Author: Ron Graham
Verse by verse study of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. In this lesson we examine the second last chapter (1Timothy 5:1-16). We begin to look at proper order in the church, which is the subject of the last two chapters of the letter. In this lesson we focus on the church as a family. Our next lesson will look at the same verses from another angle.
There is a popular concept of the church as an organisation with a range of products which a person can select from and use. For example if you want to worship God, you go along to the church at the scheduled time, and the church provides a "service" for you. You think of yourself as a customer or client, and the church as a provider of religious and social services.
The proper concept of the church, however, is that of a spiritual family. You regard yourself as a family member, and as such you are both priveleged and responsible. You have a personal and involved relationship with the other members of your church family.
An important part of the godly order in the church of Christ is that each member regards the church as his heavenly family. The members of the church are regarded as his brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers, in a very real way (1Timothy 5:1-2).
When the church is ordered like a family, provided the concept is not abused as we shall mention in a moment, the church grows up in Christ as God intended. For example, Timothy’s relationship to the older men will be characterised by respect, to the younger men by friendship, to the older women by love, and to the younger women by purity. Amid such an order of relationships his ministry will thrive and bear much fruit.
Whilst the church is properly regarded as a heavenly family, it is vital that we do not blur the distinction between the church family and those earthly family units to which members personally belong. It is an abuse of the family concept of the church to regard the local church as a substitute for the family households that in God’s order are basic units of human society.
Timothy is to teach that piety begins at home where family members help, support, and provide for each other. Those who think the church should take over this role (except in very special cases) should instead be working and teaching to strengthen individual responsibility and the family unit in society (1Timothy 5:3-16).
There are four verses in chapter five in which Paul lays it down that families must support their own. The same God who instituted the church also instituted the family or household. Timothy is to teach that the family unit must be strengthened and must be responsible for looking after its own. Those who do not observe this rule have "denied the faith".
We observe many families who expect the state or church to be burdened with responsibilities that those families should be accepting themselves. There is a responsibility for the state to provide welfare, and there is a responsibility for the church to be benevolent, however these responsibilities are limited to special circumstances.
The church should teach people to be responsible for themselves and for their own family members, and families should be encouraged to become strong units able to fulfill this responsibility. One of the basics, is that there should be an end to bludging, and each family member should work as hard as he or she is able, whether in paid employment or in working around the home and community (1Timothy 5:4,8,14,16).
The church was never intended to take over from the family. The two institutions have their own special purposes and functions. However, some people do not have a family and are alone. In this case the church family is the only family they have, and so the church family must assume responsibility for their care when they are in need and have no other help. The church is not a charity for one and all. However there are certain needy, like the "widows indeed" whom the church should support (1Timothy 5:3,9-10).