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74. I Timothy 5: “Advice for Battle”

South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 5/21/2017

(edited April 2021)

 

The Apostle Paul is encouraging and mentoring a younger missionary, Timothy, who he had placed at Ephesus to lead the new church there (in modern day Turkey). Paul was concurrently stationed over in Northern Greece. That’s where he was writing from.

 

Ephesus was a church which began with a riot! The whole story of that is found in Acts chapter 19. Check it out sometime. My point is that from the beginning there were battles at Ephesus. Spiritual and even physical conflicts.

 

And those battles went on. At a later time, in a letter addressed directly to the Ephesians, Paul instructed them to put on the whole spiritual armor of God. That is also worth reviewing in Ephesians 6:10-19. By the time he wrote this message to the Ephesians, Paul was actually in prison simply for preaching the Truth of the Gospel.

 

Battles, conflicts, and more battles. The Church today finds itself in a similar environment, at least spiritually, wouldn’t you agree? Forgive me for a long introduction tonight, but I want to read you something the Apostle John said to this church, who’s problems apparently extended even into the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 2:1-7

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

 

Now, with all that said, let’s get on to our study way back in I Timothy chapter 5:

Verses 1-2: “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”

 

Paul says, “Timothy, when the going gets tough, the man of God—well, he MUST stay gentle!” That’s what I think he’s saying here. “Be decisive, but don’t get nasty with those you are supposed to be serving.”

 

Verses 3-4: “Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.”

 

Two thousand years ago they did not have welfare, disability compensation, social security, etc. So the Church would often “adopt” certain widows and provide for them financially. Well, as you can maybe imagine, this led to some big arguments at Ephesus and a real Spiritual Battle broke out! That’s how Paul got on this subject:

 

Verses 5-7: “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.”

 

Paul dives right into to a very “delicate” matter. The Church today needs more men like Paul, laymen and tentmakers! Men who are not dependent on the Church for their income, who can boldly address the most difficult of issues. Listen to Paul:

 

Verse 8: But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”

 

Notice that for the second time Paul makes it clear that if the widow is from a Christian family, then they need to step up and support her! Doctrines and grand speeches are one thing, but common-sense matters in the Church, too! Then as now, the Church is primarily to be about soul-winning and spiritual work. Can the Church help the poor financially, or medically, at times? Sure. But the Church wasn’t and it isn’t EVER meant to be the dumping ground for the responsibilities of the community at large.

 

Verses 9-10: “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.”

 

Now Paul shares some more “common sense” with Timothy: “Don’t take in just any widow. Be wise about it and have intelligent and fair standards.” I’m guessing these particular widows became, sort of, like staff members of the church at Ephesus. They still had a lot of love to give and they could now give it over to Christ by serving His People there at Ephesus.

 

Verses 11-13: “But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;  Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

 

This describes, I think, the real argument the were having. It was a hang-up over the younger widows. Again, Paul is not afraid to “tell it like it is” and face the issues head on. But is he remembering his admonition to Timothy to remain gentle and caring? YES he is:

 

Verse 14: I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

 

Paul is not just thinking of the church or its budget. What would be best in the long view for these young widows? Sometimes the Church has fallen into the trap of having people live such unnatural lives in the name of holiness that it can become, well, unholy!  

 

Christianity was never a cakewalk. There WILL BE difficult issues to face and decisions to be made. And it can’t be taken lightly, either. Nothing sours and devolves faster in this world than casual Christianity. Paul knows that from experience and he needs Timothy to know it too:

 

Verses 15-16: “For some are already turned aside after Satan.  If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”

 

Paul reminds us all again about the responsibilities a believer has to his family. Many today approach Church issues either too emotionally to think straight about them or with such a blasé attitude that, well, that it doesn’t glorify the Lord in any way. No, no, we must stay consistent and diligent and yet always remain concerned about how our decisions will affect the Lord’s work on earth and other people in or out of the Church. It’s not easy. And we can see right here in this letter that it never was!

 

NOW, Paul says, now that we’re on the subject of common sense, let’s talk about some other things (Paul was an experienced teacher. He knew when to step on the gas in a lesson!):

 

PAUL’S INSPIRED COMMON SENSE for

BIG SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS

Verses

Topic or Advice

Verses 17-20: Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.  Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”

 

 

 

How to treat the Pastors of the Church fairly, good ones and even the bad ones!

Verses 21-22: I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.  Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.”

 

 

Timothy was to evaluate his own leadership too there at Ephesus. And to be fair with EVERYONE he came in contact with.

Verse 23: Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.”

Judge yourself first, but don’t let other’s gossip keep you from caring for your own health and well-being.

Verse 24: Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.”

No one, in or out of a church, can perpetually escape the consequences of rejecting Christ and His teachings.

Verse 25: Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.”

In this world not only can sins be hid, but good deeds often go unnoticed too. Do good, Paul says, then put all your trust in God and move ahead!

 

Believer, like Timothy, you are called by God to a ministry. It may actually be a task that, due to circumstances, only you can perform. But as was true in Ancient Ephesus, it isn’t easy to serve God in our day. There are Spiritual Battles brewing around us. Thank you for your patience with me again tonight, and in closing I just want to ask you something: without the advice we find only in God’s Word [holding up my Bible] and the Power of His Holy Spirit, how can we ever hope to stand and serve the Lord today? Let’s pray.

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