1 Timothy 5:17
“Those (elders) who are sinning": The Imperfection of Believers Inside a Perfect Gathering
1 Peter 5: 1-3:
1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.
1 Peter 5 mentions the responsibilities of ELDERS. Peter wrote these instructions to guide the elders because he is aware of the fact that elders are also people subject to flaws and failures caused by the sinful nature. Likewise, Paul knew the necessity of teaching elders when he sent for Timothy...
"3 When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. 4 Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.
5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently."
Like in the early church, the present day local assemblies also experience the same thing.
First let us acknowledge that there are elders who are spiritual and base their decisions, leadership, and fellowship with other believers on the scriptures seeking to give glory to the Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ. The assembly that they lead prospers and grows not just in numbers but most especially in spiritual maturity.
On the other hand, there are elders who are carnal in their ways and judgments. They act not based on scriptures but on their flesh. Some of these elders want to take the stage and to turn believers’ eyes on them instead of the Lord Jesus, who is the only Head. This is brought by their ambition to promote their selves instead of elevating the truth. They seek for the eminence of the position and title, like Diotrephes in 3 John 9 to 11;
"9 I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. 10 When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.11 Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God."
It is a wrong attitude from an elder and in fact from any believer. This attitude then makes me wonder if some elders are unsaved and if it’s possible to have an unsaved elder without being known by the assembly.
Some elders also tend to overlook the people under their supervision, and because of this, many believers are suffering a great deal. Some lead the assembly tyrannically. Still some are proud. These elders should be rebuked openly by other elders and be put aside for a certain time until his behavior is corrected. Since elders are like any believers who can make mistakes, elders should also be subject to reprimand and excommunication like everybody else. I have never seen any elder under discipline from over 20 years of my experience in the local assembly. I have witnessed many instances that elders should have been rebuked and also put under public discipline. That would have saved a lot of trouble and many Christians would have been still in the assembly.
However, the biggest mistake I found with the elders’ behaviors is judging the motive of a believer even without listening to the words of the confessing brother. The restoration seems to be not a thing of the present anymore for some elders. It is like loving the unsaved to be saved, but shooting the weaker believer who fall in sin. Let us say, if a brother sinned and the elders tell other believers to stay away from him, and sisters go around telling other believers to ignore him, can we call that a spirit of restoration or a spirit of destruction ? It is clearly a pushing away and degrading of a dear brother whom Christ died for. Ephesians 4:7 says, “But to each one of us has been given grace according to the measure of the gift of the Christ."