LEADING US INTO GOD'S PURPOSES
In our lives there are some key relationships that assist us in becoming a
complete person. These key relationships are essential to our development as a
person. If these key relationships are absent, we face major obstacles in our personal
development. If these key relationships oppose us, we face major problems in our
personal development. If these key relationships bless us, we mature naturally into the
person that we are capable of being.
Two of those key relationships are our relationships as a child with our mother
and our father. There is no way to exaggerate the blessing of being loved and
encouraged by both mother and father. There is no way to exaggerate the personal
problems created by being ignored or rejected by either mother or father.
In our spiritual lives there are some key relationships that assist us in becoming
a complete spiritual person. These key relationships are essential to our development
as God's son or daughter. If these key relationships are absent, we face major
obstacles in our spiritual development. If these key relationships oppose us, we face
major problems in our spiritual development. If these key relationships bless us, we
mature naturally into the spiritual person we are capable of being.
There are several key spiritual relationships. One of them is being a living part
of the relationship between a congregation and a kind, godly, loving elder. Any
Christian who is a part of that relationship is powerfully encouraged to mature
- We know that the first congregation, the church in Jerusalem, had elders.
- Initially the Jerusalem elders worked with the apostles in providing
leadership for those who believed in and were baptized into Jesus Christ.
- This probably was not new to Jewish Christians because Jewish elders
exercised a key leadership role in Israel from the earliest days of their
- The fact that the Jerusalem congregation had elders is well documented in
the book of Acts (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4, 22; 21:18).
- But we know nothing of how these men came to be recognized as elders or
what their leadership responsibilities were.
- We know they worked with the apostles (Acts 11:30; 15:2,4,22).
- We know they received reports on mission efforts (Acts 21:17-20).
- We know they helped settle disputes among Christians (Acts 15).
- We know they attempted to get Jewish Christians to accept Paul as a
Jewish Christian (Acts 21:17-26).
- But no scripture specifically states the role and function of the Jerusalem
elders as leaders.
- We need to pause here and focus on something obvious but seldom
- The function elders served among Christians in the first century and the
function elders serve today typically do not have a lot in common.
- In my understanding, in the first century, Christian congregations did not:
- Own property.
- Have church buildings.
- Have legal recognition as a religion.
- Consider what that obviously meant.
- They did not have elders' meetings that focused on property issues.
- They did not have elders' meetings that focused on church buildings.
- They did not have elders' meetings that focused on meeting legal matters.
- God's purposes were centered in people in the first century.
- Does that mean that it is wrong for leadership to address property issues,
church building issues, or legal matters?
- All of those are a part of the reality of our existence.
- Then what does it mean?
- It means if we want our elders' time and energy to be focused on property
and buildings that they are not focusing on the concerns and purposes of
the early church.
- It means that the original work of elders focused primarily on caring for
- Paul is the first person to provide us insight into the role and focus of
- Paul and Barnabas completed their first mission trip by going to each
congregation established on that trip and appointing elders (Acts 14:23).
- At the conclusion of Paul's last mission trip, Paul asked the elders from
Ephesus to meet him in Miletus.
- When they came Paul did basically three things (Acts 20:17-35).
- He reminded them of the nature of his work among them.
- He stated that he would not have opportunity to visit with them again.
- He gave them a specific charge.
- We could spend some quality time considering the way Paul worked and
understanding why he would not be back.
- We need to note something very important in his charge because it gives
us a key insight into the work and role of elders.
- This is what I want you to see and consider in Paul's charge to these men
who were elders in the city of Ephesus. The verse is Acts 20:28.
- The context:
- The elders were to be on guard for themselves and the flock.
- The congregation at Ephesus was the flock.
- They occupied the work and role of elders by the appointment of the Holy
- The congregation would be endangered by men who were concerned
about themselves but not about the congregation--these men would
behave like wolves killing sheep.
- Some of these destructive men would be some of them.
- They needed to be alert.
- Now look at verse 28:
- NAS--they were to "shepherd the church of God."
- KJV--they were to "feed the church of God."
- RSV--they were to "care for the church of God."
- TEV--they were to "be shepherds of the church of God."
- NIV--they were to "be shepherds of the church of God."
- JB--they were to "feed the church of God."
- NEB--they were to be "as shepherds of the church of the Lord."
- The imagery of the whole charge is that of a shepherd.
- Christians were the "flock" or the sheep.
- They were to provide oversight, which is what a shepherd did.
- They were to see that the flock was fed, which is what a shepherd did.
- They were to be alert and vigilant, which is what a shepherd did.
- In the first statement that gave a charge to elders, it is obvious that elders
provided leadership and care for believers.
Very soon you will be selecting men to lead us as our elders.
- A couple of years ago we did a series of lessons on elders.
But please keep this in mind as we prayerfully approach our decision.
- We saw that in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that those qualifications were not
intended to be a check list.
- They were descriptions of men who were capable of being spiritual guides in
the city of Ephesus and the city of Crete.
- We will quickly make those lessons available to anyone who wishes to study
What do we want these men to do? We want them to lead us to greater
- We want spiritual men with godly hearts who care about people.
- We want men that you respect and trust as God's men committed to God's
word and God's purposes.
- We want men that you would approach with your personal struggles in the
confidence that you would be understood, encouraged, and helped.
- We want them to help us be living sacrifices as we place our lives on God's
altar (Romans 12:1).
- We want them to help us fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1 says the law
of Christ is to bear one another's burdens.
- We want them to help us fulfill the royal law of loving our neighbors as
ourselves (James 2:8).
- We want them to help us make Christ Lord of our hearts and to be able to
explain to people why we let him be Lord (1 Peter 3:15).
- We want them to help us be God's living temple that allows God's Spirit to
live in us (1 Corinthians 3:16).
- We want them to help us be a kind, tenderhearted, forgiving people who act
like Jesus acted (Ephesians 4:32).
- We want them to help us rescue the struggling, restore the fallen, and help
anyone find strength and hope in Jesus.
Follow me very carefully, because this is all related.
- Many times Jesus stressed the fact that God increases His gifts to those
who use His gifts to serve His purposes.
If we want God to send us more people to help, we need to diligently serve and help
the people God has sent us.
- This is the principle: God increases opportunity for those people who use
what He gives them for His glory and purposes.
- Matthew 25:29 For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an
abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be
- Matthew 13:12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an
abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from
- Mark 4:25 For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not
have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
- Luke 8:18 So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be
given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away
We must add men to our eldership who believe that God will give us opportunities
when we will use them for His glory.
- Jesus helped every kind of struggling person that God wants us to help in the grace,
the forgiveness, and the hope of Jesus Christ.
- Jesus helped every kind of person from the demon possessed to the public sinner, from
the adulterer to the divorced, from the spiritually misguided to the ignorant.
- God will draw to us those who struggle with evil when we will help them.
- God will draw to us those who struggle with sexual sin when we will help them.
- God will draw to us those who struggle because of failed marriages and homes
when we will help them.
- God will draw to us those who struggle spiritually when we will help them.
- God will draw to us those who struggle in ignorance when we will help them.
- Just like Peter was directed to Cornelius in Acts 10, just like Paul was directed to the
struggling, Jesus will direct people to us when we can and will help them find
deliverance from their struggles in Jesus Christ.
- "David, do you really believe that?"
- With all my heart.
- "Why?" Because I have spent my entire life watching God do that.
- We need men to lead us as we learn how to help more people.
- We need men to guide us so that God says of us, "Let me send him there; they will
help him. Let me send her there; they will help her."
[Prayer: help us be the kind of congregation to which You entrust more people.]
Two requests: help us find that kind of man to join our elders. Help us increasingly become that
kind of congregation.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 11 June 2000
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