Of Rulership

In Mark 10:42-45 Jesus says “…Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them…” In 1 Peter 5:1-3 Peter says “…Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Paul in Hebrews 13:17 says “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

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Here neither Jesus nor Peter nor Paul speaks against rulership. Rather they speak against a type of rulership which lords it over others. Lording it over others has the sense of dominating another. Both Jesus and Peter say any rulership should be exercised in the sense of serving or ministering to those over which one has oversight. Be a patient and loving example not a dictator.

In 1 Timothy 3:5 Paul says in speaking of a Bishop “(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” This same concept of rulership is applied to Deacons in 1 Timothy 3:12. Note that Paul speaks of ruling one’s own household and taking care of the house of God. The Greek word proistemi (Strongs G4291) used for rulership in 1 Timothy 3:5, 12 has the sense of standing before for purpose of presiding over. The Greek word epimeleomai (G1959) is translated “take care of” in verse 5. Paul uses different words to emphasize different leadership principles with respect to rulership and taking care of the house of God. Yet, we know that a Bishop in taking care of the house of God necessarily stands before and otherwise presides over the house of God, the congregation.

In 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul says “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” Here the Greek word for rule is the same as that used in 1 Timothy 3:5, 12.

Rulership is about servanthood involving the following functions/activities: presiding over, heading, overseeing, organizing, directing, enforcing, mandating, and similar functions/activities. Rulership may occur at various levels and involve groups having varying characteristics.

A question that arises is do elders always rule? As a matter of simplicity and practicality it seems the answer is yes. But the question becomes at what organizational level does a particular person rule and what is the characteristics of the group that a person is set over and for what purposes?

What is the scope of eldership? If one is ordained an elder in one city or local church, does that eldership and associated rulership apply to another city or local church where there are other ordained elders. The answer is it depends. If elder A from church A is visiting church B and there is no elder present then elder A has rulership at church B. However, if an elder B for church B is present then elder B has primary rulership and the visiting elder A has secondary rulership unless the visiting elder A is clearly senior to the elder B for church B, e.g., Elder A is an Apostle and elder B is a Bishop/Pastor . In all cases where there is multiple elders present then the elders should cooperate in areas of rulership.

As a matter of practicality and simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3-4), it is abundantly clear that we should employ biblical words that connote rulership very carefully and restrictively.

To God Be the Glory!



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