This exercise is a continuation of a series we started at Grace with our leadership while I served as interim there. For those who are not pastors or deacons, but who lead in some capacity in any arena of life, these books are a tremendous resource in Scripture. I encourage all of those who would be called leaders or who oversee to take advantage of these notes geared specifically toward leadership or roles with much responsibility.
1 Timothy 5
Because Christ is Lord and because God’s administration is by faith (not works), we, especially younger leaders as Timothy was, resolve not to rebuke older men. Instead, we exhort as we would our own fathers. We treat younger men as though they are not inferior to us, as brothers. We treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters with all purity.
We spend much of our time thinking about administration and vision and mission. It is a great temptation for us to think that our expertise earns us a voice. Though we may have some expertise to a degree, especially regarding theology or methodology in the church, we cannot use that expertise as an excuse to disrespect others in any generation. It is not our responsibility to force others or convince others to be the way that we think they ought to be. That is the work of the Holy Spirit as He gives faith. We have the responsibility to respectfully declare the word of the holy God and to love people as we declare truths that may be difficult for them (and us) to accept. That is why we are always encouraged toward patient endurance and to have a gentle spirit.
When considering the specialized ministries of the church, and here we do see a biblical mandate for specialized ministries, there are some things to consider. With any specialized ministry, are we filling a genuine need? There is a difference here between dedicating funds to buy youth pizza on Wednesday night and providing genuine needs. If someone has family to take care of him or her, then those needs should be provided by the family. Where there is no one to take care of another, the church is to use her resources (which have been given by God) in faith to support all of those, especially widows, who are genuinely in need.
There is a great temptation regarding the ministries of the church and a great temptation for leaders. We often find ourselves being too pragmatic. We will budget financial resources according to the return we might see. This is not how distribution was done in Christ’s ministry or in the specialized ministries of the early church. The church was dedicated to discern genuine needs and provide those genuine needs for people, not so they could build a cool youth group or young adult ministry. Somewhere along the way, we forgot to be the church and we started merely having church. We traded the calling of God for a social get-together. Leaders, the road ahead, no matter what we do and where we serve, is a difficult one to travel. Travel it we must.
We, therefore, address the dangers of our society. We resolve not to overburden the church body with unnecessary expenditures. This is so that the church body is able to use its resources to help those with genuine need. This should serve as a clear guide to how we fund our ministries and how we use the financial contributions given to the church for distribution. All this for God’s glory and the furthering of God’s administration by faith.
Those who serve as biblical elders (not CEO’s of churches and not simply those who are aged, but who perform the ministry of God’s word) are worthy of double honor. This is especially so for those who work hard at preaching and teaching because this is the elder’s primary ministry as described in Scripture. Here, Paul is writing to Timothy telling Timothy that the biblical elders are worthy and that both he and the church body have a responsibility to those who perform the ministry of the word.
He instructs that they not be “muzzled.” Therein is the temptation. When an elder (pastor) is doing the work that he is obligated to do by faith according to the Scriptures, the word will do its work because it does not return void. As the word does its work, the souls and spirits of people are pierced, their bone and marrow divided. They are both convicted and encouraged. There are many who would want to limit the elders in what they teach because they wish to remain comfortable or to hear something new. They, if they are to be faithful to God and to the ministry of His word, are to teach the whole counsel of Scripture. So, the body has a responsibility to enable that ministry; not being only hearers, but doers of God’s word. Their responsibility isn’t merely to the elders, but to God who gave His word. His word is life. The elders are worthy, not because of their own ability, but because of the one whose word they teach. May God be glorified.
The work of the elders (pastors) is so important that the enemy will stop at nothing to devour them, discourage them, cause them to go into a deep depression, and like we see far too often in this world commit suicide. In fact, I am willing to say that pastoral suicide is an epidemic in the western world.
Timothy is in Ephesus to address some false teaching (1:3-4). Elders who are teaching and preaching the true Gospel were under the scrutiny of not only the false teachers but those in the body who don’t necessarily agree with the true Gospel. There are many complaints and many accusations that are brought against the elders as there are in our own time. Paul instructs Timothy, and by proxy the body of believers and other elders, not to accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. I have enough experience to know that when people don’t like you, they will invent things and tell others that something was said that was not. Gossip spreads like fire. It burns like fire. It both destroys and kills like fire. It doesn’t only quench the Spirit and the ministry of the word in and through a local church, it crushes a people. Those people often don’t recognize what has happened. Leaders, be careful. Be faithful no matter the cost.
If there is rampant sin, it is to be rebuked publicly (of course in line with Matthew 18). Timothy was instructed to observe all of these things, not showing favoritism or prejudice. All people are equal before God. God the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the elect angels (here to mean the elders, or messengers [αγγελων], of the church) stood as a witness to this instruction.
Something else is revealed of those who are genuine elders. They have been elected by God to serve in such a role. They are commissioned and confirmed by the church body, but God is the one who calls and qualifies. Sadly, there are not many people in our day who recognize God’s authority and His working together of all things in this process. Pastors are not ‘professionals’ and are not simply employees. They are truly messengers from God who have the responsibility of declaring the whole word of God as it is revealed in Scripture on this earth.
We are not to be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder. This is because some people’s sins remain hidden and surface later. At the same time, Paul instructed Timothy not to share in the sins of others (probably those who constantly criticized and accused the elders); good works that are not obvious will be revealed. The work of the elder is that important, that he should be weighed but not cauterized.
The church should be regularly appointing elders, then, and giving opportunity for them to practice their gifts, even if that means giving up a good church member for the cause of the Gospel. After all, there is only one church, and Christ is building her up for His glory and her good.