For this morning, let’s open our Bibles to 1 Timothy chapter 5. First Timothy chapter 5. We have a very brief section before us, a paragraph that is very simple, very straightforward and very direct and yet very instructive and perhaps, in a way, that is not dealt with anywhere else in Scripture. It’s a very unique section that deals with the matter of confronting sin in the spiritual family.
Now let me just introduce it by reminding you that the imagery related to the church in the New Testament is rich. The church is known in many metaphors and analogies. For example, the New Testament says the church of Jesus Christ is a holy nation, and with that analogy it emphasizes our common citizenship. We belong, as it were, to the same spiritual race of people, we are a holy nation, common citizenship.
And then the Scripture also speaks of the church as a kingdom. And that term “kingdom” emphasizes our common submission to the King of kings and Lord of lords, none other than Jesus Christ. So a holy nation, we have a common citizenship. A kingdom, we have a common submission.
And then Scripture also designs that the church should be known as a priesthood. We are priests. That emphasizes our common privilege. Each of us, without any intermediary other than Christ Himself, has full access to the presence of God through our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the Scripture says the church is to be known as a vine and branches, that we are connected to the life of God, and that emphasizes our common capability to produce fruit.
And then the Scripture says we are a temple. We are a temple built upon the foundation of the apostles, and the chief cornerstone is Christ, and that emphasizes our common doctrine, our common teaching. We are built on the same great truth. The Bible also says that we are a body, and when Paul uses the analogy of a body, he is emphasizing our common life, that we are interdependent, that the flow of life flows through us and to us in an interchange of gifts and ministry.
The Scripture also says we are an assembly. We are an assembly of the redeemed, and that emphasizes our common calling. We are called together, assembled, as it were, to be gathered into the eternal presence of God Himself. And then Scripture says we are a flock. I think that emphasizes our common need. We need someone to lead us and we need someone to feed us, and that is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.
A holy nation with a common citizenship, a kingdom with common submission, a priesthood with common privileges, a vine and branches with common capability to produce fruit, a temple with common doctrine, a body with common life, an assembly with a common calling, and a flock with common need. But there’s one more picture of the church that really fits the text that we’re looking at in 1 Timothy 5:1 and 2, and that is that we are a family, and a family emphasizes our common love. We are bound together in intimate, loving relationships through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Family. The very word is a beautiful word. For those of us who had the privilege of being raised in a happy family, a godly family, a Christian family, that word is just loaded with meaning. And there’s always something sweet in my own mind about the word “family.” For those who had not that privilege, perhaps there’s something almost wistful, almost longing about the word “family.” It’s a lovely word. It speaks of intimacy. It speaks of care. It speaks of honesty and transparency, and it speaks of love. And the general characteristic within the church as family is that we would love each other.
Jesus said, in John 13:34 and 35, “By this would all men know that we are His disciples if we had love for one another.” And we are enjoined again and again and again throughout Scripture that we are to be known by our love and marked by our love, and we are to have the same love one to another. And love for each other is the backbone of a family, it’s the backbone of a church.
Now, within the framework of our love for each other, there’s a very necessary element, and that’s the element of confronting sin. It’s true in a family and it’s true in a church. In our family, the family I was raised in and in the family I now have the privilege of fathering, confrontation of sin and disobedience, confrontation of a wrong attitude is a part of life, whether it’s dad confronting son, sister confronting sister, brother confronting dad, or whatever. Inevitably in a family where there’s love, there is a concern to deal with something that isn’t right. That’s just part of being a family.
No thinking parent would ever say, “Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to bring up anything evil about anyone in my family. I certainly wouldn’t want to confront my kids, after all, they have to live their own life.” No, if you love your children, you’ll point out their sin. And, children, if you love your parents, you’ll point out their sin. And, sister, if you love your brother, you’ll point out his sin. And, brother, if you love your sister, you’ll point out her sin. That’s family. That’s just the way it is.
That’s one very important part of a family, and it springs from love because love says, “I care that you know the blessing of God. I care that you prosper spiritually. I care that you be happy and joyful. I care that you be useful to God. I care that you be in His will and know the outpouring of His grace. In fact, I care so much that when I see sin in your life, I want to bring it to your attention.” That’s family love, and that’s exactly what Paul calls for in these two verses. Let’s look at them.
He says, “Do not harshly rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father. The younger men, as brothers; the older women, as mothers; the younger women, as sisters with all purity.” Now, there’s a very brief passage and a very simple and straightforward one, at that. But as simple as it is, it confronts a very crucial aspect of family love in the church. It deals with how to confront sin in every family relationship within the church.
This is a major issue, as I said, in physical families and it’s also a major issue in spiritual families. Timothy was in a family in Ephesus, a part of God’s greater family of the church, and the family, as it were, in Ephesus had some very serious sins. As we have been studying 1 Timothy, I think we’ve become fairly well aware of those sins. Time and again throughout this epistle, I have pointed out to you how Paul makes an issue of some wrong doctrine or some ungodly characteristic of the people in that assembly.
For example, if you go back to chapter 1, the emphasis in verses 5 and 6 about living love out of a pure heart, having a good conscience and an unhypocritical faith from which some have swerved indicates that there were some in the church who had abandoned truth and some who had abandoned purity and godliness and virtue. Down in chapter 1, verse 19, he calls to Timothy to hold on to the faith and a good conscience and again says some have put away these things and made shipwreck of their life. There were in that Ephesian church people at all levels, male and female and all age categories, who were abandoning true doctrine and abandoning godliness.
The injunction in chapter 2, verse 8, that men were to pray lifting up holy hands may have a bit of a polemic in it. That is to say there were some men standing up in the congregation who were praying to God in a pious mode while there was sin in their life. Obviously, from verse 9 there were some younger women who were adorning themselves in immodest apparel and more concerned were they about their jewelry and their appearance on the outside than they were about their hearts. Some of them were usurping the role of the older man in leadership in the church and needed to be reminded that the priority for them was to bear children, to raise them in godliness.
Chapter 3 indicates to us by the standards given to qualify the ones that are to be pastors that some older men had aspired to the role of overseer and pastor in the church, elder in the church, but their lives did not qualify, and so Paul gives the qualifications for one who should have that office. Some in chapter 4 who were in the role of teachers were teaching demonic doctrine that was really coming from seducing spirits.
We find in chapter 5 as we look at women in this chapter in particular, in verse 6, that some of the older women apparently were living in pleasure and were dead while they were living. They needed to be commanded to be blameless in verse 7. Some of these widows, no doubt, were asking for support from the church, but their lives were not as they ought to be, and so a standard is given in verse 10 as to the kind of widow that the church can support. Some of the older women, then, not being qualified.
Some of the men in the church, verse 8 says, were not providing for their own and were denying the faith in that sense and worse than unbelievers who take care of their own. Some of the younger women, in verse 11, who had been widowed were growing wanton against Christ; that is, they were breaking vows and promises they made, throwing off their first faith, it says in verse 12. They were also idle and wandering around from house to house. They were tale bearers and busybodies. Some of them, verse 15 says, had turned aside after Satan.
Furthermore, some of the older men, later in chapter 5, apparently in the role of elders, had sinned and needed to be rebuked before the whole congregation. Chapter 6 tells us that others, young or old men, were teaching other than true doctrine, verse 3. Some of them were proud, some of them were argumentative, full of envy, strife. Coming out of their minds was little else than perverse disputings. They didn’t know the truth. They didn’t have godliness.
The whole idea of looking at those Scriptures in a general flow is to let you know that Timothy was in a family that needed some correction, obviously. The sum of all of it could be reduced to this: In the church at Ephesus, there were older men, even pastors of that church, teaching hellish heresy and sinning openly. And there were some older women who were living in pleasure alone, not fulfilling godly duties, perhaps dressing on the outside and being spiritually undressed, as it were, and then maybe expecting in their widowhood to be cared for by the church.
There were some younger men following false teachers, praying with unholy hands, perhaps, not providing for their own families, proud, argumentative, jealous, corrupt, money-hungry and discontent. And there were some younger women lusting after men, breaking promises of purity and devotion to Christ, idle gossipers, busybodies, talking about things they had no business to talk about.
This is a family, and because it is a family and because intimate relationships are so vital and because they impact the family so potently and powerfully, that has to be dealt with. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, a little leaven will leaven the whole lump. And sin in a family has to be confronted because intimacy takes diseases so rapidly through the family. It has to be confronted.
Timothy knew this. Because he knew this, it’s implied in these two verses. Nothing here says, “Timothy, you’ve got to discipline the people in your church.” Timothy knew that. He knew how God felt about discipline. He knew what the Scripture taught.
For example, the principle of God’s chastening that is given in 2 Samuel 7:14, “I will be his Father,” God says, “and he shall be my son.” Typically, this is how God would treat His son. “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the stripes of the children of men.” In other words, I’ll treat him like a son. And how would I treat a son? I’ll chasten him if he commits iniquity. But the next verse says, “But my mercy shall not depart from him.” It’s chastening, it’s painful, but it’s always mitigated with mercy.
In Job chapter 5, in verse 17, the Scripture says, “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects. Therefore, despise not the chastening of the Almighty for He makes sore and binds up. He wounds and His hands make whole.” What wonderful discipline. Just like a father. He makes you hurt and then He takes you into His arms. He wounds you and then He binds up your wound. But always, a loving father chastens. A family can’t function in intimate love if it tolerates what violates that love and that intimacy.
Timothy certainly would have known the truth of the book of Proverbs. Over and over and over again it says in Proverbs how absolutely vitally important it is to have discipline. Faithful, it says, are the wounds of a friend. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Open rebuke is better than secret love. And if you study Proverbs carefully, you will find that in Proverbs 15:32, discipline leads to understanding. In Proverbs 19:25, it leads to knowledge. In Proverbs 15:31, it leads to wisdom. In Proverbs 13:18, it leads to honor. And in Proverbs 6:23, it leads to a happy life. It purifies because it has a way of tackling sin and seeing it eliminated. Timothy knew that.
He certainly would have known the teaching of Jesus Christ in Matthew 18, “If your brother is sinning, go to him and confront his sin, and if he repents, you’ve gained your brother. And if he doesn’t, take two or three witnesses and confront him again, and if he repents, you’ve gained your brother. If he doesn’t, tell the whole church and have the whole church go after him to call him back from sin.” He knew how God felt about sin in the family. It is the role of any servant to confront sin, any servant.
Jeremiah was called for the purpose, among other things, of confronting the sin of his people. That was a major part of his ministry. In Jeremiah 44:4, God says, “I sent you unto all my servants the prophets - I sent you all my servants the prophets, and they were rising early and this is what they were saying, ‘Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.’” That was what the prophets were to do, tell the people to stop the sinning. Jeremiah did it, Ezekiel did it, Isaiah did it, the minor prophets did it.
You see, God has always wanted to eliminate sin in His family. Now, how should it be done? Let me give you some thoughts on that. First of all, it should be done fearlessly. We should go to someone in sin without any fear and confront that sin.
Ezekiel chapter 2, verse 3, “He said unto me, ‘Son of man, I send you to the children of Israel to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me, even to this very day. They are impudent children and stiff-hearted, I do send you unto them and you will say unto them, “Thus saith the Lord God,” and whether they will hear or whether they will forebear, for they are a rebellious house yet shall - yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briars and thorns be with you and thou dost dwell among scorpions.
“‘Do not be afraid of their words nor be dismayed at their looks for they are a rebellious house and you shall speak my words unto them.’” So fearlessly confronting sin. Titus 2:15 says, “Rebuke with all authority.” You do it with courage. You do it with authority. Titus 1:13 says, “Rebuke them sharply.” That means you cut to the issue as best you can.
So we are to be fearless, authoritative in our rebuke of sin. We are to be sharp in our rebuke of sin. But I believe we are also to be loving. We are also to be loving. And that’s essentially what we have in this text before us. We also have it in 2 Timothy 4:2, where we are to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all patience and teaching.
Yes, reprove, we are to reprove, and that word means to bring a person to conviction of guilt. Yes, we are to rebuke. That means to rebuke sharply, to censure them (compound verb) but we are to do that with an encouraging, strengthening patience and teaching. That’s 2 Timothy 4:2. And that is essentially what you have in these two verses. Let’s read them. “Do not rebuke but exhort.” Now, those are the two verbs in this section, and I just want to reemphasize those to you. “Do not rebuke but exhort.”
When you go to confront sin, whether it’s in an older man, an older woman, a younger man, or a younger woman, do not - and the word is translated - rebuke; rather, exhort. Now, these are the only two verbs here and they’re both imperative verbs. It’s very important to understand what he’s saying. The first verb is a relatively easy verb to understand, it means just what it says, but it means it in the sense of a harsh or violent rebuke. In other words, don’t go to someone and treat them with violence. The word is a strong term.
A similar word is used in chapter 3, verse 3, in the qualifications of a pastor where it says he’s not to be violent, he’s not to be a striker. It literally means someone who hits with his fists. So when you rebuke someone or when you confront their sin, you’re not to beat them with blows or metaphorically to hammer them with words. The idea of severe, harsh treatment is implied. Confronting sin is to be done without that violence and harshness of a rebuke that would be - how can I say it? - foreign to a family kind of love. Foreign to a family kind of love.
Recently, I received a file, a very interesting file. I wanted some information on it because of some personal relationships involved with it. The file was all about a certain pastor who is somewhat - somewhat known. You perhaps would not know him - some would - the majority of you wouldn’t. And the word sort of leaking out is that he’s very violent. And so I thought it would be interesting, because of a mutual friend, to see if I couldn’t understand the situation a bit better, and I collected some correspondence that was absolutely unbelievable.
One of his people testified in a letter that a member was hit in the face five or six times, another one was whipped 23 times with a leather strap, another was slapped in the face several times, another had his shirt torn off which was then used as a whip to beat him, that was a young boy. And others were grabbed by the throat, another was slugged in the chest three times, and the story goes on and on.
Now, that is not a common occurrence, but that is the kind of violence which is forbidden by this verb. That’s not the way you treat the family, that would be tantamount in the church to child abuse in the family. That’s not how you do it. In the intimate, loving relationships of a family, you do not harshly rebuke, he says, the next verb, you exhort, parakalei from parakaleō. It means to encourage, admonish, entreat, appeal. My favorite translation of that is the word strengthen.
I like the idea of strengthen because it’s a positive thing. It means - para means alongside, called alongside. You’re called alongside to help someone. The Holy Spirit is the paraklētos, the Comforter. The Word of God is paraklēsis, the comfort of the Scriptures. The Word of God comes along and strengthens. The Holy Spirit comes along and strengthens. And we are to come along and strengthen.
The word was used outside the Scripture, it was used in military situations for exhorting troops to battle and victory. It was used by leaders and soldiers who were urging their men to win the victory. It was used of encouragement given to people who were weak and faint of heart. It’s the idea of 1 Thessalonians 5:14, encourage the fainthearted.
In this sense, the call in discipline is not to crush people with violence. It’s not to attack people with abuse. It is to come alongside in family love and encourage and strengthen them toward holy living. That’s the idea - that’s the idea. It has a kindness to it, it has an affability to it. It is a corrective ministry, yes, but there is a meekness there, there’s a gentleness there. To put it simply, it’s a redemptive confrontation. It’s a restorative confrontation. It’s a remedial confrontation.
Now, we’re talking about the family. If you’re dealing with an apostate, that’s something else. But within the family, we treat each other with love, not with violence and harshness, so that any discipline we do in the church is done with love as family to family.
Now, having set that principle out, he then simply illustrates it in four different age groups. Okay? The first one is in relation to older men. We are not to be harsh and violent with older men, but to strengthen them as a father. Now there’s the family relationship. The way to understand this is if I saw my father sin a sin, or if I knew my father was in sin, how would I approach my father? Perhaps the best word is respect.
The word is translated in the Authorized version, “Rebuke not an elder,” it’s the word presbuteros. It is the same word used in chapter 5, verses 17 and 19, and there it does speak, I think, of the official office of elder. Here, it is clearly used in a non-official sense because of the context. When you have it in this context where he talks about older women, younger men, younger women, it’s obvious what he has in mind here is just the general category of older men. And, by the way, that is the general usage of the term anyway.
So when an older man sins, how does a younger man confront an older man? Wanting to maintain respect because he knows that God would have him do that, how does he go to an older man? He goes to him as he would go to his own father, whom he lovingly respects. Scripture is clear on the matter of respect for older men, isn’t it? Very clear on that. You can go back into the Old Testament and find how the hoary heads of Israel, as it were, were exalted, how the gray hairs and the gray beards were given the esteem that was properly due to them.
You can also find in the Old Testament how a father is to be treated in the Decalogue of Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, where it’s repeated. It was very clear that children were to not only obey but also to honor their father and their mother. We find this repeated frequently in the New Testament, the respect and honor due to parents. The early chapters particularly of Proverbs are loaded with injunctions about response to your father, respect for your father, obedience to your father. In fact, disobedience and dishonor would shorten your life.
A child was told to honor and obey his parents in order that his life may be long on the earth, in order that things may go well with him. The implication is if you do not honor your parents, things will not go well with you, and your life will be short on the earth. Violence against a father, Exodus 21:17 and that section, violence against a father resulted in the execution of a child. So God has really placed clearly in His revelation the idea that we are to honor a father. So when needing to confront an older man regarding sin, we would confront that older man with respect.
Although it’s not an illustration within the family of God, perhaps an illustration of this idea comes from Daniel. When Daniel came to confront his - well, the sin of his king at that time, Nebuchadnezzar, it’s interesting to me how Daniel, a much younger man than Nebuchadnezzar, handled it. In Daniel 4:27, this is what he says - there’s no violence here, there’s no harshness, but it’s very straightforward: “Wherefore, O King,” he gives him his proper title, “Let my counsel be acceptable unto thee and break off thy sins.” That’s pretty direct. Stop sinning.
But he doesn’t lambaste him with verbiage, he calls him “O King.” Respect. He says, “Please,” as it were, “let what I say be acceptable unto you. Stop sinning.” Very direct, very sharp censure with authority, fearlessly, but with respect.
Another illustration of this closer to home (because it relates to those within the family of God) is Galatians chapter 2. Look at it with me for just a moment. Peter was the elder apostle, the senior statesman, and the apostle Paul saw Peter sin a sin. And in Galatians 2:11, Paul is in the somewhat unenviable position of needing to confront an older man than he about his sin. “So when Peter was come to Antioch,” Paul says, “I withstood him to the face because he was to be blamed.” I went nose-to-nose with him. Fearless, sharp, with authority because Peter decided to live like a legalist. He tried to impose legalism in his behavior.
But I want you to notice how Paul confronted him in verse 14. “When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before everybody, ‘If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of gentiles and not as do the Jews, why are you compelling the gentiles to live as the Jews?’” You’ve been liberated, you’ve been living like a gentile, now you’re buying into tall this ceremonialism. Why are you doing that?
Now, I want you to notice that in verse 11, he says, “I withstood him to the face because he was to be blamed.” But when he speaks to him, he doesn’t even make a statement. What does he do? He asks a question. He asks a question in deference to the dignity and the respectfulness of age. That’s an illustration of how to confront an older man who has sinned and still maintain a spirit of respect.
An illustration of how not to do it would be Acts 23 - and again, that’s sort of outside the church but it’s an illustration we can borrow from - where Paul is called before the high priest and he says to the high priest, “I have a good conscience before God.” In other words, I haven’t done anything wrong. And the high priest says, “Somebody slap his mouth. And Paul yells to him, “God smite you, you whited wall.” Pretty serious stuff. And then somebody says, “Hey, hey, hey, hey, that’s the high priest.” “I didn’t know it was the high priest.”
Respect, confrontation with respect for those of an older age. Beloved, we have a responsibility within the family to go to a sinning brother and confront him with his sin, even if he’s older than we are, but we do that with respect. Now, this is instruction to Timothy, that’s why in every case it sees Timothy as the actor in the case. He’s going to confront an older man but do it with respect.
Secondly, how do you confront sin in relation to a younger man? In relation to a younger man. This, too, is basic. He says in verse 1, “The younger men as brothers.” So if the word for confronting a father is respect, the word for confronting a brother is humility. Why? Because you’re equals. No superiority is assumed, you go to one who is your brother. There’s no hierarchy in that word, brother, none at all, it’s a word of equality and it sets us at the same level.
I think about the truth of God in the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:17, where it says, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart,” there is assumed to be a love between brothers in a family. I see the love of Joseph for his evil brothers as a model of brotherly love, the very opposite of Cain, and the opposite of Esau, both of whom hated their brothers. And in the family of God, we are brothers and we are to share brotherly love, and that is repeated over and over and over, love the brethren. It’s just a part of the New Testament teaching.
We are to have love one for another. If we say we’re Christians and don’t love our brothers, we don’t tell the truth. Brotherly love is to characterize us, that kind of brotherly love that covers a multitude of sins. But wherever sin enters into the family, brother to brother, we go to a person and confront them in love. Matthew 18, “If your brother sins, go to him.” Luke 17 says the same thing. If your brother is in a trespass, go to him.
Galatians - look at that - chapter 6, in verse 1, it starts out with the word “Brothers,” again emphasizing this family relationship. Brothers, if a man is overtaken in a paraptōma, he falls, as it were, from righteousness, he falls to sin, if he stumbles and trips and falls into sin, you that are spiritual - that is you that aren’t in sin, you that are clean - restore, katartizō, that’s a word that means to overhaul, I like that way of expressing it, to overhaul or to restore to its former condition. It’s used of mending a bone or mending a net.
You bring him back to where he used to be but do it - here it is - in the spirit of meekness. That’s humility. Why? Realizing that you also could be - what? - tempted to the same thing. So when you go to a brother, you go with family love. And family love goes to a brother and says, “I know I’m like you, and I could be in the situation you’re in, and I just want to lift you up and take you back to where you belong, I want to restore you in love and meekness.” That’s how you bear one another’s burdens, verse 2, and fulfill the law of Christ, which is the law of love.
Second Thessalonians, for a moment, chapter 3, also helps us to see this. It says, “We command you, brothers” - here we are with that idea of brotherhood again. “We command you as brothers in the name of the Lord Jesus, withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly and not after the tradition which he received of us.” When you have a sinning brother, don’t associate with him, don’t hang around, don’t do what he does, pull back - pull back.
Well, how do you treat him? Verse 14, “If any man obeys not the Word of this epistle, note who the man is, don’t have any social company with him that he may be ashamed but consider him not an enemy, rather strengthen him, admonish him, encourage him as a” - what? - “as a brother.” As a brother. And how would you encourage a brother? In meekness, in humility, realizing your own humanness as well. Cain said in Genesis 4:9, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And he wanted a no answer but the answer is yes, you are your brother’s keeper.
So in relation to an older man, we confront sin with respect, as to a father. In relation to a younger man, we confront sin with humility, as to a brother. Thirdly, in relation to older women, Paul says, “We confront sin with gentleness,” - that’s my word “as to a mother.” The older women, as mothers, it says in the text. When you go to an older woman, you should go with the proper respect, remembering the Old Testament calls all of us to respect father and mother. Proverbs repeats that we should honor our mothers and listen to the law and the teaching of our mothers.
There will be times, however, in the family of God when older women sin. And when an older woman sins, she must be confronted. And sometimes a young pastor, younger than that older woman, has to go to that older woman. How does he do that? He goes with gentleness, as to a mother.
How would you go to your own mother, the mother of your own birth, to confront her with sin? Would you go abusively, harshly, and with an ungracious, unkind spirit? No, you’d probably go with a great amount of gentleness. You might be sharp and you might be straightforward and you might be honest and you might be fearless, but you would certainly be loving and gentle.
Let me give you an illustration of this from Philippians chapter 4. Again, the apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, has to confront a discipline situation and in this case very likely a couple of older women. They’d been around a while. They had helped others in the gospel. They had ministered. They had been a part of the team of women that assist in gospel ministry. But they had become apparently argumentative, cantankerous, faction-producing women in the church at Philippi, and that’s enough to make any pastor upset. But notice how Paul approaches this in chapter 4.
He starts out with all this sort of lovey approach, “Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved, longed for, my joy and crown, stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved,” and you know you’re just about to get hit because it’s so overdone. All this love but that’s just - that’s Paul wanting to rebuke a couple of older women but let them know he loves them and he longs for them and they’re dear to him. And then he says, “I beg you, Euodia and beg Syntyche that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” Quit fighting in public. “And I beg you also, true yoke-fellow” - now he’s calling on someone to help.
The Greek word for true yoke-fellow is suzugos and it could be a proper name. He may be saying, “Suzugos, you help those ladies” - or he may just be saying true yoke-fellow in the sense of you folks get alongside and help those women, and then he says this - “who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also and with other fellow workers whose names are in the book of life.”
You see, he’s saying you’ve got to do something about those sinning women, but don’t forget this, I love them, I long for them, they served me, they served others, they’ve worked in the gospel. In other words, get a context for your rebuke. And that’s a context of what? Of love and gentleness, as to a mother. That’s how you deal with them.
And then finally, and most interestingly, he says to Timothy, “Here’s how you have to deal with sinning younger women. You have to deal with them as sisters” - as sisters. Scripture is clear that young women are to be protected in purity. You go back and you read Leviticus 18, you read Leviticus 20, and you read about the protection of young women. You go back and read particularly Deuteronomy 27:22, which is God’s forbidding of incest. And you know in a family how brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers want to protect the purity of the girls - right? - in a family.
And he says to Timothy, “Now, when you go to confront the sin of a young woman, make sure you treat that young woman as a sister.” That means you are morally, in the sense of lust, indifferent to her. And by the way, this is the only one of the four groups where he adds any other statement, and in this one he says, “with all purity.” And because he makes the emphasis on the last one, I think perhaps we ought to listen to that emphasis that he makes.
There is nothing as evil and wicked in terms of the violation of a family as incest. It’s a sickening and disgusting sin. The sad, wicked, wretched story of Amnon in 2 Samuel 13 demonstrates how God feels about it as well as the very direct statements of Deuteronomy 27:22 and elsewhere. But anybody who deals with young men in a family, any part of that family who - with young girls - any part of the family dealing with young girls is going to deal with them as sisters unless they’re twisted and perverted. And so it is in the church.
That is what is so corrupt and so heinous and so wicked about a pastor who goes to deal with a young woman and wants to help her grow spiritually and ultimately commits sin with her, he has committed spiritual incest by violating the family in the spiritual dimension. And that is such a common thing and needs such warning that the apostle adds “with all chastity” because he knows that one of the roles of a pastor is sometimes to have to confront younger women, and in such confrontation, impurity can result. Whoever deals with younger women, they are to deal with them as a sister, and the key word is purity.
With older men, respect. With younger men, humility. With older women, gentleness. With younger women, purity. Too often men begin confronting younger women and disgrace themselves with impurity and commit acts of spiritual incest. And nothing, it seems to me, so easily makes or breaks a young pastor as his conduct with women. And even if it is not outright immorality, if thoughtlessness or indiscretion comes, it too can destroy that ministry, regardless of his leadership ability or his pulpit eloquence.
So we have to deal with younger women and confront sin and come alongside and encourage them to godliness and encourage them to holiness, but always treating them as a sister whose purity we would maintain at all costs. So many fall at this point that I would like to draw our thoughts to a conclusion with just perhaps a word about how we can do that with purity. And for an insight into that, let’s go back to Proverbs chapter 6, and this gives us very helpful instruction.
I would suggest six things are necessary in order to deal with younger women as sisters and not fall to some spiritual incest within the family of God. And I say again, it happens so frequently, so tragically. May I suggest to you that these are practical little things that give you sort of a starting point? Number one, to maintain purity in dealing with younger women, avoid the look. Chapter 6, verse 25, the end of the verse, “Neither let her take thee with her eyelids.” With her eyelids. Avoid the look.
Secondly, avoid the flattery. Verse 24, “The commandment of God is given to keep you from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a foreign woman.” Men are susceptible to the looks, they’re susceptible to the flattery. It’s always the foreign woman who tells you everything you want to hear. Avoid the look, avoid the flattery. Thirdly, avoid the thoughts, verse 25, “Lust not after her beauty in your heart.” Don’t cultivate in your heart that lingering thought pattern that focuses on the forbidden woman. Avoid the look, avoid the flattery, and avoid the thoughts.
Fourthly, avoid the rendezvous. Chapter 7 sort of implies that. Looking out the window and sees, in verse 7, a simple-minded youth with no brains, wandering around a street, he knows where he is, near her corner. “And he went the way to her house and he hung around a long time in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and in the dark night.” I mean, he’s been there a long time. “And a woman comes out dressed like a harlot, and meets him.” Stay away from the rendezvous.
Found out this last week about a situation where a pastor of a church had set up a rendezvous with a woman and some people in the church found about it and they - several ladies took a car and went and picked up the woman. Very shocking experience for that woman. But rightly done. Avoid the rendezvous. Don’t get into a situation where you are together.
And then another thought, avoid the house. Verse 25 says - well, from verse 13, on it talks about - verse 14, she says, “I have made my peace offerings, I’ve made my vows,” very religious girl. “And I’ve decked my bed with tapestry.” Verse 16, “I’ve perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon,” so forth and so on. “Let’s fill our - let’s have our fill of love until the morning,” verse 18, “and comfort ourselves with love, my husband is out of town, he’s on a long trip, he’s got a bag of money,” nothing new under the sun, folks.
“With her fair speech she causes him to yield, with the flattery of her lips she forced him, he goes after her straightway, like an ox to the slaughter and a fool the correction of the stocks.” Stay away from the house. Down in verse 25, “Don’t let your heart decline or go her way, don’t go in her path, she’s thrown down many wounded, many strong men have been slain, her house is the way to Sheol.”
Avoid the look, avoid the flattery, avoid the thoughts, avoid the rendezvous, and avoid the house. And also, lastly, avoid the touch. Verse 13, “She caught him and kissed him.” And that was it. Avoid the touch.
It’s part of ministry to have to deal with older men, younger men, older women, younger women. That’s part of ministry. And you need to be sure that in all those relationships where you’re coming against sin and strengthening them to righteousness that you treat those different groups of people in a proper way. Older men with respect, younger men with humility, older women with gentleness, and younger women with chastity, just like you would in a family. Yes, this is Paul’s word to Timothy instructing him how to do it, but it’s obvious that this is an example as to how we all ought to be caring for one another in the matter of confronting sin. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Lord, we so much sense that the Word is alive and powerful, perceptive. It says things we know to be true. Our hearts just hold attention because these things are so affirmed in everything we know to be the case.
This Word to us rings true. And, Lord, we would be obedient to it. Give us a family love. We celebrate all that the church is, our common citizenship, common submission to the King, common privilege of access to you, common capability to produce fruit by your power, a common doctrinal foundation on which we’re built, a common life pulsing through the whole body, a common calling that is ours, a common need to be fed and led.
And, Lord, we thank you for the common love, the common love in the family that cares so much about one another that it will confront sin and strengthen each other to righteousness. Help us to do it in a way that will bring you honor and in a way that manifests family love. And we know you’ll be honored by that.
Help us to treat each other just the way you treat us, chastening mixed with mercy, making a wound and then binding a wound. We would be truly your children, not only in fact, but in action as well. Thank you for your Word to us. For the Savior’s sake. Amen.
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