— By LOU TISCIONE
The Church of Jesus Christ is both an organism and an organization. The Bible defines the church as the body of Christ. (Colossians 1:18)
God’s organization of His church is given in Ephesians 4:11. The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus gave gifts to men as the conquering commanders of the ancient world divided the plunder. Paul wrote that Jesus organized the church in this way: “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.”
These four offices established by Christ were demonstrations of the diversity of God’s grace as well as His design for the visible body of Christ.
The church stands upon the teaching of the apostles, those whom God appointed to be His messengers declaring the infallible word of God. These men received the gospel by direct revelation from God. They were witnesses of the risen Lord Jesus. They were empowered by God to do miracles. Paul described himself as one who was “untimely born.” He meant that His eye witness testimony was not like the other apostles. He saw and heard the risen Lord Jesus on his journey to Damascus.
A prophet was one who spoke for God. The Old Testament records God’s words through the prophets. The Apostle Paul described New Testament prophets. (1 Corinthians 14) New Testament prophets were subordinate to apostolic teaching. Since the close of the canon of Scripture, prophecy in the church is not to give new revelations from God, but to proclaim the truth of His word written.
Evangelists are those who carry the gospel where it has not been heard. They are those who “bring glad tidings.” Evangelists declare that Jesus Christ has come. He came to die for the sins of His people. He was buried and He rose on the third day, all in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
The fourth office in the church is called “pastor and teacher” or “shepherd and teacher.” This office is the ongoing role of presbyters/elders called by God to preach and teach the word of God. They are accountable before God to care for the members of the church.
These four offices in the church describe her basic organization. The forth office requires divine guidance in selecting those who hold it. The Old Testament church gives us the characteristics of the men who hold the office of pastor-teacher and it applies to all who exercise leadership in the church.
God used Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, to give these principles of selection. Exodus 18:21: “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe …”
The qualifications for elders and deacons in the church declared by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5 are more detailed descriptions of the basic principles given by Jethro.
First, leaders are able men. Men selected to lead must have capabilities that demonstrate leading rather than following. The word translated “able” comes from a root word that is used to describe battlements, ramparts or fortresses. Able men must be men of conviction, strong principled men who can protect and care for the people.
Leaders in the church must be known to be God-fearers. These men stand out in the congregation as those who openly profess faith in Jesus, live in accordance with their profession and are regular worshipers of the risen Lord Jesus.
Finally, Jethro advised Moses to look for those men who were trustworthy. He added that a trustworthy man “hates bribery.” This man is one who is above reproach. He can’t be “bought.” The word translated “trustworthy” is from the root word for truth.
Trustworthiness is a behavioral quality that can only be seen over a period of time. The virtue of faithfulness is part of the character of a man who is trustworthy.
The church is the body of Christ organized by Him. It is made up of sinners of which He is the head. He has ordained that those who lead the people of God must be able, God-fearing and trustworthy.
This father-in-law’s advice is timeless. This three-fold principle of leadership selection confronts those who have been called to lead and those who are led. It can only be received and applied with humility.
May all who profess Christ pray for the peace and purity of the organized church. Pray for her leaders to be men of ability, faith and trustworthiness.
Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).