Vol. 6, No. 8
Since You Asked
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Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.
Question: Do the elders of a congregation have the right to "legislate" where God has not legislated? Do they have the right to expect compliance in matters of opinion? And is one guilty of sin if he chooses not to heed the elders' advice in matters of judgment?
Answer: The Lord has given elders the responsibility of overseeing his church (Acts 20:28). That involves protecting, feeding, leading and serving as good stewards of that with which God has entrusted them, knowing that some day they must give account for the souls in their care (Hebrews 13:17). Consequently, God has charged the church with the responsibility to love, honor, submit and obey those who watch out for their souls (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:13).
But the question is raised, "Do I have to obey the elders in matters of judgment, matters of opinion, in matters of expediency?" My reply would be, if not in these areas, then where and when would you be required to obey and submit to them?
In matters of doctrine, God has already legislated. Elders have no right to add to or take away from the doctrine of Christ already revealed. We don't obey the elders in matters of doctrine, we obey the Lord. The only other realm in which we can obey the elders is in matters of opinion or expediency.
But someone objects, "If we must obey the elders in matters of opinion, then in order to go to heaven, some must meet stricter requirements than others, and that wouldn't be fair. For example, on one side of town, you have eldership 'A' who only sees fit to have one worship service on Sunday, while on the other side of town, eldership 'B,' in their judgment, has two services on Sunday, an AM and a PM service. Therefore, if elders must be obeyed in matters of opinion, then the members of congregation 'B' would have to do more to go heaven than the members of congregation 'A.'"
Given just a little thought, I believe the above argument fails to prove what it is attempting to prove (i.e., elders have no right to expect compliance in matters of opinion).
Consider the following parallel. Within the arrangement of the home, God has given parents the responsibility of raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). The Bible also places requirements on children in the home to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1). In other words, the parents have been given the responsibility of leading and the children have been given the responsibility of obeying.
But now, consider the following scenario. On one side of town, you have parents "A" who require their teenage son to be home by 11:30 p.m. on the weekends, and on the other side of town, you have parents "B" who require their teenage son to be home by 10:00 p.m. on the weekends.
By answering the following questions and making application to the eldership, we will find the answer to the question discussed in this article.
Do parents have the right to make such rules when it comes to matters of judgment?
Does one set of parents have the right to be "more strict" than another set of parents?
Do children have the right to disobey their parents in such matters of judgment?
In order to be pleasing to God, must some children in "stricter" homes be subject to greater demands than other children in "less strict" homes?
Brethren, God has given the elders the right to lead. The demands of leadership require them to make many judgment calls. It is our responsibility, as the flock of God, to submit to the leadership and oversight of our shepherds. Submission isn't always easy -- just ask your children, but it is what the Lord requires.