In today’s institutionalized local church, anyone can clearly see that there exists a special standing; a special status; and special ranking of special Christians.
Whether you look through the doors of Catholicism and notice the priest carrying out his holy and reverential duties or you look through the doors of Protestantism and notice the so-called “pastor” or “an eldership” carrying out their holy and reverential duties, the result is the same.
The majority of the ministry is confined to just a few “special” people, while the rest being at best, spectators watching a performance, or at worst, pew warmers waiting for the show to be over at which time you are ushered out of your seat and pointed towards the exit sign until next week.
Such practices as this which occur week after week are as damaging as it is unscriptural.
Concerning the men referred to in the Bible as elders, bishops, overseers, and shepherds, “church leaders” have shamefully torn apart His Body, the people of God, by demanding that everyone submit to their infallible interpretation of the Scriptures. In many congregations, any thought or opinion that is contrary to the “things that we have always believed and practiced,” is considered heresy and unless you repent of “your rebellion” you will automatically be relegated to the company of the “unfaithful,” the “disaffected,” or worse.
Who are these elders or overseers? How do they become such? What is their work?
1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are the banner passages that men always put forth, not only in the establishment of church rule and church offices, but also in how the selection process of “candidates” is to be administered.
(For an examination of the other favorite texts that the institutional church likes to put forth, namely: Hebrews 13:7,17, and 24; 1 Timothy 5:17; and 1 Peter 5:5, we ask that you would consider our short and very popular article: “Obey Them”)
For indeed, isn’t this what we are always told concerning these two portions of Scripture?
“Listed here in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus Chapter 1 are the qualifications for the office of an elder and deacon given to us by Paul the apostle.”
This is the standard talking point that you will hear invariably 100% of the time. In fact, when you pick up any standard dictionary and look up the term “Qualifications,” there you will read:
- an accomplishment, etc., that fits a person for some, office, or the like;
- a circumstance or condition required by law or custom for getting, having, or exercising a right, holding an office, or the like.
Sounds good. It even says “a quality that fits a person for holding an office!”
“That’s good enough for me. It’s concurring with the Bible’s position on qualifications and office bearing,” says the local institutional church leader and his members.
But there’s a problem. The word “office” is no where found is these texts. It was cleverly inserted by the KJV translators (and kept in by later versions) to buttress further and establish their hierarchical system of rule in the church. Unfortunately, many who compose the leadership of the Institutional church are clever too, seeing that most church members are taught to think in terms of this dictionary definition of the word and as a result, believe it is God’s will that men be selected to “fill” places and/or “occupy offices” in the church. The unscriptural use of the word “office” is just another example of how those in positions of church leadership advance their own hierarchal agendas.
Throughout the entire New Testament, the word “office” is found nowhere in the Greek text. In 1Timothy 3:1: “Faithful is the saying, if a man seeks the office of a bishop, he desires a good work,” the King James translators were changing or adding words that were not present in the Greek text, like the word “office.” In Vine’s dictionary for example, he states: “…the word office in the phrase ‘the office of a Bishop,’ has nothing to represent it in the original.” There is neither a word in the text for office NOR the idea of office outside their own model.
The phrase “to oversee” does not imply office in the sense of one being superior to another. It is a job description, a function, not an office or a title. It describes those who have the ability to see the needs of others and tend to those needs. They are caregivers, servants, not overlords “possessing authority derived from Christ.”
According to so-called “church leaders” today, “the qualifications“ listed in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 must be appropriated by men before the congregation can “vote them into office” or “appoint them to office.” This“appointment” is now said “to make them elders or deacons,” something they were NOT before the “appointment,”even though they “possessed the qualifications.” Next would come the ordination or “installation service,” putting the finishing touches on this whole unscriptural mess.
An ordination or installation service is necessary for bringing these men into the eldership. Before the special service takes place they were not in any way a Pastor/Elder/Overseer. They were just mere men like the rest of us. But with that ordination/installation ceremony they are exalted and lifted up to an official position over us! Before the ceremony they were on an “equality” with the rest of us. But now, with this hocus pocus ritual, these men are transformed “above us” and they are now “over us” as rulers and lords.
Almost like magic! And all done by men according to the doctrine of men! Oh! What wonders “the local institutional church” can perform with an ecclesiastical ritual!
You see, an “office” or a “s-h-i-p” (as an “elder s-h-i-p”) is viewed as something “empty” until it is “filled.” They liken it to the office of the President or the CEO, or the chairmanship of a corporation or board.
These ideas are wrong. They are unfounded and they are dangerous, especially since the Scriptures speak nothing of this. Nonetheless, it fits right into the institution’s system of “leadership in the church.”
This is the reasoning behind the local institutional church! This system or organization has “places/s-h-i-p-s/offices/positions” of authority to be filled by men said “to meet the qualifications set forth for elders in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1.”
These men are then placed or ranked “OVER” the brethren, assigned special or divine authority, men who now stand in an “office”, an “office appointed by Christ and now enclothed with the authority of Christ,” governing all the affairs of the church.
All of these conclusions not coming from Scripture, but being put back into Scripture through the formulations of men.
Nowhere in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1, or anywhere else in the Scriptures, do you read, “the qualifications for elders.”Absolutely no one used this term. None of the apostles used this expression nor anything like it. The Holy Spirit did not designate 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1, “The Qualifications for the office of Elder.”
Uninspired, fallen men assigned that term! Theologians and church leaders have assumed that the Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus and gave them “the qualifications of elders.” Just because this has been the conclusion talked about for hundreds of years does not make it true. Truth does not hinge upon how many people believe it to be truth.
How can 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1 be Paul’s “lists of qualifications” when both passages are sketchy to say the least? Paul did not say one word to Timothy or Titus about lying, gossiping, stealing, etc. Isn’t this important? For if this is its content, (qualifications) then why are they not listed?
A little common sense will tell you that it was never meant to be a “list of qualifications.” You could see this as well from the fact that the passage in 1st Timothy 3 is different from the passage in Titus 1. Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told Timothy that an overseer should not be “a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (verse 6) Was this one of “the qualifications?” If so, why did Paul not feel the need to add this one to Titus’ list?
And look at what Paul failed to tell Timothy. He told Titus that an overseer must be “a lover of good…just, holy, holding to the faithful word, that he may be able both to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers.” (verses 8-9 ) Are these important “qualifications?” Then, why did Paul keep them from Timothy?
It is clear that many have been assuming something that is not there, taking for granted all this time that these are the“qualifications of elders.”
Many have also assumed that we must put the two lists together to get one complete list of “qualifications,” but then again, even with that, after examination you are still forced to conclude that the apostle never intended for these passages to be taken as “the qualifications of elders.”
If they were, both Timothy and Titus would have received identical and exhaustive lists. Remember also that Timothy was in Ephesus when he received his letter from Paul and Titus was in Crete, hundreds of miles from Ephesus. They themselves did not have a “combined list.”
Again, it is clear that Paul never meant for these passages to be interpreted as “a list of qualifications.”
If these then are not qualifications, what are they? The answer is simple. It is the quality of a man that is in view.
“Oh cut it out,” you say, “there’re both the same thing!” No they are not!
Remember the dictionary’s rendering of “qualifications?” It said, “an accomplishment that fits a person for some office;” concurring exactly with those of an institutional church mindset!
But the Scriptures do not speak this way; no, not in the least.
On the other hand, what do the Scriptures speak of in regards to men being spiritual leaders to their brethren? Does it speak of them being rendered fit for an “office?” No, it speaks of them being rendered fit for SERVICE! Romans 12:1; 15:31; Ephesians 6:7.
Quality has to do with the nature or with what’s in the man’s soul. Paul set forth one quality that a spiritual leader must possess. Here it is in a number of translations:
BLAMELESS: unaccusable, without fault, unimpeachable, without reproach, irreprehensible, irreproachable, without reproach, above reproach, above suspicion.
This is the apostle’s main point to Timothy and Titus. This is why the “lists of qualifications” are incomplete. Any requirements not found in the text such as “not to lie,” “not to gossip,” etc., are included in “must be blameless.”
To be an elder in Christ’s ecclesia requires humility and a heart for service. Remember, an “elder” is not a title or office. It’s a function. “Elder” comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which simply refers to an older person. Within their culture, they were worthy of respect and deferment simply because of their age. In Leviticus 19:32, the Scriptural background is given for this respect: “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old person, and fear your God: I am the LORD.”
Because of their age and assumed wisdom, they were expected to guide those who were younger. This responsibility was not something they could relinquish since they never asked for it. They received it because they grew old. As old people, the presbuteroi or the elders became the prime group to guide the brethren. This was their responsibility. They were guides! The weight of age coupled with an exemplary life was worthy of emulation.
These were the “elders” mentioned in the New Testament. There was nothing of “rulership,” nothing of being “duly authorized,” nothing of an “eldership board,” nothing of “exercising authority”, nothing of “ministerial dignity,” nothing of“occupying a scared office.”
If an older man (Elder) is above suspicion, spiritually matured, a good teacher, and truly interested in the genuine welfare of people, HE DOESN’T HAVE TO HAVE ONE OUNCE OF AUTHORITY to be of service to others and to advance the cause of Christ.
He will never be required to have an installation service or some other ceremony. He will never have to demand that people respect and listen to him, for they will do that gladly. If he is Christ-like in every area of his life, showing the same quality of love for others as did Jesus, people will be persuaded by his teaching and example and will yield to his wisdom.
Power hungry men are the ones who have designed this system of “an office of elder;” of “appointing and installing officers” over the people whom they can now control and as we have learned, these diabolical seeds were sown centuries ago and are totally contrary to the teaching of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament.
There were elders (older men) in the New Testament ecclesia (church) but where do we find an “eldership?” The “eldership“ and the “office of elder” is an invention of men.
Whenever men designate something as a “s-h-i-p,” you invariably establish and form a board or a body that governs in some form. An “eldership, deaconship,” etc., suggests a body of rulers. Do you understand now why it was invented?
You hear all of the time elders saying, “We’ll make the decisions,” but does anybody ever stop to see how many“decisions” the elders of the New Testament made? The more and more a “s-h-i-p” in connection with elders is promoted, preached, and implemented, the more it morphs into a ranking, ruling, rotten board of abusers, rather than elders (“older men”) working among the flock.
Jesus singled out the power to rule that was exercised in His day, and said that it had no place in his spiritual realm. “It shall not be so among you,” He said directly to his disciples. If there is a direct command in the Scriptures, this is one of them. The apostles followed this command. Their leadership was one by example and inspired teaching, not by dictate.
Why did Jesus emphasize that the great in His kingdom must not be at the top of the pyramid, but at the very bottom, as servants of all? The answer is that one does not command from the bottom. One does not make decisions which are binding on others when he is at the bottom. One cannot throw his weight around; bark out phrases as “pastoral authority,” or demand submission to some fabled “office” when he is at the bottom.
And so, as a result, the modern eldership system has rejected the command of Jesus and has done just the opposite in putting themselves on par with the elite, at the peak of the pyramid! They do bind their will upon others. They do issue commands. They do demand unquestioning obedience to their will. They do “bind the consciences” of the tender sheep. They not only rule, they rule as absolute monarchs. Their decisions are not subject to review by anybody. They do not submit themselves to the many. They require the many to subject themselves to them!
When you look at Paul’s example in writing to the brethren in Corinth and Galatia, you can see very clearly that it goes contrary to the principles of the so-called “eldership rule” that we see coming from the local institutional church. There were serious relational problems, doctrinal problems, preeminence problems, control problems, and a host of other issues in both places! Yet Paul did not write the elders to straighten out these problems. He wrote the members and put the burden on the many.
Yet again, we can see that in today’s local institutional church system of “qualification of the office of elder” and “rule by elder,” the apostle Paul’s practice and application is an example to be avoided! It has been replaced by the official ruling office of the pastor/elder.
The Lord has never intended any man, or group of men, to hold a position “OVER” others, and to exercise special authority by which to “RULE” them. Elders were to GUIDE and SERVE others, being EXAMPLES.
Remember, according to Jesus, not even the apostles would “exercise authority” over the people of God, “…..NOT SO SHALL IT BE AMONG YOU” Matthew 20:25-26
This is very significant, for if Jesus emphatically withheld “divine authority” from the apostles, surely, He did not delegate it to elders or an eldership!
The example of Jesus is the most powerful argument against the anti-scriptural idea of an official ruling clergy occupying an office. Did He model one thing, only to build another? Did He come serving, only to elevate His people’s status later down the road?
We think not!
It is the “spirit of antichrist” which speaks, not only of anything that replaces Christ, but also who practices things which He explicitly forbade! Christ’s likeness in a thing determines its legitimacy. Does it reflect Him in what He has said or not? If not, it is none of His. It is NOT of His doing. It is NOT of His workmanship. It is NOT reflecting His image or His character. And neither is it His Church!
Behold then, the anti-Christ in all his glory before men, and shame before God.
(You are strongly encouraged to read this article in its entirety by clicking HERE.)