Day 348 (Dec. 14): Leaders in the church should be righteous men, be weary of those who make up ungodly rules, Paul tells Timothy to stay on path to salvation, respect elders, widows and slaves, those who long to be rich fall to destruction

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Timothy 3-6:10

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Timothy 3:1-13): What are the duties of elders and deacons?  These positions haven’t been discussed before to my knowledge.  But, it’s common sense to know that the church has people organizing it and upholding its values.  Also, the footnote on v. 3:11 says “women deacons” instead of wives.  Can women take the role of pastor, elder, deacon, etc. in a church, according to the Bible?  I know some denominations do allow women and some don’t.  We just read in yesterday’s reading (1 Timothy 2:12) where women are not to have authority over men.

A. The NT writings recognize 3 major offices (there’s another, but its not clearly defined): bishop, pastor/elder, and deacon.  Bishop came to mean the leader of a particular church, pastor/elder a leader within the community with preaching responsibilities, and the deacon is generally accepted to be a “lower level” of service (deacon means servant).  The catch is that the NT DOES NOT define the roles of these offices, only their qualifications, as we see in this passage.  So various churches have taken this information and interpreted it in various ways — some denominations ordain these offices, while some see them as lay positions.  Some denominations do not have a bishop at all (they tend to be autonomous denominations such as Baptists, who do not have a ruling body).  In my background church, the United Methodist, the church has the three offices, all ordained positions: the Bishop is the presiding member of a section of the US (Florida for instances), and the Elder and Deacons are ordained ministers that serve in the various churches.  You must be ordained as an elder to be a head pastor.

That serves as a transition point to your other question: can women serve as leaders in the church?  As I answered yesterday, that depends on who you ask: the UM church happily ordains women as elders, while the Southern Baptist Convention would not.  The interpretation of verses such as the ones for this section would come into play as well: Baptists would disagree that the verse you mentioned refers to female deacons, because they don’t have female deacons, while other denominations who do ordain women have their own reasons for doing so.  So my answer yesterday hasn’t changed: whether women can serve in church leadership depends on who you ask the question.

Q. (3:16): What does “vindicated by the Spirit” mean?

A. He was shown to have been correct about proclaiming Himself Messiah when He conquered death by the power of the Spirit.

Q. (4:4): We always say that God created everything.  But, did He?  How about, glass, plastics, rubber, computers, electronics, silly puddy J?  I agree that everything God created is good (well, I really don’t understand mosquitos, gnats, sharks, skunks, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) but I do question if synthetic things are all good.

A. If you remember the Genesis story, one of the first things God did with Adam was involve him in the process of naming creation — that is, he was given a role to play in God’s creation story.  That role continues to this day: part of the way that God created us in His image was to make us creative, and all that has followed in the course of human history is the story of how we have both failed and succeeded to honor that image within us.  God may not have made the synthetic things, but He made us to be creative and we did so.  With synthetic creations in particular, I see both benefit and drawback in what we have made: we have great benefit to the church in the internet and the ability to share stories and information, but I don’t think I have to try very hard for you to see the downsides of such technology (pornography, hate sites, etc.).  Technology always serves to fill both the good and evil roles within our world, just as the capacity for good and evil reside within each of us.

Q. (5:3-4): There are a lot of older folks in nursing homes.  Does this mean that the families of these elders have failed them?  I know many older parents don’t want to be a burden on their kids.  To me, families are supposed to take care of one another.  Today, though, families are separated by thousands of miles and even different countries making it hard to take care of the elderly.  If there is a will, there is a way.

A. No doubt some people should be convicted by these words and see ways that they have failed their elderly family members, but Paul is describing the situation in a very different world.  First, the human lifespan is way beyond what would’ve been considered “old” back then, and some elderly people have no other way of surviving outside of intense care that often cannot be provided by family.  We certainly have an obligation to do all that we can for our parents in particular (since honoring our parents honors God), but I would not take these verses as being “law” about the ways that we should be forced to take care of elderly family members.  If the Spirit convicts you, though, you should listen — I was convicted that I haven’t called my elderly grandmother in a while, and need to do so.

Q. (5:5): The church I grew up in was in a small town of around 1,000 people.  Every time I went back there were fewer people, but the back pews were filled with widows.  Is there something to say about the older you get the closer you get to God?

A. I guess you could say that you are more set in your ways and unlikely to change.  Besides, in many cases, the elderly have no one left to depend on besides God, and many of them know that the “meeting” is coming soon.

Q. (5:20): What does reprimand mean here?  I remember watching a news report about a guy who took the Bible and twisted it to where parents are super harsh on their children and they would quote the Bible.  It had a following and there was a girl who died because her parents either starved her or left her out in the cold for punishment — I don’t remember which or if it was both.  This verse could be used as a pass for some churches to physically punish someone.

A. That is not what is being described, and what you are describing is a terrible, tragic abuse of power in a way that does NOT honor God.  What Paul is describing is the public proclamation of unrepentant sin, which was a pattern in church “justice” for centuries.  Frankly, I feel that, while it can make us uncomfortable, it is something that is greatly missed in churches that do not use it (some still do, including some megachurches).  It is very difficult to have a coherent, growing congregation if there is unrepentant sin in your midst.  We must do all we can to help protect that community, Paul is saying, including the act of public shaming to bring people back to God, or remove them from the community.

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