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“'Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!' saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1).
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, 'Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; '”Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” (Ezekiel 34:2).
Pastors are to protect the Chief Shepherd's flock. It is obvious from the passages above that we must begin with the qualification of the pastor.
One solution to the problem is self-scrutiny
This point has been made and it is appropriate to repeat here. In order to be a gift from the Spirit of God, one must be Spirit-made. “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). The Holy Spirit's role is always working through the Word of God; e.g., the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. The Spirit taught the apostles what to say (Luke 12:12). Their writings are God-Spirited (2 Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit makes or works through His teachings. The elders are made through the teachings of the Scriptures, the Word of God.
The elders are gifts to the church when they are Spirit-made. A program on the internet may indicate that it is “powered” by a specific program. In a similar sense the elders are &ldqldquo;powered by the Holy Spirit.”
An elder must examine himself to see if he is powered by God's Word. The apostles had been trained by the Lord Himself at least for three years. Yet, they were not to begin their evangelical work to the world until they were endued with the paraclete, the Holy Spirit. Later, the first deacons and evangelists did not begin their service until they were “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).
close attention to yourself and to your teaching;
persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure
salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (1
Timothy 4:16 ).
attention to yourselves, and to all the flock which the Holy Spirit
has given into your care” (Acts
of your own selves [elders]shall
men arise, speaking
things, to draw away disciples after them”
Although the first passage is a warning written to the evangelist Timothy, it appropriately fits all that deal with teaching God's word; this includes elders (1 Timothy 3:2). “My friends, we should not all try to become teachers. In fact, teachers will be judged more strictly than others” (James 3:1, CEVii). How dreadful to miss the Heavenly goal because one would teach his errors in the name of the Holy Spirit! In addition, how sad that the teachers destroy those that listen to them.
The warning then would especially apply to the elders. Paul warned the elders from Ephesus to “take heed to yourselves.” Why? Paul explains that among them is the potential threat of false teaching. “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). The elders as administrators or leaders were in a position to be tempted to sin.
Self-scrutiny: How it can be done
Just as the devil desired to sift an apostle like wheat, he would love to get a hold of an elder (Luke 22:31). In order to protect the flock from himself, what can be done? The Bible does not have a priority of saving just elders, the Bible is concerned with each saint. However, this would include each elder. What saves the saint will protect and save the elder.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. ...wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. ” (Ephesians 6:10,11).
The formula for every saint's strength is to stand up against trials in the spiritual warfare. Just as the sheep they would be looking after, the elders must arm themselves. It is fundamental that to be a successful shepherd he must be a saint in the flesh (Philippians 1:24; Colossians 1:24). Each shepherd is to be a warrior clothed with God's armour as well as each member of the congregation .
It is interesting that each part of the spiritual armor has to do with the Word of God. “The faith” is that message given by and through the apostles; i.e., the faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Salvation is in the Message: “this Message of salvation been sent” (Acts 13:26,WNT; see also 13:47; 16:17). “Salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28). Paul's Message is the gospel (Romans 1:1, 15). It is the power of God unto “salvation” (v. 16); God's righteousness and faith is in the gospel (v.17); and God's Truth is His Word (John 17:17). The elders are to be clothed with the Message of God.
Knowing the Wiles of the devil.
The armor is protection against the wiles of the devil. The English word “wiles” means “a stratagem or trick intended to deceive or ensnare.”iii
There are three major avenues of strategy through which the devil shoots his flaming arrows. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:16, 17, KJV). The avenues have to do with (1) the eyes, (2) the flesh, and (3) the pride.
Eve was deceived through her eyes (the forbidden fruit looked “good”), her flesh (pleasure “of food”), and her pride (“be like gods in knowing”). Jesus was tempted in the wilderness after His baptism through these three avenues (Matthew 4). He was offered the “kingdoms of the world” (eyes), challenged to make “food from stones” (belly), and publicly make God save Him from “jumping from the temple” (pride).
The Word of God protects us. Eve had the command “not” to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She quoted the command but let the devil deceive her into believing his “word” instead of God's. On the other hand, Jesus quoted Scripture (“It is written”, Matthew 4) with each of these three darts that were thrown at Him by the devil; and He believed the Truth of the Scripture and stuck with it.
The tools of the devil operate through these three strategies. The elders protect by arming with the armor of God (Ephesians 6). They are to be clothed, as it were, with the Word of God. The underlying power is therefore, knowledge and the application of Holy Scripture, which is characterized as the tool of the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus answered, “It is written” so the elder is to speak the Truth (God's Spirit(ed) Word; 2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 4:13). But he is to speak with love (God's [agape] love). When one speaks with love, God's Spirit is acting through oneself (Colossians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:8).
Another solution is to let them be proved before appointment
Those selecting and appointing deacons in the text must scrutinize the prospective elders as well. “Let them also be proved” (1 Timothy 3:10); i.e., “examined, tested, approved” (Strong and Thayer). Obviously an elder cannot “rule” before he is selected and appointed. But he can exhibit qualifications that prove his ability to be an elder.
Jesus described the false teachers as wolves dressed as harmless sheep. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
Peter explained it in this way: “Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways” (2 Peter 2:1,2).
The elders are gifts from the Holy Spirit when they are “made” by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). If made by the Spirit's qualifications they will responsibly promote “speak[ing] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). It is not the mundane problems associated with running an organization that define an eldership. It is not things that pertain to the church property, the budget, the attendance, the storms, the programs, nor promotions that elders [and congregation] are to be really concerned about. It is the “speaking the truth in love.” The Holy Spirit driven eldership will find that these administrative matters will work themselves out.
Prove by their fruit
There seems to be discussions from time to time as to what, if any, qualifications are to be required of those appointed to the eldership. There should not be any argument. If a person is to be a gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4), the Spirit's qualifications in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16) are to be identified in him. Specific qualifications are given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Desire. They must “aspire” (HCSB) to function as an overseer (1 Timothy 3:1). He “reaches out” for the position. His heart is set upon doing it. Peter tells us that this responsibility should be done willingly (1 Peter 5:2). Not all men desire this work and those that do not obviously should not function in this capacity. This work is described as a kalos (good) work. In other words, this is a “beautiful” (one of Strong's Dictionary's definitions along with “valuable, virtuous, noble”) work in the eyes of the Spirit.
Prayer. They must feel their ability is from God to function as an overseer, taking care of the church of God (1 Timothy 3:4). That is, they must be men who make prayer and the ministry of the Word a major focus of their ministry. Prayer was a fundamental and complementary activity of the apostles (Acts 6:4) and would be a Biblical pattern to imitate (1 Corinthians 11:1). In order to maintain the moral, doctrinal and directional purity of the church, they must be able by God's strength to effectively minister the Word of God to the church and to those opposing the church (Titus 1:9).
“Just as sheep need a shepherd Christians need more mature Christian men and women to guide and care for them as they grow in Christ-likeness. Thus, Christ's communities should recognize those people who are mature in the faith and who are willing and capable of taking the responsibility for the welfare of others, point them out as caretakers, and encourage them as they encourage and uphold others. The most basic characteristic of these shepherds should be that they are Christlike in their concern for others.” iv
Continued. Next: Litmus Test from the Fruit of the Spirit.
- Gaylon West, Elders As Divine Gifts. (Amazon, etc.).
Throw Out the Lifeline website.
i BBE, Bible in Basic English (translation)
ii CEV, Contemporary English Version
iiiFarlex. The Free Dictionary. www.thefreedictionary.com/wiles.
ivA gist of what the authors call Biblically choosing elders. Quentin and Eileen Vennum. Four Greek Words and the Work of Elders. The authors contrast this with a “traditional selection” of elders from those having “a wife capable of bearing at least 2 children who are old enough and are baptized.” This along with “faithful attendance” are the only requirements.