The Text

1 Timothy 5:17-25 (CSB) The elders who are good leaders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, “The worker is worthy of his wages.”

Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will be afraid. I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing out of favoritism. Don’t be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder, and don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. Some people’s sins are obvious, preceding them to judgment, but the sins of others surface later. Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden.

The Meditation

The elders who are good leaders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says: Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and, “The worker is worthy of his wages.”

Paul is telling us: provide for you elders and ministers. Paul also received support in some churches and refused support in others. (1 Cor. 9:12-18) and we know that Paul was able to work as a “tentmaker” (Acts 18:1-3).

What then shall we make of this?

Christ commissioned every single one of us–those who have come to trust and obey him–to proclaim the gospel to every creature to the ends of the earth. And if we are to reflect on the teachings of Christ in his parable, we are to do so by, and I am going to use a term that my wife hates, “hook or crook”.

Luke 16:1-13 (CSB) Now he said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions. So he called the manager in and asked, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you can no longer be my manager.’

“Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do since my master is taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that when I’m removed from management, people will welcome me into their homes.’

“So he summoned each one of his master’s debtors. ‘How much do you owe my master?’ he asked the first one.

“‘A hundred measures of olive oil,’ he said.

“‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘sit down quickly, and write fifty.’

“Next he asked another, ‘How much do you owe?’

“‘A hundred measures of wheat,’ he said.

“‘Take your invoice,’ he told him, ‘and write eighty.’

“The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Christ said this, “For the children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.” In other words, whatever God has given us, especially money and wealth, we can take that and keep money-whipping people into trusting and liking you. What? You overtip the food server at your favorite diner after months of eating there. Then one day, you ask them if you can share the gospel of Christ with them. What are they going to say? No? Absolutely not. You have been money whipping them this entire time.

Christ told us, “Preach the gospel and be shrewd and crafty about it.” Find a way to get the gospel to everybody. The gospel is the power of God in salvation for those who believe. (Romans 1:16-17)

Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses

This is not to super protect pastors. This means don’t be slandering. Be careful of jumping on social media and slamming other pastors from other churches. If they are in sin, the Bible calls on the people of that church to come forward and confront those in sin. They don’t need any help from us in the peanut gallery.

Now this is tough. Because we have too many wolves acting like shepherds and preying upon the sheep of the Good Shepherd. And their wicked sins against the congregation, God will not sit idly by for “he will swiftly grant them justice” (Luke 18:8) and he will put down the false shepherd and prophet in order to protect his little lambs. (See Jeremiah 23). Nonetheless, if even one of you has been hurt in any way by any leader, don’t wait for two to three witnesses. That is not what the text is saying. Tell somebody. Let the people and your leaders know that there is a wolf in their midst. Out of your bravery, I know that it will prompt others to be brave. There you will get your two to three witnesses. How do I know this? Wolves don’t feast on one kill and go about their business. They will try to hunt the others in the flock. And our Good Shepherd will put them down and protect his lambs.

If you have ever been hurt by someone in the church who called themselves a leader in any capacity and used that to fool and manipulate you and twisted God’s holy word to get you to terrible and wicked things to you, I am so so so sorry. Tell a leader. And keep telling someone until someone listens.

Matthew 23:1-36 (CSB) Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be seen by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. You are not to be called instructors either, because you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as you are!

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the temple, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the temple is bound by his oath.’ Blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? Also, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the altar, it means nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gift that is on it is bound by his oath.’ Blind people! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore, the one who takes an oath by the altar takes an oath by it and by everything on it. The one who takes an oath by the temple takes an oath by it and by him who dwells in it. And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God’s throne and by him who sits on it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside of it may also become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we wouldn’t have taken part with them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors’ sins!

“Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell? This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all these things will come on this generation.

Matthew 23:37-39 (CSB) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’!”

Luke 18:9-14 (CSB) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the othr a tax collector. The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

John 8:2-11 (CSB) At dawn he went to the temple again, and all the people were coming to him. He sat down and began to teach them.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him.

Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”]

Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will be afraid

We live in a day and time where:

  • people grew up church where people where publicly rebuked in their sin
  • people were afraid

I think it is quite easy to rebuke others when sin is running rampant in other peoples' lives and their lives are a wreck.

But look at the ministry of Christ and all the apostles in the Bible. How did they rebuke sin? They preached the full counsel of the gospel.

The full counsel is this:

  • we have broken God’s law
  • Christ is our Redeemer and our righteousness
  • go and sin no more

When you see sin, rebuke it. And I am not talking about social media. Be in a church. See sin? Rebuke it. But don’t just address the problem but be prepared to proclaim the gospel so that we will have real rest for our weary souls!

I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing out of favoritism

You know what favoritism is? Fear of man over the fear of God. Show partiality to one person over another where God himself shows no partiality. Are you racist? Sexist? Prejudice? Bigot? Right now would be the time to repent to God and turn away from that sin.

Don’t be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder

They should not be young in the faith, as we just got through reading in chapter 3, “or he might become conceited and incur the same condemnation as the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:6 CSB)

and don’t share in the sins of others–Keep yourself pure

If others slander, don’t share in that. If others gossip, don’t share in that. If others steal, don’t share in that. If others are dishonest in their dealings, don’t.

Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses

You could make this “can we drink alcohol” type of debate. But I think is a more of a call for self-care. I know that this can go overboard for some people. What does God say?

1 Peter 5:8 (CSB) Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.

Take care of yourself. If you do drink, remain sober-minded. Why? Because Satan is on the hunt.

Some people’s sins are obvious, preceding them to judgment, but the sins of others surface later

This is why we preach the full counsel of the gospel. We might not know everybody in the church but God does. Some are struggling in sin. Others are wallowing in their sins and they don’t see it as sin. Preach the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do his work in them.

Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden

Remember Paul’s greeting to the church in Rome:

Romans 1:8-12 (CSB) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about his Son—that I constantly mention you, always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I want very much to see you, so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Hearing about the faith of others and the good works of others is an encouragement to the entire body. Be quick to give a word of encouragement. Be quick to give a prophetic word. The Spirit is at work. Join him in that work like Christ has commissioned us to do.

The Gospel

The Prayer

Our Eldest Brother
In your word, you have called some to lead and guide your church. But those callings are to be tested and tried that they would be found qualified in the sight of the people--that your people would see what you see.

We trust you, Lord. Thank you for giving us clear instructions on how to be a part of your church. Thank you for your grace to do your will and trust you more. 

We will forever praise your holy name.

Amen.