The general subject which Paul is elaborating upon to Timothy is that of how the affairs should be conducted in the house of God, in the midst of the saints.
The one word under which it can all be summed up is: godliness!
Such godliness is rooted in the Mystery of godliness that is great. God is manifested in the flesh, is seen of angels, preached in the world, and taken up in glory. Godliness is, therefore, not to be equated with a mere walk of morality, the mere knowledge of right and wrong, external orderly deportment; it is a walk before the face of God in Christ Jesus.
This godliness must, first of all, be found in the preacher; a minister of the gospel .must therefore give heed to himself and to the doctrine. He must be an example of godliness, in word, in conversation, in faith, in love and in purity. Thus he will save himself and those who hear him!
Paul still has some admonitions and directives for Timothy as to how to shepherd the flock of God. A minister is not only a homilete, he is also a shepherd. This is treated in the Seminary under the course and science called “Poimenics.” Paul has some very basic, instructive directives for Timothy. We shall call attention to these presently.
We shall not quote the entire passage here from Paul’s pen. We shall quote as we go along in our expository remarks.
In the verses 1-2 Paul write: “Rebuke not ax elder (old man) hard, but exhort him as a father; the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters in all purity.”
First of all, we have here presupposed that Timothy does have authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to speak the Word to all classes of men in the Church. God is the Savior of all classes of men in the church. Woe to Timothy if because of age, prestige or any other reason, he does not say: thus saith the Lord! He is to speak the Word in season and out of season. He is servant, minister of the Word of God.
Secondly, we notice that Timothy must use proper discretion in speaking the Word of God in the midst of the congregation to various individuals. It is not simply enough that he speaks the truth; it is also importanthow he speaks it. And then he must be directed in his manner of speaking the Word by fundamental principles, which are rooted in the ordinances of God. God has placed people in different stages of life. That ordinance must be honored in the church and by the minister, be he old or young.
Thirdly, we would notice here that Paul differentiates men and women here as to their age-level! In many churches and homes that has become a lost art; it is aspiritual art to distinguish between the aged men and the young men, between the elderly women and the young women. And this spiritual art is very delicate, and must constantly be taught and learned in the church. Wherefore Moses directs Israel, the church of the Old Covenant, in Leviticus 19:32 as follows: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and thou shalt fear thy God: I am Jehovah.”
Let us attempt to understand this a bit better!
First of all, it is Jehovah who here speaks. He has redeemed us, Israel, from the bondage and guilt of sin; He has set us free. Basically, this means that we now honor the LORD, bow before His commandments and ordinances. The Lord is the Ancient of Days. And when we obey Jehovah then we walk in holy fear; we tremble before God; have no other gods before Him.
When all things are equal, it is in the “old man” that we see this image of God reflected; here is wisdom, knowledge, experience in the Lord. The elderly men are the pillars in the church, in the home and in the state. When a church, state or nation forgets this such go to ruin. Here is reflected the basic commandment “honor thy father and thy mother, that it may go well with thee, and that thou mayest live long upon the earth.”
He who “riseth up” before the “old man, the hoary head” riseth up, therein, before the LORD himself! This is a far cry from “youth speaks,” let the young people have a chance, etc. It was not for nothing that the bears came from the wood and killed forty-two children who mocked Elisha! It is true they mocked a prophet of God; but, too, they mocked the hoary head.
This principle is here too at stake in this admonition of Paul to Timothy. Rebuke not an “old man” hard but exhort as a father, and the aged women as mothers. This is well for a young minister as well as for older ministers to remember. Paul does not merely give here some practical advice but lays down a basic ordinance of God in Poimenics!
What Paul says about Timothy’s relationship to the younger men and women bears closer scrutiny. Here Timothy will come to stand in closer affinity to the members of the church. When speaking with the younger men, who walk in sin, he can address them as one of his own age. He can fellowship with them without stooping to their folly. And because Timothy is a man, a young man, he must exhort the young women “in all purity”! What a delicate task to reprove sin without becoming tainted with the very sin which one rebukes. The Bible ever rebukes sin in purity and holiness. It speaks of the sins of the saints. One never reads about the sins of the saints in the Bible with the feeling that the Bible suggested or insinuated these sins to us. We hear therein ever the “thus saith the Lord.” These things were written for our example that we should not walk in the same sin, is echoed on every page and in every word!
What wisdom and purity is requisite in the shepherd of the flock!
It seems that in close connection with the foregoing, and as an outgrowth of the principle of godliness, Paul also has a word to say about the care for the widows in the church. Writes he: “Honor widows that are widows indeed . . . . Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, and hath set her hope on God, and continueth in supplication and prayers night and day. But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth.”
Certainly the care of the “widow” also falls under the fruit of redemption from sin; it is the fruit of thankfulness to God. Thus we read expressly in Deut. 24:17: “Thou shalt not wrest the justice due to the sojourner, or to the fatherless, nor take the widow’s raiment to pledge; but thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and Jehovah thy God redeemed thee thence; therefore I command thee to do this thing.” Or again we read in Exodus 22:22-24: “And a sojourner shalt thou not wrong, neither shalt thou oppress him: for ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them at all, and they at all cry unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless.” In Deut. 10:16-19 we read: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked. For Jehovah your God, he is the God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward. He doth execute justice for the fatherless and widow, and loveth the sojourner, in giving him food and raiment. Love therefore the sojourners, for ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” In Psalm 68:5 we read: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” Speaking of the arrogant and the wicked in Psalm 94:6, 7, the psalmist complains: “They slay the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless, and they say Jehovah will not see, neither will the God of Jacob consider.” That the LORD is an abundant helper is the theme of the psalmist inPsalm 146. There we read in verses 5-10: “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Jehovah his God . . . who executeth justice for the oppressed, who giveth food to the hungry . . . Jehovah preserveth the sojourners, He upholdeth the fatherless and the widow, but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. Jehovah will reign forever, Thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye Jehovah.”
Small wonder that James teaches us that “the pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27.
Paul, therefore, indeed touches upon the very chief manifestation of the godliness which proceeds from the thankfulness of redemption when he writes here of the “widows” and the care for them. No one who studies the Bible will say that all godliness is exhausted in caring for the widows, and that all “religion” consists in such care, but certainly care for the widows is a certain proof that one’s religion is not simply dead orthodoxy, but a manifestation of the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Such do not have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory with respect of persons. Such work with their hands that they may have to give to them that are in need. Eph. 4:28b.
Paul differentiates between widows and widows.
There is the difference between widows and widows from the viewpoint of age. There are young widows below the age of three-score years and there are older widows beyond those years. That is one distinction made by Paul. We shall have opportunity to return to this later.
Then there is the difference between widows who have children and grandchildren, and those who do not have such kith and kin. What a difference between a lonely widow and a widow who is the mother of eleven children and surrounded by three-score grandchildren.
Finally, there is a distinction between those who “are widows indeed” and those who “give themselves to pleasure.” Three times Paul mentions those “who are widows indeed.” Verses 3, 5, and 16.
Let us begin by observing Paul’s teaching concerning the last class of widows, namely, those who are widows indeed. The term for “indeed” in the Greek is “ontous.” It means: actually, really. It indicates that Paul has in mind women who are truly widows, answering to the Scriptural portrait of a widow. Now what is widowhood? It means to be “bereft” of a husband; to be left alone on earth, while the husband has gone on before to heaven. In a sense this has accentuated the longing of the woman to be where her husband is. She, therefore, steadfastly places her desire and longing upon the things above. Here she is emphatically a sojourner. She is a picture of the church on earth awaiting the coming of her husband, the Lord Christ from heaven. Just as the husband was the head of the wife, so the Lord is the Head of the Church. Such a widow, a real widow we meet in the aged Anna in the temple. This one, Luke tells us, had been in her widowhood for four-score and some years. She waited for the consolation of Israel. She lived here as a stranger, seeking the things above. That is real widowhood.
As a correlative of this widowhood and sojourning is also the fact that a widow is pictured in Scripture as being utterly dependent upon others for her sustenance and livelihood. If she is not helped she perishes. Together with orphans, widows are the picture of the needy and helpless people of God in the world. They are the picture of the poor whose cause is just and which cause is defended and, maintained by the God of Jacob.
Just what instructions Paul gives concerning these real widows and others that they be blameless we hope to see in our next installment.