God Calls Church Leaders
The need for godly leadership in the church cannot be overstated. The appointment of people to church leadership carries tremendous responsibility both for those making the appointments and for those being appointed. Both parties are fully accountable to Christ and their attitude and behaviour in this matter will be judged.
There should be no confusion about who the leaders of the church ought to be, for the Apostle Paul has given specific directions as to what kind of men the leaders of the church are to be and what the leaders of the church are to do.
It is quite simple. There were only two designated leaders in the early church and they are called elders and deacons.
It is clearly stated that the elders are to know the mind of the Lord and constantly seek to be completely in tune with the Lord’s mind; so that directly inspired by the Spirit, they can guide the developing congregation and develop each member precisely in the way that the Lord wants them to develop.
Their task is to oversee, guide, serve and correct, so that everything operates according to what the Scriptures teach and what the Holy Spirit has directed.
Obviously then we should expect that the men who are leaders and servants, must measure up to certain qualifications stated by Jesus and his Apostles. Today we look at those qualifications and requirements for leadership.
The Scriptures explicitly states that it is Christ who literally gives elders (pastors) as gifts to the church, (Eph 4:11). Their appointment is undoubtedly a divine prerogative and by the divine appointment of the ‘Great Shepherd’ who selects and equips with the necessary gifts, those who would be Shepherd of the flock.
Note then, that when we talk about the appointment of leadership in the local church, we are not talking about an invention of man, but we are dealing with the provision that Jesus himself made for the development, maintenance and growth in his own body.
Pastors are to exercise the same watchfulness and care over the people in their charge as a good shepherd does over his flock. Their model and example is none other than Jesus and his Apostles. Christ exercised a special care for his church by appointing “pastors” who would watch over it as a shepherd does over his flock.
Leaders should be driven by a love for Jesus to feed and nourish the people of God. They must love the people or else they have no place.
Note that in the Scriptures, the church does not refer to a building, but to a specific group of people; the “called out ones”; the “ekklesia” is the entire company of the redeemed, both Jew and Gentile, from all ages down through time.
The church is the possession of Christ and is called ‘the body of Christ’. He has laid the foundation for the church, is the chief cornerstone and is its head, (Eph.2:20;Col.1:18).
The church therefore does not “select” its own leaders; rather it seeks confirmation through the Scriptures that God has chosen a particular person for leadership. If chosen by God, then the flock can confidently submit themselves under their watchful care.
Christ the head of the church, has the absolute authority to instruct and direct in all matters concerning the building up of ‘his body’. He equips and ensures that leaders chosen according to Scripture and under the direction of the Spirit, will not run into difficulty due to error or lack of power, to perform the tasks that Jesus has commanded.
If we deviate from the scriptures however, or use the scriptures loosely as a guideline to supplement our own ideas, or select leaders that satisfy our own sensibilities and biases, we’ll inevitably introduce unnecessary problems. These often take considerable time to rectify, years to resolve and possibly cause irreparable damage.
Sadly that is most often found as the rule rather than the exception.
If we recognize and acknowledge that Scripture is the divinely inspired word of God, profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work, 2 Tim 3:16-17; then we aught to diligently follow the biblical directive, in seeking the confirmation of a person for leadership in the body of Christ.
The Scripture lesson today will take us through a comprehensive list of the characteristics, lifestyle and experience that a elder or deacon must exhibit for all to see.
Unfortunately, today much of the church has deviated from the plain teaching of Scripture. This is evident in the various views, practices and motives in the selection of church leadership.
Some claim that times have changed and that there is not a precise correlation between the first century church and the church today; thus providing some human based reason to select leaders based in part on their own criteria.
This is a blatant deviation from Scripture and as the history of the church has shown, has always led to serious problems and corruption of the church, irrespective of whether or not those making choices were sincere or had well-intentioned motives. Believers must follow Scripture.
Undeniably there are noticeable differences, particularly in the administrative structure of the local church, which varies from denomination to denomination. Today believers do find themselves with different social and economic circumstances. Yet none of these factors have any bearing on the confirmation of God’s choice for leadership. In fact we find that these administrative structures often reflect men's response to what they think are problems.
It is however clear from Scriptures that Christ established the order and specific official leadership roles for the body, Eph 4:11,
1 Cor 12:28-29. The Scriptures present us with a timeless pattern for biblical leadership and leave us with an extensive checklist as it were, to ensure that we can see and confirm those who God has chosen for leadership.
For the most part there seems to be gross misunderstanding or outright denial concerning the responsibilities of the office of Elders (Pastors) or Deacons.
First, it is most important to note that leadership roles are always considered as a collective. There is no one person that is the only one in charge, since the body needs men with different gifts in order to meet the multiple needs of the flock, as well as to provide support and to establish accountability among the leadership.
These facts are often ignored, because a false sense of power and prestige often glamorizes what is actually a gruelling, spiritually and emotionally demanding life of self-sacrifice and service.
The Shepherds of the flock, who are really “under-shepherds” to Jesus, will be held to a higher level of accountability. It is therefore imperative that God be the one who selects those who are to fill this office. There is no room for pride and misappropriation of the pastoral office is a serious matter. We do no favors to anyone in appointing them to this office if God has not chosen them or to those who want leadership positions if they are not suited, according to scriptural injunction.
Those in leadership need correction, guidance, emotional and spiritual support just like any other person in the flock of Christ. This entire issue therefore must be handled with sensitivity, wisdom and a complete reliance on Scripture.
As we study the writings of Paul addressed to Timothy which largely deal with church leadership, discipline and governance, we must remember that Timothy is not what we would commonly call a Pastor. He was an apostolic representative or legate, with full apostolic authority behind him.
Paul had left Timothy, his long time companion in Ephesus. He was charged with the task to set the church in order, after false teachers had infiltrated the church and set themselves up as leaders.
Note, that though these directives were sent to Timothy to be applied at Ephesus, at the same time they were sufficiently general to have been an invaluable guide to Timothy, not only at Ephesus but through his life. By extension, these instructions are applicable to all ministers of the gospel in every age and land.
Timothy’s first assignment was to correct the drift from apostolic teaching that had resulted in the destructive developments in the church and secondly he was to establish order in public worship. Having dealt with these false teachers, and taking steps to return the people to proper prayer, thanksgiving, worship, and praise in chapters 1 & 2. Paul now detailed the requirements for church leadership; specifically the office of elders and deacons.
Verse 1. Paul begins this chapter by stating that those who have a genuine desire to be an elder or bishop, are truly seeking a good and profitable work.
The term literally means “over watcher” and we understand that there is oversight involved in this role. The terms elder and bishop were borrowed from the local synagogue in Israel and from the synagogue in the Greek communities respectively. Both terms mean the same thing. The word we translate ‘ Pastor’ is also used sometimes.
The elder or bishop is really an overseer, or a shepherd and would have to be one who has spiritual insight and who tirelessly looks out and warns of any pending or imminent danger, that might harm his flock. Remember that the devil goes around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
The word ‘desire’ does not mean an ambitious desire after office. Lording it over others it never acceptable.
Paul describes this work as a good work. Note however that it is a work, not a ‘bed of roses’
Obviously, it will take the power of God manifest in one’s life to care for the sheep. They are often wayward, constantly straying from the path and getting trapped by the flesh, the devil and the world in situations that call the shepherd to put his own life in danger to rescue them. If the Bishop is to truly follow the example of the ‘Great Shepard’, he must be prepared to do all this and do it without expectation of gratitude. Only those truly called of God can fill the office of Bishop.
Note that the emphasis is not on power or personal advantage. This work is good, because it involves bringing many sons and daughters to glory, lifting up and assisting in the life and happiness of believers.
Note – that the term bishop is used by some to create a superior class of ministers, there is no Scriptural support for such teaching.
One writer comments:
“There is nothing in the word itself which would limit it to any class or grade of the ministry, and it is, in fact, applied to nearly all the officers of the church in the New Testament, and, indeed, to Christians who did not sustain “any” office. Thus it is applied:
(a) to believers in general, directing them to “look diligently, lest anyone should fail of the grace of God,” Heb_12:15;
(b) to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,” Act_20:28;
(c) to the elders or presbyters of the church in 1Pe_5:2, “Feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof;
(d) to the officers of the church in Philippi, mentioned in connection with deacons as the only officers of the church there, “to the saints at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons,” Phi_1:1;
(e) to Judas, the apostate. Act_1:20; and,
(f) to the great Head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, 1Pe_2:25, “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
From this use of the term it follows:
(1) That the word is never used to designate the “uniqueness” of the apostolic office, or so as to have any special applicability to the apostles. Indeed, the term “bishop” is “never” applied to any of them in the New Testament; nor is the word in any of its forms ever used with reference to them, except in the single case of “Judas,” Act_1:20.
(2) it is never employed in the New Testament to designate an order of men superior to presbyters, regarded as having any other functions than presbyters, or being in any sense “successors” to the apostles.
(3) it is used in the New Testament to denote ministers of the gospel who had the care or oversight of the churches, without any regard to grade or rank…”
Verse 2. Specifically, the task of the elders selected by the Apostles, and who often were from pagan background, was to give themselves to the ministry of the Word, namely, teaching, preaching, learning the Scriptures and praying so that they could discover the will of God.
Paul lists a number of characteristics that should be evident and in development in the man of God. These characteristics must be evident and evidence that God is calling him. Jesus knows what he is looking for and so he chooses the right person and develop the qualities of character necessary and bring them experiences to train them, so that they will come out in the right way. It is only then and because they have gone through the process, that the other elders, who have been chosen and trained by the Holy Spirit, will be able to see who it is that the Holy Spirit is calling.
He must be blameless – above reproach, in both present and past life. We are not talking about perfection, but he should be a man of irreproachable character for truth, honesty, chastity, and general uprightness. This means one should not be able to be accused of immorality, or of holding false doctrine. Luk_1:6; Phi_2:15; Phi_3:6
The husband of one wife – The pagan practice of polygamy was in vogue and even the people of God had for centuries picked up the practice. This was not to be practiced in the new order of things, the pattern of marriage as set forth in the Garden of Eden, was to be re-established in the gospel kingdom. Thus the term ‘husband of one wife’ was a prohibition against polygamy, or breaking of the divorce laws, which were understood in the Jewish Church and amounted to the same thing.
There is some controversy over this issue in the case of an elder remarrying after the death of his spouse; but more controversial is the matter of an elder’s remarriage after a divorce for some reason. The Elder’s behaviour had to be above reproach.
One commentary noted that it was: “the Council of Laodicea and the apostolic canons discountenanced second marriages, especially in the case of candidates for ordination. Of course second marriages being lawful, the undesirableness of it holds good only under special circumstances. The Jews teach, a priest should be neither unmarried nor childless, lest he be unmerciful (Bengel). So in the Synagogue, “ no one shall offer a prayer in public, unless he be married” (in Colbo, ch. 65; VITRINGA, Synagogue and Temple)”.
Another commentator says regarding this point:
the marriage of a second wife, after the death of the first, is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as wrong. The marriage of a widow to a second husband is expressely declared to be proper 1Co_7:39; and it is not unfair to infer from that permission that it is equally lawful and proper for man to marry the second time. But if it is lawful for any man it is right for a minister of the gospel. No reason can he assigned against such marriages in his case, which would not be equally valid in any other. Marriage is as honorable for a minister of the gospel as for any other man
there was a special propriety in the prohibition, if understood as prohibiting polygamy. It is known that it was extensively practiced, and was not regarded as unlawful. Yet one design of the gospel was to restore the marriage relation to its primitive condition; and though it might not have seemed absolutely necessary to require of every man who came into the church to divorce his wives, if he had more than one, yet, in order to fix a brand on this irregular practice, it might have been deemed desirable to require of the ministers of the gospel that they should have but one wife. Thus the practice of polygamy would gradually come to be regarded as dishonorable and improper, and the example and influence of the ministry would tend to introduce correct views in regard to the nature of this relation.
vigilant – This word occurs only here and in 1Ti_3:11; Tit_2:2. It means to be “sober, temperate, abstinent,” especially in respect to wine; then “sober-minded, watchful, circumspect. Robinson.” A pastor must have a watchful care over his own conduct. He should be on his guard against sin in any form.
sober – This is a man of “a sound mind;” one who follows sound reason and who is not under the control of fleshly emotions or easily caught up in the passion of an unguarded moment. The idea is, that he should have his desires and passions well regulated, for a single moment of unbridled passion or impropriety could well lead to his undoing.
of good behavior - He must be of good behaviour, a gentleman in his manners, dignified, composed, not helter-skelter unaware of what is happening around him; not vain and light. His life must be orderly, with a tone, look, and character void of confusion, excess, and laxity.
given to hospitality – all men of God should be given to hospitality and by example the minister of the gospel should lead in pursuing opportunities to extend hospitality Rom_12:13 ; Heb_13:2. He should be willing and able to open his home to the brethren and to strangers willing to share the things of life with which he had been blessed.
apt to teach – Life experience had proven him to be a teachable person and now had an aptitude and eagerness to teach others what he had learned from God. He must be well versed in the scripture and skilled in the exposition of the word; able to refute false doctrine and those who oppose the gospel (Titus 1:9). He will correct error, always seeking opportunities to impart godly wisdom and understanding to strengthen and build up the spiritual life of the brethren.
One writer comments :-
“No one should be allowed to enter the ministry who is not qualified to impart “instruction” to others on the doctrines and duties of religion; and no one should feel that he ought to continue in the ministry, who has not industry, and self-denial, and the love of study enough to lead him constantly to endeavor to “increase” in knowledge, that he may be qualified to teach others. A man who would “teach” a people, must himself keep in advance of them on the subjects on which he would instruct them.”
Verse 3. Not given to wine - In addition to these traits, a Pastor must not be a drunkard, addicted to wine. Though it was not prohibited to drink wine and apart from it medicinal qualities, in certain quantities it would dull the senses and impair ones judgement. A pastor should always be in full control of his mental faculties, ready to give unclouded instruction and to minister to the needs of the people. This reflects the instruction to the priests given in Leviticus 10:8-11. They were not to drink wine when they went into minister, for they would then pervert the law.
no striker – This is probably connect with the common results of intoxication; violent behaviour at home or in public is unacceptable. He must be a peaceable man, not quarrelsome with a spirit of contention and strife.
not greedy of filthy lucre – the lure of money is deadly, many pitfalls accompany its unrestrained pursuit. This is true for any man; but for the minister of God, he must be particularly seen as one who is trusting God and not reliant on earthly possessions. He must not be greedy, constantly seeking ways of making more money.
He most certainly should not use the ministry as a means to make money and should riches increase, he should not set his heart on them, neither should he flaunt nor parade his blessing in such a manner, that it entices young men to pursue a ministerial vocation for the wrong reasons.
but patient - Modest, mild, gentle. See the word (Greek) in Phi_4:5; Tit_3:2; Jam_3:17, and 1Pe_2:18, where it is rendered “gentle.” The word means that the minister of the gospel should be a man of mild and kind demeanor, such as his Master was.
not a brawler – He should not be a contentious person ready to cause a quarrel or start a fight with his tongue (2 Tim 2:24).
not covetous - This word means much more than been greedy for money. The covetous man is never satisfied with anything he has, but is always looking around him at everything everyone else has, always demanding something more and something different.
Verse 4-5. In a sentence, this simply means that an elder should prove himself in the lesser task of ruling his own house well, before he attempts the far greater tasks of doing the same in the house of God.
To expound on this, one writer says:
“This implies that a minister of the gospel would be, and ought to be, a married man. It is everywhere in the New Testament supposed that he would be a man who could be an example in all the relations of life. The position which he occupies in the church has a strong resemblance to the relation which a father sustains to his household; and a qualification to govern a family well, would be an evidence of a qualification to preside properly in the church.”
The elder must run this family properly and manage them well, controlling them. To rule means to ‘preside over’. The children's rebellion if it exists, must not be because of the neglect or bad teaching and control of the parents, but must be in spite of their good job as parents.
The family of an elder is to be an example for good, to other families. The elder would have to rule his house well and show that he is not partial but is disciplined. If he is indulgent, it indicates that he will never be capable of properly ruling the house of God.
Verse 6. An elder must not be a new convert, not a novice; firstly because one is literally ‘newly planted’, there is no real depth of root to resist the storms of ministry, which so easily uproot the new convert.
Secondly, one who has had little opportunity to test his own faith, or to give evidence to others that he would be faithful to the trust committed to him.
The word ‘novice’ does not refer so much to one who is young in years, but one who is young in faith. Still, all the reasons which apply against introducing a very recent convert into the ministry, will probably apply with equal force against introducing one young in years.
Thirdly, one will almost certainly cause the head of a new convert to be puffed up with pride, in being so quickly elevated to such a position so quickly. The undesirable result however is compared to the fall of Lucifer, the condemnation of which we should never risk subjecting any soul to. One writer notes:
“ The trouble with a recent convert is that, though he may be very earnest in his newfound life and desirous of following the Lord with all his heart, --and oftentimes the new convert is beautiful in the dedication he manifests,-- his willingness to walk with the Lord as best he knows, etc., yet there is one thing wrong with him: He has not yet learned the effect of the cross upon his self- life, his ego. He is still reckoning upon human resources to bring him to success; he is still counting largely upon his personality, his magnetism, his good education, his good looks, his keen, sharply trained mind in order to achieve what he thinks God wants. He has not yet learned that great word of Jesus: “ that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15 KJV). He has not learned that God says he wants to work with people of a humble and a contrite heart, who have learned not to exalt themselves. A new convert means well, but he cannot be trusted because he has not yet learned to put down self and to trust in Christ. If he is put in office, the sudden exposure to public leadership will puff him up and make him proud, arrogant, and conceited….”
Verse 7. A good testimony and reputation before all people including unbelievers is particularly important. Unbelievers must see an elder as a man of good character and therefore be more easily won by his preaching of the gospel.
If he has a questionable past or bad reputation that he cannot shake, he may easily become frustrated and in a moment of weakness revert to his old ways.
One writer explains: “ This is what accounts for many of the leaders of today who are falling into moral difficulties, falling into the trap of the devil, because they have allowed their consciences to be offended and have not dealt honestly with the world around.”
All these qualification are central to any leadership role, they will be under constant attack by the Devil; his aim is to break them, for when they fall the entire church is affected, weakening God’s program. Everyone should therefore constantly pray for the elders.
APOSTOLIC INSTRUCTIONS ON DEACONS
The Apostle Paul now shifts his attention to the office of deacons. The first mention of deacons or ‘helpers’ comes in Acts 6, in the context of the necessity to relieve the heavy administrative burden of collecting and distributing alms, which had rested on the Apostles. The Greek Christians had complained that the Hebrew or Palestinian brethren had not been giving the Greek Christian widows, their fair share of the alms.
In order to demonstrate the brotherly kindness in the Church, the congregation, on the instruction of the Apostles, elected seven men and placed them in charge of the provisions for the poor. The Church chose Greek men, to ensure that the distribution of provisions would be fair and that the Greek widows would not be neglected.
This office of being “practical servants” to the body of Christ was patterned after the officers of the synagogue, who had charge of the collection and distribution of alms. In the synagogue, the “chazzan” also covered and uncovered the ark in the synagogue.
Since the office of deacons were to minister to the wants and needs of the poor and the sick, maintaining the activity of the early Church as charitable societies, the deacons had to be men who demonstrated living faith and exemplary conduct. Since their work was open to public view, their activities would touch a great deal of people and accordingly, the Church would have to choose persons in which they could place a great deal of trust.
The example of the Jerusalem Church was so followed in all other congregations and it is recorded that the Church of Rome maintained the use of the number seven, having seven deacons for several generations. In the Churches, including that in Philippi,
the deacons functioned along with the elders and Paul addressed them particularly.
There is no evidence that the office of elder had more prestige than the office of deacon, though the bishop or elder might have had more responsibility before God, based on the fact that the were in a more ‘teaching the word of God’ ministry, as well as an overseeing and shepherding ministry.
In warning that we often make the mistake that one office is more prestigious than another, one writer points out, that we should look at each office as more a matter of calling than of status.
In this regard, we note that Stephen and Philip, two of the deacons elected by the Jerusalem Church did their official duty admirably, as well as exercising their personal gift as preacher and evangelist respectively.
In church history, as time went on, the office of the deacon was seen as a steppingstone to that of an elder.
It is noteworthy that the Apostle, when speaking about elders, say nothing about women, for in the New Testament churches there were no female elders. However, regarding the office of deacons or helper, there were clearly female helpers or deaconesses, who were charged with looking after the interest of the poor and the sick in the female portion of the Church. Especially among the Greeks and Orientals, there was often rigid separation of the sexes and pious women, chiefly widows, exercised their gifts, devoting themselves to the welfare of the Church.
Paul mentions Phoebe, as a deaconess of the Church of Cenchrae, the port of Corinth. It is most probable that the women at Rome that Paul commended for their labor in the Lord, Priscilla or Prisca, Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis, served in the capacity of deaconesses. Church history, especially in the Eastern Church, testified to this important role continuing through the centuries.
These women have always served voluntarily, willingly, sacrificially, and repeatedly, often without fanfare and without recognition, but their work has always been essential and pleasing to God.
Given the critically important nature of the work of deacon and deaconesses, as practical servants of the Body of Christ and the extraordinary degree of trust placed in them, the Apostle lays down certain qualifications for this office.
Verse 8. Note that the qualification that begin here, are practically the same for elders.
1) Grave or reverent – a deacon must show the proper respect to both God and man.
2) Not doubled-tongued – the Holy Spirit is not leading people who say one thing to a brother of sister and something quite different to another brother or sister. One must always be trusted to speak the truth in love and dispel deception.
3) Entrusted to collect and distribute alms and the monetary aspects of the church, one must not be covetous or greedy for money, in case one is tempted to embezzle the church funds.
4) And like ad elder, one should not allow oneself to be intoxicated with wine, but remain in control of ones faculties.
Verse 9. Faith is the key that unlocks the mysteries of God, the natural man, the unconverted man can not receive the things of the Spirit, for they require the acceptance and work of the Holy Spirit in their life.
For the one who is born again, faith comes and continues to grow through the constant application of the word of God and this is true of every believer.
A deacon must ensure that he holds the truths of this glorious gospel in the highest esteem; devoting himself to the truth of the word by first applying it to his own life and then to the lives of others by way of example and exhortation.
A pure conscience belongs to those who accurately understand and consistently apply the word of God, from a heart that is also void of corruption.
Verse 10. As with the office of an elder, a deacons must first prove themselves, have a proven track record that they are fit for the arduous duties of this office.
In depth inquiry should be made into their character, they must be grave, serious, temperate, trustworthy men; men who are sound in the faith and doctrine and who would not dishonor the office.
They should be blameless, thus no one, believer or non believer could bring damaging accusations against them. They must be like the first deacons who were already known to the church to be godly men, willing to serve with sincerity and integrity, also having a demonstrated zeal for Christ.
Verse 11. Paul at this point deems it necessary to mention the qualities that the wife of a deacon should also possess. They should also have a good character and display reverent behaviour. They should be able to hold with confidentiality, issues that their husband may be dealing with in the church. They should not be talebearers nor make mischief nor sow discord. It is evident that they should be especially careful regarding the area of their communication.
There is some disagreement among theologians as to whom Paul is referring, was it to the wives of deacons or female deacons. Those that hold the latter view believe that there is no reason why special rules should be laid down for the wives of the deacons and not to wives of the bishops or overseers. They believe that Paul had made a shift and is now speaking of a different class of persons not strictly connected with male deacons. It is held that female deacons existed and that it is to this class, previously unmentioned, that Paul now speaks.
Though there are varying views on this matter, most conservative theologians believe that the reference is properly applied to the wife of deacons.
Verse 12. Deacons are to be the husband of one wife, just as elders and also expected to set the example and stamp out the practice of polygamy. This injunction was not applied to every believer at this time, people in non-leadership roles would not be asked to divorce their wives. However by the leadership taking such a stance, the people of God would gradually return to marital relationship as God intended.
The deacon must be able to show that he can rule his house well. One writer comments:
“ If they have families, you can tell a lot about deacons and their ability to function in the congregation by the way their households are run; whether they face the problems that may come, how they handle them, and so on. All this is to be taken note of when people are chosen to be deacons.”
Verse 13. When a deacon fulfills his duty as set forth in scripture, he will bring great benefits to the church and to himself. The congregation will respect and appreciate that he is an unpaid steward, voluntarily serving the people of God. He will gain the trust of the people and become influential in their lives.
The deacon in turn will grow in faith and proclaim more boldly the gospel of Christ. As they serve the Lord on behalf of the congregation, they will see in a special sense, how God works on behalf of his people and this will create a deep sense of boldness in the deacons. They will become stronger in Christ because of their many experiences and be more confident in their ministry, doing with boldness, whatever God calls on them to do. This seems to have been what happened in the case of Stephen.
The more we serve God, the more he will enlighten us, and the stronger we will become, and the more we will be able to do for him.
Verse 14. Having reminded Timothy of all he must do to re-establish order in the church and have godly leadership, Paul expresses the desire to return quickly and finish up the work that he had to leave so abruptly; though left in the capable hands of Timothy. Paul however, was uncertain if or when he would be able to return; but he was well confident that he had entrusted the work to the faithful Timothy, his son in the Lord.
Verse 15. Paul closes this chapter by impressing on Timothy the extreme importance of all he had said. Should he tarry or take a long time to return, Timothy would ensure that the people of God were established in the truth; for the church is the bearer of truth to the world; it is they who will defend the truth and continue to be light and salt to the world.
“The meaning then is, that the stability of the truth on earth is dependent on the church. It is owing to the fact that the church is itself founded on a rock, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, that no storms of persecution can overthrow it, that the truth is preserved from age to age. Other systems of religion are swept away; other opinions change; other forms of doctrine vanish; but the knowledge of the great system of redemption is preserved on earth unshaken, because the church is preserved, and because its foundations cannot be moved. This does not refer, I suppose, to creeds and confessions, or to the decisions of synods and councils; but to the living spirit of truth and piety “in” the church itself. As certainly as the church continues to live, so certain it will be that the truth of God will be perpetuated among people.”
The church is the chosen instrument of God. It is the pillar and ground of truth. It promotes godliness and hence its teaching is above reason and comes by revelation.
It has to do with Christ, for he is the eternal Word who became flesh. Leadership must always be in line with Jesus, his character as person, or else it is automatically disqualified.
The election of leaders is therefore very important and thus it is undertaken by the Holy Spirit, who chooses people of purity and spiritual wisdom, gifting them to accomplish this spiritual work.
Elders and deacons are held to a very high standard and are prime targets for the enemy – it is thus essential that we continually support and pray for them.
Their task is to bring strong biblical teaching and to counteract error in the church. They must be able to provide oversight.
It is sad that the church as a whole has really departed from the apostolic instruction concerning the selection of leaders; when we depart from the scripture we really usurp the role of the Holy Spirit, establish our own criteria and cause the church unnecessary difficulties.
There are all kinds of unbiblical church administrations; the claim that these match the changing times and customs or that God has left us with no real guidelines is quite untenable.
The church should examine its motives and commit itself to following the Apostles’ commands, for we have no right to deviate form the Scriptures. We may not be able to atone for past mistakes, but we can commit ourselves not to repeat them.
If we accept the word of God to be true, then we must insist that our elders and deacons explicitly adhere to it, calling to account any violation. We are not doing the church or the would-be elders or deacons any favours, by ignoring the biblical standard and selecting elders or deacons that God has not chosen.
Brethren let us be sincere, follow the Word of God without deviation and ensure that we will remain as salt and light in this world.