Let's open our Bibles now for our study of God's Word, back to the passage we've been considering for a couple of weeks, 1 Timothy 5 verses 17 through 25. And this is another look at the matter of restoring a biblical eldership.
You're very much aware if you've been with us in our study of 1 Timothy that Timothy is in the church at Ephesus, in a sense representing Paul trying to put things back the way they ought to be in that church. About five to eight years before this, Paul had poured his life into that church. He had met with those Ephesian elders recorded in Acts 20 and reiterated to them the principles of ministry they were to carry out. He particularly honed in on the pastor/elder, overseer and expressed to him how important it was to take care of his own spiritual life and then to feed the flock of God. And to be sure he didn't do it for money, and to be sure he stayed away from sin, and to be sure he was committed to the Word of God and be sure he warned the people. And he really laid out all the responsibility of a pastor and an elder.
But in the intervening five to eight years, a terrible decline occurred in the church at Ephesus. And by now their leadership is corrupt in part and mixed at best. And so among the responsibilities Timothy is left to care for is this responsibility of restoring a biblical pastorate, restoring a biblical eldership, putting back in the leadership of the Ephesian church truly called godly men.
And so, in verses 17 to 25 the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy and through Timothy the congregation in Ephesus and through Timothy also every congregation, including our own, on the matter of putting in place the proper perspectives regarding a biblical pastorate, or a biblical eldership. And as we have been noting to you, there are four things that concern Paul in regard to the attitude of the people toward elders--one, honoring elders; two, protecting elders; three, rebuking elders; four, selecting elders.
In chapter 3 he dealt with the qualifications of an elder. Now he deals with how the church is to treat those men who are qualified. It's a tremendously important passage. And while it may not be as new to us as it is to some, for the sake of those beyond these walls who hear this message, it's very important that we take our time to make clear the intent of the writer in this passage.
I remember sitting in a meeting back at the Moody Bible Institute with about ten pastors of large churches. We were discussing some of the problems that we have in common pastoring in a large church. And after a discussion of the most common problem, which turned out to be trying to raise up leaders and have those leaders be of one mind, and one heart, and one spirit all cooperating and moving the same direction, after we talked through the frustrations of that one man said, "You know, you have it all wrong. Your whole approach is wrong. What you have to understand is that the pastor is the king." And he said, "Frankly, in my church if you don't agree with the pastor, you aren't on the board. Plain and simple, that eliminates all the problem."
Well, I really don't find anywhere in the Bible where it says THE pastor is the king. And yet that's a pretty common approach to church ministry, where the pastor who equals the king is responsible to do everything, he's in charge of everything and his wish is sort of filtered down through the pyramid. I read a book this week about a 400-page book on how to structure your church which is very popular with many people. One statement I'm quoting is, "The pastor should overseer the entire work of the church," end quote. And this book goes on to espouse the philosophy that there is to be one man who is in charge of everything and he hires people to be his staff to get down what he wants done the way he wants it done. And so the major issue is loyalty to the pastor, who is the king.
Well the concept of a pastor/king, the concept of a staff of people whose main function is to do whatever the king wants him to do is foreign to the Word of God. As we have been learning in the Word of God, the church is to be led by a plurality of godly men, all of whom overseer the congregation, feed them, lead them, protect them and guide them, who may have different expressions of their gifts, who may have different responsibilities of ministry, but all who are qualified in terms of godliness as according to 1 Timothy 3 and in terms of leadership ability as having been demonstrated in the family and in the congregation as well.
Now this plurality of godly men are to be those who are most like Jesus Christ and most able and faithful in teaching the Word of God. Where a church doesn't have this, a church is going to have problems because it does not rise higher than the level of its leadership.
So, Paul has much to say to Timothy about restoring a biblical eldership. And this text has much to say to us and to all other churches who need to work in this area.
Now remember we said in point one that Paul says in verses 17 and 18 that a church is to give honor to those who are in the position of elder or pastor. Look at verse 17, "Let the elders that rule excellency be considered worthy of double honor, especially the ones who work hard in preaching and teaching, for the Scripture says," and here are two analogies, one taken from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 25:4, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain," the second from Luke 10:7, "The laborer is worthy of his wages."
In other words, Paul says it is analogous to an animal who grinds out grain and is rewarded by being fed, it is analogous to a man who serves his master and is rewarded by being paid. And so the one who serves the Lord by ruling well in the church and laboring hard at preaching and teaching is to receive proper honor. That honor should be double honor, that is beyond just a minimal amount, a maximal consideration. And as we have been noting, that honor includes two things...one, respect, two, remuneration. It includes a proper attitude, as 1 Thessalonians said, of esteeming them highly in love for their work's sake. It includes the attitude of one wanting to follow their faith, as Hebrews 13:7 says, since they are over us in the Lord. They set the standard of godliness which we are to follow. Verse 17 of Hebrews 13 also says we are to submit to them because they are over us in the Lord and they must give an account for their responsible ministry. And we are to give them joy in that by submitting rather than grief, which would be unprofitable to all of us.
So, clearly we are to love them, to honor them, to give them due consideration of respect, to follow their example, to submit to their leadership. And secondly, we are to pay them. They who preach the gospel, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9, should live of the gospel. That is, if they spend their life preaching it, they ought to be compensated for that. That's essentially what is behind the idea of Galatians 6:6 where it says the one who is taught should share with the one who teaches in all the goodies, agathos. In other words, the provision should be made for the one who teaches through the people's response to his teaching. So, first of all, the church then is given the responsibility of giving due honor to faithful godly men who rule well, working hard in the matters of preaching and teaching.
Secondly, we noted also, and I'm just reviewing briefly, we are called as a church not only to honor elders but to protect them. Since they are in a position where the enemy would want them discredited and undermined and the credibility of their ministry and the integrity of their life taken away, we are aware then that they will be inevitably under the assault of false accusation. So verse 19 says, "Against an elder or pastor, do not receive an accusation unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses," is the intent of the text. In other words, when false accusations come, they ought to fall on deaf ears. That is the best way you protect your godly leaders...humble, excellent, faithful preaching, teaching, protecting, guiding, caring pastors are to be protected by their people, not listening to false accusation. Unless an accusation is very evidently confirmed by two or three credible witnesses who are in the know, it should not even be entertained, it should not even be investigated. Undoubtedly the most precious possession a servant of God has is his godly reputation. And when that is undermined and attacked and when people listen to false accusation, that which is most valuable to him can be stolen and irreparable damage done. So the church then is to be very cautious in the matter of protecting its leaders.
Thirdly, the church has a responsibility in restoring a biblical eldership to be about the business of rebuking elders who sin, verses 20 and 21. "The ones that sin, rebuke before all that others also may fear." And then to add strength to that command which will be hard to follow through with, he says, "I charge you, I admonish you, I strongly testify to you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, the unfallen and holy angels that are around the throne of God doing His bidding, that you observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality."
In other words, with absolute equity and with utter fairness before holy God, holy Christ and holy angels, all of whom attend to the church, watch for the church, serve the church and care about the church, you are to do this. And what are you to do? Rebuke sinning elders publicly...publicly.
The reason that you have the tremendous testimony of the next verse, verse 21, is because it's so difficult to do what it says in verse 20. I mean, how many churches do you know that actually publicly rebuke sinning elders, sinning pastors? And yet that's very explicitly stated here. And then in order to expedite that comes verse 21 saying that this is something demanded by God, by Christ Jesus and by the holy angels, all of whom hold the highest holy standard.
Now this acts...and we'll pick it up where we left it off last time in verse 21, verse 20 rather...this acts as a restraint, by creating a healthy fear. Now when we talk about fear we're not talking about sheer terror, we're talking about a sense of the ominous reality of God's hatred of evil and its consequences. That's a very healthy attitude. Your children, I trust, grew up with a proper measure of fear. They loved you and they feared the discipline that came to them if they disobeyed you. And that's the way it is with God. There is always that two-sided relationship to God. The one side is the side of love, the other is the side of fear. We serve because we love, we serve because we fear his chastening.
This is not something that is wrong, this is something that is very right. In God's reiteration of the principles underlying the law, the book of Deuteronomy gives us good insight into this. Turn with me, will you, back to Deuteronomy, and I just want to show you how important this was in God's establishing motivation for obedience among the people of Israel. In Deuteronomy 13 and verse 6, for example, "If your brother, the son of your mother or your son or your daughter or the wife of your bosom or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly saying, Let's go and serve other gods which you haven't known, you nor your fathers, namely the gods of the people who are around about you, near to you or far away from you, from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth." In other words, here comes a friend, secretly gets you in a corner and tries to woo you away from the true God to idols, try to solicit your attention for false gods. Verse 8, "You shall not consent to him, nor listen to him, neither shall your eye pity him, don't be drawn in because of your pity for him or your care for him, neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him, if he is an idolater and if he is soliciting people into idolatry, don't pity him, don't spare him, don't hide him," verse 9 says do what to him? "Kill him." Kill him? That's what it says. "Kill him, your hand is the first on him to put him to death and afterward the hand of all the people and you stone him with stones that he die because he has sought to thrust away from the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage," and here's the point, verse 11, "and all Israel will hear and...what?...f.fear and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you." In other words, if an idolater loses his life, it's going to make people think twice before they get into idolatry. Swift, fast, final punishment on idolatry creates a healthy fear.
The seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy gives us another insight into the same kind of penalty for a different sin. "And the man who will do presumptuously and will not hearken unto the priest," verse 12 of chapter 17, "who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or under the judge, even that man shall die." In other words, kill a man who is insubordinate. Kill a man who will not listen to the one who ministers for God. Kill him and that way you will eliminate the evil from Israel, and again all the people will hear and...what?...fear and no more will they act in presumption.
Chapter 19 verse 16 again gives us the same thrust. "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity or for any sin in any sin that he sinneth, at the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses shall the matter be established." In other words, the testimony of one person is not sufficient to convict, the two or three or necessary. Then in verse 16 he moves in to talking about false accusers. "If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him, something which is wrong, then both the men between whom the controversy is shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who shall be in those days, the judges shall make diligent inquiry and behold if the witness is a false witness and has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he had thought to have done to his brother, so shall you put away the evil from among you." In other words, whatever he sought done to the one he falsely accused, do it to him. And verse 21 describes what that means, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot."
Verse 20, "And those who remain will hear and...what?...f.fear and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you." Listen, God says that if people can see a swift and complete and devastating judgment on sin, it is a restraint to them...it is a restraint. Verse 21, verse 18, "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother and that when they have chastened him will not hearken to them, then shall his father and mother lay hold of him, bring him out unto the elders of his city, to the gate of his place, his town, and say to the elders of the city, This is our son, he's stubborn and rebellious, he won't obey our voice, he's a glutton and a drunkard. And the men of the city shall stone him with stones that he die. So shall you put evil away from among you and all Israel shall hear and...what?...fear." Fear.
You see, that's a very healthy perspective. Fear rises in the heart of people who see swift judgment on sin. Now go back to 1 Timothy chapter 5 and you have the same concept there. When sin is publicly rebuked, other elders and I think we could even encompass the whole congregation, will also fear the inevitable, the very stringent, the very public, the very shameful consequence to their sin. Negative motivation has a very basic role to play in behavior. This must be done and verse 21 says because God wants it done, Christ wants it done, the holy angels want it done and you better do it.
I think we've lost sight of this. I think the church today assumes that Jesus Christ is in the midst of the church as sort of a milk toast personality, patting everybody on the head and letting them get away with murder, that Jesus is a pal, that Jesus is a buddy, that Jesus' main agenda for the church is to make you happy, that Jesus' primary concern is that you feel good about yourself, or that you have a sort of a satisfied ego trip, or that you not be uncomfortable, that Jesus' main idea in the church is to stroke you and just tolerate you. But if you really want to see what Jesus is concerned about in his church, you need to go for a moment to Revelation chapter 1. Will you turn there for a moment and let's just see what it is that concerns the Lord Jesus Christ about his church and why he would be watching to make sure the church rebuked sin among its leaders.
John in chapter 1 has a vision of Christ. And Christ identifies Himself in verse 11 as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. Tells John to write these letters to the seven churches that are located in Asia Minor which letters take up chapters two and three. Now these seven churches in Asia Minor, I believe, are representative of all kinds of churches in all eras of church history. Each of these seven churches has some distinctives about it that are characteristic of churches in all periods of time. And so in a very sense you have in a microcosm of Asia Minor in the first century a picture of the church. And among those churches Christ moves in ministry in this incredible vision beginning in verse 12. "I turned to see the voice that spoke to me and I turned and I saw seven golden lampstands." Seven being a number indicating completeness, golden having to do with the costliness, the precious character, the value of the church. And each lampstand with a light representing one of the seven churches, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
So, here is a picture of Christ moving among these seven churches which are in a symbolic microcosm, a picture of Christ moving in His church in all times. Verse 13, "In the midst of these seven lampstands, one like the Son of Man." Here is Christ, moving in His church. He is garmented not only in a fashion not unlike a king and not unlike a prophet, but in a fashion mostly like a priest with a garment all the way down to the foot and belted about His midsection with a golden belt. Here is Christ, the priest moving in ministry among His church people. And it describes Him and notice the description. Here is how Christ appears in ministry to His church. "His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow." The whiteness of His hair and His head certainly speak of the idea of His agedness and the idea of agedness has to do with wisdom and we might also say that it has to do with purity, a pure and undefiled wisdom, a flawlessness, a sageness. And so here He is moving with tremendous profound astute wisdom in His church. "His eyes are like flame of fire." That is searching, penetrating, nothing hidden from them and that inspires a measure of fear. He sees everything and He penetrates it not with a comforting penetration but with a discomforting penetration, fire being a discomforting thought. "His feet are like fine bronze as if they had been fired in a furnace to a red hot character so that they glow." Feet, of course, glowing hot give the idea of crushing out something, of stamping something out. And the idea would be unrighteousness.
So, here is the sage and utterly pure Christ, moving in the midst of His churches, applying His pure wisdom, penetrating with His fiery eyes into the depths of the heart of the people, to see and discover their sin, which when discovered will be stamped out by feet of burning bronze. "His voice is like the sound of many waters." That is powerful, majestic, authoritative, demanding. In His right hand not only seven stars which represent the seven ministers of the churches as it tells us in verse 20, but out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword, a broad sword, a big sword by the Greek word used for sword, a devastating sword, a cutting slicing judging sword. And His face is shining like the sun at its apex, brilliant, blazing, flaming glory.
Now that's a tremendous picture and not a picture of a tolerant sort of passive sort of limp character, but a fearful presence of one who is searching, penetrating with eternally pure wisdom, finding sin, placing feet of judgment upon that sin, speaking with profound authority, wielding a sword that can cut and devastate in judgment. And having a face of blazing glory.
John's reaction to that in verse 17 was, "He fell at his feet as dead." The vision was enough to kill him. That's the picture of Christ moving in His church. And the idea is He's moving to maintain the purity of His church and to act against its sin. He is seen in His church not as a pal, not as a buddy, not as the popular Jesus of today who wants you healthy, wealthy and happy, who wants to sanctify your ego trip, who wants to make you feel good about yourself, He is there to penetrate, discover sin and stamp it out. That is why in Matthew 18 when it says that we are to confront sin and we are to put sin out of the church, because what we're doing on earth when we do that heaven has already done, and because when two or three witnesses come against someone's sin, Christ is in the midst doing that. In other words, this is the work of Christ in His church, not to tolerate but to be intolerant of evil. And so, we must act against sin with the severity that heaven acts, a severity with which Christ acts and that means that when a leader sins, a pastor or an elder, there is to be a public rebuke. Why? That others who might enter the same sin might be afraid to do so because they have seen the far-reaching and deep consequence of such sin.
And as a footnote, what should be our attitude? Do we gloat over the sinning one and push ourselves up the ladder of esteem a little higher because it wasn't us? Do we feel bad about them but good about ourselves? What is the attitude of one who finds a sinning pastor, a sinning elder and publicly rebukes that person? I submit to you that it is an attitude of sorrow. It is an attitude of sadness.
I was reading this week in 1 Chronicles chapter 21 about David's terrible sin against God. He sinned against God. And if you remember the story, he came together and it says that he gathered...I think it's in verse 16...with the elders and they all cried out to God in sack cloth. It was David's sin but all the elders of Israel so identified with the sorrow over one of their own who had sinned that they too put on the garments of sadness. And the leadership of the church when finding a sinning member should clothe itself in the sadness that that member expresses because that one falling taints the whole of even those who are unfallen. It's not just the sadness of compassion, it's the sadness of the very role of leadership being so stained which causes all of us to suffer.
And so we are then aware very clearly from this passage of a tremendous responsibility. First to honor, second to protect, and thirdly, and this is the negative side of being a pastor or elder, to rebuke publicly when there is need for that.
Now with all that in mind, let's go back to 1 Timothy and look at the last portion, verses 22 to 25. In view of the tremendous honor given to an elder, in view of the great potential for dishonor, shame and public disgrace, the last point that Paul wants to bring up is the matter of selecting elders. How does a congregation assure itself that it is choosing the right people? If the honor is so great and the dishonor is so great, we must be tremendously cautious in this matter. And obviously the first way to prevent unqualified people from becoming pastors and being honored when they don't deserve it and having to be publicly dishonored is to avoid any hasty appointments, any hasty ordination.
Look at verse 22, "Lay hands suddenly, or better hastily, lay hands hastily on no man." We'll stop at that point. Lay hands hastily on no man. Now some commentators and students of Scripture have tried to argue that this has reference to some New Testament church custom of restoring back to the fellowship a sinning pastor or sinning elder and that the laying on of hands here has nothing to do with ordination to ministry, but has to do with a man who has sinned, he's been publicly rebuked, now he repents, he wants to come back. And what Paul is saying is don't put the hands of forgiveness and affirmation on him in too big a hurry. And some have argued quite eloquently for that interpretation, that it's speaking of an early church formal custom of restitution for a sinning pastor wanting to come back into the fellowship. And so it's a caution not to let him back too soon.
I don't think that's a proper interpretation and I think there are many reasons, I'll give you a couple. One is there's not a shred of evidence in the New Testament to indicate that any such custom ever existed, none at all. In the third century a practice similar to this came into being, designed by the church but in all the writings regarding that practice, there is no appeal to New Testament documents at all to support it. It must be rejected secondly because it flies in the face of everything we know about forgiveness. In Matthew 18 it says if your brother sins, forgive him. And if he sins again, forgive him. And if he sins again, forgive him. In fact, if he sins on and on and on, forgive him seventy times...what?...seven. And the spirit of forgiveness in the Scripture is not a spirit of caution, it is a spirit of restoration.
No, it's better to see this just consistently in the context as having to do with what the laying of hands had to do with in chapter 4 verse 14 and what it has to do with 2 Timothy 1:6. When the epistles that we know as the pastoral epistles refer to the laying on of hands, it is consistent for us to note that that has to do with ordination into the ministry. It was a symbol of affirmation of a man's suitability, preparedness, readiness and acceptance into public ministry. And when hands were placed on a man it was the idea of solidarity, union, identification, oneness all of that. It had Old Testament roots. You can go back in to Numbers 8, Numbers 27, Deuteronomy chapter 34 verse 9, places like that, you'll find that, for example, in the sacrificial system, when a Jew put a sacrifice on the altar, he put his hands on the sacrifice. And in that symbolic act was saying I identify with this sacrifice. It is my sins that are placed here. And that identification of the placing of hands on someone symbolized the unity, the solidarity.
In the New Testament it is so used. Laying on of hands, for example, in Hebrews 6 has to do with the hands that were placed on an Old Testament sacrifice. In Matthew 19:15, Jesus put His hands on little children and blessed them. And in a very real way He identified with them as citizens of His Kingdom, of such is the Kingdom. In Acts 8:17 and 18, the Apostles identified with new believers who were Samaritans by placing their hands on them and showing oneness with them, at which time they received the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter 9, Ananias put his hands on the Apostle Paul, in a sense identifying with him and acting, in a sense, as a symbolic conduit for the power of God to come and to heal his blindness.
So, the laying on of hands had a somewhat broad understanding throughout Scripture of identification, of a symbolic gesture of affirmation of someone as belonging to God, and as a recipient of the power of God, the blessing of God. But most particularly here in the pastoral epistles it refers to that very unique time and place when hands were laid upon a man to set him apart for the ministry. It was done, for example, in Acts 6. You read verses 3 to 6 and when they chose out deacons, they laid hands on them to identify with them in their ministry. You go to Acts 13:3 and when they separated Paul and Barnabas to the work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, after praying and fasting they laid hands on them to set them apart to the ministry.
And so, what Paul has to be talking about in the context here is not the restoration of a sinning pastor, but the original ordination of a man to ministry. And he says this, "Don't do this hastily." In chapter 3 verse 10 he says, in effect, the same thing, "Don't hastily put a person in the role of a deacon unless they have first been proven." And here he's saying essentially the same thing, thorough investigation should preclude any ordination. This is very important. This is where the whole process of ordination comes from.
I want you to know in our church in order for a man to be ordained at Grace Church there's a very long and arduous process that they go through. In fact, a week ago I was reading the syllabus which we put together some years ago and have refined, a very thick syllabus which the men have to really master before they can be considered for ministry. That syllabus has only to do with biblical knowledge. They, for example, must be able to tell...to basically outline every book of the Bible, on their feet without notes when asked in a testing situation. They should be able to be given two to three hundred chapters in the Bible and just by naming the chapter they can tell you the importance and significance of that key chapter. They can be given certain sections of Scripture, or even verses of Scripture which they must know not only what the content is but what it means. They have to not only know the major points of theology but be able to defend them reasonably and defend them biblically with chapters and verses to support them. Not only that, they have a whole list of issues and questions and situations that occur in the church that they must be able to give a biblical resolution for. And then they have a multi-year profile where they have to be visible under other elders, to prove their spiritual character. And when all of those years of accumulating that biblical knowledge and functioning in biblical ministry prove them to be worthwhile, then they go through another process of examination and are finally, if proven to be worthy, ordained. And the reason is because we don't want to do this hastily.
And churches should be very cautious about this. You should act in great judgment and with great caution, and if for no other reason, how about this one in verse 22, "Neither be partaker of other men's sins...neither be partaker of other men's sins." In other words, if you hurry a man into ordination and he is unsuited and unfitted, and he has sinned, you literally, koinonos, fellowship in that sin. There is culpability. That's how deep the solidarity is when you lay hands on someone. The implications of that union are very deep and very profound.
With the realization for potential for great honor and the realization for potential of great liability among pastors and elders who sin, we must be very cautious before anyone is ever placed in the ministry. For if we have hurriedly placed someone in ministry without proper examination, we are guilty when that person falls into sin. Now if you've done all you can in examination and as far you know the man is clean and his life is right and later on he turns to sin, there's no culpability there. The culpability comes in the failure to do the proper examination.
And as a footnote, you'll note here that Paul is instructing Timothy to do this when he says, "Do not lay hands on any man," that's a second person singular, he's speaking directly to Timothy. I believe that if you study the New Testament you find a sort of a three-part approach to who ordains pastors and elders. First of all, in Acts 14:23 the Apostles did it. The Apostles ordained elders. Here we find Timothy told to do it and he was a first-rate emissary of the Apostles, a representative of the Apostles under Paul's authority. In Titus 1 Titus is told to do it and Titus, too, was a delegate of Paul, a sort of an apostolic legate. So you have the Apostles doing it. When an Apostle isn't present, a representative of the Apostle is doing it. And then in the case of Timothy, for example, in chapter 4 verse 14, there were the elders of a local church that did it. So on the one hand if an Apostle is present, an Apostle could do it, he would be the highest level of spiritual leadership. If an Apostle wasn't present, a delegate of the Apostles who would also be in that case when the Apostles weren't there the highest level of spiritual leadership, he would do it. And then in the case of the local church, it would be the pastors and elders already in place who would do it because they're the highest level of spiritual leadership there. In this case, since at best the leadership of the church at Ephesus was mixed, Paul delegates the apostolic responsibility to appoint pastors to Timothy himself, who knew best the criteria and was not motivated by partiality or politics.
The responsibility in this day cannot fall to the Apostles, they're not here. And nor are their representatives and so it falls to the pastors and elders of the church to perpetuate the leadership by ordaining other men to that ministry. And Paul says do it with great care and not with haste because you don't want to be a partaker of other men's sins. What a tremendous statement. Some time in a church on a pulpit committee can call a man to preach in the church, the man has got a sinful background, they don't check into it. He sins again in the church, defiles the church and the church gives the whole burden of responsibility to the man, the church begins to get in to trouble because of this terrible blight, they blame the man when the fact is God would hold them accountable in some way for his sin because they failed to do a proper examination. It's a great responsibility.
The chastening of God may be on a church not only for the sin of a leader in that church, but the sins of those who didn't properly evaluate who the leaders were. So ordaining a sinning man who was unqualified to the pastorate makes one a sharer with that man's sin by failure to carefully examine.
If we're going to represent Christ, then, we want to represent Him the way He wants to be represented. And He wants His church pure and so we have to take the pains to make sure we do everything we can to keep it pure. It's a serious responsibility.
It never ceases to fascinate me how whimsically people go out after church leadership...either ordaining pastors, calling pastors to their church, lifting up men to responsible positions without ever really thoroughly examining their character. Examine everything in order that...the end of verse 22...you might keep yourself pure, tereo, it literally means to exercise watchful care over your own uprightness, hagnos has to do with uprighteness or honor. Keep yourself honorable because there's so much solidarity when one of you falls because the rest of you have not been faithful to properly examine him, you'll all, in a sense, suffer the guilt and the shame of that man's sin. The sin is shared in that way.
And so, Paul says, "Timothy, to start with, in the selecting process, don't be in a hurry, be very cautious. Keep yourself pure, don't get tainted because you've participated in another man's sin by an improper evaluation."
And then verse 23 comes as I think an aside to Timothy. And it's as if Paul is saying, "Speaking of purity, Timothy, drink no longer water but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent illnesses." Now how does this get dropped in here? Well the thought of keeping yourself pure seems to bring into Paul's active mind the need to explain that he wasn't calling for some kind of rigid asceticism that could harm one's health, such as he had heard that Timothy was engaged in or he personally knew Timothy was engaged in. In other words, when I say keep yourself pure, Timothy, please not including this area that I'd like to speak to you personally about if I may for a moment. Timothy, obviously, had taken a vow of abstinence from all wine. He was a teetotaller, he didn't drink at all and he probably had his reasons, obviously. He didn't want to be a stumbling block to a weaker brother, he wanted to take the highest vow of spiritual commitment such as the Nazarite took in the Old Testament who was most of all devoted to God and abstained totally from wine and strong drink. He wanted to be a model of virtue. He didn't want to do something, have somebody else do it and fall into sin. And he knew full well the principle of chapter 3 verse 3 that those who serve in leadership in the church are not to be given to wine. And so he had taken this vow of abstinence, and it was an honorable one and Paul doesn't want him to change.
But he simply says this, "Drink not only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake because you're sick so often." In other words, he says, "Timothy, don't let your vow of purity which extends all the way to abstaining from wine cause you bodily harm, there's a time and a place when a little wine could assist your stomach." Now the idea of no longer be a water drinker means don't only drink water. Water was often impure. Water when it sat, of course, carried disease. Timothy was vulnerable to that. Unless the water was boiled or in a flowing stream or a spring, it could have disease in it. And Paul is not telling Timothy to change his commitment, he's just saying if you just keep drinking only water and you never take any wine, you may not be able to have some help for your illnesses.
I did a little reading on that, I don't want to belabor you with a whole lot of stuff. But the Talmud, Hippocrates, Pliny, Plutarch, all kinds of ancient writers talk about wine which was used as a medicine. There is a time and a place for that. Now I just want you to know, personally I don't take drugs, okay? I'm not into cocaine, heroin, I don't smoke grass, I don't do any of that. I have a total abstinence view of that. But when I become ill and need some medication, I'm not adverse to that. When I had surgery on my leg I didn't particularly want to be sitting there experiencing the whole thing and so I let them give me a heavy dose of drugs, enough not only to make me feel funny but to knock me out. Not only that, this morning I woke up with a splitting headache and I said to Patricia, "I think I need something for my headache," and she gave me a handful of...a couple of pills, I don't know what they were, I'm assuming they were aspirin or something like that. But the net effect...the net effect was to drug me so I wouldn't feel my headache. So I want you to know, I take the total abstinence view with drugs unless there's a purpose in which I would take them for some medicinal value. The same thing would be true with alcohol, I have a total abstinence view of alcohol, but I have been known in my life time to take a little cough syrup, but just a little and always for my stomach's sake.
And you understand the point. I mean, there's a time and a place when things like that are appropriate with medicinal purposes in mind, and that's what Paul is saying. I'm talking about a purity of life and by the way, Paul...Timothy, let me just say a word about this issue of abstinence. Please, Timothy, your health is essential, the task at hand is difficult, back away from only water, please, take a little wine for the sake of your frequent illnesses...asthenes. This is not a call to social drinking, this is simply a little wine for medicinal purposes.
And having sort of said that little aside, he comes back in verse 24 and wraps up and this is a very very very helpful portion, two verses. He returns to the main emphasis of selecting elders with great caution and keeping yourself pure with a balanced kind of purity. And he really gives four principles, four simple principles. Principle number one is in the evaluation process of selecting elders with caution and keeping yourself pure and free from other men's sins, principle number one is some men will be obviously unfit to be pastors. Verse 24, "Some men's sins are clear before hand, going ahead of them to judgment."
In other words, he says, "Look, it isn't as tough as you think, Timothy, because there are some people whose sins are plain, open, obvious. In fact, they march ahead of them into the discussion." The word judgment, not referring to final judgment, not referring to eternal judgment, not referring to the judgment of believers at the Bema. It's simply referring to the church's assessing the suitability of a man to serve. And some men's sins march ahead of them into that kind of assessment. Everybody knows their sins. The examination process is easy because their sins are obvious, they're open, they're viewed by everybody and there's not even a need for much discussion. So number one, there are obviously people...there are people, rather, who are obviously unfit to be pastors or elders.
Number two, there are some who will be under the assessment process found to be unfit, verse 24, "And some, they follow after." In other words, some men go into the discussion, into the process of evaluation and their sins are not known but they come in afterwards, they follow in. Commentator Lenski writes, he says, "Their sins march right into the meeting behind them and refuse to be left outside."
So Timothy will be able in the proper kind of judgment, in the proper kind of evaluation and assessment environment to know who these men are. So the problem is resolved in some cases because the man's sins come first. The problem is resolved in other cases because under proper scrutiny and assessment the man's sins are revealed, careful investigation can bring them out.
A third principle, verse 25, there are some who are obviously fit to be pastors. Some obviously unfit, some determined to be unfit, now, thirdly, some obviously fit. Verse 25, "In like manner, also the good works of some are openly revealed beforehand." In other words, the noble deeds of some people are known by everybody. And there doesn't have to be much discussion. Their life, their character has been visible, everybody knows it, there doesn't need to be a long discussion.
And then finally, the fourth one, there are some who are found in the judgment or assessment process to be fit. It says, "And they that are otherwise," that is they whose good works are not known openly, "cannot be hidden." In other words, under examination they will be revealed.
So, Paul says, "Look, Timothy, you have to be serious in the selecting process, don't be hasty in the process. If you're hasty and a man sins, you're going to have some culpability for participating in his sin. Do it with great caution. And don't be threatened by it because one, some men are clearly unfit. Two, in a proper process those who are unfit will be found to be unfit. Three, some are clearly fit. And four, those who are not clearly fit can be found fit under proper examination."
So, it's vital to be involved in the selecting process with great caution, with great care, with great prayer because of the honor, the protection and even the rebuke given to those who lead the church. And so the passage sums up in a very simple way, the church is called to restore a proper perspective toward its leadership. We want men of God qualified according to 1 Timothy chapter 3 whose ministry is designed after that of 1 Timothy chapter 4 verses 6 to 16, and the congregation's perspective toward them is to honor them, protect them, rebuke them and very cautiously, very carefully are they to be selected. And I can only pray to God not only for this church but for every church that we might know the kind of blessing that God would bring if the church would follow this process faithfully, for these are the kind of leaders who become to us the models, the examples of godliness that lead the church to be what Christ redeemed it to be. Let's bow together in prayer.
Father, we may be asking ourselves this morning how this relates to our personal needs and personal life, and struggles, and yet a little bit of thought reminds us, Lord, that what we need is godly patterns and godly models and godly examples and godly truth teachers. And so this is really the heart and soul of practicality for we would have in the church those who rightly represent the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Word we can follow, whose faith we can follow, who speak to us the true Word, who guide us into the true way, who protect us from evil, who like good shepherds lead us to green pastures and still waters. And so, Lord, help us to know that like people like priests and we are in need of Christlike leaders. Restore this in your church that the church might be in every sense the living of the life of Christ in the face of the world. Forgive us for our failures and short- comings as leaders, we acknowledge our unfitness and thank You for Your grace. We thank You for the preservation of this church and its leaders and that You have given us men who are not perfect but are dedicated to a perfection that they see in You. And I pray, Lord, that You will raise up here and in Your church everywhere the kind of men who can live in such a way as to avoid rebuke, deserve protection and be worthy of double honor. We pray, too, for our young men who are preparing for this ministry that will await them in the future, O God, that You will set their feet in a right path so that nothing can turn them from one side to another, that they might be such men to lead Your church. We pray, O God, too, that You would give us thankful hearts in this church for the godly examples that we have all followed and for which we are really in debt to Your grace and Your Spirit, in Christ's name. Amen.