Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #753 MP3 Audio File Video File

Church Eldership: Berean's Polity (Part 2)

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Delivered 04/12/15

We are looking at the subject of Berean's Polity, church polity is a branch of ecclesiology that addresses the organizational structure and hierarchy of the church. This is our second message. We saw last time that there are basically three types of church government that have developed in the various Christian denominations: the episcopal, the congregational, and the presbyterian. And there are variations of all of these.

We also saw that there are three terms used in the New Testament to describe church leaders, they are: "bishop, elder, and pastor." The most widely used New Testament designation for local church leaders is "elders." Pastors are not distinct from bishops or elders. The terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. Textual evidence indicates that all three terms refer to the same office.

Church leadership is a team effort. Every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros is used, it is plural except where John and Peter use it to speak of themselves. The norm in the New Testament church was a plurality of elders. There is no reference in all the New Testament to a one-pastor congregation. We see the chief task of the elders in:

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28 NASB

Paul tells these elders that their task is to "shepherd the church of God." The primary responsibility of the elders, overseers, or pastors is to shepherd the church, which means to feed and lead the flock, to teach them the Scriptures and give them a godly example to follow.

So the main duty of the elders is to shepherd, which means: "to feed and lead." They have other duties listed in Scripture, but the most important is to shepherd. One of the other duties listed in Scripture is: Determine Church Policy:

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, "The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. Acts 15:22-23 NASB

The letter that they sent out said:

that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell." Acts 15:29 NASB

So they set doctrine and practice for the church. They also handle the distribution of money:

And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders. Acts 11:29-30 NASB

So the elders were to be handling the distribution of the money. They were to teach and preach (1 Timothy 5:17), exhort and refute (Titus 1:9); they are also to pray for the sick:

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; James 5:14 NASB

People, you have to let us know you are sick so that we can pray with you. The elders are also to give spiritual advice and counsel:

And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. Acts 21:18 NASB

In the following verses the elders give Paul advice on what he is to do. Again, if you want us to give you spiritual advice and counsel, you need to ask us; we are not mind readers.

How does a person become an elder? We talked about this last time, but it bears repeating. Does he have to have a degree? No, thermometers have degrees, and you know what we do with those. I don't want to make lite of degrees, but that is certainly not a biblical requirement. So what are the biblical requirements?:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 1 Timothy 3:1-2 NASB

I see from this text two requirements of elders: First He must have a desire in his heart for the work. The Greek word for "aspires" is oregomai, which means: "reach out after (long for), covet after, desire."

And secondly, he must fit the qualifications that are listed in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus 1. So it's not that elders appoint elders. Elders recognize those whom the Holy Spirit has appointed, and who have begun to function as elders.

I want to look at a couple of facts about the office of elder that we find in our text of 1 Timothy 3. First of all we see that It is an important office:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 1 Timothy 3:1 NASB

Paul says, "It is a trustworthy statement"—this phrase is used five times in the pastoral Epistles. It is a creed or formula and was reserved for things of great significance. Let me give you just two of its other uses so you can see its significance:

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Yeshua came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 1 Timothy 1:15 NASB

Here the statement is that "Christ Yeshua came into the world to save sinners":

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 2 Timothy 2:11 NASB

Again you can see the importance of these statements. There was a high value placed on church leadership by the early church. As we look through the New Testament, we see that elders were very important in the early church from Acts 14 on.

This was a dangerous and difficult position in that day. You can rest assured that in the days of Paul a pastor did not occupy a plush air conditioned office with a big desk and a cushioned chair with a secretary at his every call.

So eldership is an important office. Secondly it is a restricted office. The elder is to be a male, there are no female elders:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 1 Timothy 3:1-2 NASB

A literal rendering from the Greek would read: "trustworthy statement: anyone overseer aspires to do fine works " Now you'll notice that verse one says nothing about a man in the Greek text. The Greek says, "anyone overseer aspires." But in verses 2-6 of this text all adjectives are in the masculine gender. Verse 2 says, "An overseer must be the husband of one wife." Husband is from the Greek word aner, which means a man or husband; and wife is the Greek word gyne, which means a woman or wife. So to be the husband of a wife he must be a man. Then verse 4 says:

He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 1 Timothy 3:4 NASB

The word "manages" here is the Greek proistemi, which means: "to stand before, preside, or rule." The Bible unequivocally teaches that the husband functions as head of the family, and the wife subordinates herself in the marriage union. The roles of husband and wife, so carefully revealed in the Scripture, must not be reversed in the church family. Also notice the context of these verses:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 NASB

Paul says, "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." A woman is not to teach or rule over men in the church. An elder must be a man. Look at the divine pattern of authority:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3 NASB

The word "head" here is kephale, which means government or authority. It is my understanding that men are to lead in the church. A woman can be a deacon, but not an elder, that office is restricted to men.

In verses 2-7 Paul lays out the qualifications of an elder. As you look at these qualifications, you can see that what God is looking for is character:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 1 Timothy 3:2 NASB

"An overseer, then, must be above reproach"—in the Greek the first word of this verse is dei, a particle that emphasizes absolute necessity. He must be "above reproach"—this is the Greek anepileptos , which means: "not apprehended, that cannot be laid hold of." It has the idea of "beyond accusation," it is an unmarred life by habit or incident. It means without stain, or spot, there is nothing in his life in which you can point to as a moral defect and say, "That man has failed here." It doesn't say sinless, nobody is sinless. But he has nothing in his life which everyone can point at as an obvious defect in character or behavior.

Since all saints are to live holy and blameless lives, Christian leaders must lead primarily by their example, "proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:3), a life that is above reproach is indispensable to the Christian leader.

A man who had served as a pastor for thirteen years in four different churches was exposed as having committed adultery with ten different women during that time. He was removed from being a pastor and after two years of discipline, they re-ordained him, and he went to another church to pastor. How is he above reproach? Would you want your daughter or wife going to him for counseling?

Commenting on this adulterous pastor, another pastor said, "I think he is probably better equipped to serve Christ today than most of us who have never been through the terribly painful process of discipline and restoration." So those of us pastors who have not committed adultery are not as well equipped to serve Christ? Does sin better equip us to serve Christ.? How is he above reproach?

Does any pastor who has committed adultery fit the qualification of being above reproach? NO! I think that every pastor should be able to say what Paul said:

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 NASB

Paul is saying, "Do as I do." Elders should be able to say this to the flock, "Follow me." Richard Baxter said, "An unholy pastor is like a stained glass window, he's just a religious figure that keeps the light out."

This is not a matter of forgiveness, this man can be forgiven of his sin, he can be restored to fellowship, but he is not above reproach and can no longer serve as an elder. He has disqualified himself.

The elder is to be "above reproach" in four areas; 1) Moral Character 2) Home life 3) Spiritual Maturity .4) Reputation:

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 1 Timothy 3:2 NASB

Paul says that an elder must be, "The husband of one wife"—this is a controversial phrase. A wrong interpretation here would restrict needed qualified men from eldership, or permit unqualified men to have a place of leadership that God forbids.

"The husband of one wife"-there is no definite article in the Greek here, and thus it could be rendered literally: "a one-wife husband" or "a one-woman man." The adjective "one" receives the emphasis in the phrase inferring that the overseer must have nothing to do with any other woman. All marital sins disqualify a man from being an overseer. This is not stressing marital status, but character!

There are five views on the meaning of "husband of one wife" that I could find, I'm sure there are more. I'm not going to go into detail here I just want to let you know what some of these views are;

1) Marriage to the Church—used to support celibacy for priests.

2) Prohibition of polygamy—the phrase "husband of one wife" is the same Greek expression used in:

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 1 Timothy 5:9 NASB

This is the same phrase except here the terms are switched, so whatever one means the other means. And since women didn't have multiple husbands, I don't think this is referring to polygamy.

3) Prohibition of remarried widowers— the problem with this is that Scripture does not speak against remarriage of a widowed person:

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39 NASB

Second marriages don't restrict men from service in the church. If a spouse dies, the surviving spouse is free to remarry.

4) Prohibition of unmarried overseers—the phrase doesn't say he must be the husband of a wife. Paul says nothing wrong with the unmarried state. Although an elder who is single would have to be careful to not minister alone to women.

5) Prohibition against divorce—this seems to be the unpardonable sin in the church today. If someone was divorced, we must know if he was divorced before he became a Christian. We can't hold a man's pre-christian sins against him. We also need to know if his divorce was biblical. There are two grounds for divorce in the New Testament, and if a man had biblical grounds for divorce, he is free to remarry. If he has not sinned, why should his service be restricted? What are the two biblical grounds for divorce?:

"And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." Matthew 19:9 NASB

What exactly is "immorality?" The Greek word here is porneia. As a whole, the New Testament uses porneia in at least four ways: 1) Voluntary sexual intercourse of an unmarried person with someone of the opposite sex (1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Thess. 4:3). .2) A synonym for adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9), which is sexual relations with someone other than one's spouse or with the spouse of another. 3) Harlotry and prostitution (Rev. 2:14,20). 4) Various forms of sexual sin such as homosexuality and beastuality. So porneia is a broad term used to cover any form of sexual sin.

The word "except" has far reaching importance attached to it. The question of remarriage hangs on it. Does it allow divorce but not remarriage? "Except" means: "to take out, outside of, to exclude, to leave out, apart from." When a person hears the word "except," he immediately thinks of "not including." He assumes that whatever is excepted is left out. For example: Every human being ever born will die and spend eternity separated from Christ "except" those who trust Yeshua. So, there is an exception to the no divorce rule, and that is sexual immorality. When a divorce is because of immorality, the innocent party is free to remarry.

Is divorce permitted in the Scripture for anything other than fornication? No and Yes! For two believers the only ground for divorce is pornea. In 1 Corinthians 7 we find another important passage dealing with divorce and remarriage. Let's look at 1 Corinthians 7:

But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away. 13 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. 15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 NASB

The teaching here is quite simple: Paul is well familiar with the teaching of Yeshua, and he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, expands the exception from sexual immorality to include desertion by an unbelieving partner. He says that If you are a believer married to an unbeliever, stay with them. God may save them. He holds out hope for that to happen.

But then verse 15 gives us the only other biblical grounds for divorce. When an unbelieving partner leaves a believer, the believer is to let that partner leave. The Scriptures tell us, "the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases." Bondage to what? Obviously, bondage to the law of marriage.

To sum up, there are only three things that biblically release a marriage partner from a marriage: (1) sexual unfaithfulness by a marriage partner; and (2) the desertion and divorce by an unbelieving marriage partner (3) the death of one marriage partner. That is the plain teaching of Scripture. So if a man had a biblical divorce, he is free to remarry. His biblical divorce does not disqualify him from serving as an elder.

A one-woman man is a man who is totally devoted to the one woman in his life. The phrase implies loyalty and faithfulness. Stated in the positive form, it means that an overseer must have an exclusive relationship with one woman. It is calling for exemplary, irreproachable conduct in marriage.

When you put a man back in ministry who has been involved in adultery, you have just lowered God's standard. Being a church pastor/elder is a high calling because the future of the church rests on its leadership. They're models of what God wants us all to be. Everything rises and falls on leadership. He is no longer a model of virtue.

Adultery is sin. It violates marriage. It wrecks homes; it injures innocent children; it attacks everything that Yahweh holds dear! It is unholy! So to answer the question, What about a pastor who commits adultery and then repents? Do we forgive him and restore him and go on. NO! His is no longer qualified to lead the people of God and must be removed permanently.

The next moral quality is that he is "temperate"—this is from the Greek word nephalios, which means: wineless, unmixed with wine. I think this is best seen as methaphorical and having the meaning of: "being alert, watchful, clearheaded." Meaning no excess in you life, totally in control of your faculties. It is essential that a Christian leader who faces many serious problems, pressures, and decisions be a spiritually stable man.

"Prudent"—this is from the Greek sophron, which means: "sober minded, of sound mind." This is a result of temperate, it is a disciplined mind. Plato defined it as "The mastery of pleasure and desire."

"Respectable"—is from the Greek word kosmios, it means: "well behaved." If a man is kosmios in his conduct it is because he is sophron in his inner life. Disciplined mind, disciplined life.

"Hospitable"—comes from the Greek word philoxenos, which comes from two Greek words: philos, which means: "to love," and xenos, which means: "a stranger." So, "hospitality" means: "love to strangers." The word "strangers" doesn't necessarily mean that they are strange, it normally applied to travelers and aliens, people we don't know.

"Able to Teach"—is from the Greek word didaktikos, which means: "skilled in teaching." This word means: "instruction, doctrine, teaching precepts." The root word carries with it the idea of systematic teaching or training. The word was used of a choir director who trains a choir over a long period of rehearsals until they are able to perform. The curriculum of the teacher is the Word of God. This same Greek word is also used in:

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 2 Timothy 2:24 NASB

The church leaders were to be teachers. They were to teach God's people the truths of the Word of God. This is the only quality related to function. This is what sets elders apart from Deacons. The elder must be able to use sound doctrine to exhort believers and expose the errors of those who rebel.

not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 1 Timothy 3:3 NASB

"Not addicted to wine"—he is a man who is not preoccupied or over indulgent with wine or any alcohol.

"Pugnacious"—this is the Greek word plektes, which means: "not a striker. He doesn't deal with problems with his fists. He doesn't punch people."

"Gentle"—this is from the Greek word epieikes, which comes from epi, which means: "over" and "icos," which means: "reasonable." It could be translated: "over-reasonableness." Some have said that this is one of the most untranslatable of all Greek words. The difficulty can be seen by the number of translations given of it. Wycliffe translates it: "patience"; Tyndale: "softness"; Cranberry: "softness"; The Geneva Bible: "the patient mind"; the Rheims Bible: "modesty": the Revised Version: "forbearance (in the margin gentleness)"; Weymouth: "the forbearing spirit"; the New English Bible: "magnanimity." The Greeks themselves explained this word as: "justice and something better than justice." In any of these words, we find the opposite of obstinacy and pride. The LXX of Psalm 86:5 uses the adjective to translate: "ready to forgive."

"Peaceable"—is from the Greek amachos, which means: "not a brawler. He is not a quarrelsome person. His temper is under control, he does not insist on his own rights."

"Free from the love of money"—this is from one Greek word aphilarguros, which is made up of "phileo," to be fond of, and "arguros," silver, and the alpha prefixed, the total word meaning: "without fondness for silver." His judgments are not influenced by money. Covetous men do great damage to the church.

The elder is to be "above reproach" in his Home life:

He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 1 Timothy 3:4-5 NASB

The church will only be healthy and strong as long as the family is healthy and strong. He must be a man who "manages his household well" He is to be the head of the home, the spiritual leader. Household is more than just his wife and children, it has the idea of stewardship. We think of a steward as he who wisely uses what the Lord has given him.

"Keeping his children under control with all dignity"— if his home is not well ordered or his children not well controlled, his ability to offer hospitality will be greatly restricted, and his influence on other families diminished.

The elder is to be "above reproach" in his Spiritual Maturity:

and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 1 Timothy 3:6 NASB

New convert—here is neophutos, which means: "a newly planted one." It is used only here in the New Testament. A new convert is not to be placed in the role of an elder.

The Ephesian church at this time had been in existence at least twelve years, and spiritually mature men could be found. In the case of Crete, such a qualification was not given. Why? This was a new church and everybody was a novice. The issue is spiritual maturity, and that is relative depending on what church you are in. Crete needed leadership and couldn't wait ten to fifteen years.

"So that he will not become conceited"—this is the word tuphoo, which means: "to envelop with smoke, that is (figuratively) to inflate with self conceit, high-minded, be lifted up with pride, be proud." The noun describes a person who is in a beclouded or stupid state of mind as a result of pride.

"And fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil"—since believers are not under the condemnation of death because of faith in Christ (Rom 8:1), the phrase here likely describes falling victim to sin. The parallel of v. 7 supports this view.

The elder is to be "above reproach" in his Reputation:

And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 1 Timothy 3:7 NASB

Who is it that we are to share the Gospel with? The lost, the outsiders. How can we reach people who have no respect for us?

Biblical eldership is a fair and powerful form of leadership that avoids both the pitfalls of one-man rule and the confusion of every man rule. The elders are to work together and decisions are made when all are in agreement. This prevents someone from going off in an unbiblical direction. One man leadership is very dangerous. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Eldership is a high calling because the future of the church rests on its leadership. They're models of what God wants us all to be. The biggest decision we'll ever make at BBC is not where to build a building or what kind of building to build, or what programs to run, but who its elders are. Everything rises and falls on leadership.

Part 1

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