Title: The Treatment of Members: Confronting & Caring
Text: 1 Timothy 5:1-16
CIT: Rules for members.
CIS: Rules for members.
Sometimes I think the whole Christian world is made up of just two groups: those who speak their faith and accomplish significant things for God, and those who criticize and malign the first group.
Don Basham, “On the Tip of My Tongue,”
Today I might sound critical of you… that isn’t my intention. I wish to be a part of the first group here – those who are a part of the solution…
You’ll note from the title of today’s message that the issue today is all about relationships. I have to say that I love it when the topic is relationships. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said so many times: nothing is more important in the church than relationships. If you want to know more, see me after the service. I’m serious…
Relationships are hard. Period. Some are harder than others, but it is what it is: hard! That is why they are so important. They’re important in evangelism, in discipleship, in worship, in prayer, in fellowship and the list goes on. Relationships permeate every aspect of the church. So, we need to get this right.
Think about our Purpose as a body: Imaging God. Our purpose isn’t to worship. Our purpose isn’t evangelism. Our purpose isn’t discipleship. Yes, we ‘do’ all of these. But, our purpose is to Glorify God. There is no commandment greater than Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. So, the question is, then, “what do we do when we haven’t been imaging God correctly?” We don’t like this part of relationships, but confronting members who are not imaging God correctly is our task.
But this is what I love about Paul’s letter. He’s saying to Timothy, Do the work of confronting, but do it in love! Let your first thought be love. Again, it comes back to relationships!
Opening Illustration: Joshua Harris
The Evangelical World has been rocked in the last few years with defectors from the faith. Most recently you’ve probably heard of Joshua Harris.
Ill.: Joshua Harris; I Kissed Dating Goodbye. 1997. Recently announced his divorce and renunciation of his faith. Before those two announcements, he made some statements in an interview where he simply said he was having trouble reconciling his theology with life.
I think that there’s a push by some people to say being sex-positive means — the kind of the historical sexual ethic related to sex outside of marriage, related to homosexuality, is basically laid aside, and embracing a healthy view of sex means just accepting all that as fine within the Christian tradition. … I do think though that, for me, in that change of interpretation of such a fundamental level when it comes to sexuality, it’s just hard for me to … In a way, it’s almost easier for me to contemplate throwing out all of Christianity than it is to keeping Christianity and adapting it in these different ways.
This is refreshing in the respect that he can’t reconcile what the world teaches and what the Bible teaches. The problem with liberal theology is that it can’t reconcile both either. Their stance is to just throw out those portions of Scripture. But, Harris doesn’t do that. He fully acknowledges that the Bible teaches something contrary to the world. There is more, and it comes out in an Instagram post or a tweet, I confuse the two. He stated that he isn’t a Christian. He said that based on his definition of what a Christian is, he isn’t. Others have encouraged him to move to a more liberal movement in observing the faith, but he has declared that he isn’t there yet.
Here’s the problem with a false gospel being preached from the pulpits – it creates a bunch of false followers who are in the game for all the wrong reasons. When God doesn’t do what the preachers have promised, then there is frustration and anger (and, I suppose, a step-by-step process of all the stages Kübler-Ross outlined) and eventually, a falling away.
To be honest, my heart hurts for these men and others like them who have left devastated followers in their wake. They preach a gospel of success and happiness that comes through legalism. They don’t call it that, but that is what they promise. Don’t date anymore. Instead, court and God will give you the blessings of a wonderful marriage.
Hear what I’m saying: court, date, get married through an arranged marriage. It doesn’t matter. In any of those cases, relationships are still hard! Do any of the following and your marriage might end. Do any of the following and your kids might still get sick – they might still die. Any message from a preacher who declares that if you’ll do this then God will do that – is a false doctrine.
And, this is precisely what Paul has been warning Timothy about in our letter: don’t let false teachers present a false gospel. The damage they bring is destructive. Look at 4.11-16 with me: 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Now, Paul outlined for Timothy to ‘Command and Teach’ these things: Personal godliness, Preaching the Word, Putting into Practice his giftedness, Diligence over his life and doctrine and dogged persistence in keeping a watchful eye over it all.
But how do you command and teach these things? When confronting members, it can be harsh. How do you confront an older man? How do you confront an older woman? Or, brothers and sisters your own age or younger? How do you talk to widows without seeming to be mean or hurtful?
It’s hard! Let’s look at what Paul says to Timothy in 5.1f; rd v 1;
So the first thing Paul mentions here is how to be direct with members.
I. Confronting Members (1-2)
exp.: ἐπιπλήσσω (epiplēssō); epi – at or before; plēsō – to strike; to strike at; do not sharply rebuke; we use this kind of language when someone says something and we reply: Oh, that hurt! Or That’s hitting below the belt! This word appears nowhere else in the NT or LXX; ἀλλὰ; a marker of emphatic contrast; but, exhort or encourage; 4:13; There must be a way to confront without hurting. Sure, there is some discomfort, but you want to teach what is correct without hurting the person. That’s the goal here.
- Confronting Older Men (v 1)
exp.: an older man; πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros); Elder; this is not the office, but referring to age; probably above 40; more like above 50; no doubt 60; ὡς; as or like, a father; your biological; Consider how you would talk to
- Confronting Younger Men (v 1)
exp.: your peers; as brothers;
- Confronting Older Women (v 2)
exp.: an older woman; same as above; ὡς; as or like, a father;
- Confronting Younger Women (v 2)
exp.: as sisters, in all purity; probably just with this last phrase; a 2nd reminder of the moral responsibility as a man of God;
app.: The Context is that for a pastor, don’t lash out at people; There is an appropriate way to handle problems we have with members; Timothy isn’t to Lord it over them just because he’s the pastor. But, instead he is to confront these brothers and sisters in Christ with respect and dignity and honor (5th commandment);
I don’t think this is just for a young pastor. We can be this way with each other. We should be, right?
Paul turns his attention to another situation in Ephesus: Widows rd v 3;
II. Caring for Widows (3-8)
exp.: I don’t know about you, but I’m like: Truly Widows? Isn’t the definition of a widow pretty clear?
- Truly a Widow (really, indeed)
exp.: rd v 3; Lk 23:47 – this really was an innocent man; Lk 24:34 – The Lord is really risen; Jn 8:36 – If the Son sets you free indeed; Mark 11.32 – John was truly a prophet. What Paul is saying here is that there are women who have lost their husbands, but aren’t in the desperate need that other women who’ve lost their husbands are. I don’t think he’s being mean or harsh. Paul is trying to not overload the work of the church. Think about this for a moment: a woman in that culture didn’t work like men did. We do find women working and we find them in leadership, but for the overwhelming majority of the women, when they lost their husbands, they lost their livelihood. So Paul breaks down the need into categories. He identifies those who are truly needy and those without.
- Types of Widows
– Widow w/ family (4)
exp.: rd v 4a; a widow who has family (children and grandchildren); them is a plural pronoun, which I believe points back to the children and grandchildren; ‘widow’ is singular here. Let the children and grandchildren care for her – and return to them the same care she gave them; Consider what she has done for them through the years. It’s time to reciprocate. How many diapers has she changed? Bottoms has she wiped and cleaned? How many meals has she cooked for them? How many times has she cared for them when they were sick? Cleaned up vomit? Spit up? Held them, cried for them, prayed over them? She didn’t do it thinking someday they’ll return the favor. She did it out of love. It’s time now for her children and grandchildren to show that same love to her; rd 4b; this is pleasing in the sight of God; godliness and obedience; it’s how you honor them.
– Widow w/ no family (5)
exp.: rd v 5a; a widow who is truly a widow has no family (μονόω), we get our word ‘mono’ for singular; monologue; monotonous; she’s alone.
- Alone: has no concern except for the Lord; her family is the church and the church should care for her;
- She is concerned for the affairs of God; So God’s family should take her in and care for her;
– Widow w/ finances (6)
exp.: rd v 6; a widow who is self-sufficient, wealthy, resources; lit.: living in luxury; contrast the widow whose concern is the church and the woman whose concern is her own selfishness; she may have no family, but she has her money and her things;
- Teach these Warnings (7-8)
exp.: rd v 7, who is the ‘they’; v 8 (4, 16); The family; If she has relatives, they are responsible for her; if they don’t care for her, then that is a poor witness; they’ve done two things: denied the faith, worse than an unbeliever; opposite of v 4; ungodly; disobedient; no honor; isn’t better to be an unbeliever and be seen as an unbeliever, than to be a believer and bring harm to the body as a poor witness?
t.s.: Paul moves quickly to “the list”
III. Criteria for Widowhood (9-16)
exp.: What is this List? Rd v 9-10; The List: There seems to have been an official place for older widows, they had certain requirements and if the church had been supported by these ladies, then, by all means, the church should care for them. Titus 2:3-5;
ill.: J. MacArthur: Their duties surely included helping with the baptism of women, visiting the sick, visiting prisoners, teaching and discipling younger women, helping younger women rear and nurture their children, and providing hospitality for visitors and strangers. They may have also assisted in placing orphans into proper Christian homes. That was a very important ministry in the Roman world, since orphaned or abandoned children wound up as slaves, and often as prostitutes or gladiators. With their own husbands gone and their children grown, those widows had the time to pursue such essential ministries.
That such a group of widows existed in the early church is known from extra-biblical sources. In the late first and early second centuries, Ignatius and Polycarp wrote of such an order. Tertullian, who lived in the latter part of the second and early part of the third centuries, also mentioned it. The third-century document known as the Didascalia and the fourth-century ‘Apostolic Constitutions’ also refer to an order of widows.
- Three Criteria to make the List (9-10)
- Marital Fidelity
- Service (good works)
- Brought up her children; this isn’t necessarily in the order of preference or prominence, but it definitely deserves some attention. Is there a greater task of importance than a mother to her children? Maybe to her husband, but that would be it.
- Washed feet
- Cared for the afflicted (θλίβω (thlibō) under pressure to squeeze; it means to be between a rock and a hard place)
- Devoted herself to these ‘good works’
- Caution/Urge Younger Widows to marry (11-15)
- Downward spiral
- Better to Marry
exp.: evidently, some of the widows have fallen for this false teaching in the church, they’ve chased after the things of this world and are causing trouble in the church.
There is something really interesting here that takes place throughout this chapter:
- The order of people who care for widows: (16)
- Children and Grandchildren (v 4)
- Male Relatives (v 8)
- Female Relatives (v 16)
I don’t think this means that the church should ignore widows who have relatives who can care for them. But, it does help us in regard to identifying widows in need and our responsibility to care for them.
So, what is Paul saying here:
- Anyone can be led astray: Old, young; male, female.
– Widows, in particular, were targeted with false teaching in Ephesus.
Ill.: Joanne Walker of Corvalis, Montana: Our wedding reception, in my parents’ home, ended late. Mom didn’t try to clean up until the next morning. To her dismay, there were cake crumbs everywhere! “How careless the guests were,” she thought to herself.
Until she went to the kitchen. There, still neatly stacked and clean, were the plates and forks–forgotten by my mother in the busyness of the preparations. In other words, with all of her work, she forgot to set out the very utensils needed to prevent such a mess. In her busyness, she forgot her business.
- Busyness vs. Business
It’s easy to forget in the busyness of the church what the true business is. Let’s not get so busy with things that we overlook a very important part of our church: Our widows – those women (and I might add men) who are truly widows indeed.
Difference between the Y and the I; Busyness leads to questions: Why are their crumbs all over the floor, Why were people so careless? Business, true business leads to the I…what can I do, How can I help?
You know, it’s pretty easy to be critical of how things are (the 2nd group I mentioned in the beginning), but let’s not just be busy for the sake of busyness; Ask yourself, in my relationship to all the members, Old men, Old women, Young Men, Young Women, Widows…what am I doing to help? Let’s work together to meet needs.
Someone should make a list of our widows and carefully outline them according to these guidelines from Paul. This falls under the care of the deacons, but I know that there are others interested in helping and the deacons could sure use the help. It really is embarrassing to think of some of the widows who’ve received no care.