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, 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, 1 Corinthians 14:33 / 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, Genesis 50:7.

The nations of Moab and Midian used elders to buy Balaam’s curse, Numbers 22:7.

b. Among the Jews Seventy elders were appointed to assist Moses to rule the people. 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, Matthew 16:21.

Elders managed public affairs in various cities, Luk2 7:3.

c. In the Heavenly Realms Twenty-four elders surround the throne of God, Revelation 4:4 / 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, Acts 20:17 / 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, 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, 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, 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, 1 Peter 5:1-3.

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


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