by W.B. Screws

The Pilgrim's Messenger

"Have a pattern of sound words which you hear from me, in faith and love
which are in Christ Jesus."--11 Timothy 1:13
Published Monthly By W. B. SCREWS, Glennville, Georgia
Twenty-five Cents a Year

Volume XXVII

January, 1948

Number 6

Entered at the postoffice at Glennville, Ga., as second-class matter.

It is not easy to get away from our background. Having been a member, in the past, of the denomination known as Primitive Baptists, it is hard to keep from taking that church as a criterion in matters of "church policy". I go to the scriptures for my information, but it is hard to keep my reading from being colored by my background. I am sure that others have the same trouble. We ought to be very careful along this line. We are not to reject a principle because is accords with what we used to do, but, on the other hand, we must not read into scripture that which is in line with our background, unless it really is there.

In this editorial I am considering "Elders". Titus was left in Crete, to amend that which was lacking and to constitute elders in the different cities. The Greek word for constitute, is "down-stand!" According to Webster, constitute means to appoint, among other things. It seems evident that Titus was not to make preachers. He was to recognize those whom God had made, and appoint them, or down-stand them according to the cities. The idea of gathering saints together in an ecclesia and then arbitrarily appointing a board of elders is wrong. Nor does age, alone, make one able to fill this office. I am not sure that age has much to do with it, except that one should be old enough to have sound judgment.

The elder is to preside. That is, in order for meetings to be orderly, there must be a leader, or presiding officer. The elder is to be the central figure in the meeting. He is to be a teacher, for Paul says, I Tim. 5:17, that he is to be counted worthy of double honor, if he presides ideally, and toils in word and teaching. As teacher, he instructs the church in the scriptures. In other words, he is a preacher. It is as a preacher that he presides over the assemblies.

It seems reasonable to me that he is the "pastor", mentioned in Eph. 4:11. Christ gives him as He also gives the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists.

In his instructions to Titus, 1:5-9, Paul mentions the elder as being the supervisor. These are two aspects of the same office. As elder he is to preside and teach; as supervisor he is to "on-note" the saints. The word had in it the meaning of "visit". His supervision is done in a private way, visiting the different saints and seeing to their spiritual welfare; his eldership is exercised in a public way, presiding and teaching. It seems to me that the two terms, "elder" and "supervisor" cover the same thought as pastor. He presides, in order to have decency of assembly; he feeds the saints by teaching them; and he visits and looks after them between times of meetings. Thus he is a "shepherd", which is the meaning of pastor.

Those whom Titus was to appoint must be "unimpeachable, husband of one wife, having faithful children, not under accusation of profligacy or insubordinate --- for the supervisor must be unimpeachable as an administrator of God, not given to self-gratification, not irritable, no toper, not quarrelsome, not avaricious; but hospitable, fond of that which is good, sane, just benign, self-controlled; upholding the teaching of the faith, that he may be able to entreat with sound teaching as well as to expose those who contradict," Titus 1:6-9. It is reasonable to suppose that Paul did not mean that he MUST have a wife. He meant that he must not have more than ONE. His children may not be believers. He cannot manage this, since faith is God's obligation, but they must be faithful as children. In II Tim. 3:6, Paul adds to this list, by saying that he must not be a novice, or one newly come into the faith. He must be seasoned in the teaching. The wisdom of this can readily be seen.

It is evident that the church in Corinth was an organization. Else, how could they expel a man, as they were instructed to do, I Cor. 5:13? This expulsion was done by the majority, II Cor. 2:6.

Paul abolished organization when he instructed the saints to "come out", II Cor. 6:17. Since that time no church has had a right to become organized. THEY, the saints, are the "temple of the living God', verse 16. The church means "the out-called". One saint is a church; a million saints are a church. We are not members of the church---we ARE the church. We are members of Christ.

As I see it, there can be not such thing as "church government", where there is no organization. Saints voluntarily come together and worship, and support the meetings. They are not bound by any ties except these of the spirit. How, then can one, or a number, govern others? No saint is regarded as "responsible" for any other one. We can't expel one, for there is nothing from which to expel him. The only thing we could do would be to forbid him to attend the meetings. How could we enforce such an order?

What, the, are we to do? Paul takes care of it in II Tim. 3:6. SHUN THE DISORDERLY. We can't turn them out. We can't exercise "church discipline" over them. It is a matter of individual shunning---not a concerted action.

Since organization is abolished, majority rule is not to be recognized. Nothing was said about the majority electing a pastor. Titus was to appoint the pastor---if, indeed, the pastor is the elder and supervisor. Since Titus is no more, wherever saints meet and recognize a man as pastor, by attending his meetings, he IS pastor. His presiding consists of keeping order in the assembly. His service consists of studying, teaching and visiting.

At the time when Colossians, Ephesians, Phillipians, Philemon and II Timothy were written, a new administration began. Paul calls it the administration of the grace of God, Eph. 3:2. This does not repeal all that is said in the letters written before this administration  began, but it does repeal all that is not in accord with pure grace in administration. This is the word to use---ADMINISTRATION. Not government.

One of the finest things about God is the fact that I just can't get Him to agree with me. If I think that a man ought to be discarded by the saints, I am mortified to find that God is still using him. This is graciousness on the part of God. Then, when I think of it rightly, I am happy that our failures do not cancel our service. Let us not think that our brethren are not grieved over their own failures and weaknesses. They are! Perhaps it is as much a surprise to them as to us, that God will still recognize and bless that in their lives which is in accord with His teaching, even though they are hampered by weaknesses and failures. I repeat, this is graciousness. Who can be more gracious?

This is entirely satisfactory. God does not hold us accountable for the conduct of others, unless our misconduct or false teaching causes their misconduct.

But why waste so much space discussing "church government"? Administration is the correct word. Who wants to govern his fellow-saints? Are we to regard them as potential criminals, unless they are governed? Does not the spirit of God and Christ in them mean anything? Are the saints constantly looking for an opportunity to do some thing bad?

A brother recently said that many churches have become concentration camps, in which all the prisoners in each camp must submit to the rules and regulations adopted by that particular group, or they will be censored and politely disfellowshiped. I fear that his estimate is correct in some instances. But not in all. The churches in Georgia, and many in other sections, do not have rules and regulations. Saints are free. They are not in concentration camps. Our meetings do not constitute a yoke of bondage.

I think that a recognition of the true place of the elder, and an acknowledgement of the graciousness that ought to characterize our contact with our fellows, will go far toward eliminating the bad feeling that has been generated in some places. This is why I have written this editorial.

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