Ephesians 1:20-23 '[God] raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right
hand in the heavenly realms… And God placed all things under his feet and appointed
him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.'
'Jesus is Lord'
You used to be a servant of Satan and jumped to obey his every command (mostly without
realising it). Now, as a Christian, you're under a new authority: that of the Lord
Jesus. The most striking characteristic of the Christian as distinct from the unbeliever
is that the Holy Spirit enables him to say (and mean), 'Jesus is Lord.'
1 Corinthians 12:3 'No-one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.'
Romans 10:9 'If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your
heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.'
One day every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). The Christian
does it now!
In everyday language, Lord means 'Boss'—the one who gives directions and expects
to be obeyed. When you came to Christ you said in effect, 'I don't wish to be guided
by Satan or by my own desires any more. I want to submit every thought, word and
action to you, Lord. And if your command cuts across my feelings or natural inclinations,
it's your command I'll obey.'
So Jesus is your Lord, your King. You're in a kingdom, the subject of a King who
loves you and is totally dedicated to your welfare.
Does King Jesus give directions to his subjects?
Yes. He instructed his disciples to spread the gospel and baptise people, 'teaching
them to obey everything I have commanded you' (Matthew 28:18-20). See also Romans
7:6. Paul said:
1 Corinthians 9:21 'I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law.'
Under the Old Testament law of Moses, the primary motivation for obedience was fear
of judgment and death. But now, having been saved freely by God's grace, our motive
as believers for keeping the law of Christ is love and gratitude.
How can you keep Christ's law?
You must recognise that, because of your new nature, it's basically easy to please
the Lord. Indeed, you're programmed for it!
Jeremiah 31:33 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I
will be their God, and they will be my people.'
Jesus said, 'My yoke is easy' (Matthew 11:30). And the apostle John agreed that 'his
commands are not burdensome' (1 John 5:3).
Then you need to discover from the Scriptures, and from the promptings of the Holy
Spirit, what the Lord wants of you, and having found it, deliberately do it, regardless
of how you feel. Right actions will be followed by right feelings.
John 14:15 'If you love me, you will obey what I command.'
What about delegated authority?
You can receive orders directly from the King. How? By the Holy Spirit, by prayer,
and by the 'instruction book'—the Bible.
But there's another means. Jesus expects Christians to belong to a community of believers—the
church. And because Christians' vary widely in maturity and experience in the ways
of the King, Jesus has put in the church a structure of delegated authority. The
elders, as shepherds of the flock, share some of Christ's authority in order to lead
Christians in the right ways. Compare these verses:
'Submit yourselves...to God.' (James 4:7)
'Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.' (Hebrews 13:17)
Who appoints these leaders?
God does. Each of the three Persons of the Godhead has a part in it:
1 Corinthians 12:28 'In the church God has appointed....'
Ephesians 4:11 'It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles....'
Acts 20:28 '...the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.'
What God has made a person is then publicly recognised and ratified before the whole
church: they are set in (ordained) as an elder. This is normally carried out by apostles
and/or their representatives:
Acts 14:23 'Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with
prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.'
The laying on of hands is a normal feature of this setting-apart to ministry in the
church (Acts 13:2-3). Timothy, for example, had hands laid on him both by the elders
and by the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).
How do the elders exercise their authority?
Not in a proud, overbearing way. That's what the Scriptures call 'Gentile' authority
(Luke 22:24-28). Rather, the authority of elders is exercised—like the authority
of Christ that it represents—through love, service and example, for the encouragement
and building up of the people (2 Corinthians 10:8). Peter's words to elders are:
1 Peter 5:2-3 'Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not
because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy
for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being
examples to the flock.'
Like Jesus, the elder is a shepherd-figure. Speaking of Jesus, Matthew 2:6 says of
Bethlehem, 'Out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'
The job of the shepherd is to feed, guide and protect. Church leaders feed the people
on God's Word, guide their lives in line with God's pattern and protect them from
harmful influences. Such was Paul's advice to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-30.
An elder 'must manage his own family well' (1 Timothy 3:4), and his parental concern
will extend to the people in the church.
A parent's job is to set an example, to encourage and to direct the family. The elder,
accordingly, leads by example (1 Peter 5:3). He's also a great encourager, but he
can rebuke when necessary. He will do both 'with all authority' (Titus 2:15). The
word 'authority' here means 'authoritative command', so where appropriate he will
give directions to both individuals and groups within the church.
Like Paul, the local church elder will be like both a father and a nursing mother
in self-sacrificial concern—exhorting, encouraging and charging the people of God
to lead a life worthy of God (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12).
Which aspects of your life are the elders concerned with?
As many aspects as the Lord Jesus is concerned with, which is every one. There is
no spiritual/secular distinction in Christ. Everything is under his rule; everything
Will the church leaders tell you what to do?
When necessary, yes. But some explanation is needed here. A father tells his three-year-old,
'Do this; don't do that,' but as the child grows he gives him an increasing degree
of responsibility for his own actions, until the child becomes a responsible adult
So in the church: newborn Christians, new to the teachings of God's Word, may be
helped in the formative stages by being led quite decisively. But this is always
with the aim of bringing them to a level of maturity in Christ where their call upon
the elders will be for counsel only.
Good parents don't discourage questions. You should feel free to share any questions
or misgivings you may have regarding the leaders' counsel. Theirs is not a big-stick
Nor will good parents suppress initiative; indeed, they'll rejoice to see it. They
may need to modify their children's projects sometimes, but they'll view these initiatives
as guidelines to the way in which their young characters are developing.
It's the same in the church. You don't need the elders' permission before you take
any step in serving the Lord, but they're interested to know what you're doing in
order to bless you with their wisdom.
In throwing yourself into the life of the church you must ask yourself whether you're
willing for the elders to have this degree of discipling involvement in your life.
The double account
'Each of us will give an account of himself to God' (Romans 14:12). The church leader,
however, will have an extra account to give on that day when we all stand before
the Lord-an account of how he took care of the flock in his charge:
Hebrews 13:17 'Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over
you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy,
not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.'
As men doubly accountable to God, the elders take their leadership responsibilities
very seriously. They aim to be totally honest and straightforward in their dealings
with the believers given to their charge, 'speaking the truth in love' (Ephesians
Be ready to make this as easy as possible for them. They need your love and prayerful
Learn by heart
Romans 10:9'If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your
heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.'