Church Life: A study of First Timothy (Part 3)

A study of the book of First Timothy takes us now to the final three chapters of the book. In these chapters, we find very practical encouragement and instruction concerning life in the local church.

Dangers to be aware of (4:1-5). These verses describe a great apostasy that comes in the later days. We are living in the days of such apostasy today. Paul mentions several things that happens in these days of apostasy. (1) Some will depart from the faith. There are those who once claimed the name of Jesus and stood firm on the Word of God that will fall prey to the false doctrines of the day. These are those who give in to the pressures of society and compromise on the truth. Sadly, we are seeing this take place before our very eyes today. There are entire churches and denominations that have turned away from sound doctrine and have given in to the pressures of society. (2) Forbidding marriage. In verse three the KJV says, “forbidding to marry.” However, a better wording would be, “forbidding marriage.” In other words, in the later days, there will be a widespread attack on the God ordained institution of marriage. This war on marriage is alive and well in America today. (3) Forbidding meats. We live in a world today where people are more concerned over saving the life of an animal than they are in saving the life of a baby in its mother’s womb. The push for animal rights and other so-called environmental issues that have come to the forefront in our day is just another sign of the later days in which we live. Paul reminds us in verses 4-5 that these things that the world is attacking are good and right in the sight of God and should be received with thanksgiving. The New International Greek New Testament Commentary says, “The ultimate source of this apostasy is “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (4:1), working “by means of the hypocrisy of liars” (v. 2). By prohibiting marriage and certain kinds of food, it forbids what God created to be received and shared in (vv. 3, 4). The church, however, is not caught unawares by this phenomenon because the Spirit has previously spoken about the apostasy (v. 1). The remedy for this error is recollection that “everything created by God is good,” which will keep one from rejecting God’s good creation and cause one to receive it with prayer and thanksgiving (vv. 4, 5).”[1]

Defending against the dangers (4:6-16). In verse 6-16, Paul explains to Timothy and to the congregation, how they can protect themselves from the apostasy of the last days. There are several steps that we should take in order to defend ourselves against these dangers. (1) Be aware of the dangers. In order to protect yourself against the dangers, you must know what those dangers are. Paul tells Timothy to constantly remind the church of the evils of the day in order that they may not be caught unaware. (2) Reject false teaching. God’s Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God’s Word is constant in the midst of an ever changing world. As believers, we must reject the new and strange doctrines of our day and we must hold true to the inspired Word of God. (3) Strengthen the faith. It is vitally important in these days that we exercise our faith. We must do what is necessary to grow in our walk with God and have our faith made stronger. (4) Be an example. Many are falling astray. There are many in these days who are dropping out like flies, giving in to the pressures of society. However, we must be an example of what a real believer is like. We must be an example in our doctrine, in our daily conduct, in our love for God and each other, in our spiritual vigor, in faith, and in purity. (5) Publically declare the Word of God. In verse 13, Paul encourages Timothy in the public reading of scripture. As believers living in these last days, we must not neglect our assembly together and our fellowship around the Word the God. (6) Remember your calling. Don’t forget what God has called you to be and what God has called you to do.

Attitude toward those who are older and younger (5:1-2). In chapters five and six, Paul deals with our attitudes and actions toward others in the church. In 5:1-2, Paul instructs Timothy to respect those who are older than he and to treat those who are younger in purity and with respect.

Attitude toward widows (5:3-16). The focus of these verses is not on widows specifically, but on the principle of caring for ones family. Paul mentions that if there is a widow that has family that can care for him or her, then they should be cared for by the family and not the church. However, if there is no family to care for them, then the church has the responsibility to do so. In verse 8, Paul uses some very strong language in describing those who do not care for their own family. I believe the place for charitable giving and distribution should be the local church and not government organizations. However, the local church must be very careful in their assistance of others. Careful attention must be given to the circumstances of the need and when all possible resources has been exhausted (such as from family members) then the church has a moral obligation to help those in need.

                Attitude toward elders (5:17-25). In these verses, Paul gives Timothy and the congregation instructions concerning their treatment of the elders or the pastors of the church. There are several things that Paul points out concerning the treatment of the elder of pastor. (1) Pay him well. If at all possible, the pastor should not be in a position of financial strain. He should be paid well enough that he can provide for his family comfortably. (2) Accusations against a pastor should be handled carefully. Paul is very clear that an accusation against a pastor should not be considered unless the accusation comes before several witnesses. If a pastor is found at fault, then disciplinary measures should be taken carefully and swiftly. (3) Be careful who you ordain. Paul mentions to not lay hands suddenly on any man. In other words, there should be a careful and thorough process of determining whether or not one qualifies to serve in the position of pastor. (4) Care for the physical well-being of the pastor. In verse 23, Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine for his health. The partaking of wine was for medicinal purposes and not for enjoyment. The principle here is that a pastor should take good care of his physical condition due to the rigorous and stressful nature of his positon. The church should do all they can to provide for and encourage the pastor in his physical health. (5) Be a good judge of character. In verses 24-25, Paul mentions that our sins go with us everywhere we go. Our reputation proceeds us. Therefore, the church must keep a watchful eye and have good judgement in choosing a pastor.

Attitude toward employees and employers (6:1-2). Paul here addresses issues concerning the treatment of servants and masters. In our day, this can be applied to employees and employers. The main point here is that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity.

Attitude toward false teachers (6:3-5). Paul is very clear that there are times when ecclesiastical separation is necessary. If there is someone or some organization or church that is preaching false doctrines, then we should remove ourselves from them and not fellowship with them.

Attitude toward money and godliness (6:6-19). The encouragement given here is that the pursuit of godliness is more important and much more worthwhile than the pursuit of financial gain. The riches of this world will not last and will not bring contentment. However, living a Godly life does bring contentment.

Final charge (6:20-21). Paul concludes his letter to Timothy by reminding him to stay true to what he has been taught. He encourages us all to take our responsibilities and duties as a church seriously and to keep our focus on Jesus and on His Word. May the Lord help us to be the church that He would have us to be. May we stand strong in these days and stay true to what we have been taught.

[1] Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 187). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

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