Have you ever gone to a paint store in search of colors? When you examine the store there are hundreds of color swatches with numerous degrees of each color. The difference is often too small to notice between colors that are side by side, but when spread apart the variety of shades for each color are observable. You can examine the points of where reds from magenta, to pink to purple, to blue to turquoise, to green to lime, to yellow to orange, to brown, and back to red.
Something like this happens in Christianity. Subtle influences gradually edge a person’s choices to drift away from Christ and Christian principles. Spiritual drift happens easily and so imperceptibly that a person does not even recognize their departure from the Christian faith.
This was the case with some in the Ephesian church. They were beginning to lose their external credibility as Christians. Further, they were losing their internal credibility as a church family. In today’s passage we will examine at least four ways a church can cultivate credibility.
EXAMINE 1 Timothy 4-5 The Church’s Credibility
1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”
Paul is not beginning a new topic but continuing the topic of a church’s potential drift away from protecting the truth, away from promoting grace, and away from preventing division. Like an ocean current, our natural drift is one way and takes intentionality to go the opposite direction.
“the Spirit” Paul writes with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are times we need this reminder – the Bible is the word of God speaking to us and requiring our hearing and heeding His truth.
“later times” Paul’s reference to later times was common among NT writers (Mat 24:36; Acts 2:16-17; 1Thes 5:2; 2Thes 2:3; 2Tim 3:1; 2Pet 3:3; Heb 1:2; 1Jn 4:17). Essentially, later times is the intermission between Christ’s Ascension and Christ’s Return.
“depart from the faith” ἀποστήσονταί Apostasy occurs through unintentional drift, moral apathy, spiritual coldness, and willful disobedience. Often, we don’t use the term “apostasy” because it sounds more significant and serious, as if what we believed truly resulted in the difference between eternal life in heaven and everlasting suffering in hell.
Christians are departing from the faith through
- deceitful spirits: There are counterfeits to truth. Counterfeits appeal to our heart, tugging on our emotions wanting something to be true that we know deep inside is not.
- Universalism: All beliefs lead to same eternal well-being.
- Easy believism or cheap grace: A casual nod to Jesus as Savior but not Lord.
- Wrongful prosperity: God’s blessings are more than good health and great wealth. The treasure of life is knowing God’s sustaining grace in trial and tragedy, believing our best life is not now but with Him in heaven.
- Cults and False Teaching: LDS, JW, Sci, Atheism
- Ascetism – While we can withdraw from the sin of the world, we cannot withdraw from sin within.
- Denying God’s gifts to creation and distorting God’s word for the church.
- demonic teaching:
- wicked beliefs resulting in wrongful behaviors: racism, abortion, – anything distorting the imago dei.
The credibility of the church is the teaching from our lips and the conduct of our lives. In remaining passage, Paul gives 4 instructions for a healthy church community.
1. A church should facilitate right practices for the young (1Tim 4:12-16).
1 Timothy 4:12-16
12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.
16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
As a younger pastor, Timothy could have been intimidated by those his senior. Paul tells Timothy to not allow intimidation and to set the example (tupos: a mark or impression formed; a consistent pattern to follow & imitate. 4:10 “so that all may see your progress”) for believers across the generations. Leadership is lived; in other words we should set the example we want others to follow.
- Speech (Matthew 12:34) Correct disrespect speech and Coach respect
- Conduct (Matthew 6:33) Correct by modeling the conduct you want repeated (/ smack and say we don’t hit)
- Love (John 13:34-35) Overwhelm your environment with love and grace.
- Faith (Hebrews 11:6) Create intentional habits: personal & family devotions, scripture memory, prayer, etc.
- Purity (1Thessalonians 4:7) Pray for child in this area… Be vigilant w/ tech… Keep communication open
- Develop young people’s calling… (apprenticeships in church min and through member’s vocations)
- Older Gen needs to grant younger gen opportunities to succeed & fail.
- Younger Gen needs to ask for guidance and open to correctability.
- Young families discuss Sundays on Mondays with your children for application.
- Older families consider partnering with a younger family (2Gather).
2. A church should facilitate right communication for church family (1Tim 5:1-2).
1 Timothy 5:1-2
1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,
2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
As older generations are not to look down on younger generations, likewise, younger generations should not slight older generations. Dishonoring the old is to not fear the Lord (cf. Pr 16:31; 20:29; 30:17; Ex 21:17).
Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”
Here “rebuke” is compared to verbal abuse leading to physical violence (cf. 1Tim 3:3). Paul previously wrote Timothy to correct false teachers. A young pastor having to instruct an older person can be intimidating, but it does not have to be. Paul is reminding Timothy to communicate and pastor people as part of your family – older as fathers and mothers, younger as brothers and sisters. In all, confronting character flaws or false teaching is essential to a healthy church.
- Establish a relationship before a rebuke. If you only communicate critique (regardless how true) without cultivating a relationship with someone, then you are missing a key ingredient to your spiritual vitality.
- Seek to chisel with precision and care, not chop rashly and recklessly (Prov 27:17).
- Marks of unhealthy communication
- You defend every conviction with same degree of intensity.
- You are more prone to give an opinion rather than ask a question.
- You avoid nuance or diverse perspectives, only seeing right or wrong in others.
- You seldom give the benefit of the doubt but often assume others are out to get you.
- Your first instinct is to criticize rather than have compassion for one is “like a sheep without a shepherd,” or lost in sin.
- You spend majority of your time working on tasks and little to no time working on getting to know people’s likes and dislikes… you don’t participate in fellowship around tables.
- You avoid apologies like the plague.
3. A church should facilitate right compassion for the needy (1Tim 5:3-16).
1 Timothy 5:3-16
3 Honor widows who are truly widows.
4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.
5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day,
6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.
7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach.
8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,
10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.
11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry
12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith.
13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.
14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.
15 For some have already strayed after Satan.
16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.
- χήρα lacking, vacant [of spouse] – or broadly one left behind or suffered loss and alone.
- Widow from desertion/divorce from unbeliever, or death.
- Orphans and sojourners are concern to God (Ex 22:22; Deut 10:18; 16:11; 24:19-21; 26:12-13; 27:19; Ps 146:9; Pr 15:25; Isa 1:17; Jer 7:6; 22:3; Zech 7:10; Mal 3:5; Jas 1:27)
- Deut 10:18 “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving food and clothing.”
- Psalm 68:5 “Father of fatherless and protector of widows”
- Widow of Zarephath feeding Elijah; Widow providing for Elisha; Ruth & Naomi / Widow of Nain who lost son and Jesus raised him / Praying widow / Poor widow who gives mite is model of generosity / widows needed care in early church
- James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
- Widows w/o insurance, retirement, social security, senior living or nursing homes, and family not in proximity, etc. were very vulnerable. But God’s solution was compassion from His people from OT and certainly to the early church. So, a book about behaving in the church must include caring for widows, and certainly should inform our practice today. How a church or Christian community treats its elderly is a testimony of its spiritual health.
Paul’s instructions provide us some applications.
- Determine Responsibility. If a widow has family members, then they should seek their help and provision. Paul says children should return payment (ἀμοιβή). The generational cycle of parents raising children is reversed with children caring for their parents – “for this is pleasing in the sight of God… but if anyone does not provide for relatives, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (5:4, 7).
Further, younger widows could remarry (5:14).
In all, the church cannot unreservedly support all widows, as there must be assistance from families and others, along with wise planning for involving widows to participate in service. “Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows” (5:16).
- Determine Resemblance. A widow cared for by the church should reflect the life of a Christian. A church supporting the lifestyle of an ungodly and irresponsible person would contrast its mission. Therefore, Paul references widows who have set their hope in God and continues in prayers, and serves the church.
- But she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives (v.6).
- It amazes me the requests of benevolence from those who are intentionally inactive in a church.
- “I need help.” – – – > What kind of help? We can help as a friend, church family, emotional support, hope in life, and salvation in Christ…. No, I just need $. Hmmm.
- But by the grace of God I’d be there too! Many of us try to define our own issues and not let God define our true problem.
- Handouts should be replaced by “hand-ups” to foster a working mindset. No widow should be idle or immoral.
- Deploy Service: Godly widows supported by the church were to be enrolled into service of the church. Paul’s wording was used in other places to enlist soldiers. The actions Paul mentions are: prayer (5:6), good works, rearing children, hospitality, caring for afflicted, etc. (5:10).
- Church is a place of compassion, but it costs… your financial giving matters.
- Church is a place of family… not glamor recognition but gritty everyday ministry.
> widows by default today are often single mothers divorced from unbelieving husbands. The church must step in as surrogate dad role-models and family support.
> children of foster care (about 60 each year in AA County) needing family.
- Widows/singles can work in ministry. You still have value and purpose before God. Don’t be idle.
- Family is spiritual warfare. Some stray to satan (5:15; Eph 6).
4. A church should facilitate right concern for the elders (5:17-23).
1 Timothy 5:17-19
17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses…
20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)
- Double honor implies providing a financial wage, providing they labor hard and lead honorably.
Paul supports this charge with other Scriptures (Deut 25:4; 1Cor 9:9-11 and notably Lk 10:7).
> SPBC needs pastors & staff to serve the people and the prospects God has brought to our ministry.
- Honor reputation by not accepting single baseless accusations without evidence and/or at least two witnesses.
- Wisely install leaders. Training theologically, ministerally, and approved by congregation.
- Timothy is to be a healthy leader who cares for the leaders and entire church; so concern for church drives him to drink – – – in a positive way, c’mon you know what I meant!
In the gospel of Jesus we have the right communication of truth in love, we have the right compassion in the cross that forgives our sin but also fuels us to service, and we have the right concern through the Spirit and people of God sustaining us.
Our community pool requires water care, lifeguards, coaches for swim team, volunteers for organizing social events and maintenance… so the church requires constant attention.
“Keep a close watch on your conduct and on your doctrine. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1Tim 4:16
 Adapted from “Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person” by Kevin DeYoung, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/distinguishing-marks-quarrelsome-person/
 William Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary, 1 Timothy 5:9.
 Check out https://buildingfamiliesforchildren.org/, https://blueribbonproject.org/