bits from bob....

A Question and a Checklist for Elders: What Do You Believe?

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

God's leaders must know what they believe. This is true of preachers; it is true of elders. It is true of every Christian leader. When I was an undergraduate student studying for my degree Bible, I got into a discussion with my roommate (both of us were Bible majors) about whether a preacher ought to have some idea about what every verse in the Bible says. I was in the affirmative. I believed then, and believe now, that those who preach and teach, and those who serve as leaders of God's people, ought to know the Bible, ought to understand the message of the Bible, and ought to understand and be able to explain what specific verses say and teach. Sometimes the details are difficult, but it is a reasonable expectation that Christian leaders know the Bible.

The Bible urges the church to select as leaders men of sound doctrine and wisdom. Among other things, to be a man of sound doctrine means being equipped to judge doctrinal disputes. Being a man of sound doctrine qualifies an elder to teach, and suggests that every elder is a teaching elder. Elders provide wise counsel and leadership because they are men of the Word. Elders must be able to teach and defend sound Christian doctrine. We have reached a point in some congregations where the preacher is able to "hold it over" the elders because the preacher has become the arbiter of sound doctrine rather than the elders.

In Acts 15 when a doctrinal question arose, the solution was to meet with the elders to determine both correct doctrine and a process to move forward. Elders must be able to refute false doctrine (Tit. 1:9). Strauch says that an elder who does not know the doctrines of the Bible is as useless as a lifeguard that cannot swim. As I listen to teachers and preachers, I am amazed at how often things are said that are just plain wrong. Claims are made for certain teachings from verses in the Bible that simply do not say what the teacher or preacher is claiming. The antidote is elders who know sound doctrine.

The teachings of the Bible may be organized under various topics. Such listings provide a checklist for elders to see how ready they are to teach and defend sound doctrine. The explanations below are only brief summaries of the major points that one should be able to explain and defend. Are you prepared to teach and defend Bible doctrine?

  • Theology (proper). This is what the Bible says about God, his existence, attributes, and nature. Here is an explanation of deity and the Trinity, and the decrees and commands of God.
  • Christology. This is doctrine about Christ, Christ as Son of God and as Son of Man, the divine-human nature of Christ, the offices and work of Christ, Christ-centered prophecy, appearances of Christ.
  • Pneumatology. This is sometimes called Spirit-ology since it is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to Christ and the Bible. This study includes baptism, regeneration, indwelling, and gifts of the Spirit.
  • Epistemology. This is sometimes called Bibliology or revelation; how do we know, the doctrine of the Bible, general and special revelation, inspiration, infallibility, canon (the books of the Bible, including teachings about missing books), and how the Bible is to be interpreted.
  • Anthropology. This is the doctrine of human beings, origins (creation vs. evolution), the nature of mankind.
  • Harmatiology. The doctrine of sin, the entry of sin and the fall of humanity in the Garden, definitions of sin and how sin is imputed to human beings.
  • Soteriology. The doctrine of salvation, how righteousness is imputed, the death of Christ as substitution, propitiation, reconciliation, justification by grace through faith, election and predestination.
  • Ecclesiology. The doctrine of the church, the people of God including continuity between Old Testament Israel and the church, the local church and the universal church, the teachings of the New Testament about the church including the metaphors, government of the church, church worship and activity, evangelism, ministry.
  • Eschatology. The doctrine of last things, heaven, hell, return of Christ, premillennialism, resurrection, judgment, and eternity.

    Elders work with people who hold a lot of different views on these points, or on sub-points within these major areas. Some false teachings are subtle and the danger is not apparent immediately. Good Bible students committed to the authority of the Bible have disagreed on some points of doctrine, but the Bible is clear on essential matters. Holding to the doctrine of Scripture is vital to spiritual health in the church. In fact, the word "sound" signifies healthy.

    Elders, who is guarding your church? Who are the keepers of sound doctrine? The Bible answer is, "You are the ones responsible."

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    Last updated June 14, 2011