Category Archives: Church Polity

1 Timothy 17-25

Title: Caring and Confronting Everyone – even your leadership!

Text: 1 Tim 5:17-25

CIT: The Church’s Responsibility in Caring for their Elders

CIS: As has been asked of you concerning those who serve you, be in prayer as you diligently consider the man or men the elders present to complete their team.

 

Introduction: In our passage this morning, Paul will remind Timothy and the church of their responsibility to the elders: Respecting them, Protecting them, Correcting them, and Selecting them. The Context deals with confronting and caring for people in your congregation. This is weird for me to be telling you to take care of me!

The flow: some will depart the faith – they will follow false teaching and false teachers; confront such activity in the body; teach the Truth of God’s Word; When you confront, there is a proper way to deal with your relationships! Relationships are important and these relationships are handled differently. Here’s how you confront the older men, younger men, older women, and younger women.

I.     Respecting your Elders (17-18)

exp.: rd 17-18; Give respect and ‘double honor’ to the elders in your body; vb – be considered worthy is one word in the Gk; imperative verb; which elders? The ones who rule well; requirements: ministry of the Word, prayer; Here we see a big responsibility in ‘ruling”; not lording, but προί̈́στημι (proistēmi); Stand before; a beautiful picture of leadership, out front; head of household;

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Heb 13:7, 17; Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. And, 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

How do we respect these men? Giving them double honor; to those who: 3 job requirements – rule well and ‘labor in the word’ and ‘in teaching’ (preach and teach); This isn’t an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination. This really just seems to me to be the work seen in public – which fits our context. The Truth is, so much of what they do is really ‘alone’ stuff or ‘one on one’ stuff or even ‘small group’ stuff.

John Newton described the ministry as ‘a sorrow full of joy’… That’s really accurate.

Some see in this text as two separate elder groups: Leaders and preachers/teachers. Note it says those who rule well, but ‘especially’ those who preach and teach. I don’t think ‘especially’ is focused on the teaching and preaching, but on those who κόπος (kopos)- labor; this is demanding work; vs 18 is the proof text (rd); I like this; Paul uses two separate passages: Deuteronomy 25:4; referenced in 24.15; The 2nd is a quote of Jesus; that’s pretty cool; Lk 10:7; Paul was very familiar with Luke; some scholars insist that Paul would have been familiar with Luke, since Luke may very well have been working on it while traveling with Paul; 2 Tim 4.11

app.: The point is this: respect, w/ double honor, your elders

t.s.: Respecting your elders…2nd,

II.     Protecting your Elders (19)

exp.: rd v 19; protect them from accusation: it is a very serious matter to bring a charge against your elders; Don’t allow it, except where the process of church discipline has properly taken place;

ill.: Consider this: because the elders are very public in their service, they open themselves up to harsh criticism. They’re easy targets. That criticism can be harsh, especially when those who pass judgment don’t have all of the information in front of them. We do so much harm when we ‘accuse’ our elders of negligence because we simply disagree with their leadership; oftentimes it is simply a matter of change that upsets an individual; Someone doesn’t like a decision, a plan, a program, a change in the current system or program;

app.: Respecting our elders is seen in the protection of our elders from false or inflammatory remarks about their leadership and the decisions they make.

t.s.: However, with that said, no elder is perfect; Sometimes an elder needs to be corrected;

III.   Correcting your Elders (20-21)

exp.: that is why Paul continues v 20;

ill.: Vibe magazine interviewed popular comedian and actor Chris Rock.

When asked, “Were you raised Christian?” Rock answered:

I wasn’t raised anything, to tell you the truth. My grandfather was a…preacher. He was the funniest guy. He used to curse a lot, run around, whatever. A bunch of deacons from his church got arrested for selling coke. Not selling it out of the church, but you know.

When asked, “Do you ever regret that you don’t have a connection to a long tradition of belief?” Rock replied:

That I’m not Baptist or whatever? And I don’t have this thing to pass down? Not at all. ‘Cause I do have a long tradition of belief. My belief is in working hard and treating people well. All that other stuff is nonsense.

app.: Ok, there is so much in those statements, but let me just say: Elders Cursing and ‘running around’. That needs to be confronted. Deacons selling cocaine? Elders like that need to be asked to step down. But there is a huge spectrum between an elder participating in illegal behavior and making mistakes. So, just being an elder doesn’t mean he won’t make mistakes. He will. And when he does, he needs to be corrected…

when coupled with v 19, this lines up with church discipline as we’ve been taught by Jesus in Matthew 18; We often err, by not going to the member or the elder; and discussing this one-on-one; We hurt the body when we stand in the hallway and criticize our elders (or anyone for that matter); Should one of us have a problem, go and talk directly to him (that’s first); and if he won’t listen… then 2nd, take two or three witnesses and talk this over with him; if he still won’t listen; bring your two or three witnesses and rebuke him in the presence of the body; The process Jesus gives us is for protecting us on all sides:

  • It protects the person in sin, by allowing them the opportunity to repent without humiliation before the whole body. Isn’t that really the goal? Repentance and restoration?
  • It protects the person doing the confronting, by allowing them to be corrected if they’re wrong. Most problems like these can be cleared up with a little understanding.
  • It protects the body by strengthening these relationships and bringing healing to that one localized area.

Exp.: rd v 21; Paul reminds Timothy not to show partiality to the elders, don’t prejudge them.

t.s.: each one should be Respecting, Protecting, Correcting, and finally Paul reminds them to be careful in …

IV.    Selecting your Elders (22-25)

exp.: rd v 22; caution: don’t lay hands on to quickly; 1st, this is for Timothy, not the body; The senior elder has a tremendous responsibility in leading the flock; when he lays his hands on a man who is unqualified, he ‘shares’ in their sins, past and future; κοινωνέω (koinōneō); this is the vb form of Koinonia (n); that is why he says in v 22c; keep (a watchful eye); yourself pure;

ill.: IH Marshall: this can be used of sharing in gifts and experiences or in actions; it may also be used for giving a share in something to somebody. Here the thought is clearly that by showing some kind of positive attitude to a sinner one is approving of the person and thereby sharing in that person’s sins in the sense of sharing in the responsibility and hence the guilt for them.

It makes me think of Chris Rock’s Grandfather and his leaders selling cocaine. And then Paul adds this parenthetical statement: rd v 23; issues of purity and health; So Paul brings his thoughts to a summation in vs 24-25; rd v 24-5; Here is his point: you will recognize an elder before you select them; their good deeds will go before them;

Conclusion: If you think about this, church, you’re in a pretty good place to be. You’ve chosen one elder – you chose me. But the time is coming when you’ll need to select other men from among yourselves to serve as elders. The standards were set in chapter 3. Now, you’ll need to be praying for those men you’ll ask to step up and serve in the future.

That’s my one take-a-way this morning: Pray

  • Pray that you’ll recognize them by their lives and good work.
  • Pray that the church closely follows God’s Will in the selection process.
  • Pray that God will protect them from the enemy – who desires to destroy their testimony. That the church’s witness in the community will be fruitful.

I’ve been honored to serve with godly men in the past. I stay in touch with these men, even now. It does my heart good to hear of their continued service to the Lord. I think of John who wrote I find no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the Truth.

As always, I want to ask you to reach out to us if you have questions. If you want to know more about Christ and what it means to be a Christ-follower, reach out to us at tarpleybaptistchurch@gmail.com

 

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Church Polity, Elders, Scripture, Sermon

Two Offices of the Church, Part II

Title: The Two Offices of the Church: Deacons are like Elders, mostly

Text: 1 Timothy 3.8-13

Deacons: A different group of people.

I want to talk to you today about the greatest need at Tarpley Baptist Church, Tarpley, TX. I’m talking desperation, here. This is a great day to take notes, and if you’re taking notes write this down: for the ministry and mission of Tarpley, right now, our greatest need is for deacons. I say this because we have Trustees who are functioning and we have a pastor (that you love and are excited about having serve here!). So, we need deacons.

Now I wonder, if some of you might be asking at this point: “Really Fred? That’s our greatest need?” Yeah, it probably is. Ministry opportunities are currently uncovered and not happening because we just don’t have the men and women in place to keep up with the need. Others are overtaxed in their load.

And it really shouldn’t be that way. We have enough people to cover our needs. Why is it then, that ministry goes undone and uncovered if we have enough people?

  • My guess is that people just don’t know.
  • Maybe there is a stigma attached to the word deacon – like, someone feels they’re too young; they’re too old.

We as a body need to remedy this. So, today I’m going to talk to you about deacons and ministry in the church as outlined in our text; and, just what we as a church need to be doing about it.

Our text is 1 Tim 3.8-13. It covers the 2nd office of the church (the other being elder). I would like to present my message this morning in two simple parts with one moment in between where we’ll chase a rabbit (an excursus is a digression within a text).

  1. Their Character (8-10)
  2. Their Competence (12-13)
  3. Excursus: Women in ministry (11). And we’ll talk about this when we get to verse 11.

So let’s take a moment and look at our biggest need right now. We need men and women to step up and fill in missing gaps in ministry.

Some of you might be asking yourself if you’re deacon material. That’s a great question. Let’s talk about that. 1st, Paul tells us of…

I.     Their Upstanding Character

Exp.: It’s really a very short list; basically, a review of what’s already been said; rd v8a; Deacons likewise must be dignified.

In the Gk there are three words; there is no verb here in the Gk, but it is supplied by the reader because the reader has it from above (cf.v2); must be, needs to be, it is necessary; Honorable, dignified. It’s not any different than the elders, with the exception of being able to teach. You might even sum it up by saying: these guys are elder-like. They have an upstanding character. That’s what the ‘likewise’ is for; it means in a similar manner or in like manner. To clarify, deacons aren’t to be…; rd 8b not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.

  • Not double-tongued could mean one of two things, and I think both apply.
    • 1st, not to say one thing and do another.
    • 2nd, not to say one thing to one person and something else to another.
  • Not addicted to much wine. This coincides with the elders. There isn’t anything wrong with a glass of wine, it’s when there is no self-control and wine takes control.
  • Not greedy for dishonest gain. I love the KJV: not greedy of filthy lucre. Again, there is control over passion and pursuits when it comes to money.

To say one thing and do another isn’t honorable. To say something to someone and something else to someone else is not honorable or dignified. Getting drunk is not dignified. Being selfish and greedy and doing what you do in the pursuit of money isn’t honorable or dignified.

A simple way to see this is to see them living out what they believe. rd v 9-10; They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. I note two parts to this:

  • An informed faith: deacons are not required to teach like elders are, but they do hold to the mystery of the faith. Mystery simply means that at one time it was hidden, but now it has been revealed. That’s the gospel. Many didn’t see it coming the way it did, but now they see. Now they know. Many still don’t see it. To them, it is still a mystery. But to those of us whom Christ has been revealed – it is faith. And these men, these deacons, not only hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, but they’ve been tested in that faith.
  • An incessant faith: it remains through all of the tough times. Many problems in life and in the church have come and gone, but they remain. They are a constant – like a lighthouse in the bay – their light continues to shine and guide others in spite of what storms rage around them.

Transition: these guys have been tested and tried and have come out on the other side blameless. Now, rd v 11 with me; – 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

II.    Aside: Women who serve

Exp.: I want to be careful, but very clear. I mentioned last week that there are basically 4 words used in the NT for the office of overseer. You see it in the English translation in 6 possible words: elders, pastors (shepherds), overseers (bishops), leaders. For deacons, there is just one: διάκονος (noun) διακονία (verb). Where there is only one word in Greek, it is sometimes translated with different English words: servant or minister (noun); service or ministry (verb). In the text, Rod read for us this morning, Acts 6.4. This word is translated ministry. That one isn’t so confusing. But what about Romans 16.1. Where Paul writes: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae. NASB, CSB, NIV, ESV, all translate it “servant”. Young’s translates it “minister”. The NRSV, NLT, translate it, “deacon”. The confusion comes when this word is translated for you with meaning (perhaps a meaning not intended by the author). For us, we don’t know for sure what Paul intended. Was Paul telling us that she was a deacon or a deaconess at the church in Cenchreae? We don’t know for sure. And, our problem comes when we take our understanding and beliefs and translate this through that lens.

In our text, the Gk reads literally: women likewise dignified. Grammatically, I want you to note:

  1. There is no pronoun their in the Gk. NASB gets this correct in the literal sense: Women must likewise be. The ESV, NIV, CSB, each put in a pronoun and translate it Their wives. Some scholars do this because they argue that it is That means that previously, it was supplied and so you would supply it here, too. The argument made by those who hold to this would say: that the woman in chapter two is Eve and she is the wife of Adam and so, here it is the wife.
  2. The verb is to be supplied. So, women likewise must be dignified. This is the same exact wording as v 8, only in the feminine form. What does this mean? Well, it isn’t clear.

4 possible solutions:

  1. Women are deacons, too. There are other texts that refer to women who ‘served’ as deacons (i.e.: Romans 16.1)
  2. Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether.
  3. Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
  4. Women who are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry.

Of these 4 possible solutions: I don’t think it is #1. #2 – I like # 2, but really need to explain why I like it. I think one of the last two of these are a real possibility.

  1. Women are deacons, too. I don’t think that is Paul’s presentation. Strike it.
  2. Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether. Possible, but I don’t think this is Paul’s presentation either. You would have an argument with the usage of ‘likewise’ but, Paul returns to the deacons in the next verse. So that probably isn’t the case. He isn’t leaving this issue of being deacons. I guess the reason I don’t like it is that it just doesn’t stand on its own. So strike it too.
  3. Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Highly possible; but I doubt this one. Many women who are married to deacons willingly volunteer their time and help their husbands. But not all do. If that is the case, then should a man not be a deacon if his wife doesn’t help him? Then it would need to be a requirement to become a deacon. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
  4. Women are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry. Highly possible; Women who serve; We find one such lady listed in Romans 16.1-2; Phoebe; “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” I think the term ‘Likewise’ gives them a classification, like their different from the men, but still an important and vital part of the church’s ministry;

So, this is how I understand this teaching and how I plan to lead the church at Tarpley: The deacon body consists of men appointed to this task by the church. There are women and men who serve under the responsibility of the deacons and administrate certain ministries.

Question: Why is it that Baptists are against women deacons? My theory is that a typical Baptist church has its deacons serving in elder-type positions and making elder-type decisions. These deacons give oversight and rule. To be brutally honest, many Baptist churches function on their traditions and ignore the Scriptures. They go back to chapter two and see that a woman shouldn’t have authority over a man, therefore, a woman shouldn’t be a deacon. But, Scripture is very clear that Deacons are simply servants. They were created to serve in Acts 6.1-8. Their job was to ‘wait on tables’.

The job of the deacons is to put on an apron and serve. In John 12.2 – Martha served; Luke 17.7-10 – unworthy servant; Luke 22.26-27; 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

That’s the job of a deacon: to serve. Mark Dever: “Deacons should not act as a separate power bloc or second house of the legislature through which bills need to be passed. If the elders say, ‘Let’s drive to Pittsburgh,’ it’s not up to the deacons to come back and say, ‘No, let’s drive to Philadelphia instead.’ They can legitimately come back and say, ‘Our engine won’t get us to Pittsburgh. Perhaps we should reconsider.’ That’s very helpful. But in general, their job is to support the destination set by the elders.”

When you consider that deacons have no power, except as servants of the body… can women serve like that, too? The answer is yes. And they should…

Finally, Let’s get back to the passage…

III.   Their Outstanding Competence

Exp.: rd v 12; 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Their competence is seen in the way they manage their families:

  • Wife: same as the elder; a man of one woman; he is elder like in his faithfulness to his wife.
  • Children: again, just like last week: this doesn’t mean that his children are perfect.

Their family is a priority. As I think about this in my life, I’m reminded of something Mark Dever once said: the church can get another pastor, but my children cannot get another father. My wife cannot simply get another husband. And so it is with the deacon: his family is his priority.

The life of a deacon displays a servant’s heart. Being a servant means managing: managing funds, schedules, supplies, etc. There is a lot to administer and care for when someone serves.  – I think this means you recognize these men because they’re serving already. They have a servant’s heart and that just comes out in what they do.

We are in need of people to serve. Let me rephrase that: we have a desperate need for people to serve.

So, here is my challenge to you:

  • Church, will you pray for the men in our congregation and ask God to show you men who should be serving as deacons?
  • Men, will you seriously pray about saying yes to serve if you’re asked? That’s a big thing for the church to say to you: I see Christ in you, I see your leadership capabilities and we’d be so blessed to have you serve. Will you serve?
  • Women, will you step up and help these men accomplish their duties. Will you be willing to say I’m here and will help in whatever capacity the Lord might want to use me?
    • Will you go visit the shut-ins?
    • Will you help care for the Widows?

*not just on your own, but under the care and guidance of the deacon body?

Some of you (men and women alike) are like: I can do that on my own? I don’t have to be a deacon to do that? No, you don’t have to be a deacon to serve. But can I offer a couple of pointers here?

  1. 1st, organization. The ministry needs to be organized. I’m reminded of the book of Judges where each person did what was right in his own eyes. And, it led to chaos, and rebellion and sin, etc. We’re grateful for when people cover areas of ministry where there is a need. But, can I encourage you to work with the deacons on this – help them keep things organized.
  2. 2nd, accountability. There is accountability when you surrender your personal passions to the leadership of the collective whole. That takes great humility and is most Christ-like. Submitting to the leadership of the deacons can keep you accountable to accomplish what you feel God has led you to do.
  3. 3rd, testimony. It is a great testimony against the lie of Satan when you submit to the leadership of the church. The lie of Satan says that authority can never be trusted because it is always tyrannical and oppressive. But there are wonderful, godly men who need your help. And that help starts by submitting to that leadership. And, it is also a testimony to the world when we function as a body the way God designed us to function.

God created two offices in this body: elders and deacons; pastors and ministers; overseers and servants. For the elders, He has given the responsibility to spiritual matters. To the deacons, he has given the responsibility of the physical, temporal matters. What a great testimony we would be if we functioned as we were designed to function.

I’m so grateful for the godly men who have served faithfully as deacons. They’ve blessed me. Jim Casey, Dave Posey, Harris Tingle, Malcolm Dickinson, James Powell, Bob Ditmer, Johnny Miller, Clint Carneal. I wonder who is here today that I’ll mention 20-30 years from now in this group of men.

Let’s bow our heads for just a moment.

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Church Polity, Scripture, Sermon

1 Timothy 1.3-7

Title: Timothy’s Appointment to the Church at Ephesus

Text: 1 Timothy 1.3-7

Introduction: March 2, 1962. Hershey, PA. Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points in one game. The record has been approached a couple of times but never broken. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points a few years back. My hero David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs scored 71 in one game. And, the night he set the record, he made 28 free throws out of 32. Here’s the thing about that: Chamberlain was a pitiful free throw shooter, but not that night. Normally, he would shoot in the 40% area. That night he shot nearly 90%. The difference? He shot his free throws underhanded.

But here’s an interesting tidbit of information: shortly afterward, Wilt Chamberlain went back to shooting his free throws overhead and his percentage plummeted once again.

Why? He tells us in his biography: I felt silly, like a sissy, shooting underhanded. I know I was wrong. I know some of the best foul shooters in history shot that way. Even now, the best one in the NBA, Rick Barry, shoots underhanded. I just couldn’t do it.

Check that out…he says: I know I was wrong. He is saying the right thing to do – the best way for him to score on his free throws would be to shoot underhanded. But then he says he just couldn’t do it.

Here’s my question: I wonder how many men would have to shoot underhanded before he would have changed his style.

Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast on this topic (Revisionist History)– the idea that each of us has a threshold where we will surrender our beliefs about something. We have beliefs, but we don’t live by those beliefs all the time.

Gladwell gives the example of a teenager who drives a hundred miles an hour with three of his buddies in the car. He isn’t doing it because he believes it is the right thing to do. He probably believes it is wrong. His threshold for doing what he believes is so low, that he surrenders what he knows to be right to do something wrong. Consider if his grandma was driving that car. Do you think she would drive 100 miles per hour to impress his friends? Example: Do you think Linda Duke would drive 100 miles per hour to impress her grandchildren? Or Virginia Huntress doing the same thing to impress great-grandchildren’s friends? Their threshold for such activities is pretty high. Probably, untouchable.

Transition: Here’s where I’m going with this: Identifying this threshold in our lives is so very important.

Consider a leader in the church. The truth is that when a leader upsets people in the church something happens:

  • Upset one person and that person might leave-taking their family, sometimes their friends, their tithe, and their opinions that they share with others in the community.
  • Upset more than one person and you could have a potential church split.
  • Upset enough people and you’re out of here…terminated.

So, people-pleasing is a tough dilemma for leadership. Leaders face a threshold like what Gladwell talks about in his podcast.

I wonder what it was like for young Timothy… Here is a young man who has to stand up to the likes of false teachers in his church, the church at Ephesus. Turn with me to 1 Timothy 1.3. Pg ???.

I’ve identified three parts to the overall passage of 1.1-11: A Bird’s Eye View of our Journey through 1 Timothy

  1. The Purpose of the Leader: His Charge (Week 1) v1-3
  2. The Purpose of the Letter: His Concern (Week 2) v3-7
  3. The Purpose of the Law: His Caution (Week 3) v8-11

We’re in the 2nd section: Paul’s Concern. In this section we note:

  1. The Assignment at the Church (v3-4) Charge certain persons not to teach
  2. The Aim in this Charge (v5) The aim of this charge is love issued from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
  3. The Assessment of the Church (v6-7) Certain persons have swerved from these (a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith).

Let’s begin with…

I.     The Assignment: to remain and charge (v3-4)

exp.: The assignment was to… rd v 3b; to remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…

  • The Charge: Authority from Paul, now on Timothy; Authority of Paul has established in 1-2; an Apostle; by the command; God our Savior; Christ our hope; Now, Timothy has an Assignment and it comes under the authority of Paul. This comes straight from the top! There is a direct line here in the chain of command;
  • Specifics:
    • Do not teach a different doctrine; Gal 1:6-10; you see this in the churches in Galatia, but it is also evident in other letters of Paul. There is only one Gospel. Anything different is false. Note the threshold for Paul in v 10; You can’t make him preach something else to please men.
    • Do not devote
      • Myths and Endless genealogies: scholars don’t agree on what these endless genealogies were; probably something to do with Jewish ancestry; however, what is important is what chasing after these useless myths and endless genealogies did: it brought…
      • Speculation v. Stewardship; I have no idea where this quote comes from. I wrote it down years ago and came across it this past week in my notes on this passage: Speculation without knowledge detracts from responsible execution of the ministry; and here’s why…
        1. Speculative knowledge is a type of theoretical knowledge. It is a knowledge that is gained through reflection without experience.
        2. Stewardship involves our use of not only the financial resources but our gifts, talents, abilities and time.

ill.: I.H. Marshall: …the label applied here and elsewhere in the PE may target not just the fallacious interpretation of OT passages but also applications of this material to conduct that contradicted traditional patterns of godly behavior.

app.: this is the danger of moving away from God’s Word and teaching from the way one feels about something.

t.s.: And Paul has given this particular assignment to Timothy to ‘charge’ these men not to teach false doctrine; But Paul gives Timothy a warning on how this is to be done; Rd v 5;

II.    The Aim: love from… (v5)

exp.: the Gk word here is τέλος; the vb form of this word is τελέω (to bring to an end); this is the word from which we get “telescope”  or “telephone” and others like it; it means to bring something which is far away much closer. This is how we get our word for goal or purpose. You plan your current situation so that you’ll arrive at the appropriate place. The purpose, The goal, The aim, The endgame is love.

  • this verse changes the thought from the negative result of erroneous teaching to the motives of proper instruction within the church; The motive, the goal the aim is…
    • Love (issues itself from Three Sources)
      • A pure heart; καθαρᾶς 1 John 1:9; the καρδία; is the center of the person; who we are before God; our true personality; the seat of our emotions; the origin of desires; This is what we are to love God with…’all of our heart’; Q.: seriously, who wants to bring an impure, dirty heart before God? No one, right?
      • A good conscience; 2nd dimension of the inner person; this word isn’t found in the OT; the heart served in this capacity; in the NT it means a knowledge of good and bad; compound word, with (to gather) knowledge; This conscience isn’t the ultimate judge of right & wrong; it only serves us as a guide since it can be seared by sin; important: we think sin doesn’t affect us, but it does; what our eyes see, what our ears hear; what our senses experience, through time, slowly disconnect us from reality; we truly are in an age when evil is called good and good is called evil, where reality is called false and false is called reality. The media would have you believe you’re watching reality TV. John writes: Little Children, keep yourselves from sin. A pure heart brings a clear conscience. Note: the word good is sometimes translated clear, which would fit here well;
      • A sincere faith; it appears the false teachers taught with an objective other than love, their goal: 1 Tim 6:5 ff; was their pockets;

app.: their endgame is not “love”! Their endgame was what they could get from these people…

t.s.: and so Paul placed Timothy there to confront these men, v 6ff tell us why; rd v 6-7;

III.   The Assessment: Certain men have missed the mark (v6-7)

exp.: The problem: these men are ‘missing the mark’; they have wandered (turned); Certain people have lit.: “missed the mark”; they have deviated off course and wandered from these (a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith); These people are the “false teachers of the Law”; this word, νομοδιδάσκαλοι teachers of the Law is found only 2 other times in the NT and clearly refers to teachers of the Mosaic Law; This ‘missing the mark’ leads to:

  • Vain Discussion; ‘empty, fruitless discussions’; kids are good at this; and that’s immaturity; “my uncle has some cows”; what’s bad is when adults do that; what’s worse is when teachers do that; Question: what exactly were they doing wrong? rd v 7
    • Teaching without understanding (they are wrong)
    • Application with error (they are sincerely wrong)

ill.: As a pastor, I have had people say to me: We don’t need more doctrine! What we need is more practical preaching! I think that means: don’t teach us, tell us stories.

app.: But can’t you see that doctrine is the basis for living? It is what you know from experiencing God’s Word as you live out his teaching for your life. My goal isn’t to motivate you to live a better life. This thing I do up here isn’t just about inspiration. My goal is to love you in such a way that it leads you to a closer relationship with God. And, I do not really love you if all I do is tell you what you want to hear!

Transition: The Church must keep great oversight on what is being taught and be willing to confront doctrine that is unhealthy. Our threshold must be high and not give in to what is popular or the current trend.

Conclusion: Wilt Chamberlain mentioned Rick Barry in his biography as the one person who would shoot his free throws underhanded. He also mentions that Rick Barry led the NBA in Free Throw percentage each year. Rick says that one year he missed only 9 shots. 9! And the next year, he only missed 10. To put that in perspective, Lebron James misses about 150 free throws a year. Rick Barry made 90% of his free throws throughout his career. Lebron James? 73%! Wilt Chamberlain? 50%!

What made Rick Barry not care about what others thought? Well, His goal wasn’t to please others. His goal was to make the shot. He really didn’t care what people thought about him. And, the fact that others made fun of him didn’t bother him. His threshold was incredibly high.

So let me ask you: how high of a threshold do you have toward others making fun of you for not following the world? Paul had an incredibly high threshold. He’s encouraging Timothy to have a high threshold. And I’m doing the same for you: and that brings us to the applications for this morning…

Application: So what do we learn from this section of Paul’s letter? As a pastor, I question my threshold for your pleasure. Will I bow to pressure to do what other churches are doing? You want something from me – the way I preach, the way I lead music. Will I give in to music that is less than glorifying to God to please your ears?

As an individual, what is your threshold? Do you want to grow and gain members so much that you’ll water down what is right and true in order that the lost might be comfortable? And we might see more folks join the church?

Points to ponder:

  1. What is (y)our assignment here?
  2. Do we do what we do because we truly love people? Does our stewardship flow from a heart of love?
  3. What is our threshold for seeing that our church is a New Testament church and not just something that adjusts itself to the culture to accommodate and make lost people feel comfortable?
    1. Really, why do we meet here? What is the goal? What are we trying to accomplish?
    2. If this isn’t organized around the lost, when do they or how will they get saved?
    3. What does it mean for us to Pray the Word, Sing the Word, Read the Word, See the Word, and Preach the Word?

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Christian Living, Church Polity, Evangelism, Scripture, Sermon

1 Timothy 5.17-25

Title: The Biblical Model for Church Leadership: Elders

Text: 1 Tim 5:17-25

CIT: The Church’s Responsibility in Caring for their Elders

CIS: As has been asked of you concerning the deacons, be in prayer as you diligently consider the man or men the elders present to complete their team.

 

Introduction: Keep your place in 1 Timothy and turn to Acts 20. Paul’s journey back to Jerusalem for the last time. On his journey, Paul stops in Miletus after sailing by Ephesus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. 17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.

Paul had a very special relationship with these men. Look with me at this passage as he charges them with responsibility.

Rd Acts 20.17-35; He will return to Jerusalem. There, he will be arrested and spend the next two years in Caesarea, where he will appeal to Caesar. That appeal will be granted and he will then spend another two years in Rome. He will leave Timothy in Ephesus to care for the church there and help the elders with their leadership problems.

Church: leading is hard work. It doesn’t come easily by any stretch of the imagination. I know of my accountability. And I fearfully consider the past and pray over the future. I’ve made mistakes. And it scares me. And, I think about those in my life who made being a pastor so hard. I think about those who tried to destroy the church in moments of trying to ‘be right’ or keep their power.

t.s.: In our passage this morning, Paul will remind Timothy and the church of their responsibility to the elders: Respecting them, Protecting them, Correcting them and Selecting them.

  1. Respecting your Elders (17-18)

exp.: rd 17-18; Give respect and ‘double honor’ to the elders (Acts 20) in your body; vb – “be considered worthy”  is one word in Greek; imperative verb; which elders? The ones who rule well; requirements: ministry of the Word, prayer; Here we see responsibility in ‘ruling”; not lording, but προί̈́στημι (proistēmi); Stand before; a beautiful picture of leadership, out front; head of household;

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Heb 13:7, 17; Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. And, 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

How do we respect these men? Giving them double honor; to those who: 3 job requirements – rule well and ‘labor in the word’ and ‘in teaching’ (preach and teach); This isn’t an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination. This really just seems to me to be the work seen in public – which fits our context. The Truth is, so much of what they do is really ‘alone’ stuff or ‘one on one’ stuff or even ‘small group’ stuff.

John Newton described ministry as ‘a sorrow full of joy’… That’s really accurate.

This is a beautiful description of the men in our church who have been laboring, toiling in the word and then preaching this Word. They work on a couple of texts and prepare that work to be presented to a group of their peers. Then, they have an opportunity to preach one of those texts to the congregation.

Some see these as two separate elder groups: Leaders and preachers/teachers. Note it says those who rule well, but ‘especially’ those who preach and teach. I don’t think ‘especially’ is focused on the teaching and preaching, but on those who κόπος (kopos)- labor; this is a demanding work; vs 18 is the proof text (rd); I like this; Paul uses two separate passages: Deuteronomy 25:4; The 2nd is a quote of Jesus; that’s pretty cool; Lk 10:7; Paul was very familiar with Luke; some scholars insist that Paul would have been familiar with Luke, since Luke may very well have been working on it while traveling with Paul;

app.: The point is this: respect, w/ double honor, your elders

t.s.: Respecting your elders…2nd,

  1. Protecting your Elders (19)

exp.: rd v 19; protect them from accusation: it is a very serious matter to bring a charge against your elders; Don’t allow it, except where the process of church discipline has properly taken place;

ill.: Consider this: because the elders are very public in their service, they open themselves up to harsh criticism. They’re easy targets. That criticism can be harsh, especially when those who pass judgment don’t have all of the information in front of them. We do so much harm when we ‘accuse’ our elders of negligence and self-motivation because we simply disagree with their leadership; oftentimes it is simply a matter of change that upsets an individual; Someone doesn’t like a decision, a plan, a program, a change in the current system or program;

app.: Respecting our elders is seen in the protection of our elders from false or inflammatory remarks about their leadership and the decisions they make.

t.s.: However, with that said, no elder is perfect; Sometimes an elder needs to be corrected;

ill.: Vibe magazine interviewed popular comedian and actor Chris Rock.

When asked, “Were you raised Christian?” Rock answered: “I wasn’t raised anything, to tell you the truth. My grandfather was a…preacher. He was the funniest guy. He used to curse a lot, run around, whatever. A bunch of deacons from his church got arrested for selling coke. Not selling it out of the church, but you know.”

When asked, “Do you ever regret that you don’t have a connection to a long tradition of belief?” Rock replied: “That I’m not Baptist or whatever? And I don’t have this thing to pass down? Not at all. ‘Cause I do have a long tradition of belief. My belief is in working hard and treating people well. All that other stuff is nonsense.”

app.: Ok, there is so much in those statements, but let me just say: Elders Cursing and ‘running around’. That needs to be confronted. Deacons selling cocaine? Elders like that need to be asked to step down. But there is a huge spectrum between an elder participating in illegal behavior and making mistakes. So, just being an elder doesn’t mean he won’t make mistakes. He will. And when he does, he needs to be corrected…

t.s: that is why Paul continues v 20;

Correcting your Elders (20-21)

exp.: when coupled with v 19, this lines up with church discipline as we’ve been taught by Jesus in Matthew 18; We often err, by not going to the member or the elder; and discussing this one-on-one; We hurt the body when we stand in the hallway and criticize our elders (or anyone for that matter); Should one of us have a problem, go and talk directly to him (that’s first); and if he won’t listen… then 2nd, take two or three witnesses and talk this over with him; if he still won’t listen; bring your two or three witnesses and rebuke him in the presence of the body; The process Jesus gives us is for protecting us on all sides:

  • It protects the person in sin, by allowing them the opportunity to repent without humiliation before the whole body.
  • It protects the person doing the confronting, by allowing them to be corrected if they’re wrong. Most problems like these can be cleared up with a little understanding.
  • It protects the body by strengthening these relationships and bringing healing to that one localized area.

Exp.: rd v 21; Paul reminds Timothy not to show partiality to the elders, don’t prejudge them.

t.s.: each one should be Respecting, Protecting, Correcting, and finally Paul reminds them to be careful in …

Selecting your Elders (22-25)

exp.: rd v 22; caution: don’t lay hands on to quickly; 1st, this is for Timothy, not the body; The senior elder has a tremendous responsibility in leading the flock; when he lays his hands on a man who is unqualified, he ‘shares’ in their sins, past and future; κοινωνέω (koinōneō); this is the vb form of Koinonia (n); that is why he says in v 22c; keep (a watchful eye); yourself pure;

ill.: IH Marshall: this can be used of sharing in gifts and experiences or in actions; it may also be used for giving a share in something to somebody. Here the thought is clearly that by showing some kind of positive attitude to a sinner one is approving of the person and thereby sharing in that person’s sins in the sense of sharing in the responsibility and hence the guilt for them.

It makes me think of Chris Rock’s Grandfather and his leaders selling cocaine. And then Paul adds this parenthetical statement: rd v 23; issues of purity and health; So Paul brings his thoughts to a summation in vs 24-25; rd v 24-5; Here is his point: you will recognize an elder before you select them; their good deeds will go before them;

Conclusion:

Church, you have a great responsibility in caring for yourself – and it begins in the Leadership you pick. I’m proud of the men you’ve selected. You’ve done a great job.

  • Jason Hall
  • Joshua Webb
  • Phil Baker
  • Lyle Skeels

 

Who is next or who are next? Will you commit this to prayer?

  1. Prayer for those who lead…
  2. Prayer for those whom God is bringing…
  3. The Elders will bring a recommendation, but the church has the final say. So pray…

 

 

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Acts, Church History, Church Polity, Elders, Leadership, Scripture, Sermon, Sin

Mark 6.1-7

Title: An Abbreviated History Lesson on Church Structure

Text: Acts 6; 1 Timothy 3

Introduction: Thank you Larry, for reading Scripture today.

I’ll be floating between two passages: Acts 6 and 1 Timothy. So bookmark those two passages. Actually, I’ll start in Acts 6… show some history throughout Acts, Make my way to 1 Timothy and back again.

What a blessing this is! We get to talk politics this morning! I don’t mean the politics of our national government, Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, or anything like that. I mean church politics! Politics is normally a dirty word, but it doesn’t have to be. Google says: Politics are the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power. If that is the definition, no wonder people hate politics. If that is the definition, then there is no place for politics in the church. People hoping to achieve power have no plac in church leadership. Indeed, Christ says that we’re to be like him and he came as one who serves and is the servant of all. Mark Dever says: Politics is the science of organizing life together. That’s pretty straightforward: The science of organizing life together. That works for families, teams, committees and yes, churches.

Church polity is something we should address regularly. You should know how your church functions: what are the rules that govern our assembly and what keeps us unified? What protects our unity and works against schisms and divisions? So, let’s bow our hearts before the Lord and ask for his protection of this body and his blessing over the preaching of His Word. Pray

I want you to know that this isn’t something I dreamed up. This has been a real concern for the church for nearly 2000 years. As a young pastor, I did what the churches and pastors before me did. I saw inconsistencies, and because of my nature, I questioned many of these inconsistencies that I saw. It has only been since coming to Calvary 11 years ago and never – never being a part of a healthy church, that led me on a journey, a quest to discover what makes a healthy church, well – healthy.

The following is some of what I discovered. Some of you may be hearing this for the 1st time. For others, this will be a review. Let’s begin with a brief history lesson from Scripture on church polity.

I.      A History of the Need for Structure (Acts 6)

exp.: Our first experience is found in Acts 6. The Apostles are the leaders. The Lord has put them in place. He commissioned them. But soon, all of these believers begin experiencing problems: problems that threaten their unity. It could be racial, ethnic, social… who knows? But, it threatens their unity. Furthermore, the Apostles are not able to do their work – to accomplish their task. So we learn #1 – that problems expose the need for structure. So, they come up with a solution. Let’s observe the process in Acts 6.1ff; rd 1a; Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number… Let me pause there and ask a question: Does this sound bad or good? Man, I want this problem! Jah hear? Calvary’s having problems! uh-huh, turns out they’re increasing in number, pretty dramatic I hear. So many baptisms the city is threatening to cut off their water. Well, numbers do create problems in that they expose areas of weakness and a need for structure. Rd 6b; a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. That’s complaint #1; there seems to be a problem with languages. Those who speak Hebrew are getting 1st dibs and the Greek-speaking widows are being overlooked. Here’s complaint #2, and it comes from the leaders. But, notice this, they want to make sure everyone knows their complaint. So… rd v 2a: summoned the full # of disciples! When everyone gets there, well then… look what they have to say: It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Let me just say that it’s not right is very similar to the phrase it’s not fair. Now, obviously you are getting my tongue in cheek presentation of this situation.

Here’s our first application of the day: Problems aren’t bad. It’s how you handle the problems you face that can be bad. And these guys handle the problem right. And from the way we observe these guys tackling their problem, we gain some insight into how we should handle our problems. Again, problems are bad, just the way we handle them can be. So, what do we learn from them:

  1. Church polity should be handled in a congregational way. They involve the Congregation. Church, you select 7 men from among you and we’ll appoint them to this duty. The Church selects 7 men and the apostles put them to work. From this we learn that we are congregational. Yes, we have a pastor, but he isn’t the pope. You can amen that if you want, it won’t hurt my feelings. No one man or woman should ever run the church. Ever! Congregational means that we vote on what we do. The church always has the last say. Always. The church votes on a budget in December. That is your approval for teams, committees, and ministries to do what they do. You, the church, also approve those teams. The deacons form ministry teams, the elders pick teachers and you, the church, give your approval of them all. It all launches from the church. We are congregational. As the year progresses, we find ministry opportunities, we find problems that arise and if it isn’t in the budget or the church hasn’t given the assignment to a team or group of people, then we come back to the church and seek your approval. That is how it is supposed to work.
  2. Relationships are vitally important. One group isn’t more important than the others. Listen, Ladies & Gentlemen, This isn’t about the food – it’s about the relationships. In our text, it might just be that those who were doing the work didn’t speak Greek or weren’t as fluent. More than likely, the Greek-speaking widows being overlooked was a symptom of a deeper problem. Who knows? But from this, we learn that nothing is more important than relationships. So, whatever you’re working on as a team – if there is a breakdown – check your relationships – my guess is somebody’s feelings got hurt. Mend the relationship!

Now, there is something important about church history here that I need you to see: Before this moment in Acts 6, the only leaders were the Apostles. One office in the church: Apostles. Now, there is a 2nd office in the church: Deacons.

Rd v 3-4; The offices are getting some structure now. The Apostles say: Here is our job and this is yourn. And, in order to do this job, you should be qualified. So, don’t pick just anyone! The men who are handling this situation are so overwhelmed they can’t do both. They’re qualified, but they need more men. These men don’t need to do their job of preaching and teaching, but they should be godly men nonetheless. So… qualifications must be set. We need qualified men to complete this task.

  1. Men of good reputation
  2. Men full of the Holy Spirit
  3. Men of Wisdom

ill.: I read this week that The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. I wondered, is this true? Let me repeat it: The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. That isn’t the purpose. My guess is the purpose of the church is the glory of God. Edmund Clowney says the mission of the church… He then continues with an explanation.

  1. Worship: We sing the Word, We pray the Word, and We preach the Word.
  2. Discipleship – teaching the Word.
  3. Evangelism – reaching the world with the Word.

These Apostles are saying that their mission is being compromised. They are unable to do their work in the Ministry of the Word because they’ve been caught up in ‘waiting tables’. That work, which isn’t being done very well, is making their task of preaching and teaching to suffer. Nothing is getting done very well.

Once a church begins to practice the ministry of the Word, it experiences growth. Growth creates problems. The more people you have, the more problems you have. So, they have to get organized. They need to get some structure here.

Rd v 5-7; please note v 7; what continued to increase? The Word of God! With that, there is an increase in conversions, which of course means they’ll have more problems and they’ll have to work those problems. But they’re good problems, No?

Well, the church grows and more problems occur. We’re not told of all the details, but we learn of the solutions by what we read. Turn to Acts 11.19-30; the church grows and determines to help with a problem down in Jerusalem. V 30 tells us that the church has now added another office: Elders. We can only make assumptions now as to what has happened. We don’t really know. They’ve not appeared before now. But, now, what we have in the early church, at least at this very early stage, is three offices: Apostles, Elders, and Deacons.

Let me quickly give you a time reference. Acts 12 – with the death of Herod and the work of Josephus – allows us to date Acts 12 at about 44 AD. If you take a later date for the crucifixion, we have these offices being used in the church within about 10 years. If you take an earlier date (which I do), then you see the infrastructure of the church being established no later than 13 years of Christ’s Great Commission. I think it would be fair to say that the structure for the church was set within the 1st decade of the Church’s (Capital C) existence.

You’re in 11.30; look at Acts 14.23; rd 15.1-6; Apostles and Elders are taking care of the doctrinal issues of the church. They’re handling the problems that are arising. Together. What we will see as the 1st century moves on and closes out, the apostles will fade from the scene. They will die and they will not be replaced. And, as the apostles fade from the scene, we see three offices narrowed down to two: elders and deacons.

app.: I want to take a moment to say that many Baptists are uncomfortable with elders. I understand this, but this saddens me. Did you know that many Baptist churches in the world had elders until the mid-1800’s. Our 1st two confessions or statement of faith’s had elders and deacons listed as the two main offices. So, historically, Baptist have had two main offices in the church: elders and deacons. What caused the change? My educated guess would be Manifest Destiny and the need for circuit preachers.

Many Baptist churches struggle today because they have an unhealthy church polity. They have become comfortable with tradition, and so, they neglect the Scriptures. In their defense, let me say that many Baptist churches function without elders. These churches have dynamic leaders serving as pastors who use some of the deacons as elders. And truthfully, I’m ok with that. It isn’t what I would choose, but that works for them. However, with that being said, I think many Baptist churches have a system of government that is wicked and evil. It is self-serving. Men are placed in leadership positions that should never be there. Men are made deacons and deacons then begin to run the church in the absence of a pastor or elders. That method, that form of government continues and it becomes cyclical. Pastors rotate in and out as the deacons then rule the church with an iron hand. And these congregations slowly die because these deacons can’t see that they were never intended to lead the church in this fashion.

t.s.: Let me show you the structure as we find it later on – some 20 years or more later. And this is point #2…

II.    The Structure of the Church (1 Tim 3.1-13)

exp.: 1 Timothy is a manual for churches and pastors on structure and polity. Paul’s main concern is the Ministry of the Word. He’s concerned about unhealthy doctrine being taught in the church at Ephesus. Look at chapter 1.3; don’t let certain individuals teach a different doctrine. Rd v 5; our aim here is love. And it pours forth from this beautiful triad: a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. There are those who don’t have a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. These people are rd v 6-7; now hones in on his purpose: rd v 8-11; Sound Doctrine = The Gospel. A Healthy church has sound, healthy doctrine, which is the Gospel of Christ. The Church then is a picture of the Gospel to the world. If you really think about this, this is what Paul is saying to Timothy – and to the believers at Ephesus: The Church is the Gospel made visible. Therefore, protect it. That is why Sound Doctrine is vital.

Paul then presents the Gospel in a short testimony: v 15 is the thesis statement here: 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…

In Chapter two Paul discusses they way believers should act, but look at chapter three. Here, Paul presents the structure that has been established over the next 20-25 years from Acts 12 on… You can see the same thing in Titus.

Chapter three establishes two offices for the church:

  • Elders – Let me introduce them to you, especially for the guests. (Active & Inactive)
  • Deacons – Deacons – (Active and Inactive)

In comparing the two, not just here, but throughout the New Testament, we find one main difference between the two offices. You ready for this? A deacon is to be held to the same basic qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Let that sink in for a moment. A deacon is to be held to the same qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Why this one difference? Answer: Because of their responsibility. Elders are given charge of Sound Doctrine. They are responsible for the spiritual aspects of the church. They must give great care to their teaching and to those they place in positions of teaching.

Deacons on the other hand are concerned with the physical aspects of the church. Their leadership is to care for the physical. In Acts we see them caring for the widows. They are to be no less godly than the elders. They are to be no less holy. The standard of character is just as high.

In Acts 6 the qualifications are simple:

  1. Men – I mention this because this is the only place I find this; later, we’ll see deacons and deaconesses. I know we don’t have them in the Baptist church, but I suspect that is more from culture than God’s word. Let me say, I’m not advocating for deaconesses today, I’m just saying in Scripture we find deaconesses. Let’s set that aside for a moment and focus on Acts 6. They were to be Men.
  2. A good reputation: which by the way, is with those inside the church and outside the church.
  3. Full of the Holy Spirit – don’t pick lost men. Don’t pick ungodly men.
  4. Wise – men full of wisdom. This means they use their knowledge well.

Already, you’ve limited the amount of men who can serve. But 1 Timothy 3 gives us more. Rd v 8

  1. Dignified: that is, they are worthy men, honored men, respected in the church and in the community.
  2. Not double-tongued: picture a forked tongue, like that of a snake. A tongue that offers curses and blessings. Not like that.
  3. Not addicted to much wine: I think this means not an alcoholic. They are not controlled by alcohol. It isn’t that they won’t have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer after mowing the lawn. It is that alcohol doesn’t consume them.
  4. Not greedy – for dishonest gain. That’s important. Our deacons serve as counters of the offering. They rotate regularly each week. But it is more than that. Your deacons will be responsible for contracts, hiring out work to be completed. You don’t want to pick men that are out to get a kick back.
  5. Solid Believers. They hold to this faith – this mysterious faith of ours with a clear conscience. And that faith is evident in their daily lives.
  6. They’ve been tested. Don’t put an unproven man into this position. The men you pick should be men who’ve proven themselves in these areas already. They have been faithful over time.
  7. Their wives must be qualified. Don’t pick men whose wives are gossips or busy bodies. I have known men who couldn’t serve as deacons because of their wives. Their wives must be like them – dignified, honorable, not diabolos, and faithful in all things.
  8. The deacons should have a stable marriage and home life. Some people take this to mean ‘having been married one time’. They say a divorced man shouldn’t be a deacon. I don’t think that is the definition here. Let me explain. The Gk simply says: a one-woman man. μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες; That doesn’t help us. No, I don’t think this means one woman at a time. I think there is a principle here – not a letter of the law. The principle is finding men who are faithful and trustworthy. They prove that over time. For a man to be married to the same woman for 20 years can be a sign that he is faithful. That may not be the case, but it is a sign. So, you take all of these character traits, these qualities and you establish a pattern of faithfulness, honesty and integrity.

app.: Please hear me: I’m not saying every man who has been married longer than 20 years is deacon material. I’m saying that is one sign. Their wives must also serve as a sign. Their testing over the years is another sign. Their faithfulness as solid believers is another sign. The fact that they’re not greedy or alcoholics are more signs…and the list goes on.

t.s.: You take all of these quality characteristics and size the man up. And you pick from there.

III.    An Appeal: The Church must pick some men to serve as deacons.

exp.: It is time. In the coming weeks, the deacons will present you with a list of names. They’re going to ask you to:

  • Pray over these men. The list will not be exhaustive. You can pray over each man and his family.
  • Use this passage as a checklist. Mark off men who don’t size up. See which men rise to the top.
  • The deacons are going to ask you to select a number of men to serve with them. I don’t know how many. It could be three. It could be seven. But based on your prayers and your evaluation, select men to serve. The deacons will then assess the men you’ve chosen. They’ll find out who is willing to serve, because you may select some who will say no. They will bring back a final list of those you’ve selected, that they’ve interviewed and determined fit and ready to serve. You’ll then have the final say with a vote.

One final word: don’t assume that men who’ve served before will automatically serve again. If you don’t select them, then they won’t be asked to serve. That is vital. Deacons serve only at the pleasure of the church. Deacons don’t go get deacons. They don’t ask their buddies. They don’t even ask men who’ve served before. They will follow your directions. So, pray, evaluate, and choose – men from among yourselves and we will appoint them to this duty of service.

Conclusion: I mentioned earlier that the church is the gospel made visible. That message is that Christ died for sinners. Paul claims to be the worst of all sinners and even he found forgiveness – his testimony is to the goodness and grace of God. I want to offer you that grace and forgiveness.

 

 

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Acts 6.1-7/1 Tim 3.8-13

** This sermon Audio is located in the Special Topics Player…

 

Title: An Abbreviated History Lesson on Church Structure

Text: Acts 6; 1 Timothy 3.8-13

Introduction: Thank you Larry, for reading Scripture today.

I’ll be floating between two passages: Acts 6 and 1 Timothy. So bookmark those two passages. Actually, I’ll start in Acts 6… show some history throughout Acts, Make my way to 1 Timothy and back again.

What a blessing this is! We get to talk politics this morning! I don’t mean the politics of our national government, Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, or anything like that. I mean church politics! Politics is normally a dirty word, but it doesn’t have to be. Google says: Politics are the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power. If that is the definition, no wonder people hate politics. If that is the definition, then there is no place for politics in the church. People hoping to achieve power have no plac in church leadership. Indeed, Christ says that we’re to be like him and he came as one who serves and is the servant of all. Mark Dever says: Politics is the science of organizing life together. That’s pretty straightforward: The science of organizing life together. That works for families, teams, committees and yes, churches.

Church polity is something we should address regularly. You should know how your church functions: what are the rules that govern our assembly and what keeps us unified? What protects our unity and works against schisms and divisions?

I want you to know that this isn’t something I dreamed up. This has been a real concern for the church for nearly 2000 years. As a young pastor, I did what the churches and pastors before me did. I saw inconsistencies, and because of my nature, I questioned many of these inconsistencies that I saw. It has only been since coming to Calvary 11 years ago and never – never being a part of a healthy church, that led me on a journey, a quest to discover what makes a healthy church, well – healthy.

The following is some of what I discovered. Some of you may be hearing this for the 1st time. For others, this will be a review. Let’s begin with a brief history lesson from Scripture on church polity.

I.    A History of the Need for Structure (Acts 6)

exp.: Our first experience is found in Acts 6. The Apostles are the leaders. The Lord has put them in place. He commissioned them. But soon, all of these believers begin experiencing problems: problems that threaten their unity. It could be racial, ethnic, social… who knows? But, it threatens their unity. Furthermore, the Apostles are not able to do their work – to accomplish their task.

  • So we learn #1 – that problems expose the need for structure. So, they come up with a solution. Let’s observe the process in Acts 6.1ff; rd 1a; Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number… Let me pause there and ask a question: Does this sound bad or good? Man, I want this problem! Jah hear? Calvary’s having problems! uh-huh, turns out they’re increasing in number, pretty dramatic I hear. So many baptisms the city is threatening to cut off their water. Well, numbers do create problems in that they expose areas of weakness and a need for structure. Rd 6b; a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. That’s complaint #1; there seems to be a problem with languages. Those who speak Hebrew are getting 1st dibs and the Greek-speaking widows are being overlooked. Here’s complaint #2, and it comes from the leaders. But, notice this, they want to make sure everyone knows their complaint. So… rd v 2a: summoned the full # of disciples! When everyone gets there, well then… look what they have to say: It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Let me just say that it’s not right is very similar to the phrase it’s not fair. Now, obviously you are getting my tongue in cheek presentation of this situation.

Here’s our first application of the day: Problems aren’t bad. It’s how you handle the problems you face that can be bad. And these guys handle the problem right. And from the way we observe these guys tackling their problem, we gain some insight into how we should handle our problems. Again, problems are bad, just the way we handle them can be. So, what do we learn from them:

  • Church polity should be handled in a congregational way. They involve the Congregation. Church, you select 7 men from among you and we’ll appoint them to this duty. The Church selects 7 men and the apostles put them to work. From this we learn that we are congregational. Yes, we have a pastor, but he isn’t the pope. You can amen that if you want, it won’t hurt my feelings. No one man or woman should ever run the church. Ever! Congregational means that we vote on what we do. The church always has the last say. Always. The church votes on a budget in December. That is your approval for teams, committees, and ministries to do what they do. You, the church, also approve those teams. The deacons form ministry teams, the elders pick teachers and you, the church, give your approval of them all. It all launches from the church. We are congregational. As the year progresses, we find ministry opportunities, we find problems that arise and if it isn’t in the budget or the church hasn’t given the assignment to a team or group of people, then we come back to the church and seek your approval. That is how it is supposed to work.
  • Relationships are vitally important. One group isn’t more important than the others. Listen, Ladies & Gentlemen, This isn’t about the food – it’s about the relationships. In our text, it might just be that those who were doing the work didn’t speak Greek or weren’t as fluent. More than likely, the Greek-speaking widows being overlooked was a symptom of a deeper problem. Who knows? But from this, we learn that nothing is more important than relationships. So, whatever you’re working on as a team – if there is a breakdown – check your relationships – my guess is somebody’s feelings got hurt. Mend the relationship!

Now, there is something important about church history here that I need you to see: Before this moment in Acts 6, the only leaders were the Apostles. One office in the church: Apostles. Now, there is a 2nd office in the church: Deacons.

Rd v 3-4; The offices are getting some structure now. The Apostles say: Here is our job and this is yourn. And, in order to do this job, you should be qualified. So, don’t pick just anyone! The men who are handling this situation are so overwhelmed they can’t do both. They’re qualified, but they need more men. These men don’t need to do their job of preaching and teaching, but they should be godly men nonetheless. So… qualifications must be set. We need qualified men to complete this task.

  1. Men of good reputation
  2. Men full of the Holy Spirit
  3. Men of Wisdom

ill.: I read this week that The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. I wondered, is this true? Let me repeat it: The Mission of the Church is the Ministry of the Word. That isn’t the purpose. My guess is the purpose of the church is the glory of God. Edmund Clowney says the mission of the church… He then continues with an explanation.

  1. Worship: We sing the Word, We pray the Word, and We preach the Word.
  2. Discipleship – teaching the Word.
  3. Evangelism – reaching the world with the Word.

These Apostles are saying that their mission is being compromised. They are unable to do their work in the Ministry of the Word because they’ve been caught up in ‘waiting tables’. That work, which isn’t being done very well, is making their task of preaching and teaching to suffer. Nothing is getting done very well.

Once a church begins to practice the ministry of the Word, it experiences growth. Growth creates problems. The more people you have, the more problems you have. So, they have to get organized. They need to get some structure here.

Rd v 5-7; please note v 7; what continued to increase? The Word of God! With that, there is an increase in conversions, which of course means they’ll have more problems and they’ll have to work those problems. But they’re good problems, No?

Well, the church grows and more problems occur. We’re not told of all the details, but we learn of the solutions by what we read. Turn to Acts 11.19-30; the church grows and determines to help with a problem down in Jerusalem. V 30 tells us that the church has now added another office: Elders. We can only make assumptions now as to what has happened. We don’t really know. They’ve not appeared before now. But, now, what we have in the early church, at least at this very early stage, is three offices: Apostles, Elders, and Deacons.

Let me quickly give you a time reference. Acts 12 – with the death of Herod and the work of Josephus – allows us to date Acts 12 at about 44 AD. If you take a later date for the crucifixion, we have these offices being used in the church within about 10 years. If you take an earlier date (which I do), then you see the infrastructure of the church being established no later than 13 years of Christ’s Great Commission. I think it would be fair to say that the structure for the church was set within the 1st decade of the Church’s (Capital C) existence.

You’re in 11.30; look at Acts 14.23; rd 15.1-6; Apostles and Elders are taking care of the doctrinal issues of the church. They’re handling the problems that are arising. Together. What we will see as the 1st century moves on and closes out, the apostles will fade from the scene. They will die and they will not be replaced. And, as the apostles fade from the scene, we see three offices narrowed down to two: elders and deacons.

app.: I want to take a moment to say that many Baptists are uncomfortable with elders. I understand this, but this saddens me. Did you know that many Baptist churches in the world had elders until the mid-1800’s. Our 1st two confessions or statement of faith’s had elders and deacons listed as the two main offices. So, historically, Baptist have had two main offices in the church: elders and deacons. What caused the change? My educated guess would be Manifest Destiny and the need for circuit preachers.

Many Baptist churches struggle today because they have an unhealthy church polity. They have become comfortable with tradition, and so, they neglect the Scriptures. In their defense, let me say that many Baptist churches function without elders. These churches have dynamic leaders serving as pastors who use some of the deacons as elders. And truthfully, I’m ok with that. It isn’t what I would choose, but that works for them. However, with that being said, I think many Baptist churches have a system of government that is wicked and evil. It is self-serving. Men are placed in leadership positions that should never be there. Men are made deacons and deacons then begin to run the church in the absence of a pastor or elders. That method, that form of government continues and it becomes cyclical. Pastors rotate in and out as the deacons then rule the church with an iron hand. And these congregations slowly die because these deacons can’t see that they were never intended to lead the church in this fashion.

t.s.: Let me show you the structure as we find it later on – some 20 years or more later. And this is point #2…

II.   The Structure of the Church (1 Tim 3.1-13)

exp.: 1 Timothy is a manual for churches and pastors on structure and polity. Paul’s main concern is the Ministry of the Word. He’s concerned about unhealthy doctrine being taught in the church at Ephesus. Look at chapter 1.3; don’t let certain individuals teach a different doctrine. Rd v 5; our aim here is love. And it pours forth from this beautiful triad: a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. There are those who don’t have a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. These people are rd v 6-7; now hones in on his purpose: rd v 8-11; Sound Doctrine = The Gospel. A Healthy church has sound, healthy doctrine, which is the Gospel of Christ. The Church then is a picture of the Gospel to the world. If you really think about this, this is what Paul is saying to Timothy – and to the believers at Ephesus: The Church is the Gospel made visible. Therefore, protect it. That is why Sound Doctrine is vital.

Paul then presents the Gospel in a short testimony: v 15 is the thesis statement here: 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…

In Chapter two Paul discusses they way believers should act, but look at chapter three. Here, Paul presents the structure that has been established over the next 20-25 years from Acts 12 on… You can see the same thing in Titus.

Chapter three establishes two offices for the church:

  • Elders – Let me introduce them to you, especially for the guests. (Active & Inactive)
  • Deacons – Deacons – (Active and Inactive)

In comparing the two, not just here, but throughout the New Testament, we find one main difference between the two offices. You ready for this? A deacon is to be held to the same basic qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Let that sink in for a moment. A deacon is to be held to the same qualifications as an elder, with the exception of one trait: the elder must be able to teach. Why this one difference? Answer: Because of their responsibility. Elders are given charge of Sound Doctrine. They are responsible for the spiritual aspects of the church. They must give great care to their teaching and to those they place in positions of teaching.

Deacons on the other hand are concerned with the physical aspects of the church. Their leadership is to care for the physical. In Acts we see them caring for the widows. They are to be no less godly than the elders. They are to be no less holy. The standard of character is just as high.

In Acts 6 the qualifications are simple:

  1. Men – I mention this because this is the only place I find this; later, we’ll see deacons and deaconesses. I know we don’t have them in the Baptist church, but I suspect that is more from culture than God’s word. Let me say, I’m not advocating for deaconesses today, I’m just saying in Scripture we find deaconesses. Let’s set that aside for a moment and focus on Acts 6. They were to be Men.
  2. A good reputation: which by the way, is with those inside the church and outside the church.
  3. Full of the Holy Spirit – don’t pick lost men. Don’t pick ungodly men.
  4. Wise – men full of wisdom. This means they use their knowledge well.

Already, you’ve limited the amount of men who can serve. But 1 Timothy 3 gives us more. Rd v 8

  1. Dignified: that is, they are worthy men, honored men, respected in the church and in the community.
  2. Not double-tongued: picture a forked tongue, like that of a snake. A tongue that offers curses and blessings. Not like that.
  3. Not addicted to much wine: I think this means not an alcoholic. They are not controlled by alcohol. It isn’t that they won’t have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer after mowing the lawn. It is that alcohol doesn’t consume them.
  4. Not greedy – for dishonest gain. That’s important. Our deacons serve as counters of the offering. They rotate regularly each week. But it is more than that. Your deacons will be responsible for contracts, hiring out work to be completed. You don’t want to pick men that are out to get a kick back.
  5. Solid Believers. They hold to this faith – this mysterious faith of ours with a clear conscience. And that faith is evident in their daily lives.
  6. They’ve been tested. Don’t put an unproven man into this position. The men you pick should be men who’ve proven themselves in these areas already. They have been faithful over time.
  7. Their wives must be qualified. Don’t pick men whose wives are gossips or busy bodies. I have known men who couldn’t serve as deacons because of their wives. Their wives must be like them – dignified, honorable, not diabolos, and faithful in all things.
  8. The deacons should have a stable marriage and home life. Some people take this to mean ‘having been married one time’. They say a divorced man shouldn’t be a deacon. I don’t think that is the definition here. Let me explain. The Gk simply says: a one-woman man. μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες; That doesn’t help us. No, I don’t think this means one woman at a time. I think there is a principle here – not a letter of the law. The principle is finding men who are faithful and trustworthy. They prove that over time. For a man to be married to the same woman for 20 years can be a sign that he is faithful. That may not be the case, but it is a sign. So, you take all of these character traits, these qualities and you establish a pattern of faithfulness, honesty and integrity.

app.: Please hear me: I’m not saying every man who has been married longer than 20 years is deacon material. I’m saying that is one sign. Their wives must also serve as a sign. Their testing over the years is another sign. Their faithfulness as solid believers is another sign. The fact that they’re not greedy or alcoholics are more signs…and the list goes on.

t.s.: You take all of these quality characteristics and size the man up. And you pick from there.

III.    An Appeal: The Church must pick some men to serve as deacons.

exp.: It is time. In the coming weeks, the deacons will present you with a list of names. They’re going to ask you to:

  • Pray over these men. The list will not be exhaustive. You can pray over each man and his family.
  • Use this passage as a checklist. Mark off men who don’t size up. See which men rise to the top.
  • The deacons are going to ask you to select a number of men to serve with them. I don’t know how many. It could be three. It could be seven. But based on your prayers and your evaluation, select men to serve. The deacons will then assess the men you’ve chosen. They’ll find out who is willing to serve, because you may select some who will say no. They will bring back a final list of those you’ve selected, that they’ve interviewed and determined fit and ready to serve. You’ll then have the final say with a vote.

One final word: don’t assume that men who’ve served before will automatically serve again. If you don’t select them, then they won’t be asked to serve. That is vital. Deacons serve only at the pleasure of the church. Deacons don’t go get deacons. They don’t ask their buddies. They don’t even ask men who’ve served before. They will follow your directions. So, pray, evaluate, and choose – men from among yourselves and we will appoint them to this duty of service.

Conclusion: I mentioned earlier that the church is the gospel made visible. That message is that Christ died for sinners. Paul claims to be the worst of all sinners and even he found forgiveness – his testimony is to the goodness and grace of God. I want to offer you that grace and forgiveness.

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