Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Levites Priests and Elders

In the Old Testament the Levites and Priests were responsible for the running of the Temple.

Throughout the Old Testament we also see many references to Elders.  Elders had a recognized role in the Jewish community.  They were older men with experience that the community respected and relied on for guidance. Here are a few references: Exodus 3:18, Leviticus 9:1-4, Deuteronomy 31:9, Joshua 8:33, 2 Samuel 19:11, 1 Kings 8:3, Jeremiah 29:1, Ezekiel 7:26.

However the elders in the Old Testament did not manage or run the Temple. They were not the religious authorities.

The New Testament church believes that their own bodies are the temple of God (Acts 17:24, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Pet 2:5, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:19-22).

The New Testament church believes that all believers are a new type of priest. (1 Pet 2:5, 1 Pet 2:9 ).

So it makes sense that in the New Testament church we don't see a continuation of the titles of Levites and Priests.

As the church expanded into non-Jewish communities, older respected men were recognized as elders in these new communities as well. 

By using the term elder, I believe the writers of the New Testament had a different role in mind that what we tend to see today.  There is no evidence these elders were responsible for religious buildings, church programs, church organizational policy, or church staff.  There is no evidence they were elected for a limited term, and then became non-elder laity again a few years later. 

What is my point?  I don't know. I guess I find it interesting how the meanings of terms we use change over time.

I believe the role of elders is important, and it makes sense to study what the Bible has to say on the topic.  Consider who are the older respected people in your life.  Recognize who they are. Go to them for advice and guidance. Let them influence you.  And at some stage in life you may play the role of elder to others in your community.

I know this is a brief summary.  I'd love to hear any feedback.

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Eric said...

Great thoughts here Jon. I think you are right on target. The concept of elders does seem to have a great deal of similarity from OT to NT.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Eric. I respect your comment especially since you are trying so hard to look older like an elder with that beard of yours. :)

Frank said...

Is any sick, let him call the ELDERS.......?
Does this mean that only those with a badge of office can anoint with oil and pray for the sick? I don't believe so.
Does it mean that those with a badge of office get their prayers answered more than those without? I don't believe so.
Does this mean that if you live in bongo bongo land where there are no church officials nobody can pray for the sick. I don't think so.

So what is the point of making someone into an elder?

I do not believe that anyone in the bible was ever appointed TO BECOME an elder. In both the OT and NT, the word elder simply referred to an older person. It is written in masculine and feminine form.

The idea of making eldership an appointment, neuters the remaining older and mature members of any congregation. Even when there is a plurality of appointed elders, there is a far bigger plurality of non elders watching and doing nothing.

Titus1 speaks of "anointing elders". However this is only TO CHOOSE FROM THE ALREADY EXISTING ELDERS, TO MAKE SOME INTO OVERSEERS. A simple examination of all the words in context makes it as clear as crystal that he isn't making a single person into an elder.

So imagine a church where everyone, as they became mature, both male and female, took personal responsibility for praying and serving the body. Nobody would be watching from the outer edge thinking that they are discounted because they have no title or status.

Then we would be seeing a church where the true priesthood of all of the believers was working as God ordained.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Frank. I think you are correct. All older wise/respected men and women should pray equally for the sick. And younger believers should follow their example.