Monday, July 05, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Elders We Need (Part 1 of 3)

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Elders we Need”
First Published: June 11, 2002

During last Sunday morning’s message, we asked the question: “What kind of elders do we need?” This is a timely question, especially since we will be electing elders, beginning on Sunday, June 30, 2002. Here is the answer that we derived from God’s word to the important question “What kind of elders do we need?” Perhaps you will want to pray through this list as you consider how to vote.

First, we need elders who want the work, not just the status of an elder. Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 3:1 that the work of the eldership (which is pastoral work) is a wonderful work to which to aspire, he says “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” Paul makes it abundantly clear here that an elder is fundamentally a pastor, a shepherd of souls! He calls him an overseer or bishop or shepherd. Paul is saying here that one who seeks the eldership, that is the pastoral office, desires to be engaged in what is emphatically a good thing. But note also that he that speaks of the eldership as a noble work or task, rather than a noble office. It is about service not status. So, you want to elect men who long to do the spiritual work of an elder, not just who aspire to the status. These will be men who love the Bible. They love Christ. They love the Gospel. They are men of prayer. They are enthusiastic about seeing people converted and helping Christians grow in grace, and they long to spiritually disciple the people of the congregation. They see the work of the elder as fundamentally the ministry of the Word and prayer, and they desire to devote themselves precisely to that.

Second, we need elders who are godly men. For character, godliness, holiness is God’s great qualification for an elder. In 1 Timothy 3:2-3, Paul says: “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” Such an important work requires corresponding life and character, says Paul here. So, the qualifications of this office are not found in social standing or even extraordinary talents or intelligence, but rather in godly character. Paul lays out eleven character qualities (positive and negative) for an elder. He is: (1) above reproach – that is, he is free from scandalous sins and offensive habits that would lay him open to serious public criticism; (2) the husband of one wife – that is, a man marked by the strictest marital fidelity, his marriage is biblical, monogamous, and sexually pure, and he is not unbiblically divorced; (3) temperate – that is, sober-minded, possessed of a wakeful, alert, vigilant habit of mind, opposed to all sorts of excess; (4) prudent – that is, he has mastery over his natural reactions, he is self-controlled (see Titus 1:8); (5) respectable – that is, he lives a life that bears up under public scrutiny, (6) hospitable – hospitality is required of all Christians (Romans 12:13) but elders are to take the lead; (7) not addicted to much wine – that is, free from any enslavement to or fixation with alcohol, drugs, or other addictive stimulants; (8) not pugnacious – that is, he is not a violent man or given to quarreling; he is not quick tempered; this goes along with being temperate; (9) gentle – that is, he is meek and humble and thus able to elicit a response of trust, respect and affection from congregation members. (10) peaceable – that is, he is not quarrelsome in his pattern of speaking (so as to be able to gently instruct – see 2 Timothy 2:24ff); and (11) free from the love of money – that is, he has a mastery over his material appetites, he is storing his treasure in heaven, he is not trying to serve two masters, he is not a money lover or pursuer of dishonest gain. You want to elect men who are godly and who are very evidently pursuing holiness in their own lives.

Well, I have four more points from 1 Timothy 3:1-7 to cover. We’ll continue them next week.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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