1 Timothy 5:17-25 Restoring and Maintaining Biblical Eldership

1 Timothy 5:17-25

Restoring and maintaining biblical eldership

 

[17] Let (imperative) the elders who rule (stand first / exercise leadership / show concern for) well be considered worthy of double honor (two-fold honor – 1. respect 2. remuneration/wage/reward/compensation), especially (chiefly / particularly) those who labor (kopiao – labor to the point of fatigue / not amount but effort) in preaching (logos – word / speaking) and teaching (instruction / particularly in doctrine). [18] For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” (Deuteronomy 25:4 and spelled out in 1 Cor. 9:3-12) and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (Quoted from Luke 10:7 and Jesus’ words recorded by Luke) [19] Do not admit (imperative – receive) a charge (cause or complaint or accusation) against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matt. 18:16). [20] As for those who persist in sin (behavior opposite of the qualifications of the role of pastor/elder), rebuke (bring to open conviction) them in the presence of all (the congregation – no place to hide from sin), so that the rest may stand in fear (the other pastor/elders). [21] In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. [22] Do not be hasty in the laying (imperative – affirming men for service as an elder / pastor) on of hands, nor take part (imperative – to be part of) in the sins of others; keep yourself pure (imperative). [23] (No longer drink (imperative) only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) [24] The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. [25] So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

 

Godly leadership is absolutely crucial in the kingdom of God. Leadership that only a Harvard Business grad can provide is not crucial to the advance of the kingdom. That is not to say that a Harvard grad could not lead in the kingdom, just that leadership in the kingdom is constructed on kingdom values rather than education and “talent” alone.

 

Great men who epitomize these kingdom values are often shoved aside because they don’t facilitate growth enough fast enough. Often they may be abused by unrealistic expectations that are not biblical and when they don’t meet the expectations they become a constant target for those who want to pay someone to do their ministry.

 

Often the mentality is that if one is paid to be a pastor then he is solely responsible for the kingdom and if he fails then it’s his fault. So, this man is ridden hard, poorly compensated, poorly respected, attacked and then asked to move on or he chooses to leave for the sake of survival.

 

The other extreme is that some may come and never lead toward the kingdom and never teach and preach at any depth or they may even lead to wrong belief and practice yet he is allowed to stay and get away with disobeying Scripture.

 

Either way, leadership in the church is vital and succession of leadership is vital.

 

Some people in the church have led Ephesus astray. Elders had even begun to fail in upholding the mystery of the gospel, and the church at Ephesus begun to leave her first love. Timothy’s task is large.

 

Hosea 4:9 reminds the people that they are perishing because of not knowing the truth and not being taught the truth. “Like people like priest.”

 

It is vital that Jesus’ under shepherds be like the Shepherd and lead like him, and it is vital that the people of God honor those who do that job well.

 

How does Paul instruct Timothy to go about restoring and maintaining biblical eldership that will restore and maintain the people of God?

 

First, Paul tells Timothy to make sure they honor elders who do their job well v. 17-18

For one to resist payment for ministry because Paul did is a fake humility built on a lie.

 

Paul received payment and sustenance from the churches he served as an apostle.

 

[18] I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. [19] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. [20] To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Philippians 4:18-20

 

Although Paul worked to help support himself he did not reject his full right to receive necessary supply from his labor. Paul did reject it at Corinth for a reason, but only at Corinth that we know of.

 

We original founders and pastors at TRCC have been pleased to serve at our own cost and labor for our time here for a lengthy season, and we have been honored through some payment as well, and that is no sin.

 

We often have taken, perhaps, excessive pride in not receiving full wage from the church, but it is not wrong to honor elders well.

 

As our church grows and as we have the responsibility to start new campuses and as the workload on elders increases we will need to figure how to obey this passage as well as we obey the Great Commission. It is not one or the other. It is obey the Scriptures well in all areas.

 

Having said that, what is communicated here about honoring elders well?

 

First of all note that Scripture’s instruction is imperative. Honoring of the elders is not optional. The bible demands it.

 

It feels self-seeking and truthfully this is hard for me to say because it’s not my nature to do this kind of thing. I have an unhealthy and biblically inaccurate view on this issue. My early experience in pastoral ministry has been that the elders were the least compensated and easiest target and that the elder must be fine with living at poverty level and in constant fear that someone was going to rip him a new exit location.

 

I’ve watched pastors take unnecessary junk from “believers” disrespecting them in the name of opinion not moral failure and they do it in a manner that is unbiblical and unholy, yet justified because the pastor was the paid guy or just because he was the pastor. I’ve watched those same pastors barely be able to pay their bills and feed their families. I have truly heard stories of pastors being given groceries only to have the amount of the groceries deducted from their check.

 

As clearly as the Scriptures say to make disciples of all nations it mandates that elders be respected as Jesus’ under shepherds. So, don’t think these men exist as open targets for opinion laden expectations set so high Jesus can’t meet them. Honor is due them.

 

Second, note that the imperative is based on the Scriptures. In verse 18 Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4 that he expounds on in 1 Corinthians 9:3-12 and he also cites Luke 10:7 in which Luke records the words of the Lord Jesus.

 

[4] “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain. Deuteronomy 25:4

 

[3] This is my defense to those who would examine me. [4] Do we not have the right to eat and drink? [5] Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? [6] Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? [7] Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? [8] Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? [9] For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? [10] Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. [11] If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? [12] If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:3-12

 

(Paul did this at Corinth because of the tenuous relationship with that church not because of a moral high horse about not being paid for ministry. We’ve seen that in Philippians already.)

 

[1] After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. [2] And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. [3] Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. [4] Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. [5] Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ [6] And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. [7] And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Luke 10:1-7

 

Although Paul and Barnabas rejected this right at Corinth, they gladly accepted it in other situations as we have noted because it is a standard that Father has set.

 

A little bible scholarship side note I’ve mentioned before but need to draw your attention to because it’s in the text. Paul is quoting Luke’s writing and recording of the Lord Jesus here in the 60’s AD. This affirms that the New Testament authors were already acknowledging the writings of the eyewitnesses and apostles as authoritative, and much of the New Testament pre-date AD 70. The bible is inspired, inerrant and authoritative.

Back to the main point: the main point here in Jesus’ words to the 72 he is sending out is that they are to carry no supplies for themselves but should expect that they would be compensated for their work. This is Jesus’, the speaker of Deuteronomy 25:4, take on his own standard.

 

It’s in the Manual.

 

Third, take note of the one’s to be honored. The elders ruling well and those who labor at preaching and teaching are worthy.

 

Those who rule, or exercise leadership and those who work hard (labor until the point of being tired) at preaching and teaching are worthy of being honored. The elders who make good decisions and go first and those who work at the proclamation and the instruction are worthy.

 

Paul sets a standard for the elder. The elder must be a hard worker not a lazy worker. They must be a proactive, self-starting, on task, not needing to be reminded, not satisfied big boy. This is man work. This man deserves to be honored. But, what does that honor look like?

 

Finally, note that those who work and excel are to receive double honor. This does not mean double pay. The best understanding goes back to St. Chrysostom (347-407, Archbishop at Constantinople) who understood the double honor to mean a two-fold honor of respect and compensation. John Calvin had no disagreement with Chrysostom in that understanding either.[1]

 

I am not healthy regarding my approach to or acceptance of this truth. Being raised by depression generation folks who leaned toward some levels of legalism created a “poverty” theology in me.

 

Prosperity theology is a lie. God does not make it his aim to give health, wealth and overflowing material resources to all Christians.

 

Poverty theology is a lie too. Father does not intend for believers to shun all resources and be poor and barely able to get by when they can do better and better should be done for them. I have a hard time receiving pay for ministerial work because my framework is broken. So this is hard for me to say for myself, but it’s not hard to say for others.

 

In any way you can, don’t fail to honor the men who lead you well.

 

Second, Paul tells Timothy to protect elders and the people v. 19

Listen to Deuteronomy 19:15-20:

[15] “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. [16] If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, [17] then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. [18] The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, [19] then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. [20] And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. Deuteronomy 19:15-20

 

Listen to Jesus’ exposition of Deuteronomy 19:15-20 in Matthew 18:15-20:

[15] “If your brother sins against you (not if he / she breaks an expectation set that is not in Scripture), go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [19] Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. [20] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:15-20

 

Take note that this passage protects the people and the elders from false accusations and from opinion-laden confrontations. If a person or an elder sins by breaking clear Scriptural commandments or, in the case of an elder, failing to meet the qualifications for an elder and bringing public shame on the gospel, then those who have witnessed the sin should follow the Matthew 18 model that the Lord Jesus set up that leads to redemption or to church discipline.

 

There can be many nuances to the practice of this passage, but the spirit of the passage is to protect people from silly issues raised by a person with an ax to grind or from false accusation from a person with evil intent.

If there is sin, then this model should be employed. If there is a failure for a person to meet some unspoken expectations, then the holder of the unspoken expectations should repent for having those unspoken expectations with the Lord, move on and not bother the brother or sister with the issue.

 

Here are some truths to guide the practice of protecting each other according the spirit of this passage:

1. We are the family of God first, standing together, covering each other in a covenant relationship. After that, we do ministry together. Our relationship with each other is more important than performance.

 

2. We agree to speak bible truth to each other in love at all times (not truth according to the speaker).

 

3. If our family is successful…then we are successful.

 

4. Don’t take offense. Don’t be offended even if it’s justified. No one who is truly seeking to follow Jesus comes here to make someone angry or hurt him or her.

 

5. Those who don’t worship are the ones who complain.

 

6. First hear from the Father in the word…then be obedient to what he is saying.

 

7. Work to operate in servant leadership.

 

8. Assume good intentions.

 

Third, Paul tells Timothy to correct elders and the people v. 20-21

Because there was a need at Ephesus for some elders to be corrected Paul makes sure Timothy does this properly and institutes a biblical model for correcting elders as well as correcting wayward members of the fellowship.

 

Again, we have established that the moral qualifications of 1 Timothy are not to be applied to the elders only. Rather, the moral qualifications are especially to be applied to the elders but not ignored by the members of the fellowship. The need to apply the standards to the elders especially is due to the fact that they will be the first brought to public trial and possibly death, so their moral standing must be of highest importance. But the member could not just ignore the moral standards.

 

Note that the correction was to take place in public only after the person’s refusal to repent of violating the Scriptures. “As for those who persist in sin”.

 

The understanding is that the people are following the Lord’s instruction in Matthew 18:15-20 and that the person who will not repent should be dealt with in public whether elder or member. The public nature of this correction was intended to create a level of holy fear. The public nature of dealing with sin imitates the heavenly reality that Father knows our sin and nothing is hidden from his sight and will correct his children and this should cause the believer to strive for holiness and repentance due to a holy fear of violating Father’s righteousness and receiving his correction. This public correction is not unkind; rather it is a gracious action that is a means of the Lord’s grace to rescue believers from the cancer of sin.

 

We are told in verse 21 that this correction is to be done without judging too quickly and without any partiality. In other words all in the fellowship are given the process of Scripture to holiness, but ALL are given that same process. No one gets to escape accountability to follow the Lord Jesus in all things.

 

Paul then makes an astounding statement regarding the ultimate reason for correcting folks in sin. That reason is that Father, Son (and Holy Spirit due to his ongoing ministry in the church although not mentioned, his ministry is assumed. The idea here is that the Son has ascended to the right hand of the Father having sent the Spirit to point to the Father and Son), and the elect angels are observing the playing out of God’s eternal plan on the global stage.

 

[7] Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. [8] To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, [9] and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, [10] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. [11] This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, [12] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. [13] So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. Ephesians 3:7-13

 

There is a much deeper and richer event taking place than the mundane existence of my little daily experience. Through striving for holiness in the church and the effort to move people toward holiness Father and Son are glorified or dishonored in the heavenly places and the elect angels celebrate or mourn. The fallen principalities and powers and rulers of wickedness accuse and berate us in our sin or possibly are taken aback by a pursuit of holiness. Either way, the events of our life together on mission are not done in isolation from supernatural working and this should cause us to be in awe, careful about our actions and words and strive for holiness and therefore praise to Father, Son and Spirit.

 

Finally, Paul tells Timothy to be careful in selecting elders v. 22-25

In selecting church leaders from the church for the office of pastor / elder Paul urges care. The distasteful task of disciplining church leaders called for up-front wisdom and care in selection because to place in leadership one who was not qualified would be to partake in their sin. Hard questions must be asked and need to continue to be asked to insure the pursuit of righteousness.

 

Paul inserts a personal note as an aside in the text here, and the question is, “what place does verse 23 have in the section on selecting elders”?

 

Here is the answer: Timothy’s purity was key in the selection process. He had to be seeking purity. Timothy had perhaps been led into some ascetic practices due to the teaching on the part of some elders that people should abstain from certain foods and drinks and activities in order to be holy.

 

Timothy had taken to drinking only water and was apparently getting sick frequently. Paul knew, as was the wisdom of the day, that water born sicknesses made life hard and that wine had certain health benefits. So, one one sure way to insure good health was to re-introduce the consumption of wine back into his diet for physical health and for spiritual health.

 

Timothy’s standing with God was not affected by the taking of water only. As Paul said in Colossians 2:23 “these have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

 

In fact, Timothy’s efforts at appeasing the false teachers were making him sick. Timothy had to insist on the truth and live it out by drinking wine because Timothy’s purity was actually affected to the negative by practicing asceticism in error. In other words, Timothy’s potential sin of succumbing to the ascetic practices of the false teachers could cloud his discernment. What appeared to be holy was actually sin and could affect Timothy’s ability to discern sin issues in the men he was to appoint to the office of pastor / elder. So Timothy was to take a drink, get well and continue on.

 

Paul’s final instruction to Timothy was, in summary, to be discerning. Some people’s sins are clear, but some people’s sins are well covered. This requires discernment that is the supernatural, Holy Spirit empowered ability to smell the spiritual air and know that all is well or something is amiss. Time will always tell.

 

Some people who don’t look all spiritual on the outside are actually solid gold and that can’t be hidden over time. Some who look good are actually death in disguise and that can’t be hidden either.

 

The goal of leadership is to discern those things and courageously hold the line even if people didn’t agree.

 

In Luke 7:31-35 Jesus compares the generation of his hearers to children who complained because they played a flute and the people listening didn’t dance, so the kids played a dirge and others didn’t mourn. Then Jesus says that John the Baptist came with rejection of stuff and he was accused of having a demon. Jesus came eating and drinking what John rejected and they complained that he was a glutton and friend of sinners, but wisdom is proved wise by it’s fruit.

 

The reality is that Timothy’s leadership in wisdom and obeying Scripture would be called demonic by some and sinner friendly by others, however, the fruit of obeying Scripture would be shown to be right and that was to be Timothy’s aim not people’s opinion of him.

 

In closing, the realty is that sometimes in preaching and teaching the bible there is not a cool way to wrap it up and move people’s emotions to worship with cool applications to be practiced that moment. Sometimes the application has to take place in the trenches when spiritual bombs are dropping through demonic attack or the war of fighting for the kingdom in the midst of enemy territory. This is one such passage.

 

We have started learning how to do this, but we must keep on learning and doing and make sure we continue for as long as the Lord will sustain this work.

 

Let’s hear and let’s obey as we continue on the journey together of life together on mission in brining the kingdom of Jesus Christ to fruition here in Rome, GA and among our people group.

 

Lets worship the Father and make known his manifold wisdom!

 

 

[1] David Torrence and Thomas Torrence, eds., 1st and Timothy, Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), p. 261.

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