is not easy to get away from our background. Having been a member, in
the past, of the denomination known as Primitive Baptists, it is hard to
keep from taking that church as a criterion in matters of "church
policy". I go to the scriptures for my information, but it is hard
to keep my reading from being colored by my background. I am sure that
others have the same trouble. We ought to be very careful along this
line. We are not to reject a principle because is accords with what we
used to do, but, on the other hand, we must not read into scripture that
which is in line with our background, unless it really is there.
In this editorial I am considering "Elders". Titus was left in
Crete, to amend that which was lacking and to constitute elders in the
different cities. The Greek word for constitute, is
"down-stand!" According to Webster, constitute means to
appoint, among other things. It seems evident that Titus was not to make
preachers. He was to recognize those whom God had made, and appoint
them, or down-stand them according to the cities. The idea of gathering
saints together in an ecclesia and then arbitrarily appointing a board
of elders is wrong. Nor does age, alone, make one able to fill this
office. I am not sure that age has much to do with it, except that one
should be old enough to have sound judgment.
The elder is to preside. That is, in order for meetings to be orderly,
there must be a leader, or presiding officer. The elder is to be the
central figure in the meeting. He is to be a teacher, for Paul says, I
Tim. 5:17, that he is to be counted worthy of double honor, if he
presides ideally, and toils in word and teaching. As teacher, he
instructs the church in the scriptures. In other words, he is a
preacher. It is as a preacher that he presides over the assemblies.
It seems reasonable to me that he is the "pastor", mentioned
in Eph. 4:11. Christ gives him as He also gives the apostles, the
prophets, the evangelists.
In his instructions to Titus, 1:5-9, Paul mentions the elder as being
the supervisor. These are two aspects of the same office. As elder he is
to preside and teach; as supervisor he is to "on-note" the
saints. The word had in it the meaning of "visit". His
supervision is done in a private way, visiting the different saints and
seeing to their spiritual welfare; his eldership is exercised in a
public way, presiding and teaching. It seems to me that the two terms,
"elder" and "supervisor" cover the same thought as
pastor. He presides, in order to have decency of assembly; he feeds the
saints by teaching them; and he visits and looks after them between
times of meetings. Thus he is a "shepherd", which is the
meaning of pastor.
Those whom Titus was to appoint must be "unimpeachable, husband of
one wife, having faithful children, not under accusation of profligacy
or insubordinate --- for the supervisor must be unimpeachable as an
administrator of God, not given to self-gratification, not irritable, no
toper, not quarrelsome, not avaricious; but hospitable, fond of that
which is good, sane, just benign, self-controlled; upholding the
teaching of the faith, that he may be able to entreat with sound
teaching as well as to expose those who contradict," Titus 1:6-9.
It is reasonable to suppose that Paul did not mean that he MUST have a
wife. He meant that he must not have more than ONE. His children may not
be believers. He cannot manage this, since faith is God's obligation,
but they must be faithful as children. In II Tim. 3:6, Paul adds to this
list, by saying that he must not be a novice, or one newly come into the
faith. He must be seasoned in the teaching. The wisdom of this can
readily be seen.
It is evident that the church in Corinth was an organization. Else, how
could they expel a man, as they were instructed to do, I Cor. 5:13? This
expulsion was done by the majority, II Cor. 2:6.
Paul abolished organization when he instructed the saints to "come
out", II Cor. 6:17. Since that time no church has had a right to
become organized. THEY, the saints, are the "temple of the living
God', verse 16. The church means "the out-called". One saint
is a church; a million saints are a church. We are not members of the
church---we ARE the church. We are members of Christ.
As I see it, there can be not such thing as "church
government", where there is no organization. Saints voluntarily
come together and worship, and support the meetings. They are not bound
by any ties except these of the spirit. How, then can one, or a number,
govern others? No saint is regarded as "responsible" for any
other one. We can't expel one, for there is nothing from which to expel
him. The only thing we could do would be to forbid him to attend the
meetings. How could we enforce such an order?
What, the, are we to do? Paul takes care of it in II Tim. 3:6. SHUN THE
DISORDERLY. We can't turn them out. We can't exercise "church
discipline" over them. It is a matter of individual shunning---not
a concerted action.
Since organization is abolished, majority rule is not to be recognized.
Nothing was said about the majority electing a pastor. Titus was to
appoint the pastor---if, indeed, the pastor is the elder and supervisor.
Since Titus is no more, wherever saints meet and recognize a man as
pastor, by attending his meetings, he IS pastor. His presiding consists
of keeping order in the assembly. His service consists of studying,
teaching and visiting.
At the time when Colossians, Ephesians, Phillipians, Philemon and II
Timothy were written, a new administration began. Paul calls it the
administration of the grace of God, Eph. 3:2. This does not repeal all
that is said in the letters written before this administration
began, but it does repeal all that is not in accord with pure grace in
administration. This is the word to use---ADMINISTRATION. Not
One of the finest things about God is the fact that I just can't get Him
to agree with me. If I think that a man ought to be discarded by the
saints, I am mortified to find that God is still using him. This is
graciousness on the part of God. Then, when I think of it rightly, I am
happy that our failures do not cancel our service. Let us not think that
our brethren are not grieved over their own failures and weaknesses.
They are! Perhaps it is as much a surprise to them as to us, that God
will still recognize and bless that in their lives which is in accord
with His teaching, even though they are hampered by weaknesses and
failures. I repeat, this is graciousness. Who can be more gracious?
This is entirely satisfactory. God does not hold us accountable for the
conduct of others, unless our misconduct or false teaching causes their
But why waste so much space discussing "church government"?
Administration is the correct word. Who wants to govern his
fellow-saints? Are we to regard them as potential criminals, unless they
are governed? Does not the spirit of God and Christ in them mean
anything? Are the saints constantly looking for an opportunity to do
some thing bad?
A brother recently said that many churches have become concentration
camps, in which all the prisoners in each camp must submit to the rules
and regulations adopted by that particular group, or they will be
censored and politely disfellowshiped. I fear that his estimate is
correct in some instances. But not in all. The churches in Georgia, and
many in other sections, do not have rules and regulations. Saints are
free. They are not in concentration camps. Our meetings do not
constitute a yoke of bondage.
I think that a recognition of the true place of the elder, and an
acknowledgement of the graciousness that ought to characterize our
contact with our fellows, will go far toward eliminating the bad feeling
that has been generated in some places. This is why I have written this