Let me begin by asking you a question, why is it important to present a study on elders? Simply because that it’s God’s will that each of His congregations have a sound, scriptural, spiritual leadership in place to tend, feed and guide His people. Now we can clearly see that creation was created with order and so God brought order to the universe.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2

In the original text, the terms formless and void were meant to convey the idea of confusion and disorder. God created the earth to be inhabited, but for a brief time before He created plants, animals, man, light and so forth, the earth was void of anything. If God had just left things the way they were in Genesis 1:2, there would be no life.

The Psalmist in Psalm 8:3-4 said, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?”

And so God set the universe in order and this tells us that our God is a God of order.

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33 

“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:40

And so our God is a God of order who has never left His people without organisation and the role of an elder isn’t anything new.

Elders in the Old Testament
Elders existed before the church had them

a. Among the Gentiles.

Egyptian elders accompanied Jacob’s body back to Canaan.

“And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt.” Genesis 50:7

The nations of Moab and Midian used elders to buy Balaam’s curse.

“The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.” Numbers 22:7

b. Among the Jews Seventy elders were appointed to assist Moses to rule the people.

“The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.” Numbers 11:16

The role of an elder in the Old Testament

1. The elders served as local magistrates, in bringing murderers to trial. Deuteronomy 19:12 / Deuteronomy 21:1 / Joshua 20:4.

2. Punishing a disobedient son. Deuteronomy 21:19.

3. Inflicting penalty for slander. Deuteronomy 22:15.

4. For noncompliance with the Levitical marriage law. Deuteronomy 25:7.

5. Enforcing the Law. Deuteronomy 27:1.

6. Conducting the service in expiation of unwitting violation of the Law. Leviticus 4:13.

Qualifications for an elder in the Old Testament

There are no qualifications laid down in the Old Testament like we have in the New Testament for elders but someone who was older and has lots of experience in life, knows God and His will seems to be the criteria to govern God’s people during the Old Testament.

Elders in the New Testament

The Sanhedrin included elders who would help persecute Jesus.

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”. Matthew 16:21

Elders managed public affairs in various cities.

“The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.” Luk2 7:3

c. In the Heavenly Realms Twenty-four elders surround the throne of God.

“Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads”. Revelation 4:4

“The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:14

In New Testament times, a congregation without elders was the exception, not the rule. The Galatian churches had elders Acts 14:23. The churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia had elders 1 Peter 5:1. The church in Philippi had elders Philippians 1:1. The church in Judea had elders Acts 11:30. The church in Jerusalem had elders Acts 15. The church in Ephesus had elders Acts 21:18. And the church in Crete had elders Titus 1:5.

I will say it again, in New Testament times, a congregation without elders was the exception, not the rule and we need to remember that.

How many elders are required?

In every example we have in the New Testament, there is a plurality of elders in each congregation, never just one elder.

“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.” Acts 20:17

“The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present”. Acts 31:18

Why should a congregation have Elders?

1. Un-scripturally organised.

This means governed by something other than elders and deacons.

2. Scripturally unorganised.

This means something that is expedient, useful or helps us. Business meetings, men’s meetings, the church commits men to lead but this isn’t right because the men aren’t qualified. They have no scriptural authority which means they can’t carry out scriptural discipline. Men need to be spiritually mature enough to do this.

3. Scripturally organised.

This means God governs the church and elders are what God wants in place.

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Acts 14:21-23

Each church, in pagan cities where was no Jews, no synagogues. We can’t say that these elders had a Jewish background and were already familiar with God. Also these elders were in place in ‘Antioch of Pisidia’, ‘Lystra’, ‘Iconium’, and ‘Derbe’ just three months after the churches in these places had been planted. Were these men novices?

They had the gift of supernatural faith. 1 Corinthians 12:9.

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” Titus 1:5

Elders were required in every town, this task was unfinished and not complete until elders were in place. There is a sense of urgency. So we could say that at the moment, some churches are incomplete until they have elders in place.

The office of an Elder is one that is approved by the Godhead

1. The Elder is described as God’s Steward. Titus 1:7

2. The Pastor is an office held with the Son’s approval. Ephesians 4:11

3. The Bishop, ‘overseer’, is appointed through the work of the Holy Spirit. Acts 20:28

What are the roles of the elders?

Their role is described in the Bible names.

1. Elder, ‘presbuteros’.

2. Bishop, ‘episkopos’.

3. Pastors, ‘poimen’.

These words describe a man who is older and experienced in the faith, i.e., ‘an elder’, a person who is a decision maker, manager of church affairs, and leader i.e., ‘bishop’, and one who maintains a careful watch for the spiritual needs of all the members of the flock i.e., ‘pastor’.

Ultimately the role of an elder is to feed, tend, and protect and lead the church. Acts 20:28.

They have a specific role in the work of the church.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13

The gift mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. They are gifts given by the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 4:7-10. Spiritual gifts are only mentioned indirectly because the apostles and prophets of the early church had these gifts.

The apostles were direct witnesses of Christ who then laid the foundation for the church. Accomplishing their duty, they remain with us through their writings in the New Testament. The prophets existed to fill the gap between the establishment of the church and the recording of Christ’s law. They too continue with us today through their writings, but as Paul stated there would not be new prophets once their work was completed.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things”. 1 Corinthians 13:8-11

Evangelists, ‘preachers, ministers’, pastors, ‘elders, bishops, overseers’, and teachers continue to exist in the church teaching the things recorded by the apostles and prophets to build up the church. They are meant to provide leadership for the congregation according to the will of God.

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:1-3

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Eldership. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 And Titus 1:6-9  


"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28