Vol. 4, No. 4
Since You Asked
~ Page 17 ~
In your paragraph three, you state that Having reared children in the home successfully is one of the qualifications to become an elder. I could not find that qualification in Timothy or Titus. Paul wrote to Titus and said, in Titus 1:6, "namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion." The "having children who believe" is present active tense in the Greek, not Past tense as your statement says, "Having reared." The qualification concerning believing children is something that is going on at the time the man is qualified. If it is not a "present" characteristic, then the man does not meet God's qualifications. As a matter of fact, it is a present qualification just as the "must be" in verse 7. Is there a difference between becoming qualified and perpetually qualifying for something.? Think about it, with regard to the qualifications listed in verses 7-9 of Titus 1. If a man at one time was "not self-willed," but then becomes self-willed, is he qualified? What about a man that was "not addicted to wine," but then becomes addicted to wine, is he qualified? Does the man have to "qualify" or "perpetually qualify" to serve as an elder? Are we going beyond God's qualifications if we disqualify a man who is "fond of sordid gain" because in the past he was "not fond of sordid gain?" Have we disarmed God's Word respecting congregational leadership by looking for the perfect men with perfect families. Do we ask for too much and more than God's Word ever anticipated. I don't believe so, I believe that we have only asked for what God's Word reveals. ~ George Sinkie
Admittedly, all of the qualifications for elders that are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 must be presently characteristic of anyone at the time of his appointment to the eldership to be in accordance with the will of God (Titus 1:5). Admittedly, the qualifications respecting the character and conduct of elders must be perpetual characteristics of elders to be in accordance with the will of God. The questions before us is: Does "having faithful children" mean that all of his children must be perpetually faithful, even when they no longer live in the elder's home, for an elder to remain qualified to be an elder? The verses that concern this query are as follows.
"One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
"If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:6).
There is a distinction in the qualifications for one's appointment to the eldership between experience and character. Whereas obviously one's character must always conform to the ideals God caused to be listed in the qualifications for elders, one's experience in governing his family does not dissipate once attained. Further, the father does not have the same degree of control or responsibility over grown children who no longer live in his home as he did when they resided under his roof. First Timothy 3:4-5 specifically cites the successful experience in governing one's home prepares an elder to govern (with other elders) a congregation. The fact of a father's ongoing successful governing of his home here lies within the context of one's appointment to the eldership. That is the extent to which this requirement is imposed and the Scripture does not extend it beyond this scope.
... I am a member of a non-institutional church of christ.I have been trying to study why we have such a difference between the institutional and non-institutional churches. The Elders of our church really have not helped me at all to understand what you believe that is different from us. I've tried to find material online on a list of institutional churches' websites, but to no avail. The main thing I can't find any information about is if there is a difference between the work of the individual and the church. I know that is the major dividing factor between us, but it seems no one on either "side" has any information or scripture to support either one. For instance, in Jas. 1:27, to visit widows and orphans, I was wondering, do institutional churches believe that is a command to Churches and Individuals? Is there any material that you could send me or a website that has study material on it that defines all the arguements between us? I am particularly interested in the idea that the church is allowed to perform the duties of an individual and that the individual can act as the local church. Also, do you believe that the church can carry out the Jas 1:27 command or help Christians carry out that command? Please do not be offended by anything I might have said that has offended you. I am simply trying to figure this out without any prejudiced statements to either way. I do not mean any condemnation or disrespect to your belief, I am just curious and want to find the truth for myself without being led blindly to believe what everyone else may believe. Thank you for your time and consideration, In Christian Love, Jamey Casey
You are to be commended for the sincere interest you apparently have in ascertaining the biblical truth respecting your inquiry. You are absolutely correct when you acknowledge that you (each person, really) must come to his or her understanding of this or any religious teaching. Of course, we are not justified in embracing conclusions respecting doctrines that are not supported by biblical teaching. The point is that we cannot inherit our religious beliefs, but for them to be effective for us, we must (1) rely on God's Word for biblical answers to religious questions, and (2) take personal responsibility for acquisition and application of that biblical knowledge. After all, this life is followed by a personal judgment for which we will have individual accountability (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The words "non-institutional" and "institutional" are accommodative terms used merely to distinguish between those who disagree regarding the subject before us. The church of the Bible was not divided into non-institutional and institutional groups and neither should we be divided.
Your question pertains to the subject of religious benevolence and whether individual Christian responsibilities differ from congregational responsibilities respecting benevolence. Your reference to James 1:27 is a good place to begin. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
Essentially, those who suppose that James 1:27 cannot apply to a congregation of Christians and that it applies exclusively to individual Christians have adopted types "A" and "B" Christianity. For instance, if type A Christianity represents an individual Christian and type B Christianity represents a congregation of Christians, each are amenable to different and mutually exclusive forms of Christianity. The Bible, though, knows of no distinction in biblically moral obligations between individual Christians and a congregation of Christians. Let me illustrate, first, from James 1:27.
Undefiled and pure religion as well as keeping unspotted from the world, in part at least, involves acting benevolently toward fatherless children and widows. Hence, type A Christianity can practice pure religion, but type B or congregational Christianity cannot practice pure religion. Individual Christians can remain undefiled before God, but several Christians collectively as a congregation cannot remain undefiled before God. Type A Christianity can keep itself unspotted from the world, whereas type B Christianity cannot keep itself unspotted from the world.
Why does the biblically moral obligation of benevolence have to be either individual Christian responsibility or congregational responsibility? Why would the biblically moral responsibility to practice benevolence not equally affect individual Christians as well as several Christians together or congregationally? Is it so that there are essentially types A and B Christianity instead of simply Christianity?
Before we leave consideration of James 1:27, think about the ramifications of a strictly literal and exclusive interpretation that disallows congregational participation in religious benevolence. Each Christian, to practice pure religion, to be undefiled and to be unspotted from the world would have to invite at least two "widows" into his home (or otherwise provide for them). Is that happening among those who profess that James 1:27 cannot be practiced by several Christians who comprise a congregation?
Often the discussion respecting individual versus congregational benevolence also revolves around Galatians 6:10. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." The first dodge, howbeit perhaps offered sincerely, respecting this verse is that the word "men" is italicized and does not belong in the text. Italicized words are supplied by translators to complete the thought for the English reader though the italicized word does not have a counterpart in the Greek. In this instance, even without the italicized word "men" in Galatians 6:10, the meaning is still evident. Obviously, the "all" who are the recipients of benevolence here are not Billy goats, dogs, horses or rocks, but people. The fact that people generally are indicated with a smaller group of people who are brethren are mentioned, the verses teaches benevolence to mankind generally with a special emphasis on needy Christians.
The second effort to disarm the force of Galatians 6:10 is to avow that it applies only to individual Christians (like the same claim made respecting James 1:27). First, the Book of Galatians was addressed to several congregations throughout the Roman province of Galatia (Galatians 1:2). Second, four verses prior to Galatians 6:10, in the same context as verse 10, the financial support of Gospel preachers is addressed. "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things" (Galatians 6:6). With the interpretation of Galatians 6:10 to be an individual responsibility versus a congregational responsibility, it is inescapable that financial support of Gospel preachers is an individual responsibility (of each Christian) and not a congregational responsibility. Who really believes that, especially in view of the fact that the inspired apostle Paul was supported sometimes by congregational money (2 Corinthians 11:8)?
Obviously, individual Christians may act benevolently toward widows and others, whether they are Christians or not, but can the same Christianity be practiced by several individuals who comprise a congregation? There is absolutely nothing wrong about individual Christians practicing benevolence. However, if the Scriptures do not prohibit congregations from practicing the same benevolence and Christianity toward others, but brethren and congregations nevertheless make their preference for enactment of benevolence a test of fellowship, by making a law where God has not made one, then the result is (1) sin, and (2) the unnecessary rupture of Christian fellowship. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:6).
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).
The principle of not altering God's Word under the severest penalty, per the present arrangement of our Bible books, appears in the beginning of the Bible, in the middle of the Bible and in the end of the Bible. There is only one Gospel (Philippians 1:17; Ephesians 4:5) and it is for all of us (Jude 3) and it is not to be altered (Galatians 1:6-9).
Is there anything wrong with having Christians gather together for the purpose of listening to a group of young people (some baptized) sing spiritual songs for entertainment? ~ Jim Taylor
Singing of "spiritual songs" is regulated by chiefly the following two passages.
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19).
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Colossians 3:16).
Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are relatively equal to each other and represent the type of music (vocal and intelligible) authorized in the New Testament for worshipping God. The contexts in which these passages appear do not treat a worship service but address a form of worship, irrespective of when and where it may occur. Only the communion among the acts of worship observed on the Lord's Day is restricted to the Lord's Day. Hence, whenever and wherever a Christian or Christians sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs they are singing songs that are intended for worshipping God.
Nowhere can one discern from the New Testament that the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs that Christians sing are designed for entertainment. As such, every act of worship, including psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, is primarily directed to God as the audience, whereas the participants in the worship are not receiving but giving the worship. Worship services are not intended by biblical proscription to be entertainment oriented and directed to the worshipper instead of the worshipped.
Notwithstanding, preaching and singing possess elements of edification that are intended for the worshippers besides the rendering of worship to God. In addition, many Christians find worship pleasant and enjoyable, especially singing. However, I would like to urge caution lest we (1) disregard the worshipful nature of "spiritual songs" as we dub them outside our assemblies as merely "entertainment; (2) transform "spiritual songs" with which we ordinarily worship God into performances to be viewed for entertainment. Personally, I cannot sing "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs" as part of my worship and at other times and other places sing the same "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs," which contain references to God and holy things, with disregard for the worshipful nature of those songs.
Hence, I am reluctant to appreciate performances intended for my entertainment in which a group smaller than the entire group gathered together sings worshipful songs. From a biblical perspective, I am more comfortable with singing worshipful songs, by which I not only worship my God, but find joy in singing those songs. Perhaps with these thoughts and additional study on your part, you will come to a conclusion with which you are satisfied is warranted by biblical considerations.