What Does It Mean For An Elder To Hold Fast To The Word of God?
One of the qualifications that must be found in a mature Christian man before being appointed to the eldership is that he must hold fast to the word of God (Titus 1:9-11).
“Holding fast” comes from the Greek word antecho. BDAG (a Greek Dictionary) defines this word as: “1. to have a strong attachment to someone or someth., cling to, hold fast to, be devoted to.” This word is also found in Matthew 6:24. It states: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal (antecho) to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” In this context, it is being used of a man's heart who is devoted to money as his main fulfillment and satisfaction rather than serving God.
In the context of Titus 1:9, the heart of an elder is to diligently be attached and LOYAL to the word of God. How are elders to be loyal to the word of God? There are several ways that an elder's heart can become more attached to the word of God.
L – Learning
How is it possible for an elder to become more diligently attached and loyal to the word of God? He needs to be a diligent student of the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). He needs to manifest the attitude of Ezra in Ezra 7:10, preparing his heart with all diligence to receive what the Bible teaches on a certain subject. Even though he will never fully master the Bible, he needs to constantly stay in the word because there will be difficult situations that arise within the congregation and will require prudence, wisdom, and discretion which comes from a life-long study of the word of God. The following are some ways in which an elder can better prepare himself in studying the word of God?
Have a church library containing good, solid materials that will be checked out by the individual elders (as well as other members) so they can constantly stay in the word. These libraries ought to contain various lectureship book series, videos, and books on Christian apologetics.
Rely on your own personal study and not just the preacher or member(s). Every member and especially the elders need to become more diligent in studying God's word! (1 Peter 2:1-3)
Take advantage of the various internet resources such as the The Gospel of Christ (www.thegospelofchrist.com), the Christian Courier (www.christiancourier.com), Apologetics Press (www.apologeticspress.org), and many others. Elders need to be constantly updated as to what is happening in the world and in the Lord's church. In the book of Revelation, some of the churches in Asia Minor were warned about the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6,15). There have arisen many false doctrines that have divided some congregations because the elders were not aware of what was happening before it was too late (such as covenant eschatology).
An elder ought to have the desire to be learning because otherwise, he will stay in ignorance and ignorance of God's word is not bliss (Acts 17:30)! An elder is to rather “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
O - Obedience
An elder's heart ought to be attached to the word of God because he wants to obey the Lord Jesus who is King over all creation (Matthew 28:18). Elders (as well as all true Christians) were “called out” of spiritual darkness (1 Peter 2:9,10) because they were convicted by the clear evidence that teaches Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:30-31) and they rendered obedience to the plan of salvation (Acts 2:37,38; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). The elders’ ultimate desire is to submit to Jesus reign (Matthew 6:33). Elders’ must know that in order to help expand the kingdom of God and its glory, then they must know what the King requires of them and the flock. Elders will be obedient in learning what the word of God teaches so that they can teach others faithfully (2 Timothy 2:2).
Y - Youth
Many elderships need to get back to teaching our young people Christian apologetics so that they can see for themselves the firm foundation on which Christianity has stood for centuries. Reason: many of our youth are leaving the true church (hence leaving the Lord, Ephesians 1:22-23; Hebrews 10:24-31). Many elderships need to also get back to teaching and training our young men concerning the role of an elder. They must be taught what is required and how serious the role is. We need to prepare their hearts to have the desire for it so that they can be a blessing to future generations (Ecclesiastes 12:1; 2 Timothy 3:14,15). A young Christian man who grows up learning and applying the Bible to his life will be better equipped to take on the role of becoming an elder in the Lord's church.
A - Action
In order to be loyal to God’s word, elders need to put their faith into action. A true and active faith is a living faith (James 2:14-26). An eldership will show themselves to be loyal when the tough times come. This is where their faith will be tested (1 Peter 1:6-7). If there are sinful situations that arise within the congregation, will they be the type of leaders who will be loyal and uphold the word of God? Or will they stand aside and allow sin to persist in its detrimental way? Will they allow a precious soul to continually persist in sin? Or will they have the courage to stand in the gap?
One of the great cardinal virtues in the Christian system is love. Love is doing what is best for the individual. If an elder is to be loyal to the word of God, he must show love in all that he does. If sinful situations arise and persist within a congregation, an eldership will do what needs to be done because they love the word of God above all else, which teaches them to love their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22:37-40; 1 Corinthians 16:13,14).
It has been the case that the elders of a local congregation will use pragmatic, haphazard ways to achieve the goal of church growth (following the popular idea that “the end justifies the means”): (a) they allow married couples who are in adulterous unions to place membership [Matthew 5:31,32; 19:9], (b) they refuse to take any action in the process of disciplining a church member who is known to be involved in a public sin (who refuses to repent) in the congregation lest that member leave the congregation (1 Corinthians 5:1-13), (c) they allow any kind of man-made innovation (such as mechanical instruments of music [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16], handclapping [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16], female preachers [1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:34,35] to be introduced into the worship and life of the church in order to “enhance” the experience of the members, and/or (d) they will order the preacher to refrain from preaching on certain subjects of morality (such as gambling, “social” drinking of alcoholic beverages) lest it cause offense to some of the members and visitors. These real-life illustrations are symptoms of the disease that is hurting the body of Christ. The disease is that these elders refuse to hold to the word of God.
If you desire to partake in the work of an elder someday, then you must have a heart of loyalty that will be given to the word of God and it alone. You cannot allow any other obstacle to get in the way and compete for your heart. The word of God must stand above all else and to it alone the heart must render. May the hearts of all elders everywhere have the desire to follow only the word of God.
Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Ed. Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
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