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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Caring for God's Family
Text:1 Timothy 5:1-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:10/01/17
Added:2017-11-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“Caring for God’s Family”
1 Timothy 5:1-16
 
The verses that we have read this evening harmonize with the purpose of this letter. You may recall that in 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul wrote, If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
 
Throughout the letter we have seen how Paul has emphasized conduct within the church. He has given many warnings against false teachers, beginning already in the first chapter. He gave instruction on how to properly worship the Lord in chapter 2. In chapter 3 he described in detail the qualifications for elders and deacons. In chapter 4 he gave specific instructions for Timothy’s conduct, which we also saw apply to each one of us today. And now again in these verses we see practical and specific instruction on how to care for those who are members of God's household, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers in the family of God.
 
He begins by describing a very delicate situation. How do you rebuke an older man, or for that matter, an older woman? Suppose there is someone in the church who is a mature Christian in many ways, and yet has a certain reoccurring sin problem that needs to be addressed. How do you best address that problem?
 
I knew of a church that had a gifted elder who taught adult Sunday school effectively. His class was well attended and deeply appreciated. He certainly had a thorough grasp of the Scriptures and of theology; he read extensively and had the complete library of R.C. Sproul videos which he studied intently. He was a gifted teacher and a great blessing to that church.
              
Yet, unfortunately, he could also be the greatest thorn in that church. Why?  Because he had a very sharp, sarcastic tongue. He had a way of cutting people to the heart, and not with a godly conviction of sin.  Instead, people would leave the church with tears streaming down their eyes and you knew that either he – or an elderly lady in that same church who had an equally sharp tongue – had cut into that person with their sarcastic, hurtful words.
 
How do you take a godly, mature man and rebuke him for his errors, for his good and for the good of the church? The answer that Scripture gives is that you exhort him as if he were your father. That is, you take him aside lovingly, commend him for his faithfulness and love for the Lord, but point out, speaking the truth in love, that his tongue – or whatever other sin problem needs to be addressed – is detrimental to his witness and causes others great pain within the church.
 
And the same is true for an older woman, mature in the faith, who yet exhibits actions that are obviously contrary to the rest of her life. She needs to be corrected for her own good, and the model that Paul gives to Timothy – and to us – is that we treat such a person as we would treat our mother, lovingly helping her to be more like Christ.
 
It should not surprise us that Paul brings up the family unit, because the church is the family of God. We gather together as brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is how Paul tells us to treat one another. Those who are older we treat as we would our father and mother, and we are to treat younger men as brothers. There is to be a brotherly kindness toward one another; and younger women are to be treated as sisters, with absolute purity.
 
God’s Care for Widows
 
Paul addresses care for one another in the opening two verses, and then the remaining 14 verses of this passage describe how widows are to be cared for. First, a widow who is really in need is to be cared for by her family. 
 
That is part of God’s structure for the family, structure that we have lost sight of in our culture.  Just as parents care for their children, and often their grandchildren too, children are to care for their parents as they age. Since men generally die at a younger age than women, there are usually many more widows then widowers. But in either case, children are to care for their parents. As verse 4 puts it …if a widow has children or grandchildren, they 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.
 
As with the rest of Scripture, this directive is not given as a suggestion, but rather it comes as a command from Him who ordained the family unit. To care for an elderly father or mother, or grandfather or grandmother, involves in the words of verse 4, putting our religion into practice. When we fail to put our religion into practice there are always consequences. Verse 8 speaks forcefully about those consequences. It says, If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
 
Widows are especially designated, even though family care for aged parents applies while both parents are alive as well. But when a wife loses her husband she can be assured from Scripture that God has a special place in his heart for widows. Although widows are often neglected by the world, and also sometimes by the visible church, God clearly has a special place in his heart for widows. Psalm 146:9 is one of many verses which teaches that truth. It says: The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow…
 
One of the ways that the Lord watched over the widows in the Old Testament era was through the command that the fields were not to be harvested completely. Rather, the edges of the field were to be left so that the poor, sojourners, and widows could glean and thus be sustained. In Deuteronomy 14:28-29 we read this command of the Lord: “At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
 
Widows have always been vulnerable to a variety of scams. They become easy prey for the unscrupulous who try to take advantage of them because of their loneliness, or because of their unfamiliarity with finances at times, and because of the continual grief that is left by the passing of a loved one. Because of that the Lord gave this warning in Exodus 22:22-24 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.  If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”
 
With that background from the Old Testament we see why the warning not to provide for one's relatives, especially immediate family, is given in such strong language. Caring for our family – all the members of our family, but especially those who are aged, frail and bereaved – amounts to the refusal to put our Christianity into practice. James 1:27 summarizes the situation by saying: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
 
The Church’s Care for Widows
 
But what happens when there is no family to care for a widow who is in need? That situation certainly arises today; often we see either widows or others who are elderly, frail and in need of help, but have no family to help them. And while that is a common occurrence for us today, it was an even more common occurrence in biblical times, for there were no pension plans, no social security, there were no “safety nets” for widows and other elderly people in need.
 
When no family is available to help, then the church is to help, and that was done in Timothy's day by keeping a list of widows. Paul speaks of that list in verse 9 and in verse 11. There were two qualifications for a widow to be on the list. The first was that she must truly be in need. And the second qualification was that she must be a godly woman.  As verse 5 puts it: The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and ask God for help. She is the one whom the church is to help. That is why verse 3 begins the teaching on the care of widows by saying, Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.
 
By contrast, verse 16 says: If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need. I am thankful for the care that the deacons of our church extend to the widows within our congregation, and to others who are single, including widowers. It was because of the need to care for widows that the office of deacon came into being, as we saw in Chapter 3 as we viewed it through Acts 6, where deacons were first appointed in order that care could be extended to widows.
 
However, perhaps you noticed that to receive the care of the church, a woman needs to be godly, living for the Lord and not for sinful pleasure. Verse 6 points out that those who live for pleasure are spiritually dead, even as they live. It is a reminder that you can run after all the things of the world, the so-called “pleasures of sin” even though they leave no lasting pleasure but only an empty void. You can run after those things and indulge in that life, and the world will put you on a pedestal and say that you really know how to live life to the fullest! A person can do all that and yet be dead, totally dead, spiritually. Verse 6 is one of those great warning signs on the spiritual highway of life. It is a warning to everyone young or old, male or female: The widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.
 
Often the widow who lives for pleasure is younger. The apostle encouraged the younger widows, in verse 14, to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. The context is that some who were younger widows became idle and were busybodies. And verse 15 warns that some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
 
But by contrast, older women, including widows, are of great value in the church Verse 9 and 10 make it clear that the widow, like everyone else in the church, is not just to receive but also to give. Verse 9-10: 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 deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
  
All those activities – including foot washing in the dusty days of the first century – were practical and valuable good deeds. Since widows often have time on their hands, what better way to use their time than to do good within the family of God?
 
Paul's teaching to Timothy here, concerning the older widows, is similar to what he taught Titus in Titus 2:3-5:  Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.                              
 
The Importance of Membership
 
Although a large section of this chapter has focused upon widows and their care, as well as their service within the church, the passage also points us to another application, namely, being a member of the true church is essential for every Christian.
 
It is so essential to be a member of the church that the Belgic Confession, in Article 28, describes how everyone is bound to join themselves to the true church. In fact, that article states that there is no salvation outside of the true church. And the reason Guido de Bres, the author of the Belgic Confession, could make such a statement is that the true church is the body of Christ. He is the head of the church, and we who are members of the church form His body.
 
That is clearly and beautifully put in 1 Corinthians 12 where the apostle writes: Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  And he goes on in that passage to point out that our differences should not separate us, but rather our differences work together for the good of the body. He writes: If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
 
You see, it is essential that whether single or married, young or old, male or female, widow or widower, or never married – whatever the case – that we belong to the body of Christ, to God's household, the family of God here on earth.
 
We enter that family by saving faith. As the gospel of John puts it: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:10-13).  – That is a truly wonderful blessing!
 
By God's grace, through saving faith in Christ alone, are you, and am I, a member of God's family? Is our faith placed in Jesus Christ alone? Do we trust his perfect work of redemption, and not our self-righteous works?
 
If so, then we are to express our love and care for one another, exhorting those who are older as though they were our own father and mother, treating younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters – with absolute purity, as we give proper recognition to those widows among us, especially those in great need. Amen.
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
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.  –  1 Timothy 5:1-3
 
“Caring for God’s Family”
1 Timothy 5:1-16
 
I.  Paul instructs Timothy – and all of us – how to relate to and care for brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to:
     1) Exhort (correct) older men as our father; younger men as brothers (1)
 
 
 
 
     2) Treat older women as our mothers; younger women as sisters (2)
 
 
 
 
     3) Widows are to be cared for:
          a) By their families as this pleases God (3-4) and is required (8), for God has a special care for widows (Psalm 146:9; James 1:27)                                
 
 
          b) By the church for those who are alone, without family (3, 5, 16)
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Those who live for pleasure are spiritually dead, even as they live (6)
 
 
 
 
     2) Older women, including widows, are of great value in the church (9-10; Titus 2:3-5)                               
 
 
 
 
     3) Being a member of the true church is essential for every Christian, whether single or married, young or old, male or female, for the church is the body of Christ,
         with Christ as the head (1 Cor. 12:12-27). The members are the metaphysical body of Christ on earth and form “God’s household”, the family of God (1-3;
         1 Tim. 3:15; 1 John 3:1-2). Adoption into God’s family is through faith in Christ alone (John 1:10-13)

   




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 10/0, Rev. Ted Gray

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