Elders Worthy of Double Honor.
“Let the elders who rule well 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.” (1 Tim. 5:17-18).
What type of elders are “worthy of double honor”? They are men who excel at serving a Body of believers in a local church, as superintended by the Holy Spirit. They are men who work diligently at studying and proclaiming the word of God for the edification and sanctification of their congregation. Not only are they required to teach God’s word accurately (1 Tim. 3:2, 2 Tim. 2:15, 24, Titus 1:9), but must also demonstrate, by example, lives reflecting integrity of what they teach (Phil. 3:17, 1 Tim. 1:16, 4:12). Although the word “integrity” is not in the text of 1 Tim. 5:17, it is definitely implied by the stringent qualifications an elder must possess (1 Tim. 3:2-7, Ti 1:6-9): “…An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?); and not a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Tim. 3:2-7 NASB). If a man is devoid of any one of these qualifications, he is disqualified from becoming an elder. These austere qualifications are not required for an individual to possess secular employment, but according to God, they are absolutely imperative and mandatory to possess to be an elder. Very few men are truly called for eldership, for these men will have the onerous responsibility of shepherding Christ’s church. Therefore, we ought to thank God for such men and help them bear such serious obligations, by constantly praying for them, loving them, supporting them, submitting to them; and by willingly following their lead.
So there is not any confusion regarding the terms given to New Testament church leaders, an elderin the original Greek, presbuteros (an old man), is synonymous with: bishop episkope (overseer), overseer episkope (overseer, appoints, attend); all of these titles are interchangeable for the same person. Furthermore, some elders are gifted as pastors poimen (shepherds). They excel in teaching and conveying God’s word with great articulation; “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Eph. 4:11-12).
Incidentally, all churches should have a plurality of elders as modeled in the New Testament and they are required to teach the word of God accurately and diligently. (1 Tim. 3:2, 2 Tim. 2:15, Ti. 1:9). But if your church is blessed to have elder(s) who are gifted as pastors (Eph. 4:11), you ought to pave the way for them to set their attention solely on studying the word of God. Especially, since Satan labors to retard the teaching of God’s word, by insidiously threatening laboring pastors with privation. The Devil attempts to do this by financially crippling the congregation so they have extreme difficulty supporting him. Pray this treacherous and pernicious circumstance never befalls your church body. Calvin wrote; “…Satan, by his trick, endeavors to deprive the church of instruction, by terrifying many, through the dread of poverty and hunger, from bearing that burden.” Calvin’s Commentaries Vol. XXI, p. 139. In essence, nothing pleases the evil one more, then to interfere with the spreading of the gospel, and thus slow the advancement of God’s kingdom.
However, elder’s worthy of double-honor are rare breeds in this day and age, because they work hard at preaching and teaching. Especially today, as the government rapidly ratifies laws which legalize immorality, thus attempting to constrict the public proclamation of the full council of God. Evangelical preachers are already avoiding certain texts of Scripture to evade the inevitable persecution that will befall those who remain steadfast and preach uncompromisingly. Sadly, some elders are becoming more and more reticent, avoiding proclamation of certain biblical truths. This contradicts the Apostle Peter’s statement to the Jewish leaders who vehemently warned them not to preach Jesus; “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29b). Furthermore, some so-called elders are tragically denying the veracity, perspicuity, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture, thus misleading their congregations with damning erroneous doctrine! Clearly this is in opposition of Scripture; Paul commanded to Timothy; “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Tim. 4:16). Therefore, it is truly a great blessing when a local church is fortunate enough to possess strong, uncompromising leadership. Men who remain undaunted by any and all opposition; such men are entitled to be highly regarded and loved: 1 Thess. 5:13 states; “…that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” This “love”, is the highest form of love defined in the Greek language, agape; a selfless, sacrificial love. The same intense form of love that Jesus Christ exhibited toward His disciples and all people whom the Father gives Him (John 13:34, 15:13, 6:37, 17:24).
Additionally, in1 Timothy 5:17, one of the key words in the verse is “honor”. The word honor, time (te may), is defined: “A valuing; a price.” And is used many times in the Bible as:” marks of respect; precious; price; proceeds; sum; value.” Notice that the word honor is multifarious in its biblical meaning; it can vary in meaning from one exhibiting respect (paying honor) or one deserving respect (worthy of honor); it has a wide scope. However, paying respect as the text implies, encompasses: loving, supporting, regarding, submitting, and remunerating (compensating), excellent leaders. Again, John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Timothy 5:17; quoted Chrysostom to interpret “double honor”, as meaning “support and reverence”. In The John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:17, p. 219, he wrote; “While all elders are to be honored, Paul singles out some to be worthy of double honor. He differentiates between the general category of elders and those who serve with greater commitment, effort, and excellence. They are worthy of greater acknowledgment from the congregations they serve. Paul is not saying they should receive exactly twice the pay a normal elder receives. Rather, they should receive ample, generous remuneration and respect beyond that of other elders whose labors are not as diligent”. Incidentally, this is not neo-orthodoxy or some recently concocted legalistic doctrine; giving reverence and support to elders who qualify for double honor is commanded in Scripture.
Furthermore, double honor is entitled to elders who rule well or proistemi, which means to “stand fast”. They maintain spiritual oversight of the church and are to care for it, because they are in charge and have great responsibility (1 Tim. 3:5, 1 Thess. 5:12, Heb. 13:17). These are elders who lead with excellence, not only by laboring hard in preaching and teaching, but employing sagacious biblical ability in all matters of life. Particularly, protecting the flock from all heresies! Even, if at times, you may disagree with what an elder says or does, if he delineates the Scriptures accurately, then he operates under God’s authority. Furthermore, these men are God’s chosen vessels, guided by the Holy Spirit and entrusted with the sanctification of the souls of Christ’s church. (Heb. 13:17).
An elder’s accountability to God is indeed great and God holds them to very high standards (James 3:1, 1 Pet. 5:2-3). Just imagine how many men would cower and quail at having such high accountability to the Almighty Creator. Attempt to conceive having such a demanding job as that of a church elder. It is both sobering and terrifying to me, to contemplate receiving the call to become an elder. Honestly, it is by far, the most important job a human being can ever possess, because God is the employer and it is He who must be pleased! In light of that supreme calling, we should never disturb our church elders with trivial matters and opt instead to defer them to other church leaders, such as the deacons.
I close with this inquiry to the reader. Do your elder’s rule the church body well? Do they labor to preach and teach the word of God accurately? If so, then they are worthy of your homage, especially because they are emulating Christ, so they are to be imitated (1 Cor. 11:1, Eph. 5:1, Heb. 13:7). We must all keep in mind, that they, like us, are finite, made of flesh and face temptations daily, so we ought to give them some latitude because they are mortal. But most importantly, they are soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ and in direct conflict with Satan. The Devil receives bountiful pleasure when he is able to disrupt the Lord’s work, especially the preaching of God’s word during corporate worship.
If your church elders lead excellently in biblical truth and are consistently cultivating the sanctification of their congregation, then they should be allotted “double honor”. Please leave the trivial scrutinizing of them to our Creator, for He will not miss one scintilla of their actions (Ps. 139:1-7). When we trust God completely, and truly allow the Holy Spirit to guide these men as they shepherd us in His divine truth, we will all reap eternal blessings! Thus, the entire church body can focus solely on worshiping Jesus Christ in an uninhibited, harmonious, and passionate manner. So in essence, we ought to fervently pray for our elders as they labor to promote our amelioration in holiness and obedience, ultimately glorifying Jesus Christ our God in everything they do. Shalom Aleichem
For further elucidation on this subject, I recommend “Truth Matters” by Pastor John MacArthur.