The Lord being willing, Tabernacle Bible-Presbyterian church will be
having her Annual Congregation Meeting (ACM) on 1 July 2023. The
General Election of the Church Session will also be held at the ACM this
year according to Article 12.1 of the constitution. The Church Session
consists of elders and deacons. All active communicant members aged 18
and above shall be eligible to participate in voting at the election.

Article 12.2 of the constitution gives us a good guide on what we have to
abide, in considering those who can be suitable candidates:

12.2 Candidates shall satisfy the requirements listed in 1 Timothy 3,
Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5. Additionally, to ensure better objectivity in
selection, they shall fulfill the following conditions.

12.2.1 Demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt, and over a
sufficient length of time, that they are faithful and mature
members of the Body of Christ and faithfully devote
themselves to personal prayer and study of the Word.

12.2.2 Attend public worship and prayer meetings of the Church
regularly unless prevented from doing so for valid

12.2.3 Make a careful study of the Constitution, in particular the
Principle and Practice of Biblical Separation, and fully
accept it.

12.2.4 Be willing to participate wholeheartedly in the ministry of
the Church and to devote time, talents and resources in
such ministry which shall include serving in the various
departments of the Church.

In the coming weeks, we shall study the scriptural teachings of the
qualifications of elders and deacons so that we may all vote biblically,
faithfully and responsibly in the coming General Election.

Plurality of Elders

The Bible teaches us that the church is governed by a group of men
known as elders or presbyters. Two terms are used to described these
men. The first is the Greek term episkopos, from which we get the
English term “episcopal”. This term emphasises the responsibilities and
duties of the elder as an overseer, caring for the spiritual welfare of the
flock of God’s church. This Greek word is often rendered as “bishop” in
the King James Version (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Tit. 1:7; see also Acts
20:28 where it is rendered as “overseers”). The other term is the Greek
word presbuteros, from which we get the English term “presbyter” or
“presbyterian”. This term emphasises the honour and graveness that is
attached to the office, and is often translated as “elder” in the King James
version. The elder is thus a man who is spiritually matured and qualified,
and is also called to watch over the flock of God (1 Tim. 3:1-2; Tit. 1:5).

We also make the following observations concerning the appointment of
elders. Firstly, the elder must be a man as the terms episkopos and
presbuteros is always found in the masculine, when used pertaining to the
office of an elder. Secondly, we observe that there is a plurality of elders
governing the church (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4, 6; 20:17; Phi. 1:1; Tit. 1:5; 1
Pet. 5:1-2). Thus, there is a Board of Elders (BOE). This stands in contrast
with the Episcopalian government as practiced by the Roman Catholic
Church and the Anglicans, where the rule of government is vested in one
man (the Pope or the Archbishop) who makes all the executive decisions.
On the other hand, it stands in contrast with the Congregational system,
where the rule of government is manifested in the entire congregation.
The final authority of any decision on practice or doctrine is vested in the
people. While some of these churches may have elders, they function
more like advisers rather than overseers of the congregation. The
congregation have the power to accept or reject any advice that is given to
them by the elders. Churches who follow this form of government include
the Brethren churches.

Why is there a need for a plurality of elders? This is because the burden
and labour of the spiritual oversight of God’s people is just too huge for
one person to bear. This was the confession of Moses in Deuteronomy 1:9
that, “I am not able to bear you myself alone”. Thus he listened to the
wise advice of his father-in-law Jethro, to let his burden of judging the
congregation of Israel be shared with “wise men” of “understanding”
among the tribes. Moses’ charge to them was as such, “Ye shall not
respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the
great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s:
and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear
it.” (Deut. 1:17) They are men of truth (c.f. Exo. 18:21-23) who will judge
objectively from the Scriptures and without respect of persons. Similarly,
the elders in the New Testament church are men who need each other in
exercising faithful spiritual oversight of God’s church. They are labourers
together with God (1 Cor. 3:9).

This principle of division and distribution of labour is also extended to the
entire congregation. Are not each one of us who are called by the name of
Christ, members of the body of Christ? Thus, each of us have a particular
and vital function to perform in the body, “But now hath God set the
members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they
were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many
members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have
no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.Nay,
much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are
necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less
honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our
uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts
have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given
more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no
schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one
for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with
it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor.

The cooperation among the BOE is thus to be a picture of how members
in the church should work with one another, in building the spiritual
testimony of Christ. When there is much quarrelling, fighting and division
among the BOE, it is inevitable that there will be schism among the
congregation. If the elders within the BOE do not see that they need each
other and regard one another as enemies, how will the congregation learn
that they are all members of the heavenly family and brethren of the Lord
Jesus Christ? On the other hand, if elders in the BOE help one another
lovingly in the truth to grow in the Lord, it will be a most beautiful picture
of what a church family should be like. The plurality of elders in the BOE
is thus meant to demonstrate what unity in Christ and in the truth should
be like. They must be the first practitioners of, “endeavouring to keep the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3)

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew