The various subjects addressed in this paper have little or nothing in common save they are joined in this article. It might be said that the things said of each subject is seldom addressed when things regarding the subject are spoken or written about. My purpose presently is to tip your thinking cap, as it is firmly believed that we are travelling the wrong road, leading as such always do to further stray from the truth.
There is no subject dearer to Christian people than prayer as we pray multiple times in any given day. Often we pray audibly then again we petition the Father in silent thought. We pray individually, in our family settings, and when we are gathered in worship, believing that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers…” (I Pet. 3:12). If I did not believe that God listens when I pray I would not waste the time nor energy. Through prayer we glorify God, offer thanks for His goodness, supplicate for others and express from the heart what we desire from Him. Since Jesus is our intercessor our prayers are uttered by His authority or according to His will. It is possible for our prayers are spoken to be heard of our fellows rendering them vain as are the prayers of heathen. Under such circumstances (and similar situations), the prayer itself may be our only reward. Allow me now to make some observations:
- Brethren given the opportunity to lead prayer in the assembly of worship should give considerable thought to what is said. It is not a time to address God regarding our personal needs and desires. For example, it is good to pray for our children, our grandchildren and other relatives, but not in public. When I listen to a brother petition God for his private and personal needs I wonder if he prays any time other than in the assembly.
- When we pray we should pray according to the will of God. I do not mean by that that any and everything be petitioned to the Father then conclude with “thy will be done.” I mean we are not to ask God to bless us with things He has not promised to grant us.
- Prayer does not make wrong right. Christians are sometimes heard expressing to others, “I am praying about it” as though God is going to intervene and help us decide to proceed in life contrary to His revelation in the Holy Scriptures. This reminds one of the time Balaam wish to go down to Moab when God told him not to go. But, when he was offered a reward, he went to the Lord again about the matter. In other words Balaam knew what God’s will in the matter was, yet he wanted to do WHAT HE WANTED TO DO. Remember God told him to go ahead but there would be consequence. If we have already made up our mind and realize it is against the will of the Lord, we are wasting our thoughts and/or breath praying about the matter. The new Covenant (or Testament) has been ratified by the precious blood of Christ and it is possible for one to count “the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace.” (Heb. 10:29). What one is to pray for should (must), be given more thought than it usually receives.
Much has been preached and written about elders. Their qualification mainly from First Timothy and Titus have been defined and applied over and over. The importance of this work (office) has been presented and all men have been exhorted to pursue the office by qualifying themselves. Yet the congregations that have elders remains small and in this writer’s opinion those who are appointed have the office more out of desire than qualification. There are a few things separate from the beaten trail that I wish to say a few words.
1. Elders are not above discipline. Of course it is implied that an elder can so sin as to stand in need of discipline. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (I Tim. 5:19-20). It’s seems to me that an elder is not above any of us when it comes to temptation and sin, however, due to their experiences in life and considering that they had attained the place that they qualified to be appointed to the work of an elder then care must be taken that any complaint against them be dealt with not in a hasty manner. Thus, the Apostle admonishes that an accusation be not taken when there are less than two witnesses—three would be better—to the sin. The congregation that selected these men had the power and right to make a charge. Now, if the charge after due consideration be true, then the sin was not to be brushed under the table, a public rebuke is in order. Others seeing the matter correctly handled would fear lest they sin. If an elder is not above discipline then other members of the church must take heed. That is much like the admonition in Galatians chapter six at verse one, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Reading on in First Timothy five we find, “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands suddenly on man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” (Vs. 21-22), Timothy was to exercise caution lest partiality or preference enter into his judgment and duty to discipline one and excuse another. This is a common thing among men, when it comes to friends, comrades, or family; thus the solemn charge was given him. God is concerned in such matter, along with Christ and His elected ambassadors sent into the world. Such a charge would not have been neglected by Timothy and must regulate our actions as well. Those who are properly accused were to have hands laid upon them. Several different positions have been advocated as to the meaning of “lay hands suddenly on no man” the leading one is that Timothy was to take his time in appointing men to be elders. However, the context will not allow this interpretation. Paul is dealing with discipline, therefore Timothy was not to be hasty in trying or rebuking an elder without just cause. If he did receive an accusation without ample proof he would become guilty of sin, as other’s who made a false charge. In this way Timothy was to keep himself pure. Let me stress: if a congregation has the right to appoint a man to work as an elder, then that same body has a right to remove an elder for a sin or sins committed according to the severity of the crime.
- Elders must not “lord it over” a congregation. One of the qualification for appointment to be an elder is “not selfwilled” (Tit. 1:7). It should be remembered that a person who attained the characteristics necessary can also degenerate from them. For instance, a “novice is not to be appointed lest he be lifted up with pride he fall into condemnation of the devil” (I Tim. 3:6). A self-willed arrogant man is scorned by all while the opposite is true of a person who is not a self-willed arrogant man. A plurality of elders must work together if any thing is accomplished. And, since elders are to guide the congregation they must not impose their will upon the church. Keep in mind these are matters of judgment. When this qualification is ignored mischief is the result. I personally have known cases where men were not appointed because they were self-willed, who would leave a congregation flee to another and be appointed by that congregation that had not closely observed his life. Shame! Shame! On the seekers and the appointees. Evidently some elders did impose their will on others as Peter wrote, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (I Pet. 5:3). Proud arrogant elders do evil and harm rather than good. Leading by example is better and accomplishes much more good. It is pitiful that this must be brought up, but an elder or body or elders can “lord it over” impose their will contrary to God’s word. They can impose on the worship by bringing innovations; they can destroy the morals of a church by perverting scripture changing completely God’s will in the matter. This effects every member of the church and if the elders are not disciplined (as noted above), then the entire congregation slips from its purity. Remember this statement, “neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.” To the church in Thyatira Jesus said, “I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication…” Such elders are the worst kind of “lord’s over God’s heritage.”
3. There should be no such thing as a “suit-case” Elder. There are multitudes of preachers that seek to be appointed elder. There is, as far as I know, nothing wrong with that, however, many of these fail to separate being an elder from continuing to preach far and wide, thus the expression used above “suit-case elders.” Such men although they have preached the word faithfully have no conception of their work as an elder. The duties of an elder are varied as expressed by certain terms. These I am to mention may not be all that should be included, but these at least are necessary. Shepherd, of course refers to tending a flock by leading to food and water. At al times the shepherd must be watchful and on guard lest a vicious animal (which is not always apparent,) harm them. This requires the shepherd to be near the flock. Overseer carries with it the idea of a Ruler. He has the duty of seeing things are carried out, therefore he possess authority. It must be said that his authority is delegated. In other words he sees that the lives of disciples is within the word of the Lord and that things pertaining to the worship is done decently and orderly. Peter regulates this to the “flock of God which is among you.” Steward shows that the elder’s work is to oversee the property or possession of another. The congregation which they oversee is NOT a personal possession, it like all churches belongs to the Lord, as it has been purchased by Christ and has not been given to another (Acts 20:28; I Cor. 6:19). How an elder can keep his suit-case packed to travel to and fro about this country or now with the ease of transportation into foreign countries to the neglect of his work is a mystery to me. I know of elders who covet and work to have churches contact them for protracted gospel meetings. Others frequent other countries to “oversee” or establish the Cause of Christ in those places. I have personally attended some “area wide” meetings where all the elders of a congregation are present. Who is “overseeing” the church they preside over? Can an elder do his work when he wants to and neglect it as he might will? Is this practice an example to the flock or to men who are working to qualify for elders in the future? I am not saying that occasionally an elder cannot leave home to travel. However there needs to be an awaking here as being an elder is not like working at some factory or office where another takes one’s place when he vacations or is absent for one reason or another. Pulling down one’s suit-case for extenuating circumstances is not the same thing as the continual practice of absenting or being elsewhere than the place of overseeing. “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (I Tim. 3:1). Elders should not abandon their “good work” for another “so-called” good work.
HERESIES AND HERETICS
“For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (I Cor. 11:18-19). The divisions in the Corinthian Church had not reached the point of separating into other bodies, yet the cause of the divisions whether into parties only or cleft so wide it severed the church were caused by the same thing namely says the Apostle, “heresies.” These were obvious when the church came together to worship.
Heresies (Margin sect the basis of section) means the forming of a party. There have always been in the church those who formed parties so that they themselves might be somewhat. If possible there is something worse than dividing the church which is here expressed by the fact that some are responsible for beginning the division. Heresies are caused or brought about by heretics, men (or women) who are not satisfied with the doctrine or worship, peace and prosperity of a congregation. If necessary they will search out situations for disrupting God’s people all for the sole purpose of exalting themselves. Pride drives heretics in their evil and vicious work. It is a mystery to me why such men can cause problems in a congregation then move to another and another as they cannot WILL NOT be content if there is not some discord among church members. The sad part is that others overlook such people in their Satanic work and lay blame on the faithful who refuse them. To Titus Paul wrote, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject.” (3:10). The party spirit is a work of the flesh according to Galatians 5:19-20. Yet heretics move among the congregation deceiving the unsuspecting. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom. 16:17-18) A clear command. If we fail to mark the heretics that cause division and offenses the simple (unsuspecting) will be deceived and led into error.
Barney Owens 1712
“A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth …Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.” Prov. 6: 12 & 14.