Leadership and Church Discipline

Our study continues in 1 Timothy 5 where Paul communicates to Timothy about his role and responsibilities in church leadership. Paul reminded Timothy that while he was called to lead the church, all believers within the church are all part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25). Each of us, in our service within the church, have different areas of service, but we are all in ministry for God to one another. We are all in different roles and have different titles within the church, yet we are all on the same team. As we are all the same within the body, all of us are to be treated in the same way when we compare our lives in measurement with God’s Word.

What should be the work of the pastor and elders? They should direct the affairs of the church and to do it well (1 Timothy 5:17). “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).” They are to set the example for the followers (1 Peter 5:2-3). All decisions are to be made with the goal that they are the best decisions for the church and its ministry, and not just for individuals. The church and its ministry should have far-reaching effects beyond the service of any pastor or elders. The work of the church should continue long after pastors and elders change.

The good service is worth honor and pastors should be compensated fairly for their service (1 Timothy 5:18). Even with this, the pastor should always be mindful that His service is to the Lord. “Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).” With this recognition comes responsibility, and this responsibility can sometimes be the subject of attacks and accusations. Paul notes that pastors and elders deserve the courtesy of protection. “Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19).” It should never be allowed that only one person should make an accusation against a pastor or elders. For the protection of pastors and elders, there should be witnesses who can corroborate such testimony.

Churches are a voluntary society that, historically, has not been recognized by the state. As a result, the church has the responsibility to rebuke, or reprimand, those in the church that have difficulty with spiritual matters. Spiritual matters are not punishable by the laws of the state (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).

When we do rebuke someone within the church, we are to do so publicly within the church in order that others can learn and not make the same mistake (1 Timothy 5:20). Pastors and elders are part of this because they are also part of the body of Christ (Galatians 6:1). The people subject to rebuke are those who are habitual sinners (Deuteronomy 13:6-11). Pastors and elders have the additional responsibility to not sin publicly because of their leadership. They are subject to correction if there are failures in church responsibilities, in their behavior outside the church, in their home lives as father and husband, and in financial matters, not just in the church, but also in their personal affairs. The pastor or elders are to be handled without favoritism when it is time for correction (1 Timothy 5:21-22; Acts 10:34). Their authority in leadership does not absolve them from correction. Paul implores Timothy to call on the Lord in this area (Acts 5:29; Colossians 3:24-25), and for the consistency of upholding the truth and the testimony of the gospel of Christ before others (2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 2:15, 3:10).

Paul also mentions to Timothy to not move too quickly in elevating those who are unproven in leadership, or in those who have stumbled and want to be reinstated. “Don’t be too quick to lay hands on anyone, and don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure (1 Timothy 5:22).” The proof will be in how they behave over time and will become evident to others. “Some people’s sins are evident, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others follow them. Likewise, good works are obvious, and those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden (1 Timothy 5:24-25).”

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