Elders: Leading Us Into the Light

Reverend Anthony R. Locke August 15th, 2010  www.FirstPresTucker.org at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker.

Titus 1:5-2:2 Apostle’s Creed Series 16  English Standard Version

5This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.

7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.

11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”

13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,

14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.

16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.[1]

The Apostle’s Creed requires that, in faith, we affirm that a spiritual communion exists between believers. We are connected by the blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit baptizes us into Christ who removes the darkness through the light of His own person and glory.

We are spiritually born into the light of the Gospel, and it is the mission of the church to lead the world out of darkness and to the Eternal Light of our Lord Jesus.

The Church is light. We are God’s light. Like a city on the top of a hill that enables the surrounding area to see in the darkness. Last week I quoted a 1,700 year old often repeated truth, that there is no salvation outside the church. By the Father’s will, the Church is the only organization in or on the Earth that administers the Gospel to humanity.

There is no other light, no other Holy Spirit, and no other message of salvation. Jesus is the way, the truth and the Life. This is what unites us into a communion of faith. We are all apart of God’s family.

And the Church needs Godly leaders who can lead and keep God’s family in the light. We need leadership that can choral the disorder of ungodliness in our ranks. We need men who can act like doctors and rightly identify our sickness so that we can get healthy and stay spiritually fit.

The Apostle Paul was great at this. He rebuked, reproved and exhorted better than most. One of his students, a young man named Titus, was stationed in Crete so he could ordain elders in the surrounding areas that the churches might have godly leadership.

This idea for elders to shepherd the church came from Jesus. There is no such thing as rogue, independent believers. If a handful of people come to faith in Jesus and organize themselves for weekly worship, then they must be willing to receive from the universal church a visit that elders might be ordained within their little group.

The Bible gives qualifications for elders and deacons. Churches must have at least elders to be a Biblical church. Titus was sent to ordain at least elders and as the ministry needs grew the elders then ordained Deacons. But a church without elders is not biblical.

This elder position had certain requirements. Titus 1:6 if anyone is above reproach. No one has ever sinned their way outside of eventually serving as an elder. Even public sin can be overcome with repentance and good works that give witness to a changed life. But if you are trapped in a public sin habit, then you will not make a good elder because your authority will be diminished. We need leaders who can lead us and our children into the light, not more darkness.

Next, they must be the husband of one wife. Before I say what this means let me give a preamble. I have participated in the debates about these qualifications in many contexts, in various denominations as well as the Army Chaplaincy Corp. I have read dozens of commentaries and listened to dozens of sermons on these issues. I am not going to make a full defense of my positions this morning. I am going to preach my conclusions and you can rest assured that my conclusions are backed up within the majority opinion of conservative Reformed scholarship.

So, an elder must be the husband of one wife. That means, you must be a one woman sort of man. If you are the kind of guy that is a player, that has needs beyond what one woman could meet, if you are constantly considering other items on the menu after you’ve already ordered, if you are never satisfied within your marriage, then you are not the kind of man that needs to be attempting to lead the church into the light.

In my humble opinion, that’s what this means. Notice, this definition opens the door for a single man, submitted to the Spirit of God and God’s word, circumspect in his thoughts, managing well his body as the temple of the Holy Spirit to qualify to be an elder.

Third, if a man has a family, then he must have his family in submission to the commands of Christ. Let me quote John Calvin on this one as he expounds the same idea out of 1 Timothy. Calvin says that children should “have been educated in the sound doctrine of godliness, and in the fear of the Lord. Secondly, that they shall not be devoted to luxury, that they may be known to have been educated to temperance and frugality. Thirdly, that they shall not be disobedient; for he who cannot obtain from his children any reverence or subjection — will hardly be able to restrain the people by the bridle of discipline.

A little drawn-out, but that definitely covers it. Said succinctly, how can a man be expected to lead the world into the light if he can’t lead his own children out of darkness. Most commentators agree this applies to children living under the elder’s roof.

Verse 7. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. Paul repeats this qualification and adds the idea of being a steward. I saw a minivan with the little yellow sign that says, “Caution, Baby on Board!” Elders oversee God’s family.  God does back ground checks on the people He hires. We have to be above reproach if we are to be stewards of the children of God.

Next, elders cannot be arrogant. Arrogant men are not teachable. They are often unforgiven and they think they have to prove something. They don’t know or are unwilling to admit that they have sin baggage. They are unwilling to come to Jesus in poverty of spirit to receive mercy. They think their good deeds will get them to heaven. God isn’t the only person who resists the proud. Congregations resist proud elders. Arrogant people don’t make good leaders in any enterprise, especially Christ’s church.

Elders can’t be quick-tempered. Quick tempered people act without asking questions. They bring judgment with their tone and voice without careful consideration.

Anger is an appropriate emotion of offense. Elders are allowed to get angry. I don’t trust a man who can’t get angry. We should be angry when people sin against another person: rape, assault, slander. Injustice should make us angry. Blaspheme on our televisions should make us immediately angry. We don’t need time to think it over. Turn it off.

But if someone wastes our time through laziness, or if they offend us with their selfishness or by being inconsiderate, we should not act like they have committed the unpardonable sin by not treating us as nobility. Angry people are very proud people. If we get angry without investigation then we are telling the community that we ought to be always treated with the greatest honor. “Even if I knew all the details I would judge you, so without delay I am going to get angry!” Being quick to anger is really just exposing how highly we think of ourselves. Being quick tempered is a sign that the Holy Spirit does not have control over our spirit. These kinds of men shouldn’t be elders.

The rest of verse 7 goes along with being quick tempered. An elder is to be controlled by the Spirit of God and not other passions or spirits. We are not to be drunk with wine wherein is access, but be filled with the Spirit. Elders should not be brawlers, prone to strike an enemy instead of praying for an enemy. Elders should not be animated by greed to get ahead of others.

These examples of sin hide in the darkness of the Devil’s kingdom. People trapped in sin within the gates of Hell live in these things. They are held by the chords of these sin habits. The believer is to be living a resurrected life that’s unshackled by the power of these sins.

The church elder is supposed to be the good guy. Not perfect, but manifesting God’s grace. Someone that would give you the shirt off his back. A giver, not a taker. Someone who brightens the corners where ever he is.

Verse 8. An elder is to be hospitable. Using the resources God gave him to bless others. Willing to put at risk worldly possessions at the chance that he might be doing some good.

And not doing good at a distance. Bill Gates wields great influence for good by helping provide medicine for people with AIDs in Africa. Very noble, but not leader worthy on it’s own. Elders don’t love at a distance. They invite you into the inner sanctum of their own home and lavish their personal resources on people that are not family. That’s an elder.

These qualifications are required of elders for these attributes of character describe the Chief Shepherd. Jesus brings us in to His house to enjoy the best He would prepare for Himself that He might lavish His love upon His children.

That’s a biblical elder. Leading the rest of us into the light of the glory of the Son of God. Someone who doesn’t rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Verse 8. Loves to focus on the good of others, the good of society, the goodness of God.

Isn’t this what we want to be ourselves? This is the model for biblical manhood. Leadership through self-sacrifice.

An elder is not a loose cannon. He is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. The personal commitments of elders are solid; their principles are not pushed around by their own appetites and desires. Their ethics are not open for compromise. Their faith is grounded and their love for God and others is exemplary.

As far as I know, all the men in this church fit these qualifications splendidly. From what I have seen, the men here are honorable, and worthy of double honor as they govern the Lord’s house faithfully.

Men, we need to hold tenaciously the trustworthy doctrines that we have been taught. Culture is going to pressure us to make this place “Church Light,” never offending a sinful world. The world hates dogmatic moralists. We need to be dogmatic followers of Jesus and say what needs to be said to a world that loves darkness.

We must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is committed to sound doctrine. Weak doctrine will not lead a man to Jesus, but to self-righteousness and self-commendations.

Very 10-16 speaks directly to the nature of our times. There are men who are self made religious leaders who are insubordinate to the true church, men who sound very spiritual but are really just empty talkers and deceivers. We must stay faithful to the Word that they might be silenced when they criticize the faith.

As elders we must be willing to rebuke them sharply, that they might have the chance to become sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to myths. Is anyone here open to being rebuked sharply? This is an elder’s Biblical role. We are going to cry WOLF when a false teaching is being accepted as true within our congregation and community. We love you too much to keep silent. The goal is to lead people out of the darkness of false teaching into the true light of Christ.

The first few verses of chapter 2 say our job perfectly. We are to teach what accords with sound doctrine. If we will do this then we save ourselves and those who will hear us.

Are you willing to be led into the light of Jesus by men who meet these qualifications? If they exhorted you to give closer to 10% that the church might be able to do effective ministry, would you listen to them or be offended? If they asked you to support our church teaching your children the catechism, would you reinforce it at home? If they asked you to not skip coming to church when you are in town and not sick, would you be thankful they cared? If they asked you to be more careful with the appetites of you eye, your flesh and your ego, would you be immediately angry or hear what they have to say?

Seriously, could you let your life be impacted by the Godly wisdom of men like this? Spirit filled men? Imperfect but humble. Repentant. Poor in their own spirit but mighty in God’s Spirit?

If you are willing, then get ready to be impacted by the godly men in this church, because we are not going to be idle. We are not going to sit back and watch your life step in the Devil’s snare without saying something. We are going to probe, inspect and act like elders.

Like good shepherds, we are going to know our flock and protect the people God brings to us. This is our calling. This is our stewardship. We are overseers over the souls of men.

God called elders to lead others into the light of the glory of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus.

May the Spirit of God continue that work and may we be willing to follow their lead. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.