Question:

Question

Answer:

If an elder sins, who removes him from office?

Paul told Timothy, "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality" (I Timothy 5:19-21).

The office of an elder is one of great honor. "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine" (I Timothy 5:17). As a result, charges against an elder are not to be flippantly made nor entertained.

When anyone sins within the church, brethren are told to properly judge the matter. External courts are not to be use. "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!" (I Corinthians 6:1-8).

It appears from the instructions given to Timothy that preachers act as the presiding judge when a charge is brought against an elder. It is extremely important that the preacher act impartially in such matters as his actions reflect upon the honor of the church. Hence, no "trial" is made unless there is verifiable evidence that a sin has occured. By stating that there must be two or three witnesses, Paul is saying there must be multiple, independent evidence regarding the matter. It can be from people seeing a wrong happen or physical evidence that the sin occured.

An elder who is judged to have sinned is to be publically rebuked. He holds a public office and his misdeeds have stained the honor of the church and the office he holds. A public rebuke reminds the congregation that no one, even an elder, is above being obedient to the law of Christ.

Nothing is directly stated about removing an elder from his office, but it is reasonable to assume that a man who no longer meets the qualifications for being an elder can no longer hold the office. A man who remains in sin and refuses to repent is no longer qualified. Since it is the preacher's duty to deliver the rebuke, it would seem reasonable that it would be the preacher who would announce that a man is no longer an elder.

However, please notice that the removal of an elder is not at the sole discression of a preacher. The elder must act in such a way as to be disqualified for the office. Charges must be brought. Multiple evidence must be presented and weighed. A decision must be reached that the elder has sinned. Only then should a decision be made as to whether the judged sinner should remain an elder, and much of that decision will be determined by the man's response to his rebuke. Since I Corinthians 6 speaks of saints judging, it is reasonable that one or more members would be selected to make the determination -- members who are qualified to make a fair and impartial determination. The preacher is expected to take the lead in this judgment and he is expected to carry out the decision reached.

As with the appointment of elders. The preacher must not blindly carry out the will of men (I Timothy 5:22). People do make mistakes. He must agree that the proper decision was made.


Related items on this website:

Who appoints elders?
Must an elder have faithful children?
Can a man be both a preacher and an elder?
What is meant by an elder being the husband of one wife?

March 15, 2005