Paul continues in 1 Timothy 6 to speak about how our relationships are affected by God’s passion to see all people saved through the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman (see previous reflections on 1 Timothy below).
In 6: 1 – 2 Christian employees (even if they are slaves) should respect their masters (whether Christian or not) in such a way that their passion for God’s passion is backed up in the way they live… that is that they don’t talk about a loving God but be unloving towards their masters. They should be content with their God-given lot in life.
In 6: 3 – 10 Paul speaks about the Bible teacher’s relationship with money and in essence says that if anyone teaches anything other than what he has been teaching Timothy, which is based on what Jesus taught, such a teacher is ungodly, conceited, ignorant, malicious, corrupt and false. Whew, would not have been very seeker sensitive when read out in the church! The real motive behind the false teachers is revealed – they use their form of “godliness” as a means to financial gain (verse 5). But ministry should never be about financial gain (in context it should be about God’s great Gospel passion) which is why Paul says that the true Bible teacher’s greatest gain is to be content with whatever his lot in life is (financial or not). If the minister or anyone else pursues financial wealth they will end up destroying themselves and their witness. Is it any wonder that Jesus says we can’t love both God and money? Is it any wonder that despite their false use of Old Testament passages the super wealthy tele-evangelists/ministers are the laughing-stock of the world and much of the church? Jesus never pursued wealth, nor did Paul… they pursued the passion of God that all men might be saved! Paul ends the section by resting his case and referring to some people (that his readers may have know about) who had pursued wealth, wandered from the faith and made their lives miserable. That still happens today. And then Paul hones in on Timothy in Timothy in 6: 11 – 16 and says that he must run like crazy from this pursuit of wealth and pursue, fight for the kind of things (verse 11) that are in line with God and His passion.
And then as though restating the point but with a different target audience, Paul in 6: 17 – 19 commands Timothy to command those who are already wealthy to not hope in their wealth but in God who has provided them with all that they have to enjoy. But that enjoyment can only be true of in line with God’s passion to see the lost saved and so the rich are to use their wealth in Gospel good deeds – in that is the only joy and true reward.
And finally Paul impresses on Timothy again in 6: 20 – 21 that he must do everything to ensure that his ministry stays in line with and doesn’t wander from what Paul has entrusted to Him, which is what God is passionate about and that is the Gospel of salvation through Jesus alone!
Even today as Bible teachers and all Christians we must be eager not for wealth but for the Gospel of salvation through Jesus alone. Nothing else satisfies! Anything else corrupts and causes us to wander away from God’s passion to our destruction! Godliness with contentment is great gain.
It is important to be passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman as Paul has been teaching us (see previous reflections on 1 Timothy below). But we must remember that the church is not just an evangelistic organization but a family with some key relational responsibilities. And that seems to me to be the focus and tone of Paul’s teaching in chapter 5.
Paul actually started the letter with that tone in 1: 2. And we must always remember that we are God’s adopted and dearly loved children with many other brothers and sisters who are equally loved. And this mindset should dictate how we treat each other in the family of God.
And so Paul starts by saying that Timothy should be loving, respectful and pure in the way he deals with the different groups in the church 5: 1 – 2. This would of course then model to others as to how they should behave in the family of God. The end of verse 2 is a powerful counter-culture way seeing dating!
Obviously a problem in Ephesus, 1 Timothy 5: 3 – 16 deals quite extensively with how widows are to be helped when needy. In Ephesus there was a list of widows needing help (not a bad idea), but just being a widow didn’t get you onto the list, there was to be a proper selection process (these principles are very helpful for all needy people in the church). And really the bottom line is only those really desperately in need get onto the list. So here is how it was evaluated:
- Were they really in need? If so they got help (3).
- If the widow was really in need but had a family that could care for them then the family should do so and not be on the church list (4 + 8 + 16. Isn’t verse 8 hectic?).
- Younger widows (in the case of the Ephesian church anyone under 60) should not be on the list they should rather consider working to provide for themselves and/or look to marry again (9a + 11 – 15). That doesn’t mean they can’t get some help until that happens but it did mean that they must not be put on the list for regular help.
- Not unlike with church leaders (chapter 3) there are character traits for the kinds of widows put on the list. Paul is not looking for perfection but for widows over 60 who have a reputation for being:
- Godly (5 – 6)
- Faithful (9)
- Known for good deeds (10)
- A good mom (10)
- Hospitable (10)
- Servant hearted (10)
- One who cares for others (10)
What happened to the widows who didn’t meet these requirements? Well, I don’t know what actually happened at Ephesus but in keeping with the rest of the New Testament it wouldn’t surprise me to find that they got some help but they just would not be put on the list for regular help.
And then, talking about widows, leaders and character lists… look after the elders (dads) in the family. Honor them! Honor them, especially the preaching/teaching elders, by paying them well so that they can focus on teaching the family the Word (17 – 18). Honor them by being careful with the criticism that will inevitable come against them because they are leaders (19). But honor them and the church by responsibly exposing sin if it is found in them (20). All of this would be easier if the position of leadership was honored by being very careful of who was appointed to leadership (21 – 22. Refer to 1 Timothy 3).
It takes a lot to effectively run a church as a family passionate about what God is passionate about. What will help is if we love and respect each other like a good family; be strategic in how we encourage Christian care; set aside well paid, great leaders to equip the family of God from God’s Word to do all this! If we do that our passion for God’s passion to see everyone saved will be couched in the best possible context… a truthful, loving family.
Video | If We Are No Longer Under The Law What Is The Place Of The Ten Commandments? | Phillip Jensen.
This video is just over 2 minutes long and give a very helpful perspective on how we as followers of Jesus should view the law/ten commandments.
1 Timothy is clearly a letter written by Paul, an apostle, to Timothy, at the time probably the pastor at a local church in Ephesus. In many ways it is the letter of a mentor encouraging his follower in his role as the pastor of this church.
The main practical focus seems to be to help Timothy deal with the false teaching that was affecting the church although he also deals with a wide range of topics that face any local church in any age. And although set in a very definite context it is a letter that is immensely practical to all leaders and members of any local church today! As Jensen and Clarke write, “The Bible was written in a concrete situation and context, but it was written for Christians in all ages and every place, as we await the return of our Lord. If we ignore the concreteness of the Bible, we can easily end up reading it out of context. But if we ignore the universality of the Bible, we reject God’s word to is here and now.”
It seems to me that the main thrust of Timothy is found in 1 Timothy 2: 3 – 7. This passage seems to be the controlling idea in Paul’s mind as he writes this letter to Timothy.
We see God’s great passion (vs 3 – 4) that He wants “all men to be saved”.
We also see God’s only provision for that salvation (vs 5 – 6), “the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men”.
And we see God’s “appointed” preacher (vs 7) in the person of Paul. So beware Timothy, his church and us if we don’t agree with Paul because he happens to not espouse our pet theology.
And so Paul throughout this letter is telling Timothy in all circumstances to be passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught to him by him Paul God’s spokesman – because that is what God is passionate about! Why else would God have sent Jesus as the only way, appointed Paul as His spokesman to the Gentiles and appointed Timothy to pastor this Gentile church?
And as you read 1 Timothy with that in mind you will see the amazing power of this letter to help us “keep the main thing the main thing” in life and doctrine.
In my early years of being a Christian I was told by almost everyone that being saved was great but I needed to now move on to deeper and better things in my relationship with Jesus!
In the letter to the Colossians Paul tells me exactly the opposite. He says that the way Jesus saved me is the way He will grow me in 2: 6 – 7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
How did Jesus save me? 1: 21 – 22: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – “
How does Jesus grow me? 1: 23: “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
I think that a lot of “deeper and better things” theology is based more on a misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit peppered with “Christian Philosophy” and other stuff rather than a clear understanding of the power of the Gospel of Christ to save and grow us. And although that is not precisely what Paul was writing against it does ring some bells when you read 2: 8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
And even all the teaching that flows from chapter 3 onwards on how to live as a Christian assumes that we understand this Colossian principle in 2: 6 – 7 that the way Jesus saved you is the way He will grow you – see 2: 20 – 23 (I wonder what the implications of this are for the current growing emphasis on spiritual disciplines?)
The bottom line is this: Just as we chose Jesus as Lord to be saved (sure it was the Holy Spirit who enabled us) so we must choose Jesus as Lord every day and in all circumstances and the more we do that the more we will grow (and we need the Holy Spirit for this)! I don’t need anything deeper or better than this!
23 years ago on this day Wendy and I were married. 3 years into our marriage we hit a big wobbly and there was a time when I thought it might all be over. But by the grace of God (and Wendy) we stuck to our vows and over time came to love each other even more than at the beginning. I can say now that 23 years later Wendy and I love each other more than we ever have… even though like all marriages we have our ups and downs. And tonight we will celebrate 23 years of marriage at “The Jewel of India” our favorite “hot” restaurant (which by the way was planned and is being paid for by our 13 year old son).
Now all of that is great and a testimony of God’s grace to sinners like ourselves! But when I read Ephesians 5: 22 – 33 I see an even greater story that these 23 years of marriage point to. According to Paul in Ephesians 5: 32 (and context) these 23 years are a testimony, a pointer, to an even more remarkable relationship… the ongoing faithful love of Jesus the Groom (way more than 23 years) to His Bride the Church! And given how we (the Church) behave what incredible faithful love!
Marriage is totally underrated:
Firstly, because no matter what happens if we stick to our vows and work at loving each other we experience levels of love, grace and forgiveness that we can never experience outside of a relationship where the commitment is so formal and public. Don’t believe the popular nonsense that marriage is just a piece of paper and we can experience just as much love outside of it in less “formal” ways. The Person who designed marriage doesn’t think so and by the way He designed us and therefore knows best.
Secondly, because when marriages continue (no matter what attacks them) it is a powerful witnesses to the gospel because it is (according to Paul in Ephesians) a pointer to the faithfulness of Jesus to His Church.
So let’s celebrate and work hard at our marriages – because if we do we will experience the depths of love like not possible in any other human relationship. We will also experience the grace of God in much richer ways too.
Let’s celebrate and work hard at our marriages – because they will turn people to Jesus. And by the way we should be intentional about pointing people to Jesus through marriage… I think Paul would say, “That is why I wrote that section in Ephesians”.
Let’s pray for marriages (ours and others) that God will by His Spirit give us the strength to live the above because we are weak and can’t do it on our own.
Let’s not make those who have experienced divorce feel guilty. We live in a fallen world where divorce is a reality and God is powerfully using divorced people in our churches and communities as much as anyone else. But let’s not let the high rate of divorce cause us in any way to underrate marriage.
Thank God for marriage!
Sometimes it feels like life hands you a steaming pile of doggy-do. What do you do then?
It may help to read a letter written by a man named Paul to a bunch of Christians in a town called Philippi from a sewage filled prison in the middle of the first century (Philippians in the Bible).
One of his main topics? Joy! Is it possible to write about joy from such a bad place? Yes if you can answer this question: What relationship causes him to have such joy in such unbearable circumstances and why? I dare you to read it because that joy is still available today.