I wonder if you can remember your first day at secondary school? One of things I can remember is sitting in school assembly, wearing a blazer that had been handed down to me by my older brother, and was still far too big, …and a tie that I had spent the weekend trying to learn how to tie properly. The blazer had the school logo sewn onto the pocket, and the tie was in the school colours. And I remember the headmaster of the school, Mr Stirling, explaining to 100 terrified new year 7s, that as long as we were wearing our school uniforms we were ambassadors for the school. So if we got in trouble on the bus on the way to school,…or if we were caught mucking around on the train which I took every day. It didn't matter that we weren't actually AT school, we were wearing the school uniform, we were ambassadors of the school, and so we'd get in trouble from the school!
Paul's first letter to Timothy has been all about guarding the church. Fighting the good fight and holding on to the faith. And to do that Paul told Timothy that he had to make sure that the church was in order, and that the right people were in leadership. He told Timothy that false teachers were to be expected, and recognised. And he even told him that he had to make sure that he didn't become a false teacher himself, by watching his life and doctrine closely. But then in 5 v.3 the letter seems to change.
All of a sudden Paul writes about how we should treat widows, that's what we saw last week. And then in 5 vv 17-25 he talks about how we should treat elders, and then in 6 vv 1-2 he talks about how slaves should treat their masters. And it seems like a strange interruption into the main theme of the letter until you get to the very end. Look at the last line of 6 v 2. These instructions aren't just for Timothy, these are things he is to teach the whole church. And these three groups, widows, elders and masters are linked by one very important theme.
Look at 5 v 17, Timothy is to teach the church that elders who serve well are worthy of double honour.Now look down at 6 v 1, Paul says "All those under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect." And the word respect there is actually the same word in 5 v 17, it is the word, honour. And back over the page, in 5 v 3, Paul says "Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need" but again the word 'recognition' is the same word that's latter translated as honour. So from 5 v 3 to 6 v 2 Timothy is told to teach the church that they should honour three groups of people; widows, elders and masters.
Because, who we honour on earth, reflects who we worship in heaven…You see…It wasn't just Timothy's job to protect the church and guard the gospel. Now Paul says, it's the job of everyone who calls themselves a Christian. When we become Christians we gain a new identity. We are children of God. Wherever we go, we carry Jesus' name. We are 'Christ'-ians. It's a bit like wearing a school uniform. Wherever we go, and whatever we do, we are wearing Christ's colours, we are carrying Christ's name, we are ambassadors. And how we live, and in this case, who we honour, reflects on Christ.
It was Timothy's role, and it's the role of church leaders today to defend the church from false teachers. But it's the role of all of us to defend the church and God from false accusations. Who we honour on earth reflects on who we worship in heaven.
It's our job as Christians to make sure that God's name and the teaching of the Bible aren't slandered by the way we live, but are praised. Now how do we do that?Well, last week we saw that one way we do that is by honouring widows in the church. Helping them and supporting them. And this week Paul says we defend God's name and the teaching of the Bible. By honouring our pastors, and by honouring our boss.
First of all then, Paul says…
1) Honour your pastor, 5 v.17-25
Look at v.17. What is the 'double-honour' that Paul is talking about? I think the answer is in vv 18 and 19. I think that the double honour Paul refers to is about paying our pastors a decent wage, and being careful to think well of our pastors. Over 100 years ago Charles Schwab was the owner of a company called Bethlehem Steel, and Ivy Lee was an expert in time management. And the story goes that Lee approached Schwab and said "I can make all of your managers more efficient in just 15 minutes." Schwab, being a good businessman, said "How much will it cost." And Lee said, "Nothing… unless it works. In three months time you can send me a cheque for how much you think it's worth." Lee met with all the managers in Schwab's firm and told them at the end of each day to make a list of the 6 most important things you have to do the next day. And then start the next day by ticking off those 6 things. That was it. And after studying the results, three months later Schwab wrote Lee a cheque for $25,000.
What we are willing to pay for something reflects what we think it is worth. And so here Paul tells Timothy to teach his people that "The worker deserves his wages" not because he's trying to get a pay rise for himself or Timothy. But because it's right for the church to honour their elders and pay them a decent wage…because it reflects to the world around them what they think they are worth.
It would be wrong wouldn't it, if every year Rod upgraded his car to the newest Mercedes Benz. It would reflect badly on the church, and bring into question what we teach. But it would be equally wrong if Rod was constantly late for meetings or never turned up because his car was so old that it kept breaking down. Of course it would be wrong if Rod stood up in flashy new designer clothes each week. But it would also be wrong for him to stand up looking taty and threadbare. Not primarily for Rod's sake. Old worn-out clothes keep you just as warm as new ones most of the time. But for the sake of God's name and his church. After all, what would that say about what we think of Rod, and what he teaches us?
And I think that's why Paul says in v17, 'especially those whose work is teaching and preaching.' Not because teaching and preaching is more important than the other jobs a pastor does, like praying for his congregation… But again, because of the message it gives to the world around us. If you don't give money so that Rod and I can give our time to preaching the Word of God, well then, what does that say about how much you value the Word of God? And what does that say to your friends, about whether or not they should bother to come along to HTG to hear us preaching the Word of God?
We should honour our pastors by financially supporting them, but Paul also says in v19 that we should honour our pastors by not entertaining accusations against them. Being a church leader is a high calling. In Hebrews 13 v 17…
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.
On the last day, Rod and to a lesser degree I, and soon Chris, and even Tom, will have to stand and give an account before God for your spiritual health. Because it's our job to care for you, and to teach you and to encourage you and to correct you, And we will be held responsible, I part, for your faith. So it's right that you should honour your pastor. And it's important that you think well of us. Again, not for our sake, primarily, but for the sake of God's name, and his Word that we preach. And for the sake of your friends who aren't Christian, so that they might want to come to HTG and learn about Jesus from us too.
As Christians we are ambassadors for God and his church. And so we must honour our pastors. But did you notice in v17 that Paul says we are to honour the elders "who direct the affairs of the church well" In other words we don't honour our pastors just because they are our pastors. We're not a cult following a personality. Rod and I are not above contradiction.Quite the opposite in fact. If an accusation is brought against us by two or more witnesses, and if the sin is serious and public and persistent, then it must be dealt with seriously, and publically too. If not honouring an elder who is serving well risks dishonouring God's name and his church… Well then how much more disgrace do bad elders bring upon God and his church? And that's why in vv21-25 Paul says we need to be incredibly careful when we choose people to be leaders in the church.
Timothy was to be careful, and so are we, that we can never be accused of favouritism, v21. We need to be careful that we never ordain someone into ministry, which is what I think the laying on of hands refers to in v22… Until we have taken time to see get to know them and seen their lives, which I think is the warning in vv24 and 25. We must take time, Paul says , not to elect people too quickly, otherwise we join them in their sin. And I think v23 shows us that even Timothy had fallen into that trap. Listening to false teachers with their made-up rules as we saw back in 4 v 3, who had forbidden him from drinking any alcohol at all. Who we honour on earth reflects on who we worship in heaven.
So we should honour our pastor. And let me say, I think this is so important that if you are ever in the situation where you don't honour your pastor, or you can't honour your pastor, then I think you should leave the church. It is a very serious decision, and must never be made without a great deal of prayer and thought, but if you cannot honour you pastor, you should leave that church and go to another. For your sake, and for your families' sake, and for God's names' sake. And if you keep having to leave churches because you find that you can never honour the pastor, well then let me suggest that perhaps the problem is with you and not your pastors.
As Christians we should honour our pastors.Secondly, Paul says…
2) Honour your boss, 6 vv 1-2
Now I know that the Bible's attitude towards slavery is not an easy topic, and many Christians wonder why it doesn't speak more directly against it. Certainly it's a complicated issue, and not really the focus of what Paul is talking about here. He says much more about it in his letter to Philemon for example. But it's worth noting briefly that Paul certainly isn't endorsing slavery here.
He talks about people being under "the yoke of slavery" here, and he's already said back in chapter 1 v 10 that slave traders are to be thought of alongside murderers, adulterers, perverts, liars and perjurers. And yet, despite his negative view of slavery Paul says that
all who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worth of full respect.
Or honour. And notice that Paul doesn't say, 'all those who's masters treat them well, or who pay them well…should consider their masters worthy of full respect.' In other words, it doesn't matter who your master is, or how he might treat you, you should treat them with honour. Why?
Being a Christian is a difficult calling. You carry Christ's name with you wherever you go, and as part of that you should treat those whom God has put over you with honour. We might expect Paul to say…now that you know the gospel and your identity is in Jesus…Now that you're God's child and you know, as it says in Gal 3 v 28,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Then you should run away from your master…You're a free man! You're a free woman, you belong to Jesus! But no. He says, continue to serve your master with full respect. Why? Not because they are a good master… And not because they treat you well. But so that God's name and the apostle's teaching might not be slandered. If you were a slave, then how you treat your master reflects upon God, and his Word, and his Church. So you should honour your masters.
And even if you're master is a Christian, Paul says in v2, and you both know that you are equal before God and brothers in Christ… That doesn't mean you shouldn't honour them, it means you should honour them even more, because you love them as a brother. Imagine the non-Christian master. Who has a slave who serves him better than all the others. He is efficient and thoughtful and hard working and does not grumble. And imagine if his master sees that slave, and see's the difference in him, and also knows that every Sunday during his time off his slave walks into town to go to his church. Or imagine the master who is a Christian, whose friends notice that since he became a Christian he treats those who work for him with dignity and respect.
His slaves seem to love working for him. But what his friends notice more than anything else is that some of his slaves don't call him 'master' anymore but to call him, 'brother'! And even more scandalously, he calls them 'brother' in return! Who we honour on earth reflects on who we worship in heaven.
How about us? What might this attitude mean for us? How might this attitude change the way you treat your boss, or your teacher, or your parents, or the law?Do you consider those whom God has put above you as worthy of your full respect? Would they say you give them your full respect?
Of course this doesn't meant that if we've got a terrible boss who treats us dreadfully that we shouldn't quit our jobs but should just do as we're told. Not at all. But it does mean that if we find ourselves in that situation we make sure our boss can still write a positive reference for us when we ask to leave, and that he still wishes that we wouldn't. Who we honour on earth reflects on who we worship in heaven. And Paul says, you should honour your boss. Being a Christian is a high calling.
We carry God's reputation with us wherever we go. Like school kids in their uniforms, Christians wear Christ's colours. God's name and the Bible's teaching can be slandered by our lives. But they can also be praised. God's name and the Bible's teaching can be dragged through the mud by us, But they can also he held up as something wonderful! Guarding the church and defending the faith isn't just the job of our leaders! It's the job of every one of us who call ourselves Christians.
Paul says that you and I should honour our pastors, and honour our boss. Because who we honour on earth reflects on who we worship in heaven.