No man can assume the role of an elder without carefully assessing what is expected of him. An elder must be approved by the body and show evidence that the Holy Spirit has sanctioned their appointment. Leaders must show evidence that the Holy Spirit has sanctioned his appointment. An elder must be respected by his immediate family (Ephesians 5). An elder must show signs of spirituality. Spirituality is determined to a degree by the following guidelines – A spiritual man:
- A spiritual man has a willingness to restore a fallen or weak brother. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1 KJV). A spiritual man must have a heart for the person who is hurt or hurting. The spiritual man must reach out to those who have stumbled, fallen or has been overtaken in a fault.
- A spiritual man must show he understands spiritual truths. The Bible says, “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:11-13 KJV).
- A spiritual man avoids contention, strife, divisions and arguments. The Corinthians were experiencing strife and division and Paul wrote them saying, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 KJV)? There are always divisive issues raised in a body of believers. It is impossible to keep divisive issues from flowing through the body. A leader refuses to get involved in such contentions and strife. They will in fact attempt to squelch any division before it has the chance to take root. This is an important mark of a true spiritually spiritual man.
- A spiritual man has a positive awareness of the will of God. Paul wrote, “e that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16 KJV). Again he writes, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:16-17 KJV). This was written in the context of the Spirit filled life (Ephesians 5:18-19).
- A spiritual man is patient toward the weak and does all to edify their fellow brother and sister. “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (Romans 15:1-3 KJV). So a truly spiritual man has a compassion toward and is patient the weaker persons within the body. (Read carefully the entire fourteenth chapter. Pay particular attention to verse ten).
- A spiritual man is patient toward those in opposition. “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25 KVJ). When there are those who seem to oppose the will of God or the direction the church may be heading, the spiritual man patiently instructs them.
- A spiritual man is aware of the spirituals (gifts of the Spirit) listed in 1 Corinthians 14 and is willing to seek God that these gifts function within the body. Paul wrote, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1 KJV). Again, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:37 KJV). He/She is also capable of judging whether or not these manifestations are indeed spiritual and if they are functioning properly. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Corinthians 14:29 KJV).
- A spiritual man offers spiritual sacrifices and sings spiritual songs. “You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 KJV). “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19 KJV). He is not given to the things of this world. He is more consumed with worship, praise and blessing God than the pleasures and appetites of this worlds system.
- A spiritual man possesses a spiritual mind. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6 KJV). He therefore, does not give place to carnal things – unclean thoughts, stories, careless and foolish words and silly jesting (Ephesians 5:3-5). These are opposed to the character of the Holy Spirit.
The above list suggests a few indicators concerning a spiritual man. An elder must manifest and strive after these qualities. This is the criteria each pastor must place before the church. God will raise up such men if we will preach, teach, challenge, pray and seek God to provide them. He did so in the early church. He will do the same today.
Consider the following scriptural qualifications. When Paul met with the Ephesian elders to bid them farewell, he shared some very important responsibilities for the elders of the church.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28 KJV).
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock” (1Peter 5:1-3 KJV).
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and STERWARDS OF THE MYSTERIES OF GOD” (1 Corinthians 4:1 KJV). It is the solemn responsibility of elders to discover and understand these mysteries:
- The mystery of the church. “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ). And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:3-4, 9 KJV).
- The mystery of God. “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints. That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Colossians 1:26; 2:2 KJV).
- The mystery of the resurrection. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55 KJV)?
- The mystery of Godliness. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV).
- The mystery of Faith. “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9 KJV).
- The mystery of Iniquity. “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-10 KJV).
These are just a few mysteries revealed in scripture. These mysteries are foundational truths of the Christian faith. Elders must understand them and be capable of sharing these truths.
The Elder is to teach and instruct.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28 KJV). “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (1 Peter 5:2 KJV). “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9 KJV).
The Elder is to pray for the sick and to anoint with oil.
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:13-17 KJV).