I Timothy 5:17
INTRODUCTION: Dan Huxley owns a world record in an unusual category: he pulls airplanes. The most remarkable happened on October 15, 1997 when he broke his own record. On that day at the Mascot Airport in Sydney, Australia he strapped a harness around his upper body, attached one end of a steel cable to it and the other end to the front-wheel strut of a 187 ton 747 jetliner. With his tennis shoes firmly planted on the runway, Huxley leaned forward, dug in and pulled with everything he had. Remarkably the plane began to roll down the runway. He would go on to pull the 747 one hundred yards in one minute and twenty seconds. That is simply amazing! It takes some kind of superhuman effort to pull off a stunt like that. In no less of a way, it takes a superhuman effort to lead God’s people. You see the church is a lot like a 747, bulky, burdensome, weighty, but when you get it moving it can do amazing things. And the way a church moves and fulfills its God-given function is from the strength of a few extra-ordinary men who serve as leaders. Today, seeing as we have set aside this day to honor the elders of this church it has been requested of me to deliver a lesson on the weighty responsibilities of those who serve as elders and how that fulfilling those responsibilities brings honor. The passage of Scripture that comes to mind in I Timothy 5:17. READ TEXT From this text there are a number of lessons to be expounded, but this morning we are only interested in two.
I. THE WORK OF SPIRITUAL LEADERS
A. In the whole of Scripture we are given a beautiful picture of the leadership God desires for His people. No where is that more clear than in the terms He uses to describe Spiritual Leaders.
1. Elder – used more frequently in both the OT and NT. Hebrew word in OT simply means aged, advanced in years. Greek word in NT also carries the same connotation yet shares the same root word was the term meaning Ambassador. This is the word in our text
2. Shepherd or Pastor come from the same Greek word and is the second most used term for Spiritual Leaders of God’s people. No greater insight is provided into the work of Spiritual leaders than this term. It carries with it the sense of care and tender attention needed to truly guide the flock of God. In fact this is the same term Jesus uses to describe his relationship with those who follow Him (John 10).
3. Bishop is the least used term. Only found 5 times in the whole of the NT, one of which refers to Jesus as the Shepherd and Bishop of Souls (I Peter 2:25). The underpinning of this title is found in the Hebrew word "Watchmen" as used in Ezekiel 33.
B. Each of these titles, Elder, Shepherd or Pastor and Bishop are used to describe the same Leadership role in the NT that we commonly refer to as the Eldership. They also shed light upon the next phrase in I Timothy 5:17 where it speaks of "directing the affairs of the church" (NIV).
1. NASV & KJV translate this as to "rule," but that is a very bad translation. The NCV does much better as it translates it as "lead" invoking the Shepherd image. The CEV translates it as "doing their job well." Which begs the question, what is their job?
2. The answer is found in the terms used. The four we just titles we just looked at give us some insight – maturity, advocacy, tender loving care, watchfulness and the Greek word translated by the KJV as "rule" adds even more.
3. It literally means "to care for as a protector or guardian, to be out in front leading and guiding." It is interesting to notice that it is only used in Paul’s writings. On time referring to the gifts of God’s people in Romans 12:8 - leadership, 5 times in direct reference to elders and deacons in I Thessalonians and I Timothy. Twice to refer to the faithfulness of God’s people in Titus3:8 – devote.
4. Maybe a better insight in the Hebrew equivalent, by the way which would have been the foundation of 1st century Christian thought.
a. Leviticus 24:25 - help
b. Judges 16:28 – strengthen; 20:22 – encourage
c. II Samuel 11:25 – encourage
d. Zechariah 10:12 – strengthen
C. This is the same message Paul gave in Acts 20:28 when he told the Ephesian Elders to "shepherd or tend to the flock of God." All of this fits quite well with the leadership style of Jesus which is the ultimate pattern. Which brings us to the last item from I Timothy 5:17 – preaching and teaching.
1. Again the Shepherd, Pastor, Bishop roles are seen here as the two Greek terms logos & didaskalos used here literally mean the word and the teacher.
2. They point us back to Jesus as these same two terms are also names Jesus carried as He walked among His people leading them as lost sheep back to God.
D. The work of Spiritual Leaders is the same word Jesus performed. Leading, guiding, shepherding and teaching God’s people toward a greater relationship with Jehovah God. This is an awesome and tremendous task. Not one to be taken lightly nor one to be underestimated. The next phrase in our text gives insight.
II. THE REWARD OF SPIRITUAL LEADERS
A. In our text Paul writes that those Shepherds who fulfill their duties and fulfill them well are worthy of double honor. In my estimation this stresses the sheer weighty nature of the task at hand. There are two interesting things in this phrase.
1. The first is "worthy." In the original Greek it literally means weighty, deserving & befitting. Yet it also carries the connotation of examination and scrutiny. It is also used in the NT to mean desire, good and thoughtfulness.
2. The second thing is the phrase "double honor." I wrestled with this a long time. What does it mean to be worthy of double honor? In the Greek it is literally what our English translations say "double honor." Finally it dawned on me that is must mean honor on top of honor. The role and service of a Spiritual Leader is honorable in and of itself. The very position it places one in is hallowed before God because of its undeniable proximity to Jesus Himself.
3. To say that those who "fulfill their roles well are deserving of double honor," is to say that they have achieved the greatest position they could possibly achieve. They are not only filling the role in bodily form, but they are filling it full of meaning and truth by their actions.
4. Double honor, honor on top of honor, is like running the cup running over as David spoke of Psalm 23. I Thessalonians 5:13 gives added insight where Paul writes "Hold them in the highest regard of love because of their work."