Christian Living

Ben Thinkin’ #3: Rogue Elders, Worshiping Through Jesus, and Feelings

May 7, 2014


Ben Thinkin’ #3: Rogue Elders, Worshiping Through Jesus, and Feelings

[The Ben Thinkin’ series is a venue for answering questions my readers have submitted. I answer several questions in each post. If you would like to submit questions for future Ben Thinkin’ posts, please leave a comment at the end of the article.]

Ben Thinkin1. Smith asks: Can a congregation “unappoint” an elder who is in error and refuses to repent? Would his impenitence not void his qualifications? Or is a man always an elder once he becomes an elder?

Situations like this demonstrate how important it is for congregations to carefully appoint their elders (instead of haphazardly appointing men for the sake of appointing elders, regardless of how well he meets the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). The Bible does not give a specific description of how to oust an elder from his office.

However, individual elders must always be submissive to the eldership; there is no such thing as a ‘head elder.’ Otherwise, an elder would be domineering over the flock (1 Pet. 5:2-3). The eldership can, and should, ask an elder in sin to step down. If he refuses, I submit he is being divisive and should be withdrawn from (Rom. 16:17). Elders can be withdrawn from just like any other member of the church. And any member who is divisive or impenitent over sin should be withdrawn from (2 Thess. 3:6).

2. Samuel asks: Since we pray through Jesus, do we praise through Him as well?

This is a very interesting question, and I’m not entirely sure I know the best way to answer it. It is true that we pray through Jesus (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 2:1-2). And when we pray, we do so “in the name of Jesus” (Eph. 5:20; John 16:23). And yes, there is at least a sense in which we praise God through the Son as well. “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God” (Heb. 13:15; cf. 1 Pet. 4:11). Paul said, “First, I think my God through Jesus Christ for all of you” (Rom. 1:8). However, whenever we discuss worshiping the Godhead, we need to make sure we do not separate the Son, the Father, and the Spirit so much that they cease being One, though they are still distinct from one another.

3. Anna asks: How much should Christians rely on their feelings?

Our faith and obedience should never be based upon feelings. Instead, how we ‘feel’ should be based upon our faith and obedience to God’s Word. Salvation is primarily intellectual, not emotional. That does not mean, however, that Christianity shouldn’t be filled with emotion. How can I help but feel overwhelmed with grief and thankfulness when I approach the cross of Christ during the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:23-29; cf. Isa. 53)? How can I help but feel a sense of terror when I think about what the devil wants to do to me (1 Pet. 5:8)? How can I help but echo the humble and awestruck words of the psalmist when I think of God’s sovereignty and power (Psa. 92)? But these are examples of how how important feelings should be to Christians, but they are examples of feelings based upon an understanding of God’s Word.

When my feelings are detached from my knowledge and obedience to God’s Word, I am in trouble. For example, Jesus warned that His disciples would soon be persecuted by people who actually “think they are offering service to God” (John 16:2). In other words, some who persecute Christians actually feel like they are pleasing God and are secure in their salvation, but in reality, they are not. Let us avoid any kind of religion that is based upon feelings that are divorced from knowledge (Rom. 10:1-3).

Have questions for a future Ben Thinkin’ post? Please leave them in the comments section below.

(Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.)

Ben Giselbach is the pulpit minister at the Edgewood church of Christ in Columbus, GA. He and His wife Hannah have two children, Ezra & Colleyanna. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and has written three books in his You Are A Theologian Series: Thinking Right about the Bible, Thinking Right about God, and Thinking Right about Salvation.
  1. Patrick Harris

    "Salvation is primarily intellectual, not emotional." There seems to me to be a *lot* to unpack there. I don't necessarily disagree with you, but describing salvation as an "intellectual" event might imply to some that we are saved merely by a belief (in the narrowest sense) or a certain state of mind.

    • Ben

      Thanks for the observation, Patrick. I understand completely what you're saying, and perhaps I was so careful to be concise in my answer that I was somewhat clumsy. Read "salvation is primarily intellectual, not emotional" in the context of the answer. Salvation does, ultimately, begin with knowledge (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 10:16). If I do not first understand the gospel, then I can never truly obey the gospel. However, as you rightly point out, we are not saved by mere mental assent, as many sadly believe today. James 2:14-26 makes this abundantly clear. Rather, we are saved by faithful and humble obedience to the Lord, since true "belief" and "obedience" can never be divorced from one another (John 3:36). Once again, thanks for the comment and allowing me to clarify my words.

  2. Jon Mitchell

    Good thoughts. The only thing I would add concerns the elders question. Sometimes people push for elders to step down not over a matter of doctrine, but over matters of opinion, usually when their own opinions and preferences are not being met and adhered to. Yet, in such cases it is still said that an elder or elders are "sinning," when in fact they are not. For this reason Christians need to be very careful whenever any accusation is brought against an eldership, or any other Christian for that matter. Is the Word of God actually being violated, or is it truly just my own preferences and idiosyncrasies? The only other thing I would add is that brethren need to be patient with each other, especially their leaders in the church. In my observation, brethren seem to show more forbearance, patience, kindness, and love towards others than they do towards the eldership. That must not be (Heb. 13:17). Good articles. Keep up the good work.

    • Ben

      Wow, I couldn't agree more with you answer! We need to be very careful not to bring any grief to the eldership (Heb. 13:17). Paul recognized that elders would be charged more often with negativity than the rest of the members, and therefore required at least two witnesses for a charge to be leveled against an elder (1 Tim. 5:19) - probably because he knew elders would be charged with abuse unfairly. Thanks for the excellent comment! -Ben

  3. Judy

    A friend of ours regularly describes his upbringing in a certain charismatic group and points out that he was taught by that group that his feelings mattered. Mattered because if he "felt" saved on Monday, he was saved. If he didn't "feel" saved on Tuesday then he was going to hell. He's grateful to now understand that having confessed Jesus and been baptized for remission of sins, he can KNOW he's saved, and if he's having a bad day he doesn't have to worry that he's condemned. To me that's the difference between feelings and intellect when it comes to salvation. That's how I understood your comments.

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