Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Biblical Eldership (1) – “Why?”

Bible Readings

  • Deuteronomy 1:9-18
  • Numbers 11:10-30

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, 

We will have eldership election in the near future. We have already announced this to you.  But before we get to the actual meeting to elect elders, we will listen to what the Scriptures teach about eldership. There will be three sermons, following three questions about Biblical eldership.

  • The “why?” about eldership
  • The “what?” about eldership
  • The “who?” about eldership

Principles of Church government

Let’s begin at the beginning, where all Christian denominations should start. 

The supreme rule for practice and doctrine

We need to hold the Scriptures as our supreme standard for life and worship.  What we believe about church government, should be in agreement with the Scriptures. So, all men in church government must, first of all, believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that it is infallible, sufficient, authoritative and inerrant.  If anyone has a different view on the Scriptures, such a person should not be trusted to become an elder of the church of Christ.

Christ, the Head of the Church

The Scriptures teach that Christ is the Head of the Church.  The Bible says in a few places:

And He [God] put all things under His [Christ’s] feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22–23, NKJV)

… may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15–16, NKJV)

and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:10, NKJV)

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5, NKJV)

… holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. (Colossians 2:19, NKJV)

Presbyterians hold these principles as precious and authoritative:  Christ is our only Mediator, He is our High Priest, and like a father, He cares for his church.  We have therefore an aversion to any earthly office other than what the Holy Spirit teaches in the Scriptures.  We, therefore, have no human as head of the church. Not even as a representative.  We also have no priest, and we call no one our priest because in Christ the priesthood has come to an end.  The Bible also warns against calling anyone “father”: 

Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (Matthew 23:9, NKJV)

What we have is the Holy Spirit who guides us by his Word to understand the Scriptures and order all temporal things of church government.  We seek our rule from the Bible, and we submit to its authority.  The Bible teaches us that Christ is our Head, and that is enough for us.

General forms of church government

Papists

Papists believe that the pope is Christ’s representative on earth and that he is the head of all churches and Christians on earth.  Under him there are all manner of offices, including priests, bishops, deacons, canons, arch-deacons, and what not! The pope can declare what is sinful, forgive sin and make infallible proclamations, and even add doctrines not found in the Scriptures.  We reject this notion as fundamentally in contrast and opposition to the teachings of the Scripture.

Episcopal

Episcopal churches understand the Scriptures to teach that every congregation should only have one bishop, in which the oversight of that church rests.  They do believe that there should be a hierarchy from top to bottom, with an archbishop having leadership over a group of churches.  He appoints bishops, who appoints others under him.  The system gets fairly tricky for Presbyterians because we find it difficult to see where canons, archdeacons, vicars, and other office holders come from.  The Anglican Church and some branches of the Methodist Church are episcopal denominations.

Congregational

Congregational denominations do not have any hierarchy.  Their church government is mostly a free arrangement of leadership chosen “demographically”, which means the majority of members decide who will be leaders, and congregational meetings have the authority to hire and sack leaders, and even determine the general teachings of a denomination.  A congregation in a congregational system usually opt to join a broader group of churches (like the COC movement) but can walk away when the majority decides so.  Most charismatic churches follow this form of church government.

Independent

Some other independent churches is a sort of a mix between episcopal and congregational.  These congregation usually starts with leaders in a strong conviction of certain aspects of Bible teaching or a clash of leadership personalities.  These leaders then, in the end, become the de facto bishops, and in many cases, everyone who disagrees with the leadership has to leave.  These leaders are their own authority, and they are not accountable to any structure.  Many of these leaders claim direct revelation from God in the form of visions or something similar in addition to the already declared will of God in the Scriptures.  

Presbyterian and Reformed Churches

Presbyterians and reformed denominations fall in a different category.  Christ is our Head, the Bible is our rule, leaders/elders are chosen by communicant members of the congregation, and perform their duties under the authority of the Scriptures.   What their decisions must be in agreement with is the Scriptures, the agreed confessional creeds and the general rules of the denomination. 

Our system has checks and balances.  Elders are accountable to a wider group of elders, the presbytery.  Members have the right to approach this court if they think that elders have contravened the Scriptures, the Confession or the general rules of the denomination.  There is other courts too:  the General Assembly, and the General Assembly of Australia, and these are also bound by the Word of God and the rules accepted by the denomination as a whole.

The word “presbyterian” comes from the Greek word “presbuteros” which means elder, or overseer.  Presbyterian” in our name refers therefore to the form of church government we adhere to.

The “Why” of eldership?

Our understanding of eldership finds its roots in the Old Testament.  Our Scripture readings this morning takes to those beginnings.

God appointed Moses to be the leader to take his people out of slavery of Egypt to the Land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  As assistant Moses had his brother Aaron, who later became the first High Priest.

The people were numerous, they were divided into their clans and had their clan leaders.

People are sinful 

Rebellion against Moses and Aaron was common practice.  They always wanted to go back to slavery, because the journey through the desert just seemed too hard.  They doubted God and rebelled against his law.  And then, there was this constant towing away from the declared command of the Lord to not mix with the people the came in contact with along the way.  And, of course, there were the constant disagreements and sometimes heated disputes between people, with one party always believing they were done in.

There is a need for discipline and good order 

This, of course, spells general church life in the 21st century too.  Our sinful nature drags us away from God’s declared will for our lives.  We begin to love the world more than we love God.  The world easily dictates to us how we should live, and we can readily start to doubt the faithfulness of God.  Our relationships one with the other can sometimes be volatile, and we need mediation and godly outcomes.  In short, discipline and good order need to be maintained for the glory of God.  We need elders!

One leader is not enough!

Moses was a human being with his own strengths and weaknesses.  It all got too much for Moses.  His father-in-law gave him good advice:  

“The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. (Exodus 18:17–18, NKJV)

Moses found himself face-down in the presence of the Lord.  What he understood very well was that the people he had to lead did not belong to him, but were God’s people. He could not deal with the people other than what God wanted him to do. In fairly harsh words he prayed to God,  This is too much for me. 

If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favour in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!” (Numbers 11:15, NKJV)

He has come to the end of his line. How does he provide for the people?  How can he care for the people?  Should not God care for his own people?  

Although God did provide the water, the manna and the quail, other aspects of care God provided through elders whom He enabled for the task.  Although God could directly care for them, He appointed leaders. 

Shared but Divided responsibility and accountability

To maintain discipline and order within the camp, God appointed 70 elders to work closely with Moses.  Moses remained the intercessor between God, between the leaders and the people, but from that day on, the men upon whom God poured out his Spirit to set and enable them for their task them apart for service would be a help for Moses.  

I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone. (Numbers 11:17, NKJV)

What seemed impossible for Moses becomes possible through the provision and enablement of God.  Where would the meat come from?  Where would the men come from? 

“The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ (Numbers 11:21, NKJV)

How did God answer? 

“Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.” (Numbers 11:23, NKJV)

God first sent his Spirit to rest upon the seventy men, and He gave them the ability to prophesy—which through the Scriptures was always a sign to the rest of people of God’s authentic appointment—and then He provided the quail.  

This is how elders do their work.  They are appointed by God; they need to care for the people because they are God’s own people; they need to continually keep their eyes focused on God for whom nothing is too hard.  Elders share in the responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the people, they are called to maintain spiritual discipline and good order. When the people of God slide back to the slavery of sin, the elders encourage, teach and admonish.  And in all, it is their task to lead God’s people to live to the glory of their Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Why do we need elders?  

We are sinful and rebellious, and we need spiritual direction and care.

Elders share in the burden of this care.  It is not good for one person to take the full load.  It is not the plan of God for his church.

May our Lord give us clear guidance as we pray for men to fill the vacancies of elders in our congregation.  We need to make sure that the men we elect are indeed spiritually mature, displaying a sure conviction that they called to the office.  Let us pray.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 10 February 2019

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The glory of the Son revealed through death

That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

Scripture Reading:

  • John 11:1-44

Introduction

We continue our new series of sermons following the Gospel of John. In the next few weeks we will look at the theme of life and death, as we follow our Saviour, from closely before He was arrested, to the end of his ministry.

Towards the end of his Gospel, John explains the purpose of his Gospel in these words:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

As we hear the Word of God speak to us from John’s Gospel chapter 11 and what follows, this stated purpose of John will be our guide.  So, we pray that God will enlighten our minds as we read and hear the Word preached, that we will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we will receive life in his Name.

Our theme for this sermon is: The glory of the Son revealed through death.

We will open the Word of God under these headings:

  • Jesus Christ, in control or circumstances for the glory of God
  • Jesus Christ, acting for the benefit of his disciples: so that they may believe
  • Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life
  • Jesus Christ, Lord over death as the Son of God

Jesus Christ, in control of circumstances for the glory of God

During his earthly ministry, our Lord, who was also hundred present human being, made friends.  He made a point to visit friends.  And, of course, there were those who befriended Him.  They loved having Him in their home, and even invited and prepared meals for Him and in his honour.

There was this family of two sisters and one brother.  John 12 actually tells us what happened before John 11 and the resurrection of Lazarus took place.  There is even another chapter in the Bible telling us about these two sisters and their brother.  Luke 10:38-42 introduces us to this family:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42, NIV)

It is almost as if in this family we see the typical family:

  1. There was the sister, Martha, who was preoccupied with daily life.  She was not happy with her sister who did not help her with the daily chores.  She complained to Jesus:  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!
  2. There was the other sister who couldn’t care less about the household chores.  She was the spiritual one, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teaching. Later she would take a very expensive and exquisite perfume, worth about a year’s wage, and anointed the feet of Jesus with it, while she wiped it with her hair.
  3. There was Lazarus, the brother.  He never said a word, at least nothing of which was recorded in the Bible.  He was the quiet one.  And yet, what followed in the rest of chapter 11 is about what happened to him.
    It was what happened to him, but it was not about him.

Anyway, of this family we read the Jesus loved them (John 11:5).  The point of this sermon is not to focus on this family, but to focus on what Jesus did in the lives of this family.  I find it however encouraging to think that Jesus is loved this family, just as much as He would love any other family.  Where the door is opened to Him to come in and dine with them, He will enter – and there He will do his marvellous work to reveal himself to them as the Son of God.

All along, our Lord knew what would happen in the near future to this family.  He knew there would be heartache and pain as death would knock on their door.  He knew about the bewilderment and doubt only death can bring to us.  He knew they would understand that death would be final.  He knew these things, because when He saw them again He wept with them.

In the meantime however, He would not be close to them.  Lazarus fell ill, a sickness which would lead to his death.  They sent for Jesus, because they though He would want to know about it and be there for Him.  He did not go, but stayed where He was two more days.  To his disciples He said:

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4, NIV)

Lazarus died.  But Jesus did not go, yet

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (John 11:5)

What do we make of this?  From Martha, Mary and maybe even Lazarus’ point of view Jesus did not care.  But all along, Jesus was in control of circumstances.  Although He loved them, He loved his Father more.

There might have been anguish in the heart of our Lord to know that He forsook his friends, but the peace of knowing that He was doing the will of the Father would overcome it.  After all, what would unfold on the next day, would be to the glory of God, to the benefit of all who saw and heard Him in Bethany as He revealed Himself as the Son of God.

So He took his disciples and went back to Judea.  They were not so happy with the announcement of Jesus:

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” (John 11:8, NIV)

Yes, that’s true, but the Name of the Father had to be glorified in his Son by destroying death in what was going to happen in the next six days.  First, He had to stop in Bethany at a house of friends in mourning because death entered their home – his friend was in the clutches of death, and He had to set him free.  Then He would continue on the road to Calvary where He would destroy death. This explains the expression of Jesus when He said, “Let us go to Judea.”  He did not tell them that He was going to Lazarus or to Bethany.  His focus was Judea, Jerusalem, and Calvary.

But Jesus also tested his disciples, if they would put their trust in God to protect them, and to see the glory of God.  They had to learn whatever the danger, it is better to be with Jesus; whatever the outcome, it is comforting to know that our times are controlled by God.

Then verse 9 and 10 follow:

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” (John 11:9–10, NIV)

Why are these verses included here?  I wondered and pondered, and found these in the Commentary on John by James Montgomery-Boice:

“First, God gives each of us a certain amount of time, and nothing can shorten it. The day of our life will not finish before it ends. This applied to Jesus.  Jesus’ life was not going to be cut short by his enemies one minute before the time appointed by the Father. And neither is ours. I am not going to die too soon. You are not going to die too soon. If we are God’s children, he has given us a certain number of days, and we shall have them.

Second, Christ
s question to the disciples suggests that if God gives us each a certain amount of time and if nothing can shorten it, then there is time enough for everything that needs to be done.

The third truth suggested by Christ’s question—“Are there not twelve hours of daylight?”—is that, even though we have sufficient time to do all that God has given us to do, nevertheless, we have only that time, and the time should not be wasted. Are there twelve hours to the day? Yes! But there are not thirteen. So we cannot afford to waste even sixty minutes.” [Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: An expositional commentary (834). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.]

In control of time and circumstances, Jesus then set out to go to Judea – but via Bethany, via the house of his mourning friends, and via the grave of his good friend Lazarus. 

Jesus Christ, acting for the benefit of his disciples: so that they may believe

Now Jesus, who knew everything, told his disciples:

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (John 11:11, NIV)

Maybe they were still fearful of what might happen to them if they followed Jesus into Jerusalem as they countered what our Lord said, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”  If we are going to be there or not, he will get better.  At least, we will be out of harm’s way!

Our Lord then told them bluntly the reason why He is on his way to Judea.  This is the reason why He has come into this world:

Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14–15, NIV)

They could only see death; Thomas said, “Let’s go and die with Him.”  To this our Lord said nothing, but what He would do, would give them a complete new perspective on the ministry of Christ and their ministry after He had gone to be with his Father. No, the point here is not death; it is life!

God’s perfect timing is at display in what follows now. 

Lazarus had been dead for four days, he was buried, and according to Jewish thought his spirit had left his body after three days – any possible resurrection was impossible.

There were many Jews visited the house of Martha and Mary to comfort them.  The perfect crowd for the perfect plan of God to unfold.

Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life

It was Martha who met Jesus even before He entered the home.  Now it was she who left the business of the home to be with Jesus, while Mary seemed not bothered.   “Martha troubling herself with questions of “How?” and “Why?” and “What if?” and so missed the blessing that could have been hers if she would only believe more simply. Such faith always attempts to limit God or, which is the same thing, to scale down his promises. Notice that Martha limited the Lord’s working both to time and place, for she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). She felt that Jesus could have done something four days earlier but that he could not do what was obviously necessary now.” [Boice]  Martha’s faith was both faith and unbelief, something we can understand very well.

Jesus revealed who He was:  in the midst of half developed faith and obedience of his disciples, the unbelief of Martha, the disbelieve of the Jews, facing death, at the graveside of a beloved friend, we hear the words of the Gospel: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, NIV)

What happens now?  Remember, all that Jesus said, all He did, all He was willingly giving Himself to do in the Name of the Father is summarised in that verse we took as the banner for this series:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, NIV)

What happened then with Martha?

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27, NIV)

Oh, that wonderful moment when the light of God’s grace shines upon the heart of a sinner to believe!  What a testimony!  When Peter used about the same words to testify about Jesus, our Lord told Him:

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:17, NIV)

In a way then, what was about to happen to Lazarus in his body, happened to Martha in her soul.  Yes, indeed she lived and believed in Him and therefore she would never die, even though she would die; Lazarus believed in Christ, and even though he had died, He would live.

So Martha became a witness of Christ as she ran back into the house to call her sister.  She came out to Jesus, followed by the Jews who gathered with the sisters in their house, and said the same as her sister had said.Her faith, although always sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teachings, was still not complete.  She had to witness the power of Christ over the power death.

Jesus Christ, Lord over death as the Son of God

Then there, at the revelation of the Christ to complete the faith of his followers; there where our Lord faced his earthly enemy, the Jews who would only six days later nail Him to the cross; there where had to deal with the enemy of enemies, death – there, we see two things in our Lord: deeply moved, He wept; deeply moved his soul was troubled.

Why did He weep?  Did He not see the sorrow of sin in the death of his friend?  Did He not experience the pain of loved ones left behind?  Did He not look back on the broken lives of millions through the ages who were in the clutches of death, all because of sin?  Yes, He saw and experience all of it.  That is what makes Him our perfect Mediator.  Listen,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15–16, NIV)

His soul was troubled.  Why?  He had to pay the price with his own life, taking the sin of the world upon Him, to be rejected by the Father in order to bring them to the Father.  There at the tomb of Lazarus, He would face the reality of his own grave ahead of Him only six days.  There He would face the anguish of dealing with sin and death – finally.  He soul was troubled, because God’s punishment of our sin would be on Him in its extreme measure, to give us forgiveness in extreme measure.

Jesus looked at Mary and Martha:

Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV)

Then He prayed to his Father:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41–42, NIV)

With a loud voice He then called, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out and Jesus commanded, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.
Jesus is Lord over death, hell, sin and satan.  Why?  He is the Son of God – God Himself with the Father!  That’s why.

Conclusion

The Gospel is preached – even today it has been preached.  It is the Word of God.  It was God’s eternal plan for us to hear it.  Why?

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messia
h, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

Did we hear his voice?  Do we believe He is the resurrection and the life?  The reason why we heard this message today is to hear his voice – and believe unto eternal life.  It’s either death or life; it’s either Christ or death. 

Let’s thank God for his Son, our Lord.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on 14 April 2013

 

The glory of God

This Sunday we will hear the Word of God on another attribute of God:  His glory.

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding? (Isaiah 40:12–14, NIV)

Let’s bow before his glory.

 

Mediocrity and the glory of God

“Mediocrity is a heart problem. We have lost our commitment to the highest levels of excellence because we have lost our awe. Awe amnesia is the open door that permits mediocrity in …

“Awe of God inspires, motivates, and convicts. There is no replacement for such awe in the leadership of the church of Jesus Christ. Awe asks more of us than we would ever ask of ourselves. Awe reminds you that God is so glorious that it is impossible for you, as his ambassador, to have ministry standards that are too high …

“Excellence in ministry flows from a heart that is in holy, reverential, life-rearranging, motivation-capturing awe of the Lord of Glory…”

 

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