Looking inside the letters that Paul wrote can be fascinating. There is a mix of eternal truths we should try to apply and personal situations which really may not have as much applicability broadly.
17The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. 21I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
23No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
24The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.
Clearly when we review this scripture, we can see elements which are still broadly relevant. When there is an elder with good reputation and a teacher or preacher of the word, let us not accept an accusation without two or three witnesses. This is just good sense to apply to anyone who has a good reputation. Sometimes people make false accusations or accuse them of something that is not true, even if the accuser believes it. A good name, or reputation, is to be valued and considered.
He makes reference to rebuking publicly those who continue to sin. This implies that they continue to sin… after you have confronted them privately. Making the rebuke public for those who refuse to repent is important. We don’t do it much today and are the worse off for it. It is intended to discourage others from sinning. Today it seems we are always too concerned about offending the sinner, rather than about offending YHWH by accepting the sin in our midst. Publicly addressing it helps to highlight the sin to others in the congregation also. Failing to confront the sin also sends a clear message to the people that it is acceptable.
Do not lay hands on anyone too hastily. Before we pray over and bless someone as a congregation, let us take time to know them and use discernment. We are to be selective. If we bless and encourage someone who goes off and does bad things, we have some accountability for it, according to Paul.
Then there is a sudden switch over to talk to Timothy about something very personal and specific to him. He has a stomach condition and Paul recommends a little wine. This does not appear to be generally and broadly applicable, but rather specific to Timothy. Paul is not saying all of us need to drink some wine because all of us have stomach issues or are frequently sick.
The last few verses are very interesting as well. It is certainly true that some people are obviously sinners and everyone knows it. For others, they may appear in life to be good and righteous, but their sins may be discovered after they have died. Not everyone that appears righteous is so.
Ultimately though our sins may be concealed for awhile to man, they are never concealed before the Lord.
I encourage you to prayerfully reflect on this passage and consider how it applies to your life today. Think specifically about changes in attitude or behavior that you should make.
Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.