17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
Paul transitions back into how the church should be led and structured and mentions the elders who rule well. Timothy as the pastor is instructed on how to deploy elders as part of his role, as is Titus in Titus 1.5. Those who serve as elders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. Here Paul is talking about those that give their lives to the proclamation of the Word. The honor is the respect of those being fed the Word by these men (Hebrews 13.7), but also that these men are to be employed by the church (v.18). In our modern day church this would look something like the lead pastor, the senior pastor, the teaching pastor, or however your church likes to use those terms.
The character of the elder who preaches and teaches, the elder who serves in a spiritual oversight role, and everyone who displays elder-like character (which should be all of us), are given a stern warning when we read that as for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
Not concealing the sins of those in leadership is a bold move for any organisation to make, especially the church. We want our leaders to be of good character, leaders we can follow with a clear conscience, leaders who will point us to Jesus in their words and ways.
Elders should be of such good character that we can say that we will not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. However, should they fall into sin, they should still serve as an example, hopefully of a contrite and repentant spirit who humbles themselves before the Lord and seeks forgiveness and restoration.
Isn’t this the kind of character we all need to display, not just those asked to serve in a particular capacity for a particular period?