The Word of the Week – The Ephesian Elders
“The pastor ought to have two voices: one for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.” – John Calvin
In Acts chapter 20, we find the apostle Paul temporarily residing in the city of Miletus while on his way to Jerusalem. In verse 17, the apostle calls for the elders (church leaders) of the church of Ephesus to come and meet with him. Paul knew that he would not see these men anymore (v.25) and takes the opportunity to charge them in exercising their God given duty to both guard and protect the church.
For many, the idea of a church leader being responsible for guarding and protecting the church (rather than merely preaching a sermon once a week) may seem foreign and shocking – nevertheless this idea is taught throughout the Scriptures. Let’s briefly look at Paul’s charge to these men.
The phrase, “Be on guard,” refers to the elders standing watch over themselves and the congregation. The word also can refer to maintaining a proper course (like a ship). How are elders to protect and guide the church? They are to protect it doctrinally and morally by seeking to maintain a pure membership and also to lead the church according to Biblical mandates.
In case anyone would object to the authority invested in the elders of the church, the apostle Paul reminds them that it was God Himself that had given them this authority – “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers”. If God has ordained that leadership within the church is to exercise and maintain a Biblical level of authority then who are we to argue with God?
The author of Hebrews also instructs his readers to submit to godly leadership – Hebrews 13:17 NASB Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
Elders, are you leading with Biblical authority and maintaining the purity of the congregation doctrinally and morally? Do you protect it from threats both internal and external? Do you lead the church according to the Scriptures? Christian, are you giving the proper place to Biblical authority and submitting accordingly?
Let us remember that the church is not ours to do with as we please – rather it is, “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Therefore, let the way in which the church conducts itself be in accordance with the Word of God and not the opinions of men.
The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation, by Spirit and the Word:
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.
The Church’s One Foundation
Samuel J. Stone 1839-1900
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