Elders Who Rule Well

1 Timothy 5:17-25 SCC 1/6/13

            Timothy is in the church at Ephesus, in a sense representing Paul trying to put things back the way they ought to be in that church. About five to eight years before this, Paul had poured his life into that church. He had met with those Ephesian elders recorded in Acts 20 and reiterated to them the principles of ministry they were to carry out.

            Elders just grow into elders as they mature by the work of the HS in their lives, conforming them to the Word of God over a long period of time. Elders are elders because they act like elders. They are not elders because they are appointed, elected, ordained, selected or called by an elder of an organization. They are just there. Of course, some of them might be appointed. Ordained, or selected by an organization to do things because we recognize their maturity, gifts and their heart to serve.


Introduction to the Concept of an Elder:

1. The word ‘elders’ in v 17 is the word for older men the same word being used in v 1.

2. It is a different word than ‘overseer’ used in 3:1. Overseers are described as shepherds, guardians, keepers and ones who have responsibility for spiritual concerns, not rulers exercising authority over people (Acts 20:28; 1 Pt 5:1-2). So overseeing was sometimes seen as a function of Elders.

3. In the church the function of an Elder is responsibility not authority since the church is a spiritual fellowship not a governing nation like Israel in the OT.

4. The jurisdiction of an Elder in the NT is city-wide or larger. In Acts 15-16 and 21-25 ‘elders’ refers to the leaders in the city of Jerusalem. When Paul wrote Titus he instructed him to appoint elders in every city Titus 1:5. Peter even told elders to shepherd the flock among them with no jurisdictional boundaries but those in their sphere of influence not a designated local church. Most likely as they moved in their home life and around believers in the marketplace, in various groups, home settings and within the city at large they were to have a shepherding mindset.

5. The last elder in the apostle John (2 john 1; 3 John 1). As John unfolded his concept of himself as an elder we see that he dealt with differing issues and problems in different cities but not as a member of some elder board elected for that purpose.

6. The only other elders in the NT are the 24 in heaven around Gods throne in Revelation. They are resurrected human beings possibly the leaders of the people of God all thru the centuries.

5. The Scripture presents no hierarchy but a shared leadership, a shared leadership with a team concept. We're not talking about one man ruling a church. We're talking about a shared leadership among all men who are qualified and willing. The Bible speaks not of some hierarchy, some pecking order, or some corporate structure. It emphasizes a plurality of men who equally share the responsibility of leadership.



            17 If a man is qualified (chp 3) to be an elder, he is qualified then to receive honor. It includes, along with respect and high regard, the idea of remuneration or salary. Today we may call it honorarium. Honorarium is a form of the word honor which relates to giving someone money. When we read about honoring these elders, we are talking not only about respect, but also talking about remuneration (1 Thess 5:12; Heb 13;7, 17). What he's really dealing with is the motive, which will result in remuneration. The underlying assumption is that all elders are to be honored, but Paul's talking about the kind that are worthy of double honor, by contrast with those who are to be honored singly. It's the idea of ample generous support, remuneration and respect. All elders are worthy of it. Some are worthy of more; the elders that rule well.

            The word "ruling" means oversight, taking charge, giving leadership, and having responsibility. It is bound up in quality leadership. It is bound up in godliness in the life, in teaching and explanation of Scripture and exhortation, setting a model and example and pattern that others can follow (chp 4). All elders then teach and preach, all elders lead. Elders are worthy of honor in two ways, respect and remuneration. Hard-working and excellent elders are worthy of the double honor, especially if they major in the teaching and preaching which is the particularly worthy thing.

            18 The law said that if you're going to have an ox grinding out grain and that ox is providing food for you, then let the ox eat, don't muzzle his mouth while he's doing that, let him eat as he goes (Deut 25:4). What the law said was if an ox is going to provide your food, then you're going to have to provide the ox's food. And then he also quotes from another Scripture, "The laborer is worthy of his hire, his wages” from Luke 10:7. Here is Paul calling Luke Scripture. It's not a reward, it's not a gift, and it’s his wages.



            The most devastating things that came against Jesus were not physical things, but accusations that He spent all of His time with drunks, prostitutes, and wicked people. That was an attempt to accuse Him of those same things. They said He was a glutton and a winebibber and they said He was possessed with a demon—all of that in an effort to discredit Him falsely.

            First of all, please notice it says against an elder. The only time you ever even entertain it doesn't mean it's true, but the only time you would ever even entertain it would be when it comes to you with a force of two or three confirming witnesses. Until two or three can confirm it, whose confidence you would trust, and then it is properly investigated, a deaf ear is the best thing you can turn to someone who falsely accuses. The intent of two or three witnesses is simply confirmation. Elders are never to be at the mercy of frivolous evil accusers. And they're not to be having to go around justifying themselves to people who are eager or willing to believe such lies. So, we want to be cautious before we would ever speak against an Elder. And secondly, we want to be very reluctant to listen when someone does speak in such a way.



            20 When it gets to the point of sin, there's no protection. It may be in chp 3 he's not a one-woman man. He doesn't exercise self-control. He's not moderate. He is not good in his behavior. He's not committed to the love of strangers. He drinks too much. He's impatient. He's a fighter. He's covetous. He doesn't handle his home well. It could be any of these things. What a man does with his children. What he does with his wife, what he does with his home, what he does with his money. How his reputation exists in every dimension of life is at stake in this matter, any kind of sin. Anything that is a sin, which that man continues to practice and continues to do, is reason for him to be included in "them" that sin.

1. It means one who is found to be sinning is to be exposed before everyone. There's nowhere to hide.

2. It’s also a decent restraint on the others. "You do this in order that others also may fear." Somewhere along the line we have to decide whether we're going to protect the man or protect the God the man says he serves. The rest of the sinning elders or others will fear. They will be in a healthy respectful concern over being disgraced publicly and losing their ministry. Obviously a public rebuke would affect them, and it would affect everybody.

            21 He says, "I'm telling you to do this and I'm telling you to do it because God is watching, Christ Jesus is watching and the holy angels are watching. And I call you to do this in front of God the eternal judge of the earth, in front of Christ to whom all judgment is given, in front of the elect angels, that is the holy angels, who are both spectators of the church and agents in judgment. God is concerned with the purity of the church. Christ is concerned with the purity of the church. The holy angels are concerned with the purity of the church.

            It's done without trying to protect someone you prefer and without trying to expose someone you don't prefer “doing nothing by partiality”. It's to be done with accuracy and integrity, without prejudice and impartial, but it's to be done and it's to be done because all of heaven is watching that it be done.



22 You should act in great judgment and with great caution, and if for no other reason that "Neither be partaker of other men's sins.” Do it with great care and not with haste because you don't want to be a partaker of other men's sins. If we're going to represent Christ, then, we want to represent Him the way He wants to be represented. And He wants His church pure and so we have to take steps to ensure we do everything we can to keep it pure. Timothy was to keep himself free from sin. One cannot deal with sin in others if ones own life is not pure.

23 Paul is saying, "Speaking of purity, Timothy, drink no longer water but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent illnesses." In other words, when I say keep yourself pure, Timothy, I’m not including this personal health issue. "Drink not only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake because you're sick so often."

24 Now back to the issue at hand let me reiterate these final thoughts about selecting elders:

1. Some men will be obviously unfit. It's simply referring to the church's assessing the suitability of a man to serve. And some men's sins march ahead of them into that kind of assessment.

2. Some who will be found in the process to be unfit. The problem is resolved in other cases because under proper scrutiny and assessment the man's sins are revealed, careful investigation can bring them out.

25 3. Some who are obviously fit. Everybody knows the noble deeds of some people. And there doesn't have to be much discussion.

4. Some who are found in the process to be fit.