“Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden” (1 Tim 5:24,25).
In New Testament days, the church was known for its good works and aid of its own. People within the church who had land or homes sold some of their possessions and gave generously to the apostles who oversaw this great ministry of benevolence.
Giving was one sign of dependency upon God. When I give of my money and possession, I learn that things are not where I put my trust, but in God. I also see needs of others and feel their suffering as if it were my own. It was a time that the church was striving to be family.
However, not everyone had the same attitude. There were some who sold land and gave money, but they lied about it – apparently because it was more about being seen than it was about helping others. Acts 4 and 5 tells us this story.
Acts 5:1-2 tell us the situation. So here we have this husband and wife team that conspire to lie. About 3 hours after the husband’s body is taken away, his wife is confronted with this sin. After the husband dies, moments later the wife dies. (verses 5, 11). Thus the words of the apostle Paul, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. (1 Tim. 5:20)
Dealing With Sin
Christians still sin. Church leaders still sin. Elders, Deacons, the Preacher still sin. And sin destroys the soul.
So you have to learn how to deal with sin before it destroys. You have to learn how to confront sin before it becomes so great that entire congregations suffer due to the sin of one individual. How do you confront sin?
Start by understanding what Paul is teaching. Paul is not telling Timothy, you or me to go around and seek to find out all the struggles of the leadership or fellow Christians within the church body. The fact remains that some sins are seen and some are unseen. The only sin that you can deal with are the sins that are seen.
Now, to keep this in the teaching of Paul, he tells Timothy about elders and every other member who continue in sin. The only idea behind it that I can understand is the that which Jesus gave in Matt. 18.
In Matthew 18 the process Jesus gave is if your brother sins against you talk to him alone. Keep it private. The goal, win your brother back. If that brother continues in that sin, take two or three witnesses and confront him so that everything can be established. Again, the goal is reconciliation. But if that brother continues to sin after you privately and then with a few witnesses confront him, then take it before the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, then view him as an unbeliever.
Paul is trying to teach Timothy how to be helpful to the church family, not harmful to people. Our job isn’t to go around looking for sin. Our ministry of reconciliation begins between us in the church family where sin had caused pain and division. Remember, Paul is dealing with persistent sin, and therefore sins which are seen.
Seen and Unseen Sins
Paul speaks of two categories of sin, the seen and the unseen. Within those two categories, Paul deals with sin and good works. The idea that sin ruins relationships with God and man is taught throughout the Bible. Many Christians, not just church leaders, are good at covering up sin. It is a struggle that every Christian has. We are not perfectly sinless, even as we mature in Christ. So you have some sin that is seen and some unseen.
Those which are seen must be dealt with in order to help that Christian who is caught up in a sin. The ones that are unseen will only be faced by God on Judgement Day. Our desire to hide our sin often causes greater harm, than if we face our sin, repent of it, and accept God’s grace to move forward. Take with you John’s teaching (1 Jn 1:5-10)
We can and do walk in the light, we can and do sin. The only time sin darkens our walk is when we arrogantly say we have no sin. It’s okay to admit sin when it is done sincerely, with the right people, and a heart to walk with God. When that happens we are in fellowship with God and each other. When we call ourselves Christians but walk in darkness we break that fellowship. We are too important of a family to break fellowship.
There are also seen and unseen good works. Paul has a very positive statement by reminding us that good triumphs over evil. Even unseen good works cannot remain hidden. Now, he is probably dealing with “hidden from God” but the point is every act will come to light. As said in 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad”
Conclusion: Some of you may be hurting in the pain of a secret sin. No one is asking you to come forward and share all your dirt with the whole congregation, but I would ask you to share it all with God and to find spiritual people who will help you walk in the light. Remember, it is better we judge ourselves while here on earth than to be judged by God come the day of judgment (1 Cor 11:31,32 f; Rom 2:16).