1Timothy 5.17-25 good pastor bad pastor

July 4, 2010 Series: 1 Timothy

Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Timothy 5:17–5:25

1Timothy 5.17-25_good pastor bad pastor

July 4, 2010

Sam Ford


Hard to Preach

It’s a good thing that our elders have committed to preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible, because if not, this is one of those sections that I might be tempted to skip over.  This is the text a pastor either AVOIDS for his career or the one he HITS every January.  In 1Timothy 5.17-25, Paul explains how leaders should be treated when they labor successfully AND when they fail sinfully.  The short version is, respect and pay good pastors; rebuke and discipline bad ones. 


It feels like anytime you mention money and pastors in the same sentence, all kinds of red flags go up AND partly because this passage has been abused by prosperity preaching wolves to manipulate people.  It wasn’t always like this.  Growing up, I always had a vision of pastors as simple Friar Tucks, with a  monk-like vow of poverty type of existence who earned their keep based on how good their sermons were (at least that is how I tithed).  I don’t necessarily think that is fair, even though Jesus was a blue collar carpenter who was relatively penniless homeless for his ministry, and never took an offering.  Things have definitely changed since AD 30, and I need qualify this passage because the loudest and most visible “Christian” pastors inAmerica often spend the most extravagant amounts of money on their mega-church buildings and their mega-ego-lifestyles.


I never really wanted to be paid.  Before I was a pastor, I had a hard time understanding what pastors did with all of their time that would warrant a salary at all.  This idea was perpetuated by meeting a lot of young people in BibleCollegewho, instead of finding a real job, decided to pursue ministry or plant a church.  So when Jesus called me to plant a church, I committed to teaching part-time indefinitely and never support a full time pastor on our staff.  And though that sounds good, it isn’t necessarily biblical.  But for the first couple of years that is how we rolled…UNTIL…I came to point where something had to change BECAUSE I was going to fail as a either a husband, dad, teacher, or pastor—and I let teaching go.  


I say all that as a means to reveal to my heart—I am not here for a pay check or popularity—so I will speak with authority about how the church is commanded to support good pastors and disciplined bad ones with a clear conscience.  READ 1Timothy 5.17-25 


V. 17-18  Good Pastors17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”  


The Pastoral Letters: For those who rule

Without a doubt, there are good and bad pastors; pastors who rule well, and pastors who lead poorly. Through Paul, God gives us qualifications in 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to distinguish between the good and bad, probably so wouldn’t go with our own personal preferencesThe pastoral letters help us judge the health of churches and the quality of pastors—they are for those who RULE and those who are RULED.  They tell us, first and foremost, WHO should lead and who should not.  We can say with confidence that addicts should not be pastors, womanizers should not be pastors, violent men should not be pastors, gay men should not be pastors, undisciplined men should not be pastors, greedy men should not be pastors, women (even if their great) should not be pastors, bad husbands and bad fathers should not be pastors, and men who don’t or can’t teach the bible should not be pastors. 


We can also say that CHURCHES with elders who ignore such commands , by installing or refusing to remove DISQUALIFED PASTORS, rule poorly—and should be considered worthy of DOUBLE DISHONOR bringing shame upon Jesus and His bride.


Those who Rule Well

BUT those qualified pastors who RULE WELL, the Bible says are to be CONSIDERED worthy of double honor. They are valued as worth TWICE the PRICE—but not necessarily paid that.  Double honor means they are given two things, HONOR and an HONORARIUM, respect and a descent wage.  I do not believe that “double honor” means pastors get DOUBLE PAY.  While tempting, such an interpretation is dangerous and can lead to a false sense of entitlement where pastors become prima donnas, wearing ring-pop size jewelry and gold chains, driving Hummers (or flying in helicopters), and sitting on golden thrones in mansions the average member can’t afford. 


We should note that pastors are compared to LIVESTOCK in the field, not royalty in the castle separated from the peasant class. Though you don’t treat them like a cow you can command, the pastor is to be like an OX, an animal ALWAYS WORKS HARD, getting down and dirty, pulling heavy loads with blood, sweat, tears, suffering in the fields with his reward being the fruit of his labor.  A pastor who only demands to be SERVED without leading and working hard to SERVE, deserves nothing


Preaching and Teaching

And Paul says the church is to give special attention to those who carry the burden of teaching and preaching. The lead OX devotes most of his work to preaching, teaching, and defending gospel truth because BAD THEOLOGY produces BAD BEHAVIOR, BROKEN PEOPLE, and UNHEALTHY CHURCHES.  In other words, churches have to commit to being Bible-saturated and Jesus-centered before anything else.  In order to do this, we need solid Bible preaching, studies that equip, and discipleship that develops godly men and women. This means you have to invest in a pastor.  I recognize that many of you over the last three and half years have made a personal, material, and time investment in Damascus Road, and in ME, patiently watching me grow into a pastor and preacher—that is humbling, and I pray that I work hard to honor your gospel investment. 


Reward and Work

The first part of “double honor” is respect for the office.  That comes in the form of encouragement, obedience, trust, and prayer—easy when he’s a humble OX.  The second part of honor, then, is being supported by those he serves so that he can take care of his family and not be distracted from devotion to the word because he has to work a 2nd job, of which I tried to do for some time.  But didn’t Paul work a 2nd Job? 1Cor. 9.13-14. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.  This was a hard passage for me, a step of faith to depend on the gospel for my living.  I even used Paul as an example, though he says he’s an exception not a rule.  There is a HUGE difference between someone saying I’ll do this, though I don’t want to AND you owe me.  **RED FLAG*** when pastors, or anyone, focuses more on the expected REWARD as opposed to the expected RESPONSIBILITY.  Why is it that we expect change, respect, success, or fruit without having to work for it?  

  • Pastors expect honor without living honorably. 
  • Husbands expect respect while refusing to lead. 
  • Women expect love while refusing to show respect. 
  • People expect close-knit community without working to build relationships. 
  • Parents expect obedience but refuse to work at shepherding their children. 
  • Everyone expects freedom from their sin without fighting like an OX for the glory of God. 

Hear this…we work FROM our righteousness, not FOR it.  But we WORK, by and for the power of God.  Colossians 1.29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.


V. 19 Accusations & Bad Pastors

Having too many GOOD elders who work too hard is not the problem at Ephesus.  Ephesushas several bad pastors, and Timothy has to deal with them.  Paul prepares Timothy in how to deal with a flood accusations that will come against elders when he starts cleaning house. It is likely that, the once the bloodshed begins with Timothy shooting wolves, the smell of blood will ignite a feeding frenzy with a bunch of false accusations.  So Paul warns Timothy 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.


Critics & Criticism

Pastors are easy marks for criticism.  There is a difference, however, between a criticism and a charge.

A CRITICISM is the act of passing judgment as to the merits of something.  Constructive criticism seeks to analyze for purposes of improvement.  Destructive criticism seeks to discover weaknesses for the purposes of condemnation.  When an accusation is thrown out, pastors must take the time to discern if this critic is a committed sheep that needs to be heard, lost sheep that needs to be educated, a noisy goat that needs to be ignored, or perhaps a wolf that needs to be shot.


V. 20-21 Charges & Unrepentant Pastors

Paul already told Timothy to respond to CRITICISM by living and a devoting himself to preaching God’s Word publicly.  Here is told to NOT to accept every CHARGE.  A CHARGE is a formal and explicit accusation of sin brought against a leader in the church—it’s not just “I DON’T LIKE THAT” it’s, “YOU DID THIS, YOU SINNED.”  Paul instructs him only to accept an accusation that is supported by the testimony of witnesses.  If, after investigation, the charge is found to be true by the elders, those same elders are not to “save face” by covering up the sin, rather, they are to confront.  And that confrontation should result in one of two things – public repentance or public rebuke – so as to PUT the FEAR of GOD in the other elders and people. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.  21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.  He is speaking about calling out, by name, pastors who preach and live out false truth in their church, community, or home.  Pastors not only receive DOUBLE HONOR but Paul and James tell us they get DOUBLE JUDGEMENT in their role.  In fact, they are handled less gently than a brother who is caught in sin.   


Impartial Discipline

The practice of church discipline has to begin with its leaders so that it might be impartially exercised with all its members.  There is a double-standard—it is STRICTER for pastors.  Unfortunately, the double standard has often existed the other way, often justified by wanting to protect the reputation of “the bride.” Church discipline IS protecting the reputation and purity of the bride.  WITHOUT STANDARDS OF DISCIPLINE that the LEADERS ARE ALSO SUBJECT TO, you become a church full of unbiblical spiritual feeling fluff-nuts who ignore the sin in their lives because they are led by spineless false-teaching leaders who are more scared about their own reputation than Jesus’. As a rule, good Pastors who love Jesus lovingly confront others when they see sin, without compromise, without showing favoritism, without prejudging good or bad, because they KNOW they are judged more strictly than anyone else by THE JUDGE: Hebrews 13.17 Obey your leaders and submit to them (HONOR), for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  All discipline takes place before the throne in the presence of God.  


V. 23-25 Our First Church

Becoming a “pastor”

We are not to be EAGER find things to discipline, but we are also not RELUCTANT to discipline when things are found.  Timothy is charged to be QUICK to confront bad pastors, but SLOW, MEASURED, and INTENTIONAL about installing new pastors because APPEARANCES are deceiving.  22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure….24 The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.   Like selecting hearing, we often have selective SIGHT, installing AND following the wrong leaders while ignoring AND dismissing the right ones based on appearances.  Unfortunately, in our fast-paced culture, that is how a lot of us make most of our decisions and, as a result, we bring in good-looking leaders who are bad.  And when the “good leader” starts preaching and living “badl” in your church, your home, or wherever, you have the expected conflict and chaos.  AND WE WONDER, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?  Granted, some people simply get fooled—but some people want to be.  Chaos and bad relationships like this occur because you CHOSE to not SPEND THE TIME TO KNOW THE PERSON, you didn’t dig, you didn’t ask the hard questions…SO you were swept away by the expediency, emotion, or excitement over what was attractive AT the expense of what was essential.  


Removing a pastor

THEN, instead of unity, growth, and joy, you have divisions, disagreements, and divorces because you are left having to confront.  And holding the line of truth, without compromise, is the hardest responsibility of a pastor, parent, a friend, man or women, because it means the relationship will never be the same again.  Verse 23 shows how difficult this is; Timothy is told to drink a bit of wine to help his stomach problems.  23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)  My guess is that the job of confronting certain men about their sin is creating a stress-induced ulcer.  Most people won’t because it is too hard.  It easier to either or ignore or HOPE things will change on their own.  They won’t.  Sin cannot be wished away.


And it’s easy for us to distance ourselves from Timothy’s job to rebuke pastors and ignore the confrontations we need to have in our FIRST CHURCHES that we are a part of.  There are a lot of bad pastors leading a lot of little churches within DamascusRoadChurch.  Some of you husbands, wives, moms, and dads are preaching false sermons about what it means to love and lead like Jesus. No one likes to confront and no one likes to be confronted, that is why people hop from church to church, or attend but remain disconnected, so you can avoid getting so close to someone that they might actually confront you.  But if bad pastors are not confronted, they build bad churches—bad homes.  Do you have the strength to bring a charge?  If not, do you have agreements that you can appeal to those who will?


Because what bad pastors need isn’t time or more grace…they need to be told is that their failure to WORK like an OX in your home for the glory of Jesus in all things is not just regrettable, unfortunate, or disappointing, IT IS SINFUL.  And if it is sinful, then its not just an external issue that needs better management, it is a heart issue that requires confession, that you might declare your brokenness and need for a savior; AND no matter HOW DARK or HOPELESS things seem, for those willing to confess that Jesus’ work is enough, Jesus promises to fill you with his Spirit, to renew you the Spirit, to teach you by the Spirit, and to empower by his Spirit to love and lead like Jesus.   



As small as our church is, it is too big for me to pastor everyone.  We have to get close enough to let others into our lives.  If our first churches die, this church will die.  1John tells us that walking in the light enables us to have genuine fellowship, but walking in the light means people will see your dirt.  God intended for us to live in gospel community where we see each other’s dirt, call it sin, and confess the need, power, and sufficiency of Jesus blood daily.  We need a church of people who think like Shepherds, who love one another enough to pastor one another, even if that means preaching some hard words. 



We work FROM our righteousness not FOR it. Titus 2.11-15 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.