1 Timothy 5:17 - 6:2
Paul occasionally writes in the rabbinical “string of pearls” style.
This is to deal with a topic in one or two sentences, then
move on to the next. The
student was expected to understand that this was so, and fill in the
missing thoughts himself.
In this section, Paul deals with a number of admonitions this
way. His primary
thought, however, remains how the church should be led in such way
as to keep her reputation high in the world – so that some might be
saved, and none deflected from the way of truth.
Treatment of Elders
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." 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. 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.
(1Ti 5:17-21 NASB)
who do well
The phrasing here conceals some important points.
In particular, “worthy of double honor” can also be
interpreted as “worthy of double payment.”
Given the context, this would not be correct translation into
English, but to the Greek ear the two would sound in the one
sentence. In doing this,
Paul reaffirms that those who labor full time for the work of the
church are entitled to a reasonable wage.
It is still true:
God’s supply for God’s work.
These are said to “rule.”
We must remember that in the
leadership authority comes only with its matching responsibility.
Despite robe and ceremony, authority or rule simply means you
have a job to do, and have been given the authority to match.
In the kingdom, this means servant leadership.
This is both a substance and a style; substance, in that the
task is real and needs certain authority to do it, and style – which
should never be pompous or stuffy, but rather workmanlike.
The labor in question is given here as “preaching and teaching.”
The first of these is the mystic word
logos, which brings up the
opening of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word”.
The second is the Greek word for practical instruction –
classroom, teacher, students and dunce cap.
So we see that such authority must reside in one who is in
communion with Christ – but also can handle a classroom.
It might seem, at first, that the requirement for two or more
witnesses is in some way allowing the elder to get away with things
an ordinary Christian could not.
But this matter is a practical one:
It saves the church from the atmosphere of perpetual witch hunt.
These people are, after all, sinners.
If you allow it, this would bring constant disruption to
the work of the church.
It is also simple justice.
You don’t allow one witness and twenty gossips to bring
charges against a man.
It conforms to the Old Testament Law, and therefore shows itself
well to the Jews in the area.
The intent here is that justice will be served – but fishing
expeditions will not.
What happens if there is justice in the charge?
Then you are to go to the man and rebuke him privately,
first. That’s why Paul
says, “continue in sin.”
If he repents (and I would add reconciles) then the matter is
finished. Even if the
matter is a criminal one (child abuse, anyone?) the act of
acknowledging what you have done to the magistrate, especially when
it is considered that with one witness a conviction would be very
difficult, leaves the judge with the impression that the man has
repented, and therefore mercy is in order.
But suppose the man doesn’t repent.
Then you need at least two witnesses.
If you have them, you are to rebuke the man in public.
If necessary, throw him out of the church.
We need to show the world that we have the truth in our
hands, and we will not cover up the sins exposed.
The church should have a well deserved reputation for honest
The church should also have a well deserved reputation for fairness
– with no bias seen. How
often have we seen a church that is run by a clique of just a few
families – who have the church of their own making, and will not
part with it for Christ’s sake?
Sometimes bias just creeps in; we need to make it a point
that we work hard at being fair.
Do not lay hands upon anyone too
hastily and thereby share responsibility
for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. No
longer drink water exclusively,
but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent
ailments. 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.
(1Ti 5:22-25 NASB)
It is my opinion that true civilization did not exist before the
invention of the microwave oven.
This gave the techno-geek the ability to cook, after a
fashion. At about the
same time, the crock pot came out – something into which the hurried
housewife would toss ingredients in the hope that cooking things
slow and long would produce the desired flavor.
Sometimes the microwave is superior, but I’m told that there
are certain dishes which need a certain amount of time to simmer.
Sometimes a man’s reputation needs the same.
You see the point.
Suppose you appoint Joe to be an elder, with full ceremony and
laying on of hands. Two
years later you discover that he’s wanted for bigamy in nine states.
The rest of the church is now saying, “Who recommended that
guy for elder?” The fact
that you didn’t know is no excuse; your failure is that you didn’t
This was all the more important when an Apostle did it:
then it involved miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit.
How much more embarrassing to find out later!
The verse concerning wine has been used and abused a great deal.
It is one of the prime examples of the misunderstanding of
the Scripture, using the cut and paste method.
Remember that Paul gives this admonition in a letter
which is primarily concerned
with the church’s reputation in the world.
Considered as such, the conclusions we may draw are quite
Paul is encouraging Timothy not to be “drier than thou.”
You can imagine that wine caused its problems then as
now. It’s likely Timothy
avoided wine for the sake of the reputation of the church.
Paul tells him to cease this practice, and use it
sensibly (“a little
Paul could, of course, have miraculously cured Timothy of this
ailment. But he didn’t.
He didn’t mention any plans to.
From this we may reason that this stomach ailment was
given to Timothy much like Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” – so that
he would remain humble.
So it is that Timothy, by acknowledging this infirmity, shows us
that (like all leaders) he is merely human – and thus gives us
all hope to achieve as he did.
It is a sad fact: some
of the men who are nominated for the eldership are simply a bad
choice. But not all such
men are an obvious bad
choice. Some people’s
reputation precedes them.
These are the easy ones to weed out of leadership positions.
Weeded they should be; let’s not be stupid about it.
But there are others whose sins take a while to catch up with them –
for they are crafty in concealing them.
But for a while they can fool us, not forever.
We need to take a realistic view:
each man is a sinner; each will be found out, eventually.
We cannot appoint perfect people – but we can take reasonable
precautions against an out of control life.
Slaves & Masters
All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters
as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and
our doctrine will not be spoken
against. Those who have believers as their masters must not be
disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them
all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers
and beloved. Teach and preach these
(1Ti 6:1-2 NASB)
Masters in general
It seems odd to Americans, whose experience with slavery is such a
deep root in America, that
honoring your slave master could possibly be expected of anyone.
We forget that slavery at this time was an economic
condition, or possibly the result of losing in battle.
So the people of this time would have a different attitude.
For example, they would see the slave master as the one who
provides food and clothing for the slave – which a slave from
economic reasons would see as a blessing.
Again, Paul’s concern is the reputation of the church in the eyes of
the world. Put yourself
in the position of a master who is not a Christian.
He is looking at the Christian slave to, by his actions,
demonstrate what Christ does for a man.
If the faith produces insubordination, how likely is he to
consider hearing the Gospel?
We forget that, like an employee today, a slave then was delivering
on-the-job testimony. We
are the witness of Christ every where we go.
Ah, but suppose both master and slave are Christians, what then?
Is it not obvious that both of them are now witnesses for
Christ? If you would
render respect and good service to a slave master who is not a
Christian, how much greater is your obligation to him if he is?
This comes not only in service – getting the job done – but also in
conversation. You can be
a hard worker, quick to the job – and poison things by your speech.
Honor and respect must come in both words and deed.
Finally, if your master is a Christian, how should this affect your
life of prayer? Can you
ask God to strike down Simon Legree if he becomes a brother in the
If this is the case for earthly masters, how much more should it be
so with regard to Christ, our Lord?
On this earth a slave master would part with one of his slaves,
even by death, for the sake of saving his child’s life.
But our God gave up His Son for the sake of His slaves.
Does this not make Him worthy of greater honor than
anyone on earth?
More than that, the Son pronounced that we are more than
servants; we are his friends.
This came by the Atonement; what honor, then, do we owe
the Son for that?
Finally, God sent His Son so that we might become the children
of God. From slaves to
friends, from friends to children, brothers and sisters with
Christ. No earthly master
could do that; only our Heavenly Father.
What honor, then, should we bring in return?