This message was presented on June 1, 2014 as part of the 1 Timothy series.
How do you follow someone who “has it together”? There are warm-up bands to precede the main band. The JV always precedes the Varsity. They don’t go in reverse. Last Tuesday, Barbara and I went to a middle school band concert and had a good time. Of course the 6th grade band played first, then the 7th grade and finally the 8th grade. You could tell the increasing levels of improvement. Imagine what the audience would be thinking if the 6th grade played last?
Can you imagine following Paul as a teacher? Timothy was the humble pastor God had chosen for the church of Ephesus. But many in the church looked down on Timothy’s youthfulness. Yet, Timothy appointed some men too soon.
22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Tim. 5:22 NKJ)
And he may have misjudged whether they should be elders,
24 Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. (1 Tim. 5:24 NKJ)
Those with sins that are found out later are the CIA Christians – undercover workers. So what was the church of Ephesus like? Paul revealed something of the character when he met with the elders in Miletus, which was southwest of Ephesus on the shore of the Aegean Sea. Luke recorded in Acts,
28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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. 29 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. (Acts 20:28-30 NKJ)
Timothy faced similar problems that every church has. About fifteen years ago, there was a conversation with my first pastor, Norbert Johnson. He heard of a few things that were going on and he said, “Tell me about it.” And he proceeded to tell about a few of the things he faced in the ministry. Any organization with authority will be challenged. Whether it’s a family, a classroom, government, or a church, they all have to deal with imperfect people, who struggle with pride. It was the first sin and continues to be at the root of all sin.
Remember Paul wrote Timothy so he would know how to conduct himself in the church, because the conduct in Ephesus was ungodly. There were elders teaching false doctrine, looking down on Timothy and controlling the church as they wanted, rather than following the vision. How do you honor leadership? How does a parent teach honor? How does church leadership teach people they are supposed to honor leadership? The church is not the military, but it is the Lord’s army. The church is not a blood family where the people have to get their food and shelter from the church, because they can go where they want, but it is the house of God. Just teach the text and let people decide what they want to do. It’s the gospel! I’ve been blessed, so “How can I fit into God’s church?”
1) Honor leaders in Jesus’ name 5:17-18
17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” (1 Tim. 5:17-18 NKJ)
There were both teaching and ruling elders. The word “ruling” means “stand before.” They received a stipend of some sort. Scripture taught to not muzzle the ox while it worked. Let the ox eat while working. Additionally, Paul wrote, “The laborer is worthy of wages.” These are quotes from the Old and New Testaments, respectively. Today, elders are bi-vocational, that is, they work a full-time job and volunteer to serve as an elder. What a great blessing to the church! But, you can’t rule people who aren’t taught. “So Timothy, teach them!” Paul exhorted. Consider the context of honor from what Paul wrote, Don’t enter leadership for personal gain, but for the Lord’s kingdom. Enter to make a difference for the Lord, not for recognition. Because you honor in Jesus name, you also will not receive an accusation from one person, because of the gospel, but have at least two or three witnesses when you do.
The double honor is the respect and financial blessing in ministry. I have heard almost every imaginable interpretation of this. Chrysostom, one of the church fathers, compared this to honor for widows. How much did they receive? We saw last Sunday, they received the minimum of food and clothing from 1 Tim. 6:8. Take that and double it might be enough, but then measure in his family, culture, etc. The elders must discuss and then discern what would be appropriate. Yet, this is not for his luxury, but for ministry. He must be one who labors to the point of exhaustion in speaking and teaching. Consider what he is most responsible for: teaching and defending the Truth and refuting error. What does that take? Labor to exhaustion.
Consider the context of honor from what Paul wrote,
7 Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 8 Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. (1 Cor. 9:7-14 NKJ)
Don’t enter leadership for personal gain, but for the Lord’s kingdom. Enter to make a difference for the Lord, not for recognition. Because you honor in Jesus name, you also will not receive an accusation from one person, because of the gospel, but have at least two or three witnesses.
2) Receive no accusations without verified witnesses 5:19-20
It is sad when a member must be disciplined; it’s even more sad when a leader must be disciplined. Anyone can make an accusation, and people sometimes do. I was named as the primary defendant on a lawsuit in October of 2004. I’ve had undocumented, unverified half truth charges made against me in public. They were shall I say, unpleasant.
19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. (1 Tim. 5:19 NKJ)
The word “receive” means “keep on not welcoming along side” the accusation. Do not listen to it. Paul writes that there must be two or three, because two or three provide the verification. If it is known by two, it’s probably known by others. Why at least two? When the word is taught, people get uncomfortable and want to pick apart the messenger. When a charge is not questioned, refuted or answered, it is often believed and it hinders the ministry. But leaders do sin!
20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. (1 Tim. 5:20 NKJ)
If you pull an elder aside, remembering back to 1 Timothy 5:1, but he continues in his sin, then rebuke him in the presence of all. Leaders live in a fishbowl and must be rebuked in the fishbowl, so that there would be godly fear on both the part of the elders and the congregation. If you protect your leaders from accountability, you corrupt the church and others will not take warning. When you listen to an accusation against a leader, do you trust what you believe?
I wrote an article on my website back in September of 2012, “Do you trust what you believe?” It was meant to be a play on words. The original question is, “Do you trust what you hear?” The problem is we often believe what we hear. So the question becomes, “Do you trust what you believe?” Let me read a few excerpts,
Life is about trust. Trust in God’s character and word. Trust in relationships. Trust in family. Trust in the food we eat. We often take trust for granted, because what we hear seems plausible, the person who said it seems reliable, yet Proverbs 18:7 reads, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” Funny, how something can seem right, but when it’s examined, it’s not right. Why then do we believe the first account?
There are a multitude of reasons why we don’t examine what we hear or believe. We’re comfortable believing it. We’re not diligent to examine what is said. We have an agenda and want to believe what we hear. We don’t realize the person talking may have an agenda, so we don’t examine it. We think the person is normally trustworthy, so why examine him on this issue? We don’t want to face conflict, so we don’t examine. We don’t want to stir up conflict. We think the problem will just go away. We think people will forget and people will just get along. Shall I continue?
If Satan moved David to sin, is it possible for godly people today to do sinful things (cf. 1 Chron. 21:1)? If Jesus called Peter – “Satan” – is it possible for people to speak with a wrong motivation or to provide half truths to fit their agenda (cf. Matt. 16:21-23? If Peter questioned Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Is it possible for Christians to also lie for their own purposes? If believers fall away from the truth and believe deceiving spirits can believers today believe what is not true (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3)? Did you ever twist the truth to your parents to get out of a jam? Have your children ever twisted the truth in order to escape punishment?
Let us examine words that are spoken. Let us find out the reason why things happened for the sake of the holiness of God. THAT will honor the Lord. Can you trust what you believe?
We are quick to draw conclusions. Then our sin nature will do as Adam and Eve did – find room to blame, find a culprit, or find a scapegoat. How do you honor leadership? Receive no accusations without verified witnesses. Why? He’s been put into the place of God. Believe me, God wants him to be holy more than anyone else and believe me, God knows how to discipline him if he is in sin. But if he continues in sin, then rebuke in front of all! And furthermore, do not show favoritism.
3) Remain impartial toward leadership before Jesus 5:21-23
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. (1 Tim. 5:21 NKJ)
This is a strong charge before the God Jesus. Both words refer to one person according to the grammar of the Greek, called a Granville Sharp rule. Additionally the elect angels refer to the reality of the angelic realm who, watch how you make decisions especially in the local church as the Body of Christ. Paul says literally, do not “lean toward another.” Judge, but not before you have the facts. Believe the best and accept God’s work in his life, but hold to holiness.
22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Tim. 5:22 NKJ)
Be deliberate in identifying leaders. If you ordain too quickly, you share in the suffering from sins and troubles that follow. That is why we do not allow someone to be an elder until they have been a part of Grace for one year. If he has sinned, don’t feel sorry for him. Make sure there is repentance, purity and humility. Don’t be moved by emotions or words. Why? A leadership person is not just a speaker, entertainer, or friend. He is one who defends the doctrine and there is nothing more important!
23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. (1 Tim. 5:23 NKJ)
When it is beyond your ability to hold onto spiritual truth, Paul exhorted to gain the medicinal benefit of a glass of wine. The wine was to calm his worries, emotions and anxiety of facing people and help him relax. Kenneth Wuest writes, “Wine was one of the chief remedial agents of those times in which the science of medicine was in its infancy among Greek physicians.” Always remember what Paul wrote, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31 NKJ) There is no excuse running to this for dealing with every problem or bad habit. Abstinence is not required, but self-control and restraint are; certainly Scripture does not allow drunkenness. How do you honor leaders? Remain impartial before Jesus. Bless those who are serving, but if some are sinning, then cut out the sin for the sake of the holiness of the church! And you do this by looking at each person with Jesus’ eyes.
4) Examine leadership with Jesus’ eyes 5:24-25
Consider how Jesus looked at Peter. First He looked at Peter with eyes of joy that he understood who Jesus was, but then Peter was influenced by Satan and Jesus called him on the carpet,
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 16:15-17 NKJ)
Note how Jesus called him on the carpet,
21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:21-23 NKJ)24
In a similar manner Paul exhorted Timothy, that you have to be wise and discerning with people,
Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. (1 Tim. 5:24 NKJ)
Leaders do sin. Some sins stand out and are easy to discern and others follow later. They may seem respectable, manipulative, cunning, but they will be exposed, that is manifest to all. In a similar way, good works are noted,
25 Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden. (1 Tim. 5:25 NKJ)
Some good works are obvious, but some are not known until later, because leaders don’t make an issue of self. When the gospel transforms your life, you change. But the change in time doesn’t change the sin nature. If a leader sins, remove the sin. If he is serving well, then honor him. The point is:
Jesus is the true Leader! Disciple men to lead by means of Jesus.
- Believe the best, but don’t ordain without the qualities of 1 Tim. 3:1-13. Carefully investigate the lives of potential leaders. Don’t rush to put a man in leadership who is not ready or not proven.
- Do not listen to a charge from one person. If more than one, or it is publicly made, investigate the charge for purity sake. Don’t be nice to be nice. Doctrine and the church are far more important than the leader. Leaders will come and go, doctrine and the church remain. Remove bad leaders, appoint new ones, but not too quickly 1 Tim. 5:19
- Honoring a leader never over-shadows the necessity for holiness. Correct sin, because it is costly to the church. We should fear sin in the church Acts 5:1-11.
- Scripture is the foundation for authority for equipping to every good work 2 Tim. 3:16-17
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) Describe what you remember about the leadership in the first church you attended.
2) If a leader sins, should he be held accountable? _________ What should we learn from Scripture about accusations (cf. Deut. 17:6; 19:15)? What kinds of things motivate people to make accusations?
3) Are angels observing your actions? ____________What have angels watched and done with man (cf. 1 Pet. 1:8-12; Jude 6; 2 Pet. 2:4; Matt. 4:11; 25:41; 1 Tim. 3:16; 5:21; Eph. 3:10-11; 1 Cor. 4:9)?
4) Should grace cover over all sin, so all is forgiven and not dealt with? _______________ What should the church learn regarding discipline (consider passages like: Matt. 18:15–18; Rom. 16:17–18; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 2:6–11; Gal. 6:1–3; 2 Thess. 3:6–16; 2 Tim. 2:23–26; Titus 3:10; and 2 John 9–11)?
Making application of the message to life:
5) What are the benefits of honoring spiritual leadership in the church (Heb. 13:7,17)?
6) What are godly ways to hold spiritual leadership accountable to be humble servants of the Lord?
7) If you see a church leader sin, what would you do? How will you restore holiness to the church? How are you a part of the process?