There are only two officers in a local New Testament church namely elders and deacons
Phil 1:1 (NIV) 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)…
We noted in an earlier study that the church needs servant-leaders
The Greek word for deacon is derived from the word meaning “servant”
Deacons assist the church by attending to physical, administrative matters
ONLY TWO OFFICERS
Who were the Hellenistic Jews or Grecian widows referred to here? Remember the gospel had not yet gone to the Gentiles. They were not Greeks, but Greek-speaking Jews (the result of the Hellenization of the known world by Alexander the Great)
Acts 6:1-6 (NIV) In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
A complaint: Whilst disciples of Christ should never be complainers and disputers (Phil 2:14), that doesn’t refer to legitimate and necessary complaints. Somehow the Grecian widows were being neglected in the support payments. The neglect was unintentional, but the system needed improvement or more attention. A complaint made in the proper manner got the problem recognized and sorted. 1
The apostles acknowledge that it is a legitimate complaint and don’t ignore the issue (remember - good leaders listen). The solution to the problem is the appointment of deacons to assist in the distribution of food to the needy widows
1 https: //www.simplybible.com/f78i-acts-c6-v1-15.htm
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said:
It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables
teaching and evangelism. They didn’t want to make the same mistake that Moses had made - trying to do too much and not delegating tasks to capable helpers (Ex 18:13-27)
Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose
Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit;
also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and
Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism
The only passage in the NT that addresses the selection and appointment of deacons is in Acts 6
While the seven are not specifically identified as “deacons” we usually make this association because they fulfil a similar role to the “deacons” mentioned later in the NT when the church was more established
In this infant church in Jerusalem, where there were only apostles and no elders yet, the apostles set the criteria for the deacons but got the church to choose the candidates
METHOD OF ELECTION
these men to
and laid their
hands on them
the choice of
deacons by laying hands on them. Some see the laying on of hands here as an impartment of authority, while others regard it as a symbolic gesture or a blessing in a ceremony formalising the appointment. 1
1 In the OT the “laying on of hands” was used to bestow a blessing (Gen 48:13), to express identification (Lev 1:4) or to commission a successor (Num 27:23)
1 Tim 3:10 (NIV) They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons
“first be tested”: This implies that deacons should already be serving in this capacity before official recognition is given
“if there is nothing against them”: Our practice in an established church is for the elders to nominate candidates - but the congregation must consent and submit to the appointment. The congregants may voice objections – the elders then evaluate qualifications and merits of objections (in light of the scriptural guidelines)
METHOD OF ELECTION
One of the most prominent of the first deacons was Stephen, the first martyr, whose death was one of the factors that
led to the
Another renowned deacon is Philip, who baptised the Ethiopian eunuch and evangelised Samaria (Acts 8)
stay at his
en route to
The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos (διάκονος), which means “servant”, “minister” or “an administrator”
Depending on context, at times diakonos is simply translated “servant”
Matt 20:26 (NIV) “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant [diakonos]”
We could possibly equate it with the “helps” and “administrations” in 1 Cor 12:28
(NASB) And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, … helps, administrations…
Generally, deacons are concerned with the material side of a church, while elders see to the discipline, doctrine and spiritual well-being of the church
They assist in church business:
Many believe that the deacon(ess) Phoebe delivered Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 16:1-2)
Some believe that Epaphroditus, the envoy from the Philippian church, might have been a deacon
Phil 2:25 (NASB) But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need.
While performing the below functions doesn’t automatically make someone a deacon, they are typical of the duties that a deacon would fulfil. In a modern church, a deacon’s duties might include:
Overseeing financial matters and collecting tithes
Preparing and serving communion
Maintenance of buildings and grounds
Parking-lot attendants and security personnel
Administrative or organizational tasks
Caring for children and babies
Catering, kitchen duties
Cleaning the church
Preparing and setting up the hall or rooms for services or events
Operating audio and visual equipment
Musicians and singers (although a worship leader might be someone who has the ministry of an elder
Opening / closing the church
Welcoming people, ushering and maintaining order
The Apostolic Constitutions (a 4th century document) instructs: “let the deacon be the disposer of the places, that every one of those that comes in may go to his proper place, and may not sit at the entrance. In like manner, let the deacon oversee the people, that nobody may whisper, nor slumber, nor laugh, nor nod”. 1
1 Apostolic Constitutions (Book II), Sect 7, LVII
A person’s life and character must pass certain criteria before qualifying one to serve as a deacon.
Paul gives Timothy selection criteria for deacons. He states the reason for this is that “you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15, NIV).
The apostles also gave requirements in the election of the first deacons in the church of Jerusalem
The deacon must be chosen “from among you” (Acts 6:3)
i.e. a faithful member of the local congregation.
They must be “full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3) i.e. they are to be godly people, not chosen just because of their knowledge, experience and practical capabilities.
They must be “full of… wisdom” (Acts 6:3).
Wisdom is not just knowledge – it is the ability to apply knowledge. It is having common sense and good judgment.
The deacon must be of “good reputation” (NASB), “of honest report” (Acts 6:3, KJV).
They must have the confidence and trust of the congregation and broader community.
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.
Paul gives Timothy some additional requirements for deacons in 1 Tim 3:8-13.
“Worthy of respect” (NIV), “grave” (KJV), “dignified” (ESV), “men of dignity” (NASB), “serious” (CEV).
This isn’t to say that a person cannot have a sense of humour. But they must have a reverence for God that is evident by their actions and speech.
They must be respected by the congregation
“Not indulging in much wine” (NIV), “not addicted to much wine” (ESV, NASB), “not given to much wine” (KJV), “not heavy drinkers” (CEV).
they are temperate, not depending on physical stimulants.
“Sincere” (NIV), “not double-tongued” (KJV, ESV, NASB), “not be liars” (CEV).
Deacons must control their tongue well. They must be dependable, reliable and as good as their word.
They speak what is true and are consistent. They do not say one thing at one time and something different at another time. They do not say one thing and do another.
They do not talk one way to your face and another behind your back.
“Not fond of sordid gain” (NASB), “not pursuing dishonest gain” (NIV), “not greedy for dishonest gain” (ESV), “not greedy for money” (CEV), “not greedy of filthy lucre” (KJV).
They are not motivated by money, but generous and faithful in giving.
They can be trusted with the tithe and church finances. Deacons might be entrusted with money that is given for the Lord’s work and may 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.
Deacons lead their homes in Christ
1 Tim 3:12 (NIV) A deacon … must manage his children and his household well.
There is a direct correlation between the ability to provide effective leadership to one’s household in the natural family and the ability to manage God’s household, the church.
“the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:12, ESV.
Literally “to be a one-woman man”
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
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 3:12 (NIV) A deacon must be faithful to his wife…
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
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
So to summarize - if not single or widowed, the deacon must be in a faithful, monogamous marriage. He must not be an adulterer or womanizer.
Their life must match their profession of faith.
1 Tim 3:9 (NIV) They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience
i.e. subscribing to the tenets of true Christianity.
In this context, Paul is simply saying that the man who serves the church should be a believer who is mature, who has a firm grasp on the basic elements of the gospel, and whose life matches his profession of faith. 1
1 https: //www.gotquestions.org/mystery-of-faith.html
It is possible for deacons who “have served well” to progress to even greater roles in the church. Stephen progressed from serving to preaching.
Acts 6:8-10 (NIV) Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs
among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen… who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
Philip progressed from serving to becoming an itinerant evangelist having a ministry of miracles and deliverance.
Acts 8:5-7 (NIV) Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds
heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.
In Acts 8, Philip converts the Ethiopian eunuch and baptises him. He subsequently “appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea”. (Acts 8:40)
In Acts 21 he is still in Caesarea, is known as “Philip the evangelist” and now has 4 daughters who prophesy.
US CHURCHES THAT ORDAIN WOMEN
SOURCE: Pew Research Centre, Pentecostal Church of God, General Council of the Assemblies of God, New York Times, Disciples of Christ
Catholic, Orthodox and the Eastern churches are steadfast in their refusal to allow women into the clergy, as indeed, are many Protestant churches. This includes the appointment of female deacons. Yet the early church had a strong tradition of deaconesses. What is the A/G view?
Women’s role in ministry: The A/G affirms the ministry of women in the church and allows them to be ordained and serve in pastoral roles. 1
The A/G US policy is: “At the discretion of the local congregation, a female meeting other stated qualifications may be selected to serve as a deaconess”. 2
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assemblies_of_God_USA 2 https://ag.org/Beliefs/Position-Papers/Qualifications-and-Responsibilities-of-Deacons-and-Trustees
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
Are there any female deacons mentioned in Scripture?
Rom 16:1 (KJV) I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant [diakonos] of the church which is at Cenchrea…
In many English translations (KJV, ESV, NASB), Phoebe is called the “servant” of the church at Cenchrea (a village in the municipality of Corinth in Greece), but the Greek word “diakonos” is exactly the same translated as “deacon” elsewhere (when the context is about men).
The KJV translates diakonos as “deacon” 3 times (Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:8,12), as “servant” 7 times (including the reference to Phoebe) and as “minister” 20 times. The Greek word originally simply meant “servant” but later came to be used in a technical sense to denote an office in the church. One has to ascertain from the context whether it is being used in the technical sense or in the older sense
There is some debate about whether Paul is saying that Phoebe was a “deacon” in the church or whether he is simply using the word in the older sense to mean someone known for her helpfulness and service to the church
The International Standard Version renders the passage:
Rom 16:1 Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess in the church at Cenchrea
Again some might make the accusation that this is simply modern liberal reinterpretation of Scripture. But Phoebe was certainly regarded as a deacon by the early Church, as can be seen from a 4th- century Greek inscription marking the resting place of another deaconess. On a broken stone on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, it reads:
“Here lies the slave and bride of Christ, Sophia, deacon, the second Phoebe , who fell asleep in Christ.”
The early Christian writer, Origen (185-255) also writes:
I commend to you Phoebe... This passage teaches by apostolic authority that women also are appointed in the ministry of the church, in which office Phoebe was placed at the church that is in Cenchreae. Paul with great praise and commendation even enumerates her splendid deeds... And therefore this passage teaches two things equally and is to be interpreted, as we have said, to mean that women are to be considered ministers in the church, and that such ought to be received into the ministry who have assisted many; they have earned the right through their good deeds to receive apostolic praise. 1
1 Commentary on Romans 10.17 as preserved in Latin by Rufinus (345-410
Under the title “The-Role-of-Women-in-Ministry”, in its Position-Papers on Beliefs, the website of the US Assembly of God states:
Phoebe, a leader in the church at Cenchrea, was highly commended to the church at Rome by Paul (Romans 16:1,2). Unfortunately, translation biases have often obscured Phoebe’s position of leadership, calling her a “servant” (NIV, NASB, ESV). Yet Phoebe was diakonos of the church at Cenchrea. Paul regularly used this term for a minister or leader of a congregation and applied it specifically to Jesus Christ, Tychicus, Epaphras, Timothy, and to his own ministry. Depending on the context, diakonos is usually translated “deacon” or “minister.”
The same article points out the following about the next verse where Paul states that Phoebe “has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well” (NASB)
Moreover, a number of translations reflect similar biases by referring to Phoebe as having been a “great help” (NIV) or “helper” (NASB) of many, including Paul himself (Romans 16:2). The Greek term here is prostatis, better translated by the NRSV as “benefactor” with its overtones of equality and leadership. 1
The ESV renders it as “for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well”.
The latest NIV version (2011) renders the passage on Phoebe as follows:
Rom 16:1-2 (NIV, 2011) I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.
Because of Paul’s recommendation, it is assumed she was on official church business and delivered his letter to the Romans
Rom 16:1 (GOD’S WORD® Translation) With this letter I’m introducing Phoebe to you. She is our sister in the Christian faith and a deacon of the church in the city of Cenchrea
While giving the qualifications for deacons, Paul states:
1 Tim 3:8-11 (KJV) Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives [gynai] be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
The above passage raises the question:
Why would there be qualifications given for deacon’s wives, when none are given for elders wives?
However the word translated “wives” in some versions (gynai) can simply be a generic term for women. Gynai is translated as “women” several times in 1 Tim 2:9-12
This has caused many to take the position that in the context, the passage actually refers to the qualifications of female deacons. Some reason that if the Bible meant “wives” we might expect it to say “their wives” so as to eliminate any possibility of confusion
Thus the NASB simply renders the verse:
1 Tim 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things
The NIV also uses the term “the women” and adds the footnote with “deaconesses” as a more explicit alternative.
The Weymouth New Testament goes further:
Deaconesses, in the same way, must be sober-minded women, not slanderers, but in every way temperate and trustworthy.
Proponents of the “women / deaconesses” rendering argue that no criteria are given for the wives of elders, so why would Scripture dictate any requirements for deacon’s wives.
This is not a recent idea due to the influence of the women’s liberation movement. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary published in 1871 agrees 1 as does the distinguished English Christian theologian Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905). 2
1 11. their wives—rather, “the women,” that is, the deaconesses. For there is no reason that special rules should be laid down as to the wives of the deacons, and not also as to the wives of the bishops or overseers. Moreover, if the wives of the deacons were meant, there seems no reason for the omission of “their” (not in the Greek). Also the Greek for “even so” (the same as for “likewise,” 1Ti 3:8, and “in like manner,” 1Ti 2:9), denotes a transition to another class of persons… Naturally after specifying the qualifications of the deacon, Paul passes to those of the kindred office, the deaconess.
2 (11) Even so must their wives…—The position of this solitary charge, respecting deacons’ wives, in the midst of regulations concerning “deacons,” is, of itself, almost decisive against the translation of the English version, adopted also by Luther and many others. The question naturally occurs—why are deacon’s wives especially referred to, while nothing has been said respecting the wives of presbyters?
Ellicott points out that John Chrysostom (a 5th century Christian in Constantinople, whose native tongue was Greek) believed that Paul was referring to deaconesses. 1
Chrysostom (344-407) wrote:
Ver. 11. Even so must the women be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Some have thought that this is said of women generally, but it is not so, for why should he introduce anything about women to interfere with his subject? He is speaking of those who hold the rank of Deaconesses. 2
1 Ibid. - The literal translation of the Greek words would be, Women in like manner must, &c. These women, St. Chrysostom and most of the ancient expositors affirm, were deaconesses. It is certain that there were women holding a kind of official position as deaconesses in the early Church… 2 Homily 11.1
And even earlier Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) says:
We also know the instructions about women deacons [διακονών γυναικών] which are given by the noble Paul in his other letter, the one to Timothy [1 Timothy 3,11].”
The Expositor’s Greek Testament (19th century) notes that “Women in like manner must…” is also not simply a set of instructions to “women in general” or to the “wives of the deacons” - but to deaconesses. 1
1 These are the deaconesses, ministrae (Pliny, Ep. x. 97) of whom Phoebe (Romans 16:1) is an undoubted example… In confirmation of this view it should be noted that ὡσαύτως is used in introducing a second or third member of a series… The series here is of Church officials… And further, this is a section dealing wholly with Church officials. These considerations exclude the view that women in general, as R.V. apparently, are spoken of. If the wives of the deacons or of the clergy were meant, as A.V., it would be natural to have it unambiguously expressed, e.g., by the addition of αὐτῶν
The Pulpit Commentary (19th century) agrees:
Verse 11 … What is meant by these “women”? Certainly not women in general, which would be quite out of harmony with the context. The choice lies between
(1) the wives of the deacons, as in the A.V.;
(2) the wives of the episcopi and deacons;
This last, on the whole, is the most probable. The male deacons had just been spoken of, and so the apostle goes on to speak of the female deacons (at διάκονοι, Romans 16:1)
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (publ. 1882+):
11. Even so must their wives be grave] The R.V. translates literally Women in like manner must be grave, i.e. women deacons, favouring the general view of the earliest commentators, as Chrysostom and Theod. Mops.,’ mulieres quae diaconis officium implere statuuntur,’ and the latest, as Bps Wordsworth and Ellicott. Fairbairn gives well the reasons; ‘the mode of expression “likewise” apparently marking a transition to another class (as at 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 2:9; Titus 2:3; Titus 2:6); also the absence of the article or the pronoun to connect the women with the men spoken of before; the mention only of qualifications for deacon work, while nothing is said of those more directly bearing on domestic duties.’
The 1 Tim 3:8-11 passage is rendered as follows in the NASB. Note the contrast between v10 and v11 in the context of deacons (v8): “these men must” and “women must”
8 Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.
11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things
Hence the qualifications given are for deaconesses, not deacon’s wives. The said qualifications are:
Worthy of respect (NIV), grave (KJV), dignified (ESV, NASB)
Greek: semnos - reverend, venerable, serious, honourable, serious, dignified, grave
Ellicott’s Commentary: Be grave.—The same word is used as in the case of the deacons . These deaconesses, too, must, with their modest behaviour, with their sweet, decorous gravity… “inspire reverence…”
Not malicious talkers (NIV), not slanderers (ESV, KJV), not malicious gossips (NASB)
Slander is the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation.
In the Greek, “slanderers” is “diabolous” - the root of the English word “Devil”
Matthew Poole’s Commentary: Not slanderers; not devils, (so it is in the Greek), that is, persons given to railing and accusing others.
Temperate (NIV, NASB), sober-minded (ESV), sober (KJV)
Greek: néphalios – sober, not intoxicated (with wine), temperate, vigilant
Similar to the deacon’s “not indulging in much wine”(1 Tim 3:8)
Another of the early Greek Fathers, Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 393-460) notes the similarity between the qualifications of deacons and deaconesses:
“In the same way, women” that is, the deacons, “are to be serious, not irresponsible talkers, sober, faithful in everything.” What he directed for the men, he did similarly for the women. Just as he told the male deacons to be serious, he said the same for the women. As he commanded the men not to be two-faced, so he commanded the women not to talk irresponsibly. And as he commanded the men not to drink much wine, so he ordered the women should be temperate. 1
1 Commentary on 1 Timothy
Trustworthy in everything (NIV), faithful in all things (ESV, NASB, KJV)
Greek: pistos - faithful, reliable, trustworthy
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary: faithful in all things—of life as well as faith. Trustworthy in respect to the alms committed to them and their other functions, answering to “not greedy of filthy lucre,” 1Ti 3:8, in the case of the deacons
Regarding these qualifications of deaconesses, The Expositor’s Greek Testament (1897) similarly notes:
Again, the four qualifications which follow correspond, with appropriate variations, to the first four required in deacons, as regards demeanour, government of the tongue, use of wine, and trustworthiness.
The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary concurs:
“Grave” occurs in the case of both. “Not slanderers” here, answers to “not double-tongued” in the deacons; so “not false accusers” (Tit 2:3). “Sober” here answers to “not given to much wine,” in the case of the deacons (1Ti 3:8). Thus it appears he requires the same qualifications in female deacons as in deacons, only with such modifications as the difference of sex suggested.
Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John, uses Jesus as the example deacons should emulate:
In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant of all. 1
1 Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, Ch. 5
Though being a servant is not especially esteemed in the world, servanthood is nevertheless highly regarded in the Kingdom of God.
There is a great advantage to those who are faithful to their ministry.
1 Tim 3:13 (NASB) For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
(NLT) Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.
There are only two officers in a local New Testament church namely elders and deacons.
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.” 1
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.
1 https:// ag.org/Beliefs/Position-Papers/Revival-Endtime-Revival--Spirit-Led-and-Spirit-Controlled
PLURALITY OF ELDERS
In the NT the terms “elder”, “pastor” and “bishop” are used of the same person.
The Greek word:
“poimen” means shepherd
“episkopos” means overseer / bishop
“presbuteros” means an elder
E.g. 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.
LOCAL CHURCH GOVERNANCE
Eph 5:23… Christ also is the head of the church…
Phil 1:1 … together with the overseers and deacons …
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 (NIV) … 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 (NIV) 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.
APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS
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 (NIV) Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord…
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
APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS
What are the required qualifications for an elder/pastor?
They must desire the work:
1 Tim 3:1 (NIV) 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, NIV).
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 (NIV) 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).
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,
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.
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.
amicable, well disposed,
amenable, helpful, obliging,
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, widowed, divorced and remarried. Most likely Paul is referring to sexual faithfulness
within the marriage.
1 Tim 3:2 (NIV) Now the
overseer is to be… faithful to
If not single or widowed, the elder
must be in a faithful, monogamous
marriage. He must not be an
adulterer or womanizer.
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,
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 (NIV) 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.
Rather than one who loves money, an elder / pastor must be “one who loves what is good” (Titus 1:8).
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 (NIV) … 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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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)
DUTIES OF ELDERS
are not to be authoritarian.
“not lording it over those entrusted to you” (1 Pet 5:3, NIV)
DUTIES OF ELDERS
i.e. not unpleasantly overpowering
Synonyms for overbearing: domineering, dominating, autocratic, tyrannical, despotic, heavy-handed, oppressive, bullying, dictatorial, bossy, opinionated, dogmatic
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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 (NIV) 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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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 (NIV) 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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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…
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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
DUTIES OF ELDERS
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
TREATMENT OF ELDERS
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…
TREATMENT OF ELDERS
1 Tim 5:17-18 (NIV) 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
TREATMENT OF ELDERS
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?
TREATMENT OF ELDERS
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/
TREATMENT OF ELDERS
Thus elders are not above reproach, but an accusation must not be made lightly.
1 Tim 5:1-2 (NIV) 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
TREATMENT OF ELDERS
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
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