Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Treating People Right

1Timothy 5

Paul gives Timothy some pastoral advice on how to treat various groups in the body of Christ: older and younger men, older and younger women, widows - and then elders. Finally he gives Timothy some very personal advice.\r
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It's possible that these two groups - widows and elders - were the focus of problems in that church: widows had been drawn away by elders who became teachers of false doctrine. So Paul's instructions are then to help curb the underlying problem: providing support for widows that actually contributed to them falling into false teaching - and having leaders who were not really leadership material.\r
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In this first section (1-16) address some principals for treating each other and providing for each other. To summarize:\r
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1. There are appropriate ways to treat others of different sex or age (5:1-2).\r
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2. In the absence of other resources, the church should meet the needs of those who are destitute (5:3,5,16).\r
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3. Families must carry the primary responsibility for their own needs (5:4,8,16).\r
If at all possible, those being helped should help others even while they themselves are in need (5:10).\r
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4. Churches should not encourage overdependence from those who can still make significant contributions (5:11-15). (this has been adapted from the Life Application Commentary)\r
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1 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. \r
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Timothy was a young man - giving an older man a "verbal pounding" (what the word rebuke means) would have been inappropriate and would have hurt his credibility rather than helped it.\r
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The same way with younger people - not as strangers or underlings - but as family. Treat people with gentleness and respect, even if you have to correct them.\r
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And for the women, Timothy was to act in "absolute purity" which refers to moral purity - pastors especially need to be extra careful to avoid any hint of impropriety when it comes to dealing with women - too many pastors have fallen prey to this either out of their own weakness or the weakness of the woman.\r
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So now Paul gives some very specific instructions on how to treat a special group within the body:\r
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3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. \r
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9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. \r
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There were some interesting things going on in the world in which this situation occurred. Ancient writers often reminded women of those who stayed faithful to their husbands even after they had died. The concept was called univira. At the same time, Emperor Caesar Augustus required that every woman between 20 and fifty remarry. His reasons were that he didn't want childless aristocrats threatening the families in power. If they didn't the women would lose inheritance and other rights. They were to remarry and have kids. \r
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Paul takes a different reason for the age and faithfulness requirements for widows. Before age sixty there was a great likelihood that they could remarry - not to have kids, but to have a companion! \r
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Here, faithfulness to husband meant that she didn't sleep around but was a dedicated Christian who showed it by her actions. This would avoid the really bad example of the church supporting someone and the world seeing that and saying "look what they can get away with - I guess sin, repentance, and salvation must not be that important."\r
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11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. \r
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What is likely going on here is that widows could take a pledge to serve the church and remain unmarried - they would be supported in vocational ministry really. He was concerned that once having taken that pledge, the younger ones would end up meeting somebody that they fell in love with and then would want to marry and "break" their first pledge.\r
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Additionally, there may have been concern about the kind of marriage these younger women might get into - namely an unchristian marriage where they might deny Christ for their husband. \r
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Paul also brings this point up in 1 Corinthians 7:8 - chaste singleness is the ideal if a person is called, otherwise they should marry another Christian.\r
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Paul is not picking on women here - anybody with too much time on their hands can get themselves into trouble. Either pledge to get into the ministry or get remarried, he says. \r
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16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need. \r
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(16) answers numbers 2 and 3 above - that families should provide where possible, and that widows should be helped only if there were no other resources available. \r
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So now Paul turns to comments about how to treat elders - not older people, but leaders in the church:\r
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17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. \r
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First - the position of elder is to be honored, especially if it includes teaching. The folks in that church probably would be leery of all leaders after their experience. I know how that is - you get burned by leaders in a church so then you conclude that all leaders are bad. It's happened to me on more than one occasion.\r
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Did I give up on church all together? No. I recognize that leaders are humans and when they don't reflect the character of the Lord Jesus Christ they are wrong and need to repent.\r
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Second: the point in verse 18 is that although ministers should not be "in it for the money" it was perfectly appropriate for them to be paid for the work of the gospel. When we encounter bad leaders we could argue that no one should be paid as that leads towards power hungry dictators whose power goes to their heads.\r
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Being not paid is okay - Paul did it, I've done it - but to simply conclude that a person should not receive monetary support for teaching is an overreaction.\r
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Third: verse 19 - when bad leaders lead the church astray it becomes very easy to jump to accusations. Well then if they were wrong in this way they were wrong in every way - and every sort of gossip and innuendo becomes accusation and prosecution.\r
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No, says Paul - don't throw the elder out with the bath water - make sure when you make an accusation that it is sound and backed up by evidence, not just rumor and hearsay. \r
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However - in verse 20: if an accusation sticks then the rebuke doesn't need to be confined to secrecy. No need to publicly flog someone - but as in the case of this church - Timothy needed to "command" the false teachers to stop (ch 1) - not just gently suggest it in secret - because a bad leader needs to be removed and others need to know it. And it is a warning to others - God takes leadership in the church seriously.\r
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21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. \r
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This stuff is hard - it is very very hard to bring an accusation against someone whom you respect. I had to do it once - perhaps Timothy had a problem with confrontation - but Paul tells him that he can't waiver - and he can't play favorites - you know, "the rest of them will get rebuked but I like you 'cause you've been nice to me so I'll spare you." \r
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22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. \r
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So this is the kicker - the antidote to having bad leaders in the first place - that is, to be very very careful choosing and ordaining leaders. Again, I've been burned by that in the past, to my great detriment. If you aren't careful, you share in the blame if that brother is young in the faith and falls into teaching false doctrine or ruining lives - for instance. \r
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23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.\r
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So you gotta wonder why this is here? Well, I think all this trial and having to confront the problems with leaders and others in the church probably caused Timothy some serious stomach ulcers - Paul is probably thinking of his young protégé and stops for a moment with some fatherly health advice. But then he goes on:\r
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24 The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden. \r
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Rebuking bad leaders doesn't always work. It didn't in the cases where I've been involved. Perhaps Paul is saying that don't worry if everyone you rebuke doesn't repent and humble themselves and everything turns out great as the sun sets and you ride off like a hero.\r
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Sometimes you end up leaving - or they leave and a church splits, or they go away and never seem to "get it" but go right on in their false doctrine. \r
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The wheels of God's judgment turn slowly but grind thoroughly. \r
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And sometimes its easier than others to spot a bad teaching - with others it takes time and fruit.\r
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So with good qualities - sometimes a leader presents themselves right away - it's obvious what God is doing in and through them. With others it might take some time to see the good that is going on in their lives, quiet though it is. \r
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The point is to choose leaders slowly and carefully.\r
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Conclusions\r
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1. Don't treat all people the same way always. Deal with people appropriately\r
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Whether it's people older or younger, misbehaving widows, or bad leaders - your approach needs to fit the situation. You can't be a "one size fits all" person. Sometimes people just adopt an angry dictatorial attitude for everyone - Paul says "don't do that" - for those that need a big rebuke, do it - but for your elders, treat them with respect, and your juniors with gentleness. For those caught in unfortunate circumstances (widows) - just steer them in a direction that will help, not hurt them.\r
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2. Don't react always the same.\r
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Maybe you've been burned - but don't adopt the attitude that makes everyone guilty until proven innocent. Be careful, watchful, even suspect of doctrine before you accept it - but don't place the hurt others have caused you as blame to someone else.\r
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3. Bottom line: don't be afraid to deal with problems but don't run over people while doing it.\r
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