Paul and Barnabas, returning to the various congregations that they had established during the first missionary journey, appointed elders in every church (Acts 14:23). Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5). Therefore, God's plan is to have elders in every city, elders in every church.

These men were not appointed simply to hold a place of prestige or set up headquarters of honor, but they were ordained to work (1Tim. 3:1; 1Thes. 5:12-13)

The terms elder/presbytery, bishop/overseer, and shepherd/pastor refer to the same office (Acts 20:17, 28; 1Pet 5:1-4)--not the same as the preacher.


I. ELDERS or PRESBYTERY presbuterion:

A.        Word study:

1.         presbutero* is used 68 times in the NT. Its meaning is divided into two basic thoughts: Age; office or rank.

a.         Age Luke 15:25; 1Tim. 5:1, 2).

b.         Rank or office (Acts 14; 20; 1Ti 5)

2.         To the word presbutero* add presbuterion: the presbytery, the body of elders, the eldership. Out of the 3 times presbuterion is used in the NT, only once does it refer to the eldership in the church (1Tim. 4:14).

3.         Thus, the word elder signifies spiritual age, advanced judgment, mature wisdom. A new convert cannot qualify for the office of the eldership (1Tim.3:6). As Robert Taylor pointedly stated, "The eldership is no place for spiritual babes; it is a role for spiritual men" (p. 37).

B.         In practical terms, what does elder mean?

1.         Prepared planner for the church. "Elders are men who can see down the road far enough through spiritual vision not only to perceive the coming pitfalls, the impending doctrinal controversies and trouble areas, but also the areas of growth, progress, potential."

2.                  Furthermore, the aged and experienced saint understands human nature far better than 

            the  younger man; thus, he is better equipped to utilize the talents of the various members in 

            the work of the church.

3.         Incomparable marriage counsellor for couples.

4.         Marvelous minister for the youth.


A.        Word study:

1.         Define: "man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly" (TH, p. 243).

2.         episkopos--4 of the 5 times, it refers to the elders in the church (Acts 20:28 overseer [KJ]); Phil.1:1; 1Tim. 3:3; Tit.1:7).

3.         The 5th refers to Jesus (1Pet 2:25).

B.         "exercise the oversight" (1Pet 5:2).

1.         Three false concepts of this oversight:

a.         Turn over the work of overseeing.

b.         Elders oversee the spiritual; deacons the physical. ILL--"Deacons thought they were to oversee the building."

c.         Over all the church all the time.

2.         Delegate the work.

3.         Overseers: men "charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly."


A.        Word study:

1.         Although poimnion is used 17 times in the NT, only once time does it refer to church rulers (Eph. 4:11).

2.         The verb is used 11 times, and 2 of the 11 refer to the elders (Acts 20:28; 1Pet 5:2).

3.         The people of that day understand the work of a sheep herder. By studying what God's man preached to the shepherds of old, we will be able to know what God expects from shepherds today. Eze. 34.

B.         NT: Shepherds today are to:

1.         To tend (feed) the church (Acts 20:28; 1Tim. 3:2 "apt ..."); can be public or private. Members' responsibility: To be taught.

2.         Guard the flock from false teachers (Acts 20:29-31).

            3.         Ruling the Church (Rom. 12:8; 1Tim 5:17; 1Pet 5:3)

4.         Watch (Heb. 13:17)

5.         Retrieve the lost (Luke 15).


1.         Prayer for elders.

2.         Acts 20:28-32.