Friday, April 16, 2004

1 Timothy -- Passing the Baton (16)

Concerning addresses two aspects concerning elders in the Church:

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. (1 Timothy 5:17-21)

Paul's first point is that some elders should be paid. Our churches pay our pastors and do not pay our elders. However, I think that this is simply because we have made a separation that did not exist in the first century. Notice that Paul says that an elder who works hard at preaching and teaching is especially worthy of being paid by the church for that work. This is typically what our pastors do. I like the spirit behind Paul's prrof texts for this. "Do not muzzle and ox ... The laborer is worthy..." This conveys an attitude that should characterize leadership in the Church. Leaders are oxen and laborers--beasts and positions of service. They are not kings and princes that lord over their congregations. Rather they are to have an attitude of service to the King and faithfully shepherd the flock.

I have never known a church leader who was fully liked by everyone all the time. Mankind simply is not one size fits all and personalities do not always mix well. This is one of the reasons that we are commanded to love one another. If it came easy or naturally, we would not have to be told to do it.

And so it is that there will be times when an elder will be accused of wrongdoing for reasons having to do more with church politics than moral failure. Paul advises Timothy to follow the Old Testament advice and require two or three witnesses. Since the purpose behind the witnesses is truth, they should be independent and fully corroborate the story. That, of course, is Paul's point. The accusation must be established and proven. Those who continue to sin after a private rebuke, are to be rebuked publicly.

Politics are such that the pursuit of truth can take a back door to the pursuit of the achievement of power and control. To this end Paul brings Timothy to the very presence of God and Jesus and chosen Angels and commands him to "maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality." This means that you must be as willing to do the right thing and rebuke a popular and well liked elder or defend one who has rubbed others the wrong way.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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