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Sunday, August 13, 2017 am                                            NT Church 2017 Index

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH 2017
Leaders (2) - The Work of Elders

 

Today we resume our study of the NT church.  A few weeks ago, we introduced the subject of leadership in a congregation.   Ephesians 5:11, etc.  Today, we want to begin an examination of those who lead within a congregation.  Noting the various positions.  We begin with the first of 3 lessons dealing with elders.
Previously we noted that elders are part of a scripturally mature congregation (Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:5, Acts 20:17, etc.).  

A congregation, whether it has elders or not, should constantly be working toward appointing (more) qualified men.  We need to be encouraging our younger men and women to develop so that there will be sound, scriptural leaders in the next generation.   NOTE: We are only ONE elder away from having none!  That is NOT a good thing!

Also, let us be reminded that previously we have noted that: 1) Elders are always a plurality (Acts 20:17, Philippians 1:1, 1 Peter 5:1, Acts 14:23, etc.); 2) Their work is LIMITED to the locality where they are (same passages).

 I.                     What is the work of the elders?

a.       It IS a work – 1 Timothy 3:1 – he who desires to do this desires a good work.  As we shall see, he who accepts this task has responsibilities. 

b.       Three terms – Acts 20:17 & 28, 1 Peter 5:1-2

                                                   i.      Elder (experienced) – πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros) – when we hear the word, presbytery, it is a derivative of this word.  It describes one who is older (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1-2, 1 Peter 5:5).  The point is not about how old one is (or else age would be the primary factor), but a level of maturity to adequately lead the congregation.    This too is seen in the work he will do. 

                                                 ii.      Bishop – overseer – 1 Timothy 3:1 – position of a bishop (NKJV), office of a bishop (KJV) office of overseer (NASB) – the actual Greek word is ἐπισκοπή (episkopē) and is descriptive of an overseer.   An elder, oversees the affairs of a local church. 
In Acts 20:28 Paul speaks of them as overseers as they shepherd the flock. 
1 Peter 5:2 notes that they serve as overseers.

                                                iii.      Pastor – shepherd – ποιμαίνω, (poimainō) describes one who shepherds or “pastors” the flock.  1 Peter 5:2 – “feed the flock of God” (KJV), Shpherd (NKJV, NASB).  And Acts 20:28.

                                                iv.      In NO text do you find a distinction of individuals between these words.  When more than one of them is used, they refer to the same office and their tasks. 

                                                  v.      NOTE: These terms are not designed as titles, but rather descriptions of what they are. 

c.        Also described as stewards.   Titus 1:7 – the idea of a steward is a trusted servant.  Elders have been ENTRUSTED with a stewardship over the flock. 

d.       They lead by example – 1 Peter 5:3. In studying the qualifications and quality of elders, we see this.   NOTE this is not the ONLY way they lead.  Some want to relegate elders to nothing more than figureheads with no real authority.  Scripture teaches different.  Hebrews 13:7 call for us to remember them, “whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

e.       They teach and see to it that we are properly taught and grounded – It is a qualification (1 Timothy 3:2) and something demonstrated by his maturity.  Ephesians 4:11-12 – elders are given to equip the saints. 
Titus 1:9, also describing the quality of elders they must be 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.

f.         They watch out for our souls – Hebrews 13:7 notes that this is WHY we remember and obey them (Hebrews 13:7, 17).  That was the warning and task Paul was giving the Ephesians elders in Acts 20:27-31.  They were to be able to spot the false teacher and expose him.
This is also taught in Titus 1:9-11 where Paul expounds upon their ability to exhort and convict.

g.       They pray for us – James 5:14.   While we may not fully understand all involved in this text, we know that one thing godly elders will do is pray for the flock, and individually as they need it and request it.

h.       They shepherd the flock – we have already noted this in various texts (Acts 20:27, 1 Peter 5:2-3). When you think of a shepherd you think of one who:

1.       Leads the flock by getting in front – they are examples.

2.       Sees to it that the flock is feed and cared for – they teach and ensure that the flock is adequately taught.

3.       Tends to the wounded and sick of the flock – while not exclusively their task, they WILL deal with the brother overtaken in a trespass or one who has wandered from the truth (Galatians 6:1, James 5:19-20).
To the elders at Ephesus, Paul stated, I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. (Acts 20:35)

4.       Protects the flock from predators – they spot the false teacher and deal with him.  Acts 20:29-31 – as Paul said to take heed to the flock, he warned of wolves.

5.       Keeps track of the flock – being over the congregation, they care about every soul entrusted to them.  In fact, Hebrews 13:17 tells us they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  This is why we obey them.

 II.                   What the work of the elder is NOT

a.       Far too often today, the work and office of the elder is misunderstood.  Their work is to protect the soul of each sheep in the flock.  With wisdom, and often with much toil and at times great sorrow, they work to protect the flock – making sure they are grounded in the word and in their lives.  They see to it that the flock is properly taught “the whole counsel of God” and they reach a point where they can spot the wolf seeking to creep in (cf. Matthew 7:15).  Yet many want the elder to do everything BUT the work scripture calls for him to do.

b.       So understand that the elder is NOT:

                                                   i.      An apostle – a direct, inspired representative of Christ.  The point is an elder does not have the authority to make spiritual laws.  All they can do is study and properly enforce the Bible.

                                                 ii.      The maintenance foreman – appointed to paint, repair the roof and parking lot, etc.

                                                iii.      Your personal repairman, mover, problem solver, etc.

                                               iv.      Your personal financial advisor, a certified marriage counselor (usually) or your piggy bank. 

                                                 v.      Your escort and errand boy – you have no right to expect him to put his life on hold to run your errands.  Galatians 5:13 – do NOT take advantage of him or any Christian.

                                               vi.      Appointed to micromanage your life – 1 Peter 5:3 makes that very clear.  They are not lords over you.

                                              vii.      Here to relieve you of your spiritual responsibilities (such as going to a brother you have a problem with).  A good elder will ask you if you fulfilled your responsibilities in this.  He can’t study for you at home, he can’t pray in your place (but he does pray for you), do your personal work (he has his own load), etc.  Galatians 6:5 is clear about that!  Cf.  James 5:19, Matt. 18:15

                                            viii.      The one to blame because you are not what you ought to be or are having problems.
1 Timothy 5:19.

                                                ix.      The one to blame when you are practicing error as a congregation of the Lord’s people.  There are some who think that as long as the elders approve of something believe it is acceptable.  IF, the elders are godly men and are following God’s pattern, then yes, you follow them (cf. Hebrews 13:7 – follow their faith).  But on the day of judgment, you will not be able to blame them for your practicing error, either as an individual or corporately as the body of Christ.   
Again, the Bible is clear that if error is being taught or practiced, they need to be addressed – 1 Timothy 5:19-20.  NOTE; This verse is also given with precaution.  BEFORE you accuse, you better be sure! 

                                                 x.      NOTE: While an elder can help in these matters (and often he is willing to help with any and all of them), especially providing spiritual guidance (as a mature brother in Christ) and as a proper example, he is not to be taken advantage of.  

 

This is a brief introduction to the work of the elders as found in scripture.   It is a serious responsibility that not everyone can achieve.  But, when we are following God’s pattern, it is the safe way to ensure that a church remains faithful to His purpose for her.   In our next lesson, we will address the qualities required for one to serve as an elder.  We will conclude this part of our study by noting our responsibilities to the elders.  Think about it!