Honoring God’s servants! — 1 Timothy 5:17-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 21, 2018
Recently the news has had several truly horrendous examples of pastors gone bad both of which either had or are pastoring mega churches. One had sexual relations with underage girls and the other deliberately misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars of church money and was caught smuggling hundreds of illegal pounds of marijuana in his car. These examples are by no means how the vast majority of pastors humbly serve in their ministries but these ungodly few leave a bad influence and taste with those inside and outside the church. Part of the problem is when too much power is given to an individual who is supposed to be a servant of the Lord and not a sovereign.
Paul understood that how a pastor follows through in his ministry reflects on the entire body of Christ. The same is true in how the body of Christ honors their pastors. While respect is earned, honor is to be given to those who serve. For whatever reason Timothy’s congregation needed a lesson in honoring God’s servants, let’s see what Paul told Timothy…
READ: 1 Timothy 5:17-25
Just as love begins at home, shouldn’t the love of God begin within the church? In fact, we learn from Paul that…
I. Honoring God’s servant begins at church! (Vv. 17-21)
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.
1. The “elders” Paul mentions here are not just those who are older but rather those men who held specific positions within the local church itself. Many therefore believe that Paul is probably referring to pastors here. So he writes Timothy to remember that “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” These men were actively involved with the oversight of the affairs of the congregation and they had to serve “well” – literally with honesty, morality, and integrity. Their work involved both “preaching and teaching” which is not just speaking the words of the Lord but also being able to handle correctly the instruction of his word as well. It is paramount that the pastor who is leading a church not only intimately know the word of God but be well trained himself in the ability to speak ans teach it! But part of the “double honor” Paul was referring to here is making sure these men were compensated well for their labor. Why? “For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’” Paul had learned from the Old Testament about making sure a pastor was taken care of and he had written “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:14 NIV) and Paul got this from Jesus who related that “the worker deserves his wages”. (Luke 10:7 NIV) Paul also knew that the pastor could become an easy target for those who were disgruntled and he wanted them treated in the same way anyone would be: “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” Jesus had taught that if a brother in Christ sinned against the church then “take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”, (Matthew 18:16 NIV) however those leaders, “who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” Honoring God’s servant begins at church!
EXAMPLE: On Lifeway.com Michael D. Miller writes that “God asks the church today, ‘Where is My honor?’ Where is God’s honor in the conflicts over power in the church? Where is God’s honor when a church and its ministers cannot work together? Where is God’s honor when we don’t give Him our best? God asks, ‘Where is My honor?’ when there are broken relationships in the church. The church has forgotten what God called us to be Jesus prayed, ‘I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me’ (John 17:23). Jesus’ prayer for the church today is that it will demonstrate the glory of God by unity of purpose and spirit. Church conflicts don’t honor God. Individual disobedience in our Christian lives dishonors God. When we do not treat the ministers God has given the church with honor, how can we say we honor God? The giving of honor is practiced in the context of relationships. It is demonstrated through submission and obedience to those who are called to places of authority and responsibility. Honor for God is the basis of all honor. Obedience to God is coupled to the honor we give to God. When God asks the church, ‘Where is My honor?’ – what is your answer?” Honoring God’s servant begins at church!
Sadly people remember the bad thing that occurs rather than the good that happens most of the time. And if they have one bad experience at church or read about a bad acting pastor, this is the one example they remember concerning the church and its pastor. This is why Paul would teach that…
II. The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor! (Vv. 21-25)
I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.
1. What Paul was writing Timothy was not to be dismissed because Paul viewed it as extremely essential. So he writes “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels” — God and his messengers were witnesses! Paul knew that people could exert pressure on a new pastor especially someone they thought of as being too young and easily swayed to do what they wanted done instead of what God desired to do through him or the church. So Timothy was “to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.” I know in the past I have been saddened by how believers can sometimes be petty or childish. This should not occur and especially within the body of Christ. In fact Paul continued by telling Timothy two things: 1) “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” and 2) “do not share in the sins of others.” Timothy was not to give honor to someone who did not deserve it nor was he to give them a position in the church they had not shown they were worthy of. Remember when the church sets someone aside to do the work of the Lord the church comes together to “lay hands” on them in recognition of their ability to serve Jesus. He wasn’t to be too quick in doing so. Also Timothy wasn’t to share in the sins of others but instead he was to “keep [himself] pure.” It is a second reminder by Paul. Paul would tell the leaders in the church in Asia as he said goodbye to them, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28 NIV) Paul reminded Timothy he was to keep watch of himself as well and that “The sins of some men are obvious; reaching the place of judgment ahead of them” and sadly “the sins of others trail behind them” leaving in their wake spiritual destruction. However, Paul continues by reminding Timothy that “In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.” The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor!
EXAMPLE: One of the most honored men of God is Billy Graham. One of the many reasons is his integrity as a man of God. Throughout his entire life he has maintained his integrity by keeping himself pure. He rarely got involved in things he shouldn’t and only took stands on such things as politics when he saw it as absolutely necessary. He saw a greater need to reach the masses and knew he could not if he got too politically involved. In fact Graham would write that “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. What our young people want to see in their elders is integrity, honesty, truthfulness, and faith. What they hate most of all is hypocrisy and phoniness. That is why it is important for us to go to church, to read the Bible, and to say grace at the table. Let them see us doing what we would like them to do.” The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor!
Honoring God’s servant begins at church! The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor!
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.