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Those Who Labor Among You

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

According to the New Testament, the elders do not serve as a board of directors, but theirs is a work to perform. In citing the qualifications of elders, the apostle wrote, “If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” It is a “good work.” More young men need to prepare themselves for this “good work.” More young women need to prepare themselves so as to qualify their husbands for the eldership.

Elders are “over” us and not “under” us. This fact is pointed out three times in the New Testament. First, in Acts 20:28, Paul, in speaking of the elders said, “…over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers…” Then, in the 1 Thessalonian letter, he shows elders are “over” us. The third place this is pointed out is in Hebrews 13:17. “…obey them that have the rule over you…” The word “obey” in this passage means “be persuaded by your leaders.”

Men should be led to obey elders through persuasion and compulsion – not mere demand of the law. So it is clear. Elders are “over” us, not “under” us. Yet, some would seek to dictate to the elders and tell the elders what to do. It is a weak eldership that is swayed by a pressure group. The shepherd is over the flock, not the flock over the shepherd.

However, elders are not “over” us as lords or dictators. The apostle Peter strikes a deathblow to such an idea. “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: 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; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1-3). No, elders are not to lord over the church. The shepherd does not drive the sheep, but they follow him. Elders, not only through the decisions that they make, but by the life they live, point the way. They are out front in their example (1 Peter 5:3), in their Bible knowledge (Titus 1:9), and in their faithfulness and dedication. (Matthew 6:33)

The sphere of their leadership is “in the Lord” or in the church. Elders can exercise the oversight only of the affairs of their local congregation. Peter wrote, “Feed the flock of God, which is among you…” Hence, this would prohibit the elders of one congregation taking the oversight of and making decisions affecting the affairs of another congregation.

May the Lord bless you and keep you!


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