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Biblical Church Leadership III

Continuing my posts on Biblical Church Leadership let me again warn the new reader that this is a continuation and it is recommended that you begin with the original post to fully understand the content.

WARNING: Up to this point most people will probably have been in agreement with the major thrust of this series, this is the place where we may part company however I ask you to leave me your comments so that we both may grow.

Plurality of Elders

There are only a few occasions where the term elder is used in the singular, and those include Peter and John (I Pet 5:1 and 2Jn 1:1 and 2Jn 1:1 respectively) referring to themselves as individuals, which would naturally be singular. Outside of those references we only find two other singular references to an elder:

a. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Titus 1:6

b. Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. I Tim 5:19

While there are many passages that show a plurality of elders, including plural elders in a singular church or location.

  1. Acts 11:30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
  2. Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
  3. Ac 20:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.
  4. Ac 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
  5. 1Ti 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
  6. Tit 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are , and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you-
  7. Heb 13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
  8. Heb 13:17 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.
  9. Heb 13:24 Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.
  10. Jas 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
  11. 1Pe 5:1 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:
  12. 1Pe 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Ordination of Elders

It is simple to see how Christians became elders in the Bible; we see many places where Apostles or their delegates, Titus and Timothy, are sent to ordain elders. What that means may not be completely clear in the NIV notes Acts 14:23 this way:

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders Or Barnabas ordained elders; or Barnabas had elders elected for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

Looking into the term for ordain[i], it is a term related to hand raising or voting. Although no other translation I read included this note or translated it in any way related to voting, a look into early church history reveals commands from the early church fathers to the churches to “Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, and true and approved”[ii]. This is dated back to the early second century. It is feasible that the Apostles selected the elders for the churches; although it isn’t inconceivable that the churches had input into the decision much like the deacons we see in Acts chapter 6.


[i] Strong’s Concordance GR#5500

[ii] Didache 15:1 http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-lightfoot.html

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