Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 27, 1952

Duties Of Elders — No. 2

Olen Holderby, Casa Grande, Arizona

In our previous article we covered the three duties of feeding the church, the supervision of the benevolent work of the church, and the administering of church discipline. In this article I propose to discuss the two duties of being example to the flock and ruling the flock.

Be Examples — 1 Peter 5:3

Being examples is the way in which the flock is led. The very idea of leading demands a GOING BEFORE the one to be led. We cannot lead by staying behind and driving. We can lead only by going ahead that others might have something to follow. Elders have no right to expect the members to do that which they are not first willing to do. In most cases, if elders will be proper examples in all respects, the rest of their job will be quite easy. Let it be noticed that it is much easier to follow when the way has been clearly marked. Here may be one of the reasons why we find difficulties between elders and their congregations — they may not have marked the way clearly enough by good examples. Exceptions to this will be noted in our next topic. In our first article we noted that one of the five Greek words from which we get a reference to elders came the word shepherd. (Eph. 4:11) Let us turn to that word for a moment. How does a shepherd govern his flock? Does he govern it by swinging a club? Does he govern it by the crack of the whip? Or, does he govern it by going ahead and leading the flock where he would have them go? No one will deny that he was certainly master of the situation while he went ahead and led the flock. So it is, this application was made to the elders in their leading of the church. This is one of the demands placed upon elders by the gospel of Jesus Christ and must not be lightly passed over.

Ruling The Flock

This is the duty to which four of our original eight passages refer. It will suffice to notice, briefly, each of these passages with the minimum of comments. This duty is rightly referred to as the elder's headache, the reason for which will be noted after a discussion of the passages concerned with this duty.

Romans 12:8 " that ruleth, with diligence;..." Webster has diligence standing as an opposite to lazy, careless, and indifferent. Therefore, if an elder is to rule with diligence, he cannot be lazy in his duties as an elder. He must not be careless, but must do all with a care that characterizes the deepest concern, for a blunder could be costly. He must not be indifferent, but must show the proper concern for the work which is his. There is no diligence in an elder who has no concern for what is done.

1 Tim. 5:17 "Let the elders that RULE WELL be counted worthy of double honor..." Rule, as mentioned here, refers back to chapter three where we have the qualifications for the eldership listed. In verse four and five of chapter three rule is mentioned. A man cannot even become an elder who has not demonstrated his ruling ability in his own home to be of the proper standard. The same ruling ability must be manifested in the church is Paul's impressive statement to Timothy.

1 Thes. 5:12 "...know them which labor among you, and ARE OVER YOU in the Lord, and admonish you;" Please notice — the words LABOR and ADMONISH. The job of ruling the congregation is not a sofa job, but is one of labor and admonitions.

Heb. 13:17 "...rule over you..." Rule, here, is mentioned in connection with the watching for the souls of the flock. When elders properly rule the congregation they are watching for their souls. The souls of the flock are entrusted to — their care. This places emphasis, even more, on the big, hard, and important job of being an elder in the Lord's church. They watch for the SOULS of the flock. The apostle here states that they must give an account as to how well they do the job.

I realize that no man is perfect and that perfection may be reached only on the other side of the grave. But, there is a "heap" of difference in fleshly imperfection and a willful neglect of our responsibilities to God. If we neglect our known responsibilities, we might as well forget about the "crown of life," because we won't have any need for it.

But, why did I refer to the duty of ruling as an elder's headache? For the simple reason that many have come to despise the words SUBMIT and OBEY. In Hebrews 13:17, we have both words — given — "Obey them that have the rule over you, and SUBMIT yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is UNPROFITABLE FOR YOU." We don't have any trouble applying these two words to our children, and we know well what they mean. But, with many, the meaning of these words suddenly change when applied to the eldership. It is not the fault of the elders, if they rule well, and the congregation refuses to OBEY. Congregations need to know as much about SUBMITTING and OBEYING, as the eldership does about RULING.

Majority rule has become quite popular in many places. The only place in the New Testament where the majority ruled was in mobs and one of them nailed the Lord to the cross. The majority seldom rules anyway, and if they would wake up they might find themselves tools in the hands of a few power craving misinformed men. Preachers! The Bible instruction to you is "do the work of an evangelist" (II Tim. 4:5), and not the work of elders. Instead of "esteem them (elders) highly in love" (I Thes. 5:13), the common custom is to belittle and criticize the highest office of the kingdom of Christ on earth.

What we seem to forget, too often, is the application of Rom. 1:16. The gospel power to save doesn't stop at the baptistery. The gospel must be followed in reaching baptism and the gospel MUST be followed after baptism in order for its saving power to work. Disobedience on one side of the baptistery is no worse than disobedience on the other side. Both are condemning.

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches..." (Rev. 2:11) Thus, I commend these two articles to your study and consideration. All scripture quotations were taken from the Authorized Version.