Elder Beebe: I have been in the habit of reading your editorials for the last few years, and being highly pleased with them, I would like to have your views on I Peter 5:5, and with Romans 12:10. By giving them you will oblige,
A Friend to the Cause of Truth.
January 17, 1866.
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you, be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5)." "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another (Romans 12:10)."
The former is an apostolic admonition to the elders which were and are among the scattered people of God, the latter is addressed more generally to all the saints, irrespective of the position they may, any of them, hold in the church of God. The two passages, considered together, show us that the apostles have given exhortations, instructions and admonitions to all, whether elders or private members of the church of God. The apostles are by the authority of Christ seated upon twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And being divinely qualified for the very responsible and important position to which Christ has elevated them, their judgment and decisions on every point of doctrine, rule of order, and exposition of every precept of the law of Christ, the establishment of every ordinance belonging to the house of God, together with all the relative duties and privileges devolving on or belonging to the saints, regulating their deportment in the church, and all their intercourse with the world, is accurately considered, authoritatively decided, and unalterably established, never to be amended, improved nor repealed so long as this world shall stand. By the special command of the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, the Only Wise God, our Savior, they are commissioned to teach the disciples of Christ of all subsequent ages, to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded them. And to prevent the possibility of the slightest failure, from forgetfulness or any other cause, the Holy Ghost is sent down from heaven, like a rushing mighty wind, to qualify them perfectly by its unerring inspiration, and to bring to their remembrance all the instructions which Christ has given them. Without the possibility of committing an error in their official administration of judgment, all they have bound on earth is bound in heaven, and all they have loosed on earth is loosed in heaven. In every decision they have made, they have spoken as the Holy Ghost has given them utterance, God himself has spoken by them, and from their decisions there is no appeal. None may claim that they are disciples of Christ who are not governed by the decisions of the apostles in all matters of faith and practice; nor can any church, or branch of the church of Christ, be known as such, where Christ does not sit upon the throne of his glory, and his apostles with him, upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (See Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30 and Isaiah 32:1.) Where ever Christ is recognized upon his Mediatorial throne, his apostles must also be recognized as his authorized judges and exponents of his laws. Our obedience to Christ is the test of our discipleship, and if we reject his apostles, we also reject him, and therefore cannot be his disciples or his church.
Peter not only claims to be an apostle, a judge, enthroned in judgment with all the authority of heaven and earth to establish his inspired decisions on every point, but he claims to be also an elder. An elder, in a gospel sense of the word, means a pastor, or one who is authorized to preside over, and to feed the flock, or church of God.
1. This was at least a part of Peter's work, for Christ had specially commanded him to feed his sheep and to feed his lambs. (See John 15:16,17.) He was the more eminently qualified to hold that relation to the church from having been a witness of the sufferings of Christ. He was with him in his betrayal, when arrested, and at court where he was tried and condemned to die; was with him in the garden, a witness of his agony; and from his mentioning this in our text, we infer that the elders of the church, while they feed the flock, are qualified by the Spirit to be valid witnesses of the sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ. And Peter was also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed, as resulting from the sufferings and death of Christ. The prophets had testified of his sufferings and of his glory. And Christ said, "Ought not Christ to suffer, and then to enter into his glory?" And Paul testifieth that, "He was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." Peter was a partaker of that glory, and so are all who have risen with him, and with him sit together in the heavenly places.
2. The work of elders generally, who are not apostles, is clearly defined in Paul's valedictory to the elders of Ephesus. (See Acts 20:17-38, but more especially in verse 28.) "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 pastoral labors of an elder belong to the church, and not to the world. Not, however, to every community who may call themselves, or be by others called a church, or the church; but they stand related to, and are the servants of "the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." And as there is but one church of that description to be found in heaven or earth, the labor of the elder is restricted to that church alone. He has no commission or authority to feed the world, or any of the queens or concubines which are recognized by the world as churches, for the food which they are to deal out to the church of God cannot suit the appetite of any but the children of the living God. They "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever," are qualified to receive and feed upon the "sincere milk of the word."
3. The pastoral nature of the work of the elders is fully expressed in the exhortation of Peter, who being himself an elder, had a perfect understanding of the duties involved in the calling. He exhorts them thus: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof." Observe he directs his epistle to the elect which were scattered as strangers throughout Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. And this special exhortation is to the elders which were among these scattered saints, and they are exhorted to feed the flock of God which was among them, and to take the oversight of them. That is as watchmen, not as lords over God's heritage, but as faithful watchmen; to warn, admonish, exhort, teach and administer the word and ordinances, according to the instructions and examples given them by the apostles. And this they must do from pure motives, not for the gratification of a covetous disposition, but of a ready mind, and as examples to the flock. And as in this work they sustain to the flock of God the relationship of under shepherds, they are encouraged that they shall be approved and remembered by the chief Shepherd when he shall come.
As we desire to extend our remarks upon the exhortation to the elders, as introductory to what we may say on the two verses to which our attention has been called, we must, for want of room, defer the further consideration of the subject to our next number.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
February 15, 1866.
Editorials Volume 6 - pgs 295-298