October 27: 1 Tim 5
October 27, 2010
Leadership is a vital issue for the Church.
Appointing the right leaders, with the right qualifications (think godliness as well as giftedness, as per 3:1-7 and 4:12-16), is a top priority. The wrong kind of leaders can wreak havoc in the life of the church (as per 1:3-7; 4:1-5; 6:3-5). That said, even when the right leaders are appointed, Paul still feels the need to give counsel on the way in which these leaders ought to be viewed.
Having instructed the believers in Ephesus about honoring widows Paul moves on to the honor that ought to be shown to elders. In particular he is dealing with those who "rule well" and those whose work involves "preaching and teaching." Eldership is one office, but it seems quite fair here to recognize a distinction of role that sees some men as ruling elders and others, who share in leading and directing the household of God, also laboring in the ministry of preaching and teaching.
There is such a thing here as excellence in ministry, and it is something that can be recognized and acknowledged. Paul commends it. It would be easy to approach this in a crass and worldly way as if we could distribute rewards in advance of the final judgement. Nonetheless what Paul observes in the home (3:4, 12) and sees as an indicator of competence for office can be observed in the Church.
What will this honor, or "double honor" involve? The flow of Paul's reasoning in verses 17 and 18 show that he is dealing with the mundane but important matter of financial support. Paul begins with Deuteronomy 25:4, a text about oxen eating from the field where they are working (also used by Paul to establish the principle of paying gospel workers in 1 Corinthians 9:9), and also appeals to the domincal saying "the laborer deserves his wages" found in Luke 10:7.
In light of the great statement made in 2 Timothy 3:15-16 about the origin of Scripture it is interesting to note that both the Deuteronomy text and the Lukan one are introduced with the formula "For the Scripture says" (5:18). The mode of inspiration involved in the two books is markedly different but the final product is the same, the Word of God written.
In an age where it is so easy to lose our bearings on leadership and to get lost in a number of different directions the instructions here about honoring the right kind of leaders and what to do about leaders that have sinned (5:19-22) remain as relevant as ever and demand thoughtful reflection and application.