Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 14 July 2019


Sermon synopsis: Should the end-time church be led by apostles and prophets or is it in the hands of elders / presbyters and deacons?

Our position on the office of elder is that it refers to a pastor, bishop (or overseer) and that the words are interchangeable. While the term “bishop” is a Biblical word, it is simply the older English term in the KJV rendered in modern English versions as “overseer” – which is the equivalent of an elder i.e. not a separate office.

In many churches, a pastor is seen as a notch higher than an elder, while a bishop is again regarded as higher than a pastor. Methodists, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans and Catholics recognize bishops in roles above the congregational level. Catholics have added positions like archbishops (a bishop over a larger city) and cardinals (an advisory panel for the Pope). The head of a local church is called a parish priest, Father, Reverend or Pastor (in the US).

Some Protestants have adopted further offices like senior pastor and associate pastor, while some have started using bishop as an office more senior than an elder or pastor.

Our own STATEMENT OF FAITH reads as follows :
The Greek word for pastor is “poimen” and simply means shepherd or overseer. The terms pastor, elder and deacon describe ministries and are not meant to be titles, in accordance with the word of Jesus.

Matt 23:9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.

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Our STATEMENT OF FAITH (under the section “CHURCH: LEADERSHIP) reads “We believe that there are only two officers in a local New Testament church namely elders and deacons.” 1

In their Position Papers on beliefs, the A/ G US state that “The leadership of the local church, according to the Pastoral Epistles, is in the hands of elders / presbyters and deacons.” 2

Phil 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers (Greek: episkopois) and deacons (Greek: diakonois)…

1 "https://agfbrakpan.com/ statement-of-faith.aspx">https://agfbrakpan.com/ statement-of-faith.aspx 2 "https:// ag.org/ Beliefs/ Position-Papers/ Revival-Endtime-Revival--Spirit-Led-and-Spirit-Controlled">https:// ag.org/ Beliefs/ Position-Papers/ Revival-Endtime-Revival--Spirit-Led-and-Spirit-Controlled


Some churches adopt a system whereby a single “lead elder” (or pastor) has a board of deacons. But the NT church had a plurality of elders within each congregation.

In the NT the terms “elder” and “pastor” are used interchangeably.


The Greek word:

“poimen” means shepherd

“episkopos” means overseer

“presbuteros” means an elder

All three words are sometimes used interchangeably. For example Paul uses elder and overseer (bishop) as equivalents:

Titus (NIV) 1:5-7 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders (presbyterous) in every town… Since an overseer (episkopon) manages God’s household, he must be blameless…


Luke writes as follows about Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian elders:

Acts 20:17-18,28 (NASB) From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders (presbyterous) of the church… And when they had come to him, he said to them… “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopous), to shepherd (poimainein) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

To use modern “title” terminology, Paul is telling the ELDERS to PASTOR the church over which the Holy Spirit has made them OVERSEERS (bishops).


And likewise Peter writes:

1 Peter 5:1-2 (NASB) Therefore, I exhort the elders (presbyterous) among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd (poimainó) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (episkopountes) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness

Again, to use modern “title” terminology, Peter is telling the ELDERS to PASTOR the church and to OVERSEE (bishop) them.


We saw that when deacons were selected the leadership (at that stage – apostles) gave the criteria, but involved the church in the selection.

But with elders, we find that Paul, Barnabas and Titus appoint them.

Acts 14:21-23 … Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith … Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church ...

Titus 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.


Thus we hold to the practice that elders are appointed by the existing leadership.

However it is not something that must be done in haste or taken lightly (as much damage can be caused by appointing unsuitable people).

Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

In reality, the leadership simply recognize the ministry which the Holy Spirit has given.

Acts 20:28 (NIV) Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.


What are the required qualifications for an elder?

They must desire the work:

1 Tim 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.

Peter says elders must be “eager to serve”. He instructs them to do the work “not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be” (1 Pet 5:2).

They must be reliable (elders not directly referred to, but implied).

2 Tim 2:2 (NIV) And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.


While “elder” does not necessarily imply an old person, they must not be newly saved (a novice).

1 Tim 3:6 (NIV) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.

Due to experience, mature believers are more likely to be conscious of their own shortcomings, so there is less chance of them becoming arrogant by this appointment. They are also better equipped to teach younger believers as they have more experience in dealing with the temptations and stresses of the Christian walk.


Respectable (1 Tim 3:2)

regarded by society to be good, proper, or correct.

synonyms: reputable, upright, honest, honourable, trustworthy, above board, worthy, decent, good, virtuous, admirable, clean-living

Above reproach (1 Tim 3:2), blameless (Titus 1:7)

such that no valid criticism can be made against them

synonyms: beyond criticism, blameless, above suspicion, without fault, faultless, flawless, irreproachable, exemplary, unimpeachable, unblemished, untarnished

Informal: squeaky clean


Good reputation with outsiders (1 Tim 3:7)

1 Tim 3:7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

They must be respected by the congregation and the community at large. If a person has a reputation as a cheat, a drunkard, a liar or a womaniser, they will bring shame to Christ by acting as one of the appointed servants of the congregation.


Upright (Titus 1:8)

synonyms: righteous, honest, honourable, upstanding, respectable, reputable, law-abiding, moral, ethical, decent, virtuous, principled, good, just, noble

Holy (Titus 1:8)

Set apart; dedicated or devoted to the service of God; having a spiritually pure quality

synonyms: saintly, godly, pious, devout


Disciplined (Titus 1:8)

This means showing a controlled form of behaviour or way of working, especially to achieve a goal.

It is the assertion of willpower over more basic desires and is synonymous with self-control.

It includes having the personal initiative to get started and the stamina to persevere.

Being disciplined gives you the strength to withstand hardships and difficulties, whether physical, emotional or mental.


They must be self-controlled (1 Tim 3:2-3, Titus 1:8)

Exercising restraint over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.

Not quick- tempered (Titus 1:7)

synonyms: irritable, touchy, volatile,


prickly, cantankerous, grumpy, grouchy, cranky.

Not quarrelsome (1 Tim 3:3)

i.e. not contentious or argumentative

Not violent but gentle (1 Tim 3:3, Titus 1:7)


i.e. a mild, kind or tender temperament or character.

synonyms: kind-hearted, humane, lenient, merciful, forgiving, forbearing, sympathetic, considerate, good-natured, understanding, even-tempered, compassionate.

Temperate (1 Tim 3:2)

A temperate person is not extreme and shows moderation.

They are balanced and avoid excesses.

They behave in a sensible manner.


Hospitable (1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:8):

The Greek word ‘philoxenia’ literally means “love to strangers” (Strong’s ref 5381).

friendly and welcoming to visitors or guests.

synonyms: congenial, amicable, well disposed, amenable, helpful, obliging, accommodating, neighbourly, warm, generous


Not given to drunkenness (Titus 1:7, 1 Tim 3:3)

they are not dependant on physical stimulants.


An elder must be the husband of but one wife (1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:6)

Literally “to be a one-woman man”.

Like the deacon, this does not exclude those who are:

Single - (either never married or widowed). Since Paul (and probably Timothy also) was unmarried (1 Cor 7:7-8; 9:5), this isn’t his reference.

Widowed and remarried - Since Paul encourages widows to remarry someone who belongs to the Lord (1 Cor 7:39), this isn’t his reference.


Polygamy? It’s also unlikely that this is what Paul is referring to. While polygamy was practiced among the Jews in the first century, it was extremely rare. But Paul is writing in the context of Greco-Roman culture to Gentile churches in Ephesus (1 Timothy) and Crete (Titus).

Marriage in ancient Rome was a strictly monogamous institution: a Roman citizen by law could have only one spouse at a time. The practice of monogamy distinguished the Greeks and Romans from other ancient civilizations, in which elite males typically had multiple wives. 1

1 "https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Marriage_in_ancient_Rome">https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Marriage_in_ancient_Rome


Divorced and remarried? Since the New Testament recognizes divorce and remarriage by the innocent party in the case of marital unfaithfulness (Matt 19:9) or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:15), this probably isn’t his reference.

What is Paul referring to? Most likely Paul is referring to sexual faithfulness within the marriage.

1 Tim 3:2 Now the overseer is to be… faithful to his wife (NIV)

So in short - if not single or widowed, the elder must be in a faithful, monogamous marriage. He must not be an adulterer or womanizer.


This is important for two reasons:

They must be considered above reproach in the larger community or they will bring disrepute on the church.

Their example will be emulated by others in the church. Pater says they are to be “examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:3).

Since it was generally accepted among Greeks and Roman pagans that men could have sexual relations with women other than their wives, this would be an important matter in the context of the churches in Ephesus and Crete.


An elder must be “a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient” (Titus 1:6, NIV).

1 Tim 3:4 (NIV) He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.

Like a deacon, the ability of the leader to manage their family is mentioned as a criterion for an elder. Why? Because “if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:5, NIV)


Attitude to money

not a lover of money (1 Tim 3:3)

not greedy for money (1 Pet 5:2)

not pursuing dishonest gain (Titus 1:7)

As a pastor is an elder / overseer, these criteria exclude many modern prosperity teachers who are “people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim 6:5, NIV).


We see that elders could be entrusted with monetary gifts. When the Christians in Judea were experiencing a severe famine, the response of the church in Antioch was:

Acts 11:29-30 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

The Biblical elder is not motivated by money, but generous and faithful in giving. They might be entrusted with money that is given for the Lord’s work or have a say over its use. Such a person should not be the sort that you would feel uncomfortable with to watch over such matters. Not just a crook - perhaps just the careless, the imprudent, the poor steward, the self-indulgent.


Rather than one who loves money, an elder / pastor must be “one who loves what is good” (Titus 1:8).

A man’s heart is revealed by what he loves. Whatever a man loves becomes his passion, the thing to which he ascribes great value, from which he derives great pleasure, and for which he will labour long and hard. Such will dominate his thoughts and motivations, and will determine his priorities. 1

1 "https:// www.biblicaleldership.com/ 2014/ 12/ 23/ qualification-lover-what-good">https:// www.biblicaleldership.com/ 2014/ 12/ 23/ qualification-lover-what-good


Generally, deacons are concerned with the practical matters and material side of the church operation, while elders see to the discipline, doctrine and spiritual well-being of the church.

Elders need to lead and function as spiritual oversight over the congregation. In Acts 20:18 Paul calls the elders of Ephesus “overseers”.

Titus 1:7 … an overseer is entrusted with God’s work…

1 Tim 5:17 speaks of “elders who rule (proistemi) well (ESV).

NOTE: The Greek word “proistemi” literally means “to stand before” (in rank) and suggests to us the case of leading by authority as well as example.


Strong’s Concordance (proistemi):

Usage: I preside, rule over, give attention to, direct, maintain, practice diligently.

HELPS Word-studies (proistemi):

… “pre-standing,” referring to a pre-set (well-established) character which provides the needed model to direct others, i.e. to positively impact them by example.

… (“diligent to take the lead”) underlines the effectiveness of influencing people by having a respected reputation, i.e. one built on a solid “track-record.” This happens by setting the example of excellence by living in faith (cf. Ro 12:3,8).


Peter writes that elders are not to be authoritarian.

“not lording it over those entrusted to you” (1 Pet 5:3, NIV).


i.e. not unpleasantly overpowering

Synonyms for overbearing: domineering, dominating, autocratic, tyrannical, despotic, heavy-handed, oppressive, bullying, dictatorial, bossy, opinionated, dogmatic.


Paul says they must not be “overbearing” (Titus 1:7).

Consider the attitude of John and Peter. In 2 John and 3 John, the apostle John simply addresses his letter from “the elder”. Likewise Peter writes: “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder” (1 Pet 5:1, NIV).

We believe in the practice of servant leadership:

1 Pet 5:1-3 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder … Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.


All these requirements for elders are moral qualities and character traits. They are not skills – except for one – they must be “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2).

Preaching and teaching:

1 Tim 5:17 (NIV) The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

They must be familiar with sound doctrine so that they can encourage people and also adequately defend the faith.

Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.


Doctrinal protection – We see the apostles and the elders involved in doctrinal safeguard and guidance.

Acts 15:1-5 Some men came down from Judea to

Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.


So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said:

The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.

Acts 15:6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question.

Peter, James, Paul and Barnabas all had a chance to speak.

The outcome was that the elders made a ruling, which they put in writing for Paul and Barnabas to take with them.

Later on (Acts 20:30-31, NIV) Paul assigns this responsibility of doctrinal protection to the elders from Ephesus:


Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Paul also instructs the Ephesian elders to shepherd (care) for the flock.

Shepherds (pastors) protect the sheep from wolves.

Acts 20:28-29 (NIV) Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.


The Greek word for pastor (“poimen”) literally means shepherd. Peter also tells elders to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them” (1 Pet 5:1-3).

Remember that Peter himself had been given this directive by Jesus, who told him to “Feed my sheep” (John 21).

Elders watch for the souls of the congregation, so an elder’s ministry is more than just taking the lead, it is literally the giving of an account for the state of each individual member.

Heb 13:17 (NIV) Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account


They admonish or instruct the congregation.

1 Thess 5:12 (NIV) Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.

(NLT) … honour those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance.

(ESV) … respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you

(NASB) … appreciate those who diligently labour among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction


Elders receive feedback on ministries (like missions). The church in Antioch had initially been assisted by the Jerusalem church. Paul reports to the apostles and elders on the later mission endeavours of the Antioch church.


Acts 21:17-19 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Laying on of hands (impart blessing, prayer)

1 Tim 4:14 (NIV) Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

What was the gift that Timothy received? It was possibly a reference to the gift of evangelist, apostle or teacher.

2 Tim 1:6-11 (NIV) For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands… So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God… And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.


Praying for the sick

James 5:14-15 (NIV) Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.


Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John, writes the following regarding the duties of elders:

And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man; abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. 1

1 Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, Ch. 6. The duties of presbyters and others


Their lives should be imitated:

Heb 13:7 (NIV) Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

They must be obeyed and submitted to as they will have to give an account to God.

Heb 13:17 (NIV) Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.


Elders should be acknowledged, respected and appreciated.

1 Thess 5:12-13 (NASB) But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labour among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

(ESV) We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

(NIV) Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work…

1 Tim 5:17-18 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

While the word "honour" seems to imply respect, the context is regarding financial support. In the immediate section preceding this (1 Tim 3:16) Paul is talking about financial support for widows. Paul has just stated that certain widows are worthy of honour (v. 3), referring to providing support for Christian widows who meet specified criteria.

Paul also quotes the same OT passage "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," elsewhere in terms of providing financial support for Christian workers.

1 Cor 9:7-11 (NIV) Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?

David Guzik comments on 1 Tim 5:17-18:

He then goes on to say Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine. Some think the church should not support staff, and that the paid ministry is an abomination - they say that the church instead should be using the money to support the needy. This is an attractive way of thinking; but it isn’t Biblical. If the needy (that is, the truly needy) are worthy of honour, then those who rule and teach in the church are worthy of double honour. 1

1 https:// www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/archives/guzik_david/ StudyGuide_1Ti/1Ti_5.cfm


Thus elders are not above reproach, but an accusation must not be made lightly.

1 Tim 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

Again the word “elder” here is the same word as the office, but the context is clearly about elder men and women in general. Nevertheless the principle applies to elders in recognised leadership positions.


The rewards believers will receive at the Bema Judgment are called crowns. The Crown of Glory is given to Christian leaders who serve well and in humility.

1 Pet 5:4 (NIV) And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.


Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. ( Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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