TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  General

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Chapter 30  Part I


Good leadership is one of the most important prerequisites for a healthy church. For a church to function effectively it is critical that leaders know and do what is required of them. It is also important for church members to know what they should expect of leaders – and how they can support their leaders.

Note that a number of verses in this chapter speak of Paul and other NT leaders in their work overseeing a number of churches, or of leaders of the nation of Israel – such as Moses, Joshua, prophets, priests and kings. Such verses are generally readily applicable to leaders of local churches today, and to their relationship with church members.

Introductory Insights

Churches have leaders

Acts 14:23  When they had appointed elders for them in the various churches, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed.  NET

Ultimately it is God who chooses church leaders . . .

1Cor 12:28  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.  ESV

Heb 5:1, 4  For every high priest is taken from among the people and appointed to represent them before God, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. … 4And no one assumes this honor on his own initiative, but only when called to it by God, as in fact Aaron was.  NET

What is said here of the position of high priest is arguably applicable to church leaders today. Note that it is not obvious whether the selecting and appointing spoken of in v. 1 is that done by God, or the actions taken by leaders in response to God’s choice and calling (v. 4).

. . . Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit play a role in the making of leaders

2Cor 10:8  [Paul, to the Corinthian church members:] For if I boast somewhat more about our authority that the Lord gave us for building you up and not for tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of doing so.  NET

Acts 20:28  [Paul, to the Ephesian church leaders:] Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.  NET

Leaders will be accountable to God for their work

Heb 13:17a  [The writer, to church members:] Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work.  NET

Leaders will be richly rewarded for good work

Matt 24:45-47  [Jesus:] Who, then, is the faithful and wise servant whom his master has put in charge of his household to give the others their food at the right time? 46How blessed is that servant whom his master finds doing this when he comes! 47I tell you with certainty, he will put him in charge of all his property.  ISV

This speaks of Jesus Christ (the “master”) rewarding the servants whom he has put in charge of the church (“his household”).

 Questions for Section A

Required Characteristics

The following characteristics are required of all believers, but it is especially vital for the life of Christian groups that they are exemplified by leaders. As such, churches need to bear in mind the following characteristics when choosing leaders.

Note that largely: the verses in the first two subsections speak of attributes that are required of a person to be chosen as a leader; the verses in the third and fourth subsections contain exhortations to those who are leaders to have the qualities concerned; and the verses in the fifth and sixth subsection contain examples of leaders displaying necessary attitudes.


Titus 1:7-8  For the overseer must be blameless as one entrusted with God’s work, not arrogant, not prone to anger, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for gain. 8Instead he must be hospitable, devoted to what is good, sensible, upright, devout, and self–controlled.  NET

Wisdom and competence

Deut 1:13  [Moses, to the Israelites:] Select wise and practical men, those known among your tribes, whom I may appoint as your leaders.  NET

Ex 18:21  But you choose from the people capable men, God–fearing, men of truth, those who hate bribes, and put them over the people as rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.  NET

Strength and courage

Josh 1:6  [God, to Joshua:] Be strong and courageous, because you’ll be leading this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors.  ISV

Willingness to serve

1Pet 5:1b-2  [Peter, to leaders:] I appeal to you 2to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve.  GNT

Leaders must be willing to serve God and Jesus Christ – and church members.

Deep love for church members

1Thes 2:8  [Paul, to church members:] Because of our love for you we were ready to share with you not only the Good News from God but even our own lives. You were so dear to us!  GNT

 Questions for Section B

Managing the Church

See also:

As a leader, provide good leadership

1Tim 5:17  Elders who provide effective leadership must be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.  NET

Delegate work to capable people

Acts 6:1-4  Now in those days, when the disciples were growing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Greek-speaking Jews against the native Hebraic Jews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the twelve called the whole group of the disciples together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to wait on tables. 3But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well–attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  NET

Be gentle and sparing in the use of authority . . .

1Thes 2:7b  [Paul, to church members:] Instead, we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children.  ISV

Philem 1:8-9a  [Paul, to church members:] For this reason, although in the Messiah I have complete freedom to order you to do what is proper, 9I prefer to make my appeal on the basis of love.  ISV

. . . but exercise authority where necessary

Titus 2:15  [Paul, to Titus:] So communicate these things with the sort of exhortation or rebuke that carries full authority. Don’t let anyone look down on you.  NET

Be an example for church members to imitate

2Thes 3:7-9  [Paul, to church members:] For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, 8and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. 9It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate.  NET

 Questions for Section C

Caring for Church Members

See also:

Be a shepherd taking care of God’s flock

Acts 20:28  [Paul, to leaders:] Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.  NET

John 21:16  Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  NCV™

Pray for church members

Col 1:9  [Paul, to church members:] We have not stopped praying for you since the first day we heard about you. In fact, we always pray that God will show you everything he wants you to do and that you may have all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.  CEV

Strengthen members in the faith

2Cor 12:19b  [Paul, to church members:] We are speaking in Christ before God, and everything we do, dear friends, is to build you up.  NET

Follow up and pastor members

Acts 15:36, 41  After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return and visit the brothers in every town where we proclaimed the word of the Lord to see how they are doing.”41He passed through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.  NET

Work hard at helping church members

Col 4:13  [Paul, speaking to Colossian church members about Epaphras:] For I can testify that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis.  NET

Be prepared to suffer hardship for church members

2Tim 2:10  [Paul:] So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.  NET

 Questions for Section D

Dealing with Sin in the Church

Confrontation and rebuke are needed when a church member sins and does not deal with it themselves. If confrontation and rebuke prove to be ineffective, then disassociation is required.

Confront church members over sin . . .

Ezek 16:2  [God, to Ezekiel:] Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her abominable practices …  NET

Matt 18:15-17  If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.  NET

These instructions are for believers or church members themselves in confronting fellow believers over sin. But the instructions are also applicable to leaders in their approach to confronting church members who have sinned and not repented.

. . . and warn them to stop sinning

Gal 5:21  [Paul, to church members:] … envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!  NET

Expel unrepentant sinners . . .

1Cor 5:12-13  [Paul:]  12-13 It is not my business to judge those who are not part of the church. God will judge them. But you must judge the people who are part of the church. The Scripture says, “You must get rid of the evil person among you.”  NCV™

Titus 3:10  [Paul, to Titus:] As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, …  ESV

. . . This is partly for the benefit of the offenders themselves

1Cor 5:4-5  [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] When you have gathered together, I am with you in spirit. Then, in the name of our Lord Jesus, and with his power, 5hand such a person over to Satan to destroy his corrupt nature so that his spiritual nature may be saved on the day of the Lord.  GW

The clause “hand such a person over to Satan” (v. 5) is commonly understood as meaning that the man was to be cast out of the church (cf. NLT) and so into the world, Satan’s domain, open to affliction by him. The following clause – “to destroy his corrupt nature” probably means that affliction by Satan would act as a purifying process leading to the destruction of the man’s sinful nature. Ultimately expelling such a person is done in the hope that they will be saved (v. 5b).

Have multiple witnesses in disciplinary procedures

Deut 19:15  [Moses, to the Israelites:] One witness is not enough to convict a man of a crime; at least two witnesses are necessary to prove that a man is guilty.  GNT

Restoring a person who has sinned

2Cor 2:6-8  [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, 7so that now instead you should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. 8Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.  NET

Gal 6:1  [Paul:] Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too.  NET

Note that the above instructions appear to have in view people who have repented of their sin.

Note: Unchecked sin corrupts others

1Cor 5:6  [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough?  NET

The “yeast” signifies sin, which if not dealt with can spread throughout the whole church body.

 Questions for Section E

Women in Leadership

In the OT Israelite nation, some women had roles as leaders

Judg 4:4  Now Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.  NET

Mic 6:4  [God, to the Israelites:] In fact, I brought you up from the land of Egypt, I delivered you from that place of slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead you.  NET

In the NT church, some women had significant ministerial roles

Rom 16:1-4  [Paul, to the Roman church:] Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2so that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and provide her with whatever help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many, including me. 3Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4who risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.  NET

Rom 16:6-7  [Paul, to the Roman church:] Greet Mary, who has worked very hard for you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junias, my fellow Jews who are in prison with me and are prominent among the apostles. They were in the Messiah before I was.  ISV

“Junias” (v. 7a) is a female name, often translated as “Junia”; some manuscripts even have “Julia”. Being “prominent among the apostles” (v. 7b) may mean that Andronicus and Junias were considered outstanding by the apostles (cf. CEV) or that they were outstanding apostles (cf. NCV). If the latter is the case, then Paul would be using the term “apostle” in a broad sense, but it would still imply that Junias – a woman – had quite a significant leadership role within the church.

Controversial passages on women not speaking in church

1Cor 14:33b-35, 37  [Paul, to the Corinthian church:] As in all the churches of the saints, 34the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 35If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.37If anyone considers himself a prophet or spiritual person, he should acknowledge that what I write to you is the Lord’s command.  NET

1Tim 2:11-14  [Paul, to Timothy:] Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  ESV

Some take the above teaching on face value, understanding it to mean that women should remain silent in church and not be in positions of teaching or authority, as they are to be “in submission” (1Cor 14:34b) to their husbands. Others believe that in saying that women should remain silent in church, Paul has in view social norms of the day, where apparently it was considered disgraceful for a woman to speak in public. Another view is that these instructions were aimed at curbing noisy and disorderly church meetings – in particular disorderly expression of some spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church (cf. 1Cor 14:26-33a). A further viewpoint is that these instructions were regarding married women, and so not necessarily applicable to all women.

Note: The oneness and interdependence of women and men “in” Jesus Christ

Gal 3:28  [Paul, to the Galatian believers:] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  NET

1Cor 11:11-12  In any case, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman. But all things come from God.  NET

Paul sees women and men – and by association presumably also their roles – as being interdependent (v. 11), in accordance with their interdependence in nature (v. 12).

 Questions for Section F

Church Members’ Duties to Leaders

See also:

Love your leaders

2Cor 8:7a  [Paul, to the Corinthian believers:] You are so rich in all you have: in faith, speech, and knowledge, in your eagerness to help and in your love for us.  GNT

Respect your leaders

1Thes 5:12-13  [Paul, to believers:] We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.  ESV

Listen to your leaders and their teaching

Acts 10:33b  [Cornelius, to Peter:] So now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us.  NET

Obey your leaders

Heb 13:17  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.  ESV

Give your leaders material support . . .

Gal 6:6  Now the one who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with the one who teaches it.  NET

. . . Leaders deserve material support

1Cor 9:4, 7  [Paul, to the Corinthian believers:] Do we not have the right to financial support?7Who ever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk?  NET

 Questions for Section G

Pray for persecuted Christians