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Old 09-11-2008, 10:51 PM   #1
Peter Debelak
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Default Eldership

My focal interest is what kind of structure of gathering the Lord is after and even whether there is a particular structure at all that He prescribes in His word. Does the Lord prescribe that each of us meet in a formally recognizable congregation (and therefore, if we no longer meet in the LC, must find another one)? Or is His call to something less specific - as general as 1) were two or three are gathered and 2) don't forsake the gathering of yourselves together.

On this broad question - whether the Lord prescribes "groups" as such - we could all argue all day long. However, I think another means by which to determine whether the Lord prescribes we meet in a formal congregation/group/etc... is whether He prescribes the eldership as an office. That is, if He prescribes the eldership, then He necessarily prescribes that we are members of an outwardly identifiable congregation (the only other possibility, if he does in fact prescribe the eldership, is that he only does so when saints determine to gather regularly as a consistent group, but I'll bracket this possibility for now). So, if the eldership is a prescribed office, then observable congregations are also prescribed - and if so, each of us should be in one and under an eldership.

So, that said, I wish to pursue the question of whether the office of eldership is one which is prescribed in the NT, or whether its presence in the NT (which no one can deny) is a description of circumstance, or just a pattern (but not a prescription) of healthy practice.

The two competing lines of thought on this are summed up:

1) The apostles obviously did appoint elders (thus, eldership seems to be an office and the apostles deemed them necessary)

2) eldership was a Jewish office and the Jewish tradition relied much on order and structure. The early Christians adopted and merged many of the Jewish practices and structures with the early church practice (many early church leaders were likely Jewish elders, or at least used to being under Jewish elders...). To the extent that these tradition were powerful and not easily purged (and not inherently unhealthy), Paul and the other apostles permitted it and, to the extent they were permitting it, gave instructions to guide the most healthy exercise of an otherwise unnecessary practice.

This second point could be restated: the early Jewish Christians were stuck on keeping the tradition of Jewish elders - and, at that, they were prone to let some "wolves" into that position - so, to the extent they were stuck on this tradition, which had potential for destruction, the apostles said "fine, if you're going to insist on your traditions, let's at least lay out some healthy guiding principles for choosing elders..."

I submit that it is not obvious from the scripture that either of these views is right. But does the scripture lean in one direction more than another?

Thoughts?

In Love,

Peter

P.S. I will state here that I don't think the office of eldership is prescribed. But I will add that I don't think the Lord is against being a member of a "group." And, whereever the Lord leads us, there may be some folks there that, situationally (or even most of the time), to whom He wants us to submit. We don't look for it because its prescribed. We follow His leading which may, in some contexts, entail submitting ourselves to others. I add this P.S. lest anyone think that this inquiry into eldership is an attempt to eschew all restraint in favor of an "individualistic" Christian life. Even if someone believes that their only prescription is to simply follow the Lord's leading as an individual, does not mean they won't be lead to be part of a group and under an eldership...

P.P.S. If the eldership is prescribed, then that means that formal recognizable congregations are also prescribed and that each individual must be under an eldership. Of course, that doesn't answer the question of which congregation... which is a question being wrangled with all over this forum...
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Old 09-12-2008, 03:47 AM   #2
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The two competing lines of thought on this are summed up:

1) The apostles obviously did appoint elders (thus, eldership seems to be an office and the apostles deemed them necessary)

2) eldership was a Jewish office and the Jewish tradition relied much on order and structure. The early Christians adopted and merged many of the Jewish practices and structures with the early church practice (many early church leaders were likely Jewish elders, or at least used to being under Jewish elders...). To the extent that these tradition were powerful and not easily purged (and not inherently unhealthy), Paul and the other apostles permitted it and, to the extent they were permitting it, gave instructions to guide the most healthy exercise of an otherwise unnecessary practice.

This second point could be restated: the early Jewish Christians were stuck on keeping the tradition of Jewish elders - and, at that, they were prone to let some "wolves" into that position - so, to the extent they were stuck on this tradition, which had potential for destruction, the apostles said "fine, if you're going to insist on your traditions, let's at least lay out some healthy guiding principles for choosing elders..."

I submit that it is not obvious from the scripture that either of these views is right. But does the scripture lean in one direction more than another?
Peter:

Can you please provide a good citation or citations you may have as to the latter view?

This is my recent speculation. I've been digging into the so-called pastoral epistles with this as a working thesis. I've corresponded briefly with a British theologian on the issue and, thusfar, I've got no proof of synagogue custom at all. I point to the mention of the "widows roll" as potential evidence of this premise. But I'd hate to spend the next 10 years studying first centurty synagogue custom if I don't need to. I posit that the supposedly well-developed "church offices" seen in the supposedly later "pastoral epistles" were in fact earlier practice with heavy synagogue influence, just as you have said here. But I'm not aware of anyone besides myself, and now you, who has put forward this postulate in a serious fashion. I think this could be a key to understanding both \ekklesia\, as you have suggested here, as well as \apostolos\, which is commonly understood as the top office. I've intended to get to elders and deacons at some point but I'm ready to join in with you on elders right now to see if we can make some headway there.

I think many of us here are in agreement that something went tragically wrong when all the elders signed that letter of allegience to brother Lee in 1986. A sober consideration of what is an elder may shed additional light into that unfortunate event.

I look forward to hearing from you!

PS: Just to keep us on track, Strong's does not include the word "eldership" at all. The word "apostleship" does appear, in a very few limited places. In my opnion, that provides at least some good evidence that there is no such thing as an "eldership" at all: "eldership" is not in the Bible. I know, I know, neither is "trinity."
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Old 09-12-2008, 06:31 AM   #3
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I submitted the "geese" form of leadership on another forum (I was 'alan' there). I said that when geese are flying, the stronger one takes the lead to 'cut' the air for the others, then when it gets tired it falls back and another one takes the lead for a bit.

Some are naturally more constituted to lead than others. But nobody is relegated to the "lead" position 24/7. You can shift. You can say, "I'm tired. Gonna fall back for a bit." And someone else gets to lead for a while.

The disciples, post-resurrection, were in this position. Someone needed to wait on tables, someone needed to study the word for next week's meeting, to share something from the Lord. Unfortunately it got, what is the word? Ossified? Calcified? Bureacratized?

I know! Organized! Unfortunately, they organized. My thesis is that to whatever extent the believers organize, to that extent the Spirit is hindered. God allows it, yes, but His blessing is diminished.

There is always leadership. Always. But do we organize the leadership? If we do, we end up with popes, bishops, and "apostles of the age"...

If you have something to say, say it. If not, step back and listen. The Lord will always provide leadership for the flock. But to expect someone to speak for God 24/7 elevates man to a place reserved for Christ alone. This seems to be what happened with Lee. A good, useful brother got sucked into a role not meant for sinful man.
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Old 09-12-2008, 07:11 AM   #4
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Peter:

Can you please provide a good citation or citations you may have as to the latter view?
Well, I...uh...well, this is just my speculation and I have not seen it seriously posited elsewhere.

It comes from my study of the Greek word "presbuteros" and its use in the NT.

Presbuteros is used nearly 70 times in the New Testament. Of that number, almost half are clearly referring to leaders within the Jewish community. In the Jewish society of Christ’s time presbuteros was used to refer to the respected leaders of the community, the synagogues and the Jewish Sanhedrin. Such common phrases as "traditions of the elders," "elders of the people," "priests, scribes, and elders," "elders of Israel," are such examples.

It seems to me to be pretty self-evident from the Word that "eldership" was part of the Jewish tradition, even if not official offices in the synagogue.

I don't think that my hypothesis has to be right, it only has to be possible - for, as such, then it would be impossible to say that "eldership" is prescribed.

I'll post more soon, I just wanted to follow up with this quick note...

Peter

P.S. aron, I do like the flock analogy and have some further thoughts on it, but not much time now to post. Grace to you!
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Old 09-12-2008, 11:14 AM   #5
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Well, I...uh...well, this is just my speculation and I have not seen it seriously posited elsewhere.

It comes from my study of the Greek word "presbuteros" and its use in the NT.

Presbuteros is used nearly 70 times in the New Testament. Of that number, almost half are clearly referring to leaders within the Jewish community. In the Jewish society of Christ’s time presbuteros was used to refer to the respected leaders of the community, the synagogues and the Jewish Sanhedrin. Such common phrases as "traditions of the elders," "elders of the people," "priests, scribes, and elders," "elders of Israel," are such examples.

It seems to me to be pretty self-evident from the Word that "eldership" was part of the Jewish tradition, even if not official offices in the synagogue.
OK, so then, that makes two of us.

But there you go! The question I'd ask in that context is why would the appointment of elders fall to an apostle post-synagogue. Was there a practice of such appointment by someone else?
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Old 09-12-2008, 11:15 AM   #6
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I came across a "defense of the rule of Elders" recently, in which the author set up the framework for this inquiry thus:

"The Bible is the rule of faith and practice. This fact constitutes a reason to accept its descriptions of certain features of church organization as normative unless there are compelling reasons to feel that they are not. The burden of proof rests on those who hold that the patterns are merely descriptive."

I don't have a problem with the burden of proof being on me to put forth "compelling reasons" to feel that church organization, as described in the Bible, is not normative. The first is not an historical or factual one, but rather a logical one:

Formal church structure, it seems to me, is logically contrary to the New Covenant.

You cannot say there is a prescription of obedience to anyone other than Christ and still maintain that there is, in fact, a New Covenant wherein the only Head of the Body is Christ - who indwells every believer and makes them into the new priesthood.

That does not mean that Christ, within each believer, will not lead a believer - even potentially all believers - to enter into a particular structural arrangement - but that is a description of someone obeying Christ within - not a prescription of obeying a normative structure. Some may say this is "mere semantics" - I say it is absolutely not.

SOme, who are convinced that "eldership" is prescriptive, use the prior practice of "eldership" in the Jewish tradition as positive evidence (not negative evidence, as I would) that eldership in the church is prescribed. Here is one such example:

"It can be plausibly argued that the reason why the New Testament is not more explicit in regard to church government is that it presupposes, as prescriptive, familiar principles of organization in use in the Old Testament, the synagogue, and perhaps in Hellenistic institutions. "

This approach, it seems to me, gives short-shrift to the massive paradigm-shift that was Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection.

Thoughts?

Peter

P.S. the two above quotes are from The Biblical Case for Elder Rule by
Dan Dumas, Executive Pastor of Southern Baptist Church. This article (outline actually) can be found here
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Old 09-12-2008, 11:26 AM   #7
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OK, so then, that makes two of us.

But there you go! The question I'd ask in that context is why would the appointment of elders fall to an apostle post-synagogue. Was there a practice of such appointment by someone else?
I should rephrase my answer:

I have seen support for the proposition that the church-structure was inherented from the synagogue pattern - I just haven't seen this proposition be used for the further proposition that church-structure in the New Testament is therefore merely descriptive and not normative.

Here's some background on "elder" in the OT and into the NT:

Prominent member of both Jewish and early Christian communities. In the Old Testament, “elder” usually translates the Hebrew word zaqen from a root which means “beard” or “chin.” In the New Testament, the Greek word is presbuteros, which is transliterated in English as “presbyter” and from which the word “priest” was derived.

Elders in the Old Testament From the beginning of Israelite history, the elders were the leaders of the various clans and tribes. When the tribes came together to form the nation of Israel, the elders of the tribes naturally assumed important roles in governing the affairs of the nation. Moses was commanded to inform the “elders of Israel” of the Lord's intention to deliver Israel from Egypt and to take the elders with him to confront the pharaoh (Exodus 3:16,Exodus 3:18). Similarly, seventy of the elders participated with Moses at the covenant meal at Sinai (Exodus 24:9-11). As the task of governing Israel grew in complexity, part of the burden was transferred from Moses to a council of seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-17).

During the period of the Judges and the monarchy, the elders were prominent in the political and judicial life of Israel. They demanded that Samuel appoint a king (1 Samuel 8:4-5); they played crucial roles in David's getting and retaining the throne (2 Samuel 3:17; 2 Samuel 5:3; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:11-12); and they represented the people at the consecration of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8:1,1 Kings 8:3). In the legal codes of Deuteronomy the elders are responsible for administering justice, sitting as judges in the city gate (Deuteronomy 22:15), deciding cases affecting family life (Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Deuteronomy 22:13-21), and executing decisions (Deuteronomy 19:11-13; Deuteronomy 21:1-9).

Although elders were less prominent in the post-exilic period and the term was apparently not much used in Jewish communities outside Palestine, the “council of elders” was an integral part of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem. In the New Testament, frequent reference is made to the elders of the Jews, usually in conjunction with the chief priests or scribes (for example, Matthew 21:23; Mark 14:43). In this context the elders, apparently members of leading families, had some authority but were not the principal leaders in either religious or political affairs. Elders did have leading roles in the government of synagogues and after the fall of the Temple became even more central to Jewish religious life.

Elders in the New Testament In the earliest Jewish Christian churches, at least the church in Jerusalem, the position of “elder” was almost certainly modeled after the synagogue pattern. Although there are few specific details about the function of elders in the Jerusalem church, they apparently served as a decision-making council. They are often mentioned in conjunction with the apostles, and some passages give the impression that the apostles and elders of Jerusalem considered themselves to be a decision-making council for the whole church (Acts 15:1; Acts 21:17-26). As the Jewish character of the Jerusalem church increased with the departure of Philip, Peter, and others more amenable to preaching to Gentiles, the synagogue pattern probably became even more pronounced in Jerusalem.



- - from Holman Bible Dictionary found here (admittedly, I do not know the pedigree or reliability of this source - but the references check out!).
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Old 09-12-2008, 11:35 AM   #8
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Some, who are convinced that "eldership" is prescriptive, use the prior practice of "eldership" in the Jewish tradition as positive evidence (not negative evidence, as I would) that eldership in the church is prescribed. Here is one such example:

"It can be plausibly argued that the reason why the New Testament is not more explicit in regard to church government is that it presupposes, as prescriptive, familiar principles of organization in use in the Old Testament, the synagogue, and perhaps in Hellenistic institutions. "

This approach, it seems to me, gives short-shrift to the massive paradigm-shift that was Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection.

Thoughts?

Peter
Can't I manage to post anything without using the phrase "universal church"?

Nope.

Rome is the ultimate source of the post hoc continuation doctrines of this sort, my friend, and "short-shrift" is a massively-kind understatement.

You and I are in solid agreement on this point. It really seems to me that the problem of the continuation of administration is ultimately what we're talking about.

Wish I had time to do more right now but I will apply myself in this direction as soon as I can...
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Old 09-12-2008, 11:39 AM   #9
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If "eldership" was inhereted from the Jewish custom, then Christ's words in Matthew 15 could shed some light on the normative/descriptive nature of eldership:


1 Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus (B)from Jerusalem and said,

2"Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they (C)do not wash their hands when they eat bread."

3And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

...
12Then the disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?"

13But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.

14"Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit."


Thus, I would say that if the "eldership" does not have an independant NT prescriptive foundation (as opposed to being an inhereted OT prescription), then it got abolished with Christ (at least as a prescription).

Except, I'm not sure how then to reconcile Matthew 23:1-3:

1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,
2saying: "(B)The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;
3therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.


The bolded sentence is odd and I'm not sure how to comport it with the rest of Matthew 23 (or Matthew 15):

8"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.

9"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

10"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.


I think these passages should be at the forefront of our minds in any interpretation of potential "offices" in the church.

Peter

P.S. YP: I haven't the first clue - regardless of the descriptive/prescritive nature of eldership - why their appointment would fall to the apostles if the practice was derived from Jewish tradition. I don't know if there is an analogue
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Old 09-12-2008, 12:39 PM   #10
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Elders in the New Testament In the earliest Jewish Christian churches, at least the church in Jerusalem, the position of “elder” was almost certainly modeled after the synagogue pattern. Although there are few specific details about the function of elders in the Jerusalem church, they apparently served as a decision-making council. They are often mentioned in conjunction with the apostles, and some passages give the impression that the apostles and elders of Jerusalem considered themselves to be a decision-making council for the whole church (Acts 15:1; Acts 21:17-26). As the Jewish character of the Jerusalem church increased with the departure of Philip, Peter, and others more amenable to preaching to Gentiles, the synagogue pattern probably became even more pronounced in Jerusalem.[/COLOR]


- - from Holman Bible Dictionary found here
Scant evidence for making the connection between the two "elderships," however. "Almost certainly" doesn't quite do it for me, although it DOES show a contradiction within that entire school of analysis whereby the supposed "offices" are later features of assembly practice, which is an important consideration that I have been grappling with. If it is "almost certainly" something derived from synagogue custom, transmitted through the Jewish believers in the assembly at Jerusalem, then that's a very early feature, not a very late, potentially post-apostolic, one.

Hmmm.

See, this is why I'm keyed in on the "widows' roll" concept. It's so distinctive that if it finds itself firmly ensconced in common synagogue practice, it then becomes far less unreasonable to propose that other items, such as an appointed eldership, find their source in a similar place, specifically, in a traditional practice of first-century Palestinian Judaism.

This would really make several things make a whole lot more sense, in my opinion, not the least of which is Paul's subjugation of the functioning of the sisters by means of an appeal to the Law...
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Old 09-12-2008, 05:19 PM   #11
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Formal church structure, it seems to me, is logically contrary to the New Covenant.

You cannot say there is a prescription of obedience to anyone other than Christ and still maintain that there is, in fact, a New Covenant wherein the only Head of the Body is Christ - who indwells every believer and makes them into the new priesthood.

That does not mean that Christ, within each believer, will not lead a believer - even potentially all believers - to enter into a particular structural arrangement - but that is a description of someone obeying Christ within - not a prescription of obeying a normative structure. Some may say this is "mere semantics" - I say it is absolutely not.
You got my vote on this one, and kudos to you for stating what I have inchoately held in mind for some time, and have tried to stammer out to all and sundry.

Ad hoc structure is one thing - there are always situations that need structure. Someone to wait on the tables, someone to study the word for next week's meeting. But to formalize the process quenches the leading of the Spirit, and ruins our ear for Christ. We end up with the Rule Book (Bible), and the Designated Promulgators of the Rules. Sounds a lot like the Scribes with the scrolls of Moses and Isaiah, and we know how that turned out!

Every time I come into a "room" with Hope and TJ present I am aware of my "elders", and I do acknowledge that. But to formalize is to formaldehyde-ize God's living and vital (and adaptable) arrangement. I don't like that. (Most folks probably know this already, from reading my posts. But I'm happy to repeat myself!).

Look at John's letters to the seven assemblies of the called-out ones in Asia. Six out of the seven are called to repent, only one is asked to hold fast. Lest you think these collections of saints are not a representative sample of a wider problem, read Revelation 1:3: "Blessed are those who read the words of this prophecy, and who keep them." John is writing to us all.

If Diotrephes had not been there, wanting to be first, someone else would have stepped in and filled the role quite nicely, I am sure. John and James had been there before, wanting to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus; John now was aware how deep the problem was. It was rooted in the fallen human nature. The old man had waltzed into the New Age of Christ, and his formalization of the gatherings of saints exemplified this tendency to build things in his own image, try as he might to replicate God's Christ.
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Old 09-15-2008, 09:22 AM   #12
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I don't have a problem with the burden of proof being on me to put forth "compelling reasons" to feel that church organization, as described in the Bible, is not normative. The first is not an historical or factual one, but rather a logical one:

Formal church structure, it seems to me, is logically contrary to the New Covenant.

You cannot say there is a prescription of obedience to anyone other than Christ and still maintain that there is, in fact, a New Covenant wherein the only Head of the Body is Christ - who indwells every believer and makes them into the new priesthood.
I was considering your point, and my response, and decided I had a better word for what I am addressing here. You used the word "formal", as in 'formal church structure'; I had used the word "organize", and others.

I decided I like better the word "institution", or "institutionalize", as a good label to capture what might be happening here. We believers gather, or rather are gathered, by our Shepherd. We are "assembled" together, as when you buy a bicycle for your son and it says "Some assembly required". God is assembling us together. Naturally, some are "elders" and some are "youngers". Fine.

But what we have tended to do is "institutionalize" these relationships. We create institutions out of our assemblies. So at first, a man has a ministry to transfer to his neighbors, who have been languishing in darkness; he shares, or ministers, something of the reality that has come to him in Christ Jesus. Fine. But then he mistakenly institutionalizes his ministry, and those to whom he ministered eventually end up not ministering Christ to one another, but rather serving "The Ministry", an institution, rather than the Lord.

I see the question of eldership in this light. Having a ministry is not wrong. In fact, it is probably necessary. You want to serve God. Wonderful. Also, having elders is not wrong on its face. As I said, when two or three gather, one will be elder, one younger. But do we need to institutionalize the process? I think the NT gives us a description of what happened, not necessarily a prescription to follow. The apostle John, I believe, realized this trend, and wrote about it. As I said in the previous post, the epistles to the seven assemblies in Asia are meant to be read by all, not merely those seven. The call to 'repent' is a broad one.

And not unrelated, I think, are the two great women in Revelation. One is seen in chapter 12, clothed with the sun. She is the glorious assembly of the called-out ones. The woman riding the beast in chapter 17, clothed in scarlet and having a golden cup full of abominations, is the institutionalized "church".
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Old 09-15-2008, 12:04 PM   #13
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I regret not pursuing this matter as earnestly as I have intended but I have not forgotten about it and do intend to come back to it.

The thing is, I was wrestling with the "pastoral epistles" in brief, partly in relation to this topic, and now I find I have to take another step backwards and come back to the book of Acts, which has become somewhat of a longer detour than I had anticipated. I have come across a quite convincing argument that Acts is the factual background for the legal defense of Paul and his faith before the Roman court under the accusations of the ruling Jewish authorities. I'm not interested in discussing that theory in detail at present but having a better handle on what happened in Acts seems to me to be a necessary precursor to being able to say anything much about the "pastoral epistles" and what they might have to say on the topics of \presbuteros\, \apostolos\, \ekklesia\ or what-have-you.

Since in the New Testament we do have the practice of the appointment of elders, I don't know at this point how we could say that this isn't something of an institutionalization. If it was merely about who was eldest, how and why is there an appointment by an apostle? Within me, I feel it must be as has been fellowshipped here but without the confirmation of the scriptures, I don't know what to do with my sense.

Can anyone show where the term "elder" merely means "one who is somewhat more experienced and knowledgeable in the faith" rather than "one who bears a commissioned position of leadership"? I believe practically all of our brothers and sisters in Christianity would say that the second definition is the proper one and I think, at least superficially, I have to agree that is what the scriptures seem to demonstrate.

I don't think prescriptive vs. descriptive is merely semantic but I think you have to nevertheless contend with the likes of the Local Church, for instance, asserting that, yes, the Bible describes what we do and it is not because the Bible says to do it that way that it is done but because we have felt led to do this and this is also approved in the Bible.

Where does this get us, in other words? Don't you end up, once again, with that horrible contention previously traversed around here about who's got the right "church" and who's got the right "eldership" and the right checkbook and such? The solution cannot be in that realm whatsoever, is my sense. And yet, weren't there the false brothers who stole in to spy out our freedom in Christ? What shall we say in response to those who might support the "eldership" of a "false brother" in our midst?

I think it must be simpler than I'm making it but at present I don't know how to make it simpler.
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:43 PM   #14
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I don't think prescriptive vs. descriptive is merely semantic but I think you have to nevertheless contend with the likes of the Local Church, for instance, asserting that, yes, the Bible describes what we do and it is not because the Bible says to do it that way that it is done but because we have felt led to do this and this is also approved in the Bible.

Where does this get us, in other words? Don't you end up, once again, with that horrible contention previously traversed around here about who's got the right "church" and who's got the right "eldership" and the right checkbook and such?
Just some thoughts on this specific part of your post (more thoughts on the rest and in response to aron later).

I agree with you that even if we could agreet that the church structure in the NT is just a description, that does not mean that groups today shouldn't have that same structure. Indeed, as you have pointed out, they could simply say, "Yes, we know the Scripture doesn't prescribe our way of doing things, but this is how we've been lead and the Scripture approves it."

That, however, does not inherently lead us to the debate about who is "right" etc... That stance inherently allows that different "groups" may have different leading concerning structure (or lack thereof) and solong as none of them violate the explicit prescriptions, then all are fine. It is when groups want to superimpose their self-admitted personal leading upon other groups that the problem arises. If they self-admit the bible doesn't prescribe a structure, and that their group (and presumably all groups) are permitted by the Word to organize according to the Lord's leading, then there is no standing to criticize others: all these groups, with potentially different organizational structures (none of which contradict Biblical prescriptions) should co-exist without a debate on who is "right." As soon as a group begins arguing about who is "right" - they are implicitly arguing the Bible prescribes their structure, which they admitted was not the case... Follow?

More later...

Peter
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Old 09-15-2008, 01:53 PM   #15
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Scant evidence for making the connection between the two "elderships," however. "Almost certainly" doesn't quite do it for me,...
Doesn't cut it for me either. The case is well footnoted (w/ scripture) all the way up until making this crucial link, which is supported, it seems, by "well, duh...right?"

But there is an element of "duh, of course the structure was inhereted from Judaism." The more important question then would be: well, which way does that little fact cut?

I just read an article about how much Jesus utilized the synagogic structures for the spread of his ministry - as evidence that Jesus condoned the perpetuation of that structure even after the gospel...

I'll write more thoroughly on why I disagree...

Peter
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Old 09-15-2008, 02:18 PM   #16
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Just some thoughts on this specific part of your post (more thoughts on the rest and in response to aron later).

I agree with you that even if we could agreet that the church structure in the NT is just a description, that does not mean that groups today shouldn't have that same structure. Indeed, as you have pointed out, they could simply say, "Yes, we know the Scripture doesn't prescribe our way of doing things, but this is how we've been lead and the Scripture approves it."

That, however, does not inherently lead us to the debate about who is "right" etc... That stance inherently allows that different "groups" may have different leading concerning structure (or lack thereof) and solong as none of them violate the explicit prescriptions, then all are fine. It is when groups want to superimpose their self-admitted personal leading upon other groups that the problem arises. If they self-admit the bible doesn't prescribe a structure, and that their group (and presumably all groups) are permitted by the Word to organize according to the Lord's leading, then there is no standing to criticize others: all these groups, with potentially different organizational structures (none of which contradict Biblical prescriptions) should co-exist without a debate on who is "right." As soon as a group begins arguing about who is "right" - they are implicitly arguing the Bible prescribes their structure, which they admitted was not the case... Follow?

More later...

Peter
I follow and I'll buy it for now. That property stands a bit too close to the border of Greater Utopia for me to be entirely comfortable with it, but I'd love to live there if I thought I could. I don't think I'm really the target market, though. I guess I'm really concerned about where the hard-sell residents will want to live. I think there may be an restrictive covenant covering the neighborhood which precludes such a "live and let live" existence.

(OK, so, sorry about the extended analogy but it was working for me and I went with it. )
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Old 09-15-2008, 02:27 PM   #17
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I follow and I'll buy it for now. That property stands a bit too close to the border of Greater Utopia for me to be entirely comfortable with it, but I'd love to live there if I thought I could. I don't think I'm really the target market, though. I guess I'm really concerned about where the hard-sell residents will want to live. I think there may be an restrictive covenant covering the neighborhood which precludes such a "live and let live" existence.

(OK, so, sorry about the extended analogy but it was working for me and I went with it. )
Does the covenant run with land? If not, we could run all the folks living there off and start fresh without the restrictive covenant in effect. Or we could establish another restrictive covenant - we could call it the New Covenant - which states "for freedom Christ has set me free" and requires all those living on the land to "live and let live to the Lord".

(Stretching my memory to recall property law... shame on you... )
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Old 09-15-2008, 06:39 PM   #18
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... different "groups" may have different leading concerning structure (or lack thereof) and so long as none of them violate the explicit prescriptions, then all are fine. It is when groups want to superimpose their self-admitted personal leading upon other groups that the problem arises.
I have another way of looking at this same issue. Remember Peter's oft-quoted (here, anyway, if not in the LC's) directive that the shepherds of the flock should not lord it over the sheep, but should rather lead by example? Might we not apply that same directive to the different fellowships of believers as well? Some groups will by dint of being there 'first' or having a charismatic leader or simply being bigger want to tell others how they should conduct their affairs. Doesn't that violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Peter's fellowship?

And Peter's word seems strengthened, and widely applicable, by being so in line with the sentiment expressed by our Lord: If you want to be the greatest, you should then become the least. Any collective aggregation of believers that includes in its charter an aspiration to be "great" should seek how to be "least", and "imposing" meekness on others seems to fly in the face of it, doesn't it?

I don't disagree with your logic, either; it just seems that I am using a different train of logic to reach the same conclusions.
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Old 09-15-2008, 10:21 PM   #19
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I have another way of looking at this same issue. Remember Peter's oft-quoted (here, anyway, if not in the LC's) directive that the shepherds of the flock should not lord it over the sheep, but should rather lead by example? Might we not apply that same directive to the different fellowships of believers as well? Some groups will by dint of being there 'first' or having a charismatic leader or simply being bigger want to tell others how they should conduct their affairs. Doesn't that violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Peter's fellowship?

And Peter's word seems strengthened, and widely applicable, by being so in line with the sentiment expressed by our Lord: If you want to be the greatest, you should then become the least. Any collective aggregation of believers that includes in its charter an aspiration to be "great" should seek how to be "least", and "imposing" meekness on others seems to fly in the face of it, doesn't it?

I don't disagree with your logic, either; it just seems that I am using a different train of logic to reach the same conclusions.
The parallel is a very good one. There is just one thing that I wonder about. Even the notion that a leader/shepherd should not "lord it over the flock" entails the notion that the leader is still convinced he is "right" and the "flock" need his guidence - its just, he has to be careful about how he conveys that belief.

In the parallel, then, the various groups would still be convinced their organization/institutionaliztion is "right" (i.e. prescribed by the Scripture) - they just won't brow-beat other congregations about it.

My question is whether the sentiment of being "right" about a structure is healthy in the first place. Thoughts?

Peter
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Old 09-16-2008, 12:25 AM   #20
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P.S. I will state here that I don't think the office of eldership is prescribed.
Allow me to disagree! Eldership is not only described but also prescribed in the New Testament. Take, for example, Heb. 13:17 - "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account..". It is a clear prescription. In 1 Pet. 5:1-2 the elders are commanded to shepherd the flock of God, serving as overseers. And they are promised the reward from the Lord for their service. Then 1 Tim. 3:1 says that if a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. And then we are given qualifications of a bishop. I am convinced that eldership is not some kind of Jewish hangover, but a very important principle for the church life.

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P.P.S. If the eldership is prescribed, then that means that formal recognizable congregations are also prescribed and that each individual must be under an eldership.
Exactly!!! Check Heb. 10:24-25! It is very unhealthy to be on our own, or in some kind of small groups that are detached from the rest of the body in our city.

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Of course, that doesn't answer the question of which congregation... which is a question being wrangled with all over this forum...
This matter is quite simple. Be in a congregation where you feel at home, where your gifts are developed, and where you can serve and submit others. But at the same time remember that your group is only a part of the body in you city. Therefore, it is very healthy to seek out fellowship with other Christians and establish relationship with them. That is what I am trying to do. We have a small meeting - where we basically practice house church principles. But I keep in touch with many Christians (including pastors) in our city. Last week I had a spiritual need. Saints where I meet were not available. So I went to a big church in our city. And since I established relationship with many of them, I felt like I was home. They always rejoice when I visit them, and give me a warm welcome. I had a time of worship with them and my need was satisfied.

In my experience, those who are afraid of strong church ties, close relationship with other Christians and being under the authority of leadership are those who were either spiritually abused, or are introvert in their disposition and don't generally like to be around people. It is a serious spiritual problem that must be dealt with. It is especially dangerous when a theological basis is developed to support that kind of attitude.
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Old 09-16-2008, 01:22 AM   #21
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I think it would be best to retain the focus here on what the Bible actually says about "elders" instead of just giving our own thoughts and interpretations about all these other things.

We are, at least, I am, attempting to reexamine preconceived notions, not merely repeat them again.

I wish to know what the Bible says about it.

For instance, the word "eldership" is not in the Bible although clearly many people feel it is so natural to think and act as if it is something prescribed or described by the scriptures.

http://cf.blueletterbible.org/search...ldership&t=KJV

The Bible speaks of "elders" but not "eldership" so I think this is meaningful.

(The term as appears in some translations of 1 Tim 4:14 refers to a group of elders, not an office of elder.)

I would rather stick to what we can learn from the actual scriptures.
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Old 09-16-2008, 01:56 AM   #22
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I wish to know what the Bible says about it.

For instance, the word "eldership" is not in the Bible although clearly many people feel it is so natural to think and act as if it is something prescribed or described by the scriptures.

http://cf.blueletterbible.org/search...ldership&t=KJV

The Bible speaks of "elders" but not "eldership" so I think this is meaningful.

(The term as appears in some translations of 1 Tim 4:14 refers to a group of elders, not an office of elder.)

I would rather stick to what we can learn from the actual scriptures.
It seems that your main objection is with the term "office" (by the way, I always use "eldership" meaning "group of elders"). However, the Word talks about office as well.

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is fine work he desires to do. (1 Tim. 3:1. NASB)

(And we know that elders and overseers are the same in NT).

"The office of overseer" in Greek is episkope. Greek dictionary says: episkope; fem., a purely biblical and patristic word. The office of an overseer or bishop in Christ's Church...

It is interesting that the same word is translated office in Acts. 1:20 where it talks about the office of an apostle - his office let another man take. If you check Ps. 109:8, where this quote was lifted from, then you'll see that the same Hebrew word is used as in 2 Chron. 23:18, where the offices in the house of the Lord are discussed.

So I think that this "there is no word eldership in the Bible talk" is just hair splitting. What really matters is that the church was a community with leadership, and that this leadership was to be obeyed and given honor to. There is no such a thing as the church without authority in the Bible. A person who does not know how to place himself under authority cannot progress spiritually.

What is the biblical authority is quite another matter, but that there is authority in the church goes without doubt.
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Old 09-16-2008, 06:35 AM   #23
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... those who are afraid of strong church ties, close relationship with other Christians and being under the authority of leadership are those who were either spiritually abused, or are introvert in their disposition and don't generally like to be around people. It is a serious spiritual problem that must be dealt with. It is especially dangerous when a theological basis is developed to support that kind of attitude.
I agree. My point is on the institutionalizing of relationships in the fellowship. This leads to abuses, and obedience to "the office" rather than to the Lord. We have seen too many instances of this in the LC's, not to mention in christian history.

I recall the statement, "Philip Lee is the Office", for example. Remember that one?

Also see the thread "Letter from Romania". There, the "Office" is synonymous with "the feeling in the Body".

I am on very good terms with people in institutionalized christianity. Some of them, who don't like each other, think I am on too good terms with "the other party". But anyone who tries to flex thier institutional muscle on me, offering a few flimsy verses to basically say, Because I'm boss and I said so, finds me suddenly uncooperative.
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Old 09-16-2008, 06:53 AM   #24
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What really matters is that the church was a community with leadership, and that this leadership was to be obeyed and given honor to. There is no such a thing as the church without authority in the Bible. A person who does not know how to place himself under authority cannot progress spiritually.

What is the biblical authority is quite another matter, but that there is authority in the church goes without doubt.
Yes, what is biblical authority? Anyone who "jumps rank" and declares themselves to be in charge is disqualified, in my view. Remember the case of Alexander Haig? He was Secretary of State when President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, and famously asserted, "I'm in control here." He later said he was misunderstood, he just meant he was in control of the room with the press asking questions, not the country. But it was a breach in appearance, anyway, and he was censured for it.

Likewise, any christians who assert, "I'm in control here", either individually or collectively, have left thier biblical standing. The Lord said to take the last place at the table, and then let the Master of the feast call you up higher. In this case, the church age, the stand-in for the Master of the feast is the believers. If they get fed and watered and shepherded and encouraged and strengthened and enlightened by you, they are going to invite you up higher, to the place of honor at the table. But if you "impose" your "authority" on them it is unbiblical.

I agree with the statements "There is no such thing as a church without authority in the Bible.", and "A person who does not place himself under authority cannot progress spiritually." But at the same time, I am wary of being bullied, intimidated, and oppressed by someone's twisted apprehension of the term "authority".
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Old 09-16-2008, 07:10 AM   #25
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Biblical authority is determined by our subjection to the authority of the Lord. There is no authority in the church apart from the Lord.

There are abuses of the authority in the church. But to deny authority itself because of the abuses is to go way too far. It is the same as denying parenthood just because some parents abuse their children.
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Old 09-16-2008, 10:24 AM   #26
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(And we know that elders and overseers are the same in NT).
I do know know this.

How do you know this?
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Old 09-16-2008, 12:02 PM   #27
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Biblical authority is determined by our subjection to the authority of the Lord. There is no authority in the church apart from the Lord.

There are abuses of the authority in the church. But to deny authority itself because of the abuses is to go way too far. It is the same as denying parenthood just because some parents abuse their children.
Does the bible treat submission/obedience to spiritual authorities the same as it treats submission/obedience to human authorities?

When I saw "human authorities" - I am speaking of parents, governments, teachers, etc...

Authority for human authorities is static - it resides in the office and is not contingent on the person's acts being right or righteous. Does the Bible treat spiritual authority the same way?

If you say spritual authority resides in "offices", then I think the notion that "There is no authority in the church apart from the Lord" is difficult to maintain. That is, unless you propose that once someone holds a particular "office," then it is impossible for them to do other than the Lord's will. But we know this is impossible and thus, it is hard to maintain both propositions:

1) spiritual authority resides in an "office"
2) there is no spiritual authority apart from the Lord

Finally, do not take arguments here (at least not my arguments) as attempting to debunk spiritual authority. There is always spiritual authority and often it manifests through other believers. I am just discussing whether that authority is always static, in an office, and in a set structure. I wonder whether that view would have prohibited Paul from submitting to Ananias - or any of us being open to the fact that the Lord can speak to us through others, even those who don't hold any "office."

Also, I am not sure what you mean when you say meeting "in some kind of small groups that are detached from the rest of the body in our city." Really, I have no idea what this means - especially not in relation to whether eldership is prescribed. Could you elaborate?

Peter
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Old 09-16-2008, 12:28 PM   #28
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The authority in the church is not in the office. It is in the godly character and the anointing of a minister. When he is appointed for the office, it is just a recognition of the spiritual authority that he already posseses. If he has fallen from the Lord, then, of course, he loses his spiritual authority. But he should be removed by proper means. For example, the Word says that an accusation against an elder should be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
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Old 09-16-2008, 12:50 PM   #29
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Allow me to disagree! Eldership is not only described but also prescribed in the New Testament. Take, for example, Heb. 13:17 - "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account..". It is a clear prescription.
KSA:

Here’s is my framework for inquiry:

The Bible contains
1) Truth
2) Prescriptions
a. For all time (these, then, are like “truth” since they are universally applicable)
b. Situational (these may be imperatives in the Scripture, but are not necessarily meant for all time
3) Descriptions

If a facial reading of a passage seems to establish a prescription for all time, but yet I can contemplate situations where abiding that prescription would contradict a more universal truth, then I gather that the passage must have an alternative interpretation other than being a universal prescription. It may be an imperative sentence structure, but perhaps a situational one. Cf. the “prescriptions” of the Acts 15 creed.

For example, it is a truth that we are all part of a holy priesthood – with direct access to God. Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or "type" of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ--a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ's death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).

But reading "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.." as a “clear prescription” – as a universal prescription, creates real problems. Under what circumstances do I “obey those who rule over” me? In every circumstance, no matter what the command I am to obey? The verse doesn’t make caviats. In fact, a strict reading of the verse implies that even if the leader is wrong, you still should obey – since it says “as to those who must give an account.” This strict reading of the verse means that, even if obeying a leader in some circumstance would violate my conscience, the fact that the leader holds an office to which I am to submit is all I need to know in order to obey. The leader will be held accountable if he is wrong, not me. Do you agree with this reading of the verse? That is it’s most obvious facial meaning. But that obvious facial reading seems to me to contradict the more unviversal truth that there are no mediators between us an God after Christ's death and resurrection.

So, if you don’t agree, under what circumstances can you interpret it differently? I am subjecting verses like this to scrutiny under Scriptural truths I know to be true: such as “there is no mediator between God and me other than Christ Himself” (even if, on occasion, He speaks through other believers). Under the scrutiny of this truth, the strict reading of Hebrews 13:17 cannot stand and an alternative interpretation which comports with that truth is necessary.

You are painting a very black-and-white picture and then passing serious judgments on those who disagree (e.g. “It is very simple….” or “In my experience, those who are afraid of strong church ties, close relationship with other Christians and being under the authority of leadership are those who were either spiritually abused, or are introvert in their disposition and don't generally like to be around people. It is a serious spiritual problem that must be dealt with. It is especially dangerous when a theological basis is developed to support that kind of attitude.”)

It is not that simple. What eldership are you under? One in your house church – or one in the larger group you occasionally go to? Which leaders do you “obey” as “ones who must give an account”? Under what criteria did/could you reject the leaders who were previously over you? (I am not asking for specific answers, I am asking rhetorically). As we get into these questions, it becomes clear that it is not that clear. The governing motivator, in my view, is our personal accountability to God. If He confirms within us to submit to others, we do so – but NOT because they hold an “office,” but rather because we have confirmation within to do so. There will “elders” in the office of “eldership” who you cannot obey – and there will be non-elders who do not hold an office to whom the Lord would like us, in some context, to submit to. It becomes clear that it is not about the ‘office’ or the ‘position,’ but rather the Lord’s leading and command. Thoughts?

In Love,

Peter

P.S. I posted this before I saw your last post. I will consider your reply and respond (but this post is not a response to your last one...)
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Old 09-16-2008, 12:57 PM   #30
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The authority in the church is not in the office. It is in the godly character and the anointing of a minister. When he is appointed for the office, it is just a recognition of the spiritual authority that he already posseses. If he has fallen from the Lord, then, of course, he loses his spiritual authority. But he should be removed by proper means. For example, the Word says that an accusation against an elder should be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
Here is my first thought in response:

If a believer's spiritual authority pre-exists holding an official "office," then why the need to appoint to an "office"? If the believers recognize the spiritual authority as such, why the need to implement a formal structural arrangement? I cannot see the value of "appointing to an office" except in historical context or situationally. It is self-contradictory otherwise, no?
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Old 09-16-2008, 02:15 PM   #31
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Here is my first thought in response:

If a believer's spiritual authority pre-exists holding an official "office," then why the need to appoint to an "office"? If the believers recognize the spiritual authority as such, why the need to implement a formal structural arrangement? I cannot see the value of "appointing to an office" except in historical context or situationally. It is self-contradictory otherwise, no?
I don't know about this word "office" either, BTW, Peter.

I may end up concluding that the Bible says we must have the appointment of elders to the office of overseers in every assembly, for all I know, but I just know that I don't have one single verse that does that and that when you start adding verses together you have to do so carefully and prayerfully.
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Old 09-16-2008, 11:43 PM   #32
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KSA:

For the record, I hope you will press me (and others) on this subject. I am not clear. I do have serious questions that come out of certain convictions that I feel strongly about. But I am willing to be challenged, provided we each approach the Word with a mutuality and not a preconceived assumption of meaning and consequence. We are all, in some sense, "emerging" - some of us with more confidence in how to move forward than others. The one place where I hope we can all have a mutual relationship (rather than a student-teacher relationsihp) is here where we are attempting to re-establish the nature of our corporate life in Christ. Forgive me if I press too hard in the "liberal interpretation" direction. I am open to harsh correction. But I will not necessarily buckle when confronted with a standard interpretation of verses which I have seen abused numerous times. That history - while not dictating my interpretation - does give rise to a desire to re-examine afresh. So, if I resist your classic interpretation of well-known verses, please understand where I am coming from. It is not a rejection, it is a pleading and an inquiry. As always, I appreciate and am pushed positively by your input. I hope it continues.

Grace to you,

Peter
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Old 09-17-2008, 05:04 AM   #33
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A practice of personal transdenominationalism, while laudable and interesting, seems particularly irrelevant to the point. That practice essentially guarantees no offices. Can one practice the one and simultaneously advocate that there must be these things? Isn't that at least partly inconsistent not to mention a recipe for disaster among those weaker in the faith?

Peter, you wanted me to agree that there should be a group-by-group freedom and that there should not be an attempt to impose anything on someone else. Please help me understand how you would have the appointed elders expressed in such a fluid environment. (I'm shying away from the term "spiritual authority" at this point because I don't know that verse either.)

I think you realize that my radical working thesis is that we must not have the old Hebrew artifacts among us, but most of the world will insist that we must.

I believe until now I have understood that you have proposed that we should have among us whatever form of "organization" we feel appropriate and not superimpose that upon others. Well, I'm rejecting anything like an organization while at the same time recognizing what the Bible says about elders and apostles, at least, as problematical to maintaining such rejection.

Peter, you've got a soggy piece of Utopian land. And one or two hard-sells at your open house now.

Go for it.
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Old 09-17-2008, 07:56 AM   #34
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I think you realize that my radical working thesis is that we must not have the old Hebrew artifacts among us,
Nobody in the scriptures opposed "the old Hebrew artifacts among us" more than the apostle Paul. He was persecuted because he refused to preach circumcision. He confronted Cephas with regard to separating from the Gentiles and the holy diet. He wrote that it was up to the individual believer to keep the Sabbath or not.

Yet he appointed elders in every church, and advised Titus to appoint elders in every city. On his way to Jerusalem that last time, he called for the elders of the church to meet with him. He wrote regarding the eldership in the books of Timothy and Titus.

You can make a fair point that the eldership has been abused in the local churches, among the Roman Catholics, and elsewhere. However, in the light of the scriptures, to claim that the New Testament eldership is simply another "old Hebrew artifact" seems more than frivolous.
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Old 09-17-2008, 09:22 AM   #35
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Here is my first thought in response:

If a believer's spiritual authority pre-exists holding an official "office," then why the need to appoint to an "office"? If the believers recognize the spiritual authority as such, why the need to implement a formal structural arrangement? I cannot see the value of "appointing to an office" except in historical context or situationally. It is self-contradictory otherwise, no?
Appointing to an office has several purposes. First, it is a recognition of the gift in the Body. In Acts 13 when the Holy Spirit called Barnabus and Saul (authority given to them), brothers still laid hands on them as an act of recognition and identification. Second, it is more than recognition. According to 1 Tim. 4:4 when Timothy was appointed by laying of hands, he received a spiritual gift and he got a prophecy. And take a notice that it was the eldership that laid hands on him. Therefore, I do not believe that "appointing to an office" is a formal structural arrangement. I believe there is some spiritual reality behind it.

PS. And by the way, the verses that I mentioned where office is clearly mentioned are still not addressed.
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Old 09-17-2008, 09:50 AM   #36
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Paul's appointment of elders is certainly a point that we plainly have before us in this thread. It has been repeatedly mentioned, in fact, by me. But I sure don't want to have a practice like the synagogues did, which, I believe, is what the Roman Catholics have done and which, to my appreciation, has been practiced via one type of hierarchy or another throughout all the centuries of Protestantism as well.

I am not able to find the word "eldership" in the Bible, though, and this is causing me problems at present. So many use this word as if they know what it means, but I do not. I would like to understand this idea as revealed in the Bible itself. I am aware that some denominations teach that elders and bishops are different and I am not ready to just assume they are the same things, as taught by the Local Church. I have gotten to know that the Local Church is not right all the time.

Thus, I cannot find the word "eldership" to refer to an office or position in the New Testament and I cannot equate overseers and elders to say that "overseership" just means "eldership" as some apparently do.
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Old 09-17-2008, 08:07 PM   #37
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A practice of personal transdenominationalism, while laudable and interesting, seems particularly irrelevant to the point. That practice essentially guarantees no offices. Can one practice the one and simultaneously advocate that there must be these things? Isn't that at least partly inconsistent not to mention a recipe for disaster among those weaker in the faith?

Peter, you wanted me to agree that there should be a group-by-group freedom and that there should not be an attempt to impose anything on someone else. Please help me understand how you would have the appointed elders expressed in such a fluid environment. (I'm shying away from the term "spiritual authority" at this point because I don't know that verse either.)

I think you realize that my radical working thesis is that we must not have the old Hebrew artifacts among us, but most of the world will insist that we must.

I believe until now I have understood that you have proposed that we should have among us whatever form of "organization" we feel appropriate and not superimpose that upon others. Well, I'm rejecting anything like an organization while at the same time recognizing what the Bible says about elders and apostles, at least, as problematical to maintaining such rejection.

Peter, you've got a soggy piece of Utopian land. And one or two hard-sells at your open house now.

Go for it.
Quick thought in response:

I think there are two conversations going on:

1) What the Bible sets forth, if anything, as the proper structure in the church

2) How we (each individually) respond, today, in an environment where there exists a multitude of structures, many of which are not in obvious violation of Scriptural prescriptions, but which differ greatly nonetheless

They are only somewhat different inquiries.

I was not advocating, per se, that there should be a multitude of structures (so long as they aren't obviously violative of Biblical normatives). I was only suggesting that, so long as there is a multitude - none of which violate the SCriptures - each group should allow latitude to the others.

As far as what the Bible sets forth as what should be, well, I'm still sorting that out...

So, I don't think I'm in disagreement with your radical working thesis as yet...

Peter
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Old 09-17-2008, 08:13 PM   #38
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KSA:

Testing your position, could you apply the Scriptures you quote to this not-so-hypothetical organization:

A group meets together regularly, does not have formal leadership, but there are numerous believers of more maturity and experience to whom the others quite often defer. Yet, in some matters, and at certain times, some who were "sheep" rise up due to a leading or a burden, and the others give defenrence to his speaking and experience in that matter. As such, the set of those who "lead" in this group is a different "set" at different times (even if usually just a few, recognized brothers). Many members of this group also have frequent fellowship with others in different congregations, including their "leaders".

By my reading of the Scriptures you quoted, this group is in violation of Biblical prescriptions: they haven't appointed anyone to an office; there was no laying on of hands; there is not a definitive "set" of identifiable leaders to whom submission and obedience should be given - but, descriptively, there is - at any given time - much submission and much obedience.

If your identified prescriptions are indeed prescriptions, then this is an unBiblical group. Do you agree?

Peter
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Old 09-17-2008, 08:44 PM   #39
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I will attempt to make my way through the Scriptures which reference "elder" or perhaps "eldership" - because I do acknowledge their obvious place/occurance in the Scripture, and the first glance reading that the Scripture prescribes their existence. I just think that, after 2000 years of traversing the same ground, with persistent and compelling disagreement on this issue, it is a least a little worthwhile to at least entertain another hypothesis... So...

A look at 1 Timothy 5

The context of this chapter is that Paul is speaking concerning the “seniors” of the congregation (i.e. the presbuteros).

Many translations read verse 1 as “Rebuke not an elder…” (GK. presbeturos" and it is assumed that “elder” refers to the man who holds the office of eldership. However, in context of the sentence:

“Do not rebuke presbeturos (m) harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 presbeturos (f) as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

It seems pretty straight-forward that Paul is referring to the elderly – not the “elders” who hold office in a congregation. The chapter goes on to discuss elderly widows (vv. 3-16). This suggest, even more, that the discussion of presbeturos thoughout the chapter, refers to "seniors" or elderly and not the person who holds the position of "elder".

Many read verses 17-20 as Paul referring to those who hold the office of eldership when he says:

17The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,"[b] and "The worker deserves his wages."[c] 19Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

Just a plain reading of this passage, however, the word prespeturos in verse 17 cannot be read as referring to the title of “elder” – but rather just an elderly believer. Otherwise, the phrase is redundant: “the elders who direct the affairs of the church…” The very definition of the “office” of “elder” (if it exists) is that he directs the affairs of the church. Thus, the phrase would read, “Those who direct the affairs of the church who direct the affairs of the church…”. Redunant.

Instead, presbeturos in verse 17 is simply those “elders” (i.e. more mature believers) who have taken up a burden for the church. This may be a shifting set of folks at any given time. When they do so, they are worthy of double honor. An “elder” – if titled as such in an official position – has as his job description to “direct the affairs of the church” – and thus, by this verse, would be “worth of double honor” even when his actions weren’t, in fact, laboring for the church. Thus, the ad hoc reading of “who direct the affairs of the chuch” is one which is linguistically more accurate and, in my view, more righteous – as far as according “double honor” is concerned.

In the light of this reading of verse 1 and verse 17, I have a hard time reading prespeturos in verse 19 as anything other than “elderly believer.” Whether they have an official title or not, the senior believers among us carry a weight of experience and of Christ to which we should afford respect. We should not interact lightly – especially with accusation – against such ones. And that is regardless of whether they have an “official” title/position or not.

So, that’s 1 Timothy 5 – and I don’t think there’s much there that prescribes an “office” of “eldership” – in fact, the more natural reading of presbeturos in this chapter is “senior” or “elderly” rather than “elder/bishop/overseer” etc…

Thoughts?

Peter
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Old 09-17-2008, 09:02 PM   #40
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Nobody in the scriptures opposed "the old Hebrew artifacts among us" more than the apostle Paul. He was persecuted because he refused to preach circumcision. He confronted Cephas with regard to separating from the Gentiles and the holy diet. He wrote that it was up to the individual believer to keep the Sabbath or not.

Yet he appointed elders in every church, and advised Titus to appoint elders in every city. On his way to Jerusalem that last time, he called for the elders of the church to meet with him. He wrote regarding the eldership in the books of Timothy and Titus.

You can make a fair point that the eldership has been abused in the local churches, among the Roman Catholics, and elsewhere. However, in the light of the scriptures, to claim that the New Testament eldership is simply another "old Hebrew artifact" seems more than frivolous.
Toledo:

I just want to make a quick distinction here:

Paul vigorously opposed those "old Hebrew artifacts" which were insidious and undermining of the gospel. It very well could be the case that the Jewish practice of the "eldership" was, in fact, simply inherented by the early church, but was a fairly innocuous practice. If such were the case, it would not be incongruous that the practice was still "an old Hebrew artifact" and Paul nevertheless did not oppose it.

Refusing to eat meat of strangled animals was "an old Hebrew artifact," and yet Paul did not seem to take its presence in the early church as something to oppose in Acts 15. Just because Paul didn't oppose it, or even perpetuated it, does not mean it isn't neverthelss descriptive and not universally prescriptive.

Does that make sense?

Peter
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Old 09-17-2008, 11:12 PM   #41
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So, that’s 1 Timothy 5 – and I don’t think there’s much there that prescribes an “office” of “eldership” – in fact, the more natural reading of presbeturos in this chapter is “senior” or “elderly” rather than “elder/bishop/overseer” etc…

Thoughts?

Peter
Yeah.

You just recently introduced me to the "elders" of the synagogue.

Paul's custom was to preach in the synagogues and he surely knew those "elders" there.

If we can say that the "elders" of the synagogue were merely "older ones" and a more or less fluid group, then I think we might be OK.

But to the extent that such a group was readily identifiable as titled office holders, Paul would need to distinguish his use of the term or it would behoove us to presume he intended the same meaning of the term.

Not necessarily as a direct continuation of Jewish practice, of course, nor perhaps even modeled after that pattern, although this is what I suspect, but simply, as you have noted, regarding the semantic value of the term.

In other words, if you picked up Paul's dictionary and looked up the entry for \presbeturos\, it seems likely that at least the second definition would read something like "an office of the synagogue." If Paul meant to use a different definition, it would seem to be necessary for him to make sure that we weren't confused about the folks who were there with us listening to him speak last sabbath, or at least the analogue among the believers.

Perhaps when speaking to Gentiles you might give Paul a pass on this lingusitical point, but as I recall, Timothy's mother was a Jewish woman and he himself was circumcised by Paul.

There is certainly at least the possiblity of confusion in this context, wouldn't you agree?
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Old 09-18-2008, 12:36 AM   #42
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Refusing to eat meat of strangled animals was "an old Hebrew artifact," and yet Paul did not seem to take its presence in the early church as something to oppose in Acts 15. Just because Paul didn't oppose it, or even perpetuated it, does not mean it isn't neverthelss descriptive and not universally prescriptive.
Yes, and I believe a larger example of what you are speaking about here may be the widows' roll. I am still not certain about the Jewish customs of the day concerning care for the widows but since I'm not really aware of the widows' care being much of an issue throughout the remainder of Christian history, I'm led to believe this may have been more or less a cultural thing among the Jews and subsequently the Jewish believers.

We had at one point in Acts a dissention about the dispensing to these which led directly to the "appointing of the seven" and then we got some really explicit directions from Paul on precisely which women could and couldn't qualify for the assembly's widows' benefits. (Widowers need not apply.) But I'm not really aware of any modern denominational expression of this practice as defined by Paul. I'll admit my probable ignorance but my point would stand that this seems to have been a kind of big deal in the day and it's like it just doesn't exist any longer. Certainly not in our Western culture where it would appear that we have mostly brought the practice onto the side of general civil government, but what about in other nations who don't have something like Social Security and Medicare?

Do believers in less-developed countries have the common practice, or take it as a prescription, that they must maintain a scriptural roll of widows, excluding those under a certain age and requiring a specific set of qualifications? If they practice this in varience to the "apostle's teachings," by what authority might they do so? Can we care for a 58 year old widower but just not officially on the books lest we cross brother Paul?

I don't want to get off topic, of course, but to the extent that there may be a way of having "elders" which is culturally-based, rather than purely Biblical, I would like to identify what that is. If there is merely a Jewish custom of having "elders," I don't need to practice that any more than I need to practice abstaining from strangled animals, maintaining a widows' roll, recommending head coverings for sisters, remaining single and celebate, washing feet, or any number of other Biblical activities which are commonly dismissed as unnecessary for faithful contemporary Christian practice.

By the same token, if we are eventually led to conclude the entire matter that there is indeed a Biblically-based, titled position of "elder" which we must have among us as authentic believers, as essential as assembling itself, a further inquiry is still warranted to describe the complete ambit of such an office, rather than merely relying upon the familiar customs of our culture in having a similarly-named practice. I don't think you can legitimately dismiss the breaking of bread as a mere cultural practice but surely there is something of culture in the way that is practiced by the Roman Catholics. Similarly, if we maintain that there is the Biblical "office" of "elder," we are at least on notice that the way this or that group has their "eldership" doesn't help us define what the Bible says about that at all or, perhaps more importantly, doesn't help us know best practices in our situation.

Thus, that the Bible says that Paul appointed "elders" or even that he defined the kinds of people who should hold "ecclesiastical" offices of "presbyters," "bishops," "deacons," "apostles," etc., is only the very beginning of the inquiry which needs to be undertaken. (Isn't it funny, all those transliterations we can use?)

If every time we ask the question, "How to have elders?" we answer with reliance upon the group that came before us, we will again in short order erect a papacy, I would think.

That's kind of what I see in the Local Church example.
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Old 09-18-2008, 06:08 AM   #43
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Yeah....You just recently introduced me to the "elders" of the synagogue.
You make a point that I was considering even as I posted this. My contention in the 1 Tim. 5 post was not that Paul would never use "prespeturos" to refer to "office of elder" - since I do think there was, in fact, something of an "office" which carried over from Jewish tradition and which Paul even perpetuated. But here, in 1 Timothy 5, I do think that his use of "presbeturos" refers to elderly. I get that it makes sense he would have perhaps attempted to use separate terms, since he did know of and did use "presbeturos" in the sense of an "office." But in this chapter, he refers to elderly women as "presbeturos." Also, I think the point here is that the elderly should be treated with particular respect, regardless of position/title and, when they have particularly labored for the church, they are worthy of double honor. That "prespeturos" does not refer to "office of elder" in this chapter is not necessarily an argument that "office of elder" didn't exist at the time.
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Old 09-18-2008, 06:53 AM   #44
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That "prespeturos" does not refer to "office of elder" in this chapter is not necessarily an argument that "office of elder" didn't exist at the time.
Oh, I see.

So now I have even LESS Biblical text upon which to understand the "office of elder."

Is that your point?

Great.... :rollingeyes2:
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Old 09-18-2008, 07:43 AM   #45
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Oh, I see.

So now I have even LESS Biblical text upon which to understand the "office of elder."

Is that your point?

Great.... :rollingeyes2:
Its a consequence of my point. The specific point I was making isn't a specific point. The point of examining 1 Timothy was, in part, to address the larger issue that some of our theology regarding elders might be unanalyzed assumptions. Having a clear text (like 1 Tim 5) to show in more objective (e.g. linguistic) terms that our assumptions might be wrong, helps perhaps to loosen the strong-hold of presumptions as we try to look at this topic afresh.

But yeah, that is a consequence of that point. Sorry about that...
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Old 09-18-2008, 10:45 AM   #46
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YP's insertion of the 'widow's roll' into the discussion of elders provides some helpful context for me. It got me thinking about the 'cultural relics' we often unknowingly insert into our practices, religious and otherwise. Hopefully my comments here serve as an adjunct rather than an impediment to the discussion.

--short hair. Paul prescribes women not to have short hair. That is not followed in the church, even in the Local Churches today. Some women have short hair, most don't.

--head coverings. Same as above. Most LC women don't cover thier heads, some do.

--women being 'silent' in the church. Not followed much in any fellowship of believers. I did meet with one non-LC group that had strict adherence to the above 3 points.

--Paul & Silas getting the right hand of fellowship to go forth, and being told to "remember the widows and orphans, which we assured them we were eager to do". Not much in record follows concerning widows and orphans being helped by them. Today, helping widows and orphans seems to be optional in Christianity. In the LC's, we looked for "good materials", which meant young college students. Widows and orphans were looked after privately, by some. But it certainly was not stressed. It seems to be more stressed in the NT, in places like this, and in the Gospels.

--the widow's roll, mentioned by YP. Again, optional, it seems. To me, inserting a widows roll, or some such practice, in the early assembly is not so much a cultural artifact as it is an attempt by the adherents of the faith to follow the Master's teachings. He said, "It is better to give than to receive", and some of the disciples looked for ways to give, and latched on to this as a way to help others. So they weren't being "Jewish" as much as trying to be "good". The cultural element might have been irrelevant.

--slaves obeying the masters. This is clearly cultural. It did get rehashed in the U.S. prior to the Civil War, with pro-slavery/states' rights groups citing this verse and abolitionists citing the "there is not any free man or slave in Christ" verses. Actually, some of the NT verses on slavery might be called anti-cultural, because they fly in the face of prevailing sentiment by asserting the equality of all men, and women, in the household of faith. That is the opposite of a 'nod' to culture, and also it follows Christ, to some degree, who could be quite iconoclastic in his speaking. Overturning the established order, and such.

--wives obeying husbands. In the LC's, at least on paper, this is adhered to, but in many Christian groups it is downplayed or ignored. As society changed, so did the attention to admonitions such as this. Today women can divorce husbands, can own property, vote, run for president, run companies, perform open heart surgery; they are in most cases equal. And in many Christian groups, even strict 'Bible-based' groups, women have equal status. In the homes also.

--"I do not permit a woman to teach". Same as above.

--children obeying/honoring parents. This seems to transcend culture. Children lack experience, and those children who are not obedient eventually learn, sometimes with a steep price, that the things Mom & Dad lectured on had at least a modicum of reality attached to it. The price to pay, learning from Mom & Dad, usually is less steep than learing from 'the world'.

--elders/leading ones in the assembly not being lovers of money, not vain, not striking others, not having multiple wives, not drunkards. Partly cultural. Interpersonal violence may have been more common back then, thus the need for an admonition. But most of it is common sense, really. Pretty obvious, and as such, to me, mostly irrelevant. There is a cultural element here. Paul would not have to write such words today, just like "Slaves, obey your masters." It is clearly a cultural artifact from now-departed times.

My point in this little list (which came to me "off the top of my head" as I was writing; surely there are other examples also), is to suggest that there are things which the christian community has ignored and/or abandoned as unworkable or outmoded or irrelevant by the changing times. And some things which some have abandoned and some other ones hold to, even tightly. So it seems to be okay to give ourselves some latitude as we attempt to determine what is "biblical" and what is "cultural".

Lastly, the trump card is Jesus Christ, not letters to Timothy or Titus. Paul said "Imitate me as I imitate Christ". We ought to determine where Paul was imitating Christ, and where he was nodding to the prevailing culture. Just because God gave Paul latitude to be a Greek among the Greeks, that doesn't mean we all have to strictly adhere to Greek customs and culture in order to follow Jesus the Galilean. We can be American among the Americans, and so forth. America is a much more decentralized place. If we collectively prefer a more decentralized or ad-hoc form of group leadership, I don't think God's throne will shake.
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Old 09-18-2008, 11:14 AM   #47
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Lastly, the trump card is Jesus Christ, not letters to Timothy or Titus. Paul said "Imitate me as I imitate Christ". We ought to determine where Paul was imitating Christ, and where he was nodding to the prevailing culture.
Yes.

Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God?

Thank you.
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Old 09-18-2008, 11:31 AM   #48
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--the widow's roll, mentioned by YP. Again, optional, it seems. To me, inserting a widows roll, or some such practice, in the early assembly is not so much a cultural artifact as it is an attempt by the adherents of the faith to follow the Master's teachings. He said, "It is better to give than to receive", and some of the disciples looked for ways to give, and latched on to this as a way to help others. So they weren't being "Jewish" as much as trying to be "good". The cultural element might have been irrelevant.
aron, if the "elders" of the synagogue were responsible for handling the "widows' roll," I think that might be a significant insight

my point wasn't about the care for others in general - absolutely we should and must - the point was Paul's finely detailed description of the practice of maintaining the list of widows

many take the position that this practice reflects a highly developed state of "church affairs" indicating a late date for the authorship of the epistle and, perhaps, less ability to understand the epistle through a prism of cultural interpretation

in fact, many go a further step and deny Pauline authorship based upon how advanced the practice seems and how culturally-based it appears to be

but my inquiry is whether perhaps it was actually a quite early practice such that it might be understood in that fashion

because, truly, if Paul wore pants, he would don them just as you or I do...
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Old 09-18-2008, 03:33 PM   #49
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Yes.

Do you believe that the Bible is the Word of God?
Yes, I do.

Do you believe that when Job's wife advised him to "Curse God and die", she was speaking for God? Or was that merely her opinion?

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Old 09-19-2008, 02:22 AM   #50
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Yes, I do.

Do you believe that when Job's wife advised him to "Curse God and die", she was speaking for God? Or was that merely her opinion?
aron, surely you do not compare Paul's practical instructions to Timothy on how to maintain a widows' roll with Job's wife's advice!

What you have written concerning Paul's letters seems to fly in the face of holding those works sacred. If these letters may be picked apart as, Oh, this part is just Paul's culture and we may ignore it, how can we, on the positive side, have the practice of "elders" with the confidence that the Bible is God's word to us?

I would go one step further to illustrate the problem.

In Hebrews, we are exhorted to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the custom of some was. Doesn't that pretty much declare that it was a matter of custom to assemble? And wasn't this, just coincidentally, the very practice of the synagogue and the Temple?

Brother Nee in one place wrote
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The Bible gives explicit commandments as well as clear examples of people meeting together.
Watchman Nee - Messages for Building Up New Believers
Is the Christian meeting a matter of culture or commandment? We generally accept that assembling is something that we must do, but is that so? Is it so just because it was Paul's opinion that it was a good thing to do?

But I don't want to get off track. I am not asking if we should meet or not. That's purely rhetorical.

I am asking whether we can parse Paul's letters to Timothy as you have suggested and whether such parsing properly respects the Bible as the Holy Word. I think it might be possible to discern Paul's culture in a way that has been neglected for 2000 years, but I think many, most, nearly all, will tell you that you must do what Paul says to do regarding all the things he discusses or you are rejecting the Bible and counting yourself higher than it is.
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Old 09-19-2008, 03:00 AM   #51
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It is also possible that later translators injected "opinion" and "customs" into later translations.
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Old 09-19-2008, 05:15 AM   #52
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It is also possible that later translators injected "opinion" and "customs" into later translations.
Sue
That is true.

It is also true that early scribes making early copies may have done the same, which is a very popular academic theory, especially in the case of the Timothy and Titus epistles. Some of the academic theories go even further and say that Paul did not write them at all. They say that some of Paul's followers must have written them after Paul died. I might even agree with them about the letter to Titus, which seems very much like a "blended brother" document to me, just a bunch of quotes lifted out of context from someplace else and then jammed all together and presented as if it was written by their leader, but I'm not convinced at all about the two Timothy epistles.

But you really get into difficulties when you start questioning the canon of scripture! You might have to take a second look at the Book of Wisdom from the Roman Catholic's version of the Old Testament (which, actually, I recommend that you do that...) Obviously, the New Testament collection of works that we have come to know as "The Bible" was precisely translated from the original golden plates by an entirely reliable source. Oh, wait, no, that's a different story. I meant to say that the 4th century clerics who included and excluded different written works on the basis of their own opinions must have done a perfect job because they were authorized by the Pope to make the selections and the infallible Pope then ratified their decisions.

Clearly, we 21st century believers who have vast access to far more information, and (I'll state controversially) much more spiritual insight derived nearly 2000 more years of consideration and prayer, at least from Biblical scholars beginning with Martin Luther through to the present day, must recognize and submit to the deputy authority of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who in his Easter letter of 367, gave a list of exactly the same books as what would become the New Testament canon. Aside from the textual edits made in the earliest years of the assemblies, the interpretations asserted throughout the Dark Ages, the first attempts to translate into other languages, the removal of the Apocrypha from the 1611 King James Version (and subsequent corrections of its typos and archaic spellings), the scholarly revisions of the underlying texts, the subsequent translations and revisions of translations based upon the consensus underlying texts, and the superimposition of more modern interpretations, the Bible is EXACTLY the way God meant it to be from the very day Moses penned the account of his own death down to our present times.

Obviously.

The Lord be with your spirit!
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Old 09-19-2008, 06:19 AM   #53
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That is true.

It is also true that early scribes making early copies may have done the same, which is a very popular academic theory, especially in the case of the Timothy and Titus epistles. Some of the academic theories go even further and say that Paul did not write them at all. They say that some of Paul's followers must have written them after Paul died. I might even agree with them about the letter to Titus, which seems very much like a "blended brother" document to me, just a bunch of quotes lifted out of context from someplace else and then jammed all together and presented as if it was written by their leader, but I'm not convinced at all about the two Timothy epistles.

But you really get into difficulties when you start questioning the canon of scripture! You might have to take a second look at the Book of Wisdom from the Roman Catholic's version of the Old Testament (which, actually, I recommend that you do that...) Obviously, the New Testament collection of works that we have come to know as "The Bible" was precisely translated from the original golden plates by an entirely reliable source. Oh, wait, no, that's a different story. I meant to say that the 4th century clerics who included and excluded different written works on the basis of their own opinions must have done a perfect job because they were authorized by the Pope to make the selections and the infallible Pope then ratified their decisions.

Clearly, we 21st century believers who have vast access to far more information, and (I'll state controversially) much more spiritual insight derived nearly 2000 more years of consideration and prayer, at least from Biblical scholars beginning with Martin Luther through to the present day, must recognize and submit to the deputy authority of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who in his Easter letter of 367, gave a list of exactly the same books as what would become the New Testament canon. Aside from the textual edits made in the earliest years of the assemblies, the interpretations asserted throughout the Dark Ages, the first attempts to translate into other languages, the removal of the Apocrypha from the 1611 King James Version (and subsequent corrections of its typos and archaic spellings), the scholarly revisions of the underlying texts, the subsequent translations and revisions of translations based upon the consensus underlying texts, and the superimposition of more modern interpretations, the Bible is EXACTLY the way God meant it to be from the very day Moses penned the account of his own death down to our present times.

Obviously.

The Lord be with your spirit!
Saying a letter may have been written by followers of Paul in his name is not the same thing as saying the letters shouldn't be in the scriptures. Are you suggesting both?
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Old 09-19-2008, 06:39 AM   #54
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aron, surely you do not compare Paul's practical instructions to Timothy on how to maintain a widows' roll with Job's wife's advice!
Why not? They are both humans who are speaking/writing in God's Holy Word. Or did Paul get a special dispensation of inerrancy by holding the office of "Apostle of the Age"?

When Peter said, "Not so, Lord, this shall never happen to you" in Matthew 16, was he speaking for God, or injecting his fallen human thought? Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan." So obviously it was not the former.

Later, after the resurrection, Peter said, "I am going fishing." The rest said, "We are going with you." Here they seem to be in some error, judging by the Lord's gentle rebuke later ("Peter, do you love Me?"); did they get a special "inerrancy pill" on the day of Pentecost, so that their deeds and speaking cannot be scrutinized afterwards? I think not. They obviously had different opinions at times -- see the record in Galatians on Paul's confrontation with Peter when some came "from James".

I am not holding my opinion as capable of setting Paul's opinion at naught (Except in the case of wine: he told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach; I would have to say, "Sorry brother, can't do that. The stuff makes me crazy"). I apologize if I gave that impression. I have the bad habit of leaving unstated several "connecting dots" in my thinking. My point of Timothy and Titus not being the "last word" was more do to my annoyance at people seeming to imply with their citations of scriptures that it was now and henceforth "case closed", and any further questionings rank of foolish impiety. "God has spoken; we have the cases of eldership cited in Timothy and Titus. It is clear. Cease your nettlesome questionings."

(Forgive me, Toledo, if I am picking on you here specifically. I am just trying to simplify my sense of the arguments I have heard over the past umpteen years of my christian discussions. Sometimes simplification involves distortion. I apologize if my characterization in any way distorts your argument).

What I am setting against Paul's writing in Timothy and Titus is not my opinion. It is the speakings of Jesus the Galilean. Sometimes Paul's writings smack of "exigencies", i.e. dealing with particular cases which no longer are so relevant (slavery, women's place in the assembly) due to changes in culture over time.

What I am also setting against Paul's writing in Timothy and Titus is the writings of others in the Bible. I am specifically thinking of John. Where is John's opinion on this matter? It is never discussed in my hearing or reading, and I think this is due to two reasons.

First, people go "case closed" when they read the verses in question. This is a problem with the "concordance" school of systematic theology. We just look up all verses saying "eldership" or "elder" or "office" and think we have it. I am actually picking on Lee here. He was too quick to say "case closed".

Secondly, John's writings are more elliptical, more inscrutable, more veiled, which I think was done purposefully by him. John picked up Jesus' trick of hiding in plain sight. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is speaking to the churches" is a direct echo of Jesus' word in the face of the Pharisees, after He threw a parable at them: "He who has an ear to hear, let him hear." John was deliberately playing "games" with his readers; he was setting a puzzle before them. What does John say about the appointment of elders in the assemblies of those who are called out?
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Old 09-19-2008, 06:55 AM   #55
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It is also possible that later translators injected "opinion" and "customs" into later translations.
Sue
Even more worrisome is that we current readers inject our "interpretive customs" into our reading process. Peter Debelak's word on "elders" in 1 Timothy 5 is a perfect example. He points out that the phrasing renders our interpretation as suspect.

Suppose I said, "Workers who work have double honor. First, because they work, and second because they work. Workers who don't work only have a single honor." Doesn't make sense.

Or, "Leaders who lead are counted worthy of double honor. First, because they lead, and second, because they lead. Leaders who don't lead only get single honor." Doesn't make sense.

Now look at verse 17 -- "Elders who direct the affairs of the church are worthy of a double honor, especially those who preach and teach." How can you say "Elders who don't direct the affairs in the church"? Doesn't make sense.

But, if you say "The more elderly among us who lead are worthy of double honor: first because they are more mature, second because they labor. Those elderly who don't labor still get single honor because of their time on the earth." Makes sense.

We have possibly been injecting our own conceptual, cultural, traditional "translation" into this word for how long now? And how many other cases over the last 2000 years? Oh Lord, guide us today! Help us to see You in the maze and tangle of human affairs, thoughts, customs, traditions, and opinions. Lord save us from our complicated selves! We weave a tangle of our thinking and then we lay down in it, and Satan tricks us into sleep, thinking we are "home". Lord, bring us on! The fighting among the saints must wake us up to the fact that we are not home yet. Lord, bring us closer to the Father today. Amen.
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Old 09-19-2008, 07:56 AM   #56
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Saying a letter may have been written by followers of Paul in his name is not the same thing as saying the letters shouldn't be in the scriptures. Are you suggesting both?
It would seem to me that something presented as being something that it is not is not capable of being considered the truth of God because it is fundamentally false.

I suppose others might have different opinions but if I'm forced to accept not just unknown but pseudographic origin? If it says "I, Paul" and it's definitely NOT Paul? I'd decline that, yes.

A conclusion of pseudographia is not an analysis that I'm prepared to accept as capable of resulting in something worthy of acceptance as God's Word. I've reviewed other pseudographic material, of course, and that's part of the reason I'm very suspicious of Titus.

Happily, however, most of what Titus contains is to be found elsewhere anyways...
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Old 09-19-2008, 08:01 AM   #57
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What does John say about the appointment of elders in the assemblies of those who are called out?
I think this is an excellent question, to which I currenlty have no answer.

But asserting that the clear New Testament practice of having elders an "expediency" seems to me to an extremely uncertain step on the slipperiest slope of Biblical exegesis.

Don't worry, though.

I've got you.

Go ahead....
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Old 09-19-2008, 08:20 AM   #58
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Now look at verse 17 -- "Elders who direct the affairs of the church are worthy of a double honor, especially those who preach and teach." How can you say "Elders who don't direct the affairs in the church"? Doesn't make sense.
Affirmation by negation is a favorite technique of mine.

Apophasis is the process of defining something by saying what it is not. A very handy and oft neglected form of inquiry.

"Is it bigger than a bread box?" in a limited universe of possibilites will get you to the correct answer eventually....
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Old 09-19-2008, 08:21 AM   #59
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What does John say about the appointment of elders in the assemblies of those who are called out?
I agree that this is a really good question. I don't have an answer either, but I did happen to come across something related (though not necessarily relevant) when reading Miller's church history.

Here's some passages from Ignatious - who was contemporary of Johns, friend of John's and fellow-worker/disciple of John - who only survived John by 7 years:

Writing to Ephesus: "Let us take heed, brotherren, that we set not ourselves against the bishop, that we may be subject to God....It is therefore evidence that we ought to look upon the bishop even as we do upon the Lord Himself."

To the Magnesians, "I exhort you that ye study to do all things in a divine concord; your bishops presiding in the place of God; your presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles; and your deacons, most dear to me, being entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ."

Excerpts taken From Miller's Church History at 179 (1980).

It is said that these were written but a few years after John's death - and that by a disciple of John, who was "bishop" of Antioch, presumably even prior to John's death. What do we do with them?
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Old 09-19-2008, 08:32 AM   #60
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It would seem to me that something presented as being something that it is not is not capable of being considered the truth of God because it is fundamentally false.

I suppose others might have different opinions but if I'm forced to accept not just unknown but pseudographic origin? If it says "I, Paul" and it's definitely NOT Paul? I'd decline that, yes.
I don't have the research in front of me, but I have come across historical research that claims authorship in the name of mentor was a common and accepted practice back then, with no negative connotation. If that's the case, an objectively untrue "I, Paul" doesn't necessarily negate it as Scripture. It would, in my view, certain alter the way in which we interpret the epistle, however.

That said, though I have read a few compelling arguments that Paul was not the author of a few epistles which bear his name, I must admit there's a huge mental/internal barrier to getting into getting back into what is and what is not the insipired Word... That's just full disclosure - not an attempt to stiffle the inquiry...
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Old 09-19-2008, 09:02 AM   #61
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I agree that this is a really good question. I don't have an answer either, but I did happen to come across something related (though not necessarily relevant) when reading Miller's church history.

Here's some passages from Ignatious - who was contemporary of Johns, friend of John's and fellow-worker/disciple of John - who only survived John by 7 years:

Writing to Ephesus: "Let us take heed, brotherren, that we set not ourselves against the bishop, that we may be subject to God....It is therefore evidence that we ought to look upon the bishop even as we do upon the Lord Himself."

To the Magnesians, "I exhort you that ye study to do all things in a divine concord; your bishops presiding in the place of God; your presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles; and your deacons, most dear to me, being entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ."

Excerpts taken From Miller's Church History at 179 (1980).

It is said that these were written but a few years after John's death - and that by a disciple of John, who was "bishop" of Antioch, presumably even prior to John's death. What do we do with them?
Well, for the time being, I'm just going to lay them aside!

YIPES!
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Old 09-19-2008, 09:04 AM   #62
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Well, for the time being, I'm just going to lay them aside!

YIPES!

A man with more wisdom that I...
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Old 09-19-2008, 09:15 AM   #63
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I don't have the research in front of me, but I have come across historical research that claims authorship in the name of mentor was a common and accepted practice back then, with no negative connotation. If that's the case, an objectively untrue "I, Paul" doesn't necessarily negate it as Scripture. It would, in my view, certain alter the way in which we interpret the epistle, however.

That said, though I have read a few compelling arguments that Paul was not the author of a few epistles which bear his name, I must admit there's a huge mental/internal barrier to getting into getting back into what is and what is not the insipired Word... That's just full disclosure - not an attempt to stiffle the inquiry...
I've known a couple of historians in my day. I've got the witness of the Spirit with my spirit. I'm fairly comfortable where I'm at as regards such matters.

As to the issue of whether this was a common and accepted practice back then, I do not know it, would not assume it would be the case in the case of Paul's epistles, and am suspicous, at least, that the existence of a common and accepted practice is not now common and accepted knowledge, if true.

That said, I'll vigorously defend traditional authorship, including Paul of Hebrews, for everything - except Titus. I'll get into that issue further one day, even here perhaps, but at this time I surely wouldn't base any great decision in my faith or practice on which direction the epistle to Titus cuts, if that is the sole witness on the point. I'd say it was a sloppy cut-and-paste job if they had been using word processors in first century Judea.
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Old 09-19-2008, 09:21 AM   #64
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A man with more wisdom that I...
Well, if anything, I think I would still accuse myself of being "of Paul."

I'm just not ready to become "of Ignatius" today, although I do agree that the question of whether he was "of John" in this context is a very interesting one that likely merits real consideration at some point.
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Old 09-19-2008, 09:00 PM   #65
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Well, YP, it seems to me that the word "eldership" does appear in the New Testament. It isn't a derivation of /prebeturos but rather the greek word /gerousia. Strongs number 1087. Its the word to refer to the Sanhetrin in, for example, in Acts 5:21. Here's some historical background on gerousia (from Britannica:

: The Gerousia was a body of old men of Sparta from noble families who were appointed (because of their virtue) by the Ecclesia (the Spartan Assembly) for life. This council was composed of the two kings plus 28 Spartiates (Spartan citizens) aged at least 60. The Gerousia presented matters to the Ecclesia, gave advice, and tried criminals.

I'd say this Greek practice, in place before the birth of Christ, should not lightly by ignored in our account of the eldership.

Here's some history on the Jewish development of the gerousia:

In Israel before the exile to Babylon, elders functioned as heads of the Hebrew clans (the "twelve tribes of Israel"). The ancient story goes that "seventy elders of Israel" were convened to ratify the covenant which Moses had negotiated with God (Exodus 24). They were portrayed as civil judges whose task it was to settle disputes (Deuteronomy 21 and 22). Later they became rulers with political and military powers (1 Samuel 4.3; 8.4-9).

When the tribal system collapsed after the exile, they retained power as heads of eminent Jewish families. Eventually the families became what we would today call "aristocrats" - such as those with whom Nehemiah had many disputes (Nehemiah 5.7; 7.5). When Palestine came under Greek rule in the centuries just before Jesus, the families were given wide-ranging powers in a council called the Gerousia ("of the elders"), which in turn became the Sanhedrin. This is the "Council of the Elders" referred to in Luke 22.66 and Acts 22.5 (both of which were written by the same person).


Just slowly gathering data... (and doing my darndest not to let my conclusory impulses preceed sound conclusions, if there are any to be had).
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Old 09-19-2008, 11:13 PM   #66
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Default Re: Eldership

Toledo:

Can you give us any background on /episkope/ in ancient greek usage? In one contextual usage, it seems it means "office of __________" - but not particular about which office (in the other usage it seems to mean "God's visitation" - see Luke 9:44). Its used in Acts 1 to refer to what seems to me to be "office of apostle" - or just generally "office". But in Titus 1, it seems to mean "office of overseer/bishop/elder". So, unless "apostle" and "bishop/elder" are the same thing, I gather that /episkope/ simply means "office of _________" without specification when there is no context.

Or is this going down the wrong track altogether? How was this word used, if you know?

Peter

P.S. Pardon if I'm presumptive about your greek knowledge - you popped in earlier with some comments that had the color of someone who knows....
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Old 09-20-2008, 05:42 AM   #67
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Default Re: Eldership

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Originally Posted by Peter Debelak View Post
Toledo:

Can you give us any background on /episkope/ in ancient greek usage? In one contextual usage, it seems it means "office of __________" - but not particular about which office (in the other usage it seems to mean "God's visitation" - see Luke 9:44). Its used in Acts 1 to refer to what seems to me to be "office of apostle" - or just generally "office". But in Titus 1, it seems to mean "office of overseer/bishop/elder". So, unless "apostle" and "bishop/elder" are the same thing, I gather that /episkope/ simply means "office of _________" without specification when there is no context.

Or is this going down the wrong track altogether? How was this word used, if you know?

Peter

P.S. Pardon if I'm presumptive about your greek knowledge - you popped in earlier with some comments that had the color of someone who knows....
Although it is important to know definitions ("Word mean things"...), definitions alone won't suffice. [Gal 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?]

"Presbuteros", as you have pointed out, means "elder" -- first as an "older brother", then as a responsible person.

"Episkopos" (epi -- "over" + skopeo -- "observe") means, practically, an "overseer".

"Apostolos" (apo -- away from + stello -- send) means "one who is sent" or "ambassador". In the fifth century B.C. the word had distinctly negative connotations, rather like an oppressive tax collector. The New Testament usage seems to be utterly different, referring to those "sent out" by the Christ of God.

Hope this helps. I am by no means all that knowledgeable in Greek. My hands on experience is limited to maybe a few dozen medieval manuscripts plus a bit of time with papyrus P46, and not much more.

I tend to shy away from arguments about pseudographia, being content to accept the received canon of scripture.

[Thank you, by the way, for editing your earlier post...]
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Old 09-20-2008, 06:29 AM   #68
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Default Re: Eldership

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Originally Posted by Peter Debelak View Post
Well, YP, it seems to me that the word "eldership" does appear in the New Testament. It isn't a derivation of /prebeturos but rather the greek word /gerousia. Strongs number 1087. Its the word to refer to the Sanhetrin in, for example, in Acts 5:21.
Interesting, but why is this term used but once? It's not just an example. Acts 5:21 is the only scriptural occurrence outside the LXX.

And why is it used in the same book where the other term is used?

It mustn't be identical in meaning. What is the distinction?

Although \gerousia\ does appear to be the preferred term in LXX, there is no entry for this term in Kittel's TDNT. Instead, it is mentioned dismissively in a footnote in the article on \sunedrion\.

But that's not the strange part.

Quote:
"In Ac. 4:15 \sunedrion\ means 'place of assembly.'"
Note 79 on page 871 of Vol. 7.
"In Ac. 5:21 \sunedrion\ and \gerousia\ are used alongside one another with no difference in meaning."
Note 80 right underneath it.
May we then assume that \gerousia\ means "place of assembly"???

Of course, I'm being facetious, but, seriously, there seems to be just a TAD bit of carelessness in the handling of these terms.

I'm suspicious I have an idea why that might be but, like you, I'm just researching at the moment.

I'm withholding judgment at present on the significance (or accuracy) of these two terms being used for allegedly the same leadership entity. But it's definitely another piece of a larger puzzle that may have been neglected historically by, at least, believers of a more evangelical bent.

By the way, I haven't said that the term "eldership" doesn't appear in the New Testament to refer to a group of "elders." It does. Usually with reference to the Jews but once in 1 Timothy as well. What I have said is that it doesn't appear in reference to an "office." My Englishman's Greek interlinear uses the word "elderhood" in these places you are discussing and I think that helps make the distinction necessary between a body and a title.
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Old 09-21-2008, 08:35 PM   #69
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Default Re: Eldership

I would just say, so long as we are entertaining that early church structure practice of "elders" was inhereted - to whatever extent - from Jewish practice, we must say that there were "offices." That does not end the discussion of whether the "offices" were prescribed versus permitted/perpetuated contextually. But I don't think its much of a quesiton that in the Jewish tradition there were "offices." The "gerousia," particularly - but likely also the "presbuteros" were offices within the Jewish community, if not the synogogic strucutre.

Here's the conundrum I am wrestling with (and partly why I persist in this inquiry):

1) It is clear that the "office" of eldership was a Jewish custom and did, in fact, present challenges to CHristianity in its inception.

2) Since the canonization of the NT, questions of church authority and interpretation of the "prescriptions on authority" have created no end of dispute and confusion.

3) Nevertheless, Paul certain prescribed - at the very least, contextually, an eldership. Peter, too, assumed the existence of elders and called us to obey them. Luke described their place and function, to some extent.

So, the seeming prescriptions concerning "elders" in the NT are set against:

1) The Jewish tradition (i.e. it would be odd to me that, in a context where prior Jewish traditions were challenging the gospel at many points, a pre-existing practice of the Jewish tradition would be perpetuated by Paul without commentary if it were meant as a prescription)
2) the results of seeing church structure (including leadership) as a prescription over the centruies - leading to much disagreement and confusion/division
3) The internal logic and promise of the New Covenant, in which I (personally) have a hard time seeing prescribed leadership, though I absolutely can easily contemplate (and have submitted to) descriptive leadership in different times and circumstances.

I'm not trying to be a maverick. I have real questions which I feel have real consequences for my going on.

Thoughts?

In love,

Peter

P.S. Toledo: You state that you remain content to accept the reveiled canon of Scripture. I'm not sure what this in retort to: the specific questions of greek definitions; the discussion, at one point, concerning the authenticity of certain epistles; or the discussion, generally, which questions the prescriptive nature of the eldership. To which were you responding?
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Old 09-22-2008, 02:01 AM   #70
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Default Re: Eldership

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Originally Posted by Peter Debelak View Post
So, the seeming prescriptions concerning "elders" in the NT are set against:

1) The Jewish tradition (i.e. it would be odd to me that, in a context where prior Jewish traditions were challenging the gospel at many points, a pre-existing practice of the Jewish tradition would be perpetuated by Paul without commentary if it were meant as a prescription)
Many of the traditional teachings I have received uplift Paul as a purely New Covenant teacher whose writings testify of his utter rejection of all things Jewish and whose occasional lapses into undeniable Jewish practice are excused as necessary "expediencies" but not a model for Christian practice.

It may be the case that we are so accustomed to viewing in paticular the Pauline epistles from a fundamentally anti-Jewish perspective that we are nearly unable to recognize that the apostle to the Gentiles was in fact himself a faithful Jew.

And my hypothesis is that, to the extent that Paul himself may have been a common practitioner of prior Jewish traditions, it is entirely possible that many went completely unexamined during his lifetime and were in fact transferred by his efforts into the practices of the Christian assemblies.

Simply because he boldly insisted that some aspects of Jewish practice were not to be superimposed upon the Gentile converts, with his carrying out Jerusalem's intention by means of his distributing the "decrees" of headquarters, he demonstrates that he was not opposed to at least presenting some aspects of Jewish dietary observances as a new set of ordinances to the Gentiles. And he himself circumcised Timothy for fear of the Jews according to this same passage in Acts 16.

I think perhaps he became later far more clear about the need to reject all of that stuff and not just the parts of it inconsistent with Gentile preference. But it seems that we must admit that his discussions and practice about New Testament "offices" originated in synagogue practice. To the extent that his earlier writings reveal a stronger Jewish character which may even be inconsistent with the functioning of the members of the Body, I think it behooves us to examine what the practices of "offices" looked like in later times under his guidance.

And THEN I'd be willing to discuss John's disciple, Ignatius.

Of course, this requires much more of an effort at reconstructing the New Testament chronology than most have generally seemed interested to pursue. That's kind of where I am right now. I intend to finish with Still's book, review again the Pauline epistles in accordance with a timeline placing 1 Timothy early rather than post-mortem, and see what if anything might be yielded through a proper chronological sequencing of the books. Keeping in mind of course that it may not be possible to make a conclusive statement about the sequence. But that fact that I've seen at least a couple of places now that put 1 Timothy early while the vast majority of modern scholarship insists that it must be post-mortem really raises a red flag about the general world teaching about such matters.

I've found that minority voices often have something important to say.

And I've also found that the enemy goes to great lengths to conceal the most important things, which are usually lying right there on the surface all along once the veil is removed...
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Old 09-24-2008, 07:12 AM   #71
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Default What is "eldership", according to Jesus?

Mat 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to his disciples,
Mat 23:2 saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat:
Mat 23:3 all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, [these] do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not.
Mat 23:4 Yea, they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.
Mat 23:5 But all their works they do to be seen of men: for they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders [of their garments],
Mat 23:6 and love the chief place at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
Mat 23:7 and the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called of men, Rabbi.
Mat 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your teacher, and all ye are brethren.
Mat 23:9 And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, [even] he who is in heaven.
Mat 23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, [even] the Christ.
Mat 23:11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
Mat 23:12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.
Mat 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter[.]
Mat 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, even while for a pretence ye make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive greater condemnation.
Mat 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves.


------------------------

The Recovery Version has "instructors" in verse 10, and the footnote says it also can be translated guides, teachers, or directors. It seems to me that we can trample over the words of Christ in our hurry to be "biblical" and model our living after Paul. Paul writes to the Ephesians that God gave evangelists, prophets, shepherds, teachers, apostles to the assembly of the called out ones, for the building up of His corporate expression.

My question is, does our rush to delineate ourselves according to the "New Testament way" shown by Paul obviate the words of Christ, not to call anyone Rabbi, or Father, or guide? We were told upon entry into the Local Churches how the Catholics disregard the word of the Lord by calling the priests "Father", when there is only one Father, who is God. But we were happy to delineate ourselves by other words not expressly prohibited by Christ. But is this not the same thing? Are we not playing games, taking titles and giving "chief seats" to the elders up front?

My sense is that we were a little too smug, thinking we had laid hold...

I don't limit this criticism to the Local Churches, either. I have a dear christian friend who once in conversation said that we all need to be so delineated. I had told him that I was a "believer", but he said, "If you want to be used by God, to please Him, you need to be one of these things. So what are you?" He then listed all the qualifications for each position. Like in the army, you have to have some "rank". You can't be an undifferentiated soldier. You have to be a private, sergeant, lieutenant, corporal, or general. So I told him, "I am an apostle". That calmed him down for a bit.

I know I am opening myself up to criticism here, for at least obliquely criticising Paul. It just seems to me to be at least potentially a conflict. Even we who were in the Local Churches, thinking ourselves so "scriptural", and translating verse 10 as "instructors", we ourselves had a full time instructor, our very own "Bible teacher", sitting up front training us, day after day, and now have a bevy of wannabe's following suit. Now they have decided "teacher" wasn't lofty enough, and have posthumously bestowed upon him the title "apostle of the age".

I am trying to put the discussions we are having about the Local Churches into what seems to me to be a better perspective. The problems did not arise when Constantine decided to be head of the fellowship of the believers, and the believers embraced a worldly and temporal king. No, the marriage to the world was set up long before that.

I merely ask the readers to go back to the words of Christ, and consider how deeply they cut. And I wonder, in djohnson's estimable words, how much we all have been "playing in the sandbox". Playing church, giving one another titles and chief seats and reverence, but and ignoring our teacher, Christ.

I hope this word is not too sharp. I myself am nothing, and have amounted to nearly nothing. But I have the words of Christ before me, and I cannot help but consider, what to do with these words? Hopefully I have not been impertinent for considering aloud. May God cover us all with bountiful grace to receive each other's sentiments on this forum, and elsewhere.

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Old 09-24-2008, 05:03 PM   #72
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Default Re: What is "eldership", according to Jesus?

aron:

I appreciate your thoughts here. I often think that we bracket Christ's words in the gospels to issues related to the "individual Christian life; while the epistles are about the "body" - and, in the way we treat them, never the twain shall meet. That is, we perceive (explicitly or not) the Epistles as going further that Christ's ministry...

Recently I've been wondering if we look to Christ's words enough in determining what our "corporate life" should be and how "practical" we should approach its implementation.

In fact, I've had a liberal little thought: what if we consider the Epistles to be circumscribed by Christ's words in the Gospels. As a hermaneutic to interpret the Epistles?

Does that change our understanding of a lot of the seeming prescriptions in the letters?

Peter
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Old 09-24-2008, 07:14 PM   #73
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Default The apostle John

I now bring forth my next witness, the apostle John. I will do so by asking the question, Why isn't John mentioned in First Corinthians chapter one?

In Corinth, some were "of" Cephas, some Paul, some Apollos, some Christ. Parties were forming, enough so that the apostle got wind of it and admonished it at some length. Why no party "of" John? Why not any school, or sect forming? If anyone should have been at the head of a group of "blended brothers", post-resurrection, it should have been John the apostle. Yet no mention. Basically, after a brief cameo giving the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas in Galatians 2 he disappears. In Acts he is in the thick of it at first, then by Acts 15 he is receding fast, and is gone, to reappear as the aged apostle on Patmos, and after (I have heard that he wrote the fourth gospel after returning from exile).

John, it appears to me in the gospels, is extremely ambitious. Nakedly ambitious. But partway through Acts he vanishes from the scene. First I'll address the ambition, then the vanishing act.

The obvious place to start is the scene in Matthew 20 where the mother of the sons of Zebedee comes up, worshipping the Lord, and asking a question. "Grant that my sons sit, at your right hand and left, at Your kingdom." Are these guys ambitious or what? Yet, as I said, 'poof'...

At one point they call fire down from heaven, and are rebuked. Wrong spirit.

They are called the "sons of thunder". No surprise.

They are with Jesus when he puts everyone outside, to raise the dead girl, the daughter of Jairus the synagogue ruler (Matt. 9). They and Peter form the "inner troika", the inner ring of disciples. They and Peter are with the Lord on the mountain when He is transformed, and seen with Moses and Elijah. They are told to tell none others, even the other nine.

Peter is a leader by doing: he declares Jesus is the Christ, bids Christ to call him out of the boat in the raging sea if it is fact He, etc. He also leads in stumbling, in many places. He is bold, impetuous, rash, for good and occasionally ill.

I get a different impression of the sons of Zebedee. They seem much more calculated to me. The best way to get ahead is to be close to someone who's going places. It is a very time-worn (& successful) model. Think of Jesse Jackson latching onto Martin Luther King, for example. Or Alexander Hamilton, a 'nobody' artillery captain until he became George Washington's aide-de-camp. Washington would tell Hamilton to write a letter to someone and Hamilton could write "as" Washington. Pretty heady stuff.

What could be more heady than being in the inner circle of the coming Messiah? Nobody realized what was really happening; they all thought Jesus was going to set up an earthly kingdom. The gospels say repeatedly they didn't realize what was going on. What they thought was going on was the power-grab, career opportunity of a lifetime. Of any lifetime. And John and James were going to the very top. I don't think their mother dragged them unwillingly. All three were for it.

Thier mother was mentioned by name along with a few other women as being there at the crucifixion. They were the women who followed Jesus everywhere, ministering to Him. So their mother was in the "inner circle" of ministering women. Not without influence, even in a male-dominant society.

Several exegeses of the gospel of John have said that the second, unnamed disciple in John chapter one, who are with John the Baptist and leave him to follow Jesus, was John the apostle, the writer of the gospel himself. I think Lee mentions this in his Life-Study of John. I know I have read it in a couple of bible study books. I am not a scholar and can't cite them, unfortunately. Maybe someone who is a little more organized than I can weigh in on this and help me out. I think it is likely, and significant.

Likely, because the second disciple is not named. This is John's m.o. Everyone else gets named. He is anonymous, unnamed. Likely, because it is first person, and so is pretty much all of John's gospel. John was there. The conversations are recorded verbatim. I never got the impression that John was collecting stories from others. Likely, because do the math. Most of the others are named, and that leaves John and a few others. I think Peter and Andrew are listed in another gospel as associates of James and John fishing in Galilee; one of the two disciples of John the Baptist in verse 37 of John chapter one is Andrew: he gets Simon, who gets Philip, who gets Nathaniel, etc. Do the math. Not a big pool left. I think maybe it's John. Anyway, I've heard this said elsewhere.

It is significant because John was a climber. He knew the Jewish religion from the inside. John the Baptist's father was one of the Jewish priests. John the disciple of Jesus, the son of Zebedee, knew the high priest and could go into his house unmolested, even as they tried Jesus. John went outside and got Peter. So John was not an illiterate peasant fisherman. His father had servants. And if he got is way, he would have a lot more, when the Messiah got His throne in Jerusalem.

Outta time. Gotta run. Hope this sparks some interest somewhere. Peace to all. More to follow soon, I hope.
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Old 09-25-2008, 05:21 AM   #74
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Default Re: Eldership

OK, here's at least part of the math that's been escaping me to date.

I found this somewhere online:

Quote:
Bible Question:Who are the elders? Are they pastors?

Bible Answer:There are two types of official leaders in a church. The Apostle Paul speaks to both of them in Philippians 1:1 when he says,

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons . . . (NASB) Philippians 1:1

In God's plan for the church there are overseers and deacons. But what is an overseer, elder, or a deacon?

Overseers. It is interesting to note, the church leaders are spoken to last and not first. We see the overseers and deacons together again in 1 Timothy 3. 1 Timothy 3 is a chapter devoted to the qualifications of the church leaders. The overseers and deacons are included and no other type of leader is mentioned.

Elders and Overseers. But what is an overseer? The first clue comes in the book of Titus where we discover that elders are also overseers. These two words refer to the same person.

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you . . . a bishop must be blameless . . . (NASB) Titus 1:5, 7

The Greek word for elder is PRESBUTEROS, and the Greek word for overseer is EPISKOPOUS. The word "elder" refers to the leader's character while "overseer" refers to his oversight duties or responsibilities. An overseer is an elder.

Elders and Pastors. In 1 Peter we find another connection between elders and pastors.

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion . . . (NASB) 1 Peter 5:1-2

Peter is speaking to the elders when he encourages them to pastor or shepherd the flock. The Greek word for pastor or shepherd is POIMAINO. We also find that these men are to oversee the church. An elder is the person who has two type of responsibilities: oversight and shepherding.

We find EPISKOPOUS, PRESBUTEROS, and POIMAINO used again in Acts 20.

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. . . . Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (NASB) Acts 20:17, 28

Acts 20:17 tells us that the apostle Paul called for the elders (PRESBUTEROS) of Ephesus. Upon arriving in Ephesus, Paul meets these men. While speaking with them (verse 28), he tells them that the Holy Spirit has made them overseers (EPISKOPOUS) and commands them “to shepherd” or pastor (POIMAINO) the congregation.

Elders = Overseers = Pastors. These three terms are used for the same individual. Elders are bishops who are also pastors. Those who oversee are to be elder in spiritual maturity. In the church no single man should be called the pastor for all of the elders are pastors.

Conclusion:All of the elders are pastors. All of the elders are overseers. All of the overseers are pastors. A pastor is an overseer who is an elder!
Add to this another long quote and I think that about covers the waterfront:

Quote:
Elder in the Bible

Terms
The term elders is used in various ways in the Bible. In many instances, particularly in the Old Testament, it has reference to the older men in a tribe, usually entrusted with the governmental affairs. Their age and experience made their counsel sought often. This was not necessarily a priesthood calling. Genesis 50:7, Ruth 4:2, Matthew 15:2, and Acts 4:5 are examples of this usage. There were ordained elders in the Melchizedek Priesthood in Old Testament times, as in Exodus 24:9-11 and Numbers 11:16.

There are three different words used synonymously in the New Testament to refer to the office of elder. In 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul drafts nearly identical lists of qualifications for elder and overseer, while Peter draws all three concepts together in one passage: "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you... shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight..." (1 Peter 5:1-2). Luke uses the terms elder, overseer and shepherd interchangeably in Acts 20.

presbuteros
(Greek word #4245 in Strong's)

This is the most commonly used word in the New Testament with regard to the twelve apostles, the quorum of seventy, or others acting under their apostolic authority. It refers 28 times in the Gospels and Acts to the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin and 12 times in Revelation to the representatives of the redeemed people of God. The remaining 19 times the word is employed in Acts and the Epistles, it identifies a unique group of leaders in the church. The term simply means advanced in age, but in the first century context indicates a rank or office among Jews as members of the ruling council, among Greeks as those who those who managed public affairs and administered justice, and among Christians as those who presided over the local assemblies. While no specific age is given, this term emphasizes the character of the elder and implies maturity, dignity, experience, and honor.[1]

episkopos
(Greek word #1985 in Strong's)

This is a common word for in the Greek culture for any official who acted as a superintendent, manager, controller, curator, guardian or ruler. It occurs only five times in the New Testament, once referring to Christ (1 Peter 2:25) and the other four times to church leaders. The term emphasizes the function of an elder as exercising authority and supervision "by divine placement, initiative and design".[2]

poimen
(Greek word #4166 in Strong's)

This word simply means shepherd. It is applied only once in the noun form and three times in the verb form in the New Testament in the context of church leaders. The term emphasizes the heart attitude of an elder as one who tends, feeds, guides, protects and cares for his flock.[3]

Mandate
Together, the New Testament writers mention elders, overseers and shepherds in reference to church leadership more than twenty-five times in the Gospels and the Epistles. The basis, selection, office, character, functions, attitude and qualifications of elders are laid out and the pattern established early and often. Strauch writes, "In fact, the New Testament offers more instruction regarding elders than on any other important church subjects such as the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Day, baptism or spiritual gifts".[4]

For example, Acts 11:30; 15:2,4,6,22-23; 16:4; and 21:18 demonstrate that elders had a significant role in the Jerusalem church and the Jerusalem council. In reference to churches in Antioch, Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, Acts 14:23 demonstrates Paul's pattern of appointing elders as a key step in organizing a new church. Paul spoke directly to the elders in Acts 20:17 and warned them in 20:28 to "(b)e on guard for (them)selves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made (them) overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Each of these passages points to an early understanding that God's intent for church leadership was by a plurality of elders. Instruction about elders is given to the churches in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:1-7,10 and 5:17-22,24-25; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:17; James 5:14; and 1 Peter 5:5. Instruction is given to elders about churches in 1 Thessalonians 5:13; James 5:14; and 1 Peter 5:1-5. In the majority of the references the word for elders is plural and word for church is singular, indicating a very clear directive that the church should be governed by a plurality of elders.

Qualifications

Blameless as a steward of God; above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6-7)
Husband of one wife; a one-woman man (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6)
Temperate, sober, vigilant (1 Timothy 3:2)
Sober-minded, prudent (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8)
Of good behavior; orderly, respectable (1 Timothy 3:2)
Given to hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
Apt to teach; able to teach; he can exhort believers and refute false teaching (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9)
Not given to wine (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Not violent, not pugnacious (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Patient, moderate, forbearing, gentle (1 Timothy 3:3)
Not a brawler; uncontentious; not soon angry or quick tempered (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Not covetous; not a lover of money; not greedy of base gain (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Rules well his own house; his children are faithful, not accused of rebellion to God (1 Timothy 3:4, Titus 1:7)
Not a novice; not a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6)
Has a good report or reputation with outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7)
Not self-willed (Titus 1:7)
A lover of what is good (Titus 1:7)
Just, fair (Titus 1:8)
Holy, devout (Titus 1:8)
Self-Controlled (Titus 1:8)

Duties
Shepherd the flock, setting an example for all (1 Peter 5:1-3)
Feed and care for the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12)
Teach and preach sound doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:9)
Rule and lead (I Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:2,4)
Train and ordain others (Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22; Titus 1:5)
Refute and rebuke the insubordinate (Titus 1:9, 13)
Keep watch over and give account to God for the spiritual well-being of the church (Hebrews 13:17)
Serve clothed in Christ-like humility (1 Peter 5:3-5)
I feel the strong need to understand the full scope of the issue in classical terms before I am able to seriously consider any particular part or selection of verses.

If anyone feels there is something omitted here or inadequately presented perhaps, please comment. It looks about "right" to me as far as it goes. Which is all that I'm saying. That this fairly makes the case for the traditional practice of having an "office of elder" in the assemblies.

I'll be getting into it in detail as time affords opportunity. I note initially the handling of 1 Tim. 5:17 contrasted with Peter's earlier post on this verse. I don't think for an instant that all of this edifice will crumble under our scrutiny but I would like to at least reduce it to that part that will not fall.

To the extent that there is an "office of elder" in the Bible then let us learn and practice that and not merely some traditional teachings and practices concerning it. I have never studied this matter before. One day, some men told me that they were "the elders" and that is all I knew about it. I received them as ones over me until such time as they rejected me. I submitted to their rejection and did not even attempt to return to their company until many years later when I attempted a reconcilliation. Even today I recognize them as the elders of that church.

But since I know that the Local Church has issues, especially with regard to its leadership, I am inclined to discover whether those who were stated to be elders over me were truly appointed by God's will to a position of power which gave them the ground to reject me. Practically speaking, I somewhat doubt it. But my consideration here is merely the Bible basis for their believing so, not whether one can be an elder and make mistakes, of course. But whether and how one can even be an elder in the first place.

In my experience, to rise up against an elder is not looked kindly upon, to say the least. Even if he's behaved badly. But as I understand it, there is only a scriptural mechanism for correction of a single errant elder. The New Testament doesn't really seem to contemplate a body of elders in agreement with erroneous or abusive behavior. It has seemed to me that the only response to that situation is to leave them to their practices. If they declare that this is how things are done in their church, well then, I agree with them that it is their church. But it is not and cannot be the assembly of the believers and I make no division by departing their company for they have caused the division in the first place.

So let us consider all these verses and see what they will teach us by going back to the Holy Word itself.

Grace be with us all in it!

Lord, lead us into the reality of your Word concerning the elders!
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Old 09-25-2008, 08:16 AM   #75
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Default Re: Eldership

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Originally Posted by YP0534 View Post
OK ... let us consider all these verses and see what they will teach us by going back to the Holy Word itself.

Grace be with us all in it!

Lord, lead us into the reality of your Word concerning the elders!
YP0534,

There is another useage, I believe, which is germane to the discussion. It is hinted at in the second body of your text, but it finds an explicit expression elsewhere that is, to me, significant. It is at the start of John's second epistle. "The elder to the chosen lady..."

John is an elder, I think, in line with Peter Debelak's 'alternate' reading of I Tim. chapter 5. "The elderly among you who are serving deserve double honor etc."

John is writing not as an officeholder; he is not an apostle, disciple, deacon, bishop, or anything else; he is the aged brother in faith. His maturity grants him the perspective to speak certain things, which he could not have shared in his younger years. Because of his spiritual experiences, it would behoove the younger believers to listen and "heed" (not obey, in the secular sense, but rather take under advisement) his counsel. For example, a counselor may advise his/her client to take a certain course of action, but the responsibility of action still remains on the client.

Elders can, and should, advise. This is part of shepherding, along with being an example. But to "command the troops" is a misguided reading, I think. And to those who deign to place themselves "above" the elders, whether they call themselves bishops, apostles, "serving ones" or "blended ones" or whatever, don't seem to have any mandate in the Word to be telling assemblies of believers what to do. They can counsel, yes, but we can ignore thier counsel and be "different" as the GLA churches decided to be. The "sheepcloth" came off the "wolf" with the quarantine of the GLA brethren, in my view.

Also, John gives some counsel in the first epistle on elders and younger ones, does he not? That might be profitable to look at.

That said, your survey of the literature was a helpful guide, thanks.
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Old 09-25-2008, 10:29 AM   #76
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Default Re: What is "eldership", according to Jesus?

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I often think that we bracket Christ's words in the gospels to issues related to the "individual Christian life; while the epistles are about the "body" - and, in the way we treat them, never the twain shall meet. That is, we perceive (explicitly or not) the Epistles as going further that Christ's ministry...

Recently I've been wondering if we look to Christ's words enough in determining what our "corporate life" should be and how "practical" we should approach its implementation.

In fact, I've had a liberal little thought: what if we consider the Epistles to be circumscribed by Christ's words in the Gospels. As a hermaneutic to interpret the Epistles?

Does that change our understanding of a lot of the seeming prescriptions in the letters?
Peter,

For a possible strengthening of your notions, and to back up my assertion of "trampling the words of Christ to rush towards Paul", look at Don Rutledge's testimony in his "History" thread, on Ray Graver's program for "Serving the Ministry". Look at all the verses Ray chose to put together a "blueprint" for serving the ministry of Witness Lee.

All the verses are "deputy authority" verses from epistles to Colossians, Corinthians, Timothy, Titus, etc. Not one word from Jesus. No "love thy neighbor as thyself" stuff there. Just authority and submission. What happens with that blueprint, is that eventually when "love thy neighbor" and the institution created to "serve the ministry" come into conflict, who wins? The institution wins. And God's love for man, expressed in the person of His Son Jesus Chist, is nowhere to be found. We find instead an empty shell, an institution with lackies, flunkies, bureaucrats, social climbers, wanna-be's and assorted hangers-on. This is not restricted to the LSM version. But the LSM version, with its "Philip Lee is the Office" brand of nepotism, among other egregious abuses, could serve as the poster child.

Maybe we could mandate in all assemblies a 5-year moratorium, for the new ones anyway, of all the epistles, you know, the "solid food", and make them just read the Beatitudes over and over 'till they get that ingrained. Love one another, love one another, love one another....eventually when they get that they can discuss elders and deacons and whatnot. Let them drink the "pure milk" of the Word before they go trying to chew on steaks.

Just a little tongue-in-cheek humor there, folks.
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Old 09-26-2008, 03:20 AM   #77
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Default Re: Eldership

Just a side note, but I've discovered that some denominations look at Peter's verse in 1 Tim. 5:17 in a very different way.

They note that there are some who labor "in word and teaching" and others that only "take the lead well" and therefore devise that there are two classes of the office of "elder" - those that teach and manage and those that manage only.

So, I guess under Peter's reading, we'll have THREE kinds of elders: the elderLY, the teaching elders, and the managing elders.

Perhaps we can also devise a number of classes of believers and organize the assembling saints such that they will fit into an elaborate org chart? We should use different colors for each class and invent good names for each.

Just a suggestion, of course.

A modest proposal. :rollingeyes2:
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Old 09-26-2008, 07:02 AM   #78
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Default The tone of my posts

I have a sort of blanket "disclaimer and apology" here on a couple of fronts.

One, I apologize for my tone if I seem a little too glib, too casual. When I earlier wrote, "I now present my next witness, the apostle John" I was kind of mocking myself, because I am in no way an organized or trained or even careful theologian or scriptural presenter. I sense something in the Word of God which resonates both with my study of christian, even human history, and my experiences, both "human" as well as "spiritual" (these are arbitrary categories), and both in the local churches led by Witness Lee as well as those in what we in the LC's used to call "christianity", i.e. non-local church groupings of believers. I see a common theme emerging, and it may only be tangenitally connected to the subject at hand, "eldership", but to me it is a critical theme in christian history and the appointment and service of elders in the assembly is quite connected.

But I am not a trained, organized, or systematic thinker so I am more or less reduced to "thinking aloud" in my posts. Which makes for messy, wandering reading, I am sure.

Combine that with my sort of "breathless" style, that every fourth or fifth line I write is full of self-inflicted drama, and I find it very easy to caricaturize myself, which I did in introducing my ideas on the apostle John.

So I apologize if my loose, breezy style comes off as disrespectful to Paul, or John, or anyone of antiquity. We owe them much. We are grateful to the Lord for their lives and experiences and testimonies. And I apologize if my writing is inflicted with self-importance, as if I have laid hold of something. And I apologize if my writing is scattershot, meandering, long and disorganized. And I especially apologize if I am disrespectful to Mr. Lee, any of the leading ones in the "Recovery" or elsewhere, or any posters here. I can be self-absorbed and often don't consciously realize the effect I have on others.

That said, I feel that John does in fact have something to say about the assembling together of the believers. He writes often in a general tone, a universal tone, but it may well be applicable in specifics as in the elders appointed by Paul. So please bear with me, if you can.

John is an important witness to me because he was there at the beginning. I think it quite possible that he was the other disciple of John the Baptist, called by the seashore. Look at the callings recorded in the Gospels. There is John's account, with two John the B. disciples transferred to Jesus, one of them being Andrew, who then goes and gets Peter.

Then there is the Matthew/Mark version, which has them by the seashore, fishing and mending nets. Jesus calls them and they go. The boats are presented as being in close proximity. Probably they know each other, being in the same trade on the same pond. Then there is Luke, which has them listed as being "partners", if I remember correctly. John and James and Peter are partners. But Zebedee the father of the two is also somehow connected, and has other servants laboring there as well.

So they are all somehow connected before Jesus shows up and changes their lives forever. Then Peter and James and John become a somewhat delineated "inner ring" around Jesus, at least in some occasions. Peter takes the lead to declare Jesus the Christ, to get out of the boat and walk on the water, etc.

John and James break ranks, with their mother inquiring on their behalf, and the others are indignant, but no permanent damage seems to linger. John and Peter are seen together at the tomb, and early in the book of Acts.

John may be therefore "of" Peter in the parties forming in Corinth. Some are of Paul, some of Peter, some of Apollos, etc. John may be "under" Peter in one grouping of the new fellowship of believers.

But I see John as too independent for that. I doubt he was unwittingly dragged into his mother's scheme; he is lockstep with James in calling down fire, in being a "son of thunder". He is intimate with the high priest, enough so that not only can he go in and out of the high priest's house when Jesus is being tried, but he can bring in Peter with him, who remained outside. No, John is what they call a "player", he has connections and contacts. His experience with John the B. and with the high priests of the Jewish religion casts him as anything but a naiif wandering along, like some early Forrest Gump.

The universal perception was that Jesus was going to set up a kingdom on the earth. Death and resurrection was part of nobody's plan, except God's, and it was hidden to all until it sprang forth by torchlight and weapons and a kiss of betrayal (Of course Jesus knew what was happening, I am speaking of the followers). The statement made by the two walking on the road to Emmaus in Luke 22 is likely a universal sentiment. "We thought [Jesus] was going to be ruler in Israel..."

So there are two shocks which make John disappear, to become an invisible "nobody" in our written record. The first is the crucifixion. This was contrary to his and everyone's expectations. All their earthly and selfish dreams and hopes, tied up in this man Jesus, were running out onto the ground in His shed blood. And they expired when Jesus died. But John remained in the center of the drama. Jesus told him, from the cross, to take Mary into his, John's own home. John is there with Peter at the tomb after the resurrection, and he's next to Peter when Peter heals the cripple at the temple, early in the book of Acts.

But then Herod kills James, his brother, with the sword, and when Herod sees that it pleases the Jews, he grabs Peter. An angel busts Peter out of jail, and Peter has to go into hiding. So John, being ambitious, realizes Herod's methods (he sees himself, in a way; his ambitious alter ego wielding earthly, threat-based power), and he also disappears. John realizes it would behoove him not to be "somebody" in the christian ranks, but to be an anonymous nobody. My point is that James is dead, Peter was grabbed and nearly killed also, and a prudent John realizes he's probably "next".

I don't think John was a wilting lily, by any means. It just became dangerous for him to be "somebody". So he went underground. And the vision within him percolated, and eventually came out in his writings. But he did make disciples. Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, are listed by name. So John was there, laboring quietly, all along, but his labor offers a different "model" than that of Paul. It was not by his design, but necessity, expediency. But it was by God's design. And we should consider it when we talk about the "New Testament Model".

Thanks for bearing with me. Peace to all who read this.

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Old 09-26-2008, 08:00 AM   #79
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Default Re: The tone of my posts

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Thanks for bearing with me. Peace to all who read this.
I think you're too hard on yourself about your tone, aron. When I'm requesting that you prepare your book draft for final editing, I'll ask you to kindly formalize your tone. Otherwise, an informal and conversational tone here makes these sorts of venues more attractive and interesting. I can smile at a joke that one would never consider making in a formal document.

We've got the smilies, after all.

Regarding organization, we need to be very careful, even precise, when citing to the Word. Just so that you know, if you don't do that, I instinctively and automatically discount your argument into the "hmmmm" category rather than the "amen" category until I have myself had a chance to verify it in the Word. And even posts presenting citations need to be prayerfully considered, of course.

So, taking your implicit challenge, and considering your actual thesis here about John, as far as I understand it, please explain how you have come to "see John as too independent" by citation to specific verses showing his independence, then help me to understand how such a view helps inform your opinion that John has something important to say concerning "elders" and, finally, if you don't mind, please help me to see, again by specific citation, exactly what it is he says on the topic.

But you can still use a smiley or two along the way if it helps...
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Old 09-28-2008, 05:33 AM   #80
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Default Re: Eldership

From the start of Acts, the term "elder" was used to refer to those who accompanied more formal Jewish leadership. They appear distinct at every point.

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Act 4:5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem;

Act 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders,

Act 4:23 And being let go, they came to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said unto them.

Act 6:12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and seized him, and brought him into the council,
From these verses the Jewish elders do not appear to be "rulers of the people" nor "scribes" nor "chief priests," but they are something other than just the common "people."

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Act 11:29 And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea:
Act 11:30 which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
In this verse, we see the term used the first time in Acts to refer to a group that was potentially distinct from the prior usage, although it is not crystal clear. Because the relief is being sent to "the brothers" and is to be delivered to "the elders", these "elders" appear to be a new group distinct from the old group of "elders" who were in the company of the rulers of the people, the scribes and the chief priests until now.

The key is to determine who are "the brothers" here. But once again, from the start of Acts, the word "brethren" is also used to refer generally to the fellow Jews in Jerusalem.

Working from Still's thesis that Luke intended Acts as the factual basis for a legal argument that the Christians were engaged in a lawful practice of religion under Roman law because it was authorized as a reform movement of the Jewish religion, the indistinct usages of "elder" and "brethren" when referring to groups of alternatively Jews and Christians leads in that direction. However, to maintain the foundation of truth, these terms must be susceptable to legitimate construction in very general and non-official terms.

My meaning is this: if I refer to "brothers" and "elders" and mean "the Jews and their leaders" in one place and then, without making a clear distinction, refer to "brothers" and "elders" and mean "the Christians and their leaders," then either those terms are quite amorphous and don't mean much of anything or I am being intentionally misleading. In that I cannot ascribe the latter to the author of the New Testament book, I'm inclined to believe that "brothers" and "elders" could not have been very rigidly defined terms with very distinct meanings between the Jewish background and the Christian practice. And, specifically, I think the meaning wasn't merely indistinguishable between the Jews and the Christians due to similarity but that the terms really only meant general things that were very broadly applicable in both contexts.
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Old 09-28-2008, 05:52 AM   #81
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Default Appointment of Elders in Acts

The following seems to be the first occasion that we see the practice of the "appointment of elders" and this is something quite curious.

Quote:
Act 14:21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch,
Act 14:22 confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.
Act 14:23 And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed.
I firstly note that this was something accomplished by Saul and Barnabas outside of Jerusalem and Judea. So, is it possible that in these places they did not have much trouble with an existing group of Jewish elders in a leadership role among the group that they would at one point refer to generally as "brethren" as fellow Jews who would then become "brethren" in Christ?

I guess the real question is: how did it come to be that there was such a practice of appointment? I am not aware of any place wherein Paul declares that God has directed him to make such appointments. I am also not aware of any information that such a practice of appointment was a custom among the Jews. To the extent that elders were merely older, what is the function of appointment? Isn't a calendar going to do the job for you?

However you parse it, you have to come down on the side of saying that Saul and Barnabas must have been in a superior position in order to make an appointment. We can, by faith, say that they did so according to the leading of the Spirit and be done with the question. But I would like to see where such leading was revealed to them and to us. Here in this passage, it is spoken as if it were a common thing to have such appointing done by persons such as Saul and Barnabas.

And here's the benefit of further study: in Acts 14:23 "appointed" is a rather poor translation. The definition from Vine's:

Quote:
Appoint, Appointed:

\cheirotoneo\
primarily used of voting in the Athenian legislative assembly and meaning "to stretch forth the hands" (cheir, "the hand," teino, "to stretch"), is not to be taken in its literal sense; it could not be so taken in its compound procheirotoneo, "to choose before," since it is said of God, Act 10:41. Cheirotoneo is said of "the appointment" of elders by apostolic missionaries in the various churches which they revisited, Act 14:23, RV, "had appointed," i.e., by the recognition of those who had been manifesting themselves as gifted of God to discharge the functions of elders (see No. 2). It is also said of those who were "appointed" (not by voting, but with general approbation) by the churches in Greece to accompany the Apostle in conveying their gifts to the poor saints in Judea, 2Cr 8:19.
See CHOOSE, ORDAIN.
When, in a legislative assembly, there was a vote by show of hands, this would not be ordinarily understood to be an "appointment" or "appointing." Giving due weight to Vine's construction of the compound form, terms such as choice, election and selection are clearly distinguishable from the notion of appointment. Such a translation appears to me to do damage to the author's thought. "Appointment" implies the matter of a position of superior authority and the existence of a formal office. Saul and Barnabas do not "ordain" elders as some translations have it; they select them. The difference is installation versus selection.

Also interesting: The footnote on this verse in NIV implies that the verb may even be translated such that the selection was done by the assembly. Young's Literal concurs that there was a vote here. Only Darby uses "choose" as the verb. The rest appear certain that there was an appointment to an office as a function of the superior authority.
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Old 09-28-2008, 09:19 AM   #82
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Default Re: Appointment of Elders in Acts

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Originally Posted by YP0534 View Post

I guess the real question is: how did it come to be that there was such a practice of appointment? I am not aware of any place wherein Paul declares that God has directed him to make such appointments. I am also not aware of any information that such a practice of appointment was a custom among the Jews. To the extent that elders were merely older, what is the function of appointment? Isn't a calendar going to do the job for you?
I like the word in verse 22, preceding the 'appointment' of elders; that they 'confirmed' the souls of the believers. They affirmed what God had done; they did not push something that was not already there.

Is there any connection in the 'confirmed' in verse 22 to 'appointed' in verse 23? If these words in the original greek seem in apposition to each other, then we would have to lean more towards 'selected' as the reading for the appointment of elders.

There is some confirming going on there in Acts. When Peter goes to Cornelius, the Jews in Jerusalem have to confirm that God has moved among the Gentiles. When Ananias lays hands on Saul and baptises him, the brethren at first shrink back from this converted murderer and blasphemer; Ananias exhorts them to receive Saul/Paul as a brother, which they do.

And Jerusalem, when it is not sending out Judaizers, must at least confirm, or affirm, that Paul is of God's move, both when they lay the right hand of fellowship on Paul and Barnabas and send them off, and in Paul's account in Galatians when he returns to Jerusalem after 14 years and presents his case to the brethren there.

So Jerusalem didn't appoint much of the doings of Paul; but they did confirm it. Did Paul in any way confirm what God was doing in the local assemblies? Is there any record of elders being raised up, by some kind of local assembly agreement, then to be confirmed by Paul, just as Jerusalem confirmed him?

If Paul didn't take "orders" from the de-facto headquarters in Jerusalem, did he also not try to impose his version of order on the assemblies of saints gathered here and there? Or did he?

The other thing about elders; it's not just chronological maturity. It is also spiritual maturity. Else some dotty old fellow would end up "in charge"...
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Old 09-28-2008, 11:11 AM   #83
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Default Re: Appointment of Elders in Acts

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I like the word in verse 22, preceding the 'appointment' of elders; that they 'confirmed' the souls of the believers. They affirmed what God had done; they did not push something that was not already there.

Is there any connection in the 'confirmed' in verse 22 to 'appointed' in verse 23? If these words in the original greek seem in apposition to each other, then we would have to lean more towards 'selected' as the reading for the appointment of elders.

There is some confirming going on there in Acts. When Peter goes to Cornelius, the Jews in Jerusalem have to confirm that God has moved among the Gentiles. When Ananias lays hands on Saul and baptises him, the brethren at first shrink back from this converted murderer and blasphemer; Ananias exhorts them to receive Saul/Paul as a brother, which they do.
There is more confirming going on. A good deal of confirmation, actually, now that you mention it.

Quote:
Act 15:30 So they, when they were dismissed, came down to Antioch; and having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle.
Act 15:31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced for the consolation.
Act 15:32 And Judas and Silas, being themselves also prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

Act 15:39 And there arose a sharp contention, so that they parted asunder one from the other, and Barnabas took Mark with him, and sailed away unto Cyprus;
Act 15:40 but Paul choose Silas, and went forth, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.
Act 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.
But I don't see any clear connection with the choosing or selection of elders in this regard, I'm afraid.

Again, however, this does seem to be in contrast to a view requiring an express acknowledgement of superordinate authority, doesn't it?

One does get the sense that there was something happening in the assemblies, at least outside of Jerusalem, that nobody was really in control of...
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Old 09-28-2008, 08:38 PM   #84
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Default Re: Eldership

I've been tied up as of late, so haven't had/don't have time to respond yet, but I just wanted to say I've been following and appreciate the thoughts and studies. I'll be jumping back in soon... (for better or worse).

Grace to you,

Peter
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:02 AM   #85
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I've been tied up as of late, so haven't had/don't have time to respond yet, but I just wanted to say I've been following and appreciate the thoughts and studies. I'll be jumping back in soon... (for better or worse).

Grace to you,

Peter
Well, then, try this one:

From the examples actually found in scripture, it would seem that elders were only appointed by apostles or co-workers. Apostolic appointment is in Acts 14:23 and appointment by a co-worker in Titus 1:5. But these two passages are the only places where we see elders or overseers being "appointed." In most places in the New Testament, elders are simply mentioned without any reference to how they became elders. It is not as if we have dozens of examples of elders being appointed and they all occur through an apostle or a delegate. In fact, there is no explicit instruction as to who may appoint elders. And since Acts 14:23 clearly doesn't cary the weight of establishing someone in an office, we should turn to Titus 1:5.

Darby translates, generously, I think, thusly:
Quote:
Tts 1:5 For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou mightest go on to set right what remained [unordered], and establish elders in each city, as *I* had ordered thee:
Pretty much every other translation uses "appoint." NIV gives a footnote on "appoint" that says "or, ordain."

The Greek word in Titus regarding "appointment" of elders is \kathistemi\

Here is Vine's discussion:

Quote:
Strong's Number: 2525
Appoint, Appointed:

a strengthened form of No. 1, usually signifies "to appoint a person to a position." In this sense the verb is often translated "to make" or "to set," in appointing a person to a place of authority, e.g., a servant over a household, Mat 24:45, 47; 25:21, 23; Luk 12:42, 44; a judge, Luk 12:14; Act 7:27, 35; a governor, Act 7:10; man by God over the work of His hands, Hbr 2:7. It is rendered "appoint," with reference to the so-called seven deacons in Act 6:3. The RV translates it by "appoint" in Tts 1:5, instead of "ordain," of the elders whom Titus was to "appoint" in every city in Crete. Not a formal ecclesiastical ordination is in view, but the "appointment," for the recognition of the churches, of those who had already been raised up and qualified by the Holy Spirit, and had given evidence of this in their life and service (see No. 11). It is used of the priests of old, Hbr 5:1; 7:28; 8:3 (RV, "appointed").
See CONDUCT, MAKE, ORDAIN, SET.
I don't think you can avoid a translation here that requires understanding the "installation" to an "office." But I've already made my statement about Titus elsewhere so that I cannot conclude the matter there.

Moreover, even if Paul and Titus were designated by God to install godly men to the office of eldership, the modern context requires us to examine who are the Paul and the Titus to do the same thing? You must be talking about the Local Church, I think, because nowhere else is there the practice of having apostles and co-workers in this way, that I am aware of.

Is it indeed the case that elders must only be appointed by someone with superior authority? If not, then how shall they be appointed? Where is the instruction of the New Testament on this imprtant and practical point?

I am really bothered by this.
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:07 PM   #86
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I don't have any particular thoughts about "appoint" or "appointment" just yet, but I thought I compound the issue a bit and tie it in to something we've been discussing in 1 Timothy 5.

19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

So the traditional reading is that the reader today should not accuse/receive accusation against an elder except before 2-3 witnesses. Then, in my experience, many read "them that sin" verse 20 as anyone who sins in the congregation should be rebuked before all.

I think it should be obvious that verse 20, though, refers to elders who, if proven to have sinned before 2-3 witnesses, should be rebuked publically as an example to the congregation. (this does not mean this shouldn't happen with others, just this context is talking about elders - be they officers or elderly).

The second issue, then, with this traditional reading is that it wasn't written to the general audience, it was written to Timothy who was in a super-leadership role - someone who we are not sure has a modern day counterpart.

Thus, the person whom Paul contemplates 1) receiving accusations against elders and 2) publically rebuking elders is Timothy (if you take 1 Timothy as words spoken as specific admonitions for our authority/role, you raise larger questions). If we don't have a framework for having a modern day Timothy-type, then I have no idea how these verses would or even could be applied today. Whatever modern day counterpart there is to Timothy, his role, I suppose, would include to reprove, rebuke and exhort (2 Tim 4:2).

But he got his "office" or "role" from the apostle and the apostle gets his office/role from... which brings us back to "doh!, a deer, a female...."

Just some more fodder for thought while I contemplate further the points you brothers bring up and kick around some other contemplations (actually, I thinking of the concept of "recognition" - i.e. whereby "appointments" or "canonization" are not installations but rather recognitions. I'll probably start a separate thread...)

Peter
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:49 PM   #87
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Is it indeed the case that elders must only be appointed by someone with superior authority? If not, then how shall they be appointed? Where is the instruction of the New Testament on this imprtant and practical point? ... I am really bothered by this.
Though Paul (probably) appointed some or all of the elders in Ephesus, he told them that the "Holy Spirit placed them as overseers to shepherd the church of God." This was crucial. Too many LC's have human appointees, which has created conflicts during times of trials.

The Open Brethren confronted many conflicts like this, and some eventually agreed on the practice of Unanimity of agreement -- waiting on the Holy Spirit thru prayer until unanimity was reached among the saints. This practice prevented the "top-down" management style we see today -- "here's your new elder, you will like him."

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But he got his "office" or "role" from the apostle and the apostle gets his office/role from... which brings us back to "doh!, a deer, a female...."

Just some more fodder for thought while I contemplate further the points you brothers bring up and kick around some other contemplations (actually, I thinking of the concept of "recognition" - i.e. whereby "appointments" or "canonization" are not installations but rather recognitions.
I have long contended that the appointments we see in the LC's are not made by apostles, but by those acting as "bishops." Of course, in today's LC practice, the word "bishop" is totally taboo, and instantly evokes images of a dreaded hierarchy and headquarters. But isn't that a far better description of what we have today? Let's call things what they are!

Bishops give regional conferences, oversee churches by raising up brothers who can lead, and have authority over their appointees. Isn't that what we have today?
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Old 09-30-2008, 04:29 AM   #88
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I don't have any particular thoughts about "appoint" or "appointment" just yet, but I thought I compound the issue a bit and tie it in to something we've been discussing in 1 Timothy 5.

19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

So the traditional reading is that the reader today should not accuse/receive accusation against an elder except before 2-3 witnesses. Then, in my experience, many read "them that sin" verse 20 as anyone who sins in the congregation should be rebuked before all.

I think it should be obvious that verse 20, though, refers to elders who, if proven to have sinned before 2-3 witnesses, should be rebuked publically as an example to the congregation. (this does not mean this shouldn't happen with others, just this context is talking about elders - be they officers or elderly).
I think it's obvious.

Realizing some can argue straight hair into curly, I don't think there's any real controversy with your reading there. And I'm not certain it should be done generally with the saints but that is definitely a whole nuther topic.

That said, I think this significantly undercuts your theory about "elderLY" as a reading. Why would the old men be called out in such an especially prescribed manner?

While we're at it, v. 18 of this section speaks directly to the concept of a paid clerical class, no? Isn't this the real intent of v. 17's "double honor" phrase?

Sorry. This is what I'm talking about that I'm trying to understand the whole of the classical context. This appears to me to the plain reading of the section and it is corroborated in 1 Cor. 9.

Paul appears to expressly sanction a compensated professional clergy. He himself, he says in 1 Cor. 9, declined to exercise his right to compensation but that it was in fact his due, even as the oxen had a legal right.

Without making too much here of the fact that Paul AGAIN makes an appeal to the Law in 1 Cor. for proof of his position (the other being in chapter 14 concerning submission), doesn't the fact that he's got people designated to receive compensation weigh heavily in favor of the existence of an "office" of "elder" and not merely the more mature informally taking the lead?
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Old 10-01-2008, 07:17 PM   #89
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I think it's obvious.

Realizing some can argue straight hair into curly, I don't think there's any real controversy with your reading there. And I'm not certain it should be done generally with the saints but that is definitely a whole nuther topic.

That said, I think this significantly undercuts your theory about "elderLY" as a reading. Why would the old men be called out in such an especially prescribed manner?

While we're at it, v. 18 of this section speaks directly to the concept of a paid clerical class, no? Isn't this the real intent of v. 17's "double honor" phrase?

Sorry. This is what I'm talking about that I'm trying to understand the whole of the classical context. This appears to me to the plain reading of the section and it is corroborated in 1 Cor. 9.

Paul appears to expressly sanction a compensated professional clergy. He himself, he says in 1 Cor. 9, declined to exercise his right to compensation but that it was in fact his due, even as the oxen had a legal right.

Without making too much here of the fact that Paul AGAIN makes an appeal to the Law in 1 Cor. for proof of his position (the other being in chapter 14 concerning submission), doesn't the fact that he's got people designated to receive compensation weigh heavily in favor of the existence of an "office" of "elder" and not merely the more mature informally taking the lead?
I considered that it could cut against my "elderLY" reading and it very well might. But it does inherently do so. Even if the section is talking about the "elderLY" who take the lead, such ones - that is ones who take on work for others, such ones take on greater accountablity, whether they have office or not. If someone, without office, takes on a burden to labor for the church and, "especially" to teach, then such a one takes on greater accountability. I think this prinicple is valid regardless of "office" or station.

So, I think the 1 Tim 5 reading is still a valid one. That said, even accepting such a reading does not mean there weren't, in fact, offices at the time of Paul - prescribed or inherited. And, as such, its entirely possible that Paul saw an "office" of elder who deserved pay...

Peter
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Old 10-01-2008, 09:28 PM   #90
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aron:

Frankly, I'm not even sure yet what to do about your analysis of John! I don't think I've ever contemplated his approach (i.e. politician of sorts, by your description). Reading your precis of the scriptural account of his life/work, you make a compelling argument. I don't think I'm inclined to conclude his position on "eldership" based upon a conception of his "political" approach to ministry at the time, but it is a backdrop worth giving contemplation to.

As far as his specific writings, I was in Revelation again and had this thought:

churches, as such, were skrewing up in every way you could imagine (and some you wish you couldn't). These were first century churches, the one we'd love to use as examples. John's word was not to the church, as a group. His word - actually, the Spirit's word - was (in paraphrase): I don't care your situation, whatever it is - you, the individual must overcome. Yes, the Spirit is speaking to the churches. But John seems to think the only response contemplated is by individuals, not by groups.

Peter
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Old 10-02-2008, 04:23 AM   #91
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I considered that it could cut against my "elderLY" reading and it very well might. But it does inherently do so. Even if the section is talking about the "elderLY" who take the lead, such ones - that is ones who take on work for others, such ones take on greater accountablity, whether they have office or not. If someone, without office, takes on a burden to labor for the church and, "especially" to teach, then such a one takes on greater accountability. I think this prinicple is valid regardless of "office" or station.

So, I think the 1 Tim 5 reading is still a valid one. That said, even accepting such a reading does not mean there weren't, in fact, offices at the time of Paul - prescribed or inherited. And, as such, its entirely possible that Paul saw an "office" of elder who deserved pay...

Peter
I'm really distressed about the model Paul apparently lays out for a paid clergy. While he himself made tents and at least on this cited occasion declined to accept anything monetary, he has established that there are some who should get money for their Christian labor. Indeed, he has declared it a legal right on the principle of othe ox. The Lord said to go without a purse. Paul says he could demand money. Isn't there a contradiction there?
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Old 10-06-2008, 06:29 AM   #92
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aron:

Frankly, I'm not even sure yet what to do about your analysis of John! I don't think I've ever contemplated his approach (i.e. politician of sorts, by your description). ... I don't think I'm inclined to conclude his position on "eldership" based upon a conception of his "political" approach to ministry at the time, but it is a backdrop worth giving contemplation to.

in Revelation ... John's word was not to the church, as a group. His word - actually, the Spirit's word - was (in paraphrase): I don't care your situation, whatever it is - you, the individual must overcome. Yes, the Spirit is speaking to the churches. But John seems to think the only response contemplated is by individuals, not by groups.
Part of my analysis of John was to give a backdrop, yes. This backdrop was meant to show that: a) John's absence from the record of the nascent divisions evident in First Corinthians chapter one is perhaps noteworthy; b) that he presents another, complementary "model" in a low-profile, even hidden way, making individual disciples (Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias) without "raising up churches" as others were doing(appointing elders and so forth); and c) that his word in First John chapter 2, verses 12 - 14, on "little children...young men...fathers..." may be in this line of 'keeping good order within the assembly' versus the more explicit line of 'order' suggested by Paul's appointments of elders and writings on this matter.

I did not use the word of a "political" approach as an interpretation of John, but it works for me. Religion and politics were tightly interwoven. For a time, after Jesus, they got freed from one another, but eventually they became interwoven again. So yes, John was a budding politician, before the death of Jesus and then the death of his brother.

In addition to John's ambitions and aspirations, mouthed by his mother in the famous lines to Jesus ("Make my sons sit at your right hand and left"), we have the concepts of John the Baptist, who was languishing in prison ("Tell us, are you the Christ, or should we expect another?"), and the words of Cleopas in Luke 24 ("We thought He would redeem Israel") to show that the "Sons of thunder" were not absolute anomalies in this regard. Several times the gospels say "For as yet his disciples did not understand what was to take place...", etc. People were looking for an outward, Solomonic-type kingdom to be established. The Romans would be banished and the throne of David would be set up for a thousand years. John was not an anomaly, he just wanted to be at the head of the line. But by the first few chapters of Acts, all that was gone.

So my question is, not how much did Paul set up the decline of the churches by appointing elders, but how much did his model serve in the decline when "the office" was adopted in the letter? Paul was free in the Spirit to appoint elders as he was led, but if later assemblies of believers chose to become slaves to the letter of Paul, was this not a decline? John's approach is helpful because his "little children, young men, and fathers" shows lives, not offices.

Lastly, your point on individual versus institutional response is certainly well taken.

Thanks, aron
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Old 10-06-2008, 06:54 AM   #93
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I'm really distressed about the model Paul apparently lays out for a paid clergy. While he himself made tents and at least on this cited occasion declined to accept anything monetary, he has established that there are some who should get money for their Christian labor. Indeed, he has declared it a legal right on the principle of the ox. The Lord said to go without a purse. Paul says he could demand money. Isn't there a contradiction there?
See my closing question in post #92 in this thread. I am thinking that perhaps Paul was not out of line at all, that he was fully blessed by God in his endeavors (the power of the Spirit certainly is evident), but how much did he inadvertently have a hand in the decline by becoming the "model" for the New Testament christian living, instead of Christ?

Yes, the Lord said go without a purse. But the Lord was ministered to by his disciples. "And there were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary the Magdalene, and Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome, who, when He was in Galilee, followed Him and ministered to Him, as well as many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem." -- Mark 15:40,41.

Also look at Acts chapters 4 through 6; you see the disciples sharing, turning over posessions, giving to each according to need, setting up some to distribute provisions and not neglect the widows, with others laboring in the word and prayer. It is not stated explicitly, but it may well have been that not only the indigent got provided for out of the common store, but some of the "laboring oxen" also got a mouthful here and there.

The problem is when we codify this and set up offices. When the believers instititionalize the Spirit's move, the decline is inevitable. It follows as night follows day. We should not be surprised at the rapid and precipitous decline among those of the fellowship of faith.

I believe John stuck around long enough to see this happen, and he had the spiritual insight to recognize the trend, and he was inspired to write the book of Revelation. (Sorry, couldn't resist 'sticking' that last point in there ).
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Old 10-06-2008, 07:58 AM   #94
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John is an important witness to me because he was there at the beginning ... So they are all somehow connected before Jesus shows up and changes their lives forever ... So there are two shocks which make John disappear, to become an invisible "nobody" in our written record ... and a prudent John realizes he's probably "next" ... It just became dangerous for him to be "somebody". So he went underground.

Thanks for bearing with me. Peace to all who read this.
Aron, I like your comments on John, and wanted to add a couple of my own for your comment.

I agree that John was there fishing when called. I have long held the opinion that James, John, Jesus, and the baptizer John, were all cousins and related as extended family, based on the early record and of who was at the cross. Especially those from Galilee, then, should have had some relationship prior to the gospel record. I felt John loved and looked up to Jesus as an older well respected cousin, yet so friendly at heart, from his childhood.

One dilemma for me ... coming from a Catholic background, the concept of "ever virgin" was greatly reinforced by the Lord's words, "behold your son." I still wonder why He said that -- when the Lord had 4 other brothers and at least 2 sisters.

Regarding the "disappearance" of John, you mentioned the cross and persecution. I have never considered those, looking at the record of events. During the crucifixion, we have no account that John showed any signs of fear. Even Peter, the bravest of all, succumbed, though I never held this against him, as so many do. Yes he denied, but he was there. Where were the other ten? Also, the persecution only made John the more bold. He was a "son of thunder" before regeneration, how about afterwards?

Early on in Jerusalem even until ~AD50, John was still "reputed to be a pillar" by Paul, yet we have no record that he spoke at the council on circumcision. My impression has always been that John, over time, like Peter, became subdued by James and the zealots of the law. He was new to Jerusalem with all its traditions and trappings, having grown up in distant Galilee. John the Baptist, however, knew it all and forsook it all to go to the wilderness, but those from "up north" were still "in awe" of it all.

Then it was the destruction of Jerusalem which "recovered" John, who later served in Ephesus. The revelations returned. When initially called, he was perhaps the youngest, and thus saved by God to minister to the church after all the destruction and persecution of the period of ad 66-70. Of course, by this I am voicing my agreement to the later date of his writings, which some object to. His ministry in the end became a "mending of nets" in the church, which had suffered dearly, and was transitioning from the "Ephesus" to the "Smyrna" model in church history.

What say ye? This little blurb on John reminds me of one I did on Timothy years ago.
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Old 10-07-2008, 10:44 AM   #95
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Early on in Jerusalem even until ~AD50, John was still "reputed to be a pillar" by Paul, yet we have no record that he spoke at the council on circumcision. My impression has always been that John, over time, like Peter, became subdued by James and the zealots of the law. He was new to Jerusalem with all its traditions and trappings, having grown up in distant Galilee. John the Baptist, however, knew it all and forsook it all to go to the wilderness, but those from "up north" were still "in awe" of it all.

Then it was the destruction of Jerusalem which "recovered" John, who later served in Ephesus. The revelations returned. When initially called, he was perhaps the youngest, and thus saved by God to minister to the church after all the destruction and persecution of the period of ad 66-70. ... His ministry in the end became a "mending of nets" in the church, which had suffered dearly, and was transitioning from the "Ephesus" to the "Smyrna" model in church history.
I think I want to start a new thread on Peter/James/John & the first "assembly" around Jesus, and contrast that with the assemblies Paul was ministering to and trying to manage, some from a distance. Then, obviously, try to shed some light on the situation today.

There is a lot to say here, on the relations and relationships before Jesus, on the circumstances of the initial "call" to gather around Jesus, on the nascent subgroups within the new assembly, and the delineations of various services and special roles filled by people, and how that may have mutated into "offices" with bureaucrats and so on.

I am especially interested that John the Baptist came from a Jewish priestly family and "chucked it all", and made disciples of his own, before the fateful day that he said, "Behold, the lamb of God...", and they left John and followed Jesus. Combine that with the "Zebedee" John's being "...known to the high priest"(John 18:16). However, this new gathering of seeking ones around Jesus seemed quite new and fresh contrasted to the "offices" filled by Pharisees and Sadducees. And it is contrasted, I think, because up until John the B. and then Jesus the formal priestly "offices" was the status quo.

Then at the end of the Bible, John the aged apostle is "writing in tongues", quoting the OT profusely, saying that Jezebel and Balak and the throne of Satan are there, either within or threatening from without, among the gatherings of believers. So it seemed to me that "offices" had sprung up among them, with bureaucrats and political maneuverings and power structures a-borning.

But all this, I fear, may be distracting from a perfectly reasonable discussion Peter D. & YP & others may have been having about eldership, with the apostle Paul & his experiences in Acts, plus his epistles. I had interjected my point on John simply to say that the Titus/Timothy quotes of Paul on eldership were not the only thing germane to the discussion. But as usual, I make my points by going overboard.

So I apologize if I've been flooding this discussion with "spam" (unrelated)posts, and think there's enough useful material on the "pre-elder" days to start a new thread. Which I will do one of these days, when I get time. Ha-ha.
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Old 10-08-2008, 04:21 AM   #96
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But all this, I fear, may be distracting from a perfectly reasonable discussion Peter D. & YP & others may have been having about eldership, with the apostle Paul & his experiences in Acts, plus his epistles. I had interjected my point on John simply to say that the Titus/Timothy quotes of Paul on eldership were not the only thing germane to the discussion. But as usual, I make my points by going overboard.
I read all the new posts (at least, on the threads I'm interested in reading) and if there's cross-talk or overlapping dialog between threads I don't think that's a harm. And if the topic of "eldership" properly needs to be subsumed in a larger examination, I doubt Peter will weep at the demise of his worthy thread. To the extent that this topic arises again elsewhere, we can endeavor to bring it back as appropriate and we can even work in parallel on two threads if it works out that way. Perhaps "eldership" was just "Chapter One" and "ekklesia" needs to be "Chapter Two."

You worry too much, aron.
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Old 10-12-2008, 08:23 AM   #97
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From YP's list: Qualifications for elders

Blameless as a steward of God; above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6-7)
Husband of one wife; a one-woman man (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6)
Temperate, sober, vigilant (1 Timothy 3:2)
Sober-minded, prudent (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8)
Of good behavior; orderly, respectable (1 Timothy 3:2)
Given to hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
Apt to teach; able to teach; he can exhort believers and refute false teaching (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9)
Not given to wine (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Not violent, not pugnacious (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Patient, moderate, forbearing, gentle (1 Timothy 3:3)
Not a brawler; uncontentious; not soon angry or quick tempered (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Not covetous; not a lover of money; not greedy of base gain (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7)
Rules well his own house; his children are faithful, not accused of rebellion to God (1 Timothy 3:4, Titus 1:7)
Not a novice; not a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6)
Has a good report or reputation with outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7)
Not self-willed (Titus 1:7)
A lover of what is good (Titus 1:7)
Just, fair (Titus 1:8)
Holy, devout (Titus 1:8)
Self-Controlled (Titus 1:8)

Reading again the list of qualifications of elders, I was touched again, strongly, with something that's been bugging me for a long time now. Paul's list of qualifications are compared to what?

Did Apollos or Peter recommend leaders in the assembly who were brawlers, given to wine, keepers of more than one wife? Who was recommending something different than Paul here? Why did he have to write these words?

Or was it okay for the "rank & file" to drink & fight & fornicate; just not the "leading ones"?

Where do these admonitions come from? Why is Paul writing these words? I don't get it. It seems to me to be a huge dropoff from "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" and "Blessed are the pure at heart, for they shall see God", to "Don't drink and fight". It seems to be a big dropoff to go from "It was written, do not steal, but I say to you, do not even covet", to "Those who stole should steal no more".

The spiritual, mystical, deep, even unfathomable, limitless teachings have been replaced by prescriptions for outward behavior that even most unbelievers would shrug at. Don't steal, don't punch one another, stay sober. What happened here?

Just a little contextual question for the "eldership" discussion. Something clearly happened to the fellowship, from Acts chapter 2 to Paul's epistles.

Compare Paul's prescriptions for the "leaders of the flock" to Jesus' "Beatitudes". The latter is clearly at another whole level of reality. What happened?

Last edited by aron; 10-12-2008 at 09:02 AM. Reason: Correction
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Old 10-12-2008, 09:39 AM   #98
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Default Re: Eldership

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The spiritual, mystical, deep, even unfathomable, limitless teachings have been replaced by prescriptions for outward behavior that even most unbelievers would shrug at. Don't steal, don't punch one another, stay sober. What happened here?
Thank God for that. Who wants to try to recognize qualified leaders based on something unfathomable?

Paul is saying if you are qualified for leadership you will at least meet these minimum qualifications. He is giving the lowest standard, not the highest standard. Why did he use this approach? Because pool of potential leaders is imperfect, glaringly so, but the church still needs leaders. Yet there still must be be minimum qualifications. Those are these. Leaders can reach much higher though, and the really good ones do.
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Old 10-12-2008, 12:19 PM   #99
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Cool Waldorf Salad and the Reality of Spiritual Authority

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Originally Posted by aron View Post
Reading again the list of qualifications of elders, I was touched again, strongly, with something that's been bugging me for a long time now. Paul's list of qualifications are compared to what?

Did Apollos or Peter recommend leaders in the assembly who were brawlers, given to wine, keepers of more than one wife? Who was recommending something different than Paul here? Why did he have to write these words?

Or was it okay for the "rank & file" to drink & fight & fornicate; just not the "leading ones"?
You are right, aron.

These minimal standards are so broadly applicable to all believers that they don't really help determine anything at all. It is a very good question as to why Paul would bother to articulate that an overseer must not be one given to violence and must be holy. Only non-brutal faithful (male) believers need apply. Huh. I wouldn't really think there would be any question about appointment of brutal, unholy men to an "office" in God's own assembly, but, then again, maybe some in Ephesus were into that sort of thing or something.

This reveals that the REAL "qualification" must come from elsewhere.

I believe Lee taught that it was "revelation" that was the basis of this sort of thing but I'd like to continue to dig into the issue and see if the Bible itself doesn't yield some additional light on the topic. Paul clearly promoted his own apostleship as based in revelation but does this necessarily translate to anyone who claims some crazy revelation? Clearly not. How do we test and approve or reject the revelations?

Paul wrote that the Jerusalem above is free, who is our mother. (Gal. 4:26) I think maybe the New Jerusalem is more like a Waldorf salad than a mommy. OK, so the Waldorf salad recipe can't be found in the Old Testament, but aside from the Book of Revelation, where else can I see that there's a city in the heavens someplace? Where'd Paul get that kind of stuff and then commend us to believe it? And, more to the point, what do I do about THAT guy and what HE says God showed him? Is my revelation of the Waldorf salad really THAT inconsistent with the New Testament revelation of God's eternal purpose? Lee taught that Christ is the reality of every positive thing in the universe, right? Does that stop short of the Waldorf salad? Who says so?

Or maybe revelation and "church offices" have no relationship one with another?
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Old 10-12-2008, 09:16 PM   #100
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Default Re: Eldership

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Originally Posted by Igzy View Post
Thank God for that. Who wants to try to recognize qualified leaders based on something unfathomable?
Hmm.

With what faculty are we "recognizing" spiritual authority? Based on outward criteria, of which our leaders must meet a minimum? The very notion of "recognize" is that there is something - already there to recognize. Surely it isn't some set of minimum standards that we already "recognized" - but rather a spiritual experience and heft that carried weight amoung a population, no? And surely that "recognition" couldn't necessarily be broken down into criteria. Isn't that "recognition" a spiritual and organic on - one of a natural relationship which has developed between certain elder believers and others? If so - if that "higher" standard of intuitive recognition of spiritual authority is the pre-requisite for "recognition" by an assembly - why the need for the very minimal outward standards? That is, either spiritual authority is, in fact, spiritually recognizable or it is recognizable because some set of outward criteria have been met. Either way, a minimum standard doesn't (seemingly) do us much good.

All that to say, I think aron's questions are still pressing and unanswered ones, Igzy. The standards are clearly in the Word. I echo aron's questions however, about what Paul is getting at with them. Thoughts?

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Old 10-12-2008, 09:23 PM   #101
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Default Re: Waldorf Salad and the Reality of Spiritual Authority

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Originally Posted by YP0534 View Post
You are right, aron.

These minimal standards are so broadly applicable to all believers that they don't really help determine anything at all. It is a very good question as to why Paul would bother to articulate that an overseer must not be one given to violence and must be holy. Only non-brutal faithful (male) believers need apply. Huh. I wouldn't really think there would be any question about appointment of brutal, unholy men to an "office" in God's own assembly, but, then again, maybe some in Ephesus were into that sort of thing or something.

This reveals that the REAL "qualification" must come from elsewhere.

I believe Lee taught that it was "revelation" that was the basis of this sort of thing but I'd like to continue to dig into the issue and see if the Bible itself doesn't yield some additional light on the topic. Paul clearly promoted his own apostleship as based in revelation but does this necessarily translate to anyone who claims some crazy revelation? Clearly not. How do we test and approve or reject the revelations?

Paul wrote that the Jerusalem above is free, who is our mother. (Gal. 4:26) I think maybe the New Jerusalem is more like a Waldorf salad than a mommy. OK, so the Waldorf salad recipe can't be found in the Old Testament, but aside from the Book of Revelation, where else can I see that there's a city in the heavens someplace? Where'd Paul get that kind of stuff and then commend us to believe it? And, more to the point, what do I do about THAT guy and what HE says God showed him? Is my revelation of the Waldorf salad really THAT inconsistent with the New Testament revelation of God's eternal purpose? Lee taught that Christ is the reality of every positive thing in the universe, right? Does that stop short of the Waldorf salad? Who says so?

Or maybe revelation and "church offices" have no relationship one with another?
YP -

I think I get the gist of your post, but this uncultured fellow needs a little help with the Waldorf salad analogy....

Peter
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Old 10-12-2008, 11:26 PM   #102
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Default Re: Waldorf Salad and the Reality of Spiritual Authority

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Originally Posted by Peter Debelak View Post
YP -

I think I get the gist of your post, but this uncultured fellow needs a little help with the Waldorf salad analogy....

Peter
I aimed to be somewhat nonsensical in that.

I'd have said "Caesar salad" but "Caesar" is kind of a loaded term in the New Testament and it definitely doesn't sound as funny. At least, I think "Waldorf salad" sounds funny, probably because of an episode of Fawlty Towers.

Sorry to disappoint but I don't actually have a Waldorf salad revelation. Although I could probably make something up if I tried.

Something containing "The Apple" and "nuts" should be easy to relate to Christianity.


Quote:
According to the American Century Cookbook, the first Waldorf Salad was created in New York City in 1893, by Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel of the Waldorf Astoria. The original recipe consisted only of diced red-skinned apples, celery, and mayonnaise. Chopped walnuts were added later to this now American classic.

Waldorf Salad Recipe

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped, slightly toasted walnuts
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red seedless grapes, sliced (or a 1/4 cup of raisins)
1 sweet apple, cored and chopped
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt
Pepper
Lettuce

Method
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise (or yogurt) and the lemon juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Mix in the apple, celery, grapes, and walnuts. Serve on a bed of fresh lettuce.

Serves 2.
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Old 10-13-2008, 05:41 AM   #103
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Default Re: Waldorf Salad and the Reality of Spiritual Authority

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I think I get the gist of your post, but this uncultured fellow needs a little help with the Waldorf salad analogy...
My gist of YP's gist was that a Waldorf Salad was a "kitchen sink" salad. Everything and the kitchen sink, to boot.

I keep thinking of the verse that starts Galatians chapter 5. "For freedom Christ has set us free..."

Paul was free to set up leadership in the new fellowships as he saw fit; we seem to be free to set up leadership, or not, as we see fit. Look at the different set-ups in christian history God has blessed with His outpoured Spirit. Some were highly structured arrangements, like formal "churches", and some were loose aggregates of coal miners and whatnot.

The Lord's ability to manifest Himself on earth is not limited to a specific structure, nor is it necessarily prevented by any structure.

I have just found that when we focus on the structure we tend to ignore the Lord. I think of Nee's "The Normal Christian Church Life" as a paragon. It is as "biblical" a template for organizing the fellowship(s) as one could want; but it turns Paul's "freedom" into "the letter of the law".

The only thing we are not free to do is sin. In that regard, we have been clearly captured by Christ, and are imprisoned in His righteousness. Other than that, "The Spirit blows where it wills, and you know not..." (John 3:8)

And that's my "Waldorf Salad" speech for the day.
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Old 10-13-2008, 06:03 AM   #104
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Default "From the beginning it was not so"

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Paul is saying if you are qualified for leadership you will at least meet these minimum qualifications. He is giving the lowest standard, not the highest standard. Why did he use this approach? Because pool of potential leaders is imperfect, glaringly so, but the church still needs leaders. Yet there still must be be minimum qualifications. Those are these. Leaders can reach much higher though, and the really good ones do.
This discussion made me think of the verse in Matthew chapter 19: "[Jesus] said to them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (KJV).

Maybe Jesus' Beatitudes can be seen in this context as the 'from the beginning' words, and Paul's admonitions to the assemblies of saints that the leaders should not be drunkards and womanizers was a concession to the hardness of hearts yet remaining in many.

As Igzy is saying, Paul is giving the lowest standard, not the highest standard. So shouldn't we approach Paul's words through Jesus', not vice versa? We set up "churches" based on the "template" of Paul's experiences, then we assemble in these "biblical" arrangements and try to figure out what Jesus wants us to do. But we're already in a man-made cage.

I am thinking that maybe some of Paul's writings and experiences were "concessions" to the birds fast roosting in the great tree (Luke 13:19) of Christendom. Like Moses' words, they are part of the divine record. But shouldn't we go back "to the beginning", to Jesus' words, for our standard, our model?
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Old 10-13-2008, 06:40 AM   #105
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Default Re: "From the beginning it was not so"

aron,

I really don't see the "problem" you are addressing. What's the problem with groups using Paul's guidelines to help choose leaders? I don't think anyone thinks these verses should be taken in a vaccuum as the only needed word on the character of leaders. To me they just are general, bottomline principles, not for what qualifies a leader, but for what disqualifies one.

A brother who can't control his drinking, who is argumentative, who is unqualified to teach, who is a new convert, etc, is simply unqualified to be in a major leadership position. (Brawler doesn't mean a physical fighter, it means argumentative.)

These verses are applicable to all believers, but that doesn't mean all believers measure up to them. Those who don't aren't qualified to be leaders. So I really disagree with YP's statement that these verses "don't really help determine anything at all." They clearly help determine who is unqualified for leadership. If the state of a congregation is that all the members can pass the test of these verses then more power to them. Perhaps some of them should relocate to bolster more immature congregations.
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Old 10-14-2008, 04:28 AM   #106
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Default Pauline Clerical Systems

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Paul was free to set up leadership in the new fellowships as he saw fit; we seem to be free to set up leadership, or not, as we see fit.
Well, let's look at something, here, shall we?

In 1 Tim., Paul told Timothy to remain in Ephesus to straighten some things out in that assembly, including with regard to overseership.

We also have the epistle to the saints in Ephesus, containing some of the highest revelations in the New Testament concerning Christ and His Body, which was squarely directed to Gentile believers (Eph. 2:11) who most likely would not have automatically conducted themselves in accordance with synagogue practices as some other places may have.

This we also know - at a certain point, according to 2 Tim. 1:15, all in Asia had left Paul.

Then, we come to Revelation 2 and, Lo! here's a letter to Ephesus! Among the things discussed there is that they have left their first love and that they hate the works of the Nicolaitans.

Maybe the brief letter to Ephesus in Revelation should be read together with the Pauline epistles to Ephesus and Timothy?

Maybe the Ephesians rejected too much else when they rejected hierarchy?

At this point, the evidence seems strong to me to say that the practice of a clerical hierarchy in the assemblies had Paul as its ultimate source, even though it seems pretty clearly unintentional given the entire New Testament context.

Here's a question that occurs to me: if Nicolatianism refers to a priestly class (I know some here do not agree but I'm referring to my KJV Criswell Study Bible today) and, more clearly, since the Lord in the gospels taught that we should call none "Teacher" or "Father" (which I don't think any can argue with), where is Paul's admonition along this line? Paul was clearly concerned with BAD leaders but where is the balancing word to say, for instance, as Witness Lee taught, that the elders are slaves and their wives are the wives of slaves? (Or perhaps some think Lee was wrong about that and the elders are to be like little kings?)

We can say definitively that clerical hierarchy was firmly established right at the close of the apostolic period and we can certainly say that the Lord Himself taught against such a thing. But the practice did not spring to life full grown - it had to have developed over some span of time and must have had some way to flourish against the Lord's own words.

Could Paul himself have been the source?

If he called Timothy "genuine child," did Timothy answer, "Yes, Father?"

I see several places where Paul's teachings are at least colorably the source of a clerical system. But to be fair to brother Paul, have I just missed the place where he spoke a balancing word against such a system or men who would set themselves up over others for titles of respect?

It seems likely that this would have been an issue somewhat quickly and in any event factually must have been since the clergy was a common practice so soon after Paul's time. Could this have somehow escaped Paul's notice entirely? If so, why might that have been?

The Lord be with your spirit this day!
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Old 11-26-2008, 08:43 AM   #107
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Default For freedom Christ has set us free...

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Originally Posted by aron View Post
I keep thinking of the verse that starts Galatians chapter 5. "For freedom Christ has set us free..."

Paul was free to set up leadership in the new fellowships as he saw fit; we seem to be free to set up leadership, or not, as we see fit.

...I have found that when we focus on the structure we tend to ignore the Lord. I think of Nee's "The Normal Christian Church Life" as a paragon. It is as scripture-based a template for organizing the fellowship(s) as one could want; but it turns Paul's "freedom" into "the letter of the law".
I was reading 1 Cor. 9 this morning: "Am I not free?...do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a sister to wife, even as the rest? (vv 1,4,5).

To me, the real "imitation" of Paul is to say "Aren't I, also, free?", and not to slavishly adopt his eldership-appointment patterns, his church-organizing admonitions to Titus and Timothy, and such. If we take the letter of Paul, and not the spirit, we are slaves again. Ultimately, that is my whole problem with the so-called "Bible-based" organizations I've dealt with, including the LC model.

I suppose I'm just repeating myself here, but it's probably worth repeating.
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