17Elders (98) For preserving the good order of the Church, it is likewise highly necessary that elders should not be neglected, but that due regard should be paid to them; for what could be more unfeeling than to have no care about those who have the care of the whole Church? Here
πρεσβύτερος (elder) is not a name of age, but of office.
Accounted worthy of double honor Chrysostom interprets “ honor” as meaning “ and reverence.” I do not oppose his opinion; let it be adopted by any one that chooses. But for my own part, I think it is more probable that a comparison is here drawn between widows and elders. Paul had formerly enjoined that honor should be paid — to widows; but elders are more worthy of being honored than widows, and, with respect to them, ought therefore to receive double honor.
But in order to shew that he does not recommend masks, he adds, who rule well; that is, who faithfully and laboriously discharge their office. For, granting that a person should a hundred times obtain a place, and though he should boast of his title; yet, if he do not also perform his duty, he will have no right to demand that he shall be supported at the expense of the Church. In short, he means that honor is not due to the title, but to the work performed by those who are appointed to the office.
Yet he prefers those who labor in word and doctrine, that is, those who are diligent in teaching the word; for those two terms, word and doctrine, signify the same thing, namely, the preaching of the word. But lest any one should suppose him to mean by the word an indolent, and, as it is called, a speculative study of it, he adds doctrine (99)
We may learn from this, that there were at that time two kinds of elders; for all were not ordained to teach. The words plainly mean, that there were some who “ well” and honorably, but who did not hold the office of teachers. And, indeed, there were chosen from among the people men of worth and of good character, who, united with the pastors in a common council and authority administered the discipline of the Church, and were a kind of censors for the correction of morals. Ambrose complains that this custom had gone into disuse, through the carelessness, or rather through the pride, of the doctors, who wish to possess undivided power.
To return to Paul, he enjoins that support shall be provided chiefly for pastors, who are employed in teaching. Such is the ingratitude of the world, that very little care is taken about supporting the ministers of the word; and Satan, by this trick, endeavors to deprive the Church of instruction, by terrifying many, through the dread of poverty and hunger, from bearing that burden. (100)
(98) “Les prestres ou anciens.” — “ or elders.”
(99) “ shews that we might do many other things, and might allege that we had no leisure; but yet we must consider chiefly what it is to which God calls us. They who would wish to be reckoned pastors ought to devote themselves especially to that word. And how? In order to study it secretly in their closet? Not at all; but for the general instruction of the Church. That is the reason why Paul chose to add the term doctrine. It was quite enough to have said, word; but he shews that we must not privately speculate what we shall think fit, but that, when we have studied, it is that others may profit along with us, and that the instruction may be common to the whole Church. — This is the true mark for distinguishing properly between the pastors whom God approves and wishes to be supported in his Church, and those who claim that title and honor, and yet are excluded and rejected by him and by the Holy Spirit.” — Fr. Ser.
(100) “ this passage Paul did not look to himself, but spoke by the authority of God, in order that the Church might not be destitute of persons who should teach faithfully. For the devil, from the beginning, had the trick of attempting to hunger good pastors, that they might cease to labor, and that there might be very few who were employed in preaching the word of God. Let us not view the recommendation here contained as coming from a mortal man, but let us hear God speaking, and let us know that there is no accepting of persons, but that, knowing what was profitable to the whole Church, and perceiving that many were cold and indifferent on this subject, he has laid down a rule, that they whose duty it is to preach the gospel shall be supported; as we see that Paul speaks of it in other passages, and. treats of it very fully in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, though he likewise mentions it in the Epistle to the Galatians.” — Fr. Ser.