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Elders Of The Church Of God

The English word "elder" originated from an old Anglo-Saxon word, eldra, meaning older, with a practical meaning of more experienced. It's used to translate a number of original words of the Scriptures, such as the Hebrew word (pronounced) gaw-dole, meaning greater (in any sense, whether age, stature, dignity etc.) and the Greek word (pronounced) pres-ber-teer-os, meaning older, or senior.

"Elders" were given responsibility of advising the people in various matters. Their greater age served two purposes; it gave them the time to learn their lessons of life (i.e. to convert mere knowledge into applied wisdom) and the time provided the proof of whether they were truly righteous, based upon, on balance, the record of their life. Age brings the potential of wisdom, but the saying "there's no fool like an old fool" is just as possible if the depth of character is missing ("the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed" Isaiah 65:20 KJV).

Elders were known to the ancient Israelites at the time of the Exodus. The elders sacrificed the Passover lambs (the Levitical priesthood did not begin until after the Exodus, out in the Sinai; see also Why Did Paul Say That Sinai Was In Arabia?).

"12:21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover" (Exodus 12:21 KJV)

Even after the Levitical priesthood had been established, the elders continued to participate in making the prescribed sacrifices.

"4:15 And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the LORD: and the bullock shall be killed before the LORD [see 'Before Abraham Was, I AM']. 4:16 And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock's blood to the tabernacle of the congregation: 4:17 And the priest shall dip his finger in some of the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD, even before the veil." (Leviticus 4:15-17 KJV)

Later, the elders were assigned a more administrative role, with Moses, as made possible by the Holy Spirit that the LORD gave to them.

"11:16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. 11:17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone." (Numbers 11:16-17 KJV)

"Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock"

By the time of the coming of The Messiah (keeping in mind that the elders were representatives of a society, in whatever form it had become, good or not), the elders of Judah rejected the Christ, just as the priests, scribes ("lawyers"), Pharisees and Sadducees did. Ironically, they took part in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, just as their ancient ancestors took part in the sacrifice of the Passover lamb.

The Holy Scriptures

"16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matthew 16:21 KJV)

"21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" (Matthew 21:23 KJV)

"26:3 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 26:4 And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him." (Matthew 26:3-4 KJV)

"26:47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people." (Matthew 26:47 KJV)

"26:59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death" (Matthew 26:59 KJV)

Later, the Church of God ("church" merely means people - see What Is The Church?) had its own elders, some of whom had been participants in the killing of the Christ, just as others from every other group had done (e.g. see Was Paul Among Them?). The elders of the Church served the LORD (the King James use of the word "bishop" for elder in the verses below does not reflect the original meaning of the role of the elders).

"5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." (1 Timothy 5:17-18 KJV)

"1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 1:8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Titus 1:5-9 KJV)

"5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 5:15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him." (James 5:14-15 KJV)

With time and experience, the apostle Peter (see also Peter's Prophecy) subsequently also identified himself as an elder, with instructions in how elders are to conduct themselves, as servants i.e. "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."

"5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 5:3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Peter 5:1-6 KJV)

Fact Finder: Who is the Head of Christ's people, Christ's "Church"?
See The Head Of The Body


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