I assume that you are here this morning because you want to worship the Lord. Jesus said, God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. He said in another place, speaking to the Father, Jesus said your word is truth.
So one of the primary ways we worship the Lord is to study His word. But according to the apostle James, we are not to be merely hearers of the word, but doers of the word. So to obey the word is worship. In the earliest mention of worship, we find that Abraham took Isaac to offer him on an altar to God, and Abraham said, the lad and I will go worship. So to sacrifice is worship. Samuel said to disobedient Saul, when he had claimed he saved the best of the animals in order to sacrifice to God, Samuel said, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”
I say all that to make the point that if you’re here this morning to worship the Lord, then one of the primary ways you do that is through hearing the preaching of the word, and then being obedient to it. And God has ordained preaching as the means by which his word is proclaimed. And to that end, God has ordained pastors to preach and teach His word.
We get this word pastor from the word in the Greek which means shepherd. And we find it used to describe the elders of the churches. For instance, in Acts 20:28 Paul is speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He had called together the elders of the various churches and he said, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
So Paul calls together the elders, used in vs 17, and then in vs 28 calls them overseers, which is also translated as bishops, and then calls them shepherds, which is the word from which we get pastor. That shows that all those titles are synonymous, and interchangeable. It’s a mistake to make more out of one title than another, because it’s evident from just that one passage that all those titles are interchangeable. And it’s verified in other passages as well.
Now back in chapter 3, Paul laid out the qualifications for a pastor. And I don’t have time to review all of that this morning. That message is available on our website and YouTube if you want to see what he said regarding their qualifications. Today, in our ongoing study of 1 Timothy, we are looking at the section where Paul deals with how pastors are to function in the church.
And particularly, he deals with three areas in regards to the function of pastors, or elders. Those areas I have boiled down to three words, which may serve as an outline that might help us navigate through this section of scripture. The first point is compensation, secondly, accusation, and third, ordination. Now those are rather broad points, but I hope they will serve to help us as we study this letter about how the church is to be conducted.
So Paul begins with the broad concept of compensation for pastors or elders. He says in vs 17 “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Now most commentators introduce this subject by drawing a corollary between the widows mentioned in vs 3, and the elders, both of which we are told to honor. In regards to widows, Paul said that the church was to honor them. These were women who had lost their husbands, had no family or visible means of support, and had devoted themselves to serve the Lord in the church. Now I preached a message about that last week which I don’t want to have to repeat here. But suffice it to say that to honor those widows indicated that the church was to provide for their financial needs. That was more or less a unique situation in the early church that we do not have as much call for today. That was due to the culture which had no safety net for widows who did not have someone to take them under their support. Today most people have access to government subsides and housing and food, if they don’t have insurance that takes care of their needs, and so we don’t have much call for the church to support widows.
But the point was that the church was to honor widows. Now in vs17, regarding elders of the church, he says they are to be given double honor. I used to think that indicated that a pastor was entitled to make twice what a normal person in a regular job would make. I might wish that were true, but upon further study I don’t believe that is what Paul is saying here.
Double honor is simply a way of referring back to the honor that is given to widows, which refers to compensation to meet their financial needs, and then additional honor that should be given due to the pastor’s position as the messenger of the Lord. In other words, they are to give him honor because of his position as the spokesman for the Lord. As he is faithful in preaching the word, they are to give him the honor due, to respect his word, to listen and to obey it. That obedience to the word of the Lord is what Paul is referring to when he says the elder who rules well. That’s what a shepherd is responsible for as he is shepherding the flock. He rules well according to the chief shepherd’s command, and the flock needs to respond accordingly. Ruling well doesn’t necessarily mean cracking the whip, but it does mean making sure that the flock stays on course, that they are protected from wolves, and which is spiritually healthy and maturing as they should.
Another confusing point to be clarified is the way he says, “ especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Some have said this indicates that there must be a plurality of elders in the church, and some preach, and some merely lead. I don’t happen to agree with that view. I think that the scripture indicates all elders are to be preachers and teachers. For instance, Titus 1:7 says, “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” So he is able to exhort sound doctrine. That is preaching.
And in 1 Tim.3:2 and 2 Timothy 2:24 we are told that an elder/overseer, pastor must be “apt to teach.” So I don’t think there is an imperative here that we are to have elders in the church who are not preachers/teachers of the word. The last thing we want in a church is someone who is merely an administrator. Who applies standard business practices to the church. The church is not a business, its not an organization. It’s an organism, a body, the body of Christ and it lives by the word of Christ, not by the best business practices, even though that may sound logical to some people.
But the main emphasis that Paul gives here is that of compensation in regards to financial compensation. That follows in line with the honor given to widows. And the same would be true of pastors. As they are devoted to the ministry of the church, the word, and to prayer, they are reliant upon the church for their financial needs. So Paul says we are to give them honor financially.
Now we know that is what he is referring to, because he includes two scriptures as illustrative of that principle. The first is a quote from Duet. 25, in which he says, “”YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” Paul uses a quote which was originally referring to God’s care of oxen, as a metaphor for God’s care of pastors. The ox would be tied to a millstone and would pull or push the millstone around and around which ground the grain. And God wanted the Israelites to leave the ox unmuzzled, so that he might eat from the grain he was milling in order to sustain his strength.
That’s the principle involved in the pastor’s compensation. He is to make his living from the work which he is doing. He gets his sustenance from his work. He uses that same scripture to establish that principle again in 1Cor. 9:9-11 “For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher [to thresh] in hope of sharing [the crops.] If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” And then in vs 14, Paul clarifies that principle by saying, “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.”
Now here in 1 Timothy 5, Paul also quotes from Luke’s gospel chapter 10 vs 7, saying, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” That’s actually a quote from Jesus, which makes the gospel of Luke the equivalent of Old Testament scriptures. And by the way, Paul’s writings are referred to as scripture by none other than Peter, who says in 2Peter 3:15-16 “and regard the patience of our Lord [as] salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all [his] letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as [they do] also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” So Peter refers to Paul’s letters as scripture.
But it’s interesting that Paul uses Jesus’s words to validate the preachers labor as hard work. And it is work. And if you do it well, it is hard work to study, to spend time working through the scriptures so that you can be a workman that needs not to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. If you buy your messages online from some pastor’s resource website, then perhaps it’s not as hard as it should be. But nevertheless, in the Lord’s view, preaching and teaching is honorable work, and they will give an account for what they have said and done.
So then Heb 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit [to them,] for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Those that rule well by preaching and teaching give them double honor. Give them the compensation due to their position, and obey them as they are being truthful and faithful to the word of Christ. And God will hold them accountable for their work.
Now on to the next point, which is accusation. Still speaking of elders/pastors/overseers/bishops, Paul says in vs 19-20 “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful [of sinning.]”
Actually, this is still a reference to the honor that is due to pastors. There should not be allowed in the church any unsubstantiated accusations against the pastor. A pastor’s reputation can easily be besmirched by someone who has an axe to grind. So such accusations are not to be. Only when such accusations are accompanied by two or three witnesses is there to be any credence given to them. Many pastor’s have been ruined in their ministry by someone who is upset at the church for some reason, and starts to spread rumors that could not stand up in the light of day. But enough damage can be done whispering behind closed doors to ruin a pastor, and ultimately destroy the church.
So Paul sets a high bar for accusations. But in reality, Jesus set the same high standard in Matthew 18 for all church discipline. The Old Testament gave the same standard for accusations of any Israelite. I was watching something online a few days ago where they are having an inquisition regarding a certain political figure. And just when we thought it was finally over, they called another day of hearing because of what they called “new evidence.” It turns out that the new evidence was actually not eye witness evidence at all, but merely hear say. But irregardless, they got the effect that they wanted, which was to further impugn the character of that political figure. Now that may be par for the course in politics, but that is not the way the church is to operate. There must be 2 or 3 witnesses to the accuasation.
But if there are the proper witnesses, and the accusation is found to have merit, the pastor is in some sin, then Paul says, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful [of sinning.]”. Notice that he says those who continue in sin. That’s an important principle in regards to church discipline. The goal is not to kick people out of the church that are sinning, but to rebuke them, to correct them, to instruct them in righteousness so that they might repent and do what is right. The goal is repentance and restoration. But in the case of a pastor, it is possible to become disqualified as a pastor because of your sin, even if you repent of it. I’m not sure I can easily delineate that line that cannot be crossed, but I would say that if you go back to chapter 3 and look at the qualifications that are required for a pastor, and then see if there can be sin in regards to those qualifications and yet still be qualified. For instance, if the pastor leaves his wife and runs off with another woman there is really no way that he can be qualified anymore as being a one woman man. He doesn’t qualify anymore. And it’s not a matter of whether or not the church forgives him, or even that God forgives him, but it’s a matter of him no longer being of a reputation that can be trusted in that respect and so he is disqualified.
But having said all that, Paul wants to make sure that there is no witch-hunt that is carried out by the church just because of petty disagreements or personality conflicts. So he says, vs21 “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of [His] chosen angels, to maintain these [principles] without bias, doing nothing in a [spirit of] partiality.” In other words, this is not to become a political witch-hunt just because you don’t like a pastor’s personality, or you think you can find a more agreeable, personable pastor that you will like better. Such accusations are serious business and God will judge those who do so.
That leaves us the final principle that Paul discusses, which we will call ordination. Too much is made sometimes of the ordination of a pastor. I’m not saying it should not be done, but I am saying that ordination is simply the human confirmation of what God has already done. God calls and gifts a pastor. The church ordains him as a means of joining in agreement with God, and it’s signified by the laying on of hands.
But to that point, Paul says in vs22 “Do not lay hands upon anyone [too] hastily and thereby share [responsibility for] the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” In other words, don’t gloss over the qualifications for a pastor without serious consideration. Otherwise, if you ordain them prematurely, you can end up participating in their sin. You have given them the blessing of the church, as if they have been vetted and confirmed that they are trustworthy and without reproach, when in fact they are not. And so as they continue in their sins, they end up doing much damage in the church, and you are at least partly responsible for it because you helped them obtain that platform.
It also speaks to the principle laid out in the qualifications, which is they should not be a novice. That may refer to youth, or a young age, or it may refer to a new convert. Either way, the warning is to keep yourself free from sin by not sanctioning such a person who may still be in their sins. Don’t lay hands on them too quickly. Take time to watch such a person to see if their talk matches their walk.
Now that admonition to keep himself pure leads to another remark which is personal in regards to Timothy. If you remember, one of the qualifications stressed often in regards to pastors is that they are not to be addicted to wine, or a drinker of much wine. But now Paul says especially to Timothy in vs 23, “No longer drink water [exclusively,] but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
One of the biggest health risks in that country at that time was dysentery. Drinking the water in some countries even today can result in what we call Montezuma’s revenge. And so this admonition to drink a little wine may have been at least partially in respect to that. But it’s also possible that Timothy had a weak stomach. I can attest to that as something that I’ve had problems with over the years. Believe it or not, I actually have a six pack under this bulge. It’s just not visible because of bloating. I’m kidding of course. I don’t have a six pack. But I do have problems with bloating. Everything seems to hurt my stomach. My wife can eat anything and not ever be bothered. I on the other hand, seem to have problems with everything.
But I’m in good company. Timothy had frequent ailments, presumably of the stomach. So the popular medicine for that in Paul’s day was a little wine. Not a lot of wine, but a little wine. And so to counter act the possible criticism that Timothy might get as a result of a pastor drinking a little wine, Paul gives him permission, or instruction to drink a little wine for his stomach and frequent ailments.
But it’s important to note that wine for Timothy was medicine for his stomach and not a beverage to catch a buzz from. Today we have a lot more effective alternatives than wine for stomach ailments. I personally would never drink wine for my stomach or for any other reason, unless I were on a desert island and had nothing else to use. But with a Walgreens on every other corner, I don’t need to take a chance on compromising my reputation, nor tempting myself to drink more than I should. I think it’s better for a pastor not to drink at all.
But drinking wine or not drinking was something that was easily ascertained when they were considering a man to ordination. Being a drinker is something that is usually not easily hidden. It’s usually pretty obvious if you watch someone for a while.
And Paul wants them to consider that in regards to a possible candidate for ordination as a pastor, some sins are more evident than others. But all sin is a problem, and a possible means of disqualification. So he says in vs 24 “The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their [sins] follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.”
I’ve quoted this verse often in the years past, especially in regards to self righteous individuals who may not have a lot of outward problems with sin and are especially critical of those who do. Some sins, like drunkenness for instance, are pretty obvious sins. They go before a man. You can see the town drunk a long ways off coming down the sidewalk and you know right away that there is a problem there. You quickly cross over to the other side of the road.
But the person who has a secret life of sin that he keeps hidden on his computer, or behind closed doors, such a person’s sins follow after. It may take time for those sins to become evident. That kind of person can escape criticism because on the surface everything looks ok. There is no immediate evidence of sin in their life. But in one way or another, either sooner or later, perhaps not until the judgment day, but one day their secret sins will become evident. Paul is giving a warning here about such people, and that is another reason to not lay hands suddenly upon anyone. Give time for their life to become evident.
In the same way, a person’s good deeds become evident over time. Anyone can put on a front for a day or two to make a good impression, but it’s another thing to live with someone for a while. That’s when the true character of someone becomes evident.
And while that is written in regards to candidates for pastors, it certainly is applicable also to any Christian. Jesus said, by their fruits you shall know them. If you have been saved, cleansed from sin, having received Christ’s righteousness, then the fruit of the Spirit will be a life that is not marked by sin, but rather by good deeds. Not a couple of good deeds here or there which are done for show, but then fade away quickly when no one’s watching anymore. But true conversion means a complete change, albeit a continual change, in which we are being conformed to the image of Christ on daily basis.
I want to urge you to ask yourself this morning if you have ever been converted. Not just trying to turn over a new leaf. Not just trying to be a better person. But recognizing your sinfulness, repenting of it, and asking the Lord to be changed, converted, delivered from sin and given the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is conversion, that is salvation, and it is free and accessible to everyone who comes to Christ in faith and repentance. And only as we have been converted are we able to live a life that is righteous. I pray that if upon examination you know that you have not been converted, then today would be the day that you call upon the Lord to save you and remake you. Don’t put it off.