Last week our reading ended with the ordering of the church around qualified and appointed leaders. Paul calls them Overseers and Deacons. The risk of not having such appointed leaders is found in the passage following. False teachers are identified as those who forbid what God has declared good. Paul elsewhere advises some to remain unmarried for the sake of the Church (1 Corinthians 7) so he must be speaking of a sect of leaders who were teaching that the things given by God were wrong, and thus show themselves to be rebelling against God and his design.
Timothy is given a general encouragement from Paul and some instruction about what his role is to be. Some of this teaching is especially relevant to those who are called to offices of leadership in the church, but the kind of character Timothy is to exhibit is a worthy goal for all Christians. It is most remarkable that Timothy is not given a method of training in godliness and holiness that is somehow different to the rest of the church. Faith and good doctrine (an accurate understanding of the work of God on our behalf) is the mechanism for Timothy's godliness.
Godliness is the driving thought of the next section around the treatment of widows. Paul desires that all people have opportunity to grow in godliness and the distribution of resources to those in need is one such opportunity. Here the intersection of Gospel preaching and service to the most vulnerable is expressed. Timothy, and indeed all Elders, are called to teach the Good News of Jesus and the fruit of this is godliness. The fruit of godliness is that the vulnerable are provided for: in the case of widows by their children, wider family, or through re-marriage.
The Elder's role in encouraging and inspiring real-world acts of obedience and discipleship is why Paul returns to his discussion of Eldership. Timothy is charged with not only ordaining other Elders but also in admonishing those Elders who might persist in sin.
A second example of the kind of godliness Paul expects the ministry of Timothy and his Elders to accomplish is raised: That of servants who honor their masters. This is what the fellowship of believers should mean in the context of life outside the church and such again is considered the responsibility of godly elders and teachers.
Paul's closing admonition gives the whole church a clue as to who it ought to consider worthy of attention. There are those who desire material gain from godliness and preaching, and their teaching divides the church. Timothy has been called to bring unity to the church, to encourage godliness and to ensure the provision for the poorest. This is not only a good grounding for how all believers are to be, but also the measure against which Elders will be judged.
3 Formation Questions
1. What part of this passage did you find convicting or encouraging? What did you find surprising?
2. How might Timothy's example or the teaching of Paul change your life, in the ways you serve at church, at work or in your home?
3. Do you know anyone who would fit Paul's expectation of an Elder? Is there a way you can encourage them to step up into a leadership position?