Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:Philippians 1:1
We saw last time that Jesus is the Head of His Church and all of His followers are brothers. However, each one is gifted in different ways for different aspects of service. Although there are many gifts and callings God has ordained for there to be two main offices within the church. These offices are elders and deacons. We will look today at the office of elder.
Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:Exodus 3:16
In a culture largely structured around the family, elders were a natural part of Jewish life. The Bible does not record the origin of elders; all we know is that they were recognized as the leaders in Israel. In Exodus 18 many of these elders became recognized as judges within the nation. Jewish culture had elders within each city that would decide legal disputes, give advice, etc. They would normally gather at the city gates. The Jewish elders were mature men who had demonstrated a life of character. They were men who had proven their ability by leading their families and were well respected within the community.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.Acts 14:21-23
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.Titus 1:5-9
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.1 Timothy 3:1-7
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.1 Timothy 3:11
Paul’s ministry pattern was first to go and make disciples. He would then return to each church and ordain elders from the mature believers. When he was unable to personally set aside elders he would often send someone else to do the work. This was one of the primary reasons that Paul left Titus in Crete. Titus needed to ordain elders within the church there. Timothy was to do the same thing where ever he was called to serve.
Like Jewish elders, these men were to be proven leaders within the community of believers. They were to be men of character. This character was evident in the way they handled themselves and lead their families. Again, elders fit perfectly into the idea of the church as a family. Just as particular brothers demonstrate wisdom and leadership within a family, so churches will naturally have mature men display the wisdom and character of an elder.
We cannot over-emphasize enough that character is what qualifies an elder, not charisma or public speaking abilities. Virtually every elder/pastor who has fallen has fallen because of poor character not a lack of personal charm.
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.Acts 20:17
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.Acts 20:28-31
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
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:James 5:14
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.1 Peter 5:1-3
There are three terms used to describe elders: elders, bishops, and pastors. The term elder refers to spiritual maturity. The term bishop literally mean overseer or one who watches over. Pastor refers to a shepherd. These terms properly convey what it means to serve as a pastor/elder. They are to be mature believers who watch over the church and shepherd the souls of the people. Because of the enormity of the task, each church should have multiple elders.
Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;1 Timothy 5:1
Elders are to be seen as the mature “fathers” of the church who help guide the family. As Peter instructed, elders should not be demanding or exacting of the people of God. Like a loving father they should help guide the church to follow Christ. However, Jesus is the true Pastor and God is the Father of the flock.