Monday, January 9, 2012

1 Timothy 5:17-25 Honoring Ruling Elders

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." 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. 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.

Vs. 17-18 The Apostle Paul having commanded that those who are truly widows (i.e. women deprived of their husbands through death and have no other means of support) are to be honoured, i.e. supported financially by the church. Now Paul declares we count worthy those elders who rule well worthy of double honour; “especially those who labor in word and doctrine”; that is in preaching and study. The Apostle Paul cites two Scriptures to support his exhortation:“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” vs. 18

The first is from Deuteronomy 25:4. The Apostle Paul also eloquently uses it in a dissertation defending a gospel workers right to be supported by the church in 1 Cor. 9:3-18. There the Apostle makes the case on several grounds; first citing Apostolic Authority; then the law; then the Old Covenant Priesthood. Yet he himself does not invoke his Apostolic privileges so that he will not hinder the gospel.

Now the analogy between muzzling an ox while it treads out the grain (thus depriving it of necessary food while it labours) and a gospel worker from likewise being hindered from his or her duties because of lack of financial support should not be lost on us. For though we are all God's labourers in Christ's Body. We are not all called to fulltime ministry as church or para-church workers per say. Thus God raises up men and women to do His work in this regard, and we should as His people support them (giving as each individual feels moved to do so) so that they are not hindered in serving Him (consider Rom. 15:25-27).

The second is a direct quote from the Lord Jesus in Luke 10:7. There Jesus’ addresses those He sends out to labour for Him. In which He emphasizes both provision and contentment. The statute then of honouring church elders is not to be abused by those who invoke it. Nor is it to be neglected by those who are required to obey it.

Vs. 19 The Apostle Paul now cautions against receiving an accusation against an elder "except from two or three witnesses." For the law states: "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." Deut. 19:15

Now the word-translated accusation is a legal word used often when bringing a public charge against someone; here an elder, before a tribunal. Here an accusation is hypothesized as being brought against a church elder that maybe valid (as verses 20; 21; 24 indicate a potential for) or it may not. The point is not to receive an accusation without verifiable evidence. This means before taking further action the Pastor must verify that the charge is valid. Then one must follow Scriptural guidelines for dealing with such a matter. Now in pursuing this; because someone's reputation is on the line; a Pastor must be discreet and use great tact in his investigation. For any accusation against an elder (especially a ruling elder) is a very serious matter; yet it must be substantiated before ones moves to quickly to remove someone. However having said that, there are times when because of the nature of the allegation, that one will have no recourse but to remove the elder immediately, until the matter is fully settled. (Again this should be done with great tact). Now this may involve outside legal authorities. If so a Pastor's duty is cooperate fully with them in their investigation. Again the guideline is an accusation by two or more witnesses. So as not to let someone settle a personal vendetta by bringing a false accusation; or let Satan use someone to falsely accuse an elder and bring ruin to them, and or create disunity and disharmony and an open (yet unverified) scandal amongst brethren.

Vs. 20 Now the Apostle Paul makes it clear if they are found out to be sinning they must be rebuked “…in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”

The Apostle Paul publicly rebuked the Apostle Peter when Peter fell into transgression and hypocrisy by not eating with the Gentiles when the Jews were present. Then eating with them when they were not (See Gal. 2:11-21). Therefore this kind of rebuke is to call one to account by bringing their sins to light publicly. It is not meant to upbraid or humiliate the transgressor, rather to expose and correct them before God’s people so that their sin will spread no further.

In the law it was required of community members to rebuke their neighbor and not bear sin because of them. "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him." Lev. 19:17 Thus exposing another’s sin was not to be a means of personal vengeance by seeking to ruin someone’s reputation; or a “preemptive strike” to preserve one’s own reputation. But rather exposing sins against the commandments of God, which ultimately hurt the whole community (See 2 Cor. 2:5-11). Sins against the individual are to first be reconciled on a personal basis (Luke 17:3-4); only when a person refuses to acknowledge their transgression are sterner measures to be taken (Matt. 18:15-20).

 Vs. 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.”
The Apostle Paul charges Timothy to observe these things for dealing with sin as if before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels who are witnesses to everything we do and don’t do! Therefore without prejudice or partiality. The words translated prejudice and partiality appear only here in the N.T. Prejudice (prokrima) means having a prejudgment before hand. While partiality, i.e. “a leaning towards” an individual or group is condemned in the Scriptures as sin; especially as it relates to doing and living justly towards all people (Ex. 23:3; Deut. 1:16-17; 10:17; 16:19; 2 Chr. 19:5-7; Job 13:10; 32:21; Malachi 2:9; Acts 10:34-35; Col. 3:25; James 2:9-10 etc.). Therefore no one in the church must ever be thought excusable or left unaccountable. For leadership that is can become so independently minded; or so mindful of its own, that it will justify its own sins. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ didn’t allow any such things when He publicly reprimanded Israel’s leaders, which eventually cost Him His life. Therefore He commands the same of us all (Matt. 10:27-31).

Vs. 22 Having commanded integrity to emanate from Timothy's oversight/leadership in the church the Apostle Paul now warns Timothy: “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.” 

The laying on of hands here is given as a command against acting hastily and has a couple of possibilities. In its most frequently used sense it is the act of ordination; (of showing ones approval by laying on of their hands) and thus of hastily inaugurating someone who is unproven or untried; (something one may be tempted to do simply to fill a leadership void as ministries' grow or undergo personal changes etc.). Or it can also be commanding against, as some word study commentaries hold, of hastily restoring those once deposed. In either case a Pastor must not be hasty in laying on of his hands to confirm anyone for leadership until he is certain of their character and Spirit abilities. For Timothy may be inclined to lean towards certain individual’s simply out of sharing personal interests; or having familiar backgrounds etc. All of which can bias a person’s opinions of another if they are not discerning, and are simply following their own biases and or natural inclinations. Therefore if one remembers it is the Lord Jesus Christ whose Spirit equips and appoints men for church leadership they will not be duped by their own desires, or Satan, into letting men into church leadership that are neither Spirit qualified, or are ready for it. Similarly Timothy must guard himself against sharing in other people's sins; either by complacency towards them, or by outright involvement in them. For it's very easy to get swept up in the crowd mentality as it were. The Apostle's Peter and Barnabas along with Jewish church members all became caught up in the hypocritical treatment of Gentile church members until the Apostle Paul saw what they were doing and publically opposed Peter, as the Scripture says, to his face (See Gal. 2:11-21). Therefore ignoring an individual's or congregations sins will not make them, and the troubles that will come with them, go away. Just as yielding to them (or going along with them) will do nothing but bring ruin to oneself (Consider 1 Sam. 2:27-36; 3:10-14; Matt. 24:45-51; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Rev. 18:3-4). Therefore the Pastor must always walk the narrow road of personal integrity; by being fully loyal to Jesus Christ and His Word; balanced with personal involvement in people’s lives (consider Exodus 32). Now if separation is called for this is not an end to reconciliation; for if a person repents there can be restoration (Luke 15:11-32; 17:3-4; Gal. 6:1-2; James 4:4-10; Rev. 3:19-20).

 Vs. 23 The Apostle Paul’s admonition here to Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach's sake should not be misunderstood as endorsing wine consumption as something inherently good for believers to partake in (Prov. 23:29-35). Rather Paul is extending grace to Timothy to use the medicinal aspects of wine to relieve his frequent stomach aliments (Consider Prov. 31:6-7). Therefore the Apostle Paul’s admonishing Timothy in such a manner is not commending alcohol consumption for believers (See 1 Cor. 11:20-22; Eph. 5:18; 1 Thess. 5:6-8). It exists and there is liberty in regards to a believer’s use of it. But given all the woes and potential vice associated with it, one is wise if they truly judge their motives as to why they would want to use it. Especially if you came out of a lifestyle that was marked by drinking parties and such; dabbling in it again as a believer is simply standing on the edge of the cliff! Now if you have never drank the stuff why be swayed into trying it by your friends, associates or even fellow believers? Though they may like to have wine or a beer with a meal doesn't mean you have to. Especially if you have never tasted the stuff, why bother? For I can honestly tell you that few and far between are those who can limit themselves to just one drink, all the time; especially in a social setting where drinking alcohol is the social norm. If they love and respect you, then they will allow you liberty in regards to your convictions on abstinence. Just as you allow them liberty in regards to social consumption (which is far different than drinking for the intoxicating effects).

Vs. 24-25 "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 live openly sinful lives; whose sins precede them to the judgment. While others appear outwardly righteous, but inwardly they conceal what they are and do. Their sins will not be exposed until later (Matt. 13:36-43). Likewise the good works of some are clearly evident to all; while the good deeds and the persecutions of others will not be known until later, when Christ rewards their faithfulness (Matt. 25:31-46; James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). The Apostle Paul’s caution to Timothy here then is to be discerning in his dealings with all people.

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

No comments:

Post a Comment