Bookmark Label (optional)
Max. 20 characters
- Introductory Insights
- Required Characteristics
- Managing the Church
- Caring for Church Members
- Dealing with Sin in the Church
- Women in Leadership
- Church Members’ Duties to Leaders
Good leadership is one of the most important prerequisites for a healthy church. For a church to function effectively it is critical that leaders know and do what is required of them. It is also important for church members to know what they should expect of leaders – and how they can support their leaders.
Note that a number of verses in this chapter speak of Paul and other NT leaders in their work overseeing a number of churches, or of leaders of the nation of Israel – such as Moses, Joshua, prophets, priests and kings. Such verses are generally readily applicable to leaders of local churches today, and to their relationship with church members.
- Churches have leaders
- Typically churches are together overseen by a central leadership group
- Ultimately it is God who chooses leaders . . .
- . . . Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit play a role in the making of leaders
- Leaders will be accountable to God for their work
- Leaders will be richly rewarded for good work
- Note: Examples of the ordination of leaders
a Niger is a Latin word meaning black, or dark
Prophets and teachers have key leadership roles in the church.
b Or deaconess
The text note suggests that Phoebe was a deaconess, a ministerial position in the church (cf. Phil 1:1 ↓).
c Or slaves; Greek bondservants
d Or bishops; Greek episkopoi
e Or servants, or ministers; Greek diakonoi
Although not explicitly stated, the leaders referred to in this and the following verses are leaders of churches.
f The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar
g Greek the gates of Hades
Note that “Peter” sounds like “rock” (cf. text note). This points to Peter’s leadership role in Jesus Christ’s building of his church.
The reference is to Judas Iscariot and “his place of leadership” (NIV®) in the early church as a whole, as one of the twelve disciples.
In the NT church, all the local churches were overseen by the apostles and the elders based in Jerusalem. Similarly today each church denomination has some form of central leadership group overseeing its churches.
Acts 11:20-22 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenistsh also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. ▤
h Or Greeks (that is, Greek-speaking non-Jews)
Here the leaders of the church in Jerusalem took action to oversee the development of the church in the city of Antioch.
Acts 15:1-2, 6, 19-20, 22-29 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. ▤ … 6The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. ▤ … [James:] 19Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. ▤ … 22Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothersi who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled youj with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” ▤
i Or brothers and sisters; also verses 32, 33, 36
j Some manuscripts some persons from us have troubled you
Doctrinal issues are here overseen by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. In vv. 19-20 James – who appears to preside over proceedings – advocates ruling in line with the position of Paul and Barnabas, a stance agreed to by the other apostles and elders (cf. vv. 22-24, 28-29).
This is speaking of instructions of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem being delivered to churches in different towns.
- Paul oversaw a number of churches:
In his work as an apostle, Paul himself played a significant role in overseeing the affairs of quite a number of churches – many of which he had been instrumental in their establishment. Paul often did this through his letters – as exemplified in this verse – and sometimes through his co-workers, as shown in his instruction to Titus in Titus 1:5: “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you–”
Note that one implication of the teaching here is that in choosing leaders, churches should prayerfully seek God’s leading so as to make a choice in accordance with his will.
One can infer from this verse both that God has ordained that these positions exist in churches and that he chooses people to fulfill these positions.
k Greek as we have received mercy
Here Paul refers to the leadership roles of himself and his co-workers, given to them by God in his mercy.
Heb 5:1, 4 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. ▤ … 4And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. ▤
What is said here of the position of high priest is arguably applicable to church leaders today. Note that it is not obvious whether the selecting and appointing spoken of in v. 1 is that done directly by God, or the actions taken by leaders in response to God’s choice and calling (v. 4).
Num 27:15-18 Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” 18So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. ▤
Deut 17:15 … you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. ▤
Here God tells Elijah to anoint the ones he has chosen for these critical leadership roles amongst God’s people.
1Chr 28:4-5 Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me from all my father’s house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father’s house, and among my father’s sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. 5And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. ▤
Note that in v. 4b David tells of God choosing Judah to be the leading tribe of Israel.
Nazirites took a vow of devout devotion to God and, as with the prophets, had a role in the spiritual leadership of Israel.
This refers to leaders of God’s people (“the faithful and wise manager”) being given such authority by Jesus Christ (“the master”).
Acts 1:24-26 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. ▤
The Lord’s choice was ascertained here through the casting of lots.
Although Paul rightly refers to Apollos and himself as “Servants”, their roles or tasks were nevertheless crucial leadership ones – assigned by the Lord.
Similar in 2 Corinthians 13:10 Paul speaks of: “… the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.”
l Or pastors
m Or the shepherd-teachers
n Some manuscripts of the Lord
o Or with the blood of his Own
Judg 3:10 The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. ▤
- Jesus’ choosing of the twelve disciples:
Luke 6:13-16 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. ▤
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ▤
The reference is to giving account to the Lord on the day of judgment.
1Cor 4:1-4 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. ▤
Paul implies that those who have been entrusted with God’s work will be held accountable for it by indicating that: “it is required” that they prove trustworthy (v. 2); and the Lord judges them (v. 4).
Luke 12:42-48 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43Blessed is that servantp whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. ▤
p Greek bondservant; also verses 45, 46, 47
The use of “servant” in the context (cf. vv. 35-44) speaks primarily of leaders – as reflected by the term “manager” in v. 42 – although aspects of this passage have a wider application.
“I will require my sheep at their hand” means that God would hold the leaders accountable for the state of his flock, his people.
Isa 9:13-16 The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts. 14So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— 15the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; 16for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. ▤
The bad leaders would be held accountable (vv. 14-15) as they were principally responsible for the people’s failure to return to or to seek God (v. 13), leading them astray (v. 16).
- Teachers will be judged more strictly than other church members:
Note that this teaching parallels that above in Luke 12:47-48.
Matt 24:45-47 Who then is the faithful and wise servant,q whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. ▤
q Greek bondservant; also verses 46, 48, 50
This speaks of Jesus Christ rewarding the faithful servants whom he has put in charge of his other servants – i.e. leaders in his “household”, the church.
Here “joy” (cf. Phil 4:1 ↓) may be alluding to Paul’s future joy when Christ comes and rewards him for his ministry amongst the Thessalonians. Alternatively, like his “hope” (v. 19), it may be joy which he has in anticipating his future reward for his work. The “crown” (cf. Phil 4:1 ↓) alludes to the wreathe that was given to the victors at the Greek games; the Thessalonians will be as such for him to glory in.
r Or brothers and sisters; also verses 8, 21
The “good standing” may well be referring to the standing of these deacons in God’s sight – pointing to God’s approval and the associated rewards. Alternatively, gaining respect and honor before the congregation may be in view.
- Paul’s anticipated pride in his work on Jesus Christ’s return:
Phil 2:14-16 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. ▤
On Jesus Christ’s return Paul hoped to be able to take pride in the godly lives of the Philippians, to which his work had led.
- Note: The purification of the priests and Levites for consecration and preparedness for God’s service
- Note: The OT use of oil to anoint and consecrate people for God’s service
Acts 6:5-6 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. ▤
The practice of established leaders laying their hands on newly appointed leaders and ones being commissioned for a new role, occurs a number of times in both the OT and NT (cf. Num 8:10 ↓; Num 27:18, 23 ↓; 1Tim 5:22 ↓). It appears to denote the bestowing of authority by established leaders, who have such authority, onto the newly appointed leaders.
Acts 14:23, 26 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. ▤ … 26and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. ▤
When people are appointed to a particular role, notably a leadership one, other leaders should commend/commit them to God in prayer (cf. Acts 6:6 ↑).
Num 8:10-11 When you bring the Levites before the Lord, the people of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites, 11and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that they may do the service of the Lord. ▤
The wave offering (v. 11) appears to have been to symbolize the Levites being offered to God as living sacrifices, dedicated to assisting the priests in doing God’s work. Leaders today likewise need to be willing to offer themselves unconditionally to God in his service – something which may be formally signified in their ordination as was the case here.
Num 27:18-20, 22-23 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. 19Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. 20You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. ▤ … 22And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, 23and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses. ▤
Moses commissioned Joshua before all the people so that they would clearly recognize the authority that was invested in him, and so obey him (v. 20).
- Do not be hasty in appointing leaders:
The first clause is commonly understood to be referring to the ordination of elders – the public signifying and recognition of their appointment to a leadership role. Their appointment should not be done without due consideration, nor until the candidate has had sufficient time to prove their suitability (cf. 1Tim 3:6 ⇓; 1Tim 3:10 ⇓).
The following characteristics are required of all believers, but it is especially vital for the life of Christian groups that they are exemplified by leaders. As such, churches need to bear in mind the following characteristics when choosing leaders.
Note that largely: the verses in the first two subsections speak of attributes that are required of a person to be chosen as a leader; the verses in the third and fourth subsections contain exhortations to those who are leaders to have the qualities concerned; and the verses in the fifth and sixth subsection contain examples of leaders displaying necessary attitudes.
- Ezra 7:25 ⇓; Ps 78:72 ⇓; Jer 3:15 ⇓; Luke 12:42 ⇓; Acts 6:3 ⇓; Ex 18:21 ⇓
- Live a godly life in readiness for doing God’s work
- Consecrate yourself to serve God . . .
- . . . Be holy and set apart
- Serve God in holiness and righteousness
1Tim 3:2-3, 7-11 Therefore an overseers must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,t sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. ▤ … 7Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 8Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,u not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11Their wives likewise mustv be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. ▤
s Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1
t Or a man of one woman; also verse 12
u Or devious in speech
v Or Wives, likewise, must, or Women, likewise, must
The requirement that an overseer must “be well thought of by outsiders” (v. 7) probably has in view the need for the church and in particular its leaders to show that they are credible, for the sake of spreading the gospel amongst outsiders and for bringing glory to God. The verse appears to teach that having a bad reputation would cause an overseer to fall into “a snare of the devil”, presumably a reference to Satan deceiving them into sin rather than referring to any particular “snare”. It does not say how or why this is the case. Perhaps the thought is that those without a good reputation may well not be deserving of such and so be the type of person quite likely to fall into Satan’s traps.
Titus 1:5-8 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,w and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7For an overseer,x as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. ▤
w Or a man of one woman
x Or bishop; Greek episkopos
Acts 6:5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. ▤
2Cor 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicityy and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ▤
y Some manuscripts holiness
Although very much applicable to all believers, this direction was given to Timothy as a pastoral worker.
The reference may be to the character and actions of the priests – i.e. that they “do what is right” (NCV™; cf. GNT) – hence the verse’s inclusion here. However some commentators point to the close relationship between God’s righteousness and salvation as indicating that it is speaking of the priests propagating God’s righteousness so as to realize the salvation of the people.
Zec 3:6-7 And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, 7“Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. ▤
The high priest Joshua is representative of the priests and/or the nation of Israel, with the verses having in view governance either of God’s people (by the priests) or of all God’s realm (by Israel). As such this passage is indicative of the need for those who would lead God’s people to be obedient to God’s laws. The “right of access among those who are standing here” (v. 7b) probably refers to being in God’s presence as the angels are, being his priest with ready access to him.
- Leaders must not be recent converts:
Verse 10 (included earlier in this subsection) also reflects that leaders must not be recent converts, stating that potential leaders need to “be tested first” and “prove themselves blameless”. The reference to falling into the condemnation of the devil, most likely means to face the same condemnation as the devil does. Note that other interpretations include: falling from a high position just as the devil did; and judgment dealt out by the devil (cf. NLT).
Deut 1:13, 15 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ ▤ … 15So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. ▤
Ezra 7:25 And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. ▤
Ezra was a high priest and a key leader amongst the Jews who had returned from the Babylonian exile. Here he is spoken of as having great wisdom, which he was to use in appointing other leaders.
z Or brothers and sisters
Ex 18:21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. ▤
1Tim 3:2, 4-5 Therefore an overseera must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,b sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, ▤ … 4He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? ▤
a Or bishop; Greek episkopos; a similar term occurs in verse 1
b Or a man of one woman; also verse 12
As with being “able to teach” (v. 2), managing one’s own family well (cf. Titus 1:6 ⇑) demonstrates competence and wisdom, needed for taking care of God’s church.
Josh 1:6, 9 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. ▤ … 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ▤
Here David encourages his son Solomon, as the time drew near for Solomon to become king and to tackle the task of building God’s temple.
Ezra is speaking here of going to Jerusalem, to minister to the Israelites there.
Ezra 10:2-4 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lordc and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. 4Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” ▤
c Or of the Lord
Jer 1:7-8 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” ▤
Ezek 2:6-7 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions.d Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. ▤
d Or on scorpion plants
- One should act according to the spirit of power that God has given them:
2Tim 1:6-7 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ▤
Paul exhorts Timothy to use his gift (v. 6) in his ministry, bearing in mind that God does not give a spirit that “makes us weak and fearful” (NIrV®), but a spirit of power (and of love and self-discipline).
Leaders must be willing to not only serve God and Jesus Christ, but also church members.
Matt 20:25-28 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,e 27and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,f 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ▤
e Greek diakonos
f Greek bondservant (doulos)
This good advice was given to Rehoboam, King of Israel. However he did not follow it, which led to the secession of the northern tribes from his kingdom.
Paul’s reference to himself as a servant suggests his willingness to serve the churches.
1Cor 16:15-16 Now I urge you, brothersg—you know that the householdh of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. ▤
g Or brothers and sisters; also verse 20
h Greek house
The fact that Paul tells the Corinthians to submit to the household of Stephanas, implies that they had a leadership role. The willingness of the household of Stephanas to serve in this role was underscored by their devotion to doing so.
i Some manuscripts omit exercising oversight
j Some manuscripts omit as God would have you
This and 2 Chronicles 19:8-9 below speak of willingly exercising leadership responsibilities. Note that here the phrase “exercising oversight” has been translated as “serving as overseers” (NIV®, NKJV).
2Chr 19:8-9 Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. 9And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: … ▤
- Do not seek authority and status; instead be a servant:
Matt 23:8-12 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
k 9And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. ▤
k Or brothers and sisters
The disciples were not to seek titles of authority and status (vv. 8-10). As Matthew 20:25-28 above teaches, greatness amongst Jesus’ followers comes not from things such as these, but from serving others (v. 11).
2Cor 6:11-13 We have spoken freely to you,l Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. ▤
l Greek Our mouth is open to you
In appealing to the somewhat wayward and rebellious Corinthian church, Paul speaks of his love for them (v. 11; cf. 2Cor 7:3 ↓) – which was in a sense a paternal love (v. 13).
2Cor 7:3, 15 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. ▤ … 15And his [Titus’s] affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. ▤
In v. 3, Paul is saying that the Corinthian believers were in his heart/thoughts to the extent that he would journey together with them through life or death.
Phil 1:7-8 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,m both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. ▤
m Or you all have fellowship with me in grace
n Or brothers and sisters; also verses 8, 21
Gal 4:18-19 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! ▤
Paul’s metaphor (v. 19) demonstrates his ardent concern for the Galatians, who were faltering under the influence of false teachers.
2Cor 11:2-3 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. ▤
Paul was jealous for his converts and their commitment to Christ (v. 2a) “just as God is” (GNT) – possibly meaning “with a jealousy that comes from God” (NCV™) – reflecting Paul’s deep love and concern for them.
Such was Paul’s concern for the churches (v. 28) that he strongly identified with them in their weaknesses and trials (v. 29). The final phrase may be speaking of “intense concern” (NASB), “distress” (GNT, cf. NCV), or even “anger” (NLT, cf. CEV).
2Cor 12:20-21 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. ▤
- Leadership is a noble task:
o Some manuscripts of the Lord
p Or with the blood of his Own
As “overseers”, leaders oversee and so supervise church affairs, including the welfare of church members (cf. Be a shepherd taking care of God’s flock).
Num 27:16-17, 21 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” ▤ … 21And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.” ▤
Joshua is referred to in v. 21. Like Joshua and Moses before him, church leaders are to lead the people – as the term “leader” implies.
2Chr 23:18 And Jehoiada posted watchmen for the house of the Lord under the direction of the Levitical priests and the Levites whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of the Lord, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David. ▤
As with 1 Chronicles 25:2b above, this illustrates a chain of command in the leadership and supervision of Israel and its affairs. The king assigned responsibility for the temple to the priests, who by implication would then supervise others in matters regarding the temple. Such a chain of command is applicable to and, as such, has its parallels in the church today.
Ezra 3:9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers. ▤
- In leading, listen to and consider suggestions:
Deut 1:22-23 [Moses:] Then all of you came near me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may explore the land for us and bring us word again of the way by which we must go up and the cities into which we shall come.’ 23The thing seemed good to me, and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. ▤
Note that the verses below illustrate that leaders delegating work to others has the following advantages: leaders will be better able to cope; leaders will be able to concentrate better on the main priorities of their roles; more work will be done; and new and emerging leaders will be developed.
Acts 6:1-4 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenistsq arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3Therefore, brothers,r pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” ▤
q That is, Greek-speaking Jews
r Or brothers and sisters
Ex 18:13-18, 21-23 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. ▤ … 21Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” ▤
This occurrence also appears to be in view in Deuteronomy 1:9-18, with there being a number of parallels, as seen in 1:15. There Moses says, “So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes.”
Num 11:14, 16-17 [Moses:] I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. ▤ … 16Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. ▤
Here it is God who initiates the delegating of work, indicating that he would anoint and empower the seventy elders Moses selected with the Holy Spirit for them to help Moses.
1Chr 26:32 King David appointed him and his brothers, 2,700 men of ability, heads of fathers’ houses, to have the oversight of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of the Manassites for everything pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king. ▤
2Chr 19:5, 8 He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, ▤ … 8Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. ▤
Jesus appointed the apostles, to be with him and do his work.
- Nurture new and prospective leaders:
Mark 3:14-15 above is also illustrative of the nurturing of new or prospective leaders. There Jesus both takes his disciples with him – enabling them to see and learn how he ministers – and delegates work to them.
1Thes 2:7, 11-12 But we were gentles among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. ▤ … 11For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ▤
s Some manuscripts infants
Complementing the comparison with a mother (v. 7), the likening of Paul’s dealings with the Thessalonians to that of a father (v. 11) – along with the apparent tone of his exhortations (v. 12a) – reflects Paul’s gentleness and measured use of authority.
Philem 1:8-9 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— ▤
2Cor 13:9-10 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. ▤
The phrase “when we are weak” (v. 9) appears to allude back to v. 4 where Paul spoke of being weak in Christ – “we also are weak in him” – quite possibly a reference to Paul’s non-assertiveness that he had displayed on his previous visit to Corinth. Here in v. 9 then, Paul may be meaning that he was more than happy to be “weak” – i.e. not needing to be harsh in the use of his authority (v. 10) – if they were strong in the faith.
In addition to the command explicitly regarding the exercising of authority in v. 1a, vv. 1b-2 contain further complementary instructions.
Mark 10:42-45 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,t 44and whoever would be first among you must be slaveu of all. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ▤
t Greek diakonos
u Greek bondservant (doulos)
Neh 5:15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily rationv forty shekelsw of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. ▤
v Compare Vulgate; Hebrew took from them with food and wine afterward
w A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
In addition to not lording it over those under them, leaders should not take advantage of their authority, as governors preceding Nehemiah had done in demanding quantities of silver in addition to supplies.
1Cor 4:18-21 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? ▤
In v. 20 Paul is implying that if need be he would come to the Corinthians ready to exercise power, the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2:4-5).
2Cor 10:2, 6, 10-11 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. ▤ … 6being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. ▤ … 10For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. ▤
In v. 6, Paul is probably speaking essentially of “obedience” to Christ (cf. v. 5), but he may have in view obedience to himself as an apostle of Christ. He appears to be saying that he will be ready to punish every act of disobedience – presumably primarily that of his opponents – once the Corinthian church as a whole was obedient. As such his view would probably have been that there was no point in him trying to take action against his opponents until he was sure of the obedience and support of the rest of the church.
2Cor 13:2-3 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— 3since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. ▤
Note that in v. 3 Paul implies that his authority and power comes ultimately from Jesus Christ, who worked through him.
In v. 12 Paul urges Timothy to establish his authority through leading by example.
Leaders should both exhort and rebuke with full authority, exercising in their church the authority that their church has granted to them.
- The special authority bestowed on the disciples:
x Or shall have been bound . . . shall have been loosed
This may be interpreted in at least two ways. It may mean that the disciples would have the authority to decide what would be prohibited or permitted (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) in the kingdom. Alternatively, if the rendering in the text note is taken, it would instead be speaking of taking action that reflects what has already been determined in heaven. (This is probably the more common interpretation.) Note that in 16:18-19 this authority is given to Peter alone (v. 19) in his role as the “rock” on which Jesus would build his church (v. 18), whereas here it appears to be extended to the other disciples. The context even suggests that it is applicable to other leaders or churches.
1Thes 1:5b-7 You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. ▤
Note that v. 7 points out how the Thessalonians – who had imitated Paul and his associate leaders as well as the Lord (v. 6a) – themselves in turn became examples to other believers.
2Thes 3:7-9 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. ▤
1Cor 4:16-17 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17That is why I senty you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ,z as I teach them everywhere in every church. ▤
y Or am sending
z Some manuscripts add Jesus
1Cor 10:32-33 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. ▤
a Or Brothers and sisters; also verses 28, 31
Note that the last clause speaks of Paul taking steps to identify himself with the Galatians (cf. 1Cor 9:19-22), aiding them in identifying with him and his example.
Paul could point to his own words, actions, motives and character as being exemplary.
The readers are encouraged to remember the lives of their former leaders (who had presumably passed away) and the outcomes that their lives had for the kingdom, as a stimulus to imitating their faith.
- Going into battle, Gideon urged his men to follow his lead:
Judg 7:17-18 And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’” ▤
- Be a shepherd taking care of God’s flock
- Pray for church members
- Strengthen members in the faith
- Exhort and urge members on in aspects of the Christian life
- Follow up and pastor members by visiting them . . .
- . . . or by writing letters to them
- Serve church members
- Work hard at helping church members
- Be prepared to suffer hardship for church members
Acts 20:28-31 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,b which he obtained with his own blood.c 29I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. ▤
b Some manuscripts of the Lord
c Or with the blood of his Own
The title “overseer” (v. 28a; cf. 1Pet 5:2 ↓) indicates a role of overseeing or watching over a church – not dissimilar to a shepherd watching over his flock. In v. 31, the warning to “be alert” points to the need to guard the flock.
1Pet 5:1-2 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,d not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;e not for shameful gain, but eagerly; … ▤
d Some manuscripts omit exercising oversight
e Some manuscripts omit as God would have you
Num 27:16-17 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” ▤
2Sam 5:2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’ ▤
1Chr 17:6 In all places where I have moved with all Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ▤
Ezek 34:2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? ▤
John 21:15-16 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” ▤
This and Hebrews 13:17a below do not use a shepherd/flock analogy, but do further speak of the need for leaders to take care of their people.
Note that the section cross-referenced above contains a number of examples of prayers for church members or God’s people, by Paul and other leaders.
Num 14:19-20 [Moses:] Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.” 20Then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. ▤
Num 21:7-8 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” ▤
2Chr 30:18-20 For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon everyone 19who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.”f 20And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. ▤
f Hebrew not according to the cleanness of holiness
1Sam 7:5, 8-9 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” ▤ … 8And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. ▤
Jer 42:1-4 Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near 2and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 4Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” ▤
Joel 2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations.g Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” ▤
g Or reproach, that the nations should rule over them
Blessing people in this way is in effect praying for them (cf. 2Chr 30:27 ↑).
- Samuel considered that any failure of his to pray for the people would be sinning against God:
Acts 16:4-5 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. ▤
The churches were strengthened through Paul and his co-workers delivering the sound decision of the apostles and elders on an issue that had caused division and angst in the churches (cf. 15:1-29).
A number of commentators interpret “impart to you some spiritual gift” (v. 11) as not referring to Paul bestowing on them a spiritual gift. Rather they think Paul means either that he intended to use a spiritual gift of his own to strengthen them or that he would confer on them a spiritual blessing. In v. 12 Paul qualifies what he has just said, indicating that he hoped there would in fact be mutual encouragement.
2Cor 13:10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. ▤
1Thes 3:1-2, 9-10 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworkerh in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, ▤ … 9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? ▤
h Some manuscripts servant
Strengthening church members in the faith involves strengthening their own faith, as Paul speaks of here.
i Or slave; Greek bondservant
Col 2:1-2 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, … ▤
- Leaders are to use their spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ:
j Or pastors
k Or the shepherd-teachers
This is usually understood to mean that those who are given such leadership functions by Christ (v. 11) have been gifted as such to prepare the rest of God’s people for service (v. 12a). This preparing of others is itself an example of strengthening God’s people in their faith. Additionally, the end result is that in turn the whole church is built up (v. 12b) or strengthened.
1Thes 2:11-12 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ▤
l Some manuscripts servant
m Or brothers and sisters; also verses 10, 13
n Or disorderly, or undisciplined
o Or brothers and sisters
p Or your rational service
Parallels can be drawn here between how Paul followed up whole churches by visiting them and how leaders ought to follow up and pastor church members in part by visiting them. (A similar point can be made regarding writing to believers, as per the following subsection.)
Acts 15:36, 41 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” ▤ … 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. ▤
On Paul’s third missionary journey he visited churches that he had established or ministered to on his earlier trips.
2Cor 1:15-16 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. ▤
Paul planned to visit the Corinthians because he wanted to secure them, for Christ.
Unable to follow up the Philippians by visiting them himself, Paul sent Timothy instead (cf. 1Thes 3:2 ↓).
1Thes 3:2, 10 … and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworkerq in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, ▤ … 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? ▤
q Some manuscripts servant
The last clause may well speak of joy from achieving pastoral objectives on visiting his readers, along with having fellowship with them.
Here Paul begins his second letter to the Corinthian church – to teach, exhort and encourage them.
1Tim 3:14-15 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. ▤
r Or brothers and sisters
2Pet 3:1-2 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, … ▤
1Jn 2:1, 7, 12-14, 26 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ▤ … 7Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. ▤ … 12I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. ▤ … 26I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. ▤
In vv. 12-14 John reassures his readers that he writes to them because of their soundness in the faith. This illustrates that even church members who are strong Christians should be given attention and follow-up – particularly with the common threat from false teachers (v. 26).
2Cor 10:9-11 I do not want to appear to be frightening you with my letters. 10For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” 11Let such a person understand that what we say by letter when absent, we do when present. ▤
Verse 1 suggests that Paul tried to accomplish in his letters what he would have tried to do if he was present – indicative of the fact that letters are a way of ministering in one’s absence.
- In his letters Paul spoke of being present with young churches “in spirit”:
Likewise in 1 Corinthians 5:3a Paul says: “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit …” And somewhat similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 2:17 Paul says: “… we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart …” Such terminology points both to Paul’s closeness to and care for such churches in his absence – both of which he builds on as he pastors them in his letters.
Luke 22:26b-27 Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. ▤
Here Jesus points out an irony in God’s kingdom: one who rules, the “greatest” (v. 26b), must serve the others.
Rom 15:30-31 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, … ▤
s Or deaconess
t Greek bondservants
Num 16:9 … is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, … ▤
2Chr 35:3 And he said to the Levites who taught all Israel and who were holy to the Lord, “Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built. You need not carry it on your shoulders. Now serve the Lord your God and his people Israel. ▤
Along with giving everything he had for them, Paul was willing to give himself fully in his service to the Corinthians.
Col 1:28-29 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ▤
Note that here Paul is speaking of working hard so that he would be able to help them, without being a financial burden, rather than of actually in helping them.
- Leaders should lead with zeal:
u Or gives aid
Leaders should carry out their leadership duties with zeal, which induces hard work.
2Cor 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. ▤
Here Paul alludes to the great physical sufferings – and their toll on him – that he underwent in his work (cf. vv. 7-11), work that was for the benefit of the Corinthians’ spiritual life.
Paul is referring or alluding to his imprisonment in Rome, in the course of his service to Jesus Christ for the sake of the Ephesians and Gentiles in general.
- Paul was prepared to cover any costs for Onesimus:
- Confront church members over sin
- Rebuke members for their sin . . .
- . . . and warn them to stop sinning
- Expel unrepentant sinners . . .
- . . . This is partly for the benefit of the offenders themselves
- Have multiple witnesses in disciplinary procedures
- Restoring a person who has sinned
- Note: Unchecked sin corrupts others
Confrontation and rebuke are needed when a church member sins and does not deal with it themselves. If confrontation and rebuke prove to be ineffective, then disassociation is required.
Just as the OT prophets confronted the people as a whole with their sin (cf. Mic 3:8 ↓; Isa 58:1 ↓; Lam 2:14 ↓), so today church leaders should confront both individual church members and, when applicable, whole churches with their sin.
2Chr 26:18 … and they [priests] withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.” ▤
The prophets were supposed to expose the people’s sin – which the prophets in question had failed to do.
Matt 18:15-17 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ▤
These instructions are for believers or church members themselves in confronting fellow believers over sin. But the instructions are also applicable to leaders in their approach to confronting church members who have sinned and not repented.
Gal 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” ▤
Paul confronted and rebuked Cephas/Peter because his action was not consistent with the gospel (v. 14a) – nor with how he had acted before certain Jews had arrived (v. 12a). What Peter did was particularly serious as it implied that living as a Gentile was not good enough for a believer, and so pressured Gentiles to follow Jewish customs – as alluded to in Paul’s rebuke (v. 14b).
- Where necessary, call attention to sinful actions:
3Jn 1:10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. ▤
John speaks of telling others of the malicious gossiping of a church member (Diotrephes) and possibly also to the other sinful actions listed. Here it would have been particularly appropriate to expose such behavior as it was ongoing and was affecting other people, even the church as a whole.
The reference is to publicly rebuking church elders who persist in sin and is not implying that all members should be rebuked publicly.
Titus 1:9, 13-14 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in soundv doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ▤ … 13This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. ▤
v Or healthy; also verse 13
The command to “rebuke them sharply” (v. 13) appears to refer to church members influenced by false teaching and even those actively supporting it – although not necessarily the main instigators (those “who turn away from the truth”, v. 14) who may well have been outsiders. Presumably the rebuke needed to be sharp because the actions of those in question gravely threatened the fabric of the whole church.
Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “reprove” or reprimand church members is probably at least in part in reference to sin, as with the subsequent instruction to “rebuke”.
1Sam 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. ▤
As the spiritual leader of God’s people, Samuel here rebukes King Saul for his sin.
Matt 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord!w This shall never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrancex to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” ▤
w Or “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!”
x Greek stumbling block
By his use of “Satan” (v. 23) in rebuking Peter – who was himself inappropriately rebuking Jesus (v. 22) – it is apparent that Jesus could see an agenda of Satan in Peter’s words. Jesus was not suggesting that Peter was possessed by Satan, but possibly some satanic influence is implied.
Luke 3:19-20 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. ▤
This suggests that in addition to exhorting church members, leaders have a role in speaking out against wrongs in the wider society.
2Cor 7:8-9 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. ▤
Paul had earlier written a letter rebuking the Corinthians for sin. (Quite possibly this was a letter that has been lost, rather than 1 Corinthians.) Despite the pain it had caused (v. 8), it had the desired effect – producing godly grief and leading them to repent (v. 9).
2Ki 17:13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” ▤
Neh 9:26 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. ▤
Note that the sin referred to appears to be that of denying the resurrection.
Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy,y drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. ▤
y Some manuscripts add murder
- Where applicable, warn the people generally not to sin:
z Septuagint; Hebrew fathers
Expulsion of unrepentant sinners from the church is necessary primarily to prevent their behavior from adversely affecting the rest of the church. (This danger is discussed later in Note: Unchecked sin corrupts others.) It also has the ultimate good of the offender in view, as the following subsection indicates.
Matt 18:17-18 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be looseda in heaven. ▤
a Or shall have been bound . . . shall have been loosed
To treat one as “a Gentile and a tax collector” (v. 17) is to disassociate from such a person, with the tax collectors of the day being viewed as traitors and exploiters. In v. 18, most likely the binding in this context alludes to the expulsion of a sinner and the loosing to the reinstatement of such a sinner, once they have repented. As referred to earlier, the assertion that such things will be done “in heaven” is usually understood in view of the rendering in the text note to mean that such actions would be indicative of what has already been determined by God.
1Cor 5:1-2, 6-7, 11-13 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. ▤ … 6Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. ▤ … 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judgesb those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” ▤
b Or will judge
2Thes 3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. ▤
Num 15:30-31 But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him. ▤
To act as such “with a high hand” (v. 30) is to do so “defiantly” (NASB, NIV). Sinning defiantly actually blasphemes God (v. 30) as it is very dishonoring to him. This is largely because it: discredits his laws and he himself as the one who instituted the laws; and shows disdain towards him as the one to whom we are accountable for breaking the laws. Anyone who so readily dishonored God was to be cut off from his people – a stipulation that is not without application in today’s church.
Deut 13:5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evilc from your midst. ▤
c Or evil person
The importance of the final command is underlined by it being repeated a further eight times in Deuteronomy. It is also referred to in Judges 20:13 and quoted in 1 Corinthians 5:13 above.
1Cor 14:37-38 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. ▤
The final clause may be speaking of church members needing to ignore people who ignore the Lord’s commands – hence its inclusion here. Alternatively, it may be speaking of such people being ignored by God or Jesus Christ, presumably on Judgment Day.
1Cor 5:4-5 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.d ▤
d Some manuscripts add Jesus
The phrase “deliver this man to Satan” (v. 5; cf. 1Tim 1:20 ↓) is commonly understood as meaning that the man was to be cast out of the church (cf. NLT) and so into the world, Satan’s domain, open to affliction by him. The following clause – “for the destruction of the flesh” probably means that affliction by Satan would act as a purifying process leading to the destruction of the man’s sinful nature. Ultimately expelling such a person is done in the hope that they will be saved (v. 5b).
1Tim 1:19-20 … holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. ▤
2Thes 3:14-15 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. ▤
The given aim (v. 14b) of dissociating or expulsion, alludes to the repentance of the previously unrepentant sinner. In addition, note that v. 15 qualifies the measure, implying that the disassociation was not to be done without compassion. Quite likely the hope of reconciliation is in view as well as correction.
Deut 19:15 A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. ▤
2Cor 13:1-2 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— ▤
In quoting Deuteronomy 19:15 (v. 1b) Paul no doubt has in view dealing with sin amongst the Corinthians (v. 2).
Deut 17:2-7 If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purgee the evilf from your midst. ▤
e Septuagint drive out; also verse 12
f Or evil person; also verse 12
That the witnesses were to be the ones to begin the punishment was not only appropriate but would impress on them the seriousness of their testimony. Note that this passage may well be in view in Hebrews 10:28 – “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
- Be prepared to punish wrongdoing:
2Cor 7:11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. ▤
Note that the following instructions largely appear to have in view people who have repented of their sin.
2Cor 2:5-8, 10-11 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. ▤ … 10Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. ▤
Paul urges the Corinthians to forgive and discontinue the punishment of a person who had “caused pain” (v. 5) – and presumably had since repented. Continuing it would be destructive, unnecessary and possibly even vindictive. In vv. 10-11, Paul makes the important point that not forgiving such a person would leave the church members themselves susceptible to Satan’s schemes. Note that vv. 5, 10 suggest that the sin in question may have been something against Paul, which was also an affront to the Corinthians – hence Paul speaks of both them and him forgiving the offender (vv. 10-11).
Gal 6:1-2 Brothers,g if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ▤
g Or Brothers and sisters; also verse 18
Note that the context suggests that the phrase “one another’s burdens” (v. 2) encompasses the spiritual weaknesses of others. As such v. 2 would be speaking of supporting each other in overcoming sin, in line with v.1.
1Jn 5:16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and Godh will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. ▤
h Greek he
Praying for someone who has committed sin is shown here to be important in working for their restoration. Note that “death” probably refers to spiritual death, but some understand it to denote physical death. (Likewise in James 5:20 below “death” probably refers to spiritual death but could be interpreted as denoting physical death.) There are a number of possibilities for the meaning of “sin that leads to death”, including: not believing in Jesus Christ; habitual sin; blaspheming the Holy Spirit; and – in light of the context of this letter – denying the incarnation.
i Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin
In v. 22, “those who doubt” – and possibly also the others mentioned in v. 23 – appear to be people who had been influenced by the false teachers spoken of beforehand (cf. vv. 3-19), influenced to the point of doubting doctrinal truth. In v. 23b, with the reference to “fear” Jude exhorts his readers to be wary when helping those who had sinned, lest they themselves become entangled in sin, as no one is immune to temptation (cf. Gal 6:1 ↑).
This speaks of aiding God’s repentant people to return to him by removing any obstacles in the way – and so is applicable to helping repentant sinners in the church.
- The importance of turning back a wayward believer:
James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. ▤
- Note: False teachers often succeed in leading people astray . . .
- . . . False teachers can lead many astray
Leaven, like yeast, would spread throughout and affect a whole lump of dough. Unchecked sin can likewise spread throughout and affect a whole church.
Deut 29:18 Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, … ▤
Note that this verse is in view in Hebrews 12:15 immediately above.
King Jeroboam is a prime example of one whose sin – largely through his position of power – led to the corruption of others.
- Disciplinary measures serve as warnings to others:
Deut 13:10-11 You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you. ▤
Other similar examples of such measures and their benefit as warnings can be found in Deuteronomy 17:12-13; 19:18-20; 21:21. Similarly 1 Timothy 5:20b speaks of rebuking elders publicly “so that the rest may stand in fear.” See also Note: God’s judgments serve as examples and warnings to others.
- In the OT Israelite nation, some women had roles as leaders . . .
- . . . and some women were prophetesses
- In the NT church, some women had significant ministerial roles . . .
- . . . One such role was prophesying
- Controversial passages on women not speaking in church
- Note: The oneness and interdependence of women and men “in” Jesus Christ
Judg 4:4-9a, 14-15 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. 7And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” 8Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” 9And she said, “I will surely go with you. ▤ … 14And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. 15And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. ▤
Barak’s reply (v. 8) showed a lack of faith – later rebuked by Deborah (cf. v. 9b) – but also underlined his recognition of Deborah’s leadership role.
Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron (cf. Ex 15:20 ⇓).
OT prophetesses (and prophets) did not only make prophecies. Being authorized to speak for God, they gave commands and other directions from God. As such their role was also one of leadership.
2Ki 22:14-15 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. 15And she said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, … ▤
In the subsequent verses the prophetess Huldah gives her prophecy from God (cf. vv. 16-20).
- The wise woman of the city of Abel:
2Sam 20:15-22 And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him [Sheba] in Abel of Beth-maacah. They cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart, and they were battering the wall to throw it down. 16Then a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you.’” 17And he came near her, and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your servant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” 18Then she said, “They used to say in former times, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel,’ and so they settled a matter. 19I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?” 20Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David. Give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” 22Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king. ▤
The wise woman played a leadership role. Firstly she addressed Joab on behalf of her city (vv. 16-19). Then she advised her people on the best course of action (v. 22) – advice which they took, to their betterment.
Here a woman, Priscilla (cf. Rom 16:3 ↓), is involved in the instruction of a noted preacher, Apollos.
Rom 16:1-4 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servantj of the church at Cenchreae, 2that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. 3Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. ▤
j Or deaconess
In v. 1, the Greek translated “servant” (v. 1) has also been rendered as “deaconess” (ESV text note, AMP) and “deacon” (NLT, NRSV). Thus it probably refers to a recognized ministerial position, suggesting that Phoebe was “a leader in the church” (CEV). Verse 4 suggests that Priscilla (v. 3; cf. Acts 18:26 ↑) exercised some kind of leadership, implying that her and her husband’s ministry encompassed “all the churches of the Gentiles”.
Rom 16:6-7, 12 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junia,k my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,l and they were in Christ before me. ▤ … 12Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. ▤
k Or Junias
l Or messengers
Here Paul lists a number of women who appear to have had notable ministerial roles, especially Junia who is said to have been “well known to the apostles” (v. 7).
Phil 4:3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion,m help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. ▤
m Or loyal Syzygus; Greek true yokefellow
Acts 2:17-18 And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18even on my male servantsn and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. ▤
n Greek bondservants; twice in this verse
Here Peter quotes a prophecy from Joel as having been fulfilled in the manifestation of the Spirit that had just occurred (cf. vv. 1-12). Although only men had been spoken of in this occurrence (cf. vv. 7, 15), presumably Peter saw an ongoing fulfillment of this prophecy in the church, including prophesying by women.
This is referring to the daughters of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven chosen for ministry in 6:2-6.
- An earlier NT prophetess:
Luke 2:36a, 38 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. ▤ … 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. ▤
Note that this was at the time of Jesus’ birth, prior to the Christian church.
1Cor 14:33b-37 As in all the churches of the saints, 34the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. ▤
Some take this on face value, understanding it to mean that women should remain silent in church and not be in positions of teaching or authority, as they are to be “in submission” (v. 34b) to their husbands. Others believe that in saying that women should remain silent in church, Paul has in view social norms of the day, where apparently it was considered shameful for a woman to speak in public. Another view is that these instructions were aimed at curbing noisy and disorderly church meetings – in particular disorderly expression of some spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church (cf. vv. 26-33a). Proponents of the first view see these instructions as being relevant to every Christian church in every age and culture, unlike those who hold to the latter two interpretations. A further viewpoint is that these instructions were regarding married women, and so not necessarily applicable to all women. Note that “as the Law also says” (v. 34b) appears to have Genesis 3:16 primarily in view.
1Tim 2:11-14 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. ▤
The use of Adam and Eve as validation, indicates that Paul’s statements in vv. 11-12 were not based on local culture. Verse 13 implies that the created order entails headship or authority. Regarding v. 14, two of the more common explanations are: it is implying that women are inherently more susceptible to being deceived; and it is illustrating that a woman taking the lead may well have negative effects.
- Verses that appear to be referring to women praying or prophesying aloud in church:
1Cor 11:4-5, 13 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5but every wife
o who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. ▤ … 13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? ▤
o In verses 5-13, the Greek word gunē is translated wife in verses that deal with wearing a veil, a sign of being married in first-century culture
If these verses are referring to women praying and prophesying aloud in church, then their content contrasts with the verses above.
p Greek bondservant
Oneness in Jesus Christ takes primacy over all distinctions. In him there is no defining or ultimate distinction between men and women – for all believers are basically part of the one entity, the body of Christ. Neither male nor female is spiritually superior to the other, and both are equal before God.
Paul sees women and men – and by association presumably also their roles – as being interdependent (v. 11), in accordance with their interdependence in nature (v. 12).
- Love your leaders
- Respect and revere your leaders
- Honor your leaders
- Listen to your leaders and their teaching
- Obey your leaders
- Give your leaders material support . . .
- . . . Leaders deserve material support
- Church members can bring their leaders great joy, in loving them and others
- Church members can bring leaders joy by firm faith and obedient, godly lives
q Greek Our mouth is open to you
r Greek lacks in your hearts
s Some manuscripts in your love for us
The rhetorical question obviously implies that the Corinthians should love Paul all the more because of how much he gave of himself in his love for them.
- Pray for them:
Here Paul calls on the Thessalonians to pray for him and his associates in their work of spreading the gospel and building God’s kingdom in various regions (cf. Pray for those spreading the gospel; and Pray to God for help in the work – and ask others to pray). Such verses are readily applicable to praying for the leaders in one’s own church.
1Thes 5:12-13 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. ▤
“You shall sanctify him” in this context speaks of treating the priests as holy (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV). Treating them as holy would have necessarily involved a deep respect for them. Note that “the bread of your God” refers to food sacrifices.
See comment below in . . . Leaders deserve material support.
Phil 2:25, 29 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, ▤ … 29So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, … ▤
1Cor 16:17-18 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men. ▤
Gal 4:13-14 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. ▤
- The islanders on Malta honored Paul and his companions:
t Greek honored us with many honors
At least the majority of the islanders would not have been believers (cf. v. 6), but they provide a good example for church members regarding honoring leaders.
u Or brothers and sisters
Deut 18:15, 19 [Moses:] “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen ▤ … [God:] 19And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. ▤
Based on the context, a number of commentators state that Moses is speaking here of a line of prophets, rather than just one. Jesus Christ’s mission is usually seen as a unique fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy (v. 15a). Moses’ exhortation is still very much applicable today. For believers should listen to those amongst them who speak God’s word – and in particular to Jesus Christ’s teaching.
Neh 8:1-3 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. 2So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. ▤
These representatives of the people gathered to study the Law under Ezra’s teaching (cf. CEV).
The speaker is the psalmist Asaph, who was a Levite.
v Hebrew they
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ▤
w Ch 13:1 in Hebrew
Here Moses is speaking to the Israelites, referring largely to the law and instructions he had passed on to them from God.
Josh 1:16-17 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! ▤
2Chr 23:8 The Levites and all Judah did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men, who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, for Jehoiada the priest did not dismiss the divisions. ▤
1Cor 16:10, 15-16 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. ▤ … 15Now I urge you, brothersx—you know that the householdy of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. ▤
x Or brothers and sisters; also verse 20
y Greek house
In v. 10 Paul urges the at times uncooperative Corinthians to not give any trouble to Timothy, who was apparently timid, so that he would be “at ease”. They were to respond to him appropriately as one who “is doing the work of the Lord”. As such they were to obey and submit to him – as to all such church workers (v. 16).
- Be committed to your leaders:
2Cor 7:7, 12 … and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. ▤ … 12So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. ▤
- Note: Priests and Levites were given parts of the people’s offerings, God being their inheritance
- Support others spreading the gospel . . .
- . . . Give hospitality and aid to visiting preachers and workers
Lev 7:34-36 For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the Lord’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the Lord. 36The Lord commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations. ▤
Such portions of offerings were given to the priests for food (cf. comment below on 2 Chronicles 31:4-5).
Deut 18:1, 3-5 The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offeringsz as theira inheritance. ▤ … 3And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. 4The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons for all time. ▤
z Or the offerings by fire to the Lord
a Hebrew his
2Chr 31:4-5 And he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the Law of the Lord. 5As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. ▤
The priests and Levites were allocated portions of offerings and tithes, allowing them to devote themselves to the work involved in carrying out the priestly and ministerial requirements of the Law of the Lord (v. 4) – without having to set aside time to do other work for the sake of their livelihood.
Neh 12:44, 47 On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. ▤ … 47And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron. ▤
Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for themb out of their means. ▤
b Some manuscripts him
c Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin
Here and in Luke 10:7a below Jesus is giving instructions – to his disciples here and seventy-two others below – on sending them out to do the work of proclaiming the kingdom in various towns. In both cases the final clause indicates that those in full-time work for the kingdom deserve to be supported in material matters.
1Cor 9:4-14 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife,d as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. ▤
d Greek a sister as wife
Muzzling an ox “when it treads out the grain” (v. 9; cf. 1Tim 5:17-18 ↓) would unfairly prevent it from eating of the grain amidst which it was laboring, not allowing it to replenish its strength. Paul points out that this is more than relevant to workers of the gospel, who should have their needs met by those whom they work amongst.
1Tim 5:17-18 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” ▤
In v. 17, “double honor” may refer to remuneration in addition to respect for the work they do, or to extra remuneration – “double pay” (GNT, cf. CEV, NLT). The two quotations in v. 18 show that remuneration or material support is certainly involved.
This is quite possibly primarily referring to hardworking church leaders deservedly receiving material support from their congregation or “field” in which they labor (cf. 1Cor 9:7, 10-11 ↑). Alternatively spiritual rewards may be in view.
Num 18:21, 30-31 To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, ▤ … 30Therefore you shall say to them [the Levites], ‘When you have offered from it the best of it, then the rest shall be counted to the Levites as produce of the threshing floor, and as produce of the winepress. 31And you may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. ▤
2Cor 7:4, 7, 13 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. ▤ … 7and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. ▤ … 13Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. ▤
In v. 4, Paul’s joy – and related feelings – was in response to the Corinthians’ attitude to him (v. 7), which demonstrated their love for him.
Timothy’s deep love for his mentor was evidenced by his tears when they had parted. Because of this love for him, Paul knew that he would be filled with joy on seeing Timothy again. A parallel can be made with church members’ love for their leader/s.
Phil 2:1-2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. ▤
Paul states that his joy would be made complete by the Philippians’ having unity and love for one another.
e Or brothers and sisters; also verses 8, 21
Here “joy” may be speaking of the joy Paul experienced in his mentoring relationship with the Philippians, with quite possibly their firm faith partly in view as per the subsequent clause. With it being mentioned along with “crown”, it could also allude to: Paul’s future joy when Christ comes and rewards him for his ministry amongst the Philippians; and/or joy which he has in anticipating his future reward for his work. The “crown” alludes to the wreathe given to the victors at the Greek games; the Philippians would be as such for him to glory in.
3Jn 1:3-4 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothersf came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. ▤
f Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters; also verses 5, 10
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ▤
Phil 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. ▤
Paul appears to have in view the Thessalonians’ spiritual growth, encompassing such things as their faith and deeds. Paul’s “joy” could well denote his future joy when Christ comes, although it is very much applicable also to the present.
2Cor 2:1-3 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. ▤
The purpose of the letter referred to (v. 3) was to admonish the Corinthians over certain issues, leading them back to obedient and godly ways – by which they would make Paul glad (v. 2) and rejoice (v. 3). Note that the last clause speaks of the Corinthians consequently sharing in Paul’s joy.
- Leaders should work for the joy of church members:
Similarly in Philippians 1:25-26 Paul speaks of working with his readers for their joy in the faith – “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.