1 Timothy 5:18

Monday, 29 January 2018

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18

Paul, referring to the preceding verse, now provides scriptural support for the “double honor” which is to be provided to the elders who rule well. He cites Deuteronomy 25:4 in order to make his point. He notes that even animals which were engaged in labor were not to be muzzled as they tread the grain which had been harvested. They were to be treated with respect and were to be allowed to benefit from their labors. If this was so with an ox, then how much more should those who ruled the congregation well, especially those who labor in word and doctrine, be allowed to participate in the fruits of their labors. To get an even fuller understanding of Paul’s intent here, one should refer to 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul cites this same verse and further explains it –

Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? 1 Corinthians 9:8-10

One can see that those who sow spiritual things for others should be allowed to reap material benefits from their efforts. After this, Paul continues with, “and, the laborer is worthy of his wages.” Because he uses the conjunction “and,” he is saying that this next citation is also graphē, or Scripture. However, there is no match to his words to be found in the Old Testament. Where it is to be found is in Luke 10:7, which says, “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.” This is also loosely cited in Matthew 10:10 in the words, “for a worker is worthy of his food.”

What seems to be the case, is that by this time the synoptic gospels were already considered as authoritative words of Scripture. In other words, Paul’s citing of them means that they were considered as having the same authority as the Old Testament. Others disagree and say that this was a proverbial saying of the time. However, Paul does not cite proverbial sayings as “Scripture.” One other view is that the words of Christ had, by this time, become an oral tradition which was considered as Scripture, and this was Paul’s intent in citing it this way. This is found, for example, in Acts 10:35 which states –

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

The problem with this view is that Paul doesn’t say that they are simply “the words of the Lord Jesus” as in Acts, but here in Timothy he calls them “Scripture.” Therefore, it is a good indication that the gospel of Luke, which was compiled not much earlier, was already considered an authoritative source concerning Scripture.

Life application: Although the dating of the New Testament books is debated, there is a good certainty of when most of them were written. These dates can be determined by internal evidences found in the books themselves, and in other areas of the New Testament. A thorough study of these things will demonstrate that we have a sure word that is reliable, and that tells us accurately about the things it proclaims. Let us conduct our walk with this confidence, and be assured that we have our faith in God’s true and complete revelation of Himself.

Lord God, it is so very good to know that the word You have given us is reliable, and it is self-validating in so many ways. We don’t need to worry if we are following carefully devised fables, but instead we can be assured that we are reading the words which You determined should be revealed to us in order to understand Your wonderful work in bringing about our redemption. Thank You for the surety we possess in Your precious and superior word. Amen.

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