Elders in the Church

I use the ESV translation of the Bible, as I have found it best reflects the what the Greek texts say. (KJV and NAS are also pretty good- if you compare passages from all three together, they say the same thing, but are sometimes phrased differently). If you wish to study and compare translations, I recommend using Biblehub.com or BlueLetterBible.org. Bible Hub allows you to look up the interlinear dictionary (comparing Greek to English), and also links to concordances, and Strong’s Dictionary (they categorized every word used in the Bible, and defined it as used in the Bible, as well as in the context of the culture of the time). That sounds complex, but it is incredibly easy to do. (We can all be thankful that the internet has given all of us the ability to be seminarians).

My role here is to just highlight what the Bible says about Elders in the church.

In 1 Timothy, there is a distinction made between Elders and Deacons. The office of elder is described as an “overseership,” “Elder,” and sometimes “Bishop.” This varies by “translation.”  In 1 Timothy 3:1, the Greek word “episkopes” is used, while in Titus, the word “presbyterous” is used.

Episkope is a feminine noun, is a “visiting of judgment, or overseeing.” Presbyterous is an adjective, and is a term used to infer age, as well as rank or office. Make of that what you will.

      Those who seek or aspire to the office of overseer/elder, desire a noble task. 1 Timothy 3:1. In Acts, Paul addressed the Elders at Ephesus, and charged them to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Acts 20:28. Paul gave this charge, as he warned that “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore be alert …” Acts 20: 29-31.

Elders have many responsibilities, including governing, preaching, and teaching. Elders who rule well are to be “considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17.

Here are the qualifications, the bare minimum, required become an Elder, in no particular order:

  • Be above reproach (Titus) (1 Timothy)
  • Be the husband of one wife (Titus) (1 Timothy)
    • (Must be a man)
  • His children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination (because an Overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach) Titus 1:7. (Titus) (1 Timothy)
  • Must be hospitable (Titus) (1 Timothy)
  • Must be a lover of good (Titus)
  • Must be self-controlled (Titus) (1 Timothy)
  • Must be upright (Titus) (1 Timothy “respectable”)
    • Must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace (1 Timothy)
  • Must be holy (Titus)
  • Must be disciplined (Titus) (1 Timothy)
  • Must be able to teach (1 Timothy)
  • Must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine, and rebuke those who contradict it.[1] (Titus)
  • In teaching, an elder is to “show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Titus 2: 7-8.
  • What he must not be:
    • A recent convert (1 Timothy)
    • Must not be arrogant (Titus)
    • Must not be quick tempered (Titus)
    • Must not be a drunkard (Titus) (1 Timothy “Sober”)
    • Must not be violent (Titus) (1 Timothy “gentle, not quarrelsome”)
    • Must not be greedy for gain (Titus) (1 Timothy “not a lover of money”)

With the responsibility Elders have, there are also consequences for their failures. While a charge against an Elder must be supported by two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19), they are to be rebuked in the presence of all, if they persist in sin (1 Timothy 5:19-20) (this shortens the timetable for church discipline; there are commentaries stating that “persist” in this context means “to be found”).

Those who teach in the church “will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1. The entire third chapter of James serves as a warning over the use of our words, and the teaching within the church. Recall that Christ explicitly stated “it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sear than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:1; Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6.

[1] They must be sound in doctrine (Titus 1:9), because “there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they not ought to teach …. Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish Myths and the commands of the people who turn away from the truth.

8 thoughts on “Elders in the Church

  1. This is an excellent post. The warnings against careless use of words from an elder (Titus 1:9, Titus 2:6-8, and Matt 18:5-6) are very important.


  2. A small word on the ESV. There are some passages with a clear theological bias in them, showing the influence of Wayne Grudem’s theology in the translation itself. I’m disappointed by that. Using Biblehub, comparing different translations, even against the Greek, using interlinear, you can easily check several translation against (variants of) the original documents.

    Case in point: 1 Cor 11; the same Greek word for ‘man/husband’, and ‘woman/wife’ is translated different mid-section, suggesting the apostle Paul is talking about different groups. This specific translation is clearly driven by Grudem’s theology, and I don’t like that as a principle for translation.

    ESV: “For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.d Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?”

    Note the continuous switching between ‘wife’ and ‘woman’, whereas the Greek uses the same word. Note also that ‘man’ is NEVER translated as ‘husband’ by the ESV in this section, how strange…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep. I agree, and am a big advocate of bible hub.

      The ESVs interpretation leads to the theory that head covering is for a married woman (watering down what the verse actually means). Even then, it doesn’t make sense when you realize Paul’s argument is from creation, and also uses angels and the heavenly order.

      As per grudem, I believe I have him on my Big Calvinism chart. I haven’t looked into him too much, but he tends to be referenced a lot on controversial theological positions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s