Wisdom Does Not Hurry
In the New Testament, “laying on of hands” is the expression used for appointing people to spiritual office in the church and for mission. The “hands” were those of the apostles or existing elders which physically signified God’s anointing and empowering for service. It was an act of commissioning. As the church grew rapidly it was necessary to have more people share in the leadership, but Paul cautioned Timothy: do not be in a hurry.
All the potential elders and deacons in the church were new Christians; they had only recently been converted. Those with Jewish backgrounds had to learn the implications of living under grace and not law. Those with pagan backgrounds had to learn new habits of life (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Some men were obviously unsuitable because of their failure to change their lifestyle and others needed to be proved. The principle of testing over time was not only important for the candidates and the church, but also for Timothy and the elders. Rash and hasty judgements would diminish their credibility and authority with the church.
The responsibility of church leadership is felt intensely (2 Corinthians 11:28). Perhaps Timothy’s illnesses were related in some way, exacerbating the effects of drinking impure water. Hurried, ill-considered responses to urgent needs would only make things worse. So Paul’s advice to the young man was to wait for God’s timing and watch the people until it became clear who should, and who should not, have a share in the leadership. The same principle should apply to all our decision-making whether in the church, at work or at home. Our decisions need to be clear-sighted having observed people and circumstances over time. Then we will be working with God and not blindly working against Him.
© Dr Paul Adams