Were Elders Limited to the Age of Miracles?
Text: Acts 20:17-35
I. Some times I wonder where ideas about the Scriptures come from.
A. The passages are clear, but it seems that some want a certain outcome, so they seek whatever means they can find to arrive at that result.
B. I was asked if elders were only for the time the church was first beginning, during the time miracles were happening. It wasn’t this person’s idea, he was asked about it. So we tossed around some ideas as to what possible verses might be used to justify such an idea.
C. I did some research and found out that the idea has been expressed before. I found an article by Roy Cogdill in the 1960s where he mentions the idea and dismisses it as not supported by the Scriptures, so I know the idea has been around a while.
II. How to go about answering unusual claims
A. When someone makes a claim, the burden of proof is on them.
1. You don’t have to prove them wrong, unless you just want to.
2. By making the claim, they are saying they can prove they are right.
3. So often the best first step is to ask them for their evidence. When the claim is outlandish, things typically fall apart very quickly for them.
B. In order to prove the point, the arguer would have to:
1. Find a statement saying the eldership was temporary,
2. Prove that the eldership was dependent on miracles, or
3. Prove that it only had a temporary purpose.
III. Was the eldership stated to be temporary?
A. This one would be impossible to prove as such a passage doesn’t exist
IV. Did the eldership require miracles?
A. In the qualifications of elders, not one qualification required having miraculous gifts - I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
B. Praying for the sick - James 5:14-15
1. Does not say person would be miraculously healed.
2. God does answer prayers, but it doesn’t claim God would miraculously intervene.
3. Thus, elders could pray for the sick and be answered without miracles being involved.
C. The giving of miraculous gifts - I Timothy 4:14
1. Did elders have the ability to pass on miraculous gifts?
2. We are told that it came through the apostle’s hands - Acts 8:18
3. Dia (“by”) means the channel through which something happened. The channel was prophecy.
4. Meta (“with”) denotes something that accompanied another. The elders’ hands only accompanied.
5. II Timothy 1:6 - The giving of the gift was through (dia) Paul’s hands.
6. The elders gave their blessing, but the means by which Timothy received the gifts was through prophecy and the laying on of Paul’s hands.
D. The selection of elders - Acts 20:28
1. Titus was told to appoint elders - Titus 1:5
2. The verses that follow are the qualifications for appointing elders
3. If the Spirit was directly selecting, then Titus did not need to know the qualifications. The Spirit would simply tell him which men, as God told Samuel who to anoint as the next king - I Samuel 16:7.
4. But the lists given to Timothy and Titus came through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those lists were the Spirits’s criteria. Thus the Spirit did make the Ephesian elders overseers.
5. A similar example - Deuteronomy 10:22
a. How did the Israelites become so numerous?
b. First, God watched over them and protected them.
c. But they still had children just like all other couples. It didn’t take a miracle for them to have children.
d. So God made them numerous, but it didn’t take a miracle to accomplish
6. The Holy Spirit made them overseers, but it didn’t require a miracle to do so.
E. We find no requirement for miraculous gifts in the qualifications of elders, the duties of elders, or the selection of elders
V. Where elders only needed to get the church started?
A. The foundation of the church is Jesus with the apostles and prophets - Ephesians 2:20
1. All were limited in time as the foundation was laid
2. There is no passage saying the elders were a part of the foundation
B. Ephesians 4:11-13 - Elders are included in the list
1. But just because they appear in the same list, it doesn’t mean they all share every aspect
2. The apostles and prophets continue with us because of their writings. The elders of the first century don’t impact the church today. They didn’t leave anything behind that must guide the church.
3. All were involved in teaching – that is what is common between the duties listed
4. Elders are involved in teaching
a. Acts 20:28-29 - There were false teachers to deal with
b. Titus 1:9-11 - An elder’s job was to keep the church true to the gospel.
5. The need in Ephesians 4:11-16 is not a mature church but mature Christians. As long as there are new Christians, the need for elders, preachers and teachers continues.
VI. Remember that the burden of proof is on the person making the claim
A. We can be confident of where we stand because we know what the Bible states, so let the claimer do the heavy lifting.