Index by Subject

Deacons – Their Qualifications and Work

Many churches have members appointed to an office or wearing a title called “deacon.” These churches have their own concept of what these individuals are and what they are supposed to be doing. In some churches deacons are the decision makers. In other churches deacons are nothing more than figureheads. The preacher is doing the work of the elders, the elders are doing the work of deacons, and the deacons are doing nothing.

Deacons have an important role to play in the Lord’s church. We know that God has set the church in order. He has put every part in its proper place. To understand what a deacon is, and what he is to do, we must understand what the Bible says about deacons. Continue reading » Deacons – Their Qualifications and Work

Shall We Have Elders?

This question should not be difficult to answer but unfortunately due to the will and whim of man some have a hard time in answering this.

Let me say clearly from the beginning that there is biblical example for elders.  In Paul’s letter to Titus Paul wrote, For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you (Titus 1:5).  The indication here is that one of the things that was lacking was the absence of elders.  This is also an indication that a church can function without elders; it is just lacking.  In Titus 1:6-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul gives the young preachers the qualifications for elders.

Why would Jesus gives us these qualifications if we do not need or cannot have elders today?

Continue reading » Shall We Have Elders?

The Eldership in the Lord’s Church

The subject before us is one that is much disputed by brethren everywhere. Two extremes will be noted in this short article.

  1. Some hold the view that there are none that can meet the qualifications that are laid down by the Holy Spirit since they demand of men what ordinarily cannot be done. It is stated that the ones who did serve as elders in the first century were men who had a "special measure" of the Holy Spirit and were thus able to meet these strict qualifications.

  2. Others believe that a church should appoint "the best men qualified" and give them time to try to meet the qualifications given.

I believe we first of all must realize that it is God that has given instruction on local church government. Of course, a church can exist without elders (Acts 14:23) but we note in that verse that when men became qualified to serve as elders they were appointed to do so. There are four ways a local church can be organized.

Continue reading » The Eldership in the Lord’s Church

Third Negative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

Root of the Problem: Eph 4 says elders bring people to “the unity of the faith.” But many see elders as a board of directors whose job is balancing a check-book, buying supplies, and managing property. Nothing to do with “faith” at all. If you had to work a full-time job and then run a business after-hours, you wouldn’t have time to teach, study, pray or visit much either. This is why you hear so many complaints about preachers doing the work of elders. What a sad waste of the talents of many good men, and what a loss to a congregation.

The work of elders is much more important. They can make the difference between saints falling away or getting to heaven. They are too busy teaching, studying, praying, visiting, rebuking, encouraging, and counseling to privately decide all matters of judgment. The spiritual leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers) in Eph 4:11 lead in “the faith.” Do they “make decisions” as they lead? In some limited ways. Evangelists decide how to present a lesson to convert the sinner. Teachers decide what topics to present in class. Do evangelists and teachers privately decide matters of judgment for the church? No, leadership in the faith isn’t private decision-making in collective judgment. Why can’t we see the same for elders?

Continue reading » Third Negative

Third Affirmative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

With this affirmative, my part of the debate comes to a close and judgment is passed to the readers. Please consider all the material carefully in the light of the scriptures and render a verdict on the evidence. The full debate, without additional material, is to be printed in book form as per our agreement. No new material should be introduced in the final negative.

My Third Affirmative will establish from Generic Authority that the scriptures permit elders to make decisions in the realm of unstated options (judgments), arising from specific commands.

Continue reading » Third Affirmative

Second Negative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

The Problem Grows: When elders privately decide all matters of collective and individual judgment for others (2A, ¶ 19), the plane has landed in Boston. We’re told elders may decide whether a member needs circumcision (1st Debate, 2N, ¶ 7). If the saint disagrees, they cite Heb 13:17 and decide for him (2A, ¶ 19). Folks, where does it stop? Compared to involuntary genital surgery, deciding what house you may buy is trivial. But there is no scripture to stop such things once you accept the Affirmative position.

Continue reading » Second Negative

Second Affirmative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

My first affirmative showed that the definitions of scriptural terms (bishops, elders, etc.) permitted elders to “exercise the oversight” (1 Pet. 5:3), thereby empowering them to make private decisions on behalf of the congregation. Now we will prove in a scripture study that elders actually did make decisions “before and without” calling together the whole congregation.

Arguments: 1) Acts 4:34-37. From the beginning, decisions were made privately (not secretly, as Vance charges): this is not “new” doctrine. Disciples brought gifts to the apostles “and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” This “apostolic example” showed male leadership making private decisions about who the needy were, how much each received and how long they were to receive it, without congregational meetings. Vance says they sinned!

Continue reading » Second Affirmative

First Negative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

Introduction. As before, my articles represent my own views and not those of any church, eldership, or other saints. Quotes from Tom’s material are italicized, as are Greek words.

The Problem. Many are stuck between the false choice that elders either privately decide all matters of judgment, or else they have no authority or function at all. Since the latter is wrong, many are driven to the former. But there is a third way — the Bible way. In the Bible, elders perform authoritative spiritual leadership by calling and presiding over assemblies, teaching the flock, rebuking sinners, convicting false teachers, correcting the erring, counseling, visiting and lifting up the weak, leading in prayer, admonishing (warning), and showing less mature saints how to get to heaven. Both of the extremes described above have bad consequences. The first (“elders privately decide everything”) led to many of the disastrous consequences of the Boston Movement. The latter (“elders are just older saints with no leadership authority”) is associated with a breakdown of the meaning and purpose of the local church. The Affirmative position accepts the first extreme in its zeal to avoid the second. The Negative denies both extremes in favor of the Bible pattern.

Continue reading » First Negative

First Affirmative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

Proposition: “Resolved: The scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.”

Definitions: “The scriptures,” the 66 books of the Bible. “Teach,” instruct by commands, approved examples or divine implications. “Elders,” men who are scripturally authorized and appointed (1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1) over each local church (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:2). “Local church,” the congregation in a given locality in its corporate entity (Phil. 1:1). “Authorized,” empowered, permitted. “To assemble,” meet in their eldership capacity (Acts 20:17). “Privately,” (Gk: idios) “pertaining to one’s own; to do one’s own business (1 Thes. 4:11), apart (Mt. 24:3)” (Thayer, p. 296-7). “To make decisions,” come to a conclusion. “In matters of judgment,” distinct from matters of faith. “For the local church,” represent, act on behalf of, in the interest of the local congregation. “Before,” in advance of. “And without,” lacking, in the absence of. “Calling together,” summoning, requesting. “The whole congregation,” the ekklesia.

Continue reading » First Affirmative

The Rule of Elders: A Review of Dale Smelser’s Teaching

In the first four issues of 2,000, Focus Magazine ran a series of articles by brother Dale Smelser on the eldership. These articles were a reprint of a booklet brother Smelser had previously written and were entitled, “The Rule of Elders.” He has a lot to say that all would agree with and makes a number of needed observations. In replying to his series I am hoping to discuss differences that exist with regards to the eldership. These differences have existed for some time and it is hoped that this review of Dale’s articles will be welcomed as a further chance to study them. In correspondence with Dale I have learned that Dale explains his beliefs differently than what I understand him to say in his series. It is my conviction that it is what brother Smelser has publicly circulated that deserves response. “Restoration requires a return to the ancient order” (3/00, p. 25). Agreeing with this statement from Dale, we begin our review. (An abbreviated version of this review appears in December’s Focus Magazine.)

Definitions of Terms
As Dale shows by his use of them, definitions of key terms are important to a study of the eldership. Having said this, the key terms of any study of the rule of elders would seem to be those directly referring to elders. In light of this it is striking that, among the words found in headings in his series which he selects for definition, brother Smelser does not define bishop, pastor or elder! Let us start with these definitions. Continue reading » The Rule of Elders: A Review of Dale Smelser’s Teaching

The Work of Elders

The Local ChurchArchie E. Proctor
Elder, Pruett & Lobit church
Baytown, TX

The term “elder” in the New Testament, is used in two senses: first, to designate an older man as compared to a younger (Romans 9:12, Luke 1:18). Secondly, to designate men who are appointed to a position of authority in a local congregation of the Lord’s Church (Acts 20:17,28) . It is in this second sense to which this article is addressed.

For those readers who are not familiar with the term, elders were appointed in every church (Acts 14:23) and had to meet certain qualifications to be selected for this office (1Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). In short, elders were to be older men, not recent converts, who had been married to one wife, with believing children, who ruled their households well, were hospitable, of good reputation, sober, just, holy, full of wisdom, and well versed in the word of God. Continue reading » The Work of Elders