by Sam E. Stone
“We Worship God” is the theme for this quarter’s lessons. This month we have studied various aspects of leadership in the New Testament church. Today’s topic serves as an important reminder that worship includes a lot more than singing in church on Sunday morning! It is a reflection of the believer’s entire life. Paul’s letters to Timothy remind us that how we treat others can express true worship to God.
General Guidelines/1 Timothy 5:1, 2
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Some translations say “elder” here. While that is accurate, it is important to note that this is a general principle to be followed with all older men, not just church leaders. Treat younger men as brothers. Christians are a part of God’s family and should act accordingly. Older women as mothers. Love and respect should be shown. Younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Treat them like a good brother would treat his sister. The apostle calls for exemplary holiness of life, especially in these relationships (see v. 22).
Guidelines for Widows/1 Timothy 5:3-8
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. The verses that follow confirm that this recognition includes material support. Widows should be treated with respect and consideration. This was important in Old Testament days (Exodus 22:22-24; Deuteronomy 24:17-19) and was equally necessary in New Testament times (see Acts 6). Widows who are destitute and have no family to support them qualify as being “really in need.”
If a widow has children or grandchildren. Not all widows do, and so those need additional help from the church. Put (your) religion into practice. James makes the same point (1:27). Caring for their own family. God’s plan is for parents to care for children when they are young, and for children to care for parents when they are old. Jesus made sure that his mother would be cared for after his death (John 19:25-27).
The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God. A “true widow” in this context refers to one who is entirely alone, trusts God, and prays regularly (see Psalm 123:1, 2). In contrast, the pleasure-seeking widow may be alive physically, but she is dead spiritually (Romans 8:13).
Then Paul directed, Give the people these instructions. Good church leaders will teach the congregation their responsibilities, both in the church and in their homes. They need to know which widows to honor and how to honor them. Family members need to understand their duties as well.
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family. Concern for others starts at home. Children and grandchildren must not shirk their duty. He has denied the faith. Talk means little if actions don’t follow (James 2:14-16). Even the pagans would do better than this! Jesus made it clear that no son or daughter should try to evade this responsibility (see Mark 7:9-13).
Our printed text omits the next eight verses. They deal with widows as Christian workers (vv. 9-10) and with younger widows (vv. 11-16).
Guidelines for Leaders/1 Timothy 5:17-22
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor. The elders are responsible for the oversight of the church. (Note that elders are always spoken of in the plural; there is no “one-man-rule” in the local church.) All of them are to be honored for their service. Such “honor” may include financial remuneration. This “double honor” is intended especially (for) those whose work is preaching and teaching.
Paul then quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to confirm this principle. Alongside that reference, he adds a quotation from Jesus (Luke 10:7). Christ’s teaching was obviously considered on a par with that of Old Testament Scripture. The apostle gave similar teaching to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:9-12).
Church leaders should be protected from unfounded charges and vicious criticism. Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. This fits both the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 19:15) and the teaching of Jesus (Matthew 18:16). Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly. This protects both the eldership and the church. Those who have been given much have even more responsibility for what they do than others.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.