Rulers in the Church of God
Henry Cummins, Bow, Devon
Let us first turn to Romans chapter 12 verse 8 and be it remembered that according to 1 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 28 there are amongst God's people everywhere those whom 'He has set in the church', to exercise rule, or govern, in accordance with the principles of His word.
The Greek word used is proistemi, which signifies - 'to stand forward: to be over: to rule: to maintain'. Therefore we read in 1 Tim. 5. 17 that the elders who rule well are to be accounted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. Again in 1 Thess. 5. 12 'We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord'. The force of this word is 'those who weary themselves in labour and admonish you: and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake'. Philippians chapter 2 verse 30 gives us a touching illustration of this in the case of Epaphroditus, who longed after his absent brethren in Philippi, from whom he had borne loving gifts and greetings to Paul in Rome. Therefore he exhorts them to 'hold such in reputation'. He was evidently a labourer 'who wearied himself' in serving them. The testimony concerning Moses, given by Jethro in Exodus chapter 18, is interesting: for, assuredly all who become heartily engaged in the great business of leading and guiding fellow-saints will find it a toilsome work. Thus may our hearts be encouraged to occupy every position of service in the church of God 'with reverence and godly fear'; and when called 'to stand forward' and to act as leaders amongst the people of God, see to it that we do so in the spirit of Acts chapter 20 verses 18 to 27. Then others will take knowledge of us that we 'have been with Jesus', and have partaken of His Spirit, which is a far higher qualification for this service than having only our heads filled with 'church truths': although knowledge of the will of God is most essential and useful, when it is held and ministered in its due measure and proper spirit, but apart from this it will only produce schism and sorrow.
It certainly is not an easy or enviable position to 'stand forward' as a leader amongst God's people; and those who do so ought to be very sure they are called by God to it, and they should have the confidence and constant prayers of their brethren.
Another application of this term ruler (Greek, hegeomai) is found in Heb. 13. 7, 'Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow'. This probably refers to some who had exercised the gift in the past and whose services were to be held in grateful remembrance and their example followed, but v.17 tells them, 'Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account'.
We may well pause here and meditate upon these solemn words. Did we set about the great business of 'watching for souls' before we took our place amongst those whom God has called to rule in the church? Is the heart exercised about that now so that fellow-saints may recognize the qualification in us? The consciousness that 'we must give account' should certainly increase our diligence and care.