Where does the idea of elder come from? What are the qualifications of an elder? What is the role of an elder in the Church? Let's explore these things from Scripture.
These are the notes taken live during services as captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. This is not a word for word transcript. For the exact wording, please consult the audio recording.
The office of those responsible for teaching God’s people has morphed over the years. Consider Abraham. He had an office that was prophetic. He was told his descendants would be as numerous as the sand of the shore. There were judges. There were priests. The priests worked on the sacrifices. There was the period of the prophets, where God would under inspiration communicate His thoughts through a prophet. There were good kings and bad kings. Synagogues were established in most cities. They were run by the elders. There were three offices in the synagogue: The priests, the scribes, and ? It is interesting that Christ did not use the priesthood as the model for teaching his disciples. Jesus saw a need for a ministry, not a priesthood. I want to review where the NT ministry came from. Why are we here? Acts 1:15 Acts 1:15And in those days Peter stood up in the middle of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
American King James Version×He goes on and speaks to them about how Judas had betrayed. How they had to fill that office. Acts 1:23 Acts 1:23And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
American King James Version×It is interesting that is was “they”. It wasn’t just Peter. We don’t know how they got down from the 120 to 2. But they whittled it down. Matthias was chosen. This is the last time casting lots was used. They recognized the need for structure. Acts 2:41 Acts 2:41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.
American King James Version×Three thousand in one day. Talk about rapid growth for a new young church. The apostles realized they couldn’t keep up. Twelve of them, 120 others, 3000 more; they couldn’t keep up. Acts 6:1-7 Acts 6:1-7  And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples to them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.  Why, brothers, look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.  And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:  Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
American King James Version×The apostles didn’t discount the fact that needs were being overlooked. Vs. 1 – We don’t have time to go through why this was such an issue. It is a fascinating Bible study for you. Vs. 2 – The apostles validated their concern. They didn’t blow them off. But they also said they couldn’t stop preaching to take care of this need. Both were important in their own right. Vs. 5 – Here is the beginning of the office of deacon. Vs. 6 – The ordination is done through the laying on of hands. It is through prayer in that ceremony.
Acts 8:4-15 Acts 8:4-15  Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ to them.
 And the people with one accord gave heed to those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.
 And there was great joy in that city.
 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:
 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John:
 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×Vs. 5 – Phillip was one of the deacons ordained in chapter 6. Vs. 9 – Simon, through sorcery, was able to accomplish miracles. Vs. 14 – They had to go because they had just been baptized. Vs. 15 – One of the functions of the ministry is after baptism, to lay hands, and ask that the spirit be about that person. Each office in the church is an honor to serve in. It is not about pride. Acts 9:10-17 Acts 9:10-17  And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.  And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays,  And has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.  Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem:  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on your name.  But the Lord said to him, Go your way: for he is a chosen vessel to me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:  For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.  And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×At the beginning of this chapter, Saul thought he was doing the Lord’s work. And he was struck down. He went forth with gusto and was killing off God’s people. Ananias was told to go see Saul. No doubt he knew very well who Saul was and what he had been doing. Vs. 17 – Another instance of the hands being laid on someone. Back in Acts 8:17 Acts 8:17Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×, hands were laid on to receive the Holy Spirit. Here in Acts 9:17 Acts 9:17And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×, it is for healing. 1 Peter 5:1 1 Peter 5:1The 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:
American King James Version×Peter referred to himself as an elder. But we also know he was a great apostle. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13  And we beseech you, brothers, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;  And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
American King James Version×Good News - Paul elaborated on these concepts to the congregations under his care. He wrote to the members in Thessalonica. The term over you is the same Greek word Paul used in writing to Timothy to describe the roles of elders and deacons. Paul was very aware that there would need to be some form of oversight in the Church. This oversight would not be controlling, but would function to care for, to protect, to act as a guardian of those within the Church.” The role of the ministry is to care and serve and protect those God is calling and has chosen.
Ephesians 1:22-23 Ephesians 1:22-23  And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
 Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.
American King James Version×Here Jesus is described as the living Head of the Church. Our current structure is very temporary. Whether we have a collaborative structure or one man. If anyone says this is my church, send up the flags and sound the alarm. This Jesus Christ’s church. Ephesians 4:4-13 Ephesians 4:4-13  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.  (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?  He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×These are things we all share. Why do we have to be divided? UCG here, another organization there? Who knows where all of God’s people are, but God Himself? We all share God. I was discussing the place of safety this week with someone. What will happen in the place of safety? UCG over here; this group over there; there are ropes separating them. Oh, no, I can’t talk to them. They are not part of the called ones. Vs. 7 – Those that are baptized are recipients of God’s grace. As we acknowledge our sins and battle to follow Him, He forgives us. He longs to bring us into His family. With every inch of His being, He wants us to stay strong. Vs. 11 – “Apostle” means a delegate. One sent forth with orders. G652 ἀπόστολος apostolos ap-os'-tol-os From G649; a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ (“apostle”), (with miraculous powers): - apostle, messenger, he that is sent.
Thayer Definition: 1) a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders 1a) specifically applied to the twelve apostles of Christ 1b) in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers 1b1) of Barnabas 1b2) of Timothy and Silvanus Part of Speech: noun masculine An evangelist is a preacher of the gospel. Someone that speaks of salvation through Christ. G2099 εὐαγγελιστής euaggelistēs yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace' From G2097; a preacher of the gospel: - evangelist. Thayer Definition: 1) a bringer of good tidings, an evangelist 2) the name given to the NT heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles Part of Speech: noun masculine Pastors and teachers are from the Greek meaning shepherds and instructors. G4166 ποιμήν poimēn poy-mane' Of uncertain affinity; a shepherd (literally or figuratively): - shepherd, pastor. Thayer Definition: 1) a herdsman, especially a shepherd 1a) in the parable, he to whose care and control others have committed themselves, and whose precepts they follow 2) metaphorically 2a) the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church 2a1) of the overseers of the Christian assemblies 2a2) of kings and princes Part of Speech: noun masculine G1320 διδάσκαλος didaskalos did-as'-kal-os From G1321; an instructor (generally or specifically): - doctor, master, teacher.
T hayer Definition: 1) a teacher 2) in the NT one who teaches concerning the things of God, and the duties of man 1a) one who is fitted to teach, or thinks himself so 1b) the teachers of the Jewish religion 1c) of those who by their great power as teachers draw crowds around them, i.e. John the Baptist, Jesus 1d) by preeminence used of Jesus by himself, as one who showed men the way of salvation 1e) of the apostles, and of Paul 1f) of those who in the religious assemblies of the Christians, undertook the work of teaching, with the special assistance of the Holy Spirit 1g) of false teachers among Christians Part of Speech: noun masculine So why did God create all these roles? Vs. 12 – For the equipping of the saints. The Greek means complete furnishing. Imagine renting a condo at the feast. You asked if it is fully furnished. Yes. Great. As opposed to: We have one bed. Bring your own mattress. Jameson Faucet Brown on Ephesians 4:12 Ephesians 4:12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
American King James Version×: “The Greek implies correcting in all that is deficient, instructing and completing in number and all parts.” God gave these different offices and ministerial roles so we could be completely furnished. We could have our deficiencies corrected. “Ministry” is a way of growth. As a minister, I’m to edify you and promote your growth. As members, you are edify each other. How long as we, as elders, to do these things? Vs. 13 – “Unity of the faith” means oneness of the conviction of the truth.
New Living Translation on Ephesians 4:12 Ephesians 4:12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
American King James Version×: “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” Jamison Faucet Brown on Ephesians 4:13 Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×– “Not “perfect men”; for the many members constitute but one Church joined to the one Christ.” Philippians 3:12-15 Philippians 3:12-15  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you.
American King James Version×Not even Paul thought he had obtained the unity of faith. Fully knowing Christ and how He acts. Ephesians 4:13 Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×This is full acknowledgement of who Christ was and why He came. “Perfect man” – “to a full man.” Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
American King James Version×“Perfect” means requiring nothing for completeness. Adam Clark on Ephesians 4:13 Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×– “The full measure of knowledge, love, and holiness, which the Gospel of Christ requires.” JFB says not perfect man but perfect men. It is not that we are to be individually perfect. Then we wouldn’t have one body. There would be many bodies and many hopes. We are to come to a perfect man; unified, together.
New Living Translation Ephesians 4:13 Ephesians 4:13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
American King James Version×: “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Brethren, this is the job of the ministry. To teach. To build up. To encourage us to overcome our sins. To work to the point that we require nothing to be complete. Bible Study Correspondence Course: “These serving responsibilities were given for the benefit of the whole Church, to help equip, edify and unify the Body. A person ordained to such responsibilities is generally called a "minister," a word that means “servant.” I don’t stand here as the greatest among you. I stand as a servant. I want to help. I want to serve. GN in 2003 (Wilbur Berg) “God placed in His Church biblical qualifications for elders and deacons. They are given so appropriate leaders can be chosen to take care of the Church. The rest of the membership will then benefit from their talents and abilities, further strengthening the Body of Christ (1Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16 Ephesians 4:11-16  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:  That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×). Within the Church, each member is encouraged to contribute and do his share in showing godly love for the growth and spiritual development of all (Ephesians 4:16 Ephesians 4:16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×).” Paul gives specific qualifications. The selection process is not haphazard. It is not done on favoritism or family name. Ordination should be done with God in the lead. He is the only one who knows truly where our hearts are.
Richard Pinelli – “Being a minister is not a noble profession. We’re dealing with humans and their eternal life.” Being a minister is a very serious job. I take mine very seriously. I take my service to you very seriously. Let’s read about the qualities of the ministry. 1 Timothy 3:2-7 1 Timothy 3:2-7  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, 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 rules 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.
American King James Version×From God’s perspective, we should all develop these character traits. This applies to the elders, but this is not just for the elders. You can’t say this is for the elders; as for me, I’ll be greedy for money. Vs. 2 – “Blameless” – This doesn’t mean they don’t sin. Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
American King James Version×I’ll be the first to admit that I sin on a daily basis. But I repent daily. The man must be in tune with the conduct God expects in the Bible. “Husband of one wife.” Not dabbling in pornography. “Temperance” – Showing moderation and self restraint. Such a man constantly looks for and prepares for the kingdom. He lives a balanced spiritual life. “Soberminded” – sensible. Sharp in one’s thinking. Makes sound decisions. “Good behavior, hospitable” – A man’s inclination to show kindness to others, without partiality. “Able to teach” – must be able to teach about the Christian life without showing arrogance. He must be teachable himself, so he can continue to grow. Even Paul had not fully obtained. Human elders are still growing. Vs 3 – “Not given to wine” – He doesn’t abuse alcohol. He realizes that violence in action and thoughts don’t please God. “Gentle” – Kind and considerate. Proverbs warns against those that are quick to stir up trouble.
Proverbs 29:22 Proverbs 29:22An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgression.
American King James Version×“Not greedy” – To acquire wealth is not wrong. Abraham and Job were incredibly wealthy. But it should not be an obsessive priority. Proverbs 22:1 Proverbs 22:1A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
American King James Version×We should always choose a great reputation over great wealth. Vs. 4 – An elder must be sure that his relationship with his wife and children is great. The kids should grow up respecting this way. “Under submission” – This doesn’t mean to force things on his kids, but to live so they grow up wanting to live this way. Proverbs 20:7 Proverbs 20:7The just man walks in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.
American King James Version×Vs. 6 – “Novice” – Not a new convert. Not someone who was just baptized. Who is this Jesus Christ anyway? Not the person to ordain. Vs. 7 – His conduct should exemplify the character of Christ Himself. These are the qualifications that all of us as elders should live up to. These are great qualification for all of you as well. But this is God’s standard for the ministry. Titus 1:6-9 Titus 1:6-9  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 self-willed, 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 has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the disputers.
American King James Version×These are the qualifications of an elder. This is what is expected of us. I take this next scripture very seriously. James 3:1 James 3:1My brothers, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
American King James Version×“Teachers” is the same Greek as in Ephesians (didaskalos.) “Judgment” here means condemnation. It is not some light thing like, “No dessert tonight.” This is condemnation. As elders who help you, we receive a stricter judgment. The ministry is responsible to see that you have the tools you need. If I slouch, I’m in big trouble. It is my responsibility to teach, to encourage. I will give you the tools and reminders to put Christ first. That is God’s expectation of me.
Hebrews 13:17 Hebrews 13:17Obey 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.
American King James Version×“Rule” means to be a leader or someone who goes before. This is not rule with the thumb down. I’ll bear hug you and make sure you don’t do it wrong. This means to help and serve. Hebrews 13:17 Hebrews 13:17Obey 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.
American King James Version×/ Good News 1997 – “It involves being a leader-not in the sense of control, but as someone who has concern and care for those for whom he has responsibility.” GN 1997 Continuing – “This describes a different relationship from that condemned by Jesus Christ: of rulers lording it over those they rule. This describes a relationship of voluntarily submitting to those placed in authority, recognizing that they are in their positions for the benefit of others, "for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account." My job is to watch out for your soul. For your eternal life. To help point you back to the Bible. Do I care for your salvation? Do I feel sick when I see some behave in a way that is not Biblical? Absolutely. I want all of you to be in the kingdom. Korah’s direction was not right. 2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
American King James Version×Next week, I’ll speak about this. Next month, I’ll speak about this. “Inspiration” literally means God breathed. What are my next 5000 sermons going to be about? About gaining entrance to the kingdom of God. It will come in form of how to overcome our sins and have the right relationship with God. With all that pressure, how do I sleep at night?
Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×We’ve read this many time and mulled it over; what does this mean to me? I will teach you and exhort you. I will at times correct. I will be happy to counsel until I’m blue in the face. But the choice to follow Biblical principles resides with you. You have to work out your salvation. You can’t get to the kingdom with my study habits. We have to work on our individual relationship with God. Philippians 2:17 Philippians 2:17Yes, and if I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
American King James Version×The drink offering was interesting. It provided that sweet aroma to God. But it was poured on the sacrifice. It wasn’t a slab of meat that was eaten or burned. A drink offering was poured out. I pray that you will all choose life and that we can serve side by side in the kingdom. I make myself available to chat. Because of the potential to be God beings, I am glad for that and rejoice with all of you.