Plurality Of Elders


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A brief outline of that which supports the Presbyterian view of plurality of elders.

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Plurality Of Elders

  1. 1. Nathan S. Riese
  2. 2. <ul><li>presbuvteroV – (elder/presbyter) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Spiritually mature leader of the church </li></ul></ul><ul><li>ejpivskopoV – (overseer/bishop) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One who oversees and looks out for the church, bearing responsibility of the church </li></ul></ul><ul><li>poimhvn – (pastor/shepherd) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One who feeds, guides, cares for the flock </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Acts 20:17 – Paul addresses “elders” </li></ul><ul><li>Acts 20:28 – These elders “oversee” and “pastor” </li></ul><ul><li>1 Peter 5:1 – Peter exhorts “elders” </li></ul><ul><li>1 Peter 5:2 – These elders are to “pastor” while exercising “oversight” </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Acts 11:30—elders at the church of Antioch </li></ul><ul><li>Acts 14:23—Paul and Barnabas appoint &quot;elders in every church&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4—elders at the church in Jerusalem </li></ul><ul><li>Acts 20:17, 28—elders/bishops at the church of Ephesus (v. 17—&quot;elders of the church&quot;) </li></ul><ul><li>Acts 21:18—elders at the church in Jerusalem </li></ul><ul><li>Philippians 1:1—the church at Philippi has overseers </li></ul><ul><li>1 Timothy 5:17—elders at the church of Ephesus </li></ul><ul><li>Titus 1:5—Titus is to appoint elders in every town </li></ul><ul><li>James 5:14—&quot;the elders of the church&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>1 Peter 5:1-2—&quot;the elders among you&quot; </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Allowance for Plurality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Generally accepted as Biblically legitimate, even among those who have single-elder local churches </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>At least some of the verses listed must have been local churches with plural elders </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many Baptist churches have a Pastoral staff </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many churches have an elder board </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Ephesus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There were no buildings large enough to fit the Christians in Ephesus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Estimated 100,000 Christians in this one city therefore “church of Ephesus” = the many house churches of Ephesus </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Thus Paul was writing to these different pastors (plural) of different house churches (plural) within the one Church (singular) of Ephesus </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Ephesus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Exegetical Problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>It is based on suppositional estimation, not exegesis </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What passage is there that says that there was one pastor per house church? There is none </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Who is an example of a single pastor of any house church in Ephesus? There is none </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Just because there may have been many “house churches,” the fact still remains that there were plural churches with plural elders being appointed in each church by Paul (Acts 14:23). </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Revelation 1-3 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Messengers/angels” of Revelation 1-3 are representatives of the various cell groups of the larger church of the city </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There is an allowance for the single-elder local church because the letters in Revelation were written to the angel/pastor of each local church </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Sounds plausible, but not exegetically substantiated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Every other place in Revelation where John uses “angel ” (another 69 times), it is in reference to angelic beings, not humans . Thus, the preponderance of word usage decidedly favors angelic beings in Revelation 2-3 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The NT nowhere else uses the term angel to refer to a pastor or elder, so there would have to be substantial contextual reasons for these angels to be called pastors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A messenger is someone who is sent on a mission and who, as a rule, comes, accomplishes his task, and then moves on. A pastor, on the other hand, settles in and tends his flock. He is there for the long haul. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Not exegetically substantiated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pastors were, in NT times, restricted to a certain locale geographically. But a messenger is one who moves about. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The genre of the Revelation fits what is called &quot;apocalyptic.&quot; In apocalyptic literature there is a strong emphasis on angels, making that the primary inference. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revelation 1:20 says that “angel” is the interpretation of “star.” It is better to follow the interpretation given than to invent a new one. The pastor view adds an interpretation beyond that of Revelation 1:20. </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>Not exegetically substantiated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scripture describes angels as stars in numerous passages (Job 38:7; Psalm 104:4; Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18; Hebrews 1:7); thus, to be consistent, we should take the stars of Revelation 1–3 to be angels also </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why did John give his revealed message to angels to give to the churches? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Evidently it was because John at the time was a prisoner in exile on Patmos (Revelation 1:9). He could not deliver the message himself; thus, by divine appointment, seven angels were dispatched who would impart the message to the churches. John was in a supernatural state when he received the message (1:10); therefore, it is not shocking to see him giving it to angels to pass it on. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Not exegetically substantiated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We elsewhere discover that angels take an active interest in church life (1 Corinthians 4:9; 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:21). It is consistent, then, to interpret the angels of Revelation 1-3 as angelic beings, not as pastors. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some might say that it is unthinkable to have angels give messages to churches. Why is that? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The Law to Moses (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Prophetic revelation to Daniel (7:16–27; 8:16–26; 9:20–27; 10:1–12:13) and Zechariah (1:9; 2:3; 4:1, 5; 5:5; 6:4–5) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Announcement of the birth of John the Baptist to his father, Zacharias (Luke 1:11–20) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Announcement of the birth of Jesus to His mother, Mary (Luke 1:26–38), as well as to Joseph (Matthew 1:20–21) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>1 Timothy 3:1-14 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The singular use of the word overseer in contrast to the plurality of the word deacons </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Bishop”/”overseer” should be seen as a generic term </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Paul is speaking qualitatively, not quantitatively </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cf. Matt 12:35; 15:11; 18:17; Luke 10:7; John 2:25 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The generic article is actually used thousands of times in the NT </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Deacons” does not also need to be used in the same numeric generic construction again </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Note: Philippians 1:1 – “overseers” (plural) and “deacons” (plural) –this is not a generic case, but specific addressees </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Timothy and Titus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Representatives of Paul in apostolic authority, not pastors.  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timothy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Disciple (Acts 16:1) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Servant (Philippians 1:1) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A servant to Paul (Acts 19:22) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fellow worker (Romans 16:21) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Brother (2 Corinthians 1:1, 19) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Man of God (1 Timothy 6:1) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Workman in study (2 Timothy 3:15) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>An apostle (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 with 2:6) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>But Never a pastor/overseer/elder </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Timothy and Titus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Representatives of Paul in apostolic authority, not pastors.  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timothy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>It is unlikely that only one bishop is in view because otherwise it is difficult to explain 1 Timothy 5:17. Who are these plural elders if Timothy is the Pastor? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Timothy was there to teach “how one ought to behave in the household of God” (3:15) until Paul returned (4:13). This shows that Timothy was, on a temporary , apostolic basis, one who was delegating to others the pastoral work of teaching </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>He did teach, oversee, and lead, but that does not necessitate the conclusion that he was the single-elder of a local church </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Timothy and Titus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Representatives of Paul in apostolic authority, not pastors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Titus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Paul’s brother (2 Corinthians 2:13) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Partner and fellow worker with Paul (2 Corinthians 8:23) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>One who acted in the same spirit and took the same steps as Paul (2 Corinthians 12:18) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Uncircumcised Greek (Galatians 2:3) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Paul’s true child in a common faith (Titus 1:4) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>But Never a pastor/overseer/elder </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Timothy and Titus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Representatives of Paul in apostolic authority, not pastors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Titus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Appointed elders in each town. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If Titus is an example for today’s polity as a single-elder (instead of as only an apostolic representative), then should not the pastors today also be choosing elders for other churches in other towns? </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If Titus is an example for a single-elder-led church (and is therefore a bishop), is he then the bishop of churches from every town? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If there are elders being appointed into these churches, then Titus cannot be the single elder of a church. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Titus is following as Paul commanded him and exercised his authority as a representative of Paul, not as the Pastor of a local church </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>1 Thessalonians </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Paul addresses the church (singular) in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:1) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refers to its leadership in the plural (5:12–13) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ These men,” Paul says, “labor among you, have charge over you, and admonish you.” “Labor” and “have charge” are the same verbs Paul uses to describe the ministry profile of elders in 1 Timothy 5:17 </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Hebrews 13 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The readers’ leaders were plural in number: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The readers were not to obey just one leader, but more than one </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>Plurality is allowed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Each passage referring to specific elders is always in the plural </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There are direct examples </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many who allow single-elder-led local churches admit that plurality is the NT norm and preferable </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Singularity is unsubstantiated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There is not one non-generic passage referring to a singular elder </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There is no example of a single elder of a local church </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The prooftexts given for the single-elder model are not exegetically confirmed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The argument against plurality regarding plurality of elders in each church is a secondary inference, while plurality is a primary inference </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Again, many who allow single-elder-led local churches admit that plurality is the NT norm and preferable </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>The irreducible minimum cannot be shown exegetically to be only one elder per church </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, each able local church should strive to have more than one elder as soon as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Err on the obvious </li></ul><ul><li>Err on the safe side </li></ul>