Elders and Their Function in the Local Church

1 Timothy 3

1. The first priority of any local church is to have the presence of God in their midst. The Tabernacle … “That I may dwell among you.” Grieving the Spirit … defiling the Church. 1 Cor 3 Destroy

2. Secondly, it is important for them to have scripturally qualified elders and deacons.

These gifted brothers are not necessary for the assemblies being, but very essential for its well-being.

The future prospect of the assembly movement depends on the Lords presence and blessing and the spiritual leadership and example of godly elders and qualified deacons.

The scripturally sound and fruitful assemblies today are those that are being led by men who have shepherds hearts and who have been raised and equipped by the Holy Spirit.

In essence elders in themselves should not control the assembly. It should be controlled by the Holy Spirit, through them.

The components of a scriptural assembly are clearly defined.

Phil1:1 Saints … bishops … and deacons.

These are distinct functions… they can be in the same individual, but they spring from a different source.

1. to be a “saint” comes from conversion

2. to be a “bishop” comes from desire and character

3. to be a “deacon” springs from spiritual gift.

The work of an elder.

1 Tim 3:1 “If a man desires the office of a bishop, or elder, he desireth a good work”

Another has translated this: “If a man stretcheth himself to overseership.” This implies deep and prolonged exercise before God, and a faithful ministry before man.

There are five duties that should characterize a true elder:

1. He should be a pastor to feed the flock.

2. He should be a sentinel to protect the flock.

3. He should be a pillar to support the flock.

4. He should be an administrator to guide/govern the flock.

5. He should be an example to encourage the flock.

In 1 Tim 3:5, the Spirit reveals to us that the elder has to “take care of the Church of God”

He has to act on behalf of the Great Shepherd, as an “undershepherd”.

His duties to the flock are laid out in Isa 40:11.

1. He has to feed the flock like a shepherd.

2. He has to gather the lambs in his arms.

3. He has to carry them in his bosom.

4. He has to gently lead those that are with young.

The shepherd does not abandon the wounded sheep.

An elder should bind up the wounds … he should comfort the distressed.

He should help those who fall into the hand of the enemy.

Luke 10:30-31

These same thoughts are espoused in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

When the Samaritan saw the unfortunate man, he had compassion on him. He bound up his wounds … poured in oil and wine … then set him on his own beast … brought him to an inn … and took care of him. Then finally he made provision for his future.

To every elder, Jesus says, “Go thou and do likewise.”

This same caring can be seen in Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonian church.

1 Thess 2

He was a mother to them … father … brother … and nurse.

He exhorted them … encouraged them … he poured out his soul to them because they were dear to him.

In John 10 the Lord describes the character and work of the Good Shepherd, every under shepherd should emulate these characteristics.

1. The sheep hear his voice—Authority

2. He called his sheep by name—Relationship

3. He leadeth them out—He is a leader

4. He goeth before them—He is a provider

5. The sheep follow him—Because they love him

6. The sheep know his voice—Recognition

7. He desires for them abundant life—Spiritual welfare

8. He will give his life for them if necessary—He loves them

9. He knows the sheep and they know him—Mutual respect and affection.

10. He does all this that there may be one flock and one Shepherd.

The work of a true elder is endless … it is sacrificial … it is demanding.

When Paul addressed the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 he exhorted them.

1. To take heed or to take care of themselves. Elders must watch every step … action … and word.

2. They were to take care of “all” the flock Not one sheep or lamb was to be neglected.

3. They were to oversee the church. As guides and leaders they were to supervise the church

4. As under shepherds, or pastors, they were to feed the church. That is they were to feed them the Word … they were to tend their every spiritual need.

5. Verse 32 suggests that they were to be sentinels

This is a very important role today. Wolves arise among the people of God from time to time. They are cunning and cruel ready to destroy the flocks. Elder brethren must be awake and alert and as a sentinel warn and protect the flock.

The example to the elder of the sacrificial nature of his work is the Lord Jesus in His present ministry for us.

1 Peter 2:25

As the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, the Lord’s ministry is perpetual. It does not cease day nor night.

Hebrews 4:15

We have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. In his role of “high priest” He watches over our souls … carefully…increasingly … effectively.

As true elders we should follow His steps. 1 Peter 2:21

As under shepherds we should descend into the valleys seeking green pastures and still waters.

We should ascend into the lonely mountains seeking those who have gone astray.

The Qualifications of an Elder

The Holy Spirit would designate the men of His choice in many ways.

Consider 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1

These qualifications touch the elder in all parts of his life.

There is the Spiritual …Moral … Social… Intellectual … Experiential

The Scripturally qualified elder must exhibit these characteristics in every part of his life.

The importance of this office is borne out by the fifteen qualifications necessary before one can hold the position or claim to be an elder.

These qualifications fall into three categories.

1. There is general character qualifications.

        a. An elder must be blameless. Quality of character. This standard must be attained and maintained by the elder. As long as this is true of him he qualifies. The measuring of blameless here is … No accusations can be made against him. No finger can be pointed at him. Please note it is not sinless but blameless.

        b. The husband of one wife. Must not have more than one wife living at one time. Blameless morally and blameless martially.

        c. Temperate. Having the full use of his faculties.

        d. Soberminded. Possessing a well balanced and properly regulated mind.

        e. Of good behavior. Ordering well his outer and inward life.

        f. Given to hospitality. He cares for believing visitors, and is hospitable to others in fellowship.

        g. Apt to teach. He has the willingness and skill to teach.

2. The second group of qualifications set forth the elder in his actions towards others.

        a. Not given to much wine, but rather to be filled with the Spirit.

        b. He is to be a non-violent man. Not quick tempered, not given to fighting.

        c. Not greedy of filthy lucre. The desire for money is not the ruling passion of his life.

        d. He should be patient … gentle – mindful of the feelings of others.

        e. He is not a brawler … He must have full control of his tongue and limbs.

        f. He is not covetous … free from avarice.

        g. One that ruleth his own house well … one whose children are under subjection. If a man cannot rule his own home, he is scripturally disqualified from overseership. The elder must be the head of his own house.

        h. A novice must not assume the place of an elder. A young believer cannot be an elder. Not a novice. A younger man can be an elder providing that he is mature.

The words bishop and elder are interchangeable.

The description “bishop” would designate the elders work as a leader. Where as “elder” would point to the personal dignity and spiritual maturity of one holding that office.

Finally we have the elder qualification relative to the community at large. A good name! He must have a good report = testimony to them within and without the church.

Any man who exhibits the above qualifications has been raised by the Holy Spirit to be an elder. The local church should recognize him as such.

Men of the above caliber are in short supply – they are a rarity – and are becoming an endangered species.

To meet the need of having elders some assemblies have resorted to unscriptural methods to obtain them.

1. Some like Israel have chosen or selected men and in many instances have received a Saul to their sorrow.

2. In other places all male members are invited to a business meeting. This is unscriptural … many who attend are novices … some have unruly homes … others have no testimony either within or without. Brothers of this sort are excluded from oversight by the Word.

3. In some assemblies there are no recognized elders. In a situation like this the sheep can be confused.

The Word says that:

1. We are to “know” them who have the rule over us.

2. We are exhorted to “submit” to the elders.

3. We are commanded to “obey them” who have the rule over you.

How are elders appointed?

Let us take two examples, one from the O.T. and one from the N.T.

Numbers 11:16 “Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be elders of the people.:

There were many elders in Israel who were figureheads. But it was from among those who were functioning as elders that the seventy were to be chosen.

Acts 20:28 Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.

These elders were not ordained by Paul or the church at Ephesus. Neither were they self-appointed. They were raised up by the Holy Spirit … they were doing the work of an elder and were recognized by the church.

Those in fellowship at Ephesus knew their name … knew their work and had confidence in them.

True elders should be loved and obeyed. Self-appointed and scripturally disqualified men should be ignored as elders.

Do elders function today?

Yes, thank God, there are some … maybe very much in the minority.

There are only a few who spend sleepless nights, travailing in spirit – literally weeping for the erring.

There are only a few who can refute false doctrine from the Scriptures.

There are only a few who can give a clear scriptural reason for our ways of meeting.

Most so called elders are really deacons. Mot elders meetings in reality are deacons meetings.

Our assemblies are hurting because of these things.

It is our prayer that God will raise up men – leaders – fully qualified as elders. Our future as assemblies depends on this. No assembly will even rise above the spirituality of its elders.

The Believer’s Attitude to Their Elders

Hebrews 13:17

“Obey them who have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you.”

Hebrews 16:7

“Remember them who have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their manner of life.”

1 Timothy 5:1

“Rebuke not an elder, but plead with him respectfully, just as though he was your own father.”

1 Timothy 5:17

“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine.”

1 Timothy 5:19

“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.”

Godly elders should be obeyed … respected … prayed for … and their godly examples followed.