Assembly Action and Conscience; Majority Having No Place in Discipline; Pastor and Elder; Dissent in Cases of Discipline

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The pastor as such fed and taught: it is directly connected with teaching (under one article in Greek, Eph. 4:1111And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11)), but goes further than teaching, as not merely expounding and putting forth the word, but suiting it to souls, and caring for them in a shepherding way. An elder is an overseer, looks after them in moral oversight. It was desirable that he should be διδακτικός not a proper gift of teacher, but able to use the word in his oversight, as it of course added weight and intelligence to his inspection of their ways; but some had, some had not, this desirable qualification, for it is said "especially they who labor in the word and doctrine." What was proper to them was mature habits of family care which qualified them for the exercise of oversight in general, and subduedness of self, and order. None of these things were looked for in the pastor; it was a positive gift from Christ on high, and exercised in the whole body wherever a person was, whereas an elder was a local overseer of people. The word "elder" which seems to imply generally age enough to give weight to the position, seen also in his having a well-regulated family, but it is not the word used for an old man: married men with a well-ordered subject family they had to be.
As to a majority in discipline: I know nothing of majorities, but of Christ's authority connected with the action of the Holy Ghost. But I do find a principle that, when obedience to the word is secured by the power of the Spirit, all disobedience may be avenged by discipline. If an individual supports positive evil, he comes under the discipline like the person who committed it; but a serious and grave difficulty in a godly man moved by the fear of God may be waited on, that it may be the act τῶν πλειόνων (2 Cor. 2:66Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. (2 Corinthians 2:6)), of the conscience of the body, for they have to prove themselves clear in the matter. In the case of the Corinthians the evil doer stood alone, and was thoroughly humbled, and the οἱ πλείονες were all, the word of the apostle having had power in their conscience, and οἱ π is as to sense justly represented by `the body at large.' It is not πλειόνων, without the article, which in such case makes all the difference, like οἱ πολλοί in Rom. 5 Where there is not capacity so to act, recourse must be had to looking to the Lord, as is said in 1 Cor. 5:22And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:2). Still now we have a plain direction what to do. Only we have to wait on the Lord where the conscience of the assembly is dull, for the principle is, "Ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter." Individuals he still feared might not have personally judged themselves, but as a body they had acted on his letter, and put the person out, and he was humbled. A majority can never act as such: it is a mere human arrangement to come to a conclusion; the conscience of the assembly is not purified, but the assembly divided: nothing is done of the scriptural purpose. When the apostle speaks of Satan's devices, be refers to the effect of self-will in a case of discipline, and a party separation from himself. The object is the conscience of the assembly being pure: a majority denies this. It is possible if evil be sanctioned willfully by some, the rest (but it must be individual conscience, for conscience is always individual) may break with them, but the assembly is broken up. But in the order of God's house a majority has no place at all. Men must have it, because they must decide somehow to get on. As to one disagreeing, if sustaining proved evil—a wicked person—it is disobedience to be avenged in itself; the assembly judges it: if a grave and real difficulty, or supposed, and facts in the case, the assembly would wait. The power of the Spirit of God produces unity (I can suppose an individual not being clear bowing to the general judgment) or judges all disobedience. Only we have not an apostle now, but we have the word, and the Lord to wait upon, and this suffices where He is looked to in grace. If at a loss, we must wait on Him till He shows the way; it may be the Lord is judging the state of the assembly. It is well for grave brethren to ascertain the facts to inform the conscience of the assembly.