ROLES DEFINED: Elders, Deacons, and Others

BELIEVER'S ASSEMBLYKeep in mind that the believer’s assembly or congregation was only for those knowing Christ. Light did not fellowship with darkness.

Be sure to read I Corinthians 12 in your Bible. It lists the following roles for those with special gifts or “charisma” [Greek] or Divinely-bestowed talents in an assembly and this list is not comprehensive but shows how everyone in the assembly should be involved and included in the Mission.  We want to be efficient and ensure that work load balancing and efficiency is in place, so we do not make one member idle and useless, while another member is too busy and overburdened. We don’t want to lose out on what any one member has to contribute:

EUAGGELISTES – those who evangelize the lost such as Timothy

IAMA – those who share their medicine and healing skiills such as Dr. Luke

SOPHIA – those in science and great learning such as Ken Ham

GNOSIS – those with knowledge of various fields such as Dr. Garlock on music

PISTIS – those who build up faith such as apologists who answer skeptic’s questions

DYNAMIS – those in power (i.e. warriors, government/corporate heads, prayers, etc)

DIAKRISIS – those who can discern or distinguish between right and wrong practices

GLOSSA – those who can use their language skills to advance the Gospel

DIDASKALOS – those who can educate others in all things including Scripture

KYBERNESIS – those with administrative governing abilities

ANTILEMPSIS – those who can help and run with a task once it is given to them

PROPHETEIA – those who utter the Words of GOD such as Elders and Evangelists, but also everyone should strive for this gift (i.e. Go Ye Into All The World, etc). In fact, look what the apostle says about the gift of proclaiming GOD’s Word compared to everything else.

Corinthians 14:1
Follow after charity, and desire spiritual [gifts], but rather that ye may prophesy.

I Corinthians 13 shows that LOVE is needed regardless of what gift you have been given.

Ephesians 4:11-12
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ …

I AM A CHRISTIANTwo more very important roles are mentioned which are more common and required for the believer’s assembly. As will be shown below, there were usually multiple pastors and deacons in each church to ensure small mentoring apprentice-like groups where each believer could be trained to full maturity through example, habits, scheduling, sharing of resources/how to use tools, and more. Believers were not expected to remain spiritual infants like little birds with mouths opened waiting to be fed each week by the “big daddy elder”, but instead they were groomed to find the truth themselves by being shown study tools and by relying on the Spirit as a spiritual priest of their own who would serve as the elder to their own family each week. They were shown how to apply Scripture to contemporary events, culture, and ideologies. They were shown how to cultivate good habits and processes in their own lives to ensure success.

ELDERS or PASTORS or BISHOPS or OVERSEERS (all the same): The spiritual care-givers and mentors to the believers in their assembly

DEACONS or SERVANTS or SERVERS or MINISTERS (all the same): The physical and financial care-givers to the believers in their assembly

prayerMentoring apprentices in the faith by example and instruction regarding how to develop godly habits, how to apply Scripture to practice, and doctrinal basics regarding justification and the whole of Scripture. [NOTE: If an elder is too busy to mentor other believers, then other elders need to be ordained, because that’s the whole point of being an elder.] Remember that Jesus only took twelve under his mentorship.

Matthew 4:19
“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Ephesians 4:11-14
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

ELDERS WERE PRESUMABLY TO BE OLDER BELIEVERS IN PHYSICAL AGE

Prayer of an Unknown SoldierThroughout the Scriptures, the elders are shown to be the older men in a town as implied by the very word “elder”. Even the non-believing Jews had elders for their people. For example, in I Peter 5, we read “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.” Also, those who would argue that Timothy was told to not let anyone despise his youth should realize that even though Paul shares the qualifications of an elder and a deacon with him, Timothy does not appear to be an elder, but an evangelist.

Timothy 4:5
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Timothy 4:12
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Also, it may be argued that Timothy was middle-aged and able to be an elder, since Paul told him how to treat the elders and the younger men in the assembly of believers.

Timothy 5:1
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren …

Bible2Therefore, as a middle-aged evangelist, Timothy would be primarily speaking to non-believers and thus it appears the role of evangelist may have been a mentoring stage for him that Paul the Apostle gave him in order to get him prepared for a later role as an elder or perhaps Timothy was to stay an evangelist – we aren’t told. This would explain a lot of the knowledge that Paul is giving to Timothy regarding the overview of the administration of the believer’s assembly.

ELDERS WERE TO BE OLDER, MORE SPIRITUALLY MATURE BELIEVERS

Also, we are told that elders cannot be a novice (recent convert), so we must assume the older and more spiritually mature believers were chosen as well.

ELDERS SHOULD CARE FOR THE FLOCK
(Not as a Lord but as a humble mentor and administrator to help organize the saints for the Mission – a self-less care-giver, not out for money but out of joy and eagerness)

Peter 5:1-7
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24 (English Standard Version translated more by Protestants)
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.”

Notice how the language of the King James Version below has far more extreme wording in its emphasis on hierarchy (translated during a time of Catholic traditions when church officials were not Biblical elders but “cathedral lords over men”).

Hebrews 13:7, 17, 24
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 17 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. 24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.”

One has the idea of leadership and the other has the concept of a lord or ruler which contradicts the Apostle Peter’s epistle or letter.

GOD THROUGH HIS WORD IS OUR PRIMARY MENTOR

Hebrews 13:20-22
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

bible3A Catholic priest told my grandmother that she should let him interpret the Bible for her. I’ve heard a Protestant church leader say the same thing before. Such heresy is in even Protestant churches today. We are all a priesthood of believers who do not need a priest or pastor or rabbi telling us what to think each Sunday as little birds opening our mouths and turning off our brains as we accept whatever is given to us for our spiritual nutrition.  It’s nice to hear a true godly pastor’s thoughts, but we must test all of their words by the Word on our own with the Holy Spirit. We must keep each other accountable. Elders are not exclusively given such insight into the truth. All believers are given this insight.

John 2:27
“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”

John 16:13
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Peter 2:5, 9
“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

ELDERS FOR EVERY ASSEMBLY

Acts 14:21-23
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every assembly, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

ELDERS IN CITIES WOULD MEET TOGETHER FOR COUNSEL

Timothy 4:14
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Acts 15:2
And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.

ELDERS WERE COMPENSATED ACCORDING TO HOW WELL THEY MENTOR

Timothy 5:17
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

MULTIPLE ELDERS EXISTED IN EACH ASSEMBLY TO ENSURE SMALL CARE GROUPS (No one lord or senior elder is mentioned, but instead multiple elders)

James 5:14
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the congregation, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

The following bullet points of qualifications for elders and deacons are taken directly from the Bible.

QUALIFICATIONS OF ELDERS
I Timothy 3:1-7; I Timothy 2:12; I Corinthians 14

. Above reproach
. Husband of one wife (i.e. male)
. Abstaining from wine
. Level-headed and sensible (sober-minded)
. Well-behaved, Self-Controlled, Modest, and Respectable
. Hospitable and generous to guests
. Able and skilled in teaching
. Not a drunkard
. Not violent but gentle
. Not quarrelsome or a fighter, but patient
. Not a lover of money
. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive
. Not a recent convert
. Well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare
. Must be male (since women were not allowed to speak  over men in the assemblies)

QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS
I Timothy 3:8-13; I Timothy 2:12

. Honorable, faithful, and trustworthy
. Not double-tongued or a slanderer
. Abstaining from wine
. Not greedy for dishonest gain
. Must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience
. Must be tested first
. Blameless
. Husband of one wife (i.e. male)
. Manage their children and their own households well
. Wives must be dignified, not slanderers, sober-minded, faithful in all things.

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