There can be no doubt that Christ's New Testament Church steps into the shoes of the Old Testament Church — of which it is the continuation and the replacement, and the (now purely-ecclesiastical and non-political) advancement.39 Thus, also the Ruling Eldership continues in the Christian Church.
Now the New Testament Eldership of the Christian Church first seems to have developed — from its Old Testament foundations — via the Lord Christ''s commissioning of the twelve Apostles even before Calvary. Jesus Christ had sent out those Apostles -as also the "other seventy"– two by two, in order to visit the covenant people in their homes. Those thus and then commissioned, were accordingly the first New Testament Church "Elders." It was they who restored the "Eldership-of-seventy" appointed by Moses but ruined by the Sanhedrin.40
These first commissioned Christians, were to pray for the sick and to spread the good news of the Gospel. Conceivably, the appointment of "the seven" in the book of Acts may be referring to such Elders (rather than to ‘Deacons'). However, it is quite certain that Christian Elders had already been appointed over the Church in Jerusalem at least by A.D. 41 — if not much earlier, and possibly even before the death of Christ.41
Wherever the Apostles or their Preacher-Evangelists went, they appointed Sessions of Christian Elders to rule the newly-established Christian Congregations. What could probably only have been the Presbytery of Antioch (in Syria), commissioned Barnabas and Saul as its first Foreign Missionaries. Wherever those two went, throughout what is now called Southern Turkey, they established Congregations of Christians — and later "ordained them many Elders in every Church." Indeed, when doctrinal disputes arose which needed resolving, Elders from the Congregations in (Syrian) Antioch — and possibly also from those in (Turkish) Cilicia — gathered in Jerusalem together with (Palestinian) Church Elders. They all deliberated about these matters — as a General Assembly. There, decisions were made — which would later be delivered as decrees required to be kept by the Congregations.42
Elders were established in every Congregation of Hebrew Christians, both in Palestine and in the Diaspora. So too, Elders were similarly established in the largely Gentile-Christian Congregations within the Presbytery of Ephesus (now in Western Turkey). There, they were required to take heed of the flock of Christ — over which the Holy Ghost had made them Overseers or ‘Bishops.’ Further, Elders or Pastoral
Page 6 of 11
Shepherds (alias Bishops) were appointed in the Congregation of Philippi in Northern Greece, and in the church of Corinth in Central Greece — where we are told that ecclesiastical Elders or "Governments" were established. We are also told that Elders were appointed: in the Congregations at Rome (where each appointed Elder was to "keep on ruling with diligence"); and in the various Ccongregations in Crete (by the apostolically-appointed Preacher-Evangelist Titus). Thus, Ruling Elders were installed over every Christian Congregation throughout the Apostolic World.43
Such Elders were always to be respected (even by the Apostles themselves) for "the sake of their work" — that is, simply on account of the Presbyterial Office they occupied. In fact, even the Apostles themselves gladly submitted to the advice of the Elders-insession. Similarly, also the Elders — both individually and collectively — were to submit, both themselves and their Sessions to the decisions of the various Larger Courts of the Christian Church. The Elders themselves were to "rule well" and — as those who must give account (also to God) — they were also to watch over the sheep . Should Elders (like the leader Diotrophes) ever attempt to ‘lord it' over Christ s flock — today too they need to be lovingly though firmly rebuked.44