So now that we took a look at the central role of the Holy Spirit and gotten a better understanding of the role of the apostle, let’s take a look at the biblical government as it relates to the local church. Let’s first establish that an elder, bishop or overseer is the same (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17,28). Let’s also establish that local church government is never a one-man-show; is always presented in plurality. Some biblical examples are,
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (NIV)
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. (NIV)
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. (NIV)
As we can see through these verses, the Elders are appointed by the apostles and is never just one elder. To start a church by ourselves without apostolic covering is not biblical. I will go as far as saying that unless an apostle appoints elders we are out of order. Sometimes we wonder why the church is so messed up; perhaps this is the reason why, so many self-appointed elders and apostles all over the place.
13 Responsibilities of the Elder
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect.5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. I Timothy 3:1-7 (NIV)
- Above reproach
- Faithful to his wife
- Able to teach
- Not given to drunkenness
- Not violent but gentle
- Not quarrelsome
- Not a lover of money
- Manage his own family well
- Not a new believer
3 Responsibilities of the Overseers
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. First Peter 5:1-4 (NIV)
- Never to lord over the Flock
- Motivated by a genuine love for God’s people: To be an elder should never be approached as career; it must be fully motivated by love. Paul gave us an excellent example of this dedication. Hebrews 13:17 tells us,
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (KJV)
3. Watching over their disciples’ souls: When dealing with the soul we are dealing mindsets (Man’s will), decision making and emotions. This is the complexity of the work of an elder. That is why is imperative that an elder be able, mature and equip to teach God’s Word.
There are false everything… false apostles, false prophets, false teachers, false pastors and false Christians. These lies should not be a reason for us to change our biblical mandates, titles and protocols established by God.
Church government is not a mystery; is not one of those topics in the Bible that require deep revelation. All we need here is a little diligence and the willingness to follow what the Bible is telling us… it is that simple!
In summary, this is the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. He is in charge! He was left in charge by Jesus. The Holy Spirit is doing his work in us and through us; without Him we are wasting our time.
The characteristics of an apostle are very clear. We know that the 12 apostles have a very special place in the foundations of the New Jerusalem. There will never be anybody else added to those 12 apostles. However, there were more apostles in the Bible. They were not many, not one in every corner, but about 30 apostles in the whole known world at the time of the writings of New Testament. The office of the apostle still exists today because one of the many important functions of the apostle is to establish elders in every church. Obviously, elders are still in existence today!
Elders run the local churches under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and under the supervision of their assigned apostle. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us that a church is run by one person… none! It is always a body of elders.
In a personal note, I have been affected by this study. I have been an elder and Senior Pastor in a few local churches. I felt that I needed to repent and confess that I was out of order myself and, that I was not properly appointed. That is because elders are appointed by true apostles. True apostles have specific characteristics as we discussed in this series. One of those characteristics is that an apostle must be of Abraham’s descent.
So, I asked, where is my connection to the true apostolic order? I don’t know! I have never seen a true apostle. Who is the apostle in Arizona or in my region? Where is the descendant of Abraham with the divine authority to walk in that office? I don’t know! But I have faith that God will honor my desire to be in proper order.
This is not an easy task and, perhaps, this is the reason why this journey through finding a local church has been so painful; but with this revelation, at least, I know two things… I know what to look for and, what not.