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Overseers (bishops, guardians) (1985) (episkopos from epi = over or upon + skopos = goal or end one has in view = English "scope" as in microscope or telescope) is literally one who looks over closely or intently, who views carefully. These are the men who were the guardians of the church at Philippi and were to care for them not as dictators but as spiritual leaders who provided godly examples (1Pe 5:1,2,3, 4-notes). Click for some additional insights on episkopos. Episkopos is found five times in the NT - Acts 20:28; Php 1:1; 1Ti 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1Pe 2:25 and 13 times the Septuagint (LXX) (Nu 4:16; 14" class="scriptRef">31:14; Jdg. 9:28; 2 Ki. 11:15, 18; 12:11; 2 Chr. 34:12, 17; Neh. 11:9, 14, 22; Job 20:29; Isa. 60:17). Here are two representative uses in the Septuagint... 2 Chronicles 34:17 "They have also emptied out the money which was found in the house of the LORD, and have delivered it into the hands of the supervisors (Hebrew = paqad = attend, visit, look after; Lxx = episkopos) and the workmen." Isaiah 60:17 "Instead of bronze I will bring gold, And instead of iron I will bring silver, And instead of wood, bronze, And instead of stones, iron. And I will make peace your administrators, And righteousness your overseers. The episkopos describes one who superintends, exercises oversight or watches over others, thus an "overseer" (one looking over another). The Latin equivalent is super-visus, someone who “looks over” things, a manager. From super-visus comes the English supervisor. Episkopos properly means an inspector, overseer, or guardian, and was given to the ministers of the gospel because they exercised this care over the churches or were appointed to oversee their interests. In the NT the overseers had the responsibility of oversight of the body of Christ, serving as the guardians who were to watch over God's "flock" and lead the sheep by their godly example. It is important to note that Paul here uses the term in the plural and that elsewhere this term is used interchangeably with "elder" (presbuteros). (Titus 1:5-note) God’s people are like sheep (see study of Jehovah Roi for discussion of sheep) and in need of shepherds to watch over them, protect them, and lead them. Pray for your spiritual leaders that they might more and more be what God wants them to be. Episkopos was originally a secular title, designating commissioners appointed to regulate a newly-acquired territory or a colony. It was also applied to magistrates who regulated the sale of provisions under the Romans. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) episkopos signifies "inspectors, superintendents, taskmasters," (2Ki 11:19; 2Chr 34:12,17) or "captains, presidents," (Neh 11:9,14,22). In the ancient Greek culture episkopos was often used to describe pagan gods, who supposedly watched over worshipers and over their nations. (See Ref article ISBE) SCRIPTURAL DEFINITION OF AN OVERSEER 1Timothy 3:2-7 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, uncontentious, 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, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. MacArthur notes that Some have suggested that episkopos derives its sense from the city administrator, inspector, or financial manager of Greek culture. Its New Testament usage, however, more closely parallels that of the Essene Jews of the Qumran community. The overseers among the Essenes preached, taught, presided, exercised care and authority, and enforced discipline. Those functions more closely mirror that of the New Testament overseer than the more narrow use of the term in Greek culture. What are the responsibilities of the overseer? They are to rule (1Ti 5:17), to preach and teach (1Ti 5:17), to pray for the sick (Js 5:14), to care for the church (see notes 1 Peter 5:1; 5:2), to be examples for others to follow (1Pe 5:1,2-note), to set church policy (Acts 15:22ff.), and to ordain other leaders (1Ti 4:14). Oden rightly states that... Episkopos implies vigilance far more than hierarchy. (Oden, Thomas C. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry) Wuest adds that The word (episkopos) came originally from secular life, referring to the foreman of a construction gang, or the supervisor of building construction, for instance. Thayer defines the word; “an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent.” The word was taken up by the Church, and designated an overseer of any Christian church. The responsibilities of this office have to do with the oversight and direction of the spiritual life of the local church. In 1Peter 2:25 we see the ultimate "Overseer", where episkopos is used of the Lord Jesus to describe His care over the souls of His sheep... For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (see note 1Peter 2:25) Overseers were selected by the Holy Spirit in (Acts 20:28) Paul commanding the spiritual leaders of the church at Ephesus to... Be on guard (present imperative = command to do this continually) for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopos), to shepherd (tend flocks like a shepherd - oversight, protecting, leading, guiding, feeding) the church of God which He purchased (more literally "acquired" as His Own possession) with His own blood. Paul explained to Titus that it was vital... For the overseer (episkopos) must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain (See note Titus 1:7) Having oversight of the church is no trivial or light matter, but rather a sobering responsibility, the writer of Hebrews warning leaders they will he held responsible to God for how faithfully they have led the sheep... Obey (this command is to the "sheep" = present imperative) your leaders, and submit (again the present imperative commands continuous placing of oneself under the leadership of the spiritual leaders) to them; for they keep watch (literally remain sleepless, picturing the effort necessary to remain on the alert and vigilant) over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (see note Hebrews 13:17) James adds that because they teach they face a stricter judgment Let not many of you become (present imperative) teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment. (Js 3:1).  Barclay adds these thoughts on episkopos: "Episkopos is a word with a great history. In Homer’s Iliad, Hector, the great champion of the Trojans, is called the episkopos who, during his lifetime, guarded the city of Troy and kept safe its noble wives and infants. Episkopos is used of the gods who are the guardians of the treaties which men make and of the agreements to which men come, and who are the protectors of house and home. Justice, for instance, is the episkopos, who sees to it that a man shall pay the price for the wrong that he has done. In Plato’s Laws the Guardians of the state are those whose duty it is to oversee the games, the feeding and the education of the children that “they may be sound of hand and foot, and may in no wise, if possible, get their natures warped by their habits.” The people whom Plato calls market-stewards are the episkopoi who “supervise personal conduct, keeping an eye on temperate and outrageous behavior, so as to punish him who needs punishment.” In Athenian law and administration the episkopoi were governors and administrators and inspectors sent out to subject states to see that law and order and loyalty were observed. In Rhodes the main magistrates were five episkopoi who presided over the good government and the law and order of the state. Episkopos is, therefore, a many-sided but always a noble word. It means the protector of public safety; the guardian of honor and honesty; the overseer of right education and of public morals; the administrator of public law and order. So, then, to call God the episkopos of our souls is to call him our Guardian, our Protector, our Guide, and our Director." Barclay goes on to state that "The Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, uses it to describe those who were the taskmasters, who were over the public works and public building schemes (2Chr 34:17). The Greeks use it to describe the men appointed to go out from the mother city to regulate the affairs of a newly founded colony in some distant place. They use it to describe what we might call commissioners appointed to regulate the affairs of a city. The Romans use it to describe the magistrates appointed to oversee the sale of food within the city of Rome. It is used of the special delegates appointed by a king to see that the laws he had laid down were carried out. Episkopos always implies two things; first, oversight over some area or sphere of work and second, responsibility to some higher power and authority." (Barclay, William: New Testament Words:. Westminster John Know Press, 1964) In summary, episkopos emphasizes the fact that the leadership is charged with overseeing the local church and as such is responsible for the spiritual well-being of those in the church. The following poem by George Liddell describes what the character of these men should be like: Give me a man of God—one man, Whose faith is master of his mind, And I will right all wrongs And bless the name of all mankind. Give me a man of God—one man, Whose tongue is touched with heaven’s fire, And I will flame the darkest hearts With high resolve and clean desire. Give me a man of God—one man, One mighty prophet of the Lord, And I will give you peace on earth, Bought with a prayer and not a sword. Give me a man of God—one man, True to the vision that he sees, And I will build your broken shrines, And bring the nations to their knees AND DEACONS: kai diakonois: (1-Acts.6.6" class="scriptRef">Acts 6:1-6;1:1Ti 1:8, 1:10, 1:12, 1:13) Paul appears to use "deacons" here to refer to a distinct class of officers in the apostolic church. The origin of this office is recorded Acts 6:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. It grew out of a complaint of the Hellenistic or Greco-Jewish members of the Church, that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of food and alms. The Palestinian Jews prided themselves on their pure nationality and looked upon the Greek Jews as their inferiors. Seven men were chosen to superintend this matter, and generally to care for the bodily wants of the poor. Their function was described by the phrase "to serve tables," Acts 6:2, and their appointment left the apostles free to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. Luke records these facts in Acts... Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6) "Copy and paste the address below into your web browser in order to go to the original page which will allow you to access live links related to the material on this page - these links include Scriptures (which can be read in context), Scripture pop-ups on mouse over, and a variety of related resources such as Bible dictionary articles, commentaries, sermon notes and theological journal articles related to the topic under discussion."

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