Shepherd Staffs (2)
Dorval L. McClister
The Elder's Children
Much has been said about the children of elders. Must he have two or more children in order to qualify, or may he qualify if he has one faithful child who is a Christian? A discussion of this subject will depend upon how one looks upon the word "children" as it is used in the New Testament. It seems clear to me that all passages such as 1 Timothy 5:10; Luke 18:16; 20:28-31, apply to a single child in the same way they apply to a plurality of children. In Titus 1:16 it states that he must have "faithful children not accused of riot or unruly." If the word children means more than one, and the man must have more than one not accused, would he be qualified if he had one accused of riot or unruly? Many questions arise on this subject, and if a man is convinced that he cannot serve because he has one faithful child then he should not serve or express his desire for the work. The question to be answered is one that has to do with his ability to raise up a child or children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Does raising up one child prove this ability? If he has the ability to raise up one such child, does he have the ability to raise up 2, 5, 11?
Another question that generates much comment is, "what about the child of an elder who, upon reaching adulthood, turns to a life of unfaithfulness and quits attending the services? Should the elder resign? Should the elder be asked to resign?" These are questions which require some study. There is no doubt that such unfaithfulness of the son or daughter will cause many to look upon the elder and say, "You didn't do your job, you're not fit or qualified to be an elder." An elder under such circumstances will often choose to resign under the impression that he is thought by others to condone the actions of the child and has failed to set the proper example. If an elder under such circumstances chooses to resign, let him do so. However, there may be another side to such reasoning. We often quote from Ezekiel 18:20 - "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son . . ." We apply this against the false teaching of Calvinism, but is this the only application? A son or daughter may turn from the faith, but this does not prove that the parents are the cause, nor does it prove that the parents condone the sinful practice. We have the tendency to impute the guilt of a child upon a parent, but we have no such right. If a child of God turns from the faith, does this reflect upon God his Father? Furthermore, if the elder resigns and the child later repents, could the elder be reinstated? If the qualification of an elder is based upon the requirement that his child remain faithful to the Lord as long as the child lives, then we really don't know whether or not we have any qualified elders. If a child becoming unfaithful means that the elder has been proven unqualified, then it means that he has never been qualified.
It would be well to study each individual case where the child of an elder becomes unfaithful. Does the elder defend the child or condone the practice? Has the elder rebuked the child? Some people will use the Proverb that states, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). This is a proverb, and should never be pressed beyond a proverb. It does not teach the impossibility of apostasy; it states a general rule of which there are exceptions (1 Tim. 4:1).
As we have noticed, Paul instructed Titus to "Ordain elders in every city" (Titus 1:5). However, Paul did not instruct us as to what Titus was to say nor what procedure was involved in ordaining elders. The original word kathistemi which is translated "ordain," simply means to appoint, or set a person in a place or position of authority (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine). As these words are used in the New Testament, it is clear that some form of action was required by which these men would be recognized as elders. This was, evidently, a very simple procedure, and nothing akin to the present-day denominational concept of ordaination of preachers and priests with all the ecclesiastical vesture, liturgy, pomp and ritual.
It is my conclusion that two things should be accomplished in the appointment of elders and both eventu4lly blend into one thought. Whatever is said by the one who is apppointing the men (and in the New Testament those who appointed the elders were evangelists), it must be emphasized first that these men accept the responsibilities placed upon them and recognize their place and function of overseeing the flock. I always have the men to stand, usually in front and facing the assembly. Then a few remarks to the effect that these men standing before you have been selected by the church to serve as elders, and they stand before you recognizing their responsibilities from this day forward. Whatever elaboration may be deemed necessary is left to the speaker, but one thing essential is to establish that at this moment they accept their responsibilities and will perform the work of elders in this congregation. While the men remain standing, I also request that the entire congregation arise to their feet in recognition of them as the elders of the church. In this simple way the men selected have recognized their position and responsibility before the entire church, and the members have recognized them as the elders. This is followed immediately, while all are standing, by fervent prayer on behalf of the men appointed.
What About Laying On Of Hands?
I can see nothing accomplished in a symbolic jester of laying hands upon the men selected to serve as elders. In the days of the apostles, and by the hands of the apostles, miraculous gifts were imparted. It is my conviction that no one other than the apostles could impart spiritual gifts. Titus was instructed by Paul to ordain (appoint) elders in every city. Yet as Titus could not impart spiritual gifts, it would seem clear that Titus did not lay his hands upon those whom he appointed as elders of the church. Even if an appeal is made to Acts 13:1-3, we still have a case involving the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. It is my personal belief that the practice of laying hands upon another today would be empty of any real meaning, and is not necessary in appointing elders in the church.
Unity Of The Elders
Serious problems can arise within the eldership of the local church when there is dissension and disunity among the elders. The elders should discuss every problem and reach an agreement before any statements are made. When a statement is prepared to be read before the church or to be printed in the bulletin, each elder should place his signature upon the statement. An elder must also be careful in giving answers to individuals. If an individual questions one of the elders concerning a matter which involves a decision by all the elders, then take the question or problem to the other elders and decide upon the answer. People will at times go to the elders individually hoping to receive two or more answers to their question. Avoid any possibility of contradiction by discussing such matters with all the elders involved. The church will have more respect for their elders if the elders speak in unity.
Elders Lording It Over
Elders are warned against formulating their own rules and imposing them upon the Lord's people. It seems to be an easy matter for elders to fall into this error. Watch carefully and make certain that as elders you do not demand something God has not demanded, nor make laws where He has made no laws.
On the other hand, there may be occasions when turmoil and dissension swells up and elders may have to make some decisions based primarily upon wisdom, opinion, and righteous principles in order to minimize or eliminate a serious threat to the welfare of the local church. As elders you may have to decide who to allow to speak before the church and who not to allow. You may need to cancel a meeting or a business meeting in order to avoid confrontation of factions. It may be deemed wise to change the time of assemblies or cancel a Sunday night service. As elders you may need to counsel some on the subject of immodest apparel or make a decision on the use of the church building. You must make certain that all things are done decently and in order. You must uphold morality and withstand the wolves that would enter in. As elders you must protect the flock, but you must give attention to accusations of lording it over the flock. This is a serious charge and it will grow unless it is settled. On most occasions such accusations are only chants of one or a few disgruntled members who have not been allowed to have their way and sway over the elders. However, the elders must sit down with the accusers and determine if there is scriptural grounds for the accusation. Wherever the guilt falls, it must be corrected publicly.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 6, pp. 173-174March 17, 1983
`Hang In There Like A Rusty
Larry Ray Hafley P.O. Box 1187 Pekin, Illinois 61554
An elder in the church where I preached in Alabama used to offer the advice stated in the title of this article. It is sound counsel. Tenacity is greatly needed in the church today. There is a fine line between stubborness and "stick-to-it-tiveness." However, "bullheadedness" can wait for another theme. For now, we shall be content to discuss "hanging in there like a rusty fish hook."
Jesus, Our Example
No one ever exhibited greater stedfastness than our matchless Master. His discouragements and obstacles were numerous and diverse. His own received Him not. His familiar friend betrayed Him. His enemies resorted to treachery of every kind. They were ruthless and relentless in their attempts to destroy His mission of mercy. Still, He perservered. When death, "even the death of the cross," loomed before Him, He met it without flinching or fleeing. "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour" (Jn. 12:26). Surely, no one ever had greater cause to abandon ship than did our Lord, but He held a straight course through the tempestous waves of death and sailed into the harbor and haven of life. Thus, He stands on the everlasting shore beckoning us to the calm waters of life eternal. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life" (Jas. 1:12).
Reasons To Quit?
Brethren you have known and loved turn and spurn you; children become rebellious and incorrigible; a husband or wife refuses the overtures of human and Divine love and seeks to drag you down with them; a loved one contracts a horrible disease and dies by degrees; an accident, so useless and needless, claims the life of the dearest on earth to you; financial ruin envelopes your purse and your health begins to fail; in your agony, you writhe and cry and hear only the echo of your own misery; you look around and the wicked prosper while your life appears bankrupt, devoid of meaning and purpose - are these your reasons to quit?
If any of the above items of depression describe you, do not forget that they also, in part, describe the fears and frustrations of Job, Joseph and David. But they did not quit! They did not give up or give out. They clung to the lowest rung of the ladder of life, but they hung on. They overcame. By prayer, by reflection and meditation on the word of God, they remained true and faithful. And you can, too. Consider Him who is invisible, who endured such contradiction of sinners. Contemplate the great cloud of witnesses who say you can make it as they made it despite
the trials, troubles and tribulations that threaten to consume you. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 Jn. 5:4).
One second after you are dead, it will not matter. What will not matter? Nothing will matter. Whether men and brethren were good or bad to you, whether your were healthy or sick, whether your were rich or poor, whether others succeeded when you failed, whether loved ones lived or died, whether life was fair or foul - none of these things will matter! What will matter is your soul and your relationship to God (Mk. 8:36, 37).
Suppose you do cave in? Suppose you do renounce and denounce faith in men and God? What then? What will be gained? Will it make you prosperous? Will it restore your health? Will it make your enemies into friends? Will it bring back the dead? No, it will avail nothing at all. Denying the Lord will not bring you any advantage. Turning from God will only insure more misery, torment, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, and everlasting shame and contempt, without hope of release or relief.
Knowing this, you have only one real alternative = "Hang in there like a rusty fish hook!"
Dudley Ross Spears Route 1, Box 121 A, Alvaton, Kentucky 42122
After The "End" What?
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:24, , "Then cometh the end, when he (Christ) shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." The millennialists imagine that when the Lord comes, He will establish His kingdom and reign on David's throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years. But you will note from the context here that the kingdom is to be delivered up to the Father when the "end" comes.
Christ is now reigning in heaven on David's throne and when He returns it will be to give up the kingdom to the Father -not to establish an earthly millennial kingdom. Question: how could Christ deliver back to God what does not exist? That is the dilemma the millennialists face. They cannot fit the end of 1 Corinthians 15:24 into their imaginary millennial reign of Christ on earth.
15 Guardian of Truth - March 17, 1983 (175)