Q: #286. What are the qualifications for and responsibilities of a bishop/overseer/elder?

By: Steve Shirley

    A: A bishop, overseer, and elder are all essentially the same in the New Testament. The same Greek word "episkopos" is used for bishop (1 Tim 3:2)(Phil 1:1)(Titus 1:7)(1 Pet 2:25) and overseer (Acts 20:28). An elder and bishop are used interchangeably in several passages (Acts 20:17,28)(Titus 1:5-7), as well as elder and overseer (1 Pet 5:1-2).

     Qualifications for this office are found in several places, primarily in (1 Tim 3:2-7)(Titus 1:5-9)(1 Pet 5:1-4). A bishop/overseer/elder should:

Be above reproach
Be the husband of one wife
Be temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, and peaceful
Not be a heavy drinker, violent, or covetous (a lover of money)
Be a good manager of his children and household (If he can't do this, how can he manage the church of God? [1 Tim 3:5])
Not be quick-tempered or self-willed
Be a lover of good, holy, and self-controlled
Not lord his position over his flock
Shepherd his flock and be an example to them
Be eager to serve
Hold fast the faithful word so he can exhort others in sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it
Not be a new convert (so he does not become conceited and fall into condemnation)
Have a good reputation with those outside the church (so he will not fall into reproach or be disgraced)

     As you can see, this is quite a long list. The primary reason for this is that it is a crucial and very important job, and only a few men, God-ordained through the Holy Spirit, are qualified for it.

     The primary responsibilities for those who hold this office today are:

* Teaching, preaching, and explaining scripture: (1 Tim 3:2)(1 Tim 5:17)(1 Th 5:12)(Titus 1:9)(2 Tim 2:24-25)(1 Tim 4:6,11,13)(Titus 2:1)

* Hospitality (opening their home to others): (1 Tim 3:2)(Titus 1:8)

* Managing the church: (1 Tim 3:5)

* Shepherding and overseeing those in the church: (1 Pet 5:2)(Acts 20:28)

* Living a life that is a Godly example to others: (1 Tim 3:2,10)(1 Tim 4:16)(Phil 3:17)(2 Th 3:9)(Titus 1:6-7)(Heb 13:7)(1 Pet 5:3)

* Ministering to the sick: (Jas 5:14-15)

     The Bible also shows a pattern of there being "elders" (plural) in a church (Acts 14:23)(Acts 20:17)(Titus 1:5). Paul says in (1 Tim 3:1) that seeking to be a bishop/overseer/elder is "a good work" or "a noble task."

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