The gospel transforms us from the inside out. If the gospel changes individuals shouldn’t that change society? It should at the very lead to a new community of faith. This community is called the church and Paul teaches Timothy how the gospel changes us and shapes our relationships. He presents four examples of this in 1 Timothy 5.
1. We are to embrace the various generations in the church as family (5:1-2). Paul is not telling Timothy to never rebuke an older man. Sometimes that is necessary, but never with the intensity of disrespect. Even in rebuke Timothy is to treat an older man with respect on appropriate honor (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29) as he would a father. Likewise he is to relate to younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters. We are to reflect this kind of devotion to one another.
2. We are to honor and care for the widows of the church (5:3-16). In the Roman world there was no social security or Medicare. If you were elderly and widowed you were on your own in most cases and seen as worthless to society. The church was to stand out as unique to this. The gospel should change how we “do unto others” especially to those within our spiritual family and here Paul applies that to the care we should give to widows. The kind of care widows needed at that time was much more extreme so you could apply this today by providing care depending on need and qualification. There were qualifications to go on the “widow care list” in the NT for what was essentially financial support. The widows has to have no family providing for them (v. 4-8, 16) and the widows were to exhibit godliness in their lives (v. 5, 9-15). Giving care to widows has OT roots (Deuteronomy 24:20-22) and NT application (James 1:27). God wants us to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
3. We are to support and hold accountable the elders of the church (5:17-25). In the world we revolt against, conflict with, complain about, and generally buck those in authority whether it’s a boss or the President. The gospel should shape us so that we treat our authorities different. Support for elders comes in two forms. There is financial support and there is spiritual support. Elders are responsible for exercising “rule” or authority in the church (Hebrews 13:17). They are to preside over and give guardianship over the church. In response churches are to support their pastor’s physical needs so that he can “work hard at preaching and teaching” without worry of how they will meet their family’s need. Paul references Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 (affirming the inspiration of Luke as a Biblical author) to support this claim. Another kind of support is that of spiritual accountability. Pastors are people too and members of the faith community who need to grow in the Lord as well. Paul admonishes Timothy to be careful when an elder is accused. They were to guard each other spiritually and when necessary church discipline is to be demonstrated with care.
4. We are to work excellently for our authorities in the world as a witness to them (6:1-2). Paul goes on though to explain that our relationships out in the world should reflect this change in us as well. We cannot expect lost people to treat us any differently or with special privilege just because we are Christians, but we must certainly treat them differently. Paul says we are to treat them uniquely even if the circumstance or situation is undesirable like the relationship of a slave to a master. Paul is instructing the slaves to do more than just ‘not run away’. He commands them to show “honor” toward them. They were to work and behave with excellence even in a situation that was unjust. Why would he tell them to do this? The gospel was at stake. The spread of the gospel takes precedence over our rights. The goal is to spread the gospel and even if the slave-master is a believer (who is obviously sinning by keeping slaves) the slave should demonstrate the changing effect of the gospel so to influence and bring to conviction the slave-master.
Our lives are a beacon for the good news of Jesus Christ. How do we demonstrate the effect of Christ on our lives? The gospel transforms us daily and that should be seen in our relationships within the church. Guests and visitors should find a unique kind of culture in the church.