Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The church as family - 1st Timothy 5:1-2

"Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity." (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
Of first interest here is that the Greek word used here for "older man" is the same word that is translated other places as "elder" or "presbyter". It should remind us that church elders do not form a distinct "office" in the church but rather a group of older men who oversee and preside over the church. As an elder, and I have been one from time-to-time, we must not see ourselves as fulfilling an official or formal position in the church, but rather as those appointed by God, and accepted by our brethren, to provide guidance, counsel, and wisdom as their elders in this life. Once we feel we have to protect an office, or defend our ecclesiastical authority, we are in danger of thinking more highly of ourselves then we aught. Finally, we must remind ourselves that, in traditional elder-ruled tribal and national systems, elders did not force people to follow them, people willingly followed because they recognized their wisdom, knowledge, and character that their advanced years had afforded them. If you are an elder, live in such a way as to make people want to follow you. If no one is following you, then maybe your not an elder?

Secondly, while Timothy was an extension of Paul's apostolic ministry, he was living among the Ephesians as their son and brother. He did not allow his ministry, and the authority that was his through his ministry, to elevate himself, in his own eyes, above others as if he was special or of a different class then they were. All ministry in a church operates in the context of family. Just because you are a prophet, teacher, or some other minister, does not mean you can treat people with disregard. Even in churches that are "pastor lead" the pastor must minister from a context of family relationships with the people in his church. He must first be father and brother before he is pastor. Also, there is no sense of grandfather or grandchildren here either. If we are Christ's then we are all brothers and sisters; there are no grandfathers and grandchildren in the faith. How different our churches would be if we were first family and then what ever else God might call us to be or to do.

Finally, there is the substance of what Paul wrote to Timothy. We must always seek to honor our elders and not dishonor them through open rebuke but rather entreat them and seek to draw them forward in the things of God, always remembering that they are our elders and worthy of special honor. We are to treat men and women differently as God has created them different. The way you treat your father and brother is not the same as the way you treat (or should treat) your mother and sisters. Finally, when it comes to relationships in the church with those of the opposite sex, we must treat each other with "all purity." If you are dating or pursuing someone of the opposite sex, you should ask yourself, "am I treating them like my sister?" By asking this question, and responding accordingly, you will greatly reduce the hazard of falling into sexual sin. Honor demands purity and we should always seek to honor.

David Robison

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