Today we begin a short series on a local Church’s relationship with their pastors. Over the last five years of being a pastor, I confess that I have avoided these topics because it felt self-serving. As I wind down my role as Pastor at Cornerstone Church, and prepare our congregation for the next preaching and teaching pastor, I now recognize that this was sin. So in a feeble attempt to rectify this failure, here we go.
In 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul is writing to young Timothy. This letter is one of two letters in Scripture that Paul writes to Timothy. These two letters, along with the letter to Titus, are considered the Pastoral Epistles, for they focus on doctrines related to church organization for the purpose of Biblical purity within the Church. If you want to know how a Church should function, read these letters, not some book at Barnes and Nobles.
In verse 17, we see Paul say, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”
First, we should notice that the word elders is plural. Every Church should strive to have a plurality of elders (more than one). It is dangerous to have only one elder, for every person (elder included) is susceptible to error and sin. (See verse 20). Churches should always be striving for a Biblical plurality of elders. Having said this, a plurality of elders should not bow to the requirements of an elder as set forth in 1 Timothy 3 (read them if you don’t know them). Having a non-qualified elder in your Church overseeing the flock of God is Satan’s dream scenario. Remember Satan is a wolf. He prowls looking for those who to devour. Having someone without Biblical understanding to fight off Satan’s attacks is recklessness.
Second, notice the role of an elder. It is to rule. In American churches, the word rule is a four letter word. People do not want to be ruled. They want to be free to come up with their own theology and their own practice. So what does it mean to rule? The word rule in Greek is proïstēmi, which means to set over, to superintend, to preside, to be a protector or guardian, to care for. In Hebrews 13:17 we see a good description of ruling, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”
It is important to recognize that elders who rule well are concerned for your soul. They love you, despite what you may think. This obligation would be overwhelming if it was not for the grace of God. Unfortunately, most people have no clue of the weight of being a pastor and just sit around in the back pew and cast stones. (Having said this, some Pastors need rebuking and verses 19-20 cover how this should be done.)
However, not only do they love you, they will give an account to God for how well they lead. This means that Elders must implement God’s Word in leading God’s people. Will they do this perfectly? No. No one is perfect but God alone. But this does not change the call. They must rule God’s people with God’s Word by God’s grace.
And what is the Church’s obligation towards those Elders who rule well? The Biblical command is to give them “double honor.” We will unpack this more next week, but think about this for a second. A local Church is directed by God in 1 Timothy 5:17 to provide double honor upon their pastor. Have you fulfilled this command? Do you honor your pastor or do you tear him down? I would encourage you to change your heart towards those who are giving of themselves for the sake of your souls. Honor them, don’t destroy them.