Year 2 Day 75
Read - Acts 20v17-38
Message - Scott Woodburn
As a reformed Christian I do not recognise the authority of bishops or popes over the church of Jesus Christ. Instead it is my belief that the office of elder is the highest office in the church. The Apostle Paul describes the duties of an elder (called an overseer) in this way "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 3v1-7)
In the Presbyterian church we highlight two types of elders, ruling & teaching. I don't find this distinction helpful. Paul states that every elder should be able to teach (1 Timothy 3v2) and James warns that "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." (James 3v1) So briefly we can say that the eldership is a serious business. Each elder is an overseer over the people of God. Each elder should be well versed in the Scriptures and able to teach and elders will ultimately be accountable to the chief elder the Lord Jesus Christ.
We see a beautiful picture of true eldership as Paul bids farewell to the Ephesian elders. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem (v22) and he knows that he will not see these men again (v25). His final advice is telling. He reminds them that he has preached to them the whole counsel of God (v27). In plain terms Paul has proclaimed every inch of God's revealed truth. The church elder should expect this from those who preach and the church elder should expect it from themselves.
The church of Christ needs to be well fed on the Word and it is the responsibility of the elder to ensure everything from Genesis to Revelation is preached and taught in the local church. Not only this but the elder is to pay attention to himself and to the flock (v28). It's here that we see the oversight of the elder. He is to keep a watch on his own life. Is he regularly attending to the means of grace? Is he much in prayer? Is he taking seriously his call to teach the flock? As he asks these questions of himself, he asks them of the people of God as well.
The reason for this is clear. Paul warns "I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them." (v29-30) Here is the danger to any congregation in any age. The world is not neutral to the things of Christ, Jesus warns "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." (Matthew 12v30)
Satan rages against the church. False teachers and other such wolves long to sink their teeth into fellowships. Other men teach twisted things to gather crowds around them. What can be done in the face of such aggression? Elders are to watch themselves and the flock. They are to be alert (v31) and constantly on guard against the attacks of the enemy. Peter would put it this way "So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you" (1 Peter 5v1-2)
Finally we respond to our elders with maturity and grace heeding the words of the apostle "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13v17)
Q81 What is forbidden in the tenth commandment? The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.