How to Speak with Each Other

1 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.
3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:1-8)

This morning we all meet here as a church body. We are not the entire church body, for it is worldwide, has spanned every generation, and is too large to be contained in one auditorium. We are but a small part of the universal church that God has called into existence. But what is the church? The church, of which we are a part, is made of every born again follower of Jesus Christ. All of those who have been truly saved, redeemed by the sacrifice and blood of Christ, are a part of this community that we call the church.

The church in the Bible is described in many different ways by different people. One of the ways it is described is that of being a family. The church is to be like a family. For instance, in Ephesians 2:19 we read of this: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Believers, Christians are not merely subjects of God to be ruled by Him, somehow living far off, but we are described as those who are a part of His household, of His family.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

Again, the church, believers are referred to as a household. We are a family, a part of God’s family, members who have been adopted through Christ Jesus. We are to look at each other, to look out for each other as members of the same family, the family of Christ, the family of God.

Now, I do think we have to be careful with this analogy, with this description of the church. One reason we have to be careful with thinking of the church as a family, as God describes it, is because we all come to passages like the ones I’ve just read, we come to them with our own personal experiences. When you think of a family what do you think of first? Your family, right? Either the family that you are now a part of or, if you are older, perhaps the immediate family you grew up in. Or for some of you, a family experience may be many different experiences because of abandonment, divorce, adoption, and so on. We all bring with us our personal experiences that tend to define for us what family is or what it means.

Some of you may have had such terrible family experiences that it really turns you away to think about the church as a family. And that is unfortunate, but sadly understandable. What we have to do is, and this can be difficult, what we have to do is learn and understand what God calls a family to be, what God says about members of families and how they are to relate to each other and superimpose that over whatever our negative experiences may include. Do you see that? So when we read in the Bible about God as our Father, the first things we should think about is how God describes a godly father. Now this may include thinking about ways our earthly fathers acted in godly ways too, if they did, but primarily about how God talks about loving, godly fathers. Or when God in His Word talks about things like brotherly love, again, a family comparison, a brother, we should understand that kind of love the way it is defined in the Bible, not necessarily how our brother or sister treated us if it was sinful. No, it would be how a godly brother or sister would respond or act toward us. Do you see that?

We all have and can come up with negative and even sinful examples of family life, but we must not let those things define what a family is supposed to be that is operating according to God’s Word, according to His instructions to us.

Now I say all this because of our passage this morning. Today as we look at 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul uses family descriptions as he instructs Timothy on how to relate to people in the church and subsequently how we can relate to people around us in the church. We will talk about each other as Paul did in terms of family members. And I don’t want any of us to get bogged down and say, “Well, that’s not what my family was like,” or, “That’s not how my family operates!” No, we want to look at family roles here as they should be by God’s design. Let the Word of God trump your experience, as really it always should.

1 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. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)

I love these verses. I love how Paul demands, really, a high degree of love and respect and purity from Timothy as he relates to others. We see here what God expects even from us. He expects a special amount of obvious care among His followers as they relate to each other. What we will not see as we learn how to relate to each other, what we will not see is abruptness, hatred, condescension, arrogance, pride, heavy-handedness – none of that. We won’t see any of those things, but we’ll see instead gentleness, love, respect, and great integrity. So we may all find a few things where we are in need of change, and thank the Lord, He is a God of change, and is faithful to bring us to repentance when we are in need of it.

Paul begins by saying that Timothy, we, are not to sharply rebuke. If you look at these verses, you should see that the words sharply rebuke are tied to each of the phrases that follows. He is going to go on and talk about four types of people: older men, younger men, older women, and younger women. As he talks about each one he is specific on how to treat them, but for each one there is first this admonition not to sharply rebuke them, not to sharply rebuke any of these.

This rebuke spoken of here is a sharp rebuke. It is a violent pounding out of words. Paul is saying, “Don’t be a verbal hammer, violently pounding other people by what you say.” We all know what it is like to be attacked verbally. And unfortunately, most of us know what it is like to be the attacker as well. What happens when we do this or others do this to us? What happens? Conversation, productive conversation ends. Reason, clear analysis stops, and emotions, wild emotions take over and productive conversation is over, it is done. Paul is saying this is not how we are to approach one another. We are not to be going around harming one another with our verbal attacks.

Now I know that for some, that may be all you know. You may have grown up with this. You may have grown up thinking, “To get my point across I must go on the rampage with my words, if I do that people may listen.” But we are to no longer live that way. Here instead is what we are to do.

Well, before I go on let me say this. What if God approached you and me with sharp rebuke? We are mere humans with, really very little power. What if God in all His power, with all His strength chose to approach us all the time with sharp rebuke, verbal attacks? We would not be able to stand before that! We are unable to face His full on wrath. We would melt before Him, we would shrivel, fall to the ground and be done with. We read in the Bible that it is what that leads us to repentance? Romans 2:4 – “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

We are to be like God, like Christ. When we confront other believers, do we do it like He does with us?

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father (1 Timothy 5:1b)

An older man is to be treated with respect just as a child is to respect his father. Older people in our society are to be treated with respect. Ephesians 6:2 says, “Honor your father and mother.”

We can take a lesson from Paul himself when he confronted Peter. Notice how he did that from Galatians 2…

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)

Paul did not treat Peter harshly, he simply asked him a question. We are called by God to confront sin. But when we do, in the case of confronting an older man, it is to be done in a way that shows respect and is an encouragement to him.

In fact, in Ephesians 4:29 we learn that all of our words are to encourage or build up. It says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” What a great passage for every believer to remember.

So for the glory of Christ we are to carefully approach an older man and encourage him in his walk with Christ.

Next, “younger men as brothers.” This is approaching a younger man as an equal, as a brother. You may say, “Wait, you don’t know my brother!” Now remember, we are talking about how brothers are to treat each other, not necessarily how your brother treated you! In Timothy’s case, he was considered a younger man, so this category of person would definitely be his peers. We are commanded to love each other as brothers.

9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11)

As an equal with other believers, we are never to approach one another from a position of arrogance. We are equal before God, equal in importance, equally loved by Him. Humility must rule these relationships. Our example here is of course Christ who came to this earth clothed in humility, approached man with humility, refused to treat those He walked with with disdain. No, He lowered Himself, even taking the affliction directed at Him. Who are we to place ourselves above others, considering their worth less than ours? Even Christ calls us His fellow heirs, His brothers.

Next Paul says: “older women as mothers.” Mothers, like fathers, are to be treated with respect and honor. Mothers should be treated with a certain gentleness. There were two women who were troubling the church at Philippi and we get to see how Paul dealt with that situation. Listen to what he said in Philippians 4…

1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
2 I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:1-3)

These ladies were to be helped, they were to be helped with their disagreements, not harshly rebuked. They were fellow heirs with Christ, their names too were in the Book of Life. They were to come alongside them, help them in their struggle.

Lastly Paul mentions the younger women: “younger women as sisters, in all purity.” Timothy as a young man was to treat the younger women as sisters in all purity. This is really an important matter. Purity here is in reference to sexual purity. It would have been evil for Timothy to be impure with the younger women, whether physically so or even in his own mind. He is to help and minister even to the young women, and this must be done absent impure thoughts, he is to live with them, minister to them as a sister, as God calls a young man to interact with his sister. Notice the emphasis even of “all” purity.

Men cannot be too careful to view women in the church in a godly way, as first of all children of God, as those who belong to God. This means we must carefully respect them, protect them, and never think sinfully regarding them. They are, ladies you are God’s children.

Now, think of this. Have you ever been on the receiving end of confrontation regarding sin or perceived sin in your life? Has someone from your church, even this church come to you and wanted to talk with you regarding sin? If so, how did that go? Were you approached in love, with respect, with gentleness? How about if you have gone to someone regarding sin in their lives? How did you approach them? Did you go to them in love, with respect, with gentleness?

We are called to put off temptations of harshly rebuking and to replace that with gentle words. We are to be like loving family to one another. We are of the same heavenly Father, we are adopted, equally so, into His family. It is concerning to hear of hateful speech among Christians. And even worse to hear this hateful speech aired out publicly among Christians, it is evil and wrong to do that. It is damaging to the name of Christ to do that. How can I say that?

34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

If we are ripping into each other, whether it be through social media or any other way, what does this communicate to a watching world? I mean, what does it show about our hearts? Where is the humility in that?

Do we belong to Christ? Are we living for Him? Are we abiding in Him, wanting to show our love to Him through obedience? If so we will love each other, and our speech, even our confrontations, will reflect it.

And so we have this instruction. How do we interact with each other?

1 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. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)