Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 20, 1952
NUMBER 45, PAGE 2-3b

Duties Of Elders -- No. 1

Olen Holderby, Casa Grande, Arizona

There are some five different Greek words that refer to what we commonly call elders. From these we get the terms overseer (Acts 20:28), elder (Acts 14:23), shepherd (Eph. 4:11), rule-over you (Rom. 12:8), and lead (Heb. 13:17). Let it be noticed that there are responsibilities suggested by these terms. Webster says of overseer "to survey; watch, to inspect; examine, to superintend; supervise." Of shepherd he says; "to tend as a shepherd," and this necessitates a proper directing, protecting, and feeding of the flock.

We could also examine the qualifications as found in 1 Tim. 3, and Titus 1; and find a number of responsibilities. For one to be "blameless" would carry the duty of living an upright life. To be "watchful" would necessitate knowing for what to watch as well as the remedy. If one is to "rule well" his own house he must be a good husband, a good father, and direct his family into the proper channels of living. "Apt to teach" is a qualification that carries with it the task of studying God's Word.

However, our lesson at this time is not to be on the title or qualifications of elders, but on duties which are assigned to them by the rule book of God. I find some eight passages of scripture in the New Testament directed to this end. Four of these passages dwell on the same theme, and thus our lesson is reduced to five points, which I shall endeavor to discuss in this and one other article.

Feed the Church — Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2 When a man accepts the office of elder this responsibility falls heavy on his shoulders. Paul here is warning of the coming of false teachers. To check this digression of the disciples he enjoins the duty of feeding the church on the Ephesian elders. This certainly places the elders IN CHARGE OF THE TEACHING PROGRAM OF THE CHURCH. They are the ones who should appoint and discharge teachers and keep close check on class progress. They are at liberty to change teachers at will. When some discharged teacher is angry because of being dismissed or replaced, it is a fairly good sign that they were never qualified to teach in the first place. When elders and teachers alike have the cause of the church of Christ at heart there will be no conflict when changes are made. Elders who will allow preachers this oversight and preachers who assume the job need both to know of some of the unhappy experiences which have led to the "pastor system." Preachers are NOT elders, and until they are duly appointed as such they need to remain in their place. I realize that it becomes quite a problem when men who are recognized as elders fall down in their duties to the congregation. They appoint teachers without consideration of qualifications and then never check as to the job they are doing. They refuse to replace an incompetent teacher for fear of "hurt feelings." Such slackness is without excuse. In order for elders to feed the church the needed food they must know the flock. When we go grocery shopping we don't walk down the line of shelves and dump everything into the basket we come to. On the contrary, we select that which we know to be in keeping with proper eating. Likewise, the feeding of the church, some members must be fed milk while others easily digest meat. If elders do not know the flock, neither do they know what they need to be fed. When we feed a newborn baby on meat, what happens?

Peter, in 1 Peter 5:2, adds one more thought to this most important duty: "Feed the flock of God which is AMONG you, — " This limits the oversight of an eldership to the LOCAL congregation. This thought does not destroy anything the elders might otherwise be able to do. If elders will take care of their own flock, as God ordained they should, not many of them will be looking for something else to do.

Supervise The Benevolent Work Of The Church

Acts 11:29-30 In this passage, we read, "Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea: Which also they did, and sent it to the ELDERS by the hands of Barnabas and Saul." (A. V.) The fact that it was sent to the elders, seems to me, to indicate who was to have charge of its distribution. Certainly no one would deny the elders the right to appoint others to assist them in this work, but this doesn't erase from the fact that the supervision lies with the elders. When the benevolent work is left to institutions OTHER THAN THE CHURCH, separate and apart from same, a most important work of the church has been taken from where God put it. Elders! It is your God given responsibility to closely guard this work. The elders in Phil. 1:1 must have been doing a fine job, since Paul had only encouragement to offer. Let us walk closely in the "Old Paths." According to our text elders are in charge also of the benevolent work of the church, not only by reason of oversight, but by Bible example

Church Discipline — Acts 15:2, 22, 23

Here was a question that disturbed the church. It was not taken to the preacher, other members, or friends; but was taken unto the "apostles and ELDERS." Many church members need to realize today to whom they should go with questions that could disturb the peace of the church. Gossip would almost become history if all church members would follow this Bible example.

Then, there is the problem of disobedient members. Of these, in 1 Cor. 5:5-13; 1 Thess. 3:6, 14; and Rom. 16:17, we see such words as avoid, withdraw from, no company, deliver to Satan, not eat with, and put away. We, of course, realize these epistles are addressed to the whole church. Nevertheless, we must also realize that elders are the overseers and as such must lead the congregation to a proper observance of these passages. From my own experiences, I am to believe, this is one of the most neglected responsibilities of the church today. Members sometimes excuse themselves by pointing to the fact that the elders have made no move. They, somehow, have forgotten that they shall give a personal account to God. On the other hand, elders sometimes excuse themselves by pointing out the difficulty of getting the congregation to following in such move. They are doing some forgetting also — that "they watch for — souls," of the flock. Do elders need to wonder of the result, should they stand by and allow the souls over which "they watch" to be destroyed by a neglect of these passages? I think not! Watching for souls demands a protection of souls as well as direction of souls. If not, why not? Therefore, if one's sincerity, honesty, reputation, and worthiness is being attacked by malicious falsehoods, and no move is made to protect that one, I raise the question — Is that soul being properly watched for? How much disobedience does it take to send a man to hell? This is not a light matter; it is part of the plan offered by God to fit human beings for the life on the other side of the grave. The sincerity of our plea for unity based on the Bible can rightly be questioned when we so obviously neglect such important matters.

Thus far we have covered three of our original five points. The remaining two shall be covered in the next article. It is not my purpose to exhaust all information on any one of these points. If I can cause serious thought and study on these matters I will have accomplished the intended purpose. The highest earthly office of the Lord's church is surely worth our serious and most diligent study of the duties pertaining thereto.