Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety
Everyone at some time in their life needs guidance from others. When we are children, we need the guidance of our parents, of course (though we often begin to think otherwise as teenagers). It is often desirable to obtain the guidance of counselors at school or the guidance for planning our education that can be provided at college. We often seek guidance from professionals who are experts in various fields, such as financial planners, attorneys, and accountants. And sometimes we merely need the advice of a trusted friend.
God, in His wisdom, has always known what is best for us; and He certainly knows the value that other people with experience in different matters bring to our lives when we need them. Though not the only reason, this is one good reason that God’s word is so full of admonishment about the commandments to listen to the elders of our congregation – those whose job it is to “shepherd the flock” (1 Peter 5:2).
The scriptures list some specific qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 that those who are to serve as elders should have. Many of these qualifications have to do with how he is thought of by others in the community, which is not surprising, since one’s reputation is most often a product of his behavior. The result of experience combined with admirable behavior is the sort of wisdom that God’s word teaches throughout the Book of Proverbs.
The leadership of our shepherds is one that comes with an awesome responsibility, for they will be held accountable for their failure to lead the flock in a manner that is responsible in the Lord’s eyes. They must constantly be on guard to ensure the scriptural teaching of God’s word, and for seeing to the spiritual well-being of His sheep. Paul considered this responsibility so great that he summoned the Ephesian elders to meet with him over many miles journey as he bid them farewell in Acts 20:18-35.
It is absolutely true that many small but strong congregations function well without the benefit of qualified elders. But where there are sufficient numbers in a congregation that qualified men are available to serve, it is imperative that such men are carefully chosen so that the souls of the local people are well nurtured and protected from false teaching which may lead to apostasy.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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