Summary: The one office we see early in the book of Genesis that continues through eternity in the Book of Revelation is the office of elder! This office is so important that every Christian should understand and support it.
The Ancient Office
1. A pastor thought God gave Him an idea, and he presented it in the monthly elders meeting. After giving his most impassioned plea and really “selling” the idea to the elder board, the board voted and voted down the pastors proposed changes 12-1. The head elder looked at the pastor and said, “Well pastor, it’s 12 votes to 1. Looks like you’ve been out voted. Looks like time is up for the evening, so will you please close in prayer.”
The pastor, not wanting to give up yet on what he felt God was leading him to do then lead in prayer. As he prayed, he lifted his hands up to heaven and prayed, “Loooorrrdddd - I know my brothers here do not have the same vision you have given me. Please help them to see that this is not MY vision, but YOOOOUUUUURRRR vision!”
At that exact moment, a lightning bolt with a loud clap of thunder burst in through the window in the meeting room, striking the table, splitting it in two and knocking all the elders to the floor. As the dust cleared, the pastor looked at the head elder and said - so, what do you think about that?
The head elder, dusting himself off, sighed and said, “Well, I guess that’s 12 votes to 2, then...”
2. The one constant office in the Bible is that of elder.
From Genesis through Revelation, we see elders. Lot was an elder in the city of Sodom before it was destroyed. In Revelation, the 24 elders worship God before His throne. We could say that if you are an elder, you are participating in an eternal office.
3. The New Testament church was organized by the apostles to be led by elders. Paul writes to Titus in Titus 1:5, "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you."
4. In NT, Paul made a distinction between elders and elders who work hard at preaching and teaching, and should thus be supported. By the early second century, a distinction was made between elders & the man we now call a pastor. Specialization.
5. So a pastor is one of the elders; and that is how our particular church government operates. The pastor is a full time, sort of executive elder. In the early church, he was called, "the president."
In about 150A.D., Justin Martyr described a church meeting:
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.