OceanSide church of Christ

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The Eldership – The Basics

Victor M. Eskew




A.   The word “elders” is found numerous times in the New Testament.

1.     Ten (10) times in Acts (Acts 11:30; 14:23, 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23, 16:4; 20:17; 21:18).

2.    Once in I Timothy (I Tim. 5:17)

3.     Once in Titus (Tit. 1:5)

4.    Once in James (James 5:14)

5.    Once in I Peter (I Pet. 5:1)


B.   These men have been delegated to be the leaders over the local congregation of the Lord’s people.


C.   In this lesson, we want to look at what we refer to as “The Basics” concerning the eldership.




A.   The office of elder did not originate in the mind of man.


B.   It was God who ordained the position of elder.

1.     Paul told the elders at Ephesus that the Holy Ghost had made them overseers (Acts 20:28).


Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.


a.    The Holy Ghost is God (Acts 5:3, 5).

b.    The Holy Ghost gave requirements, qualifications, for this position.  These men met the qualifications.  Thus, they were made elders by the

Holy Ghost.

2.    The qualifications are found for us in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  Thus, God is still the one determining who will be an overseer within the body of Christ.




A.   In the Greek language, three words refer to the position that we call elder.

1.     Presbuteros (Acts 14:23)

2.    Poimen (Eph. 4:11)

3.     Episkopos (I Tim. 3:1)



B.   Each of these three Greek words is translated with two English words in our New Testaments.

1.     Prebuteros

a.    Elders (Acts 14:23)


And when they had ordained elders in every church…


b.    Presbytery (I Tim. 4:14)


Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.


2.    Poimen

a.    Pastors (Eph. 4:11)


And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.


b.    Shepherds

1)     Nowhere are elders specifically called shepherds in the New Testament.

2)    In two passages of Scripture, the elders are told “to feed” the flock of God which is among them (Acts 20:18; I Pet. 5:2).

a)    The word “flock” implies a shepherd.

b)    The words “to feed” are from the Greek word “poimen.”  This word means “to tend as a shepherd” (Strong, e-sword).

3.     Episkopos

a.    Bishop (I Tim. 3:1)


This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.


b.    Overseer (I Pet. 5:2)


Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof…


C.   Each of these names gives us some insight into the type of men who are to be elders and the nature of their work.

1.     Presbuteros:  elder/presbyter – an aged man, a senior (NOTE:  This elimin-ates the young “elders” of the Mormon Church).

2.    Poimen:  pastor/shepherd – one who tends a flock (NOTE:  This term is used of elders in the NT and not of the preacher.  In other words, the preacher is not the pastor of the church).

3.     Episkopos:  bishop/overseer – to oversee, superintend




A.   The Bible does not authorize “one-man” rule within the local congregation.

1.     There was never “a pastor” who headed the church.

2.    The church was never overseen by one bishop.


B.   The Bible always speaks of the eldership having two or more men overseeing the flock.

1.     Acts 11:30


Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.


2.    Acts 14:23


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.


3.     Acts 20:17


And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.


4.    Philippians 1:1


Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.




A.   Two verses:

1.     I Timothy 3:1


This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.


a.    The KJV states:  If a “man” desire the office of a bishop.

b.    ANSWER:  The word “man” can be translated “if any” or “whoever.”

c.    COUNTER:  Let’s look at I Timothy 3:2

2.    I Timothy 3:2


A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.


a.    Only a man can be a husband. 

b.    Paul was addressing men, not women.


B.   Women are not allowed to serve in the office of elder.

1.     Some, however, in the church have advocated for woman elders.

2.    Robert R. Taylor, Jr.:  “No God-fearing woman will desire such!”




A.   Being an elder is not a mere figurehead position.  One does not hold the office just for the sake of prestige or notoriety.

B.   An elder has work to do (I Tim. 3:1).


This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.


1.     An elder has many obligations placed upon him.

2.    In another lesson, we will deal with the responsibilities of the elders.




A.   Two lists of qualifications for elders are revealed in the New Testament.

1.     I Timothy 3:1-7

2.    Titus 1:5-8


B.   The two lists contain qualifications.

1.     There are things that a man must have or must be.

2.    There are things that a man must not have and must not be.


C.   A man must possess all of the qualifications in order to be approved to be an elder authorized by God for the position.


D.   The qualifications will be the topic of our discussion in our upcoming lessons.




A.   Some have advocated that elders have no authority, except through means of example.


B.   Numerous verses indicate their authority:

1.     They are to oversee the flock (Acts 20:28).

2.    The elder is to “take care of the church of God” just as he ruled his own house (I Tim. 3:4-5).

3.     He is to rule well (I Tim. 5:17).

4.    The elders are also to be obeyed (Heb. 13:17).


C.   Their authority lies in two areas:

1.     They are to make certain that divine authority is carried out within the congregation.

2.    They also have authority in matters of option:  a) Times of services, b) Who will be the minister, c) Which works are to be supported and d) Building projects.




A.   In the near future, the elders would like to appoint more men in the offices of elder and deacon.


B.   Each one of us should be listening closely to the next three lessons:  one on qualifications of elders, one on the work of elders, and one on deacon qualifications.