Wednesday, July 14, 2010 - Who Shall Lead the Flock? (I am postponing the article I intended to write for this week until next week)
1 Peter 5:1-4 - The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Serving as an elder in Christ’s church is the highest position a man can attain on this earth.The responsibility to oversee the flock of God among them is tremendous: watching in behalf of their souls, being aware that they will give account to the Lord for the exercise of their leadership (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2).
Peter knew that elders needed exhortation.Unlike the view held by some, the word exhort means to “arouse as by words or advice, to urge strongly."Peter exercised no authority over the other apostles or elders in any congregation but his exhortation was based on three considerations:
- Peter was an elder and knew from practical experience that elders need exhortation - He was a witness to the sufferings of Christ - He shared with the saints to whom he wrote the hope of ultimate glory
Notice that Peter connects the cross and the eldership.What price did Christ pay for the church?Ephesians 5:25 tells us, “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it.”Those who comprise the Lord’s church are the men and women whose faith in Christ’s redeeming blood caused them to be baptized into the benefits of the Lord’s death.If Jesus invested his life’s blood in the purchase of the church, then the church to him is very precious.When elders struggle to serve people who, at times may not only be ungrateful but very critical, this connection helps the elders remember how Jesus served people who criticized him and later nailed Him to the cross.
It is not an accident that Paul mentions “…If a man seeketh the office of a bishop…” for the man must have a desire for the work.If he does not desire to shepherd the flock, then much damage can result; both to the man, his family and the church.Being an elder is very stressful and can be a source of great pain.It also takes a great toll on the elder’s family as he struggles with decisions, sheds tears over lost and wayward souls, and deals with the criticism.
When elders get discouraged, let them do as the old song exhorts, “Kneel at the cross, Christ will meet you there.” Elders need to always seek God’s blessings as they undertake any task for the Lord’s cause and they need to frequently go to the God’s throne to “…receive mercy, and may find grace to help [us] in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
I have been asked over the last several weeks, by a number of the families where I attend, if I would allow my name to be submitted to serve as we select additional elders.It is an answer that requires much thought, study and prayer.
I have thought a great deal about it as I was on vacation the last two weeks and found that for every answer I come up with, I faced 2 new questions.
I have been praying about it and I ask you to pray on my behalf that the right decision (for myself, my family and the church) will be realized.
This leads us to this weeks study.What qualifications does the scripture proclaim and what do they mean.
The scriptures are very clear about the qualifications that a man must meet but I would submit to you several thoughts before we get to the qualifications.
1.Elders have duties to the church 1.1.Elders – Their duty of self examination 1.1.1.Elders are obligated to themselves, God, and the church to be qualified for their work 22.214.171.124.Men are to meet the Holy Spirit given qualifications found in I Tim. 3 and Titus 1. 126.96.36.199.They are to remain qualified.The position of elder is not necessarily a lifetime appointment. Appointed men will remain elders so long as they continue to be qualified and willing, and thus continue to be recognized as such by the Holy Spirit. 188.8.131.52.This does not mean when an elder sins, immediately call for his resignation.If one has lost or abandoned those formerly demonstrated qualities that initially brought him to the church's attention and caused him to be appointed, then it would be as wrong to "retain" such a one as to appoint a blatantly unqualified man in the first place. 184.108.40.206.To refuse to remove such a one is, on the part of the congregation or other elders, is an abandonment of, and even an insult to, Heaven's authoritative plan.It is rebellion against God 1.1.2.Paul urged, “Take heed to thyself .” 220.127.116.11.The word translated “heed” literally means: “to hold to, turn one’s attention to . . .“ There are several reasons for elders taking heed to themselves. One reason is because elders have a soul to save, viz., their own. (Matt. 16:26.) 18.104.22.168.Elders, like preachers, may become preoccupied with the spiritual needs of others to the degree that they lose sight of their own spiritual liabilities and personal needs. 1.1.3.There is another reason elders must “turn attention” to themselves: elders lead in spiritual matters by example. 22.214.171.124.They must be diligent in developing and maintaining a godly character. Can a spiritual pygmy successfully lead the saints of God? Elders must spiritually “stand head and shoulders” over the crowd. The concept of church edification means that God’s people grow and develop spiritually. They develop Christ like characters. 126.96.36.199.But Christ like leaders must show the spirituality and demonstrate the possibility of congregation accomplishment in this vital area of Christian living.As surely as elders must be men of great spiritual stature they must “take time to be holy.” Spiritual development and maturity is a process which involves prayer, devotional Bible reading, and meditation on things of God. (Psalms 1; Psalms 119; 2 Tim. 2:15; Phil. 4:6.) 188.8.131.52.Elders are not immune to temptation. They may give in to sin, succumb to subtle solicitations to violate or neglect the will of God, and they may become discouraged with their own efforts to live the Christian life and/or the efforts of others.
1.2.Elders are to be leaders, overseers 1.2.1.In Hebrew 13:17 we are told to “obey them which have rule over you, and submit yourselves.”The word “rule’ in the Greek means to lead, to preside, to govern, to rule, to be chief officer.This work is one of leadership, oversight, rule, and decision making.They do have God ordained authority. 1.3.Elders must understand how to ascertain Bible authority and the relationship it sustains to fellowship and unity in the church. 1.3.1.There are two areas of possible misunderstanding and disagreement regarding Biblical authority: those matters of doctrine that are obligatory and those that are optional. 184.108.40.206.Matters of obligation pertain to those things God has authorized in his word that we must do or not do in order to be obedient to him.Fellowship or unity exists between God and man only when man is obedient to the obligatory matters of god’s will (Heb. 5:9).To disagree on these matters prevents fellowship and unity with God and with all those who are in fellowship with God (Heb 5:8-9; Acts 15:1-2; Gal 2:11). 220.127.116.11.Ascertaining biblical authority is a series of lessons in itself.There is a difference between obligatory and optional.
1.4.Elders must see what the church is 1.4.1.The church for which our Lord gave his blood is far superior to any or all denominations.All denominations have been started by man, not divine authority. 18.104.22.168. Luke 8:11-15 - Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. 22.214.171.124.The seed of the kingdom is the word of God 126.96.36.199.When the word was planted in the first century it produced Christians (Acts 11:26; 26:28) and produced THE church (Acts 2:47)
1.5.Elders must see what the gospel is 1.5.1.The primary work of the church is to preach the gospel of Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:18-20) 1.5.2.Elders should conduct the affairs of the church in such a fashion that the greatest number of lost can be given the opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ (Luke 19:10; Rom 1:14-16) 1.5.3.Elders who are concerned primarily with financial and numerical growth, without concern for spiritual development in Truth and faithfulness, will be condemned as were the irresponsible shepherds of God’s sheep in Ezekial 34:1-10.
1.6.Elders must guard the flock against false doctrine 1.6.1.Elders must “take heed to the flock” because they are to “watch for souls” as those who must “give account.” (Heb. 13:17.)There are constant dangers facing the flock.The danger of false doctrine coming in must be met, resisted, and overcome by the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4; John 8:32.) 1.6.2.When elders discharge their responsibilities to the Lord and his church they will hold to faithful teaching that they may be able to both “exhort in the sound teaching and to convict the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9) 1.6.3.They must be aware and prepared to fight not only dangers from without but also the great dangers from within the church (Eph. 6:10-18). 1.6.4.Sound doctrine is a necessity in building and maintaining a strong congregation. 1.6.5.The deadly dangers of immorality and indifference must be declared and from these dangers the “flock” must be defended. This will involve godly elders planning and promoting a strong Bible study program, a positive pulpit, and a practical program for involving God’s people in activities such as personal work, visiting the sick, and helping the needy, which will keep them involved in the Lord’s work. 1.6.6.Elders must rebuke those who try to state elders have no authority.(Very popular falsehood going on) 1.6.7.Elderships are God’s wall of defense for His church
1.7.Elders must take a stand against sin 1.7.1.Reprove, rebuke, exhort (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Too long the trend has been to speak softly and tread lightly. Note the force in the meaning of these words: 1) Reprove: "convince, refute, confute, convict, bring to light, expose, find fault with, correct, reprehend severely, chide, admonish, to call to account, show one his fault, chasten, punish" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon on elegcho). 2) Rebuke: "To tax with fault, rate, chide, reprove, censure severely, admonish or charge sharply" (Thayer on epitimao). 3) Exhort: "To incite by words or advice; to advise or warn earnestly" (Webster). "Admonish" (Thayer on parakaleo).Two-thirds of this command is negative. In Jeremiah 1:10 the prophet was similarly ordered: "to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant."This is not to be abused, yet when strong measures are demanded the elders should not hesitate. Let there be strong denunciation of error and sin, and strong entreaty for souls to turn from them.Jesus is our example (I Peter 2:21), and he loved righteousness and hated iniquity (Heb. 1:8) 1.7.2.Elders should not be deceived by those who are liberal, anti, soft, or merely uninformed 1.7.3.The devil is as a roaring lion walking about to devour (I Pet. 5:8).He uses many devices (I Cor. 2:11).He seeks to persuade elders to compromise through misconceptions of preaching. 1.7.4.He strives to bring pressure to prevent sound gospel preaching and public exposure of error
1.8.Elder’s duty of Watchfulness 1.8.1.The elders must ‘feed” the flock. Elders will be careful about what is taught and preached to the “flock.” They will insist that the “whole counsel” of God be clearly and convincingly declared. (Acts 20:27.) 1.8.2.The elder himself must be a diligent student of the Bible. His Bible knowledge must be beyond that of the average member of the congregation that he oversees. The elder who superficially studies the Word, and hence demonstrates such in the classes he teaches, will surely not motivate the church to know the Book. 1.8.3.The elder must inform himself of popularly circulated false religious doctrines. Far too frequently error has swept like wildfire through a congregation while the elders were totally unaware that it was in vogue. Be prepared.
2. Scriptural Qualifications 2.1. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 - It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 2.2. Titus 1:5-9 - For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. 2.3.Must be a male (1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:6) 2.3.1. Rules out anyone else 2.4.Must desire the work (1 Tim. 3:1) 2.4.1. See note discussed at the beginning of this article 2.5.Must be above reproach (blameless) (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) 2.5.1. The Greek word means a man who has given evil men no occasion to blame or censure him 2.6.The husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) 2.6.1. He cannot be single and he cannot have multiple wives 2.7.Have children who believe (Titus 1:6) 2.7.1. The elder is to be a family man who has children that are Christians. The emphasis is ability to rule his house in such a way where the children are led to Christ by his teaching and example. 2.8.Be temperate (vigilant) (1 Tim. 3:2) 2.8.1. The elder should be able to control his mind, his speech and his deeds. It describes a man of will power and self control. 2.8.2. See Proverbs 25:28 2.9.Be self-controlled (Titus 1:8) 2.10.Be sensible (sober) (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:2) 2.10.1. He must be discreet, humble minded and modest 2.11. Be respectable (of good behavior) (1 Tim. 3:2) 2.11.1. One who is mannerly, courteous and polite. The Greek word means "orderly." 2.12. Be hospitable (1 Tim. 3:2) 2.12.1. Good will, kindness and generosity in caring for others and makes others feel at ease 2.13. Be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) 2.13.1. He must know WHAT to teach. He must have more than a casual understanding of the scriptures 2.13.2. He must be able, by sound doctrine, to refute false teaching and to close the mouths of those who are teaching what they ought not teach. 2.14.Holding fast to the Word (Titus 1:9) 2.14.1. He is convicted, mature and stable in his knowledge of the Word. 2.14.2. Ephesians 4:14 2.15. Be able to exhort and refute (Titus 1:9) 2.15.1. Arouse as by words or advice, to urge strongly 2.16. Must have a good reputation with those outside the church (1 Tim. 3:7) 2.16.1. The church is judged by it's members, especially it's leaders. The elder must live in such a way to earn the respect of those he deals with. 2.17. Not given to wine (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7) 2.17.1. The Lord's church does not need men that drink as leaders. Wines of our times are at least 10 times more powerful than in Christ's day. Remember, one drink means you are one drink drunk. 2.18. Manages his household well (1 Tim. 3:4; Titus 1:6) 2.19. Free from the love of money (covetous) (1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:2) 2.19.1. An elder cannot be a man whose life and heart are centered on the accumulation of earthly wealth 2.19.2. See 1 Timothy 6:9-10 2.20. Gentle (patient) (1 Tim. 3:3) 2.20.1. The elder is to be kind and have a pleasant disposition, even to the unpleasant! 2.21. Not quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:3) 2.21.1. He must not be disposed to fight and be quarrelsome. Even in standing for the truth, he should not have a contentious spirit. 2.22. Not a new convert (novice) (1 Tim. 3:3) 2.22.1. Sufficiently mature in his faith to accept and fulfill the great responsibility of being an elder. 2.23. Not self-willed (Titus 1:7) 2.23.1. He should not be arrogant in his dealings with others, or unyielding in dealing with others. You can defend the truth and not be a self willed person! 2.23.2. See 1 Peter 5:3 2.24. Not quick-tempered (not soon angry) (Titus 1:7) 2.24.1. He is not a hot head and can control his anger. 2.25. Loving what is good (lover of good men) (Titus 1:8) 2.25.1. His desire is only for that which is good and pure 2.26. Sensible (sober) (Titus 1:8) 2.27. Just (Titus 1:8) 2.28. Devout (holy) (Titus 1:8) 2.28.1. He must be deeply devoted to God. He must be God fearing and righteous.
3. The Scriptural Duties of the Elders 3.1.Be on guard for yourselves (Acts 20:28) 3.2.Be on guard for the flock (Acts 20:28) 3.3.Be guided by God’s Word (Acts 20:32; Titus 1:9) 3.4.Be an example to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3) 3.5.Shepherd the flock (feed) (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28) 3.6.Rule and rule well (1 Tim. 5:17) 3.7.Watch for harmful influences to the flock (Acts 20:29-30) 3.8.Silence empty talkers (Titus 1:10-11) 3.9.Assist in deciding differences that arise in the church (Acts 15:6) 3.10.Give instruction to the church (1 Thess. 5:12) 3.11.Help the weak (Acts 20:35) 3.12.Pray for the sick and administer to their needs (James 5:14) 3.13.Encourage the preaching of the gospel and establishment of new congregations when needed (Acts 16:4-5) 3.14.Watch for the souls of the church (Heb. 13:17) 3.14.1.The last passage given above (Hebrews 13:17) summarizes the duties and responsibilities of the elders. They are to concern themselves with the spiritual well being of each individual in the congregation. This will require of them many things that are not listed in a specific way by the Scriptures.
Only those men who possess the qualifications given by God can adequately meet the tremendous needs of God’s family. Let us all pray for those who seek to serve as an elder and for those who currently serve.