The Well-Ordered Church
August 3rd, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
1 Timothy 5:1-25
THE WELL-ORDERED CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 5:1-25
8-3-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Well Ordered Church. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come after these many years to the first letter of Paul to his young son in the ministry, Timothy. In the fifth chapter of 1 Timothy, and you can follow the message easily if you will turn to the fifth chapter, chapter 5 of 1 Timothy.
Rather than read the whole chapter, we shall plunge into it immediately. It is divided into three parts: the first part has to do—it is a very short part—has to do with the spiritual members of the family and how we are to treat them. Those are the first two verses [1 Timothy 5:1-2]. The second part of the chapter, beginning at verse 3 and continuing through verse 16, has to do with the poor members of the family, the suffering members of the church family, and how we should help them [1 Timothy 5:3-16]. Then, the last part of the chapter, beginning at verse 17 to the end, is a discussion of the official members of the church family, the serving members of the church family, and how we should honor them [1 Timothy 5:17-25].
Now we begin, 1 Timothy 5:1-2:
Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
Our spiritual members, our fellow members and how we are to treat them. The members of a congregation, of a church, are spoken of in the Scriptures under many figures: sometimes they are referred to as soldiers in an army; sometimes they are referred to as members of the body; sometimes they are referred to as competitors in a race; sometimes as fellow servants in the household of faith; sometimes as branches of a vine. But more frequently, far more frequently than any other way, the members of the congregation are referred to as members of a family.
We are not born naturally into the kingdom of God: we are reborn; we are born from above; we are born by the Spirit, and so become members of the family of the Lord [John 3:3-8]. And all of God’s children—in fact, I tried to think of a way to talk about the church without using the figures of a family, and you cannot do it. God is our Father, and we pray that way. Jesus is our elder Brother; we are joint heirs with Him [Romans 8:16-17]. And all of us are the children of the Lord, born into the family of the Crucified One. Now that is the imagery that Paul uses here about all of us who belong to the house of God, members of His church. He refers to us as members of a great family [1 Timothy 5:1-2].
Now, he’s speaking here how we ought to treat one another. And he speaks of it under the aegis of great, deep, Christian courtesy. He uses the word “elder” here, prĕsbutĕrŏs—you get your word “Presbyterian” from it. “Prĕsbutĕrŏs,” he uses it two ways: the first way he uses it here refers to an older man; “Rebuke not an older man, but entreat him as a father” [1 Timothy 5:1]. He’s talking to this young son in the ministry—and here is a man whose hair is gray, whose face is wrinkled, whose steps are slow, whose back is bowed. He has been many years in this pilgrimage. How will the young pastor speak to that older man about the good of his soul? The man needs rebuking; he is not doing right; he has fallen into error or into sin—how is the young minister to speak to him about the error of his way? All right, Paul says: “You are not to rebuke him, but you are to entreat him as a father” [1 Timothy 5:1]. So the attitude of the minister toward the older men of the congregation is never one of rebuke, but always one of deference and courteous entreaty.
How shall he treat the younger men of the congregation? He is to be in attitude toward them as though they were blood brothers [1 Timothy 5:1]. Their highest interests are his. And in all courtesy and deference, he is to behave himself toward the young men in the congregation as though they were brothers. “The elder women as mothers”: treat them with the same courteous deference, as though they were his own mother [1 Timothy 5:2]. “And the younger women as sisters”: all of us in the household of faith, and all of us in deportment toward one another as though we were members of a precious family [1 Timothy 5:1-2].
Now, you could hardly improve upon that in an appeal for the spirit of the congregation of the Lord: all of our older men, our fathers; all of our younger men, our brothers; all of our older women, our mothers; all of our younger women, our sisters—and in courteous deference, thus to behave in the house of the Lord [1 Timothy 5:1-2].
Now the second part of the chapter has to do with the suffering members of the church and how we are to support and sustain them [1 Timothy 5:3-16]. And this gives rise to a tremendous subject in the gospel ministry. Of all things in this earth, the Christian religion is personal: we come to God one by one; we die one by one; we are judged one by one.
The Christian faith is a personal religion. And yet, no sooner does one come into the faith, does one join the church, become a member of the household of the Lord, than immediately he will find that the Christian faith has tremendous social implications. The very moment he becomes a Christian, and he’s baptized, and he becomes a member of the church, there are prescribed duties from the Lord Himself: how the Christian is to act toward other Christians; how he is to be in his house and in his home; how he is to be about his work; how he is to be in the world and before all things generally. These social implications of the Christian faith are constant overtones that are heard here in the Scriptures.
Now, in our modern day especially, most especially, the whole turn of the great intellectual and theological world has followed after those corollaries and those concomitants, those byproducts of the Christian faith, and has made it the great gospel of the Son of God itself. And they refer to it as, and it is called, the social gospel. The social gospel is this: “that the ministry of the church and the gospel of the Son of God has to do with our temporal circumstances. This thing of heaven is a nebulous myth. This thing of the judgment of God is a tool—medieval—with which we’d scare people. This thing of a personal resurrection is a dream; it’s wishful thinking. This thing of sin is nothing but the drag of our ancestors and is a stumbling upward. This thing of the inspiration of the Bible is just a thing that can be described and illustrated in the inspiration of the other great men of literature—like Shakespeare, or Dante, or Homer. And the miracles of the Bible were those fantasies that were written down by an ancient and superstitious people. But the merit of the gospel and the worth of the gospel is found in its social applications.” Now that is almost altogether the theology of the modern church and the theology of the great modern denominations of the world. The church, the energies of its ministry and the great influence it has in the world is to be turned towards social amelioration.
Well, let me just illustrate that: one of these fine, educated, social gospelers came from the North and East out to Arizona. And, in a workers’ conference out there, after he had observed those Navaho Indians—their squalor, their poverty—this social gospeler made a speech. And he made a typical social gospel address. He said: “What we need to do out here is to teach these people how to use soap and water. We need to teach these people how to use a toothbrush. We need to teach these people how to use vermin-destroying fluids. It is impossible for these people to be Christians in filthy houses. They first must be taught to clean up.”
And then he sat down after his address. And when he did so, a native Navaho preacher stood up, and by the grace of God, that native Indian preacher knew the gospel and the Word of the Lord. And he said: “I am happy to hear our brother from the East preaching the gospel of soap and water. But,” he said, “I have always been taught, as I read the Scriptures, that the gospel message from heaven is the cleansing blood of Christ. And,” he added, “I have observed that when I can get one of these Navaho families to come to Jesus, and I visit in the home after they’ve become Christians; if they have been accustomed to living in dirt and filth, I observe that they are clean. They change the house; they change the home; they change the customs and habits of life.” And the native Navaho preacher said: “It seems to me that if we could get people to be clean on the inside, they’d be clean then on the outside.”
That’s it! That native preacher said it exactly right! However much you scrub and scrub and scrub, however much you use soap and water, if the heart is not clean, you never get the house clean; you never get the life clean. These things are of the soul; the rest are corollaries and byproducts.
Could I refer to the great William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army? In my preparing this message this week, I read an address; I read the closing of an address that he made to a great group of people in a visit here to America. He said: “My fellow soldiers do not place social work above the preaching of the gospel.” That’s the man whose life is given to social work, the Salvation Army: “My fellow soldiers,” he says, “do not ever allow social work to take the place of the preaching of the gospel.” Then he illustrated it. And he illustrated by the old-time theology. He said: “Suppose you lift a man out of the gutter, and you encourage him to sign the pledge, and you find a place for him out in a country village with new surroundings, and you teach him a new trade, and you restore to him his wife and his family; and then, let him die in his sins and fall at last into hell.” He said—the great general and founder said: “My fellow soldiers, it isn’t worth it. And I, for one, do not attempt it.”
The great mission of the Salvation Army, according to its general is this: to get men to God; to get men clean on the inside; to save men from, and out of, their sins. And the rest is a concomitant, it follows after—like the tail of a comet when the light is shining—it bears a reflection, all everywhere, everything that follows.
Now in this ministry here, Paul is speaking of a social work, a social obligation. But wherever Paul speaks of that, it is never the great drive. It is, rather, the—like a ship, the wake, the wake of a ship; the going of the ship through the water, and then these things follow after.
In the passage that we read this morning, Paul, the great doctrinarian, wrote the Book of Romans, and it climaxed in the twelfth chapter and the first verse, in the great surrender [Romans 12:1]. Then immediately, he follows about our duties to our fellow man [Romans 12:3-21]—but first the great fundamental doctrines of the faith, the gospel of the Son of God [Romans 1-11].
Same thing in Ephesians: there he has the high theme of the heavenlies [Ephesians 1:3-14]; then, finally, he comes down to speak of parents, and children, and servants, and masters [Ephesians 5:22-6:9]. So it is here, this ministry to the poor and the suffering is a corollary of the Christian faith [1 Timothy 5:3-16]. It’s not the faith itself. It is something that follows after and with it.
So he says a long word here about widows especially. Now let’s see what he says. First about younger widows. In the fourteenth verse: “I will therefore that the younger women marry…” [1 Timothy 5:14]. If there is a young widow, Paul says, it is better for her to marry. That is, I would suppose, if she can find a fine husband—don’t marry any old thing that comes along—marry a fine boy. “I will therefore that the younger women marry…” [1 Timothy 5:14]. If she can find a worthy boy, let the young widow marry [1 Timothy 5:16].
Then he comes to—by the way, before I leave that, could I say, in my visit to India, among the many, many things that greatly impressed me, one of the things that impressed most was the attitude toward the widow in India. In William Carey’s day, they burned them. When the woman’s husband died and they cremated his body, she was compelled to mount the fire and was burned with him. In my day, right today, the widow in India has to dress a certain way. She has to act a certain way. She can never smile. She can never appear glad or cheerful. She is manifestly a widow in the way she is forced to walk and talk and act. And she is deprived of every avenue of life.
I visited in the home in Pelwell, between Delhi and Agra, a young widow. And I listened to her and I asked her; and I was overwhelmed by the strictures of the life placed upon a widow—even a young woman like that woman was.
I repeat again, just in passing, how much we owe to the Christian faith. The young woman, she’s to be received as though she were just your own daughter; and being young, if it is possible, let her marry and have a beautiful home.
Now, we go second. In the fifth verse: “She that is a widow indeed, and desolate…” [1 Timothy 5:5]. Here is a widow who is left with nothing and is desolate. It is a responsibility of the church to see to it that she is cared for. In our day, we have many organizations, mostly sponsored by the government. We have Social Security, and we have old-age pensions, and we have many, many things. It is the duty of the church and the responsibility of the church to see to it that all of the care that is possible is made available to these people. And if there is not enough in these organized, legislative ways to care for these who are desolate, it is our responsibility to do it.
Then he speaks third about widows and people who have—and you have it translated “nephews” there in the fourth verse:
If any widow have children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.
[1 Timothy 5:4]
Now, look at the eighth verse;
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
[1 Timothy 5:8]
Brother, what a sentence! What a sentence! “If any man provide not for his own, and specially those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” [1 Timothy 5:8]. That heathen out there may not know any different, but a Christian taught in the way of the Lord, he knows the will of God: “Honor thy father and thy mother,” which is the first commandment with promise [Exodus 20:12]. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. And for a man not to honor his father and his mother, and for a man not to provide for his own family insofar as he is able, Paul says he has denied the faith of the Son of God, and is worse than an infidel [1 Timothy 5:8]. Our obligation then is by might and by main and by every resource at our command; we are to struggle and to labor and to support our own people.
Now we turn to the third section of Paul’s discussion of the well-ordered church, about the ministry, these who serve in the church [1 Timothy 5:17-25]. [In the] seventeenth verse, he begins: “Let the elders…” [1 Timothy 5:17]. Now he’s talking about the prĕsbutĕroi, the pastor, the three words—sometimes the pastor’s called an ĕpiskŏpŏs, translated a bishop; sometimes he called a prĕsbutĕrŏs, translated an elder; sometimes he’s called a pŏimēn, translated “pastor.” They all refer to the same office. “Let the ĕpiskŏpŏs, the prĕsbutĕrŏs, the pŏimēn—let the pastor that rules well be counted worthy of diplŏus timē (double salary)” [1 Timothy 5:17]. That’s what it says! I didn’t write this. I couldn’t have done better—”diplŏus timē!” When it says that word “timē,” translated “honor” over here: “Honor widows that are widows indeed, and desolate” [1 Timothy 5:3]. It meant “support them.” Now, the word means “honor,” “reverence”—or it means “pay,” “salary,” “reward,” “recompense,” “stipend”: “Let the elders that rule well (that do well) be counted worthy.”
Now that word “diplŏus” means “double.” It also means “ample,” “sufficient (sufficient reward).” “Especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine” [1 Timothy 5:17]. When you see a preacher whose just poring over his sermons; he’s struggling at it; he’s working at it, and he’s just laboring over those sermons, why, that’s the fellow that’s worth double salary. For he says, and he quotes Deuteronomy 25:4: “For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not the muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn” [1 Timothy 5:18]. Then he quotes from the Lord Jesus, Luke 10:7: “The laborer is worthy of his reward” [1 Timothy 5:18]—or as Jesus said: “of his hire” [Luke 10:7].
Now could I say this word about me, since we facetiously mentioned it? No pastor in this world has ever received more gracious remembrance from the hands of a beloved congregation than your pastor has. I am amply supported. This church always does the generous, and the gracious, and the precious thing. I just wish—and could pray—that all the pastors of all the churches of the world could be so encouraged and loved and dealt with like this congregation does their pastor. You do it wonderfully and beautifully. And I could never, in prayer or in life, express adequately my gratitude and appreciation and love for you.
Then he goes on and he says: “Against an elder (a pastor) receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses” [1 Timothy 5:19]. He’s talking there about criticizing the preacher. Now, the preacher needs criticizing, I know. And like any other mortal man, he’s put together with fault and failure. But I tell you what you do when you disobey the Word of the Lord: like, you go home and there is the family at the table; if you criticize your preacher before the children, it does something to their little heads and their little hearts. And they don’t get over it. It’s a terrible thing to do. Terrible!
When you have a cause to criticize the preacher, just you and your wife, when the door is closed, you talk about it. And then maybe go to the chairman of the deacons or to one of the leaders of the church and say: “That guy that we have for a preacher, he preaches the sorriest sermons, and I don’t like the way he doubles his fists, and I don’t like the way he yells, and hollers, and rants, and screams in the pulpit, and I don’t like the way he dresses!” You just tell them, you know, but don’t do it before the children; and don’t do it promiscuously. You’ll have a greater church if you’ll stay loyal, and prayerful, and full of encouragement for your preacher, even though your preacher’s a stick.
I’ve been a pastor thirty years, and I have watched these churches. I have never seen a great church yet—nor have I seen a great church with God in it, prosper yet—when the people were constantly picking at their preacher, finding fault with their pastor; getting ready to fire him. On and on and on, that kind of a church doesn’t have in it the blessing of God. If your pastor is sorry and no account, I tell you truly, you’ll do better as a church and as a congregation of the Lord to love him, and pray for him, and wait upon him, and let God do what God does. You’ll have a better church to do it that way than when you take it in your hands.
You know, my father was a very quiet and unobtrusive man. You never heard him—I never heard him pray out loud until after I was a preacher; and then just at home. Very quiet! But upon a day, I remember he was appointed chairman of a committee to tell the preacher to resign and get rid of him. And in his humble and sweet and retiring way, as the chairman of the committee, he went to the pastor, my pastor, and told him: “It’s done. We want you to go.”
And the preacher left. I remember I felt those things when I was a boy. And my father said to me in after years, he said: “Son, that’s the last time I’d ever do a thing like that. That’s the last time. I’ll never do a thing like that.” He never got over it either. These things are things of prayer, and of commitment to God, and of wisdom. And then just let the Lord lead, and He will, and He will.
“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses” [1 Timothy 5:19]. And then when that thing is made before two or three witnesses, and the discussion is made, and the conclusion is come to, let it be in great prayer and in the will of the Lord: He will take it, He will see it through, and He will give us an ultimate answer.
Now, in the twenty-second verse: “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself free” [1 Timothy 5:22]. What Paul says here is: we’re not to ordain, lay hands tachĕōs —quickly, hastily—on a man. And he says there: “Neither be partaker of other men’s sins” [1 Timothy 5:22]. That is, when we lay our hands upon this man, and he’s not worthy, why, the error that he leads people into, you have a fault in it yourself. You are a partaker of it yourself.
You know, you could stop and preach a little sermon right there—sharing in other men’s sins—your fault. Take an executive, and he drinks, and he gambles, and his subordinates follow him. You don’t need to worry about the example of that man in the gutter. No young fellow who’s aspiring to be head of the insurance company, or president of the bank, or governor of the state is going to follow a fellow like that. But you take a big successful businessman, and he’s gambling like we have some here in Dallas. Or he’s drinking like you see, oh, practically all of them do here in Dallas. What do you think these young executives coming along are going to do? They’re going to do the same thing; they’re going to do the same thing. And it cuts at the very foundation of the national life—gambling and drinking. You’re a partaker of other men’s sins when you share the influence of your life.
Augustine one time prayed: “O God, forgive me my other men’s sins!” What he meant by that was: “O God, forgive me my sins, but also forgive me the sins that I’ve lead other men into!” O God, forgive me my sins, the sins of my children, the sins of my church, the sins of my company, the sins of men who know me. “Forgive me my other men’s sins!”
Then he has the funniest little word here, talking about Timothy, reminded him of Timothy’s frail body: “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23]. And these old topers go out here and quote that as being a sure-fire Scripture text why all of us ought to drink. Oh, man!
Now let’s look what he says just for a second: he uses a Greek word, water drinker. That’s the way it is: Timothy was a “water drinker.” A water drinker—and he was sick and infirm, and often that way [1 Timothy 5:23]. Now what does Paul tell him? Does he tell him to drink wine or take wine? No! Chraŏmai (“use”)—just like a medicinal prescription: “Use ŏligŏs (a little)—a little wine. Use a little wine” [1 Timothy 5:23]. I suppose if Paul had known of these miracle drugs, and Timothy had ulcers or he had undulant fever, why, he’d got a prescription from a physician and said: “Now use this Achromycin, or this sulfanilamide, or something else.” But the only medicine that Paul knew that could quieten the nerves of this boy who was sick, and to help him, was the use of a little wine.
And so if you’ve got the jim-jams, and the heebie-jeebies, and ulcers, and tuberculosis, and diphtheria, and cancer, and infantile paralysis, and cerebral hemorrhages, and meningitis, and just a little wine will make you well, the Bible says it’s all right, but under no other conditions, under no other conditions—you’re not to touch it. Not to touch it! If for a medicinal purpose, all right—but not otherwise.
Then he closes, and I must close. He says a cryptic thing here. But when you look at what he’s talking about, it is very apparent:
Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
[1 Timothy 5:24-25]
Well, what does he mean by that? This is it; Paul is talking about the selection of the ministry, the ordaining of the ministry. And this is what he says. He says some men come before you, and they are so manifestly bad, it is openly what they are. There are some that are bad, and it is underneath, and it comes out later. Then he turns it around and says the opposite of it; likewise there are some who come before you who are openly fine and good, and there are others who come before you, and the fine metal of their souls and the wonderful goodness of their lives is hidden away, and it takes time for it to come out. And he says, “Timothy, do not make the mistake of judging by outward impression, because underneath, the man may be different than what you think” [1 Timothy 5:24-25].
When I think about Samuel ordaining a son of Jesse and Eliab stood before him, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is here!” And God said, “No, Samuel. A man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart” [1 Samuel 16:6-7]. And the Lord rejected Abinadab, the second son, and Shammah, the third son and all seven of them [1 Samuel 16:8-10]. And when they’d come to the end of the way, Samuel said, “I do not understand. God sent me to ordain a son of Jesse; and every one of your boys have gone before me, and God says, ‘This is not the one.’” And Jesse says, “Well, I have another son, he is keeping the sheep” [1 Samuel 16:11]. Nobody thought about him. God said, “That is My man” [1 Samuel 16:12]. You are not to judge by the outward appearance. Don’t criticize a man for his limp until first you walk in his shoes. It may be a tack in that shoe that you don’t know of. Don’t judge by the outside—ah, these Words of the Lord!
Now, we sing a hymn of invitation, and while we sing our hymn of invitation, somebody give his heart to Jesus. Somebody to put his life in the church, however God would say the word and lead the way, would you come and make it now? If you are in this balcony, those stairwells at the back or up here in the front, come down one of these stairwells and stand by me. If you are on this lower floor, from side to side, step into the aisle and down here to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God.” Or, “Here I come, putting my life in the church,” one somebody you or a family you, while we stand and while we sing.
I. The spiritual members of the family
and how to treat them(1 Timothy 5:1-2)
Christian group described under many figures – most frequently as members of a
Christian courtesy and deference
Older man as a father
Younger man as a brother
Older woman as a mother
Younger woman as a sister
II. The suffering members of the family
and how to help them(1 Timothy 5:3-16)
faith is a personal religion, but has tremendous social implications
modern day these corollaries and byproducts of the faith have been made the
gospel itself – the “social gospel”
Social gospeler from the East on a Navaho reservation
William Booth, founder of Salvation Army
Paul speaks of social work, obligations, it is never the primary drive(Romans 12, Ephesians)
Speaks a long word about widows especially(1
Timothy 5:4-5, 8, 14, Exodus 20:12)
III. The official serving family (1 Timothy 5:17-25)
A. Recompense(1 Timothy 5:17-18)
pastor that does well, who labors in the Word is worth double salary(Deuteronomy 25:4, Luke 10:7)
B. Criticism(1 Timothy 5:19-21)
Ordination(1 Timothy 5:22-25)
We’re not to ordain hastily
Sharing in other men’s sins
Using wine for medicinal purposes only (1
regard to selection of the ministry, do not judge by outward impression (1 Timothy 5:24-25, 1 Samuel 6:6-12)