New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


August 12, 2001 Vol 01 : 056
 
[New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

[New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

 

Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 20:52:51 +0700 From: "Link" Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

Recently, I've been thinking about the idea that 'elders' in scripture often means 'older men' and that Paul and Barnabas appointed certain older men in the church to be overseers.

Look at I Timothy 5. It starts off with a context indicating that 'elders' are older men, and list instructions to them along with instructions related to older women, younger women, etc. Later in the chapter, Paul addresses the issue of the older men who rule the church well.

We also see in I Peter 5, that Peter, a fellow-older man, addresses the older men and tells them to shepherd the flock of God which is among them. Then he tells the younger to submit to the elder.

Is it wrong to have 'young elders?' Apparently, the men the apostle Timothy appointed to be bishops in the church were older than him. The evidence I see in scripture seems to indicate that the apostles appointed older men as overseers.

This seems a like wiser to me than the practice of hiring a young Bible college graduate who hasn't been given time to exhibit his pastoral skills in his own family yet, and making him overseer over a congregation of his physical and spiritual seniors. He gets the job because that is his vocation.

Some professional pastors eventually do meet up to Biblical requirements for elders, but some grow to this point only after serving for years as Biblically-unqualified overseers of the church. I believe it's much better to let the young men minister in their gifts, and eventually grow up into being elders after the fruit of their life in the faith can be tested.

I don't see where being an overseer in the church is primarily a matter of 'pastoral gifting' or calling. As for calling, an overseer has to be willing, for if any man desire the office of overseer, he desires a good thing. As for pastoral gifting, an elder has to demonstrate his sheep-tending gifts by leading his own family well and having obedient faithful children- which is a pretty good standard for qualification for being given responsibility in the house of faith. Jesus taught that he that is faithful with little can be faithful with much. First the family, and then the household of faith.

Young apostles evangelists might minister in small teams. Paul may have been a young man when he started preaching. When he was sent out as an apostle, he went out with another believer, Barnabas. I wonder if Barnabas was an older man? He was probably a very mature saint.

Later, when Paul started getting old, he had a number of coworkers he mentored. Timothy was a young minister. No man was to despise his youth. But he was working with an older, more experienced minister of the Gospel.

Also, Timothy's authority didn't come in the same way that an elders comes. He had a 'measure of rule' that related to being a part of a small group of ministers who preached the Gospel in a new area. He was probably a 'father in the Gospel' through his evangelism work, like Paul, and so had a measure of rule that extended to these new churches where he had had a part in laying the foundation of Christ.

An elder in a church generally builds upon a foundation of another man's work. His authority doesn't necessarily come from being called and sent to lay a foundation in a particular church, but rather he reaches a point where he can assume a position of authority and responsibility by being faithful in his own life and in his own household.

If we see the fact that the church is supposed to be like a family, and compare house church gatherings to little weekend family reunions some families have throughout the world, this all makes sense. Think how easy some cultures which actually have something similar to 'elders' within their own family or social or government structure could relate to this idea- an elder as a leader in an extended spiritual family. I'm a member of the Batak tribe. They adopted me in when I married my wife (though I haven't had a party and fed the family a pig to announce the fact yet--at least not specifically for the adoption.) I see a lot of things in Batak family culture which would make Biblical eldership easy to understand. Many Batak now go to Lutheran or Reformed churches which have pastors that can be young and/or female, and also a type of committee-member elder if I'm not mistaken.

Btw, I'm still in the 'young man' category, myself. Seeing this in scripture has kept me from being overly ambitious to be in a position of overseership. Maybe when I get to be around 50, I'll be interested. Yesterday, I ate lunch with an elder from my church who started presenting a case to me for elders being older men. I agreed with him. This served as a type of confirmation for me.

Any comments?

God bless you all, Link Hudson


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Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 12:37:41 -0700 From: jferris Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

Dear Link,

"About 4 days ago I shared the following perspective with Vlatko Dir:

I have been meaning to get this on paper for quite some time now. It has to do with Elders, Apostles, Timothy, and Pastors.

"Elder" is a relative term. With the exception of the original 12 or 11, Elders, as such are staying ones, not sent ones. Someone who, relative to others in a given place, is "elder" to them is not necessarily "elder" to others in another place, especially when his lack of knowledge of the relational geography of that place is taken into consideration. The geography of the Kingdom is relationship, and "Elders" need to know their terf.

In this sense then, the youth of Timothy would not necessarily disqualify him from eldership, if he was the most mature one in a place, but this brings me to Paul's letters to him, and specifically to Paul's counsel to him, "not to let anyone look down on him because he was young".

The first problem I have with our understanding of Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus is that, they have been identified as "The Pastoral Epistles". I don't know how they got that label, but I think I could take a pretty good guess. And, I think, you could too.

I believe that Paul wrote these letters to apprentice Apostles. They are Apostolic Epistles, not Pastoral epistles. Timothy was a young "Apostle", and Paul was advising him in that capacity.

As a young man, however, there was a problem with people dismissing Timothy's Apostolic authority because he was young. If Timothy had been a pastor according to the present pattern of the West, and most everywhere else for that matter, he would clearly have been senior in the place where he was pastor, and his youth would not have been a problem. But, moving about from place to place, put Timothy in various situations where he would not always be recognized as being senior or more mature than the others.

And, if Paul could say to the Corinthians, for instance, "I have no one like Timothy who loves you with his whole heart..." Then Timothy was indeed, much more mature than others, even others of Paul's immediate circle of influence.

It would help a great deal if we could only tear down the stronghold that understands the letters to Timothy and Titus as "Pastoral epistles". That understanding has fueled one man pastoral domination in the Church for a very long time."

Yours in Christ,

Jay

P.S. By the way, I'm 62

Link wrote:

Recently, I've been thinking about the idea that 'elders' in scripture often means 'older men' and that Paul and Barnabas appointed certain older men in the church to be overseers.

Look at I Timothy 5. It starts off with a context indicating that 'elders' are older men, and list instructions to them along with instructions related to older women, younger women, etc. Later in the chapter, Paul addresses the issue of the older men who rule the church well.

We also see in I Peter 5, that Peter, a fellow-older man, addresses the older men and tells them to shepherd the flock of God which is among them. Then he tells the younger to submit to the elder.

Is it wrong to have 'young elders?' Apparently, the men the apostle Timothy appointed to be bishops in the church were older than him. The evidence I see in scripture seems to indicate that the apostles appointed older men as overseers.

This seems a like wiser to me than the practice of hiring a young Bible college graduate who hasn't been given time to exhibit his pastoral skills in his own family yet, and making him overseer over a congregation of his physical and spiritual seniors. He gets the job because that is his vocation.

Some professional pastors eventually do meet up to Biblical requirements for elders, but some grow to this point only after serving for years as Biblically-unqualified overseers of the church. I believe it's much better to let the young men minister in their gifts, and eventually grow up into being elders after the fruit of their life in the faith can be tested.

I don't see where being an overseer in the church is primarily a matter of 'pastoral gifting' or calling. As for calling, an overseer has to be willing, for if any man desire the office of overseer, he desires a good thing. As for pastoral gifting, an elder has to demonstrate his sheep-tending gifts by leading his own family well and having obedient faithful children- which is a pretty good standard for qualification for being given responsibility in the house of faith. Jesus taught that he that is faithful with little can be faithful with much. First the family, and then the household of faith.

Young apostles evangelists might minister in small teams. Paul may have been a young man when he started preaching. When he was sent out as an apostle, he went out with another believer, Barnabas. I wonder if Barnabas was an older man? He was probably a very mature saint.

Later, when Paul started getting old, he had a number of coworkers he mentored. Timothy was a young minister. No man was to despise his youth. But he was working with an older, more experienced minister of the Gospel.

Also, Timothy's authority didn't come in the same way that an elders comes. He had a 'measure of rule' that related to being a part of a small group of ministers who preached the Gospel in a new area. He was probably a 'father in the Gospel' through his evangelism work, like Paul, and so had a measure of rule that extended to these new churches where he had had a part in laying the foundation of Christ.

An elder in a church generally builds upon a foundation of another man's work. His authority doesn't necessarily come from being called and sent to lay a foundation in a particular church, but rather he reaches a point where he can assume a position of authority and responsibility by being faithful in his own life and in his own household.

If we see the fact that the church is supposed to be like a family, and compare house church gatherings to little weekend family reunions some families have throughout the world, this all makes sense. Think how easy some cultures which actually have something similar to 'elders' within their own family or social or government structure could relate to this idea- an elder as a leader in an extended spiritual family. I'm a member of the Batak tribe. They adopted me in when I married my wife (though I haven't had a party and fed the family a pig to announce the fact yet--at least not specifically for the adoption.) I see a lot of things in Batak family culture which would make Biblical eldership easy to understand. Many Batak now go to Lutheran or Reformed churches which have pastors that can be young and/or female, and also a type of committee-member elder if I'm not mistaken.

Btw, I'm still in the 'young man' category, myself. Seeing this in scripture has kept me from being overly ambitious to be in a position of overseership. Maybe when I get to be around 50, I'll be interested. Yesterday, I ate lunch with an elder from my church who started presenting a case to me for elders being older men. I agreed with him. This served as a type of confirmation for me.

Any comments?

God bless you all, Link Hudson


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Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 13:40:04 -0700 From: jferris Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

Dear Link,

Perhaps a more foundational perspective on the subject might be the following written to area leaders in New England some years ago:

ELDERS & YOUNGERS

I would like to recall for a moment my concern, shared shortly after my first opportunity to meet with area leaders. I was concerned that the meeting was perhaps too inclusive. One of the distinguishing characteristics of an elder, is that elders are men who have learned to be "slow to speak and quick to hear." "Youngers", on the other hand, tend to be quick to speak and slow to hear. When both are present in the same meeting, particularly a leadership meeting, the youngers tend to monopolize the time, so that those who are truly elders are not able to address the subjects which are so vital in their time together.

I believe that this has been, and continues to be the case. Inclusiveness, an otherwise hospitable gesture, in this context, at this point in developments, is like the laying on of hands, in its authoritative application. Paul councils Timothy in his apostolic authority, not to be hasty in the laying on of hands. In our case, the application would be, "do not be too quickly inclusive, where eldership is concerned".

By saying this, I am not presuming myself to be an elder, that is not the issue. The need of the hour is that those who are elders, be recognized for what they are, begin to function as such, and honored, in their need for time together unencumbered by the presence of youngers. I should also point out that, according to Scripture it should not be necessary to be an elder in order to "recognize them that are over you, (us) in the faith".

I should also mention, because I know that there is great confusion in this area, that while all elders ought to be "shepherds",(I Peter 5:2), all shepherds are not elders. A younger man, devoted to "the work" though he may be, fruitful though he may be, is not therefore an elder.

A man on his honeymoon may appear to love his wife more than other men who have been married longer, but that does not necessarily make him a good choice as a marriage counselor.

And this underscores the final point I wanted to make about the quality of eldership. Elders are contrasted with young men. In the process of getting older, they pass through suffering. Suffering with a time dimension is a primary qualification for ruling in the Kingdom of God:

II Timothy 2:3,10,12 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. "... I endure everything for the sake of the elect... if we endure we will also reign with him..." Endurance has a time dimension. Suffering X Time Endurance. It is this time dimension which produces elders.

I should say that I appreciate concern for the feelings of younger men who might, in the first instance, be excluded from a germinal council of elders.

"Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

GOD'S DOING

God's doing is righteousness, man's doing is "... menstruous rags". 3. In Romans 10 we see a the very important distinction between God's righteousness and our own, God's doing versus are own. God's righteousness encompasses so much, that we would like to paraphrase it to make several applications to relationships, The Church, and eldership.

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for those who are caught up in "... natural descent, ... Human decision or husbands will" 4. is that their lives and relationships might be transformed . For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the relationships that come from God and sought to establish their own, They did not see or submit to God's relationships. Christ, even the body of Christ, is the end of human doing so that there may be relationships for everyone who believes."

"Brothers, my hearts desire and prayer to God for religious leaders is that their lives and relationships might be transformed. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the 'New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven, the Church that comes from God, and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's Church. Christ is the end of external shadows, patterns, forms and programs, so that there might be one Church for everyone who believes.

"Brothers, my hearts desire and prayer to God for those who would be elders before their time is that their lives and relationships might be transformed. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the plurality of eldership that comes from God, and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's eldership, the true eldership of the area. Christ is the end of external shadows, patterns, forms and programs, so that there might be one eldership of the area for everyone who believes.

"I have had some time to reflect on the maturity dimension of eldership. From various discussions, it is apparent that an overriding consideration is concern for the feelings of younger men. Having had some chance to consider this, I would like to briefly share some conclusions to this point.

First, where The Scripture is concerned, the one verse which has continued to haunt me is:

1 TI 4:12 Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

On its face, this would suggest that there were problems of age discrimination, even in Paul's day. Everything else being equal, applying this verse to todays circumstances, and the subject at hand in particular, would suggest that no one should be excluded from a council of elders based on age. "The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but himself is not subject to any man's judgment. "I Corinthians 2:15. It is not so much a matter of old creation years as it is of relative spiritual maturity.

Beyond what I have already written on this subject, I would like to make two observations, however. One is by way of reinforcing what I have already said, and the other, I believe, breaks some new ground, at least where our recent discussions are concerned. The following verses relate to number one:

TIT 2:6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

I would say that, among other things, that these versus, at least imply, age related qualities. In Titus the implication is that there may, in general, be problems of self-control associated with being young.

PE 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

In I Peter the implication is that a particular aspect of self-control may be problems with ambition due to lack of humility, and resulting in difficulties with submission. It might even be said that the humiliation associated with submission, is a particular identification of "hurt feeling". This is to say, the problem we are struggling with is not new.

Peter did not try to ignore the problem, out of concern for the hurt feelings of those who were younger. He faced it squarely. By this time he had personally lived and worked it through in his own life. Please allow me to elaborate further with the help of the following Scriptures:

1 TI 3:2,6 Now the overseer must ... not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.

2 TI 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

I would like to suggest an implication in these two passages that is common to them both. Whether young in The Lord, "a recent convert" or young in the flesh, there is likely to be a problem of self restraint. Where government in concerned, lack of self restraint translates into lack of submission. The strength of youth, mentioned below, in combination with the "evil desires of youth", self indulgence, among them, constitute a volatile precondition for rebellion.

"The same judgment as the devil", in the King James; "the snare of the devil", is best understood to mean; "fall into the same trap in which the devil fell." Position carries with it its own judgment. Teachers, for instance are tested more severely. In this connection, the description of the devil as a "roaring lion seeking whom he might devour", indicates that the devil is quite active in his effort to catch others in the same snare in which he himself was caught.

The position which judged the devil is perhaps best seen in the following two passages:

ISA 14:12-14 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

EZE 28:14-17 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.

As Lucifer, the devil had been both anointed and appointed, "ordained". It is clear that he did not handle this position very well. It was this one who had been "in the garden of God", that instituted fallen, or as Jesus described it, gentile government. A gentile's response to, or expression of, government is to be over, to exercise authority over. When Satan fell, he took the nations with him. He "laid low the nations."

Fallen man, or "laid low" man, innately sensing that there is a problem tries to solve it with a kind of governmental "do it yourself" approach:

"I will ascend..., I will raise my throne... I will sit enthroned... I will make myself like the Most high." "Beauty, wisdom and splendor" were too much to handle. Satan's heart became proud, and "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Forgive me if I paraphrase in order to drive home the point: "I will sit in the council of elders, I will sit on the platform, I will..."

Almost interchangeably Paul speaks of carnality vs. spirituality and immaturity vs. maturity. Neither the carnal nor the immature are yet qualified to rule in the Kingdom of God. To number them among the elders is to subject them to the "snare of the devil." I realize that there are some very anointed young men, but even Lucifer's anointing did not keep him from falling.

There is another rather normal quality of youth which is relevant, and also seen in Scripture. Like wrestling puppies, youth tend to be quarrelsome. Of course, Jesus was the exception, but not his closest followers:

MAT 12:15-19 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.

LUK 22:24-27 Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

1CO 1:10-13 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

"My father can beatup your father" comes to mind.

2 TI 2:23-26 Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

JAM 4:1-2 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.

As we grow, we are on the way to being somebody. We all want to be somebody, but not having yet attained, we will often quarrel in order to get there faster or to prove that we have already arrived. In the case of the deciples, the quarreling centered on position, being somebody. It goes without saying, that quarreling only proves that we haven't yet attained.

1JO 2:13,14 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Here, I would like to suggest a distinction between knowledge and strength. I believe knowledge of the Father associated with "little children" is that of a child's experience of a father. A "father's knowledge of the Father, on the other hand, is more that of identification or similar perspective. It is this similar perspective of fathers which makes it possible for them to exercise oversight of the young.

To get the job done certainly requires strength, even the strength of youth. To see that it is done right, requires the knowledge of fathers. When both are working in proper relationship, we have that Divine harmony which is part and parcel of the "first commandment with promise." I should also say in this connection, that, where authority is concerned, honor is the operative link between elders and youngers. In today's world honor has all but vanished, as the end of the age prepares to welcome the man of lawlessness.

Again, in this connection, it might be well to elaborate a concern, already expressed, about the presence of younger men in leadership meetings. I have mentioned the problem of dominating a meeting by being too outspoken. It is also possible to dominate a meeting by simply by being present.

There are certain subjects that Carleen and I do not discuss in front of the children. With other subjects, depth of discussion is often limited by their presence or maturity. The same is true with elders, insecurity and personal ambition may, not only incline younger men to be too outspoken, but to use information, in wrong ways. The temptation to use "inside information" to enhance one's position is always present, even among the mature. There is great vulnerability to this temptation among the less mature. Having been young themselves, elders know this. As a result, they tend to be more careful in conversation which includes younger men.

There is some Biblical justification for this care. "We do speak a word among the mature." This is to say, that, even if younger men are strongly admonished to be silent or slow to speak in a leaders meeting, their very presence will have an effect on the scope and depth of the conversation between the elders.

It has been observed that there is need for deep repentance and reconciliation among the leaders. I believe this is true as well. My concern is that this process is going to be inhibited if the elders do not have a safe environment for confession and cleansing.

My second observation relates to the matter of "everything else being equal". "Everything else" is not equal, and at least one difference is, that in our own day, the gospel has been around for quite a while. Paul and Timothy were breaking new ground. In their day, it was still understood that Christ is not divided. In contrast, our own day finds the Body of Christ divided, and laden down with many and competing power structures.

While the fact of competing power structures in the name of the same Lord is regrettable, to say the least, it is not prima facia disqualification of those who are associated with those power structures. My sense is that most of those who are genuinely God's elders in any given area, are presently associated with these structures. In Paul and Timothy's day, it was very possible that a young man might be all that there was. In our own day, it is more likely that there are a good number of Godly older men, whose Godliness does not yet include right relationship to each other, or the whole Body of Christ in their area.

"Elder" remains a relative term. The competing power structures have made it difficult to recognize those who are "older". Because our vision tends to be limited to our own power structure, or to those with whom we feel comfortable, we are likely to make the mistake of including our own youngers while excluding elders of other traditions.

There are young pastors in our area who are very devoted, very fruitful, proper objects of submission, but they are clearly not the elders of the area. A father is a proper object of submission, but he is not yet a grandfather nor does he have the insight or hindsight requisite for "oversight".

There are older men in the area who are very devoted, and have been, for a long time, and very fruitful, also for a long time. While not all of them have been in the area for a long time, they have been devoted to "the work" for a long time, enough so that, on balance, they are more qualified than some of the younger men who may have been in the area for a longer period.

Link wrote:

Recently, I've been thinking about the idea that 'elders' in scripture often means 'older men' and that Paul and Barnabas appointed certain older men in the church to be overseers.


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Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 14:08:18 -0400 From: "Charles W. Bevel Jr." Subject: Re: [New Testament Church Proliferation] elders as old men

Respect your elders!

Charles :-)


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Date: Mon, 13 Aug 2001 17:09:00 +0200 From: "Deborah" Subject: [New Testament Church Proliferation] Re: Ancient House Churches

Sam Buick wrote: There is indeed a new wine coming that demands a new

wineskin. The old ways were very much a reflection of man's thinking

clouded with the older wineskin found in the Old Testament. God is shaking

up whatever can be shaken, and it is really doing something to the

traditional church leadership structures and congregational forms we have

come to accept as being "normative".

Let's take a close look at those "wineskin" verses we often unthinkingly banter about. Pay special attention to the sections I have highlighted in ALL CAPS:

"Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, AND THE WINESKINS ARE RUINED. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and BOTH ARE PRESERVED" (Mat. 9:17 NKJ).

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, AND THE WINESKINS ARE RUINED. But new wine must be put into new wineskins" (Mar. 2:22 NKJ).

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, AND THE WINESKINS WILL BE RUINED. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and BOTH ARE PRESERVED" (Luk. 5:37, 38 NKJ).

We can see now that the aim of putting new wine into new wineskins was to preserve both the wine and the wineskins. A sub-goal was to preserve the old wineskins from ruin.

Different Greek words are used to describe the new wine and the new wineskins. The wine is "neon," which denotes something which is new in respect of time, implying immaturity or lack of development. However, the wineskins are described as "kainos," which means new or renewed in respect to quality. The meaning of the figure is that the new (immature) wine of the kingdom of God cannot be poured into old (Gk. "palaious," old or former) wineskins _if_ they remain rigid. However the quality of a wineskin then and now can be improved. Renewed (kainos). Through oil. This point does not come out in most English translations because our language lacks these subtle distinctions.

I hear/read the wineskin metaphor presented (on this list and other places) as if Jesus' intention were to discard the old wineskins altogether, but that is not what is written. Both the new and old skins may contain wine worthy of preserving. It is a shame and a waste to ruin either the wine or the skins. Look back over the verses with this in mind. Can you now see that this was Christ's point? It is akin to his words in Mat. 13:52:

"Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things NEW and OLD."

Both the old and the new have their place in the "treasure" of God's kingdom. Without the old there would be no continuity, something we all need. Without the new there would be no vitality, likewise an indispensable ingredient to spiritual life. Returning to the wine metaphor, if we had to assign a grade to which beverage is best, OT or NT, it would clearly be the wine which arrived later-- the new. At least that's how it works with Jesus' acted parable in Cana, and the recorded commentary:

"Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!" (Joh. 2:1-10).

Jesus did not bring in the newer and superior wine at the beginning of the wedding. He waited, even a bit reluctant to act lest he betray the divine schedule. Timing is everything. ?

The object then and now was to put old and new in their proper places. No forced mixtures; no wasting of useful resources. Unless, of course, the container(s) is properly "renewed" (kainos). The lesson remains that all the wineskins and wine, old and new, may be stored together in the cellar provided there is no premature crossing of contents from one container to another.

The ancient church (in houses and in specially made buildings) is the root of the modern church. And the root of the ancient church is Israel. And the root of Israel is Abraham. And ... the root of all God's dealings with humanity is the LOGOS who was "in the beginning" (Joh. 1:1). And when the timing was right, he became a human being (Joh. 1:15; Gal. 4:4) ... to shortly thereafter start the ancient church. Which is the root of the modern church .... So let's not reject any of our roots. Please. Even if we came out of the so-called "institutional church," we still have roots there to some degree. It's not Babylon. If our hearts are open, each of our roots can draw us to Christ, the one who created the new and better wine out of water used for Jewish ritual purification.

Michael

Jerusalem

The End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #50

 




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