Our elders play an important role in our churches. They may sit in a separate row during the worship service in order to supervise the service and to make sure the minister is bringing us the Word of God as He has revealed it to us in the Bible. What qualifications are necessary for being an elder, or for that matter, a deacon? First, the person in question must be a man.  God has given some men the ability to rule over others in a Godly way and to provide solid spiritual leadership and guidance.  There are plenty of churches such as the CRC that allow women to serve in this capacity. These churches go against the teaching of the Word of God concerning office bearers. Just as men, God gives to women gifts and abilities to use in the church, but the important service of women in the church is different from that of men. “A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach…. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their own children and their houses well” (I Timothy 3:2,12). Secondly, an elder must be able to lead his own family spiritually and instruct them to behave in a Godly way. ” One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”(I Timothy 3:4,5). Additionally, he should have a good reputation outside the church as being an honest, decent man. If he runs his own business, he should do so in an ethical, honest manner.  An elder should be willing to give himself to the service of the church as much as he is able to do so.  This means many nights of long meetings, and sometimes setting aside other his other interests for a time. My dad serves as an elder and has put choral singing aside while he serves as an officebearer. This is not to say that the office of elder is drudgery. There certainly are tough times, such as discipline cases that result in excommunication or which come very close to that. There are however, many joys for the elder of the church. First, there is spiritual growth in his own life, as he studies God’s Word to help  him in the discharge of his office. Secondly, there are baptism requests and people who desire to make confession of faith. There are also those who left the church for a time, but wish to return and demonstrate genuine repentance in doing so . Thirdly, the faithful elder will and should earn the respect of the church’s members. The members of the church should also be on their guard against men who abuse the power of the office to serve their own ends. I am thankful that we have not had this problem very much in our Protestant Reformed churches. Nevertheless, it is something that we should bear in mind. ” Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they that labor in the word and doctrine”(I Timothy 5:17). Finally, there is the reward of heaven, where all faithful elders will be told by God “…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21b). Respect the office of  elder! These men faithfully give of their time to make sure that we as members of the church live the way that we are supposed to live. Pray for them that they may use their office rightly and may we blessed by their labors.
Kevin Rau

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