Jesus calls us to join Him in HIS church.
on Church Leadership   revised 11/1/2004
Here’s a volume control for the music...
I know some people who despise the church of the living God. I’ve been told they had bad experiences with poor church leaders who misunderstood their duty and thought they were rulers rather than servants of God’s people.

What would justify anyone opposing Christ’s church? I hope you’ll carefully consider what the apostle Paul and John Stott wrote about church and church leaders:

A Commentary by John Stott

PAUL wrote: 1 Timothy 3:14-16. (ESV) I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, [15] if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth. [16] Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

STOTT comments: The church. From the qualifications for the pastorate Paul turns to the church in which pastors serve. For the nature of the ministry is determined by the nature of the church. Here is Paul’s self-conscious apostolic authority. He is planning to visit Timothy in Ephesus. He says so twice (3:14 and 4:13; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:34; 2 Corinthians 13:10). And when he comes he will personally regulate the affairs of the church. But he senses that he may be delayed. So he writes his instructions for the interim period.

Thus by a deliberate providence of God the New Testament letters came to be written and have been preserved for the edification of the church in subsequent generations. If the apostles’ directions regarding the doctrine, ethics, unity and mission of the church had been given only in oral form, the church would have been like a mapless traveler and a rudderless ship. But because the apostolic instructions were written down, we know what we would not otherwise have known, namely how people ought to conduct themselves in the church. P>Paul uses three descriptive expressions of the church, each of which illustrates a different aspect of it, namely *God’s household* or family, *the church of the living God,* and *the pillar and foundation of the truth* (15).

a). God’s household. The word oikos can mean either a house (the building) or a household (the family that occupies the building). And Scripture tells us that the church is both God’s house (e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5) and God’s household (e.g. Hebrews 3:5,6; 1 Peter 4:17). The two concepts are sometimes brought together (e.g. Ephesians 2:19 ff). But since in this chapter oikos has already been used three times of a household (verses 4, 5, 12; cf. Titus 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:16) it seems likely that it has the same connotation in verse 15. By new birth of the Spirit we become members of the family of God, related to him as our Father and to all fellow believers as our sisters and brothers.

Ray remarks: The new birth which inducts us into God’s family is a new birth of water and spirit, after which we receive Christ’s Spirit as God’s gift. Why would this new birth be properly described as a new birth of the Spirit? Was the Spirit of God dead and is He now being reborn? No, it’s the human spirit which is being born anew when we hear and obey the gospel of Christ.
Although Paul does not here draw out the implications of our being God’s household or family, he does elsewhere. He emphasizes that as God’s children we have an equal dignity before him, irrespective of age, sex, race or culture (e.g. Galatians 3:26ff); and that as sisters and brothers we are called to love, forbear and support one another, enjoying in fact the rich “one anotherness” or reciprocity of the Christian fellowship (e.g. Hebrews 10:2,3; Galatians 6:2).

b). The assembly of the living God. On a number of occasions in the Old Testament Yahweh is named “the living God” in deliberate contrast to the lifeless idols of the heathen. Indeed, still today Christian conversion involves turning “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9; cf. Acts 14:15). But where does the living God live? Joshua answered this question succinctly: “The living God is among you” (Joshua 3:10; cf. Deuteronomy 6:15). For this was the essence of God’s covenant promise to Israel: “I will dwell among you and be your God, and you shall be my people.” (e.g. Exodus 25:8; 29:45,46; Leviticus 26:12; cf. Psalm 114:2; Ezekiel 37:27; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Israel’s consciousness that the living God lived among them profoundly affected their community life. Even an elementary lesson in personal hygiene was based on the fact that the Lord God walked among them and must not see anything indecent (Deuteronomy 23:12 ff; cf. Numbers 35:34; 1 Kings 6:13). And they were incensed when the heathen presumed to “defy,” “insult,” or “ridicule” the living God (1 Samuel 17:26, 36; 2 Kings 19:4, 16). An even more vivid consciousness of the presence of the living God should characterize the Christian church today. For we who form His church are “the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16; cf. 3:16), “a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). When the members of the congregation are scattered during most of the week it is difficult to remain aware of this reality.

Ray remarks: Is this true? If so, why is it true? If God is present within us, as He is, why would others not see Jesus in us as we walk and talk in our families and in our communities every day? Why would we ever be lonely? God is WITH us.
But when we come together as the church (ekklesia, “assembly”) of the living God, every aspect of our common life is enriched by the knowledge of his presence in our midst (Matthew 18:20). In our worship we bow down before the living God. Through the reading and exposition of his Word we hear his voice addressing us. We meet him at his table, when he makes himself known to us through the breaking of bread. In our fellowship we love each other as he has loved us. And our witness becomes bolder and more urgent. Indeed, unbelievers coming in may confess that “God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25).
Ray remarks: In attempting to tie together what we call “acts of worship” and our being “enriched by the knowledge of (Christ’s) presence in our midst” Stott may be mistakenly identifying the church with gatherings of the church. Yes, Jesus is with gathered saints. He is no less present with separated saints. We who answer His call to carry the gospel throughout the world are promised that He will be with us as we serve and obey Him. Is Christian worship confined to formal gatherings? It surely is not. Jesus is with His people wherever we go.
c). The pillar and foundation of the truth. Having considered our duty to each other as the household of God, and to God as his dwelling place, we come to our duty to the truth as its pillar and foundation. The hedraioma of a building is its mainstay. It may refer either to its foundation or to a buttress or bulwark which supports it. In either case the hedraioma stabilizes the building. Just so, the church is responsible to hold the truth steady against the storms of heresy and unbelief. <

The word stylos, however, means a pillar or column. The purpose of pillars is not only to hold the roof firm, but to thrust it high so that it can be clearly seen even from a distance. The inhabitants of Ephesus had a vivid illustration of this in their temple of Diana or Artemis. Regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world, it boasted 100 Ionic columns, each over 18 metres high, which together lifted its massive, shining, marble roof. Just so, the church holds the truth aloft, so that it is seen and admired by the world. Indeed, as pillars lift a building high while remaining themselves unseen, so the church’s function is not to advertise itself but to advertise and display Jesus, who is the truth.

Here then is the double responsibility of the church vis-a-vis the truth. First, as its foundation it is to hold it firm, so that it does not collapse under the weight of false teaching. Secondly, as its pillar it is to hold it high, so that it is not hidden from the world. To hold the truth firm is the defense and confirmation of the gospel; to hold it high is the proclamation of the gospel. The church is called to both these ministries. Some Christians, however, are confused about the relation between the church and the truth. Is it really true that the church is the foundation of the truth? Is it not rather the case that the truth is the foundation of the church? It is probably this concern which led Chrysostom to make a slip of the tongue and say “for the truth is the pillar and ground of the church.” Besides, Paul himself had earlier described the church as “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets [sc. their teaching], with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

So is the truth the foundation of the church, or is the church the foundation of the truth? The answer is, “Both.” When Paul taught that the truth is the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20), he was referring to the church’s life and health: the church rests on the truth, depends on it, cannot exist without it. But when he taught that the church is the foundation of the truth (3:15), he was referring to the church’s mission: the church is called to serve the truth, to hold it fast and make it known. So then, the church and the truth need each other. The church depends on the truth for its existence; the truth depends on the church for its defense and proclamation.

RAY REMARKS: In fact truth is true regardless of what the church says or does. If “the truth” is used here to refer to Jesus who is the truth, we see that He is both the foundation of His assembly and also He is the one whose gospel is to be “held high” by us who are His assembly.
What then is the truth which the church must both guard against every distortion and falsification, and proclaim without fear or compromise throughout the world? It concerns Jesus Christ, to whom Paul now bears witness by quoting from an early hymn or creed. He introduces it with the following words: *Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great* (16a). First, it is a “mystery,” a cluster of truths which are now known only because God has been pleased to reveal them. Secondly, it is a “mystery of godliness” as he has previously called it a “mystery of the faith” (9), JB). It is the latter because it stimulates faith and is faith’s object. It is the former because it stimulates our worship, our humility and reverence before God, as all truth does (Titus 1:1). Thirdly, this divine godliness-promoting revelation is “great beyond all question” (REB) or “by common consent,” “undeniably” great (BAGD) or “demonstrably” great. And fourthly, it focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ, since “the mystery” is essentially “the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 1:26,27; 2:2,3; 4:3).

Spicq sees these verses as the “doctrinal climax” of the letter, even its “heart,” since they define the church “by her relation to the glorious Christ.” He also sees the creedal affirmation (“great ... is the mystery of our religion,” REB) as “a solemn public confession in opposition to that of Diana’s devotees” who shouted in unison for two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28, 34).

The liturgical statement Paul goes on to quote consists of six lines which, stylistically speaking, closely resemble one another. For all six begin with a verb which ends in the letters “-the,” and is in the aorist tense and the passive mood. All also end with a noun in the dative, and all but one use the preposition “en” to link the verb with the noun. Moving from style to substance, however, what do the six statements mean, and how do they relate to one another? Three suggestions are made. First, the six affirmations may be read chronologically, each denoting a fresh, consecutive event or stage in the career of Jesus, taking us from his first coming to his second, from his appearance in flesh to his welcome in glory. So *he appeared in a body* (literally, “in flesh”) refers to his incarnation, by which the pre-existent Son was born into the world, and lived and died in it. Next, he *was vindicated by the Spirit.* Although the body-spirit contrast has suggested to some commentators a reference to his human and divine natures, “spirit” is more likely to refer to the Holy Spirit who vindicated Jesus first by his mighty works (Matthew 12:28), and then supremely by his resurrection (Romans 1:4; 8:11).

Ray remarks: I see no reason to believe that the spirit of Jesus must always refer to the third person of the Godhead. I’m not sure that here it does so. God empowered the miracles and the resurrection of Jesus. Through His Spirit? Perhaps.
He was *seen by angels*, and attended by them, throughout his life (e. g. Luke 2:13; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43; 24:23; Matthew 28:2 ff). But the chronological sequence following his incarnation and resurrection would expect this third statement to refer to his ascension. And indeed angels were present at it (Acts 1:9 ff), and watched the whole unfolding drama of salvation (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12). That he *was preached among the nations* is a clear reference to the church’s world-wide mission in obedience to the great commission of the risen Lord (1 Timothy 2:7; Matthew 28:19 ff), while he *was believed on in the world* is an equally plain allusion to the success of the gospel as people responded to it. The final statement, that he *was taken up in glory,* sounds like another reference to the ascension. But if the sequence is chronological, it must be the parousia which is in mind, his ascension foreshadowing his final epiphany in power and great glory. This interpretation is the more probable because otherwise “there is no hint of eschatology” in this Christological hymn.

A second and more popular construction is to divide the hymn into two stanzas, each consisting of a triplet, the first alluding to the life of the historical incarnate Jesus on earth (he appeared, was vindicated and seen), and the second to the life of the exalted Lord (he was preached, believed on, and glorified).

The third and best suggestion, however, is that the hymn consists of three couplets, in each of which there is a deliberate antithesis: between flesh and spirit, between angels and nations, between world and glory. The first couplet speaks of the revelation of Christ (*he appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit*). Here are the human and divine aspects of his earthly life and ministry in Palestine. The second couplet speaks of the witnesses of Christ (*was seen by angels, was preached among the nations*). For now the significance of Jesus Christ is seen to extend far beyond Palestine to all the inhabitants of heaven and earth, to angels as well as humans, to the nations as well as the Jews. Then the third couplet speaks of the reception which Christ was given (*was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory*). For heaven and earth did more than see and hear him; they joined in giving him recognition and acclaim.

Some years ago Joachim Jeremias, in his book Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, argued that this Christological hymn was essentially a missionary statement, announcing the inclusion of the nations in consequence of the death and resurrection of Jesus. He also suggested that this credal fragment was “couched in the form of a hymn in three distichs, after style of a coronation hymn,” indeed “the ancient coronation ritual exemplified for us in the ancient Egyptian ritual.” It consisted of the Elevation (of the king to deity), the Presentation (of the deified king to the world) and the Enthronement.

This, Jeremias proposed, corresponded to the three couplets of verse 16, namely “the Justification by resurrection of him who has been manifested on earth, the Announcement to heaven and earth of his exaltation, and his Assumption of the kingdom on earth and in heaven.” Commentators have been intrigued by Jeremias’ suggestion, and have pronounced it “ingenious and attractive,” but have not been persuaded by it, mainly on account of the inexact nature of the parallelism. Yet the missionary emphasis is surely right. The mystery of godliness which the church proclaims, the truth of which the church is the foundation and pillar, is the historic yet cosmic Christ.

In conclusion, Paul’s perspective in this chapter is to view the presbyters and the deacons in the light of the church they are called to serve, and to view the church in the light of the truth it is called to confess. One of the surest roads to the reform and renewal of the church is to recover a grasp of its essential identity as God’s household, the church of the living God, and the pillar and foundation of the truth (15). — John Stott
What is Christ’s church? The apostle describes us who make up the church (we were added to it by God when we obeyed the gospel of Christ), as GOD’s household, the pillar and foundation of truth. Jesus said He WOULD build His church and even death could not destroy that assembly. Should we now try to destroy it? Do we want to be numbered among those who work AGAINST Jesus and the Father and those who have been called to serve them? By GOD’s plan, His church is now led by pastor/teachers selected by each congregation and now responsible to God for the congregation they serve. Should not every Christian be in such a congregation?Ray Downen.


Are Church Leaders Pastors
or Are They Clergymen?

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28. CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY,
or How to be a gospel church. John Stott comments: The apostle Paul cherished high ideals for the Christian church. According to his characterization of it at the beginning of his first letter to Christian friends in Thessalonica (1:1-4), God’s “church” is a community loved and chosen by God, drawing its life from him, and manifesting this divine life in the basic Christian graces of faith, love and hope. Such a community could justly be called a “gospel church,” both because it has been brought into being by the gospel and because it is continuously being shaped by the gospel. One New Testament picture of a gospel church portrays it as the family of God, whose members recognize and treat one another as sisters and brothers.

This seems to be the key concept in the second half of 1 Thessalonians 5, since the word adelphoi, “brothers,” which includes the adelphai, “sisters,” in the one adelphotes, “brotherhood,” (1 Peter 2:17; 5:9), occurs five times (verses 12, 13, 25, 26 and 27). It bears witness to the truth that if through Christ God is our Father, then *ipso facto* our fellow believers are our sisters and brothers. We not only belong to “the day” (5:1-11); we also belong to “the family” (5:12-28). Moreover this fact of our mutual relationships profoundly affects our mutual behaviour. Paul has already urged the Thessalonians to “love one another” with philadelphia or “brotherly love” (4:9,10), to “comfort one another” (4:18, RSV), to “encourage one another and build each other up” (5:11). Now he develops further his vision for the church family, and for the “one anotherness” of its members. He takes up one by one three essential aspects of the life of the local church (all of which are items of contemporary debate or concern), and gives apostolic instruction about them. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 (ESV) We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, [13] and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. [14] And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. [15] See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. First, he addresses himself to the leadership or pastorate (verses 12,13) and tells us how pastors and people, “clergy” and “laity,” should regard and relate to each other.

Ray remarks: Paul says not one word here or anywhere about a clergy in the Lord’s church. Paul’s idea is that all Christians are priests. Our pastors are servants rather than masters. If there is to be a clergy, then the clergy is all Christians. What the Bible teaches is simply that every Christian is a priest.
Secondly, he writes about the fellowship of the local church (verses 14,15) and about the responsibilities of church members to care for each other.
Ray remarks: Jesus makes clear that some who suppose they are “in Christ” are simply mistaken. Those who “forsake assembling” with other Christians are no longer a part of Christ’s “body.” No one who remains apart from God’s family is a member of the family. Paul speaks of family obligations. Some consider the church as their servant. Paul calls for us to consider ourselves as servants of the Lord’s church.
Thirdly, he comes to the church’s public worship (verses 16-28), what should be included in it, and in particular how the Word of God evokes the worship of God. – John Stott. NOW RAY: Nothing Paul says here would justify a claim that he is talking about “public worship.” Please notice the text: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28 (ESV) 16) Rejoice always, 17) pray without ceasing, 18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19) Do not quench the Spirit. 20) Do not despise prophecies, 21) but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22) Abstain from every form of evil.

23) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24) He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

25) Brothers, pray for us. 26) Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27) I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 28) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Is it only during “public worship” that we should rejoice and pray and give thanks and not quench the Spirit or despise prophecies? Is it only “in church” that we should test everything and hold fast to what is good? Is it only while gathered with the family that we are to abstain from every form of evil? Search the text carefully for any clue that the apostle might be speaking of public worship, “and in particular how the Word of God evokes the worship of God.” Paul does encourage the reading of his writings, which he says should be read by ALL the church. Would that be an instruction that the reading should always be in “public worship”? Did Paul not want anyone ever reading alone? The fact is that only a distorted view of Christian assemblies could support the theory that the apostolic directives here apply only or even primarily to times when the church has gathered for “public worship.”

We are to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray WITHOUT CEASING, to give thanks in ALL circumstances. This passage is not concerned with public assemblies. It says not one word about worship rituals led by a clergyman. Stott earlier remarked astutely and correctly:

Stott said ... this fact of our mutual relationships profoundly affects our mutual behaviour. Paul has already urged the Thessalonians to “love one another” with *philadelphia* or “brotherly love” (4:9,10), to “comfort one another” (4:18, RSV), to “encourage one another and build each other up” (5:11). Now he develops further his vision for the church family, and for the “one anotherness” of its members.

Paul did as Stott says he did. And in this concluding part of the letter, he simply continues with the same urging that his friends should love, comfort and encourage one another. The purpose for which we assemble is so that we may “build each other up.” Isn’t that really what families are for? The Bible does not teach that Christians, as families for God, should assemble “for public worship.” Stott’s comments continue:

Historically speaking, the church of Jesus Christ has oscillated unsteadily between the equally unbiblical extremes of “clericalism” and “anti-clericalism.” Clericalism is a situation in which the clergy keep the reins of power in their own hands, monopolize all pastoral leadership and ministry, and, having been put on a pedestal, receive an exaggerated deference, while the so-called “laity” are well and truly sat upon.

Note that the Bible makes no reference to a Christian clergy or a Christian “laity.” This distinction is simply unknown to those who wrote the Bible.
Then able men and women are allowed no space in which to develop their God-given gifts or exercise them in appropriate ministries. On the contrary, the only contributions from them which are welcomed are their presence on Sundays to occupy otherwise empty pews, some administrative and practical assistance, and (of course) their cash. At the opposite extreme is the over-reaction called anti-clericalism. This sometimes begins with the recovery of Paul’s model of “the body of Christ,” in which every member of the local church, like every member of the human body, has a particular and distinctive function. Some Christians overpress the analogy, however, and deduce from it that clergy in any shape or form are redundant.

“The church is better off without them,” they cry. But this extreme position overlooks the fact that, according to the New Testament, the Chief Shepherd delegates to under-shepherds or “pastors” the privileged oversight of the flock which he has purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

Were Christian pastors clergymen? Not at all. As the further remarks of John Stott will prove by their noting the absence of these pastors being identified as priests. The clergy about whom Stott writes assume they are priests, in contrast to the “laity” who are NOT priests. What the Bible clearly teaches is that all Christians are priests, who of course need no clergy to be priests FOR them.
We know that the Thessalonian church had responsible leaders, since Luke mentions Aristarchus (Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; cf. Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24) and Secundus (Acts 20:4) by name. But we do not know (because we are not told) what prompted Paul to write verses 12 and 13. Probably some church members had been disrespectful towards their leaders. On the other hand, some leaders may have provoked this reaction by their heavy-handed or autocratic behaviour. Paul rejected both attitudes. For it is God’s will, he taught, that every local church should enjoy pastoral oversight, but not his will that pastors should dominate and organize everything. They are not meant to monopolize ministries, but rather to multiply, encourage, and assist them.

Notice now how Paul describes local church leaders. He uses three expressions in verse 12. Since these are participles, introduced by a single definite article, it is evident that the same people are in mind, although they are portrayed from three distinct perspectives. First, Christian leaders are those who work hard among you. It is a significant phrase because some people regard the pastorate as a Sundays-only occupation, in fact a sinecure (i.e., a paid job involving little or no work). And, to be sure, some clergy have been known to be lazy. But true pastoral work is hard work.

The verb Paul uses (kopiao) normally refers to manual occupations. It means to “toil, strive, struggle” (BAGD), and to grow weary in doing so. It conjures up pictures of rippling muscles and pouring sweat. Paul applied it to farm labourers (e.g. 2 Timothy 2:6) and to the physical exertions of his own tent-making (2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8). But he also used it in relation to his apostolic labours (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Timothy 4:10), to the hard work of his colleagues (e.g. Romans 16:12), and to those who “labour in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17, RSV).

Whether it is study and the preparation of sermons, or visiting the sick and counselling the disturbed, or instructing people for baptism or marriage, or being diligent in intercession – these things demand that we “toil, striving with all the energy which he [sc. Christ] mightily inspires within” us (Colossians 1:29, RSV).

Please note that Paul was speaking of his fellow workers, not of clergymen, but rather of evangelists and pastors. Although the evangelists went into “new” fields to begin new works for God, the pastors were men selected from among those who had been converted to Christ. They were local men, locally selected by the local church for the work of leading and teaching and “pastoring” the local congregation. In describing “qualifications” for these pastors, Paul fails to speak of college degrees or recommendations by leaders of other churches. But he does want these pastors to be well known and well thought of in the community where they will be serving as pastors. Were they clergymen? If so, Paul knew nothing of the fact.
Secondly, Christian leaders are those who are over you in the Lord. True the very first thing that needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are “under” people (as their servants) rather than “over” them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain (especially in Mark 10:42-45). The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power. Nevertheless, authentic servant-leadership still carries an element of authority (cf. Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24). Bo Reicke writes in TDNT that proistemi the intransitive middle meant originally to “put oneself at the head” or “go first.” Then metaphorically it came to signify either to “preside” in the sense of to “direct” or “rule,” or to “protect” or “care for.” MM shows from the papyri how it was applied to a variety of officials, superintendents, village heads or chiefs, landlords, estate managers and guardians of children, in all of which the notions of “leading” and “caring” seem to be combined.

The same combination is suggested in the New Testament, in which the “leadership” of Romans 12:8 (ho proistamenos) comes in the middle of three other caring ministries, and the same verb is used of a father “managing” his own home and children (1 Timothy 3:4,5, 12). It was natural, therefore, to use the verb of Christian elders, for “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5; cf. 5:17).

We see again, as we did in 1 Thessalonians 2 and 3, that pastoral care is parental care. The element of “management” cannot be eliminated, yet here in relation to the leaders of the Thessalonian church “the emphasis is not on their rank or authority but on their efforts for the eternal salvation of believers” (TDNT). This is in keeping with the startling originality of Jesus, who taught that in God’s kingdom the first are last, the leaders servants and the chiefs slaves. Those who are “over” others *in the Lord* (that is, in the Christian community, whose members are bound together by their common allegiance to Jesus) must never forget their Lord’s teaching on leadership.

Thirdly, Christian leaders are those who admonish you. The verb noutheteo is almost invariably used in an ethical context. It means to warn against bad behaviour and its consequences (e.g. Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 4:14), and to reprove, even discipline, those who have done wrong. Being a negative word, it is often coupled with “teaching,” e.g. “admonishing and teaching everyone” (Colossians 1:28; 3:16). Both activities belong to the responsibility of pastors. Moreover, noutheteo does not denote a harsh ministry. As Leon Morris has put it, “while its tone is brotherly, it is big-brotherly.”

Here, then, are three parallel expressions, which indicate that Paul envisages a distinct group of leaders, who are “over” the congregation in the Lord, to whom has been entrusted their pastoral oversight and care, including admonition, and who are expected to work hard in serving them. It is true that “they are identified here by their activities rather than by a name (title, or office).” Does it necessarily follow, however, that at this time “they did not have a name? Unless Luke was guilty of an anachronism, they were already during Paul’s first missionary journey called “elders” (presbyteroi, Acts 14:23). A few years later they were also called “pastors” and “overseers” or “bishops” (*episkopoi*) (Acts 20:17, 28). Their ministry may take different forms, and has developed different patterns in the history of the church, but in each case it must give the Christian community the pastoral care (*episkope*) which God intends it to enjoy, especially by teaching.

What attitude should the local congregation adopt towards its pastors? They are neither to despise them, as if they were dispensable, nor to flatter or fawn on them as if they were popes or princes, but rather to *respect* them (12), and to *hold them in the highest regard (NEB “in the highest possible esteem”) in love because of their work* (13a). This combination of appreciation and affection will enable pastors and people to Live in peace with each other (13b). Yet in too many churches they are at loggerheads, which is painful to those involved, inhibiting to the church’s life and growth, and damaging to its public image. By contrast, happy is the church family in which pastors and people recognize that God calls different believers to different ministries, exercise their own ministries with diligence and humility, and give to others the respect and love which their God-appointed labour demands! They will live in peace with each other.

Ray remarks: It’s by the Lord’s leading that a “church” exists on this earth. We know, admire, and love many we know who serve in the role of clergymen in our churches today. Most of these are good men in every sense. But our “pastors” are our elders rather than the hired servants some are wrongly calling “the pastor” today. Church pastors, the elected elders, are local men we grew up with and worked with and played with. We should encourage and support our evangelists to do their preaching and teaching away from our church buildings rather than in them. In the Word, we learn of church leaders called prophets, and evangelists, and deacons (who are servers in the best sense), and elders who are also called bishops or presbyters or pastors. The term, “pastor” refers to our elders! Should it instead be used for a man or woman elders have hired to do their work for them?



God’s family (the church) is not a business. Organized it must be, but the Lord says that leaders in His church are to do His will, not their own. It’s unfortunate that the word “overseer” is used once in the Bible to refer to those who do the work of elders. This causes some church leaders to imagine it’s their right to make decisions which are then binding on the membership. But that’s not right – it’s wrong!

Early churches are seen to have had at least elders, deacons, and evangelists. Some jobs filled by these church leaders included teaching and pastoring and preaching. In our day, some feel that the evangelists have most authority, so that they are responsible to select the elders and deacons, who then share authority with the evangelist who organized that particular congregation.

Others feel that an unscriptural office of “pastor (one leading who is not a church elder)” is necessary, and that this “pastor” is to have the most authority. This, obviously, is the most common in the present generation. Normally it works out that congregations directed by a single pastor either pay that pastor or let him handle the money. The other leaders then are often called deacons. If a church nowadays has more than one paid preacher, the chief preacher is often called a “senior pastor.” Those familiar with the Bible will realize that nothing in the Bible sets up such a position for any church of Christ. In some congregations local leaders are called elders and deacons, and then the church may call a “minister.” This minister (a servant of the church) works as best he can with the elders and all other workers for the good of the group.

Some elders think they are dictators for the church. They imagine that once they’ve been elected to the “office” of elder that they are endued with greater wisdom, and power from on high. They don’t accept the authority of the pope in Rome, but they feel that in their congregation they have become popes, whose job it is to make every important decision FOR the group. Sensible Christians don’t put up with such foolishness, but quickly make clear to their “popes” that they were called to serve, teach, and lead, but not to rule.

An elder I know once made the mistake of expressing what some brothers had told him was the case, that the elders and trustees make all important decisions for a church while the members only provide the money to implement the decisions of the elders. In particular, he expressed the erroneous view that the elders of the church hired and fired preachers with no need to consult the members in such matters. I realize he had been told this is the case, which is why he believed it. But the Bible says no such thing. Nor do the church by-laws, which involve the congregation in every hiring decision, and which leave unclear who has responsibility if a preacher ever should need to be fired. But the reasons for firing are made clear, and they do not include a decision by the elders. Implied is that firing a preacher would be by congregational vote just as the hiring is to be done. Moral turpitude or doctrinal deviation are listed as the justification which would cause a preacher to be asked to resign from his contract with the church.

Elders need to work WITH the one the church has called to be their preacher. Anyone on the church staff MUST be willing to work with that church’s preacher, not against him. If an elder feels it best to work against the preacher, he should be willing to do it in public rather than through Trojan horse methods. Should not appropriately aged preachers be one of the elders?

Should an elder be retained in office who imagines that it’s his job to tell the church what to do. The work of elders is to study and know the Bible and then by word and action (by example) to teach and lead in God’s true Way. But major decisions affecting any church should be made by the congregation rather than by the elders alone. Christian Churches/Churches of Christ have been established as free, independent congregations where decisions are made by all the members. Those who choose to support a dictatorial leadership should do so elsewhere. Many church groups do make their “elders” rulers in the church. Such churches are apt to also do other bad things, of course.

Gifts to the church are not likely given with the expectation that those gifts would be spent by church leaders without the congregation having voice in the matter. Gifts to the church do not belong to the elders or trustees, but rather to the congregation.

The office of trustee has been added after churches began owning property, and has nothing at all to do with the leadership of any church of God. Trustees have no more say in any church decision than do any other members. Their sole responsibility is to see that in the event that the membership changes its doctrinal convictions, or all agree to disband, that the property is disposed of according to the wishes of the ones who set up the organization which owns the property.

God’s church belongs to Jesus. He is head of the church and has ALL authority in the church. We all are His servants. Elders lead by example and by teaching. Ones who cannot teach and whose lives do not inspire others should not be in the office of elder. Every important decision affecting any church should be made by the congregation rather than by any “board” or church official(s) acting FOR the church. Christ’s church is not a business, nor should it be led by the whims of men.

In the July 9th, 1998 issue of the Central Christian Church Caller (from Ft. Smith AR 72903 ~ at 400 N Waldron Rd) is an excellent message PHILLIP “Phip” SAMS quotes from the June 28th issue of The Christian Standard (8121 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45231). It’s Not Just a Game is the title used by Sam E. Stone for his editorial, which says: Many of us remember playing “Follow the Leader” when we were children. The leader usually tried to make the going hard for those who followed. That was part of the fun.

In the Lord’s church, it’s not a game we’re playing, even if we do enjoy working for the Lord together. Church leaders must NOT try to make things difficult for those who are following. In church, we ALL, leaders and followers alike, seek to put into practice the teachings of our Master Jesus Christ. Our Lord plainly taught that in HIS kingdom, leaders are not to be bullies who coerce or trick others into submission. Church leaders are not lords, but are fellow-servants with those they seek to lead. We do well to think of church leaders as SERVANT-leaders.

At the same time, all followers are to be encouraging and supportive of those who are leading. We’re instructed, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17, NIV).

It’s a fact – every church leader must be a follower. Even the one who in some settings leads, in other situations must follow. All church leaders must follow JESUS. Those who follow leaders in the local congregation should do so only as far as those leaders are following Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1). In the ongoing search for the definition of a church leader, the best we have been able to do is to define a leader as, “a person who in a given situation has followers.” We all are leaders in some things. We all are followers in other things.

Those who lead in the church will not be “in authority.” We’ll not be prominent in every activity or project. Nor should we be. At times all of us will be under the direction of others. This is healthy. In the Master’s kingdom, none are to seek or accept position and power. All are to desire submission and service. By our acceptance of proper authority and teaching, we demonstrate to those who follow us what biblical leadership entails.

Christ recognizes as leaders only those who have first learned to be servants. Our Lord made it clear that the “chief seats” are not for those who climb over others in their rush to get to the top. Instead those who will be honored in the final judgment are those who don’t worry about status but are content to serve, however menial the task (Matthew 20:20-28). Truly great people are also humble. The famous Philippine statesman Carlos P. Romulo told of a saying in his country, “The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bends.” Our ultimate leader is Jesus Christ. He alone is worthy of our complete allegiance. An African native put it beautifully when he said, “Lord, you be the needle and I’ll be the thread. I’ll follow where You lead.”

Phip Sams reports that the entire issue of Christian Standard for 6/28/98 is addressing the question of church leadership. Sounds GOOD to me!

Sams adds, “On Sunday, July 19th, we will be selecting our leadership team for the next church year. You (members) will receive a ballot with eight blank lines on it. You may place the names of up to eight men you believe the Holy Spirit has called to lead as Elders of this congregation. Please pray and prepare for this time of selection.”

This is an interesting view – that church members who pray and prepare can be trusted to want as their leaders men of God qualified by God and prepared by God for the work. Some churches think men qualified to lead can only be identified by those who are already serving as church leaders. Mistakes in selection of elders can be made, with very unfortunate results. But I like to read of a church where the members are trusted rather than obviously NOT trusted.

I’m sorry to ever hear of a church where church leaders feel their deliberations are of such importance that they must be secret, with none who are not part of their group allowed to know what is being discussed or what issues are being faced. One I know of holds meetings so secret that even some of those ON the board only learn what has been decided AFTER the decisions have been made. And that’s in a church which aims and claims to be Christian.

When God’s family (the church) hires a staff member to share in the work of the church, the church is then obligated to the person who has been hired. The agreed-on salary must be paid so long as the employment continues, with appropriate adjustments as the work load changes and as conditions vary. If the person hired is the minister whose duties include public teaching (preaching sermons), normally this person is also called on for advice and counsel in most matters that affect the church. Not only is his teaching done in the name of the church, but those in the church who feel the need for private counseling are apt to ask this brother, as well as each other church leader, for his advice. If the church is led by a governing board of mature men whose work is normally described scripturally as that of “elders,” and if the preacher is of mature age and otherwise qualified, it’s likely the church will ask that he serve as one of the elders so long as his call keeps him as the preacher for that congregation.

If church duties are more than can be easily performed by the preacher, so that additional staff is employed by the church, each such additional staff member should be one who is happy to work with the preacher. Their job will be to supplement the work done by the preacher, whether it be in the church office and or in any other work for the Lord. Obviously, then, the preacher should have final say in the church’s hiring of additional staff. If his judgment is not trusted in such a matter, surely he is not the right man for the preaching job.

The other elders share responsibilities with the preacher for administration and planning for future work and projects of the church. That means he works with them, not FOR them. Ideally, the elders will be as well known as representing the congregation as the preacher is. If there are calls needing to be made in the name of the church, it can as well be done by one or two elders as by the preacher alone or with one of the other elders.

If it sounds to you as if I’m saying the church is not a business organization who has hired “just” an employee, you have heard me rightly. When he accepts a call to become part of our congregation, the preacher becomes part of our congregation, not its ruler, and not its slave. As one of the leaders of the church, he’ll be helping to make decisions as to what the congregation should do and when and how. He should be ONE of the elders, not the boss of the church, and not the only servant in the group.

In the July 6, 1998 issue of Industry Week magazine, was an article by Sal Marino which he intended for business executives, but which surely applies also to public speakers in general and preachers in particular. He points out that one who agrees to give a speech needs to be careful to avoid imposing on his hearers by coming to them unprepared to speak clearly, concisely, and completely within the expected span of time. If any preacher is kept so busy on other church affairs that he has no time to study, shall we be surprised if his sermons seem boring and repetitious? This is another good reason why the other leaders SHARE the work of leading and teaching the church.

Some preachers prefer giving most of their work toward one sermon each week while teaching or preaching at other than the principal meeting time is handled by others. If the congregation is healthy, it’s more apt to REMAIN healthy if teaching chores are handled by several instead of the preacher speaking three or more times a week. One of the Joplin churches does plan their work so that the preacher is the public speaker on most Sunday mornings. Various qualified brothers speak at an evening service. And others in the congregation lead the mid-week assembly. His sermons are first-class. That congregation is developing several men able to teach and lead in any necessary way. Where everything must be done by the preacher, others learn to be idle and do nothing. And that’s very bad. It’s not good.

Marino tells of Herbert V. Prochnow who reminds his readers that public speaking is easy. We can all speak. It’s getting people to listen, hear, understand, and accept what we’re saying that’s difficult. So he says, “Every conscientious speaker is acutely and sensitively aware of the serious nature of his responsibilities. Therefore, many speakers will spend from a half-hour to as much as one or two hours in preparation for each minute they expect to speak.”

Everyone in the church has responsibility to help every other brother and sister be noticed, loved, and helped in any way each person wants to be helped. We are not called to judge one another, but to love and encourage one another. This calling is not only the responsibility of the preacher, but it often needs to START with him. And a way we can help him feel good about being like Christ is to give him every encouragement we possibly can. We should try to make life pleasant and happy for every other member of our congregation. And of course we’ll care about brothers in the faith everywhere, and try to share the good things we have received with those others who have any need. If we do these things, will the church be a happy church? It seems likely that it will. When we work together to accomplish what the Lord has called us to do, we’ll find the work very pleasant indeed.

Our goal in any congregation or church organization should not be just to please the membership, but also to please our Lord. If we do hire a preacher, we are obligated then to respect him and accept his help in doing our work for Jesus. Shouldn’t all saints of God pray for one another and cheerfully work as ONE in seeking to please and serve our God?

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” [7:1] Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 6:14-16; 7:1 NIV)

The right use of God’s law.

The apostle Paul warns against our listening to ones who want to turn the gospel of grace into just another law code. So are we now under law? Is God’s law valuable to ones who do not live under law? Consider brief remarks made to Timothy by Paul:
1 Timothy 1:1-11 (ESV) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, [2] to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. [3] As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, [4] nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. [5] The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. [6] Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, [7] desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

[8] Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, [9] understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, [10] the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, [11] in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

JOHN STOTT says: In verse 8, we turn now from the wrong use of the law to its right use. The false teachers, who *want to be teachers of the law ... do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm* (7, “about which they are so dogmatic’, REB). In contrast to their ignorance, however, Paul sets his knowledge. *We know that the law is good if one uses it properly* (8, *nominos,* ‘lawfully’). *We also know that law is made ... for lawbreakers* (9, *anomois,* “for the lawless”).

Putting together these two truths which Paul says, *we know,* we reach the striking statement that the lawful use of the law is for the lawless. All law is designed for those whose natural tendency is not to keep it but to break it. “Not the saint but the sinner is the law’s target.”

It may be helpful to approach this question historically, for the Reformers struggled much over the true purpose of the law. Luther expressed his position in his Lectures on Galatians (1535). “The law was given for two uses,” he wrote. The first was “political” or “civil;” the law was a bridle “for the restraint of the uncivilized.” The second and “principal” purpose of the law was “theological” or “spiritual.” It is a mighty “hammer” to crush the self-righteousness of human beings. For “it shows them their sin, so that by the recognition of sin they may be humbled, frightened, and worn down, and so may long for grace and for the Blessed Offspring [sc. Christ].” It is in this sense that the “law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24, AV).

Although he does not emphasize this, elsewhere Luther indicates that the law has a third use; we have “to teach the law diligently and to impress it upon the people.” The Formula of Concord (1577), however, which settled Lutheran doctrine in disputed areas after Luther’s death, clearly specified in its sixth article a threefold use of the law. It is a means to the preservation of human society (Romans 13:1 ff), a summons to repentance and faith (Galatians 3:24) and a direction for the church (Romans 8:4; 13:8). These came to be called the *usus politicus* (to restrain evil), the *usus pedagogus* (to lead to Christ) and the *usus normativus* (to determine the conduct of believers).

Ray remarks: So, after Luther’s death, his teaching of salvation by grace through faith instead of law was sandbagged. If the conduct of believers is to be governed by law, where is grace meanwhile?
Calvin agreed with these three functions of the law, but changed the order of the first two, and laid his emphasis on the third. Book II, chapter 7, of the Institutes is devoted to a consideration of why the law was given. First, it has a “punitive” purpose, for it “renders us inexcusable” and so drives us to despair. Then, “naked and empty-handed,” we “flee to his [sc. God’s] mercy, repose entirely in it, hide deep within it, and seize upon it alone for righteousness and merit.”

Secondly, the law restrains evildoers, especially “by fright and shame,” from daring to do what they want to do, and so protects the community. In this sense the law acts as an external deterrent, while leaving the heart unchanged. “The third and principal use” of the law, indeed its “proper purpose,” according to Calvin, is the one which Luther somewhat neglected, namely “its place among believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already lives and reigns.” The law is “the best instrument” both to teach us the Lord’s will and to exhort us to do it. For “by frequent meditation upon it” believers will “be aroused to obedience, be strengthened in it, and be drawn back from the slippery path of transgression.” Indeed it is in this “joyous obedience” that authentic “Christian freedom” is to be found.

RAY REMARKS: The apostle taught that law was an ENEMY of freedom in Christ, to be vigorously opposed rather than embraced. Law cannot save. Galatians includes a clear call for us to stand fast and be NOT entangled again in a yoke of slavery (the law, and seeking salvation through works of law). The gospel is not a law code. Sinners are saved by obeying the gospel rather than law. Calvin does not agree with Paul.
Thus the law’s three functions according to Calvin are punitive (to condemn sinners and drive them to Christ), deterrent (to restrain evildoers) and specially educative (to teach and exhort believers).
RAY WONDERS: Can we be sure that Paul and Calvin and Luther are all on the same page? No, they’re not. Stott now asks, as if he had established that Paul’s view of “law” was what Calvin and Luther thought it was:
To which of these three purposes was Paul referring in his first letter to Timothy? Of which of them could it be said that “the lawful use of the law is for the lawless”? Certainly the second, relating to the restraint of evildoers. Calvin wrote: “The apostle seems specially to have alluded to this function of the law when he teaches that the law is not laid down for the just but for the unjust and disobedient” ... (1 Timothy 1:9, 10). But Paul’s words seem to apply to the first and third purposes of the law as well, since the law exposes and condemns the lawless (Romans 3:20), and then, after they have fled to Christ for forgiveness, it directs them into a law-abiding life. In other words, all three functions of the law relate to lawless people, unmasking and judging them, restraining them, and correcting and directing them. It is only because as fallen human beings we have a natural tendency to lawlessness (for “sin is lawlessness,” 1 John 3:4) that we need the law at all. The key antithesis, that the law is not for the righteous but for lawbreakers (9), cannot refer to those who are righteous in the sense of “justified,” since Paul insists elsewhere that the justified do still need the law for their sanctification (e.g. Romans 8:4; 13:8).
RAY REMARKS: Please read Romans 8:4 in context and ponder whether Paul is teaching that we need law for our sanctification, and if so, whether or not the apostle is speaking of the Mosaic law which may seem to be “the law” referred to by John Stott.
Romans 8:1-17 (ESV): There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit. [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit. [6] To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

[9] You, however, are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. [11] If the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit who dwells in you.

[12] So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13] For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” [16] The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

AND CONSIDER ROMANS 13:8-10 which points out that we “fulfill the law” by loving rather than by perfect obedience to stated laws:
Romans 13:8-10 (ESV): Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. [9] The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [10] Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Nor can it be taken to mean that some people exist who are so righteous that they do not need the law to guide them, but only that some people think they are. Similarly, when Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32), he did not mean that there are some righteous people who do not need to be called to repentance, but only that some think they are. In a word, “the righteous” in these contexts means “the self-righteous.”

The fundamental principle that the law is for the lawless applies to every kind of law. For example, the reason we need speed limits is that there are so many reckless drivers on the roads. The reason we need boundaries and fences is that it is the only way to prevent unlawful trespass. And the reason we need civil rights and race relations legislation is in order to protect citizens from insult, discrimination and exploitation. If everybody could be trusted to respect everybody else’s rights, laws to safeguard them would not be necessary. The same is true of God’s law. Its prohibitions and sanctions relate to the lawless. And Paul proceeds at once to illustrate the principle of “law for the lawless” with eleven examples of law-breaking.

The first six words, which he sets in pairs, appear to be more general than specific. The law is made, he writes, ... for lawbreakers and rebels (JBP “who have neither principles nor self-control”), *the ungodly and sinful* (who dishonour God and depart from righteousness), and *the unholy and irreligious* (who are devoid of all piety and reverence). These clearly refer to our duty to God, at least in general. But because the next five words are extremely specific in relation to our duty to our neighbour, it is natural to ask whether the first six may be meant to be specific in relation to our duty to God.

George W. Knight suggests that they are. Working backwards from the allusion to our father and mother, he proposes that *irreligious (bebelos*) means profane in the sense of sabbath-breaking (the fourth commandment), that *unholy (anosios*) designates those who take God’s name in vain (the third commandment), that *sinful (hamartolos*) alludes to idolaters (the second commandment), and that *ungodly (asebes*) denotes those who flout the first commandment to love God exclusively. This leaves the words *lawbreakers (anomos*) and *rebels (anypotaktos*), which seem to be introductory and to describe those who reject all law and discipline. This reconstruction is certainly ingenious, and may be correct, although it has to be declared unproved.

The next five words, however, do evidently allude to commandments five to nine. Those who kill their fathers and mothers of course break the fifth commandment to honour our parents; the expression is so extreme that Simpson is probably correct in understanding the reference to “smiters of fathers or mothers, adjudged a capital crime in Ex.21:15.” Murderers break the sixth commandment, “You shall not kill,” while adulterers and perverts (heterosexual and homosexual offenders) break the seventh. At least the former certainly do (“You shall not commit adultery”), and the latter may be said to do so also if we understand the prohibition as intended to restrict sexual intercourse to the context of heterosexual marriage. “Perverts” (NIV, REB) is not the best translation, nor is “sodomites” (NRSV), for both terms nowadays carry assumptions and overtones which could express the kind of “homophobia” which Christians should avoid. The Greek word arsenokoites, which occurs only here and in 1 Corinthians 6:9, is a combination of arsen (male) and either koite (bed) or keimai (to lie). It probably refers back to the Leviticus texts which prohibit “lying with a man as one lies with a woman” (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13, LXX); it denotes practising male homosexuals.

Slave traders (NIV) or “kidnappers” (RSV) are guilty of the most heinous kind of stealing, and both liars and perjurers break the ninth commandment not to bear false witness against our neighbour. The tenth commandment prohibiting covetousness is not included in Paul’s catalogue, perhaps because it is a sin of thought and desire, not of word or deed. But in order to make his list comprehensive he concludes that the law is also made for whatsoever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (10). What is this? It is doctrine which conforms to the glorious gospel (literally, “the gospel of the glory”) of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me (11). It is particularly noteworthy that sins which contravene the law (as breaches of the Ten Commandments) are also contrary to the sound doctrine of the gospel. So the moral standards of the gospel do not differ from the moral standards of the law. We must not therefore imagine that, because we have embraced the gospel, we may now repudiate the law!

To be sure, the law is impotent to save us (Romans 8:3), and we have been released from the law’s condemnation, so that we are no longer “under” it in that sense (Romans 6:15; 7:6; 8:1-2). But God sent his Son to die for us, and now puts his Spirit within us, in order that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:3,4). There is no antithesis between law and gospel in the moral standards which they teach; the antithesis is in the way of salvation, since the law condemns while the gospel justifies. -- John Stott

RAY REMARKS: We note that in particular the commandment requiring sabbath keeping is no part of the gospel of grace, and that teaching others to keep the Mosaic law code is to cause them to base their ideas of salvation by God’s grace on an improper understanding of Christ’s Way. When Paul affirms that law is for the lawless, he is not saying that Christians will save themselves by obedience to a code of laws. He is rather declaring that salvation is NOT by keeping laws, but instead the apostle has taught that salvation is by grace through faith. In passages to which we are pointed by our good brother John Stott, the apostle Paul makes a clear distinction between the law of Moses and the present “law” of God. So when Luther or Calvin base teaching upon the law of Moses, isn’t their teaching to some extent improperly aimed?

What is the law of Christ? Is it the law which Paul says is “for the lawless”? Obviously not, perhaps. The law of Christ is based upon love. Jesus says the primary obligation anyone has to God is to LOVE Him. And we who love God will also, Jesus says, love our fellows. This law of love is for lawless and for all. But this is not the law about which Paul speaks to Timothy. For the law to which the apostle refers is clearly that which is to restrain those who do NOT love God. Has not God planned that society shall be governed by law? Is it not right that every group must be controlled by rules which can be enforced on those who want to break them? Officers of “the law” are necessary parts of any social grouping, and a function of officers of the law is to punish evil-doers.

Even in the church, God has ordained that there shall be order which is maintained by “officers” of His choosing. That is, God’s plan for His church is that we will organize ourselves into congregations, with each congregation being led and taught by men who have been prepared by God for that very work. That’s why we who want to serve Christ should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Christians are to help one another, to strengthen one another, and so build up “the body” which is the combination of us all who love Jesus. In every congregation, God prepares men for leadership so that they may lead and bless by knowing and teaching and living truly, and so that they may “protect” others in “the flock” from false teaching and from false teachers.

God directs that each church shall have local leaders selected by the members, loved by the members, and obeyed by the members. We can’t do that by absenting ourselves from regular assemblies of the saints. We should know our “elders” (God’s appointed leader/teachers), and we should be known by them. How could they help us if they don’t even know us and our longings and dreams and hopes? The assemblies of Christians should be characterized by love and by shared blessings.

So how does law fit in this picture? Poorly. If we are controlled by LOVE, then we need no law. Each of us will control our SELF, seeking only good for our fellows. But yet the church leader/teachers need to be alert to protect against some who are NOT loving, some who are selfish, grasping, and greedy. Not every member of any church is a true Christian, and each of us starts out as a “babe” in Christ, with much need for help in learning how we should conduct ourselves as followers of the Way.

Do Christians live under law? No sinner can possibly be saved by keeping a law code, even a code written by our God. All have sinned. We fall short of the glory of God. We are not perfect. None of us are. Law can condemn us. It cannot save us. But we are not free to live lawlessly if we hope to spend eternity with our God. God calls for us to honestly and completely live in love. Love is described well in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. We need to live as Jesus did and as we are led to do by His Spirit. And, yes, we need to keep the laws of our land. And we need to obey our church leader/teachers so long as they are walking in God’s love.

VIEWPOINT TRACT CL-D01 Here’s a study which might be interesting for all church leaders. Al Maxey titled it: Edicts of Elderships
Issue #133 ------- July 8, 2004

Perhaps the most central characteristic of authentic leadership is the relinquishing of the impulse to dominate others. David Cooper (1931--) Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry

Edicts of Church Elders

Are Opinions
of Shepherds Binding?

Sheep need shepherds. Without responsible guides to lead them, and bereft of benevolent pastors to care for them, sheep will stray and become prey for predators, or they will become sickly and die through neglect. Jesus often felt a great sense of compassion for the multitudes, for “they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Moses appreciated the fact that men without leadership would stray, thus he petitioned the Lord to “appoint a man over the congregation who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:16,17).

Without godly guidance from special Spirit-led shepherds, the flock of the Lord will become an easy target. “They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill, and My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth; and there was no one who would search or seek for them” (Ezekiel 34:5,6). Perhaps even worse is when shepherds are present, but they are evil and self-serving. Ezekiel 34 describes such a scenario, and God has a message of condemnation for them. “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them” (vs. 2-4).

God desires for His “sheep” to have shepherds, even in this church age. However these shepherds must be sheep-centered, not self-centered. Bad shepherds can do as much damage as good wolves! There are many characteristics of worthless pastors that could be presented, but in the passage from the prophecy of Ezekiel we see that two of the chief failings are found in self-centeredness and severity. They are harsh, forceful, and domineering. They “lord it over” the flock.

Jesus told the Twelve, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not to be so among you” (Mark 10:42,43). Shepherds are NOT commissioned by God to be little lords over the flock. Rather, they are to be spiritual guides. In other words, they lead by example, not by edict. “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2,3).

There is no question that God’s design for the church includes recognized leadership. The members of the universal One Body are uniquely gifted by the Spirit in many different ways ... “if it is leadership, let him govern diligently” (Romans 12:8). And in the church God has appointed ... those with gifts of administration (1 Corinthians 12:28). “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). “Appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). The “flock” is to have shepherds among them – good leaders and administrators; that is the will of God. But, they must be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led men, otherwise they will inflict greater harm than good upon the flock.

In the context of such considerations there always arises the concern over just how much power an elder, or eldership, actually has. What is the scope and extent of their authority over the flock? Is their every utterance LAW? Must they be obeyed without question by the members of the congregation? Are their opinions equivalent to edicts from on high?
These are questions that need to be addressed, for there are some shepherds in various folds throughout the flock who do indeed seek to “lord it over” the “sheep” entrusted to them, and who “with force and with severity have dominated them.” This is not to be so among the people of God, but, sadly, it sometimes is. Too frequently we see such shepherds forcing the flock to conform to their personal preferences. After all, they are the elders, and they must be obeyed. This raises the vital question of just how far the “sheep” in the local fold are bound by the pronouncements of their pastors. Simply stated: are the personal opinions of pastors binding upon the congregation they oversee? What authority does an eldership have to insist upon congregational compliance to their dictates? Consider the following email I received the other day:

“Brother Maxey, I am a new reader to your publication, having been referred to your web site by another preacher. I preach here in Tennessee. I was reading with great interest your article on patternism, and I appreciate what you said. Certainly this has been a problem and continues to be a problem for many in our fellowship. My one question for you would be this: While it is certainly wrong to enforce our opinion of a pattern on other autonomous congregations, is it not the domain of an eldership to decide such matters in the local church?

“Obviously a decision must be made (we cannot both worship with musical instruments and sing only a cappella; we cannot both eat in the church building and not eat in the church building; etc.). When a local eldership makes a decision on a matter of opinion, doesn’t that decision of theirs become binding for that congregation? For example, if an eldership decides that they will not eat any meals in their building, and a member decides to have a meal in the building anyway just to 'prove them wrong,' is that member not sinning by rebelling against his God-given leaders? One is, after all, free to place his membership at a congregation that does eat in the building.

“I ask this because ours is a fairly conservative congregation, by choice. While some of our members may be patternists, yet I truly believe our elders understand that many of these issues are just matters of opinion, and they have simply chosen a conservative opinion for our congregation. They do not enforce their opinion on other congregations, nor do they condemn to hell those who disagree with their opinions.

“Lately, however, we have been pushed to publicly accept several practices that we do not use here (such as instrumental music in worship, small group Bible studies in place of Sunday night services, etc.). Our elders have been very clear to state that such practices are for elderships to decide at each local, autonomous church, but that here at our congregation these things will not be practiced. For making such statements as these we have been labeled ‘judgmental’ and ‘condemning.’ As someone who has obviously both studied this issue a great deal and given it a great deal of thought, I would value your opinion. I am sure you are a busy man, and that you get many emails, but please let me hear from you when you get the chance. Thank you for your work in the kingdom of God. May He bless you richly!”

This person’s e-mail goes to the very heart of the problem, and presents the dilemma in a most compelling manner. Obviously, in the absence of any leadership and guidance, anarchy will reign. That is unacceptable for any group. Thus, someone must take the lead and provide direction. I believe the Lord, in His inspired writings, has provided us with the information needed to wisely establish such leadership in each fold of His universal flock. Those who will provide the daily direction for the church and guide the way for the flock are to be the shepherds (elders). Good shepherds have the best interests of the sheep in mind, and thus their guidance, even if it is in the area of opinion, should not be lightly dismissed. After all, these are Spirit-led and Spirit-appointed men (or, they should be).

In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul several times stated that some aspects of his teaching was “opinion,” and not direct commands from the Lord. However, he also declared that he was in possession of the Spirit of God and therefore should be regarded as “trustworthy” in his personal words of guidance to the people of God. I believe this same principle can apply to elders of a local congregation in their efforts to render godly guidance. If a congregation’s shepherds are genuinely being led by the Holy Spirit of God, then their judgments should be given due weight by the members.

“Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account” (Hebrews 13:17).
Reflecting on Hebrews 13:17 -- In this passage from the epistle to the Hebrews the author makes four statements about those who were serving God as “leaders” among the brethren and the responsibilities of the disciples of Christ to them:

ONE – “Obey your leaders ...” (NASB, NIV, CEV, TEV, RSV, NEB, SEB, NAB, Berkeley, Williams, McCord). “Obey your spiritual leaders” (LB). “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you” (NWT). “Listen to your spiritual leaders and obey them” (Lamsa). “Be responsive to your pastoral leaders” (The Message). “Obey them that have the rule over you” (KJV, ASV).

It is difficult to determine with any degree of exactness the identity of these “leaders.” The two most likely identifications are: elders and/or evangelists. Prophets, deacons, and apostles have also been suggested by various scholars. The fact that they are spiritual guides to the congregation, individuals with some degree of authority to exercise oversight, seems rather obvious by the wording of the text.

The word translated “obey” is peitho = “to obey; listen to; follow; confide in; trust; rely on; place confidence in” (Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 314). “Depend on; trust; put one’s confidence in; take the advice of; obey; follow” (Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 639). This suggests the disciples should obediently follow the example and leading, with full confidence and trust, of those who are guiding the flock spiritually. “They were to show their religious teachers proper respect, and to submit to their authority in the church, but only so far as it was administered in accordance with the precepts of the Saviour. The obligation to obedience does not, of course, extend to anything which is wrong in itself, or which would be a violation of conscience” (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Hebrews, p. 323).

TWO – “... and submit to them” (NASB, RSV, ASV, NAB). “... give way to them” (Goodspeed). “...submit yourselves” (KJV). “... do what they say” (CEV). “... be submissive” (NWT, Williams, McCord). “... yield to them” (Berkeley Version). “... listen to their counsel” (The Message). “... defer to them” (NEB). “... be willing to do what they say” (LB). The NIV reads, “... submit to their authority.” This is an addition! It is not in the original text! “There is nothing in the Greek to correspond to the NIV’s ‘their authority’” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 152). This is the Greek word hupeiko = “to yield; submit; give way to; defer to.” “A church can’t go forward with elders going in one direction and the membership trying to go another. Of course, not every elder is qualified to lead. Many problems arise when churches carelessly elect unqualified leaders. If elders are qualified, the members will be glad to submit” (Don Earl Boatman, Helps From Hebrews, p. 446). “He is not fit to ‘rule’ who is not capable of ‘guiding’” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary, vol. 6, p. 788).

THREE – “They keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account” (NASB). The phrase “keep watch over” is the Greek word agrupneo = “to stay awake and watchful; to be vigilant.” Other translations are: “They are keeping watch in defense of your souls, as men accountable for the trust” (Goodspeed). “They are watching over you, and they must answer to God” (CEV). “They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God” (The Message).

“The leaders are concerned for the deep needs of their people, not simply for what lies on the surface. We see here a reference to spiritual well-being” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 153). “They have no selfish aim in this. They do not seek ‘to lord it over God’s heritage.’ It is for your own good that they do this, and you should therefore submit. As they must soon be called into judgment ... they will pursue only that course which will be for your good” (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Hebrews, p. 324). “Those who are called to watch are to give the alarm at the approach of danger; they are to give it early enough so that those who are watched over may meet the danger or may escape it. When an appointed watchman proves a dumb dog, calamity results. Woe to the people whose leaders are blind watchers, unable to distinguish foe from friend or to recognize danger before it is too late” (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 490).

FOUR – The author of Hebrews gives the following extremely sound advice to those being led by these leaders, “Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (NASB). The NIV says, let “their work be a joy, not a burden.” “Try to make their work a pleasure and not a burden – by so doing you will help not only them but yourselves” (Phillips). “So act that they may fulfill their task with joy, not with sorrow, for that would be harmful to you” (NAB). “Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?” (The Message).

God’s people can make the work of leadership either a joy or a burden! “It is a joy to be a leader of a devoted congregation” (Don Earl Boatman, Helps From Hebrews, p. 446). “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

A Word of Caution
Shepherds among the flock of the Lord are to be guides to the sheep, not gods; spiritual examples, not secular executives. Although they are empowered with the Spirit for the purpose of leadership, they are not commissioned to be lords and tyrants over those entrusted to their care. The good shepherd does not live off the sheep, but for the sheep. Indeed, he is willing to make personal sacrifices to see that the needs of the flock are met. Jesus said that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11), but that the hireling “is not concerned about the sheep” (vs. 13).

The disciples of Christ must not be like the Gentiles, whose leaders sought to be lords over the people. Rather, “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:43-45). Shepherds are servant leaders, and good shepherds understand this. Thus, the best interests of the flock are always uppermost in their minds. Their focus is the flock, not themselves! “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 34:7,9).

Nevertheless, shepherds are placed over the flock for a purpose, and that purpose is to lead, guide, nourish, and protect the sheep in the various folds. If shepherds are commissioned by the Lord to lead, then sheep must of necessity follow. At times this will involve judgment calls on the part of the shepherds, but if they are Spirit-led, sheep-focused men then their judgments will most often be in the ultimate best interests of the flock they oversee.

If a congregation is blessed with good leaders, then the members should trust their elders and submit to their vision and guidance. No, they should not be gullible and just swallow anything an elder utters; they should examine all things carefully in light of the guiding principles and precepts of God’s Word. But, in areas of personal opinion, when the direction of a congregation is being considered, someone must lead, or there is chaos. That direction should be ultimately determined by the spiritual leadership. If these leaders are good leaders, they will involve the members in the process of coming to a decision. Decisions affecting the direction of a congregation should not be made behind closed doors and then later “sprung” on the unsuspecting members. That is asking for conflict!

Acts 15:6 tells us that, with regard to a problem facing the church, “the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter.” This was a meeting of the leaders of the church; they would examine the matter and make the determination as to what course should be followed. BUT, notice carefully that this was done in the full view of the members of the church: “And all the multitude kept silent, and they were listening ...” (vs. 12). After some discussion, and after some decisions were reached, “It seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them ...” (vs. 22). Here we see a marvelous example of effective leadership! The leaders led, as they were commissioned to do, but they did so with the participation and support of the congregation. This is absolutely vital to successful leadership.

Shepherds are to shepherd. In the use of this term, however, “it is the guiding and protecting – not the domineering or ruling – of the flock that is stressed” (Dr. Jack P. Lewis, Leadership Questions Confronting The Church, p. 27). “In Palestinian shepherding the shepherd leads the sheep; he does not drive them. We must move from the ‘board of directors’ mindset in our congregations and create a situation in which the shepherd is leading sheep!” (ibid, p. 30). Confucius (551-479 B.C.) certainly captured the essence of effective leadership when he stated, “Go before the people with your example, and be laborious in their affairs.” Good shepherds are involved with the sheep (“I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me” – John 10:14), and they lead by the example of their lives (1 Peter 5:2,3).

On the other hand, we cannot discount the administrative and managerial aspects of serving as an elder in the church. Paul indicates that a man must be able to manage the household of God (1 Timothy 3:4,5), and that “elders who rule well” are to be considered worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). The words “manage” and “rule” in these two passages are both translated from the same word in Greek – proistemi, which means “to preside over; to superintend; to manage; to govern.” It appears eight times in the New Testament writings, and is only used by Paul. Some feel this word is also used with respect to “elders” in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, but this is extremely unlikely due to the fact that the congregation in Thessalonica had only been established three months prior to the writing of this epistle to them!

Although the word proistemi does mean “to preside over; direct; govern,” one must not overlook that it has several other meanings as well, and since ultimately the context must determine which meaning is utilized in a particular passage, these other meanings should at least be considered: “To be a protector or guardian; to give aid; to care for; give attention to” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 539). “To be concerned about; care for; give aid; busy oneself with something; engage in something” (Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 707).

“Translations such as the KJV leave the impression that ‘ruling’ is an important function of elders ... however, reading into these texts the idea of ruling comparable to political rule is not justified by the meaning of the Greek words” (Waymon D. Miller, The Role of Elders in the NT Church, p. 36). “The word was usually applied to informal leadership and management of all kinds rather than to definite offices, and was associated with the services rendered ... thus ‘helpful leadership in divine things’ would be approximately the thought suggested” (F.J.A. Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, p. 127). The task of these men, in light of this Greek word, “is in large measure that of pastoral care, and the emphasis is not on their rank or authority but on their efforts for the eternal salvation of believers. Their attention is primarily directed, not to the exercise of power, but to a sincere care of souls” (Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 6, p. 702).

Returning to the Question -- With this background study in mind, let’s return to the question posed by the minister of the gospel in the state of Tennessee. “When a local eldership makes a decision on a matter of opinion, doesn’t that decision of theirs become binding for that congregation?” I believe the answer to this question, again keeping in mind the above qualifiers, is “Yes.” Let’s use the example (given by the querist) of a congregation considering a Small Groups Ministry on Sunday evenings (which many congregations are opting for). If the shepherds of a congregation, after extensive research and careful, prayerful consideration, and after soliciting the input of the whole congregation to determine their feelings, decides their flock would spiritually benefit from such a ministry, and they move to implement it, then the congregation should submit to and support that vision and direction. As long as such a change in no way violates any principle or precept of God’s Word (and I do not believe it does), then I believe the Scriptures obligate the “sheep” to follow the shepherds without complaint.

Will there be those who are not pleased with the decision? Absolutely! There almost always is an element within virtually every congregation that will not be happy with a decision ... no matter what that decision is. When church discipline was administered in Corinth, for example, Paul spoke of this punishment being “inflicted by the majority” (2 Corinthians 2:6). Not all agreed with it. It is rare that one will find 100% agreement on anything done in a local congregation. Good leadership, however, will go ahead and do what is best for the flock, and good sheep will follow, if they can do so without violating their consciences. Those few members who simply can’t live with the decision, or whose consciences may be violated by the direction chosen, may well opt to associate with a congregation more suited to their personal preferences. There is sufficient diversity within the universal One Body that most people’s needs can be successfully met; if not in one congregation, then in another. There is nothing wrong with such diversity, as long as unity, harmony and fellowship are maintained. After all, we don’t have to be twins to be brothers.

The reader wrote, “For example, if an eldership decides that they will not eat any meals in their building, and a member decides to have a meal in the building anyway just to ‘prove them wrong,’ is that member not sinning by rebelling against his God-given leaders? One is, after all, free to place his membership at a congregation that does eat in the building.” Yes, I believe that member would be sinning if he willfully and maliciously rebelled against the direction established by the local shepherds. As pointed out, a better option for one who found he no longer agreed with the vision and direction of the congregation with which he associated would simply be to associate with more like-minded disciples. This can be done lovingly and amicably, and need not result in the severing of fellowship for either party. Sadly, this is not often what happens, and the seemingly endless fracturing of fellowship we witness all around us attests to this tragic reality.

Ray remarks: If one or more members insist on eating in a church building when the church leaders have said this must not be done, he/they should be encouraged to find another church without delay. If they do not remove themselves, the church should remove them!
I was also very, very pleased to see the minister from Tennessee state the following mindset of the shepherds who lead the flock where he serves: “I truly believe our elders understand that many of these issues are just matters of opinion, and they have simply chosen a conservative opinion for our congregation. They do not enforce their opinion on other congregations, nor do they condemn to hell those who disagree with their opinions.” AMEN! What a fabulous and godly attitude! This is exactly how it should be. If more elders had this same spirit ... well, just think how much nearer we would all be to the realization of our Lord’s prayer in John 17.

If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel free to send them on to others and encourage them to write for a free subscription. I would also welcome any questions or comments from the readers. A CD containing these articles may also be purchased. See The Archives at our web site for details & past issues of Reflections: . AL MAXEY.

Concerning this study as sent out by e-mail, Al Maxey later reports that one who had read the study commented:
From an Elder/Minister in Florida: Al, I just read “Edicts of Elderships.” What an excellent article, not because I agree with you, but because I believe you have touched on a subject that is not understood by many in the church today. Having served for the past six years as an elder (and also as the local evangelist) for a congregation, the subject of the “eldership” is of great interest to me. Before we selected elders, I preached a series of lessons in which I basically did a word study of the descriptive terms used to define the work of elders. At the end of the study the congregation realized that elders were not the “business managers” for the church, nor were they the ones chosen to “make the decisions” for the congregation.

As “overseers,” that is what we do. We “oversee” the congregation’s decisions. We conduct congregational meetings in which the members of the congregation make decisions. Our role is to assure that those decisions are scriptural. The only “private” meetings we have as elders are those meetings where a delicate problem must be discussed, or we need to study a doctrinal issue, or to discuss how we can better serve as elders. We do not control the check-book, in fact we see the monthly financial statement when the rest of the congregation sees it. One of the deacons serves as treasurer, and the deacons spend the necessary funds to do their jobs without getting approval from the elders. As “overseers” we try to lead the congregation in the right direction by sound teaching and by example. One cannot imagine what a wonderful relationship elders can have with the flock when everything is according to God’s plan. How many congregational problems could be solved if elders realized they were not the “lords” over the flock. Keep up the good work. AND,

From a Minister in Texas: Your article “Edicts Of Elderships” is an excellent treatment of a difficult subject. In my experience with mostly small, rural congregations, I observe that it is much better to be without elders than to have unqualified and/or unwilling elders, who never should have been put into the position to begin with. My first full-time job was with a congregation that had three new elders, two of whom had been forced into serving because they had “served before.” What an experience! The one who really desired to serve as an elder was an open-minded, studious man, and the other two were dyed in the wool traditionalists who knew that they had all the answers and that there was nothing more to learn. You are very fortunate to have shepherds that allow you to study and share your conclusions with others who are still searching!

Al Maxey added this response to what the Texas preacher wrote to him: May I add a huge AMEN to your last statement! I am now into my 7th year here, and the men with whom I serve (elders, deacons and ministers) are among the most godly, Christ-like, open-minded men I have encountered in almost 30 years of full-time ministry. I love them dearly! Do they agree with everything I say or write? No, they do not! But they understand the importance of a loving unity and fellowship among all believers, no two of whom ever truly agree on all matters of biblical interpretation or practice. Family is where we can be different, yet still be loved, accepted and embraced. What a joy it is simply being Christians, and not having to worry about being clones. --- Al Maxey AND
From a Reader in Florida: Al, your last two articles on Elders, concerning their children and their edicts, were superb! Serving in the past as an elder at two congregations, and working at others in establishing elders/leaders, I see that these comments and questions you brought up are usually in the forefront of people’s minds. It seems we spend so much time, however, on trying to get our expected leaders to fit into our predetermined mold, about which we have been indoctrinated for years, that we are losing good men to lead us in the right paths.

I’ve known men over the years, for example, who were unable to have children, but became foster parents, and nurtured and raised them as well as the other children from the church. They were excellent examples, and fulfilled the spirit and intent of the Scriptures; however, they were not considered for the position of elders because they did not have believing children of their own! I feel we somehow have missed a great opportunity. I believe the so-called “qualifications” of elders are really qualities, abilities, and lifestyles of Spirit-led men and their wives. Al, I really do appreciate your love and concern for the brotherhood. May God continue to bless you and give you more wisdom in helping us all cope with trying to be God’s children, who can love through diversity. I know that we are not all twins or clones!

AL MAXEY replied: I have also heard of men not being considered for service as elders because their children were adopted, or because they only had one child. I think this is a perfect example of legalism gone to seed, and it has prevented some good men from serving as the Lord intended them to serve. --- Al Maxey AND,
From a Reader in Oklahoma: I appreciate your article on the subject, but I have a problem. If the eldership decrees that something must be done in a certain way, and we MUST obey, then that is not an opinion or judgment, that is a COMMANDMENT. I find it hard to accept that Elders can make commandments. In last night’s Bible study class, it was stated that the Elders have commanded us to attend Wednesday night services, and we must obey. Leaving aside the fact that there are many good reasons to attend, are we not going too far to say the elders command and we must obey? Too many of our brethren accept whatever the elders and preacher say without question.

TO WHICH AL MAXEY replied: If a group of shepherds are in the habit of issuing commandments to the flock, and the sheep are in the habit of obeying without question, then both are exhibiting a failure to truly perceive God’s precepts and principles regarding spiritual leadership over a fold within the One Flock. Shepherds are to lead the sheep by example, they don’t drive them by issuing edicts. They guide them to opportune times and places so that they may excel in their walk with their God; they provide them with opportunities for nourishment; they bind wounds, protect from predators, seek the straying, but they do not “lord it over” those entrusted to their care. There is a huge difference between leading and lording.

A good shepherd will provide opportunities during the week for the “sheep” to be nourished spiritually. Wednesday evening studies are a traditional way many have sought to do this. It is in the best interests of the sheep to take advantage of these times of spiritual nourishment; why would they not want to? If they trust their shepherds, and believe these men have their best interests in mind, they will gladly submit to their spiritual guidance. However, for pastors to command the members to attend a Wednesday evening Bible study is to entirely miss the point of leading by personal example. Rather, shepherds should show them the blessings of attendance in such a way that the sheep will desire to be nowhere else!

THAT is true leadership. The alternative is tyranny. If sheep attend on a Wednesday evening merely because they are told to, they have missed the point. And if shepherds command them to, then so have they! --- Al Maxey

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