a sermon preached on 10 February 2019 at Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church
Please pray with me.
May my heart’s affection, my mind’s attention, and my soul’s submission be to you, oh Lord, my Savior and my Redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God is a God of depth, of substance, of honor, of godliness, and of truth. God is the origin of all these things, and so he desires his church, his bride, to grow in the same, no matter how young or old. He is not a God who looks upon outward appearances alone, but he tests the inmost heart. He does not honor a man or determine his godliness by what the man wears, but by the holiness of his person: heart, soul, mind, and strength. All honor ultimately flows to our Triune God, and all godliness flows from our Triune God.
Please turn in your Bible with me to 1 Timothy 6:11-16. I would like to read again for us today’s passage.
Today is the fourth sermon in our sermon series “The Green Church,” and it is the last sermon we will spend in First Timothy. The residing question in this sermon series is, “What advice can we, as a green church, glean from Paul’s words to Timothy, who is indeed green in his own ministry in Ephesus?” Today, we will be covering chapters five and six of First Timothy, and the two words which will guide our time are honor and godliness.
It’s an interesting question, to ask “How does our culture identify godliness?” if we can say it even does. It’s also an interesting question, to ask “How does our culture give honor? To whom do we give honor? For what do we give honor? And at what points do we ourselves demand honor from others?” Many of the things in our culture which stimulate honor—having a lot of money, being outwardly attractive, having a powerful job, having a reputable family name—are none of the reasons Paul gives for how one ought to determine in the church the direction which honor flows.
In chapter 5 Paul communicates to Timothy and to us that there are three things upon which honor depends:
First, honor depends on relationships. Paul says to honor those older for certain reasons and to show a certain honor to those younger than you. In the first few verses of chapter five, we see that God, following his ten commandments, desires those in the church continue to honor their fathers and mothers, and that they honor older men and women as if they are fathers and mothers. He likewise encourages Paul to love those younger than us as brothers or sisters. In this way, Timothy’s greenness as a pastor, and our greenness as a church, ought to be spent on treating one another according to the lot God has given us and our relationship to one another. A church matures not because we are all friends, co-equals, and together in the same Bible study. A church matures because we honor one another according to God’s Word, according to the inequality each of us has to one another. I am to honor the older women in this church as mothers, and they are to honor me as a son. I am to honor younger men in this church as brothers, perhaps even as sons, and not as a kind of youth pastor or youth group leader.
Second, honor depends on the home. Paul makes it a central point through his writings to Timothy to say that the health of the home is the greatest indicator of a man’s health, and likewise the greatest indicator of what will become of a church’s health. Numerous times throughout First and Second Timothy, Paul makes it clear that the place where a man or woman’s honor is gained is in the home, and the fastest way for a man or woman to lose honor in the church or in society is by losing honor in the home, primarily by neglecting the responsibilities and care God has given that man or woman in the home. Paul even goes so far as to say in verse 8 that, “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.” So for the green church, honor is rooted first in the home and if honor is not first found there, it will not be found anywhere.
Third, honor depends on responsibility. Near the end of chapter five Paul encourages Timothy to pay “double honor” to elders, those who teach and preach. By saying this, he is not saying local church leaders, or those in increasing leadership positions, are to be praised more and more or even paid double wage. What he is saying is that as a man takes on greater burdens and core responsibilities in the local church, so his honor should reflect this position. With leadership in the local church comes greater accountability, greater expectation, greater attentiveness, greater energy, greater need for mature qualifications, and perhaps even greater physical ailments, as Paul indicates in verse 23 when he states, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” So, in a green church not only does honor flow with age and homemaking, but honor flows with responsibility. A man unwilling to work or care for or take on responsibility in the local church should not expect to be honored. There is no honor due his name. But when a man accepts God’s call to indeed take on responsibility in the local church, especially teaching and preaching, we ought not to withhold the honor due his name. And in all this, let not the world’s standard of money, prestige, or sophistication cause us any partiality in the honor we give.
Closing Paul’s presentation on honor, he moves into an exhortation on godliness. Like Paul’s words to Timothy on honor, so Paul communicated to Timothy and to us that there are three things upon which godliness depends:
First, godliness depends on sound doctrine. As we should suspect, Paul, in this closing chapter of First Timothy, circles back to the theme of his first chapter. If you remember back to the sermon on First Timothy chapter 1, my first point was that Paul indicates to Timothy that there is a war against ideas. I made claim that the church exists, and pastors exist, to not only speak the truth, but to combat false teaching. This means the church, and especially the green church, ought to grow in its ability to discern false teaching, stand up against false teaching, and charge individuals not to teach that which is contrary to “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Here, in the final chapter of First Timothy, Paul returns again to the theme of sound doctrine, of ideas, and states that sound doctrine and godliness are inextricably grown together. In a green church, if we want to check ourselves or see whether a man is growing in or has grown in godliness, let us first consider how much he loves and espouses the sound teaching of Jesus Christ. The closer a man gets to sound doctrine, the more godly he becomes. The further he gets from sound doctrine, the less godly he becomes.
Second, godliness depends on contentment. Just as a man cannot serve both God and money, so he cannot be discontent and likewise grow in godliness. He cannot be discontent with his finances; He cannot be content with the amount or style of his clothes; He cannot be discontent with his home; He cannot be discontent with his body. When a man is discontent, we can suspect he is not grateful, and when a man is not grateful, he will not be godly. This is especially true of money, which a green church like us ought to run far from. As Paul states, “if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (v. 8-11) Dear church, dear very green church, do we have food? Do we have clothing? Then with these let us be content and grow in godliness.
Third, godliness depends on God. Paul makes it a point to close First Timothy reiterating an idea with which he opened chapter 1: God’s immortality. Paul makes it clear that Timothy’s Christian confession, and therefore our confession, depends on God, “who gives life to all things,” (v.13), and “who is the blessed and only sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” (v. 15-16). And this is what makes God worthy of all our worship. He is immortal, and our godliness, now and forever, depends upon his sovereign grace.
God is most to be honored. And God is indeed the origin and substance of all godliness. And because this table is his table, this table is a table of honor and godliness. Think back for a moment to our three points about honor and our three points about godliness.
If honor depends upon relationality, and honor depends upon the submission and self-sacrifice a man has in his own home, and the utmost honor depends upon those who take the utmost responsibility, then we can see that the Lord, who is perfect in his relationality, perfect in his self-sacrifice, and perfect in taking up the responsibility of the cross, is worthy of all honor. This table is a table which honors not us, not this church, but most honors God. This table deserves honor, not because we are called to it, but because it is the Lord’s table.
And it is so with godliness. If godliness depends on sound doctrine, and godliness depends on contentment, and godliness depends on God, then we can see that the Lord, who is perfect in his teaching, perfect in his contentment, and perfect in himself, is the source and substance of all godliness. And in as much as this table is His sacrament, His table, His meal at which he dines with us, then this is a table of godliness as well as honor.
Now hear, as we close our time, a poem from George Herbert titled “Praise II”
King of Glory, King of Peace,
I will love thee:
And that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request,
Thou hast heard me:
Thou didst note my working breast,
Thou hast spared me.
Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
And the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried,
Thou didst clear me;
And alone, when they replied,
Thou didst hear me.
Sev’n whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee.
In my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Thou grew’st soft and moist with tears,
And when Justice called for fears,
Small it is, in this poor sort
To enroll thee:
Ev’n eternity is to short
To extoll thee.