Sunday, June 29, 2014

Who is an Elder?

biblical eldership

First Timothy 3:1-13
 “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.  Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons, obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” NKJV

The New Testament uses four terms to describe the leadership of the Church.

Elder: derived from the Greek word presbuteros – this places emphasis upon the authority that the leadership has to teach or rule in the Church.

Bishop: derived from the Greek word Episkopos or overseer which emphasizes the fact that the leadership is charged with overseeing the local Church and as such is responsible for the spiritual well-being of those in the Church.

Pastor: derived from the Greek word poimen – shepherd which places emphasis upon the responsibility of the leadership of the Church to shepherd the flock. No shepherd has ever given birth to his sheep. It is the responsibility of those in leadership to do for the sheep what they cannot do for themselves and to make sure that they are in good spiritual condition so that they can do what comes naturally, that is, beget the sheep.

Deacon: derived from the Greek word diakonos – minister or servant which places emphasis upon the attitude that the leaders are to have in their leading. They are not to “lord it over” the flock but are to realize that they are the ministers or servants of those whom the Lord has put upon their care. 

The words "elder", "Bishop", and "pastor" are used interchangeably and refer to the same office – the office of the elder. They only describe aspects of the elder’s job in the Church. It was not until very much later that the pastor or bishop became offices separate from the eldership of the Church. Paul, Peter and John all described themselves as elders.

The Office of the Elder

The first mention of the appointment of elders in the New Testament was in Acts 14:23 (but the principle has earlier been mentioned in Acts 11:30). Others mentions include Acts 20:27-28 and First Thessalonians 5:12-13. Kenneth Wuest, a Greek Scholar, in his book “Word Studies in Philippians” page 28, writes:
“The word bishop is the translation of a Greek word used in secular pursuits of an overseer in any capacity; for instance, the official in charge of the repairing of a temple or an officer in an army. The word itself means “to look upon”. Paul uses it as another name for an elder, the later being title of the office so far as statutes in the Church is concerned, the former being the title that indicated the responsibility and activity of the office, that of overseeing the spiritual welfare of the local Church. He is the custodian of the doctrines, rules and regulations, and the spiritual life of the local Church. The Bishop and the elder are one and the same person  (Acts 20:17, 28)”
From the foregoing, the function of the office of the elder is two-fold: teaching and ruling (First Timothy 5:17). An elder is to be able to teach his people what the Word of God teaches and to give direction as to how that is to be accomplished in and through the local Church.

One to be appointed an elder in the local Church should fulfill all of the following:

1. He should know what the ordinances, doctrines and rules of the Church are  (Matthew 28:19-20)

2. He should be a man of prayer (First Timothy 2:1)

3. He should be able to warn the flock of impending attacks from outside (Second Timothy 4:1,6; Acts 20:29-31)

4. He should study the Word and not be tossed about by wind of doctrine and teachings (Second Timothy 2:15)

5. He should preach the Word and not ideas or opinions (First Timothy 4:11-16)

6. He should exhort and rebuke those who go astray from the Word (First Thessalonians 5:12; Titus 2:15)

7. He should watch over souls:
  • His own soul (Colossians 4:17; First Timothy 4:16; 6:11; Acts 20:28)
  • Those of others (Acts 20:28-31; Hebrews 13:17)

8. He should be able to feed and lead the flock (Acts 20:28; First Peter 5:2)

9. He is to be an example to all (First Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:7; Second Thessalonians 3:9; First Corinthians 11:1; 4:16; Philippians 3:17; First Peter 5:3)

10. He should have four perspectives (Acts 20:19-22; 28-35)
  • A right perspective towards God (verses 19 and 28)
  • A right perspective towards the Church (verses 20-28b; 32)
  • A right perspective towards the lost (verse 21)
  • A right perspective towards himself (verse 22)

11. He should be devoid of self interest (Acts 20:33-35)

In every congregations, God has men whom He has raised over the years to mature to the position of leadership. Men, who should be able to give the Church of God the right perspective, and priorities and direction. In subsequent messages the qualifications and other things that we need to know and bear in mind in choosing our elders will be discussed.

It is my prayer that the Lord will choose men after His own heart to lead the local Church to God’s desired goal.

God bless you all.

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