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Bishops, Deacons, and the Church
by Carol Berubee

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The Body of Christ

Now, we see something about the building of the Church in the letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:11-21 says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-- Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus…”

Before we look at the pastor-teachers, let’s look at the overall meaning of this passage. Paul is saying that it is Christ who builds His Church and part of that process is the appointment by Christ of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers. Through their work, the Body is built up and, according to verse 17, those who are so built up “no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind…” Why? The mature Christian is not like the world, for he has “…not so learned Christ…” (v. 20). Then notice verse 21. Not only does the Lord give these gifts for the edification of the Church, but, more importantly, it is He Himself who teaches.

When we look at this overall picture, we also see that it is the cycle of which we have already been speaking. These men are given to be ambassadors for Christ, to speak the Word, to preach the Gospel among the lost, and to shepherd and teach the new converts. As those new converts grow and mature, they become the new ambassadors and evangelists and shepherds. This is the building up of the Body. Notice that the Body is never stagnant. The cycle never ends. A healthy Body grows, not only from within through maturity, but from without as new converts are made and are welcomed into the Body. A church that does only one or the other is not acting according to Biblical standards. Each congregation must not only labor to edify and teach to maturity each of its members, it must also, and equally, take the Gospel to the lost.

(I do not mean to imply that a church must make converts, but I do mean that a church must preach the Gospel of Grace. God will save whom He will save. We must not be focused on converting a certain number of people or participating in a church growth program. I simply mean that a Christian should be concerned that the lost hear the Gospel. And when someone is saved, we must be concerned for their spiritual maturity.)

Let’s look at the words ‘pastor’ and ‘teacher’ in Ephesians 4:11. ‘Pastor’ is ‘poimen’ and it means ‘shepherd.’ That being the case, we see that the pastor is nothing more than the bishop, a type of elder. We saw that the shepherd, or overseer, was a fellow servant who helped the new believers especially, and was, in general, the one who guarded the flock. And we must always remember that there was no one head bishop over a flock. Now, let’s look at the ‘teacher.’ The Greek word is ‘didaskalos’ and it means ‘instructor.' The Greek construction dictates that pastor and teacher make up one office. Thus, the ‘five-fold ministry’ as is often spoken of today is incorrect. The Greek necessitates that ‘pastor and teacher’ is actually ‘pastor-teacher.'

Now we can see that the bishop fulfils the role of pastor/teacher. He is to be a shepherd who guards the flock. How does he do that? By teaching the Word, by communicating the truths of the faith to the flock until the flock is mature in the faith. We see in verses 13 and 14 that the goal of such teaching is to bring the flock to maturity so that they are no longer carried away by “every wind of doctrine,” and to understand who they are in Christ and in His Body. The bishops, or pastor-teachers, work together in unity within the flock, with no one bishop having authority over another.

Elders (both bishops and deacons) were recognized by the flock as being more mature. You can see the cycle: The original apostles appointed by the Lord taught the new converts; the new converts grew in maturity and as they did so, more elders emerged. These elders then would help the new converts who were coming to the faith as a result of, primarily, the evangelists. In such an organic system, the growth never stops. But do we see such a faith-filled, obedient, mature Church today?

Man’s System

Yeshua said that He would build His Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. John said that if those antichrists had been “of us [born again Christians], they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us [born again]” (1 John 2:19). Why did they leave? The true Church would not allow such false teachers to remain in the Church. It was the job, primarily, of the elders to root out such false teachers.

Today, the ‘churches’ are full of false doctrine and people who profess Christianity but are not Christians. We see ‘churches’ led by men (and women) who are false teachers and false prophets. We see churches full of tares. In the early Church, such people were confronted and if they did not repent, they were not allowed in the Church. Yes, they kept coming, but as they were found out, they were rooted out. Today, they are allowed to stay. And where we see such infiltration being overlooked or ignored, we also see immature Christians, never growing in the faith (2 Timothy 3:7). Where we see such ‘churches,’ filled with false doctrine, and pastor-teachers who do not guard the sheep or feed them to maturity, we see the influence of Satan. But our Lord said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. So, how can we have churches filled with antichrists if the Church cannot be overcome by Satan? Today, the Church is a relatively small group of people in contrast to the many ‘church buildings’ full of people who have a form of godliness, but who are serving the enemy. This is not to say that there are no saved people within the ‘church’ system, but the Lord desires that those who know Him obey Him in His commands to flee from the false (2 Timothy 3:5).

Today, the ‘churches’ are buildings where people meet. The early Church met in homes. In fact, the first ‘church building’ that has been discovered by archaeologists in Israel was not built until the mid-third century or early fourth century. If the early Church did not erect a specific building for meetings until some 250 years after the death of Christ, this tells us that the early Church did not find it useful or necessary, but instead continued to meet in homes. We see in Acts 2 that some 3000 people were added to the Church in one day just weeks after our Lord ascended to heaven. If there were no specific ‘church buildings,’ where did all those thousands of people meet? In homes. In small groups. It is not difficult to see that if gatherings are limited in size, the elders can much more effectively shepherd and teach. But just a couple of centuries after the Church began, we see false teaching and pride taking over, with men gathering larger flocks and constructing fancy, idolatrous buildings.

There is also evidence that even before ‘church buildings’ were erected, there arose a hierarchical system of leadership. Such thinking, however, leads to all sorts of erroneous ideas. If we are to follow the teachings of our Lord and his appointed apostles, we must recognize that such a hierarchical system is sinful. This is not to say that everyone who participates in such a system is not saved; yet, today’s ‘senior pastor’ with his ‘board of elders’ is not following the pattern established by the apostles.

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