Victoria Fellowship Church
International & Interdenominational
Bible Study Worksheet – October 30, 2016
Theme: A Call to Christian Commitment – 1 & 2 Timothy
Topic: Face Relationship Issues: Good Works are Evident
Main Texts: 1 Timothy 5:1 – 6:2
Key Verse: 1 Timothy 5:25: “In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.” (NIV)
In our study last Sunday of the topic “False Teachers and True Teachers: Give Attention to Doctrine” (anchored in 1 Timothy 4:1-16), we noted that false doctrines and teachers have been around for almost as long as the Church. We discussed the relevance of Paul’s warning for today. Some key lessons from that study are:
- False doctrines that threaten our faith or the well-being of the Church rarely originate from outside the Church; they usually originate from the Church, by individuals whom we may have respected as leaders and sometimes, who may have been our mentor.
- The ultimate test of the soundness of a doctrine must be the Bible. “Rightly dividing the word of truth” or “correctly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) means applying the Scriptures in a manner that fits the intent, not manipulating it to suit our pre-conceived notions. Many false doctrines are as a result of people twisting the Bible out of context.
- Our faith and principles for living must be anchored, not in the words of some respected leader – no matter how credible -, but in the Bible. Do not believe that bribery is evil because a Church leader says so; believe it because the Bible says so. Those that teach and preach the Bible must focus their listeners’ attention on the Bible and not on their own words.
- Personal revelations must not become doctrines: The Holy Spirit may minister a specific revelation of a scripture to an individual to address the person’s specific situation. We must never create a universal doctrine around such a revelation.
This Sunday, our study will be anchored mostly on 1 Timothy 5, under the topic “Face Relationship Issues: Good Works are Evident”. Something we note about Paul’s discourse to Timothy is the openness with which he addressed issues that many Churches avoid dealing with. His openness in addressing these issues should be a lesson for Church leaders who seek to be effective. In this passage, Paul counsels on the challenges of moral misconduct by Church leaders, the challenge widows face, and practical ways of dealing with them. Our key learning should include the following:
- It is unhealthy for Church leadership to turn a blind eye or play deaf to issues of concern about individual misconduct in the Church as it gives room for gossips which undermine the testimony of the Church. Leaders must be bold to address such issues in a biblical way.
- Church welfare support should be extended to only those that are truly deserving, and should be administered with due diligence. This should include encouraging those in need to make use of support expected from their natural relations, and encouraging them to build their lives towards material independence.
- The Church should encourage widows who are young to be open to remarriage so as to provide some continuity for companionship, material support, and a fatherly leadership in the family. Pending this, other Church members should rally round the widows and provide whatever practical support they can for them.
Apostle Paul emphasises that the Christian faith starts with our relationship with God and, if that relationship is authentic, it should reflect in our relationship with others: respect for others, care for the elderly and widows, care for our family, etc. Paul here makes the point that Church leadership must address the practical issues its members face. Recognising the challenges widows face and the potential scandals that could result from their falling into sin, he counsels the younger ones among them to re-marry. Bearing in mind the damage that could result from poor conduct of respected Church elders, he cautions against rushing into judgement against them but mandates a firm open rebuke of those found wanting (vv19-20). We see in this passage Paul warning against tolerating the “elephant in the room” – a situation where Church members gossip about scandalous conduct in the Church because the Church avoids confronting them.
1. Give examples of perceived unbiblical conduct in Churches today, along the lines addressed by Paul in 1 Timothy 5, to which Church leaderships tend to turn a blind eye, and why.
A considerable part of our main text focuses on widows. Paul had two main concerns about widows: The need for them to not allow their widowhood to become a license for loose living, and their material sustenance. The early Churches maintained a list of widows for the purpose of welfare ministration. Paul recommends strict criteria for having a name on that list; it was not enough to just be a widow. She was required to have lived a committed Christian life, known for good deeds, been a faithful and good wife and mother, and be over 60 years old. The intent here is that the Church’s welfare scheme should not be seen as just sharing out a largesse to both the deserving and the undeserving. He makes the point that people should first look up to relatives who are in a position to help them, seek to re-build their lives after losing their partner and not leave the entire burden of survival to Church welfare. The Church should not be seen as an alternative to a healthy family life where people live up to their responsibilities for mutual support.
2. (a) If your local Church has a welfare programme, do you think sufficient due diligence is carried out before a member benefits from the scheme? (b) What are the dangers of a lax welfare scheme in the Church?
It may seem that Paul was hard on widows as he implied that they have a tendency for loose living. However, he was in fact acknowledging the challenges many widows face. These challenges are not just about their means of livelihood – many widows are materially self-sufficient – but also emotional fulfilment. The vacuum left by the demise of a partner could lead to unhealthy associations as one seeks companionship and would love to have a father figure for her children. This is why Paul counselled them to re-marry. This would indeed be ideal, but remarriage for a widow is easier said than done in many cultures, especially if she has young children. Their erstwhile female friends could see them as a threat to their own families, while many single men would rather not accept responsibility for another man’s children.
3. In what practical ways can a widow deal with her material and emotional challenges?
Prayer: Father, grant us the wisdom to handle the challenges of living and managing practical relationship issues in the Church, in ways directed by Your Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.