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Our Epistle lesson this week is able to strike fear into countless men of God. Here we find the apostle Paul’s list of qualifications first for the people the New Testament calls alternatively a bishop, an overseer, or an elder, commonly interpreted today to indicate any sort of pastor; then second for those called deacons. Christians, of course, consider the Scripture not only to be the words of the human authors but also the divinely inspired word of God. So we find here God’s qualifications for some of the people who will serve Him.
On one level, we could probably agree these are positive descriptions for any godly man, with the possible exception of the fact that both the elder and the deacon seem expected to be married and some men do not marry. Some people have also made a point about the description of the elder governing his children, implying that a person who is childless cannot serve God as an elder. This is a matter for discussion and debate, but not here and now. Suffice it to say that the characteristics described fit in with being a mature and godly person. There’s an air of dignity, honesty, self control, responsibility to family and community, and humility.
What makes the elders and deacons around the world tremble is the fact that God’s Word holds them to account to live this way. They serve as an example for others, a burden which can be daunting. On many occasions, when in a gathering I am feeling tired, impatient, and ready to tell everyone else in the world to get lost and leave me alone, someone will caution others along the lines of, “There’s a pastor here, you’d better behave.” They may even do things that would be provoking, since they know the elder or deacon is a very patient and kind person. What about the times I don’t want to manage my household well? What about the times when, no matter what I do, some portion of the “outsiders” will not “think well” of me?
The work of an elder or a deacon is a noble one. It comes with many responsibilities, but allows the elder or deacon to have a hand in forming godly character in others. It’s a good thing, not to be despised. May the Lord work to raise up many more leaders who can shepherd His flock.
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