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The Elder in the church

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The elder is a leader in the Christian church.  It is a divinely appointed office that is held by men who are able to teach sound doctrine, refute error, be of good reputation, having believing children, who manage their households well, etc.  The elder should not be in office if he is unable to fulfill the requirements of the office and he should not be chosen because he is a popular figure in the local church.

Being an elder is a high calling and there are thousands of very godly men in many churches and who seek God and serve Him as best as they can.  But, it is also true that many should not be elders who are in that position.  Women, should not be elders.  Men with unbelieving children living with them should not be elders.  And, elders should be able to teach correct doctrine and refute error.  Sadly, many elders cannot do this.

Below is an outline dealing with the subject of "elder."  Pastors, elders, and congregation members should all be careful who they pick and recommend as elders.  They should not let feelings of "let's be nice" influence their decisions and choose men who are not qualified.  The church needs to take the office of elder very seriously and it needs to put the elder to the test according to the guidelines of scripture.  If he is not qualified, he should not be an elder.

  1. The Term "Elder"

    1. PRESBUTEROS - elder, an old man, a leader in the church. The term is used

      1. of the elder of two persons (Luke 15:25, or more, John 8:9).

      2. of a person advanced in age (Acts 2:17; in Heb. 11:2).

      3. of the forefathers in Israel (Matt. 15:2Mark 7:3,5).

      4. of members of the Sanhedrin (Matt. 16:2126:47).

      5. of those who managed public affairs in the various cities (Luke 7:3).

    2. of those who were the heads or leaders of the tribes and families, as of the seventy who helped Moses (Num. 11:16Deut. 27:1). This included:

        conducting inquests (Deut. 21:2).

        settling matrimonial disputes(Deut. 22:1525:7).

        If theirs was a city of refuge they also heard pleas for asylum (Joshua 20:4).

        acting as judges in apprehending murderers (Deut. 19:12).

    3. of those qualified by the Holy Spirit who exercised spiritual care and oversight of the local congregation.

    4. EPISKOPOI - overseers, bishops

      1. Titus equates bishop and elder in Titus 1:5-9.

  2. Regarding the Office:

    1. The office of Elder is a divinely appointed office as defined in the Pastoral Epistles.

    2. Elders are apparently appointed by the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:142 Tim. 1:6).

    3. Should receive double honor in the church (1 Tim. 5:17).

    4. The pastor is an elder who preaches and/or teaches (1 Tim. 5:17).

    5. The pastor (elder) is to equip the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).

    6. Must be a man (Titus 1:5-6).

    7. All uses of "elder" are in the masculine except for 1 Tim. 5:2 where it means older women.

    8. The pastor is an elder (1 Tim. 5:17) and the elder is to be male (Titus 1:5-6).

    9. Based on authority structure which was signified in the order of creation, Adam first, Eve second (1 Tim. 2:12-13).

  3. The Responsibilities of Elders in the NT Church:

    1. Must shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2).

    2. Must voluntarily exercise oversight upon the flock (1 Peter 5:2).

    3. Must live as examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).

    4. Anoint and pray for the sick (James 5:14).

    5. They have the tasks of teaching (1 Tim. 5:17Titus 1:5,9).

    6. They have the tasks of acting as judges (Acts 15:2,6,22-29;16:4).

  4. Qualifications for an elder

    1. Must be above reproach (Elders - Titus 1:6; Bishop - 1 Tim. 3:2)

    2. Husband of one wife (Elders - Titus 1:6; Bishop - 1 Tim. 3:2).

    3. Household must be in order with children who believe (Titus 1:6 ;1 Tim. 3:4).

    4. Not a new convert (1 Tim. 3:6).

    5. Self controlled and temperate (Titus 1:71 Tim. 3:2).

    6. Honorable, hospitable, seeking good (Titus 1:7).

    7. Have a good reputation (1 Tim. 3:7).

    8. Not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3).

    9. Not greedy (1 Tim. 3:3).

    10. Able to exhort (teach) sound doctrine (Titus 1:91 Tim. 3:2).

    11. Able to refute false teaching (Titus 1:9).

    12. They must be ready to earn their own living if necessary (Acts 20:17,33-35).

An overseer is not to be a harsh man. He is not to revile people and make them suffer for doing good. A man who makes others endure grief unnecessarily lacks this important qualification for the office of overseer. An overseer must not get rough and angry, even when people oppose their decisions and when they oppose God’s truth. Rather, he must have a forbearing spirit toward all, even in the midst of disputes and opposition, seeking to avoid strife, not incite it. Paul wrote to Timothy: “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, 

All Christians should be gentle, but especially an overseer.

It is often in the midst of controversy that a man shows whether he has the gentleness which Scripture requires for overseers. It is a natural tendency for a man to lose his forbearing spirit and gentle manner when something is not right or when there is disagreement or criticism.

A man who loses his forbearing spirit and gentle manner when there is controversy ought not to be an overseer.


The Greek word can mean: prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled.

Character ( 1 Timothy 3:2–7 and Titus 1:6–9 )

    • Above reproach—Elders must lead by example and demonstrate a lifestyle free from patterns of sin.

    • Husband of one wife—Elders, if married, must be devoted spouses.

    • Temperate—Elders must be self-controlled, enslaved to nothing, and free from excesses.

    • Prudent—Elders must be sober, sensible, wise, balanced in judgment, not given to quick, superficial decisions based on immature thinking.

    • Respectable—Elders must demonstrate a well-ordered life and honorable behavior.

    • Hospitable—Elders must be unselfish with personal resources, willing to share blessings with others.

    • Able to teach—Elders must be able to communicate truth and sound doctrine in a non-argumentative way.

    • Not addicted to wine—Elders must be free from addictions and willing to limit their liberty for the sake of others.

    • Not pugnacious or quick-tempered—Elders must be gentle, patient, and able to exercise self-control in difficult situations.

    • Uncontentious—Elders must not be given to quarreling or selfish argumentation.

    • Free from the love of money—Elders must not be stingy, greedy, or for sordid gain, or preoccupied with amassing material things.

    • Manage own household—Elders must have a well-ordered household and a healthy family life.

    • Not a new convert/not a new believer—Elders must not be new believers. They must have been a Christian long enough to demonstrate the reality of their conversion and depth of spirituality.

    • Good reputation with outsiders—Elders must be well-respected by unbelievers and free from hypocrisy.

    • Not self-willed—Elders must not be stubborn, or prone to forcing their opinions on others or abusing authority. They must be servant-minded.

    • Loving what is good—Elders must desire the will of God in every decision.

    • Just—Elders must desire to be fair and impartial. Their judgments must be based on scriptural principles.

    • Devout—Elders must be devoted Christ followers, seeking to be conformed to His image. They must be committed to prayer, worship, the study of Scripture, and the guarding of their spiritual walk.

    • Devoted—Elders must be devoted to give any amount of time necessary to their calling as needed above all else.

    • Holding fast the faithful Word—Elders must be stable in the faith, obedient to the Word of God, and continually seeking to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.

  • Communicate—biblical truth that inspires greater obedience to the Word.

  • Challenge—listeners simply and practically with the truths of Scripture.

  • Present—the whole counsel of God for maximum life change.

  • Give—attention to detail and accuracy.

  • Are committed­—to consistent personal time of biblical study and reflection.

  • Are servants—by nature; eager to see the church prevail in the world.

  • Demonstrate—spiritual foresight that anticipates the work of God.

  • Allow—Scripture and prayer to inform their decision-making process.

  • Impart—vision to others using clear communication.

  • Can assess—significant past events and their potential for impact on the present and future.

  • Are able—to think creatively and apply ideas and concepts

  • Desire—accountability in fulfilling their responsibilities and meeting the needs of those they serve.

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