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.

Devotional # 196. 1 Timothy 1:18-20

Devotional # 196. 6/27/16. 1 Timothy 1:18-20.

Intro. Do you have friends that have left the church? Chances are good you do, considering 69% of American evangelical teens leave the church after high school, never to return.[i] And if they do make it past high school, 712 of 18-29 year olds leave the church every single day; some return but ultimately 1.7 million will never come back.[ii] In fact, adults over 30 are leaving the church in record numbers also[iii]. There are multiple reasons for this but in today’s Devotional we’re going to study what Paul says about people “leaving the faith.” We’re going to look at where the church has failed and what we can do to fix it. Just remember some of Paul’s words can seem a little harsh but we’ll view this in light of context and that Paul told us that “love” is crucial in all situations (v. 5, v. 14).

v. 18. Paul stops talking about his personal experience with the Lord (1 Timothy 1:12-16, Devotional #195) and turns to talk about his spiritual “son” Timothy. Remember this letter was written to instruct Timothy on how to deal with the problems in the Ephesian church (see Devotional # 192 and Devotional # 193 for more). Here, Paul makes a “charge”, which means an encouraging command, to Timothy to “have faith and a good conscience” (v. 19).

Faith” isn’t blind confidence. Hebrews 11:1 clearly defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “This definition of faith contains two aspects: intellectual assent and trust. Intellectual assent is believing something to be true. Trust is actually relying on the fact that the something is true. A chair is often used to help illustrate this. Intellectual assent is recognizing that a chair is a chair and agreeing that it is designed to support a person who sits on it. Trust is actually sitting in the chair” (Source 2). Like Timothy we must remember to recognize and agree, by taking the action of faith that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Along with “faith” Paul tells Timothy to have a “good conscience.” God has given everyone a conscience, some people chose to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit comes into their heart and enlightens their conscience. Other people chose to ignore their conscience and eventually silence and suppress and deaden it. Were you ever blamed for something you didn’t do? Your conscience was clear even if you were frustrated or punished. What about the person who does something wrong but doesn’t believe it should be considered wrong, and therefore feels like they have a clear conscience? There is obviously a difference but what exactly is that difference? We must first start with a biblical foundation to determine when something is right or wrong. Peter tells us to keep “a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:16, NIV). Clearly “a clear conscience” comes from “good behavior in Christ.” It may be closed-minded to say that a clear conscience can only come from a biblical basis, but nevertheless true.

After his “charge” Paul reminds Timothy that there were prophesies about him. These were given when elders laid hands on Timothy (1 Timothy 4:14) and may have been general although they could have been about his spiritual gift(s) (also 1 Timothy 4:14). One of the prophesies was for sure that he would “wage the good warfare.” Paul associates the Christian walk with life and death warfare, which he’s used before, for example read Ephesians 6:10-20 (Devotional #118, Devotional # 119, Devotional #120). This warfare is very precise and isn’t “a fight” or “warfare in general” but very specifically spiritual warfare. This will be important for us to remember when we look at verse 20 down below.

v. 19. Here Paul actually states the encouragement command to Timothy, “having faith and a clear conscience”, which we just studied. Then Paul moves to those who have left the church. The statistics that I quoted above came from John Dickerson’s book The Great Evangelical Recession but Dickerson doesn’t just give us the main problems with the church – he gives us biblical solutions too. Here in 1 Timothy 1:19 we see our first solution to healing our churches: unity on essential beliefs. Should the church unify in everything? No. “‘In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Christ.’ Our unity must give and insist on clear boundaries about the essentials. Our unity must grant us gracious room to disagree on non-essentials. And our unity must exalt Christ and His gospel.”[iv]

We’re told here that one of the “essentials” is “faith and a good conscience” and if anyone “rejected” that, it could not be tolerated. Paul likens it to being “shipwrecked” (something he knew about, see Acts 27, Devotional # 71) and, in a minute, he’ll call it “blasphemy” (v. 20). We can’t over overemphasize the negative affect of calling yourself a Christian but living a life without “faith and a good conscience”. Let’s read on to get a better understanding.

v. 20. Above I noted one of the biblical solutions Dickerson mentions is unity, a second solution is: healing in discipleship and shepherding. And here, in verse 20, Paul points us in that direction. He names two of the guys in the Ephesian church who rejected “faith and a good conscience”. Not much is known about Hymenaeus and Alexander except “Hymenaeus is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17 in connection with Philetus, another false teacher. Alexander may be the opponent of the faith referred to in 2 Timothy 4:14,15” (Source 3). And Paul tells Timothy that he has “delivered [them] to Satan.” This sounds questionable and harsh but as I said at the beginning we need to properly understand what Paul is saying and more importantly why. Paul is saying that people like Hymenaeus and Alexander are serving Satan and if they are doing that then they can’t be allowed to fellowship with believers.
Do you remember that Timothy was told “wage the good warfare” in verse 19? In Ephesians Paul reminded us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, Devotional #119). So Paul wasn’t saying Hymenaeus and Alexander were the root cause, they were just a symptom of the Devil’s manipulation.

Yes, it was important for Paul to kick them out of the church so that they couldn’t influence other believers to think incorrectly but equally as important was the desired outcome. Paul says he kicked them out so that they “may learn not to blaspheme.” Time and again when a person was kicked out of the church the hope was that they would see the error of their ways, repent and come back into fellowship with the congregation and with Jesus Christ (for example 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Paul is teaching Timothy and us the importance of taking a firm stance on an essential belief but also setting the people up for healing via discipleship and shepherding.

 

References.

Source 1: John S. Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession, 2013, p. 99.

Source 2: S. Michael Houdmann, http://www.gotquestions.org/definition-of-faith.html

Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1862.

[i] Source 1, p. 99

[ii] Source 1, pp. 103-104

[iii] Source 1, pp. 106-107

[iv] Source 1, p. 152