Rebuke not an Elder. 1 Timothy 5:1

Let’s start off this study into chapter five of 1 Timothy with a version I try to stay away from, the KJV.

1 Timothy 5:1 KJV Rebuke not an elder but entreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethren;

The KJV version has an air of respect as it speaks of an elder. The presumed idea is that older citizens should be thought of as elders. We would assume that this means someone with wisdom and qualifications coming from a life lived by a moral standard.

While this seems like a valid concept, we need to do our homework and look up words and their meanings.

Elder is the Greek word presbuteros. The meanings range from someone who is older, a title of dignity, and one of the classes of members to which the chief priest and the scribes and the elders belonged.

With the Christian church coming on the scene the word elder was applied to those “who were committed the direction and government of individual churches.”

I have to read 1 Timothy 5:1 in light of the entirety of Paul’s letter to Timothy. It was written to instruct a young man on how to be a good pastor and church leader. So, my perception of an elder, in regards to this letter, is to see this person as someone within this body of believers, who is, in all likelihood, carrying the responsibility of being a church elder.

Now let’s look at another translation, one I use frequently.

1 Timothy 5:1 NASB Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,

The NASB changed the terminology to simply read, an older man. While it would be appropriate to treat older people with respect, the change in language removes the idea that this person is an elder within the church. This, in my mind, ignores the context and ignores the Greek word presbuteros which speaks of a leadership position. Most of the translations refer to older men, almost as if they are excluding presbuteros and the context of church leadership.

Let’s consider a couple more words: appeal and entreat.

Both of these examples is the Greek word parakaleō which Strong’s tells me, means to call near, that is, invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation): – beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), intreat, pray.

I have never heard the word hortation intentionally used before. Because it is unfamiliar to me I looked it up in Webster’s dictionary. It means the act of exhorting or giving advice.

Thayer’s definitions of the word entreat, simply say, to call to one’s side.

What I do with this information?

First, let’s address this from the standpoint of a person having to be rebuked, whether they are an elder or merely an older person.

What have they done to deserve such a sharp rebuke?

As we see from 2 Timothy that the potential for being in opposition, to the teachings Paul left for Timothy to preach, is one answer. In the church, we call those teachings church doctrine. These doctrines are the foundation on which we build.

And in this way, I desire to preach where Christ has not been named, so as not to build on another person’s foundation, (Romans 15:20 NET.)

Build, Do you mean that we can make it higher, cover it in gold, and promote the worship of the temple over God?

No, for the only thing being built is the body of Christ, based upon Jesus’ work on the cross; and, even then the building only takes place as people are drawn to the Word the God, the life we are living – in love, and they themselves become established in the hope we have.

If someone is holding another viewpoint about these doctrines (although I am not sure that is theologically possible,) is it necessary to go nuclear on them?

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB)

The definition of entreat, as we saw above, indicates that we are to call this person to our side. I think the obvious fact is that, in the process of trying to correct or straighten this person out, it is done with a heart of love. Now, the complete stranger; that person who will NOT listen to you, you might have to handle differently. I have frequently said, especially when dealing with the grandchildren, why can’t they simply respond when I calmly said stop, but since you have refused to comply we have now come to harsh actions.

My most recent experience came when a brother-in-Christ attempted to give an emotionally charged word to the church body I was attending. This speech was a failure from the moment that he had to announce to the crowd that he was worthy of listening to; everything he must have pictured in his mind floated away in anger and frustration, and he was asked to return to his seat, primarily because his word was inappropriate. Since the brother refused to listen and comply he ended up being escorted out of the church that day. He has never come back.

Paul, in 1 Timothy instructs the young pastor in these things in order to prevent the teaching of strange doctrines.

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, (1 Timothy 1:3 NASB)

The word strange is the same as the Greek word used for doctrines. Thayer’s Greek Definitions tells us that it can be seen as: to teach other doctrines; different doctrine; or, simply deviating from the established doctrine.

What do we have that confirms this?

Galatians 1:6-8 NASB

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”

To be accursed!” sounds rather serious, and is quite probably the impetus behind Paul’s having to speak to Timothy about correcting a church leader.

If the church leader in question is a younger man, do you think Timothy has more freedom to speak aggressively?

I am not sure this is the answer, as it leans toward aggression.

“As we have said before, so I say again now if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:9 NASB)

Accursed is the Greek anathema and according to the Word Study Dictionary means given up, or devoted to destruction for God’s sake; given up to the curse and destruction.

In 1 Corinthians 5, though Paul does not mention the man’s name, clearly the man has committed egregious sins, which are spelled out in the Torah. I think it is obvious that multiple attempts to confront and curtail this man’s activities have failed; and that is where Paul comes into the story, as he has decided it is time to turn this man over to Satan so that his flesh may be destroyed but not his spirit.

I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:5 NASB)

You would think that turning someone over to Satan would be the absolute end of them. If that were the case, then one could argue that judgment was put into our hands. I happen to think handing judgment off to us would be a foolish decision, as we, regardless of the cross, are still broken people and will be so until Christ collects us back to Himself, changed.

all judgment has been given to the Son” (John 5:22b).

There is no doubt that the man’s flesh dies in this story, but there is also no doubt that the man has the opportunity to be saved in the day of the Lord. I use the term opportunity because Paul suggests that he may be saved. That word may is rather open-ended and can be taken two ways; one is said with affirmation, but we don’t exactly get that sense here. The other is an opportunity extended, and whether it is accepted or not is not known to us.

Consider these verses.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” (Jude 1:20-23 NASB)

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make a request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death. We know that no one who is born of God sins, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.” (1 John 5:16-18 NASB)

“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
(James 5:19-20 NASB)

One of the struggles I have with this subject of dealing with an elder is how entrenched they can be within the church, often to the degree that others will quickly come in agreement and side with this person to protect them. I watched it happen repeatedly on Monday mornings.

Previously, I told you that I had left just such a Bible Study. I left because I rarely learned anything while there (It was definitely more a relational gathering of men,) for as the speaker would begin, my heart would scream out, that is wrong and I would begin to search out scriptures that refuted the speakers topic, or his interpretation of what he was preaching that day. I think that addressing leaders like this is either a bravery issue, or it’s a skillset; and I feel like I have neither.

I appreciate what Paul told Timothy to do when he said,

“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. (14) Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. (15) Give your complete attention to these matters(NLT,) so that your progress will be evident to all. (16) Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:13-16 NASB

To simplify this I will turn it into bullet points.

  • Give attention to the public reading of Scripture.
  • Give attention: to exhortation and teaching.
  • Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.

So Paul is telling Timothy, no matter what, keep this information I have given you, alive.

Now if we are talking about an elder in the church, or we are talking about an older man, that has spent his life in the Word of God, you are NOT to crush the man’s spirit as you address some error he may be spreading. (That is easier said than done.)

As we see from 2 Timothy, the potential for being in opposition, to the teachings Paul left for Timothy to preach, is one answer. Secondly, in the church, we call those teachings church doctrine. These doctrines are the foundation on which we build.

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB)

See, I have to look at this from a context point of view. In chapter four of this letter to Timothy, Paul addresses how some will leave the faith, but return with false teaching. These teachings might sound right, but they are not. Having spent some time in the faith movement, there was a push to get God to bring you monetary and physical gain. God is not interested in your gains, He is interested in your heart. So, is it possible that this was demonic teaching that crept in? Possibly.

We are not quite done.

Do not address an older man harshly but appeal to him as a father. Speak to younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters — with complete purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NET.)

Notice how this version says, appeal to him as a father. Hopefully, you had a great father-son relationship and can understand this. Additionally, it does speak to the pastor addressing younger men as brothers and, older women as mothers, whom you would probably, like mine, never cuss in front of. And lastly, even though the context of the message is to straighten out twisted and false teachings, your approach with younger women is with the same respect you would give a sister. Not necessarily a sibling, for many would confess that they don’t treat their siblings well. Paul, in this translation, says your relationship is to be with complete purity.

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