Sermon – July 7, 2019
Paul often tells us of the importance of every believer, sets forward the need for communal submission, and tells us that gifts are given for the mutual edification for all people. So why do we need elders? What purpose do elders serve if, as we would rightly confirm, all are equal at the foot of the cross? Paul insists on having elders to ensure right teaching within the church. Doctrine is not an unimportant matter to the church – good doctrine sets the tone and the direction of good practice, and is a reliable map for us to set forward the glory of God. So today, let us consider the nature of elders within a church – their position, purpose, and power.
1. The position of an elder: need
While many think of elders as super-Christians, closer to God in prayer and holiness, they are still in great need before God. Paul makes this clear as he opens his letter to Timothy. He provides 5 words to demonstrate the great need both of he and Timothy: God is a savior, Jesus is our hope, and we need grace, mercy, and peace. Each of these terms implies strongly that the elders are not super-human holiness machines. Rather, they need salvation, forgiveness, and the work of God in their lives. Do not forget this, church! Look to Christ, even if through your elders, both for your sake and for theirs.
2. The purpose of an elder: love
Paul is clear that he is leaving Timothy behind to clear up some poor teaching in the church. Many have gotten their doctrine all wrong, and Timothy should be the one to set it right. But the charge of good doctrine, of all doctrine, is to promote love both of God and man. Much teaching lends itself to endless speculation, vanity, and is of no benefit to those who hear. But that is not the point of good doctrine! The best preaching leads you to love God and man more – but don’t be fooled: all acceptable teaching aims at this goal.
3. The power of an elder: the gospel
The teachers here were wrapped up in genealogies, myths, and poor handling of the law. The law is not for those who are just – but rather for those who are lawless, for it points to the sin of their actions. But it provides no power for salvation. So the elder’s power lies not in the use of the law, but rather in the use of the gospel. It alone has the power to save, to change the heart of the sinner, and to make him whole again! Where else should we turn, and where else would we go? Let us cling tightly to the one thing that will provide for us the power to gain what we need – salvation, hope, grace, mercy, and peace. These things are only available through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Lord, made clear in the gospel.