Volume. XIX, No. 4
Sunday, 25 July 2004

From the pastors heart: Elders

The New Testament recognizes that there are people in the church who have gifts for rule and government. 1 Corinthians 12:28 says, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments [NIV translates it as those with gifts of administration], diversities of tongues.” Romans 12:8 states, “Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth [NIV says, if it is leadership], with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” 1 Timothy 5:17, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”

The term elder
In the Greek New Testament, the plural forms of the word, elder, occur 61 times and the singular forms 4 times. I’ll focus on its nominative plural form for this study. It occurs 22 times in the New Testament. I can see that there are basically three uses of the word. (1) Its foremost use is to refer to the office of the elder in Judaism. Matthew 21:23 says, “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” It seems that these elders were the ruling elders as the representatives of the people in God’s theocratical government. That’s why the elders are explained as the elders of the people. Matthew 26:3 and 57 indicate that the governing body of the people of God before the New Testament church era, the governing body among the people of God was composed of the chief (high) priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people. Matthew 26:3, “Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas.” Matthew 26:3, “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas.” Matthew 26:57, “And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled” (cf. 26:59; 27:1, 20; Mark 11:27; 14:53; Acts 4:23). (2) Its second use is that it simply refers to old(er) men as in Acts 2:17, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (3) As we come to the middle of the book of Acts, we begin to see a different use of the word. For example, Acts 15:6 says, “And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter” (cf. verse 23). There were two groups of people in the leadership in Jerusalem church. Acts 21:18 indicates the same thing. “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.” These elders must be distinguished from the elders in Judaism, for the apostles had already formed their own worship separately from that of Judaism. They were Christian elders. 1 Timothy is a part of Pastoral Epistles written by Paul to a young pastor, Timothy. He says in 1 Timothy 5:17, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” In Christian church organization, there were already elders as a church office. There are three points we need to consider. The first point is that the believers are asked to respect their elders. The second is that the elders are the ones who rule in the churches. The third is that there are two types of elders. The one is the ruling elders, and the other is the one who is laboring in the word and doctrine. In other words, the latter is devoted to preach and teach.

The role of elders
1 Timothy 5:17 says that the elders rule. This particular Greek word is occurred eight times in the New Testament. Romans 12:8 translates it as to rule (NIV, leadership), 1 Thessalonians 5:12 as “to be over [the church],” 1 Timothy 3:4 and 5 as to rule [his own house or children] (NIV, manage [his own family]), and Titus 3:8 and 14 as to maintain (NIV, to devote). Their roles at home are not our immediate concern, but in the church. In the New Testament, two terms, elders and bishops, are used interchangeably. If we can find the use of these terms, we may have better ideas of the role of elders in the church. Acts 1:20 is one of the most fascinating verses in this matter: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.” The office that Judas Iscariot held is described as bishoprick [NIV, place of leadership, evpiskoph.n]. Philippians 1:1 says, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” There were more than one bishop/elder in the church of Philippi. 1 Timothy 3:1 clarify the meaning of the word, bishop/elder. He is not simply an old man, but the word refers to an office (evpiskoph/j) in the church: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” There is no mention of age to be an elder. However, it must not be a young man because there is a mention of wife and children.

The significance of the role of elder/bishop is found in 1 Peter 2:25, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop (evpi,skopon) of your souls.” Jesus Christ is our Bishop. Acts 20:28 says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (evpisko,pouj), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Having seen all these with the qualifications of an elder in 1 Timothy 3:1-6, I can safely conclude that the elders are (1) to oversee, (2) to rule, (3) to maintain, and (4) administer their church. They are also (1) to teach and (2) to be given to hospitality. Charles Hodge said, “Ruling elders are properly the representatives of the people, and chosen by them for the purpose of exercising government and discipline in conjunction with pastors or ministers. This office has been understood by a greater part of the Protestant Reformed Churches, to be designated in the Holy Scriptures by the title of government, and of those who rule well, but do not labour in the word and doctrine” (“Warrant and Theory of Ruling Eldership,” Order in the Offices, edited by Mark R. Brown, 68). In our church constitution 15.7 states, “An Elder shall endeavour, by God’s grace, to serve in full conformity with the standards set forth in the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9), joining with the Pastor in the government, administration, and discipline of the church, visiting the sick and sorrowing members, investigating delinquents, and endeavouring to remedy any spiritual weakness in the lives of members.” We thank the Lord for His elders!


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Shorter Catechism Question No. 59: Which day in seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath? From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath.

Please continue to pray for Sis. Myung Ki, Rev. Peter Clements, Bro. Surish Dharmalingam, Sis Susan Varadi, Sis. Aranka Rejtoe, Sis. Irene Turner and Life Bible School (Kompong-som). “The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace” (Psalm 30:11)

Thank God for granting journey mercies to Pastor Ki (Singapore, South Korea) Bro. David and Sis. Giok Yeo and Family (Adelaide), Sis. Min Yen Chia (Adelaide), Sis. Sophine Bai and Mr. Jin Weng Lim (Adelaide), Bro. Eu-Zjin Tan (Adelaide) and Sisters Marion Chan and Sui Ling Chong (Gold Coast), Sis. Tracy (HK) and Sis. Jasmine Ho (Perth)

Please pray for journey mercies for Pastor Ki (South Korea, Japan), Mr. Shane Teo (Malaysia, New Zealand).

Looking Ahead: AFG Seminar. Success on 31 July 2004 Speaker: Bro. David Yeo. All are welcome to attend.

Looking Ahead: Seminar on Prayer given by guest speaker Dr. Tow on Saturday, 14 August at the Stone Mansion.

Looking Ahead: Ordination day for Elder and Deacons on Sunday 15 August 2004.

Looking Ahead: YAF Evangelism Video Night on Friday, 20 August 2004. Please invite friends and all are welcome to come.

Looking Ahead: Hope BPC Christmas Concert will be held on Saturday, 11 December 2004. Please keep the date free.



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