This is the sixth post in a series concerning Spiritual Gifts and Church Offices. This series was inspired by Harold Hoehner’s ETS presentation, “Can a Woman be a Pastor-Teacher?”
If Scripture intends apostles, elders/overseers, and deacons to be offices within the church, then those positions exist apart from the person or persons holding the office. For example, there is a governmental office called “President of the United States.” When a president dies, the office still exists.
Furthermore, if apostles, elders/overseers, and deacons represent offices, then people who take those offices begin functioning differently and carrying out different responsibilities once they begin to hold those offices. For example, the person who takes the office of “President of the United States” begins to function differently and to have different responsibilities once that person takes the oath of office.
However, Scripture always focuses on the person, not the position. Looking specifically at elders/overseers, Scripture always describes a person, not an office. The church is instructed to identify persons who meet certain expectations – those who are good examples to the church – and recognize them as their leaders. The church is not to choose people to place in an office, as if the office-holder now has new responsibilities and functions because he or she now holds an office. Instead, the church is supposed to recognize that some people are ALREADY living as examples to the church. The church is then to follow their examples.