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Order in the Church – What do the elders look like? 1 Timothy 3

21 Jun

Paul spells out 15 qualifications so that there are no doubts as to what spiritual maturity entails. Before we examine the qualifications in more detail, several things need to be said:

First, most of these qualities are prescribed elsewhere in the Bible for every Christian, including women. So we all should be seeking to grow in these areas. The moment we became a member of the body of Christ we are in the ministry, and we are given gifts for ministry.

 It is not the elders who are to do the work of the ministry: We are!

 061414_1735_ElderNomina3.jpgSecond, spiritual maturity takes time, effort, and discipline (1 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 

There are no shortcuts. We live in a day when we’re used to instant everything. But there is no such thing as instant godliness. The crucial question is, Are you involved in the process?

Third, no one is perfectly qualified to be a church leader. These qualities, for the most part, are not the kind of thing where you can say, “I’ve arrived!” There is always going to be room for growth. If you require perfection, no one would qualify as an elder. But at the same time, an elder should not be in glaring violation of any qualification. If he is weak in any area, he should be aware of it and should be working on that area.

2 Corinthians 2:16 (NIV) To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

 (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NIV) Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Elders are to be watching for this. That is what the word for elder, episkopos, means — “looking over.”

Elders are to be looking to see what the Lord is doing with his people, and utilizing the opportunities that arise on every hand. They are to be instructed in what the Lord has said in his Word so as to be able to guide this new and exciting thing that is coming into being, correcting it if need be. That is the work of elders. So it is a “noble task,” as Paul says.

Elders are to know and to seek the mind of the Lord, to guide the burgeoning ministry of the congregation as it develops, in direct inspiration of the Spirit of God, as each one in the congregation finds what the Lord wants him or her to do. The elders are to oversee that, to guide it, to correct it, if need be, along the lines of what the Scriptures teach and what the Spirit of God has led them to understand as they seek the mind of the Lord in prayer.

Those are the things you look for:

First, an elder’s reputation. “Above reproach” (KJV, NKJV = “blameless”).  That does not mean he must never have had anything gone wrong. If that were so none of us would make it. It means that when something did go wrong he handled it rightly, dealt with it openly, giving every indication of desiring to be a godly, righteous man.

Second, he is to be a “one-woman man,” literally. It is to be very evident that an elder is committed to one woman, his wife, whom he loves.

A third requirement is that an elder be known for a number of good habits he has formed:

First, “Temperate” (KJV = “vigilant”) Basically, that means to be calm. He is not to be flighty or nervous, constantly jumping from one thing to another.

“Prudent” (NIV = “self-controlled”; KJV = “sober”; NKJV = “sober-minded”): A kind of inner peace governs him; a discipline of life keeps him level and steady.

“Respectable” (KJV, NKJV = “of good behavior”): The word really means “orderly,” to have an orderly life, not to have everything going helter-skelter, unable to lay his hands on anything and not knowing what is happening.

“Hospitable” (KJV = “given to hospitality”): Literally, the original means, “a lover of strangers.” He is quick to open his heart and home to others. He is not afraid to meet new people. He’s able to make them feel relaxed and welcome. All Christians are exhorted to pursue hospitality (Rom. 12:13) and to be hospitable without complaint (1 Pet. 4:9).

An elder must be able to teach. He must be able to expound the Scriptures, to correct those who are misusing them and recognize error when it appears.

An elder is not to “not given to much wine.” The fact that our Lord and the disciples did drink wine was a common experience in that day. But it was not to be over-indulged; there was to be no reproach in this area.

Another requirement is that an elder be “not violent,” i.e., not a contentious, angry man who is always attacking others.

Then he must not be “quarrelsome.” The word really is  “stubborn,” not insisting on his own point of view at all costs.

He must not be in it for what he can get (not a “money lover”). He must not be out to keep up with the Joneses, but must maintain a simple lifestyle, without undue affluence evident.

Then an elder has to have a certain record of accomplishment in three specific areas.

First,  He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church? {1 Tim 3:4-5 RSV}

The first thing you look for is whether the man has a well-managed family. Look at his children. Are they obedient, or are they the scandal of the church, nobody can control them? I know that ministers’ and elders’ children are under more inspection than others. (They get that way from playing with the children of the other members of the church!)

But his children are to be obedient and courteous in their responses, learning how to address life. This does not necessarily govern the children after they have grown up and left home. The word used here is “small children.” This is a test of a man.

This does not mean he is not to have any problems ever come in his family.  What this urges us to observe is how he handles those problems. Does he evade them by busying himself in his business, or does he tackle those problems?

He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. {1 Tim 3:6 RSV}

“A good reputation with those outside” (KJV = “a good report”; NKJV = “a good testimony”): He should be recognized in the community as a man of moral character and proper conduct. His business dealings should be honest and right. This should be true of all Christians, but especially of leaders. Non-Christians should not be able to bring the charge of “hypocrite” against a church leader.

Servants: Official & Otherwise (1 Timothy 3:8-13) All Christians are servants; some should be “official” servants. Christ is our supreme example of servanthood.

A farmer had a team of horses in which one horse consistently worked harder than the others. The farmer said, “They’re all willin’ horses. The one’s willin’ to pull, and the rest are willin’ to let him.”

Sadly, that’s how it often is in the local church. Everybody is willing: a few are willing to work and the rest are willing to let them.

A. The office of deacon is recognized in Scripture.

Most scholars agree that the office of “deacon” (= “servant”) finds its roots in Acts 6:1-6. There were a number of widows in the church without any means of income who were served food on a daily basis. But a problem arose when the Greek-speaking Jews felt that their widows were being neglected in favor of the native Hebrews. They needed some fair administrators to handle the situation so that the apostles would be free to devote their time to prayer and the ministry of the Word.

Men deacons: There are eight qualifications:

(a) “Dignified” (KJV = “grave”; NKJV = “reverent”; NIV = “worthy of respect”). The word is the opposite of being a goof-off or clown. A deacon should have a seriousness of purpose about him, so that those he serves sense that he is concerned for them and so they trust and respect him.

(b) “Not double-tongued” (NIV = sincere). He cannot be a man who tells one person one thing, but another person the opposite in an attempt to please everybody. Since the deacon was involved in handling church finances, he had to be a man of his word.

(c) “Not addicted to much wine”. Since wine was commonly served as a gesture of hospitality, it was important for a deacon, making his rounds from house to house, to exercise control or else he could become a drunkard.

(d) “Not fond of sordid gain” (NKJV = “not greedy for money”; NIV = “not pursuing dishonest gain”). Since a deacon’s duties often involved the distribution of money and gifts to the needy, there was always the possibility for embezzlement. A deacon could not be a man who would pursue dishonest gain.

(e) “Holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (the NIV’s “deep truths” is misleading). A deacon must be a man of conviction regarding the central truths of the Christian faith. In addition to sound doctrine, he must be sound in obedience (“clear conscience”).

(f) “Tested and found beyond reproach” (NIV = “if there is nothing against them”; KJV, NKJV = “blameless.” It means, literally, “not called to account.” This is to be determined by “testing,” which means that a man has an observed track record before he is put into office. You don’t put a man into office and then test him to see if he’s trustworthy. Test him first and then recognize him.

It’s obvious that the church should never recognize someone as a deacon in order “to get him involved,” or because he’s “willing to work.” The real issue, as far as holding office in the church is concerned, is proven spiritual maturity, both for elders and deacons.

Wives“Not malicious gossips” (KJV, NKJV = “not slanderers”). If they went from house to house with juicy tidbits of private information, they could ruin a church very quickly. They must be able to control their tongues.

“Faithful in all things.” She must be trustworthy. She must follow through on assigned tasks. If an elder knows of a family that needs care of some kind, and assigns it to a deaconess, he needs to be able to trust her to follow through. We must commit ourselves to know, live by, and defend God’s Word of Truth.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2014 in Church, Sermon

 

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