Who Are The Bishops of Philippians 1:1?
Paul writes at the beginning of his letter to the Philippians in Philippians 1:1,2: "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Who were these bishops? When we study through the whole New Testament, we see the wisdom of God in His plan for church organization. Unfortunately, many denominations do not follow the plan that God has laid out in how the church is to be organized. God designed for each congregation to be self-governing or autonomous. In each congregat ion Christian men who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 are to be appointed to this work.
There is to be a plurality of men, not just one man (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). There is no New Testament authority/pattern for a one-man rule. We find later on in church history that part of the reason that "some departed from the faith" (1 Timothy 4:1) was because of the unscriptural church organization of appointing one bishop over the rest of the elders in a local congregation, which eventually lead to the hierarchy system of the Roman Catholic church.
There are three Greek words that are translated into six English words that are used for this work known to us as the leaders of the congregation. They are: (1) elder, (2) presbytery, (3) bishop, (4) overseer, (5) shepherd, or (6) pastor. We know that these words are the same work, yet they refer to a different function. They are sometimes used interchangeably. Notice in Titus 1:5,7 how "elder" and "bishop" are used interchangeably. Notice in 1 Peter 5:1-4 that "elder", "shepherd" (in the verb form), and "overseer" (or bishop) are used in the context to refer to the same work. In Acts 20:17, Paul is speaking to the elders of the church and then later on in Acts 20:28 he calls them overseers (or bishops).
The first Greek word is episkopos. It is translated into English as "overseer" or "bishop". The word "overseer" and "bishop" are used in 1 Timothy 3:1,2; Titus 1:7; Philippians 1:1. It is used because "epi" means "upon" and "skopos" means to "to look over". It is the work of all the bishops to oversee the congregation to make sure that it is being kept safe from false teachers.
The second Greek word is poiman. It is translated into English as "shepherd" or "pastor". It is found in Acts 20:28 in the verb form "to feed". It is referring to these shepherds who should be able to take care of the flock (the church). It is also found in Ephesians 4:11 and Acts 20:28.
The third Greek word is presbuterion. It is translated as "elder" or "presbytery" (a transliteration). The word "elder" is used because the man has derived experience, wisdom, and age in how to handle the issues of life. It is used in Acts 14:23; 20:17, and Titus 1:7.
The "bishops" are the leaders of the local church who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 (they are also known as the elders or shepherds ).
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