In view of what Paul says in 1Timothy 3 regarding “the office of a bishop” it is clear that the word “bishop” is the word that describes the “office” of the man who is entrusted with ‘taking care of the church of God’. And since he is in the “office of a bishop” it is perfectly fitting and/or appropriate for him to be called “bishop,” just as Paul does in Philippians 1 when he refers to “the bishops and deacons” of the various churches in Philippi.

Howbeit this does not exclude the issue of him just as fittingly or appropriately being called by another term or designation that likewise is used to describe his “office.” Nor does it make it wrong to call the one in “the office of a bishop” by another term or designation that is also appropriate to his “office” because it is fittingly descriptive of his “office.”

For this reason the more general term “elder” is also used by Paul to refer to one who is in the “office of a bishop.” And since “elder” is the most general designation of all to specify one who occupies a position of authority and responsibility in the orderly function of a local church, Paul also uses it to refer to those who occupy “the office of a deacon.” Hence it is perfectly fitting and appropriate to call both bishops and deacons “elders” in contexts or situations in which it is neither needful nor profitable to either specify their particular ‘offices’ or discriminate between them.

In addition to this it is evident for example in 1Timothy 5 that Paul uses “elders” to refer to other positions of ‘rulership’ in a local church besides those belonging to “the office of a bishop” and “the office of a deacon.” Hence any man in a position of rulership in a local church can be appropriately called an “elder.”

Now the point I am making with the more general designation of “elder” is that since men who are in “the office of a bishop” or in “the office of a deacon” are also fittingly and appropriately called “elders,” then there is not ‘a hard and fast rule,’ so to speak, that says that the man who is in “the office of a bishop” is supposed to be called “bishop” and nothing else. But rather since at least one other designation is used to both refer to and describe a “bishop” then it is perfectly legitimate for him to be called by other terms like that of “elder” when such other terms are fitting in connection with his ‘office of bishop.’

Wherefore it is not illegitimate or wrong for a bishop to be called “pastor,” seeing that the word “pastor” is specifically referring to the role and responsibility that he has to ‘feed the church of God,’ just like Paul describes and emphasizes for example in Acts 20:28. So since in the “office of a bishop” the man is in the position of “overseer,” and he is in that position “to feed (or pastor) the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” then as he ‘pastors’ and carries out this God-ordained function of his “office” there is nothing illegitimate or wrong about calling him ‘pastor.’ For according to what Paul says in Acts 20:28 both the terms “overseer” (bishop) and ‘pastor’ (“to feed the church of God”) are necessary when it comes to properly describing the responsibility entrusted to the man who occupies “the office of a bishop.”

Sincerely yours in our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us,

Keith Blades
Enjoy The Bible Ministries

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