1 Timothy 5:17-25
On the Treatment of Elders
Paul has spoken of the qualifications of elders (3:1-7); now he turns to the privileges and responsibilities of these. First, they are “worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” He then goes on to suggest that this honor includes remuneration (Deuteronomy 25:4; Luke 10:7). Such regard for the teaching office also speaks to the gravity of the service, which is why James says that not many should desire to teach as they will be judged with greater strictness (3:1). It is the most serious matter in the world to handle the word of God and rightly divide it. No man is perfect in this regard but he must at least be sincere and thorough in his study—which prompts me to say that a church must not only allow but demand that her pastor spend time in his study (not “office”) to pray and sweat drops of blood over his Bible studies and sermons.
But as he receives double honor he is also held to a higher standard. Granted, any accusation must be “on evidence of two or three witnesses” (which frankly was always the standard for everyone). In other words, allow no frivolous charges as some might simply dislike the man for stepping on their toes. But if he is guilty of some major indiscretion, then he must be publicly rebuked which is different from the way of handling other church members (Matthew 18:15-20). Again, the emphasis is on the importance of the office and the need for integrity, nobility, and a life that is above reproach. Failures here invariable make their way out into the world which cause scandals that give the enemy grounds for boasting. And this is why the Apostle warns Timothy to “not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” that is, in setting apart elders and deacons. This is a place where Baptist and other evangelical churches have failed miserably, shoving young men into positions for which they were not ready only to see them fall away for lack of maturity. Such men must be proven over time, and a degree from a seminary is no proof of spiritual maturity or even doctrinal integrity. And Paul is certain that sooner or later their works will find them out either for good or evil—another argument for taking time to set apart.
Paul then charges Timothy to “keep these rules without prejudging,” and does so even before “the elect angels,” showing again the seriousness of his command. And finally, Paul has a word for Timothy, a young man who has been set apart for his integrity and giftedness: “Take [no] part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.” Watch yourself, Timothy. Indeed, to all the pastors out there: Be on guard; keep yourselves pure. And Watch!