On Rule

1 Timothy 5:17.

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I agree that, as a rule, gatherings get on where there is one who cares for souls. I have long noticed it; and, while in a small gathering, care one for another may be easy and simple, I have always held it to be a bad sign if time and increase of numbers did not develop the care of souls in persons whom love led to devote themselves more or less to it.

It may be in one aspect mutual or general, as Hebrews 12:12-15; or more direct and positive, as 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14, where, indeed, we have both. Hebrews 13:17 (v. 7, they are deceased). In none of these cases are they viewed as official. It is, moreover, the contrary to official in 1 Corinthians 16:15. They are those who "take the lead" (1 Thess. 5:12) and "leading men" a word used of Judas and Silas in Acts 15:22.

In 1 Corinthians 16 they have "addicted themselves," as indeed we have no trace of elders at Corinth; the Lord, doubtless, allowing it that we might have the internal state, and care, and duty, of an assembly in Scripture itself. These care-takers were not, as is truly said, the gift of teachers. This case is distinguished in 1 Timothy 5:17. But it was desirable, not that they should be teachers as a gift (pastor and teacher are united under one head in Ephesians 4), but that they should be "apt to teach," 1 Tim. 3:2; able to carry the word with them in their episcopal ministrations, and use it - shepherd and feed, not merely superintend; though they might usefully do the latter alone according to 1 Timothy 5:17.

These have been the passages which have guided students of Scripture as to that by which God meets the need of saints when public order and official authority are lost to the church, with general warnings in Old and New Testament as to the care of the beloved sheep of Christ. Still the promise remains, that where two or three are gathered together to Christ's name, He is there in the midst of them.

But I would draw your attention to one of these passages - and this is my object in these lines - a leading one on the point. The household of Stephanas had "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." In the heart of him who so labours, when rightly done and efficient, it is done in the spirit of service, not of rule. Love works: they addict themselves; as Paul, free from all, became the servant of all for Christ's sake. There is a gift of rule, but love delights to serve. In this verse, which is a specially guiding one, service (diakonia) is that to which they addict themselves. He who thus addicts himself in love, will assuredly find himself blessed in it, though patience may be exercised, and must have its perfect work.