Biblical Eldership/The Function Of Elders in the New Testament: Governing And Teaching

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By John Piper About Eldership
Chapter 7 of the book Biblical Eldership

The responsibilities of elders are summed up under two heads: governing and teaching.


1 Timothy 5:17

Let the elders who rule (= govern, proestotes) well be considered worthy of double honor especially those who labor in preaching (logo) and teaching (didaskalia).

1 Timothy 3:4-5

He must manage (proistamenon) his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage (prostenai) his own household, how can he care for God's church?

Acts 20:28

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

1 Peter 5:2

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you . . .shepherd the flock of God.

The duty of elders to "oversee" or "shepherd" the flock implies a governing or leading function.

1 Thessalonians 5:12

But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you (proistamenous) in the Lord and admonish you.

There is no reference to "elders" here, but the function of the leaders is governing, and the natural assumption is that the leaders are elders that Paul had appointed according to Acts 14:23.

Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.

Obedience and submission imply a role of leadership and governance and, again, the reference is probably to the elders, though the leaders are not described explicitly as elders.


Ephesians 4:11-12

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.

Pastors and teachers are pictured as one office, so that the pastor (whom we have identified as an elder) has the responsibility of teaching.

1 Timothy 3:2

An overseer, then, must be . . . able to teach.

The overseer must be "able to teach." And we have seen that the overseer and elder are the same office. This qualification is not included in the list of qualifications for deacons.

1 Timothy 5:17

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

All have to be able to teach, but some "labor," that is, they devote more time and energy to it, perhaps earning their living by it. Each elder is vested with the right to teach and exercise authority in the church and so must have the qualifications for it.

Titus 1:9

He must hold firm to the sure Word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it.

Not all elders need to be able to do public preaching. The requirement is not for a preaching gift, but for a solid grasp of doctrine and ability to spot and correct errors and explain Biblical truth plainly.


The function of elders may be summed up under two heads: teaching and governing. They are the doctrinal guardians of the flock and the overseers of the life of the church responsible to God for the feeding and care and ministry of the people.

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