Throughout Paul’s writings, we find that leadership in the local church was through ‘elders’. The work and qualifications of the elders are found mainly in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and by the hand of Peter in 1 Peter 5:1-4. In studying this topic, you will find that this leadership and oversight was ALWAYS at the hands of ELDERS as opposed to one ELDER. Never in the Word of God, do we scripturally find one man over the Lord’s flock. I say ‘scripturally’ because we do find in one instance where one man resided over the local church. The Apostle John wrote in 3 John 1:9, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.” This man exercised authority that was not his, and used that to the detriment of all in that local church.

Now let’s read 1 Timothy 5:18, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.”

There was provision provided for the elders that labored well among the local church. We read in 1 Timothy 5:3, “Honour widows that are widows indeed.” This speaks of financial support for the widows who had no family to help support them. For the elders who ‘ruled well’, there is to be “double honour.” This absolutely does not mean that we pay men to preach to us. This is foreign to scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:18, “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I MAY MAKE THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST WITHOUT CHARGE, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.” For the elders who work among those in the local church, there are certain expenses. In our modern day, we might consider the cost of gas to travel to different ones to seek to minister to their needs. There may be food costs as one might have to eat away from home as he travels to meet with others. In some cases, he may have to miss time at work in order to meet the needs of others. If that is the case, the local church should help take care of these expenses lest the elder not be able to afford to go out to the different ones to minister to them.

1 Timothy 5:18 then tells us, “For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.” “For the scripture saith” immediately shows us that what is about to be spoken of has already been addressed in the scriptures. Deuteronomy 25:4 says, “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” The Lord Jesus said in Luke 10:6-7, “And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.”

The principle taught in this verse should be clear to us. We would never work our animals and not feed them. This would be cruelty that would lead to their death. On the same token, those who give of their time and money to labor among the local church, should be supported by those they minister to. Notice that there is no thought here of hiring someone to do this work. Neither is there the thought of giving someone a salary to do this work, or of someone taking a salary for his work. 1 Peter 5:2-3 tells the elders to, “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; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” With age and wisdom, one may have a desire to ‘take the oversight’ of the local church. He is not to do this for money’s sake. He is not to do this to rule over the Lord’s people, but he is to be an example for others to follow. His desire is not for money or power, but to “feed the flock of God.” It is proper that the local church should help this elder with his expenses so that he might continue in the work the Lord has called him to do. (273.2)