God, in His Wisdom, designed the local church to be led by godly and qualified men (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
These qualified men, appointed and serving, are limited in their authority in several ways. First, they have no right to legislate to the flock. It is Christ Himself who has established His will for His people (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). Elders are to feed the flock (1 Timothy 3:2), convict the gainsayer (Titus 1:9-11), and watch out for the souls of their charges (Hebrews 13:17). But, they can not make laws.
Second, these men are limited in their domain. They are to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2; see also Acts 20:28). Their oversight is limited to the local congregation of which they are a part. This means they have no sway on any other congregation, which precludes any centralized oversight in the body of Christ. It also precludes their exercising authority over any man-made institution like a home for orphans, a hospital or a college.
Finally, they are limited in the nature of their superintendence. They are to serve, “not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to [them], but being examples to the flock.” Dictatorial tendencies among elders are destructive, and sinful in the sight of God. Faithful elders do not dictate. They instruct, beseech, show, exhort and express their love and concern for those under their oversight.
May God bless the men who serve well in this office. May God spare His people from men who would abuse the position.
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