THE APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 5:22-25

Paul gives Timothy clear instruction about the qualities required for eldership in an earlier chapter of his letter [1 Timothy 3:1-7], but now gives Timothy further instruction on the actual appointment of an elder.

Paul makes it is clear that it is wrong to “hastily” ordain someone into eldership. Leadership in the church requires godly wisdom and spiritual maturity and a person should manifest these qualities before being ordained.

Sadly, not all believers live pure lives. The sins of some are evident, whilst the sins of others are carefully concealed, although they will eventually be revealed [verse 24]. For this reason it is important that time be taken to thoroughly investigate a person before ordaining them as elders. It is obvious that no one is perfect, but the qualifications set out earlier in Paul’s letter to Timothy must be clearly followed.

It is important to recognise that if an elder is ordained whose life is bound by sin and ungodliness, that the one appointing that person becomes a partaker in that person’s sin [verse 22b]. I guess that the modern words for this would “guilty by association”.

I have been puzzled as to why the exhortation to Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake because he was frequently unwell [verse 23] should be included in this brief passage about the payment, discipline and appointment of elders. Recently I heard some suggest that the responsibility to appoint leaders given to Timothy by the apostle Paul caused him stress and that this would affect him physically. Wine would settle both his nerves and his stomach. This may seem far-fetched but perhaps not so when we consider that Timothy struggled with timidity [2 Timothy 1:7].

The fact that Paul clearly gave Timothy the responsibility to appoint elders raises the issue of whose responsibility it is today to appoint elders. Paul “commanded” Titus to appoint elders in Crete [Titus 1:5], and Paul and Barnabas, as apostles, had obviously appointed elders in the churches that they had planted [see Acts 14:23]. Obviously the local church elders would have a part in the appointing of new elders, but there is great value in having someone from outside the local church helping in the decision. Such a person would be in relationship with them, would be an elder in a local church [Paul was an elder in the church at Antioch], and have a proven effective spiritual ministry. There is no evidence in Scripture that an apostle is an appointed position, but rather that they have a gifting that is evident to all and a genuine God-given authority.

Questions:

Why do think it is that the person appointing an elder who is not worthy of being an elder becomes a partaker [shares] in that person’s sins?

Why is it important that a local church is led by good, spiritually-minded elders who have the respect of the congregation?