The world for overseers is 'episkopos', which means 'those looking on'. It is translated 'bishops', and 'overseers', referring to the office itself. The word for elders is 'presbuterous', and means seniors or older ones, and refers specifically to the persons who occupy the office. Note that the word 'elder' can mean 'older ones' in a general sense, depending on the context, as in 1 Peter 5:5; "Likewise ye younger, be subject to the elder". But in other places 'elders' are those who occupy the office of an overseer, as in Acts 20, where Paul spoke to "the elders of the church", saying, "...all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God" (Acts 20:17, 28). Those who fill this office have the care of the local assembly, to feed and shepherd them. We find that the office of an overseer was local; "elders in each assembly" (Acts 14:23), contrary to the Church's practice of setting up "bishops" who preside over vast regions. More details on elders will follow. Elders are always mentioned as a plurality, never a single man over an entire congregation.
Main article: Office
Related: House of God; Deacons
Elders, Bishops, and Overseers.
The making of elders. How does one become an overseer? Contrary to the popular practice of the church members electing elders, we never read in scripture of the assembly choosing its own elders. We read of apostles choosing elders (Acts 14:23) and of apostolic delegates choosing elders (Titus 1:5). We also read of a man desiring to do the work of an overseer (1 Tim. 3:1), and of them being "willing" and "ready" to do it (1 Peter 5:2). We also read of the Holy Spirit making men overseers (Acts 20:28). We are also given the list of things that qualify a person for oversight in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. How can a person become an elder today? There are no more apostles or apostolic delegates on earth. Therefore, no man today should claim the official title of elder or bishop, because there is no means of officially appointing them. However, there are still elders today. How does this happen? First, the man must be willing to do the work of an overseer (1 Tim. 3:1). This is not easy work, and rarely is it rewarding. They are not to do it because others want them to, or because they are getting some kind of gain (1 Peter 5:3). It is a work that is motivated by love. Second, the man ought to meet the qualifications listed for an overseer (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-7). Third, the Holy Spirit must give them that place among the flock of God (Acts 20:28).