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A Case for Scriptural Elders


A Case for Scriptural Elders

1Tim 3:1-6 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 

Tit 1:9-11 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.  For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

The New Testament speaks much about elders in the body of the church.  The term elder is synonymous with pastor or bishop.  No serious student of God’s Word would argue that point.  It denotes one who has given evidence to the local body of Christ that they meet the qualifications of an elder in 1Tim 3 and Titus 1 and that they have a God given desire to fulfill that role in the structure of the local church.  Paul gave instructions to appoint elders in every church, and an emphasis on a plurality of elders in a church exists in the New Testament.  Some of these elders were elders as a vocation and some were elders who held other vocations but still served alongside the vocational elders the same.  All were called and entrusted with the shepherding of the local “flock” of God.  The office of elder is not a third office of the church but fits correctly under the office of pastor in keeping with our Baptist and Scriptural view of only two Scriptural offices in the local Church: Pastors and Deacons.  In the New Testament the elders of a local assembly seem to pray for and give spiritual guidance to the correct preaching and teaching of God’s Word, gospel vision for the church, hold each other accountable, teach preventive church discipline and enforce loving church discipline of wayward members.  These roles are in much want in most of the churches in America today.

My goal in this short article is not to make a complete case for elders in the local congregation, but to show in one particular case how the elders should have taken their biblical role a little more serious.  I will tackle other issues of eldership in some later articles.  Here I want to point out the need for the correct functioning of the role of elders in a local congregation and the importance of one particular New Testament role they should play in the local Church.

The former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids MI, Rob Bell, has distinguished himself as an emerging Christian whose views on Jesus and the Scriptures continually evolve and change as necessary with the relativism of the culture.  Needless to say, if you have heard anything of Bell you understand the mixed up, self-made theology he holds.  He is recently famous for two things: (1) he resigned from his Church to work on a Hollywood talk show and said God led Him to do this, and (2) he authored a book entitled “Love Wins” in which he tears apart the Scriptural hell and the teachings of salvation only in Jesus.  He unfolds a “new” doctrine he holds that basically says all will go to heaven.  Of course this is an unorthodox and anti-scriptural doctrine and is heretical in the fact it is a new wrapping of the heresy of universalism.  Sorry Rob, there is “nothing new under the sun”.

At best Bell is ambiguous when it comes to the strong doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the exclusivity of salvation to only those who put their faith in Christ and the doctrine of hell as delivered to us in the Scriptures.  One of Bells close associates said of Bell, “Rob was forced to choose between his personal Jesus and his perfect Bible, he chose his personal Jesus, and set out to reexamine the store of Christianity he thought he knew”.  The following was said by elder Ed Dobson of Calvary Church, the founding church of Mars Hill, of Rob Bell prior to giving Him help and approval to start Mars Hill.  “Not all of the elders felt like I did – some of them were concerned that he was inexperienced,” Dobson recalled about the start of Bell’s ministry in Grand Rapids. “But I told them, ‘Look, he can communicate. He really doesn’t know the Bible, but, if we can add the Bible to his communication skills, we’ll have a winner.’”

Here is where the rubber hits the road with the elders.  I oppose almost everything Rob Bell actually stands for, though he is never, ever really clear what he actually believes, (if you can get him to directly answer a question then good luck).  I see Rob as, well, the heretic that any lost man would be if he tried to fake Christianity and fake a calling to preach the gospel or a very immature undiscipled believer.  The root Church problem with Bell and any of his kind really lies with the elders of his church AND the elders of the founding Church that endorsed such an immature believer at best and heretic at worst.  After seeing Bells lack of spiritual leadership and hearing his heretical teachings one has to ask the question, were the elders all asleep in the ordination council?  Were they all on vacation when Bell was chosen to start this Church?  And were the elders at Mars Hill really that immature that they didn’t notice their lead elder didn’t believe in the scriptural Jesus or in the Scriptural Hell?  A second grader in Sunday School, that has been raised in a Bible believing Church, would seem to know better than these elders.

This is exactly why a novice should NOT be appointed as an elder (according to scripture).  Rob Bell’s fall into false doctrine proves the elders that were hesitant to appoint and approve an immature believer as an elder were right.  Too bad they didn’t have the holy boldness to stand on their Scriptural convictions.  There would be less Rob Bells in pulpits if we had bolder and more mature elders in our Churches.  God give us bold, mature elders in our Churches.

Pastor Alan Davis
Woodland Baptist Church
January 4, 2013

  1. Yes Pastor Alan,
    It takes more than a Pastor to make a Christ centered church.
    Beve and I along with two other families helped to start a Bible centered church in Florida.
    It grew in leaps and bounds as God led folks to fellowship with us.
    Our 3 families, with a retired pastor grew to over 100 in the first year.
    I was one of the deacons at that time and not as schooled in scripture as I should have been, but I loved my Lord and wanted to serve him.
    To make a long story short, our church called a pastor fresh out of seminary, and he was approved by the board. Beve and I were on vacation so did not have the opportunity to vote for him, but shared with them at the time that if they were satisfied, I was too.
    He was hired part time and within another year we made him full time along with building a church to worship in.
    Right away he started working on getting full control of the church by attacking one of the founding families. They did leave and the second family came under attack. After they left, I saw the control He was after and Beve and I left. We all left instead of confronting him.
    The church went through many splits and after 5 years, the number of folks attending had dwindled down to just a few. The pastor was caught having an affair with the church secretary and also had a dope habit, among many other problems.
    .He went on to sell the church and property to another denomination. which was paid in full, for $250,000,00. In the early 80’s that was a lot of money. He pocketed the entire amount.
    Bottom line, if we as mature elders would have handled this according to scripture, that church would most likely still be in existence.

    I thank you for being a man that does not comprimise in a society that seems to do just that.

    God bless,


  2. David A permalink

    Most excellent exegesis! Many Christians today do not understand that the biblical premise for Eldership includes pastors and other mature Christians to be selected and appointed by the church leadership. The diakonate and other leadership are separate offices with distinct responsibilities. Elders are called upon to exercise the charge of their office without respect of persons. Question: Where are the elders in any church or Association division? When we ignore the direct instruction of God’s Word, we suffer immensely.

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