Examining the New Testament Passages About Elders

Text: Acts 14:23

When considering elders, we need to examine what the New Testament says about them. This lesson will focus on passages that speak about elders. The next lessons will look more closely at the qualifications for elders and the relationship between elders and the church.

Acts 11:29-30

  • Elders are responsible to oversee the work of the congregation (cf. 1 Peter 5:2) – in this case, the work was benevolence, but it would include other works as well; they may have others assist in the work (deacons, preachers, members), but they oversee it
  • They are to “take care of the church” (1 Timothy 3:5) – just as a father manages his house

Acts 14:23

  • To be a plurality of elders in each congregation
  • Appointing elders is to be done seriously and according to the will of God – “prayed with fasting
  • This is to be a priority – nothing said in this verse about “hiring” a preacher or appointing deacons; a church is lacking without elders (Titus 1:5)

Acts 15:4-6

  • When a question arose about a doctrinal matter, the elders were involved in the discussion – note that this was a transition period between apostle oversight and elder oversight
  • When questions arise in a congregation, elders are to be involved in discussing them (Acts 15:22-23)

Acts 20:17, 28-32

  • Made overseers by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28) – through the word (qualifications) that have been given (cf. Ephesians 6:17; John 16:13)
  • Must be on guard (Acts 20:28) – watchful for threats against the church
  • They can fall away and lead others away (Acts 20:30) – no one is perfect (1 Corinthians 4:6; 10:12)

Ephesians 4:11-12

  • Given by God for a purpose – not just a title that is bestowed upon someone
  • To equip the saints (Ephesians 4:12) – to help all of us do what we need to do as members of the Lord’s church (Ephesians 4:16)

1 Timothy 5:17-22

  • Those who rule well are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17) – for his life and his work
  • Can be involved in the work of preaching (1 Timothy 5:17), but not necessarily – whether he preaches or not, he must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2) and do so (Titus 1:9; Hebrews 13:7)
  • Process given for rebuking an elder in sin (1 Timothy 5:19-21) – must be a credible charge; must be handled impartially
  • Appointment is not to be done hastily (1 Timothy 5:22) – not that it should be a long, drawn-out process; but it is to be done carefully

Hebrews 13:7, 17

  • They are to live in such a way that we can imitate their example of faith (Hebrews 13:7)
  • We are to obey and submit to them (Hebrews 13:17) – necessary caveat (1 Timothy 5:20; Acts 5:29); we must do what we can to make their work joyous and not grievous
  • They provide spiritual oversight and guidance (Hebrews 13:17)

James 5:14

  • Part of exercising oversight is to care for those with physical needs – not necessarily to personally provide ongoing care (Acts 6:1-3); but again, they have oversight
  • Not omniscient – they must be called in order to be able to respond

1 Peter 5:1-4

  • Shepherd the flock among them (1 Peter 5:2) – feed (Titus 1:9); protect (Acts 20:28-30); lead (Hebrews 13:7)
  • Must be willing to serve in this role (1 Peter 5:2)
  • Lead according to God’s will, not their own will (1 Peter 5:2-3) – must remember that they are subject to Christ (1 Peter 5:4)

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