Church Elders

The elders of local “autonomous” (self-governing) congregations are the shepherds, pastors, bishops, and overseers. All of these terms are one in the same as we will see. They describe what the “presbytery” (body of elders; 1 Tim.4:14) are and should be.

Paul told Titus to, “set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city…” (Tit.1:5). In the next verse, elders must be the “husband” of one wife. Women cannot hold the office of an elder for the Greek word for husband” is aner meaning “male.” Elders are also composed of senior men since the term elder prebuteros means “aged or older” (1Tim.5:1).

Secondly, elderships are composed of more than one man (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Tit.1:5; Jas.5:14; 1Pet.5:1). Without at least two qualified men serving as elders you can have no eldership.

Thirdly, in Titus 1:5 Paul began speaking of “elders,” and while giving the qualifications referred to them as “bishops” (vs.6-7). Bishop is the Greek word episkopos meaning “overseer.”  Notice, epi means “over,” skopeo means to “look or watch.” Elders look or watch over.  Furthermore, in 1 Peter 5:1 Peter began speaking of elders and in verse 2 said they were to take or exercise the “oversight” episkopeo in the church of God. Moreover, in Acts 20:17 Paul called the Ephesian elders and told them the Holy Spirit had made them “overseers” (v.28).

Fourthly, the elders are supposed to feed the church (Acts 20:17,28). “To feed” is the Greek word poimaino meaning to “tend as a shepherd/pastor.” All of the newer translations have “shepherd” in the text. Corresponding to shepherds is the term “pastors” poimen found in Ephesians 4:11. Look again at Acts 20:28 at how the elders shepherd/pastor “all the flock.” Peter exhorts the church elders and also tells them “to feed” (poimen-shepherd/pastor) the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-2). This includes all the work of a shepherd in that the church is spiritually feed and protected from false teaching wolves (Matt.7:15).

Lastly, some wrongly believe the preacher has authority outside of or alongside the eldership. There is not a N.T. scripture suggesting that preachers are over a local congregation. When preachers have membership in the local congregation they become part of “all the flock” of which the elders have oversight. The authority of preachers is in the word of God they proclaim (1Tim.4:16; Tit.2:1,15), not in themselves as preachers. But the authority of elders comes from the “office of a bishop” they occupy (1Tim.3:1). Elders should “rule well” and be loved, appreciated, and supported (1Tim.5:17; cf. 1Thess.5:12-13; Heb.13:17).

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