By Johnie Edwards
We continue to look at our theme, “And They Stood Every Man In His Place” which is taken from the story of Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites in Judges 7:21. In this article, let’s take a look at the place of elders in the church of Christ.
When The Elders A re Out Of Their Place
It is not the place of elders to do some things that elders often are found doing. And these doings have caused a lot of problems to arise among brethren in many places.
(1) It is not the place of elders to meddle in the affairs of other churches. Elders have enough to do when they do the work assigned them by the Lord. Peter told elders, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof” (1 Pet. 5:2). The oversight of elders is limited to the “flock which is among” them. Elders must not try to oversee that which they have not been “made overseers” of (Acts 20:28). Elders reaching out for more power and oversight beyond that which the Lord gave them was the beginning of the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. Paul warned about such affairs as he talked with the Ephesian elders. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). A church or its business cannot be overseen by another church or elders outside of that local church.
(2) Elders are out of place when they lord over God’s Heritage. Some elders are so set on having their own way or bust, even to the point of being obnoxious about it. The attitude that we are the elders and we don’t care what anyone else says or thinks is to display an attitude which is foreign to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit said, as he gave instructions to elders, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3). Bible elders realize that they do not know all there is to know and from time to time consult with good men in the church and will keep the church informed as to what they are trying to accomplish.
(3) No place for self-willed elders. There are elders who put their opinions above what God has already revealed in the Bible. I heard an elder say, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I have already made up my mind.” That’s being self-willedl One of the qualifications for elders is, “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed” (Tit. 1:7). So far as the truth is concerned, elders learn just like the rest of us learn, by study. Humility would do elders who are self-willed a lot of good.
(4) Elders are not law makers. Elders are out of their place when they begin to make laws to bind on God’s people. The Bible teaches that “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (Jas. 4:12), and that’s Christ! The will of Christ has already been revealed. Paul wrote the Galatians, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
The Place of Elders
Elders surely have their place and work in the Lord’s church as prescribed by the Lord. As members, we are admonished “to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thess. 5:13). It is the place of elders:
(1) To Rule. The apostle to the Hebrews said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves” (Heb. 13:17). Elders are rulers in the local church. They are to “rule well” (1 Tim. 5:17) and to rule “with diligence” (Rom. 12-8). Where everybody rules there is no rule, and so God charged elders with the responsibility of ruling.
(2) To be Flock-feeders. The church is the flock of God and God ordained elders with the grave responsibility of feeding the flock. Remember that Peter said, “Feed the flock of God among you” (1 Pet. 5:2). Elders must be able to teach and see that others who teach keep the church on a good healthy, scriptural diet!
(3) Oversight is the place of elders. Some elders are too timid to take the oversight given them by the Lord. Paul admonished the Ephesian elders, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made your overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20,28). An elder first looks at himself as he undertakes the job of overseeing the local church. He then keeps abreast of the members (their unfaithfulness) as he tries to involve members in the work of the local church. Good elders are constantly looking over the church to find ways of encouraging the body to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:18).
(4) Elders are soul-watchers. Don’t get upset if the elders call to talk with you about the condition of your soul. They are but doing their job. I get upset when elders do not show interest concerning our souls! It is the place of elders to “watch for your souls, as they that must give account” (Heb. 13:17). Elders will give an accounting before God as to how they have handled this part of their office.
(5) It is the place of elders to be good example-setters. “Don’t do as we do, do as we say” will not work with elders. They are to set good examples before the church. Peter said that elders be “ensamples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3). An elder who is not faithful in attending the services of the church; is careless in his living; manifests bad habits; has a bad attitude; lacking in hospitality and the like is not setting a good example before the church.
As an elder, have you checked your place lately?
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 5, p. 140
March 3, 1988