On one hand it was a great honor. On the other, Timothy must have felt like he had drawn the short straw! Paul had selected the young man to go to Ephesus and straighten out the church there. They were a mess – and Timothy would need to correct their doctrine, and their wrong behavior that resulted from that doctrine.
Some of the group Timothy would be forced to correct would be men twice his age. To help him handle this sensitive situation, Paul gave his protégé this sound counsel:
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. (1 Timothy 5:1, ESV)
Timothy needed to do some correcting, but he needed to do it correctly! When dealing with the older men, Timothy was to avoid one thing, in preference for a better alternative. First, Paul said not to rebuke older men. The idea was not to chastise them with sharp, critical, insensitive words.
In place of harsh, rebuking words, Timothy was to encourage these older men as he would a father. The wording conveyed the idea of making an appeal to their age and wisdom. Yes, these men were wrong in some areas, but they were not total fools. As such, Timothy could still treat them with respect. Interestingly, as Paul began his letter, he called Timothy his true child in the faith (1:2), which introduces the possibility that Paul wanted Timothy to correct these older men the same way he would correct him. I’m sure Timothy began to choose his words and his approach very, very carefully!
When you are forced to correct someone, are you paying close attention to doing so correctly? Are you granting honor and respect – appealing to them to do what is right? Dave
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