Sermons

Summary: Elders are to be honoured for their labour. However, elders are to be held accountable before the congregation to discharge their appointment in a faithful manner.

“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.” [1]

The Word of God appears quite clear in presenting the concept that churches are to be composed of saints—believers, each of whom is equally valuable, and hence, equally valued. No hierarchy is found among the churches of the New Testament. Nevertheless, churches, like the people comprising the membership, tend to move to extremes. People are creatures of the extreme; and people are sinners, imagining that their fertile minds are superior to the revealed will of God.

Early in the history of the churches, a transformation took place as elders were elevated to exalted positions that were never intended. Admittedly, this exaltation of the elders to the position of princes over the churches was a natural phenomenon; but the churches were to be supernatural entities with Christ as head. The elevation of the elders instituted a bifurcated congregation, with clergy forming a hierarchy separate from the remainder of the congregation; the most of the congregation was relegated to the status of laity.

In more recent history, and especially among evangelical churches, elders frequently have been reduced to individuals hired to function as executive officers of the congregation. The function of the elders is to “run” the church in a manner pleasing to a board. The elders are hired to perform certain tasks. According to their job descriptions, elders are expected to preach what the congregation wants to hear, affirming sinful saints in their self-willed ways and ensuring that enough money comes in to sustain payments on newer and larger buildings. Undoubtedly, some will accuse me of exaggerating; but when reviewing the progress of churches during the past century, it is difficult to see the trend among evangelical churches as anything other than what I’ve described.

In the verses comprising the text for this message, the Spirit of God prompts the Apostle to present instructions that would avoid a major error that plagues the churches in this day. It is fair to say that our tendency is to ignore the Word in favour of our own supposition on how we are to conduct ourselves in the House of God. Perhaps we would benefit from a reminder of the will of God through study of this particular portion of the Word.

*WHEN AN ELDER IS CHARGED* — “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” Complaints against the elders are much more common than the average church goer might imagine. His service is a sacred trust based on integrity, credibility and purity of life. Should he be demonstrated to be untrustworthy, inconsistent or impure, his service before God will be rendered ineffectual or even utterly destroyed. Consequently, attacks against his person come with dismaying frequency. It is vital that the elder so live that when gossip and lies are bruited about the people can say with confidence, “That cannot be true; I know my pastor, and he would not do that.”

Because false accusations are a very real possibility in the service of Christ the Lord, Paul gives Timothy instructions concerning how to respond to accusations. To be blunt, unsubstantiated accusations, rumour and innuendo are to be ignored. Let that sink in—unsubstantiated accusations are to be ignored. Accusations that are supposition, accusations that repeat gossip, accusations that promote slander are all to be dismissed out of hand. The congregation is to be protective of the reputation of the eldership.

Gossip and slander are destructive and must not be tolerated among the people of God. Gossip and slander are soundly condemned in the Word of God—it must not be tolerated among God’s holy people. Here are a few warnings against gossip.

“A contrary man spreads conflict,

and a gossip separates close friends.”

[PROVERBS 16:28 HCSB]

“Without wood, fire goes out;

without a gossip, conflict dies down.”

[PROVERBS 26:20 HCSB]

“A gossip’s words are like choice food

that goes down to one’s innermost being.”

[PROVERBS 26:22 HCSB]

These proverbs hardly serve as commendations. In fact, they are warnings concerning the dangers of associating with gossips. Let the wise take heed.

Paul found it necessary to confront the Corinthian Christians with their lack of Christian character. Listen as he wonders what he would find when he went to Corinth. “I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” [2 CORINTHIANS 12:20]. Clearly, slander and gossip are seen to be as wicked and these evils are just as detrimental as other forms of misconduct in the child of God.

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