Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Responsibility of Elders

We have completed our look at what elders are to be and now we’re looking at what elders are to do. In doing that, I would like to define the term that is found in 1 Timothy 3:1. It is the term translated "bishop." The term "bishop" is not a good translation because "it carries modern ecclesiastical implications that are not consistent with its biblical meaning" (John MacArthur, Church Leadership, p.20). The word is episkopos and according to Greek culture was "a city administrator or finance manager. Some scholars believe that the New Testament usage of episkopos is based on that usage" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). But also existing during that time was the Qumran Community or the Essenes. The men who "preached, taught, and exercised care and authority were called episkopoi" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). Alexander Strauch says, "Episkopos denotes over-seer, inspector or protector. At the root of the word is the idea of one who supervises, protects, guards, and keeps watch" (Biblical Eldership, p.90). Applying this understanding to the episkopos in the church and you see that it referred to elders who had the responsibility of "leading, instructing, and shepherding the people." (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). The episkopos also "heard and verified accusations against believers, and administered church discipline where appropriate" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). Each pastor and elder still has those responsibilities, and he is directly accountable to God for the quality of his leadership (Heb.13:17). James 3:1 says, "Let not many of you become teachers...knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment" (NASB). There are 6 areas elders are responsible for and the first is Leading the Church.

Elders Lead the Church (1 Timothy 5:17)

1 Timothy 5:17 says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."

The word "Rule" is the Greek word proistemi which means "to be ranked first" or "to stand first" (MacArthur) or "to be at the head (of), rule, lead" (BAG). It means to "lead, direct, or guide" (Strauch), "superintend, to preside over" (Wuest). The word is translated "over you in the Lord" in 1 Thess.5:12. According to Romans 12:8 this is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 3:5 says elders or literally "overseers" "take care of the church of God."

Elders Lead the Church in Humility

Alexander Strauch says, "Christ’s teaching on humility and servanthood governs how we are to lead in God’s household" (Ibid., p.239). They do not "lord over the people" (1 Pet.5:2-3). They lead by "example." (1 Pet.5:3). 1 Tim.4:12 says, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim.4:16 adds, Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

"Christ gives elders the authority to rule on His behalf using His Word. The church is not to be ruled by its congregation, but by those whom God calls for that task" (Ibid., MacArthur, Church Leadership, p.21).

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