Who are the elders, pastors, and bishops -Cox

A brief summary of why we use the term “pastor” in place of “bishop”. It examines the concepts of elders, pastors, and bishops, and finds what is similar and different between elders, pastors, and bishops.

If we always seek to base our conclusions on the Bible, then we have to have biblical evidence to support and demonstrate our positions and conclusions. I propose that the concepts “elder”, “bishop”, and “pastor” are all in the church in one form or another. I also propose tht these people were people in the first century church as well, and they were ministers, servants that served in humility before God and the churches. On the one hand, the modern pastors that grab power and dominion over the people of God is not what we see in the first century church. It is profitable that we make some notes on who and how these leaders of the early church are referred to.

Who is identified as a bishop?

Judas Iscariot – Acts 1:20
Requirements for a Bishop – 1Tim 3:1*; Titus 1:7
Jesus – 1Pet 2:25
The elders of Ephesus Acts 20:28
Bishops in Philippi Phil 1:1
Timothy – (this is in the epilogue 2Tim 4:22 “to the bishop in Ephesus”)
Titus (in the epilogue again Titus 3:15 “the bishop in the church in Crete”)

* Note that the form of the word is distinct in these two passages with the asterisks: Acts 1:20; 1Tim 3:1, for the office of bishop.

Paul used the term “elder” (Presbyterio) in Titus 1:5-9, and bishop (episkopos) in 1Tim 3:1-7 for the same office and function. He identified Timothy and Titus clearly as bishops in these churches where they ministered. So then, we have some actual names of people who were bishops. Bishop is not over more than one church, but is a position of ministry oversight within a local church.

Who is identified as an elder?

Peter – 1Pet 5:1
John – 2Jn 1:1; 3Jn 1:1

The problem with the term “elder” is that it is used with a different historical meanings, and another application, an elderly (old) person. We don’t know exactly if this word is used in a particular context for advanced age o in a religious sense, or a position within the local church. It probably does not refer directly to a position, but rather to a quality of life of somebody that, because of their age and experience, has more wisdom than the common man, and because of that, he is seen as a leader among his people. So the quality of being an “elder” is not something that is conferred on the individual by anybody in particular, but rather it is a lot of people who look up to the person for his wisdom and experience, independent of whether he has official recognition in some position or not. An elder then is basicly somebody who is wise and because of his character easily gets other people to take his opinions seriously. A person can be an elder whether or not he has official placement in a church, as long as his testimony is such that he is a wise, spiritual leader. Fools and people with bad testimonies of sinful conduct are generally excluded from the possibility of being elders by these elements in them. An elder is a leader who is wise and spiritual, no matter whether he has a formal leadership relationship with a particular group or not.

Who is identified as a pastor?

Jesus – John 10:11 “the prince of the pastors” 1Pe 5:4

Do we err in calling our leaders “pastors”?

In this discussion, we have to take into account what is the biblical evidence that we believe, and we have to use the words in their purest sense, as the Bible uses these words, but we must also take into account how certain abusive people and unbiblical groups have twisted these words and concepts, and not fall into the problem of causing confusion and doubt about the biblical meaning and stance. Really the Roman Catholic church has done great damage over the years by wrenching the true meaning of the word “bishop” from its biblical base (a local supervisor of a single church) to make it a support for their demonic ecclesiastical system. Because of this most good pastors refuse the term bishop and use in preference “pastor”.

Elders, pastors, and bishops

Summary: A pastor is a verb. You pastor a flock. Without a flock, you are not a pastor. It is linked to a local group. It referes to what he does to this group, watchcare, supervision, defense, feeding, etc. A pastor is a ministry. The concept speaks much more to the character and abilities in relation to the dynamics of daily life of the sheep than anything else. A pastor has a staff, and he is normally the only thing between the sheep and perdition, making him a type of O.T. priest, interceding for the people of God. A pastor is a person who willingly without fanfare nor remuneration throws himself between the sheep and the wolves. This concept speaks to the man’s character in that he is trusted and beloved by the sheep. A pastor is a person who other people follow because they respond positively to the character of the man. They like and appreciate him even if sometimes he rebukes or corrects things out of place in the sheep’s life.

A “bishop” is an official position. It is technically a local church position of leadership and administration. A bishop is the correct term for the position without a lot of reference to what he does other than “oversight”. It means literally oversight. You are installed into the position of bishop, and you leave the position of bishop, but installation is an organizational thing (official and authortative recognition) more than anything else.

An “elder” is a quality of life that a person has or doesn’t have. Nobody makes you elder but you yourself by you reaction and dealing with life itself. A person can be an elder always whether he has any responsabilities, activities, or official duties within a local church or not. In the OT, there were elders, that just were. They had no installation except as they advanced through life and others noted their wise and experience, and these other people sought them out for what they could help in clarifying and helping them in the situations of life.