The Love of a Christ Follower (1 Timothy 5:1-8)

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Intro: Turn with me in your Bible this morning to 1 Timothy chapter 5. Last week, we finished our study of chapter 4, where the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to both proclaim and live out the truth as a servant of the living God. That was the overall theme of Chapter 4, and now the apostle begins to make a transition to some very practical applications of that same theme. He essentially details for Timothy and for us today how we are to relate to one another as both fellow servants and Christ followers. This, my church family, is a vitally important topic for us to consider this morning. For these sacred and timeless truths that we are about to consider go radically against the grain of modern-day secular culture. We live in a time, where there are countless tools to connect our lives together to help us relate with one another, there are phones that do things we can’t even get our minds around, there is texting, social media outlets, email, facetime, video chatting, snapchat, youtube and on and on I could go, but interestingly, we may very well be the most unconnected who have ever lived. Relationships have radically changed over the years and seemingly have little value. You see its so easy to come to church on Sunday morning, enter these doors, mind your own business, sing a few songs, hear a message, turn and go out those doors and not really connect to anyone here in a meaningful way. We can give the façade that our lives are connected to one another. I can say hi yo you at church, I can like your facebook or Instagram post, I can send a quick text to someone and say, hey I’m thinking about you. But let’s be honest, the relationships we discover in most churches is a cheap imitation of that which we behold in scripture. For scripture calls us to genuinely love one another. And though we speak of love often today, our actions and lifestyles prove that we know very little about what Christian love is. So, today let us turn our attention to the truth scripture, let us behold true love, and learn to love one another as Christ followers. Follow along with me, as I read 1 Timothy 5:1-8
This morning, I simply want you to see three ways how servants of God who follow the example of Jesus, will love one another.
1) Christ followers confront sin through loving yet difficult conversations (5:1).
There was a lot of sin brewing in the young church at Ephesus. As we have journeyed through this epistle, we have already discovered plenty of sinful activity. In chapter one we learned that some church members sinfully abandoned the truth and their pursuit of godliness. Paul said some had shipwrecked their faith all together. In chapter two, we saw that some of the women within the church abandoned their God given responsibilities and sought to redefine the God-given gender roles all together. In chapter three, we discovered that some men who were clearly unqualified to lead were allowed to serve within the church leadership. And we also saw in chapter four, that some of those elders embraced and taught demonic false doctrine. Evidence of sinful activity abounded in Timothy’s church at Ephesus. And Paul called upon Timothy to confront and deal with this evil activity.
You see sin must not be belittled, excused, or ignored. Sadly, that is often our initial response to sin. We tend to overlook sin, and even redefine it, especially as our culture is forcing us to grow in accepting and celebrating evil in all shapes and forms. Listen church family, by nature we do not have the right to define sin. God alone defines sin and not our culture or our feelings. Oh how we must understand the devastation of sin biblically. We must know how our sin fractures and destroys our relationships with God and others. How sin is the ultimate cancer, the ultimate curse, and the ultimate pandemic. Listen, sin never lies dormant. When ignored it will surely grow and spread death in its wide wake. The ripple effects of our sinful actions undoubtedly disturb and disrupt the lives of those around us. The Bible rightfully proclaims that the wage of our sin is death. Physical death and eternal hell are the ultimately penalty that each of our sinful decisions deserve. This is because our God is holy, and we were created in His image to reflect His holiness, His purity, and all His glory to one another. Yet our sin distorts, deforms, and twists that reflection of God. Our sin paints the picture of another god all together. A god who is no god at all. Listen, we will all breathe our last breath on earth because we all have sinned. But let us not also overlook how sin robs Christians of the abundant life in the here and now, it strips us of the intimacy we are to have with Christ, His church, and chokes the life out of all our relationships. Oh how quickly we forget the devastating nature of sin. Church, We will treat sin seriously when we understand it biblically. We will certainly not belittle, excuse, or ignore the sins of others. Instead, we will run to the sinner with the only cure of redeeming grace.
Notice that the first two verses of chapter five in 1 Timothy revolve around two specific commands given by the apostle Paul. Both inspired directives are clearly stated in verse 1: They read “do not rebuke” and “appeal.” It’s interesting at first glance that Paul would forbid Timothy and the church at Ephesus from rebuking one another. That would certainly contradict the tone of everything Paul has already expressed in his counsel to his disciple and what we read elsewhere in Scripture. In fact, we could argue that the Bible speaks rather favorably regarding the goodness and gracious nature of a timely rebuke. In the book of Proverbs alone, we are told:
Prov. 17:10… “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding Than a hundred blows into a fool.”
Prov. 27:5-6… “Better is open rebuke. Than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend”
Prov. 28:23… “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor Than he who flatters with the tongue.”
Surely rebukes can be life-giving and helpful. I honestly, can’t imagine how tragic my life would be if I had never experienced the love of being admonished by a true friend in Christ. But those kinds of conversations are not what Paul has in mind when he commands Timothy to “not rebuke” others. Notice in verse one, the qualifying word “sharply.” You see, the literal sense of the GK word here is to beat something angrily with fists. It refers to a violent or harsh rebuke, where words become weapons and are intended to inflict pain or cut deep. Paul is thus prohibiting a verbal assault on a sinning Christian.
Instead of sharply rebuking, Christ followers are to appeal to one another in love. The word “appeal” can mean “to encourage a response of action.” It literally could be translated “ to strengthen” and stresses the idea of coming alongside a weak person to hold them up and and offer help. The Gk word is Parakaleo, is closely related to the GK title of the Holy Spirit. Making a loving appeal to a struggling Christian is to model the work of the Holy Spirit, who comes and strengthens us in our faith. That’s the loving image that Paul wants Timothy to have in his mind when he thinks about confronting sin. You see confrontation is not judgment, its grace! Its a picture of a helper coming along side someone in great need of care. Galatians 6:1-2 explains… “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Notice in these verse Paul calls out the “spiritual” to go and rescue or restore a brother trapped in sin. By “spiritual” Paul simply means those who have been sealed with Holy Spirit and who are producing spiritual fruit. If you remember the proceeding context of this Galatians passage is Galatians 5, where Paul had just listed the fruit of the Spirit. Church, understand that Paul is not calling out an elite spiritual band of ministers or Christian counselors to confront sin. He’s calling on each of us, to have these healing yet difficult conversations with one another, where we lovingly point out the sin of the sinner, and then graciously point them to the cross, to the only cure, the only stream of mercy, that can restore our broken lives. And oh, how we must do this gently! Solomon counsels us well in Prov. 12:18 “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The tongue that appeals to a wayward soul belongs to a loving person. We are called by God to speak truth in love to another, but sadly in our upside-down culture we have come to view confrontational and difficult conversations as unloving, judgmental, and hateful. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. JC Ryle once said, “If I say hard things, it is not because I do not love you. It’s because I desire your salvation. He is your best friend who tells you the most truth. Truth must be spoken, however condemning it may be.” As you consider the wisdom within these words, may I simply ask, “are you a good friend? Are you willing to speak truth even at the risk of losing a friendship, because you care far more for your friend’s holiness than you do their happiness? I pray you are, and I pray you are continuing to grow in your love for others! Let me just add this tho, before we move on… yes, at times we will all need to be confronted in our sin, but we are also always in need of great amounts of encouragement. Make sure you encourage far more than you confront.
2) Christ followers relate lovingly to one another as immediate family members (5:1-2).
The church is explained in the New Testament by several metaphors and analogies. The church is described as a holy nation, a priesthood, a kingdom, a vine, a temple, a body, an assembly, and even a flock. But my favorite metaphor of the church is a family. The word “family” speaks of intimacy, care, sincerity, and love. As Christians, we are adopted into God’s family. 1 John 3:1 reads… “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” That is our true identity. Understand, the Bible is not saying that we are like a family, but rather we are a family. For at the moment of your salvation God welcomes you into His household. He becomes your Father, as you are graced with His forgiveness and made righteous in Christ our Lord. And unlike many fathers, who are distant and absent, God is always near and available to each of His children. But not only are we graced with a perfect Father, but we are also blessed with spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters on the faith. Though imperfect, these special people are also a fountain of unending grace. Yes, these spiritual parents and siblings will certainly disappoint you at times, and because sin still lingers in all our hearts, there will be times we will need to come alongside each other, confront each other in our sin, and call upon each other to repent.
Notice how the two commands in verse one apply equally to every personality listed in these first two verses. We can literally argue that this text could accurately be read as… Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father. Do not sharply rebuke younger men, but appeal to them as brothers. Do not sharply rebuke older women, but appeal to them as mothers. (And) Do not sharply rebuke younger women, but appeal to them as sisters, in all purity. Paul challenges Timothy to adapt a family mentality when addressing sin. Older men in the church were to be viewed as Fathers, younger men were to be brothers, older women, mothers, and younger women were to be sisters. Led by the Holy Spirit, the apostle chose these words very intentionally. He didn’t not say that we are treat one another as grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, or distant relatives. No, we are to interact with one another as a close knit, immediate household. In fact, Jesus himself boldly challenges us to see our Christian family, our church family, as our primary family. In Mark 3:31-35 we read of this encounter, listen to the Word here… “Then His (Jesus’) mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You. Answering them, Jesus said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?’ Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’” Oh that God would help us to understand the depth and beauty of the family of God.
Paul undoubtedly stressed the role of family here because he understood the devastating power of sin. He knew that young Timothy may easily be tempted to handle things in a way that was not pleasing to the Lord. The apostle foresaw situations in which Timothy would grow frustrated in dealing with sinners. Surely Paul knew from experience how challenging confrontational conversations are to maneuver. He knew how these conversations are often derailed by our pride and selfishness and how easy it is to start using words as weapons. And so, the apostle gives Timothy some very practical advice in the form of a reminder. He simply says, don’t ever forget they are your family. Always show them honor and respect.
Notice a few details here in the text that are rather easy to miss. First of all, the same respect and care shown to one’s own father and mother must be shown to all older men or women. The Bible is abundantly clear that we are to honor those who are more mature. Leviticus 19:32 reads… “You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged” and Proverbs 16:31 says that “a gray head is a crown of glory.” Rarely is such honor displayed in our modern-day culture, or in many churches across our land. A few years ago our youngest son actually got in trouble at school for saying “yes sir” to his teacher. He assumed my son was mocking him. Apparently, he had never been shown the respect that I taught my son to show an adult. The teacher told him not to do it again, or there would be consequences. Well, you can imagine my son was confused on how to proceed. Mom and dad had to get involved and inform the teacher that their son would continue to respect adults as he had learned from them. But listen, that’s our upside-down world. The lost will surely misunderstand the respect we show others in obedience, but we must be faithful to the Scriptures.
Young families, I pray that you will intentionally teach your children to respect and honor all adults, and especially our senior adults. Teach them how to shake a man’s hand look them in the eye and introduce themselves. Instruct them to open doors for others and to be polite. Educate them in how to respectfully address both men and women. Train them to talk to an adult by looking them in the eye. Please don’t listen to our culture and the confusion they are suggesting. Instead heed the Bible’s counsel and train your kids to treat all older men as fathers and older women as mothers. Scripture clearly tells us in Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” We need to retrain ourselves, our children, even our church culture to honor and respect those who are older than us and see them as our immediate family members, so that we can enjoy the favor of our God. Listen, The love and honor we show to those who are older is a direct reflection of our reverence for God.
The second thing I don’t want you to miss in this text is that confrontation with younger men and women must assume a posture of equality. You see, viewing fellow Christians as brothers and sisters assumes no degree of superiority. The sibling language in these opening verses imply an absence of hierarchy, all together. Such confrontation is anchored in both humility and love. That is the gentle spirit in Galatians 6 that must have when confronting one another. But don’t miss the last three words of verse 2, for they also form an important warning. When confronting younger women as sisters in the faith, we must do so in all purity. As close as relationships between siblings may be and should be, there must not be anything improper about it. Paul is warning Timothy as a young pastor to guard his heart and ministry from impurity. He was to keep his heart clean and unpolluted from lust. Oh, how important it is for all brothers and sisters in Christ to keep their hearts pure from sexual desires outside of our marriage. But he was also to protect the ministry of the church. Timothy was a man of great holiness. His love for the Lord was great and strong. And so, Timothy is warned by Paul to make sure no one has reason entertain suspicions about the way he ministered to women. He needed to above reproach in this area, and so do we, each and every one of us. You see, we must not ignore our brothers and sisters who are of the opposite sex, we are to certainly love them as siblings, but we also should go to great lengths to make sure no one has reason to question our integrity. We must maintain the purity in our relationships with our siblings of the opposite sex at all costs.
Church family, these opening verses to chapter five are so rich and full of relational wisdom. How breathtakingly beautiful is the church family, when His people know who they are in Christ, and treat each other as true fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Such a family knows, according to chapter 3:15, “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” Listen, truth is only rightfully proclaimed, defended, and preserved when we live as the family of God, as He has instructed us to live. You see one of the main reasons why truth is so rare in our culture today is because the church in America has stopped being the family which God intended it to be. Puritan Stephen Charnock wisely said, “Self is the great antichrist and anti-God in the world, that sets up itself above all else.” Oh church family, our great love for our own self-glory is destroying the church family and deforming the truth before our very eyes! Oh, how we must turn our wayward hearts back to the love of God and grow our love for one another.
3) Christ followers lovingly, wisely, and sacrificially care for their own (5:3-8).
As the apostle Paul has been counseling Timothy on how to relate to other believers, he now comes to the topic of widows. Surprisingly, Paul has a lot to say about this subject. Notice how there were only two short and compact verses detailing the relationships between spiritual fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, but now there are fourteen verses for how we are to relate to widows.
Well, this obviously says something about the trouble that was brewing in Ephesus. For one reason or another, this church needed a great deal of godly counsel on how to care for those who were alone. Now, we can make guesses to why there was such a need, we can look for clues within the text itself, and perhaps puzzle together a theory on why Paul spent so much time with this subject. But at the end of the day, we would simply have a somewhat educated guess to why. I’m not convinced how helpful that would be to us here today. But I would argue that the attention to detail that Paul gives in these sacred instructions definitely says something very important about our God. You see, our Father has a special place in His heart for widows and for those who have no one to care for them. In the Old Testament, God was known as “the protector of widows.” In the Law of God, it is written, “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God… He executes justice for the orphan and the widow and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:17-18). The psalmist would in Psalm 68:4-6Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts. Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. A Father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows… God makes a home for the lonely.” In the ancient world, widows were among the most vulnerable. They often had no source of income or anyone to take care of them. Such people have a special place in the heart of our Father. God cares greatly or the widow, and He wants all His children to share their Father’s heart for the fatherless and the husbandless. His heart breaks for those who are in desperate need.
Understand, the English word for widow cares a very specific definition, it simply defines a woman whose husband has passed away. But the Greek word for “widow” that is used in our text is not limited by that specific definition. It’s more flexible term in nature and can also mean “someone who has suffered loss,” or “someone left alone.” The word itself, doesn’t speak of how a woman was left alone, it simply describes the situation. Therefore, the word is broad enough to include those women who lost their husbands through various trials, like death, divorce, being abandoned, or even imprisonment. Paul is saying to the church at Ephesus, that they had an obligation to lovingly care for such fellow Christians who have been left alone, those who are truly in need. But the apostle obviously didn’t want them to do so unwisely.
That’s why in verse 3 he says, Honor the widows who are widows indeed;” The word honor here, means more than simply showing care and respect. It means to support or to treat graciously. It implies meeting their physical, spiritual, financial, and practical needs. But the church, according to verse 3, is not obligated to supporting all widows, only those who are “widows indeed.” We must understand that not all widows are truly alone and without support. So, Paul says, we must be wise here. We must be good stewards of what has been given to the church, therefore, we must act wisely. Notice Paul quickly limits the scope of the church’s care by explaining those who are truly “widows indeed.” He writes in verse 4“but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.” The apostle is saying here that the family of the widow has the primary responsibility to care for their own. Children and grandchildren can care for their own family members. Paul’s argumentation is simple: after everything they have done for us over the years, its only fair for us to care for them in the old age. But furthermore, notice that such care was godliness in action and was pleasing to the Lord. Listen, caring for our aged parents and widows is the most practical theology of all. Piety, godliness always begins at home. In our homes where we let down our guard, and most clearly reveal the true nature of our own hearts. It’s there, there in that context that we model the true character of our faith and reveal most clearly what we truly believe.
But that is not the only limitation Paul gave, notice also verse 5“Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day.” Unfortunately, not every widow or aged person has a family to care for them. Some are completely destitute, and some simply need the care and attention that only a family member can provide. Paul charges the church to care for those who truly are in need of such household care. However, notice the widow indeed, of our passage is a godly believer. She is one who faithfully prays night and day. She’s a woman who hope has fixed on the LORD. Though she has no one, she has the LORD, and her content in Him alone.
Such a woman is the opposite of the widow described in verse 6, one who gives herself to wanton pleasure, in other words she lives carelessly. The wording describes a person who leads a life of pleasure with no concern at all for what is right or what is wrong. Paul declares such a widow as “dead even while she lives.” She may be breathing, she may be enjoying life, but she is spiritually dead. Though she may be associated with the church and may have attended there for many years, her lifestyle has proven that she is unregenerate. Paul is counseling Timothy and the church to not give to her so-called needs, but rather they must allow the hard consequences of her sin play out in her life, so that her desperation may lead her to repentance. Kingdom resources must be stewarded wisely, and they must never be used to support a sinful lifestyle.
Paul then instructs Timothy in verse 7, “Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach.” The apostles overarching goal for the church at Ephesus was that they would be above reproach, so that no one could find fault with their conduct. The church’s reputation was at stake. So, by living as the family of God, and supporting those widows who are deserving, and by refusing to support those who were not, the church as well as its leadership wold be above criticism and our great God will be honored.
In our last verse today, verse 8, notice how Paul comes back to the truth expressed positively in verse 4. But this time he states the same thought negatively. He wrote, But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Now, with these words, Paul is not judging the soul of man, nor is he arguing that a Christian who neglects his own family has fallen from grace. Rather, the apostle is saying that such a person has denied the essential mark of a true Christ follower. In John 13:35... Jesus said… By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Listen, there must be no dichotomy between our faith and our loving conduct, especially within our own families. God has called us by faith to love the LORD our God with every square inch of our heart, mind, and soul. With every ounce of our strength and our will, we are to love Him. We must prioritize and treasure Him above all else. And only out of the overflow of our love for Him, we are commanded and enabled to love one another. Please understand that it is impossible to love others if your first don’t love the Lord. He alone enables us to love, to be patient, and to be kind to those in need. In other words, our horizontal love for others is always inspired, motivated, and enabled by our vertical love for God. So, Paul the apostle is arguing in this verse, that when we fail to love for our own, something must be radically wrong in our relationship with God. You see, when we neglect our own, we inexcusably fail to measure up to God’s standard for His household and we prove ourselves to be worse than an unbeliever. Worse than the pagans of this world, who also know and understand the importance of caring for their own. Don’t forget that God has written it on the heart of every man, that it is both good and right to care of those who are genuinely in need of help. The lost world around us understands this perfectly well. Therefore, we Christians are under greater condemnation, because we have the clear commandment of God to love and the power of God which enables us to do so.
Furthermore, church family we also have the perfect example of Jesus to follow. Who on the cross, bearing our sin and shame, modeled how important it is for us to care for the widow and for those in need. As the sinless Savior endured the just punishment for our sin, as he breathed his last breaths before His sacrificial death, he arranged the care of His own widowed mother. Listen to the words of John 19:26-27“When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” What a powerful scene! Jesus was dying for the sins of his own mother, for the sins of his own disciples, and for all of those who trust in Him, when every word He spoke made the pain grew greater, as he literally had to pull himself up on the very nails that pierced his body to claim the air needed to breathe and talk. Somehow, he gathered the strength to arrange the care of widowed mom, who had no one to look after her. As, we think of the cross this morning, did you know that Jesus only talked directly to three people as He endured the wrath of God on our behalf? As God poured out the just punishment for all our sin on His own only Son, Jesus spoke directly to dying thief, who asked Him for forgiveness and grace, and He spoke to his mother Mary and John to ensure the care of His widowed mother. Perhaps, nothing so vividly and nothing so clearly reveals the heart of God than that. As Jesus suffered the torture of the cross, the flogging, the nails, the crown of thorns, the humiliation, even the countless tiny splinters of wood that punctured His skin as He struggled to breath. With all the world mocking and applauding His death, His mind was concerned with the care of a widow and the salvation of the sinner. Listen, as we bring this passage to a close: it was on the cross, that Jesus humbly and gently confronted our own sin. It was there on Calvary that He displayed His great love for us, there on the cross He humbly calls us out of our sin, out our selfishness, and foolishness. He calls us to repent of our sin, and live in faith. To enjoy His forgiveness and peace that can only be experienced through faith and repentance. He died, so that we may live abundantly and eternally. He died so that we can have peace with God, hope, and true joy. Every time you move towards your spiritual family members who are stuck in sin, to gently point them to Christ, you do so by following Christ example, by taking up your own cross and entering their messy world with hope of salvation. And every time, you care for the widow in need, you model the love of Christ, who on the cross demonstrated the importance of caring for the least of these.
The question I leave you with this morning is this: In light of God’s sacrificial love and amazing grace, displayed most clearly on the cross of Christ, have you responded in faith? Have you turned form the sin that is destroying your life and your relationships ? Have you fixed your hope in God, do you cry out to Him night in day to meet your greatest needs, do you love Him with all you heart, mind, soul, and strength? And will you love others, with the same self sacrificial love that He showed you as He died in your place? If you haven’t, I just want to point you to the grace that awaits you. There is nothing greater, nothing more healing than power of God’s grace made available to you by Christ work on the cross. Oh, what amazing grace He has shown us, Oh what sacrificial grace we must show to others. If you need someone to pray with you this morning, someone to give you counsel, or answer your questions regarding God’s love for you, I and the other elders will be in the foyer after this service and are available for you. Will you pray with me?
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