Re: Qualifications of Elders

From: Ben Crick (
Date: Tue Sep 30 1997 - 16:25:32 EDT

On Tue 30 Sep 97 (09:17:26), wrote:
> I am working through the issue of Biblical eldership, and looking
> particularly at 1 Timothy 3. I am specifically attempting to explain
> the meanings of the Greek terms found there, and how we should
> interpret and apply them today.
> [snip]

 Dear Graeme:

 Why not go into your college library, and get out JB Lightfoot, /Saint Paul's
 Epistle to the Philippians/, Macmillan, London, 1927, and read his essay on
 /The Christian Ministry/ on pages 181-269. Then get out the Epistles of
 Ignatius: especially /Smyrnaeans/ and /Philadelphians/. Ignatius wrote:

 "Avoid divisions, as the beginning of evil. Follow, all of you, the Bishop,
 as Jesus Christ followed the Father; and follow the Presbytery as the
 Apostles. Moreover, reverence the Deacons as the commandment of God. Let
 no man do aught pertaining to the Church apart from the Bishop. Let the
 Eucharist be considered valid which is under the Bishop or him to whom he
 commits it.
 "Wheresoever the Bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever
 Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful apart from
 the Bishop either to baptise, or to hold a love-feast. But whatsoever he
 approves, that also is well-pleasing to God, that everything which you do
 may be secure and valid" (Smyrnaeans 8:1-2).

 "For even if after the flesh some wished to lead me astray, yet the Spirit is
 not deceived since it is from God. For it knoweth whence it cometh and whither
 it goeth, and it convicts the things which are in secret. I cried aloud, when
 I was among you, I spake with a loud voice, with the voice of God, 'Give heed
 unto the Bishop and the Presbytery and Deacons.'
 "But they suspected that I said this because I knew beforehand the division
 caused by some; yet He is my witness, Whose prisoner I am, that I learned it
 not from human flesh. But it was the Spirit Who kept preaching in these words:
 'Do nothing without the Bishop. Keep your flesh as a shrine of God. Love
 union. Flee divisions. Become followers of Jesus Christ as He also was of the
 Father.'" (Philadelphians, 7:1-2).

 Ignatius, the second Bishop of Antioch, argued in his Epistles (circa 115 AD)
 for a threefold hierarchy of Bishop /EPISKOPOS/, overseer; Presbyterers
 /PRESBUTEROI/, elders; and Deacons /DIAKONOI/, servants. This schema adopted
 by the early church was continued by Luther at the Reformation, and by
 Archbishop Cranmer at the English Reformation, and by Archbishop Sheldon at
 the Restoration, and is the ministerial norm for all the Episcopalian
 Churches, whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Reformed.

 The Diaconate is based on Acts 6:1-6 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13; the Presbyterate
 on Titus 1:5-9; and the Episcopate on 1 Timothy 3:1-7. It must be said that
 Paul in the Pastorals seems to regard the terms /EPISKOPOS/ and /PRESBUTEROS/
 as synonyms. The Ignatian post-New Testament generation made the semantic
 distinction between Overseer and Elder, so that by the middle of the 2nd
 century every local church had its one Presiding Bishop, its College of
 Elders, and its Company of Deacons. The "Board of Deacons" is a later
 post-Reformation Free Church development. The Monoepiscopate (one church, one
 Bishop) seems to be attested in 3 John 9: "... Diotrephes, who loveth to have
 the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not".

 The authority for the Ministry is based on the authority given by our Lord to
 the Apostles. In Matthew 10 Jesus gives the Twelve authority to preach, to
 teach, and to heal. In Matthew 16:19 the power to absolve is given first to
 Peter, then in John 20:22-23 to all the Apostles.

 When it came to celebrating the Eucharist, naturally the senior person present
 was given the honour of representing Christ at the Holy Table, and repeating
 His Words of Institution (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). This would invariably be
 the Bishop or somebody appointed by him (Smyrnaeans 8:1). In the third
 Christian century, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage began the practice of calling
 Presbyters /Sacerdotii/, sacrificing-priests. The English word /Priest/ is
 etymologically derived from the Greek /PRESBYTEROS/. The Christian "Priest"
 is neither a /hIEREUS/ nor a /KoHeN/ nor a /Sacerdotus/.

 Non-episcopally governed Churches (Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc)
 usually nominate one of the senior Presbyters (Ministers) to be the Primus
 or Supervisor or Moderator: in effect, a "Bishop" in all but name.

 That briefly is how we interpret and apply the Greek terms today.

 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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