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Reformed Perspective of Elders

This was sent to me today by a dear friend who is in the middle of a battle over sin in the local church and the elder’s office and command to deal with sin.  The problem stems from a misunderstanding of “democracy” which only moves under the teaching of scripture, and “rule” that the scripture does holistically.

I pray this article will give some insight on the role and rule of elders in the life of the church.

Of the three special offices in the church, that of the ruling elder represents Christ as king. Nations that have a king customarily speak of him as “His Majesty.” And anyone at all familiar with Holy Scriptures knows that it, too, associates much majesty, dignity, honor and glory with kingship. Small wonder that the glory of the Christian church is reflected brightly in the office of the ruling elder.

Its Momentous Duties

The New Testament has two names for ruling elders. Sometimes they are called presbyters, which simply means older men or elders; at other times they are called bishops, which means overseers. It is significant that these are two names for the same men. Nowadays the term bishop is ordinarily used to denominate a clergyman who stands above other clergyman in both dignity and authority. But such is not at all the Biblical usage of that term. When Paul, on his way to Jerusalem at the conclusion of his third missionary journey, arrived at Miletus, he sent to Ephesus and called the presbyters of the church (Acts 20:17). When they had come, he spoke to them and said: “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops” (Acts 20:28, ASV). It is clear that according to Scripture every presbyter is a bishop. And that is a way of saying that the work of the elder is to oversee the church.

Usually church members regard ruling elders less highly than ministers. In so doing they are not altogether mistaken, for it is true that a special dignity attaches to the ministerial office in virtue of the fact that the minister, being both a teaching and a ruling elder, holds two offices in one, which two offices take up, or ought to take up, all his time. On the other hand, there is great danger that the dignity of the ruling elder’s office in comparison with that of the minister’s office will be underestimated. Read the rest of the article here.

May God be glorified in His grace for His people!

James

Also: Elders Do Rule the Church

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