1 Timothy 6

Chapter six addresses three more specific groups within the church and Timothy himself again. First, Paul gave instructions for slaves (1 Timothy 6:1-2). Similar to the instructions in Ephesians 6:5-7 (just a couple of years earlier), Paul wrote that slaves should respect their masters and work well because this glorifies God and keeps a good reputation in the community. For those who have “believing masters,” this is true “all the more.” Apparently, it was common then as now for Christians to treat unbelievers better than their fellow believers in the business world.

Second, Paul addressed those who would spread “false teachings and…not agree with sound words…and with the teaching that accords with godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3-10). It seems that then, like now, “health and wealth” theology (the “Prosperity Gospel”) was prevalent. Paul warned Timothy not to get involved with and to warn the believers to stay away from it as well. It is nothing more than idolatry, loving money more than God, and it results in the destruction of one’s faith.

Third, Paul returned to his original encouragement to Timothy, that he should not give up (1 Timothy 6:11-16). It would be a struggle, one that Paul was familiar with, but he – and we – could do it when we place our full trust in Christ and rest in him.

Finally, Paul closed with a few words to those “who are rich in this world’s goods” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). His comments about the “Prosperity Gospel” was not intended to be a condemnation on wealth itself or those who have it. Money is a tool, and Paul made sure to tell wealthy believers to use it to build God’s Church and enjoy what God has allowed them to have. What we do in this life is the foundation for relationship and reward in the next.

1 Timothy 5

Chapter five returns to instructions about certain groups in the church, specifically widows and elders. The church is to be a family of families, meaning that we should relate to each other as fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters (1 Timothy 5:1-16). Like one would take care of an aging grandparent, Paul said that the congregation is responsible for widows in their church family, under certain conditions. First, if the widow has family, they are responsible for her, not the church. Second, only older widows are included in this care program. Paul specified “sixty years old” (1 Timothy 5:9), but this could be considered descriptive rather than prescriptive, due to cultural life expectancies. Third, she was to be “the wife of one husband” (1 Timothy 5:9). This phrase is the exact opposite of an elder’s “husband of one wife,” meaning that she was “characterized by being a one-man type of woman.” Fourth, she was to be an example of godliness.

Paul specifically commanded that younger widows not be accepted “on the list” (1 Timothy 5:11-15). Rather they should remarry and fulfill their roles as described in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In a statement that could have been written today, Paul noted that younger women with no responsibilities and full provision “learn to be lazy, and…also gossips and busybodies.” Although this may seem harsh or unfair, every civilization can verify its accuracy.

Another reason Paul wanted them to remarry had to do with a “former pledge.” In context, it seems that this complete provision for widows was a kind of remuneration for devoted service to the congregation. Because these widows had no families and were characteristically godly servants, it is possible that they pledged themselves to their congregation. Early church history shows that this is where the Catholic practice of nuns derived. However, it also may refer to the “women” or “wives” in 1 Timothy 3:11. If this is so, this group of widows probably served with the elders and deacons, possibly in ministry toward women. 1

In 1 Timothy 5:17-25 Paul came back to the elders, this time concerning congregational support for them. Some have argued that elders should not be financially supported, but this passage clearly disputes that notion. First, Paul quoted from both Deuteronomy 25:4 (Moses) and Luke 10:7 (Jesus) to prove that the one who works should receive payment for his work. Even animals get that much. Second, Paul used the same Greek word (τιμή, timē) to describe how the congregation treated both widows (1 Timothy 5:3) and elders (1 Timothy 5:17). Because this word means both “honor” and “compensation,” some argue that elders should only be honored. However, since the word obviously means compensation for widows, and the immediate context is payment for work, it must mean compensation for elders as well. Elders should be taken care of by those they serve, especially those “who work hard in speaking and teaching,” because it does not allow as much time for another form of work to provide for his family.

However, lest anyone think that this elevates elders to a level of “untouchable” clergy, Paul told Timothy that elders were still subject to discipline for sin, just like any other congregation member, and that their discipline should be public within the congregation, “as a warning to the rest” of the seriousness of sin. Thus, elders will be held up as examples, for both good or bad. For this reason, elders should be appointed carefully and slowly. Paul’s mention of Timothy’s stomach ailments may indicate that choosing elders is a stressful and difficult process.

Notes:

  1. Church history shows that once the role of deaconess was established, they helped prepare women for baptism, childbirth, etc.

1 Timothy 4

Chapter four is different from the other chapters around it because Paul broke from his instructions to groups in order to focus on Timothy himself again. In this chapter, he gave Timothy three sets of warnings or encouragements. First, Timothy was to pay close attention to false teaching that would arise within the congregation (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Even though elders and deacons should have godly character traits, Paul had already warned the original Ephesian elders that “wolves” would enter the congregation from within their own body (Acts 20:28-30), and as Paul’s representative there, it was Timothy’s job to help purge these false teachers from the congregation. The description Paul gave reveals men who had forsaken the truth of Scripture for sensational teachings that, ultimately, come from demons. As innocuous as they sound, they include teachings even about marriage and food, often focusing on what is forbidden in an ascetic way. In Colossians 2:16-23 Paul wrote that we are not obligated to such unscriptural restrictions.

Second, Timothy was to guard himself and his teaching carefully, so that he did not get caught up in such heresies, even unintentionally (1 Timothy 4:6-10). Paul noted that even then there were those who focused on their physical health to the neglect of their spiritual health. While physical health does some good in this life, spiritual health is eternal and must be the priority. Paul’s comment that God “is the Savior of all people, especially of believers,” points to the fact that no one is outside of God’s ability to save. The concept that only a special group can or will be saved is contrary to Paul’s teaching.

Third, Timothy was to both “command and teach these things” (1 Timothy 4:11-16). Apparently, there were some who had dismissed him as their local apostle because of his youth. Paul told him not to let that stop his work there. Instead, he was to be an example of all these things already mentioned, even to the elders of the local congregations. He was to make this his life’s focus, and it would be beneficial not only for him but everyone in his care.