1 Timothy 5:17-6:2
Life in the Local Church
Leading by Serving
Good Morning. Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Timothy chapter 5. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.
This morning we continue in our series through 1 & 2 Timothy titles, “Life in the Local Church.” Paul is writing to Timothy, who has been established as the Pastor/head elder of the church at Ephesus. Paul has been writing to Timothy specifically, and today we are looking at a section where most of it is about elders specifically, but what we also see here is that he is talking to the church as a whole, the entire congregation is hearing things that they need to hear and need to abide by.
Paul is writing to Timothy about the practical ministry and the dealings and everyday running of the local church. Again, in this section, we see Paul mostly focusing on the elders of the church, but even more than that, about combatting the false and incorrect expectations that have entered the church as a result of false teachers.
Before we continue, let’s go ahead and read our passage for the week. Ill be reading 1 Timothy, starting in chapter 5, verse 17 and reading through chapter 6, verse 2. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.
Paul, a bondservant of Christ, sharing the very inspired, inerrant, unchanging and authoritative Word of God, writes to Timothy:
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 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 on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink 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.
Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants[a] regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
Thus, says the Word of God.
So, we see here in the passage that Paul is writing, we see a lot of flashbacks, a lot of call backs to what the false teachers have been teaching and implementing. First, we remember that the false teachers have been undermining authority. They have been tearing down Gods ordained officers and leaders and the requirements that God has established.
We also remember that there are false teachers who purposely undermine that very Word of God and purposely deceive those who listen to them. But there are also false teachers who are ignorant, and they are not doing their due diligence. They are not going through and rightly learning the Word of God, they are not learning to rightly teach and preach the Word of God. They might think they are, but they are not taking the Word of God seriously and because of that they are not making serious disciples of the true God, they are not making serious disciple of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.
We saw Paul writing in chapter 3, this is what an elder is. This is what it takes to be an elder in the church. He says and shows through this letter that the elders of the church are given authority by God to lead the church. And so, Paul starts off here, building up, lifting up rulers and elders in general, but especially and specifically those who rule well.
Peter gives us an example of what it looks like to serve well, in 1 Peter 5:2-4, where he tells elders:
shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,[a] not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[b] not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Paul also is clear about saying “elders,” as opposed to “elder.” The New testament makes it clear, local churches are not to be ruled by one man, by one person, but they are to be led by a plurality of elders. There are to be multiple elders, coming together, mutually accountable to each and to the congregation, and submitting to God and serving and leading his church. Now, there could easily be some confusion with terminology. Pastors are a part of the pool of elders that serve the church. In some churches, especially bigger churches, there are multiple pastors that fill different roles. In many churches, especially smaller ones, but not limited to smaller ones. There is a group of elders and of that group, whether from within or brought in from without, that part doesn’t matter, but from within the group of elders is the pastor, the one whose main role is the teaching and preaching ministry.
One of the things that elders especially need to remember, one of the things that will help them rule well, is that they are not above correction. They are not outside the rules. They are held accountable just like everyone in the congregation. They are held to a higher standard.
Elders who rule well, they are to do so with integrity, with compassion, with love, with truth, and as Paul has pointed out a couple of times recently, in purity. Paul says that those who rule well, like this, are worthy of double honor. The context shows that this is talking both about the honor of the position as well as making sure that, especially those who labor at preaching and teaching, that they are taken care of financially.
One of the reasons that Paul puts this in here is, again, because of the false teachings that have been going around at that time. False teachers had been abusing a pastor right to earn a living. False teachers are still abusing that right today. “Tithe to me directly.” “Sow a seed of faith in me and my ministry.” “Give or fall under church discipline.” “I need a bigger house, a faster jet, cooler cars, slicker clothes, a shinier watch, whatever…”
But because false teachers have been abusing these rights, does not mean that faithful pastors who rule well must forfeit their God given rights. Again, Paul says especially those who labor at teaching and preaching. A pastor, an elder who rules well, is one who puts blood, sweat and work into his call and his ministry.
Ultimately, there are two duties of the group of elders who lead and serve the church. The first is that all elders, as a group, govern the church. Secondarily, some elders, in addition to governing the church, are also tasked with and blessed with preaching and teaching the Word of God to the local church.
Now, Paul makes this point by bringing in scripture, both from the Old Testament, and from the words of Jesus. When Paul says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” he is quoting from Deuteronomy 25:4. And when he says, “The laborer deserves his wages.” He is quoting from Luke 10:7. Paul is using these passages to say two things. First, don’t use and treat pastors like work animals. Also, and more in context, is that there is scriptural precedent for pastors and preaching elders receiving money for doing what they do.
Paul moves on into verse 19. False teachers will do anything they can do to discredit those who speak and teach the truth. Those who stand against the false teachers and their false teachings. Those in authority, speaking the authority of Gods Word are marked in battle.
We are in a spiritual battle, not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities, against the forces of evil. I think of it like this. In the military, especially back in history, during battles, in war, if you had a shot to take, do you aim for the enlisted man, the infantry man, or do you aim for the officer? You shoot the highest up person you can find. This is a sniper’s entire job in battle, take out the highest-ranking man you can find.
The same holds true for our spiritual battle. The higher up the ranks you are, the higher you rise the more you are marked for destruction. Now, pastors can and do fall, they can and do fail, they can and do mess up and they can and do it all on their own sometimes. I’m not taking responsibility away from them.
But Paul is laying out a well-established biblical principal here. He says, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Paul is saying that we make sure that accusations are not made solely by someone with a grudge or an agenda. Make sure that charges are credible and back upped by evidence and witnesses.
But, if a pastor or elder is guilty of sin and especially if they are continuing to sin, they need to be held accountable. And many sins, depending on their severity, their level of publicness, their continuation, and a variety of other things, then they shall be dealt with publicly.
Paul gives one of the reasons why this is to be done, sometimes in public. It is so that it may be an example to the rest of the local church, to the whole congregation. All of this is established throughout much of scripture, especially in Matthew 18. All church membership, if falling into continued and persistent, unrepentant sin, is biblically subject to church discipline. Part of leading the church is that elders and pastors are to be subject to it as well.
Paul makes clear that partiality, friendships, assumptions, any of the like, none of it matters. We cannot take sides; we cannot go in biased. We treat each case by the evidence that is presented. If a friend or a family member does something there should be the same reaction, as if one of the people you like the least does the same thing. If an elder or pastor commits a sin, there should be the same reaction as if any member of the congregation commits the same sin.
This both holds elders and pastors accountable, but it also protects them from the slings and arrows of the enemy and his forces. The same is true of what Paul says in v22. Paul gives the qualifications for an elder back in chapter 3. One of the things he says is “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. This speaks to the same point, that the qualifications listed are designed to protect against unqualified elders.
Do not be hasty to present and establish an elder. At our annual congregational meeting, when we vote for out various church officers, those are not to be voted on lightly. They are not decisions that are to be made lightly. We are to test all by the scriptures, including who is qualified to be an elder and leader of the church.
Paul warns us not to associate with the sins of others, not to be tied to their sins. This goes for unqualified elders and for false teachers. It goes for approving of and encouraging the sins of those around us, friends, family and what not. Remember Paul says in the last verse of Romans 1, that the guilty are not only those who commit the sins but those who give approval to those who practice them as well.
Now, Paul says something in verse 23 that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the passage, at least not if you just read it on a surface level. Some things are not black and white. Some things are not as simple as sin or not sin. Some things are permittable in general, but God restricts them for certain individuals.
Alcohol, which Paul references here is one of the clearest examples of this, or maybe one of the muddiest examples, depending on how you look at it. Alcohol in and of itself is not prohibited by scripture. Much of the effects, culminating with and epitomized by drunkenness, however, is clearly prohibited by scripture, many times, in many places. By and large, most people cannot partake without swing over into areas of sin.
We have seen Paul, several times on this letter, uses a specific example to make a broader point, to point out a specific principle. I see Paul doing that here. We have seen Paul address the issue of false teachers imposing overly strict physical limitations as their “standard of holiness or purity.” It is easy and, I believe, safe to assume that one of those restrictions put up by false teachers was a universal, absolute prohibition on alcohol. Paul is telling Timothy that he does not have to abide by standards that are put in place by false teachers if they don’t meet the standards of scripture.
Paul is trying to get to a biblical understanding of discerning and judging sin. Some sin is obvious. Not all sin can be seen from the outside, especially not right away. Some sin can be hidden and able to remain that way for a long, long time. But, scripture says, as one translation puts it, for everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.
Good works are the same way. There are no good works that can remain hidden. They will be seen. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
As Paul writes the last two verses, we are going to look at this morning, we see another example that not all scripture is as it seems on the surface. Not all scripture can be understood from a superficial reading. Chapter 6, verses 1 & 2: Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants[a] regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved.
These verses are in no way saying that slavery is good or biblical. I dare anyone who holds to that position to show me what about the context around these two verses lends itself to a pro slavery position. Paul is not addressing slavery at all here.
False teachers have, do and will always reject any authority other than themselves. They continually subvert all authority and the hierarchy that God has put in place. We have seen that often in this letter, especially in chapter 2.
The truth is, as Scriptures show us continually, that we honor God by submitting to authority. I know we always think of politics when we address this, the leaders of our country.
But it starts so much closer to home. It starts with and applies to our families, husbands, wives and children. It applies to your local church, qualified and godly elders and pastors. It applies to your job, with your boss. It applies to life, to the laws of the land. This does not mean except when we disagree with them. No, even if we disagree with them, we still must submit. I know we don’t like to hear that. But not every law we disagree with goes against the Word of God. If it does, then we obey Gods laws over mans laws. But just because we disagree with it does not mean that it goes against Gods laws.
What we see tying these points together, is Gods Word, Gods sovereignty, and Gods authority. When we stray from his word and his laws, he subverts and reject his authority. When we allow those, who subvert and reject his authority into positions of authority within the church, we set up ourselves to fall even harder. In the end, we will have to stand before God and give an account for our decisions, our actions and most of all for our heart. If we have a heart of stone and have reject Jesus Christ, God will say, go way, I never knew you. But if the Holy spirit has changed our heart, and if we submit to Jesus Christ, then we are clothed in his righteousness and we will hear, Well done Good and Faithful Servant.
Today, we remember Christs workmanship, prepared before time existed. We remember the love of God and what it did for us. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the bloodshed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. But We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished, we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.