How Should We Treat Elders
I Tim 5:17-25
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.
We have already looked at the qualifications for church leaders back in chapter 3. Elders and Deacons basically have the same qualifications. I want to review briefly how to view those qualifications. There is a long list, but it basically adds up to good character, spiritual maturity. My favorite of the list is “above reproach” in Titus it uses the characteristic, “blameless”. There are two things I want to say about these kinds of descriptors. First of all, there is an element of cultural determination in them. There was a time not long ago that playing cards or listening to certain kinds of music or going to movies would be a disqualifier for church leadership. And those things have gone away. I think that is OK in both instances. If one is to lead a group of people, there is a level of cultural expectation that should be met. Ultimately we are all to be Biblical, but working out what is wise and good in every situation is not simple, and leaders typically grant permission to others by what they do.
This passage deals with two kinds of issues relating to church leadership.
- Elders Who are Doing Well
- Leading well is honorable
Honor means what?
There is a long history of spiritual leaders failing. That may be one of the most honest things in Scripture. And it is why we are all following Jesus, who was crucified by the leadership of His day.
- Preaching and teaching are fundamental to elders
Acts 6 for example and in the list between Elders and Deacons, Elders are to be apt to teach.
- Paying pastors
There is a ditch on both sides of the road for everyone to fall into.
Pastors are not to serve for financial gain. And churches should pay their pastors.
Philippians 1: 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
II Cor 11: 5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”[a] 6 I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. 7 Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.
When someone has training and skill and experience and is trying to support their family, it is not loving to ask them to give their skill away. This is especially true when there is an ability to pay. This is true of artists and artisans of all sorts. Of course this does not mean that the church pays for all service or that no one should serve without being paid or that there is not a premium placed on the act of service and generosity.
I have a friend who no longer serves as a full time pastor who had a masters degree, three kids, and a wife with a serious long term illness. And he was being paid less than $40,000 dollars per year.
I have found that people can be weird about money.
I don’t talk about money much, but obviously it is very important in our lives. The next chapter has a powerful passage about it. “The love of money…”
- When There is Elder Conflict
There are cultural differences here between Grace Fellowship Church and the Church at Ephesus. For one thing, if you were excluded from that church then you were outside of the community of the faith. In our day, people just go to a different church, and unless you change churches more than every six months from the time you are born, you won’t have to leave the county to find a different church for the rest of your life.
- Decisions can cause conflict
There are no perfect men. Good people disagree about issues. Can we trust one another? Will you love me? Will I love you? Will I let other people be right? Am I willing to trust God and be submissive to others? Do I believe that God is at work and doing His work in our lives?
- There needs to be some wide agreement
Appeal to authority. Make an appeal. If you are confident, get some others to go with you.
The media today disregards this rule all of the time. It is easy to take pot shots at leaders when you are not in their position. And all people have their strengths and weaknesses. Jesus was the perfect leader and he was used, betrayed, denied, and murdered.
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
Leadership conflicts split churches
- Rebuke stubborn sinfulness publically
“Those elders that are sinning…”
III. Last Words
- Don’t install leaders hastily
Watch their character.
How do they get along with people? How do they handle leadership?
How responsible are they? Are they appropriately gifted?
It is harder to work on character issues when you have phrases like blameless attached to you. “Elder” solves many of these issues.
- Drink a little wine for medicinal purposes
It’s almost like Paul is protecting Timothy by saying this out loud.
Cocaine, Morphine, Cannibus, Opiates all have a medicinal purpose.
Drink a little wine. A little wine.
Protect the consciences of others.
- Works are revealed over time
Paul and John Mark conflict
If they are good, that will show. If they are not, then that will show. And this is why it is important to make character the issue. I think this can be especially true as it relates to leadership because there is enough pushback from people and enough fires that come up that need to be put out that it will challenge your patience with not only people, but the process of leadership itself.