Question #317

Who leads when there are no elders?

When you don't have elders, or a preacher, who shall lead the church scripturally? Do you have to have a preacher? Where in scripture does it say you have to have a sermon preached every time you gather on Sunday? Can one just have devotionals? I ask, because we have no skilled speakers, young men in their Christian faith. Men that are currently speaking have been criticized because of a lack of knowledge in speaking. What can one do?

The Answer:

This question is one that is an open invitation to meddle in the affairs of a local congregation having heard only one side of the discussion. This Thy Word Is Truth declines to do to the extent that the issues deal with matters of opinion. To the extent that the question deals with the teaching of scripture the following answers are given.

  1. There is no scripture that requires elders. There are passages that (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) that provide the qualifications that must be met by one who becomes an elder.

  2. There is no passage of scripture that requires a “sermon” every time the church assembles. What it does require is “public reading, exhortation (preaching), and teaching (doctrine).” 1 Timothy 4:13. Many translations insert the words “of scripture” after “public reading” for proper understanding. See, for example the English Standard and New American Standard translations. This does no violence to the passage for what other than scripture would be read at the assembly of the church. No violence is done to the admonition by including “preaching and teaching” in the assembly which Paul includes in the passage. It matters not that you call it a “devotional” (a short sermon) or a “sermon” (a long devotional).

  3. There is no passage of scripture that requires a preacher to be skilled in public speaking, although there is generally a reasonable expectation that one who devotes himself entirely to preaching will have at least some skill. What is required is that they teach and preach the Word correctly (without error). 2 Timothy 2:15. Here it appears that members of supplying the teaching-preaching-exhortation. What the scripture does require is that when we come before the Lord in worship we do the very best that we can do as we offer unto Him the sacrifice of worship. Leaders of a congregation, whether elders or men of the congregation in the absence of qualified elders, who do not consistently demand the best in worship and Bible study, whether in word, in song, or in deed, show disrespect for both God and His worshippers. The best is rarely obtained by following a practice of using as many different speakers, song leaders, or teachers as it is possible to use. Could James have included this in his exhortation, “Be not many of you teachers”? James 3:1.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)