On Paul’s second missionary journey,
he, Silas, and others — certainly Timothy (Acts 15:36-13:3) — went through Phrygia and Galatia, down to Troas on the coast, and had a call (not on the cell phone) to go over to Macedonia. You can read of the working of God through them at Philippi (Acts 16:11-40), at Thessalonica (17:1-9), at Beroea (17:10-15), at Athens (17:16-34), then at Corinth (18:1-17). Acts 18:18-20:16 brings the 2nd tour to a close and recounts the 3rd missionary journey up to their arrival in Miletus.
Near the end of the 2nd journey Paul had stopped at Ephesus,
but when asked to stay longer and discuss the Gospel message he declined saying he would return if that worked out. (Acts 18:19-21) Then on the 3rd journey, for reasons concerning the day of Pentecost, he did not go to Ephesus, but rather had the elders from Ephesus meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:17), and we have recorded for us Paul’s instructions for the leaders from Ephesus in Acts 20:18-35.
There are three terms used in this section that refer to the office or work of these men in each congregation of The Lord’s people.
In 20:17 it says Paul “called to him the elders” from the church at Ephesus. That word is “presbuteras” from which we presbyter and presbyterian. The former is the leader or elder and the latter the name of the church that takes that designation. Thus an “elder” can be both an office (as in this verse) or an older, more mature person who is to be an example and a mentor. Elder, as we all know, can also be a term applied to anyone who is older — however being older does not automatically qualify one to hold the office. (Check I Timothy 5, Titus 1, and other passages.)
Yet another title applied to these men from the church in Ephesus is in 20:28 where Paul says “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” That is the word “episkopos” and is translated “bishop” sometimes as in
- Philippians 1:1
- I Timothy 3
- Titus 1
- and I Peter 2:25.
Finally, in Acts 20:28, as Paul speaks to these elders or bishops (overseers), he tells them to “care for”, “feed”, or “shepard” the church – or flock – “over whom God has appointed you.”
The qualities, or qualifications, for men to be appointed to this role by a congregation and by The Holy Spirit are found in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Continuing the matter of elders, bishops (overseers), and shepherds (in Ephesians 4:11, “pastors”),
the purpose in this article is not so much to consider the origin of, or the qualifications for the office, but rather to look at one of the roles that is to be fulfilled.
As has been suggested from Acts 20, these workers among us are to be examples and mentors.
(Of course, with failings and human limitations.) They are also to be bishops and overseers — charged with coordinating the ministries and watching out for the temptations that come to destroy both Christians and churches.
But the role of shepherding or pastoring that falls on the elders and even on prophets and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11) includes the matter of equipping (teaching, training and enabling) the saints – members – for the work of ministry.
So, as we move through I Corinthians 12, 13, & 14 on Sunday mornings it will be challenging to think how the message applies even to us as God’s people.
As your elders, bishops, shepherds, and with our proclaimer/evangelist
we plan to work at having us all “speaking the truth in love, growing up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.” (Please read, study, meditate on, and contemplate ALL of Ephesians 4.)
So, won’t you be thinking of your talents – your gifts from God and His Spirit
– your interests, the needs you see about you in the fellowship, in the individuals who make us a family, and even in the community (communities) in which God has us placed. As these considerations surface there will be what are often thought of as physical and spiritual matters. Maybe it would be good to remember that our Savior says He’s looking at us in regard serving needs like hunger or thirst and also making strangers welcome (not all who feel estranged are first or second time acquaintances). Some have earthly needs like sickness and imprisonment, while others have discouragement or failure or other emotional/spiritual needs. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Let’s be wondering what we can be doing to equip ourselves to serve like Jesus would.
P.S. Your elders and preacher are seriously considering and praying about these things as we prepare to work with you about them.