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

All that thou commandest us we will do

After Joshua received the word from the LORD that he was to lead the children of Israel across the Jordan and conquer the land of Canaan, he got busy right away.  He commanded the leaders under him (to the “officers of the people,” Joshua 1:10) to prepare themselves for the journey and battle that lay ahead. He said “Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals [food – JH]; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it” (vs. 11). Finally! After forty years of wandering aimlessly in a desert, living in tents, dying by the thousands, they were to enter into the promised land. They would be able to settle down on the plot of land given them by God, raise their families, and cultivate the earth.

                Naturally, they were excited, joyful over the prospect of God’s promise being realized. Note how they respond to Joshua:

And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and withersoever thou sendest us, we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage. (vs. 16-18)

What confidence they exhibit in Joshua! Over the course of the forty years the children of Israel had learned to submit to Jehovah. Don’t forget that the reason Israel had spent so much time in the wilderness was because they had failed to trust in the power of God to give them the land of Canaan, and they had desired the wealth of Egypt instead. Now they were ready to enter into Canaan, God had humbled them. In his commentary on these three verses, John Calvin says this:

Indeed, it is not so much to herald their own virtues [the Israelites – JH] as to extol the authority of Joshua, when they declare that they will regard him in the same light in which they regarded Moses. The groundwork of their confidence is at the same time expressed in their wish or prayer, that God may be present to assist his servant Joshua as he assisted his servant Moses. They intimate that they will be ready to war under the auspices of their new leader, because they are persuaded that he is armed with the power and hope that he will be victorious by the assistance of God [emphasis mine – JH], as they had learned by experience how wonderfully God assisted them by the hand of Moses.

                Do we trust God? Do we trust him to lead us to victory? Do we trust the officers that God puts over us and that God strengthens? Your minister, elders, and deacons were given to you by God, do you ever think about that? Now, that is not to say that we mayn’t be evaluating what they are doing and saying, so long as our evaluation is in light of the Scriptures; after all, we must be on guard lest a false prophet sneak into our midst. Nevertheless, it ought to give us pause before we criticize, demean, or gossip about those who hold offices in the church. What about in the home? Do you honor your father and mother? They have been given to you by God. They hold authority over you for your good. We need to remember that God uses the leaders he has put over us to lead us to victory! Ultimately, we already have victory in Jesus Christ. We are justified because of his death and resurrection. But Jesus Christ leads you to victory in your own struggles against sin, the world, and the devil. This is sanctification! One of the means he uses to sanctify you is the leaders he has put over you. Let’s be submitting to the leaders God has put over us, and thereby let God lead us to victory!