THE APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-7

It is a good thing to desire to be an elder [1 Timothy 3:1] but who exactly appoints elders?

It is the Holy Spirit who appoints elders. Speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus Paul said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to 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]. The Holy Spirit works through believers and although He appoints elders, He uses people to do so. The fact that God has given a list of qualifications for leadership [see 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 8-13 & Titus 1:6-9] is evidence of man’s part in considering a person’s suitability for eldership.

There are three references in the New Testament that point to the people who are responsible for the appointment of elders:

Firstly, apostles appointed elders. Paul and Barnabas [Acts 14:23].” The word appointed in this verse is the Greek word ‘chierotonei’ found only here and in 2 Corinthians 8:19. It can mean either “to choose” or “chosen.” Secondly, Paul delegated Titus to appoint elders in Crete [Titus 1:5]. Thirdly, although not technically an elder, Matthias [Acts 1:15-26], the replacement for Judas, was a leadership appointment of the highest order and therefore worthy of consideration. In the selection of Matthias Peter addressed the whole assembly, who proposed two names, and together they asked the Lord to confirm which was the right man.

To summarise, it is the Holy Spirit who appoints elders. This is done in the first place by the apostles and subsequently by the existing leaders in fellowship with the local body of believers. It must be pointed out that this is in no way either a form of democracy or an issue of voting.

Although Paul encourages Timothy to appoint elders in Ephesus he also advised Timothy not to lay hands on anyone hastily [1 Timothy 6:22a]. An elder was normally appointed by the laying on of hands and prayer. I suggest that Paul recognised that it was much easier to appoint someone than to ask them to step down. The situation in Ephesian church would need special care because it was probably the case that one or more elders in the church were among those teaching false doctrine. Tomorrow we will take a closer look at the character of a person who qualifies to be a church elder.

Questions:

Why do you think it is important that an elder is not appointed democratically, but still in fellowship with the local body of believers?

Why did Paul tell Timothy “not to be in a hurry to appoint an elder” [1 Timothy 5:22 NLT]?

What are the qualities you would look for in a candidate for church eldership?

THE JETHRO PRINCIPLE

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Exodus 18:13-26

We are looking at leadership in the church, and taking as our basis for eldership Paul’s instructions to Timothy. Yesterday we saw that plurality of elders is the New Testament principle for leadership in the local church. Today we will look at this principle at work in the story of Moses and the people of Israel in the wilderness.

Moses was a busy leader. The people brought their problems and complaints to him and queued up to speak with him from morning until evening [verse 13]. I imagine that he had little time for himself and for anything else. It must have affected his relationship with the Lord and his ability to spend time in God’s presence. A leader may be busy, but the real issue is busy doing what?

Praise the Lord for a man who recognised the danger that Moses was getting into. His father-in-law Jethro, challenged him. It is sometimes difficult for a leader to accept a criticism or challenge like this. Jethro said to Moses, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone” [Exodus 18:18 The Message].

Jethro suggested that the people of Israel had three basic requirements of their leaders. Firstly, that someone should stand before God on their behalf. Secondly, that someone should teach them God’s Word and how they should live, and thirdly, leaders who would be able to resolve everyday complaints and difficulties. Not much seems to have changed since the time of Moses!

It is impossible for one leader to handle these different requirements and so the solution was to find men who could lead in these different areas. Moses was still the overall leader, but would now be surrounded by other leaders.

The men appointed as leaders alongside Moses had to have four basic character qualities. They had to be competent, have reverence for God, be men of truth and not be open to bribes or corruption. These men, who would assist Moses, would have varying gifts and abilities, some being able to lead thousands of people but others able to handle no more than ten people [Exodus 18:21,25]. In the next chapter of Exodus we read that “Moses called for the elders of the people” [Exodus 19:7] and now a plurality of leadership is functioning. This enables Moses to endure and brings peace to the people [Exodus 18:23]. It also makes room for many more people to be in ministry and gives Moses more time to spend in the presence of God.

Questions:

Why would this same advice given by Jethro to Moses be appropriate in growing churches today?

Why is a clear leadership structure important for the growth of a church?

Why do you think that some leaders struggle to accept advice that would actually make them far less busy and far more effective as leaders?

CHURCH LEADERSHIP

 

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Mark 10:35-45

Leadership is vital to a church. “The state of the leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a barometer.” [Arthur Wallis]. The spiritual health of a church is determined by the quality of its leadership, and without good leadership its decline is certain. This is even truer when the church is threatened by false teaching, as in the case of the Ephesian church. For this reason Paul is guiding Timothy to choose qualified and exemplary leaders.

Several Greek words are used to indicate leadership in the New Testament Church. ‘Presbyteros’ is translated as “elders”; ‘episkopos’ [from ‘epi’ meaning “over” and ‘skopeo’ meaning “to look” or “watch” is translated as overseer or bishop. These words are often used interchangeably in the New Testament. The term “elder” indicates a person of mature spiritual understanding, while the terms “bishop” or “overseer” indicates the character of the work they do.” Clearly the leaders in the church should be mature and oversee the ministry.

Leadership in the local church should always be shared. Paul appointed elders [plural] in every church [Acts 14:23]. There was a plurality of elders in the church at Ephesus [Acts 20:17] and in Philippi [Philippians 1:1]. Tomorrow we will take a closer look at why plurality of leadership is important.

It is not wrong to desire to be an overseer [1 Timothy 3:1] but motive is most important. Paul uses two different Greek words to describe “desires” [verse 1]. One word means “reaches out after or aspires to.” The second word suggests the idea of an inward longing for something. These two thoughts combined portray the right attitude for people in ministry – a desire to serve and a deep longing to do God’s will.

The danger is that leadership in a church can become a matter of status and in some places even prestige, but it was far from this in the early church. Perhaps it was for this reason that Peter warned that elders should not be lords over the flock entrusted to them. To lord it over God’s people is an issue of domination, manipulation and control.

“In Paul’s day a bishop faced great danger and worrisome responsibility. Rewards for the work of leading the church were hardship, contempt and rejection. Seen in this light, Paul’s encouragement does not seem so open to misuse by people merely seeking status in the local church… In Paul’s day, only a deep love for Christ and genuine concern for the church could motivate people to lead. But in many cultures today where Christian leadership carries prestige and privilege people aspire to leadership for reasons quite unworthy and self-seeking.” [Quoted from “Spiritual Leadership” by J. Oswald Sanders].

Questions:

What did Jesus say about leadership in Mark 10:35-45?

It is far easier to be critical of leaders in a church but far better to encourage them. How can you encourage the leaders in your church? What one thing could you do in the coming week to encourage your leaders?

A WOMAN’S ROLE

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:8-15

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” [1 Timothy 2:11-12]

Two roles of women are described in our Bible reading today. A woman is allowed to speak and minister in church, and has the vital role of child bearing and taking care of her family.

It is inconceivable that Paul was forbidding women to teach in church because that would be inconsistent, when elsewhere he acknowledged that women publicly prayed and prophesied [1 Corinthians 11:5]. To forbid women to teach is also inconsistent with the character of God. It is a cruel God who gives women a gift of teaching, and then refuses to let them use that gift. The word “silence” [1 Timothy 2:11-12] is translated elsewhere as peaceable or quiet and should be similarly translated in these verses. Nowhere does God’s Word say that a woman must be silent! Paul is, in actual fact, giving women the right to learn [verse 11], in a culture where women were not normally educated and therefore limited in their ability to speak publicly.

The real issue revolves around the interpretation of the words “man” and “woman” [1 Timothy 2:11-12], which in Greek, depending on the context, can mean either man and woman or husband and wife. The Greek word translated as teach in verse 12 is ‘didaskein’ which is in the present continuous tense, and means to teach continuously. Paul might be saying, “I do not want a wife to constantly teach.” The Key Word Study Bible comments, “If a wife did constantly teach she would undermine her husband’s position, giving the impression that she is the head of her husband, which is contrary to God’s ordained order between husband and wife.”

To be a Christian homemaker [verse 15], wife, and mother is a high calling, and especially as we study the abundant historical evidence of a mother’s influence in shaping the destiny of children, who have in turn shaped the history of the church and of nations.

What an awesome responsibility and privilege God has given to women to honour their husbands, raise their children, use their gifts to serve the body of Christ and where necessary to help support her family financially [Proverbs 30:13-19,24]. It is little wonder that the role of women has been so attacked by Satan, society and, at times, also by church. Let’s honour the place of women in the same way that God honours them in His Word.

Questions:

Why is it important that a wife does not to usurp the role of her husband?

If you have had a wrong attitude towards women and their role in the home, the church and society, would you repent and allow God to change your attitude?

WOMEN AND SUBMISSION

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:11-15; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Corinthians 11:3

A key word in this passage is “submission” [1 Tim. 2:11]. Some people reject the thought of submission as out dated and undervaluing of women, but actually submission is something beautiful. The perfect example of submission is the submission of Jesus to His Father. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” [John 10:30]. They are both equally God, but in 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul says, “God is the head of Christ”.

The relationship expressed in 1 Timothy 2:11 is not that of women who are inferior to men, but a wife in her proper relationship to her husband. The text does not say women but “a woman.” The Greek word for woman is ‘gunē’ and it can mean either woman generically or a wife depending on the context. In this instance the Greek text makes it clear that it is a wife submitting to her husband, and not women submitting to men in the church. It is because of the mistranslations of these passages that the Christian world has had so much difficulty in understanding the proper position of a woman in the Christian Church. A correct translation of 1 Timothy 2:11 is “Let a wife continuously learn in tranquillity in her positioning under.”

Submission was not a result of the fall but drawn from a pre-Fall situation. The headship of the man is based on the fact that the man was created before the woman and that the woman was made for the man. God made men and women both equal and different. Submissiveness has to do with rank and order, and we are to recognise God’s order and joyfully accept it.

When a Christian wife joyfully submits to the Lord and to her own husband, it should bring the best out of her. For this to happen, the husband must love his wife and use God’s order as a tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with [see Ephesians 5:22-33]. Submission is a key to spiritual growth and ministry: Husbands should be submitted to the Lord; Christians, whether male or female should submit to the Lord and to one another [Ephesians 5:21], and wives should submit to the Lord and to their husbands.

My wife and I have learned to submit to each other and trust each other. Esther knows that I love her and protect her. I would not be the man I am today if it were not for my wife, who has honoured me and given me a sense of self-esteem. How does this work in practice? I never make major decisions without talking and praying it through with Esther. This sometimes means I wait for her, but this makes her feel loved and gives her a great sense of self-worth. I value her opinion immensely. We submit to each other, and as I love her, Esther finds joy and protection in me as her head and her covering.

Questions:

Why do you think it is that a husband who demands that his wife submits to him has already lost his way spiritually?

Why do you think that secular society has generally rejected God’s plan for wives to submit to their husbands? Do you personally accept this?

A GODLY WOMAN

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Peter 3:1-6

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” [1 Peter 3:3-4]

Godliness in a woman is an issue of the heart. It is not in an outward form such as hairdos, fashionable clothes, and the wearing of jewellery. Peter writes these words in addressing married women, and Paul, writing to Timothy, says exactly the same things about women in general, whether married or single.

Some people think that Paul disliked women but it is not true. The first person Paul met in Europe was a godly businesswoman named Lydia [Acts 16:14ff]. He had a close friendship with Priscilla and her husband Aquila [Acts 18:1-3,26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19], and he greeted at least eight women in Romans chapter sixteen, including a deaconess named Phoebe [Romans 16:1].

It seems that some Christian women in Ephesus, who had financial means, were trying to gain respect by an outward show of beauty. This could make life difficult for those who were less well off, but who were under pressure to present a similar image. It is good to dress nicely and to be outwardly well presented, but don’t let it become a criteria for spirituality.

Dress should be modest, decent [Grk. ‘aidos’ meaning to ‘avoid extremes’ and ashamed to beyond the bounds of what is decent and proper]. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word “sobriety” from a Greek word meaning “having a sound mind and good sense.” It describes an inner self-control – a spiritual ‘radar’ – that tells the person what is good and proper! Clothes do communicate a message.

It is a similar issue of braiding the hair. Paul is not speaking against a woman having her hair intertwined. What he is condemning is a certain type of hairstyle that could only be afforded by the very rich, when the hair was braided elaborately and often weighted with expensive jewels. Obviously, such a style would be far beyond the means of all but the wealthy.

A Christian woman should be known for something far more beautiful than the clothes she wears [1 Timothy 2:10]. The fundamental principle for a godly woman is not to let the world mould her into its image” but rather, by word and deed, be a beautiful example of Christlikeness. Image is nothing but Christlikeness is everything.

Questions:

What are your expectations of what a godly woman should be like?

“Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart”

[1 Samuel 16:7]. Why then is the outward appearance of a person also an integral part of godliness?

WOMEN AND CULTURE

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:8-15

We now come to what is an extremely controversial subject in this present generation – the place of women and their role in the ministry of the church. For Paul to address this issue in writing to Timothy makes us aware that it must also have been an issue in the church at Ephesus. We need to realise something of the cultural issues of that generation in order to understand what Paul means, but also to recognise that there are certain fundamental principles expounded here that span every generation and culture.

Over the next three days we will examine closely what Paul says about women and their role in the ministry of the church. Before we do that let’s take a closer look at three of the cultural issues that form a backcloth for Paul’s writing.

Firstly, the struggles women had in Jewish society. The scholarly Kenneth Bailey, in his remarkable book, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes”, shares some of the negative attitudes that developed towards women in the 2nd century B.C. Ben Sirach, a leading Jewish scholar of that period commented that women are to be respected as good wives and mothers, but if a man doesn’t like his wife, then he shouldn’t trust her. He blamed women for sin coming into the world, and regarded daughters as a disaster. His heroes of faith only included males and he reached a low point when he said that women give rise to shame and reproach. Bailey says, “With the passage of time and the rise of the rabbinic movement, the position of women by New Testament times was, on all levels, inferior to men”. Contrary to this, Jesus gave tremendous dignity and honour to women.

Secondly, in first-century Jewish culture, women were not allowed to study, and were considered not to have enough knowledge or experience, which together with their trustfulness made them particularly vulnerable to the clever deceptions of the false teachers.

Thirdly, some teachers have suggested that there was a problem in the synagogue where the women often disturbed the meeting by chattering. This same undisciplined discussion would disturb the Christian meeting and that meant Paul needed to address this issue.

Against this backcloth Paul actually gives women hope. He in no way denigrates them, makes them second-class citizens, or says that they cannot teach and minister.

Questions:

Why do you think that it is important to understand the cultural background of Paul’s generation in order to understand the reasons why he writes what he does about women and their ministry?

Can you think of at least four times in the Gospels where Jesus gives great dignity to women?

POWERFUL PRAYING

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Hebrews 10:19-25

Paul says that we should pray for “all men” [verse1]. No person on earth is outside of the influence of believing prayer. We pray for all because Christ died for all [verse 6] and it is God’s will that all men be saved [verse 3].

We are also commanded to pray for kings and for those in authority [verse 2]. Remember that when Paul wrote this letter Nero was the Roman Emperor and he was persecuting the church! Our prayers are not only to be for the well being of those in authority, but also for our own good. We pray that the circumstances around our lives might be “quiet” [verse 3] and that inwardly we might be calm and peaceable. J.B. Philips translates the second half of 1 Timothy 2:2 as, “…. so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet with a proper sense of God and our responsibility to Him”. At the height of the Second World War prayer turned the tide. King George VI called the British people to spend a day in prayer. I recommend the book, “Rees Howells – Intercessor” for those who would like to know more about the power of intercessory prayer.

It is good to pray. Paul loves the word “good” and uses it sixteen times in his two letters to Timothy. Prayer is pleasing to God because He has commanded it and it helps to achieve His will that men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth [verse 3-4]. Rarely is someone saved unless someone somewhere has prayed!

God has made prayer both possible and effectual because Jesus died on the cross, and became the mediator between God and man. Jesus is the ransom for all [1 Tim.2:6 cp. 1 Peter 1:18-19]. The word “ransom” in this text means the price paid to set us free from slavery. Now we can come into God’s presence with boldness [Hebrews 10:19-25].

To be effective in prayer we must live in a right relationship with God. We cannot expect God to answer our prayers if we have sin in our life [Psalm 66:18]. It is also imperative that we live in right relationship with people.

Questions:

Why is it important to pray for those who do not know Christ to be saved? When did you last sincerely pray for someone to be saved?

Why does Paul say that it is important to pray for those who are in authority and government? Why not plan to pray for our government each day?

Why not write down the answers to prayers that you have prayed and encourage others by your testimonies of answered prayer?