Eldership

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by timothy27, May 12, 2006.

  1. timothy27

    timothy27
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    This question was posed to me and I would like some opinion. The following is the background of a gentleman who asked if he could be an elder in a church that is just starting out.

    The man is divorced and says he was saved when the divorce happened, although he was not living the life of a saved man. His wife wanted the divorce and he yielded to her request. The man is now a very strong Christian, has been for many years and has a lot to offer in the teaching area and is repented of his decision to allow the divorce. He lives a very Godly life and has not re-married.

    This is a very basic background. My question is this... could he EVER be allowed a position of eldership? If yes why and if no why. The church is a reformed church, so answers from a reformed view would be preferred, but I will take any answer if it is supported biblically.


    I know there are things that can disqualify one for eldership, but are those things permanent disqualifications? If he has truly had his heart changed by Christ, is Christ's death not enough to cover his sin of divorce? Allowing him to become an elder?


    Timothy
     
  2. pinoybaptist

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    From 1 Tim 8:3-10 (NIV)-
    Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.
    They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.
    They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

    I would say, let him exercise humility and not seek the office of an elder at this point.
    There are divergent views on divorce, and those serving in a church in whatever capacity, who are divorced.
    We can liken this to a question on meat (food) tackled by Paul in the book of Romans. Some brethren are stronger and are not convinced of sin when they eat certain food, but some aren't as strong as they are, and believe certain food may not be eaten.
    Paul's advice was, do not eat for the sake of the weaker brother.
    I believe this was the same principle he had in mind when he had his head shaved to satisfy the ritual requirements of some Jewish brethren over in the book of Acts.
    If there is even one in the church who do not look favorably on a divorced man serving as elder, I would rather, if I were he, not seek that office right now.
     
  3. timothy27

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    Thank you pinoy. Great answer. I have this question in response. Who then can qualify for elder? I am sure everyone who is or wants to be an elder has done something in their past that someone in the congregation would not look favorably on. If those are the stipulations there would be no elders in the church.

    By the way I agree with you, I do not believe at this time he should pursue, but I disagree that at a later time after he has shown that he is a man of God who has proven to hold to the deep truths of the faith and proven himself sincere and worthy of respect that he should still be denied that position.
     
  4. Calvibaptist

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    This is a tough question. Add to that the fact that someone can commit almost any sin in their past (before or after conversion) and be considered qualified to be an elder in most churches, JUST AS LONG AS THAT SIN DOESN'T INVOLVE DIVORCE, and the water gets muddy.

    Why is it that divorce seems to be the only eternal sin?

    We have a gentleman in our church who is very qualified to be an elder. He has taught at different times in our church. However, he would not consider being an elder because he got divorced and remarried before he was a Christian. He is a great example of the grace of God in conversion and a great example of a faithful believer since conversion. Does the church miss out on a gifted man because of a bad interpretation?

    Paul was a murder and persecutor of the saints and was made an apostle. He was the one who wrote the requirements.

    I believe we ought to be strict with the character requirements in 1 Timothy and Titus, but understand that they are talking about current character of the individual, not past sins.
     
  5. webdog

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    I agree. It seems like a divorce is the cardinal chronic sin in keeping someone from ever serving in the office of deacon or elder, but the other sins get brushed under the rug.

    I think the fact that this man came seeking the office is a bit unusual.
     
  6. Calvibaptist

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    I would agree that it might be a good idea for him not to seek the office if there is major opposition from within the body. This is for the sake of the unity of the body and might also allow a time of teaching on the subject from the pulpit.

    There are also divergent views on gambling, smoking, drinking, suntanning, Christian rock, playing cards, NIV/KJV, watching tv, going to movies, etc. Where do we draw the line?

    There are two problems here.

    1) In 1 Corinthians, Paul was not dealing with church leadership requirements. He was dealing with considering a WEAKER brother over yourself in your Christian liberty. The requirements of an elder have nothing to do with Christian liberty, but involve character traits that are to be true of every believer. Not to have those character traits involves definite sin (greed, immorality, lack of self control, etc.)

    2) In 1 Corinthians, Paul is talking about a practice that can be stopped or altered. A divorced man cannot be un-divorced. He is divorced for the rest of his life. To make the discussion in 1 Corinthians equivalent, your point would have to be that anyone that had ever eaten meat offered to idols should not try to be an elder because it might offend someone, regardless of whether they currently ate meat offered to idols or not.

    I understand and respect your position on having this person not seek the office in order to preserve the unity of the body. But I, as the step-son of a man who married a divorced woman (and was, therefore considered unfit to be an elder), would be just as offended that a sin commited prior to conversion apparently is unforgiveable. Especially since we would all applaud a former murderer or heroine addict coming to Christ and becoming a preacher.
     
  7. timothy27

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    Thank you all for your wonderful posts. I mirror your opinions, but as I said before I do not feel he should be forever disqualified. I too agree that for some reason divorce is the black mark. But like Calvibaptist said, where do we draw the line, what about an adultere who has repented or a recovering alchoholic. Someone in the congregation would have a problem with it.


    I think the fact that this man came seeking the office is a bit unusual.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Above by webdog.


    The man asked but respects the decision that will be made. He fully understands the reasons why he could not be an elder.


    Calvibaptist could you elaborate more on the 1 Timothy requirements being current character requirements?
     
  8. timothy27

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    Calvibaptist, the man claims he was saved when the divorce happened, your writings seem to reflect if someone was not saved. I know a little more about the man's background and would question his claim that he was saved based on his behavior, but he believes he was. Would that change your posts at all?
     
  9. Hope of Glory

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    I hold that even if someone is saved when divorce happens, if it's before conversion, then it's also a different thing. If you notice, most of these passages refer to "brethren". Not everyone who is saved is a brother, but those who are being obedient are brethren.
     
  10. timothy27

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    Hope of glory could you elaborate? How can you be saved but not converted?
     
  11. Calvibaptist

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    Hope, I don't know what biblical support you would have for saying that someone can be saved and yet not be a brother. Where do you find the extra requirement of additional obedience (which is guaranteed by the existence of faith anyway) to be called a brother?
     
  12. Calvibaptist

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    The qualifications are talking about character, not state of existence. They are above reproach (blameless), one-woman man (a character trait, not a marital state), temperate, sober-minded, well-behaved, hospitable, etc.

    Specifically, "the husband of one wife" is literally translated a "one-woman man." This would exclude those who are flirtatious, sexually promiscuous, adulterous, etc. It is not talking about whether someone got divorced 20 years ago.

    I would say that if someone just got divorced within the last few years, that they should wait until they have proved themselves to be characterized as a one-woman man.
     
  13. Calvibaptist

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    I would say that it doesn't matter. Forgiveness and reconciliation is for believers as well as non-believers. Now, to be honest, a testing period for an elder should be longer than 2 months. They (all of them) should probably be examined for a few years to make sure that they fit all the requirements (remembering that no one is perfect).
     
  14. pinoybaptist

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    I agree with all of you that this man should not be barred forever from seeking that office, and that divorce is not the only sin that should disqualify anyone seeking said office.
    However, divorce comes up because Paul himself said that a deacon ought to be the husband of one wife, and there are those who think this to mean that the deacon, then, ought not be a divorced man.
    Of course, the character qualifiers also say that he should not be a drunk, a brawler, impatient, and so on, but these are obvious flaws in character whereas divorce is not. At least, I think it is not.
    Some consider it sin, some don't, whereas everybody will agree that drunkennes, brawling, and cursing, without a doubt, disqualifies one from the office of deacon.
    Nobody wants somebody for deacon whom everybody knows is a frequent 'guest' at the police station, or has a vocabulary that would make a Mafiosi cringe.
     
  15. MRCoon

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    I Timothy 3:7 - Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

    I think that a liar, dishonest businessman, murderer, thief, adulterer, or whoever commits other such sin that can fall into the area of having a bad report which their are many such sins. We need to have a good report and not fall into reproach (Blame; rebuke. One that causes rebuke or blame. Disgrace; shame.) and not be a hinderance to the ministry. Whether saved or unsaved during the time of this sin it matters little because it still can affect the relations with those in and out of the Church and can limit a man's effectiveness.

    While this may 'disqualify' him as a Deacon or Pastor (or Elder)...it does not hinder his service as a teacher or ministry leader. I would utilize him as much as possible if he truly has a heart to serve. But note if you recommend him not to try to be an "Elder" and he gets upset or mad...then that could be a good sign of a heart problem.
     
  16. timothy27

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    Mrcoon, this is the current course the church is planning on taking, and the man has already stated he would be okay with whatever the decision is. His desire is to be an elder but understands the reasons he cannot be one at this time.
     
  17. webdog

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    A "one woman man" would exclude single fellers, too, which there are plenty of in Churches.
     
  18. Hope of Glory

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    Matthew 12:50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
     
  19. Calvibaptist

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    Actually, that is a bad translation. It says that both deacons and elders should be a one-woman man. It is a character trait, not a marital status requirement.
     
  20. Hope of Glory

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    Matthew 18:3: Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of [the] heaven. The phrase, “Except you be converted” is not an invitation to his disciples to be saved, but an invitation to a change of direction. The word “convert” is translated “turned about” in Luke 7:9, which says, “When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” For Jesus to face the crowd that followed him, he had to twist or turn around or reverse. Keep in mind that the Greek word for “convert” is not the same as the Greek word for “repent”.

    “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of [the] heaven”. The Lord does not want us to become childish in our behavior, but he wants us to become as little children in our attitude and rank. We are to be men, as found in 1 Corinthians 14:20, which says, “Brethren, be not children [παιδίον (paidion)] in understanding [thought]: howbeit in malice be ye children [a verb form of “nepios”], but in understanding [thought] be men [teleion (mature)].” He wants us to be strong in doctrine.

    Converting has to do with actions and works that follow spiritual salvation.
     

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