“Charge to the Elders”
Addressing the Ephesian elders, Paul drives home both the dignity and the duties of the pastoral office. Feel the weight of Paul's words:
- The Dignity of Our Office
You who are elders in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ: How did you come by this position? You might answer, "The congregation made us elders by electing us to the office?", and you might even add that "The Presbytery confirmed this vote through the laying on of hands." I cannot deny there are elements of truth here. These were certainly secondary causes in the event of your ordination. In our text, however, Paul points up to the first cause: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” This is significant. God Himself has put you in this office -- as certainly and as surely as if He had reached down from His throne in heaven and lifted you up by your lapels, placed you amidst this flock, and said to you with His very mouth: “I choose you to Shepherd them!” This is a high honor and responsibility. You are God's chosen leaders for your flock. Lead them well.
Paul doesn't stop there. He goes on as if to say: Who are these people, the flock God has called you to Shepherd? They are the ones God purchased (literally) "...with the blood of His very Own." God paid an amazing price for them. God's own Son took on flesh and blood to bleed and to die for them. God's Son became the sin of the world for them. Their redemption cost Him dearly, don’t treat them cheaply as if they were of little or of no importance. Will Christ bleed for them and you not care for them? Will Christ die for them, and you not live for them and pray for them?
Recently, the town of Rammadi fell to ISIS. Our government caused great offense to the families of fallen soldiers, when they said this loss was of little import in the war against terror. Really? One mother, whose son died defending Rammadi during the Iraqi War, had this to say: "My son Marc Lee was the first Navy SEAL who sacrificed his life in Ramadi Iraq Aug 2, 2006. His blood is still in that soil and forever will be.... There is American Blood on that soil (And will you say it doesn't matter?)." How much more seriously, men, should we then not take our task of pastoring the Church. There is Divine blood poured out on these people. Does this blood not call us to attention? Does this blood not command our highest endeavors? God forbid that you or I would treat the Church as an afterthought in the affairs of our life.
- The Duties of Your Office
Paul outlines 4:
- Protect: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock.” You cannot be careful for the flock, if you are careless for your own soul. Their greatest need from you is your own personal godliness. We live in soul numbing days. Now is not the time for spiritual lethargy or comprise! Hang James 3:1 around your neck, and write it on the tablet of your soul — “Let not many of you become teachers, for you will receive a stricter judgment!” You and I have moved beyond the first clause of that verse, and we must now reckon eternally with it's second clause. Men, let me be clear: It will not do that you are as godly and as earnest as the rest of the flock. God expects you to excel above them in every grace. And, then, after you have guarded yourself guard them!
- Pastor… "Shepherd the flock..." Shepherding is not a job we can do at a safe distance. Notice Paul's proposition: "‘among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God’ notice Paul does not say, "over whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers," but "among whom…". Shepherding is an up close, in your face, soul-to-soul business. We cannot do it cooped up by ourselves in a corner office. The Shepherd comes close to the flock, it's a hands on job, as he rubs his fingers through their fleece searching for ticks, fleas, and signs of disease. So it must be with us and our care for the flock. We must be with them, in their very midst. We must know them and they must know us. They must feel comfortable in our presence, free to unzip their souls and share their burdens and concerns, and to confess their sins, their mistakes, and their failures.
- Pray: “And now I commend you to God” - This is not a job we can dare attempt by ourselves, in our own strength… We need daily help from God. Our prayers show whether or not we really believe that statement. Prayer is outwardly what our theology is inwardly. Our prayer life is our true theology on its knees. If we don't pray very much, what does this say about our true theology? Remember the words of Samuel - God forbid that I should sin against God by failing to pray for you…. Paul taught these men words, but his final action is significant. He got down on His knees and prayed with them and for them. Paul knew truth was important, but he didn’t stop there with teaching. He clinched the nail with prayer. As old Bunyan once said: "You can do more than pray once you have prayed, but you can’t do more than pray until you have prayed!"
- Ponder.. “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” The word must be the elders constant resort, the mine from which we dig wisdom and light. Men, be much in the word of God. Don’t you love how Paul describes this blessed book: It is the Word of God’s grace - God’s love for the hell deserving! Here we find the balm for our own wounded and battle weary souls - the soothing ointment of God's ever new, never failing, limitless mercy. Endeavor to swim daily in these crystal clear, soul refreshing, mind enlightening, heart invigorating waters.
Last week, we remember the fallen who died defending our liberty. This year in my reading, I encountered two men for whom Rammadi mattered; it cost them everything they had to give. The time was 2008, the two men in question were two marines standing guard outside a small US base: Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter —22 and 20 years old respectively. They were awake while their men, 200 Marines, slept securely to their rear. On guard duty, their role was simple - let no unauthorized vehicles past the front gate of the base. Then it happened. In the still of the Middle Eastern night, a truck lurched into view, careering down the approach road to the base. Traveling at speed, it showed no sign of stopping. Everyone at the checkpoint knew what it meant. A suicide bomber was seconds away, with upwards of 2000 pounds of high explosives behind him. The Iraqi guards did what any sane man would have done. They ran. The two marines did what any good man ought to have done. They stood, shouldered their weapons and began to fire. At at safe distance, the Iraqi soldiers watched in amazement, as the Marines lived out Semer Fi; leaning into their weapons and towards the truck, they poured magazine after magazine into the cab and its occupant, but the truck kept on rolling, it's lifeless occupant now slumped over the wheel. Eventually, it came to a stop, 6 ft away from the muzzles of the two Marines. Then the detonation. As a measure of its ferocity, the engine block came to rest 200 yards past the bodies of the two warriors. They stood no chance. The blast blew them into eternity, but the sleeping men behind them lived.
Men this is our job as elders in the Church of the Lord Christ. We are to stand in the line. We are to let no unauthorized doctrines, no unauthorized worship, no unauthorized behavior enter this Church unchallenged.
The souls of the flock hang on your faithfulness. Many in America are looking for better methods of doing Church. God is looking for better men. I have confidence in the Lord concerning you. May the glory of the Lord be your rearguard, and may His righteousness go before you, now and always. "I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Press on!