Elders in the Church of Christ (The Names for Elders)
What are the names for Elders?
- Elders in the Lord’s church have six names.
- They are: Elders, Presbyters, Bishops, Overseers, Pastors and Shepherds.
- Each name has an important meaning.
- By studying the meaning of each name, we shall be able to learn much about this church officers.
- The most common name is “elders.”
- The word “elder” means “an older person.”
- This refers to a person older in faith as well as in years.
- Most mature and most experienced Christians in the church.
- They are not novices (1 Timothy 3:6)
- Just because a person is an elder in his town/ village does not mean that he is a qualified to become an elder in a church.
- The person could even be the oldest members of the church and still not be qualified as a spiritual elder.
- He could even be the first member of a congregation without being a spiritual elder.
- Paul sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17)
- Titus was left in Crete to ordain elders in every city. (Titus 1:5)
- Another name that means exactly as elders.
- Another word meaning “elder”
- It is found only one time in the Bible. 1 Tim 4:14
- Has the same importance as the word “elders”.
- Another name for elders is “bishops”.
- It means “Overseers.”
- It is found in 1Tim 3:1,2, Phil 1:1, Titus 1:7.
- Elsewhere it is used in connection with Jesus.
- In 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is referred to as Bishop of our souls.
- In Acts 1:20, it refers to the place of oversight from where Judas Iscariot fell.
- This name for elders shows the work of overseeing which elders must do.
- 1 Peter 5:2 says that they are to have the oversight.
- This emphasizes the fact the elders themselves do not necessarily have to do all the work of teaching and leading;
- but they oversee all such work.
- The elders must superintend or administer the work of the local church.
- As all organizations must have bishops or overseers.
- The word “overseers” means exactly the same as bishops.
- It is made up of two words, “see” and “over.”
- An overseer looks out over the church.
- A watchman over the welfare and business of the congregation.
- Acts 20:28 says that the Holy spirit had made the Ephesian elders overseers of the flock.
- They were to take heed to themselves “and to all the flock.”
- Responsibility to keep out false teachers which would come. Acts 20:29,30
- The work of oversight by the elders is very necessary in the Lord’s church.
- This name for elders is found only once in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:17. It is another word meaning shepherds.
- Spiritual leaders over the people of Israel were called “Pastors.”
- Woes and curses were pronounced on those pastors who destroyed and scattered the Lords sheep. Jer.23:1-7
- The word “pastor” is similar to the word “pasture.” This further shows the meaning of a shepherd and a sheep.
- Denominational pastors are different from scriptural pastors. Pastors were elders in the Bible, and were always more than one in each church.
- When the apostle Peter was writing to the elders, he told them;
- To feed the flock among them.
- He also told them that when the Chief Shepherd(Christ) shall appear, they would receive a fadeless crown. (1Peter 5:1-4).
- This shows that elders are shepherds in the congregation under Christ the Chief Shepherd.
- This comparison of elders to shepherds is meaningful in that,
- Shepherds in the Bible lands were very interested in their sheep.
- They loved them and nurtured them (Psalm 23)
- Always led ahead of them, never driving them from behind.
- They protected them, fed them and watered them.
- Shepherds would suffer great hardships to find a cost sheep or to keep their flock from harm.
- This is the kind of offices the Lord wants as elders.
- The name “shepherd” and other names for elders in the church help to give us a clear understanding of these men.
- Elders are Presbyters, Bishops, Overseers, Pastors or Shepherds.
Prepared by Joseph J. Foray Snr. (Elder/Minister. Church of Christ, Oforikrom Assembly, Kumasi, Ghana)