SHEPHERDS OF THE FLOCK
- Elders in ancient communities were honored men of wisdom, not officials
- Function more important than title
- The church ministers to one another (1 Corinthians 12:28)
1 Peter 5:1-3
- Three terms used for same leaders of the Ephesian Christians:
- elders (presbyteros) v. 17
- overseers (episkopos) v. 28a
- to shepherd (poimainein) v. 28b
Watch over yourselves and all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit placed you as overseers to shepherd (infinitive verb) the church of God which he saved with his own blood.
προσέχετε (imperative) be concerned about, care for, pay attention to ...
Paul states the actual duties of elders in vss. 28-31.
- Keep watch over yourselves indicates that the first duty of leaders is to ensure their own integrity and character. As with Pauls personal example, only those who demonstrate sacrifice and commitment should be leaders.
- The passage makes extensive use of the shepherd image: and to your flock ... to feed (literally to shepherd) the church of God.
- The shepherds task is to be shepherds of the flock (v. 28NIV). This role includes herding and feeding the flock.
- Verse 29 indicates that the shepherds task will be to protect the flock from wolves that threaten. The image of wolves points to false teaching.
- The emphasis on herding and feeding is evident in Ezekiel 34:13-16, where God take the role of shepherd.
- Jesus description of himself as the good shepherd (John 10:7-9) provides another dimension: the selflessness of the shepherd.
poimanate [imperative] shepherd the flock of God (under your care), over seeing ... .
- Three terms combined again:
- elders (presbyteros) v. 1
- shepherd (poimanate) v. 2a
- over seeing (episkopountes) v. 2b
episkopountes [participle] caring for, looking after, watching over
- English = Bishop, Overseer, Guardian, Supervisor
- Term used for a wide range of functions: overseer of slaves, head of mint, construction foreman.
- Used of the gods in pagan literature
- Usage in 1 Peter 2:25
- Acts 1:20 May another take his place of leadership (NIV)
- Quoting Psalm 109:8
- Hebrew = (pqudah)
How can the terms elder, shepherd, overseer be used interchangeably by Paul if they carry vastly different meanings?
- Paul describes the church leaders as overseers (v. 28). The Greek episkopos (epi=over; skopos=see) is most commonly translated bishop. It may also be translated supervisor (super=over; visor=see).
- It was the common term in secular life for a supervisor at work or in the field. The passage suggests the authoritative role of elders/bishops.
- What is the real meaning of episkopos? Overseer? Guide? Caretaker? Superintendant? How is the word used in ancient literature? How would we translate this generic term today?
- The KJV (bishop) has more to do with 17th century hierarchy and church leadership in England than the actual meaning of the term. They equated the term with their understanding of a church officer.
- Other than Acts 1:20 and Pastorals, word is used in Philippians 1:1
- What are they overseers/caretakers/superintendants over? What is it they care for? (Souls! People! The Flock!) See 1 Peter 2:25
- God is the shepherd and guardian of our souls (not business)
1 Timothy 3:1-2
- Striving for the episkope
- Word office is implied; a charge or responsibility
- He desires a good/noble work
- The overseer must be ...
- The nature of the work demands a certain character
Notice that function is more significant as title. These terms convey a sense of function and role within the community
- Appoint elders in every city (v. 5)
- Following Pauls guidelines (v. 6)
- Rationale: An overseer must be blameless as Gods steward (oikonomon) v. 7
Didache 15:1-2 [not scripture]
Therefore, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, true and approved, for they also perform for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers. Therefore, do not despise them, for they are your honorable men, along with the prophets and teachers.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 January 2007
Link to next sermon
Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin