Text: Acts 14:21-28
Biblical Eldership (Full Sermon Manuscript Download)
Jonathan Griffiths said, “The office of eldership is given in Scripture to provide spiritual nurture and protection for the church. Elders are to shepherd the flock of Jesus Christ through the faithful ministry of the Word and are to lead by godly example.”
This is Paul’s first missionary journey with Barnabas. After struggling much with these places: Cyprus, Lycia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (these are all in Modern day Turkey [former Galacia]), Paul made sure that they appointed elders in these places to preserve and keep the faith of churches in these places. Which Paul revisited and affirmed the significance of their works.
1. Conforming to the NT Church
When I was asked to fill up the application form as the interim pastor of UCBC, in the section where I was asked about my view of church administration, I wrote (verbatim): “In the context of the Church administration, I believe in the biblical principle of congregationalism with the plurality of elders.”
Indeed, the plurality of elders is biblical (James 5:14 [Elders to pray for the sick]; 1 Timothy 5:17 [“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”]; Titus 1:5 [Paul telling Titus to appoint elders]; Acts 14:23 [Paul and Barnabas appointing elders].
Observing how the Bible speaks about the “elders,” it is always in a plural form. It presents us that plurality of elders is normal in the New Testament church. That is our first point. If our church ought to follow the Scriptural New Testament Church, then we ought to follow the plurality of the “elders.”
2. Commanded by God in Scriptures
Similarly, God has commanded us in His Word to appoint leaders. In Titus 1:5-9, v.5 only, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint[a] elders in every town, as I directed you.” Also, in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and in our passage Acts 14 verse 23.
Interchangeable: “The terms πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros), ποιμήν (poimen), and ἐπίσκοπος (episkopos) are all used to describe the same office in the New Testament. Overseers, pastors, shepherds, and elders are all operating as the same kind of servant leader(s) of the church.” (Costi Hinn)
Titus 1:5-9, presbuteros in v5; episkopos in v7; and Ephesians 4:11, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” (Granville Sharp Rule)
3. Commissions/Calls Elders: Who appoints elders?
The church through the Holy Spirit. In Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” This is Paul’s farewell to the elders in Ephesus (v. 17).
Indeed, it is the Holy Spirit that calls a person to Eldership. But this is achieved through the church. That is why we have to affirm the appointees or “nominated” to the Eldership position. Now, I know I am a young pastor, but I have seen the dirtiest parts of different churches. When we nominate or appoint an Elder or Deacon, we give out their names because we know the person is really deserving of it.
To give some functions of the Elders:
- They are the spiritual leaders and models (1 Peter 5:3)
- Teacher/ preachers of the Word (1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9)
- Caring for the souls (Heb 13:17)
- Protects the church from false teachings (Acts 20:28-31)
- Models Unity (Eph. 4:3, 11-13)
After exploring the biblical significance of plurality of elders, congregationalism, and elder-led church, we ought to learn more about the matters of functions or roles, qualifications, and other important stuff. I am aware that many of you have learned this before. But being reminded and reviewing it and allowing ourselves to learn from God’s Word again exemplifies the willingness and purity of hearts toward the health of our church—UCBC.
Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
July 4, 2021
*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.