What should your relationship with your elders look like?
In the Christian Classic, Pilgrim's Progress, written by John Bunyan in the 1670’s, the main character, Christian, arrives at the Interpreter's house:
“Then said Interpreter, Come in; I will show you that which will be profitable to you. So he commanded his man to light the candle, and bid Christian to follow him; so he led him into a private room, and bid his man to open a door; the which when he had done, Christian saw the picture of a serious person hanging on the wall; and this was the fashion of it: he had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the Law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back; he stood as if he pleaded with men and a crown of gold did hang over his head.
Then said Christian, What does this mean? The Interpreter answered: The man whose picture this is, is one of a thousand: he can beget children, travail in birth with children, and nurse them himself when they are born. And whereas you see him with his eyes lift up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, and the law of truth written on his lips: it is to show you, that his work is to know and unfold dark things to sinners; even as also you see him stand as if he pleaded with men. And whereas you see the world as cast behind him, and that a crown hands over his head; that is to show you, that slighting and despising the things that are present, for the love that he has to his Master’s service, he is sure in the world that comes next to have glory for his reward.
Now, said the Interpreter, I have shown you this picture first, because the man whose picture this is, is the only man whom the Lord of the place where you are going has authorized to be your guide in all difficult places you may meet with in the way: wherefore take good heed to what I have shown you, and bear well in your mind what you have seen, lest in your Journey you meet with some that pretend to lead you right, but their way goes down to death."
Here is a portrait of a man whose eyes are lifted up to Heaven, hands hold tightly to the best of books, lips speak the Law of truth, back is turned resolutely away from the world, position is to stand and plead with men... This is a portrait of a faithful pastor.
The New Testament assumes that every Christian will be part of a local church and, as such, under theguidance of faithful elders who are watching over his/her soul. More explicitly, passages such as1Thessalonians 5:12-13, Hebrews 13:7-18, and 1Timothy 5:17-25 exhort Christians, and the church in general, as to the kind of relationship and responsibilities we have to the elders that Christ has given.
As you consider nine primary responsibilities found in these three texts, ask yourself if you have the kind of relationship with your elders that you see described here.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
1. HONOR the work of your elders. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
2. IMITATE the faith of your elders. (Hebrews 13:7-8)
3. FOLLOW the teaching of your elders. (Hebrews 13:9-16)
4. SUBMIT to the authority of your elders. (Hebrews 13:17)
5. PRAY for the faithfulness of your elders. (Hebrews 13:18)
1 Timothy 5:17-25
6. PROVIDE for the ministry of your elders. (1 Timothy 5:17-18)
7. PROTECT the reputation of your elders. (1 Timothy 5:19)
8. REBUKE the sin of your unrepentant elders. (1 Timothy 5:20-21)
9. PARTICIPATE in the selection of your elders. (1 Timothy 5:22)