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Pastoral 2017

Ruling Elders

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Following today’s worship service, we shall hold our Annual Congregational Meeting and the Election to the Church Session. The candidates to the Church Session (2017-2019) are all men who have been serving as elders and deacons. The only change among the candidates in this election is Dn Francis Lee’s nomination to the office of eldership. His nomination has been approved by the Board of Elders upon prayerful examination of his doctrine and life.

It is important that we understand the biblical necessity, nature and importance of ruling elders in our church.

Necessity of Ruling Elders

In the apostolic times, when the Gospel spread through Judea, Samaria, Asia Minor and in other regions, churches were formed. Their proper spiritual and administrative care became a great concern to the apostles. Paul then wrote to Titus what should be done for the proper management of the church – “thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).

The apostolic instruction is that the appointment of elders as church officers is vital to an orderly, well-managed church. The ordaining of elders is an imperative. It is on no account to be omitted. Paul’s admonition was that Titus would go through city by city and ordain a body of elders in each congregation (cf. 1 Timothy 3, where Paul also mentioned the appointment of deacons, who are to be assistants to the elders). The elders, then, are to rule and organise the church.

The basic biblical pattern for the proper organisation of a local church is that elders (plural in number) ought to be ordained from within the congregation, in accordance with the biblical requirements of abilities and standards of behaviour. This is corroborated by Acts 14:23 – “And when they (Paul and Barnabas) had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

Nature of Ruling Elders

Elders ought to be men of sound moral and spiritual character. Their qualifications are plainly laid down in the Word of God, as attested to by Titus 1:6-9, “(being) blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

A similar requirement of conduct is also given in I Timothy 3:2-7. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

The passages quoted above lay special emphasis upon high morals and sound spiritual abilities and character. So, every man who is considered for the office of eldership ought to be blameless in life and steadfast in the faith. He should be a man of wisdom and discretion. Neither riches nor wealth nor social position can qualify a man to be a ruler in God’s house. Holiness must characterise his pursuit of life so that he may be an example to the flock. Devotion to God – piety – should characterise every ruling elder. He must be a godly, spiritually-minded man. His piety is the measure of his strength. All his duties require godliness, and without it, all his skills and capabilities are of little use in the government of the church. If he is truly godly, then he will truly influence the church for the glory of God. It is the godly influence of the elders that direct the proper conduct of the church.

alification. Not every church member who is devout is qualified to be an elder of the church. A candidate to the office of eldership must also be a man of intelligence, practical wisdom, experience, and administrative capacity. The best and wisest godly men in the congregation should be selected. From time to time, the board of elders will have to deal with matters of utmost gravity and also grapple with perplexing problems. In such situations, the ablest of minds and the most knowledgeable of men are to be found among the rulers of the church. Men who lack excellent mental capacity would not be able to handle such duties. While we thank God for capable men whom God has given to us, let us also pray for more competent men for the eldership. The apostle also insisted that an elder should be “apt to teach”. This is not necessarily a reference to public and official instruction, for ruling elders are not those who are called to labour in the Word as teaching elders (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17). There must be, however, the ability to communicate and defend sound doctrines of the Bible. Elders must take every opportunity available to them to increase in the knowledge of God’s Word. They should be diligent and faithful students of God’s Word so that they may teach in the Bible class, and guide worshippers and inquirers in the wisdom of God’s Word. The role of elders is of vast importance in preventing the church from departing from the truth of God’s Word and defending the church against errors of all kinds that will creep in through false teachers. So, the apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian elders, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

God willing, I will address the topic of the ruling elders more next week. Meanwhile, I urge you to prayerfully cast your vote today. May the Holy Spirit help us to recognise and support everyone whom He has called to the offices of the elders and deacons in Gethsemane BPC.

 

 

Pastoral Exhortation