Do Elders Lead or Rule?

Do Elders Rule or Lead?

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Introduction

Do elders rule or lead? Many denominations claim that they have ruling elders. Do the Scriptures teach that elders rule? We can examine several popular passages and see if elders actually rule or lead. Please keep in mind that the terms elder, overseer, and pastor have distinct meanings and ministries in the New Testament, which provides for two church offices: overseers and deacons. To understand the differences between the terms elder, overseer and pastor, keep in mind that elders exist independently from overseers and pastors. Both overseers and elders were known in the Old Testament and continued into the New Testament. At Pentecost following the Ascension of Jesus, God created Church Offices, which are not identical to their Old Testament counterparts. So, in the New Testament, not all all elders are overseers, but only the elders chosen by God hold the Church Office of Overseer. Likewise, God described The Spiritual Gift of the Shepherds, but never indicated that the pastors are a church office. Instead, Paul wrote that Church Overseers do the work of pastors. In fact, many saints do the work of pastors, but not all people doing the work of a pastor have The Spiritual Gift of the Shepherds, just like every saint should do the work of an evangelist, but not all saints have the Spiritual Gift of Evangelist. People tend to confuse Church Offices with spiritual gifts (see New Testament Offices).  Before we examine a few New Testament passages concerning elders and leading, I will examine the general concept of leading in the New Testament and then explore examples of leading in the New Testament. Once we understand leading in the New Testament, then we can look particularly at the question of elders and leading or ruling.

Section One

Leading Generally in the New Testament

1.1 Elders, Pastors, Overseers and Deacons.  In the New Testament, God provides directions for leading the Church through offices (overseer and deacon), and also through the spiritual gifts, whether the spiritually-gifted man holds an office or not.  Good leading in the New Testament means that people follow the will of God, and The Spiritual Gift of Leading helps believers follow the will of God. Every member of the body of Christ has a special spiritual gift, and God seriously expects each of us to use those spiritual gifts in the service and edification of all believers.  The New Testament provides many examples of leading which apply to elders, overseers, pastors, and others leading the church. Please keep in mind that the New Testament terms elder, overseer and pastor all refer to distinct groups in the New Testament, despite the claims of many people today that the terms elder, overseer and pastor all mean the same thing (see New Testament Offices). 

1.2 The Term “Lead” Defined. The word “leads” (“προϊστάμενος”) in Romans 12:8 provides a starting point for understanding the concept of leading in the New Testament. In Romans 12, Paul was describing spiritual gifts, including the The Spiritual Gift of Leading.  I submit it may be best to limit the gift of leading described there to the use of the term “leads” (“προϊστάμενος”) and its related uses in the New Testament. You may certainly look to other passages to understand the work that leaders do in the local assembly, such as Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 24, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 (elders there). Saints with The Spiritual Gift of Leading may or may not hold the office of Church Overseer, and perhaps the pastor may not have The Spiritual Gift of Leading.  The other word “diligence” (“σπουδῇ”) related to The Spiritual Gift of Leading in Romans 12:8 helps us understand how The Spiritual Gift of Leading should be exercised and provides insight into the general concept of leading in the New Testament. 

Section Two

New Testament Terms Related to Leading

2.1 New Testament Terms Related to Leading. Several terms in the New Testament relate to leading. The terms below describe people in a relationship with other people. The terms tend to define the relationship to some extent, including communications in the relationship. Because people live in relationships with other people, the terms of the relationship can be described by certain titles or words. They are all relationship words, describing the interactions and relative positions of the people in the relationship.

2.2.1 Kathegetai. The Greek term “kathegetai” (“καθηγηταί–nominative masculine plural and καθηγητὴς-nominative masculine singular”) only appears in Matthew 23:10. Jesus said: “Do be called kathegetai (καθηγηταί); for One is your kathegetes (καθηγητὴς), Christ.” Some people think the term comes from the preposition “kata” and the verb “ago.”  Therefore, the best translation of “kathegetai” would be one who leads down, in place of, or against, so I chose the translation as “Superior” to capture the spatial relationship of leading people below.  Based upon usage of the term outside the Bible, and the immediate context of Matthew 23 decrying the use of terms to describe people which supplant God as the Supreme Person in the relationship, Jesus likely meant that any term for “leader” would be forbidden. Therefore, no one in the church should use the title “leader,” “Superior,” “Father,” “Rabbi,” or other term tending to exalt a person. We only have one Leader, Rabbi, Teacher, etc., and His Name is Jesus. Please recall the disciples quarreled among themselves as who was considered the greatest among them (Luke 9:46-48; 22:24–see also the discussion of the greatest problem in The Pastoral Heresy). 

2.2.2 Archon. The Greek term “archon” (“ἄρχων”) means ruler. I did not find a single instance where it described any position of leadership in the church. The term archon described secular and religious positions outside the church.  When the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest Jesus, the officers returned without Jesus. They said they had never heard anyone speak like Jesus. The Pharisees then said that not any of the archons (ἀρχόντων) or Pharisees has believed in Jesus, has he? The Pharisees then argued that the crowd did not know the Law and was accursed (John 7:45-49). They did not know that Nicodemus, an archon (ἄρχων) of the Jews, had believed in Jesus and was standing right there, urging them to follow the Law before condemning anyone (John 7:50-52; see John 3:1-21). Therefore, we know that the archons were supposed to know the Law, and that many rulers rejected Jesus. Later in the ministry of Jesus many archons believed in Him (John 12:42).  

2.2.2.1 The Archons of the Pharisees. The Pharisees had archons (ἀρχόντων τῶν Φαρισαίων) (Luke 14:1). 1Luke provided: Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς οἶκόν τινος τῶν ἀρχόντων [τῶν] Φαρισαίων σαββάτῳ φαγεῖν ἄρτον καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦσαν παρατηρούμενοι αὐτόν (Luke 14.1). Jesus asked the Pharisees and the lawyers (νομικοὺς) whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, but they were silent. He then healed a man with a withered hand at the home of the ruler of the Pharisees. Yet, not all archons were Pharisees. Therefore, we know that the archons came in different ranks and some held religious offices.

2.2.2.2 The Archons of This Age. Paul described the archons of this age (τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου) (1 Corinthians 2:6, 8).  Paul described them as people having their own earthly wisdom of this age. In contrast, Paul taught the timeless wisdom of God. The archons (ἀρχόντων) of this age are passing away (1 Corinthians 2:6). The archons (ἀρχόντων) of this age do not understand the wisdom of God, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). Therefore, we know the archons of this age did not know the wisdom of God and they crucified Jesus.

2.2.3 Kurios.  Translators often confuse the term “lord” with “master” by equating them. I prefer the consistent translation of kurios (κύριος) as lord because God consistently used the term κύριος to describe slave relationships, saint relations, and titles of respect. For example, Jesus likened the relationship of (1) a disciple to a teacher to (2) the relationship of a slave with his lord (Matthew 10:24). Likewise, Jesus acknowledged that His disciples properly called Him the Teacher (ὁ διδάσκαλος) and the Lord (ὁ κύριος) and He said they spoke well (καλῶς) (John 13:13). Therefore, we know that the disciples of Jesus distinguished the title and functions of Teacher from Lord, and those terms should not be confused. 

2.2.4 Despotas.  Paul applied the term to “despotas” (“δεσπότας”) to earthly masters in relation to their slaves (δοῦλοι) (1 Timothy 6:1). Some earthly masters (δεσπότας) may be faithers (πιστοὺς) (1 Timothy 6:2). Simeon used the term “despota” (“Δέσποτα”) to describe God who was releasing him as slave (δοῦλόν) because he had seen the Messiah in the flesh (Luke 2:29). Likewise, Despotata (Δέσποτα) made heaven and earth (Acts 4:24). Slaves must be submissive to their own “despotais” (“δεσπόταις”), referring to earthly masters (Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18). Saints must cleanse themselves, so that they will be useful to the Despote (δεσπότῃ) for every good work (2 Timothy 2:21). False teachers introduce destructive heresies into the church, even denying the Despoten (δεσπότην) who bought them (2 Peter 2:1).  Likewise, Jude warned about the creepers who deny our only Despoten (Δεσπότην) and Lord (Κύριον), Jesus Christ (Jude 1:4).  The souls under the altar in heaven also cry out to their Despotes (Δεσπότης) to judge and avenge their blood (Revelation 6:10). Because Jude distinguished Δεσπότην from Κύριον, I prefer the translation as Master for all occurrences of δεσπότης in various forms, emphasizing the Master and slave relationship.

2.2.5 Epistata. The term “epistata” (ἐπιστάτα”) literally means set over, describing a position of authority. Only Luke used the term “ἐπιστάτα.” Simon called Jesus “ἐπιστάτα” after they were fishing all night and caught nothing. Jesus then gave them orders about fishing and Peter replied, Ἐπιστάτα, we will do as you spoke (Luke 5:5). Another time when the boat was filling with water, the disciples said to Jesus, “Ἐπιστάτα, ἐπιστάτα,” we are perishing (Luke 8:24). When a woman touched the garment of Jesus and was healed, Jesus asked who touched Him. Peter said, “Ἐπιστάτα” the people surround you (Luke 8:45). On the mount of transfiguration, Peter said, ” Ἐπιστάτα” it is good for us us to be here (Luke 9:33). When the disciples saw someone casting out demons, but not  following with the disciples of Jesus, John said, ” Ἐπιστάτα,” we told him to stop (Luke 9:49).  Ten lepers called to Jesus, saying, ” Ἐπιστάτα,” have mercy on us (Luke 17:13). Therefore, the term Commander fits well with Jesus having command authority over the disciples and everyone else.

2.2.6 Kubernates. The term “kubernete”  (“κυβερνήτῃ” described the maritime pilot of a ship (Acts 27:11; Rev 18:17).   I described The Spiritual Gift of Navigations in the free ebook, Spiritual Gift Manual. Therefore, because God described a specially-gifted person to provide “navigation” for the church, we should understand the term navigations.  I use the term “navigations” (“κυβερνήσεις”–plural noun), translated by the New American Standard Bible as “administrations,” to describe the special ability to carry out the work of God similar to the work of a pilot of a ship (1 Corinthians 12:28). The pilot was not the same person as the captain of the ship. In Acts 27:11, God recorded the distinction between “the navigator” (“τῷ κυβερνήτῃ”–translated as “pilot” by the New American Standard) and  “the captain” (“τῷ ναυκλήρῳ”) of the ship. In the future, God will bring judgment upon Babylon the Great City (Revelation 18:1-8). Babylon had made the merchants of the earth very rich, but she will be destroyed. Babylon and its inhabitants will be filled with torment, weeping and mourning. In one hour, Babylon and its wealth will be laid waste. Every marine pilot (“κυβερνήτης”) will keep a safe distance from Babylon, as they watch the smoke of her burning. Those shipmasters will know that they must steer clear of the smoking ruin of Babylon the Great City. Therefore, the “navigator” in the church will have duties to become familiar with the local environment and also plan how to reach safe harbor. They provide guidance about weather, courses, sailing conditions, time to sail, safe harbors, and similar matters for the church as it moves to do God’s will and reach the destinations selected by God for that local assembly.

2.2.7 Hegoumenois.  The church also had “Esteemed Ones” (“ἡγουμένοις”) and they should be obeyed, and we should be submissive to them (Hebrews 13:17). Their duties include watching over the souls of the congregation and they will give a word about the souls of the congregation. They should perform their duties with joy and not groaning. Because God breathed out every word of the Scriptures, we should pay careful attention to the difference between words God used in the New Testament.  God also taught us to greet all the “Esteemed Ones” (“ἡγουμένους”) in the congregation (Hebrews 13:24).  Luke referred to Judas Barsabbas and Silas as “Esteemed Ones” in the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 15:22).  Luke also described Joseph as an “Esteemed One of Egypt” (“ἡγούμενονἐπ’ Αἴγυπτον”) (Acts 7:10). See the chart concerning “esteemed ones” and the discussion at New Testament Church Offices

2.3 Spiritual Gift of Leading. Paul described a spiritual gift of leading (ὁ προϊστάμενος–present middle participle, nominative masculine singular) (Romans 12:8). The saints must exercise that spiritual gift with diligence (σπουδῇ) (see The Spiritual Gift of Leading).

2.4  Elders Leading Well. Paul wrote about “the elders who lead well” (NASB). 2Paul provided: Οἱ καλῶς προεστῶτες πρεσβύτεροι διπλῆς τιμῆς ἀξιούσθωσαν, μάλιστα οἱ κοπιῶντες ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ (1 Timothy 5:17).  Paul used the phrase lead well (καλῶς προεστῶτες). The term “προεστῶτες,” a perfect active participle, nominative masculine singular, comes from the root “προΐστημι,” meaning to set before. The other uses of this term help us understand its meaning. The New Testament indicates that elders do not rule, but they do lead. The Spiritual Gift of Leading provides great insight into the term “lead” (“προεστῶτες”) in the New Testament. As we understand the use of The Spiritual Gift of Leading, we will also understand what it means for elders to lead well (1 Timothy 5:17).

Section Three

Leading at Home and Taking Care

We know from 1 Corinthians 12:5-6, that one spiritual gift may produce a variety of deaconies (διακονιῶν) and a variety of effects (ἐνεργημάτω). In this case, The Spiritual Gift of Leading may produce a variety of deaconies with a variety of spiritual effects. So, we will examine The Spiritual Gift of Leading and look at its deaconies and effects.

2.1 The Ministry of Leading at Home. The root word for “lead” in Romans 12:8, provides guidance for understanding The Spiritual Gift of Leading. The ministry of Church Overseers (an office of the church–not  a spiritual gift) and Deacons (an office of the church–not a spiritual gift) begins at home and we will examine the qualifications for those offices briefly.

2.1.1 The Qualification of Church Overseers. Church Overseers must manage their own families to the glory of God. Church Overseers in the New Testament have specialized duties, such as shepherding the flock from: (a) savage wolves attacking from without; and (b) evil men within the flock drawing away saints from the flock (Acts 20:28-30). This ministry of managing the home rests upon the same root word as “leads” in Romans 12:8. The qualifications for Church Overseers include the ability to manage (προϊστάμενον) their own children and their own households and keep them under control (ὑποταγῇ) (1 Timothy 3:4). Therefore, we may understand that one aspect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading will involve influencing the mind and behavior of people, so that they will mature in Christ, while staying under control, and maintaining dignity (σεμνότητος). The saints need this type of leading from leaders, including Church Overseers, who have first demonstrated this leading ability at home. 

2.1.2 The Qualification of Deacons. Likewise, deacons must have the same ability to be leaders (προϊστάμενοι) at home first (1 Timothy 3:12). Deacons labor at home and keep their own families under control by promoting Godliness in the family before they become Deacons.

2.2  The Ministries of Leading and Taking Care. The overseer (elder) must also be able to manage (προστῆναι) his own household well; if he cannot manage his own household, then how will he take care (ἐπιμελήσεται) of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5). Please take notice here that the ability to manage his own household directly relates to taking care of the church of God. The ministries of managing and taking care have a direct relationship.

2.2.1  The Ministry of Providing Necessary Care. The Roman centurion Julius had to guard Paul and take Paul to Rome. During the journey, at Sidon, Julius allowed Paul to go to his friends and receive needed care (ἐπιμελείας) (Acts 27:3). Apparently, this ministry of providing necessary care involved both spiritual and physical help.

2.2.2The Ministry of Providing Physical Care to the Injured. Likewise, the good Samaritan paid the innkeeper and directed him to take care (ἐπιμελήθητι) of his neighbor (Luke 10:35). This ministry involved the payment for physical services rendered, and provided time for the physically injured to recover.

2.2.3 The Ministry of Searching Carefully. Finally, consider the woman who searches her house carefully (ἐπιμελῶς) to find the lost coin (Luke 15:8). The careful searching by the woman means that the ministry of leading involves concerted efforts to find missing things. It speaks to the need to be diligent and thorough in the ministry of leading carefully.

So, we learn that The Spiritual Gift of Leading starts at home. Men holding the offices of Church Overseer and Deacon in the local church may possess The Spiritual Gift of Leading, but they must display an exemplary ability to lead. Other men may possess The Spiritual Gift of Leading, but they will perform their ministries without holding the office of Church Overseer or Deacon. We often see the gift in action by noticing the effects of the proper use of the spiritual gift.

Section Three

The Spiritual Effects of Leading 

The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces spiritual effects in the lives of believers. We know that one spiritual gift may result in a variety of different ministries and effects.  The leading gift means that the leaders will lead the assembly of saints, helping believers grow up in Christ, staying under control, and maintaining a dignified reputation for the assembly.  Furthermore, the leaders have charge (προϊσταμένους) over the saints, who should appreciate their Godly leading (1 Thessalonians 5:12). Indeed, these leaders who lead well (καλῶς προεστῶτες) should receive double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). As a side note, elders should also be careful, as leaders, to recognize the spiritual gifts of the saints under their charge and encourage them (1 Timothy 4:14). All leaders must labor diligently. When The Spiritual Gift of Leading operates properly, you will see the following effects in the lives of believers. The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces the spiritual effect of control and the spiritual effect of dignity. We will look at each of them next.

3.1 The Spiritual Effect of Control. The Spiritual Gift of Leading  produces control (ὑποταγῇ) (1 Timothy 3:4). This term “control” (“ὑποταγῇ”) describes both voluntary submission and compulsory subordination. This spiritual ability to bring people under the control of God reflects a special spiritual gift.

3.1.1  Subjection. The term “subjection” (“ὑποταγῇ”) shows the fruit of The Spiritual Gift of Leading. When used properly, The Spiritual Gift of Leading results in believers following the will of God. This term subjection has several different aspects.  

3.1.2  Control by Jesus. Today, if you say someone is controlling, you are often criticizing them. Unbelievers long to live without the control of other people. In contrast, Jesus loves to control His children and His mature children love that control. Jesus ascended to heaven after angels, authorities and powers were subjected (1 Peter 3:22–“ὑποταγέντων“–notice the aorist participle indicating complete and total control) to Him. Therefore, we see this special power of God acting forcefully to bring supernatural beings (angels, authorities, and powers) into subjection to Christ. Believers with The Spiritual Gift of Leading have a special spiritual gift to bring other people under the will of Christ. Do not misunderstand: while Christ ascended and exercised His will over angels, authorities and powers, we still wrestle against them, but we triumph in Christ as we stand in His might (Ephesians 6:10-17). In contrast, Paul also taught us that the mind set on the flesh is not able to subject itself to the law of God (Romans 8:7). In the future, after all things have been subjected (ὑποταγῇ) to Jesus, then Jesus will be subjected (ὑποταγήσεται) to the Father who subjected to Him (“τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ”) all things. We learn from this verse that a believer does nothing more than Jesus does when He is subjected to the control and authority of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28). Being under the control of Jesus or the Father in no way diminishes the spiritual stature of the person being subjected, but rather acknowledges a perfect joining of wills. Although we do not yet see all things placed in subjection to Christ, yet the Scripture proclaims that, in fact, all things have been placed in subjection to Christ (Hebrews 2:8). Furthermore, Christ Himself has the inherent, divine power as God to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21). Therefore, one effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading means that the local assembly lives under the control of Jesus.

3.1.3  Obedience to Your Confession of the Gospel of Christ. The term “control” also includes obedience to your confession of Christ. When exercised properly, The Spiritual Gift of Leading will result in believers acting in obedience to their confession of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 9:13, Paul discusses the ministry of hard work to earn a living to supply the needs of the saints and make donations to other believers. As the Corinthians worked for a living, they glorified God by their obedience (ὑποταγῇ) to the confession of Christ. The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces obedience in working and giving money for the support of the saints. In a more general sense, The Spiritual Gift of Leading helps believers live obediently to their confession of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you claim to be born again by confessing Christ as Lord because of your faith in Him, then The Spiritual Gift of Leading will help you live accordingly. For example, The Spiritual Gift of Leading will help believers understand and apply the duty in Christ to work hard and use the proceeds of hard work to bless other believers in need of support. Therefore, one spiritual effect of control means that the local assembly lives in obedience to their confession of Christ. 

3.1.4 Not Yielding to Hypocrisy and False Teachers. In the Book of Galatians, Paul described hypocrisy. He confronted the apostle Peter for falling into the hypocrisy of acting like a Judaizer (these people taught you must keep the Law to go to heaven). When the Judaizers came to visit in Antioch, then Peter acted just like they did. Paul proclaimed that “we did not yield in subjection (ὑποταγῇ) to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you” (Galatians 2:5). Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control means that the local assembly does not yield in subjection to hypocrisy and false doctrine. 

3.1.5 Accepting Discipline Well. Receiving discipline does not always seem joyful, but discipline trains us in Godliness and results in the peaceful fruit of righteousness. For discipline to yield good results in our lives, we must be subject (ὑποταγησόμεθα) to the Father of spirits, and live (Hebrews 12:9). Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control means that the local assembly lives in subjection to the discipline of the Lord and bears the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

3.1.6  Submit to God and Resist the Devil. James teaches us that we must submit (ὑποτάγητε) to God, and resist the devil. Another effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading will be to help people to submit to God and, while submitting to God, to resist the devil. Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control means the local assembly submits to God and resists the devil.

3.1.7  Submit to Every Human Institution.  Peter commands us: “Submit (Ὑποτάγητε) yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution (1 Peter 2:13; compare Titus 3:1).  Notice that we submit for the sake of the Lord Jesus. Jesus paid taxes (Matthew 17:24-27), and recognized that even Pilate had no authority over Him except that authority given by God to Pilate (John 19:11). Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control causes the local assembly to submit to every human institution, within the will of God.

3.1.8  Younger Men Be Subject to Elders. Peter also directs young men to be subject to elders (1 Peter 5:5). Younger men would do well to let older, Godly men lead the assembly. All leaders in the local assembly must possess The Spiritual Gift of Leading. Within the group of men possessing The Spiritual Gift of Leading, the younger men should follow the general pattern of younger men submitting to the older men. Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control causes younger men in the assembly to submit to the older men.

3.2 The Spiritual Effect of Being Careful To Engage in Good Deeds. Paul commanded Titus to be careful to speak confidently, so that believers will be careful to engage in (προΐστασθαι) good deeds (Titus 3:8). This spiritual effect of being careful to engage in good deeds flows from The Spiritual Gift of Leading. As believers exercise their Spiritual Gift of Leading, people hear them speak confidently about the doctrine in the New Testament, and the believers become careful to engage in good deeds.  Not only must the saints spiritually gifted with leading be careful to engage in good deeds personally, but they must also lead others to engage in good works.  By implication, the entire assembly may unify its efforts to produce good works, and unite individual efforts.  Often, the leaders identify the pressing needs of the saints that require others to do good deeds to meet those needs (Titus 3:14). Therefore, another spiritual effect of spiritual control causes the local assembly to engage in good deeds.

So we learn that The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces the spiritual effects of control within the local assembly and the local assembly being careful to engage in a variety of good deeds, all to the glory of God. The Spiritual Gift of Leading must be exercised evenly, consistently, and with diligence.

Section Four

Diligence and the Spiritual Gift of Leading

We have reviewed some of the New Testament material concerning the general concept of leading in the New Testament. From that general understanding of leading, we can see that in Romans 12:8, it must be done with diligence. Therefore, we will now begin a review of the New Testament concept of diligence, with a special view of how diligence would apply to the use of The Spiritual Gift of Leading.

4.1 Word Study of Diligence.  We can study the word “diligence” (“σπουδῇ”) in the New Testament to gain further insight into the proper exercise of The Spiritual Gift of Leading. The study of the term “diligence” reveals several related categories of meaning for this word, and many of them tell us how to use The Spiritual Gift of Leading.

4.1.1 Diligence and Eagerness. In Romans 12:8, Paul used the word for “diligence” (“σπουδῇ”) to describe how The Spiritual Gift of Leading must be exercised. Sometimes that same word for “diligence” is translated “with eagerness.”  We may gain further insight into the use of The Spiritual Gift of Leading by reviewing some of the uses of the root term diligence.

4.1.1.1 Onesiphorus. Onesiphorus stands out as a great example of eagerness. During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, Onesiphorus eagerly (σπουδαίως) searched for Paul, to refresh him, even though others may have stayed away because they were ashamed of his chains (2 Timothy 1:16-17). Men with The Spiritual Gift of Leading display this same quality. This eagerness identifies every man displaying The Spiritual Gift of Leading. You may identify The Spiritual Gift of Leading by observing men in the local assembly who search out the believers in the flock who need ministry in any form, such as refreshment, encouragement, and the list goes on. The Spiritual Gift of Leading prompts the believer to eagerly search out  ways to meet the needs of saints and they are not ashamed to go where others are too ashamed or too scared or too important to go.

4.1.1.2 Making Every Effort. In some New Testament passages, the root word translated “diligence” found in Romans 12:8 has been translated as “make every effort.”  

4.1.1.2.1 Come Quickly. For example, in 2 Timothy 4:21, Paul urged Timothy to make every effort (“Σπούδασον”) to come before winter to visit him. Previously, in 2 Timothy 4:9, Paul urged Timothy to make every effort (Σπούδασον) to come quickly to him. This diligence that means “make every effort” should also characterize the use of The Spiritual Gift of Leading.

4.1.1.2.2 Encourage Others. People with The Spiritual Gift of Leading must be known as people who “make every effort” to encourage others. Likewise, in Titus 3:12, Paul urged Titus to make every effort to come to him in Nicopolis. 

4.1.1.2.3 Writing Others. Jude said he “was making every effort” (“σπουδὴν”) to write concerning their common salvation (Jude 3) .  

4.1.1.2.4 Summary of Making Every Effort. The same “make every effort” attitude describes one aspect of diligence that must be an important part of how saints gifted with The Spiritual Gift of Leading undertake their leading.  They should put all of their efforts into leading, and not be absent or part-time leaders.  Of course leaders can have a variety of full time jobs, but when it comes to exercising their Spiritual Gift of Leading, they should remember to make every effort.

4.1.2  Diligence and Helping Others. Another aspect of diligence includes being careful to help others. Leaders need to help others with diligence. For example, Paul instructed Titus to be diligent (σπουδαίως) to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that they would lack nothing (Titus 3:13). This “lack nothing” (“μηδὲν λείπῃ”) attitude must guide leaders to be diligent to help other workers lack nothing as they equip them for ministry.

4.1.3 Diligence and Self-Examination.   Another meaning of “diligence” includes diligent (σπουδάσατε) self-examination to be certain about the calling of Christ and His choosing of believers (2 Peter 1:10). Saints with The Spiritual Gift of Leading should be certain to encourage other saints to examine themselves diligently to be sure they are pursuing personal spiritual development in the areas of faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, Godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-8). In 2 Peter 1:5, Peter directed the saints to apply all diligence (σπουδὴν) to perfect their lives through adding Godly qualities within themselves by the power of God. With those spiritual qualities, saints will be useful for the service of God. This quality of diligent self-examination, in conjunction with a spiritual desire to mature in the qualities Christ produces in us, means that every person desiring to lead must encourage everyone to perform regular spiritual self-examination, starting with the leader himself.

4.1.4 Diligence and Spiritual Development.  Another use, related directly to the passage in 2 Peter 1:5-8, of this word “diligence” concerns the duty of leaders to be totally diligent (σπουδάσατε) to present saints to Christ in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Peter 3:14). The spiritual welfare of the flock requires constant diligence to preserve peace within the assembly, and to promote a spotless and blameless testimony in every saint.

4.1.5 Diligence and Handling the Word of God.  So often I meet people who have been saved from the penalty of their sins for many years, and yet cannot locate in their Bibles any two verses that describe salvation. I am not talking about arcane spiritual matters in obscure passages, but rather, basic truths about essential matters of the faith.  Ignorance of God’s Word stains the lives of so many believers.  Furthermore, many saints have no intention of reading the Bible, and becoming acquainted with the principles of reading and interpreting the Bible. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul commanded each saint to be be continuously diligent (σπούδασον) to present themselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. The Spiritual Gift of Leading must address this need in every Christian to learn how to handle and interpret the Word of God, and it is not just the duty of the leading believers to interpret the Bible and handle it accurately.  Every saint must know how to read, interpret and apply Scripture daily. Leaders use diligence in leading the saints in this area. The spiritual effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading means that saints handle the Word of God properly, as a workman that does not need to be ashamed.

4.1.6 Diligence and Reminding. In 2 Peter 1:15, Peter declared that he would be diligent (σπουδάσω) that after his departure, his audience would be able to call his teaching to their minds.  Leaders exercising The Spiritual Gift of Leading should always have this desire to remind believers, and be diligent about reminding believers, to abide in the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His teaching, as recorded in the Old and New Testaments. The spiritual effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading means that saints remember the teachings of Christ.

4.1.7 Diligence and Entering the Rest of God.  In Hebrews 4:11, God commanded saints that we must be diligent (σπουδάσωμεν) to enter His rest. In exercising The Spiritual Gift of Leading, everyone who has received the Word of God with saving faith must be diligent to enter the rest of God. The leader works with saints to keep them from falling, and being sure that each saint remains strong in the faith. The spiritual effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces diligence in entering the rest of God.

4.1.8 Diligence and Godly Sorrow.  Another example of the use of the term for “diligence” occurs in 2 Corinthians 7:11. There we see that Godly sorrow produced great earnestness (σπουδήν) in the Corinthians as they dealt with the sinful brother described in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. Their great earnestness led them to vindication, fear, longing, zeal and avenging of wrong.  Leaders operating under the influence of The Spiritual Gift of Leading will help all the saints develop a sense of great earnestness as the result of Godly sorrow over sin. This great earnestness will itself result in the saints taking appropriate action to restore the sinner, and restore the local assembly. The spiritual effect of The Spiritual Gift of Leading produces an earnest sorrow over sin leading to repentance and Godly living.

Section Five

Hallmarks of the Spiritual Gift of Leading

So, we may summarize The Spiritual Gift of Leading. Jesus emphasized that the greatest among the saints would be the least of them and servant of all (Mark 9:33-37). We see then, as servants, saints gifted with The Spiritual Gift of Leading must exercise leading with diligence, and be an example to the flock. As saints, we must appreciate their work and honor them.

Check out the list below to see if you have some of the spiritual qualities listed and other believers confirm your understanding. You may have The Spiritual Gift of Leading.

♦  Leading-gifted believers lead first at home with diligence.

♦   Leading-gifted believers provide spiritual care for everyone.

♦   Leading-gifted believers provide physical care.

♦  Leading-gifted believers search carefully for missing people.

♦ Leading-gifted believers promote voluntary submission and compulsory control by causing people to keep the commandments of Christ found in the Bible.

♦   Leading-gifted believers avoid hypocrisy and confront others who fall into it.

♦  Leading-gifted believers accept discipline well. 

♦  Leading-gifted believers submit to God and resist the devil. 

♦  Leading-gifted believers pay their taxes and submit to every institution. 

♦  Leading-gifted believers act with eagerness and bring spiritual refreshment. 

♦  Leading-gifted believers come quickly to visit those people in spiritual need. 

♦  Leading-gifted believers write others concerning their common salvation. 

Conclusion

At this point, nothing in the New Testament indicates that Elders rule. In fact, Elders must submit to the Church Overseers. Everyone in authority in the church should be servant leaders, following the lead of Christ. Some men will be “Esteemed Ones” in the church, but not necessarily elders or Church Overseers (remember Judas Barsabbas and Silas). The term archon (ruler) never applied to the any position in the church. Therefore, when anyone describes themself as a ruler of the church, you should ask them to show you any passage in the Scriptures describing any man except Jesus (the God-Man) as a ruler of the church. Many terms describe church leadership, but they do not describe church rulers. Please remember why Jesus commanded His disciples to never accept titles like “rabbi,” “father,” or “superior,” because One is your Superior (Matthew 23:10). 

HALLELUJAH !

Spiritual Gifts │ The Gift of Leading

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