Bringing radical thoughts worth pondering (A blog of poriruachurch.com)
In some of our past issues we introduced this topic with attention given to the fact that elders are examples and Overseers to the church. Both ideas imply a beautiful relationship that elders have with the church provided that all concerned, recognize and fulfill their rightful places in God’s arrangement. Not only are elders to be examples in daily life and commitment, but the church must follow their example as they follow Christ. Also, though they are appointed as overseers, the church must be willing to submit to their oversight.
In past articles in this series, emphasis has been given to the work and authority of elders to oversee, feed and rule the church. Reference is made to these responsibilities again, not to be repetitious, but to point out a definite relationship sustained between the elders and the church.
Both Paul and Peter make it clear that the elders are to feed the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2). They use the word poimanio which signifies all that is involved in shepherding, or tending sheep, rather than being limited to what is implied in the word “feed”. Though they must have the ability to teach, and often engage in teaching, as overseers they are to provide proper spiritual food, whereas, someone else might do the actual teaching. Likewise, they must guard against improper food being given to the church. When the church then responds to the “feeding” by submitting to the teaching, and shunning poisonous error, the relationship between the elders and the church is as God would have it. Furthermore, Paul writes: “And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you. And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” (1 Thess. 5:12,13). This passage focuses on the unique relationship that should exist between the elders and the congregation. Think about the significance of the verbs “know” and “esteem” as they are directed to the church; and then to “labour” and “admonish” as they refer to the work of the elders. This is God’s plan, and no other arrangement can be better.
Again, in a previous article, attention was given to the Biblical authority of the elders. This introduces a special arrangement which they have with the local congregation. Someone must have authority in the home, in government, and in the church. The idea of authority implies submission to that authority. No one can rule those who will not be ruled. The rule of the elders is not optional. They must exercise their authority, and the church must submit to it.
Elders must never allow pressure groups, or individuals, to usurp their authority, but neither are they to be “lords over God’s heritage” (1 Pet. 5:3). This word katakurieo, translated “lord” means to bring under one’s power, subdue or to master. Elders are not tyrants, or dictators; nevertheless, they must rule by the very nature of their work of overseeing, leading, and feeding. The scriptures recognize their “rule”; therefore, we should not refrain from using the term. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls as they that must give account” (Heb.13:17). What better reason could one have for submission? What an awesome responsibility given to elders! Again, Paul writes: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” (1 Tim. 5:17). The context of this passage indicates that this double honour would include supporting them financially to give them more time to rule well. When the elders and congregation both recognize and adhere to God’s arrangement, peace will prevail and the church will grow. (1 Thess. 5:12, 13).
Richard Harp, Enduring Words, Vol. 2, Issue 3, March 1983.