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 Sunday, September 10, 2017 am                                                NT Church 2017 Index

 

NT CHURCH 2017 (26)
Elders 5 - Our Responsibility toward Our Elders

 

                This year we are examining the NT church.  The past several weeks we have been addressing leaders, specifically the elders.  We have discussed their work and responsibility, the importance of it, and the high standard of qualifications they need to be appointed and as they serve.  Today, we want to conclude our study of the elders by noting our responsibilities as the flock to our elders. 

                This will be followed up by a brief study of the work of deacons, and then the evangelist and his work. 

Far too often today, brethren are quick to jump to conclusions AGAINST some decision the elders have made without considering their work and responsibilities.  Such is wrong and clearly condemned in scripture as we shall see.   Our responsibilities toward the elders include:

 I.                     Treat them like Christians – remember that they are Christians FIRST!

a.       As we proceed we shall see that the respect they are to receive is at a higher standard than others.

b.       BUT, realizing they are Christians, EVERY command that we have toward one another as brethren applies to them equally. 

c.        For example: We are to love one another!  That includes our elders
We are seek unity – that includes our elders
We are to govern our tongues and attitudes toward one another – that includes our elders.
The attributes of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Gal. 6:1-2, etc. apply to them as well.

   II.                   Recognize them

a.       1 Thess. 5:12, “And we urge you brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.”  The word recognize is translated as “know” (KJV & ASV) and “appreciate” (NASU). It is a word that means to see with perception. (cf. WS Dictionary of NT) 
Vine’s suggests a fullness of knowledge.

b.       Jesus in describing Himself as the Good Shepherd (a pattern for pastors to consider – cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-5) said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10:14).  See also vs. 1-5 where He noted His sheep knew His voice.

c.        The point being we need to get to know our elders personally.  The better we know them, the better we understand their decisions.

 

  III.                 To Esteem them highly for their work’s sake

a.       1 Thess. 5:13, “and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.”
Hebrews 13:7 tells us to remember them and to consider the outcome of their conduct. 
1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.”

b.       The idea of esteem is to render great respect to them. 
When Paul spoke to Timothy of double honor what did he mean?  First, the context addresses supporting financially the “full time” elder (such as the elder/evangelist).  But the second is just plain “honor” - respect, esteem (Vine’s)

c.        Respect is demonstrated in a number of ways – how you talk to them, how you talk ABOUT them to others, your attitude toward them, your demeanor around them, and how you respond to their instructions.

d.       When we consider the work they have taken upon themselves for us, it becomes clear they are worthy of and are to be treated with high esteem.

 

 IV.                 Submitting to them (obey them)

a.       Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls as those who must give account.”
1 Timothy 5:17 notes that they “rule well” meaning they have charge. 

b.       We must clearly understand that the scriptural government of the church is not a democracy where everyone votes and majority rule always prevails.  God has appointed elders to RULE over the flock.

c.        In this one verse we find both obey and submit.  They are words that imply we have a responsibility to YIELD to the decisions of our elders.  Whether it be a command to do something (i.e. faithfully attend) or to not do things which are deemed sinful or unwise, we are to YIELD to their decisions.

d.       This verse also demonstrates that their office is more than that of a mere figurehead.

e.        As we examine their character and that we have put ourselves under their leadership, we must TRUST them in their decisions.  This is not always easy to do, especially when they make a decision we don’t like or “choose the other side”.

f.          Note: Grammatically both verbs (obey and submit) are in the present tense which means ongoing action, i.e. keep on obeying those who rule over you; continue to be submissive to them. Incidentally their watching out for our souls is the same tense of verb.

g.       Of course, such submission and obedience is predicated upon their respect for God’s word (cf. Acts 5:29).

 

 V.                   Make their job as pleasurable as possible

a.       Hebrews 13:17 continues, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

b.       Accepting the responsibility of elder is burdensome within itself.  Even when things are progressing smoothly, it’s a difficult work.  But we know that in time, every eldership is going to face unruly members or threats to the soundness of a congregation.  These times can be stressful and heart breaking.  OUR job is to NOT make matters any worse! 

c.        We do this by continuing to submit and obey.  We do this by honoring and defending them.  Even if they make mistakes (and they will) we treat them with love and kindness.  We behave ourselves and try to not burden them any further so that they can deal with whatever it is they are facing.

d.       NOTE the warning at the end of this verse.  If you cause grief, THE LORD SAYS, ‘That will be unprofitable for you.”

 

 VI.                 Follow their example –

a.       Heb. 13:7 says, “Whose faith follow”.
1 Peter 5:3 says that as they shepherd the flock it is, “not as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…”

b.       2 Thess. 3:9, speaking of Paul and those with him (so it appeals primarily to Apostles) he notes things which they could have compelled of the brethren in Thessalonica, but he makes this point, “not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”

c.        It is ALWAYS better to lead by example first.  When elders are submitting to God’s will, their example is worthy of imitation.

John Maxwell, a denominational preacher and business leader, has done extensive study on leadership in the Bible (and in business) (some of which I would not agree) did say, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.  That is descriptive of the example of an elder.

 

 VII.               Defend them –

a.       1 Timothy 5:19 says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.”  Paul is pretty dogmatic about this. 

b.       I am convinced that we should not be looking for trouble with our leaders.  In other words, we should not be putting them under a microscope to find things wrong so that we can criticize them.

c.        In esteeming them highly and in making their job pleasurable it is implied we ought to stand up for them and defend them. 

d.       Remember our first point – treat them like Christians.  That means we don’t gossip about them, don’t ever complain about them to those outside the body (or inside the body for that matter), we don’t strive over words or undue criticisms against them.  We in love, “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things” (1 Cor. 13:7)  Friends, the Lord’s church and our leaders could sure use a little “benefit of the doubt” when we weigh their decisions. 

e.       One gospel preacher in addressing our duties to elders noted that we must judge them fairly!  
Keep Matthew 7:2-5 and John 7:24 in mind here.  This IS proper application of this these texts – looking at their motives, exacting standards that we ourselves refuse to submit to, etc.
If you feel the urge to criticize your elders, ask yourself a few questions first.
 1) Am I being a hypocrite in this?  I.e. am I doing my job within the congregation?
 2) If every member of the congregation treated our elders the way I do, how difficult would I be making their work?
 3) Am I anything more than an armchair critic, or a Monday-morning quarterback?
 4) Do I know what I am talking about?  Do I have all the facts?  Am I giving the benefit of the doubt?
 5) Am I aware of how much easier it is to make judgments with hindsight?  When dealing with a volatile, stressful situation do I ever wish that I had done something different when it is over with?
 6) Have I sought to walk in his shoes before passing judgment?
 7) Am I being fair and just in my criticisms?

 

 VIII.             When approaching them with concerns (about them) show them respect.

a.       This is a follow-up to our previous point.  Maybe you see a need to go to the elders.  Perhaps they have done something that must be addressed (being human and imperfect).   Maybe they didn’t handle a situation the way you wanted. 

b.        The Bible speaks of times elders are to be rebuked and exhorted, 1 Timothy 5:20 says, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all.”  This is in a context dealing with elders.  Sometimes they need to be rebuked by the preacher or some member with a concern. (Consider Peter the apostle being rebuked for hypocrisy by Paul – Gal. 2:11-14).   IF they are godly men they would WANT YOU to come to them with your spiritual concerns for them.

c.        BUT, in so doing we still need LOVE!  We still need respect and honor for the person.  Consider 1 Tim. 5:1-2, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers,…”
Certainly they are as “an older man” hence the term “elder”.  Show due respect!   See also 1 Peter 5:5-6 dealing with those older than you and submitting to them in humility.

       

 IX.                 Call on them when in need –

a.       Jas. 5:14-15, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up…”

b.       While we need to understand they are NOT to be taken unduly advantage of, because of their love and maturity they are there for you!  They are you shepherds and they realize it.  Take advantage of their abilities (but not of them).

c.        Godly elders can and will:

                                                   i.      Pray for you (like every Christian)

                                                 ii.      Give you spiritual advice – usually they are some of the brightest and wisest in the congregation.   Yes they can give you directions on how to not sin with your money, marriage advice from the Bible, understanding of some passage of scripture, help dealing with struggles and problems, etc.  They WANT to do this for you!  They love you!

                                                iii.      Visit and encourage you

                                                iv.      Help you resolve differences with others (but not by setting aside Matt. 18).

 

 X.                   Help them

a.       Considering everything they will sacrifice and have done for you, what are some things you can do for them?

b.       You should pray for them

c.        You should honor them as we have discussed.

d.       You should encourage them and thank them for their work’s sake.

e.       You should communicate with them – keep them informed of what they need to know (like when you are not going to be here).

f.         Grow spiritually and strive toward maturity.  Perhaps you are considering being an elder one day.  If so, that would be tremendous help for them.

g.       Do your share in the congregation (Eph. 4:16).  Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them and do what you can to help them.

h.       Finally, act like a Christian!  If you do this, they won’t have any problems with you.  And quite frankly, your eternal destiny depends on it!

 

                And thus we can see our responsibilities toward the elders.  May we, as the Lord’s church seek to understand and fulfill our role toward them.  Thank God for the elder’s we have and the church here.