The Office of a Bishop

1Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. 

‘Bishop’ [Greek: episcope] overseer, bishop, or preaching elder. The word “elders” in the Old Testament meant the heads or rulers of the tribes, cities, and nations (Deut. 1:13). In the Gospels and Acts it generally refers to the Sanhedrin (Matt. 15:2; 16:21; 21:23; 26:3; Acts 4:5, 8, 23). In the early congregations’ elders were the ministers and deacons, or preaching elders and business elders of the local congregational groups (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 16:4; 20:17, 28; 21:18; 1Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:5; Jas. 5:14). All apostles were elders (Acts 11:30; 1Pet. 5:1; 2Jn. 1:1; 3Jn. 1:1), but all elders were not apostles (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4). The elders of Acts 20:17, were the overseers of Acts 20:28. The elders of 1Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5-10 and 1Peter 5:1-2 were preaching elders or bishops. The business elders were deacons (Acts 6:1-15).

Bishops and deacons are mentioned in Philippians 1:1 and 1Timothy 3:1-13. The word presbuteros is also used for older men and women (Luke 15:25; John 8:9; Acts 17:1-34; 4:22; 1Tim. 5:2). It is used also of heavenly ranks (Rev. 4:4, 10; 5:6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4). It is found 68 times and is translated “elder” except in John 8:9 and Acts 2:17; 4:22.

Romans 16 names at least seven women who served as presbuteros in congregational groups: Phebe (Rom. 16:1), Priscilla (Rom. 16:3), Mary (Rom. 16:6), Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis (Rom. 16:12), Julia (Rom. 16:15); and mention is made of an unnamed sister of Nereus (Rom. 16:15). All of them were Christian workers, deaconesses and Christians who exercised the gift of prophecy (quoting and implementing the Old Testament prophecies) who “labour in the Lord” (Rom. 16:12). This indicates that they laboured in the ministry of the Word.

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