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No More Excuses

 
 
 

 
 
"17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. 21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. 23 No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 24 The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 25 Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.

Good Morning Beloved,
 
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day!
We're so glad that our brothers and sisters from around the world are here with us today.
We continue to pray for all of you, daily.
 
There seems to be some sort of unwritten rule, among the congregation, that preachers are not supposed to speak about money; they are apparently supposed to be silent concerning congregational support for their service to the people of God offered before the Lord. However, the Word of God addresses this matter forthrightly; and if we will honor God, we will surely understand what has been delivered to us, in His Word. Therefore, because it would not bring God glory to have His ministers begging for remuneration and living in poverty, pastor should receive some level of pay for their long hours of labor for the well being of the church. While I cannot speak for other teachers of the Word, however, I can tell you, that I typically labor more than ten hours a day, six days a week, reading, studying, preparing and writing the messages I deliver to all of you. The point is, that many pastors, devote long hours to extensive preparation, and they teach often; they hardly have time left to earn a living in other ways. If the pastor faithfully cares for the needs of the congregation, should not the congregation care for the needs of the pastor? Scripture clearly teaches that the pastor who rules well and labors in preaching and teaching God’s Word, are worthy to receive such an honor.
 
I firmly believe, and Scripture supports this, that the effectiveness of the church in advancing the name of Christ in the glory of God, is predominantly related to its leadership. And, to be brutally honest, the leadership that I am witnessing in the churches today, are desperately in need of a restoration of biblical power and purity. Those who have been placed in the church as under-shepherds to serve Christ, who are called pastors, elders, shepherds and overseers have a high, holy and sacred calling to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry. I believe that with all my heart.
 
Furthermore, much of the issues we are seeing in the churches today, can be traced back to the problems of the leadership. It comes down to the issue of poor leadership. I am not talking about some kind of hierarchy here, because Scripture does not present that, rather, it presents shared leadership, not a one man show. And, because leaders are responsible for teaching, for preaching, for the protection, and for the direction of the church, there has always been a premium on godly leadership.

In I Peter chapter 5, the Apostle Peter really helps us to understand the essence of leadership, when he
spoke of the elders who are among you. There is no Scriptural reference, that one-man is to be the head of a church, nor is there is to be any board of men who are over those who feed and lead the flock. And yet, in many churches today, they have one man who rules the church or a board of men who rule the elder pastors who are called to lead the church. However, I can find nowhere in the New Testament, that the people of God enjoined to obey him who has rule over you, but rather them who have the rule over you. Nowhere are pastors told to submit to people but rather to people in Hebrews 13 are told to submit to the shepherd-pastor, the spiritual leaders, over them.
 
God, in His infinite wisdom, has outlined a simple plan. A congregation of people, from within that congregation there are selected by the Spirit of God and with the affirmation of the people of God, a plurality of godly men who, in a shared position of leadership, model the virtue and godliness that the Lord has desired for His church. Therefore, in so doing, they are to teach and preach the truth, which can change the lives of people. That is the plan that God has laid out in His Word, that is the design of God, unlike the one we see in many of the churches today. 
 
There is to be a group of spiritual, godly men, feeding the church, leading the church, who set the example of holy duty, while faithfully proclaiming the truth, warning of error and serving with virtue and all humility. They are to, by their example, set the model for humble service, for cooperating love, devotion to one another, the commitment to prayer, and the model for exposition of the Word of God.
 
Let us bow our heads in prayer.
 
 
Heavenly Father,
 
Father, we just thank You for Your Word for us all here today. Lord, I pray that You will restore in Your church, a biblical pastorate, a biblical eldership that the perception of both leaders and people, as You have so clearly revealed in Your Word. I pray that in Your provision, that You lead those who are faithfully upholding Your high and holy command, are lead to a place, where they are loved, esteemed and honored for their labor. Lord, call Your spiritual leaders to be faithful to the great weight and responsibility that is placed upon them. 

We acknowledge Lord, that because we are human, our imperfections are glaring. Help us to commit our hearts and souls to serving You, and therefore Your people, with faithful dedication, virtue and in humility. And that in our coming together, unified by the love of Christ, we may blend the grace of Christ and the power of Christ in our living and teaching the saving truth to the lost. Help us to be a church that functions as You have ordained, the way You have designed.
We pray this in Christ's name
Amen
 
 
Today's Message: No More Excuses
 
In our previous message, the Apostle Paul  spoke in the strongest possible terms, that since the fifth commandment is to "honor your father and your mother," as told to us in Exodus 20:12, that failing to do so, is to deny the very faith you claim to believe. Because, even many unbelievers care for their aged relatives. God, in His Word, commands us not to take on this responsibility lightly, but in doing so makes one worse than an "unbeliever." Caring for ones parents and grandparents is God's way of "repaying" them for what they have already done for us. And, according to Scripture, that this is our Christian responsibility.
 
Open with me your Bibles, to the fifth chapter in the Book of First Timothy. As we begin our journey, on verses 17 through 25, through this wonderful epistle, we come to a portion of the Word, that many pastors, including myself, tend to wrestle with teaching. First, because it is imperative that the church of Jesus Christ develop and raise up a new generation of godly pastors, and in so doing that it challenges us to eliminate, the otherwise unbiblical forms of church leadership, who are not serving well. But, because a humble pastor, does not want to appear to be begging for remuneration for his labor for the people of God. Now, I want to be clear, I am not doing that, I'm not begging for remuneration, I'm not seeking financial honor, because I dearly love what I do, I am honored and privileged that God, in His infinite Wisdom and plan, has called me to do His work, and I pray, that I am faithfully serving Him, and you, by doing it well. God has taken great care, through specific people, to provide the needs of my family. However, as grateful to them as I am, I do believe, this is a burden, they should not be expected to carry the weight of alone. I pray that all of you, will open your hearts to the message in today's text.

And so, because of weight and importance of this Word, I am not sure just how far we will get today and be able to do it the justice and honor that it deserves. So, we will cover as much as the Holy Spirit allows, as He leads us through the passage. Here, in our text today, Paul explains how the church is to deal with the elders within the congregation. First, they should be shown honor. They are to be shown honor. However, allow me to just add as a footnote, they should be worthy and deserving of that honor, by serving well. He explains that elders are deserving of financial remuneration for their work. That's the meaning of "worthy of double honor." 
 
I would like to encourage all of you, to follow along with me as I read, to set the text in our minds, as we prepare our hearts for the message from the Word of God. Again, I'll read the entire text from our passage today, and we will cover as much as we can, as directed by the Spirit of God. However, I feel its important not to rush through some passages. I Timothy 5:17-25.

"The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed."

The elder who preaches and teaches God’s Word is worthy to receive double honor. By double honor, that is what Paul has in mind; respect and authority, and he should be well paid for his labor. Since he devotes untold hours, pouring over God’s Word, preparing sermon after sermon, week after week and  since he spends hours and hours in prayer with and for each and every member, since he is always on call and always has the responsibility for the church and the pressures of ministry, because of all of this, he is not afforded the opportunity and time to go out and secure the full time employment necessary, to sustain his family's needs.
 
Verse 17, "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching."

I believe that it is unfortunate that word "rule," as is used here, was to describe the pastor’s work. That word in our world implies that these men are the bosses, that they have to be obeyed, and that they are governors over the congregation. It is actually the Greek word, proestōtes, which means "to put before, to set over," or lead and it is the common word for leadership. So a reasonable translation of the verse would read  "Let the pastors who lead well be worthy of double honor."

Paul goes on to say "…  especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching." Although this is rarely understood by those who have never had the weight of responsibility to prepare messages, if it is done correctly, it is often, hard work. This is often seen in that church members who are hard pressed for the right thing to say to the pastor after the service has ended. In fact, on those rare occasions, I have had some who have actually said "I don’t care what the others say, I happen to like your most of your sermons." And, on one other occasion, someone said "Had I have known you were actually going to preach something good today I’d have brought a few neighbors with me." Um, thank you, I think. And, of course, there is the typical, "Hey pastor, today's message wasn’t half bad!"

However, the responsibility of the pastor, is to teach the Word of God to his people, and should never come to the pulpit unprepared. And, to do this, it requires hours and hours of study and preparation. This reminds me of a story I once heard, many years ago, about a pastor who was never prepared, he failed to read and study the Scripture during the week, and on Sunday mornings, he’d sit on the platform while the church was singing the hymns, desperately praying, "Lord, give your message, Lord give me your message." One Sunday, while desperately praying for the Lord’s message, he heard the Lord say, "O.K., here’s my message. "You are a lazy preacher!"
 
In verse 17, Paul laid out the reason why pastors should be honored he now he explains how this honor is to be displayed. So, in verse 18, Paul refers to the passage in Deuteronomy 25, when he says "For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."
 
As a footnote, I find it to be rather interesting, that the Apostle Paul was already recognizing the New Testament as Scripture even in this early time. He understood that the Gospel accounts of Jesus are to be placed on the same level as the Old Testament is, namely, Scripture.

He references Deuteronomy 25:4, "Muzzle the ox…" as well as Luke 10:7, "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

I'd like you to understand, that Luke’s Gospel was already been written down and was being circulated in the churches by the time Paul wrote I Timothy. So, we can clearly see, or at least I hope that you can, that it is biblical, to show pastors respect, appreciation and honor, for their faithful work of service on your behalf. It is carrying out the teaching of Hebrews 13:17, which says "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."

In verses 19-20, Paul illustrates that it is sometimes necessary for elders to be rebuked. "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning." The point Paul is making here, is if an elder is found to be in sin and there are multiple witnesses, then rebuke him. However, I'd like to also add, that one should never rebuke an elder by themselves or without having multiple witnesses. It has been my personal experience, that most often, when one person rebukes an elder, it isn’t that the elder has actually done something wrong, but it is most generally, a difference of opinions. I have seen several pastors, who were unfairly rebuked over differences of one man's opinion, and left the pastorate. 
 
I have a number of people ask, "Why is it that God cares so much for the honor and respect of the elder who preaches and teaches? Allow me to just clear that up in your minds, it is so important to God, because effective preaching is most often how lost people come to be saved! Furthermore, it is how believers who have gone astray, are restored. These are very important matters to God.
 
In Romans chapter 10, verses 12-15, it says "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!"
 
I would like to express my thoughts on this subject, while we are addressing it biblically. How much should a pastor be paid for his labor, hard work and faithful service?  I believe a good general rule of thumb would be that pastor, as compared to other full time workers, should be paid on the same scale as others in the congregation of the same age, education, level of experience, ability and responsibilities. Also, I believe, that obviously the size and ability of the church to pay must also be considered, as well as the pastor's willingness and faithfulness in fulfilling his obligations to the church and congregation. 
 
As a footnote, there are number of pastor who today, who work strictly off a pay based upon what the church brings in. A church, regardless of size, who few tithing members, cannot afford to absorb the exorbitant salaries some pastors are demanding. I know a few, with churches under 35 members, who are being a rather large sum, plus a benefit and retirement package, which is causing the church to struggle financial. No, it isn't me in either case, For the record, I do not request to be paid any specific amount. It is solely upon what people choose to contribute. And, as I said previous, those needs are essentially being taken care of by only a few.
 
I remember many, too many years ago, someone describing the job of the pastor this way; "He teaches, though he must solicit his own students. He heals, without pills or knife. He is sometimes a lawyer, often a social worker, something of an editor, a bit of a philosopher, an entertainer, a salesman, who weeps when he receives a no, a front man for all public functions, and he is expected to be quite the scholar. He visits the sick, marries those are in love, counsels those who believe they no longer are, he buries the dead, labors to console those who remain, grieving in sorrow, he is to admonish those who sin, and tries to stay kind, when chided for not doing his duty. He plans events, programs, appoints committees when he can get them, spends considerable time in keeping people out of each other’s hair. Between times, he studies, prepares a sermon and preaches it on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s to those who happen not to have any other more exciting plans. Yet, he still smiles politely on Monday, when he receives the jovial comment, "It must be nice to get paid to work only two days a week!"
 
In verse 21, Paul writes " I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality."
 
There were those in leadership in the church in Ephesus who were worthy of double honor because they did their duties with integrity. However, unfortunately, there were others who were failing greatly. So, Paul develops how the offending brethren were to be disciplined. No accusation against a church leader should be considered as true unless it comes from at least two or three witnesses. In other words the leaders were to receive the same protection everyone else. And, if this procedure were observed, it would cut down on the gossip, misunderstanding and the strife that goes on in many of our churches today. I believe we would all do well to observe these practices.
 
And once you have the facts, rather than scatter the scandal throughout the congregation, you should seek to correct the problem by taking it to the proper authorities  If the facts are known to be true, and there are several witnesses who can give an accurate, trustworthy account, and that a church leader has been found to have  sinned, he is to be rebuked. This of course, then begs the question, "Should this be done publicly?" I believe that a safe rule of thumb, is that private sins should be dealt with privately, and public sins dealt with publicly. I do not believe, that it is neither right nor necessary to make what is private matter public, unless all other options are first exhausted. However, when that leader of the church, an officer in the church, sins, and if it has hurt the church, then I believe it is time to name names! A tremendous amount of harm can come to a church by the sin in the life of its leader! It must be dealt with, and quickly.
 
Furthermore, Paul gives us duality in the way this is to be addressed, "to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality." To put it another way, we are not to judge with  prejudice"against the accused and we are not judge "with partiality," in favor of the accused. Therefore, judgment is to be made on an honest appraisal of the facts, eliminating prejudice either for or against the accused. The point is, we are to treat everyone in the church alike, we are not to be swayed by position, popularity or prominence. I have often heard of churches, who refuse to address the issue of sin with an officer, because he is a rather large financial contributor to the church. Even, in these circumstances, it cannot and must not, be tolerated.
 
James, addresses this issue in James 2:1-4, when he says "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
 
In verses 22-24, Paul writes "Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin. No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after."
 
Here, the overriding concept is that we expect a life of integrity from the leaders in the church. It may sound strange to some, that an expectation of integrity on the part of church leaders is a means of honoring them, but it you think about it, it makes perfect sense. To expect church leaders to act with honesty and integrity is resounding vote of confidence in their abilities. There is some speculation among scholars, what "Do not lay your hands upon anyone too hastily," means. However, I believe that the Apostle Paul, is referring to the process of ordination, in which case, it would mean, that the best way to avoid scandal of having to discipline a leader, is to thoroughly screen the candidates prior to their ordination  While a number of others, feel that Paul is referring to refraining from rash judgment.
 
God will judge a Christian’s, sometimes in the present, however, if He chooses not to immediately judge them, it does not mean that He is not going to judge.
 
You may recall, Paul also addressed this with the Corinthians, in I Corinthians 11:31-32, "But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world."
 
Verse 23, we honor them by encouraging them to live a healthy lifestyle. "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."
 
This is not a matter of what is right or wrong in drinking alcohol, as a beverage as an alternative, but rather that consuming of alcohol as a medicine! It was commonly believed in the ancient world that wine had an important medicinal value. Here, Paul is telling Timothy to use a little wine for his stomach problems and frequent illnesses. Considering the wealth of medicines available to us today; it highly unlikely that any Christian would need to consume for medicinal purposes.
 
Verse 25 says "Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed." I believe this same principal can be applied here, with good deeds. There are times, when God chooses to bless a believer here, in this life, for something he has done, for which God will reward him. While, others are going to have to wait until they are in His presence, to receive their reward, which will be the case of a great many of us Christians. This in no way is to imply that God does not bless all of us here, however, there are some He blesses more, in different ways than others.
 
 In Closing..

How is it that we as followers of Jesus Christ, read the instructions, in these or any other passages, give general assent to what the Scriptures say, then choose to ignore there application when we are upset? Church members appear often to imagine that the Lord said, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell everyone, so that they can pray with you." It seems immaterial whether we imagine our brother or our sister has sinned against us; what matters is that we feel as if they sinned against us. We want to gather our throng to do what Jesus commanded; and forget about gaining a brother! We demand justification, rather than reconciliation. 
 
Perhaps, it is because we do not really believe that obedience will work in our favor. Assuredly, our actions appear to be soiled with pride, stained with arrogance and an over exaggerated self-importance. More likely, we disappointingly act as we do, because of cowardice; we really want someone else to do what we know has the potential for conflict. I hope you do know, that I am speaking with a great deal of sarcasm.    
 
I am deeply concerned that anyone could even suggest that a congregation should be cautious in restoring repentant sinners. Allow me to be very clear that the purpose of church discipline is to seek restoration of fellowship!  I believe Jesus made this very clear in Matthew chapter 18, verse 15-20. And, in verses 21-22, Peter apparently thought that forgiveness extended to the same individual seven times was commendable.  Beloved, the people of God have no business keeping count!  I believe the problem is that we struggle to separate fellowship and function.   There is a danger that is endemic to the modern pastorate, though it is not often thought to be a danger by most congregants. The desire to please others is a threat to all those who would minister, when the only One we should all desire to please.. is God!

May it be so...

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name
Amen

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