At Living God Fellowship, we strive to teach and live our lives according to the Word of God. We press toward the mark of being a “Book of Acts” church. One very important and overlooked teaching, in the book of The Acts of the Apostles and in many of the epistles, is the fact that they had multiple elders rule in the church.
I want to give you, the reader, an opportunity to have the eyes of your understanding opened, as we zoom in on some scriptures that may have never been quite brought into a rightly divided focus before. So let's begin with, who are the Elders? Let's look in the epistle to Titus.
Titus 1:4-9 4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. 5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
We can conclude from the epistle to Titus that the elders are the bishops. The terms bishop and elder are both used to describe the leadership of the church. Next, let's look at some scriptures in the first epistle to Timothy and see what role the elders/bishops have in the church.
1 Timothy 3:1-13 1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
1Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
We can conclude from these verses that the elder/bishop is one of the offices in the church and that it is an office of rulership. You might be thinking to yourself, “I thought the pastors ruled the church.” Let us next look at first epistle of Peter and read what he wrote.
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1 Peter 5:1-4 1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Peter identifies himself as an apostle in chapter one and as an elder in chapter five. He is writing to those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, and in chapter five he addresses the elders of those churches. He tells them to feed the flock, to be examples to the flock, and have the oversight, which is acting as bishops or superintendents. Also telling them to be the pastors to the flock because a pastor is defined as a shepherd and a shepherd feeds the flock. We can conclude from 1 Peter that it is those holding the office of the elder that oversee and that take on the role of the apostles and the role of pastors.
Now we will conclude with looking at how many elders are in a local assembly of believers.
Philippians 1:1 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: 2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Philippi we really don't know how many bishops there were, but we do know it was more than one because they are addressed as the bishops, plural.
Hebrews 13:7, 17, & 24 7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. 24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
In the thirteenth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, the writer tells them, to obey them (not him) that have the rule over you. Again, a plural form of leadership is used. Acts 20:16-17 16 For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. 17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
Here in Acts 20, we have Paul sending to Ephesus and calling for the elders (not an elder). There were more than one at the church of Ephesus. And in verse 28 we can see Paul, still instructing the elders, tell them that they are the overseers(bishops) and that they need to feed the flock(be pastors).
Acts 20:28 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.
Acts 11:29-30 29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: 30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Acts 11 shows relief being sent to the brethren at Judaea, and it was sent to the elders of Judaea. Again, we see more than one elder at a local church. Also, you can read Acts 6, 14, 15, & 21, James 5:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 for more multiple elders examples.
Most churches do not follow this pattern of a plural rulership in the church. We want to strive to be what the one man, who is truly the head of the church, Jesus Christ, wants us to be. We have His Word to be our pattern for baptism in Jesus name, the Holy Ghost baptism with speaking in tongues, multiple elders, and everything else that we teach and live.
BIBLE FACTS - The only singular form of the word pastor used in the bible is found in:
Jeremiah 17:15-17 15 Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now. 16 As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee. 17 Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
Thank you for reading. May God bless your understanding of the scriptures as you hunger and thirst for it.