Friday, March 18, 2011

Compassionate Service (Worship Inspires Service), 1 Timothy 5:1-8, 17-22; The Adult Sunday School Lesson for 3-27-11

ATTENTION:  Please note that this is The Adult Sunday School Lesson, Compassionate Service aka Worship Inspires Service, on 1 Timothy 5: 1-8, 17-22 for the 3-27-11 International Sunday School Lesson.  You will find the 3-20-11 lesson, Leadership Priorities aka Prepare for Leadership, directly beneath this message and on the right side.


Compassionate Service
Worship Inspires Service
1 Timothy 5: 1-8, 17-22
International Sunday School Lesson
March 27, 2011

Jed Greenough

This week’s lesson is entitled Compassionate Service or Worship Inspires Service but I would like to change that to, I Challenge You.
I challenge you to not just be glad we are out of the seemingly less controversial section of these Timothy letters and consider instead that those going forward should be no less so if we are not following what it is that they tell us, but we will come back to that in a moment.
When one is doing a simplified historical exegesis of a passage we would consider among other things the author, the reader, the purpose for what is written and the historical and cultural aspects all in a hope to better understand what we are reading. 
Paul, we shall assume for brevity sake, you are very familiar with and we are also going to assume that at the time of this writing that Paul was still in Macedonia where he went after leaving Timothy to take care of the church in Ephesus.  This church received three years of the mighty Paul’s efforts but was still in much need of leadership and why the trusted Timothy was left in charge.
Timothy, now there is another story.  Much has been written about him that I think creates a false picture of weakness and frailty.  Why?  Because of letters like 1 Timothy which gives firm instructions to how those that make up the church should conduct themselves.  Or because as in the verse not included today but from this chapter of 1 Timothy 5 in which Paul advises him to drink a little wine instead of water due his stomach and some frequent health issue.  Do you think this makes him a weakling?
I think instead of seeing Timothy as timid or weak because some scholars have sought to write something new to justify their voice, we should look at the characters a little more generously.  We have Paul the mentor of 20 years and Timothy the protégé.  One is an Apostle with authority from above who has, according to the scriptures, received direct inspiration and the other, in Timothy, not an apostle but about as close as you can get.  Look at how many letters in our New Testament include Timothy in their salutation along with Paul and look at the situations where Timothy was sent such as Ephesus as a troubleshooter if you will.  Look at Timothy the martyr if tradition is believed and then read this passage with that in mind when you consider the man Timothy.
The purpose for Paul’s letter is the easiest thing for us to determine; Paul wanted to make it clear how the people who made up the church were to be treated.
Was Ephesus, the home of one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a hot bed of sin and miscreants more foul than any other city at the time?  I rather think that the best way to look at Ephesus is to look scripturally at what we know to be the latest reference to this church and that is found in Revelation 2 where Christ himself had this to say about the church at Ephesus:
 Revelation 2:2-5 
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
   4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

What we should take away from this church is that we can only hope that if Christ were to look at our church’s conduct that we would fare so well.
If we look at the cultural aspects to see if there is something culturally significant to this letter that would only apply to this church at that time and not to today, I would have to say that I see none.    The elders mentioned in the beginning apply not to the Overseer position but those advanced in age and how men and women of all ages should be treated with respect should be the same today.  That the widowed among us should still be cared for might not be practiced as it should but it shouldn’t be argued that it only applied to Timothy’s time.  While I do see a couple references such as the one that refers to the oxen that might be lost on some today the concept that they apply to is sound.  Therefore everything referred to whether we follow it or not, is still relevant to today.
So if there are not cultural or societal factors at work here we are back to the sticky controversial aspect I mentioned at the beginning, the picking and choosing of the scriptures that we are going to live by and also back to the I Challenge You part.
I challenge you to create or strengthen in your church a type of return to 1 Timothy 5 Ministry.  A ministry of at least two aspects where the word of God is followed because it is how we were instructed things should be. 
One aspect is that Elders not be hastily chosen and that those that are be paid and not just honored for the work of the Lord.  They may not want the pay and may give it back but others especially in this day could use it and God says that they deserve it.
Another aspect is the care of those who have been widowed who are not having their needs fully met.  They will not come to you for help; you will need to go to them.  A visit will show the home repairs, the need for company and the spiritual hunger.  Eventually with familiarity will show the unpaid bills and the deep fears.  Truly the widow (and the widower) who are really in need and left all alone put their hope in God for help and you can be that help.
I never stop being amazed at the creativity of people and what can result if a challenge is put to people within the church.  People far more sensitive to the needs of others than I will realize the myriad of ways a 1 Timothy 5 Ministry can return honor to our churches because they are following all the scriptures.

For Discussion:

1.      Discuss suspected or known needs, protecting the privacy of course, of the widowed in your church.
2.      The strong Sunday School can be a powerful force within the church, make it a project of your class to create a 1 Timothy 5 Ministry.
3.      Ask that a sermon be delivered on this subject to your congregation.
4.      Do not think that these instructions on how to treat those who make up the church are to Timothy alone, see verse 7.
5.      While performing the duties in the role of elder, whether it be in the sense of a pastor or another authority in the church, there may be accusations made some true and most false and thus the Biblically tried and true practice of necessitating two or three witnesses.
6.      Have you known of proven cases of an Elder sinning without receiving a public rebuking?  These scriptures make it clear that a public rebuking should be done, “I charge you”, “to keep these instructions.”

Join me in the weeks ahead for the following International Sunday School Lessons:

4-3-11:    Remember Jesus Christ 2 Timothy 2:8-19
4-10-11:  Praise Builds Us Up (Remember the Warnings) Jude 17-25
4-17-11:  Hosanna! (Praise the Lord) Mark 11:1-11
4-24-11:  Christ is Risen! (Go and Tell) Matthew 28

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

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