Elders & Deacons

Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses

 

The component parts of a spiritual assembly are clearly defined. Saints, bishops, and deacons are distinct functions (Philippians 1:1). They can be in the same person, but they spring from a different source:

    - To be a saint comes from conversion.

    - To be a bishop comes from desire and character.

    - To be a deacon comes from spiritual gifts (see Romans 12:7).

Elders

Eldership is not in itself a spiritual gift. 1 Timothy 3:1 says, “If a man desire the office of a bishop, or elder, he desireth a good work.” Another has translated this “If a man stretcheth himself to overseership.” This implies deep and prolonged spiritual exercise before God, and a faithful ministry before men.

There are five duties that should characterize a true elder:

    1. He should be a pastor or shepherd to feed the flock.

    2. He should be a sentinel to protect the flock.

    3. He should be a pillar to support the flock.

    4. He should be an administrator to guide the flock.

    5. He should be an example to encourage the flock.

In 1 Timothy 3:5, the Spirit reveals to us that the elder has to take care of the Church of God, but he must take care of his own home first. He has to act on behalf of the Great Shepherd as an under-shepherd. His duties to the flock are laid out in Isaiah 40:11:

    1. He has to feed the flock as a shepherd.

    2. He has to gather the lambs in His arms.

    3. He has to carry them in his bosom.

    4. He has to gently lead those that are with young.

Deacons

There seems to be a flurry of interest lately, in the office of deacons. Books are being written and articles published. Some churches are wondering if they are scriptural if they do not have deacons. Others that have deacons wonder if they even know what they should be doing. First of all, it should be emphasized that elders are essential as an assembly matures and God raises up men with a shepherd‘s heart for the sheep. These should be recognized as leaders of God‘s people and al...

Renewal Through Humility

What is the greatest need among assemblies today? A variety of answers might be given to that question, but certainly one of them would be the subject of leadership, its form and quality. We seem to be clear as to the form of leadership required by the New Testament. Plurality is the key word -- plurality of elders. We rightly condemn all substitutes in form. One man doing most of the preaching or having the final word in decisions affecting the church is a violat...

What the Sheep Should Do

The expectations we have for our elders seem to far outstrip our awareness of our responsibilities to our overseers. To know them "We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you" (I Thess. 5:12). How many wish that their elders would take more interest in them. But the fault does not always lie with them. It is more than difficult for elders to do their work, especially when it means admonishing a...

Biblical Eldership

First of all it should be mentioned that the idea of leadership by elders is not new. Down through the ages various reformation movements have inclined in that direction. The Presbyterian Church derives its name from its form of church government, leadership by elders (Gk presbuteroi). The pastor is called a "teaching elder" and the other elders are called "ruling elders" and are chosen by the congregation. In practice the system is similar to a Baptist church where they ...

Reversing the Trend

"Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." (Rev. 3:3). Perhaps you are in an assembly where gradual changes have been occurring. The Lord’s Supper is no longer viewed as very important. Attendance was down and the decision was made to appoint one man to orchestrate the service. It was also suggested that women be free to participate vocally. Now they seem to be more vocal than the men. Since the elders were not doing their wor...

Those Who Serve

THE DEACONS In our study of bishops, we learned that their function is the spiritual care and oversight of the house of God. We noted that bishops are also called elders, and that there are several bishops in one church, rather than one bishop over several churches.We come next to the study of deacons, who they are and what their functions are. 1. What Are Deacons? The word “deacon” simply means a servant - a man who pursues some ministry or service. Frequently in the New Testament it...

The Bishops

First of all, we must distinguish between the New Testament concept of a bishop, and the title as it is used today. In the apostolic church, a bishop was simply one of several mature Christians in a local church who cared for the spiritual welfare of that church. Today, in church systems, a bishop is an appointed dignitary who has many churches under his jurisdiction. Barnes says: “The word bishop in the New Testament never means what is now commonly understood by it—a Prelate. It does not denote here (i.e. in 1 Timothy 3) or anywhere else in the New Testament, one who has charge over a diocese composed of a certain district of country embracing a number of churches with their clergy.’’

 

In the New Testament, the bishops were not a class of men, mediating between God and man. Perhaps it was as a rebuke to such pretension as might arise in the future that the Spirit of God listed the bishops second, not first, when Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus . . . with the bishops and deacons.”

In the New Testament, the thought of officialism is absent. Instead of a lofty office with magnificent titles, we are pointed to humble service among the people of God. Thus we read, “If any one is eager for oversight, he is desirous of a good work.”’ Overseership is work, not dignity of office.

Elders and Spiritual Vision

“Where there is no vision the people perish; but he that keepeth the law , happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18 The Lord has placed stringent demands on those that are called to be elders. He has called them to a spiritual work and rigorous labor for the Lord. Paul charges the Thessalonian assembly that the elders were to be recognized on the basis of their “labor” in the assembly. The word translated “labor” in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 is the Greek word “kopiao...

Lords Over God's Heritage

Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. I Pet. 5:3 Godly shepherds are an asset to any assembly. They are men of God who labor to ensure the saints are fed well from the Word of God, protected from wolves in sheep’s clothing, and cared for with a genuine love. Such shepherds are to be honored and followed. (I Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7) Sadly, many who have taken on the responsibility of overseeing the local assembly are not doing this good work. (I ...
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