GOD-APPROVED ELDERS ARE NOT MAN-MADE!

It is my view that the statement above is fully in harmony with God's word, in both the Old and New Scriptures. There is no such thing in either the Old or the New Scriptures as 'the office of an elder," or where men were selected and appointed to be elders. ELDER is not the name of a church office! Men either are or they are not eiders, in comparison to others: but men were never "made" elders by some human appointment! The elders that God approves and accepts are not man-made! Neither the church institution nor the people can make or turn men into God's elders by man-designed rituals or rites: nor by inducting them into the corporate church's Board of Elders, the Eldership. as most C of C churches think they do. Men are not "made" into elders by human appointment, as we shall see more fully. In Scripture the word "elder" does not describe a church office or a church official.

If one is an "elder" it simply means that he (or, even a she; Titus 2:2-3) is OLDER in some sense than another. Senior is a good concept or term to be a description of one who is an elder. In Luke 15 we read of the "elder" (older) brother and the younger brother. We can understand this and we have enough good sense to NOT make any more out of it than that one brother was older in age than the other. The older brother had no official rule over the younger brother. The word elder simple means older: and is a word of comparison.

God has always had His elders, even from the beginning. The Patriarchs or "Fathers" (Heb. 1:1) were the "elders" in their time, even though the term "elder" was never used regarding them. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all elders even though they are never referred to in Scripture by the term. In the Patriarchal period they were not called elders, but were spoken of as the "fathers" as in Hebrews 1:1. They were the older, more mature men who were learned in the ways of God; that is, they were the wiser, experienced leaders who were recognized and willingly accepted by the people as elders or leaders. There is no record of their being "elected" or "appointed" to "the office of an elder', for such an "office" or official position did not exist at that time. There is only one reference to 'elders" in the book of Genesis (50:4). The word "elder" was never used as a title of an office or as an official designation for men. The term elder simply referred to one who was older and more experienced in the ways and teachings of God; and who was qualified for the role of a leader and the teaching of others.

THE ELDERS OF ISRAEL

While the Israelites were still in Egyptian slavery, we begin to read for the first time of 'the elders of Israel" (Ex. 3:16,18). We read that 'Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel ..." (Ex. 4:29). Without doubt there were elders in every tribe. Moses and Aaron were obviously elders; hence, we read: "Then Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people, saying, 'Keep all the commandments which I command you today" (Deut. 27:1). After the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader of the people, and followed in the steps of Moses as the principal "elder" of the nation. Then we begin to read about Joshua and "the elders of Israel" as they together led the nation of Israel (Joshua 7:6; 8:10). Of course Joshua was an elder, but not because he was inducted into an official office called "elder'!

The point of importance in the above is that there is absolutely no instance in Scripture of any "appointment" of some men who were selected or elected to be the elders; or where men were selected by the people to be put into some "office" with the name "elder!" The elders we read about in the Old Scriptures were men who were recognized as "the elders of the people" because that is what they were in reality; and NOT because they were selected by the people and with ceremony and ritual were inducted into "the office of an elder" which has never been a part of God's arrangement!

All of the men today who are selected and voted into "the official position" known as "elder" in some church institution, are man-made elders and they are not recognized by God as true elders of His people. In reality they are "church officials'. Today in the Church of Christ church they are the Board of Directors of the local church organization; NOT "elders of the people"! God did not provide for 'office-holders;" He provided for men of character, ability, and dedication to be the "shepherds of his people". It was NOT an "office to be filled" in a religious institution: it was a vital WORK to be done. It was and is a teaching, pastoral or shepherding responsibility: looking after and caring for the Lord's "sheep" (John 10:26-30). Such men were elders then; and only such men can be God's elders today. They do not need nor want any "appointment" or induction into "the office of elder", because they are already elders among the flock of God: that is, they are the more knowledgeable in the will of God, and they are the leaders and shepherds.

In the day of Moses and Joshua, elders were not corporate managers of some human Institution, such as the "Church of Christ" church or any other denomination of our day! There was no such thing as a church institution in that age or even in the day of the apostles of Jesus Christi The vast majority of the elders today are not true pastors / shepherds, nor overseers / bishops of the flock of God. They are directors and managers of a religious institution known as a CHURCH, something wholly unknown in God s scheme of things. They are today known as "The Eldership" (something Scripture does not mention!) which means about the same thing as the Corporate Officials of any other business or institution. "They make all the decisions for the church corporation and control it, as well as the lowly, non-participating members who have neither voice nor vote about anything that is done.

GOD-APPROVED ELDERS

Let's study two vital passages on this subject:

1) "And when they had appointed elders for them in every ecclesia ..." (Acts 14:23).

2) "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might ... appoint elders in every city as I directed you" (Titus 1:5).

Let's compare the italicized parts of the two state-merits above:

1) "appointed elders ... in every ecclesia ..."

2) "appoint elders in every city ..."

Both statements mean identically the same thing because there was only one ecclesia in a city! (See article in this issue on "ONE AND ONLY ONE ECCLESIA IN A CITY!") Hence, to appoint elders in every city is the same thing as appointing elders in every ecclesia! Both statements above refer to the same action: men who were already elders were appointed to their role and responsibility in the ecclesia or in the city. Here let me state a vital FACT: Never will you find the word ecclesia used in the plural when referring to a city!

Note carefully that Scripture says that they "appointed elders', it does NOT say that they "appointed men to be elders." The action in the word "appointed" took place on men who were already elders! These elders were assigned their role and charged with the responsibility of pastors and shepherds of the people. Paul and Barnabas had this same responsibility of teachers / pastors and overseers and guardians. Paul and Barnabas were elders and bishops everywhere they went!

You don't make men into elders by some ritual of appointment to a church office called "Elder'. As it was in the Mosaic period, men were not "appointed to be elders'. The truth is those who were truly elders were assigned the responsibility of pastors and overseers.

Look at what took place: 1) Paul and Barnabas appointed elders ... 2) in every ecclesia. As a result of the preaching of Paul and Barnabas there was an ecclesia in each of the four cities -- Derbe, Lystra, Iconium. and Antioch (Acts.14:20-21). In how many ecclesias, as well as cities, did they appoint elders? In only four! The one ecclesia in each city was constituted by or made up of all of the redeemed, saved people, in each of the four cities.

Paul and Barnabas did not start a church! They did not start any kind of religious organization. They preached the gospel and when people believed it and were immersed that made them Christians, as it did those on the day of Pentecost when 3,000 people obeyed. These immersed believers constituted the ecclesia, God's called out people in each city.

Titus was told by Paul: "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you." In the country called Crete there were several cities. Titus was to appoint elders for them in every city! It should be obvious to any studious, objective reader that appointing elders In 'every city and in every ecclesia means one and the same thing. There was only one ecclesia in each city. If you can accept that fact, it should be no problem for you to realize that all the redeemed in every city constituted the ecclesia in that city, even as Acts 14 and Titus 1 prove.

The big thing that made the difference between now and then is that today the disciples have been victimized with church institutions and organizations. The early disciples did not have such things! In our day, saints "belong to a church" and that institution claims and demands their loyalty to and support of the organization. As members of the "local church", they must obey the Eldership, the Rulers or Lords of that "local church." I challenge any preacher to prove that there was such a thing as the modern church institution in the days of the apostles and early disciples of Jesus. The early disciples were Christians only and only Christians. You never read of a "church member" in God's word! Do these facts carry any weight with you, dear brother and sister?

HOW ARE CHURCH ELDERS MADE TODAY?

They are made by ritual or ceremony, with many versions thereof. Nearly all of you have seen it done at one time or another. Some of the appointment rituals are short and low-key; others are more elaborate. Hence, we see that the human institution, known as the local church, selects and chooses it's own Elders or corporate managers. These are elders (?) created or made church officials by men; they are not God's elders! Men do not have the right or the authority to make God's elders for Him. The elders of the churches today are humanly appointed church officers; they are not elders in the sense of those elders who were appointed to shepherd and lead the saints of God in the time of the apostles and early saints. -- CAH