Leadership in the local Church
The Responsibilities of Elders: 1 Timothy 3:1.
Paul turns his attention to church leadership. The church is both universal and local (Matthew 16:18; 18:17). The church or ‘Ekklesia’ is the gathering of “called out” or born again people. In the church there is no such thing as clergy and laity division. All believers are priests unto God
(1 Peter 2:9). The Church is a living organism but it is also a divine organization where everything should be done properly and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). Every local church is led by elders. They exercise pastoral care among God’s people. They are interchangeably called Bishop, Elders and Presbyter in the New Testament (Acts 20:28, 17; Titus 1:5, 7). Elders speak of maturity. Bishop means overseer. Elder speaks of Shepherding, caring and feeding of the flock. Their primary function is to guide believers by good example, to feed them from the scriptures, to guard them from errors and to nurture them spiritually. They are accountable to each other and to the Lord (Hebrews 13:17). Elders are not perfect. When mistakes are made, they should repent and correct their behavior. It is a hard and demanding job. They should encourage and train qualified believers to become leaders. In the Old Testament, priests were instructed to retire at age 50 because of the heavy nature of their duties (Numbers 8:23-26).
Elders are ordained of God:
Elders are divinely ordained to watch over believers and maintain orderliness in the local church (1 Peter 5:2; Titus 1:5). Shepherding is the spiritual ministry. It demands devotion to the Lord and love for believers (Acts 6:2, 4). They are responsible to encourage believers in their walk with the Lord. They are ordained of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). The responsibility of the believers is to recognize those who meet the qualifications and have the desire to serve God's people. If a church does not have qualified elders, believers should pray that the Lord would raise elders in their midst. Believers should honor and submit to leadership in the local church (Hebrews 13:17).
Plurality of Elders:
There are a plurality of elders in the local church (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 20:17-28; Philipians 1:1; Titus 1:5). Plurality is necessary for shared responsibility and accountability among elders. The scripture does not teach that a local church is ruled by majority opinion or by one pastor. Elders have equal office, equal honor, equal privileges and responsibilities. There is no place for individualism when it comes to leadership in the local church. Every self centered Diotrephes can bring much damage to the work of God (III John 1:9). Titus was instructed to appoint elders in each town. Because at that time the church did not have the written Word of God to recognize them (Titus 1:5). Paul instructs Timothy to commit the Word to faithful men who will be able to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). God appointed elders to oversee, to watch over and to feed the flocks. A church without elders for a long period of time is not spiritually healthy. Elders are worthy of respect because of their hard work among believers (1 Thessalonains 5:12, 13). They should be recognized and obeyed (Hebrews 13:17). Lack of submission to them will bring judgment and the church will suffer spiritually (Matthews 18:17). How thankful that we have the Word of God to guide us today. The believers have the responsibility to pray for the leadership in the local church.
The qualifications of Elders: 1 Timothy 3:2-7.
Those who desire for leadership in the church should meet the qualifications. These qualifications demonstrate a well-balanced life of godliness. The church should recognize elders who are appointed by the Holy Spirit. Paul gives the personal, family and spiritual qualifications of elders.
An elder must be blameless both in his own house and in the society. This does not mean that he is sinless but above reproach. If he makes mistakes, he must be willing to make it right both with God and men.
An elder must have a desire and be willingness to shoulder his responsibilities.
He must be the husband of one wife. An elder must not be a divorced man. His moral life must be above reproach. There is no restriction for unmarried men to become elders.
He should be vigilant and watchful over spiritual matters.
He should be sober minded to discern the spiritual needs of the church.
An elder must be of good behavior or orderly in the society.
He must be hospitable or lover of people.
He must be willing to teach and feed the people of God (1 Peter 5:2). His teaching should be Christ centered, clear and consistent. He should rightly divide the truth to silence those who bring false doctrines in the church.
An elder must not be a drunkard. Alcoholic addiction can cause quarrels and abusive behavior.
He must not be violent but gentle.
He must not be greedy. The love of money can ruin his testimony. He should be concerned with spiritual matters rather than material things (Colossians 3:1).
He must manage his own household well by giving loving leadership. Otherwise how can he take care of the church of God?
An elder must not be a new convert. His work requires experience and spiritual maturity in the faith. Otherwise he can bring judgment on himself as happened to Satan because of his pride. An elder must have a good reputation in the community (1 Timothy 3:7).
The Qualifications of Deacons. 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
There are two scriptural officers in the local church. They are elders and deacons. The elders or pastors are responsible for the spiritual affairs of the church whereas deacons are responsible for the physical affairs. Deacon means servant. The origin of this office and its main functions are described in the sixth chapter of the book of Acts. They were chosen to wait on tables and minister the material needs of believers. This could relieve the elders from things that interfere with their ministry (Act 6:4). Paul provides qualifications for deacons as well.
Deacon must be reverent or dignified.
They must not be double –tongued but consistent in their report.
A deacon must not be addicted to wine.
He must not be greedy for money.
He must be grounded in the faith and his behavior should be consistent.
He must first be tested. A new convert must not be thrust into this office. He must be blameless. His personal life and public life must be above reproach.
Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded and faithful.
Deacon must be faithful in all practical matters of the church.
A deacon must rule his own household well. His children should be obedient and have a good testimony.
The deacons deserve our respect for their hard work. The Lord may grant them the opportunity to serve Him in different capacities. Stephen served as a teacher and Philip as an evangelist. It is sad that too many pastors have to do the duties of deacons and neglect the ministry of prayer and teaching (Acts 6:2, 4). Let us pray that the Lord may raise many faithful elders and deacons in the churches.
The Mystery of Godliness. 1 Timothy 3:14-16.
The church is a divine institution and all its functions are sacred. The church is the place where God most clearly manifests his presence (1 Corinthians 14:25). The church is the pillar and ground of truth. The believers are the household of God. The church family has been appointed to uphold and support the truth that God has revealed through Christ (1 Timothy 3:15). It is not only done through the proclamation of the Word but also by living our transformed lives. Christ himself is the source of all godly conduct. Paul explains his motives in writing the importance of believer’s conduct in the church. He wanted to visit Timothy soon but there is a possibility of delay. So Paul instructs Timothy how believers ought to behave in the house of God. The emphasis here is the order and structure of the local church. The church is the household of the living God. It is a divine organism. Mystery means, truth once unknown but now revealed. This is the truth concerning godliness which enables men to live godly. Without question, this is the great mystery of faith concerning Christ. This is a great mystery because it is concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. God was manifested in the flesh. Christ became human to provide salvation (John 1:14). He was justified by the Spirit. He was proved to be all he claimed. His baptism, death, transfiguration, resurrection and ascension testify of the truthfulness of His claims (Matthew 3:15-17, 17:5; Romans 1:3, 4; John 16:10). He was seen by angels. The holy angels witnessed his birth, served him in his temptation, his agony, his resurrection and his ascension (Luke 2:9; Mark 1:13; Luke 22:43; Matthew 28:2; Acts 1:10). He is preached among the nations. His Gospel is preached everywhere. Christ is gloriously ascended to heaven. Jesus is coming again to take us to glory. Christ is the source and essence of godliness. Sinners are saved to live transformed lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are you saved by believing in Christ?