No Elders - No Preachers
Recently I visited a brother who had decided that he could not worship with a congregation because preachers misunderstood the Bible and would not agree with his ideas. In fact, he had decided that it was wrong to have preachers at all! He asked me if I was a preacher "sent" by God like the ones mentioned in Romans 10. I told him that I was not, because that is talking about the original messengers who were moved by the Spirit to reveal God's message. I do not know what he expected me to say, but he had already made up his mind that since we do not have Spirit-guided men today we should not have preachers.
I thought that it would be good to get him with brother Charles Holt and the other preachers who oppose elders being appointed in churches and maybe they could get rid of the preachers as well as the elders, and all our problems would be solved! It would be interesting to hear them preach that we should not preach! (The man I visited did most of the "preaching" while I was there!) This doctrine would fit well with the doctrine that says elders should not oversee treasuries, so we will establish a treasury to be overseen by preachers to teach that it is wrong to have treasuries!
But, what about preachers? Does it follow that since the word is used to refer to those who revealed the message that we should not have preachers today? When Jesus commissioned the apostles to go into all the world, He said, "teach," "baptize," and "teach them" to do likewise (Matt. 28:18-20). After the church was established, and persecution arose, those who were scattered "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). All these disciples did not have to be endowed with miraculous gifts to "teach" what they knew. Paul wrote the Corinthians that "through the foolishness of the message preached" (1 Cor. 1:21), those who believed could be saved. Does one have to be "moved by the Spirit" in order to preach this message? If so, then miraculous gifts must continue, or else the preaching of the gospel must cease!
Every Christian has a responsibility to teach, as he has ability and opportunity. Those who spend their time in doing this may scripturally be supported to do this work. "Even so did the Lord ordain that they that proclaim the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:14). Paul "made tents" on occasions (Acts 18:1-3), and on other occasions received "wages" from churches (2 Cor. 11:8).
But, why did "no preachers" remind me of "no elders"? Simply because it involves the same kind of perverting the Scripture. It is true that we do not have the same kind of "preachers" that Romans 10 discusses, but that does not prove that it is wrong for men to preach and even be supported for doing so. Likewise, it is true that the word "elder" sometimes refers to age and may refer to women as well as men. When Paul said, "Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father; the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity" (1 Tim. 5:1,2 NASV), he was speaking of age. Does this prove that there is no such thing in the Bible as men who meet certain qualifications being appointed as overseers in churches? Certainly not!
Back in 1970, I asked brother Holt if women could be bishops in the church, and he answered "yes." His contention was, and still is, that there is no such thing as a special work of "elders" who meet God-given qualifications. To him, and others who have accepted this view, "elder" simply refers to age and includes women as well as men who "grow into" the leadership by spiritual maturity. The qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are completely irrelevant. How could a woman be the "husband of one wife"? Why say that a bishop must not be a "novice" (new convert), if he is simply an older Christian who has grown into leadership? How could he be both a "novice" and seasoned by age at the same time? The Bible teaches that men who meet the qualifications of the Spirit are to be appointed in "every church" (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5). A man or woman may be "elderly" without being appointed as a bishop in the church, just as a person may be a preacher of the word without being the kind mentioned in Romans 10.
It seems that when preachers do not like the decisions of elders or find some who are unqualified and dictatorial, they decide that the abuse justifies rejection of the system. Maybe elders should get together and start a paper "examining" preachers. They could contend that modern-day preachers do not fit the description of Romans 10, and could probably come up with a few dictatorial and unreasonable men who use their "office" (work) to get their way. They might even find a few who are hypocrites. Surely this would be grounds to reject the whole system! But, on second thought, if these elders began preaching that we cannot have preachers, some would no doubt see the inconsistency of it!
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 4, p. 105