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Subject: Who Should Lead The Church, Elders Or Pastors?

q.gif (1639 bytes)   Does the Bible teach plurality of Elders (Pastors)?


a.gif (1659 bytes)   There is common confusion over this matter because of the multitude of well-known, non-denominational type preachers/teachers today on radio and TV who teach the “plurality of elders.”  They make “elders” the “position” to which a man is ordained, instead of the “description” of the only type of men that are to be ordained to Biblical “positions” or “offices.”

     Acts 14:23 says,  “23 And when they had ORDAINED THEM ELDERS IN EVERY CHURCH, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

     Titus 1:5 says,  “5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ORDAIN ELDERS IN EVERY CITY, as I had appointed thee:”

     These men are not being ordained to "be" elders—they already "are" elders (spiritually mature men).  They are "elders" being ordained to the positions or offices of "pastor" and/or "deacons."

     Notice that the most detailed passage dealing with church offices mentions nothing about a position of "elder."  It mentions the "office" of a bishop (pastor), and the "office" of deacons.  First, the office of "bishop (pastor)."  1 Timothy 3:1-7 says,  "1 This is a true saying, If a man desire THE OFFICE OF A BISHOP, he desireth a good work.  2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;   3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;   4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;  5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)  6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.   7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."

     Next, the office of "deacons."  1 Timothy 3:8-13 says,  "8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;  9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.  10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use THE OFFICE OF A DEACON, being found blameless.  11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.  12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.  13 For they that have used THE OFFICE OF A DEACON well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."

     Notice that the references to the bishop (pastor) are all "singular" (one man), but the references to deacons are all "plural" (more than one deacon).  When the command was given to "ordain elders in every city," it was not a command to ordain multiple pastors for every church.  It was a command to ordain elders (spiritually mature men): one as a bishop (pastor), and others (plural) as deacons.

     Nothing is mentioned of an "office of an elder."  The reason is because the term "elder" is not a "position," but a "description" of a man.  You do not elect a man to be an "elder."  You elect men who already are elders (spiritually mature men) to be either a "Pastor" or one of the "Deacons."

     "Elders" are not something new to the New Testament church.  The nation of Israel had "elders" (spiritually mature men from which they were to choose leaders).  When Moses told the Lord that he could not bear the people all alone any more, this is what the Lord told him in Numbers 11:16,  "16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, WHOM THOU KNOWEST TO BE THE ELDERS of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee."

     The Lord was not telling Moses to "ordain 70 men to be elders."  He told Moses, “Gather 70 MEN THAT YOU KNOW ARE ELDERS,” and then He would empower them.

     Being an "elder" is not foremost an "age" issue, but an issue of spiritually maturity.  Timothy was a young man, but he was also an "elder" that deserved the respect and obedience as a man of God.  1 Timothy 4:11-16 says,  "11 These things command and teach.  12 LET NO MAN DESPISE THY YOUTH; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.  13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.  14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.  15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.   16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."                   


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