Trustworthy Statement #2

Yesterday, I looked at one of the trustworthy statements Paul gave. Today, we will look at another one.

1 Timothy 3:1

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.

The Greek word translated as overseer is Episkope. This word means:

  1. investigation, inspection, visitation
    1. that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad
    2. oversight
      1. overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder
      2. the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church

This word is used as ‘office’ and as ‘overseer’ one time each, and two times as visitation. In reference to 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul is speaking of someone aspiring to the office of overseer. Yet, a slightly different word was used in verse 2. Here the Greek word translated as overseer is Episkopos. This word means:

  1. an overseer
    1. a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent
    2. the superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church

This word is translated as guardian 1 time, overseer 2 times, overseers 2 times. Basically, this is the person who ensures everything happens. This is the elder. In some churches, it is a pastor, or a priest.

So Paul is saying that it is a trustworthy saying that the office of elder is a fine work. But what does an elder do?

Acts 20:28 tells us something of this office.

28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock ; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.33 “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. 34 “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

The overseer is made one by the Holy Spirit. He is an elder who is a shepherd of the people in his flock. What does a shepherd do? They guide and protect the sheep, ensuring they have food and water and guide them from one pasture to another, guarding them day and night. The food the elders provide is admonishment and the word of God. Elders are to help the weak and to give rather than receive.

Some think that overseers are deacons. But take a look at where Paul uses the word yet again, in Philippians 1:1.

1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.

The word used for deacons is an entirely different word than that used for overseer. Deacon is transliterated from Diakonos. This word means:

  1. one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister
    1. the servant of a king
    2. a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use
    3. a waiter, one who serves food and drink

A deacon is someone who serves – not a leader, but a helper.

On the other hand, an elder is a leader. Of course, we know that leaders are to serve as well. Christ told us leaders are to be servant leaders. Leaders are not lord it over others, but to serve – just as Christ did.

Mark 10:42-45

42Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The qualifications someone must meet to be an overseer are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7,

2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,  temperate, prudent,  respectable,  hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable,  free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God ?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation withthose outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

We see this reiterated in Titus 1:5-16

5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, notaddicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. 10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure ; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

This is not a young person with no experience. Neither is this a woman. This is a man with both  experience and a good reputation. He has been tested. He manages his household well. He is not a new convert. He is married to only one woman. He is self-controlled, hospitable, and can teach (which means He knows the word of God). He is not a difficult person to get along with, but gentle and peace loving and not interested in money. He exhorts people and reproves them, using the word of God.

Christ said the harvest is plentiful but the workers few .

Matthew 9:36-38

36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

We need people to attend to the harvest. This is exactly what an elder does – he shepherds the sheep in his flock. To desire to do the job of an elder is a good thing… Paul said the work of an elder was a fine thing. Christ said the people to work the harvest are few. Will you be one of the few? Are you allowing God to work in you and through you so others might find Christ? Are you protecting the people in your sphere of influence? God has a place for you in his harvest. Will you seek the office of elder?

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