Elders as Preachers
The Word of God burns in my bones like a fire (Jer 20:9). This sentiment of the prophet Jeremiah should resonate with every elder in every local church. Every elder in every local church should be identified by his zeal and by his knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus (Eph 4:21).
The man of God is the man of one passion. He suffers for the sake of God’s elect people (2 Tim 2:10), enduring what has been ordained for him because He has been loved (1 Jn 4:19). Hence, he loves. He loves God the Father for choosing him to be adopted into the family of God (Eph 1:4–5). He loves God the Son for taking on the cross, as the acceptable substitute sacrifice for his sins (1 Pet 2:24). He loves God the Spirit, as the One who made him alive to God (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13) and who teaches, guides, and fills him (Jn 14:26; 16:13). He loves you by telling you the truth (Eph 4:15).
God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and Christ is God (Jn 1:1; 10:30), the incarnate One, who was despised and rejected by men (Is 53:3; Jn 1:14). Love never fails (1 Cor 13:8), nor did Christ in all the eternal purposes of God (Eph 3:11). This is why we proclaim Him (Col 1:28) and do not preach ourselves (2 Cor 4:5), for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (Rom 1:16).
It is the elder who is apt to teach (1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:2). He has studied to show himself approved as a workman, rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). The elder is a man of God’s Word and sets his heart to study the Law of the Lord (Ezra 7:10), meditating on it day and night (Ps 1:2), as a labor of love as unto the Lord (1 Thess 1:3). The first love of a local church elder is Christ Jesus, who the Scriptures reveal as Lord of all (Acts 10:36).
Shepherds must know where the sheep will best feed under their watchful care. It is the elder who knows the spiritual state of God’s flock entrusted to his stewardship. He ministers God’s Word to suit the needs of those gathered to hear and to be strengthened in their faith.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom 10:17); therefore, the word of Christ and the cross He bore must be preached to all nations (Mt 24:14), even all creation (Mk 16:15). It is the Spirit and the Word who give life to those who have been appointed to life in Gods’ predetermined plan (Jn 6:63; Acts 2:23; 13:48; 2 Cor 1:21–22). O elders of the church of Christ…preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2)!
The Bible commends to us that two are better than one (Eccl 4:9), even so are the benefits of a plurality of men in the office of elder. Elders are not leaders for the church has one leader who is Christ, the Head of His church (Col 1:18; Mt 23:10). Jesus taught that the greatest among you will be His servant (Mt 23:11), who will serve all people by the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4).
There is a distinction in some church traditions between a ruling and teaching elder. Synonymous terms to “elder” are used to support this idea. Pastors shepherd flocks. Bishops oversee congregations. Presbyters are men who have lived long and experienced much. The point is that God has ordered Christ’s church to orderly operation. No one lords over anyone else (1 Pet 5:1–5). It is the Spirit of the Lord who teaches and guides the body of Christ (Jn 14:26; 16:13).
The simplicity of church life should be welcomed by members. Here is the city of God, the city of refuge for the weary pilgrim. Each Lord’s Day, there is the washing of water by the Word preached that refreshes the soul of the sojourner (Eph 5:26). It is the Word that is the bread of life for those who hunger for righteousness (Mt 5:6). Rested, watered, and fed from the good hand of God — the Christian returns to his or her labors as ambassadors for Christ in the world (2 Cor 5:20).
The elder, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), knows that there is power in the cross (1 Cor 1:18). This life-transforming power has profound effects on hearts and minds. He knows that the Word of God is equated with a double-edged sword, the sword of the Spirit that cuts and divides (Heb 4:12). One heart is hardened by the Word preached, while another one is pierced with conviction and dies to self. One mind is made hostile by the Bible proclaimed, while another one is brought into conformity to the mind of Christ (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 2:16).
When the faithful elder preaches Christ, he elevates his listeners to a view from the cross — not just a view to the cross. Those who have been crucified with Christ have a dying man’s perspective to the the world. Crucifixion is a death process. Christians are crucified to the world (Gal 6:14). This means they view the vanity of this present age in truth. There is no hope for a future in this world of darkness for the crucified man or woman.
The irony of the cross is that the indictment and judgment it brings against the world has zero positive effect on the world…only hardened hearts. Sinners crucified the Lord of glory, and today, the unregenerate man maintains his view that Christ is foolishness (1 Cor 1:18). Sinners view Christians as fools for Christ (1 Cor 4:10).
There is no shame for the elder to pit the kingdom of this world against the kingdom of God. This domain of darkness (Col 1:13), under the dominion of Satan (Acts 26:18), is on the course toward destruction (Mt 7:13–14; 2 Pet 3:10–12). It is our Lord Jesus Christ who is set to return as the warrior Judge (Rev 19:11–21), the ultimate dread champion (Jer 20:11).
The elder as preacher warns reprobate sinners of the eternal punishment in fiery hell that awaits them (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7 ; Rev 20:14–15). The elder as preacher calls the elect to repent and believe, and they do turn from the world unto Christ because of one catalyst…the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit makes the elder/preacher’s Gospel call effectual, then the Word of life gives life in the power of the Spirit (Jn 6:63).
Regeneration of one’s soul is the work of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3), who is also the One who fills the preacher with the wisdom and power of God (Col 1:24). Salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1), but blessed is the man of God, called of God to shepherd the flock of God with other qualified elders. He is the one who says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel (1 Cor 9:16).”
August 7, 2022