FOUNDATIONS

Lessons designed to promote the integrity of scripture and church!

I Corinthians 3:11“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is    JESUS CHRIST  

All articles are written using the NKJV, unless otherwise noted! All articles are written by David Hicks, unless specified otherwise.

 

THE BODY OF CHRIST

THE ORDER OF THE BODY OF CHRIST – PART 12

The Elders – Qualifications

In these lessons, we will look at the Divine qualifications for the ones who would be shepherds of the Lord’s body. Please note, and use the “Quick Glance chart of the Qualifications of Elders” also provided with this portion of this study.

We will look into these qualifications in a semi-organized way; looking at some of the basic elements first (A Man, Desires the Work), then the domestic qualifications (Husband of one wife, rules his own house well, number of children required, and faithful children), and finally all the other qualifications.

With these things in mind, let’s get started!

Desires the Work –

1 Timothy 3:1This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.”

The term “Desire” here means ‘to reach or stretch out’; signifying the mental effort of stretching oneself out for a thing, of longing after it, with great stress towards the object desired.

This definition in no way justifies one to long for this position to have his-own way, to fulfill selfish ambition.

1 Peter 5:2-3Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”

It does; however, indicate a strong willingness to serve, as well as a strong willingness to prepare to serve God through Jesus Christ in this particular capacity. In fact, unless a man has such a desire developing early, it is far more difficult by the time he is old enough to serve in this capacity to have achieved the qualifications (not impossible, but difficult).

One of the questions often asked, “Is “Desire” a qualification?”

Any debate to the contrary could only be made academically, not practically. Even then, Peter has stated emphatically that elders are never to shepherd God’s people “by compulsion but willingly”! This along with the insertion of the original statement of Paul takes even the academic argument out of the picture.

Common sense also dictates that unless one has the desire to serve in this capacity, he would lack the motivation to serve or maintain himself by the given qualifications. One does not become “Able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2), or “Not self-willed” (Titus 1:7); unless they have a strong desire to serve the Lord. 

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, “Desire” is a prerequisite!

All men fall into one of three categories as far as their attitude toward serving as an elder is concerned:

  1. Those who desire the office.
  2. Those who do not desire the office.
  3. Those who are indifferent; they neither desire to have it or would have to be constrained to serve, thus being eliminated by Peter’s instruction.

So, let’s look at this for the remainder of this lesson.

Qualified Men not Serving when they could be –

I want to preface this by saying right out of the gate, that there are situations whereby men who were qualified for this work still could not desire to serve (that is they have developed the qualifications, but for providential reasons could not desire the work). A man’s health could prevent him from adequately providing the time necessary to shepherd the flock. Even in existing elders, this can sometimes prevent one of these qualified men from continuing to serve.

Now, it is here that we want to notice the case whereby there are men who are qualified to serve as elders; and yet, they are not. There are two primary reasons this situation could arise:

  1. The Body of Christ could be at fault.
  2. The qualified man might be at fault.

The Body of Christ could be at fault

First, let me say, when speaking of the Body being at fault, I am not talking about the intent of the Lord for His Body, but the Body failing to accomplish His purposes!

It should now be noted that there are four possible conditions that a congregation might find itself to be in:

  1. Scripturally Ordered – Philippians 1:1.
  2. Serving God through Christ, but un-ordered; congregations in Asia Minor prior to Acts 14:23.
  3. Un-scripturally ordered – i.e., having elders who are not qualified or not content with the word of God as their guide.
  4. Un-scripturally un-ordered – i.e., having no desire to qualify men to serve in the position of elders, or to have them even if they did!

The wisdom of God through Jesus Christ our King produces #1’s and all true servants working diligently to achieve it. Man’s wisdom produces everything else!

In the case of numbers 2-4; the Body itself may be at fault if there are men qualified to serve and are not (actually in the case of #3-4; the ENTIRE Body is absolutely at fault!)!

All #2 congregations should be on guard to honestly determine if they are appeasing men or God. The diligence to qualify and work towards God’s order must be ever before them until they are able to complete themselves.

The Qualified Man may be at Fault

Let’s look at several reasons why one otherwise qualified might not desire to serve as an elder.

First, he may be ignorant, or unknowing of the fact that God expects us to desire to do all that we are able to qualify to do, and as servants, we really do not have the luxury of choice.

Yes, this ignorance, by itself, does disqualify him; however, it may be an issue of realistic instruction needed to re-construct his understanding of duty coupled with desire. It may surprise many of us to know just how many brethren could be doing more within the Body of Christ, who simply have not made the connection that it should be all of them engaged in this work (Ephesians 4:16).

Sometimes being frank and completely honest, stirs in some the light bulb moments of recognition that they are failing to do all they should or can.

Paul tells us that desiring the position of an elder is desiring a “good work” 1 Timothy 3:1. James then simplifies ones understanding by stating it is sinful to know good and not do it (James 4:17; the avoidance of boasting, pride, etc…). 

In addition, Paul tells us that we, all Christians, were created for “Good Works” Ephesians 2:10.

Paul tells the Christians on the isle of Crete through Titus that this should be evident to all of them:

Titus 2:14who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

If any of us are not working towards performing any and all “Good works” God has given us to achieve on His behalf, we have to seriously look to see if we are on a course that God never intended or offered us to be on!

Second, it may be that this individual is not thankful for the ability and opportunity to serve. If so, they should consider the following:

1 Corinthians 15:9-10For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Colossians 3:17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

1 Timothy 1:12And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry”

Third, it may be that the individual has forgotten or lost sight of the fact that they will be judged for the deeds done in the body, whether “Good or Evil” 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Even in his own ability to teach, may have instructed concerning the Lord’s teaching; “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” Luke 12:48, and not made application to himself (I have often said, and it is definitely true here, “The number one student in any class has to be the teacher!”).

Fourth, it may be that he is afraid, or fearful. We could also insert that he is skeptical of what he will be able to accomplish. In all of this, he must examine his fear or skepticism as a sign that he has a lack of faith and trust.

1 Corinthians 3:5-8Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”

In short, when a man who is otherwise qualified says he cannot conscientiously do so because he has not the desire, he needs to be reminded that our conscience, as we are good at telling our denominational friends, needs to be regulated by the word of God, and urged to make sure his is.

It should also be noted, that when a man is desiring the work of an elder, he is not desiring prestige, authority, esteem, or the glory of the work; but an awesome, sometimes nerve-wracking, sometimes nauseating responsibility that will have for him many sleepless nights. Yet, at the same time, knowing that he will be effecting the order for the Body of Christ for the protection, maintenance, and education of souls to his own and their salvation. 

Next: “Domestic Qualifications!”