When Paul wrote his letters to Timothy he was dealing with Timothy’s responsibility as a leader and the responsibility of leaders that would follow in the footsteps of the sending grace for leadership in the body of Christ. The letters to Timothy are Scripture to be read by every member of the church, but they are letters written specifically to leaders. Members reading these letters receive a perspective of what the responsibility their leaders hold and what type of culture they are required to cultivate in the church. Ruling elders were to be considered worthy of both the honor of submission to who they were as authorities and also by way of provision in their lives. Leadership is not to demand these things, but a culture of honor in the church must be developed that considers honor to leaders an important and even essential element in kingdom life. This is was not to be a license for leaders to take advantage of church members in the name of honor. It was simply meant to be a guideline for the character of the family of God. Leaders honor those they lead by freely giving them the word and helping them walk a Christ led life. Members honor leaders by making sure they are provided for in practical ways.
1 Timothy 5:17-18 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
These words of Paul to Timothy were not meant to create laws concerning required wages by clergy, but they did set a principle, pattern, and even a value for the generations of the church of the centuries to embrace in the function of the church. Those who are called by God to give their lives to develop and lead the church in a spiritual way are worthy to be taken care of in practical ways. The ministry of the word, leadership in helping others to embrace the character and way of Christ in their path of life, and the financial care of those who give their lives to lead are all aspects of spiritual ministry in the church. A healthy Christ life community fulfills the spiritual and practical aspects of life for those in the community.
Accusations against leadership were to be at the mouth of two or three witnesses. These would not be false accusations but ones proven in regard legitimate issues of sin. It is common for people to misunderstand authority and to even bring false accusations against them when they choose to be offended in some way towards leaders. Any accusations against a leader must prove to be valid if they are to be accepted. If there is a valid cause of accusation against a leader the responsibility for that flaw must be accepted for the sake of setting an example in the true character of leadership. A leader in sin was to accept the responsibility of their failures before others so the character and responsibly of godly leadership can be maintained in the generations of the church. A team of leaders must never seek to cover up issues of sin, but they must also protect one another from false accusations that simply serve to falsely legitimize a resistance to the authority given by God to leadership for the sake of leading in the church. The accusation against an elder was not to be an accusation spoken about them as a malicious act of gossip to other members of the church, but an accusation that was believed to be a legitimate one and brought to the other leaders in the church. The issue, even in accusation, is a culture of honor and love for the sake of Christ’s name.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
Timothy was to lead without prejudice. He was to accept his responsibility of leadership, not merely for those he liked, but for every person given to his charge. All leaders must understand that their role of leading is not something they have chosen, but a role assigned to them by God for the sake of those they lead. Their responsibilities of leadership must be carried out in a manner that shows God’s love and care for each and every person in the community under their care.
1 Timothy 5:21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.
Timothy was to give authority to others in a careful manner. Authority is not something taken lightly or given away quickly. Leaders must understand that the authority they walk in is a substance given to them by God. To give that substance to another is a decision led by God and it must be given to those who qualify for such responsibility. It is a serious thing to represent God in some way before others. When a leader lays hands upon someone for leadership the authority given to that person authorizes them to be a representation of the authorizing leader. If they are found to be lacking in character that testimony becomes one that affects the delegating authority as well. A leader must be aware of the gravity of giving authority to others. They must never shy away from giving authority to others, but they must also not be hasty in giving authority to them. The need for gifts of ministry can never out weigh the need for properly discerning who is qualified to receive authority and who is not.
1 Timothy 5:22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson