The Office of an Elder
“…I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” (Revelations 4:4)
Welcome to todays Truth for the Journey entitled “the office of an elder” where we want to get back to talking about the apostle. Many have enjoyed the teaching surrounding the apostle and the apostolic ministry – so much so in fact that one of our friends in Nigeria, who feels passionate about the subject, has gathered together all the articles referring to the apostle and (with permission) is publishing them into a booklet… fantastic!
So lets get back to the teaching on the apostle in regard to those who are promoting the hierarchy of Bishops as the top structure of the Church etc. To refresh the word bishop simply means elder as quoted from my teaching manual in the our first article on this series;
The word episkopos occurs five times in the NT: once of Christ (1 Pet 2:25) and in four places of “bishops” or “overseers” in local churches (Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:7). The verb episkopeo occurs in Hebrews 12:15 (“watching”) and (in some NT MSS) 1 Peter 5:2 (“exercising the oversight”)… A bishop then has “oversight of,” he is an “overseer.” 1 Peter 5:2 says, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof.” The Greek word for “oversight” is episkopeo, Strong’s ♯1983 - to oversee, to beware, to look diligently, take the oversight. Extra words given: direction (about the times), have charge of, take aim at (spy), regard, consider, take heed, look at (on), mark
So to continue lets take a look at eldership now in both the New and Old Testaments (before we begin let me add that we will be looking at whether it is right to call oneself a bishop or not in following articles!)
The Office of Elder in the Old Testament: The Hebrew word for elders: ‘zaqen’, [OT] Does not necessarily mean an old man, but does imply one of maturity and experience (Numbers 11:16). They where recognised as the highest authoritative body over the people. They acted as the religious representatives of the nation (Jeremiah 19:1; Joel 1:14; 2:16).
As well as handling many political matters and settling inter tribal disputes (Joshua 22:13-33) the town elders where a sort of municipal council, whose duties included acting as judges in apprehending murderers (Deuteronomy 19:12), conducting inquests (Deuteronomy 21:2) and settling matrimonial disputes (Deuteronomy 22:15; 25:7).
The “elders of Israel,” first heard of in Exodus 3:16-18, were assembled by Moses to receive God’s announcement of the liberation of Egypt. The covenant was ratified at Mount Sinai in the presence of 70 elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1,9,14 cf. 19:7), the “nobles” (KJV) or chief men of the nation (24:11). Later 70 elders were specially anointed with the Spirit to aid Moses in governing the nation (Numbers 11:16-25). In cases when the whole community sinned, the elders of the congregation or community were to represent it in making atonement (Leviticus 4:13-15)
The authority of the elders was in principle greater than that of the King (cf, 2 Kings 23:1). It was this group which demanded that Samuel appoint a king (1 Samuel 8: 4-6), and they were parties to the royal covenant which established David as king (2 Samuel 5:3).
In Babylon the elders were the focal point of the Jewish community in exile (Jeremiah 29:1; Ezra 8:1; 14:1; 20:1-5), and after the return to Jerusalem they continued active (Ezra 5:5, 9; 6:7-8,14; 10:8,14). While their authority was originally civil, by New Testament times the ‘elders of the people’ (presbyeroi tou laou) shared with the chief priests the power of determining religious affairs and if necessary of expulsion from the synagogue.
Elders in the New Testament: An elder in the NT is really a ‘bishop’. In his vision of heaven, John saw 24 elders seated upon thrones surrounding the throne of God, clothed in white garments and wearing golden crowns (Revelations 4:4). They fall down in worship and cast their crowns before God’s throne (4:10; cf. 11:16; 19:4), and with their harps and bowls of incense, symbolising the prayers of the saints, they sing a new song to the Lamb (5:8-10).
As elders they represent God’s people; their thrones and crowns symbolise a kingly role, while their acts of worship and the bowls of incense suggest a priestly function. Thus they seem to be the chief representatives of the redeemed as a kingdom of priestly function. (Revelations 1:6; cf. 20:6; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Exodus 19:6).
They used the same word for ‘elder’ in the OT and the NT, but the content of the Christian Elder’s ministry has changed, for it now includes visitation of the sick (James 5:14).
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Father help me to understand Your divine initiative where leadership structure is concerned. Help me to grasp, in particular the role of elders and the office of responsibility that they carry. Help me to respect and work with them as I should, as they exercise the role of authority that You have placed them in. Help me to support and pray for them according to Your Word. Amen
CONFESSION OF THE DAY
God Himself set in place all elders and those in positions of authority or oversight – for our benefit. I choose to work with God’s structure and will not be dictated to by man’s limited idea of structure. I have a spirit of cooperation and not rebellion. I work together with those God has chosen instead of standing as judge over them – waiting for them to fail. God’s system is flawless and genuine – free of hidden agendas and ambitions. Even though those He chooses and uses are still human! My eyes and trust are on God - not on the structure itself. We fail or succeed based up on our ability to keep our eyes on God!
THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO MAKE THIS MINISTRY POSSIBLE! WE LOVE YOU…!
Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’
Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries