2011 05 15
Reverend Anthony R. Locke
May 15th, 2011 www.FirstPresTucker.org
at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
This was preached in preparation to Bud Hardy being ordained to the office of Ruling Elder
1 Timothy 3:1-7 Bud Hardy’s Ordination English Standard Version
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.
2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Paul’s words in verse one that, “The saying is trustworthy” is like Jesus saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” My son Tyler would say, “Seriously, you got to believe me.”
Paul makes this emphasis to remind the Greek reader of that day of a proverb made famous by Plato who frequently said, “those things which are excellent, are also arduous and difficult.” We would say, “Great things don’t come easy.” Or, “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”
In the previous chapter Paul explains that church leadership has a gender limitation. This is not popular within our culture. Paul cut off half the population from pastoral duties based on their X or Y chromosome. Ladies are not invited to serve as elders.
In chapter three Paul limits who can serve even further. Just because you don’t own a dress, purse or a parasol, doesn’t mean you qualify to be an elder. Being male is not a qualification for becoming an elder.
Aspiring to be an elder is not a qualification for becoming an elder. People are asked to be elders who did not aspire to be elders. I think Reverend John Little twisted some arms to get a few of our current elders.
Some people aspire to be an elder and yet never qualify. Paul is just saying that aspiring to be an elder is to desire an excellent work. It is a noble arena where one toils, one gets dirty and wears oneself thin for Jesus’ sake.
The saying is trustworthy: Aspiring the work of an elder is to aspire to a noble work.
But people have to qualify. Paul makes a list of qualifications. We don’t ask someone to be an elder, or deacon, because they won a popularity contest.
So Paul takes the next half dozen verses to list those qualifications.
First, ordained church leadership must be above reproach.
John Calvin says, “There will be no one found among men that is free from every vice; but it is one thing to be blemished with ordinary vices, which do not hurt the reputation, because they are found in men of the highest excellence, and another thing to have a disgraceful name, or to be stained with any baseness. In order, therefore, that a bishop may not be without authority, Paul urges that there shall be made a selection of one who has a good and honorable reputation, and not chargeable with any remarkable vice.”
Don’t put your elders on such a pedestal that they fall from your respect when you discover that they are human and have common sin habits. Nobody’s perfect. We all struggle, we are all stained with something.
Yet, Paul limits who can be asked by saying that elders shouldn’t have remarkable sins. When we see behind the curtain of a man’s life, we shouldn’t be shocked by their failures. Elders shouldn’t be setting any records with sin otherwise their authority while representing God will be diminished. And we can’t have that in the church.
Second, an elder must be the husband of only one wife. John Calvin says this means that polygamy is forbidden. He says that’s all that this qualification means. Nothing about divorce. One question for a candidate – how many wives does the guy have?
Yet, I like to go one step further. Obviously, two timing isn’t allowed, but two timing in the heart isn’t allowed either. And to go further still, even if the elder has never married, if his heart and passions are on reserve for one woman, then he qualifies. To say it negatively, someone who acts like a “player” isn’t elder material.
Next, an elder must be sober minded. Elders must be decent, acting with propriety, good decorum and good manners. For the opposite, think Charlie Sheen. He is entertaining, but he could not bring respect to the Gospel with his decorum. Elders must be clearheaded.
An elder must be self-controlled. This can also mean prudent. Wisdom.
And elders must have an orderly life. A respectable life that reflects wisdom. Wisdom cultivates an orderly life.
Elders must be hospitable which means they love strangers. The door of the Christian home, as well as the heart of the Christian family, ought to be open to all who come in need. That is especially true of an elder. Elders are not elevated to a place where they are unapproachable. They are to be available and have a heart of compassion.
Elders should be able to explain what the Bible teaches. They should understand what the Bible says, and be able to clearly share those basic truths with someone else.
Elders can’t be famous for their use of alcohol. There shouldn’t be urban legends telling how much alcohol they can drink and still drive home. Some television actors have created a persona that always shows them smoking or holding a drink. It’s part of their shtick.
If you can’t picture an elder candidate in your mind without imagining them holding a beer or evening cocktail, then they don’t meet the qualifications.
This elder qualification is two Greek words stuck together which means “not along side wine.” Elders can’t have a public image of always being alongside an adult drink.
Elders should be the good guy in the room. Safe, not violent. Gentle.
Elders aren’t the guys always looking to quarrel. Hyper truth detectives who are always looking for a doctrinal fight are not elder material. Elders know the truth, but share it with words of love.
Elders are not laying up treasures on earth, not jealous of evil doers, not envious of the rich. They are looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.
The children of elders living directly under their supervision, still living in the home, are not hellions. Elders don’t have wives who can’t control their tongues. Elders don’t have out of control family finances. Elders bring peace and prosperity to their own family and we expect that they will bring peace and prosperity to God’s family.
And even those who qualify and are exceptionally talented, if their profession of faith is new, they should be given time to mature before they are asked to be an elder.
Paul’s qualifications limit who can be asked to be an elder.
It’s a noble task, an excellent place to get tired for Jesus’ sake. It’s important for the health of the church that our elders are our best foot forward – morally, worldly wise, innocent as doves, but smart like a fox. That’s an elder.
Paul says with great confidence that aspiring to be an elder is to aspire to a noble task.
The only truth that Paul holds in greater confidence is in chapter one of the same book.
1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Jesus left the glory of heaven to save us. The death of Christ was the death we deserved. The resurrection of Christ is the new life we don’t deserve. And the ascension of Christ is the promise of eternal blessedness we could never attain on our own.
Elders lead the church in this Gospel mission.
This church is blessed to have great elders and deacons. Despite all the restrictions the Apostle Paul creates through his list of qualifications, we have many qualified men sitting here today.
We have a great first string serving right now, and a great second string in the pews waiting to enter this same noble service.
A few months back we had a few names from the Session that we approached to serve as elders.
Bud Hardy was one of those we asked to serve as elder. He is able to serve at this time and so we will now ordain him to the office of ruling elder.
FORMULA FOR ORDINATION AND INSTALLATION
(1) Do you believe in one God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and do you confess anew the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and acknowledge Him Head over all things for the Church, which is His Body?
(2) Do you reaffirm your belief in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of the living God, the only perfect rule of faith and practice, to which nothing is to be added and from which nothing is to be taken at any time or upon any pretext?
(3) Do you accept the doctrines of this Church, contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, as founded on the Word of God and as the expression of your own faith and do you resolve to adhere thereto?
(4) Do you accept the government, discipline, and worship of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church?
(5) Do you accept the office of ruling elder in this congregation; and do you promise to perform faithfully all the duties of the office; and do you promise to endeavor by the grace of God to live your life in Christian witness before the church and in the world?
(6) Do you promise to submit in the spirit of love to the authority of the session and to the higher courts of the Church?
(7) Do you promise in all things to promote the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the church?
Do you, the members of this congregation, acknowledge and receive Bud Hardy as a ruling elder, and do you promise to give him all the honor, obedience, encouragement, and assistance in the spirit of love to which his office, according to the Word of God and the Constitution of this Church, entitles him?
After the members of the congregation have signified their affirmative answer to this question, the officers-elect shall kneel and be set apart to their office with prayer and the laying on of the hands of the session.
Following the ordination prayer, the minister shall say:
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Head of the Church,
I now declare you duly ordained and installed
in the sacred office of ruling elder.”
The members of the session shall take the new officers by the hand, saying:
“We give you the right hand of fellowship to take part
in this ministry with us.”
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.