House Church Talk - thoughts on "elders" as a special position of church leadership

jesusislord343 at jesusislord343 at
Wed Aug 4 23:43:28 EDT 2004

Dear saints,
As related to this evening's postings on the topic, following is an
excerpt from a recent dialogue with a former clergyman on the discussion
of "elders" and "overseers."

"Test everything; hold fast what is good."

Grace in Christ,
Glenn S.

...Here then is what I believe I am beginning to percieve through our
conversations concerning "elders" and "overseers."  I believe I may have
been in error to directly equate the two as I have, and yet correct in
seeing that there are not two separate sets of qualifications for
"elders" and "overseers," as two separate offices of church leadership
(and with overseers then OVER elders).  

What I observe now (as presently still under consideration) is that there
is but one "office," so to speak, of assembly leadership: the
"overseership" (I Tim. 4:14), and as occupied by "elders" (literally,
older men).  I believe there is perhaps a missing ingredient in our
modern reading of the NT, in that we do not necessarily expect older men
in our assemblies to be spiritually mature, doctrinally sound, and
blameless in their walk, as warranted in the NT.  We are far more
tolerant and libertine in our sensibilities today than they, and in areas
in which discipline and kind-hearted disassociation is indeed necessary
and appropriate.  That is, we allow very often not only our younger men
but also our older to be far short of sober-mindedness (Tit. 2:2, 6). 
Indeed the majority now, it is sad to say, seemingly are pathetically
silly and frivolous, unsound in speech, and devoid of wisdom--and yet
they remain happily as "church members" in good standing.

Scriptural considerations:

1.  "Elder" means simply "older man."  Its feminine counterpart is
translated (in the plural) as "older women" in Titus 2:3.

2.  The thrust of Titus 1 perhaps then is that the older men ("elders")
were to be appointed as "overseers" of the assemblies--yet not on the
basis merely of agedness, but as based upon the blamelessness which was
to be expected of them in their advanced state of spiritual progress. 
Thus Titus was to take from among the older men ("elders") and appoint
those qualified as overseers.

3.  Likewise in Acts 20:28 it is the older men ("elders") who have
matured and become "overseers" of the flock of God, as by the powerful
giftings and workings of sanctification by the Holy Spirit.

4.  In I Peter 5, Peter's exhortation is directed toward the older men
("elders"), as from a "fellow elder," for them to serve the flock in
shepherding it as "overseers."

The point seems to be that it is only expected for older men not to have
lingering elements of scriptural disqualification in their lives at their
advanced age, and to be in a position of readiness to serve blamelessly
as overseers of the body.  The word "elders" then, such as in James 5:14
and various other places, does not necessarily connote (it appears) that
all of the older men in view will be fully qualified as
"overseers"--although the fittingness of older men being full-grown in
Christ is certainly to be understood in these passages as well.  Thus the
word "elder" does not necessarily connote a church leader, but only that
it is normative for an elder (older man) to be one.

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