Summary: In the Scriptures, Pastors are referred to as "bishop, elder, and overseer." Why are they referred to in this way. In this message, Pastor Steve will examine these and more terms as he talks about the responsibility of elders in the church.
We have completed our look at what elders are to be and now we’re looking at what elders are to do. In doing that, I would like to define the term that is found in 1 Timothy 3:1. It is the term translated "bishop." The term "bishop" is not a good translation because "it carries modern ecclesiastical implications that are not consistent with its biblical meaning" (John MacArthur, Church Leadership, p.20). The word is episkopos and according to Greek culture was "a city administrator or finance manager. Some scholars believe that the New Testament usage of episkopos is based on that usage" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). But also existing during that time was the Qumran Community or the Essenes. The men who "preached, taught, and exercised care and authority were called episkopoi" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). Alexander Strauch says, "Episkopos denotes over-seer, inspector or protector. At the root of the word is the idea of one who supervises, protects, guards, and keeps watch" (Biblical Eldership, p.90). Applying this understanding to the episkopos in the church and you see that it referred to elders who had the responsibility of "leading, instructing, and shepherding the people." (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). The episkopos also "heard and verified accusations against believers, and administered church discipline where appropriate" (Ibid., MacArthur, p.20). Each pastor and elder still has those responsibilities, and he is directly accountable to God for the quality of his leadership (Heb.13:17). James 3:1 says, "Let not many of you become teachers...knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment" (NASB). There are 6 areas elders are responsible for and the first is Leading the Church.
Elders Lead the Church (1 Timothy 5:17)
1 Timothy 5:17 says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine."
The word "Rule" is the Greek word proistemi which means "to be ranked first" or "to stand first" (MacArthur) or "to be at the head (of), rule, lead" (BAG). It means to "lead, direct, or guide" (Strauch), "superintend, to preside over" (Wuest). The word is translated "over you in the Lord" in 1 Thess.5:12. According to Romans 12:8 this is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 3:5 says elders or literally "overseers" "take care of the church of God."
Elders Lead the Church in Humility
Alexander Strauch says, "Christ’s teaching on humility and servanthood governs how we are to lead in God’s household" (Ibid., p.239). They do not "lord over the people" (1 Pet.5:2-3). They lead by "example." (1 Pet.5:3). 1 Tim.4:12 says, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim.4:16 adds, Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
"Christ gives elders the authority to rule on His behalf using His Word. The church is not to be ruled by its congregation, but by those whom God calls for that task" (Ibid., MacArthur, Church Leadership, p.21).
Elders Labor at Preaching and Teaching (1 Tim.5:17)
The word "Labor" that is used in 1 Timothy 5:17 in the phrase "especially those who labor" is the word kopiao, and it means to "become wearied or tired" (BAG), speaking of a "strong exertions: work hard, strive, struggle" (Analytical Lexicon of the Greek NT). This is "toil and labor" (A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint). Kittel defines it ‘to wear one’s self out" (The Theological Dictionary of the NT). Elders work hard at preaching and teaching the flock. "The ministry is hard work and not to be taken lightly" (KJV Bible Commentary). And when you measure an elder’s ministry, you must understand that this is how the saints are equipped (Eph.4:11-12). An elders priority is "prayer and the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). John MacArthur notes the difference between preaching and teaching by stating that preaching "emphasizes proclamation, along with exhortation and admonition, and calls for a heart response to the Lord. (Teaching) is an essential fortification against heresy and puts more stress on instruction" (The MacArthur Study Bible).
The Church is to be Led By Those Who Preach and Teach God’s Word
It is easy today to preach cute sermons that do nothing more than tickle the ears but as John MacArthur notes "The proclamation of God’s truth by preaching (Gr. Kerugma) and teaching (Gr. Didache) changes men and women’s lives. That is why dynamic churches are directed by a pulpit that teaches biblical truth and motivates Christians to apply it...Some think that preaching ought to emphasize positive thinking that assumes everything is wonderful and rosy...Others think that preaching should be geared toward helping people solve their problems. We live in a world that is so psychologically oriented, it seems like we can hardly think without getting into clinical analysis. We can’t objectively accept anything without analyzing it. That reasoning has carried over into the church and has developed what I call ‘problem-centered preaching.’ It is where the preacher states the problem and gives ten verses out of context on how to solve it, along with a few stories about some people who solved it. A pastor isn’t a glorified psychoanalyst, a grandfather, or a Santa Claus who pats you on the head and tells you everything is fine. The preacher’s task is not only to educate Christians in the Word of God but also to encourage them to change their behavior in conformity to it. In fact, in many cases he should make them feel worse before they feel better because there has to be healing before there can be restoration. When I preach a sermon that convicts those who hear it, I know that the message is getting through. A church pulpit isn’t primarily designed to help people make decisions about the details of everyday living. It is meant to teach the Word of God and identify sin so that they might change their behavior. Pacifying one’s problems doesn’t make a person feel better. Rather confessing and repenting of sin and changing one’s life is what produces true joy" [MacArthur, J. 1998, c1991. The Master’s plan for the church (electronic ed.). Moody Press: Chicago].