Father, thank You for the gift of elders that You have given to the church. I pray for _____________ and pray that You will help him to walk with You faithfully. I pray that You will help him to dedicate himself to sound doctrine. Preserve him in his faith. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 1 Timothy 5
The idea of godliness is a key concept in 1 Timothy. It includes the idea of letting the gospel bear fruit; after all, the gospel should transform both our hearts and our behavior. Godliness also involves living submissively under God’s established order. Paul had already discussed how the gospel should shape the lives of men (2:1–8), women (2:9–15), elders (3:1–7), and deacons (3:8–13) in the church. Here in 1 Timothy 5, Paul showed how the gospel shapes the way churches should relate to widows (because God cares for the needy) and elders (because God has placed them in authority over us for our good).
As a result, the church should care for the needy, yet do so in a way that adorns the gospel. For example, churches should not relieve believers of the responsibility to care for their own needy family members; this would be unwise (5:4) and bring reproach to the gospel (5:8). At the same time, the church should regularly aid needy persons, as long as:
- It has determined they have devoted themselves to gospel purposes.
- Aiding them does no harm to wisdom and brings no reproach to the gospel.
Failure to observe these principles can bring serious consequences. Some become idle, some fall into patterns of sin, and some have even left the faith. We must be careful how we order our lives so God’s enemies have no occasion to accuse us of anything that isn’t honoring to God.
In the same way, the church should generously honor its leaders, especially if they work productively in the ministry of the Word. This means joyfully caring for their needs (5:18) and not nitpicking everything they do (5:19). However, those who persist in sin should be rebuked openly. This wisely discourages further sin and honors the gospel by putting an end to possible reproach.
This charge extends to Timothy and all of us: let us keep ourselves free from sin! Let’s model this pursuit to others.
1 Timothy 5:17
17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
- Paul gives very specific instructions when he counsels the church on how they should care for widows. But he does so after first stating they should encourage and love them as family. Setting boundaries for service is not about refusing to care for those who don’t really need it. It’s about helping those around us set priorities and life patterns that encourage godly living and discourage distracting life patterns.
Choose one of the first two below and do the third one.
- What can you do to care for someone in the role of elder? In the Western world, elders are often cared for financially. However, are they cared for emotionally, spiritually, and maybe even physically as well? What can you do this week to show “double honor” to someone who labors in preaching and teaching the Word of God?
- Draft an email, write a letter, or send a text with a specific and true word of encouragement for someone serving in the role of elder.
- Stop and take time to pray for this person and their family. Ask them if there’s a need in their life that you could help meet.