Devotional # 205. 1 Timothy 5:17-25

Devotional # 205. 9/5/16. 1 Timothy 5:17-25.

Intro. Last week we spent most of the time with Paul telling Timothy how to take care of three types of widows. This week Paul teaches pastor Timothy how to take care of pastors, encourages us to be impartial, drinking wine for illness and wisdom when considering pastoral candidates.

vv. 17-20. Pastors: The Good and the Bad

Here Paul tells Timothy how to take care of pastors (“elders”): both the good and the bad. We defined pastors as those who had a position of leadership in the church, they can have gifts of counseling, being able to study the Bible, teaching others and encouragement (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Devotional # 200. Paul mentions the positive first: when these pastors are doing their job – reward them for it. Does this sounds a little weird to you? When I’m at work sometimes I hear someone congratulate another person and I think, “why did you congratulate them? They were just doing their job.” But pastors are different because they’re dealing with the spiritual realm which is infinitely different than the physical. A pastor who is fighting the good fight not against flesh and blood but instead against spiritual forces and principalities (Ephesians 6:12, Devotional # 119) is struggling and warring every day. Often the pastor who is doing his best in the trenches, is being stepped on and underappreciated by the very people he’s fighting for.

Pastors deserve “double honor.” This implies that all leaders deserve honor, which is respect for what they do, not a worship of them but a respect of representing God. So pastor-teachers deserve double of that respect because they are bringing the word to life. To an eager believer this sounds like a sweet gig and they may be tempted to push themselves into this role. But James 3:1 reminds us, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” So just as they are worthy of double honor, they will also be subjected to double judgment (we’ll talk more about this type of judgement in a minute).

Paul also gives us two Scriptures (Deuteronomy 25:4, Luke 10:7) where we’re told to compensate a worker for their work. This doesn’t only refer to paying a pastor (although that is one way of compensation). It can also mean helping them with bills or providing a house, rent free (parish). It can also mean that people can fill in for a job the pastor usually does in order to free up his time. What we can take away from this is that we should be encouraging, respecting and compensating pastor-teachers when they are doing the Lord’s work.

Now that Paul has covered the positive side he needs to address the negative side. If there is an “accusation against an elder” it needs to be backed up by two or three people who have seen what they’re being accused of. This is because there are well-meaning, and not-so-well-meaning people who want to discredit pastors and force them to either teach a certain way or step down from ministry. This is the same formula that Jesus gave in Matthew 18:15-17 when a normal church attendee is accused of sin. In this case, with pastors, if the accusation is true then it needs to be brought before the whole congregation. This is because the pastor is not above correction and there needs to be a healthy “fear” among everyone of not making the same mistake. Paul will remind us shortly not to judge too quickly (5:22).

vv. 21-22. Impartiality

With his mind still focused on the judgment of church leaders, Paul encourages Timothy on being impartial. It’s a weighty matter because he charges this in front of the first two Persons of the Trinity (“God and the Lord Jesus Christ”) as well as “angels.” These “elect angels” are the ones who didn’t follow Satan but chose God. This tells us a few things: 1. In the same way humans have been “elected” by God to be in heaven, so have the angels, 2. The angels, along with God, see everything we do on a regular basis, 3. God made it so angels and humans would be part of His eternal kingdom and since we will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3) we need to practice being unbiased during our training time here on earth.

As a Christian, Timothy shouldn’t be showing any prejudice but as a church leader he especially shouldn’t have any favoritism.

v. 23. Wine for Illness

Apparently Timothy had a painful health problem, here called “frequent infirmities.” Paul suggests that Timothy drink a little wine to help with the pain.

I grew up thinking that drinking any alcohol was a sin. When I was in high school I shared this incorrect view with my girlfriend who got really angry. She told me her mom had a stomach issue and the only comfort was a little wine with her meal. Not only did this teach me a valuable lesson to actually read the Bible before I claim something but also a recognition that this verse still applies today. My only concern is that her mom had more than “a little” wine each night. As MacArthur puts it, “Paul was not advocating that Timothy lower the high standard of behavior for leaders (cf. Num. 6:1-4; Prov. 31:4,5)” (Source 1).

vv. 24-25. Pastoral Sins & Good Works: Clear and Hidden

Paul drifted off to the issue of Timothy’s healthy and a temporary solution to the issue but he swings back around to behavior and judgement of that behavior. Here he states an observational fact: some people’s sins are evident to everyone and other people’s sins are secret and hidden.

What does Paul mean, “preceding them to judgement, but those of some men follow later”? It’s important for us to look at the word “judgment” here. In the original Greek it’s krisis  which has the root krima, as we’ve talked about several times (Devotional # 33 & Devotional # 92). Krima has a meaning of temporary, earthly judgment, as opposed to eternal condemnation judgment. This is speaking specifically of the evaluation process of a pastor. Some pastoral candidate’s prior sins are known and other’s sins may be hidden but will be found out about later (Numbers 32:23).

The same is mentioned of the pastoral candidates “good works.” As always we have to add the disclaimer that this isn’t in reference to the false teaching that we can get into heaven by doing any sort of good works. These are the “proving works” that show that the Holy Spirit is working through us (for more on what I call “striving vs. proving works” click here.

Therefore, wisdom when determining a pastoral candidate is to be patient and willing to accept that as time goes by more things will be revealed. Some of those things will be disappointing (“sins”) and others will be delighting (“good works”). These are things which every person does and one doesn’t necessarily outweigh the other. It just means that we must prayerfully consider God’s hand in bringing the right person to the right position at the right time.

Conclusion.

Today’s Scripture is immensely helpful to pastors, elder boards and the general congregation’s understanding of how a biblical church should function. For those who are more interested in a personal takeaway you’ve also been given some things to prayerfully consider. How can you help your pastor? How can you support and compensate your pastor? Is your church doing what it should be doing? How can you be showing impartiality? Can you encourage someone in this area? If you or a friend are having health issues could a little wine help? You should consult a doctor about this and how can you make sure you don’t become an alcoholic in the process? What steps were taken to vet your pastor (you’re not on a witch hunt but your pastor’s experience might be an encouragement for you)? Do you feel called to be a pastor-teacher? Does a friend or family member? How does God hold people accountable for their thoughts and actions? How can you be walking in His way in order to prayerfully consider these things?

Notice that most of these questions address your need to help others. As always when we seek to help others we get our mind off ourselves and start truly serving and feeling rewarded for simply doing what Jesus commanded us to do.

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1870.

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Devotional # 200. 1 Timothy 3:1-13

Devotional # 200. 8/1/16. 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

Intro. Today is special…we’re celebrating our 200th Devotional!! It’s been almost 4 years since we started and a fantastic experience! So last week we finished up 1 Timothy chapter 2 talking about men and women’s responsibilities in church (1 Timothy 2:6-15, Devotional #199). Paul will continue this train of thought in the very important section we’re covering today. We’re going to look at the requirements for leadership positions in the church.

First, we should ask why this matters to us now especially for a personal devotional. It matters because this is our God-given structure of the church, if someone isn’t doing this then they are disobeying God and we shouldn’t be taught by them. And, as if being focused on ourselves and what we get out of this section was the most important thing, we should focus on these leaders and pray for them.

Verses 1-7. Requirements for “Bishops”.

v. 1. We’re told that if a man wants to be a “bishop” it’s a good thing. Is this a bishop like in the Catholic Church? No, in the Greek it means “overseer” and sometimes is called an “elder” and sometimes a “pastor.” Why does Paul tells us it’s “a good work”? First, because it’s good to be used by God in the way He has gifted you. Second, because there are a lot of rules and self-control that can be a little difficult so we need to be reminded that it’s all worth it, and it’s a good thing.

v. 2. The first six things mentioned in this verse are self-explanatory but I think the next, “able to teach”, should be looked at. The office of an “elder” or “pastor” needs to be held by someone who has been gifted by God with being able to study the Bible and teach others. It doesn’t mean someone who can talk at people and it doesn’t mean they think they can teach. It means they can teach. The whole point is that others learn from that person because God has gifted them, it can’t be forced. This simply means that the teacher will receive positive feedback from those taught. It doesn’t mean the teacher will emotionally please everyone and it doesn’t mean the teacher won’t offend anyone. It means God’s word was illuminated by God, through this teacher. This can be applied in several ways, often churches have a main teaching pastor then some assistant pastors that teach Bible studies and counsel (another form of teaching). I used to go to a church that had six elders who rotated Sunday morning teaching responsibilities. It was a really cool way to hold everyone accountable without having one man get too much attention or responsibility.

v. 3. Of all of these important traits, for 2016, I’d like to focus on being “not greedy for money.” Unfortunately, over thousands of years (as well as now) the love of money has intrigued and dominated “overseers.” Many times they don’t start out this way but over time get “puffed up with pride” (v. 6) or become “covetous” (v. 3) or see how easy it is to take advantage of people or situations. We must be guarded against this. As a leader we must constantly be checking ourselves and as a congregation we need to be praying for the leaders.

vv. 4-5. These verses are a great reminder about what we talked about last week: God holds men accountable for their wives and children (1 Timothy 2:13, Devotional # 199). As I’ve been meditating on this verse this week I considered my wife’s role in my ministry. I could easily be disqualified from my responsibilities if she went off the deep end. On the positive side she’s always considerate to my needs of time and resources. She selflessly makes a way for me to study, or write or counsel. What a blessing a godly wife is!

v. 6. As we mentioned a minute ago, not being prideful is very important. Sometimes when people first become Christians they want to start teaching, but even if they have great intentions, they are still a “novice.” In the same way you don’t take ski lessons from a beginner and you don’t have a 10 year old teach driver’s ed, you wouldn’t have a new believer teach on the Bible. In fact, spiritual things are much more serious and important than anything else. When you’re a teacher you will be more strictly judged (James 3:1) and you have a weight of responsibility and hard decisions that can only come with time in the Word and experience.

v. 7. Verse 6 compared the “pride” we just talked about with Satan’s pride, which was his first mistake and sin. Pride takes credit for the things God has done. How can a Spirit-filled believer do that? And how does that look to those “outside” the church – the non-Christians? A difficult thing for me when I became a pastor was knowing the right amount of “self-consciousness” I should have. I had grown up not caring what others thought of me, and a certain amount of that must carry over, you can’t please everyone and as a Christian living out the faith you will get mocked. But I also had to develop an awareness of how I was presenting myself and the church to other Christians but also non-Christians. We truly have the hope of salvation but human pride and fighting and greed will deter people from beginning a relationship with Jesus.

Verses 8-13. Requirements for “Deacons”.

vv. 8-9. The word “deacon” means “servant” and so is characterized by someone who sees a need and fixes it. The best way to understand this is by reading Acts 6:1-6 where apostles were too busy for daily tasks so they delegated the tasks to others. Many of the qualifications of a deacon are the same or similar to that of bishops (one difference is that they don’t teach). What does “holding the mystery of the faith” mean? A deacon holds the mystery of faith because people will ask why you serve and you can articulate that it is the love of Christ.

v. 10. In the same way a bishop couldn’t be a “novice” (v. 6), a deacon must “first be tested” to prove that they can be trusted. When they have proven themselves then they can be given more responsibility.

vv. 11-12. The beginning of this verse is literally “likewise wives reverent…” Its debated whether this is referring to male deacon’s wives or to female deacon’s (deaconesses). I personally believe that women can fill the role of deacon, although I don’t think this is where that is proved*. It is proved in Romans 16:1 were Phoebe is called a deaconess.

v. 13. Paul has flipped his model from bishops where he started by saying it was a “good work” (v. 1), now he completes this section on deacons by talking about it being a good thing. Deacons were told how to begin (by being “tested” then, once they pass, allowing them to serve – v. 10) now we’re told what the benefits of being a good deacon is. A good deacon will have two things: 1. “a good standing” and 2. “great boldness in the faith.” A “good standing” means “a well-grounded hopeof salvation” (Source 1). And a “great boldness in the faith” is a faith only in “Christ Jesus.” So let’s look at what the Scripture give us. In places like Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 we’re taught to imitate Jesus. If Jesus’ life could be summarized by two words they would be “loving servitude.” A deacon displays that constantly, and it gives them a “boldness” to share Jesus with others – in word and in action. In Acts 6:1-8 Stephen waits tables and becomes a huge witness by being martyred. Stephen’s boldness was given by Jesus and trained into him by being a servant deacon.

Where is your gift? I would never try and apply “deacon-giftedness” to every Christian (or “bishop-giftedness” for that matter). But for those of you called to be deacons, yet you haven’t answered, I challenge you to submit to God’s calling and allow yourself to be “tested.” For those who are faithfully serving as deacons, stay steadfast in “good standing” and “great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (If you need ideas on how to be a deacon in 2016 read this).For those not called to be a deacon, you certainly have been given at least one spiritual gift from God, so use it! He will guide you, He will make you strong, remember He’ll never give you more than you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Trust Him!

*Deaconess– In my opinion, by the context, it makes the most sense that this refers to the requirements of a male deacon’s wife (like verse 12). However, MacArthur believes this refers to deaconesses because “the use of the word ‘likewise’ as an introduction (cf. v. 8) suggests a third group in addition to elders and deacons. Also, since Paul gave no requirements for elders’ wives, there is no reason to assume these would be qualifications for deacons’ wives” (Source 3). Although I agree with MacArthur’s first point (“likewise“), I disagree with his second point since the very next thing that Paul talks about is that a deacon is supposed to have “one wife” (v. 12) and just as he did for elders (v. 4) he continues to talk about what deacons families should be like. Beyond that, although it’s not as trustworthy as an inspired writer, the translators of the New King James agreed with me (“likewise, their wives must be reverent…”). For more read this.

Conclusion. I like what Guzik says about the differences between “bishops” and “deacons.” It would be easy to say that one is more important than the other but that’s incorrect. “It is a mistake to see one office as more prestigious than the other, though bishops have more responsibility before God. Each is more a matter of calling than status” (Source 2). As you consider the things we’ve read today prayerfully think about roles that desperately need to be filled in your church. Now you have a biblical basis for understanding how God calls servant-leaders.

 

References.

Source 1: Fausset (of Jamieson, Fausset & Brown), https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Ti/1Ti_003.cfm?a=1122001
Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Ti/1Ti_3.cfm?a=1122001

Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1865.