Paul, as we talked about yesterday, had left Timothy in Ephesus to keep false teachers from getting their foot in the door of this church’s heart. He also had a lot of instruction for general organization of the church including elders and deacons. Some have asked the question about why Paul would be doing such a thing, since the church in Ephesus already had elders (see Acts 20). The answer to this probably lies in the fact that Ephesus had been the launching pad for many of the churches established in the province of Asia, and those on Paul’s mission team (his fellow workers) may have looked to Ephesus or even Paul – or Paul’s representative, Timothy – for further spiritual help and instruction as they grew as a congregation. So, Paul is telling Timothy the basics of what to look for in congregational leaders.
Anyway, Paul continues his instruction to Timothy in today’s reading.
Pointing theses things out — 4:6
In the early part of this chapter, Paul reveals what doctrinal problems lie in the future for the church and in vs.6 wants Timothy to warn the church regularly about it. Preachers don’t do this so much today, lest they be seen as being too negative, narrow, or exclusive. But Paul identifies this as being part of being a good servant of Christ Jesus. The historical outcome of not doing so is a religious world with great doctrinal diversity, but little truth. Good servants of the word find a way to balance biblical warnings and encouragements to the benefit of God’s church.
Godliness is profitable now and later — 6:8
Here’s a statement that might resonate with today’s exercise and athletically oriented culture. Bodily exercise is good and beneficial, but not nearly as good as the exercise of godliness, which Paul notes is good for both the life here and now and the life to come. It’s really too bad that so many in this world assume that Christian living is only looking toward the afterlife, that it is a hard life of self-denial and trial all to get to a Heaven that has to be accepted by faith. The truth is that although living the Christian life is challenging, it is also quite rewarding in the life here and now. I like the Christian life. When lived right, it promotes the most noble of virtues, courage, and kindness; it promotes right relationships, true justice, self-discipline, and long term joy and happiness in this life. It seeks to overcome evil with good and hate with love. And after all that there’s the security of God’s love and forgiveness, God’s purpose for my life, and the courage that can face death with solid hope of a home in Heaven.
Pay close attention to yourself and your teachings — 4:16
Here’s a key to effective service to the Master. It won’t be enough to pay attention only to one’s teaching without paying attention to one’s moral behavior. Nor is it enough to merely pay attention to one’s moral life and be sloppy with teachings. The goal is to save both ourselves and those we minister to. Neglect of either is disastrous; I’ve observed the results of both to my great sorrow – good men who fell enslaved to sin or while living honorably compromised the truth and led others astray. Pay close attention!
Honoring widows indeed — 5:3
Here’s a category of individuals that has yet to be established in modern times again like elders or deacons. In a modern society such women are taken care of by our social safety nets of Social Security and Medicare. But the downside to the wider society doing such things is the lack of sisters who offer their hands and hearts to others (presumably other sisters) in ministry. Many times or elderly simply retire, not just from secular work but from everything except worship assembly and the occasional ladies’ class. Too bad! There are riches of years of wisdom and kindness and time that are sometimes squandered. Now, of course Paul puts limits on it and reveals the dangers that such a ministry might pose to the well being of the church (tale bearers), but the advantages are also clearly great.
The love of money — 6:10
This is the source of the oft quoted “money is the root of all evil”. The problem is, of course, that is has been misquoted. It is the “love of money” and it is the “root of all kinds of evil”. Christianity is not anti-money; it is anti-greed, anti-selfish, anti-materialism, and anti-hoarding. This passage doesn’t castigate the rich, bu t simply warns them about the dangers and encourages them to a channel of blessing to others in need. And this is a crucial teaching for those of in the western world to hear and apply. We are all rich in comparison to the rest of the world and we need to be careful lest the love of money derail our Christianity through materialism, the greed for more and more, the lack of faith that God will provide and replace what we give, and the selfishness that keeps us from sharing.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.