Paul’s letter to Timothy, the pastor of the church at Ephesus, provides a number of guidelines that, when not followed, result in personal defeat and communal disgrace upon the church. Among these issues, Paul addresses church conduct:
“These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
The church is God’s idea; therefore, He gives the church a structure in which to operate, standards for those in leadership, and instructions for taking care of widows.
Overseers and deacons (3:1-4:15; 5:17-6:2)
There are those who desire the role of a church overseer, but they aren’t qualified. Desire alone is not enough; it is always matched with character: “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous . . .” (3:1-3). Those who “rule well [must] be counted worthy of double honor” (5:17).
Widow care (5:3-16)
People were placing their widowed mothers on the church’s widow list instead of taking care of their own widowed mothers. Paul counters this: “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows” (5:16). Paul addresses the abuse of the church’s resources and gives detailed instruction regarding widows within the church. Following these guidelines would prevent giving the enemy an opportunity for slander (5:14).
Teachers in the church (6:3-5)
Paul addresses teachers who are “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (5:4-5). He rebukes those who use their position for financial gain and to influence others away from truth.
The structure for the church and the standards for her leaders were not created in the court of secular culture, nor can they be changed in light of today’s secular culture. They were given by God so that, when the church operates according to God’s design, His name is exalted, not slandered.
Question from today’s chronological Bible reading (1 Tim. 3:1-6:10):
Moses commanded the children of Israel as they prepared to enter Canaan, “Take heed to yourselves” (Deut. 4:9, 15, 23). This warning required that Israel live disciplined and restrained lives. Paul uses the same words with Timothy, “Take heed to yourself” (1 Tim. 4:16). What is the context of this admonition? What would this require of Timothy?