Having detailed the requirements for men to be elders (1 Tim 3:1-7), Paul gives Timothy some more practical instruction here about how to handle the interaction between the congregation and its leaders. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching…Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses”(1 Tim 5:17, 19). Elders are worthy of pay for their work, especially when they are a key part of the teaching efforts of the local church. It is important to note the respect Paul wants shown to elders—honor, the benefit of the doubt, and multiple witnesses. This is not because of any inherent power in the office, but because these are men whose character the whole congregation has already affirmed.
But what if the elder is guilty? “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 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”(1 Tim 5:20-21). Those who continue in sin need to be rebuked, whether elders or not. Paul calls all of heaven to witness his charge to Timothy to administer justice fairly. That will involve not being hasty (1 Tim 5:22) and allowing that some sins will lie dormant for a time (1 Tim 5:24-25). When all has been said, no one is above God’s law.
Christians have a respect for their leaders because they are given by God and do God’s work. That respect is practical in the way we speak about and treat our elders. Yet that respect does not include ignoring sin—even in men who have shown godly character in the past. No one is above God’s law.
------------- One Thing to Think About: Do I ever believe charges against elders that are not on the evidence of two or three witnesses?
One Thing to Pray For: Fairness to all parties when accusations are made