Devotional # 205. 9/5/16. 1 Timothy 5:17-25.
Intro. Last week we spent most of the time with Paul telling Timothy how to take care of three types of widows. This week Paul teaches pastor Timothy how to take care of pastors, encourages us to be impartial, drinking wine for illness and wisdom when considering pastoral candidates.
vv. 17-20. Pastors: The Good and the Bad
Here Paul tells Timothy how to take care of pastors (“elders”): both the good and the bad. We defined pastors as those who had a position of leadership in the church, they can have gifts of counseling, being able to study the Bible, teaching others and encouragement (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Devotional # 200. Paul mentions the positive first: when these pastors are doing their job – reward them for it. Does this sounds a little weird to you? When I’m at work sometimes I hear someone congratulate another person and I think, “why did you congratulate them? They were just doing their job.” But pastors are different because they’re dealing with the spiritual realm which is infinitely different than the physical. A pastor who is fighting the good fight not against flesh and blood but instead against spiritual forces and principalities (Ephesians 6:12, Devotional # 119) is struggling and warring every day. Often the pastor who is doing his best in the trenches, is being stepped on and underappreciated by the very people he’s fighting for.
Pastors deserve “double honor.” This implies that all leaders deserve honor, which is respect for what they do, not a worship of them but a respect of representing God. So pastor-teachers deserve double of that respect because they are bringing the word to life. To an eager believer this sounds like a sweet gig and they may be tempted to push themselves into this role. But James 3:1 reminds us, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” So just as they are worthy of double honor, they will also be subjected to double judgment (we’ll talk more about this type of judgement in a minute).
Paul also gives us two Scriptures (Deuteronomy 25:4, Luke 10:7) where we’re told to compensate a worker for their work. This doesn’t only refer to paying a pastor (although that is one way of compensation). It can also mean helping them with bills or providing a house, rent free (parish). It can also mean that people can fill in for a job the pastor usually does in order to free up his time. What we can take away from this is that we should be encouraging, respecting and compensating pastor-teachers when they are doing the Lord’s work.
Now that Paul has covered the positive side he needs to address the negative side. If there is an “accusation against an elder” it needs to be backed up by two or three people who have seen what they’re being accused of. This is because there are well-meaning, and not-so-well-meaning people who want to discredit pastors and force them to either teach a certain way or step down from ministry. This is the same formula that Jesus gave in Matthew 18:15-17 when a normal church attendee is accused of sin. In this case, with pastors, if the accusation is true then it needs to be brought before the whole congregation. This is because the pastor is not above correction and there needs to be a healthy “fear” among everyone of not making the same mistake. Paul will remind us shortly not to judge too quickly (5:22).
vv. 21-22. Impartiality
With his mind still focused on the judgment of church leaders, Paul encourages Timothy on being impartial. It’s a weighty matter because he charges this in front of the first two Persons of the Trinity (“God and the Lord Jesus Christ”) as well as “angels.” These “elect angels” are the ones who didn’t follow Satan but chose God. This tells us a few things: 1. In the same way humans have been “elected” by God to be in heaven, so have the angels, 2. The angels, along with God, see everything we do on a regular basis, 3. God made it so angels and humans would be part of His eternal kingdom and since we will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3) we need to practice being unbiased during our training time here on earth.
As a Christian, Timothy shouldn’t be showing any prejudice but as a church leader he especially shouldn’t have any favoritism.
v. 23. Wine for Illness
Apparently Timothy had a painful health problem, here called “frequent infirmities.” Paul suggests that Timothy drink a little wine to help with the pain.
I grew up thinking that drinking any alcohol was a sin. When I was in high school I shared this incorrect view with my girlfriend who got really angry. She told me her mom had a stomach issue and the only comfort was a little wine with her meal. Not only did this teach me a valuable lesson to actually read the Bible before I claim something but also a recognition that this verse still applies today. My only concern is that her mom had more than “a little” wine each night. As MacArthur puts it, “Paul was not advocating that Timothy lower the high standard of behavior for leaders (cf. Num. 6:1-4; Prov. 31:4,5)” (Source 1).
vv. 24-25. Pastoral Sins & Good Works: Clear and Hidden
Paul drifted off to the issue of Timothy’s healthy and a temporary solution to the issue but he swings back around to behavior and judgement of that behavior. Here he states an observational fact: some people’s sins are evident to everyone and other people’s sins are secret and hidden.
What does Paul mean, “preceding them to judgement, but those of some men follow later”? It’s important for us to look at the word “judgment” here. In the original Greek it’s krisis which has the root krima, as we’ve talked about several times (Devotional # 33 & Devotional # 92). Krima has a meaning of temporary, earthly judgment, as opposed to eternal condemnation judgment. This is speaking specifically of the evaluation process of a pastor. Some pastoral candidate’s prior sins are known and other’s sins may be hidden but will be found out about later (Numbers 32:23).
The same is mentioned of the pastoral candidates “good works.” As always we have to add the disclaimer that this isn’t in reference to the false teaching that we can get into heaven by doing any sort of good works. These are the “proving works” that show that the Holy Spirit is working through us (for more on what I call “striving vs. proving works” click here.
Therefore, wisdom when determining a pastoral candidate is to be patient and willing to accept that as time goes by more things will be revealed. Some of those things will be disappointing (“sins”) and others will be delighting (“good works”). These are things which every person does and one doesn’t necessarily outweigh the other. It just means that we must prayerfully consider God’s hand in bringing the right person to the right position at the right time.
Today’s Scripture is immensely helpful to pastors, elder boards and the general congregation’s understanding of how a biblical church should function. For those who are more interested in a personal takeaway you’ve also been given some things to prayerfully consider. How can you help your pastor? How can you support and compensate your pastor? Is your church doing what it should be doing? How can you be showing impartiality? Can you encourage someone in this area? If you or a friend are having health issues could a little wine help? You should consult a doctor about this and how can you make sure you don’t become an alcoholic in the process? What steps were taken to vet your pastor (you’re not on a witch hunt but your pastor’s experience might be an encouragement for you)? Do you feel called to be a pastor-teacher? Does a friend or family member? How does God hold people accountable for their thoughts and actions? How can you be walking in His way in order to prayerfully consider these things?
Notice that most of these questions address your need to help others. As always when we seek to help others we get our mind off ourselves and start truly serving and feeling rewarded for simply doing what Jesus commanded us to do.
Source 1: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1870.