Way of Grace Church
Meet the Family (I Timothy 5:1, 2)
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I. Households and Roles
Who are the members of your household? Today, in many cases because of the struggling economy, we are often seeing a small shift back to a household composition that was more common 2-3 centuries ago. What I mean by that is that in some cases today, the home is not simply occupied by dad, mom, and the kids. In some cases, a grandmother and/or grandfather are living in the house. Sometimes a grandchild is present. Sometimes aunts or uncles or cousins are living under the same roof.
Now, no matter the makeup of your household, one of the most important things we need to think about in terms of ‘household composition’ is the question of roles. What role do you have in your own household?
Often when we think about families and roles, very often, we are talking about the roles of the husband and wife. But I can think of a few other examples of why understanding household roles is important.
Very recently, when I or my wife give instructions to our boys, my daughter will often follow our instructions up with her own complementary comments. Let me give you an example: I might yell up the stairs in the morning, “Aidan, you need to pick up your room before you go to school.”…to which my daughter will add, also yelling, “Yea, Aidan, you won’t be able to find your school supplies if you don’t clean up your room first.” And to this I usually respond, “Laurel, we don’t need any more mommies and daddies around here. Two is enough.”
Other role questions might come from grandparents who are trying to understand their role in instructing and disciplining their grandkids, OR parents who are trying to understanding the balance between being a friend to their child and being the authority figure.
So not only is the question of household composition important, but also the question of household roles.
This morning we are returning to the book or letter we call I Timothy. Turn with me there.
Now, last week we started exploring this concept of the church as family. The Bible utilizes a number of images when it describes the local church: a body, a flock, a temple. But the most common image, the most common lens through which we can rightly view and understand the church is the lens of family. Is that the first image that comes to your mind in terms of church?
174 times throughout the New Testament, fellow Christians are referred to as brothers and sisters. Christians are taught in numerous passages to address God as Father.
And last week, we saw this same family imagery used explicitly in I Timothy 3:14, and 15. Paul writes to Timothy: I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
The household of God is the family of God. The church is a family. It is the only family that will last forever! And we concluded last time by talking about the radical implications of seeing the church, not as a business or social club or common interest campaign, but as a family.
II. The Passage: "Father…Brothers…Mothers…Sisters” (5:1, 2)
This morning, I want us to flip two chapters forward to chapter 5, verses 1 and 2. Now, we did look at these verses last week, but listen to them again:
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
Paul is very clear back in 3: 14 and 15 that the purpose of his letter was instruction, and specifically instruction about how to live in the household of God, in the family of God. Most of us have, when it comes to our own households, or the households we grew up in, most of us have or have had “codes of conduct”. Maybe your dad said to you at one point, “As long you live under this roof, you will not talk like that….OR…you will have certain responsibilities… OR…you will share…you will be respectful…you will not play with matches.”
Well, that’s exactly what we see throughout this letter! We see Paul addressing different members of God’s family in light of different household roles. When we think of the church as family, AND how that concept affects our everyday relationship and obligations, the first thing we naturally think of is brotherly love. You’re my brother. You’re my sister. That should beautifully color the way I think about and relate to you.
But as we see from I Timothy 5:1, 2, there are other applications of this family imagery that have different implications for our perspective and practice when it comes to one another.
III. The First-Century Family
Let’s do this: let’s take a minute to talk about the composition of households in the first century when Paul was writing. What did an average household look like back in the Jewish, or more often, in the Greco-Roman world at this time? Well, what’s helpful is that we don’t have to go outside the Bible to some kind of secular history book to answer that question. The Bible itself helps us with that. Turn with me over to Ephesians 5.
We won’t read through all of this but look with me at verse 22. Look at who is addressed there: “wives”. Now look down to verse 25: “husbands”. Not look at chapter 6, verse 1: “Children” are being addressed. Look at verse 4: “fathers” are addressed (and in some sense, mothers are connected to that instruction). Look also at verse 5: Paul is talking to household “slaves” there. In verse 9, he turns to address “masters”.
Now turn with me over, two books, to Colossians 3.
Let’s do the same kind of inspection, starting in verse 18. Again, Paul addresses “wives”; in verse 19 it’s “husbands”; in verse 20 it’s “children”, in verse 21 it’s “fathers”. In verse 22 it’s “slaves”. In chapter 4, verse 1, it’s “masters”.
And if we were to look at I Peter 2:18-3:7, we would find similar instructions given to servants, to wives, and to husbands.
So in several places, the New Testament confirms at least three groups in many first century households: husbands and wives, parents and children, and slaves and masters. Of course, one individual might have two or three different household roles: a man might be a husband, and a father, and the master of household slaves. A woman might be a wife, but also a slave in another household.
Now, why is any of this important? It's important because, as I already mentioned, Paul is addressing different members of God's family. And if we belong to Jesus through faith, then he's speaking to us about the different roles we have within the church.
IV. Household Codes for God's Family
This morning, what I'd like to do is look at God's word in light of household composition and household roles in regard to God's family. Let's start with Paul and then see what else we learn from the New Testament about how this family imagery applies to us within the church. Let's listen and think about how these images should challenge us:
A. Husands (Men) and Wives (Women)
As we think about our three main first-century household groups, let's consider husbands and wives more carefully. Now when we think about husbands and wives, the only spiritual parallel to marriage in the NT is the covenant relationship between God and His people, between Christ and His church.
But we do find in I Timothy that Paul gives a code of conduct for men and women in God's household. Look with me at chapter 2, verse 8:
I desire then that in every place the men [are you listening men? The men...] should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (2:8-12)
So just as it's important for men and women in a home to undertand their God-given roles, so too is it important for men and women in the church to understand how they should behave in the household of God. Men should be defined by prayer and worship, not pride and quarreling. Women should not focus on external beauty, but on the beauty of Christlike love and service.
When Paul talks about women and quietness in 2:11 and 12, we know he is not saying that women cannot speak in the church. Passages like I Corinthians 11 tell us clearly that women prayed and prophesied when the church gathered.
No, Paul defines what he means by quietness here. Paul is speaking against those women who were trying to teach and exercise authority over the church. The New Testament does speak about women teaching other women and teaching children, but as we see here, it does prohibit women from teaching men or having spiritual authority over a man.
In a similar letter to another one of his co-ministers, Paul also writes about younger women and how they should learn to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (Titus 2:4b-6)
Again, these are simply reminders to us about how we are to live together in and as members of God's family.
B. Parents and Children
Think with me about the second group from that first-century household: parents and children. Is there a spiritual parellel to this idea of parents and children? Is there a spiritual parallel that helps us understand how we are to live in God's household?
Well, obviously, the most important spiritual parellel when it comes to parents and children is the fatherhood of God and our sonship through faith in Jesus, the Son of God. We can become God's children because of Jesus Christ. If you believe yourself to be a part of God's household, then you cannot think of yourself as some kind of visiting relative or as someone who is merely renting a room. No, you are God's own child.
And if God himself is our loving heavenly Father, then that has to affect how you love your brothers and sisters in Christ. That reality should produce profound humility in us. As fellow members in God's household, we don't have to be motivated by fear or greed or jealously or mistrust, because our Father has everything under control and each of us can stand firm on the solid rock of His unconditional love.
But we also see another parellel in this letter when it comes to parents and children. Look at the first two verses of this letter. I Timothy 1:1, 2...
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith... (1:1, 2a)
Paul address Timothy the same way in 1:18. Timothy is not only a child of God, but he is also, in a lesser sense, Paul's spiritual son.
Paul is not Timothy's earthly father and he is not Timothy's heavenly father. But he is a spiritual father to Timothy because as a teacher and leader, Paul has helped nourish and protect and direct Timothy's faith; he has helped Timothy grow spiritually.
From this perspective, we see the other side of the parallel in chapter 3, verse 4. Let me start in 3:1 and then jump down to 4:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer…must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? (3:1, 2a, 4, 5)
Who is Paul speaking to here? He is speaking to overseers of the church, those men who are also called elders and pastors (that is, shepherds). Did you notice the explicit parallel Paul uses in these verses? As he lists the qualifications for potential overseers/elders/pastors, he clearly wants Timothy to consider only men who manage their own homes well. Because if they cannot lead their families, if they are failing as the head of their household, how can they lead God's church? Very clearly there is a parallel here, not only between an individual household and God's household, but also between a man as the spiritual leader of his home and a man as a spiritual leader over the local church.
The pastor-elders of the church are the spiritual fathers of the church. God has called me, he has called Elder Steve, he has called Pastor Jason, to nourish, protect, and direct this family.
Do you think about and interact with and pray about your leaders in this way, through the lens of family, through the imagery of spiritual fatherhood?
But remember our main verse this morning: Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
So we see in this verse that every older Christian man in the church should be treated as a father in terms of respect, and every woman as a mother, with that same desire to show honor. But there's another sense in which women can be spiritual mothers within the church.
Listen again to Titus 2: Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women... (Titus 2:3. 4a)
There should be lots of spiritual mothers in the church, shouldn't there? Ladies, if you are farther down that road of physical and spiritual maturity, then you have a calling from God's word; there is a way you ought to behave in God's family. Are you caring for the younger ladies as a spiritual mother?
Again, these are just practical ways in which the radical reality of the church as family should reorient and mold our perspective and practice.
C. Masters and Slaves
The third household group we identified from both Paul and Peter were the masters and slaves. Now, when we hear that word “slave”, we naturally think of the horrible reality that existed in this country less than 150 years ago.
But slavery in the Roman world in the first century was, in general, much different. Household slaves like those that Paul and Peter addressed were counted as members of that household. They might have been born into that household, or sold themselves into servitude. Slaves like this could fill all sorts of roles, from domestic servants to doctors, from tradesmen to tutors for the children. These slaves could also buy their freedom after a number of years.
To be clear, I'm not trying to suggest this kind of slavery was ideal. It was not. But it also was not the kind of slavery we typically imagine. It was somewhere in between what we think of in terms of slavery, and a modern employer/employee relationship.
In this letter of I Timothy, this letter so clearly crafted around the idea of family, it's no surprise that we find Paul addressing these slaves in chapter 6. Turn there with me. Look at v. 1:
Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. (6:1, 2)
Now, those instructions are to literal household slaves. So where’s the spiritual parallel for us? Well, the spiritual parallel is actually implied in this verses. Listen to how Paul spells this out a little more explicitly in Colossians when he gives similar instructions to slaves:
Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 3:18-25; 4:1)
Did you see there the contrast at the beginning and end between “earthly masters” and a “Master in heaven”? Paul tells these slaves very clearly in verse 24: “you are serving the Lord Christ”. Jesus is your first Master, Paul is telling them. Your service to Christ must affect your service to any earthly master.
And it’s because of this reality that Paul begins his letter to Titus with these words: Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ… (Titus 1:1) That word “servant” is the same word translated “slave” in I Timothy 6 and Colossians 3. Paul begins two more of his letter in this same way, by describing himself as a “slave of Christ”.
I love the way Paul applies this concept to both literal slaves and free men and women in I Corinthians 7. He says: For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. (I Corinthians 7:22, 23)
In the family of God, you might be a brother or sister. You might also be a mother. You might be a spiritual child, and one day be a spiritual father. You might the man or woman of the house. But wherever you fit in terms of household roles, all of us are also and always slaves in the family of God.
Didn’t Jesus himself teach us this? Didn’t Jesus himself exemplify this? Listen to his words:
And Jesus called them [his disciples] to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
In the family of God, in light of our elder brother’s example, we are all slaves who serve one another, who seek to put ourselves, not first, but last.
Now, one last quick word about the word “servant” that Jesus used in Mark 10:43. Notice how Jesus equates the words “servant” and “slave” in Mark 10. What’s interesting is that we find that same word for servant in I Timothy 3. Right after Paul’s list of qualifications for overseers or elders at the beginning of chapter 3, he goes on to give qualifications for men and women addressed as “servants” or diakonos in Greek (same word from Mark 10). Even though all of us are called to serve, these deacons, these servants, help lead the church through their hands-on service.
And so here’s one more household role in light of the household composition of the church. Paul actually encourages Timothy in the middle of the letter by utilizing two of these family images:
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (4:6)
V. Our Family Tree
Let me ask you one more question this morning. Have you given enough thought to your family tree? I’m not talking about the tree that points you back to the source of your bloodline. I’m talking about the tree that points you back to the source of God’s family.
Our family tree is the cross where Jesus died. Think about it. Through the cross, Jesus made the church His spotless bride. Through the cross, the Father makes it possible for us to be born again and adopted as His children. Through the cross, the greatest Servant of all served us in order to buy us and make us slaves of God.
The entire household of God is established on the foundation of the cross.
What role do you have in the household of God? Brother? Sister? Mother? Father? Son? Daughter? Servant? Wherever God has placed you in His family, He has placed you there and plans to keep you there through the grace of the cross.
Have you turned away sin and self? Have you turned to Jesus? Have you received His forgiveness? Have you received new life? You can if you haven’t already. And if you have, then consider what God has taught us this morning about living in the household of faith. Consider how, through the power of His Spirit, you might live out your role in this family.
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