SPECIAL TOPIC: ELDER
I. OT Usage
A. used of the angels of God who made up the angelic council (BDB 278, KB 278, cf. Isa. 24:23). This same terminology is used of the angelic creatures of Revelation (cf. Rev.4:4, 10; 5:5,6,8,11,14; 7:11,13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4).
B. used of tribal leaders in the OT (cf. Exod. 3:16; Num. 11:16). Later in the NT this term is applied to a group of leaders from Jerusalem who made up the high court of the Jews, the Sanhedrin (cf. Matt. 21:23; 26:57). In Jesus' day this seventy-member body was controlled by a corrupt priesthood (i.e., not Aaron's line but purchased from the Roman overlords).
II. NT Useage
A. used of the local leaders of a NT church. It was one of three synonymous terms (pastor, overseer, and elder, cf. Titus 1:5,7; Acts 20:17,28). Peter and John use it to include themselves in the leadership group (cf. 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1; 3 John 1).
B. There is a play on the term elder (presbuteros) in 1 Pet. 1:1 and 5. The term is apparently used as a title of leadership (cf. v. 1) and a designation of age (cf. v. 5). The use of this term is surprising considering that it is basically the Jewish tribal designation of leadership, while "bishop" or "overseer" (episcopos) was the Greek city-state designation for leadership. 1 Peter uses Jewish terms to address Gentile believers.
Peter calls himself a "fellow elder," the term presbuteros plus the preposition syn, which implies "joint participation with." Peter does not assert his Apostolic authority (cf. 2 John 1, where another Apostle calls himself "elder"), but admonishes (i.e., "I exhort," a present active indicative) the local leaders to act and live appropriately in the light of
1. Christ’s example
2. nearness of His return
The early churches did not have paid positions of leadership, but recognized the God-given gifts of ministry and leadership within each local church. This affirmation of giftedness had to be balanced with the cultural reverence for "aged-wisdom," especially among the Jewish believing community. Therefore, Peter addresses both types of leadership.
Also notice that "elders" is plural. This may refer to (1) a number of house church leaders (cf. Acts 20:17) or (2) the different spiritual gifts among a body of leaders (cf. Eph. 4:11), which clearly states that ministry belongs to all believers. This is parallel to the concept of "a kingdom of priests" (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9).
C. used of older men in the church, not necessarily the leadership (cf. 1 Tim. 5:1; Titus 2:2).
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