O. INTRO: Young man visited last Sunday.
Why begin that way? Not to shock but to focus.
There is always much more going on in this room than is visible to the eye.
-Every heart this room is full of deep, powerful things…often very difficult things.
There is always much more going on in the world around us than what is visible to the eye.
-Eternity is always nearby, even when it just seems like another day
2 Cor. 4:16 “We fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
How do we see what is unseen?
Our “eyes” here, are of course, our “minds eye” our internal perspective.
We see what is unseen and eternal by putting our full confidence in God’s word.
We don’t just see people…we see eternal beings…always one brief moment from eternity.
We don’t just see another day…we see today, this day, that God has given. The only day, in fact that he has given.
Also, last Sunday night Christy and I were talking with one of our middle school girls small groups.
-We talked about some of the questions they had been prepared for us…very good questions…deep and difficult questions.
-I began my comments to the girls with this thought:
All of these questions, really all questions of importance to humans begin with the question of “authority”
“Who will you trust?”
The questions that can be formulated are endless, the options for who we will trust are very limited.
Why is the question of authority the first and most important one?
Clearly whoever we consider to be worthy of our trust…is going to be foundational for conclusions about what think is real and true in regards to our lives.
Answering questions of purpose, of sexuality, of right and wrong behavior, of relationships, work, of suffering, of God’s love or existence…they all begin with “who will you trust.”
I begin like this to center us and because the chapter in Paul’s letter to Timothy that we look at today can look mundane, like a logistical list of stuff to do and not do that seems to be out of touch with real and important things in the world and in our lives.
But we need to see this chapter in its larger context
Paul is writing to a young pastor, struggling to live and teach the truth in the face of opposition and trials.
He is Timothy of the Bible…but he was Timothy the pastor, the guy, trying to be faithful when Paul wrote this letter to him.
In the next letter, Paul will say, “Timothy I constantly remember you in my prayers, I long to see you recalling your tears.”
Timothy was trying and he was sometimes crying…he was a real man, a good man…who was trying to lead and love others in the truth.
And it was hard for him.
Was he crying over disappointment, the difficulty of the task, the attacks of people he served…or maybe his mom had just died?…Paul spoke of her in the past tense in 2 Tim. 1.
Whatever the reason, he needs encouragement, challenge, help, endurance…he needs truth, he needs grace…all of it.
Paul focuses Timothy on the truth of God…because it is the foundation for beliefs, values and behavior.
Paul is practical because the faith must be practiced…or it is not real faith for the real world.
Paul has been painting a with a big picture brush…and now he is using a smaller brush to fill in what it looks like to live a big picture life in daily practice.
At the end of chapter 4 he wrote:
“Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
What you believe and what you do go hand in hand.
You must live what is true.
To do that…
You must believe what is true. That is what doctrine is.
-Truth about God, people, purpose, eternity.
You must endure, persevere…keep going…in believing and living what is true.
I’m not going to read chapter 5
I’m going to summarize it, then apply it.
Paul goes from encouraging Timothy to teach others to live in the truth and to train personally to live in the truth…to some practical guidance for pastoral care.
But it is all tied together.
It is practical/tactical guidance but it has a strategic purpose.
He wants to help him do important work…so he can focus on the essential work.
Important work…taking care of the people under his care…in practical and personal ways.
Essential work…teaching them the truth of God…mobilizing them to share the gospel.
He divides the people into four groups:
Older men, who are to be “exhorted” not rebuked but encouraged.
-He has already been told how to deal with divisive, hard-heads and hard-hearts.
-These “older than Timothy men” he is referring to here are just “regular guys” who he may not see eye to eye with all the time, but they need encouragement…he is to pastor them.
-Treat them like a grown son treats his father…honestly but respectfully.
*Years ago, almost 30 years…my dad and I were working together on one of our building remodel projects.
*We had a disagreement and he said “You need to respect me, I am still your dad.”
*I replied, “Yes, and you need to respect me, I am your pastor.”
*We walked away…both a little upset.
*We came back a short time later with tears and affection…reaffirmed our mutual love.
Paul is telling Tim…you are their pastor, but lead them like they are your father…but lead them.
Younger men, are to be treated like little brothers, this implies family connection, protection, instruction…big brother, takes little brother under his wing.
Older women, likewise are to be treated as you would your mother, and younger women as little sisters.
Much of what I said about leading older men holds true here…moms have unusual power in the lives of sons…mine did.
So, Timothy, show great respect…but lead them well.
He is encouraging Timothy again…to not let his relative youth cause him to shrink back in fear, or to become pushy and over bearing.
Insecurity can lead to both extremes…being fearful or being overbearing.
Be a pastor, a shepherd…be an overseer, not an overbearer.
Then he spends a lot of time talking about how to treat Widows.
In fact, most of this chapter deals with this topic…what is up with that?
This long section is about the practical side of Timothy’s work as pastor…taking care of those in a particular group with a certain vulnerability and need.
The church, in an age with no social security…and a culture where widows where especially vulnerable…had a specialized ministry to widows.
Paul’s gives qualifications for someone to be regarded as a true widow, deserving of the church providing for her.
*These are practical in nature, because this is a real not a theoretical need in the church.
In this list, Paul is talking about qualifications for women who can be formally put on the widow list.
1. If She has no children, grandchildren who could and should take care of her.
-If she does have family who can take care of her…then they should do so.
2. She needs to be a women who sets an example in her faith, who puts her hope in God, who is given to vigilant prayer
-If she is self-centered and not pursuing God…she is not helped by providing for her in this way.
3. They are to be over 60 and to have been faithful to their husbands, known for good deeds and hospitality.
This is not social security, this is the church providing for specific people in the congregation with specific needs out of its limited resources.
This is not a program where potential “widow list” recipients go online and fill out a form.
These are real people who are to be assessed for their needs one by one…these are people who are known…by Paul, by Timothy.
Why these rules, why rules at all?
Rules that exist in any healthy family.
You can’t ever say “it’s about relationship, not rules”
Because without “Rules…there will be no relationship.”
For someone to say, “Christianity is about rules not relationships…hasn’t read the NT”
But I get what they are saying…the rules are to enhance not to replace relationships.
Families may operate with assumed not written rules…but they are there or relationship is not there…and disfunction will be there.
The rules have to do with taking responsibility…taking responsibility in relationships opens doors for privileges in relationships…like trust, and closeness, and affection.
Tuesday I listened in as a couple of senior and seasoned leaders in the military world speak to each other about some of their experiences.
They spoke of the one change that has become, in their minds, the most prominent the past couple of years.
-The refusal to take responsibility for personal actions.
-It has always been there, but in their experience it has become more pronounced in just a very few years.
-One of these men in particular deals daily with people who are being disciplined, fired, or worse…for their own bad actions.
-When confronted with consequences for their personal actions…they consistently refuse to take responsibility, they blame outside forces…
This man gets is sued nearly every week…often by people in his organization of around 7,000 employees who blame him for the consequences of their actions.
Paul’s “rules” are about the necessity for the church to live in reality.
The reality of people taking appropriate responsibility for their lives.
Giving money to those in real need and not giving it to those who don’t have real need…are both acts of love…truth and love.
If they are younger than 60 they likely have the ability to work and fend for themselves.
Or they can, in some cases marry again…and not need to become a ward of the church.
So, Paul then turns Timothy’s attention to younger widows.
He is giving his reasons, from experience, why this minimum age was given.
Please keep in mind, this is not about some abstract concept, Paul knew this church well, he had real people in mind.
This is not a guy in an office…making stuff up.
This is a man who has laid down his life for these people…giving his experienced counsel to Timothy as to how to live with appropriate focus…while taking of real people.
*I’m quite sure that if someone was 58.5 and had real needs, they would have been cared for.
-This is about principle in practice to enable a mission focus…not rules taking precedence over people.
On commentator writes that the first 12 words of verse 11 are just 4 words in the Greek…these 4 words can be rendered “Younger widows? Forget it!”
If you put them on the “list”…then they might become gossips and busybodies…and they may succumb to sensual desires…Satan not God is honored if this happens.
It’s not good for them or the church…to give privilege without responsibility.
The way Paul writes this section in present tense infers that this is not hypothetical, but this was happening in real time…there were women in Ephesus doing this stuff.
*Now in case you think Paul is sexist…picking on these poor young widows…think again.
What is he saying here?
He is telling Timothy, to be careful, and consistent and intentional…about taking care of women in his church…particularly vulnerable, throw away women.
Older widows in real need…love them by taking care of them.
Younger widows who would be better served by challenging them to work, and or get married if that is option…love them by not putting them on the list.
This is a loving “yes” to some widows and a loving “no” to others.
What’s going on with all this?
The church is not a social relief agency…though clearly taking care of one another is a significant component of its ministry.
Paul’s understanding of church care is to respond to real-life needs…to care for the overlooked and the marginalized.
But the church exists for mission…for evangelism…for the glory of God revealed in people hearing and responding to the gospel.
It is important to take care of those in need within the limits of faithfulness…Paul wrote elsewhere, if a man doesn’t work, the church isn’t going to feed him…that is not faithfulness.
Why? Because it is not good for anyone…the church or that man.
The church…is not a social justice, or social welfare organization…though members of the church will be called to participate in social justice and welfare engagements.
And although followers of Christ do care about justice and the welfare of others…The great commission (the mission) of the church is to make disciples of all nations.
Of course, followers of Christ, changed by the gospel… will love and serve others…but they must first become disciples…born again followers…changed by the gospel.
Or they will likely live self-serving lives.
Or they may serve with no eternal perspective…and in eternity, what difference did it make?
Some non-Christians do serve sacrificially…but historically, numerically…it is committed Christians who are meeting the needs of others in sacrificially ways.
If the church becomes largely another social work organization and fails to share the gospel with the world…then it has failed in its central mission.
Eph. 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Salvation by grace through faith…is a free gift from God.
We are saved not by works but to works…the good works God has prepared in advance for us new created people to do.
If the church becomes focused on “doing good works” at the exclusion of “People needing to be saved” then eventually there will be no people created in Christ Jesus to do good works.
Good works gets you cultural brownie points But evangelism gets you cultural disdain.
“We support YH…Sun Run…mentoring…kids at risk.”
“Good for you, keep it up.”
“We do that because we believe that those who do not know Christ personally are dead in their sins, he is the only way to God…so we do what we do to bring others to Christ.”
“How dare you…you are evil!”
We do good works, because God has made us his workmanship.
We don’t do them to impress others…but to honor God and bless others…we do good because we believe ultimate good is salvation through Christ.
Paul, who has told Timothy to be faithful in teaching the truth and training for the truth…is now giving some practical instruction for his role as leading a church..
Ultimately, we want to live faithful lives for the glory of God…this of course includes our normal work and family lives, taking care of people in need…all of this…
But the mission of the church is the great commission…to make disciples of all nations.
God’s people…from the OT through the NT are called by God to be missional people…to get our eyes off ourselves.
Working to help those who are far from God to enter into relationship with him.
God gave clear instructions on how his missional people were to thrive…but when his people lost sight of mission…they always failed to thrive…this is still true.
These instructions are partly so the people in real need will be cared for, and partly so Timothy will have some guidelines to keep him from being distracted away from the priority of the teaching of the word and evangelism.
Look at Acts 6
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The twelve elders whose main role was to proclaim the truth of the word…were being caught up in logistics and quarrels between two groups of new believers…about widows none the less.
So, they choose seven guys to take over this service ministry so they could give attention to prayer and ministry of the word.
Clearly it was important who lead this service ministry…they choose men who were devout and wise…because these women in need mattered.
But clearly the most important thing was the ministry of the word….the truth of God.
Because if truth is lost, mission dies, and people become self-serving and fail to thrive.
*Remember when I said the most important question is the one of authority…who will you trust, or believe?
Historically, when the church has lost its belief in Biblical authority it has also lost its missional and service momentum.
The Churches and Christians who give the majority of time and resources away are those who believe the Scriptures are true, they are committed to biblical authority.
The largest group of military chaplains are Southern Baptists
-This irks some to no end.
-I had my suspicions, but I asked retired Army chief of chaplains, General Doug Carver… why he thinks this is so.
He said a big reason is the missional heart of our churches…it produces people willing to sacrificially serve.
*A grumpy army colonel once asked me why so many chaplains were SBC…I said, “there is no conspiracy, they are raising their hands.”
Justin and I went to some training in KC this week…military, hospital, hospice, disaster relief, fire, police chaplains were there.
All from churches that believed in the authority of Scripture and the great commission…they want to make disciples…and disciples serve those around them.
The training was focused on personal evangelism…why?
There was a lot of expertise in various fields of service, they served very needy people in sacrificial ways…but the heart of their service is the gospel…the desire to make Christ known to others.
Look at where he goes next…from taking care of widows…to another sub-group in the church.
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
He is not telling Timothy to advocate for self…make sure they “double honor you.”
He was advocating for the priority of the truth of God’s word…it is so important that it cannot be submerged to even really good things like taking care of widows.
Take care of the truly needy among you…but you Timothy…don’t get side-tracked…remember the mission and the priority of Biblical authority to stay on mission.
Teaching and preaching is the priority of the church…truth dies, mission dies
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.
These are very strong words…and adding “In the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels”…makes them even stronger.
Timothy…do this…you must do this…God as your witness…you must do this.
You must keep these instructions (all he has been writing to him)
Timothy is now, and will be soon under great pressure.
He will have various subgroups pulling on him…wanting him to do things their way.
He is to unify the church…he is to take a strong stand on truth…and not shift with the winds of this group and that.
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
This is shorthand for Timothy being careful in how he appoints new leaders.
If he quickly puts someone in leadership…their failure is his failure.
*We have had people show up and basically say “Here I am, give me some leadership.”
They are smart, or they know the Bible, or they give money, or they are active…okay…but are they faithful, do they have character? Have the demonstrated this over time.
One way to find out…TWT…don’t be hasty.
I’ve never had a good, healthy leader who minded waiting.
*Young men, women…if you want to be in ministry…pay the price, take the hard and good road.
*Shooting stars in their twenties and thirties are falling stars in their forties and fifties.
Many have been elevated too quickly to leadership…and it has cost them dearly.
It has cost the reputation of the Lord as well.
Of course older leaders can and do fail…but it’s also true that older leaders who fail later where themselves often put in leadership too quickly when they were young.
Verse 23 at first glance seems oddly out of place.
23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
Paul already said that physical discipline is of some value…here he is counseling Timothy to use some wine for his stomach issues and frequent illnesses…to take care of himself.
It may be that Paul was writing all this and suddenly thought of Timothy…reading, clutching his stomach.
“Here’s the widows who are to be on the list, but not these.”
(Oh boy, she is going to be mad at me)
“That young guy who wants to be a leader, yeah, you have to tell him not now.”
(Great, that is going to be a fight)
“Don’t be partial…don’t let anyone look down on you.”
(I’m trying, but that guy is determined to make me feel stupid)
“Preach the word….clearly….train yourself…”
(I know, it’s hard)
Timothy holds the letter and says…“Oh…my stomach hurts.”
Paul writes…“Timothy, I can hear your stomach all the way here in Rome…get some wine, take a breath.”
He circles back to TWT
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.
Some people’s sins will be obvious right away, some can hide for a while.
Some good people you will recognize right way, some it will take a while.
“Timothy, step into your role…but don’t ruin your health.”
Be God’s man…love others, serve others…but be who you are.
Is Paul just writing stream of consciousness here?
No Paul’s details always have the larger purpose of the gospel behind them.
“Timothy, be careful and consistent in taking care of the vulnerable…and of yourself…so you can focus on your primary calling…which is proclaim the truth of God.”
Keep your eyes fixed on what is eternal…not at the neglect of the needs in front of you.
But do not the good keep you from the essential…the eternal.
There is a movie, called “The Eternals” about, wait for it…super heroes…that’s a new and creative plotline.
The truth is, every person you see is an eternal…they just don’t look much like it now.
*Years ago I was walking through a parking lot before a high school football game.
-Some teens in the car, yelled some profanity at me through the open window…I don’t know why
I walked towards the car and they quickly rolled up the window…maybe they thought I was a crazy older guy want to fight.
I tapped on the window and they cracked it…I said “How’s it going?”
It started rough…but we had a little conversation and they felt safe enough to eventually roll the window down.
I figured since they felt free to curse at me, I should be free to start a conversation with them.
I spoke a bit of my faith…and suddenly on HS Friday night, from the back of this packed car came this… “Some people aren’t afraid to die.”
It was part statement, part question.
I asked “Are you?”
She said, “Yes”
I shared how she could lose her fear of death through belief in the gospel.
I started with the tragedy of last Sunday…I want to end with the reality of the gospel.
I had no idea that young man was hours from taking his life…I wish I had.
I had no idea that a girl in a car, cursing at a stranger…had fear of death lurking just below the surface…submerged under the revelry of a HS Friday night.
Who will you believe…who will you trust?
What you think you see…or what is unseen but real.
God, help us see what is unseen.
People need Jesus.
Paul told Timothy… “Here’s some stuff I’ve learned to get important things done so you can get the essential thing done.”
Make the gospel known…proclaim the truth of God.
Of course caring for widows is important and God honoring…but it must not take Timothy away from the core mission of the church…to make disciples of the nations.
We absolutely want to take care of each other, to celebrate, to serve…but we are a missional people.
The Great Commission is the mission of the church…it must stay primary.
People are lost without Jesus, we need to make the good news of Jesus known.