Appreciation for the Work of Elders
William C. Sexton
St. Joseph, Missouri
"And we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labour among you, and are over you in the, Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (I Thess. 5:12-13).
There are many facets to the Christian's duty, and we should give proper attention to each of them. We have a tendency to become obsessed with ONE matter, and ignore to a degree, others. Thus we call our minds back to the work of elders: What do the scriptures teach on this? Are we informed as we should he on this matter? Do we have faith in God's word on this matter?
God has organized His church-the called out people. I affirm that this organism bears the imprint of God's wisdom. History testifies that this organism is adequate for all time. No one can be guided by God's revelation and overlook the fact that His church is unique! No one can be informed of history and overlook the fact that there have been more departures in regard to the organizational arrangement of the church than perhaps in regard to any other matter of New Testament origin. Looking upon the religious world today, one is impressed with the fact that there is a greater variety of organizational arrangements than perhaps in regard to any other matter.
I find it depressing to see some good brethren, those who are "sound" regarding most other matters, take an unscriptural position regarding the eldership. I affirm that God's word is as plain regarding the eldership as it is on any other subject. It is a matter of searching out the truth, accepting it as final, and applying the principles. I feel that perhaps more should be said on this subject than is being said. At times it seems that only one aspect of the subject receives most of the attention, while there are several aspects which are neglected. Now I focus our attention on the subject at hand, APPRECIATION for those who thus serve!
God has shown:
1. That there is a NEED for men to serve as elders or bishops (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5).
2. That men MUST meet certain qualifications in order to serve as such (I Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-11)
3. That they have a WORK to do, which is regulated by the word of God, whose scope of work is limited to the congregation of which they are members (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3).
In the passage we quoted in the beginning we find the apostle charging the congregation at Thessalonica regarding men, who evidently were serving in this capacity as elders. He tells them to: (1) KNOW them, to recognize the elders; (2) To ESTEEM them very highly in love for their work's sake. Also he affirms three things about them: (1) they
LABOUR among the Christians --- such is indeed a WORK, a "good work"; (2) They were OVER them in the Lord; (3) These men ADMONISH Christians, men of the congregation -- that is they issue warnings and point out dangers, etc.
I affirm that we need to have an appreciation for those who serve in this capacity. We need to KNOW the scriptures on the subject to the extent that we can determine whether or not men are actually serving as such. Each person should do his best to qualify himself to serve, if such is within his power-certainly not for any glory, rather for the good that he can accomplish by such service. Each person should seek to encourage others to qualify to serve in this capacity, to DESIRE this office, simply because such is classified as a "good work," (I Tim. 3: 1) and all Christians are to be desirous of "good works" (Tit. 3:8).
There are many FALSE IDEAS propagated on this subject, and some of them by members of the church. Many of these ideas are as foreign to the New Testament as infant baptism, or the idea of the universal bishop. Some of these false ideas are covered in the following:
1. Some have set aside the qualifications or at least some of them. They say that some of them are NOT necessary; they affirm that one can serve with God's blessings without the qualities Paul said one "must" have. Paul says that a "bishop then must...," and then he lists the qualities (I Tim. 3:1-7). I find hard to see HOW one can claim FAITH in the scriptures, then affirm that one does not HAVE to possess these qualities to serve.
2. Some claim that ELDERS ARE INEVITABLE! They affirm that you have men serving as such REGARDLESS whether or not such has been "ordained" or APPOINTED. Such is as unscriptural as you can get regarding this matter. Read Acts
3. Some affirm that elders have more authority than God has given them; if they approve a thing, then the church is required to perform it. Such is also unscriptural. Elders are required to find divine authority for a thing before it is right. Elders deciding that a thing is RIGHT it does not MAKE IT SO! Where is such authorized in the New Testament? When such is found there, and only then is it RIGHT.
4. Some have set elders over BROTHERHOOD works. Such is also unscriptural and anti-scriptural. The RULE is limited to the congregation of which they are members (I Pet. 5:1-3).
Myappeal: Let us be informed, and respect those who do serve as God has authorized them to do. This is God's will! This is good for our souls! This is good the cause of Christ! Such will serve defeating Satan!
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 19, pp. 8-9