Respect shown to worthy pastors ensures longevity with integrity for the church.

In the second half of 1 Timothy 5, Paul teaches Timothy and the Ephesian churches how to obtain quality leadership. We have already looked at how pastors are to be compensated and how to handle an unrepentant pastor. Paul reminds Timothy that that shepherding God's people is a sober undertaking done "in the presence of God." Next, Paul instructs Timothy how to choose church leaders so he can avoid dealing with the same issues in the future.

Choice of Pastoral Leadership (1 Timothy 5:22-25)

These verses highlight a wonderful virtue of a disciple-making church. As each member is taught biblical doctrine and mentored in Christ-like living, young men will be discovered whom God has gifted to be future pastor-teachers. This is the natural result of discipleship!

Timothy himself had come out of a discipling process. He was taught God's Word in his home (2 Timothy 3:14) and had a good reputation among believers in Lystra as a young man. He joined Paul's missionary journey and learned from him for 18 years (Acts 16:1-5). Now he was responsible to pass on the same pattern to leaders in Ephesus (2 Timothy 2:2).

Be Cautious

"The laying on of hands" is how the apostles identified those the Spirit had gifted to lead the church in the first century. Today, pastors lay hands to identify other pastors who have gone through a process of evaluation. Not just the pastors, but the congregation must be sure of a man's salvation, character, giftedness, and training before he takes a position of leadership.

Why should we not lay hands on a pastor too soon? 1 Timothy 5:22 explains that the whole church shares in a leader's sins if they appoint him without knowing him well. When a leader's sin becomes public, the whole flock shares equal responsibility with those who laid hands on him.

A structured process is of utmost importance when appointing leaders in the church. The vigilance Paul calls for rivals a military watch. The whole congregation should be able to affirm a pastor's character before he launches into ministry.

Be Balanced

Paul addresses Timothy individually in 1 Timothy 5:23. Timothy struggled with a chronic illness, which Paul also identified as a theological and philosophical issue. Because he was a man of sincere, strong conviction, Timothy was prone to the danger of legalism. He had to be careful that his convictions were not communicated to other believers as ways to gain favor and become more pleasing to God.

Timothy had decided to set a high standard for his people by not drinking any alcoholic beverage. Passages like 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 and Romans 14:1-23 show that this was the right stand for Timothy to take. However, the water in the first century was so bad that it was exasperating Timothy's illness. There is one way believers are permitted to use alcohol, and that is medicinally. Paul tells Timothy to use alcohol to purify his drinking water so that sickness will not inhibit his ministry.

Be Discerning

A discipleship environment allows people to know each other well. Some have glaring issues that can be seen immediately. Others' faults and struggles are not seen until you get to know them over time. The same is true of good works: Many people know of the service of some people, while others' are more hidden. Either way you have to know them long and thoroughly enough to get a spiritual pulse. The evaluation process for both is simply to take the time and be discerning.

Application Points

  • Do you know the process of appointing leadership in the church? Are you involved in getting to know our leaders' character?
  • Scripture is clear: believers should avoid drinking alcohol in any circumstance aside from medicinal treatment. You do not want the failure of another saint on your shoulders. (See 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 and Romans 14:1-23.)
  • What kind of church do you want to leave for your children, grandchildren, and community? Leaving a church with a stable legacy depends on observing this text.
  • What are you doing to build an discipleship environment in our church? Are you following someone in Christ-likeness? Are you leading someone?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Acts 6:6, 13:3, 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6 – New Testament laying on of hands.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Our God Has Made Us One"

Our God has made us one —
In Him our hearts unite.
When we, His children, share His love,
Our joy is His delight.

Our God has made us one —
His glory is displayed.
For as we build each other up,
Our love becomes His praise.

Our God has made us one —
In sorrow and in joy,
We share the cross of Christ, our Lord;
In Him we now rejoice.

Our God has made us one —
One Church to bear His name,
One body and one Bride of Christ,
And with Him we shall reign.