The Role of Overseers in the Christian Faith
1 Timothy 3:1 “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop (OVERSEER), he desireth a good work.”
STRONGS GREEK DICTIONARY
From G1980; inspection (for relief); by implication superintendence; specifically the Christian “episcopate”: – the office of a “bishop”, bishoprick, visitation.
Total KJV occurrences: 4
THAYER GREEK DICTIONARY
1) investigation, inspection, visitation
1a) that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad
1b1) overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder
1b2) the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church
1) to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes
1a) in order to see how he is, i.e. to visit, go to see one
1a1) the poor and afflicted, the sick
1b) to look upon in order to help or to benefit
1b1) to look after, have care for, provide for: of God
1c) to look (about) for, look out (one to choose, employ, etc.)
Part of Speech: verb
This is speaking to cover spiritual leadership. Jesus clearly speaks about the role of overseers (v.1) and about deacons (v.8). This letter starts out: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” it’s a good thing to aspire to spiritual leadership but be warned, there are requirements and he is going to spell those out in the verses that follow. Further, this truth is sobering:
James 3:1 “My brethren, be not many masters (TEACHERS), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”
An overseer is one who ‘sees over’ aka takes care or watches out for others. The personal characteristics that are required of an overseer according to Holy Scripture are: “apt to teach” (v.2c) and “care for God’s church” (v.5) in an oversight position.
The following 3 terms are synonymous: 1st Peter 5:1-2 “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;” The word, ‘elders’ suggests something of maturity and wisdom (NOT NECESSARILY OLDER IN AGE), while the word, ‘shepherd’ implies providing for, caring for and protecting roles, and ‘overseer’ as we read implies the ability to see over the flock, seeing its needs and seeing the attacks that are coming from the enemy including and especially false doctrines that 2nd Peter Chapter 2, the Book of Jude, etc speak about.
Writing to Titus, Paul links elder and overseer together:
Titus 5:1-16 “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision (JEWS): 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
In Acts 20, we find overseers and shepherd linked together: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). Specifically in respect of being a shepherd, we have mentioned the role of protecting the flock and Paul’s description in Acts 20 of what is likely happen when he leaves, reveals this clearly: Acts 20:29-31 “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” This speaks to the very disciples the apostle Paul oversaw for THREE YEARS PERSONALLY! This is what constant oversight, constant love requires reproving even what appears to be a “small thing” (Leviticus 19:17) as a “little leaven” will kill. So: “apt to teach” (v.2c) and “care for God’s church” (v.5) are the calling and commands of a true overseer. The leader of God’s people needs to be a man who knows and understands God’s word and can defend it against those who would seek to destroy it, even if those people were true, faithful brethren just yesterday. The brethren not only need to be taught the truths and righteous commands of God’s word to be able to “endue ’til the end to be saved” (Matthew 10:22), but the leader needs to be available to them, to answer questions as to why we reject the teaching of those who have distorted God’s word and turn it into a license to sin yet telling the hearer they are still “covered” in their wicked sin(s): Jude 1:4 “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ”. The leader thus needs to be a learner, a man with a teachable heart, a man who yearns to know the truth, imparts the truth and upholds the truth at all cost.
As we read above, “be no many masters”, this is so very important. One can only become a true a spiritual leader if God is drawing him into it and if you one is truly obedient to His Word, His Will and His Spirit yearning to go on with Him, again, at all cost. Leaders lead, they are ‘out front’ and often take the brunt of enemy attacks and therefore they must know their calling and their must know the grace of God upholding them. They must study, pray, obey and constantly seek wisdom to know how to deal with difficult people and difficult circumstances. A leader/overseer must have patience but also know when it’s time to go on the offence to thwart the evil that’s in this world trying to snatch away true converts and keep true seekers of truth away. Leadership is for the few and surely not easy and the fallout and casualties that can be seen around the Christian world testify to this.
Read Titus Chapters 2 & 3 to complete this study.
To Jesus be all the glory. AMEN