By Michael Garrison
The word “must” is used several times in the Scriptures. Some do not know the meaning of the word or else they ignore the meaning in an attempt to hold to a position they think to be scriptural.
First, we should define the word. Strong’s dictionary defines it as: “it is (was, etc.) necessary (as binding): behooved, be meet, must (needs), (be) need(ful), ought should.” Thayer’s definition is: “it is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper; . . . it denotes any sort of necessity.”
In John 3:7, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” This new birth consists of being “born of water and of the Spirit,” i.e. in order for one to be born again, “it is . . . necessary (as binding)” for one to be born of both water and the Spirit. One may think he was “born anew” before either or both elements involved in the new birth were complied with, but Jesus, by using the word “must,” shows the necessity of water and the Spirit in being born again.
Another example of “must” occurs in Acts 1:16. Here, the apostle Peter said, “This scripture (Psa. 41:9) must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas.” In other words, “it was necessary (as binding)” that Judas do what he did in betraying Jesus.
Now, having established the use of the term “must,” let us look at two modern examples where some reject the meaning and application of the term.
In Charles Holt’s magazine, The Examiner (Vol. 2, no. 2, March 1987), Holt wrote, “1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1 are abused and misused when the things mentioned there are asserted to be ‘qualifications’ necessary for one to be officially appointed to be an ‘elder’. . . We read all of this into these passages.” Is he teaching truth when he says this? No!
Not what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write: “A bishop then must be. . . ” and a list of about 16 items follows. From the definition of “must,” we learned it “denotes any sort of necessity.” So, 1 Timothy 3 is not misused when selecting men to be appointed elders. It would be a misuse of the Scriptures to teach, as Holt and others do, that “The word ‘elder’ simply means ‘older’ or ‘senior'” (The Examiner, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1986).
I wrote to Holt and informed him of his error in March of 1987 and have yet to hear from him. I told him I noted the word “must” is used in Acts 9:6. There Saul of Tarsus was told by Jesus Christ to “arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (emphasis mine, m1g). Now some may will say that we abuse and misuse the passage and say baptism (required in Acts 22:16) really is not one of the items one “must” submit to, but that doesn’t change the Truth that Jesus found it necessary to bind baptism to wash away sins. So it is when some teach as Holt does; the Truth must be taught and contended for and those teaching error must be exposed.
After Bob West had an article in The Examiner (Vol. 3, No. 5, Sept. ’88) titled, “I’ve Learned Better,” I wrote to him to let him know how disappointed I was in his departure from the faith. (He basically agrees with Holt on the subject of elders.) We have engaged in a good deal of correspondence. In one of his letters, West wrote, “. . . Isn’t it possible that Paul was giving Timothy a general description of a shepherd (and the kind of person one should be) instead of a list of legal specifications? Have you noticed that his instruction to Titus was not identical?”
I wonder if West thinks Jesus’ use of “water and the Spirit” in John 3:3-7 is just a “general description” of being “born again” or if they are to be considered as “legal specifications” before one is “born anew”? I wonder if brother West thinks that Peter’s use of Psalm 41:9 in Acts 1:16 is just a “general description?’ of the one who betrayed Jesus or does he consider it a “legal specification” of Judas himself? Does he think Jesus told Paul there was something he must do (Acts 9:6) as a “general description” or was it a “legal specification”? Honesty would demand Holt and West to teach I Timothy 3 and Titus I are items men must – of necessity – meet before they are qualified to be appointed as elders, or they must treat John 3:7; Acts 1:16; and Acts 9:6 the same way they mistreat 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, etc.
The quibble that the instructions in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus I not being identical is as easily answered as if he said the instructions in Acts 2:38 are not identical to Acts 16:31. Bob West ought to know we combine various passages to find the plan of salvation – it is not found altogether in one passage – and I’m sure he knows this! When we combine all the Scripture says about elders, we can know what God has taught concerning that subject. Some of that is elders are married men with children, and meet various other qualifications and that each congregation has a plurality of elders. This is what God has specified; it is not a general thing, but a must!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 11, p. 329
June 1, 1989