1 & 2 Timothy - Lesson 6

By John Harrison

Support the Elderly, but Admonish Them Respectfully

(1st Timothy 5:1-25)

Objectives: By the end of this session the learner will be able to:1. Identify how we can treat other Christians as family.2. Explain what type of widows Paul thought the church should financially support.3. Describe how elders who are accused of publicly sinning should be treated.

Teaching Aids and Materials:

  1. Easy to understand Bibles for every student (CEV, RSV, NAV, NIV, NRSV, etc.).
  2. A marker board and/or chalkboard.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (5-8 minutes)

  1. Begin class by welcoming members and any visitors; make all necessary class announcements.
  2. Have the class led in prayer. The prayer should include a request that God lead the class into a better understanding of the truth within his Word and for class members to have the courage to stand up against false teachings whenever it arises.
  3. Explain to the class in today's lesson they will learn the following three items:
    1. Treat each other like family
    2. Support the widows
    3. Support your elders
  4. Go over last week's assignment. Ask if anyone would like to share their observations from the TV they watched. Be ready to share your experience.

Learning Experiences: (30 minutes)

Part I: Treat each other like family.

Have someone read 1st Timothy 5:1-2

Q: In this passage Paul is primarily instructing Timothy to admonish Christians as he would admonish members of his own family. In other words, Paul wantsTimothy to correct bad behavior but to do so with love and respect. What would this look like today? How can a Christian go about admonishing another Christian for bad behavior in a way that shows them love and respect?

A: Allow time for several answers. Be sure to give positive, constructive and respectful feedback to each person who gives a response.

Part II: Support the widows who really need help and deserve it.

Have someone read 1st Timothy 5:3-16

Explain to the class that in the first century women were married much younger than men and this meant that women were often left widowed. Almost since day one, the church felt a strong obligation to financially care for widows (see Acts 6:1-7). This was probably partially due to the strong emphasis in the Old Testament that the vulnerable in society (which would have included widows) should be cared for by those who want to model God's justice and mercy (Deut. 10:18; 24:17; Isaiah 1:17). James 1:27 states that care for widows and orphans is the essence of religion. 1st Timothy indicates that Christian widows were actually being enrolled in order to receive financial support from the church.But it seems that a problem had arisen. Some women were getting financial support who shouldn't have been.

Q: Which widows did Paul think should receive financial support?

A: Paul gives many characteristics of widows who could receive financial support:

  1. Those who are completely alone and put their trust in God (v. 5).
  2. Those who have no family members who will take care of them (verses 4,8, 16).
  3. Those who have not lived for pleasure. (v. 6)
  4. Those who were at least 60 years old. (v. 9)
  5. Those who were faithful to their husbands. (v. 9)
  6. Those who practiced "good works", including raising her children,practicing hospitality (most likely to itinerate Christians), and servedChristians by washing their feet and helped those (most likely Christians)in distress.

Q: Why does Paul not want "younger" widows to be financially supported?

A: Because a younger widow will desire to marry and likely end up marrying someone who will lead them away from Christ. Note that Paul says that by marrying these widows would have broken their first pledge (v. 12). Some commentators think Paul was referring to their pledge to the church never to marry. But that is unlikely. Paul may have wished that people could remain unmarried, but he was not adverse to the practice of widows remarrying. It is more likely that by "first pledge"(meaning the pledge of first importance) Paul was referring to their pledge to be faithful to Christ. If a widow marries a non-Christian and then adopts her new husband's religion, she would have broken that pledge to place her total trust inJesus Christ.Another reason why younger widows should not be financially supported is because it was common for these women to become lazy and spend their time talking about things they shouldn't be and being "busybodies". Paul's statement that some of these widows have ended up following Satan (v. 15) suggests that they may have fallen prey to the false teachers who have been teaching women to abstain from marriage (1st Tim. 4:3).

Part III: Support elders who serve the church well.

Have someone read 1st Timothy 5:17-25.

Explain to the class that ancient authors used the word "honor" to mean financial or material payment. So when Paul says that elders who serve well are worthy of "double honor" he means that elders who work hard at speaking and teaching the truth should receive both respect and financial or material remuneration. Paul is probably assuming that these elders primarily spend their days teaching the church and speaking the truth about the faith.

Q: Paul expects Timothy to "hold court" when accusations arise against an elder. What are some of Paul's expectations about these "hearings"?

A: First, Paul expects that no accusations will be entertained unless there are at least 2 or 3 witnesses who saw the elder sinning. Second, the "rebuking" of the elder who has been proven to have sinned would be done publicly so that everyone (other elders and members) would learn from this experience that they too would be admonished publicly, and consequently shamed, if they are found sinning. Third, Timothy, as the one presiding over the inspection of an elder, will carry out his duties without prejudice or favoritism.

Q: What are some lessons about practicing church discipline today thatChristians should learn from the principles that Paul has given to Timothy?

A: Lots of different answers could be given. Allow time for 2 or 3 responses. If it has not been stated, point out that there are three general principles in this text that should guide the practice of church discipline. They are:

  1. The sins of church leaders that misrepresent the ethical values of the church should not be ignored.
  2. Those entrusted with the responsibility of handling church discipline should not entertain accusations without credible witnesses.
  3. Discipline of a leader should be done without prejudice or favoritism. Q: Why does Paul tell Timothy not to "lay hands" on anyone hastily? A: During this time "laying hands" on a person was a symbol of recognizing and appointing a person to a particular task. It is Timothy's role to appoint elders, butPaul wants Timothy to be sure that the person he is appointing as an elder is someone who is striving for purity and godliness. If Timothy doesn't take time to investigate the life of the potential elder, such as getting input from the congregation, when he appoints that person to be an elder who is involved in a certain sin, then it will be presumed by others that Timothy approves of, promotes or is involved in that sin.

Application: (5 minutes)

Many of us are blessed by experiences of kindness and this passage teaches us to care for those in need. Take this time to share without using names different acts of kindness you personally or others that you know have been blessed by.

Assignment: (2 minutes)

This week demonstrate an anonymous act of kindness to a widow in your church.

Lesson Wrap Up: (5 minutes)

We learned that to treat other Christians as family we should admonish them with love and respect.

We then learned that Paul taught the church to financially support widows who were too old to remarry and have children, had no support from their family, put their trust in God and practiced good works.

Finally, we learned that when an elder is accused of sinning publicly that he should be inspected and judged fairly and without prejudice.

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