Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1 Timothy 5:17-25

V17-25 – 17The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain’ [Deuteronomy 25:4], and ‘The worker deserves his wages’ [Luke 10:7]. 19Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. 21I 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. 22Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. 23Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 24The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

Again, Paul handles the elders’ situation in Ephesus much the same as he handled the widows’ situation, beginning with how to honor the worthy elders and concluding with rebuke and corrective teaching for the elders who might have been straying under influence from false teaching. Regarding honor (same as for widows, as in “proper recognition” – v3), Paul says that teaching elders (preachers) are worthy of double honor. Some commentators suggest that Paul is speaking of both the positional honor of esteem and the financial honor of proper wages; others keep him tied to the pattern he has exhibited with widows and demand that he refers to double the wage that was common to qualified widows. Either way, generally speaking, the preacher of a church is an elder and is highly honored by the congregation, more so than the other elders, who serve the congregation in a more behind-the-scenes role. Yet both kinds of elders are to be financially rewarded for their time and effort in directing “the affairs of the church well.”

In v18, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 and then Luke 10:7 as Scripture, showing how quickly the New Testament came together and was regarded by the early church as equivalent to the Old Testament in authority (1 Corinthians 9:6-7,14; 2 Peter 3:15-16). V19-20 include the rebuke of those elders who stayed with the false teaching. While they were likely issue false accusations against others, they were not to be falsely accused, but only on the testimony of two or three witnesses, as the Scriptures taught. However, elders found guilty were “to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” The others may be speaking of the other elders, who wished to avoid the shame of public rebuke, or the congregation as a whole, in order to see the seriousness of adopting false teaching.

V21 is a very serious instruction to Timothy to avoid favoritism in executing this command. Even the elect angels (the Judgment Day witnesses – Matthew 25:31; Revelation 14:10) would watch him on this! They are, Calvin says, “the future witnesses of our carelessness, or rashness, or ambition, or unfaithfulness. They are present as spectators, because they have been commanded to take care of the Church… Only when we shut our eyes to persons do we pronounce an equitable judgment.”

Along with this warning is the command to avoid ordaining or reinstating repentant elders too quickly (v24-25). We saw this same command given earlier with the traits of an eligible elder. In other words, it takes a little time to learn a lot about a person; that’s okay. Being patient will allow the eligible ones to be distinguished. Calvin paraphrases Paul as saying to Timothy, “Though others rush forth to such rashness, do not make thyself a partaker with them, lest thou share in their guilt.” And quick repentance shouldn’t automatically earn reinstatement. It may take time for complete restoration, so that the one making the restoration can remain pure, not sharing in the responsibility for the sins of others (v22). The sins of some people are obvious; the sins of others will eventually be found out. The good character of some people is likewise obvious; but bad character cannot be concealed for long – it will appear in bad behavior.

Finally, having already considered v24-25, Paul tells Timothy in v23 to “use a little wine.” We may note that abstinence from alcohol was a matter of principle, perhaps to avoid offending the weaker brothers, yet it was obviously not a requirement for leadership. In fact, Paul seems to notice and appreciate wine’s medicinal value, though he does qualify it with moderation.

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