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The qualifications of elders in the church
The Bible gives clear instructions’ on the qualifications one must satisfy in order to be named an elder and serve tier positions in the body of believers. The word elder appears alongside the word bishop in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. The term can be derived back to the Greek word episcope that is the title for one who holds the position or office of an elder/bishop. His English word is Episcopal, which translates to one who gains knowledge by seeking or looking out, also ones who gains knowledge by being an overseer. Elders/bishops were those in charge of the body of believers. In today’s setting, we refer to them as ministers or pastors (Ware, 1993).
They are charged not only giving the word of God to the congregation which they serve, they are also charged with the significant role watching over the spiritual and religious needs of those making up the congregation.
The qualifications for elders in the church appear in 1st Timothy 3:1-7. In it the apostle Paul gives clear instructions on the merits one should meet in order to be declared an elder and serve the church. They include, that the man must be of one wife, he must be blameless, he must have self-control, he must of sober mind, and he cannot be violent, greedy for wealth, one who covets and cannot be a novice in the leadership position. If this is so according to Paul, then how is he expected to run the church of God? He must be one who rules his house well. If he cannot also run the affairs of his house then how will he manage in his position? This person must also be a gentle soul, one who is not difficult. He should be of a pleasant nature in that he can be approached easily. This also goes along the lines of his having a good reputation with the members of the community, even outside of the church setting.
These qualifications are repeated in the book of Titus 1:5-9. It should be noted that in these qualifications give for the elders in the church contain no vagueness or ambiguity. They do not offer any wiggle room, and one must have all these qualities. They should be believers in Christ as they key work is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is through the teachings found in the pious word that they will be able to execute the role required of them correctly. The position of a church elder is not one that is to be taken in jest; it is a very serious office that should be served with the respect and reverence it deserves. It is for this fact that anyone who is a nonbeliever should not take up this position
The design of the office of the church elder in the New Testament was to replace the high priests and prophets whom God used in the Old Testament. The Old Testament had the prophets whom God used to convey His message. The Prophet essentially spoke in place of God. He was the representative of God. The priests on the other hand represented the needs of the people before God. With the anticipated return of Jesus Christ and the New Testament, the pious word of God is written in the hearts of believers. We have the entire word of God (Rev 22:18-19).
The qualifications found in the Bible are accurate in the choosing of a leader in the church. This would be the same principles I would implement for my ministry. The present church also allows for the church elders to be women, and I would include this diversity while determining elder's for the church.
Church discipline can be said to be the ensuring that the members of the church receive when they have been perceived to have committed sin or gone against the teachings offered in church. The disciplinary steps taken towards the offender are meant to chastise them and show them the error of their ways while bringing them into a place of reconcilement with God and the church. The underlying purpose of discipline in the pious church is also to have the offender experience true repentance. It is only after the offender has shown true repentance and has been to see to amend their wayward ways that they can be accepted back into the congregation.
Believers in Christ are encouraged to practice discipline in their various stages of life. They are encouraged to show their belief from their homes to their places of work even while interacting with persons during their daily activities. It is through their actions that they show the Christian nature and their fellowship with Christ. An illustration is told of a child who is permitted to do whatever they please without any dire consequences. We have all come across such a situation, and it is not pleasant to witness. Such a child will not grow up knowing that actions have consequences. They will be poor members of society and will rarely succeed in their endeavors. Discipline is not easy to administer much like it may not be pleasant for the child’s parent to do the same. However, it is the eventual outcome that counts. It is necessary as it enables the offender see the error of his ways, and more importantly it is mandated by God (Rhodes, 2005).
In some isolated instances, people from the congregation have been excommunicated from the church altogether. This is the long term effect of discipline. Discipline is church should not be conducted in a mean spirited way but rather with love and in line the directives of the Holy Spirit. The author Paul in his message to the Corinthians gave some illustrations where excommunication is necessary. One is showing to the nonbelievers the testimony of Christ. The other is to stop the spread of sin. The coming of Jesus was meant to set us apart from sin and in this way we are free from those things that cause our spiritual state to be tarnished (1 corithians5:7-8).
Corrective discipline is applied to those persons who disobey, are disorderly and unruly, them who deny the teachings of the Bible. The way to go about disciplining is to have a meeting arranged with the offender, have them meet with several other people when the first meeting fails. Give them a warning regarding their behavior. As a last resort bring up the matter in the church to the entire congregation. Revoke their membership from the church and do not be associated with them. Finally, when and if true repentance occurs be ready to forgive and accept them back. The decisive authority of discipline is Christ Himself, and He has authorized the church to use it when needed.
While it is not pleasant to have to discipline members of the church, just like any institution there needs to be the order. At times, the faults we go through are a means for us to get significantly nearer to God. It is important that we remember we cannot be subjected to more than we can handle. Once we remember this, it will be easier to accept our faults and ask for the right guidance instead of hardening ourselves from the punishment as a result of our wrong doing.
Baptism is a Christian ceremony that involves one being touched or covered with water as a way of admission and adoption into the Christian faith. According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ was himself baptized, and this is regarded as a significant step into Christianity. The early Christians performed the ceremony by immersing the candidate in water either fully or partially. John the Baptist fully immersed his candidates in the water but from the 3rd century onwards the candidates being baptized were required to stand in water while the water was poured over their torso. Other common forms of baptism have the candidate being touched their times with water on their forehead.
Baptism was not only by water, the early history of the church speaks of martyrdom where believers in Christ were persecuted and killed for their religious beliefs. These deaths were referred to as a baptism by fire. This was a grand plan to ensure that the martyrs who had died were also said to have been saved especially for those who had not been baptized. The Catholic Church has also identified baptism by desire. This was for those persons who were believers but were not baptized, and they died before they received the sacrament of baptism that rendered them saved.
Baptism is one of the decrees that the church was required to fulfill (Matthew 28:19-20). It is the duty of the holy church to spread the fundamental message of Jesus and to teach them the ways of the Bible, to make disciples and it is also tied mandate to ensure these disciples are baptized. It is to be performed in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the sole means it will be deemed as a Christian baptism. This is the sole identifiable way that one is accepted into the fellowship of Christ. The baptism by water is a representation of baptism by the Holy Spirit (Powell, 2005).
The importance of baptism to a Christian is that they can now make a public confession that they are saved, and they have faith in Jesus Christ. During baptism one shows that the old has passed, and the new has been put forth. Romans 6:4 states that "we have been buried with him through baptism into death so that just as Jesus was raised from death we too might be raised from sin so we have a new life."
Baptism to a Christian is a very crucial step as it is an external demonstration of their change and that they have now become believers in the church of Christ. It is fulfilling an ordinance of Christ of being baptized to ensure they are aptly named Disciples of Christ. At the same time, while it relates to salvation, it is not a requirement for one to be saved. However, the order of events in many instances in the Bible is that when one accepts and believes in Jesus Christ. Everywhere the gospel of Christ is preached it is expected that those who accept the word will be baptized.
Powell, M. A.(2005). Jesus as a figure in history: how modern historians view the man from Galilee (7th pr. ed.). Louisville: Knox. p. 47
Rhodes, R. (2005) The Complete Guide to Christian Denominations, Harvest House Publishers
Ware, K.(1993) The Orthodox Church. New York: Penguin Books. Pp. 277–278
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