"So when they had appointed elders in every church," Acts 14'23.
“The elders who are among you I exhort,
I who am a fellow elder,” 1 Peter 5’1.
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders ...
and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil
in the name of the Lord.
And the prayer of faith will save the sick,
and the Lord will raise him up,” James 5’14-15.
The ministry of Kingdom Elders could be described as "the spiritual backbone" of the Body of Christ. It's the primary ministry, ordained by God, as revealed in the scriptures of Acts 1'1 to Revelation 3'22.
The first reference to it appears in the days prior to the Day of Pentecost. At this point Jesus has breathed the Holy Spirit on the Disciples, given them Kingdom teachings and ascended to heaven.
Peter sees that a job has to be done and begins to act. Whether he knew it or not he was about to begin fulfilling Jesus' words "I will build My Ekklesia" (His Called-Out Ones).
The Lord had said that He would give Peter "the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 16'18-19) for the purpose.
And Peter was about to use the first one.
In doing so the pattern of the Elders' shepherding and overseeing ministry in the building of Christ's Called-Out Ones would be revealed.
Acts 1 says:
15 "... in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples
(altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty) and said,
16 'Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled,
which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas ...
17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry'"...
20 "... it is written in the book of Psalms … ‘Let another take his oversight’”, 15-17,20.
Peter's words "ministry" and "oversight" describe the two main elements of what an elder does: serving and overseeing.
The word ministry (verse 17) is from the Greek word diakonia meaning service or to serve. The noun is diakonos which is usually translated minister.
The word Oversight (verse 20) is from the Greek word episcope meaning overseeing. Its noun is episcopos which translates to overseeing elder.
He goes on to say that the one to fulfill the scripture would have to be from among the "men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us".
But above what an elder does, is what an elder is. The shepherd-overseer for this ministry would have to be godly and servant hearted like Jesus was (more later).
Acts 1’20-26 shows that Matthias was chosen. He had been with Jesus from the day John declared: "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world," John 1'29.
These first 12 Apostle-Elders would lead the way in “preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ,” Acts 28'31.
They were to be Christ's overseers, shepherds, in the founding, building and continued growth of His Ekklesia, His Called-Out Ones, the Body of Christ.
The Day of Pentecost came. The Father sent the Holy Spirit signifying that Jesus had been glorified (John 7'38) and the 120 received and were filled with the Holy Spirit .
With the Spirit came Christ's New Covenant Kingdom of God. The Spirit's arrival changed the realities of everything!
A primary one of these realities the ministry of elder. Godliness was now the essential disposition of elders, as it was with the Lord.
Consequently, also like Him, they would be aware of the Father's presence and be aware of His will. (Refer Kingdom Godliness on the Menu.)
These New Covenant Kingdom apostle-shepherd-overseers were soon very busy. Acts 2'41 says that on that very day "about 3000 souls" were added.
Paul was convinced about the place of elders in the building of the body of Christ:
"For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you,” Titus 1'5.
From what he says he had preached the Good News throughout the island of Crete but he had not been able to complete the work.
However, he was confident that Titus could. He knew him well. He called him "a true son in our common faith" and "my partner and fellow worker" (Corinthians 8'23).
Titus had a heart for the Lord's People. Thanks "be to God", Paul had said, "who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus" (2 Corinthians 8'16).
The kind of man to appoint elders!
As has been said, God's ordering for the Kingdom life of His People relies on elders. Nevertheless, in the oversight of God's work, they need assistance with certain areas .
For that purpose Paul confirms the ministry of Servants that was brought into being earlier (Acts 6'1-6).
In his letter to the Philippian Believers he describes the order of a local Kingdom Ekklesia:
"... all the Saints in Christ Jesus ... in Philippi with ... Elders and Servants".
(For more go to Kingdom Servants on the Menu).
Significantly, before going on to talk about appointing Elders, in Titus 1'1 Paul refers to his own ministry concerning the ...
"... acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness".
This is where Elders are to be. Their thinking is to be in harmony with the truth of the Lord Jesus the word of Christ.
Titus and Timothy had that disposition and they were charged with the job of appointing elders.
To Titus Paul said:
“… if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.
For an overseer must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,
but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,
holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict,” Titus 1’6-9.
To Timothy Paul said:
"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires to be an overseer, he desires a good work.
An overseer then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach;
not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence
(for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the People ofGod?);
not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.
Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil," 1 Timothy 3'1-7.
This is the godliness that marks out the Believer who can be trusted with the shepherding and overseeing of the Flock of God.
ELDERS AND ELDERSHIP
Paul had been among the Ephesian Believers for three years. This time had allowed him to develop a close relationship with the Elders.
He had taught the things of Jesus Christ and the things of the Kingdom of God, as he did everywhere he went (Acts 20'31).
Later in time Luke describes a touching occasion when Paul arranged to meet with them on his way to Jerusalem in Acts 20'17-37.
Here are two excerpts from it:
“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the Elders of the Ekklesia.
And when they had come to him, he said to them: ‘You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you'," Acts 20’17-18.
"'Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you Overseers, to shepherd the Called-Out People of God which He purchased with His own blood.
For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified',” Acts 20’28-32.
Paul's farewell to these Elders more clearly defines the scope of their ministry. To all would be overseers-shepherds of God's Flock what Paul said is important and valuable .
He describes them as:
Elders (Greek "presbuteros": "elder", "of age").
Overseers (Greek "episkopos": "overseer").
Shepherds (Greek "poimaino": "feed", "rule", "govern").
The Eldership. Although Elders will often minister together, certain needs arise among Believers that require the presence a Woman.
It is apparent that, just as they are equally yoked together with their husbands in marriage, they are coupled with them in ministry.
Elders and their Wives can express the breadth of experience to provide the fullest ministry for those with particular needs.
Singly and together they can serve men, women, old people, young people, adults or children, singles or married couples.
Eldership ministries include
- Ministering doctrine:
“When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him (Apollos) aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately,” Acts 18’26.
- Praying for the sick:
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord,” James 5’14.
“Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership,” 1 Timothy 4’14.
ELDERS CALLED TO RULE?
The idea that ruling is part of an Elder's ministry usually raises some nervousness and distrust. One reason for this is the misconduct or dictatorial behaviour of some unmonitored so-called pastors.
However, Kingdom Elders are called to rule among the Lord's Called-Out Ones because God's will must be done but done God's way. That involves calling for obedience to the Word of Christ.
And God's way is that it be done with genuine godly love and wisdom, accountability, transparency and above all, done with open free will.
Jesus was strong about the manner of those who lead. He Himself is the example. Elders, Servants and those leading are to lead as He did, not lording over as the world does.
In his first letter to Elders and the "flock of God" here is what Peter says on the subject:
“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;
nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;
and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world,” 1 Peter 5’1-9.
Remember what Jesus said to this "fellow Elder" Peter? The Lord said: “Feed My lambs” and “Tend My sheep” and “Feed My sheep" (John 21'16-18).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the writer to the Hebrew Believers says a few things for all Believers to think about:
“Remember those who rule over you,
who have spoken the word of God to you,
whose faith follow,
considering the outcome of their conduct.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever,”
He further exhorts:
“Obey those who rule over you,
and be submissive,
for they watch out for your souls,
as those who must give account.
Let them do so with joy and not with grief,
for that would be unprofitable for you,”
To summarise, Elders and others who are leading are to:
- speak the word of Christ,
- be examples of faith,
- be open to questions about their conduct,
- hold to the simplicity that Jesus Christ is always the same,
- watch out for the souls of the Lord’s People,
- behave in a way that mirrors the Lord's way of ruling.
The lordship of Christ must be the ultimate rule over all in love and submission to one another with willing hearts.
Remember Matthew 12’20: “A bruised reed He will not break and smoking flax He will not quench”.
GOD'S INTENT AND ELDERS
Elders are at the forefront of carrying out God's primary commission. Ephesians 3'10-12 says:
"... to the intent that now
the manifold wisdom of God
might be made known
by Christ’s Ekklesia
to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
according to the eternal purpose
which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord".
This fullness of this intent, this purpose of God, is not often preached about as such. Nevertheless, these words are plain for all Believers to read.
They plainly say that Believers are to make God's manifold wisdom known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
So where is the teaching about what it is? A good starting place would be 1 Corinthians 1'30.
It declares that those who are "in Christ Jesus" are of God. And that Jesus "became for us wisdom from God".
Always keep in mind - Christ Jesus is wisdom from God for Believers. And God's wisdom comes from Him.
This wisdom is to be the resource for a Believer's lifestyle lived out in the face of the enemy. It's intentional.
But the doing of it is not about loudly declaring over people or places that Jesus is Lord. Believers make God's manifold wisdom known to the enemy.
Satan first began opposing God's wisdom in the Garden of Eden. He tempted Eve and Adam made the very worst of decisions.
But now the Saints, lead by their Elders, make God's wisdom known to Satan in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here's the marvellous context. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul says:
"To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;
to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him," Ephesians 3'8-12.
Prayer. Thank you Father for faithful Elders who teach, shepherd-lead and oversee your Flock with love and power, godliness and holiness.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.