By Andy Alexander
Scriptural Elders and Deacons, H.E. Phillips, $15.95.
Scriptural Elders and Deacons by brother H. E. Phillips is an excellent work on an important and controversial Bible subject. It is equally valuable today as an aid to studying the eldership as it was when first written. There has been and always will be a great need for qualified elders in the Lord’s church.
This book is a valuable tool for all Christians, but especially younger preachers will find it to be of great help as they grapple with the problems associated with the eldership. Many questions and problems that relate to the eldership in a local congregation are confusing and perplexing to a young man trying to do the work of an evangelist. Brother Phillips has examined this subject from many different aspects and given sound answers to many questions that arise concerning it. The experience of brother Phillips, his sound biblical reasoning, and concern for the Lord’s church have all gone into this book and can be a great help to a young preacher as he faces questions and problems surrounding the eldership. It will also be a beneficial tool for sermon preparation and class instruction.
The intent of brother Phillips in writing the book can be gleaned from the title itself, Scriptural Elders And Deacons. His goal in his own words is: (1) To present the New Testament truth on the organization of the church of Christ with equal force as we would teach on any other phase of the church. (2) To teach that which will help develop a strong church spiritually. Large numbers are not always a sign of spiritual strength (Matt. 7:13-14). (3) To speak in the fear of God and the judgment, with-out partiality toward anyone. I wish to follow the charge Paul gave to Timothy in preaching the “things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses” (2 Tim. 2:2), to “observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). In this connection Paul gave instructions for the qualifications and appointment of elders and deacons in the church.
I believe that brother Phillips fulfilled his stated purpose. He deals with the necessity of being organized in a scriptural manner, dangers surrounding the eldership, false ideas concerning the eldership, the qualifications of elders and deacons, and many questions that repeatedly arise among brethren concerning the eldership.
This book is an excellent resource work for sermon material on the subject of elders and deacons. Brother Phillips also goes into detail on the congregation’s responsibility in the selection of elders and deacons and their relationship to them. He even devotes a chapter to the wives of elders and deacons entitled “Concerning Wives of Officers of the Church.”
I have preached several lessons on this subject in the few years that I have preached and this book has been a great help to me in organizing my lessons. The chapters are writ-ten in outline form with Roman numerals denoting the major points and each heading and sub-heading numbered for easy reference. This makes it especially easy for looking up in-formation on specific points or questions.
Some of the more trying questions that brother Phillips addresses in this book concern:
Must an elder have a plurality of children to meet the qualification of having faithful children?
Can a man continue to serve as an elder after his wife dies?
Does the wife of an elder have to be a Christian?
Can a woman serve as a deaconess?
Is it right to pay an elder for his services?
Is a man qualified for the eldership whose daughter at-tends dances?
Must a congregation appoint qualified men to serve or can a substitute be made for the eldership (business meeting, evangelistic oversight, etc.)?
Is “blameless” the only qualification?
Must an elder be married?
One may not agree with every conclusion that brother Phillips reaches in answer to these and other questions he addresses, but most will appreciate the effort he has put forth in attempting to answer them. Some preachers and Bible class teachers steer far away from controversial subjects and are afraid to let their views be known for fear that some may be offended or their job may be in jeopardy, but brother Phillips is not guilty of such cowardice as he discusses the eldership.
Brother Phillips analyzes the answers of various men and scholars to many of the questions surrounding the eldership and then gives his reasoned response to the same questions. The serious Bible student will appreciate the time and effort spent by brother Phillips to provide such a thorough treatise on this very important subject.
There are many problems facing the Lord’s church to-day and elders and deacons faithfully fulfilling their responsibilities will help solve these problems. I can recommend this book to every preacher of the gospel. There are other books on this subject, but of all the ones that I am aware of, brother Phillips book excels them all.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 23, p. 10-11
December 5, 1996