17 February 2012

1 Timothy 5:17-25

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching." (v. 17)


In 1 Timothy chapters 3 and 4 we've looked at the personal and interpersonal skills which make for an effective and respected leader, one who can assume responsibility for the spiritual life of those under their care. Now Paul lays down some practical rules.

There is the reminder to make sure that those in authority are properly rewarded for their work. The mention of muzzles and oxen (verse 18) refers to the threshing of the grain. Oxen were driven repeatedly across the sheaves of corn until separation of grain was complete, but the law laid down that they should be free to eat as much grain as they wished by way of reward for their work (Deuteronomy 25:4).

Particularly worthy of honour is the elder whose ministries were preaching and teaching, the building up of the young, the new converts and those whose faith was still in its infancy. A church grows when it is properly fed.

There then follow some practical instructions for handling disputes and accusations against any elders, the treatment of those who are persistent in their sinning, and advice about not being too hasty in the laying on of hands. This could be either for those who felt a call to service and ministry, or for those returning to the church as repentant backsliders. Timothy has already been reminded that the Church is God's family - those who have been called and who have made their response. Membership should not therefore be taken lightly.

However, the life of an elder should not just consist of administration and striving to be an example for others. There must be time to unwind and de-stress so that the body remains healthy. So Timothy is told to not to feel too guilty about letting his hair down now and then, and drinking the occasional glass of wine for the sake of his health!

To Ponder

Timothy is told that "the labourer deserves to be paid" (verse 18). As you look at the society in which you live, how does that statement resonate with what you see in the world?

The rules that were laid down for the early Church seems so much simpler than the increasingly large volumes which we have today. How important is it to have a clear framework of rules within the Church? Can this become too legalistic and detract from the primary function of the Church which is to preach the word to all people?

How important is it to allow your minister to have a proper day off in the week?

Bible notes author

John Birch

John Birch is a Methodist local preacher and worship leader based in South Wales. He writes prayers, worship resources and Bible studies for and is constantly amazed at where in the world they are used.