I want to talk for a bit about what a congregation owes its elders. It is easy to think about what the eldership owes the congregation. But, have you stopped to think about what the congregation owes the eldership?
The Bible is just as clear in the answer to this question as it is in answering what obligations an eldership has to sustain the congregation. We're going to look at six things a congregation owes its elders.
Have a Working Knowledge of the Leadership
Members must know what God has said about the role of elders.
1) Members should know what the Bible teaches about elders. The Biblical doctrine of the eldership role is not a very familiar theme to many in the church in our day.
2) Members should know what the Bible teaches about elders. Members should know the designations in the Bible that refer to elders
- Presbyter (elder), 1 Tiomothy 5:17
- Bishop (overseer), 1 Timothy 3:1, Acts 20:28
- Pastor (shepherd), Ephesians 4:11
3) Members should know God’s plan for the eldership.
4) Members should know the qualifications of elders.
5) Members should know the authority the Bible delegates to elders.
6) Members should know the difference between elders, deacons and preachers. That the elders are overseers and that the deacons are servants, and preachers are those that teach.
7) Members should know what the work of elders is. And, what the work of elders is not. At its basic level elders are to be overseers of our souls.
8) Members should recognize what the elders owe to the congregation and what the congregation owes its elders.
We need to focus on what we owe to the elders.
Know Them, The Elders, Esteem Them and Be at Peace
We are to know them and respect the authority for the place they have been given over us as shepherds of our souls.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
“Know them which labor among you.”
This knowing comprehends comprises more than simple acquaintance or the instant ability to call them by name when you see them.
Know their responsibilities to us and our responsibilities to them. We cannot ignore them according to the apostolic intent of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. If we ignore every exhortation they extend and rebel against every admonition they ardently advocate toward the flock they oversee.
“Esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.”
Esteem means to hold them in the highest regard. They have the greatest work on the planet. Paul calls for us to do exactly that.
“Be at peace among yourselves.”
When elders are really what they ought to be and the congregation is what they ought to be, the way to congregational harmony and Christian serenity is ardently assured.
Peace and unity are so important to the church. Without peace and unity we cannot carry on the work that we've been given to do. We are to seek peace to be reconciled to one another.
- Matthew 5:9
- Hebrews 12:14
- Romans 14:19
- Romans 12:18
- Romans 14:19
We need to know the elders, esteem them, and be at peace. Godly elders deserve to oversee a congregation that majors in peace and practices holy harmony.
Count the Elders Worthy of All Honor
Paul uses the word “elders” in two different senses in 1 Timothy 5.
- 1 Timothy 5:17-18
He's talking about the role of an elder. However, in the first verse of the KJV he writes,
“Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.”
Here he is speaking of older men in general.
NKJV renders it more clearly, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers.”
In verses 17-18 he is speaking about the one who is in the office of eldership.
Paul commands that the eldership be afforded proper and well-deserved honor because of the character they possess and the teaching and work they do. Often, the work of elders is too frequently a thankless task.
We are to honor elders because:
- of their willingness to serve,
Theirs is worthy work, a weighty work, they have met the qualifications and have agreed to be appointed. They feed us and tend to our spiritual needs. They watch for our souls and remain as alert sentinels looking out for our souls, they are over us in the Lord.
- their work of faith,
- their labor of love,
- their patience of hope.
- Because of the authority.
Heaven has delegated to them to see that things in the church are to be done correctly. Correctly, being according to God’s will. Because they definitely possess the authority to act in matters of expediency and to make decisions that are binding as touching human judgment.
How We Honor the Elders
- We honor them by honoring the work they assign to us.
- We honor them by heeding the gospel-centered exhortations and Biblically-oriented admonitions they give us from time to time.
- We honor them by knowing them well,
- respecting them,
- loving them,
- hlding up their hands in every righteous endeavor,
- defending them against unjustified and inflammatory attacks from their opponents.
Be Slow and Cautious in the Criticism of Elders
We owe them some consideration in regards to criticism. We should be slow to criticize them.
- 1 Timothy 5:19-20
Elders in the 1st century as well in our current century were and are, targets of severe criticism by those who are unknowing, they dont' think, they may be uncaring. They may be the unkind crowd of supercharged and super sensitive critics.
Paul forbids Timothy’s reception of any accusation against an elder except upon the testimony of two or three witnesses. It had been the axiom of Hebrew law since times of antiquity that in the mouths of two or three witnesses every statement was to be verified.
- Deuteronomy 17:6
Jesus alluded to this in John 8:17,
"It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true."
Quite obviously, Paul, and Moses and Jesus had in mind reliable and reputable witnesses.
- 1 Timothy 5:19-20
Though, if they continue to sin, Paul says to rebuke them in the presence of all. Thus, the discipline of an elder is similar to those of the membership.
- Matthew 18:15-17
Some might say that them that sin are those who bring a false, or frivolous accusation. If that's the case, they too are to be rebuked before all.
Obey and Submit to the Elders
We are to think about obedience and submission.
- Hebrews 13:17
This verse must be a constant thorn in the side of those who deny any and all authority to elders in the Lord’s church. Such expressions as obey, rule, submit, watch, and must give an account, are all connected with concepts of authority. These five expressions point out the authority of elders and the need to submit to them.
Obey is from the Greek word peitho, and means to be persuaded. Inherent is a trust and a willingness to be persuaded.
Submit comes from the Greek word hupeiko and means “to resist no longer, but to give way, to yield to authority and admonition, to submit.”
We are to obey and submit just as the members are accountable to the elders, so the elders are accountable to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. They are they which are to give account to the Lord.
- 1 Peter 5:4
- Hebrews 13:7
Emulate the Faith of Your Elders
Elders should daily be sitting a worthy example before the flock. Nothing less will help the flock. Nothing less will please God.
- Hebrews 13:7
When we look to the life of an elder that should be a life of great faith that we can follow.
- Philippians 3:17
We are to mark those who are worthy and thus walk, and emulate them in great faith.
When it comes to what we owe our elders we are to have working knowledge of their role, we are to know them, and honor them, and we're to be slow to criticize them, while we obey their rule over us and emulate their faith.
May each of us be pleasing to God by obeying His expressed will regarding elders. May we ever hold their hands up in the work of the Lord’s church.
Think of those men, Aaron and Hur, who held up the hands of Moses when they were at battle to help them win. We should hold up our elders to help them to serve in the Lord's church.
To be pleasing to God we must first start by being obedient to Him and His will through Jesus Christ. He commands that we believe that Jesus is His Son, repent of our sins, confessing our faith in Christ, and being baptized to have our sins forgiven and put on Christ in baptism. Then, walking a faithful life, following the lead of the elders who are following the lead of Jesus.
If you have been a Christian but have not been walking faithfully you can return to Him by repenting and once again living that faithful life.
If we can assist you in walking in the truth and direction of God's word, please contact us.