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Elders and Deacons

“Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

(Philippians 1:1)

Finally, we see that Paul not only addresses this letter to the people of the church, but to its leadership — the overseers and the deacons. It is certainly true that Paul speaks of other sorts of servants in the church…administrators, teachers, evangelists, etc… (1 Corinthians 12:27-30; Ephesians 4:11), but it would seem that these two offices serve as broader categories within which the other offices find their definition and qualification. Thus, however many offices in the church that a particular group happens to hold to, offices fall under the broad category of oversight or service.

What should also be noted — and is arguably more significant — is the reminder that the church itself does not exist as a broad and extended group of individuals. Believers are not autonomous, to put it another way. God has brought us together as one body — a larger institution — under the leadership and direction of officers. Like the Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:9), we are all men and women under authority…one of which is the godly leadership of the church that God the Father has raised up to honor his Son. True, there has been much wicked leadership through the generations — the unfaithful shepherds that God condemns (Ezekiel 34:1-6) — and while these wicked shepherds are often the ones that sear themselves into our memories, history has been filled with many, many faithful shepherds who labor in quiet obscurity amongst their flock. Though we like our independence, when we wander independently, we wander astray.

Thus, Paul addresses the entire church, a unified body of Christ, called and purposed to tear down the strongholds of the devil in this world (2 Corinthians 10:4-6) and making disciples  of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20), all that the Father draws to the Son (John 6:44). This is a body made up of believers in covenant with one another under the leadership of Elders and Deacons, all to God’s glory. Were more of our congregations to think this way, I imagine that we would not have as many struggles within our churches and we would be quicker to weed out false shepherds from our midst.

A Debt of Love I Owe…

“But when he said this, one of the subordinates who was standing there gave a blow to Jesus saying, ‘Is this how you answer the High Priest?’”

(John 18:23)

 

Again, many of our English translations like to render this word as “officer” when it comes to the one who slapped Jesus, giving the impression that this was one of the military guards. A better translation is subordinate, particularly recognizing that this term often refers to governmental offices, not military offices. Thus, we should see this man not as one of the soldiers, but as one of the underlings of Annas, perhaps even one of the Sadducees in authority — we are just not told. And this man strikes Jesus because Jesus refuses to submit himself before Annas in this false trial.

It is interesting that this subordinate also refers to Annas as the “High Priest” although the title rightly belongs to Caiaphas. Thus adds a further degree of support to the theory that Annas is still pulling the political strings of the High Priest’s office from behind the scenes and has likely arranged the events of the night to bring Jesus under Caiaphas’ judgment.

The blow that is struck upon Jesus will be the first amongst many, though it stands out as one of contempt and pride — it is the blow of an underling, likely trying to gain credibility in the eyes of his master, though truly only doing the devil’s deed. Many of our English translations render this phrase in such a way as to argue that the man slapped Jesus. That could be the case, though the word could also refer to one clubbing another with a stick or another blunt object. Were this man one of the mob that was so armed with torches and clubs from earlier that night, it could conceivably be the club and not the hand with which this man struck our Lord.

Loved ones, the one thing that we must keep painfully clear and before our eyes is that Jesus did not need to endure such suffering. Yet, in an outpouring of his grace, he chose to suffer for us by the hand of wicked men. Jesus could have called legions of angels to his defense and left the entire countryside scattered with the bodies of his enemies, but he chose to go like a lamb to the slaughter, be beaten and abused, falsely tried, and then horrifically executed on the cross. He did that for me. He did that for you, that is, if you are trusting in Him as your Lord and Savior. They say that the story of the Gospel is the “Greatest Story Ever Told” and there is truth in that claim. Yet, it is a story that not only travels to great heights in terms of the resurrection and promise of glory — but it is a story that travels to the greatest depths of misery — human and divine — as Jesus enters the household of the wicked to bear the sins of the wicked (you and me!) on his shoulders — and not only facing false judgment by the hands of wicked men, but facing righteous judgment by the hands of a holy God, who crushed him for our sin. Jesus was our substitute, so when you are tempted to wag the finger at these hypocritical Jewish authorities, remember first that he did this for you … and he did this for me. We are the reason Jesus gave himself into the hands of these men, thanks be to God! But oh, my soul, what a debt of love I owe to the King of Grace!