Are the elders of the church held to the same standard of discipline as other members?
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.James 3:1-2
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.Matthew 12:36
Teachers and preachers are held to a higher standard than others Christians. This is primarily by God Himself; teachers will give an account for everything they teach.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.Hebrews 13:17
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.Luke 12:42-48
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.1 Peter 5:1-4
Elders will give an account for every soul entrusted to their care. At Jesus’ return He will judge how the sheep have been treated by their elders.
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.1 Timothy 5:17-25
Elders should be honored, respected, and held in high esteem by the congregation. The congregation should see that their physical needs are met. However, this does not mean that elders are beyond discipline or have lifetime appointments. Because elders are to have such a position of honor, they are held to a higher standard. If an elder falls into sin (confirmed by multiple witnesses) he is to be publically rebuked before the whole church even if he is repentant. Elders serve as examples to the flock, and you cannot have an elder be a bad example without correcting it before the whole church. Should the elder have disqualified himself through that sin, he should also be publically removed from the office of elder. This does not mean that a church should not strive to help an restore an elder. Churches have failed many elders by not seeking to restore their fallen brothers.