Where Do Elders Come From?

churchFrom the beginning of the church, there were designated leaders. And though given various names (e.g., elders, pastors, overseers) they served the same function. As God-given leaders of God’s flock (Acts 20:28) and under-shepherds to the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1–4), these men were called to model the faith before God’s people and to teach the word of God, protecting God’s children from error and bolstering their faith in Christ.

A cursory reading of the New Testament shows how important these men were. In Acts we find elders in Jerusalem (11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6; 21:18) and Ephesus (20:17). When Paul planted churches in Galatia, he appointed elders in each church (Acts 14:23). In correspondence with Titus, he told him to appoint qualified overseers in the churches on Crete (Titus 1:5–9). Similarly, Timothy received instruction on the qualification of overseers (1 Timothy 3:1–7) and instructions for removing unqualified elders (5:17–23).

Even before Paul wrote his Pastoral Epistles, he had called churches to care for those who taught them (Galatians 6:6–9) and to honor those who led them (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13). Similarly, James, Peter, John, and the author of Hebrews all spoke in various ways about the office of the overseer/elder/pastor (see James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1–4; 2 John 1; 3 John 1; Hebrews 13:7, 17). In short, the New Testament says a great deal about this important role, and it does so because the health of the church depends on those who lead them with God’s Word.

Yet, for all that it says about the office, we should ask another important question: Where do elders come from? Thankfully, the New Testament is not silent on this question. Just as it describes how to recognize an elder, it also describes where they come from. And faithful churches (and the elders who lead them), will be aware of how God raises up elders.

Where Do Elders Come From?

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A Beautiful Household (pt. 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves (1 Timothy 2:8–10)

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A Beautiful Household (Part 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves

Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” On Sunday we had a good chance to apply that passage, as we saw how 1 Timothy 2:9–15 is profitable for all God’s people.

Unfortunately, Paul’s words about men and women have often been misunderstood, misused, and even denied. Some have used this passage as a proof text to keep women quiet in church. Others have rejected Paul’s words because it smacks of male patriarchy. All in all, this passage IS a difficult one. Yet, we can make sense of it by paying attention to the context of 1 Timothy.

In the flow of Paul’s letter, these verses play an important role of showing how gospel-centered men and women worship God together. In this way, 1 Timothy 2 is not meant to give a place for men to exclude women from learning, speaking, or filling key roles in the church.  It is meant to affirm the goodness of men and women and the complementary ways they serve God together.

On you can listen to this sermon online. You can also read a couple important blogposts about these verses. And below you can find a few response questions with additional resources. Continue reading

Say What, Paul? Six Things 1 Timothy 2:8–15 Does Not Mean

glass8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

[This is the first of two posts on 1 Timothy 2:8–15. These posts are meant to complement the two sermons I am preaching on this passage at our church.]

A lot has been said, could be said, and needs to be said about 1 Timothy 2:8–15, but many of things said have either been misleading or just plain wrong. This is true for feminists who deny the apostolic witness of Paul, evangelical feminists (egalitarians) who affirm his apostleship but restrict his words to Ephesus, and traditional Christians who have demeaned women by so vociferously proving the point that women cannot teach men in the church, they have effectively denied the vital place of women—and women teaching, see Titus 2:3–5—in the church.

In scholarship, the most thorough explanation of this passage has been the book Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, edited by Thomas Schreiner and Andreas Köstenberger. If you are studying this passage, this is a must-read. I have found much help in it and highly recommend it.

What follows cannot replace a thorough multi-discipline study of the passage. What I do want to do is outline a number of ways we must not read this passage. Without claiming to have a full grasp of everything in 1 Timothy 2:8–15, therefore, here are six things the passage does not mean or imply. Tomorrow, I’ll add another six. Continue reading

Take Care of the Truth, For We Are All False Teachers in Training (1 Timothy 1:3–7)

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Take Care of the Truth, For We Are All False Teachers in Training (Sermon Audio)

All the Scriptures, but especially the Pastoral Epistles, talk a lot about false teaching. 

This shouldn’t surprise us. If the gospel is the priceless message of salvation in Christ, then false teaching and false teachers are the gospel’s greatest threat. Yet, false teaching is not just what we may find on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), it is found in our own hearts and it threatens every church.

On Sunday we considered 7 False Teachers in Training (or temptations to falsehood that may be resident in our hearts). I argued that sound doctrine leading to a pure heart and a loving church is the best protection for truth. You can listen to the sermon here. Response questions are below, as are some additional resources. Continue reading

Mercy: The Theme Song for God’s Household (1 Timothy 1:1–2)

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1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
— 1 Timothy 1:1–2 —

Mercy: The Theme Song for God’s Household (1 Timothy 1:1–2)

Am I not merciful ?!?!!

I could not help but think of these words from the emperor in the movie Gladiator, as I heard the governor of Virginia publicly defend the right to terminate a life after a child was born.

This recent defense of late term and post-term abortion (read: infanticide) reminds us that our culture and its leaders are confused about the meaning and value of life. But our world is also profoundly unmerciful!

For too many reasons to list, pride and exploitation surround us. And unless God delivers us from the cruelty of our age, we will continue to be engulfed by impatience, harshness, and hatred. Even those decrying the wickedness of abortion often do so with angry rage. Oh how easily we conflate righteousness with unrighteousness.

Considering this, the Bible gives us many ways to grow in grace and mercy. And this week’s sermon focused on this theme of mercy in the book of 1 Timothy. Introducing the book, we consider the grace of God in Paul’s life, the peace-making ministry of Timothy, and the message of mercy in 1 Timothy.

You can find the sermon online and response questions below. I have also listed a few helpful resources on the book of 1 Timothy. Continue reading

Why Non-Pastors Should Study the Pastoral Epistles

livingchurchThis Sunday our church begins a new series in the book of 1 Timothy. In six chapters, 1 Timothy contains a great deal of instruction about the gospel, false teaching, men and women, life together in the church, and how to recognize godly leaders.

1 Timothy is often grouped with two other Epistles– 2 Timothy and Titus. Together these three letters are known as the “Pastoral Epistles.” They are written to two of Paul’s sons in the faith (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4), ministers of the gospel sent by Paul to Ephesus and Crete for the purpose of building up those churches. As a matter of fact, Timothy and Titus are not so much pastors themselves but envoys sent out by Paul to confront error (1 Tim 1:3-7), preach sound doctrine (2 Tim 1:13; Titus 2:1, 15), further the faith of God’s elect (Titus 1:2), and give health and life to the household of God (1 Tim 3:14–16).

From this synopsis, one might get the impression the Pastoral Epistles are only for pastors, or at least for those working in the ministry. One might conclude they have little relevance for the stay-at-home mom or the data analyst. Such a conclusion would be premature, for they actually have great application for all Christians. And what follows are five reasons why every Christian should read them, study them, and apply them. Continue reading

A Family of Believers Centered on the Gospel (Galatians 1:6–10)

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A Family of Believers Centered on the Gospel

On Sunday our elders proposed a new church mission statement. At its core is the commitment is to be a “Family of Believers Centered on the Gospel.” In preparation for that “roll out,” I preached a sermon on Galatians 1 and the importance of protecting and proclaiming the gospel.

Here’s the sermon audio, with a few additional resources and response questions.

The Gospel Proper

Theological Triage: A Way to Keep the Gospel at the Center

Response Questions

  1. What is the letter to the Galatians all about? Why does the tone matter? How does it teach us to think about the Gospel?
  2. Who is Paul writing to? And why does that matter? (Hint: the church is ultimately responsible for their doctrinal beliefs).
  3. What is the gospel? Read Galatians 1:4; Romans 1:1–7; 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 for reference.
  4. How can we deviate from the Gospel? How have you turned aside—in belief or practice? How have you seen churches deviate? What do we learn from Peter’s example (read Galatians 2:11–14)?
  5. How does a church keep the gospel at the center? What role does a statement of faith play in that? What about a mission statement?
  6. Read over the mission statement and the associated Scriptures. What would you add or edit in this statement? Talk about how keeping these truths before us helps us keep the gospel at the center.
  7. Pray for the church and for our focus on the gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Reading the Bible Better in 2019

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The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
— Psalm 19:7–11 —

On the eve of 2019, I want to share a new podcast that our church will host in the new year. In conjunction with our church-wide Bible reading plan, which is based on Robert Murray McCheyne’s classic plan, we are going to offer a weekly podcast that answers questions from the Bible and helps us to read the Bible . . . . and read the Bible better.

If this blog has been helpful to you over the last few years, perhaps this podcast will also be of interest. My hope is to help our church and those who listen in to read Scripture more and better—which I might define as seeing Christ more clearly and more fully in all of Scripture. As Jesus taught his disciples, all the Scriptures point to him (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). Yet, often we can miss how Scripture points to Christ.

For some time, I have found the most helpful books and teachers are the ones who help me see more of Christ from the whole Bible. In this blog, I have sought to share their observations and some of my own with you. In recent months, I have written very little on this blog as I’ve been finishing up a manuscript on a biblical theology priesthood.

That manuscript will be finished, Lord willing, by the end of January. After that I hope to resume more writing here. Until then, and after, I pray this podcast will serve as a catalyst for conversations about Christ from all Scripture and will complement the biblical-theological writing found on this blog.

If you are interested in listening to this podcast, you can find a button on the right side of my website, a webpage on our church website, and (in time perhaps) we’ll be able to link this podcast to Apple or wherever you find your podcasts.

As the hours tick down in 2018, let me encourage you to make plans to read the Bible in 2019. If you don’t have a plan for reading, consider using McCheyne’s reading plan. If you do have a plan, let me encourage you to read the Bible in community—ideally, in your local church. And if this blog or podcast can be of help to you in reading the Bible and reading it with an eye to Christ, then let me know some of the questions you have as you read Scripture. In print or on air, I will seek to answer them, as we seek to know more of Christ together.

Indeed, God’s Word is an incredible gift to us. May we see it as the treasure it is and shape our lives to read it and read it better, so that our wet be changed by it and our triune God would receive the glory he deserves!

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Bread and Wine at the Table of a Righteous King (A Meditation on the Lord’s Supper)

MelchizedekDear Church,

You have been invited to covenant meal—a table set in the midst of hostile enemies. Bread and wine are the food and drink of choice. The host is a righteous king who is lives in the holy city Jerusalem, and serves God Most High as a faithful priest.

When you look at your invitation, the RSVP calls you to renounce your idols and acknowledge the greatness of your host. This table, offered freely to you, is set for those who believe God’s promises and refuse to partner with the kings of this world. Indeed, this table does not communicate righteousness. Rather, it is for those who have been justified by faith in the promises of God Most High.

What is this invitation describing?

If you said, the Lord’s Supper, you’d be correct. And if you said Abram’s meal with Mechizedek, you’d also be right. But how can this be?  How can one description point to two events? The answer is that God ordained the Old Testament events of Genesis 14 to prepare the way for Jesus Christ and the covenant he sealed with his blood and celebrated on the night before his crucifixion.

Therefore, just as learning the history of Passover helps us appreciate and apply the Lords’ Supper today, so does learning the story of Melchizedek and his covenant meal. Continue reading

A Kingdom of Priests: Washed, Worshiping, Working, and Witnessing (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

priestcolorA Kingdom of Priests: Washed, Worshiping, Working, and Witnessing (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9)

Are you a royal priest? How do you know? What is a kingdom of priests? And how does that really apply today? Is this title for individuals? Or should it be a community identity?

Many questions swirl around the biblical idea of priesthood. And on Sunday we considered Peter’s words to the church: “You are a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). In examining his words, we learned that they go back to Exodus 19:6 and come in the context of worship on the mountain God.

By examining Exodus 19:6, therefore, in its original context and comparing it to 1 Peter 2, we were able to learn how God makes a priestly people, what a kingdom of priests do, and how this title of royal priesthood applies to us today.

You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below. Continue reading