Christ’s church has one leader…Jesus Christ, our Lord (Mt 23:10). He alone is the Head of His church (Eph 1:22; 5:23; Col 1:18). All rule and authority belong to Him (Mt 28:18), who sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). Jesus is Lord over all (Acts 10:36; Phil 2:11), especially in matters pertaining to the Israel of God, His holy nation of believers (Gal 6:16; 1 Pet 2:9), derived from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9; 7:9).
The kingdom of God has one sovereign King. The King of kings and Lord of lords is the King of glory (Ps 24; 1 Tim 6:15). His kingdom of heaven is everlasting (Dan 7:14, 18). It exists in the past, the present, and the future for the people of God. On the earth, today, it manifests as the church being built up by Christ in the Spirit (Rom 14:17; Mt 16:18).
The collective membership throughout history and from around the world are His royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9). As with the Aaronic priesthood and Levitical tribe of temple servants, so is the church of Jesus Christ. We serve the holy temple under current construction (Eph 2:20–22). Each member is a living stone in this spiritual temple, whose cornerstone is Christ (1 Pet 2:4–5).
The many metaphors, employed by Holy Writ, serve to inform us about the role and function of everyone involved in this vital union between Christ and His bride, the Good Shepherd and His sheep, etc. The children of God have a heavenly Father who loves them and who sent His Son to save them (Mt 1:21). He also sent the Holy Spirit to help, teach, indwell, and guide them (Jn 14:17, 26–27; 16:13).
In our adoption into the family of God, our end is to be presented holy and blameless (Eph 1:4; 5:27; Col 1:22). This is made to be a reality by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). Our being conformed to the image of the only begotten Son of God requires God’s design for our sanctification (Rom 8:29). Thus, the church is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), by which we are being made holy (Jn 17:17; 1 Pet 1:15–16).
Christ’s church is a living organism and a functioning organization. The architect and builder of His church has implemented a simple structure to oversee progress and purity. Here is the role and function of qualified elders and deacons, to serve Christ and His called-out people (Gk. ekklesia).
First, the elders and deacons must qualify for their offices, as ordered in the pastoral epistles of the Apostle Paul (1–2 Tim; Titus). Despite the explicit elements for qualification, much of the church is in rebellion against God for disobeying His simple commands. Where unqualified elders and deacons have been installed in local churches, those congregations must repent. Today, many church denominations are losing their lampstand (Rev 2–3) because they have “changed” from obedient to disobedient.
Second, for obedient office holders and congregations there is an appeal from the Apostle Paul for the congregations to respect their elders (1 Thess 5:12–13). Of course, office holders must not lord over the flock of God entrusted to them. The relationship should be marked by peace because it is always motivated by love. Love cannot fail to produce peace, so where contentions and dissensions exist, one can be sure that love has been replaced by some other motive. Third, office holders must work hard, with earnest concern for each member. Jesus taught that the greatest among His followers would be the servant of all — becoming all things to all men that people would be saved, resulting from a faithful ministry (Mt 20:26; 23:11).
In building one another up, a variety of ways exist for mutual edification. Foremost is the ministry of God’s Word. Blessed is the congregation who has the man of God, called by God, to minister the truth of the Gospel to them. This man, according to the Scriptures, deserves respect from church members.
The man of God is a preacher and a teacher of the Bible (1 Tim 5:17). He is one who makes disciples (1 Thess 2:11) and labors in pastoral care (1 Thess 5:14–15). The elder/pastor is a “concerned ruler.” The shepherd/sheep imagery certainly conveys both authority and intimate care of souls (Ps 23; Jn 10; 1 Tim 3:5).
Speaking the truth in love to Christ’s beloved, the elder/pastor admonishes those in his care (1 Cor 4:14; 2 Thess 3:15). In love, he warns his brothers and sisters to avoid sinning against God. Knowing that temptation abounds, their sowing to sinful flesh, will reap corruption in their mortal bodies. Avoiding false teaching, immorality, resisting the devil, and living ethically is the pastor’s warning.
The relationship between love and respect is mutually giving. Just as a husband who loves his wife wins her respect, so the elder/congregant relationship exists and thrives in the Spirit (Eph 5:21–33). In Paul’s analogy to the church at Ephesus, Christ is the husband and His church is His wife. Paul, as an exemplary missionary pastor, appeals to others to follow him as he follows Christ.
Christ is our Leader; and we are His followers. In the company of Christ followers are those who work hard, demonstrate a concern and care for souls, and who minister to admonish others in the manner of Christ, our Good Shepherd. With proper qualifications, steady patterns of ministry, and hearts filled with love, the elder/pastor stewards the Gospel for the benefit of the whole fellowship of believers in Jesus.
Therefore, let us pursue peace within Christ’s church by respecting our elders who rule well over us, as slaves of Christ’s sent to us to build us up in the faith handed down to them to hand down to us. As these men of God minister spiritual things to us, let us remember to minister material things to them that they might be freed from the financial burden that would naturally prevent them from giving themselves fully to the fulfillment of their ministries…and let us not cease to pray and give thanks to God for those who love us and give themselves, daily, for our edification and growth unto spiritual maturity. Respect, and again I say, “Respect your elders.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 24, 2023