The Pastoral Ministry

"This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."
I Timothy 3:1

© Copyright 1976, 1977, 1998 Diane S. Dew

I.   What is an elder?

      Throughout the New Testament the term "elder" is used interchangeably with the word
      "bishop" ("overseer," Greek). Elders are men appointed by God for the supervision
      (oversight) of a local church.

II.   In the early church, how were elders appointed?

      A.   On their return journey, the apostles chose elders in each city – each local church
             – and they "commended them to the Lord."

                    Acts 14:21-23

      B.   Plurality of elders was always the safeguard against the possibility of any one
             person dominating in the leadership of a local church (see III John 9).

                    Acts 14:22, 23
                    Acts 20:17
                    I Thessalonians 5:12, 13
                    Titus 1:5
                    Hebrews 13:17

       C.   Elders were appointed from among the local body of believers.

                    Acts 14:23
                    Titus 1:5

        D.   Titus was left behind to "ordain (appoint) elders in every city."

                    Titus 1:5

        E.   They "prayed with fasting."

                    Acts 14:23

        F.   Eldership is not by the selection and approval of men; it is of divine
              ordination. Jeremiah 3:15

                    Acts 20:28
                    Ephesians 4:11

III.   What are the scriptural qualifications for eldership?

              I Timothy 3:1-7   "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity, (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."

              Titus 1:6-14   "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."

IV.   God has put great responsibility behind the office of an overseer.

              Zechariah 11:17   "Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock!"
               Ezekiel 34:10   "...I will require My flock at their hand..."

        A.   To be an example to the flock.

                     Philippians 3:17
                     Philippians 4:9
                     I Peter 5:3

               1.   In his own manner of conduct.

                            Acts 20:28
                            I Timothy 3:1-7
                            Titus 1:6-14

               2.   In his home.

                            I Timothy 3:4, 5
                            Titus 1:6

        B.   It is the responsibility of the elders to rule (guide), instruct (teach), and shepherd (feed) the local church.

                      John 21:15-17
                      Jeremiah 3:15
                      Jeremiah 23:4
                      Ezekiel 34:2
                      John 21:15-17
                      Acts 20:28
                      I Timothy 3:2; 5:17, 18
                      Titus 1:9-14
                      Hebrews 13:17
                      I Peter 5:2

        C.   But an elder is never to employ his authority harshly, but in humility of spirit.

                       Ezekiel 34:4   "Woe to the shepherds of Israel ... with force and with
                       cruelty have ye ruled them!"

                       Matthew 20:25-28 (cp. Mark 10:42; Luke 22:25)   "But Jesus called
                       them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles
                       exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority
                       upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great
                       among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among
                       you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be
                       ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

                       II Corinthians 13:10   "Therefore I write these things being absent, lest
                       being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the
                       Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction."

                       I Peter 5:2, 3   "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the
                       oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but
                       of a ready mind. Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being
                       ensamples to the flock."

                       Revelation 2:15   "So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the
                       Nicolaitanes (literally, "people-conquerors"), which thing I hate."  (The
                       system of the Nicolaitanes allowed the clergy to lord over the laity.)

          D.    He must not seek monetary gain through his ministry to others.

                       Isaiah 56:11   "Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough,
                       and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own
                       way, every one for his gain, from his quarter."

                       Ezekiel 22:25, 27   "There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst
                       thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls;
                       they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her
                       many widows in the midst thereof.... Her princes in the midst thereof are
                       like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to
                       get dishonest gain."

                       Ezekiel 34:2, 3, 8-10   "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds ...
                       Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds
                       of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
                       Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ... but ye feed not the flock.
                       As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and
                       my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no
                       shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds
                       fed themselves, and fed not my flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the
                       word of the LORD; thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the
                       shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease
                       from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more;
                       for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them."

                       Micah 3:11   "The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests
                       thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet
                       will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us?
                       none evil can come upon us."

                       John 2:16 (Mark 11:15-17)   "And said unto them that sold doves,
                       Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of

                       John 10:12, 13 "But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose
                       own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep,
                       and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The
                       hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep."

                       I Timothy 3:3   "Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy
                       lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous."

                       I Peter 5:2   "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking
                       the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre,
                       but of a ready mind."

         E.   Shepherds are to have a personal concern for those sheep who have
               been led astray (Ezekiel 34:4-6), and tend to the health of the sheep,
               if any is sick (Ezekiel 34:4; James 5:14, 15).

         F.   The reason God's sheep are scattered, the Word says, is "because
               there was no shepherd" providing for their needs.

                       Ezekiel 34:5-8   "And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd:
                       and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were
                       scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every
                       high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and
                       none did search or seek after them. Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the
                       word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my
                       flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field,
                       because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my
                       flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;"

                       Zechariah 10:2   "... therefore they went their way as a flock, they were
                       troubled, because there was no shepherd."

V.   What is the difference between an elder and an apostle?

       A.   An apostle's work is to the universal church. But the work of an elder
              is limited to the supervision (oversight) of a local church.

                       Compare I Corinthians 12:28 with Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5

        B.   An apostle may also be the elder of a local church, but not all elders
              are apostles. (Example: Peter and John, both apostles, were also elders.

                       I Peter 5:1; II John 1; III John 1)

        C.   An apostle may instruct and exhort in a matter at question, but the
               situation itself is to be dealt with by the elders of the local church involved.

                        Acts chapter 15
                        I Corinthians 5:9, 13

VI.   God demands the respect and submission of the church to those whom He has placed over it.

              Philippians 2:29   "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness;
              and hold such in reputation."

              I Thessalonians 5:12, 13  "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them
              which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
              and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at
              peace among yourselves."

               I Timothy 5:17, 18   "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of
              double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For
              the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.
              And, The labourer is worthy of his reward."

              Hebrews 13:17   "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit
              yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account,
              that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

              I Peter 5:5   "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.
              Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: ..."

          A.   Consequences for disrespect to those in spiritual authority may be disastrous.

                       Numbers 12:1, 2, etc.   "And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses
                       ... they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not
                       spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it."

                       II Kings 2:23, 24   "And ... there came forth little children out of the city,
                       and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou
                       bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them
                       in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the
                       wood, and tare forty and two children of them."

                       Psalms 105:14, 15   "He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he
                       reproved kings for their sakes; saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do
                       my prophets no harm."

          B.   It is wise to consider the advice of an elder (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15, etc.),
                 but spiritual leaders can also make mistakes in the things they say (I Kings
                 chapter 13; I Samuel 2:12-17). It is the responsibility of each individual to
                 personally seek God for himself before coming to any conclusions in major
                 decision-making. God held the man responsible in I Kings 13 for heeding
                 the voice of the prophet when he had already heard from God for himself.

© Copyright 1976, 1977, 1998 Diane S. Dew

Complete, printed and bound copies of studies (100 topics, 900+ pages, 8 vols.)
may be obtained from Diane Dew, PO Box 340945, Milwaukee, WI 53234 USA 
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