Friday, January 17, 2014

Can a young, single man be a biblically qualified elder?

I took my first official ministerial position the day after my nineteenth birthday, I was in my senior year of bible college and was being brought in to a very small Baptist Church as an Assistant Pastor with the idea that over the next year I would transition to Senior Pastor. Seven years later, I am back at the church that I spent my teenage years in, but now as an Associate Pastor, and yet I'm still only in my mid-twenties and single. Nearly everyone who finds out that I'm in the ministry comments on how young I am and many question whether or not my youth and singleness disqualify me from being able to appropriately carry out the necessary requirements that come with pastoring.
Let me address these issues one at a time. First the issue of age. There is only one place in scripture that I am aware of where the topic of age is addressed in relation to a bishop's qualifications. That is in I Timothy 4:12 where Paul commands Timothy to let no man despise his youth. Some have argued that this is an ambiguous term that under Roman divisions of age dealt with men between 30-40 years old. Others have done their own math based on when they think I Timothy was written and the known fact that Timothy died at 80 years old in the year 97 AD. Those using this method of calculating have put him anywhere between 23 - 48 years old at the writing of 1 Timothy (John Gill, the puritanical pastor who wrote a verse-by-verse commentary on the entire bible is of the belief he was 23). A third argument is that in the Old Testament a Levite was not allowed to become a priest until he was 30 years old, therefore the same must be true of a New Testament bishop. I see a couple of problems with defining the word "youth" to mean thirties or forties.
First, why would a man in his thirties or forties, need to be told to let no man despise his youth? If that was the typical time frame for a man to become a priest for the Israelites, and the time when a man moved from youth to middle age for a Roman, who would it be that was questioning his qualification? It seems to me that the command not to allow anyone to despise his youth, assumes that there were those who were of the opinion that he was too young by societal norms.
Secondly, we see the word "youth" used in many places throughout the scripture and we rarely to never assume these places to be talking about a man around 40 years old. In Genesis 8:21 God says he will not destroy every living thing on the earth again "for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Do we think that man's heart is evil from the time he is in his thirties? In I Samuel both Saul and Goliath disdained David because he was a "youth", was he a man in his late thirties? Wouldn't that put him in the prime of his life and the most formidable age he would ever be? Proverbs 5:18 tells men to rejoice in the wife of their youth, are we to take that to mean a man shouldn't marry until he is in his late thirties? Lam. 3:27 says it is good that a man bear the yoke in his youth. Shall we then put off working until we reach our mid-forties? The rich, young ruler in Matt. 19:20 said he had kept the commandments from his "youth up," did Jesus understand him to mean that he had begun keeping the law in his thirties? I think from just these few examples we see that the definitions for "youth," "grown man," and "old man" have not changed much since biblical times. If anything we live in a culture that extends childhood longer than they would have in those days.
The second objection I often get is that the qualification for pastors in both I Timothy and Titus include being the husband of one wife and having his children in subjection. There are many who take this to mean that only a married man with children can be pastors. If that is in fact what those verses mean, then neither Jesus nor Paul were qualified to be pastors.Seeing that it was Paul who was writing these and that he did in fact start many churches, I do not believe this to a consistent understanding of those verses. Rather, I take it to mean he is not to be the husband of more than one wife, he is not to be a polygamist. This may even mean he cannot be divorced and remarried, but the fact that he says the husband of one wife, coupled with the fact that the first interpretation would disqualify himself, causes me to think he does not here exclude single men. It is also relevant to note that in I Cor. 9 where Paul is talking about the rights of gospel ministers, he says they have the "power," or the right, to have a wife, which reading would imply that while the right was theirs, not all took advantage of it. It is not that he must have one wife in order to be qualified, but that if he has more than one he is disqualified. The reason for the stipulation that they have their children in subjection is clearly stated to be because if their household is not in order, we can see a clear flaw in their leadership ability. Much like the qualification for wives, this requirement ensures that a man who has an unruly household is precluded from becoming a minister, not that a man with only one child or childless altogether is kept from the presbytery.
Last (and least), the argument is often made that a young, single, childless pastor will not have the experience to help the older, married with children, men in his congregation because he doesn't have the experience. But nowhere in scripture do we find experience to be an important trait in a bishop. What of the divorced and remarried men in the congregation? They will not have a minister who has the experience to help them. What of the widow and widower? The minister will probably not have the experience to help them. What of the man in the military, the man with the special needs child, the man with a degenerative disease? There are a million specific situations every human will uniquely encounter that the pastor probably won't have personal experience with, therefore he is to know God's Word intimately. He is to be able to rightly divide the Word of truth, he is to be instant in season and out of season, he is to be ever ready to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that lies within him. He is to be of sound speech that those who are opposed to the truth may be ashamed with no evil thing left to say to us. The job of the pastor is to be steeped in the Book, not personal experience.
Let me close all of this out by saying two things. First, the qualifications for an elder are steep, they are heavy, they are demanding on a man of any age. The pool of men who are in their youth, who can bear them, is very small in our society. He cannot be a novice (newly saved and/or unlearned in doctrine), he must flee youthful lusts, he must be an example in word and deed, etc. I am not here promoting that every 19 year old who has the urge should be made a pastor, but rather that there are occurrences where young men do in fact meet all of the qualifications. Secondly, I am sure ministry is much easier with a wife. There are unique challenges to trying to minister as a single man. I am sure there are benefits to having children that prove that you can practice what you preach when it comes to child-rearing. Quite the opposite of promoting singleness or childlessness in pastors, I would recommend it when God allows it. But if God in his divine wisdom has withholden a wife from a man, or if he has given him a wife but has closed her womb, he is not disqualified from serving, he will simply have to do it with the handicaps that God, in his good pleasure, has seen fit to place him under at that stage in his life.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Active commands found I Timothy

Keep in mind, that the epistles to Timothy were to a specific pastor, in a certain place, at a particular time. Therefore, many of the commands are to particular groups of people (pastors, widows, deacons' wives, servants, etc.) and are not for all people everywhere to obey. That being said, we can all learn from these commands and if you happen to fall into one of the unique groups, the command is indeed still for you today!
1. War a good warfare. (1:18)
2. Hold faith, and a good conscience. (1:19)
3. Make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (2:1-2)
4. Men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (2:8)
5. Women adorn yourselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. (2:9-10)
6. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. (2:11)
7. A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (3:2-7)
8. Deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. The husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (3:1-10, 12)
9. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. (3:11)
10. Refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (4:7)
11. Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (4:12)
12. Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (4:13)
13. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them. (4:16)
14. Honour widows that are widows indeed. (5:3)
15. If any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents. (5:4)
16. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. (5:9-10)
17. The younger widows refuse. (5:11)
18. Let the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. (5:14)
19. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged. (5:16)
20. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
21. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (5:19)
22. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. (5:20)
23. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. (5:22)
24. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour. (6:1)
25. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. (6:2)
26. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; from such withdraw thyself. (6:3, 5)
27. Having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (6:8)
28. Man of God, flee these things [love of riches]; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (6:11)
29. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. (6:12)
30. Keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: (6:14)
31. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (6:17-19)
32. Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called. (6:20)

Active commands found in II Thessalonians

1. Stand fast. (2:15)
2. Hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2:15)
3. Pray that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified. (3:1)
4. Pray that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men. (3:2)
5. Withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (3:6)
6. With quietness work, and eat your own bread. (3:12)
7. If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (3:14-15)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Active commands in I Thessalonians

1. Walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (2:12)
2. Increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men. (3:12)
3. As ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. (4:1)
4. Love one another. (4:9)
5. Be quiet, and do your own business, and work with your own hands. (4:11)
6. Walk honestly toward them that are without. (4:12)
7. Comfort one another words of assurance and hope of the return of Christ and the eternal reward of the believer. (4:15-18)
8. Watch and be sober. (5:6)
9. Be sober, put on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. (5:8)
10. Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another. (5:11)
11. Know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. (5:12-13)
12. Warn them that are unruly. (5:14)
13. Comfort the feebleminded. (5:14)
14. Support the weak. (5:14)
15. Be patient toward all men. (5:14)
16. Follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. (5:15
17. Rejoice evermore. (5:16)
18. Pray without ceasing. (5:17)
19. In every thing give thanks. (5:18)
20. Prove all things. (5:21)
21. Hold fast that which is good. (5:

Active commands found in Colossians

1. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (2:6-7)
2. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (2:8)
3. Seek those things which are above. (3:1)
4. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (3:2)
5. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness. (3:5)
6. Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. (3:8)
7. Put on therefore, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering. (3:12)
8. Forbear one another. (3:13)
9. Forgive one another. (3:13)
10. Put on charity. (3:14)
11. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts. (3:15)
12. Be thankful. (3:15)
13. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom. (3:16)
14. Teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, sing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (3:16)
15. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (3:17)
16. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands. (3:18)
17. Husbands, love your wives. (3:19)
18. Children, obey your parents in all things. (3:20)
19. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, in singleness of heart, fearing God. (3:22)
20. Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord. (3:23)
21. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal. (4:1)
22. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. (4:2)
23. Walk in wisdom toward them that are without. (4:5)
24. Redeem the time. (4:5)
25. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (4:6)