|Vol. 2, No. 5||Page 15||May 2000|
God has always expected those who lead in worship and service to be faithful to him. Sadly, that is not always the case and some are even advocating and encouraging those that are unfaithful to be leaders. Those that advocate such argue that if we give responsibility to the unfaithful, they will become faithful. They say if we get them to teach a Bible class, lead a prayer, or serve on the Lord’s Table that will get them to attend. Brethren, that is getting the cart before the horse.
Paul’s purpose in writing his first letter to Timothy was “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). These words do not apply just to Timothy but to all fellow workers in the household of faith. Paul wanted Timothy to know how Christians ought to behave in the church so that he could instruct the church in these matters.
Concerning men who lead in worship, Paul writes, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). First, notice that Paul’s instruction does not merely apply to the worship assembly but to worship wherever and whenever it is offered. Because of the context, we can be sure that prayer is used as a synecdoche (“a figure of speech by which we speak of the whole by a part . . .” ¾ Duncan) representing all five avenues of worship. Second, notice that the instruction is given to men (males as opposed to children and women). Finally, notice that there are three specific conditions placed upon men who lead in prayer or more generally worship.
The first of these conditions is that men pray, “lifting up holy hands.” What is being stressed here is not the posture of prayer. “Lifting up holy hands” is a figure of speech denoting moral purity and holy living. The person doing the leading of our worship is to be the kind of person whose life is a reflection of holy living. The prayers of a person who persists in sin are not heard (Isaiah 59:1-2; Micah 3:4; 1 Peter 3:12). Brethren, let us be sure. A person who willfully sins by forsaking the assemblies (Hebrews 10:25-26) persists in sin and his prayers are not heard by God. Brethren, do we want someone to lead us in worship whose prayers are not heard beyond the four walls of our church buildings?
The second condition is that men pray “without wrath.” This denotes a disposition of mind. A man that leads in worship should not have such a disposition that displays anger towards God, his provisions nor his commandments. Further, he should exhibit anger neither towards his fellow Christian nor his fellow man. The reason for such is found in James 1:20 which says, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
The third condition is that men pray without “doubting.” The one leading us in worship ought to do so believing that his worship will come before the throne of God. In this way, his worship is offered in faith (James 1:6). Jesus taught, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). Surely, we would not want a man to lead us in our worship that does not believe that God will accept our offering of “the sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).
The principle that God expects those who lead in worship and service to be faithful is clearly demonstrated in scripture. Concerning the training of men to preach, Paul writes, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The Gospel is to be deposited in “faithful men” who will not betray the charge to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) and who will deposit the same truths in other faithful men. In this way the succession of teachers would be sustained. However, if the deposit were made in the unfaithful hoping that they will become faithful, the succession of teachers would likely fail.
In the list of the qualifications of deacons, Paul writes, “And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless” (1 Timothy 3:10). The word “proved” means tried or tested. Only after men have been tried, tested and proved are they qualified to serve. In Acts 6, a problem arose in the church in Jerusalem. The Grecian “widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” To solve the problem, the twelve apostles called upon the disciples to seek out seven faithful men to take care of these widows. The apostles did not call upon the disciples to find some unfaithful brethren to care for this situation hoping that it would make them faithful. The solution was not found in the unfaithful but the faithful for it is the faithful who will be faithful in their responsibilities. Jesus, in the Parable of the Talents, taught that those who use their talents faithfully will be rewarded with greater talents and those that are slothful will have their talents removed (Matthew 25:14-30). Because the faithful stewards were “faithful over a few things,” the Lord will reward them by giving them charge over many things (Matthew 25:21, 23).
Brethren, if a man will not be faithful in a lesser responsibility such as attendance, why would we think that he would be faithful in a greater responsibility such as serving on the Lord’s Table, leading in prayer or teaching a Bible class? In stark contrast to those who advocate giving greater responsibilities to the unfaithful, Jesus taught, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).