Chapter 9: The Local Church and its Care
by William M. Banks, Scotland
The apostle Paul is concluding his third missionary journey and is hastening to Jerusalem. He wants to be there for the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 20.16 we read that Paul "… had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost." Having no time to go to Ephesus himself he calls for the elders of the church to come to him. It is a distance of approximately thirty miles. Clearly there must be something very important to be said when the elders are asked to come this distance. The address he gives to these elders is a splendid example of Paul’s ministry to believers. It can be contrasted with his sermon at Pisidian Antioch in 13.16-41, which was given to a synagogue audience, and to his sermons at Lystra in 14.15-17 and Athens in 17.22-31 which were both given to a pagan audience. A study of these sermons would be of profit to any young preacher showing how the apostle recognises the background of his audience in the presentation of the message.
The address to the Ephesian elders is of fundamental importance. It is interesting to observe that it covers almost all of the requirements associated with the care of a local church, as undertaken by the elders. This address will thus be used as the basis of our consideration although further references outside of this passage will be necessary in order to complete the details.
The address will be looked at in the following ways:
The Names Given To Them
In v.17 the name given is that of "elders". We read, "… from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church." The word used for elders here is presbuteros. This word essentially means ‘older’ and indicates the fundamental qualification that is essential in those who take care of the church. The ideas of maturity, respect, wisdom and experience are all included in the word. There is a second word in the New Testament used for older, palaios, but in that case it means old in the sense of wearing out. That word is never used of those who have the care of a local church!
A second word describing those who care for the church is indicated in v.28. This verse reads: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." The word now used is "overseers" which in the original is episkopos. Basically this word means to see over or simply to oversee. The word this time indicates the work that the elder undertakes. It is indicative of guardianship, of those who control or inspect. Elsewhere in the New Testament it is sometimes translated "bishop". For example, in 1 Tim.3.1 we read: "If a man desire the office of a bishop he desireth a good work." The word for "bishop" in this verse is the word "overseer" in Acts 20.28.
Hence there are two words that are used for those who take care of the church of God; namely that of "elder" indicating their fundamental qualification and that of "overseer" indicating the work that they undertake.
There is however in Acts chapter 20 a clear indication of another word. It is not directly used but certainly indirectly inferred in v.28, already quoted. In this verse the apostle refers to "flock" and "feed". The idea of a shepherd is thus in view. Indeed the word "feed" means to "feed as a shepherd". The idea involved is that of leading, guarding or tending. The verb used here for feeding is used three times in the New Testament in the context of leadership. It is used in Jn.21.16 where our Lord indicated to Peter that he was to "feed" or "shepherd My sheep". Peter himself uses it in 1 Pet. 5.1,2 where he indicates the requirement for shepherds to be those who "feed the flock". The noun form is used in Eph.4.11 where it is translated as "pastors" in the A.V. but elsewhere as "shepherd". It has been well said, "the shepherd imagery blends the ideas of authority and leadership with self sacrifice, tenderness, wisdom, hard work, loving care and constant watchfulness."1
1 Alexander Strauch. "Biblical Eldership - An Urgent Call To Restore Biblical Church Leadership". Published by Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995.
So there are three names given to those who take care of the local church in this passage: namely those of elders, overseers and shepherds. Several fundamental lessons can be learned from the names thus given.
There is a Plurality of Elders in the Church (Singular). This indicates that there is no basis for the ecclesiastical claim of one bishop over a church, nor indeed one bishop over a number of bishops. It has been suggested that James was the bishop in Jerusalem and that John was the bishop in Ephesus. However there was a plurality of elders in the church at Jerusalem, Acts 15.4, and clearly from the above passage a plurality of elders in the church at Ephesus.
Elders and Overseers are Names Given to the Same Person. This is confirmed unequivocally when the apostle says to Titus "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city" Titus 1.5. He then goes on to describe the qualifications of those that were to be appointed or ordained and states: "For a bishop (same word as "overseer" in Acts 20.28) must be blameless, as the steward of God" v.7. It is abundantly clear that the elder in v.5 is the same as the bishop in v.7.
The Responsibility for Caring for a Local Church. Such responsibility must not be considered lightly and certainly not by those who are inexperienced. Maturity is anticipated by the very meaning of the words used and because of the functions thus indicated. Indeed, as will be seen later, the apostle gives detailed qualifications for those who would take the responsibility for local church government, and expressly excludes those who are not mature.
The Nature Of Their Appointment
This is indicated very clearly in Acts 20.28, where the apostle says to the Ephesian elders: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers." It is evident, therefore, that it is the Holy Spirit who makes overseers. Elsewhere it is taught that it is a gift given by God Himself. This is seen in two chapters dealing with spiritual gifts: "he that ruleth, with diligence" Rom.12.8, and "God hath set … governments" 1 Cor.12.28. Overseers are thus the gift of the Holy Spirit to the local church in order to undertake its government. The apostle Peter adds an interesting additional idea. He says: "The elders which are among you I exhort ... Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof …" 1 Pet.5.1, 2. It is clear, therefore, that "The Holy Spirit makes and the elder takes". In the latter case this is not to be "… by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind."
The word for "made" in Acts 20.28 is in the middle voice thus indicating that the Holy Spirit "does this for His own unique and wise purpose". It is under His sovereign will; quite apart from human intervention. Therefore the nature of the appointment is not based on business acumen, academic qualifications or recognition for long service. Nor is it as a result of being voted in or by self-appointment. Those who were self-appointed in the Old Testament give sad examples of the awful consequences that ensue in such cases. In the cases of Uzziah, Korah and Jeroboam disaster followed from self-appointment.
It might be wondered how the above can be practically implemented in the assembly. Mr. W. E. Vine has given wise words. "Those who have already been raised up and are discharging the duties of oversight should watch the lives of young men, with a view to discerning what the Spirit of God is doing in them to prepare for the continuance of such responsibilities. And let younger men seek help from God to live and walk according to the Scriptures, in holiness and righteousness, in absolute devotion to Christ, in separation from the world, so that if the Holy Spirit should give them the privilege of continuing the testimony of an assembly and acting as overseers, they may be ready for recognition by the assembly, according to 1 Thess.5.12, 13."2
2 W. E. Vine. "The Future Care of Assemblies": in "Church Doctrine and Practice". Published by Precious Seed, 1970.
The Sphere Of Their Operation
The sphere of operation is "… the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers" Acts 20.28. However, J. N. Darby gives: "… the flock wherein the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers." Or an alternative translation is the flock "in the which" the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers. Peter emphasises this when he says "Feed the flock of God which is among you taking the oversight thereof …" 1 Pet.5.2. Peter further emphasises this relationship when he says: "The elders which are among you I exhort …" 5.1. Clearly then, the flock is "among" the elders and the elders are "among" the flock, and indeed the flock is the sphere wherein the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. Putting this together indicates the detailed intimacy that exists between the flock and the overseer. There is no idea of over-lording as a result of the Divine appointment. Indeed it is interesting to consider the sphere in three different ways.
The Nature of the Sphere
We are told that it is a "flock". This concurs with the words of the Lord Jesus: "… there shall be one flock" Jn.10.16. The tender care necessary is also thus emphasised.
The Dignity of the Sphere
They have to feed the "church of God". The church belongs to Him. He dictates the details, the functions and the administration. It does not belong to any man nor group of men. They cannot dictate the church’s movements neither can the church dictate a servant’s movements.
The Value of the Sphere
This is beautifully indicated in the closing phrases of v.28 "… the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood" or to quote J. N. Darby "… the blood of His Own." The assembly is thus unique – the centre and circumference of Divine affection having been purchased at infinite cost. It is therefore God’s chief interest on earth and hence ought to be ours as well.
The Attitude To Be Adopted By Them
The apostle indicates three attitudes that must be adopted by them.
Take Heed – v.28
The word is otherwise translated "be on guard". The verb is in the present imperative, thus indicating the requirement for keeping on taking heed. The overseer must never lower his guard. It is interesting that elsewhere in the New Testament the verb is used in the context of false teaching. For example the Saviour said: "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" Matt.7.15. This particular verse is going to be of interest in the subsequent context of Acts chapter 20. Also, "Jesus said unto them, take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" Matt.16.6, and in v.12 of that chapter the meaning of leaven as used here is given, where the Lord indicates that they were to beware not of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. The requirement for constantly being on guard is thus indicated. In Acts chapter 20 however, two different spheres are mentioned. They are to take heed firstly "unto themselves" and secondly "to all the flock". The first is of primary importance while the latter emphasises "all" the flock. This is no mean task. The sheep are all of different kinds and of different backgrounds and different personalities but the overseer is exhorted to be caring for all.
Watch – v.31
In this case the idea is "to be on the alert" both mentally and spiritually. Fundamentally the idea is to stay awake and "not sleep". Again it is in the present imperative, indicating a requirement for continual watchfulness and vigilance. This latter requirement is emphasised by Peter when he exhorts: "… be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" 1 Pet.5.8. The adversary is always busy. The elder must be always alert.
Remember - v.31
The emphasis is on a willingness to follow the wise example of others; in this case that of the apostle himself. He was ever on guard. He was always watching. He indicates for them what they have to remember. There are several features; he ceased not "to warn" indicating the requirement for continued instruction or exhortation and the fact that there is danger and the need for caution. None were excluded. His ministry was an inclusive ministry, he warned "everyone". It was a constant ministry – "night and day", and it was associated with "tears". Perhaps this latter aspect is one of our problems today; a lack of emotional involvement in the administration and care of the assembly.
The Details of their Work
Overseership is a work to be undertaken and not a position to which to aspire. This is emphasised clearly in several passages of our New Testament. For example: "This is a true saying that if a man desire the office of a bishop he desireth a good work" 1 Tim.3.1. Again, in the same epistle the idea is emphasised: "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine" 5.17. The word for "labour" here is the word that is used elsewhere for hard work. Also believers are exhorted to esteem them (the elders) "very highly in love for their work’s sake" 1 Thess.5.13. Of course all of the activity associated with the local church is regarded as a work. For example the apostle speaks of "the work" of the evangelist, 2 Tim.4.5, and of "the work of the ministry" Eph.4.12. Hence, no matter whether it is overseership, evangelistic exercise or the ministry of the word, it is all a "work".
The work here is seen to be in a variety of spheres and implemented in a variety of ways.
To Feed the Church of God – v.28
This indicates their fundamental and primary sphere of operation. Indeed the local church is the sphere of prime importance for all saints not only the overseer. The apostle anticipates that there will be a variety and fullness associated with the feeding. It also indicates that the overseer is responsible for the food that is administered to the local church. It is always good when there is a variety of ministry ranging from prophetic ministry to devotional ministry, practical ministry, church truth etc. The whole spectrum of truth is anticipated. It is to be like the tree of life which bears "… twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" Rev.22.2. There was variety month by month and the detailed purpose of the fruit was for healing. It is always good when a diverse healing ministry is given to the local church.
To Declare the Counsel of God – v.27
This is seen in the example of the apostle where he indicates that he had not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God. The word "declare" in v.27 is the same as the word "showed" in v.20. The idea in the word is that of proclaiming or announcing. The apostle declared all the counsel of God. There was no partiality in his ministry. He announced unequivocally the whole counsel: he "kept back nothing that was profitable unto them" v.20. This is an excellent example for elders to follow.
To Testify the Gospel of God – v.24
The word for "testify" is the same as that used in v.21 where the apostle outlines the details of the ministry of the gospel in which he was engaged. The idea in testifying is "to solemnly bear witness to". This indicates the supreme dignity associated with the presentation of the gospel message. It must always be done solemnly with no lightness. At the same time however, there must be a clear witness and the apostle specifies the subject: "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" v.21. Repentance and faith are thus intimately linked. It is not a separate experience but in the one act a "turning from" and a "turning to". The doctrine of the gospel of God is included in the apostle’s ministry. It should be today as well. There is a further interesting detail given in v.24 - he testifies to the gospel of "the grace of God". God takes the initiative. Apart from Divine grace intervening in human experience there would never be the possibility of salvation.
To Preach the Kingdom of God – v.25
It is interesting that the apostle indicates the requirement for preaching the Kingdom of God in the same context as testifying to the gospel of God. The fact of the Kingdom is fundamental to the whole revelation of Scripture. Indeed it has been said that the Kingdom is "the grand theme of all Scripture", and the Bible has been described as "the book of the coming Kingdom of God". Perhaps we are remiss today in not preaching the Kingdom as the apostle did. The Kingdom of God is much larger in context and chronology than the Church of God. While all who are in the Church are in the Kingdom, not all who are in the Kingdom are in the Church since the Kingdom may involve mere profession. Clear distinctions do have to be made. However, it is clear that the apostle was preaching the majesty and sovereignty of God in the sphere of men and the fact that He was in complete control of all that was taking place on earth. Perhaps we would do well today to emulate more this kind of preaching and to understand the deep significance of a comprehensive revelation that God has given in His Word as to His sovereignty, eternality and sublime majesty.
To Teach the People of God – v.20
Three times over in this verse the apostle uses the little word "you". He teaches in two different spheres namely: "publicly" and "from house to house". It is important to observe that when the apostle comes to the qualifications of the elder in 1 Timothy chapter 3, he indicates that he must be "apt to teach". There is no doubt that the possibility of doing this both publicly and from house to house, is indicated in that context.
In all of the details above it is abundantly evident that the elder needs to be a man of the Word. Indeed one of the qualifications indicated is that of "holding fast the faithful word as he had been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" Titus 1.9. Without a detailed knowledge of the Word of God it is impossible to exhort and encourage the sincere believer, or to refute those who are holding wrong doctrine. Indeed the idea in convincing is "to refute" by showing clearly the basis of sound doctrine and the character of truth. This cannot be done apart from a good grasp of the Word.
The Problems To Be Anticipated
In vv.29,30 the apostle looks forward to events that will take place after his departure and he indicates two things relative to enemies of the assembly.
The Certainty of their Coming
He says "I know this". The elders at Ephesus should not therefore be surprised when the problems arise but instead be fortified to meet them. It is the same today. To be forewarned is to be forearmed to meet the problem.
The Nature of their Appearing
The late Mr. A. L. Leckie taught that in these verses there are three different kinds of ministry: Spiritual ministry, v.28; Satanic ministry, v.29; Sectarian ministry, v.30.
The spiritual ministry is administered by the overseers; the satanic ministry by grievous wolves entering in among the overseers not sparing the flock, and the sectarian ministry by some of their own selves arising, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.
Wolves are always predators of sheep. As previously quoted the Lord warns: "Beware of false prophets, that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" Matt.7.15. Also He says to His disciples: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" Matt.10.16. The wolves have no thought for the sheep. They are ravening and those who catch the sheep simply leave destruction in their wake. This is one reason why the shepherd has a rod. The staff is for the sheep but the rod is for wolves. The tragedy here in Acts 20.29, is that the grievous wolves were going to enter in among the overseeing brethren not sparing the flock.
Perhaps even worse however, there was going to be sectarian ministry arising from men who were at that time professing overseers in the church of God. They were going to be speaking "perverse things in order to draw away disciples after them". In other words they were going to distort and twist the truth with the objective of seducing others to follow them as their egotistical leader, to build a following for themselves. Of course the heresy would not be directly opposed to current thinking; it would simply be a careful twisting or distortion. An outright denial would be clear to all but a clever distortion would lead many astray. Alas this is true even today and it can be perceived that certain teachers have the objective of building up their own following.
The Resources Available
These resources are indicated in v.32. It is really a double resource but both are permanent in character. The apostle says "and now", showing that these resources are still available for us today. The first resource is God Himself: "I commend you to God." He is still in control. The assembly still belongs to Him. There is an infinite supply to meet every need. The second resource is "the word of His grace". A rich supply of grace is needed to overcome both the satanic and sectarian ministry previously indicated. It includes the full implications of the gospel already referred to in v.24, the contents of which are detailed in v.21. This Word is able to do two things; to build up and to give an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. The apostle is indicating that the present is accounted for and the future is secure as well; thus giving an impetus for continuing in the work. The overseer is therefore not without appropriate resources which when used correctly give valuable guidance now and promise for the future, thus giving incentive in every aspect of assembly activity.
In addition to all of the above, which is essentially an encapsulation of the teaching of Acts chapter 20, two matters still require attention. One is our attitude towards elders and the other is the qualifications necessary for those who are going to do the work. These are considered in turn. Mr. J. Dickson of Scotland planted the seed plot for the following some years ago in a personal communication. There are at least seven exhortations which should be noted.
Knowing Them for their Labour - 1 Thess.5.12
The idea behind the word "know" is that of knowing by observation. Perhaps the word "appreciate" which is used by the N.A.S.B. is not too far off the mark. Also the word for "labour" in our A.V. is a strong word indicating "toil and strenuous work that results in weariness and fatigue". In addition it is labour that is exerted "among you": namely in the congregation. It has been observed that elders "will obtain true recognition if they serve the saints well. Sheep will instinctively follow without the need for coercion one they have come to know and have learned to trust."3 The words "are over" in v.12 are from a word which has the idea of caring for and leading. It is used in the context of a father’s management of his family, particularly the proper control of his children, 1 Tim.3.4. The fact that it is "in the Lord" is indicative of the sphere of Lordship in which the administration has to take place.
3 Arthur G. Clark. "Government – Overseership": In "Church Doctrine and Practice". Published by Precious Seed, 1970.
Esteeming Them for their Work’s Sake - 1 Thess.5.13
There is an interesting difference between the word "labour" in v.12 and the word for "work" in v.13. In v.12 it is more how the work is done. In v.13 it is more the deed that is undertaken. Thus in v.12 it is how they do it and in v.13 it is what they do. It is evident from v.13 that the esteem is to be shown "very highly" and "in love". The overseer must not be taken for granted. It is so easy to complain rather than to be thankful and to emphasise the bad and forget the good. True love is to be shown as the basis of respect.
Honouring Them for their Rule - 1 Tim.5.17
Indeed in the passage the emphasis is on them that "rule well". The honour involved is likely to include material support when necessary in addition to giving appropriate respect. This is emphasised by the two quotations in v.18. However, the example of the apostle in Acts 20.34,35 should not be forgotten. He was not slow to use his hands as necessary! The word for "rule", proistemi, here is the same as that already seen in 1 Thess.5.12, where it is translated "are over". The thought is that of exercising effective "pastoral leadership".4 In addition these elders are those who labour in the Word and doctrine. They are working hard to effectively communicate the Word of God in all its fullness giving appropriate expository teaching covering all aspects of Divine truth.
4 Alexander Strauch. "Biblical Eldership - An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership". Published by Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995.
Remembering Them for their Teaching – Heb.13.7
It is possible that these elders had already known martyrdom. Those left were to remember their triumphant finish and the issue of their conduct; namely the person of Christ and to imitate their faith; that is their faithful example. It is clear from the next verse Who that faithful example is: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." The basis of their communication was quite simply the "Word of God". While the under shepherds may have passed on, the Great Shepherd still had his eye on the sheep and was communicating to them on the basis of Divine revelation; namely the Word of God.
Obeying Them for their Faithfulness – Heb.13.1
The idea in the words "rule over you" is clearly that of leadership. The translation of J. N. Darby is "obey your leaders". The Greek work translated in v.17 "that have the rule over" is hegoumenoi. The same word occurs in v.7 and in v.24. It is a word that is used to describe military, political or religious leaders. It was used in the LXX of the Old Testament to describe the heads of tribes, a commander of an army or the ruler of the nation, Israel. The idea is clear. It is not one taking an authoritarian stand demanding obedience but the idea of leading the way or going first as a general or commander. The idea of being "over" is never used of the elder as standing over. The elder is rather "among" or "in" the flock. As the late Mr. A. L. Leckie said, "spiritual leaders are just that without necessarily being aware of it." The obedience demanded here is because of the faithfulness of the overseer.
Submitting To Them for their Watchfulness – Heb.13.17
The submission demanded is because they watch "for your souls" as "they that must give account". The thought in the word "watch" is that of deprivation of sleep because of their keen interest in the flock. They must "give account" at the end and the writer to the Hebrews desires that they may do it with joy and not with grief. True submission would surely lead to profit to those involved and the additional blessing to the leader of giving a good account with joy. Loyalty is thus enjoined because of the grave responsibility before the Lord.
Saluting Them for their Guidance – Heb.13.24
It would be good to give overseers a little word of encouragement for all the guidance they give to the Lord’s people. After all there is plenty of criticism! There should not be resentment but salutation.
The qualifications are detailed in 1 Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1. An exhaustive study is not possible in the scope of this chapter. Mr. Vine indicates that the "character of the work is determined by the character of those who do it"5, and has given an excellent summary of 1 Timothy chapter 3, based on the R.V. It is deemed valuable to quote this in full, even though it is lengthy: "The overseer is, firstly to be "without reproach": his life, past and present, must be entirely free from anything inconsistent with the responsibility of spiritual leadership. Secondly, his married life (if married; it does not say he must have a wife) must be exemplary. While the avoidance of polygamy was enjoined in a general condition when it was common, what is laid down involves the necessity for the strictest purity in regard to the opposite sex, and complete abstention from anything of an unholy nature in this respect. Thirdly, he must be "temperate", i.e., self- restrained; the word implies that watchfulness which guards against any kind of excess. Fourthly, "soberminded", a word which, in the original, suggests that discretion of mind which avoids mere levity on the one hand and a gravity which is characterised by moroseness on the other hand. Fifthly, "orderly", decent, not merely in outward demeanour, but in temper and spirit, avoiding that pride and self-will which make for disorder in temperament and habit.
5 W. E. Vine. "The Future Care of Assemblies": in "Church Doctrine and Practice". Published by Precious Seed, 1970.
These five have to do more especially with the inner self; the following ten relate to effects on others. Sixthly, he is to be "given to hospitality"; the word literally means love of strangers, and suggests a readiness to entertain others than friends and acquaintances, cf. Rom.12.13; Heb.13.2; 1 Tim.5.10. Seventhly, "apt to teach", skilled in imparting instruction; he may not have the gift of public speaking, but he must have such a knowledge of God and of the Scriptures that he is able to impart instruction to children of God, whether young in the faith or those of maturer spiritual life. Eighthly, "no brawler", the word literally means "given to wine"; as, however, that condition leads to fierce and abusive language; the overseer is to be entirely free from that kind of speech. Ninthly, "no striker"; he who is given to abuse in speech is liable to violence of act.
Tenthly, he is to be "gentle"; the word suggests that combination of forbearance and considerateness that deals with facts and deeds in a humane and kindly spirit, and does not easily take offence. The eleventh quality puts this negatively: "not contentious", i.e., free from a quarrelsome spirit, from a readiness to dispute, which so often leads to loss of temper, cf. 2 Tim.2.24. The twelfth is also negative: he must be "no lover of money." There are two aspects of this (which represents a single word in the original) one, that of freedom from covetousness, whether in the matter of money or anything else, the other that of generosity and liberality.
The thirteenth relates to one who has a household or family: he must be "one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity", that is, with seemliness of demeanour. This indicates that combination of authority, kindliness and benevolence which helps children to find a delight in honouring their parents. The presence of children so trained makes a true home. The character of his family has an important bearing upon his service and influence as an overseer. "If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" The change of verb is significant (though "rule" is used in 5.17 regarding the church). A well ordered house is a test of a married man’s fitness to care for God’s children. The fourteenth is again negative : "not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil"; he must have had years of experience in the things of God, in the truths relating to Christian life and to those of a local church. Otherwise there is a danger of pride and ambition and their condemnation. The fifteenth and last relates to the world, "them that are without." They are shrewdly observant of the moral life of believers, and ever ready to remark upon evil living, slackness and unreliability.
These qualifications have this in view, that the testimony of the life of those in responsibility in an assembly may be consistent with the Name of the Lord and with doctrines of the faith. All this should not deter young men from seeking the guidance of God as to the high and holy privileges of overseership and its consequent rewards."
A more detailed study is given by Strauch6. This whole book is worthy of further reference in the context of caring for a local church.
6 Alexander Strauch. "Biblical Eldership – An Urgent Call To Restore Biblical Church Leadership". Published by Lewis and Roth Publications, 1995.
There is an excellent promise for the overseer given in 1 Pet.5.4. When the Chief Shepherd shall appear he "shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." This is to be given in the day of accounting at the Bema. The under-shepherd will not go unrewarded. The arduous, continuous and often thankless contribution will be adequately compensated by the Chief Shepherd Himself who will give the "crown of glory".