What is the relationship between the elders and the church?


The relationship between the elders and the local congregation they serve should be marked by many evidences of godly character and mutual dependence on God. Not least among these should be:

==> Clear Recognition. Elders are to be recognized by the church as gifts from God for the good of the church. The church should therefore delegate to them the duties of teaching and leading the church. Those duties are only to be revoked when it is clear that the elders are acting in a way which is contrary to the Scriptures (as may have been the case evidenced in some of the disobediences among churches in the NT period that the Pauline and General epistles were meant to correct). For their part, the elders must recognize the God-given authority of the congregation (e.g., Matthew 18; I Cor. 5; II Cor. 2).

==> Heart-felt Trust. The church should trust, protect, respect and honor an elder. Thus Paul writes in I 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.” The elders should direct the affairs of the church, and the church should submit to their leadership. So the writer to the Hebrews wrote in 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So, too, Paul writes to Timothy in I Timothy 5:19 “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” The elder, therefore, should live in such a way as to produce no grounds for any accusation.

==> Evident Godliness. Thus the emphasis in the pastorals on the elders being “blameless.” (Titus 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”) The elder must, then, be willing to have a life that is open to inspection, indeed, a home that is actively open to outsiders, giving hospitality and enfolding others into their lives.

==> Sincere Carefulness. The elders should be marked by a use of their authority which shows that they understand that the church belongs not to them, but to Christ. Christ has purchased the church with His own blood, and therefore it should be cherished, treated carefully and gently, led faithfully and purely, for the glory of God in the good of the church. The elders should not be too busy to pray for the sick (James 5:14) or exhort other elders (I Peter 5:1).

==> Beneficial Results. As in a home, or in our relationship with God, a humble recognition of right authority brings benefits. In a church, when authority is used with the consent of the congregation for the good of the congregation, the congregation will benefit as God builds His church through the teachers He gives to His church. Such benevolent authority will subvert the lie of Satan that authority is never to be trusted, but is in fact always tyrannous and oppressive.

Recommended Reading:
Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.

Mark Dever

​Mark Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C., and the President of 9Marks.

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