1 Timothy 5:1-2  The church is not a provider of spiritual services but a family

1 Timothy 5:1-2

1 Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, 2 the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Background

The church is not a provider of spiritual services, but a family consisting of members who lay down their lives for one another. Paul instructs Timothy in the wisdom of church governance to treat every older person as his own father and mother, and every younger person as brothers and sisters. In today’s devotion, we learn the importance of serving others out of purity of heart. In so doing, we exercise our ministry not out of fear but of love.

Observation

Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, … the older women as mothers, 

The context is the sensitive use of ecclesiastical authority in the governance of the church. Under all circumstances, Timothy, being younger must treat older men and women with dignity and not to rebuke them harshly. Paul urges Timothy to accord them with the same respect as his own father and mother: rather appeal to him as a father… mothers. The word appeal or parakaleo in Greek is the verb form of the noun parakletos, which translates as Helper or Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Parakaleo denotes coming alongside to comfort and to entreat. A sharp rebuke, which plays on the fear of authority, may work well with the young. But with older people, it offends them deeply causing irreparable rift and alienation. Young Timothy must first win the respect of older people by wise and godly conduct and by humble and sensible use of authority. It is not difficult to win the respect of older people, as all they ask for is a well deserved recognition of their personhood and contributions they have made to the community. It is good to treat them with respect so that they may remain dignified in the eyes of the community at large.

… to the younger men as brothers… and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.

As for younger men and women, they are brothers and sisters, and in the Spirit, his very own flesh and blood. They are not just members or churchgoers, but kins in Christ sharing the same vision and values of the kingdom. Hence, Timothy must care for them as his own family and not to treat them as mere patrons of the church. A patron or client’s dealings with an organisation is based on mutual benefits and for a limited scope and time. However, the church consists not of patrons but family members of the Spirit who lay down their lives for one another and united by the values of God’s kingdom. 

Paul explicitly lays down the rule of purity when relating to people of the opposite gender. Timothy must keep his role purely pastoral and not to be entangled with the emotional needs of people. A pastor is primarily a minister of the word, a spiritual director and a facilitator of the communion of the Spirit among those he shepherds.

Truth

A leader must serve the people with unconditional love and not depend on them to fulfill his personal needs and ambitions.

Many leaders fail because they use the people who look up to them to fill their emotional needs and ambitions. While he ministers to them and leads them, he is also using them to make him feel complete. The result is an emotional entanglement of co-dependent relationships. Hence, he is not able to discharge his authority freely knowing there is something he needs from them. Hence, an effective leader or minister must never be ingratiated to his subordinates or flock and neither should he use them to fulfil his fleshly ambitions.

Paul instructs Timothy to maintain a pure motive while ministering to the flock. The minister or leader must pay close attention to the purity of his heart and emotions: appeal to… the younger women as sisters, in all purity. If he feels a romantic attraction to a person, or if this person expresses one, he must immediately break off all contact with that person. Married men and women must be vigilant for risks of potential infidelity and never to underestimate the power of the sinful nature.

Those who are struggling with impure motives must recognise that is not acceptable in the family of God and must give themselves time to heal. Beneath the persona of confidence and energy lies a mishmash of unfulfilled desires and mental anguish waiting to explode. Therefore, a minister or leader must be aware of his emotional state and have his needs wholly met by the grace of the Spirit. In doing so, he will be able to truly serve out of unconditional love and purity of heart.

Leaders need wisdom to discern who are kins of the Spirit and who are not.

The church is filled by people who come to entreat the Lord but with very different agendas. There are those who come seeking a place where they can belong and grow towards spiritual maturity. Many however, come in search of fulfilment for their personal desires with only a handful of them eventually becoming part of the family. No doubt, God intended the church as a place where people experience the supernatural and encounter Him. But God has never intended the church as a spiritual utility or a sucker for broken people. No wonder many pastors are working double time serving in a rotating congregation while experiencing no real growth in the church.

Kins of the Spirit are those who give of their time, finances and talents sacrificially because they want to see their church grow to become a blessing to the nations. They put the family of God before their personal interests and you can really tell that they have no vested interest apart for the gospel of the kingdom. Nevertheless, there will be a few who mask their true agenda until an opportune time. But once they realise that there is no way of fulfilling their true agenda, or having fulfilled their purposes, they leave the church without a second thought. Such are not kins of the Spirit, they enter the church not to lay down their lives for the family but to build their own kingdom. Jesus says to his disciples, His kins in the Spirit,

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:12-14

The onus is on leaders to discern and to see each person as God sees – as God looks at the heart and not at the appearance. Leaders must immerse themselves in the word and be sensitive to what God is revealing concerning those who enter by stealth and disrupt the harmony of the family. Here are some guidelines: a kin of the Spirit…

a. possesses the virtue of humility and servitude,
b. is teachable and transparent concerning his weaknesses,
c. is ready to commit to weekly worship as a family of God.

Leaders must be wise and discerning because not all in church are brothers and sisters of the Spirit. As the church is meant to be the closest semblance of heaven on earth, let’s keep it that way through wise and sensitive governance of the family of God.

Application

Do you see your church as a family with kins who lay down their lives for one another? Or is it a provider of spiritual services to ensure our salvation and blessings on earth? The church is the family of God united by the Spirit and by the covenant of the blood. True kins of the Spirit will resonate with the truth and the love of God by serving one another.

Dear Lord, I thank you for placing me in a family who is able to accept my weaknesses and help me to grow in maturity. I am willing to lay down my time, talents and finances for the wellbeing of the family and for the world. Use me to be an encourager and a loyal member of your family! In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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