The Biblical Basis for Ruling Elders

George Gillespie:

THE word elder answereth to zaken in the Hebrew, and presbuteroV in the Greek. It hath four different significations: (1.) It noteth age; (2.) Antiquity; (3.) Venerability; (4.) An office. In the first signification, elder is opposed to younger, as 1 Tim. 5.1, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethren.” 1 Pet. 5.5, “Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.” In this sense was the apostle John called the elder, because he outlived the other apostles, 2 John 1.; 3.1. In the second signification, elder is opposed to modern, Matt. 15.2, “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?” that is, of them of old time, Matt. 5.21. In the third signification we find the word, Isa. 3., where the Lord saith, that he would take away from Israel “the prudent and the ancient,” vezaken; that is, the worthies among them, and such as were respected for wisdom. The same word (and peradventure, in the same sense), is turned elder, Exod. 2.16, Eth-zikne Israel, the elders of Israel. So the Spanish seijor, the French seigneur, the Italian signore, all coming from the Latin senior, signify a man of respect, or one venerable for dignity, gifts, prudence, or piety. Contrariwise, men of no worth, nor wisdom, men despicable {9.b.} for lack of gifts and understanding, are called children, Isa. 3.4,12; Eph. 4.14. But it is the fourth signification which we have now to do withal, and so an elder is a spiritual officer, appointed by God, and called to the government of the church, Acts 14.23, “When they had by voices made them elders in every church.” They have the name of elders, because of the maturity of knowledge, wisdom, gifts, and gravity, which ought to be in them: for which reason also the name of senators was borrowed from sense…

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