Elders: The Biblical Picture of Maturity in the Faith / View PDF Handout / The Older The Bolder – Marshall Almarode
- What are the Elders and What are Their Functions?
In the Bible, an elder is the picture of the mature Christian. The elders of the church are the leaders who have matured in the faith. They oversee the functions of the local body of believers. They should be actively involved in the church, nurturing and discipling others into the fullness of the true faith. When false teachings infiltrate the body of believers, the elders have the responsibility to refute the error and expose those who oppose the gospel.
How are Elders Developed?
No one is born an elder. We all start as “babes in Christ.” When we become Christians, we usually don’t have many Bible verses memorized. We usually don’t know much about what it really means to be a Christian. Our first goal should be to mature in the faith. As we mature in the faith, we will discover God’s biblical truths. It will also become obvious who will hold firmly to the faith and who will compromise the faith to some degree. Elders are developed through learning to follow the word of God. True biblical elders are chosen from those who have the following attributes.
Titus 1:9 may well be the theme or summation of the elder’s job in and for the church. “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” This verse shows the importance of standing firmly to the unchanging word of God (the Bible). The benefits of standing firmly for the word of God fall into two categories. The first is “so that he can … encourage others by sound doctrine” and the second is “so that he can … refute those who oppose it.” It is the biblical duty of the elders to stand for sound doctrine and protect the church from false teachings. The importance of observing this duty cannot be overestimated. The proper execution of these two assignments indicates to what degree the elder is doing his biblical duty.
In Acts 11:29 & 30, believers send financial aid to help the brothers in Judea. The aid was entrusted to the elders, who were trustworthy and responsible.
1 Timothy 5:17The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” 19Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. 21I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.
James 5:13Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
1 Peter 5:1Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Acts 20:17From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. 18And when they had come to him, he said to them,
“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22“And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
25“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. 26“Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31“Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34“You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
36When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship.
Overseers and Deacons
1It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Biblically, the elders’ duties fall into two categories. First, they must be so loyal to the biblical message, and hold it with such high importance and detail, that they are determined never to stray from its message. In their teachings, in their actions and in their way of life, they are biblical above their loyalty to their wives, friends, money, power or any organization. Truly, they have become zealots for the word of God. Second, in their zeal for God’s truth, they become active in protecting the believers from false doctrine. Because they refute those who teach false doctrine, their faith is known publicly. Biblical elders cannot remain “closet Christians” and effectively “refute those who oppose” the gospel.
Titus 1:5For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
10For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
Acts 15:1Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 3Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. 4When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
6The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8“And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10“Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11“But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”
12All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
13After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me. 14“Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. 15“With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 ‘After these things I will return,
And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen,
And I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will restore it,
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
And all the Gentiles who are called by my name,’
18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.
19“Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21“For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
22Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23and they sent this letter by them,
“The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings. 24“Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, 25it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27“Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”
30So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. 33After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren in peace to those who had sent them out. 34But it seemed good to Silas to remain there. 35But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.