By Randy Dillon
1 Timothy 5:24-25 “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some manifest beforehand, and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.”
The apostle Paul’s two letters to Timothy, his son in the faith, are especially valuable to the leaders of the church in every age. There are many admonitions to would-be church leaders regarding qualifications and expectations for pastors, elders, bishops and deacons. Most are straightforward and demand little deep examination. Others are more subtle and require more exhaustive research in order to mine the gold of the verse. The passage on which we focus today may be one of these.
As Paul instructs Timothy about how elders should behave, he comes to a kind of “life” statement which sums up a proverbial analysis on how sin can affect a potential candidate for elder or any other church leadership position. When church leaders are examined for office Paul explains that “some men’s sins are clearly evident.” That is to say, the moral weaknesses are present to be known by everyone as the sins of a pre-salvation lifestyle are known by everyone. But Paul follows by noting that “those of some follow later.” That is, some sins which may be hidden are later revealed, perhaps after selection for an office. Such a discovery may disqualify an elder if it is a present, unrepentant reality. It may also not disqualify an elder who has sought forgiveness for a pre-salvation sin even if it is discovered or made public later.
Likewise, Paul says that “good works of some are clearly evident.” Using the same words as the preceding verse, he says that a candidate will be known for the good deeds which people are aware of. Their reputation for righteous works will be public knowledge and they will receive the honor due to them. But even if good works are not known before an elder or leader takes office, such good deeds can not be “hidden.” This seems to imply that while a righteous man may not seek public recognition, nonetheless, his noble works will become known in the course of time.
For today’s Christian these verses point out that both evil works and righteous works can become open knowledge before one becomes a church official or, at worst, after such a person assumes office. In order to honor God’s expectations for leaders, it is important for an official of the church to acknowledge personal shortcomings, mistakes and failures of the past and/or present which may affect their service. At the same time, such a person’s righteous works will also be obvious to the church and those which are not clearly evident will eventually come to light.
It therefor behooves such Christian leaders to repent of previous sin, lead a life worthy of God’s approval and not seek the attention of the world for their good works. Instead they should seek every day to act always in giving glory to God alone, and more, letting God reveal to others their own good works in humility and grace.