A Commentary by John Stott

1 Timothy 5:24-25. e) Discernment

Verses 24 and 25 develop Paul’s emphasis on the need for caution, and give a further reason to avoid haste. It is that human beings are frequently different from what they appear at first sight. They may seem initially either better or worse than they really are, for both their good and their bad points may take a while to surface. Therefore time is needed in which to discover the truth about a candidate for the pastorate. *The sins of some men are obvious*. In fact, they are so conspicuous that they reach *the place of judgment ahead of them*, or ‘precede them into court’ (REB), whether the judgment in mind is divine or human. *The sins of others*, however, *trail behind them* (24), for they do not appear until later. *In the same way*, as with evil so with goodness, *good deeds are obvious*, or at least many of them are, because they are done in the open. And *even those that are not* conspicuous at the time *cannot be hidden* forever. (25).

So Timothy would need discernment. It is the iceberg principle, namely that nine-tenths of a person are hidden from view. This is why Timothy must give himself time in which to form an accurate assessment of people’s character. Attractive personalities often have hidden weaknesses, whereas unprepossessing people often have hidden strengths. Timothy must learn to discern between the seen and the unseen, the surface and the depth, the appearance and the reality.

Here are five qualities which are needed by Christian leaders in their dealings with others for whom they are responsible: appreciation (affirming outstanding performance), fairness (not listening to unsubstantiated accusations), impartiality (avoiding all favouritism), caution (not reaching hasty decisions) and discernment (looking beyond the outward appearance to the heart). Whenever these principles are in operation, mistakes will be avoided, the church will be preserved in peace and love, and God’s name will be protected from dishonour.

Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 6:1-2. 3). Slaves.

The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.