QUALIFICATIONS & RESPONSIBILITIES
OF THE ELDERS
The New Testament makes no distinction between elders, shepherds, and overseers, therefore the following qualifications are for all three. The qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9. The lists are quite extensive and overlapping, involving some 25 or so qualifications. In this publication we will not make an extensive coverage of them, but summarize the requirements.
To restore the New Testament assembly we must have trained leaders who meet the qualifications God has established. Not just anyone can be an elder. Only those who meet God's qualifications can do God's work in God's way. Therefore, men who are well known or successful business men, but who do not follow God's Word or His methods must not be placed in leadership positions.
QUALIFICATIONS OF THE ELDERS
* Good Reputation: The elders must be men of good reputation, who are blameless, that is, no one can point a finger at them and say, "You wronged me and have not made it right." They must have a good reputation among nonchristians, and be known for their honesty, reliability, dependability, and faithfulness.
* Family Man: The elder must be a one-women man, above reproach in his marital relationship as well as in all other male-female relationships. His children must be obedient, well behaved, and under authority. Problem children indicate a problem marriage. If a man does not have a good relationship with his wife and children he will not be effective in leading a flock of God.
Marriage is a covenant which can only be broken by death. Therefore, divorce disqualifies a man from holding the position of elder or deacon in the assembly. A man who is divorced and remarried in God's sight has two wives. Much has been written on divorce and remarriage, but we must follow what God has written, not what man has to say on the subject. Divorced men can find forgiveness and a place of service and ministry within the assembly, but they must not be assigned the function of an elder or deacon.
* Christian Character: He must be a man of high character, who is self-controlled and not given to anger. He is patient, and not proud. He must not be addicted to anything of the world, such as television, rock music, drugs, work, etc.
* Financial Freedom: He does not love money, therefore he has no interest in get rich schemes, or pursuing dishonest gain. He is hospitable, sharing with those in need. He is an example of one who walks by faith. He knows that God is his supplier, therefore he does not go into debt, but is content with what God has provided.
* Able to Teach: He knows God's word and is able to instruct others so they in turn can be examples of the Christian life style. Only through God's word can the assembly be protected from false teachings. The shepherd must be able to detect false doctrine and be able to correct, rebuke, and lead his flock in the right direction.
* Maturity: He must not be a recent convert. Pride has caused the downfall of many men and assemblies. The leaders must be spiritually mature, under authority, teachable, and able to lead without becoming proud.
* Dependable: When things go wrong he holds fast to God's word and is able to correct and deal with trouble makers. "Holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict those who contradict him. For there are also many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for dishonest gain's sake." Titus 1:9-11. WEB
FIVE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ELDERS
In Ezekiel 34:4 God lists five responsibilities He demands of His shepherds. These we must do and not all the other activities so common in the typical church. God expects His shepherds to:
1. Strengthen the Weak: All new believers are spiritual infants and therefore are weak, just like newborn infants. They need the milk of God's word, encouragement, and constant care. Also there are those who have been Christians for many years who have not grown to maturity. Shepherds cannot bottle feed all the new born believers, so they must oversee that others in the flock are actively caring for and helping these weak brothers and sisters.
"Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his
neighbor for that which is good, to be building him up. For even Christ didn't please himself. But, as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.'" Romans 15:1-3.
2. Heal the Sick: The elders must learn how to identify the type of physical sickness a person has. Is it a sickness unto death, or for chastisement, or for the glory of God, or is the person's illness due to an attempt to manipulate other people? Prayer can then be made accordingly. Anointing and praying for the ill is a very important part of the shepherd's work.
"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your offenses to one another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effective, earnest prayer of a righteous man is powerfully effective." James 5:14-16.
Spiritual illness should also be of concern to the elders. Christians who are angry, unforgiving, greedy, bitter, immoral, and proud are spiritually ill and need special care. Satan is controlling a part of their life and they need to be instructed, rebuked, and disciplined.
" Preach the word; be urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching." 2 Timothy 4:2
3. Bind Up the Injured: Because of the decay of society there are many badly injured people. Their injuries are from mental, physical, and sexual abuse by others. Children are hurt by parents, wives by husbands, and employees by employers. But the greatest damage is caused by our own sins which brings God's condemnation and discipline upon ourselves. People are reluctant to accept responsibility for their own sins. The assembly leaders must, by example and teaching, lead the flock to accept responsibility for their own faults, mistakes, and sins.
"Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to
yourself so that you also aren't tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1,2.
"Thus, sinning against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat forevermore, that I don't cause my brother to stumble." 1 Corinthians 8:12,13.
4. Bring Back the Strays: Christians are likened to sheep for they both are likely to stray from the flock and the shepherd's care. Christ is our Chief Shepherd and the caretakers of the flock must always be aware of His voice, following His guidance. An important part of their ministry is to teach the flock to hear only the voice of Christ, and not be distracted by a false Christ, false prophets, and false teachings.
"Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins." James 5:19,20.
5. Search For the Lost: Christ leaves it up to the individual to either accept Him or reject Him as Lord and Savior. Salvation is a choice made by us. Those who call upon the name of the Lord are saved, but how can they call if they have not heard? It is the responsibility of all Christians to tell the lost about Christ so they can call upon Him. An important element in the elder's work is training the believers to present Christ to others.
"Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." Matthew 18:14.
"TThe Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9
"[God] desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4
"The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is on me; because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good news to the humble; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening [of the prison] to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of Yahweh's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;" Isaiah 61:1,2.
He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn't worthy of me. He who doesn't take his cross and follow after me, isn't worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:37-39 WEB
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Revised June 2000. Scriptures changed to The World English Bible.