Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 7, 1967
NUMBER 31, PAGE 1-2a

Peter's Exhortation

Robert H. Farish

Peter, the apostle, was also an elder. In his exhortation to elders he refers to himself as a fellow-elder. Whether all the elders in the churches of the first century were inspired is not clear, but certainly this exhortation from this "fellow elder" is by inspiration of Jesus Christ. This is an exhortation from an apostle of Christ. In his capacity of "an apostle of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:1) he addresses an exhortation specifically to those who were fellow elders. Elders and those who desire the work of an elder should be particularly interested in this exhortation. All saints also need to acquaint themselves with the work, responsibilities and authority of elders.

The Exhortation

"The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, out of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away." (I Peter 5:1-4.)

"WHEN THE CHIEF SHEPHERD SHALL BE MANIFESTED" is the event which the elders (under-shepherds) should constantly remember.

When elders are constantly conscious of the fact "they watch in behalf of your souls, as "THEY THAT SHALL GIVE ACCOUNT" (Heb. 13:17), the dangers of "lording it over the flock" or failing to "tend the flock" will be slight.

"The glory that shall be revealed" or "the crown of glory that fadeth not away" to be received by the faithful "when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested" plus the fact that elders must give account to the chief Shepherd are impelling motives to faithfulness.

Elder's Authority

Elders are assigned the "oversight" (I Peter 5:2) The "oversight" or "rule" is limited to the congregation of which they are members (Acts 14:25, Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2.) Elders, who extend their oversight beyond the territory assigned to them by the chief Shepherd, are in rebellion to the chief Shepherd, despite all pious protests of love and zeal. The local church of which they are members and by which they have been appointed elders is the body over which they are to rule or exercise the oversight. Any violation of these divine bounds is "going onward and abiding not in the teachings of Christ."

The authority of elders which is implied in the terms "rule" and "oversight" is not legislative — "one only is lawgiver and judge, even he who is able to save and destroy" (James 4:12.) It is only with reference to those things that properly fall in the area of human judgment that the elders are to make decisions. The elders have the responsibility of making those decisions in the realm of human judgment, which are necessary for the congregation to function in its divinely designed work. The local church is the only unit of function or organization which God has given to do the work of the church. No man or group of men, regardless of their intellectual attainments or their piety, has the right to substitute another society, whether frankly called a missionary society or disguised under the term "sponsoring church" to do the work which God has assigned to the church. Neither does any man have the right to activate the church in any work not authorized in the New Testament.

Overseers of a congregation who extend their oversight beyond the work of the congregation or assume works for the church to perform which is not authorized in the teaching of Christ are condemned in the New Testament. "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ bath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son" (II John 9.)

"Hath Not God"

"Hath not God" is the phrase used by the Holy Spirit to describe the state of those who "abide not in the teaching of Christ." To contemplate the condition of one who "hath not God" is heart-chilling. No basis for hope can exist with the one who "hath not God"; such a one is destitute regardless of any other thing. No amount of money, education, power or anything prized by men can fill the void that exists with the one who "hath not God."

"Going Onward"

To "press on unto perfection" is required in the New Testament (Heb. 6:1), but he that "goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ" is going onward in the wrong direction. Evidently many have confused progress with transgression and are identifying their transgression as something good. To be "on the march" is all that counts with some; little attention is given to the direction taken. We need to learn that those on the march -going onward and abiding not in the teachings of Christ are marching away from God.

All who go onward and abide not in the teaching of the New Testament on church organization and function have not God according to John. To avoid this conclusion it must be shown that the teaching of the New Testament on church organization and work is not the "teaching of Christ."

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