Jump Start # 2868
1 Timothy 5:20 “Those that continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest may be fearful of sinning.”
Our passage is found in a section about elders. Earlier in this letter Paul had addressed the qualities of those who lead God’s people. He returns within this letter with some more thoughts. Elders that are doing well, the apostle says, are worthy of double honor. They are busting it. They are wearing themselves out in the work of the Lord. They are showing how it ought to be done.
But then, there are those leaders who are not doing a good job. In fact, they are not walking well with the Lord. Their example is not one to be followed. Others have noticed. Accusations with witnesses have been made. It is here that our verse falls. Even after accusations. Even after witnesses have come forward. Even after rebukes and warnings, there are some who “continue in sin.”
Now, some thoughts:
First, there are no double standards in God’s kingdoms. No one gets a pass on their behavior. What is expected of the preacher’s kid is to be expected of all kids in the church. Elders do not get to make the rules or bend the rules. Not only is that a terrible example, but it destroys trust and tarnishes the position that they hold. Of all people, those in leadership ought to be concerned about how they appear first to God and then to the church.
Second, it’s that “those who continue in sin,” that is most troubling. Why? Why would they continue in sin after they have been talked to? Why would they continue in sin after God’s word has been brought to their attention? Why would anyone, any Christian, continue in sin? Continuing in sin means, walking away from the Lord. It means a continuation, not a slip. It means choices are being made that are not wise, careful, nor thought out. It means choices are being made that are not spiritual based. It means that unless the course is corrected, one will likely lose their soul.
Third, the “continuing in sin,” means that these leaders came to the intersection with God’s word and they chose to stay with sin. They loved sin more than they loved the Lord. Somehow they discounted and discredited what the word of God said. God’s word doesn’t mean what it says or God’s word doesn’t fit their situation. Behind all of this is a faith that is no longer strong. Their faith hit the rocks and now their lives are about to crash.
There is a thought that these elders who continue in sin may be the ones Paul warned about in Acts 20, when he said, ‘from among yourselves men will arise.’ Instead of pulling back on progressive thinking they have embraced new ideas that lead away from the Lord. And, because of their position, others would follow. This is the danger that leaders must understand. Not every wild idea, not every thought needs to be expressed openly. Put some prayer behind those things. Do some digging in the Scriptures. Talk to some trusted souls who know you. This is the real danger of social media today. A new idea, a new way of doing things catches the eyes of some but before they put the time in to think things through they are on the bandwagon telling others about how wonderful these new truths are. The problem is that “these new truths,” are not true at all, and when one looks through history they are not new either.
And, with just enough pride, a person is put into a corner, often where they did not want to be and then pride will keep them there. Unwilling to admit that they may have been wrong, they would rather continue in sin than change.
What is the outcome for leaders who continue in sin? First, according to the passage, they would be rebuked publically. Now, everyone knows. What was once only known by two or three, is out openly. Second, those that continue in sin, lose their credibility and role as spiritual leaders of God’s people. Finally, as this continues, these leaders would find themselves out of fellowship with God and His people.
It is one thing for any of us to do wrong. But once we know, to continue down that path is following the devil straight to his final abode. Continuing in sin—what a sad, sad situation. What can be done? Preach God’s word. Remind all that God allows one to make changes and course corrections. Understand that the destination of ‘continuing in sin,’ is a train wreck with no survivors.
Let us help all and let us help one another.