The Elders of the Church
As a sign of respect, we often treat those who are older than us differently than we treat our peers or those who are younger than us. When our parents and teachers tell us to “respect our elders,” the word “elder” usually means someone who is older and wiser than us. Elders of the church are selected to watch over the church. Paul once told a group of elders to “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Elders in the church are not chosen because of their good looks, riches, or their place of birth. They are chosen because of their righteous lives and leadership qualities. Here are some of God’s qualifications for elders. They must be “blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good-behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Timothy 3:2-4).
An elder is also called a “bishop.” The word bishop means “one who oversees,” and the overseers’ duties involve looking after the condition and progress of the church. The Bible teaches that there must be at least two elders in every church. No where in the New Testament do we read of there being only one elder shepherding a church. Paul commanded Titus: “You should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you…” (Titus 1:6).
God created the eldership, and the church would not be able to have elders without God’s authority. Elders play a crucial role in the organization of the church. They serve to guard the flock (the church), stand for the truth, make important decisions, and “watch out for your souls” (Hebrews 13:17).
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