This bible study is part of a series on the book of 1st Timothy, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of 1st Timothy for other studies in this book.
When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.
Let’s start in verse seventeen of the fifth chapter of First Timothy.
Give elders due honor
1st Timothy 5:17 (ESV) 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.
Paul continues his thought on honoring widows by talking about the body of Christ’s relationship with the eldership of the church. The first consideration you have to make is that there are two types of elder model within the church then and even today.
Teaching elder – one who is a fill in pastor/teacher when the pastor either needs to take time off or the congregation needs to hear a fresh voice. This type of elder is either someone who is training to be a pastor or someone who is called to be an elder but also has been blessed with the gift of teaching. (I am meaning of course one who is teaching at the main body of the church as opposed to those being hospitable and teaching in a small group bible study session)
Leading elder – An elder who is in charge of the admin side of the church, one who co-ordinates, one who is a small group leader, one who has tasks delegated to him from the pastor. One who coordinates the volunteers who want to serve in the body, one who enjoys serving more than others.
Neither are better than the other and both are a worthy calling. The church needs a good balance of both sets of elder and in smaller churches elders quite often have a foot in both camps. Both are callings and both are worthy of equal respect. I say this as people have a natural tendency to elevate those who teach to a higher level than those who serve, it is human nature but it is not how it should work in the church, because let’s face it if the whole leadership team of a church was to teach, imagine the chaos it would be!
Should leadership be paid?
Paul states here the following…
V17 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.”
So the elder is due “double honor” in the same way that Paul states that honor when providing for widows means provisions, then this would lead to believe that yes if they are working for the fellowship then they should be paid for their services.
I see it much in the same way a church would pay a plumber or a builder if they required facility repairs done on site, so why would you not pay those who labor and are called to do work on behalf of the church. We give honor to those who are abroad serving in a foreign climate by subsidizing their salary through “missionary donations” so what is different from having a pastor/elder on salary or on a full time ministry staff if he does much more in the community and much more than he would do if he was in a “tent making” phase of his life.
Not all pastors will be paid, not all teachers or elders will be paid, the circumstances of the ministries they are in may not allow for this. Like I say I have no issue with this as long as they are not doing the following.
Getting rich off the church – The leader who bankrupts the church for personal gain, has an exorbitant salary, cars and houses paid for by the church and is in it for their own gain. (Paul also warns against this)
Lazy preacher – the one who does it instead of doing real work, only wants to see the fellowship at the prescribed times and is anonymous as a leader
Piggy bank pastor – the one who thinks the LORDs money is his, rejects accountability and has it set up and loaded in his direction to not allow for dissent.
These are extreme circumstances and those leaders usually don’t last long. People see through the cracks, the ones who need help and don’t get help, the ones who see problems that are never dealt with and those who reject what they see will usually attempt to deal with it and in extreme circumstances leave that fellowship.
If we are paying people in the church and they are effectively using the time God has blessed them with in ministry to do God’s work, then that is an investment. If the paid pastor is using that time to minister, study the word to shepherd the flock and train the saints for the work of the ministry then that is an investment rather than a salary.
Important question that looks into the heart
I have a question for those who look at ministry as a job or a career. Would you do what you are required to do if you were doing it for free? That question looks at the heart to see if you are there for a paycheck or if you are there as a service to others and obviously the LORD.
Of course, many pastors have done it for free in so much that when they have planted churches or started in ministry, they started in a small group setting with a handful of folks and prepared bible studies during down time or when everyone else is asleep. But once you are paid and it becomes “what pays your bills” then it is a whole new dynamic and stress to a ministry that you love.
I am careful to not call it “your church” or “your ministry” as it is not yours, regardless of how long the LORD loans it to you as a pastor/elder you are merely a custodian, you are just a caretaker, God will accomplish the work, he is just choosing to use you for this season. Many folks when they are taken away from a ministry that they thought was theirs become bitter and get mad at God. It is easy to do so and we have to remind ourselves that we don’t see the bigger picture, God is at work and we may not see why things happen but we have to have faith in the bigger plan.
Ministry is not for the faint hearted and you will be attacked both internally and externally, you will be accused and you will be maligned. I once heard a pastor state that if he kept 80% of the people happy he would be exceeding his own expectations, Paul touches on this in the next verses…
V19 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.
Paul states that we should not “admit a charge against an elder” we have to look at what he is saying here, he is looking at when an elder is accused and accused with cause. I say this because the church is rife with rumor peddlers and people who like to spread gossip. Regrettably mud sticks and I have seen people being accused of things they had very little part in.
We have to be careful that we do not “pedestal our leaders” that we do not elevate them beyond their human state and assume that they can’t do anything wrong and that when they entered leadership they somehow shed the ability to not sin. They will sin, they will fail you, so please have the same grace that you would have for a fellow brother and sister and please remember that they are “innocent until proven guilty”.
That is why Paul states that there has to be sufficient evidence and appropriate witnesses in order assess the worthiness of a claim against an elder. This is consistent with step two of Matthew 17, and of course if the sin is proven and they are unrepentant then we have to bring the sin before the congregation. I have seen elders do this and it being a blessing to the church family as they supported that family in their tough time and I have also seen elders who slipped quietly out of leadership after being admonished and it raised more questions than answers.
Notice that Paul says “witnesses” rather than just two or three others. We have to be careful when rumors are flying around that the information we have relating to a man’s reputation is correct, that we do not have a “witch hunt” or a “gossip group”. I state this because it is important that the pastor is not approached by a group that have colluded or corroborated their story and after gossiping against this elder decided to go to the pastor. It has to be verifiable evidence.
We also have to look at the situation with the main aim to get to the heart of the truth as opposed to just getting rid of the allegation. Personal reputations are not as important as getting the truth and either helping the elder or perhaps in extreme cases church discipline. On the other hand, if the elder is correct, we also cannot allow false rumors to keep circulating.
Thank you again for finding this article and I pray these bible studies are a blessing. Please feel free to comment, like or share as the LORD leads you to.