LWEP-1 - Life & Work of Elders (Part 1)
Please feel free to download audio and video for personal listening or teaching. Please do not alter any content. All material is copyrighted and intended to be used in its entirety and is free for distribution under these terms. To save, simply click the button and the download will begin.
LIFE & WORK OF ELDERS & PREACHERS
The Scripture says, “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a
good work,” 1 Timothy 3:1.
We welcome you to our study of the life and work of a gospel
preacher and elders.
We hope that you get your Bible and stay tuned as we're going to
study this very encouraging subject together.
The Greek word that you find in the New Testament for elder is really
a combination of several different words. In fact in our English Bible there
are six English words that are used to describe the office of an elder. Yet,
in the Greek New Testament there are only three words.
We're going to take just a moment to discuss those words to help us
understand exactly what office it is, what work it is that we're talking about
in the New Testament. The first Greek word which is often translated by
one of two English words is the word Presbuteros and that word means
elder or it may be translated as presbyter. The meaning behind that is
someone it means the idea of govern by elders or overseen by an
eldership. This word is used like in Acts 20:17 when Paul writes to the
elders at Ephesus. They're the overseeing body of the church of the Lord
Jesus Christ in that area.
Then there is the Greek word Episkopos, and it may be translated by
one of two English words. It is either the word bishop or overseer. It means
those who are in charge of, those who are looking over the body of Christ.
It's used in Acts 20:28. “Shepherd the flock of God among which the Holy
Spirit has made you overseers,” one who is looking out for looking over and
watching out for the flock of God's people.
The third Greek word that may be again translated by two English
words one of two is the word Poimen. That is the word for Shepherd or
some translations will use the term pastor and it pliers implies again
leadership qualities- implies one who is leading the flock, one who is
watching out for the flock of God's people- used both in 1 Peter 5:1-5
“Shepherd the flock of God,” Acts 20:28.
Now here's what's interesting, though this word Poimen which
sometimes is translated pastor, doesn't apply to the preacher.
Now listen carefully. When we talk about the work of an elder, we're
talking about elders being the pastors. In the New Testament you do not
find in any way, shape, or form the preacher identified as the pastor. The
word pastor in both the Greek and our New Testament translations refers
to the work of an elder. Sometimes I hear people say ‘well who's your
pastor down there?’ Wait a minute now. The elders plurality of were the
pastors in the New Testament and the preacher was not used with that
designation. That was not applied to the local work of the preacher. That's
the work of the elders.
If you're going to have but the kind of organization that the Scripture
describes, with the life and work of an elder and preacher, we need to
realize what the Holy Spirit designates their function as. In the local
congregation there is a plurality of elders. Acts 14:17 those elders are the
shepherds. They're the overseers. The work they're the ones put in place
by God as the pastor and that is the pastors.
The preacher works with a local congregation under the eldership
simply to proclaim the message of God. Words like preacher, evangelist,
and minister are used in the Bible to describe the work and function of a
preacher. We don't find that terminology of pastor used to describe that.
Let's take just a few moments and what we're going to do in these lessons
is we're going to look at Paul's address to the elders in Acts 20, as he
speaks to them as elders and as he will give himself as the evangelist in
that scenario. We're going to let the Holy Spirit define in those texts: what
the work of elders and the work of preachers is all about.
Let's begin with the life and work of an elder. In Acts 20:28 we first
learn that part of the life and work of godly elders is to be mindful about
how they live their life. Look in Acts 20. I want you notice again verse 28.
The apostle Paul says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the
flock with that encouragement take heed to yourself.” Part of the life of an
elder and work of an elder is to look to his own life and make sure that he is
living the way God wants him to live. We have in 1 Timothy 3, both in verse
2 and 7 that their life is to ‘be one of self-control’ life is to be lived in harm
harmony with the teaching of Christ. Titus 1:6 their life is to follow the
principles that you find in the Bible.
As we think about the life and work of an elder, who's going to follow
or get behind somebody whose life is in shambles? Whose life is not being
lived according to the teaching of Christ? We talk about their reputation; we
talk about how people in the world view them. We talk about how they live.
Are they trustworthy? Are they why are all those qualities and qualifications
in there? Because friend if they're not living the way God wants them to
live, how in the world can they Shepherd the church of the Lord Jesus
And so, we're looking for men who are going to live exemplary lives.
We're looking for men who are honest, who are trustworthy, who their word
actually means something when they say it, who are trying to pattern their
life after the teaching of Jesus.
Now friend we're not saying these men are perfect. No, but none of
us are perfect. We all from time to time fall short. They are to be above
reproach. They are to be men who, when things do happen, are willing to
make it right and try to get in harmony with the teaching of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ.
So the first major thing Paul says is, “Take heed to yourselves.” 1
Corinthians 9:27 Paul as he speaks about his own life will say this; he says
“I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached
to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Every leader in the Lord's church
must look to his own life first. Get your own house in order before we can
begin to teach and Shepherd others as well.
A second quality that Paul will mention in Acts chapter 20, as we
think about the life and work of an elder, they've got to be focused on the
spiritual welfare of the church. Their priority must be the spiritual welfare of
the church. Notice again Acts 20:28 Paul says, “Therefore take heed to
yourselves,” now listen to this, “and to all the flock.”
What's the work and life of an elder to be about? Friend listen
carefully, I understand that it may require some type of business skill. I
understand that you may have to manage certain things, but that's not the
top priority. What's the top priority in the work of an elder in the Lord's
church? “Take heed to yourselves and the flock.” They are to be concerned
about the spiritual welfare of God's people.
Now what does that imply? What does that mean? It implies and it
means that they're responsible for them. I want you to notice a text from
Hebrews 13 that teaches us the importance of elders in making sure that
they realize their job is a very serious job. Listen to Hebrews 13:17. The
Scripture tells Christians “Obey those who rule over you and be
submissive,” now notice this, “for they watch out for your soul as those who
must give an account. Let them do let them do so with joy not with grief for
that would be unprofitable for you.”
And so when you take on the work of an elder, you're taking on a
serious responsibility in which ultimately you're going to be responsible for
the souls you Shepherd. Now does that mean you can make him do
something? No that's not what we're saying. Does that mean you can force
them? That's not the idea, but you've got to do your best to give the
spiritual interest of the flock top priority-meaning that we want to provide
opportunities for spiritual growth. We want to provide Bible study. We want
to provide encouragement. We want to provide opportunities where they
can learn and grow. When somebody's life is not like it ought to be, and
friend we love them. We want them to go to heaven, but when their life is
not like it ought to be, steps must be taken to do our best to bring them
Now here's what happens. A lot of times somebody's in the body of
Christ and they and for some reason or another, they their life gets caught
up in sin. They just kind of drop off and nobody knows what happened. We
never check on them and nobody knows what's going on. Elders, on the
Day of Judgment, are going to give an account if they don't try their best to
reach them. Not saying you can make. Not saying you can force them.
Have you called on them? Did you talk to them? Have you encouraged
them to repent? Have you talked to them about the passages in the Bible
that teach dis-fellowship is necessary to save their soul and must be
practiced if they continue to live in that type of lifestyle? The spiritual
interest of the flock, God's people, must be top priority.
Then a third principle which we see in Acts 28 is to realize that part of
the life and the work of an elder, especially their work, means that in
matters of expediency, in matters of functioning and fulfilling the work of
God, elders do have the authority. Listen again to Acts 20:28, “Take heed
to yourselves and to all the flock,” now listen to this, “among which the Holy
Spirit has made you overseers.” God Himself has placed elders as the
overseers, those who are in charge of the matters of expediency and in
charge of the local congregation. As far we're going to follow the Bible and
do what the book says, God's given us commandment. We know what His
law is. His word is a final. But in the fulfilling of that and in expedient
matters, elders do have the authority.
I want you to look to another passage in which Peter another
passage in which Peter discusses the elders and their authority. Notice 1
Peter 5. I want you to look at what is said and this is the not only their
authority but this is the right mindset to approach it. In 1 Peter chapter 5:1
Peter says, “The elders who are among you I exhort. I who am a fellow
elder.” He is speaking from an elder standpoint, “and a witness of the
suffering of Christ also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers.” Now
how do you do that? Not by compulsion because somebody forced you- but
willingly. Not for dishonest gain. Not because you get a paycheck but
eagerly. “Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being
examples to the flock. When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive
the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
Is it true that elders have been given divine authority by God in these
matters? Sure. How do they use that authority? Do they use it as a
whipping stick? Do they use it to of force people into submit? That's not the
idea. “As examples to the flock.” Must they set standards? But do they
have to make decisions on how the Lord's money is going to be used in
evangelism? How we're going to grow? How people are going to be
reached? How the functionality of all that? Sure! They have that authority.
Friend the best way you can ever do that is by leading as an example.
Elders don't need to sit in the back and say ‘We've formulated this plan.
You go out and do it.’ That will never work. ‘We formulated this plan. We're
going to be out leading it. We're encouraging you to help us with that work,’
that's the best approach you can ever take.
They've been given divine authority by God- but that authority must
be used in the right way and form- so that God and His church can
ultimately be glorified in all that is said and done.
Now let's talk about a fourth aspect of the life and work of an elder
from Acts chapter 20:28 following ‘Elders in the Lord's church must be
good leaders of God's people.’ Listen again to Acts 20:28 “Take heed to
yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you
shepherds of God's people.” Shepherd the church of God they are told in
If you think about the idea of a shepherd you can see the leadership
that's necessary. Now you’ve got to place yourself kind of in the mindset of
the day and age of the people to whom Paul is talking. Many of these
people may have come from that type of background. They may have been
shepherds with sheep in the field that would follow them. You realize that
the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. He feeds them. He
takes care of them. They're like his own family as it were, and where ever
the good Shepherd goes those sheep are more than happy to follow him.
They know safety. They know food. They know comfort. They know the
best life comes from following the shepherd wherever he goes.
How true especially that must be in the work the life and work of an
elder. People will get behind somebody who's a good leader- who's got
their best interest at heart, who's trying to live a good life as he ought to,
who's trying to provide good spiritual food for them, and who brings safety
and prosperity to that flock.
You can look and see good leaders can have an infectious, very good
way of reaching out to others, and that good work can be seen among the
So we want people who were good leaders. I understand that this
doesn't fit everybody. There are some people who are not leaders not
designed necessarily with that type of mentality. I believe that might could
grow into that, but people who just stem from that who have that quality,
those are the kind of people we need in the Lord's church- who are going to
try their best to lead God's people.
You see Jesus is the chief Shepherd 1 Peter 5:3-4. We can look to
His life. We can look to His teaching. We can look to the sacrifices that He
made. We can look to the good that He did. That type of life, it makes you
want to get behind Him and follow Him. Walk in the footsteps of Jesus, 1
Peter 2:21. That's not hard when you see where those footsteps lead. Paul
said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” As I look to Christ's life, you talk about
somebody you want to follow, there it is. We need elders like that in the
church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another quality that we mention, as it relates to Paul's address to the
elders at Ephesus in Acts 20, is that elders must realize the awesome
responsibility and privilege of being an elder.
It is both a responsibility and a privilege. How do we know that?
Listen again to Acts 20:28 “Shepherd the church of God, now listen to this,
“which He purchased with His own blood.”
Now friend I just want to stop for just a moment and think about the
price that was paid for the Lord's church. Jesus said “I will build my church,”
Acts 20:28. One day Christ is coming back, and He's going to take with
Him those who are in the kingdom, 1 Corinthians 15:24. The church is the
divine eternal plan of Almighty God, Ephesians 3:10-11 and it's that place
of safety where all the saved are. The Lord added to the church daily those
who are being saved.
Now in view of all that elders have the high privilege and awesome
responsibility of taking care of and leading people in the Lord's church.
Again be reminded of Hebrews 13:17. “We're to obey those who rule over
us and to be watchful for they give an account for our souls.” It is a privilege
to lead God's people. In the Lord's church you can have no higher, nobler,
more serious work in all the world than being an elder in the Lord's church-
both teaching and encouraging and trying to help people get to heaven.
It's also an awesome responsibility you have the responsibility of
trying to lead God's people to heaven. Yes, it is a very serious matter. You
know we say this, and emphasize it for this reason, sometimes I think
people will think it be nice to be an elder. You have to think about the
seriousness of that. It is a great thing- greatest work at all the world I
believe. Friend, you have to think about that seriously, are you willing to
commit the effort? Are you willing to commit the time? We say this in all
honesty, are you willing to commit the heart ache that may come when
people don't follow the teaching of Christ? Are you willing to commit to
doing your best to try to help people grow in and come to an
understanding? Will you try to help fill the great commission? As Jesus said
that's the work even of the local congregation. Yes, while it is a serious
responsibility and privilege, friend it's the greatest work in all the world.
Let's also mention this as part of the life and work of an elder in the
Lord's church. In Acts 20:29 Paul is now going to emphasize part of the
work of an elder is to protect the Lord's church from false doctrine and false
teachers. Look to Acts 20:29. Paul says this, “For I know this,” here's
something you can be sure of, “I know this after my departure savage
wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
When you think about a shepherd out in the field and you think about
the main threat it's the wolf, the coyote, or the wolf as we would think of- is
got to be the main. If you ever raised cattle, it's a big threat. Even with that
you know you've got cattle, and they're having calves and those calves are
vulnerable and a coyote might slip in. You've got to be watchful. You've got
to be alert. You've got to be on guard. How much more so spiritually among
God's people there are those who are going to be babes in Christ? There
are those, who during certain times in their life may be vulnerable. What's
the work of an elder? To be to make sure that those savage wolves don't
come in and tear up the flock.
Now what might be some of those savage wolves? False teachers.
Friend, it is a very serious thing to stay alert and make sure that false
teaching does not occur. Now let me use a type of language that won't be
hard for us to understand how serious is it? Titus 1:7-10 the Bible says
“Elders,” and listen to the bold, brash statement here, “are to stop the
mouths of those who contradict.” Don't even let it happen. If somebody
starts teaching false doctrine deal with it, and make sure that that's not
taught in the Lord's church.
One of the savage wolves might be false teaching. Another savage
wolf that may come in and it may be in a different look may be sin. You
know we can't let somebody who's blatantly living in sin be in fellowship
and act like everything's okay or that's going to spread to everybody else.
You get a disease among cattle, you get a disease among sheep, and
they're all going to the same water hole or the same feed trough. That
disease is going to spread like wildfire. Sin is a disease, and if elders allow
sin to be in the camp and go unchecked, that is a savage wolf that will
destroy the Lord's church.
Then we mention a third one and this is something that elders do
have the power to stem the tide on. Another savage wolf that I don't think
we see because it doesn't necessarily come with teeth glaring and snarling
at us is that of apathy. Too many times we kind of get in a rut. Too many
times if we're not careful, we just kind of do things because we've always
done them. Nothing really changes, and we go to worship. We sing. We
pray. We hear the word of God, and we go home. We get in that routine.
We've got to make sure the people are busy in the work of God. “Be
steadfast immovable,” Paul says, “always abounding in the work of the
Lord.” I know they can't make anybody. But they need to provide
opportunities. They need to give encouragement. They need to be out
leading the way. They need to be talking to people when they're growing
lax and encouraging them and doing what we can to help them with God's
family. All that we do, we need to strive to make sure those things are
staying true to the teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
All right another aspect of the life and work of an elder that we want
to mention is this: an elder or the eldership has got to kind of keep a check
on one another. Now where does that come from? Look to Acts 20:30. Paul
says, “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse
things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Friend, we can see
that beginning to happen in the New Testament. In 2 and 3 John you've got
Diotrephes who wanted to have the preeminence. Is it very far after that
and you've got people trying to rise up and be the one man over the
congregation. Church history reveals that which ultimately led to the
papacy. What we do to stem that tide in the local congregation? There's
always a plurality of elders. Acts 14:17 those elders need to keep a check
on one another. If someone's not living right inside the eldership, teaching
right, and we need to encourage. They're part of the flock too, are they not?
Don't elders have a responsibility to each other and to watch out for each
other? If somebody's not living right or teaching right, that's got to be
addressed and dealt with inside the local congregation of the Lord's
people- so that the leadership does not become infected with disease and
by that would become fruitless in its work.
Now friend as we thought today about the work of an elder, we
mentioned that being a member of the Lord's church and a shepherd over
that is the most serious responsibility- but it's also the greatest privilege.
Friend have you taken advantage of that privilege? Are you a
member of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus promised “I'll build my
church,” Matthew 16:18. He made the plea “let whosoever will come and
drink freely,” Revelation 22:10 following. And friend Jesus says “come unto
me all ye that labor and are heavy laden I'll give you rest.”
Have you obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ? Friend, if not, we
encourage you today to hear the word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and
hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:17. Having heard that Jesus is
the Savior of the world the son of God; would you believe that with all your
heart? In Acts 8 Philip and Ethiopian eunuch were going down the road.
‘Hey here's water. What hinders me?’ ‘If you believe with all your heart you
may,’ Acts 8:36 following. Having believed, would you confess Jesus as the
son of God? Repent of those things in your life that are not right, Acts 3:19,
Matthew 10:32-33. Would you do what they did in the New Testament to
have your sins forgiven?
Peter said “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins and
you will receive the crown of eternal life,” Acts 2:38 and 2 Timothy 4:2.
If you need to obey the gospel, we encourage you to do that and
make every elder in the Lord's church truly strive to live according to God's
Study Questions for: “Elders: Lesson 1”
1. In 1 Timothy 3:1, what does it say of a man that desires the position of a
2. According to Acts 20:28, what must the elders Shepard?
3. According to Acts 20:28, the Holy Spirit has made them what?
4. What must elders do in their own lives according to Acts 20:28?
5. An elder’s life should be one of what according to 1Timothy 3:2, 7?
6. According to Titus 1:6, what must the elder’s life follow?
7. What does Paul say about his own life in 1 Corinthians 9:27?
8. According to Acts 20:28, not only must an elder’s life be about Christ, but
9. What does Hebrews 13:17 tell us about elders and our own soul?
10. According to 1 Peter 5:1, who must elders be examples to?