This chapter discusses a ‘righteous’ way for different members of a church with much of the first half giving advice to widows, then proceeds to describe sinning in a leadership role. In the second half, Paul primarily focuses on the responsibilities we have in dealing with the sins of our own and of others.
20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
In verses 20-21, we are told to remain objective and impartial when taking action on the sins of our elders in church. In a close knit community such as churches, it is easy to let our emotions cloud our judgement. On a more day to day application, we must always remember that God is just and wants us to remain in vigilance; that although it may sometimes be ‘easier’ or ‘convenient’, we should strive to maintain God’s standard of righteousness in all our decisions.
2. Remain cautious
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
When we see our friends in a bad situation, our initial instincts are often to dive in. Instead, verse 22 reminds us to stay grounded when faced with sin so that we do not get caught into it. We should take a step back, seek God, remember His teachings and then approach with caution. This is important as even when our intentions are good we may fall into sin: we remain accountable for our actions regardless of our intention.
3. Nothing is hidden forever
24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.
These last two verses extends the warnings mentioned above. In facing the sins of others, we must cautious of judging based on what we see. Although we may only see the surface, God sees and remembers all – so we are to trust God’s perfect justice and in that He knows all. Verses 24-25 also reminds that we serve God, not man. Our worth and righteousness is judged by God. In other words, gaining the approval or being righteous in the eyes of man is meaningless. We don’t need to publicize our good deeds just as we shouldn’t hide away our sins.