Summary: 5th in a series from 1 Timothy. We are obligated to meet God’s standards. Even if the issues change, the strategy for dealing with people is still the same: love our church family; encourage those who lead; and deepen our obligations to one another.
Lessons for a Healthy Church
Meeting Diverse Needs
Introduction: From it’s beginning, the church was made up of diverse groups of people. At first it was entirely Jewish. In a short time it included proselytes and Hellenistic Jews. Later God revealed that the church was open to everyone. Men and women from different nationalities, races, and social levels melded into one spiritual family. So after 2000 years of practicing our faith, why is it so hard for today’s church to get along?
Proposition: God does not expect uniformity; He expects unity!
1. Family relationships (5:1-16)
Earlier Paul said that Christians are to act as members of God’s household (3:15). Here he spells out what that means.
No church leader should exercise authority in a domineering way. Instead they should treat all believers like family: with dignity & care.
Since no two people are exactly alike, we cannot treat everyone exactly alike. But we can use equal respect. Herein lies the secret in dealing with diversity within the church.
Widows: particularly susceptible to poverty in the ancient world. No source of income; often not allowed to support themselves.
Paul was concerned with the poor in the church, and when he said they should receive “proper recognition,” he was literally saying that widows could expect the church to met their financial needs.
Not all should expect this aide.
They must have no other means of support.
Their Christian character and reputation must be well defined.
The phrase "washing the feet of the saints" refers to a willingness perform humble acts of service.
Some key principles that should be applied to all church groups:
Don’t stereotype any group of people. Treat them as individuals with specific responsibilities & needs.
Some of our issues & suspicions come because of the age-old problem with the generation gap. I think Mark Twain’s comments about his father best sum up the generation gap: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
Balance the church’s responsibility with the individual’s responsibility.
2. Respect with responsibility (5:17-25)
Paul again addresses church leaders. If they are working for the church, they should receive financial support from the church.
Church leaders are not to be easy targets for attack.
When something does not go right, who is the first to be blamed? Often the ministers or elders.
On the other hand, church leaders unfaithful to their responsibilities & calling are to be publicly rebuked.
Why? Because personal rights involve responsibility.
Some leaders want to receive honor & recognition but do not obey biblical standards.
Being a minister, elder, or deacon in God’s church carries tremendous weight & responsibility. Those who treat their office lightly or selfishly need to be reprimanded.
Dan Huxley owns a world record in an unusual category: he pulls airplanes. The most remarkable happened on October 15, 1997 when he broke his own record. On that day at the Mascot Airport in Sydney, Australia he strapped a harness around his upper body, attached one end of a steel cable to it and the other end to the front-wheel strut of a 187 ton 747 jetliner. With his tennis shoes firmly planted on the runway, Huxley leaned forward, dug in and pulled with everything he had. Remarkably the plane began to roll down the runway. He would go on to pull the 747 one hundred yards in one minute and twenty seconds. That is simply amazing! It takes some kind of superhuman effort to pull off a stunt like that. In no less of a way, it takes a superhuman effort to lead God’s people. You see the church is a lot like a 747, bulky, burdensome, weighty, but when you get it moving it can do amazing things. And the way a church moves and fulfills its God-given function is from the strength of a few extra-ordinary men who serve as leaders.
3. Deepening obligations (6:1-2)
Paul corrected two misunderstandings some Christians have in the workplace. Here he addresses slaves and masters (I know, some will say that things have not changed at all!)
Some Christian slaves felt a sense of superiority to their non-Christian masters, since by serving Jesus they answered to one with the highest authority.
Paul’s response: Serving an unbelieving master with respect brings honor to God & to the Gospel.
Some Christian slaves were showing less submission to a Christian master, since they now considered them equal in God’s eyes.
Paul’s response: When the master & slave are both in Christ, the slave’s responsibility to work well grows rather than shrinks.
The circumstances of relationships between believers will change, but the principles do not.