We are taking a break from our regular leadership series because I have been asked to teach about the qualifications of elders in Scripture. What exactly qualifies someone to be a servant of God in the position of elder in the midst of a church body? What exactly qualifies someone to be a servant of God in the position of deacon? These questions are highly relevant in an age which pastors are largely unqualified. Many teach to be heard while many busy themselves doing many things that cause them to neglect the one responsibility that a pastor has (shepherd the flock of God by preaching God’s word alone, Acts 6). In fact, there are many, many people who have responsibilities in the modern church who simply haven’t had the sort of character that has been described in Scripture produced within them.
I have written before on the qualifications and I have described why I think they are character qualification rather than works-based qualifications. Instead of merely walking through the qualifications again, I want to take this opportunity to increase our understanding of what it means to have and maintain the heart (character, demeanor, attitude, and affection) of a Biblical pastor.
2 John 1-13
The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full. The children of your chosen sister greet you.
John has been an elder of the church since the Jewish Pentecost in Acts 2. When he writes this letter, it has probably been 50-65 years after that day. John’s longevity speaks. The faithfulness of his youth became the faithfulness and fruitfulness of his maturity. A pastor or elder’s heart is one of longsuffering and longevity.
As we read this letter, we see some other characteristics:
- unquenchable love for those in the truth (v. 1)
- care to preserve and defend the truth (v. 2)
- promotes the mercy and peace of God in Christ (v. 3)
- glad heartedness (v. 4)
- cares to promote unity in the truth, not simply unity for unity’s sake (v. 5)
- promotes the instructions of Christ, not his own or those that are popular (v. 6).
- cares to guard the body against false teachers (v. 7-11)
- and desires to see the body experience great joy (v. 12).
As we notice these characteristics in John’s letter to the church, we get a glimpse of the sort of heart God produces in His servants as they serve the church. John has gone through quite a long process of sanctification by this point in his life. These things that John cares about are the things that a godly servant comes to care about during his ministry. We care deeply for the good and the joy of the people. We also care deeply about defending the genuine Gospel for the good of the body while we await Christ’s return. We become full of mercy and peace toward others in the process. This is an impossible balance for those who are not in Christ to keep sincerely. That is why Paul gives the character qualifications that he does in 1 Timothy and Titus.
If you are serving or desire to serve as an elder or deacon, please observe the character qualifications linked below devotionally. Examine your heart. Seek first the kingdom of God.
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