Leaders can make or break a church. What makes leadership so solemn a responsibility? One part of the answer is implicit in this passage: the importance of the church community's trust in its leadership. A member's mistakes may affect only the member, but a leader's mistakes affect the whole church. But if a church is to continue to exist and to carry out its God-given task, it must support and trust its leaders. For God has ordained that the fellowship of believers be led by people called to that task (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11).
The church that Paul addresses had been torn apart by the false teachers, and much of this letter is aimed at putting the pieces back together. It is essential that he restore the church's confidence in its leadership, and he has already begun in chapter 3. The faithful elders needed to be distinguished from the unfaithful. The unfaithful needed to be disciplined, but in fairness. And some of the leadership had to be replaced. This task must have been first on Timothy's list of things to do (1:3-4), for the unity and mission of the church depended upon it. The passage before us contains practical principles for the regulation and maintenance of a church's leadership.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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