying, stealing, drunkenness and sexual immorality. But that’s when the real work is just getting started. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
We’re all a work in progress. Have you cleaned up most of that outward junk that used to be part of your life? That’s a good place to start.
Now get ready to embrace a lifelong deepening of God’s work in your life. He wants to get in there and address issues that you didn’t even know were there.
But it’s all for our good and all for His glory. After all, what He’s really doing throughout this whole process is making us more and more into the image of Jesus.
And who wouldn’t want that?