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More About Elders. 1 Timothy 5:17-25

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Introduction:

Good leadership is crucial to any Christian organization and that is especially the case with the Church. Someone has wisely stated “as goes the leadership, so goes the church.”
It is equally true, that while it is important, it can be scarce, hard to come by and very fragile to keep.
Paul understood all of this, and that is why, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he pinned his letter to Timothy; and, why he spent so much space in his letter relating to Timothy such things as: The kind of character and qualifications he should look for in leaders. How he, himself should lead as an Elder. And, here in the text before us, how to maintain and care for those who lead well.
Specifically in the areas of renumeration and discipline. Along with, the process he should take in selecting and ordaining new elders within the church.
Paul gives instructions regarding:
Honoring elders elders who rule well. (v.17-18)
Disciplining elders who sin. (v.19-21)
Selecting of new elders to serve. (v.22-25)

1.) Honoring elders who rule well. (v.17-18)

1 Timothy 5:17–18 NKJV
17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Elders- is the equivalent to what we call pastors today. Much like the word “Bishop” does as well. The three words that the Bible uses for pastor (Elder, Bishop, Pastor) encompass the overarching work of a pastor. They direct the affairs of the church, along with, their preaching and teaching ministry.
A.) The condition.
Notice, that there is a condition given in order for an elder/pastor to receive this double honor.
He needs to rule well.
Rule- is a general word that essentially means to lead by oversight. We might say supervise or to look after.
In other words, he is to work hard at “overseeing the affairs of the church” on a day to day basis. But its not just that.
Paul goes further though that he also needs to labor in “word and doctrine” (preaching and teaching.) This is how the church is built up and strengthened and is the main job of the elder/pastor. There needs to be labor involved in the delivery of God’s word. Time devoted to prayer and study.
The elder is only worthy of double honor if he demonstrates a double commitment to lead the church in every aspect his job entails. There is no place for slothfulness in the leadership of the Lord’s church.
B.) Double Honor.
There is a two-fold meaning to the word honor here in the text: It means to respect or esteem, but, it also means compensation or pay for a special service.
Respect and renumeration.
1. Respect
There is an intrinsic respect in the pastoral position, but noticed that respect is earned due to his laboring in the oversight of the affairs of the church and his teaching and preaching ministry.
2. Renumeration
Paul quotes two unquestionable authorities to back up his claim of “double honor”- Moses and Jesus.
Deuteronomy 25:4 NKJV
“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.
Luke 10:7 NKJV
And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.
Note: We know that Luke Gospel had not been written yet, but we also know that Luke and Paul were ministry partners and know doubt Paul had heard these words of Jesus from Luke.
Oxen were used to grind corn by attaching them to a millstone that they would pull as they walked. They never put a muzzle on these oxen while they were grinding. He was allowed to eat as much of the grain as he , because he was considered to have learned all the grain that he wished.
Paul, quoting Moses and Jesus is saying that churches are to honor their pastors with appropriate renumeration for their labor. As he grinds away at the harvest of souls for God and for His church.
Application: Scripture is clear that preachers are not to be money-grabbing. (As sadly they’re often accused of)
1 Timothy 3:3 NKJV
not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;
But, God equally deplores inadequate compensation for the laborer. If God ordained the oxen to be taken cared for, how much more has he ordained the local church to adequately care for a laboring pastor to the best of their ability. It doesn't make a pastor have stronger faith if he cant properly care for his family.
Make sure to state that I am teaching a principle and not complaining. That Heritage provides well for my family.

2. Disciplining an elder who sins. (v.19-21)

In Ephesus there were a plurality of pastors/elders. There were some who were worthy of double honor because they labored and did so with integrity. (As most pastors do). But, there were some who were sadly failing at their responsibility.
How does a church discipline an elder when he falls into sin? Paul gives us that direction in vs.19-21.
1 Timothy 5:19–21 NKJV
19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. 20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. 21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.
A.) Exercise caution (v.19)
1 Timothy 5:19 NKJV
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.
Pastoral leadership is a profession that is dependent on character and integrity. A pastor can lose everything but Jesus if he doesn't maintain these things. They are his most valuable possessions next to the Lord Jesus.
Pastors are also highly visible public figures and because of this they can be vulnerable to gossip and people with malevolent intentions.
Sadly, in our day and age, often all it takes is an accusation (even if it’s unfounded) to destroy a pastors life and ministry and sadly, their are people who seek to do damage to ministry leaders simply out of spite.
Share the story about someone telling a former church member in OH that I was a felon and their were warrants out for my arrest. I had to run a criminal background check to prove to this church member that such a thing was a baseless accusation. I didn't know this guy one bit.
Proverbs 12:6 NKJV
The words of the wicked are, “Lie in wait for blood,” But the mouth of the upright will deliver them.
Pastors are deserving of the same protection that is afforded anyone else. We should never listen to gossip about leaders, or even a serious accusation, if it only comes from one person. There must be evidence.
All charges must be substantiated by two or three independent corroborating lines of evidence.
Deuteronomy 19:15 NKJV
“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
2 Corinthians 13:1 NKJV
This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”
There has been so much grief in the church because of failure to follow this basic biblical principle.
B.) Rebuke with courage and act with fairness. (v.20-21)
1 Timothy 5:20–21 NKJV
20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. 21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.
If the charge is substantiated, you must have the courage to rebuke the elder publically. This has to be done for the sake of the Lord’s church and as a warning to others regarding their own sin.
Pastors are not immune from sinning and they certainly are not immune from church discipline. Far to often in churches, leaders are allowed to sin with impunity, and then simply move on to another church only to do the same thing.
Application:
Folks, we must confront those who sin. It is unloving of Christ and his Church and of the offender if we do not to hold each other accountable.
The church has a very sober responsibility to make sure that its elders/pastors are given the proper protection and the proper discipline that the Word of God demands. Biblical church discipline has never been popular, but when we refuse to practice it we allow the church to become perverted by sin. We must act in accordance with the principles of Scripture. And we must do so without showing any favoritism because its the pastor. We are to be fair and even handed with all whom the church must give discipline to.

3. Selecting new elders to serve. (v.22-25)

1 Timothy 5:22–25 NKJV
22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. 23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. 24 Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. 25 Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.
The discipline of a Pastor/Elder is a hard thing to think about, but, if a church is careful to select qualified men to be their elders and exercise some wisdom up front, this is something that should be a rarity in the life of a church.
A.) Be careful. (v.22)
1 Timothy 5:22 NKJV
Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.
Earlier in ch.3:6 Paul said that Elders were not be new converts to the faith. When you couple these two admonitions together it tells us that the church needs to be very careful and cautious with who they chose to lead them. When we fail to properly choose someone we become culpable in the sin they commit.
Application: So before we make someone a pastor, we need to investigate, ask tough questions, check their criminal history, ask for references. etc. All in an effort to be sure those who call themselves Elders are qualified and to save the church from unnecessary heartache.
B.) A Personal parenthetical (v.23)
v.22 ends with the command to Timothy, to “Keep yourself pure” and then we have v.23
1 Timothy 5:23 NKJV
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.
Which sort of seems disjointed, like it doesn't have much to do with the rest of the text; but it does. Noice, in v.22 before Timothy is told to keep himself pure, Paul directs him to “not share in other peoples sin.”
It seems that perhaps Timothy may have been a little given to the asceticism that was afoot in Ephesus and that Paul addressed in ch.4
1 Timothy 4:3–4 NKJV
3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;
Paul is instructing Timothy that, in pursuing his own purity, he isn't to participate in such practices but rather “use a little wine” for the sake of his own health.
Why does any of this matter?
Well the perils of legalism and asceticism can entrap even those who are Elders. Timothy’s abstinence from wine at the cost of his own health doesn't seem to be rooted in a biblical conviction but in asceticism. Paul is reminding Timothy and all pastors that our commitment is to Christ and his standard, not the standards of men.
C.) Be discerning (.v.24-25)
1 Timothy 5:24–25 NKJV
24 Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. 25 Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.
Some people do not hide their sin and faulty character and it can be very easy to see they shouldn't be elders. But, there are others who are very crafty at keeping things hidden.
So, when it comes to making people Elders/Pastors we must be prayerfully discerning. Those subtle secret sins can be just as damaging as those done in the open and sometimes more so.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom as Paul also says that good deeds are “clearly evident.” We have to watch for those who go about life humbly doing good, chances are those people also have the qualifications fitting of an elder and should be sought out for the office.

Conclusion:

We are called to honor those elders who labor and work hard in leading the church physically and spiritually. We are equally then called to discipline those pastors/elders who sin. Because of the importance of these two things, we must be careful to choose the right men to lead the Lord’s church.
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