The Role of Bishops in the Church

In these articles (see menu sidebar to the left) I discuss...

  1. the role of bishops and other Church leaders
  2. their qualifications

Bishops have a lofty role in the Church as teachers of the truth passed-down from the apostles. But two caveats...

  1. Not all bishops are trustworthy in this mission
  2. We must exclude false teachings

Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. (Luke 22:3)

Bishops can go bad. I can imagine that Jesus shielded the faithful from the wicked influence of Judas. Why would Jesus want Judas to be a teacher and defender of the faith after this?

For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take. (Acts 1:20)

Judas had to be replaced as an apostle. Bad bishops should be replaced, but throughout church history they usually weren't because they knew how to get things done and had influence. For example, Judas was the keeper of the money bag, but he was stealing from it.


Ordination

(Acts 14:23) And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Barnabas and Paul were the ones ordaining. Notice they ordained men who were already leaders. In choosing who to ordain, they were merely recognizing God's call, not imparting the power of leadership. In the passages in 1 Timothyand Tituswe learn that Church leaders must be qualified. This implies those ordained are already leaders (or how else would people know if they qualify?)

There is no mention of seminary training or denominational authority. The leaders of the early church became leaders because they were called by God; only this was required. Certainly leaders should be educated in the essentials of the Christian faith and certainly they should have a pastor's heart.

There is no mention of denominations or branches of Christianity because there was only one church at the time. Therefore, we should not have them either. This is not to say that all local churches must be identical because this is impossible. Even the churches in apostolic times had major differences between them.

(Revelation 1:20) The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Even though these churches had different characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses they were all one church. Thus, a Baptist can ordain a Presbyterian. The fact that denominations typically don't ordain ministers of other denominations implies they are emphasizing their differences too much. This is, in my view, a problem with denominationalism. (The Catholic and Orthodox views in this regard are even worse.)

Some denominations only ordain you when they send you off to plant a church.

(Acts 13:2) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

(Acts 13:3) And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

There is no reason to assume this event was even an ordination at all.

(Acts 6:5) And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch...

(Acts 6:6) Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

Likewise, there is no reason to believe this event was an ordination.

(Acts 8:15) Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost...

(Acts 8:16) (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

(Acts 8:17) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

(Acts 28:8) And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.

Certainly the act of laying on of hands doesn't necessarily mean ordination.

(Titus 1:5) For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.

(Titus 1:9) 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.

An important qualification of a church leader is they be orthodox. A strong argument, in my view, against apostolic succession is so many bishops and popes were not orthodox. How can an unholy, corrupt, worldly man be the teacher and defender of the faith?

(1 Timothy 2:7) Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

What is interesting about this verse is that Paul was not ordained for the early years of his ministry but he acted as a leader of the Church.

(1 Timothy 5:22) Lay hands suddenly on no man.

Church leaders should have a verifiable history of orthodoxy and faithfulness. The apostles intended that the men they ordained would not be heretics.

(1 Timothy 3:11) Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

(1 Timothy 3:12) Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

If church leaders in the apostolic church could be married why do some Churches insist Church leaders must be unmarried? It doesn't make any sense.

In the apostolic age and the early church only men were church leaders — or so it is said. I suspect there were many women leading local congregationsbut women were not bishops. Certainly there were women prophetessesand deaconessesbut these disappeared after a while, probably when prophets disappeared, replaced by the strong hierarchical bishop.

(Romans 16:1) I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.

The word "servant" is the word diakonos used also of deacons.

(Acts 21:9) And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

The office of prophet was significant and important in the early church.

(1 Corinthians 9:5) Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

If it was OK for the apostles to be married, surely it must be OK for modern church leaders to be married.


Church Leadership

Apostles, Bishops, Priests, Elders, Presbyters, Deacons, Prophets, Teachers, Pastors, Evangelists

The New Testament refers to various kinds of church leaders and church governance. It seems the church was at first localized to the larger cities. It wasn't until later that each city began to have one bishop with multiple presbyters (priests) and deacons. I suspect that many of these presbyters and deacons were unpaid volunteers who worked for a living. I suspect also that most of the greetings by the writers of the New Testament letters are to bishops, presbyters, and deacons.

In the early days of the church there were also prophets and teachers but only for the first hundred years or so; after this the bishops took over the role of prophet and teacher. In my view this process of strengthening the powers of the bishop was detrimental to the spiritual well-being of Christians at large and to the church — it took only 1,000 yearsfor this to lead to the great schism which permanently split the church into east and west in 1054 A.D.

There is no reason to accept the rise in power of Patriarchs and Patriarchates.

This section addresses these questions...

In modern business there are various roles / positions such as president, manager, lead. People are assigned (promoted, hired) for these roles / positions by their superiors; thus there is a hierarchical structure of power, authority, and responsibility. People in these roles / positions have various defined responsibilities and their performance is judged by their superiors. I use the word "office" in the discussion below to refer to the equivalent church roles / positions.

This discussion hinges on eight words...

  1. Apostolos — This word is often translated as apostle.
  2. Episkopos, Episkope — This word is often translated as bishop. Catholics consider the bishop to be an office — in fact they claim that bishops are the authority of the church; meaning that they define doctrine, teach the faith, lead the people, and appoint and ordain priests and deacons.
  3. Presbuteros — This word is often translated as elder. In the writings of the early church fathers it is often translated as presbyter. Some Protestants consider the elder to be a church office second only to the pastor. Within 200 years this word became priest.
  4. Diakonos, Diakoneo — Catholic and Protestants typically use this to refer to the office of the deacon. Some Protestants allow for women to be deaconesses.
  5. Poimen — Pastor, Shepherd.
  6. Prophetes, Prophetis, Propheteuo — Prophet
  7. Euaggelistes — Evangelist
  8. Didaskalos — Teacher
  9. Kerusso, Kerux — Preacher

The disciple at Damascus named Ananias (Acts 9) who went to Saul in obedience was probably an elder. We should note that there is no mention of elders, presbyters, deacons before this; it seems that the word disciple was used for all the various categories of church leaders.

Saul (the apostle Paul) probably studied Christianity in his work persecuting Christians; he likely heard Stephan's speech. His conversion did not occur in a vacuum.

The apostle Paul commanded the Corinthian church to shun and excommunicate a sinful member. In doing so he acted as the bishop of this church in Corinth. He expected all the elders (presbyters) and deacons to enforce his command. Perhaps this decree of Paul is a model for the role of the bishops and their power over a group of local churches? Without a bishop in charge of many churches excommunication is practically not feasible — the person can merely go to another local church that will accept them. But as the rampant liberalism (and worse) in the Catholic Church demonstrates, having church authority vested in the bishop (and even the pope) doesn't prevent these problems at all. Perhaps Paul's example of church authority set the stage for the post-apostolic emphasis on bishops as the leaders of the church but as history shows, this system of church governance does not result in true doctrine and church unity. Perhaps the leaders of each local church need to be in regular communication with one another so they can as a group enforce excommunication decrees by one of them (or revoke the decree if they think it is unjust).


elder = bishop

Several passages equate elders with bishops.

(Titus 1:5) For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.

(Titus 1:7) For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.

elder = bishop

(1 Peter 5:1) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

(1 Peter 5:2) 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.

elder = bishop


Church Governance

(Ephesians 4:11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.

(1 Corinthians 12:28) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

These verses define the way in which the church should be governed. There are many roles of leadership. Notice there is no reference to bishops, elders, presbyters, or deacons. The church is to be organized with the focus on ministry; not as a strong, hierarchical, government patterned after secular government.

The word hierateia (office of priesthood) is never used for Christian leaders.

(Hebrews 7:5) And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham.

(Luke 1:8) And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,


kerusso, kerux — preacher

(Romans 10:14) How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

One responsibility of all church leaders is to preach the gospel so people can repent and become redeemed. Certainly the apostles did this. In my view today's bishops should also do this.

(1 Timothy 2:7) Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

(2 Timothy 1:11) Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

Notice that Paul equates his ordination as apostle, as preacher, and as teacher. Thus, ordination is merely the calling by God to do the work of God in the church.

(2 Peter 2:5) And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Even Old Testament characters were preachers.


euaggelistes — evangelist

(Ephesians 4:11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Evangelists are considered equal to apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers. This is a different conception than that of the church 100 years later in which the bishops, presbyters, and deacons were the only ordained church leaders. A change took place; the question is whether or not the modern church should emulate that change?

(Acts 21:8) And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

Philip was very active. He was one of the 7 deacons (Acts 6:5); he performed miracles in Samaria (Acts 8:6); taught and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:37); was visited by Paul (Acts 21:8) in Caesarea where he lived with his 4 daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). We should note that he was a deacon yet is referred to in this verse as "the evangelist" implying that his role as deacon was not the main thing. If the office of deacon was an ordained office of the church we should rather expect him to be referred to by that title.

The term evangelist is not used much in the New Testament but certainly the role of evangelist is strongly emphasized — much of the book of Acts concerns the topic of evangelism.

(2 Timothy 4:5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

This example is even more striking than that of Philip. Timothy is a bishop but is referred to as an evangelist rather than a bishop. (He was sent by Paul to ordain bishops; surely he himself must have also been a bishop — refer to 1 Timothy 3:2.) In the New Testament there are many examples of church leaders evangelizing, but the word evangelist is not used often.


didaskalos — teacher

(1 Corinthians 12:28) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

(Ephesians 4:11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.

The role of teacher is equated with that of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor. Today Christians typically regard teaching as merely a particular activity that anyone can do but these passages equate it with church leadership.

(Acts 13:1) Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

In Acts 9:27 we see Barnabas vouching for Paul as an authentic apostle. How could he have done such a thing unless he himself were a presbyter or elder? Yet later he is referred to as a prophet and teacher. It seems these roles were equal to presbyter and elder.

The role of teacher is emphasized in the New Testament.

(Romans 12:6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

(Romans 12:7) Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

The words ministry and ministering are the same word translated as deacon. In these verses we see the role of teaching as equal to that of deacon. Yet in the later church the office of deacon is emphasized over teacher. The question is whether this shift should be normative in the church today?

(1 Timothy 2:7) Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

(2 Timothy 1:11) Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

Paul considers his role as teacher to as important as that of apostle. Yet the later church replaced the role of apostle with that of ordained bishop but the role of teacher was de-emphasized. I doubt if this development was an apostolic teaching.

(Hebrews 5:12) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

The writer seems to be addressing Christians at large. He is saddened that they are not diligent in learning the faith. He wishes all to be teachers. I'm not sure how every Christian could be a teacher in the church — perhaps he is subtly rebuking the leaders (presbyters and elders) for not fulfilling their proper role or for not having a solid understanding of the faith.

(John 3:2) The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

There were teachers before the apostolic era. These were Jewish teachers but they played no role in the church.

If the structure of the church is to be modelled on that of God's chosen nation of Israel then we should expect the church to have the equivalent of Rabbis; teachers who have spiritual authority over the Christians at large.


prophetes, prophetis — prophet

(1 Corinthians 12:28) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

The role of prophet is emphasized in the New Testament. In this verse Paul equates it with the role of apostle. Why should we not have prophets in the church today? And if we do, this role should be a role of church leadership, not merely someone who occasionally speaks out God's word. Charismatics who claim to have prophets probably model this in that these prophets typically travel around (but some are word-faith advocates who fleece the flock).

(Ephesians 3:5) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

(Ephesians 4:11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

The role of prophet is equated with that of apostle. In my view we should have prophets in the church today who are equal in rank to bishops.

(Romans 12:6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

(Romans 12:7) Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;

The words ministry and ministering: are often translated deacon. It seems that the role of prophet is equated with that of deacon. Early in church history the deacon was an ordained role; it seems to me that prophet should have been also. I'm not convinced that the particular development of the church roles was ordained of God. In my view we should look to the examples of the apostolic church as our model but we should allow for those later developments if certain church communities wish to practice those instead.

(1 Corinthians 14:29) Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

It appears that a local congregation might have many prophets just as it might have many deacons. I suspect that most prophets, deacons, presbyters, and elders were not paid staff but performed their church ministry in their spare time.

There seem to be two categories of prophets: (1) those who stayed in their local church (probably because their paid work was local), and (2) those who travelled around prophesying for various Christian communities.

(Acts 15:32) And Judas [Barnabas] and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

Barnabas and Silas were sent by the apostles and elders from Jerusalem to deliver the letter drafted by the council of Jerusalem to the Gentiles in Antioch. In Acts 15:22 they are referred to as leaders. In this verse we learn that they were prophets. It appears that prophets had the same status as elders or presbyters.

(Acts 11:27) And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.

As a result of the prophecies of one of these prophets Agabus, the church sent relief money to the elders in Jerusalem. It would seem therefore that the role of prophet was equivalent to that of elder.

In my long years of hearing Bible studies I was left with the impression that the various people we read about who were actively doing things in the early church were just regular ordinary Christians, that they were the Christian equivalent of "Joe the Plumber"; there was rarely an emphasis placed on their leadership role. But I am beginning to believe that most, if not all, of these were actually church leaders, equivalent to today's pastors, deacons, elders, priests, and bishops.

(Revelation 16:6) For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

Perhaps the prophets referred to are the Old Testament prophets.

(Acts 21:9) And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

Presumably these prophesied in their local church or the churches in the same city. They seem to have been consecrated to an married life similar to Catholic sisters (or perhaps they were merely as yet unmarried; but why would the writer refer to them as virgins in this case?) There are clear examples of women prophetesses and deaconesses and possibly even presbyters (refer to Colossians 4:15; Acts 12:12,16:40; 2 John 1:1).

(Acts 3:22) For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

Jesus is referred to as a prophet.

(Ephesians 2:20) And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.

I believe the prophets referred to in this verse are the Old Testament prophets. Christianity is built on the Old Testament.

(Revelation 2:20) Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

There were false prophets in New Testament times just as there were heretical bishops in the next generations of early church history.


poimen — pastor, shepherd

(Ephesians 4:11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Pastors are equated with apostles. There are so few verses using the word pastor that I wonder why so many churches emphasize the role of pastor instead of bishop (or presbyter or elder)?

(Hebrews 13:20) Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

(1 Peter 2:25) For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Jesus is referred to as pastor.


episkopos, episkope — bishop

(Philippians 1:1) Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons...

There were multiple bishops in Philippi. Paul is probably writing to those who lived in the one-half-mile-square city as well as those in the surrounding countryside. Philippi at the time had a population of perhaps less than 100,000 with maybe 50 Christians. Acts 16:40 implies that there was at least one house church in Philippi; there were probably more than one with a bishop leading each group. Perhaps different areas of the surrounding countryside each had their own bishop.

This is the only letter of Paul's to a Christian community in which he specifically mentions the leaders in his greeting. The word bishop is used similarly to the word elder. Perhaps he used the word bishop because there were so few Jews living in that city or because of the higher population of military men. In any case, the reference to bishop doesn't match the usage in the next generations of the church in which there is one bishop per city.

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

The phrase "office of a bishop" is merely the word episkope.

(Titus 1:7) For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

Unfortunately, the qualifications of a bishop were not always followed. Notice that bishops can be married; but the Catholic and Orthodox churches don't allow this.

(Acts 1:20) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take.

The apostles were bishops.

(Acts 20:28) 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.

The purpose of a bishop is to oversee the flock of Christians.

(1 Peter 2:25) For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Jesus is referred to as a Bishop.


presbuteros — elders, presbyters

This word is used of both Jewish and Christian leaders.

(Acts 15:6) And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

There are no bishops in this council. This doesn't match the Catholic teaching that bishops are the head of the church; here we see that presbyters are the head of the church.

(Acts 21:18) And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

There were many elders in Jerusalem. Perhaps the apostles had by now left Jerusalem and were evangelizing the world. James was still in Jerusalem because he was the head of the church in Jerusalem. The elders were probably leaders of the various house churches in Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside.

(1 Timothy 5:1) Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;

(1 Timothy 5:2) The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

Here the word elder seems to refer to age.

(1 Timothy 5:17) Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

We see two things about elders in this verse: (1) elders are rulers in the church (just as bishops are), and (2) elders are involved in the word and doctrine (just as bishops are); presumably this means that they are teachers and defenders of the Christian faith.

(Titus 1:5) For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.

If Titus is a bishop, why is he going to Crete to appoint other elders? The other local bishops should be doing that. Presumably Titus is going to Crete to determine which church leaders are truly qualified to lead the church and to acknowledge this via ordination. It seems that Crete is in need of apostolic recognition which has not occurred yet because none of the apostles have travelled there yet for this purpose.

(James 5:14) Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

The elders have the special role of praying for the sick. The Catholic Church teaches that this is referring to priests. Certainly this verse supports the Catholic teaching on this matter.

(1 Peter 5:1) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed...

Peter considers himself to also be an elder.

(2 John 1:1) The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

John considers himself to be an elder.

(Acts 11:30) Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Why would someone of inferior rank be sent to deliver money to the elders in Jerusalem? It seems that Barnabas and Saul were of equal rank to that of presbyter or elder, or they were at least equivalent to a deacon. In the early church councils deacons had a role equivalent to bishops.

(Acts 14:23) And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Paul ordained elders. It seems he was not ordaining merely the bishop of each city but the many leaders within each city. Presumably these were already leading house churches and Paul was giving his apostolic seal of approval via the rite of ordination. I imagine he interviewed people in each congregation to verify that each elder was qualified.

(Acts 4:5) And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes.

(Acts 4:23) And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.

This refers to Jewish leaders.

(Hebrews 11:2) For by it the elders obtained a good report.

This refers to Jewish saints. The remainder of the chapter lists some of these.


diakonos, diakoneo — deacon

(1 Timothy 3:8) Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre.

In 1 Timothy 3:2 the qualifications for bishop includes the phrase "apt to teach". Presumably this is because bishops tend to teach more whereas deacons tend to perform more service-oriented tasks.

(1 Timothy 3:2) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.

(Philippians 1:1) Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.

It seems that wherever there are elders or bishops that deacons are also present.

(1 Timothy 3:10) And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

The phrase "office of a deacon" is merely the word diakoneo. The King James Version of the Bible was translated by Anglicans who retained the Catholic church offices of Bishop and Deacon.

(Acts 6:4) But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

The word ministry is the word deacon. Notice that the apostles are also deacons. It seems that teaching and preaching is also the proper role of a deacon.

(Acts 6:2) Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.

The word serve is the word deacon. The role of assisting with people's material needs is the role of the deacon. The Catholic Church grants the deacon much more authority than this — a deacon is almost a priest.

(Acts 6:1) And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

(1 Corinthians 3:5) Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

(Romans 15:25) But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

(Romans 12:7) Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching.

(2 Timothy 4:5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

(Acts 19:22) So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.

(Romans 15:8) Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.

(Hebrews 1:14) Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

The word ministry / minister is the word deacon. Even Jesus had this characteristic.

(2 Corinthians 11:15) Therefore it is no great thing if his [Satan's] ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Even Satan has ministers. This indicates that this word is used in a very generic way to refer to performing activities.


apostolos — apostle

(Acts 15:6) And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

At this time the apostles were still clumped together in Jerusalem. By the time of Acts 21 it seems that they had finally left.

(1 Corinthians 12:28) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

(Ephesians 4:11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.

Clearly the apostles played a key role in the early church.

(Ephesians 2:20) And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.

(Revelation 21:14) And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Clearly the apostles provided the foundation of the church; the church is to be apostolic.

(Ephesians 3:5) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

The apostles were the ones who first brought the truths of Christianity to the world. They taught the next generation of church leaders.

(1 Timothy 2:7) Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

(2 Timothy 1:11) Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

Paul was an apostle even though he was not a disciple of Jesus before the resurrection; he doesn't match the qualifications specified by Peter.

(Acts 1:20) For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take.

(Acts 1:21) Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

(Acts 1:22) Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

Paul claims to have been specially chosen by Jesus to be an apostle.

(Galatians 1:11) But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

(Galatians 1:12) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

(2 Corinthians 12:2) I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

Was Peter wrong in insisting that there needed to be 12 apostles and that the qualifications for an apostle were that he was with Jesus from the first?

(Acts 14:14) Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out.

Barnabas is referred to as an apostle.

(1 Thessalonians 1:1) Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Thessalonians 2:6) Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

Silas and Timothy are referred to as apostles.

(1 Corinthians 4:6) And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

(1 Corinthians 4:9) For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Apollos is referred to as an apostle.

(Romans 11:13) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.

This verse hints that there are two kinds of apostles: (1) the twelve who were with Jesus, and (2) those who are called to plant churches, to raise up church leaders, and to bring Christianity to the world.


Bishop Timothy 

2 Timothy 4:1,2 sums-up Timothy's predicament. His gift was to teach and preach and once ordained, he was able to do this. As a high-ranking bishop, he had the responsibility to reprove, rebuke, and exhort all Christians, and even bishops. He was to have patience in doing these things because he had a low tolerance for stress and let out his frustrations on others.

(1 Timothy 1:2) Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith.

Paul considers Timothy to be a son (and himself to be a spiritual father).

(1 Timothy 1:3) As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.

Timothy is a high-ranking bishop. He is concerned with teaching, doctrine, and fighting heresy, even commanding other church leaders and excommunicating some.

(1 Timothy 1:8) But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.

Paul spends quite a few verses explaining true doctrine. Presumably, Timothy already knows all this. I wonder if Paul is writing it for Christians at large (even though the letter is specifically addressed to Timothy)?

Paul also writes a lot about his trials and calling, perhaps to encourage and remind Timothy that he has the same role and calling. There is no evidence that Timothy became a Paul replacement in the church. Perhaps Paul was hoping Timothy would but he didn't have the aptitude or calling to do so. Not everyone can be a Paul or Augustine.

(1 Timothy 1:18,19) This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare. Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.

Just as Paul sometimes writes about his own hope that he remains true to the faith, he writes this also to Timothy. Perhaps this is not because of any weakness on Timothy's part but Paul's concern in general for everyone.

(1 Timothy 2:1,2) I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

It appears that Timothy leads public services and trains others how to do so.

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

Timothy chooses and ordains bishops. He is a very high-ranking bishop travelling to various cities and choosing and ordaining bishops.

(1 Timothy 3:15) But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

It seems condescending to me that Paul spends so many words telling Timothy how to behave. Perhaps he is instructing Christians at large.

(1 Timothy 4:6,7) If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

The role of a bishop is to instruct and rule.

(1 Timothy 4:11) These things command and teach.

The role of a bishop is to instruct and rule. He must be commanding priests, deacons, and lay people as well as other bishops. Timothy is a high-ranking bishop. I wonder if his stature decreased significantly after Paul died; whether it was Paul's influence behind Timothy that made him able to function in his role. Perhaps that's why Paul writes letters to Timothy intending that they be read in public, to increase Timothy's effectiveness. Timothy's power derived from Paul propping him up.

(1 Timothy 4:12) Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Timothy was young. Likely, older leaders would give him little consideration.

(1 Timothy 4:13) Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

Presumably the reading referred to here is public reading. Timothy is a teacher of the faith and likely teaches Christians at large as well as other church leaders. Perhaps his gift is that he is a good teacher, but he is shy to teach older people because this goes against the culture — that is why he is so bashful about it and requires Paul to prop him up. Those being taught by Timothy could expect Paul to rebuke them if they caused any trouble for Timothy.

(1 Timothy 4:14) Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

The laying on of hands was probably his ordination. Someone likely noticed that he was a good teacher and prophesied over him at that time. Timothy was given this gift by virtue of his ordination. He had a natural aptitude to teach but could only exercise that aptitude in the church once ordained.

(1 Timothy 4:15) Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

Timothy is to ponder his ordination and the prophecy about his being a teacher of bishops, priests, deacons, and Christians at large.

(1 Timothy 4:16) Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Paul often stresses that Christians need to continue firm in the faith. Apparently he observed many fall away.

(1 Timothy 5:1) Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.

Perhaps Timothy had a tendency to lash out in frustration. When these older church leaders provoked Timothy because of his age, he might be tempted to treat them harshly. Perhaps this is Timothy's weakness — that he had a low tolerance for stress.

(1 Timothy 5:3) Honour widows that are widows indeed.

Timothy had charge over administering charity programs for various groups of needy Christians.

(1 Timothy 5:17) Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

Timothy had charge over administering the payment of church leaders.

(1 Timothy 5:19) Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

Timothy had charge over judging in disputes or accusations of church leaders.

(1 Timothy 5:20) Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Timothy had charge over church discipline, including publically proclaiming people's sins and even excommunicating them.

(1 Timothy 5:21) I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.

In all these duties, Timothy was to be fair and just.

(1 Timothy 5:22) Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.

Timothy determined when someone was ready to be ordained.

(1 Timothy 6:14) That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul wants Timothy to never fall from grace.

(1 Timothy 6:17,18) Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.

Usually it is the rich in society that have all the clout. Timothy is to instruct and exhort even rich people. This could mean that he has to endure all kinds of retribution if he doesn't provide what these influential people want.

(1 Timothy 6:20) O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.

Paul finally exhorts Timothy to keep up with his duties and responsibilities, to not fall from grace.

(2 Timothy 1:2) To Timothy, my dearly beloved son.

Paul considers Timothy to be a son (and himself to be a spiritual father).

(2 Timothy 1:4) Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy.

Apparently, crying by men to express their love for one another was culturally acceptable.

(2 Timothy 1:5) When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

Paul has to convince himself that Timothy's deep faith is real. Perhaps this is what Paul means when he says that he is not a good speaker. This is a graceless way to compliment someone's faith.

(2 Timothy 1:6) Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

Timothy's gift was activated by his being ordained. Therefore, it has something to do with things that ordained ministers do such as teach, instruct, exhort, administer, etc. I suspect it refers to teaching since Paul has to constantly remind him to attend to all the other mundane duties as if Timothy is really not very interested or gifted at them. It seems that Timothy was one of those bishops who was forced into the role of church leadership with all its duties and responsibilities but that he would have rather been doing something else.

(2 Timothy 1:7) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Timothy would naturally be afraid of teaching and exhorting the older and more influential bishops around him. It was likely a burden for him to be placed in this role, but he was a gifted teacher and he was willing to serve Paul by being a front man for him. But once Paul died? I wonder how difficult it might have been for Timothy once those around him no longer had Paul to contend with. They probably dumped their full load of troubles on poor Timothy. He probably resigned his position or moved somewhere to where he was no longer in the middle of it all.

(2 Timothy 1:8) Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.

Perhaps Timothy was nervous about being mocked when he mentioned the gospel or that Paul was imprisoned. Perhaps he was a sensitive soul who didn't like being mocked and jeered.

(2 Timothy 1:13) Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

Paul exhorts everybody to remain true to his teaching.

(2 Timothy 1:14) That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

Others committed the gift to Timothy, probably during his ordination. Paul exhorts Timorthy to use the power of the Holy Spirit to keep himself charged-up and motivated to use his gift.

(2 Timothy 2:2) And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

Timothy is a link of the chain of apostolic succession. He passes on the teaching he learned from Paul to the next generation of church leaders.

(2 Timothy 2:14) Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

Timothy must correct and exhort other church leaders and bishops.

(2 Timothy 2:15) Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Teachers are to become better and better trained over time.

(2 Timothy 2:22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Probably referring to remaining firmly committed to his duties rather than looking for ways to squander time to avoid the stress and pressure of the job.

(2 Timothy 2:23) But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

Timothy is interacting with teachers and heretics and he must teach, exhort, and correct them.

(2 Timothy 2:24) And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.

Perhaps Timothy got frustrated easily and wasn't gracious to people in these situations.

(2 Timothy 2:25) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

Perhaps Timothy could be overbearing and graceless.

(2 Timothy 3:14) But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.

Paul often writes to encourage everyone to continue firm in the true faith.

(2 Timothy 3:15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Timothy was well educated in the faith.

(2 Timothy 4:1,2) I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

A summary of Timothy's predicament. His gift was likely to teach and preach. He had the responsibility to reprove, rebuke, and exhort Christians and bishops. He was to have patience in doing these things.

(2 Timothy 4:5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Timothy was a high-ranking bishop and evangelist.