SHORT NOTES ON THE BIBLE

 

(81)

 

 

The Two Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy

(Part 7)


Chapter 4 (contd.)

2- Teaching and setting the example (4:12 - 16)

St. Paul urges his disciple Timothy to grow in his service, in order to set a good example to his congregation; he would achieve this by perseverance in reading, and instructing himself in, the holy books.  A teacher's task is very significant, since his obligations are not only to himself, but also to those whom he serves; his success not only impacts his own salvation, but also the salvation of his church's congregation - hence, the dual purpose of his service is teaching and setting the example.

Despite Timothy's young age - he was likely in his thirties - he loved the Lord, and served with enthusiasm.  Nevertheless, he might have seen his young age as a weak point and taken his position of leadership lightly.  Paul, on the other hand, dwelled on his trust in young Timothy's capabilities (he might have sent a message to those who made fun of Timothy's youth) telling him that in spite of everything, he was the leader and teacher in that church, hence, in order for your teaching to be effective, your first priority is to be an example to the believers in: 1) word (or speech: constructive speech couched in polite- ness, gentleness and uprightness), 2) conduct (wisdom, meekness, patience, serenity and tolerance), 3) love (you are a father and brother to all, indiscriminately, and through love you can engage even those who antagonize you for no reason), 4) spirit ("... For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace ..." (Rom. 8:6) being spiritually minded is a believer's true gain through which he can defeat carnal desires), 5) faith (adherence to Christ, the Prince of Peace, fulfillment of salvation in fear and awe, keeping the word of God, awaiting the eternal inheritance, and severing ties to the current world), and 6) purity (amidst a corrupt and pagan world, purity sets the example for young and old alike and supports teachings about purity.)"

St. Paul had said previously ".......I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Cor. 9:22)

Concerning the element of teaching, St. Paul exhorts his disciple to devote himself to discipleship of the word of God (he knew the holy books since his childhood - 2 Timothy 3:15) - this would thus constitute the salt perfecting his sermons.  Perseverance in reading and learning will nurture the gift which he had acquired through the laying on of hands.  This instruction is directed to each servant of the word in the Church of God - from the bishop to the least believer.

Chapter 5

1- Dealing with the elderly and the widows (5:1 - 16)

+          How can a young bishop exhort an elder? Even in the absence of an age gap, blame and admonishment are difficult tasks.  Additionally, the elderly would find this too humiliating, and hard to accept.  It was thus incumbent on Paul to counsel Timothy, on how to conduct himself under such circumstances.  He therefore forbade him to rebuke - since this would only complicate matters.  Rather, he should exhort an older man and treat him as a father, using biblical terms and sentiments.  In this way, it is easier to approach an elder's heart, helping him retreat from his wrongdoings, without adversely affecting their relationship.

+          Although he would find it easier to deal with people closer to his age, he should not treat them patronizingly, rather as brothers, thus winning their affection, and if they have sinned, this should lead them to repentance while maintaining their ties to the Church.

+          Applying the same logic to women, he should treat older women as mothers; this is what Paul did when he called the mother of Rufus (the wife of Simon the Cyrenian) his own (Rom. 16:13).  He should treat the younger as sisters; he added "with all purity" to maintain adherence to chastity, and avoid offences that would mar the service.

+          Widows represented an important component of the church's congregation. The church provided sustenance to those who had lost their provider, and suffered from afflictions and loneliness.  Another group of widows administered services to the church, especially to women; some of the younger ones, though, were problematic to the church.  St. Paul therefore started addressing his instructions to a church with many responsibilities, yet limited resources; hence, the church's first priority is to "honor widows who are really widows," in other words, an upright, God-fearing widow, whose only hope is God, and who is "left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day."  An example of such a widow was Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, who worshipped in the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36,37).  On the other hand, a widow who indulges in worldly and carnal pleasures, neglecting the word of God, "is dead while she lives" because, according to the Bible, the fruit of carnal living is death: "... if you live according to the flesh you will die." (Rom. 8:6,13)  Thus, such widows should not be assisted by the Church.

Yet another group of widows comprises those who have relatives, hence, children or grandchildren. According to the fifth command-ment (Exodus 20:12, Mat. 15:4, Luke 18:20 and Eph. 6:2), those relatives should look after their parents and grandparents, "show piety at home," and "repay their parents."  This means that they should repay those who begat them and, for many years, raised, loved, and cared for them; such repayment "is good and acceptable before God."  Conversely, "if anyone does not provide for his own[1], and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever;" such a person would have, of his own free will, broken more than one commandment, planted offences within the church[2], and is worse than an unbeliever, since unbelievers have the excuse of not having enjoyed the knowledge of God and His perfect commandments.

Serving the widows was the reason behind the first Church's appointment of seven deacons (Acts 6:1-4).  In order to streamline this service, St. Paul requested that widows' names be registered in the church, in accordance with conditions: the widow must be over sixty years old (to eliminate the risk of her remarrying), she should have been married only once, she should have raised her children in a godly manner and, as a Christian, she should have led an upright life respecting biblical precepts, hence, she should have "lodged strangers ("I was a stranger and you took Me in ..."(Mat. 25:35))"[3], "washed the saints' feet,"[4] and "relieved the afflicted." In other words, she should have taken care of the poor, sick and orphans[5].  

Consequently, young widows had no place in this particular aspect of the Church's service - because even if they promised not to remarry, they could break this promise, "and when they have begun to grow wanton against Christ, they desire to marry."  Since, in those days, the work force did not include women, a woman would either marry, or stray in the path of evil.  Such a social setting caused problems; young widows with much free time on their hands, used to spend their time in gossip, some form of recreation, moving from one home to another, meddling in other people's business, saying things which they ought not, and "some have already turned aside after Satan."   Consequent-ly, it is better to encourage them to remarry and be occupied with the greatest mission: forming a tightly-knit family, raising children, and managing a household.  In this way, many problems and offences can be avoided, Satan will be thwarted, and non-believers' attempts to smear the Church's reputation will fail.

This is a heavy responsibility which places on the Church many material and spiritual burdens.  Consequently, it behooves believers to help the Church and reduce its load by caring, whenever possible, for the widows as part of their respective families.  The Church can thus save its efforts to honor widows who are really widows.

                                                         (To be contd.)

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Saint Mark's Orthodox Fellowship

urges you to study the Bible and Orthodoxy, and to encourage others to do the same.  Please feel free to make copies of these notes to distribute them. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, or comments. Write to us (or blog/email on SMOF websites):

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[1] This household. includes all slaves, servants, and the entire family.

[2] Those dissidents will grow up and become parents; we must be wary of the fact that, those of us who neglect their parents will drink of the same cup.

[3] In those days there were no easy means of transportation or communication. Consequently, the onset of darkness constituted extenuating circumstances for sojourners in a foreign land; believers' homes were the Christian travelers’ refuge.

[4] Travelling long distances on foot was the norm, in the absence of means of transportation. Washing a guest's soiled feet was thus an expression of hospitality. This used to be the slaves' task, until Christ Himself washed His disciples' feet, rendering this a humble service practiced by His followers. This used to be the case in Coptic monasteries.

[5] According to the Canons of Hippolytus, "widow" was an ecclesiastic rank. Rigorous criteria had to be applied to determine if someone qualified; hence, she should be over sixty years old, much time must have elapsed since her husband's death, and she should lead a righteous life in God's service. However, there is no ordainment or laying on of hands, since she would not be involved either in offering oblations, or in liturgical services. Her services would be mainly in general prayers and helping other women.

   The Apostolic Constitutions mention "deaconesses" as a rank for serving women. A deaconess prepares women for baptism, and helps them at home, but not in church.; she may be a virgin or a once-married widow.