1 TIMOTHY – SERIES : NR 9
1 Timothy 5 : 17 – 25
Theme : The splendour of Christ!
It is thrilling to see the close connection the Holy Spirit places between the family and the church. The family is a micro church. Naturally, the reality of God’s covenant vibrates in the background all the time. Because we know that the God of the covenant is always at work within the family – especially to bring more people into the kingdom.
And in this chapter, the Apostle Paul is busy instructing the young Timothy – at that stage the pastor of the church at Ephesus – laying down instructions to regulate order in the church. Because within a household there has to be order. And the church is the household of God.
The wonder is however that – should one look carefully – you will see the splendour of the Lord Jesus shining through IN these arrangements for order. Christ himself emerges in what to us seems like dry regulations.
Here is a practical example.
If a Christ-believing woman is a member of the church and there is a widow in her family who is destitute, she must take care of her and not leave it to church to care for her needs unnecessarily.
The church must take care of widows who are left behind totally on their own. In that way, justice is done, because the Lord is just. HE has to become visible in families and churches. HIS image has to be reflected.
You see how the Lord’s righteousness and justice are reflected here.
In the same way, as justice has to take place concerning widows, the same must apply towards elders – especially those who are particularly set apart for the preaching of the Word. In our day they will be the pastors/ministers. Materially they must be well taken care of, says the Apostle. That is written in 1 Cor 9: 9-11 and Rom 15:17 as well.
It is not Paul’s idea – because he wanted the churches to take care of HIM, because we know that he gave up that right and that he made tents to support himself. He did not have money for himself in mind.
No, it is not Paul’s idea, but the Holy Spirit teaches that in the OT-scriptures in Deut 25:4. Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain, because he must be able to feed while he is working. Jesus himself said in Luke 10:7 that the worker deserves his wages.
When Paul wrote these words – from what we know in the NT as the Luke-gospel – was not yet in writing, but the words of Jesus were handed down verbally to Paul and he quotes those words in verse 18 as 100% authoritative.
Preachers of the Word are therefore elders whose work is teaching and preaching, and the church must see that they are properly compensated to enable them to do it on a full-time basis. They must live by serving the Gospel message. And the other elders must see that it is taken care of.
It is not a profession they pursue. It is a calling by which they are living.
Ministers who pursue it as a profession for the sake of the income, fail almost without exception. It MUST be a calling that is pursued as an elder.
Can you hear the splendour and beauty of the LORD in these verses? The reflection of HIS fair-mindedness, HIS Holy justice, HIS absolute righteousness, HIS merciful caring heart, HIS nurturing. THAT is what we must see in Christian families and churches.
Now verses 19-21…
Look, it is only a true Apostle who could say: “I charge you to do this and that…” The true, authentic apostles acted with a unique and unrepeatable God-given authority.
Paul and Timothy were in a certain sense not on the same level. Timothy was a church minister and his duty was to preach the teaching of the apostle. And only that. Nothing more and nothing less.
And even today, THAT only is what has to be done in the true churches of Christ.
Churches are not perfect, and therefore one can expect that there would sometimes be complaints about for example the elders. The enemy of souls is also very active in sowing discord because he hates it when a church is blessed by the Lord. Peace and unity always have to be disturbed.
Timothy must however be careful not to be hasty in accepting accusations against elders. There have to be 2-3 witnesses – as determined in Deut 19:15. In that way, a lot of unnecessary complaints can be nipped in the bud. Real serious complaints who are valid would seldom arise if elders are elected properly – as the Apostle explained earlier in the letter.
Should serious complaints do arise, Timothy must not hesitate to take action and apply discipline. As Jesus set it out in Matthew 18: 15-17.
The guilty one has to be rebuked – in the presence of the other elders. In that way, everyone can see how Holy the Lord is and it can be a warning to others. The holiness of God is reflected herein.
The church of Christ is a space where sin must not get a foothold. Just imagine how difficult it must have been for the young Timothy to go through with SUCH actions – particularly if the accused is much older than himself.
But the welfare of the church and the struggle against sin demands it. It demands impartial action. So serious is this instruction that Paul puts Timothy under oath – in the presence of the Father and Christ and the elect angels.
Yes, those angels who did NOT come to a fall together with Lucifer, and were kept safe by God’s merciful election. They didn’t NOT come to a fall because they were better than the others, but because God chose to keep them safe.
And according to passages such as 1 Cor 4:9 and 11:10 and Eph 3:9-10 these angels are watching over what is going on in the Lord’s church. How it works, we do not exactly know. But THAT church is a holy and serious matter, is sure and we can see it in Paul’s instructions to Timothy.
Next, we look at verse 22…
We must be careful not to detach verse 22 from the previous 3 verses. In other words, it is still about complaints that can be brought in about elders and how it has to be dealt with.
Paul is not here talking about random laying on of hands as it is done in some circles. He is talking about how the earliest church laid hands upon elders who are set apart for their work. It was a symbolic action that indicated that the LORD has equipped and chosen the person for a specific task.
Later – in about the 3rd century – it was customary to re-admit a repentant sinner back into the church – after a disciplinary action – by the laying on of hands.
But in verse 22 Paul is referring to the laying on of hands when elders are set apart for their work. That is what must not be done in haste, he is saying. That is therefore how Timothy had to prevent that discipline is at all necessary against elders – of which he was speaking in verses 19-21. You therefore can see the connection of verse 22 with the previous verses.
Timothy should not be too hasty with the election of elders. Because if there are mistakes with the election of possible candidates and the wrong men are chosen, Timothy and the other elders would share in their sin. It is very important before the Lord that Timothy, nor any of the elders or deacons should become besmirched by the sin of others.
Note this carefully: It is not the laying on of hands as such that could harm Timothy, but the fact that the hasty appointment of elders could allow the wrong people into the leadership of the church – THAT is what would cause harm.
The laying on of hands (for example) upon someone who is living with sin OR the laying on of hands BY someone living with sin, can not in some mysterious (evil) way transfer sin onto someone else. That is not what the Apostle is teaching here. It is not the laying-on-of-hands PARTICULARLY which is the problem.
What he does say is that a church must be serious about who they elect to the leadership of the church.
And then verse 23…
Timothy was struggling with a stomach ailment and the Apostle is concerned about it because the LORD cares.
Yes, indeed one can be a child of the Lord and still be suffering illness and ailments. It is untrue – as today’s prosperity preachers proclaim – that a Christian believer must be healthy and wealthy. It is a false religion.
It is also untrue that the unique apostolic gift of healing would continue forever. Here – in the late apostolic era – when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy – the Apostle does NOT do what he had done in the beginning phase – and that is to simply heal Timothy. No, he rather recommends a remedy. A little wine in this case.
Earlier Paul and the other apostles simply told those who are sick: “You are healed” as in Acts 28:8 where this same Paul healed the father of Publius. Or Acts 3:6 to the lame beggar: ”In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk”.
During the beginning phase of the Christian Church, the Lord used unusual miracles through the apostles and their fellow workers to support the Gospel message and as a sign to the Jews that salvation has broken through to the Non-Jewish nations. Healings were a part of that and also the use of foreign languages and direct prophetic revelations.
But after the church was established, these manifestations lessened. This same Paul has for example left Trophimus behind in Miletus (2 Tim 4:20) because of illness and did not heal him. The same now with Timothy with his stomach complaint.
The Apostles had a unique and unrepeatable ministry namely to lay the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20) and therefore their ministry cannot and must not be imitated today.
It certainly does not mean that the Lord does not – after the apostolic era was over (and until today) – heal the sick! Of course, he does. But He only does it when and where He chooses to do it and mostly in answer to prayer – as James 5 explains.
It is also not necessary that specially anointed persons must pray for those who are ill. Anyone can do it – and particularly the elders of the church as James 5 instructs.
Sometimes the Lord also heals without any prayer – only because He wants to and because He is sovereign – as with Epaphroditus in Phil 2:27. Or otherwise by way of medication and medical treatments – as in the case of Timothy here in verse 23.
In closing verses 24-25…
First impressions can be deceiving! That is what Timothy has to keep in mind when candidates for elders are considered.
Verse 24, therefore, connects with verse 22 where Paul instructs Timothy to be cautious about WHO to elect as an elder. Verses 24-25 show how difficult it is to discern this. Because the temptation is to hurriedly take in the first impression and then hastily appoint people to be elders. But it can lead to the wrong people in the church’s leadership because it only becomes evident later that their lives are not pure. Their moral unfaithfulness to Christ is hidden and comes to light only later.
Not as with some who are SO openly unfaithful that their sins precede them to the Great Day of judgment and the Judge who shall judge. THAT there shall be a final Day of judgment, is clear in the mind of the Apostle – throughout his letters.
The point is: whether the sin is open for all to see or is in the secret of the heart, it SHALL eventually come to light. Jesus states in Matthew 10:26 that there is nothing concealed that will not be made known. Something that is now whispered, will be proclaimed from the rooftops.
The same in the case of good works, a practical life of Godly fruit that comes forth in a faith walk with the Lord. THAT which is lived and done for all to see. But there is also THAT of which the left hand does not know the right hand is doing. But, in the long run, the new life in Christ cannot be concealed. That is what Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:16.
Sometimes the fruit of rebirth becomes visible only after a while. That is why Timothy is cautioned not to be hasty with the election of elders.
Translated by Marthie Wilson