Was Timothy an Elder?

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
I've been having discussions with friends on church polity and talking about what should be done in the church, like preaching (2 Tim. 4:2) and ordination by laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14) etc.. However, they noted that we can't use what Timothy was commanded to do or happened to him at all because he wasn't an elder but a special person who went around with Paul and wrote some of the letters. This would seem to dissolve much of 1-2 Timothy's instruction on how to do church, since their argument goes he wasn't an elder and thus we can't apply it to elders in the church today (or at the very least it's not binding, but you can take vague principles and suggestions from it and do what you want).

How do we understand how to apply 1-2 Timothy given he's not explicitly called an elder of the church?
 

John Yap

Puritan Board Sophomore
Even if Timothy was not an elder, how does that remove 1 Tim 3 as normative instruction for elders and deacons?
 

NM_Presby

Puritan Board Freshman
My first impression, without spending a lot of time researching, is that whether or not Timothy held some unique position by virtue of his connection with Paul, he clearly was put in a position unlike Paul's in that both he and Titus were instructed to set down for a period of time and lead/nourish a specific local church. This seems to be different from Paul's more strictly missionary endeavors. It seems evident that even if he and Titus weren't functioning as "regular" elders, they were carrying out ministry work for the building up of a specific local church which would eventually be delegated to the ordinary elders.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
If you listen to the Anglicans, church polity was developed - like other doctrines - over time and this explains their practical interchangeability… none the less, guys like Timothy and Titus (and others) *function* like early bishops.

Of course, that’s if you listen to the Anglicans.
 

Alexander Suarez

Puritan Board Freshman
I've been having discussions with friends on church polity and talking about what should be done in the church, like preaching (2 Tim. 4:2) and ordination by laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14) etc.. However, they noted that we can't use what Timothy was commanded to do or happened to him at all because he wasn't an elder but a special person who went around with Paul and wrote some of the letters. This would seem to dissolve much of 1-2 Timothy's instruction on how to do church, since their argument goes he wasn't an elder and thus we can't apply it to elders in the church today (or at the very least it's not binding, but you can take vague principles and suggestions from it and do what you want).

How do we understand how to apply 1-2 Timothy given he's not explicitly called an elder of the church?

Some info that may help connect dots:
  • Timothy was ordained by the presbytery - a company of presbyters (1 Tim. 4:14).
  • Presbyter is the same word for elder.
  • Apostles were elders/presbyters and bishops. See Peter (1 Pet. 5:1), John (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1), Judas (Acts 1:20).
  • Christ gave offices to his church "for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:12) of which the apostles labored in (Acts 1:17,25).
  • One who desires the office of a bishop, "desireth a good work" (1 Tim. 3:1).
  • Scripture says Christ gifted the Church particular offices for this ministry service/labor: "some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers [etc.]" (Eph. 4:11).
  • Timothy is "to do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5) as one who holds the office of an evangelist.
  • Timothy partakes in the work of the ministry that apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers do, according to his proper office as an evangelist.
More could be said, but hope that is helpful.
 

Alexander Suarez

Puritan Board Freshman
Here is a helpful breakdown by Mr. Samuel Rutherford (Due Right of Presbyteries) on what applies today and how from these pastoral epistles:

1. Some parcels of these epistles are written to Timothy and Titus as evangelists, such as none may now do but they only (2 Tim. 4:4; Tit. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:5) and some other things which they gave in charge to elders.

2. Some things are written to them as Christians, as 1 Tim. 1:19; Tit. 3:3 and finaliter, or objectively, all is written for the Church’s good; but

3. the bulk of the epistle is written to them as elders, and is a rule of perpetual government, and especially, 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:2, for these and the like they were to do with the presbytery, as is clear, 1 Tim. 4:14.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
Even if Timothy was not an elder, how does that remove 1 Tim 3 as normative instruction for elders and deacons?
Sorry, to clarify: not all the letter becomes moot, just anything that doesn't explicitly address elders e.g. 2 Tim. 4:2 about preaching the word.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
If you listen to the Anglicans, church polity was developed - like other doctrines - over time and this explains their practical interchangeability… none the less, guys like Timothy and Titus (and others) *function* like early bishops.

Of course, that’s if you listen to the Anglicans.
That's helpful to know. The people I am dialoguing with are indeed Anglicans. Do you know of any resources that would push back on this understanding of church polity by Anglicans? Typically they make it seem like Jesus has been unclear and only provided murky principles.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
Some info that may help connect dots:
  • Timothy was ordained by the presbytery - a company of presbyters (1 Tim. 4:14).
  • Presbyter is the same word for elder.
  • Apostles were elders/presbyters and bishops. See Peter (1 Pet. 5:1), John (2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1), Judas (Acts 1:20).
  • Christ gave offices to his church "for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:12) of which the apostles labored in (Acts 1:17,25).
  • One who desires the office of a bishop, "desireth a good work" (1 Tim. 3:1).
  • Scripture says Christ gifted the Church particular offices for this ministry service/labor: "some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers [etc.]" (Eph. 4:11).
  • Timothy is "to do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5) as one who holds the office of an evangelist.
  • Timothy partakes in the work of the ministry that apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers do, according to his proper office as an evangelist.
More could be said, but hope that is helpful.
This is incredibly enlightening, thank you!

I'm confused about how we know that elders are involved in the same work of ministry as the apostles? I was told that "ministry" was just really any service (apparently the Gk. word for minister and deacon and ministry are all linked and just mean service), and that all Christians participate in ministry (Eph. 4:12, ESV). So all Christians teach, speak Christ and instruct one another (Acts 4:29-31; Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14), and thus the only difference between laity and pastors, is pastors have more time to do gospel work, but both are doing gospel work.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
That's helpful to know. The people I am dialoguing with are indeed Anglicans. Do you know of any resources that would push back on this understanding of church polity by Anglicans? Typically they make it seem like Jesus has been unclear and only provided murky principles.
That last part, about having the principles established even if the precise office is not named, I think even Hodge said something like that in his argument about polity with Thornwell.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
This is incredibly enlightening, thank you!

I'm confused about how we know that elders are involved in the same work of ministry as the apostles? I was told that "ministry" was just really any service (apparently the Gk. word for minister and deacon and ministry are all linked and just mean service), and that all Christians participate in ministry (Eph. 4:12, ESV). So all Christians teach, speak Christ and instruct one another (Acts 4:29-31; Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14), and thus the only difference between laity and pastors, is pastors have more time to do gospel work, but both are doing gospel work.
We're living in a democratic age when appointment to an office with special duty and authority is, frankly, resented by many. Unfortunately, even quite a few small and independent congregations are led by little dictators; and the people love it so (or seem to). In reaction to all sorts of authoritarian abuses, and in keeping with the egalitarian spirit of the age, not a few have concluded that the problem is elevating particular persons into any designated office. Instead, they prefer to think of their leaders as "first among equals."

In Presbyterianism, which Rutherford advocates per se, the work of ministers and elders (with the help of deacons) carries on in ordinary labor the same essential work that was broadly entrusted to unique apostles, who were extraordinarily equipped to lay the NT church's foundation. Furthermore, we need to distinguish the general service-oriented Christian life, a general "office" of believer if you will, that flows from our union with Christ--the Prophet, Priest, and King. See Heidelberg Catechism #32.

That general office, reflected in the individual Christian life, does not exhaust the expression of Christ's mediatorial office, which is also demonstrated through his appointed government for his kingdom present among his people in the world. He appointed his apostles for the founding generation of his worldwide enterprise; and we see them in extraordinary power establishing the church locally, and leaving them with ordinary order, worship and discipline overseen by ordinary officers. Christ's personal and all-encompassing authority was devolved and divided to his apostles for their work (so: no one super-apostle, no universal bishop); and they too devolved their authority to the men they ordained to continue their work. But no one can lay another foundation than the one already laid, so that work is unrepeatable. What remains is the ordinary ministry.

Eph.4:12 is a good verse for consideration in this context, precisely because as it was parsed in earlier ages (see for example the old KJV) "the work of the ministry" among the other phrases was specifically connected to v11, and the list of officers who are gifts to the church. Rather than "for the work of the ministry" being the desired outcome of the previous "for the perfecting of the saints," as of a series; the three phrases were (and I think ought) to be read in parallel construction. The gifts of the offices or officers in them were: 1) for perfecting or equipping God's host; 2) for the work of THE ministry, the government of Christ's kingdom; and 3) for seeing the whole body built and strengthened to last. This is the venerable interpretation of the text.

The modish preference for social leveling is revealed in many newer translations, which eliminate Paul's parallelism, in favor of regarding the triad as a principal function leading ideally to first one, then another outcome. The parallel construction, by contrast, reckons each part of the triad an area of concern that belongs to the offices. Obviously, there are alternate arguments to be made for preference as to the proper rendering; but it bears consideration how a cultural ethos can impact the plausibility structures lending support for one over the other.

Does the older reading of Eph.4:12 mean that the saints in general do not minister? Of course not, as all are obliged to love and serve one another, considering one another as better than themselves, looking for opportunity to demonstrate all manner of giving for another's benefit. That is not the issue, but whether Eph.4:12 does or does not teach that there is a government, THE ministry, of Christ's church. Has this fact been obscured and made less of a sure conviction possessed by the church of our time? I suppose it has. Eph.4:12 is not the only text that could support a notion of THE ministry; consider Act.20:24, Rom.15:19, 2Cor.5:18, 6:3, Col.4:17, 1Tim.1:12, 2Tim.4:11, which all may explicitly take such an interpretation. But, being a key text, recent recasting of Eph.4:12 moves a bulwark that once established the principle.

Appointing everyone in the church at the same service--with pastors only doing "more" of the same--actually renders the other ordinary callings of life of lesser value than they otherwise should be regarded. Is a pastor's ministry a "high" calling? Yes, indeed I think it is the highest calling, and therefore the most requiring true Christian character, dedication, sacrifice, and all the marks Paul invokes when he lists out the "must be's" in the Pastoral Epistles. However, everyone's worldly and lawful calling is their designated place of service; and as such is possessed of great dignity in the hands of a respectable Christian. The ditch-digger, the plumber, the farmer, the business executive--they all labor in their work unto God, and so sanctify their tasks.

Hammering a nail or turning a screw is the calling of some Christians, which also is not "gospel work." They do their work, and give to the church, so that true "gospel work" can be done, especially (though not, in the end, exclusively) by those whose calling is in the church's ministry. The God-glorifying bodily and mental effort of ordinary believers is what makes non-ministerial callings of incalculable worth and dignity, and not because we wish to attach a "gospel" label to them. People so called should with passion and dedication fulfill those non-gospel labors, thereby adorning the gospel of their profession while living in the world and supporting a kingdom that is not of this world.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
I wish that the word λειτουργός would factor more in these discussions. Folks often overlook its significance because it, along with the word διάκονος are both translated as "minister." And certainly there is conceptual overlap, but there are nonetheless significant connotative differences.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
Does the older reading of Eph.4:12 mean that the saints in general do not minister? Of course not, as all are obliged to love and serve one another, considering one another as better than themselves, looking for opportunity to demonstrate all manner of giving for another's benefit. That is not the issue, but whether Eph.4:12 does or does not teach that there is a government, THE ministry, of Christ's church. Has this fact been obscured and made less of a sure conviction possessed by the church of our time? I suppose it has. Eph.4:12 is not the only text that could support a notion of THE ministry; consider Act.20:24, Rom.15:19, 2Cor.5:18, 6:3, Col.4:17, 1Tim.1:12, 2Tim.4:11, which all may explicitly take such an interpretation. But, being a key text, recent recasting of Eph.4:12 moves a bulwark that once established the principle.
This is really helpful, thank you! So the saints do minister and serve one another, but this doesn't negate that there is indeed the work of THE ministry as attested in many other parts of the Bible. May I ask, what is the work of THE ministry?

I think my friends would say the work of THE ministry is telling people about Jesus. Thus, all believers are commanded to both speak the gospel and teach each other (Eph. 4:15; Rom. 15:14), and to speak the gospel to unbelievers (Acts 4:29-31) and to preach (Luke 9:60). Furthermore, they would say, all believers are doing the same work as Paul the apostle and Timothy since, we are all to do and abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58) which is what Paul and Timothy are doing (1 Cor. 16:10). Thus, they would say ALL are doing the work of THE ministry.

Appointing everyone in the church at the same service--with pastors only doing "more" of the same--actually renders the other ordinary callings of life of lesser value than they otherwise should be regarded. Is a pastor's ministry a "high" calling? Yes, indeed I think it is the highest calling, and therefore the most requiring true Christian character, dedication, sacrifice, and all the marks Paul invokes when he lists out the "must be's" in the Pastoral Epistles. However, everyone's worldly and lawful calling is their designated place of service; and as such is possessed of great dignity in the hands of a respectable Christian. The ditch-digger, the plumber, the farmer, the business executive--they all labor in their work unto God, and so sanctify their tasks.

Hammering a nail or turning a screw is the calling of some Christians, which also is not "gospel work." They do their work, and give to the church, so that true "gospel work" can be done, especially (though not, in the end, exclusively) by those whose calling is in the church's ministry. The God-glorifying bodily and mental effort of ordinary believers is what makes non-ministerial callings of incalculable worth and dignity, and not because we wish to attach a "gospel" label to them. People so called should with passion and dedication fulfill those non-gospel labors, thereby adorning the gospel of their profession while living in the world and supporting a kingdom that is not of this world.
I've seen this a lot; where unless what you're doing is saving souls it's demeaned. So, you only had a good week if you were able to talk to a colleague about Jesus. Your whole life is about glorifying God by saving as many as you can (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1). How much effort you're putting into seeing people saved by talking to them about Jesus and how much fruit that is bearing in new converts becomes the measure of your life and what it means to glorify God. Any other activity in your life which isn't working to the salvation of many should probably not be done.
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
I wish that the word λειτουργός would factor more in these discussions. Folks often overlook its significance because it, along with the word διάκονος are both translated as "minister." And certainly there is conceptual overlap, but there are nonetheless significant connotative differences.
I don't know Greek and am a bit confused about the point you're making. When I googled the two words it seems like the first (which is only used 5 times in NT?) refers to some sort of authoritative service (based on Rom. 13:6)?. But the second word, which is used much more, is just about general service (Matt. 20:26)? What does this mean then, given that the second word seems to be used much more than the first to describe Paul's ministry (2 Cor. 3:6; 6:4; Eph. 3:7; 6:21)?
 

frog

Puritan Board Freshman
That last part, about having the principles established even if the precise office is not named, I think even Hodge said something like that in his argument about polity with Thornwell.
Interesting! I'll have to look into this more at some point.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
This is really helpful, thank you! So the saints do minister and serve one another, but this doesn't negate that there is indeed the work of THE ministry as attested in many other parts of the Bible. May I ask, what is the work of THE ministry?

I think my friends would say the work of THE ministry is telling people about Jesus. Thus, all believers are commanded to both speak the gospel and teach each other (Eph. 4:15; Rom. 15:14), and to speak the gospel to unbelievers (Acts 4:29-31) and to preach (Luke 9:60). Furthermore, they would say, all believers are doing the same work as Paul the apostle and Timothy since, we are all to do and abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58) which is what Paul and Timothy are doing (1 Cor. 16:10). Thus, they would say ALL are doing the work of THE ministry.


I've seen this a lot; where unless what you're doing is saving souls it's demeaned. So, you only had a good week if you were able to talk to a colleague about Jesus. Your whole life is about glorifying God by saving as many as you can (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1). How much effort you're putting into seeing people saved by talking to them about Jesus and how much fruit that is bearing in new converts becomes the measure of your life and what it means to glorify God. Any other activity in your life which isn't working to the salvation of many should probably not be done.
The work of the ministry is the work proper to the offices (hence officers) of the church. The goal of the church is the glory of God. To that end Christ has appointed its government. Christ's ministers organize and oversee the public worship of the saints, the assembly of believers; they guard worship's form and function, preserve its order and decency, promote and defend true doctrine and the right administration of the sacraments. Furthermore, they exercise oversight over the other activities the church pursues, from Christian education classes to Bible studies and prayer meetings all done in the church's name; if an activity is of the common life of kingdom citizens as members, the government/ministry ought to be making or limiting the opportunities and keeping watch as men who must give an account. Thirdly, they may be called on to act as judges, informally or formally doing the discipline required for maintaining the ethical standards of Christ; but also monitoring the practical well-being of the congregation--a task typically set on the shoulders of the diaconate, who are the branch of the ministry specially assigned those concerns.

If you take a moment to think about it, these labors are not so different in kind from those that could be undertaken by some other earthly government, a secular ministry. There may be a goal for a society, that a government understands it has a duty to organize its members/citizens to achieve. There is a general watch officials maintain over certain functions that take place at various levels, with different degrees of sponsorship and connection to communal life: schools come to mind, EMS/fire/police services, parks and parades; not to mention meetings of all kinds for planning and procedure. And, there is the work of magistracy, the exercise of law and justice; along with possibly some concern for the poor or those with need (both crisis and extended). No one should be so dull as to suppose a secular society of any complexity will last long, if there be no leadership, even if it is the most laissez-faire imaginable. Nor should they imagine the church is so marvelously spiritual, that it alone is able to function as a society in this world without a recognizable ministry under the lordship of Christ.

Truncating the work of the ministry to preaching or gabbing to others about Jesus' life and work and what those things mean to mankind and to particular men ignores all the rest of the responsibility inherent to a kingdom. Sure, the kingdom of God is spiritual and not of this world; but acknowledging that doesn't suddenly turn its functioning into an ghostly and hazy ethereal, indefinite, unorganized cloud. But I'm sure many folk think: actually that is the case. By "spiritual," some people mean something they encounter only within the realm of emotional experiences, feels and affects. I don't think that's ever what the Bible means by "spiritual." Emotion and experience have their place, but they don't define Christian spirituality. The spirituality of the kingdom is the separation and priority of our identity as members of Christ from our other, purely secular identities and commitments.

The gospel is central to our Christians lives not only at inception, but throughout; it should never be thought we outgrow nourishing by the preaching of the gospel. But there's more to the kingdom than notching conversions. Nor is it always the "season" for conversions; but sometimes a long witness that includes just a few believers living for Christ, being the church, faithfully proclaiming the truth even "out of season." It is just that long-term existence that calls for persistent, informed, committed officers who will edify according to Christ's blueprint for the church. The church is an institution, the one and only gospel-institution; its ministry is the gospel-ministry; and the gospel has institutional and personal implications that go beyond finding the next round of converts.
 
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