"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for this were unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

While the term elder is not used specifically in this passage of Scripture, we understand the principle given certainly applies to the work they have to do. It is similar to the charge Paul gave to the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:28. "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood." That elders in the Lord's church, then, have a responsibility for the souls of their flock, is unmistakably clear.

Walking in the footsteps of the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), they have a great duty to see the church is faithful to the will of the Lord, that each member has the opportunity to grow and serve in his will, that the work of salvation is made complete. Just as a shepherd watches and protects his sheep from predators and other dangers, so elders must be on guard regarding what is taught and practiced in the body of Christ. While we think of the importance of what is preached from the pulpit, or taught in the classrooms, or practiced in the homes, the place where truth begins and is upheld in any congregation is with its eldership. When Paul warned the Ephesian elders of those who would speak "perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:30), he charges them to watch, or be alert (Acts 20:31). In their example by living and teaching the truth (1 Pet. 5:3; 1 Tim. 3:2), as well as their active oversight (1 Pet. 5:2), they are to make sure God's will is promoted and error is refuted and rejected. As Paul exhorted Titus, elders must be found "holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers"(Titus 1:9).

The Lord's church is blessed when such elders are present, and is attacked when they are not. The doctrinal problems faced by many congregations today, and the subsequent worldly practices that follow, are not only due to sinful members, or teachers and preachers who promote error, but elders who either can't or choose not to defend the faith. We need men who are Scripturally qualified, and have the courage to stand for the truth, to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). May elders resolve to follow the charge Jude gives all Christians, that they may be true watchmen of the flock; "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).

Robert Johnson, Longview, TX

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."

"And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."

"Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."

"Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears."

"Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;"

"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."

"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:"