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Plurality of New Testament Elders

Updated on February 16, 2013

By Harold Markham

Below is a helpful chart that captures the New Testament's concept of elder plurality. You may download the full size chart from the ER Podcast at the link at the end of the article.

Summary or Event: Relief sent to Jerusalem

Reference: Acts 11:30

Plurality Idea: "sent it to the elders"

Contextual Explanation: Barnabas and Saul sent relief to Jerusalem to the elders.

Summary or Event: Council at Jerusalem

References: Acts15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23

Plurality Idea: "elders"

Contextual Explanation: The apostles and elders hold a council concerning the ceremonial law (i.e., circumcision and keeping the law (see v.24).

Summary or Event: The Jerusalem Decree Delivered to the Churches

References: Acts16:4

Plurality Idea: "ordained of the apostles and elders"

Contextual Explanation: The decrees of the Jerusalem council are delivered to the churches by the apostles and elders.

Summary or Event: In the City of Derbe

References: Acts14:23

Plurality Idea: "ordained them elders in every church"

Contextual Explanation: Paul and Barnabas went to the city of Derbe and ordained elders in their many churches.

Summary or Event: The Church of Ephesus

References: Acts 20:17

Plurality Idea: "the elders of the church"

Contextual Explanation: Paul bids farewell to the Ephesian elders after having preached "from house to house" (v.20), for 3 years (v.31).

Summary or Event: Report of God's Working among the Gentiles

References: Acts 21:18f

Plurality Idea: "the elders"

Contextual Explanation: Paul reported to James and the elders at Jerusalem at Jerusalem of God's workings among the Gentiles.

Summary or Event: Timothy's Ordination

References: 1Timothy 4:14

Plurality Idea: "hands of the presbytery"

Contextual Explanation: Timothy is reminded of the charge given him at his ordination, by the laying on of the presbytery (plural in Greek).

Summary or Event: Elders Worthy of Double Honor

References: 1Timothy 5:17

Plurality Idea: "the elders who rule"

Contextual Explanation: Elders are worthy of appropriate pay (v.18 "reward"). Their whole time is devoted to studying and teaching God's Word (1Corinthians 9:13-14; Galatians 6:6).

Summary or Event: Titus left in Crete

References: Titus 1:5

Plurality Idea: "ordained elders in every city"

Contextual Explanation: Paul left Titus in Crete in order to "ordain elders in every city."

Summary or Event: When a Person is Sick

References: James 5:14

Plurality Idea: "the elders of the church"

Contextual Explanation: The elders of the church are called in the case of sin and illness.

Summary or Event: The Elders are Exhorted

References: 1Peter 5:1

Plurality Idea: "the elders which are among you"

Contextual Explanation: Peter exhorts the elders to "feed the flock of God" (v.2). Note that Peter even calls himself an elder. See also 2 John.1 and 3 Johnn.1, where the apostle John calls himself an elder.


Every reference to "elders" (leaders) of the first century New Testament church is plural in number. That is, in every local church, there are "elders" ordained as the leaders of these churches. The decisions were made by the elders (see Acts 15 & 16 above). Decisions were not done by the "congregation" or by a single person, such as a "Pastor."

There are other references to an "elder" or "elders" in the New Testament. But those refer to the Jewish leaders of Israel. The above references apply only to New Testament church leaders. This is every reference to "elders" of the New Testament local church, and every occurrence is plural in number. Thus, the New Testament pattern for the entire church age should function under a plurality of elders.

Download Full Size PDF Chart Below

You may download the full size chart at
You may download the full size chart at | Source

About The Author

Harold Markham is the host of the ER Podcast. He studied to be a pastor and holds degrees in Bible, pulpit speech as well as a Masters in Biblical studies.Click here for more articles by Harold Markham.


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