Volume. XXXI, No. 46
Sunday, 14 May 2017


From the Pastors Heart: Elders


We have been privileged to have two faithful elders in our midst, and now we have one more through ordination two weeks ago. Paul says in Acts 20:28 that the Holy Spirit has made elders overseers to feed the Church of God. It means that believers ought to respect and honor them. In fact, due respect and submission to them are encouraged and required. False accusations against them or disrespectful attitude toward them must be discouraged and properly dealt with, in order to keep the church in good order. Ones spiritual condition could be measured by his/her attitude toward them. The New Testament recognizes that there are people in the church who have gifts for rule and government. 1 Corinthians 12:28 says, And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments [ESV translates it as administrating, NAS administrations, and NIV translates it as gifts of administration], diversities of tongues. Romans 12:8 states, Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth [ESV says, the one who leads, NAS he who leads, and NIV if it is leadership], with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 1 Timothy 5:17, Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. The term elder In the Greek New Testament, the plural forms of the word, elder, occur 61 times and the singular forms 4 times. I will focus on its nominative plural form for this study. It occurs 22 times in the New Testament. I can see that there are basically three uses of the word. (1) Its foremost use is to refer to the office of the elder in Judaism. Matthew 21:23 says, And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? It seems that these elders were the ruling elders as the representatives of the people in Gods theocratical government. Thats why the elders are explained as the elders of the people. Matthew 26:3 and 57 indicate that the governing body of the people of God before the New Testament church era, and this governing body was composed of the chief (high) priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people. Matthew 26:3, Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas. Matthew 26:3, Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas. Matthew 26:57, And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled (cf. 26:59; 27:1, 20; Mark 11:27; 14:53; Acts 4:23). (2) Its second use is that it simply refers to old(er) men as in Acts 2:17, And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. (3) As we come to the middle of the book of Acts, we begin to see a different use of the word. For example, Acts 15:6 says, And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter (cf. verse 23). There were two groups of people in the leadership in the Jerusalem church: apostles and elders. Acts 21:18 indicates the same thing. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. These elders must be distinguished from the elders in Judaism, for the apostles had already formed their own worship separately from that of Judaism. They were Christian elders. 1 Timothy is a part of the Pastoral Epistles written by Paul to a young pastor, Timothy. He says in 1 Timothy 5:17, Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. In Christian church organization, there was already eldership as a church office. There are three points we need to consider: (1) the believers are asked to respect their elders; (2) the elders are the ones who rule in the churches; and (3) there are two types of elders. The one is the ruling elders, and the other is the ones who are laboring in the word and doctrine. In other words, the latter is devoted to preaching and teaching. The role of elders 1 Timothy 5:17 says that the elders rule. This particular Greek word occurs eight times in the New Testament. Romans 12:8 translates it as to rule (NIV, leadership), 1 Thessalonians 5:12 as to be over [the church], 1 Timothy 3:4 and 5 as to rule [his own house or children] (NIV, manage [his own family]), and Titus 3:8 and 14 as to maintain (NIV, to devote). Their roles at home are not our immediate concern. Our concern is of their roles in local churches. In the New Testament, two terms, elders and bishops, are used interchangeably. If we can find the use of these terms, we may have better ideas of the role of elders in the church. Acts 1:20 is one of the most fascinating verses on this matter: For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. The office that Judas Iscariot held is described as bishoprick [ESV and NAS office, while NIV leadership; It comes from episkope, from which comes the word episcopate]. This word is not referring to just any office, but an office of overseer or supervisor. Philippians 1:1 says, Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons. There was more than one bishop/elder in the church of Philippi. They are in the plural. 1 Timothy 3:1 clarifies the meaning of the word, bishop/elder. He is not simply an elderly man, but the word refers to an office (episkopes) in the church: This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. There is no mention of age to be an elder. However, it must not be a very young man because there is a mention of a wife and children. The significance of the role of elder/bishop is found in 1 Peter 2:25, For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop (episkopon) of your souls. Jesus Christ is our Bishop (ESV Overseer and NAS Guardian). Acts 20:28 says, Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episkopous), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Having seen all these with the qualifications of an elder in 1 Timothy 3:1-6, I can safely conclude that the elders are (1) to oversee, (2) to rule, (3) to maintain, and (4) administer their church. They are also (1) to teach and (2) to be given to hospitality. Charles Hodge said, Ruling elders are properly the representatives of the people, and chosen by them for the purpose of exercising government and discipline in conjunction with pastors or ministers. This office has been understood by a greater part of the Protestant Reformed Churches, to be designated in the Holy Scriptures by the title of government, and of those who rule well, but do not labour in the word and doctrine (Warrant and Theory of Ruling Eldership, Order in the Offices, edited by Mark R. Brown, 68). In our church constitution 15.7 states, An Elder shall endeavour, by Gods grace, to serve in full conformity with the standards set forth in the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9), joining with the Pastor in the government, administration, and discipline of the church, visiting the sick and sorrowing members, investigating delinquents, and endeavouring to remedy any spiritual weakness in the lives of members. We thank the Lord for His elders! Lovingly, Your Pastor

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Announcements

 Welcome to our pulpit: Pastor David Weng.  Blessed Mothers Day to all mothers & grandmothers.  Todays Catered Fellowship Lunch is to celebrate Mothers Day. All worshippers are invited.  Free 30th Anniversary CDs available at Bookshop. One CD per family.  Those who have completed their Basic Bible Knowledge course & would like to be Baptised, Re-affirmed or Transfer Membership, please see Elder Michael D Lee.  Camp media order forms available at the Sanctuary foyer. Closing date: 21 May. Lower quality .mp3 available on the HBPC website.  Kitchen Duty helpers - This week: Team C. Next week: Team A. Praise & Thanksgiving  Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (Spore/Sth Korea); Bro Joseph & Sis Chrisanthi Selvanayagam & family (Mt Gambier/Adl); Bro Jason & Sis Tabitha & family (Melb/Adl); Bro Lucas & Sis Grace Yiew (Spore); Sis Jillian Chia (Adl); & others arriving safely at their destinations. Prayer Items  Healing: Rev George van Buuren (heart problems); Bro Yick Ho Lams father (cancer & salvation); Sisters Peng Moi Gan (Sis Peng Ha Yeos sister), & Christabelle Selvanayagam.  Journey mercies: Sis Peng Ha Yeo (Adl); & others who are travelling.

 

 

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