The elder in the church

by Matt Slick

The elder is a leader in the Christian church.  It is a divinely-appointed office that is held by men who are able to teach sound doctrine, refute error, be of good reputation, having believing children, who manage their households well, etc.  The elder should not be in office if he is unable to fulfill the requirements of the office, and he should not be chosen because he is a popular figure in the local church.

Being an elder is a high calling, and there are thousands of very godly men in many churches and who seek God and serve Him as best as they can.  But, it is also true that many should not be elders who are in that position.  Women should not be elders.  Men with unbelieving children living with them should not be elders.  And, elders should be able to teach correct doctrine and refute error.  Sadly, many elders cannot do this.

Below is an outline dealing with the subject of "elder."  Pastors, elders, and congregation members should all be careful whom they pick and recommend as elders.  They should not let emotions influence their decisions, so that they choose men who are not qualified.  The church needs to take the office of elder very seriously, and it needs to put the elder to the test according to the guidelines of scripture.  If he is not qualified, he should not be an elder.

  1. The Term "Elder"
    1. PRESBUTEROS--elder, an old man, a leader in the church. The term is used
      1. of the elder of two persons (Luke 15:25, or more, John 8:9).
      2. of a person advanced in age (Acts 2:17; in Heb. 11:2).
      3. of the forefathers in Israel (Matt. 15:2; Mark 7:3, 5).
      4. of members of the Sanhedrin (Matt. 16:21; 26:47).
      5. of those who managed public affairs in the various cities (Luke 7:3).
      6. of those who were the heads or leaders of the tribes and families, as of the seventy who helped Moses (Num. 11:16; Deut. 27:1). This included:
        1. acting as judges in apprehending murderers (Deut. 19:12).
        2. conducting inquests (Deut. 21:2).
        3. settling matrimonial disputes (Deut. 22:15; 25:7).
        4. If theirs was a city of refuge, they also heard pleas for asylum (Joshua 20:4).
      7. of those qualified by the Holy Spirit who exercised spiritual care and oversight of the local congregation.
    2. EPISKOPOI--overseers, bishops
      1. Titus equates bishop and elder in Titus 1:5-9.
  2. Regarding the Office:
    1. The office of Elder is a divinely-appointed office as defined in the Pastoral Epistles.
    2. Elders are apparently appointed by the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).
    3. Should receive double honor in the church (1 Tim. 5:17).
    4. The pastor is an elder who preaches and/or teaches (1 Tim. 5:17).
      1. The pastor (elder) is to equip the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).
    5. Must be a man (Titus 1:5-6).
      1. All uses of "elder" are in the masculine except for 1 Tim. 5:2 where it means older women.
    6. The pastor is an elder (1 Tim. 5:17), and the elder is to be male (Titus 1:5-6).
    7. Based on authority structure which was signified in the order of creation, Adam first, Eve second (1 Tim. 2:12-13).
  3. The Responsibilities of Elders in the NT Church:
    1. Must shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2).
    2. Must voluntarily exercise oversight upon the flock (1 Peter 5:2).
    3. Must live as examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).
    4. Anoint and pray for the sick (James 5:14).
    5. They have the tasks of teaching (1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5,9).
    6. They have the tasks of acting as judges (Acts 15:2, 6, 22-29;16:4).
  4. Qualifications for an elder
    1. Must be above reproach (Elders--Titus 1:6; Bishop--1 Tim. 3:2)
    2. Husband of one wife (Elders--Titus 1:6; Bishop--1 Tim. 3:2).
    3. Household must be in order with children who believe (Titus 1:6 ;1 Tim. 3:4).
    4. Not a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6).
    5. Self-controlled and temperate (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    6. Honorable, hospitable, seeking good (Titus 1:7).
    7. Have a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:7).
    8. Not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3).
    9. Not greedy (1 Tim. 3:3).
    10. Able to exhort (teach) sound doctrine (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:2).
    11. Able to refute false teaching (Titus 1:9).
    12. They must be ready to earn their own living if necessary (Acts 20:17, 33-35).

 

 

 

 
 
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