Elders in Every Church - Part 2
The church of Christ is an organized body of believers in Jesus Christ which is made up of elders, deacons, evangelists, teachers, and other members. Every member of the church must be a worker. He must work according to his ability and the opportunities he has. The apostle Paul wrote: “For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5).
It is God’s will that each congregation of Christ has its own leadership. The leaders that God wants are sometimes called “bishops” which means “overseers” (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:7). Sometimes they are called “pastors” which means “shepherds” (Acts 20:28, Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 5:1-4). However, they are most commonly referred to in the Scriptures as “elders” (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:4; 20:17; I Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5; I Peter 5:1). The word “elders” comes from a Greek word which means “older” or “senior.” It describes one who is mature. He is wise because he has learned much from living for a long time upon this earth. One of the qualifications of an elder is that he must not be a novice (I Timothy 3:6). A “novice” is a younger person or a new convert.
The office of elders was appointed by God for His church. In Acts 13:2, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Paul and Barnabas were selected by the Holy Spirit to go forth to preach God’s Word where it has not been preached before. Part of their work was to appoint “elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). Paul sent Titus to Crete to “set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). The elders of the church at Ephesus were made overseers by the Holy Spirit when they followed the qualifications He had (Acts 20:28). From these Scriptures, it is clear that the office of elders is God’s will for His church.
A congregation may not be able to have elders at times. They may not have any men who meet all the qualifications because all the members are novices. When this is the case, the men of the congregation must make the decisions for the church. However, it is wrong to appoint unqualified men and designate them as “church leaders” and give them the authority and work of elders.
There must always be more than one man serving as an elder. In the New Testament, elders over a congregation are always spoken of in a plural (two or more). Please read such passages as Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17, Philippians 1:1 and Titus 1:5. When Paul told Titus to “appoint elders in every city,” this did not mean one elder could be over several churches, or the churches in several cities. In the early days, there would only be one congregation in a city. Therefore, that congregation should have elders appointed to be over it.
When we do not follow God’s plan for the organization of the church, we disobey Him. He will not bless us or save us. We must humble ourselves before God. We must accept the fact that He is wiser than we are and knows what is best for His church. We will then follow God’s plan without adding to it or taking from it (Revelation 22:18-19).
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