Was the Apostle Paul serious when he wrote that church elders must be “above reproach?”

Unfortunately, the public exposure of the sins of church leaders has become commonplace, and often we discover their faults existed even before they entered the ministry. Even worse is when the committees that appointed them knew about their proclivities beforehand but selected them all the same.

In part, these sorry situations develop when elders, pastors, and ministry boards ignore very clear and unambiguous teachings in the New Testament. I understand the desire to recruit preachers and prophets that speak well and draw crowds, but eloquence and sex appeal are no substitutes for sound teaching and holy conduct.

In the rush to place charismatic and popular individuals in our pulpits, cooler heads do not always prevail. “Doing one’s due diligence” becomes an inconvenient irritant all too easily discarded.

But the Apostle Paul taught that an “overseer must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate,” etc. A man appointed to leadership must be above reproach among church members AND the larger surrounding community.

Of course, none of this is rocket science. You do not take a man with a track record of sexual sins, intolerance, financial improprieties, or mental abuse and appoint him to lead God’s sheep – (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

I am not talking about difficult or unclear passages. You do not need the gift of discernment or an angelic visitation to understand this. Just read the plain text of the New Testament.

Take another example, this one from one of today’s leading “prophets.” Jesus declared that no one EXCEPT THE FATHER ALONE knows the day or hour of His Son’s return. It does not take a doctorate in languages to understand that the one and only exception to this rule is God, period, end of discussion.

Nevertheless, our erstwhile “prophet” wrote that “Jesus didn’t say the last generation would not know” the timing of that event. Talk about false logic, arguing from the Lord did not say! Unfortunately, “Sledgehammer Hermeneutics” has become the modus operandi of the End-Times Prophecy Industry. Just keep pounding the round peg until it “fits” into the square hole.

The examples can be multiplied quite easily. One reason why some church leaders wander so far off the biblical ranch is that they ignore or even reject plain scriptural passages and sound principles of interpretation in the pursuit of deeper “spiritual” experiences, power, popularity, or packing the church building full every Sunday.

Paul instructed the Galatians that if anyone, even an “angel from heaven,” proclaimed another gospel than what they had received from him, “let him be accursed!” Strong words. Sadly, all too often today, the practice is to ignore and push Scripture aside whenever it inconveniences someone’s latest vision, spiritual fad, whatever.

The results of ignoring Scripture are never good in the long run and doing so is shortsighted. And I write this as someone who spent years in Pentecostal churches and continues to believe in the baptism in and gifts of the Spirit. It grieves me to say this, but the problem is especially acute in the Charismatic Movement where reliance on New Testament teachings has been replaced by an ever-increasing emphasis on the experiential, the metaphysical, and the mystical.

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