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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.
"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)
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)
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.
Fact Finder: Who is the Head of Christ's people, Christ's "Church"?