We have been considering the requirements of God upon those who would be leaders in His church. (179) We have been asking the question: When God speaks, of what value is religion that disobeys what He says? (177) In respect to church leadership we have seen that God condemns both polygamy and the requirement that church leaders be unmarried. He rejects the former as unsuitable to leadership because it sends the wrong signal about male dominion, and He rejects the latter because it comes from demons (I Timothy 4:1-3). We have also seen that since church leaders establish both doctrine and tradition, there is probably no more important concept for leadership for the Church than the concept that God really means what He says.
However, in our generation we are hard put to find churches that really believe that God means what He says about the leaders of the local churches. That seems to be a very strange thing seeing that the teachings of Christ have been in the hands of everyone who has a Bible over a span of almost 2,000 years. Why is it that instead of churches that are led by qualified, married, male leaders we find churches that are led by women, enforced celibates, children (youth who are too young to be qualified by maturity in almost any sense of the word), councils made up of people who don't do ministry (they just make the rules for those who do), and cultic personalities who thrive on promoting a one man show? Is the wisdom of God really so foolish that we can set it aside with impunity?
How can this be? In one word, the answer is "Tradition". People do what they are accustomed to doing. They do not ask if what they are doing agrees with the teachings of the Bible; or, if they do, they give the innocuous answer that they believe the Bible when it is obvious they don't know what it says. How can we believe what we do not know?
It is interesting that Jesus reserved His most scathing words for religious leaders who set up traditions that ended up being contradictory to the Word of God. Those same religious leaders had the same defenses in that day that religious leaders have today (We know what the Bible says; We have studied the Scriptures; We are the sons of God; etc.), but the plain fact was that they cared more about maintaining their traditions than they did about the Word of God. And Jesus let them know where they were headed with their wrong-headed exaltation of the desires of men over the revealed will of God.
As I write these articles week after week, I wonder if, when push comes to shove, people will let God speak through His Word, or if religious tradition is so set that even God's voice is muted into a mere whisper that few ever hear. The answer, of course, is at the leadership level of the local church. Where you have multiple, godly, married, elder-leadership, you have the Word of God being made known. Where you have anything else, the voice has been muted. Can you hear Him?