THE RELATIONSHIPS OF THE CHURCH Pt. 2
The Household of God
1 Timothy 5:19-6:2
Our text for today is 1 Timothy 5:1-16. These are God’s Words.
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.) 24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.
6 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
Our passage today concludes Paul’s instructions to Timothy regarding various relationships within the congregation. These instructions began in verse 1 of chapter 5 with a general instruction on addressing the old and the young, men and women. They continued with instructions on the treatment of widows in the church. That’s verses 3-16. Verses 17-25 regard the elders of a church, and the first two verses of chapter 6 regards instructions for masters and servants.
Today we are considering the job performance workers of the church (elders), and the workers within the church. (masters & servants, or bosses and employees)
First, let’s walk back through the passage:
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Remember that Timothy had been left by Paul in the city of Ephesus while Paul prepared to preach the gospel in Spain. This was his final missionary journey.
1 Timothy 1:3
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies
This assignment would not be walk in the park, and assuredly Timothy would have to weed through accusations against elders. “Can you believe he taught this in church on Sunday…?” “Well, publicly he preached the truth… but privately, I heard him say…” How will Timothy sort through it all?
First, notice that a charge is only to be brought upon the testimonies of multiple witnesses. (v. 19) In other words, the charge must have substantiation. This call for multiple witnesses was not a special protection for Elders that doesn’t apply to anyone else, rather it’s a continuation of God’s commands in the Mosaic Law.
Deuteronomy 19:15 says:
15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.
Paul gives the same admonition for all Christians in 2 Corinthians 13:1
13 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
If an accusation is confirmed by multiple credible and mature witnesses and the elder who is admonished privately refuses to repent, then Timothy is to rebuke that elder publicly in the church. (v. 20)
This echoes Christ’s command concerning church discipline in Matthew 18:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
When it comes to all matters of discipline in the church, not just that of pastors, public rebuke is always a last resort. The Biblical rule is that private sins are dealt with privately, and only become public after all patience and possibilities for private restoration have proved ineffective.
What is the purpose of church discipline? It is the restoration those who are not walking in accord with Christ and his law. We don’t want elders or ministers to persist in sin. And the public rebuke of those who persist in sin has the effect of producing holy fear in the church. (v. 21)
So, taken together, the message of verses 19, 20 is that Timothy must not take frivolous gossip about leaders as serious accusations, and Timothy must not refuse to treat substantiated accusations as mere gossip.
Paul invokes his own apostolic authority (I charge you) as well as the authority of the high heavens (along with God the Father, Christ Jesus, and the innumerable angelic beings) Timothy is to keep these rules: not tolerating gossip on the one hand, and the rebuke of guilty elders on the other, without any prejudice. He is to be a steady and patient judge in these matters, neither a hothead with a quick trigger finger nor a coward who refuses to have difficult conversations. (v. 21)
Rebuking an elder publicly will no doubt cause immense pain and sorrow in the life of the church, therefore, Timothy is to be slow to ordain elders. Don’t be hasty in laying hands on someone. True character bears out over time. Some candidates for elders are non-starters because their life clearly evidences immaturity. Others appear to be fit for the role upon first impression, but time will reveal disqualifying flaws in their character. (v. 22 & 24) As Timothy keeps his eyes on the elders around him, he is not to neglect his own personal health. He is to drink some wine for ailments. (v. 23)
Shifting from elders to masters and servants:
Paul says that bondservants are to regard their unbelieving masters as worthy of all honor— even if they aren’t. Even if they are cruel and worthy of dishonor, Paul says regard them as if they are worthy of honor. Why? For the purpose of evangelism. Treating their master better than they deserved will act as a profound testimony to the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus. (ch. 6 v. 1)
For those bondservants who have believing masters Paul knows the temptation will be to despise their masters even more because they are Christian brothers. “I thought he loved Jesus… why won’t he release me from this servitude.” Instead, they are to serve even more diligently because they are serving a brother in Christ. (v. 2)
SLAVERY & THE BIBLE
Now, before we begin applying the text, let me give you a few comments on slavery and the Bible. This is bonus material. Stick with me.
First there is nothing demeaning about service when it is given voluntarily. Jesus himself washed the disciples’ feet even though he was their master. And he taught us that the greatest among the church would be the servant of all. Paul often introduced himself in his letters as a slave of Christ.
Second, scholars estimate that one our of every 3 people in Roman in Paul’s day were enslaved. The ancient Roman Empire did not have the same economic system we have today with bankruptcy and loan forgiveness, so often times when someone defaulted on their debts the only way to reconcile the debt was for that person to enter into servitude. Other slaves were criminals, and some were military prisoners. Now, if that seems like a strange ancient practice, just go about 5 years without paying your federal income taxes and see if you get to keep your freedom.
Third, the Scriptures are clear that forced slavery is an offense to God. To forcibly enslave another human being is to trample on inherent human dignity. 1 Timothy 1:10 mentions enslavers (or man-stealers) as enemies of God.
Fourth, in Ephesians, Paul makes it clear that slaves and masters stood on equal ground.“There is neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul says that slaves who have chance to gain their freedom ought to take that opportunity. And in his letter to Philemon, Paul tells a Christian slave owner, Philemon, that the right thing to do would be to release his slaves.
Given all that, why, in 1 Timothy 6, does Paul tell bondservants to regard their masters as worthy of honor?
And the answer is that, instead of inciting a revolution, Paul laid the groundwork for a reformation. The ancient world considered servants to have an inherent lower social status—and Paul says that in Christ, masters and servants are on equal footing. Instead of going after the value of the economic system, Paul went after something far deeper: the value of a man or a woman, and it was this teaching that broke the back of slavery in the Roman world.
So, how do we apply this text? First, this passage teaches us that..
JUSTICE MUST BE THOROUGH
Alice Waters once famously said that our culture is addicted to velocity. For us, speed is a sign of efficiency and progress. Like the little boy with a bicycle and a grease gun, we’re always asking, “How can we make it go faster?” Faster transportation is better. Faster meals are better. Faster weight loss is better. And our culture has applied this lust of speed to matters of justice. “We want justice, and we want it yesterday.”
Combine that addiction to speed with technologies like social media which allow for instant public trials, and you find yourself in a world where someone an can accused in the morning and executed in the court of public opinion by the midday.
Everyone is pressured to immediately take a stand and signal which side they’re on, to change their profile picture to support a cause and if they don’t do it immediately, then they must hate evil.
Our culture has lost the classic virtue of restraint: the ability to withhold judgment for the sake of ascertaining the truth, the ability to bridle our passionate emotions and tongues for the sake of constructive discourse. And, without the recovery of this virtue, not only in the justice system, but in our own personal conversations and public institutions, our culture will continue to tear itself apart.
The requirement of multiple witnesses was a protection for the innocent. The goal of justice isn’t to get to a conviction, regardless of who we convict. The goal of justice is to honor God by ascertaining the truth regarding criminal and unlawful activity and applying commensurate punishment.
So, why multiple witnesses? Why must justice be slow and practice restraint. Why must we put measures in place to bridle our passions? First, because we are imperfect knowers. We are not omniscient. We are not all knowing. Only God is. And second because we are born with a bent towards evil. We are not born leaning towards righteousness. When the human race fell into sin, Romans 1 says our foolish hearts were darkened. Our rational capacities are corrupted by sin. Our affections are corrupted by sin. This means that many times we don’t see the truth, and other times we see it, but we don’t want it.
Therefore, God demands that justice be systematic, methodical, and thorough. And those qualities all take time.
Why multiple witnesses? Because it is preferable that a guilty man go free, than an innocent person be condemned. That’s the purpose of this requirement.
Accusations must be substantiated, and justice must be thorough. False accusations are to be punished because they damage reputations and livelihoods.
There were no surveillance cameras in the ancient world and very few paper trails. Most court cases were brought based on the accusations of a plaintiff. God therefore, gave this requirement as a protective barrier against baseless and malicious accusations. God hates smear campaigns, whether they come from the right or the left. He hates hands that are quick to shed innocent blood, whether they come from the right or the left.
I want to note here, that this requirement is not to be interpreted woodenly, but rather as a matter of principle. In other words, “We have one person accusing the pastor of stealing, and we have video evidence of the theft, and we have a paper trail of people counting and depositing money into the bank account but we don’t have multiple witnesses, so we can’t listen to the accusation.” That would be a wooden interpretation of the text. Rather, we should interpret and apply the principle the text is teaching us, and that principle is: accusations are to be substantiated.
One more word on restraint: social media has warped our understanding of communication. It is ground zero for lack of restraint. The entire system of social media rewards flammable speech… why? Because social media cares more about selling ads than it does about building community and having intelligent conversations. The more combustible your post can be, the more likes, shares, and retweets you can get, the more eyes see it, the more ads are sold. That’s how the game works.
If we are going to see any change in the rancor of our nation it must begin with Christians repenting of rancor and lack of restraint. It must begin by crying out to God for mercy. Then Christians must discipline themselves and practice the classic virtue of restraint. Controlling their passions. Measuring their words. Speaking with clarity, and under the authority of the risen Christ.
PASTORING BEGINS WITH PASTORING THE PASTOR
Apparently, Timothy suffered from some kind of physical ailment that Paul was aware of. Paul knew that a pastor can be so committed to the work of pastoring the people that he fails to pastor himself, so he charges Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach.
Charles Spurgeon, the preeminent pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London during the 19th century battled depression his entire life. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Spurgeon, you know that he was a rather large and jolly looking man. He was known for being outgoing cheerful, and a manly cigar-smoker.
When Spurgeon was twenty-two years old he pastored a church of thousands and had twin babies at home. At one of his worship services pranksters began yelling, “Fire,” causing a stampede in which 7 people died and 28 were severely injured. The event nearly broke Spurgeon mentally. Beyond that, Spurgeon suffered from kidney inflammation and gout.
Sadly, Spurgeon also overworked himself. On top of preaching, he wrote thousands of pages of Biblical commentary, helped run an orphanage, a seminary full of young preachers, and wrote nearly 500 pieces of correspondence every week.
This combination of depression, disease, and overwork often required Spurgeon to set his work aside for weeks or even months—and sadly, he passed away at 57 years of age.
Now – thank God for Spurgeon. The fact that he died at a young age doesn’t nullify his work. Few pastors in history have been as fruitful for the kingdom as Spurgeon. He ranks with the Apostle Paul and Calvin.
Nonetheless, it is a stern reminder that pastoring begins by pastoring the pastor. The first step in playing music is to tune the instrument. As our church desires to install more elders—they must be men who are pastoring themselves well before they can pastor anyone else.
As we look for God to raise up elders, we ought to look for men who demonstrate balance in their spiritual, work, family, and personal life.
This is why Timothy should not be hasty to lay hands on someone and ordain them. The bast way to avoid rebuking a pastor publicly, is to be slow in appointing them in the first place.
If Timothy rushes someone into leadership and they make a mess of things, Timothy is partly to blame for the mess. The mess didn’t begin when the appointed person had a meltdown, the mess began when Timothy didn’t take time to screen and vet the candidate. This is what it means for Timothy to not take part in the sins of others
Friends, people are like icebergs. 9/10 of their character is beneath the surface and only time will reveal it. Appointing elders is like navigating in the arctic. You don’t zoom at top speed.
This is why I’m having these men teach in Equipping hour and pray in our services. It’s so you can both hear their teaching and examine their lives.
Transitioning from the workers of the church (elders) to workers within the church (employers and employees)
COMPETENCE IS A CHRISTIAN VIRTUE
Our church is constantly promoting a Protestant work ethic. Everything we do is done before the face of God. The Reformers called this Coram Deo. We encourage entrepreneurial and capitalistic endeavors. New businesses, new products, innovations, new jobs, more wealth—all these things are immense blessings when done with faith and thanksgiving. God blesses and provides for the needs of the world through our work.
This means that Christian’s should be the best employers and employees in the city. Christian bosses should hold their employees accountable and invest in their employees so they might advance. Christian employees ought to welcome job evaluations so that they might mature and grow into better opportunities.
As one pastor said, “People who do not want public evaluation of the quality of their work are people who have no business being in business. They should just buy a shovel and dig where they are told to.”
Bosses, it is not a Christian grace to let bad work slide. Business owners, just because you own the company doesn’t give you the right to underpay your employees. Do you work for a brother or sister in Christ? That’s not an out for you to give sub-par work knowing they are obligated to forgive you.
Paul says, the fact that you report to a Christian ought to spur you on to more diligence, more joy in your work. Why? Because presumably, as Christians, you are laboring together in a way that honors Christ. You are producing something through the business that blesses people.
Contractors and consultants: don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Be honest about how much time the job will take, how much the materials will cost, and how much you need to make in order for the job to be worth your time.
Now, it may be that you’re thinking… I thought you said everything was grace… but now I’m hearing a lot about obedience and work. Well, that’s because the grace of God gives us a backbone.
Earlier in the service we considered Paul’s words in Ephesians 2, that we are saved by grace and not by our works. This is so that no one but God may boast of our salvation.
The Scriptures teach that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard. That the wages of sin is death. But the gospel is that Jesus Christ took the death our sin had earned. He was offered up by the Father, and he freely offered himself up to receive the just punishment for our sin.
And all we must do is look to him in faith to be forgiven. You say, “But I have fudged numbers at work!” Come and welcome to Jesus. “But I have reneged on my contracts!” Come and welcome to Jesus. “But I have lived a life of sexual sin.” Come and welcome to Jesus. “But I’ve had an abortion.” Come and welcome to Jesus. “But I have blasphemed God and mocked Christians.” Come, and welcome to Jesus. Turn from your sin, and trust in Christ today! We are saved by grace, not by works.
But never forget that although we are not saved by our works, we are saved unto good works.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The good works we have been saved unto certainly include helping old ladies cross the street and praying for the lost—but do these good works not also include arriving to work on time, balancing the ledgers accurately, and doing our algebra homework with all diligence?
Friends, Jesus Christ is the only Savior of sinners, and he is Lord of all. Lord of our church, and Lord of your business. He is Lord of your home, Lord of Lake Wylie, Lord of York and Mecklenburg County, Lord of our state, Lord of the North America, and Lord of the Universe. He is Lord down to the smallest atom, all the way up to the stars—and you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which he has prepared for you to do.
Friends, if Jesus is Lord, then there are no small people. There are no small jobs. All of it matters. All of it is to be received with joy, and done with joy and given as worship to God.
We thank you for the blessing of this Word that we have heard. We ask now for the greater blessing of this Word shaping us by the power of your Spirit. We pray as well that the offerings we now give would come from hearts of joy and thanksgiving. We pray you would multiply our giving for the furtherance of your kingdom. In Jesus name we pray. And Amen.