************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 5:17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 3, 2007
1 Timothy 5:17-25
1 Timothy 5:17
At Sunday Night Fellowship a few weeks ago we saw a video on the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. We were reminded that three items were put in the Ark: the tablets of the Law, a jar of manna, and Aaron's staff that had budded (Heb 9:4). Why these three items? Why not other items like Joseph's coat or Abraham's bones or Egypt's bricks?
There was a reason for each item in the ark. God selected the items that were most important to Him and to the life of His people. The tablets of the Law reminded the people of the covenant and the demand for obedience. The jar of manna reminded the people of the Lord's provision and that they should always trust Him. Aaron's staff reminded the people that God appoints and equips the leaders of His people so these leaders are to be honored and held in the highest regard. As Paul puts it in our text,
(1 Tim 5:17) The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
I Worthy of Double Honor
A Paul says the elders are "worthy of double honor." Paul mentions the elders. But this does not exclude the deacons. Deacons and elders and pastors are all worthy of double honor.
I am sure you realize this demand to honor those in office runs counter to what we see in our culture. Our culture does not esteem any form of authority. What is esteemed are those who question authority. Take a look at the political cartoons in the newspaper; our President and Governor are not esteemed and honored – rather, they are mocked and reviled to the point you wonder why anyone would ever want their position.
Unfortunately, there are times when the same sort of attitude creeps into the church. More than once I have seen and heard members of the church question and mock those in office rather than give them honor. Here is another instance of culture impacting the church rather than the church impacting culture.
B Those who are in church office are "worthy of double honor." Why? Because it is God Who has appointed the elders and deacons and pastor you see at the front this morning. He gives them their office, He gives them their authority, He gives them their duties, He gives them the grace and strength and wisdom they need to carry out the duties of their offices.
God has established the authority structure of the church just like He has established the authority structure of society. Take note of what Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome:
(Rom 13:1) Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.Did you catch that? "There is no authority except that which God has established." This is true for society. This is true for civil government. This is true for the military. And, this is true for the church too.
C Those who are in church office are "worthy of double honor." The honor that God demands for those in church office is not conditional. It does not depend upon certain conditions or requirements being met. Notice what Paul does NOT say. Paul does not say they are worthy of double honor:
-because I agree with their decision
-because they are such nice guys
-because they do such a good job
-because they prove themselves worthy
-because they are rich and successful in business
The honor we are to give is unconditional. We see this so clearly in Acts 23. Paul was dragged before the Sanhedrin. The high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Paul said, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall ..." Do you remember what Paul said when he was informed he had just insulted the high priest?
(Acts 23:5) "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'"Paul was unjustly slapped and mistreated by the high priest. Surely, you would think, he had a right to say or do something. But that is not what Scripture says. Scripture does not say, "Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people unless they mistreat you and slap you." Scripture does not say, "Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people unless they do something you disagree with."
Those who are in church office are "worthy of double honor." No ifs, not buts, no maybes, no conditions.
D What happens when we dishonor those in church office? What happens when we show disrespect? When we do that we are attacking the Lord Himself. Don't forget, those in church office are picked by Christ, appointed by Christ, and anointed by Christ. When we go against God's authority structure, we are going against the Lord Himself. We are questioning and attacking the Lord and His wisdom.
Remember man's fall into sin as recorded in Genesis 3? Adam and Eve rejected and rebelled against God's authority. God said,
(Gen 2:16-17) "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; (17) but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."Along came Satan. Satan has one goal in life – to question and challenge God's authority. Satan, you see, wants to occupy God's throne. Satan thinks he can do a better job of running the universe than God can. Along came Satan, "Did God really say ...?" Satan planted confusion and doubt about God's authority. Adam and Eve listened to this and the result was the Fall.
What happened when the people of Israel decided to take matters into their own hands when Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai? They made and worshiped a golden calf. What happened when the people decided not to listen to Joshua and Moses and Caleb? They were not allowed to enter the Promised Land and were forced to wander around the desert for forty years.
It is always a disaster when mankind questions God's authority and God's authority structure. It was a disaster at the beginning of time. It was a disaster in the wilderness. And, it is a disaster today. I have noticed that when the church ignores or disobeys God's authority structure, that is when the church runs into trouble. God tells us how to do everything decently and in good order. He tells us that it is elders and deacons and pastors who run the church. He tells us to honor these men for the sake of their office. He tells us these men are worthy of double honor. We get into trouble when we depart from God's way of doing things.
E Not only do we get into trouble, but God hates it when His people do not give honor to those He has appointed as leaders. God hates it! And, what God hates He punishes.
I asked at the beginning of my message why Aaron's staff made it into the Ark of the Covenant instead of some other items. I mentioned that God selected the items that were most important to Him and to the life of His people. Aaron's staff reminded the people that God appoints and equips the leaders of His people so these leaders are to be honored and held in the highest regard.
Let's look at the story of Aaron's staff and how it made it into the Ark. I would like to ask you to turn to Numbers 16 (page 233 in your pew Bibles).
(Num 16:1-3) Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites--Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth--became insolent (2) and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. (3) They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, "You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord's assembly?"We are told that 254 Israelite men, well-known community leaders – leaders in the congregation – opposed God's authority structure. Therefore, they were opposing God. Moses says this in verse 11:
(Num 16:11) "It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together."What happened? Look at verses 23-24:
(Num 16:23-24) Then the LORD said to Moses, (24) "Say to the assembly, 'Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'"Now listen to verses 31-35:
(Num 16:31-35) As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart (32) and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. (33) They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. (34) At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, "The earth is going to swallow us too!" (35) And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.God hates it when His people do not give honor to those He has appointed as leaders.
You would think that this would have ended the whole matter. You would think that any thought of rebellion would be banished forever from everyone's mind, right? But God's people can be very stubborn in their rebellion against God's authority. Look at verse 41:
(Num 16:41) The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. "You have killed the Lord's people," they said.What happened this time? Look at verses 46-49:
(Num 16:46-49) Then Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started." (47) So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. (48) He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. (49) But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah.I repeat, God hates it when His people do not give honor to those He has appointed as leaders.
Now, within this context we are told the story about Aaron's staff. Follow along as I read from Numbers 17:
(Num 17:1-11) The LORD said to Moses, (2) "Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. (3) On the staff of Levi write Aaron's name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. (4) Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. (5) The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites." (6) So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron's staff was among them. (7) Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony. (8) The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron's staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. (9) Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord's presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff. (10) The LORD said to Moses, "Put back Aaron's staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die." (11) Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.Now you see why God commanded Aaron's staff to be put into the Ark of the Covenant. It is important to God, vitally important, that His authority structure be observed and His appointed leaders be honored.
F Those who are in church office are not just worthy of honor; they are "worthy of double honor." By this Paul means they are worthy of extra honor, our utmost respect, our highest esteem; we are to hold them in high regard; we are to have a high opinion of them. God has appointed the elders and deacons and pastor to be the shepherds of your soul, to guard the flock against the attacks of Satan, to stand watch on the gates of Zion. So, honor them.
II Giving Honor
Those who are in church office are "worthy of double honor." How do we show them the honor that is their due? Let me list a number of things.
Be careful how you talk about the elders, deacons, and pastor at Sunday dinner or Monday morning coffee time. Too many times the main item on the menu is a roast – roast preacher, roast elder, roast deacon. You honor those in church office by talking about them in the most positive of ways.
Think twice, and then think a couple of more times, before you attack the work of the elders. Did you catch what Paul says in verse 19?
(1 Tim 5:19) Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.There is a main clause here and a subordinate clause. The main clause says, "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder." That is where God wants the emphasis to lie. "Do not." In most cases this is forbidden, this is wrong, this is a sin. But if it does happen – because of a serious sin on the part of an office bearer – it needs to be established by the witness of two or three. Just as in a court of law, the elders must not pay attention to the accusation of just one man.
How else do we show honor? Hebrews 13 uses the words "obey" and "submit": "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority" (Heb 13:17).
Listen to what Paul adds in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He says,
(1 Th 5:12-13) Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. (13) Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.Paul says "respect," "hold in the highest regard," "love."
We are to do all of this because those God has appointed to church office are "worthy of double honor."
III The Task of the Elders
A Our text also tells us what God expects of the elders and deacons and pastor.
We are told they are to "direct the affairs of the church."
The affairs of the church are NOT directed by a pope or bishop. The affairs of the church are NOT directed by the congregation. The affairs of the church are NOT run by a couple of rich people in the church. The affairs of the church are NOT run by the founding members either. Over the years I have noticed that those who help to begin a church start thinking of the church as their church, their buildings, their organ, their piano, their sound system, their consistory. It isn't. It all belongs to Jesus.
According to the command of Christ, the affairs of the church are to be directed by the elders, deacons, and pastor. They are the ones appointed by Christ to direct the affairs of His church. They come under Him and are responsible to Him and someday need to give account to Him. Christ is the Head and King of the church and He has appointed elders and deacons and pastors as His under-shepherds to guard and protect His flock against the attacks of Satan.
B Paul talks about elders who direct the affairs of the church "well". This is not a condition for honor; it is a description of how those in church office are to direct or rule the church. Elders, deacons, and pastor are to rule "well".
What does this mean? Paul gives plenty of advice to Timothy and to our office bearers:
(1 Tim 5:20-21) Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. [No elder likes this but it needs to be done.]
(1 Tim 5:21) ... do nothing out of favoritism.
(1 Tim 5:22) Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands [do not let just anyone enter church office], and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure [remember that those in church office must be above reproach].
(1 Tim 6:20) guard what has been entrusted to your care. [He is talking about true doctrine.] Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge ...
To rule "well" means to do everything according to the Word of God. The Word of God is the rule for the church's doctrine and life. When those in church office obey the Word, they are directing the affairs of the church "well".
God has established the authority structure of the church. He appoints elders and deacons and pastor. They are to rule well in the name of Christ – that is, they are to do everything according to the Word of God. And, those in the church are to honor those God has placed over them.
As these men in front of you take up their office or continue in their office give them the honor that is their due. That way, says Hebrews "their work will be a joy, not a burden" (Heb 13:17). Then Hebrews slips this in: "for that would be of no advantage to you" (Heb 13:17). God's people gain nothing if elders and deacons and pastor find their work to be all grief and no joy. Do you know why? Because grieving elders do not and cannot shepherd. Grieving elders and deacons and pastor are so upset by the sins of the people they cannot concentrate on looking after the sheep and the lambs.
Give those at the front double honor so their work will be a joy, not a burden; so the work of the Lord and His church and Kingdom will bear much fruit.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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