Today we will finish Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul began the letter speaking about false teaching (1:3-11), and here he returns to this theme again. The false teachers are deceived by the powers of darkness. Paul tells Timothy how bad it is going to get. There will be apostates that leave the visible church by devoting themselves to the false doctrine of demons (4:1), working through false teachers whose are liars (v. 2). Note some of the false teaching Paul says will appear. Some false teachers will forbid marriage (v. 3). They will also require refraining from food. This self-denial was big in early heresies, and still exists today. This is speaking against heretical asceticism, which considers anything physical to be evil. God gave us marriage (and sex in marriage) and food to be enjoyed (vv. 4-5).
Paul encourages Timothy to warn the church about these heresies and teach right doctrine (v. 6). He tells him not to engage with the “silly myths” – the obvious lies (v. 7 – see 1:4). Paul tells Timothy that working to be spiritually healthy is much more important than working to be physically healthy (vv. 7-8). We seek this godliness because we know our salvation will be completed by Christ (v. 10). Timothy must teach this to the church (v. 11).
Paul then warns Timothy not to let his youth be a hindrance (v. 12). Because of his physical youth, he needs to be sure that he is setting an example of spiritual maturity. In verse 13, we see what the elder’s role in the church is: publicly read the Scriptures, exhort the congregation to holy living, and teach the Word (v. 14). Timothy is not to neglect his gifting by God to be an elder (v. 15). Also note that his gift was recognized by other elders. Paul calls for Timothy to work to improve how he uses his gifting (v. 15), especially his teaching (v. 16).
Paul now addresses interpersonal relationships within the church. A man of God will treat everyone in the congregation as true family (5:1-2). Widows are to be provided for (v. 3) if they have no family to provide for them (v. 4) All a true widow has is God (v. 5). Paul then says that true Christians take care of their family (v. 8, 16). Paul then gives rules for who to consider a widow. She has to be sixty or over, and has to have been a “one woman man” (v. 9). This means that he was married once or only remarried according to God’s Word. She also has to have proven herself a servant of the church (v. 10). If a woman is younger, she is likely to want to remarry (v. 11). When Paul warns that such women may “abandon their former faith,” he is referring to her having only God and then her reversion back to the cares of married life (v. 12 – see 1 Cor 7:28). Younger women who remain unmarried will also be tempted to fill their time in sinful ways (v. 13). It is better that they marry (v. 14) than sin (v. 15).
Paul now speaks of how elders should be treated by the church. They should be shown “double honor” (v. 17). Paul is referring to monetary remuneration (v. 18). We should not be quick to believe that an elder has done wrong unless there are multiple witnesses (v. 19). In verse 20, Paul is still speaking of elders. If they have done something wrong and persist in their sin, they are in no way above rebuke. However, the charges should be considered on their own merit (v. 21). Also, elders should not be to quick to ordain others to eldership, and should guard against other elders leading them into sin (v. 22).
Paul then adds this parenthetical about drinking wine (v. 23). This may be a reference back to the asceticism from 4:3-5. The drinking of alcohol was forbidden along with marriage, more food than absolutely necessary, etc. Paul may be telling Timothy not to buy into the supposed “higher salvation” of asceticism. Elders are called to a higher standard of living, but that does not include refraining from enjoying good things. Either way, it is clear that drinking alcohol is not inherently sinful.
Paul then calls for Timothy to remain alert and recognize that there are hidden sins that will eventually (as they always are) be revealed (vv. 24-25). Paul returns to interpersonal relationships in the church and calls for servants to honor their masters as a testimony to God’s truth (6:1). Servants should not presume upon their masters just because they are both Christians, but serve all the more honorably (v. 2).
Paul again returns to false teaching. He encourages Timothy to teach all he has said in this letter (v. 2). If someone teaches contrary to Paul or Christ, he is ignorant and just likes to argue (vv. 3-5 – see 1:3-7). These people only want to gain materially from teaching such doctrine. But real gain is being content to live a holy life (v. 6). The things of this world are fleeting (v. 7) and we (especially elders) should be content with whatever we have (v. 8). To desire riches leads to sin (vv. 9-10). Note that it is not having money that leads to sin, it is loving money that leads to sin (see vv. 17-19).
So Paul tells Timothy to flee from seeking worldly goods, and seek heavenly goods: righteousness, holiness, faith, etc. (v. 11) that he may fulfill his calling (v. 12). Paul charges Timothy before God and Christ to “keep the commandment” (v. 14). This is the new commandment to love. Doing this will keep Timothy – and the church – from sin until the end of this age (v. 14) when Christ returns in glory (vv. 15-16). This is seeking heavenly treasure instead of earthly. This is a call for even the rich (vv. 17-19).
Paul ends by bringing it all together. Timothy, as an elder, is to guard the deposit (a monetary term) entrusted to him. This is his salvation, love, and faith. Guarding this deposit will keep him from straying into ignorant, false teaching (v. 20). By straying into such teaching, some have been shown to have no faith (v. 21).