Thursday, October 14, 2010

grammatical millstones

In past times as I have grown to see Jesus more clearly I have also grown in my desire to serve others.  It makes sense that I would resemble Him more as I see Him and His example. Jesus demonstrated this in His life and ministry and as I have understood more fully my union with Him I notice His Spirit moving me to live for others. I want to be a servant and a minister. I have been taught that this is the role of a deacon in the church.  With this knowledge my mind moved in the direction of being recognized as a deacon so that I would have more opportunity to serve the body. Yet, I have consistently been wary of moving in that direction because I perceived within myself that my desire to serve was being replaced by a desire to be recognized so that I might be sought out for service.

Now that I gather with believers in a more participatory fashion, my desire to serve hasn't diminished but it is no longer being answered with a desire for recognition.  Sure, when I serve others it is a joy to see the recipients of God's grace glorifying Him due to my ministry and the praise of His glorious grace should be my desire in all I do.  My difficulty comes in knowing how bent I am for my own praise and recognition and it seems that positions and titles only promote this kind of self exaltation and all in the name of Jesus!

Maybe we should think of words such as minister, deacon, pastor, shepherd, elder, leader and teacher as adjectives (describing a person) rather than prepositions (positions a person is in) so that the works are magnified rather than the person.  Maybe then I would have been free to serve without feeling as though I had to be recognized as qualified before I obeyed.  I can't blame grammatical error for my own sins of ommission.  Still though, if I am not alone in feeling unqualified because I am not recognized then in light of the consistent admonishment and exhortation for all members to serve one another we read in scripture, maybe we should hand a millstone around our necks next time we participate in an ordination for causing little ones to stumble.
Agree?  please share your experience

Disagree?   Is there scripture I should consider more that would help shape my understanding? 


  1. Pretty strong statement: "maybe we should hand [sic] a millstone around our necks next time we participate in an ordination for causing little ones to stumble."

    Acts 14:23 - Paul Appointed elders (notice, he didn't describe them as such, but rather appointed them - i.e. gave them a position) and "commended them to the Lord", which is what is happening in an ordination of an elder.

    1 Timothy 5:22 - Paul warns Timothy to not lay hands on too hastily. The laying on of hands in this passage is widely understood, and in context is pretty clear, to be the appointment (ordination) of elders to the church.

    Titus 1:5 - Titus is commanded by Paul to appoint elders to the church, not just describe the men in that position. They are appointed to an office.

    Acts 6:1-6 - The Apostles are calling on the church to appoint men to the office of deacon, not simply describe men who have serving gifts. They are given a specific office with a specific role.

    1 Timothy 3:5 - Elders are called to "manage" the church - this is the work of an office, not simply the description of an individual.

    1 Timothy 3:10 - Deacons are to be tested for a time prior to them being recognized (i.e. appointed) as deacons to be sure that they meet the qualifications for the office. Otherwise, every Christian man could be called deacon because the qualifications of a deacon describes a biblical man.

    The magnifying of a person as opposed to the work of God is an issue of pride and self-service, but certainly does not necessitate eliminating the offices of the church that God has clearly defined in His Word. A desire to be recognized as pastor/elder or deacon instead of Christian is sinful - but that does not negate the fact that God has called the church to appoint these men to these offices. Because one sins when the church follows the biblical exhortation to lay on hands and commend a man unto the Lord for a specific office (i.e. ordination) does not mean the church should tie a millstone around its neck - it should rather call the one who is in sin to repentance.

  2. covenental,

    Thank you for the scripture references. It is a necessary reminder of the necessity of elders in the local body.

    I realize that my statement is a strong one. I stated it that way (not referring to the misspelling of "hang" as "hand" of course (-: ) because of the prevalent practice of dividing the body of Christ into clergy and laity. If the appointment of elders in the church today looked like those you have faithfully pointed to here in the scriptures, then who could argue? Sadly though, often in institutional churches today, this is not the case.

    You repeatedly refer to the appointment of elders into an "office" as though the office carries with it some level of recognition or authority in and of itself. Nowhere in the New Testament is an elder ever called an office. Overseeing is a function not a role, position or office. When you refer to ordination as the filling of an office you are reading your traditions into the text.

    Elders are necessary in the Church. There is no doubt about that. The fallout comes when we take this necessary function of one of the many members of the body and elevate it to the front and center that all may hush and listen.

  3. People are people and this is true even amongst the "forgiven" and we just can't help falling prey to pride and desire for recognition from time to time...this is not always sin, but can easily cross the line...hence the admonition in Matthew 6:1-4. I have been know to remark ever so often, when this scripture comes to mind..."I did something "good" once, but I won't tell you what it is"...*; )

    So much for funnies...Covenantal is correct in upholding the organizational structure of the church....Where sin enters in, it is an issue between the "office holder" and God....Those of us not holding the office should extend grace with honor to said holder unless an obvious sin is egregious enough to require intervention for the protection of the body...

  4. Nancy,

    While sin is something every believer has to battle, that is not the point of my post. Ordination for a church office and whether it has benefits for the life of the church is what I'm getting at.
    Please show me in the scriptures where prideful recognition is not a sin.
    I also would like to see where someone in the New Testament holds an "office" in the Church.

    I'm afraid there is alot of tradition being read into the text.

  5. So, now it's prideful to hold a church office, is that what you're saying? Strange indeed.

    The church offices come directly from the Scriptures as well as what is known from church history. The earliest writings of the church fathers show that offices were appointed in the churches. Why else would Paul have written instructions about the church to Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus?

    What does it mean to you to appoint someone, but give them absolutely no authority to work out their responsibilities? That renders their position meaningless.

    I think you're trying too hard to find "tradition" in everything so you have something to reject because whatever your experiences have been in the church thus far haven't scratched your itch.

  6. @Covenental-What I said was that the function of an elder is never considered as an office in the New Testament. Why someone would seek to be positioned in such an office is known only by the One who knows the hearts of men. I'm certain that there are many that have climbed into these positions with righteous motives but that doesn't change the fact that the function of an overseer as a position and office is foreign to NT scriptures. ¶In response to your other points: One doesn't need authority or position in order to function as a respected overseeing shepherd in the church. Timothy was a more of a traveling apostolic worker with and following after Paul than the man up front, authoritative head over all that we associate with the term pastor today. You're right, I haven't been satisfied with the churches that I have been a part of and so I am questioning all my traditions in light of the scripture. According to Jesus, we can make the word of God void by our traditions.

  7. Where do you get your understanding of what/who Timothy was? Everything in the books of 1 and 2 Timothy point to his position as pastoral, not some "traveling apostolic worker". Are you suggesting that Timothy was an apostle? Do you understand what the criteria for apostleship was?

    You have yet to address the fact that elders were ordained to their position as elders. "Elder" is synonymous with overseer, bishop, and pastor ALL words used in the NT. Every single one of them implies authority, leadership, oversight (hence, "overseer")... to suggest that this is not a NT principle is ignorance at best. This is the very reason that the writer of Hebrews writes, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you." Obedience and submission are unnecessary if there is no authority granted, thus an office filled.

    If your problem is semantics, fine - just call them elders and don't say they fill and office. But to deny the significance of their role in the church body amongst many other gifts is completely contrary to the Bible. It's not a more important role, it's one of many within the church. But it is one with authority, oversight, and the gift of teaching for the common good of the body of which those who are elders will have to give account for.

    I don't know you, but I really do hope that you'll find someone around you that has more knowledge in the Scriptures than you. Many who have attempted to "abandon their traditions" have ended up in cults and heresies because they could never be satisfied with what God has provided. Have you considered that your problem is not tradition, but authority granted by God to men and the authority of God himself?

  8. @covenental-we a diverging from my OP in too many ways. Time limits me in how much I can respond to you. Let me sum it up this way: my post is meant to make readers think about our practices and why we do what we do. I'm still thinking and studying my way through this myself.

    If you are not challenged at all by my post and you are fully convinced that you have the correct understanding of scripture and I am whacked out in mine, then there is nothing you could possibly learn from me. This makes your questions pointless and this conversation unedifying for either of us.

    I used to understand these thing much in the same way you seem to, like a heirarchy. Now I see in sripture that submission in the church is to be toward one another mutually and all authority in the church to belong to Christ alone.

    Yes elders should be appointed because they have a particular function to carry out in the life of the church. That function is to lead, shepherd, and oversee the flock that is in their care. If you want to continue discussing whether or not an elder is ever called an "office" in the NT then the challenge is all yours to bring it. I have tried and I can't find it. This subject has been dealt with in length by others with much more time to answer your objections than I have. If you would like I could point you in that direction.

  9. Bobby, I'm sorry I'm opening back up a past discussion, but I just read your blog for the first time. In light of I Timothy 3:1, I'm a bit confused as to how you are drawing some of your conclusions.

    "I Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task."

    In Paul's instruction to Timothy, he is clearly stating that anyone can aspire to be an elder, that being an elder is a noble task, and that it is considered an office. Of course, he then instructs on the qualifications which tells us that though anyone can aspire, not everyone is qualified.

    I guess I'm curious how you would interpret this verse.

  10. @Tamara-please no apologies sis. These topics are fresh on my mind everyday and I need to engage them as much as possible. I thank you for your direct yet humble question. If you think you are should try wrestling with some of the things I am pressing through first hand.

    In Paul's instruction to Timothy, he is clearly stating that anyone can aspire to be an elder, that being an elder is a noble task, and that it is considered an office. Of course, he then instructs on the qualifications which tells us that though anyone can aspire, not everyone is qualified.
    I guess I'm curious how you would interpret this verse

    This is one of the verses that seems to clearly lay out authoritative roles within the body of the church. This is especially so when we couple it with the titles and headings that are added to the scripture, such as "qualifications for elders". But these things do not exist in the scripture as penned by the apostle. As for the passage in question, I see no good reason to interpret the greek word episkopē
    into to the office of overseer, especially when the immediate context says that it is a good work that he aspires to do. There is no word that means "office" in this passage. In fact there is nowhere in the NT that an elder is ever called an office. A better translation (IMO) would be If anyone is given to oversight, it is an good work he desires to do.

    It is also beneficial to consider at this time that Paul then gives Timothy the characteristics (not qualifications)of an elder. This is likely so that Timothy could better discern who was being behaving as a member of the household of God and therefore overseeing in a manner that would lead to more godliness.

    Does that help you understand a little better where I'm coming from?

    Is there anything else you would like to ask?


As in a biblical church gathering, my word is not complete or final. Participation is allowed, encouraged and expected. Please, don't leave without adding something.