1 Timothy 5:17-6:2a

eldersLet the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 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. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 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.

Observation

  • Elders who rule well are to receive a double honor especially if they preach and teach.
  • Charges against elders are not to be considered without two or three witnesses.
  • Timothy was to rebuke elders who persist in sin publicly.
  • The reason for a public rebuke of unrepentant elders is so others will fear.
  •  Timothy was to keep the rules without prejudice.
  • Timothy was to be impartial.
  • Timothy was to not be hasty in ordaining someone.
  • Timothy was to be careful not to partake in the sins of others.
  • Timothy was to keep himself pure.
  • Timothy was not to drink just water but a little wine as well.
  • Timothy had frequent ailments.
  • Some sins are conspicuous some are not.
  • Some good works are conspicuous some are not.
  • Even the inconspicuous sins and good works cannot remain hidden.
  • Servants are to honor their masters so God’s name will not be criticized
  • If a servant has a believing master he is not to take advantage of the fact his master is a Christian brother.
  • Since other believers receive a benefit, a servant is to serve a Christian master well.

Interpretation

Paul has just instructed Timothy that true widows were to receive honor. Now he says that elders are to receive double honor. Paul understands that not every elder is deserving of honor. So he qualifies it with those who are faithful in executing the duties of their office.

The title elder may be confusing today. In some churches, an elder is a preacher. In others, it is the board of directors. Some churches use the term for both and some may not use it at all. Here “elder” refers to two types offices. First, there were elders who are ordained to teach. Second, there are elders who are in authority but do not teach. We are to treat mankind and especially those who teach us the gospel with kindness.

Paul mentions that those involved in teaching are to receive a double honor. To support this statement Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 to make his point. Quoting Luke shows how soon the early Christian writings were regarded as scripture. Support for the New Testament writings as scripture is also found in 2 Peter 15:16.

Not only is the church to pay teaching elders, Paul instructs Timothy to protect them. Timothy is not to allow false accusation against them. The more earnest a pastor tries to advance the kingdom of God the greater the assaults on him will be.

But anytime protection is offered to good men, evil men try to take advantage of it. Those who are not teaching the word of God will use this as a defense claiming protection. Paul tells Timothy not to allow this to occur. If a pastor or elder commits a crime, civil or spiritual, he was to discipline them. This is to be an example to others.

Exercising justice is difficult. We all tend toward partiality. Yet, we are not to show favoritism to anyone. We are not to judge on suspicion. Unfavorable reports are not to influence us. We are not to use excessive severity. We are to look at only the case and cause.

When Paul tells Timothy “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands…” He is referring to the laying on of hands in ordination. Paul warns against elevating a person to the office of elder too fast. There are many who crave the office. They love to stand in front of an audience and give their views. This admonition should apply to all teachers in the church. How often have we taken whoever was available and willing to teach a Sunday School class? Do not be hasty.

“No longer drink only water…” This appears to the middle of a section about elders. In the original manuscript, it may have been in the margins and became part of the main text when copied.  Even so, it is still part of the word of God. This passage should remind us that wine i.e. alcohol is not forbidden by scripture. But by the same token, Paul is teaching moderation “…use a little wine…” We are to limit our consumption.

The rule Paul lays down is we are to care for our health. We may only serve God and be of use to our neighbor if we are in good health.

The passage ends with instruction about slaves. In chapter one, Paul lists as evil and contrary to sound doctrine, enslavers. An enslaver was one who stole or kidnapped someone and sold them into slavery. Slavery in the ancient world held a board range of definitions. Slaves were anything from trusted advisors to workers in the salt mines. Some were of high status even wealthy. Others suffered brutal beating and unbearable environments.

Paul, in Philemon 17-20 Paul reminds Philemon of his debt. This should influence how he ought to treat his bondservant, Onesimus. Here Paul talks about the behavior of the slave. They are to be diligent and work hard because they were brothers in Christ.

It is our nature to take any advantage we can for ourselves. Paul reminds us that we are all under the yoke and we are to submit willingly. By that, he means we are not to question if we deserve a better lot in life. We are bound together in Christ.

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