Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 19 Number 5 May 2017
Page 16

Questions and Answers

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Can a Pastor Be an Elder?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis RushmoreSomeone posed the question, “Can a pastor be an elder?” I know what the inquirer means, but the query, nevertheless, needs some additional explanation. We will address both the actual question as well as the intent behind the question.

First, note that there are several synonyms or interchangeable terms in the New Testament for the same office of responsibility. The Greek word “pastor” appears 18 times in the New Testament and is translated as “shepherd” each time, except in Ephesians 4:11 where it is translated as “pastor.” In the context of church leaders, “shepherd” is equivalent to “elder” (1 Peter 5:1-4) or “bishop” (1 Peter 2:25). The same office of responsibility is cited in Scripture as an “overseer” (Acts 20:17, 28). A “pastor” is an “elder,” which is the same as a “shepherd” or a “bishop.”

Secondly, now to the intent of the question. Can a minister, an evangelist or a preacher also be an elder? Scripture answers the question in one of the citations in the previous paragraph. “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1 NKJV). The apostle Peter was a minister, an evangelist or a preacher as well as an elder.

Yes, a pastor can be an elder, since the two words refer to the same church office of responsibility. Yes, a preacher can serve also as an elder if he meets the biblical qualifications and is appointed to the eldership by the congregation with which he worships.

Please Explain Ephesians 4:11

A Friend asked a question regarding Ephesians 4:11, which reads, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (NKJV). Context is immeasurably important in every communication, and it is no less significant regarding biblical interpretation. In the case of Ephesians 4:11, part of the context pertains to the first century when true miracles occurred. Within its context, Ephesians 4:11 concerns different leadership roles in the early church wherein each of them was assisted by miracles, namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or elders and teachers. After miracles had served their purpose (Mark 16:20; John 20:30-31; Hebrews 2:3-4) and were no longer available (1 Corinthians 13:8-12; Ephesians 4:13), all church leaders must rely on the written Word of God rather than miraculous assistance to fulfill their respective duties.

Since the qualifications to be an apostle cannot be achieved by anyone living today (Acts 1:21-26; 22:14), there are no longer any living apostles. Besides, the miracles with which they were equipped are no longer available by which they could function as they did prior to the availability of the written Word of God. Prophets, in the sense of forth-tellers, are no longer available either in the absence of modern-day miracles. Although evangelists, pastors (elders) and teachers remain in the church in our time, they are no longer assisted by ongoing miracles. Instead, they must rely upon the Word of God both for their guidance in their congregational functions and for their teaching and leadership in the Lord’s church.

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