WHAT IS A BISHOP, OR OVERSEER? (Shepherds 3)
In the previous 2 blogs we have seen that pastors are shepherds. Anyone who ministers to others in called a “shepherd.” There are other terms used in the Bible for those who lead God’s people. Understanding them can help us better understand our duties and what God expects of leaders. 1 Timothy 3:1 says “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.”
The word “OVERSEER” is a word the Gentiles used for the leader of a group of people. Sometimes this word is translated “bishop” but it refers to the same person as “shepherd” or “pastor.” The Bible never uses the term “bishop” to refer to a pastor who is over other pastors, it is used of every person called to pastor. We see this clearly in Acts 20:28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, by which he bought with his own blood.” Here the word Overseer and Shepherd are used of the same person, the pastor of a church.
The command given this person is to KEEP WATCH. This word is used of a night watchman who keeps watch over the city. The pastor, or overseer, is the one who keeps watch over a body of believers. He is their guardian.
Sheep are defenseless and cannot protect themselves. They can’t fight or hide or run. They need someone to watch out for them and protect them. David’s sheep needed him to protect them from lions and bears. As Christians we are all like sheep (Isaiah 53:6). We all need a shepherd and Jesus is our shepherd (Psalm 23; John 10:11-18). God divides His sheep up into small flocks called “churches”. He puts a pastor, or shepherd, over each group. God uses the overseer, or shepherd, to guard His sheep. Sheep need protection from danger, from wolves and lions and from those who would steal them away from their shepherd.
Christians need protection from Satan and his demons and from false teachers. Jesus calls false teachers “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15; Galatians 1:6-10). They pretend they are Christians and are teaching the truth, but really, they are deceiving Christians and leading them into error and sin. God uses us, His Overseers, to shepherd and protect His sheep from them. We are also to protect sheep from their own errors and sin.
Sheep are dumb animals and will wonder off and get lost. Christians are the same way and will wonder away from God and His truth unless someone is there to watch over them. That’s one of the jobs of pastors.
1 Timothy 3:1- Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
What are you doing to oversee the people God has given you in your church, group or family? What are you doing to protect them from sin and deception?
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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