WHAT GOD IS DOING THROUGH CHRIST
In the consideration of any function within the body of Christ, it is imperative that we first look at what God is doing through Jesus Christ what He is doing in this great "day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:1-2). As members of Christs body, our objectives must be the same as the One whose name we wear. God cannot and will not bless activities that are out of synch with His own. While that may seem all too apparent, if we are not vigilant, it can easily elude us. It is possible to get so caught up in building our church that we forget we have not even been called to build a church. That is something Jesus is doing. Remember how He said, "I will build my church" (Matt 16:18). Viewed from another perspective, it is God who "gives the increase" (1 Cor 3:6-7). Our role in the whole matter is to be "workers together with God" (1 Cor 3:9), joining Him in what He is doing, not seeking for Him to join us in what we are doing. This will require thought, commitment, and unity among ourselves.
And thus we will briefly consider precisely what God is doing in Christ Jesus. When this is understood, it will point us in the right direction, helping us to view the subject of elders within a proper context.
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God"
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 NIV
The focus of God and Christ is the rescue of the human race from the dilemma of sin and the clutches of the evil one. We must not allow ourselves to be drawn to another emphasis. Our consideration of "the work of an elder" is to be seen within the context of the reconciliation of the world. The validity and effectuality of the office is realized in its relation to men being brought into right relation to God. Reconciliation is experienced when we are born again. It is maintained in the walk of faith. The work of an elder particularly applies to the continuance of practical reconciliation to God. By "practical," I mean agreement with and support by God in very day life.
"Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself"
Acts 15:14 NIV
Because the world has been infected by sin, it is appropriately called "this present evil world" (Gal. 1:4). In Christ, God is calling men out of the world order, separating them to Himself. This is what is meant by a "peculiar people"--a people for His own possession (Tit. 2:14). The work of an elder bears directly upon this mission. Here is a divinely appointed office that assists believers in escaping the pollution of the world, and being oriented for heaven.
"He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work"
1 John 3:8 NIV
Jesus destroyed the works of the devil by taking away the sins of the world. He also did so by mortally bruising our adversary in the conflict of the cross. Today Satan is more vulnerable than he has ever been. If believers "resist" him, he will "flee" (James 4:7). However, this resistance is not automatic. It requires all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to, "fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim. 6:12). The work of an elder assists members of the body in accomplishing this objective. If we allow this reality to become distorted in our thinking, the office of the elder will be corrupted, just as surely as it was in the formation of the Roman heresy.
"If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us."
2 Timothy 2:12 NIV
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne"
Revelation 3:21 NIV
This world is not the only world! There is "the world to come" (Mk 10:29-20; Heb 2:5; 6:5), the "new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet 3:13). Everything about salvation EVERYTHING takes the "ages to come" into consideration. This world is not the primary one. In fact, it has been cursed, and that curse will not and cannot be recalled. "Heaven and earth shall pass away" (Matt 24:35). This a refrain that has been frequently echoed throughout the ages. "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed" (Psa 102:26). "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment." (Isa 51:6). "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet 3:10).
One of the fundamental purposes of salvation is to prepare us for the day when this world passes away and "the world to come" becomes apparent. That is the time when we will reign with Jesus without hindrance, weakness, or the presence of enemies. Our present stewardship is a preparation for that time. We are now learning how to be faithful and trustworthy. Now, our work for Christ introductory. Our real work begins when we will sit with Jesus in His throne, just as He has promised.
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life"
Mark 10:29-30 NIV
"It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
Hebrews 2:5-6 NIV
"But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever--yes, for ever and ever.'" . . . "until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom." . . . "Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.'"
Daniel 7:18,22,27 NIV
There are really only two places; "here" and "there." Likewise, there are only two times; "now" and "then." The purpose of redemption is to get us from safely "here" to "there" and "now" to "then". When it comes to taking charge, our reign with Jesus in the world to come is the focus. This world is never the primary world, and "now" is never the primary time. The church is the environment in which we become oriented for the world to come. Here we are being familiarized with eternal realities. Here we learn to "judge righteous judgement" (John 7:24). When the present heavens and earth are removed (2 Peter 3:10-12), our real reign will begin. Until then, we are in a state of preparation. The work of an elder has been established to assist in this process. It has no value whatsoever apart from this objective.
"To the intent that NOW unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known BY THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord"
There are a host of unseen personalities all about us. Included in them are the ones mentioned in the above text: "principalities and powers." These are high-ranking angelic hosts engaged in doing the will of God constantly. They are omnipotent among men, who can in no way withstand them or restrain them from carrying out their commissions from the throne of God.
Presently, these mighty hosts are being shown the great and manifold wisdom of God. In the past, they have witnessed His mighty power in the creation of the world, the deliverance of His people, and other sundry ways. But now, "through the church," the great God of heaven is showing these "principalities and powers" how wise He is. In the church He has taken those who were "dead in trespasses and sins" and made them alive in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:1-6). He has justified the guilty, cleansed the defiled, and made sons out of enemies. He has reconciled the alienated, taught the foolish, and strengthened the weak. All of that required unimaginable wisdom.
In addition to this, He is carrying out His purpose through His church, working in them "both to will and to do of His own good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). The Gospel the angels "desire to look into," or understand (1 Pet 1:12), is preached by the church, lived out by the church, and comprehended by the church. The church is, in fact, a college for angels!