Saturday, August 26, 2006

Let Us Understand and Appreciate God’s Glorious Leaders - Elders



Elders and the People of God


While much could be said about the church and the kingdom, believers and their roles and responsibilities as members, and the sufficiency of the word of God, This writing is wanting to look at the rule in the Church through elders also called pastor / teachers, and presbyters. In a Kingdom a king has officers under him with the charge to execute the laws of the kingdom with justice and in honor. In the kingdom of Christ the office bearers chosen to rule are the elders and the people of God are to yield submission and obedience. This is the direction given in the Bible for we are told to " Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account." (Heb. 13:17)

A. . The People Of God Have Been Ruled By Elders Throughout History

a) Old Testament

God's people have been ruled by elders throughout most all of history. When reading the Old Testament you find that the leadership of the elders being Gods designated and delegated leaders was established at the time of Moses. That leadership continues throughout the rest of history.

1) Moses

Exo 3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,

Exo 24:1 Then he said to Moses, "Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.

Lev 4:15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD, and the bull shall be killed before the LORD.

Num 11:16 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.

Deu 21:19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives,

2) The Times of the Judges

Jdg 8:14 And he captured a young man of Succoth and questioned him. And he wrote down for him the officials and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men.

1Sa 6:4 And they said, "What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?" They answered, "Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords.


3) The Time of The Kings


2Ki 19:2 And he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz.


4) The Time of The Captivity


Eze 8:1 In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me there.

Eze 14:1 Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me.

Eze 20:1-2 In the seventh year, in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came to me:


5) The Time After The Capitivity During the Rebuilding


Ezr 5:5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.

Ezr 5:9 Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus, 'Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?

Ezr 6:7-8 & 14 Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River...... And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia;


b) New Testament

A reading of the New Testament indicates that those who were to lead God's people have never changed. Elders were in rule during Christ's earthly ministry as well as being called for in the expanding Church as is called for in the New Testament Scriptures.


1) References to the Rule of Elders At The Time Of Christ's Advent

Reading about the elders at the time of Christ sheds an interesting light. There was the rule by corrupt elders. However, even in their corruption God does not do away with the leading of his people through the office elders. God's people being ruled by elders have never changed since they were first called at the time of Moses.

1) In The Gospels


Mat 15:2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat."

Mar 7:3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders,

Mat 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Mat 21:23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?"

Mat 26:47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

Mat 26:57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.

Mat 27:1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.



2) Acts and The Pastorals


Act 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Tit 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you--


B. Qualifications for the Office the Same in the Old and New Testaments


The elders in both the Old and New Testaments had to meet qualifications. In both Testaments the qualifications are basically the same and focus upon key areas of religious life: :


1. Moral behavior
2. Knowledge of doctrine
3. Family and personal life
4. Developmental time for wisdom in life


The Old Testament passages summarizing the qualifications for elders are: Dt. 1:13; Ex. 18:21. These passages call for the leaders to be wise and have understanding (Dt. 1:13; Ex. 18:21). The Apostle Paul sets the basic qualifications for the elders in the expanding Church of the New Testament expounding on the qualifications helping Christians in the Roman world know how the church was to function (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and TitusLeadership is important whether it is in business, the government of a country or in leading the people of God in the "household of faith". As a society we look for men of character and integrity for leadership. We have difficulty in giving honor to men of questionable character. If you think this is important in civil government then it is even more important in the Church. Therefore, in the Kingdom of God there must be men ordained with knowledge, wisdom and godly character according to the Biblical standards of leadership. This necessity is clear since the "sheep" must be led into "green pastures" and to "calm waters". The leadership call is to lead the sheep and that can only be done as the elders fulfill the "musts" of character qualities stated in the Bible.


a. Old Testament Basic Elder Qualifications


Deu 1:13 Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.

Exo 18:21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.



b. New Testament Basic Elder Qualifications


1 Tim. 3:1-7 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.


Tit 1:5-9 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you-- if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.


C. The People Of God Have Been Ruled By Plurality Of Elders
Throughout History


Church leadership is delegated to a plurality or group of men having certain spiritual and character qualifications (Deut. 1:13; Ex. 18:21;1 Tim 1:3-7) working together (Num. 11:16; Ex 3:16; Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5) to lead God's people in doctrine, worship, holiness and service. The elders are men, under God, ruling together in handling issues and making decisions based on the commands, principals, and precepts of the scripture. Here are the supporting passages:


Num 11:16 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.


Exo 3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,


Act 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.


Tit 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you--


D. Elders Lead In Plurality By the Principles and Precepts of the Word of God


Elders lead not by relying on their own thinking, nor by the persuasion of the people or by pragmatic decision making but by leading together in unity ruling according to the principles, precepts and processes of the Word of God. The elders are representatives of Christ, they must rule according to His kingdom rule and law - the Bible and that for the good of the subjects of the kingdom- Christians.


The benefits of multiple elders in a church leading has many benefits. A couple of them are included here. The first is a diffusion of power. No one person has the power in their hand. Also any bad decisions made by just one man is ended. The plurality of elders takes away weaknesses which happen when one person makes binding decisions upon the church. As we all see so often one man shows often lead to tyranny. The plurality of elders creates a means of "checks and balances". Each elder must study the Bible and to bring it to bear upon the issues that come before the court. They then come together for discussion and to formulate the Bible teaching. They also work together to seek needed practical application of the Bible concerning the doctrine now formulated. With multiple elders abuses of authority that could happen are held in check since all elders are involved in study, decision making, doctrinal formulation and suggested application.


A second benefit is simply that the great tasks of the church related to ruling and guiding the people of God is handled in an easy manner. The many elders with each others gifts, strengths and abilities working in a combined effort makes the job easier and less stressful. Therefore, they are able to lead God's people in a more responsive manner according to the word of God.


Having stated a couple benefits I now want to look at a couple weaknesses that comes from non-biblical leadership in the church. Many Churches, perhaps yours, have just one elder or pastor. Perhaps he makes the decisions or he may defer to the congregation for discussion and a vote. In this type of non-biblical leadership all lead or one leads and both brings their own set of problems.


In the best case the one pastor would be a smart man and take the whole burden of the church upon himself or perhaps he moves the deacons to act as elders and not as deacons or as some combination as elder/deacon. Or perhaps the congregation knows all the Bible and how to apply it in all areas, even the most difficulties of life. But this cannot be the case since the congregation needs led and are at different places in their growth in knowledge and faith.


But wisdom and observation teaches that most men cannot handle that burden of the whole church Even if the pastor does move the deacons in a role elders should do, then the burden of the deacons becomes greater. As far as the congregation voting many are not capable of applying the scriptures in their own lives let alone making decisions and voting on the most difficult church related and member issues. Not all study theology let alone practical theology. These types of "church leadership" are just not biblical. Many churches struggle with major problems due to these types of non-biblical leadership in their church. Thankfully some over the years have moved to put elders in place after seeing the difficulty and the truth of scriptures in eldership rule.



So now it is clear how God has set up his Church. To God be the glory! This isa great thing He has done!!!! AMEN

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