Sunday, April 15, 2007

The function of an elder: what Scripture passages should we consider?

I am going back and revisiting all the Scripture passages from which we can learn the function of a pastor/elder/overseer. Here is my list so far:

Acts 11:29-30
Acts 15:2, 6
Acts 20:28-31
Eph 4:11-16
1 Tim 3:5
1 Tim 5:17
Titus 1:9
James 5:14
1 Pet 5:2-3

Did I forget a passage? If so please let me know. BTW - for you out there who do not always agree with me on my views on pastor/elder/overseers, this is your chance to help me grow in maturity, so please share with me passages I might have forgotten in my search to try to identify the function of an elder. Many of you have been blog-shy, it is time to get out in the open and join the blog-conversation.

Once I have received all your comments, I will spend some time studying these passages and then I will blog on the outcome of this study. Thanks in advance for your encouragement, support, prayers, and your own personal Scriptural study while I go through this process.


Theron said...


One verse that I might possibly add is John 21:16 since Peter was an elder, though he may not have been considered an elder at that time.

I know that others might like to consider Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, James, or even others as elders and then draw out principles for elders from their lives. Here are a few verses that I think speak to them not being elders.

Barnabas and Paul are called apostles in Acts 14:14. Paul, additionally, is called an apostle in several other places. They are not called elders anywhere else.

1 Cor. 15:7 says that Christ “appeared to James, then to all the apostles”. It appears that James would be included in “all the apostles.” In addition Gal. 1:19 calls James an apostle.

2 Cor. 1:1 says “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother…” Here Paul is called an apostle, but Timothy is not. The same type of construction is used in Col. 1:1. However, Timothy, in 1 Tim. 4:6, is told that “in pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant (or deacon) of Christ Jesus.” It seems more likely that Timothy would be considered a “deacon” rather than an elder.

Epaphroditus might be considered an apostle (or possible just a messenger) based on Phil. 2:25.

These are just a few initial thoughts. If I have missed something in the text, please let me know. Thank you for encouraging all of us to study this further.


Alan Knox said...


Since no one else has jumped into this conversation, I will. If you are looking for Scripture that specifically applies to elders - and only to elders - then I think you've covered it. However, any Scripture that applies to leaders also applies to elders (since elders should lead). This would add several Scripture passages to your list, including Jesus' words concerning servants. Similarly, any Scripture that describes all believers also applies to elders. I'm assuming, though, that you only want Scripture that specifically applies to elders. If that is the case, then I don't have anything to add.


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