“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 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. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” (1 Timothy 5:17–25, ESV)
Timothy faced significant challenges because some elders opposed him and were trying to establish their own leadership and governance. They had usurped the apostle’s teaching, introduced false concepts and were actively building a following within the church in Ephesus. Paul begins by instructing the church to honor those that rule well. Paul is not prescribing that every elder should be paid but that those who are set apart to teach God’s Word should be given adequate support. The elder who is supported by the local church for the work of preaching and teaching should be considered worthy of double honor. The elder should be honored through respect and financial compensation. Paul encourages the church to be generous toward those who labor in this way. An ox was not to be muzzled because it would be cruel to allow it to smell the corn but not to allow it to eat as it worked. Paul applies this to the elder that preaches and teaches. They have the right to benefit from this work. Paul also quotes Jesus from Luke 10:7 when he told the disciples to expect hospitality and provision from people.
Paul goes on to instruct the church not to accept charges that are brought against an elder unless there is adequate evidence and at least two or three witnesses. If that burden can be met, then they should be rebuked publicly before the church. This will allow the opportunity for the elder to repent publicly. These issues must be handled with great care. Public discipline is public sin and the refusal of the person involved to repent of that sin. Is it an ongoing pattern of sin or a momentary lack of judgment. Does it point to character issues or a lapse in judgment? These things must be considered carefully. Timothy is charged to administer these things without partiality or favoritism. It would be necessary to identify potential elders, but the training and laying on of hands should not be hasty, and they should be careful maintain purity and not fall into the sin of others. Sometimes sins are found quickly and other times it may take some time to discover sin. As for Timothy and the advice concerning wine, one must recognize the context of the letter. There were those who had given specific regulations concerning food and drink, but Paul tells Timothy that it was not wrong for him to treat whatever stomach ailment he faced with a little wine. This note to Timothy is not a call to indulge Christian liberty, this is in connection with maintaining purity and not being under any arbitrary laws created. Finally, we are reminded that just has sin cannot be hidden indefinitely; neither can good works.