No comments yet

Message Notes: 1 Timothy Week 6

1 Timothy

Week 6: Chapter 5:1-16

Pastor Rick Henderson                March 2-3, 2024

If you want to get ready for what we’re going to read, grab a Bible or use your phone to find 1 Timothy 5. Today has the potential to be a bit of an irresponsible sermon on my part. Over the next half hour, I might fall flat on my face in front of you all.

Either today is going to have moments of me being reckless and incompetent, or it’s going to be something that God uses to help us experience greater unity and perhaps a greater impact for the kingdom than we currently know how to imagine. And I suppose that I could be wrong on both counts. Maybe this sermon is a total yawner, and we all go home unaffected. I’ve just found myself so captivated by what we’re going to talk about that I’m convinced that if we lean in and dig in, and we humbly open ourselves to the Lord, we could take our next steps in shaking free from the kinds of things that hold churches back and shake free from the kinds of things that hold churches down in comfortable irrelevance.

Today is going to intersect with and revolve around one of our guiding values.

ARC VALUE: Move TOWARD the messes.

  • Nobody makes a difference by staying comfortable.

There’s no way to do this without also doing something that makes a lot of us feel queasy. I’m talking about confrontation. I bet there are a lot of us who treat confrontation like it’s a necessary evil. I’m going to be upfront with what my agenda is today. I want to convince you that confrontation isn’t a necessary evil. It’s a necessary good. Here’s just one reason why.

Our confrontation habits are indicators of our relationships with EACH OTHER and with REALITY.

We can’t have a healthy relationship with each other without good confrontation. And we can’t have a healthy relationship with reality without good confrontation. You may not believe me yet. You may think I’m bonkers. That’s OK. Take whatever time you need to process this. But I’m throwing this out there for religious people and irreligious people. This is for church folks and for non-church folks. This is true for everybody. To the extent that we push away good confrontation, we are pushing away from each other. To the extent that we push away good confrontation, we are pushing away from reality.

I’ve got some diagnostic questions to help us ease in. Try and resist the urge to answer for someone else. Let’s answer for ourselves first.

  • Would you rather confront someone, be the one who is confronted, or avoid confrontation no matter the cost?
  • Do you tend to complain to people who can’t resolve the issue, or do you confront the person/people who can?
  • When confronting someone, do you wait until the issue has become unbearable or do you address it before it becomes a major issue?
  • Are you typically content to leave an issue unresolved if it’s not affecting you and your group?
  • Are you typically compelled to resolve an issue that affects others, even if you haven’t felt it personally yet?
  • Do you tend to welcome it when someone raises a possible concern, or do you tend to resist it?
  • Which is more important to you in a confrontation, giving respect or getting respect?
  • When in a confrontation, are you easy to offend or are you hard to offend?
  • Are you an easy person to confront or a hard person to confront?
  • Some people are primarily motivated by personally experiencing the consequences of a problem before addressing it, and some people are primarily motivated by the benefits of solving the problem. Which best describes you?

Not that we’ve marinated in the subject at hand, let’s read what Paul had to say to young Timothy regarding confrontation in general, and then resolving a specific dilemma.

1 TIMOTHY 5:1-16 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.

This is where we start to dive into the problem. This church did not have clarity on which widows should be financially supported and who should not be financially supported. The Apostle Paul was not sitting on top of a mountain somewhere, handing down wisdom and revelation totally disconnected from any context. What we are reading is his God-inspired response to a messy issue that required confronting reality, confronting people, and making changes.

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

We’ve talked about Gospel Fluency in this series. Identify the content of the gospel, what has Jesus done for us? Second, understand the implications of the gospel. How does this good news affect every area of life? Third, apply the motivation of the gospel. That’s always going to include love for Jesus and love for people.

Timothy is going to have to confront some folks who are doing wrong. The gospel should lead them to provide and care for widows in their families, but they’re not. They are letting the church foot the bill for what is their own responsibility. Do you think that’s going to be a fun conversation for Timothy? Nope. But it’s good and necessary.

The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.

It appears that there were younger widows in the church who were being financially supported. They didn’t have any family responsibilities, and they didn’t have a purpose to live for that was bigger than themselves. I bet you’ve seen this play out before. No responsibilities. No purpose. No financial burdens. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only caring about what’s fun for you, and it always results in the good stuff of life unraveling.

Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

That’s direct confrontation, but it’s not demeaning confrontation.

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

Let’s get honest about reality and let’s draw some boundaries. This is what we will do and this is what we won’t do. It’s not good and healthy to try and support every widow. It’s not financially sustainable to support every widow.

As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge.

This is going to be a bit confusing if we don’t understand the context. Not every woman who was a widow was a widow. In the same way that we don’t have any kind words to describe a nonmarried, adult woman, they didn’t either. In the first century, an adult woman who was not married was referred to as a widow. Seems weird to us, but it was normal to them.

This group of women he is referring to is a mixture of women whose husbands died and women who have never married. There is something that started in the first century and became institutionalized in the second and third centuries. Widow was an official office in the church, just like a pastor or a deacon.

These widows, some had been married, and some were never married, made a pledge to stay unmarried and serve the church. They engaged in all kinds of awesome ministry. Paul is getting real and wise. The intentions of these younger widows are good. But let’s be honest. They’re going to want to get married. There’s nothing wrong with that. So, we are only going to make financial commitments to widows over 60.

Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

More confrontation is coming. There are some women who are going from house to house, very likely that means house church to house church, being disruptive and not being helpful. Timothy is going to have to talk to them and draw a boundary. Some of these women have gone off the rails, probably because they haven’t been discipled and they are influenced by the false teachers in the church. This coming confrontation is not a necessary evil. It’s a necessary good.

If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

This confrontation that Timothy is going to have to lead the church in not only includes drawing boundaries but also includes developing the people in the church. His job is to lead and shepherd them into taking responsibility for family members in need and not pushing the responsibility off to the church.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s go back to the starting line.

1 TIMOTHY 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

If you remember something I said last week, you might be wondering if what I said contradicts these verses. Last week, I said that we are not to act like each other’s parents; we are to relate to each other as siblings. But this says to relate to older men as fathers and older women as mothers.

We aren’t to parent each other. I want to maintain that. And this doesn’t say that we should parent each other. What we should do is permanently adopt a disposition of honoring those who are older than us, even when we must engage in confrontation. If you don’t know who John Stott was, he was a fantastic scholar and Bible teacher. This is what he said.

Timothy is to give to senior members of the church the respect which is due to age and the affection which is due to parents…True, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet it seems to me artificial in the West when students breeze up to me and hail me by my Christian name, even though I am old enough to be their grandfather! The Asian and African cultures are wiser, since they encourage young people to address the older generations as ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie.’ --John Stott

There are lots of cultural things that may make this murky. But I just don’t think we ever lose anything when we give honor. It never costs us to pay respect to our elders. This is a good and beautiful thing—even when we have to engage in confrontation with those who are older than us. Our confrontation habits should reinforce our relations, not unravel them.

IN THE WAY OF JESUS: Confrontation isn’t ANTI-relationship because it’s impossible to SEPARATE from relationship.

Let’s be respectful to everyone. Let’s be careful to honor those who are older. And let’s also be careful to pursue purity in our interactions with fellow believers of the opposite sex.

Why do you think that Paul gave these instructions to Timothy about not rebuking elders too harshly? I think the most likely answer is that there were older folks in the church who contributed to the messes and problems that Timothy is going to have to lead them through. Maybe these older folks made the mess on purpose. Maybe they created or contributed to the problem unintentionally. Either way, it doesn’t matter. He had to confront them with honesty and with honor.

Let’s keep building on this.

IN THE WAY OF JESUS: The intent of confrontation is always to SAVE a relationship, not to SEVER it.

Condemnation is about breaking relationship. But that’s never the point of confrontation in the way of Jesus. To help us see this, let’s go to the most extreme expressions of confrontation. This is what we read back in chapter 1.

1 TIMOTHY 1:20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

That’s about not being allowed to join when the church gathers. But the whole point isn’t to reject them, it’s to teach them. The goal was they would repent and return to Jesus and then be reunited with the church. This is the exact same thing that Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians when a dude in the church was having an affair with his stepmother.

1 CORINTHIANS 5:5 Hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

The point was not to literally destroy his body. The point was that he would repent from just following his impulses and desires. The goal was his salvation or his healing, and this temporary removal from the church would result in being together permanently.

Let’s keep it going.

IN THE WAY OF JESUS: The goal is to be an easy person to CONFRONT and a hard person to OFFEND.

If you’re wondering how I came to this conclusion from this chapter alone, I didn’t. After reading everything in 1 Timothy and the rest of what the New Testament has to say about relationships, bearing with each other, confessing sin, holding each other accountable, and the fruit of the Spirit—when you take all of that together I just think this is the kind of thing that Jesus wants for us. Be an easy person to confront and a hard person to offend. Wouldn’t it have been different if some of the people in the church at Ephesus were easy to confront and willing to receive rebuke? Think of all the heartache they could have avoided.

Isn’t’ it true that we admire people who are like this? Isn’t it true that our favorite version of ourselves is more like this than not? What do you think would happen in a church, what do you think would happen in our church if this really was true of me and really was true of you? Is there any downside to this?

Confrontation isn’t just relational, it’s redemptive, even in the most extreme expressions.

IN THE WAY OF JESUS: The spirit of confrontation is to COLLABORATE to solve a problem, not COMBAT people, as though they are problems.

I want to share something with you that is simple but powerful. You don’t even have to be a follower of Jesus to benefit from this. There is an approach to conflict in which we square off, face to face, over a problem. I don’t think that’s a great way, but that’s a way you can do it. Here it is—simple but powerful. Instead of squaring off, we stand shoulder to shoulder facing the problem together.

Ultimately, the problem is never a person. We contribute to problems with our attitudes and behaviors. But hear me, ultimately the problem is not a person. No matter what it is, no matter how hard it is, no matter how scary it is, no matter how expensive it is—it’s always to our benefit to get shoulder to shoulder, to humbly and happily collaborate, not combat each other.

QUESTION: What was the problem at the church in Ephesus?

  • Lies and abusive behaviors of false teachers were tolerated and welcomed.
  • People experienced shipwrecked faith.
  • Men were fighting each other.
  • Women were flaunting wealth and status.
  • Women weren’t being discipled but were attempting to strong-arm their way into leadership and control.
  • People were deceived, confused, scared, and looking to Artemis for help.
  • Some people in leadership were failing to live up to the qualifications for leadership.
  • People were being bullied by false teachers into following excessive rules and bullied into not getting married.
  • There was an explosion of single women in the church who expected the church to financially support them.
  • The church was in an unsustainable financial practice of supporting widows, many of whom were using discretionary time to disrupt the health of the church.
  • People in the church weaponized Timothy’s insecurity against him as he attempted to lead them to health.

This would not have been an easy group of people to collaborate with to solve a problem. This is a group of people who have been hiding from reality, not getting honest about reality. This is a group of people who have lots of experiences with pride, with being pushy, and being most invested in getting their way.

Just to make sure we are clear. Timothy was appointed by Paul to lead and teach. Most of the leaders who were already there are older than him. And it’s his job to tell them that things can’t continue the way they have and changes must be made.

  • We’re not going to foot the bill for every widow in the church anymore.
  • Some of you have not been responsible for your family obligations and you’ve let the church foot the bill. That has to stop and you have to take responsibility.
  • We are going to support older widows who have a track record of faithfulness.
  • If you are younger, we encourage you to get married or at least give yourself to a purpose that’s bigger than yourself. Either way, we are not paying your bills.

What do you think that church meeting was like? Knowing the backstory and the build-up, how do you think they initially responded to that?

I’m going to make some guesses about how the people responded and I’m going to share them with you. I’ve been in churches across this country and on four continents. Everywhere I go, people are the same, and leadership issues are the same. When I’m sitting under a tree with pastors in Ghana, telling them about issues we face—they are dumbfounded. They can’t believe we have the exact same issues we have. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same wherever you go.

What are some ways this church probably responded to Timothy?


  • “But that’s not how we’ve always done it.”
  • “This is too much change.”
  • “It’s not fair that I no longer get what I used to get from my church.”
  • Lodging grievances with elders who were there before Timothy arrived.

If I were a member of that church, one or two of those responses would probably be my response, too. And if I had a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I might have done all four in one day. Think about all the things we’ve had to navigate since 2020. No one should be more empathetic with them and understanding of them than us.

And yet, at the end of the day, there are messes that need to be addressed and resolved. There are problems and challenges that need to be addressed and resolved. And the motivation is far bigger than eliminating consequences. There are spectacular benefits just waiting to be experienced.

IN THE WAY OF JESUS: The mystery of confrontation is that it UNLOCKS previously unimagined possibilities.

For this church at Ephesus, and all the other churches too, because they received this confrontation well and collaborated to work through their messes, they were able to achieve financially sustainable practices. People took responsibility for caring for their family members, and the church provided for widows who had no support. Things like that caused Roman politicians and philosophers to take note of Christians and grow in respect for them. It led to more people coming to faith.

It’s tragic to lose a spouse. Let’s not minimize that. And yet, widows in the church began to adopt a new vision and a redemptive view of this chapter in their lives. Widows were empowered by churches to serve and lead in ministry. What I’m going to say next is not hyperbole. It’s not pastor speak or exaggeration for effect. These widows changed the world, and they changed human history.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Fabiola. She lived in Rome, in the third century. Her second husband died and she was left alone, and she was fabulously wealthy. So you know what she decided to do? She rejected a life of luxury and privilege. She used her fortune to build the world’s first public hospital.

Before that, wealthy people of class could get medical care. But there was not a place for everyday people and poor people to go and get medical care. The first public hospital in human history was funded and constructed by a Christian widow who wanted to use the rest of her life and the rest of her wealth to put the gospel into practice.

She also started the very first hospice in history. Women have been leading parachurch ministries and spearheading astounding ministry efforts for a long time. Jerome was a priest and theologian who knew Fabiola personally. He described this way.

Often did she carry on her own shoulders persons infected with jaundice or with filth. Often too did she wash away the matter discharged from wounds which others, even though men, could not bear to look at. She gave food to her patients with her own hand, and moistened the scarce breathing lips of the dying with sips of liquid. –Jerome

Jerome also writes that thousands of people attended her funeral when she died. Think about this, the story of Mayo starts with the Mayo brothers. But the origin story of all hospitals starts with Fabiola. I’m not saying that someone else wouldn’t have come up with the idea. I’m not saying that you even have to be a Christian to come up with the idea of a hospital.

I’m not telling you what history could have been. I’m just telling you what it is. Every hospital starts with Fabiola—a widow who decided that she was going to use her wealth to love Jesu sand love people. But Fabiola’s story doesn’t begin with herself. It’s tangled up in a history of churches teaching people to take responsibility and to reimagine even something like widowhood.

Lean in we’re almost done. Do you think the people in the church at Ephesus could ever have imagined that receiving confrontation well, and collaborating to honestly face reality and solve messes would ever result in things like hospitals? There’s no way!

IN THE WAY OF JESUS: The mystery of confrontation is that it UNLOCKS previously unimagined possibilities.

What about us? Are we willing to receive and engage in confrontation well? Are we willing to collaborate, face reality and move toward our messes? Are we willing to do it even if we never get to see the big payoff? Timothy and the church at Ephesus moved toward some messes that got the ball rolling on something that almost three hundred years later would change human history.

What could keep us from following their example and walking in the way of Jesus?

As we turn our attention to communion, what we are remembering and celebrating intersects with everything we are talking about. Jesus confronts us about our own sin. And yet, he stepped into our messes, bringing forgiveness, love, and acceptance for all who would trust in him.

That’s the story we are reenacting as we receive communion together.