Examining the Relationship Between Elders and the Church

Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

The last two lessons were about a broad look at what the New Testament says about elders and an examination of the qualifications for elders. In this lesson, we will focus on the relationship between elders and the local church. Elders are to be appreciated and esteemed because of their work and the great responsibility that they have.

Appointing Elders

  • Care must be taken – not easy to undo a mistake (1 Timothy 5:19-20; Acts 20:30); not to be done hastily (1 Timothy 5:22); men must be proven (1 Timothy 3:10)
  • But when there are men qualified they need to be appointed – a church without elders is lacking (Titus 1:5); if men are qualified, but unwilling to serve, there is a problem (1 Timothy 3:1); if men are qualified, but the congregation is unwilling to appoint them, there is a problem (3 John 9-10; Matthew 15:9)

Relationship Between Elders and the Congregation

  • Elders are to oversee the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2) – to feed (1 Peter 5:2; Titus 1:9), protect (Acts 20:28-30), and lead (Hebrews 13:17)
  • Elders are to labor diligently (1 Thessalonians 5:12) – not just a title; it is a work that one does (1 Timothy 3:1)
  • The congregation is to submit to them (Hebrews 13:17) – follow them as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17); of course, do not submit to them if they try to lead us astray (Acts 20:30; 5:29)
  • The congregation is to honor them (1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) – they are willingly serving; also, they have spent a lifetime developing the character and ability necessary to serve as an elder
  • The congregation is to pray for them (Hebrews 13:17-18; cf. Ephesians 6:19) – to faithfully and capably do the work
  • The congregation is to work with them (Ephesians 4:11-12, 16) – all are to be working; elders are examples (1 Peter 5:3); we must imitate them (Hebrews 13:7)

Words of Caution

  • Elders are human beings (Ecclesiastes 7:20) – if they sin, do not follow their example (1 Timothy 5:20; 3 John 11); if they begin to teach error, do not accept their teaching (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22); if they make a mistake, be patient (1 Thessalonians 5:14); they have the same limitations that each of us have, which means they cannot do our work for us (Galatians 6:5)
  • The elders who are appointed will not be elders forever (cf. Hebrews 7:23-24; 9:27) – hopefully, they will not be removed from their position because of sin/error (1 Timothy 5:20); however, at some point they will be unable to continue (due to poor health or death)
  • Churches with elders should still be developing future elders – the church should be developing from generation to generation (2 Timothy 2:2); whenever additional men are qualified, they should be appointed; a church cannot have too many elders
  • Appointing elders is not the end goal of a church – it is a next step in doing the Lord’s work; we must not allow the past to hinder us from continuing to serve the Lord (cf. Philippians 3:13-14)


  • Elders and members are to work together to do what God has called the church to do
  • Appointing elders ought to be a natural progression in the life of a congregation
  • In everything, we are seeking to submit to the will of Christ (Ephesians 5:23-24) – follow the plan that He has given for the church in His word

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