Sunday, January 13, 2013
2nd John Part 1
1:1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;
Though a number of scholars believe the beginning of this verse is in reference to “John the Elder” a disciple of John’s, I don’t believe such an explanation is necessary. John is merely, through his letter, reminding the saint he is writing of his position in the church. Like Peter he is a fellow elder among other things, 1st Peter 5:1.
I would like to address the concept of the elder in the church at some length. I have already noted that the title “pastor” is referenced only once in the KJV or NKJV NT in Ephesians 4:11. This appears to rather be another name for elder, as Acts 20:17, 28 indicate. One looks in vain for further mention of the term “pastor” in the New Testament. Rather, we find the ordination of elders throughout the Roman world wherever the church spread. Whenever Paul passed through a city he appointed not pastors, but elders in the church, Acts 14:23. When the great debate about keeping the Law of Moses arose in the church it was to the apostles and elders of Jerusalem that the contention was brought, Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22. The matter was settled by the apostles, the elders, and the brethren (or whole church), Acts 15:22-23.
We find listed in 1st Timothy the criteria for becoming a bishop, synonymous with being an elder, 1st Timothy 3:1-8; Titus 1:5-9. In fact Titus 1:5 declares that Titus was commanded by Paul to appoint elders, also called bishops in verse 7, in every city. Titus wasn’t a pastor, but rather apparently a traveling evangelist and church planter with Paul, who was helping to strengthen the recently founded churches in Crete by providing doctrinal direction and finding men with impeachable characters by whom each local church could be led; not by one single man, but by a plurality of elders. Verse 5 is explicit: elders ought to be appointed in every city (every church). Paul adds that elders who rule well ought to be counted worthy of double honor, 1st Timothy 5:17; the elders who have been called to labor in the word especially.
Peter states the same thing when he calls on his fellow elders to shepherd the church of God they have been entrusted over serving as overseers willingly and eagerly, 1st Peter 5:2. Nor are elders meant to be lords over the flock entrusted to them, verse 3. This is the same language Paul addresses the Ephesian elders with (Acts 20:17) when he says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood,” Acts 20:28.
The letter to the Philippians is written to “all the saints who are in Philippi, with the bishops (elders) and deacons,” Philippians 1:1. All of Paul’s letters otherwise are addressed to individuals or to all the saints, or simply, the church. The glaring absence of a pastor as we define one today is, I think, highly conspicuous.
We notice this pattern in embryo during Jesus’ earthly ministry. He chose not one but twelve apostles and they were equals. He said men have one Teacher (Christ) and all were brethren, Matthew 23:8-10. Calling anyone “father” in the sense that it elevates him above the congregation in esteem is breaking the plain command of Christ. The RCC, Lutherans and many others clearly reject Jesus’ command not to clothe anyone with titles Jesus reserved for Himself. Christ wanted to force the clergy/laity mindset from our heads and place the congregants on equal footing. The Pope stands in the precarious position of being elevated where no man ought to be, and it stands in stark contrast to God’s revealed word about the responsibility and function of an elder. Likewise, a pastor can easily be (and tends to be from my own experience) a private Pope in his own church, incapable of reproof since they alone stand over their flock.