Elders in the Church

Church Life
The Apostle Paul
The Apostle Paul

The Church, as the Body of Christ, is one in union with Christ consisting of many members. These members have varying and diverse functions which all contribute to the health, growth, and general well-being of those in the community of believers.

These varying functions, which include elders, deacons, teachers, evangelists, etc. do not elevate any one member to a level of spirituality above other members but the roles were given by Christ to bring us into the unity of the faith, provide leadership, exhortation, discipline, and oversight of the Body.

Ephesians 4:11–13 (NKJV): And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to 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

Elders, according to Paul the Apostle, are

to be a vital function of the early church—he particularly asks his colleague Titus to appoint elders in every town in Crete (Titus 1:7). In both Acts and Paul’s letter to Titus, the term “elder” and the term “overseer” (which also is translated as “bishop”) are essentially synonymous (Acts 20:28, addressing as “overseers” people referred to as “elders” in Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5–9).

Lexham Bible Dictionary

Clement, a late first century elder in the church at Rome, in a letter to the Corinthian church,

refers to the practice of appointing elders in churches. The apostles and “other reputable men” after them appointed “approved men” to continue their ministry, “with consent of the whole church” (1 Clement, 44:1–3). These references attest to an early sense of a group that was distinguished from the rest of the church because of its leadership duties.

Lexham Bible Dictionary

Elders have been given the charge to oversee the flock, “rule”, resolve differences, and more:

a) Elders Oversee God’s People Acts 20:28–32; 1 Thess. 5:12–13; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1–3
b) Elders Teach Doctrine 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:6, 9; Heb. 13:7
c) Elders Resolve Differences Acts 15:1–29; Acts 16:4
d) Elders Commission Leaders 1 Tim. 4:14
e) Elders Minister to the Sick James 5:14–15

Topical Analysis of the Bible

Paul writing to Timothy states that bishops/elders must be the husband of one wife….this precludes the installment or recognition of women into that particular office of the church.

1 Timothy 3:1–7 (NKJV): If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife….

This in no way devalues or undermines the worth, honor, or care that the church should show women in the congregation of believers. It simply recognizes the role of bishop/elder as being established in the church for men. We, as a church, do not have the right or the authority to abrogate or ignore the stipulations given to us by God in His word for the governance of His church.

We do, however, have an obligation to faithfully minister the word of God to those in the community of believers. As such we should adhere to the principles of scripture in seeking, praying for, and recognizing Godly men to appoint to the office of elder.