Bishops-The Overseer of the Church

When you think of a bishop, what comes to mind? Today, I would like to comb the Scriptures with you to find out what the Bible says about this key position in the church. If you have a bishop in your church, then compare this analysis to what they do. It’s important that we stick to exactly what the Scriptures tell us about this position so that everything within the church will run smoothly. If you are called to be a Bishop, then I hope this study is a great resource for you! Let’s start with a couple of definitions:


Strong’s G1984 – episkopē  ἐπισκοπή

1)investigation, inspection, visitation

a)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

b)oversight

1)overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder

2)the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church

Strong’s G1985 – episkopos  ἐπίσκοπος

1)an overseer

a)a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent

b)the superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church


So by these definitions alone, it would seem that a Bishop is an elder in the church who oversees the church affairs by making sure things are done rightly and that all investigations are performed appropriately. The Bishop is in charge of the other elders and officers that are appointed within the church. The following chart will help you to understand this concept. Please be sure to read my other blogs concerning the other positions.

Spiritual Gift administrations hiearchy chart

We see that the Bishop is at the top of the hierarchy. Positions not included in this chart would be treasurers, custodians, and other church members but these are the ones we’ll focus on. Also, we understand that God is the head of the church and not mankind.

Now let’s get into the scripture references for Bishops. The first is in Acts.

Acts 20:28 (KJV)

28 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.

Paul is addressing the elders of the church at Ephesus. It’s unclear whether he is conversing with the bishops only or all the elders. Either way, Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the one who has appointed them to their positions and it is their responsibility to take care of the church of God. By the way, if Paul is talking with all the elders in the church and not solely the bishops, then what he says is true seeing that each position has it’s own activities to oversee.

2 Timothy 4:22 (GNV)

22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy Spirit. Grace be with you, Amen. ¶ The second Epistle written from Rome unto Timothy, the first Bishop elected of the Church of Ephesus, when Paul was presented the second time before the Emperor Nero.

In the 1599 Geneva Bible Version of 2 Timothy 4:22, the added footnote says that the first bishop elected at the church in Ephesus was Timothy.

Philippians 1:1 (KJV)

1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Paul address his Philippian letter to all the saints at Philippi including the staff which includes bishops and deacons. This word bishop can also be translated as overseer to include all the elders in the church, not just the Bishops. This would mean that everyone would be included in this letter and not a select few.

1 Peter 2:25 (KJV)

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Here Peter references Jesus as the Bishop of our souls. Jesus is the one overseer who is in charge of the church as a whole. A Bishop is an overseer over a local congregation.

Now we will get into the details of what Paul outlines as the duties of a Bishop. Both Timothy and Titus were Bishops. Paul writes both of them letters outlining what a Bishop is. For Timothy, he writes about 7 verses. For Titus, he writes about 38 verses.

1 Timothy 3:1-7 (KJV)

1This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.  A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;  One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;  (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Titus 1:5-3:11 (KJV)

5 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: 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.

2 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. 7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. 9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. 11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

3 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. 9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

The first chapter in Titus can be compared with the passage found in 1 Timothy 3. Here is a chart that compares the two.

Titus 11 Timothy 3
Blameless
Husband of one wife
Steward of God
Not Self-Willed
Not Soon Angry
Vigilant
Sober
Just
Holy
Temperate
Good Behavior
Given to Hospitality
Lover of Good Men
Apt to Teach
Not Given to Wine
No Striker
Not Greedy of Filthy Lucre
Patient
Not a Brawler
Be Gentle
Show Meekness to all Men
Not Covetous
Rules His Own House Well
Having Faithful Children Not Accused of Riot or UnrulyChildren Subject With all Gravity
Not a Novice
Have a Good Report

So as you can see, there are some similarities and there are differences. Combined though, Paul gives all the prerequisites to becoming a Bishop over a local congregation. Since a Bishop is in charge of such a large group of people, much prayer, research, and consideration must be involved when making an important decision like this one. A person who feels led to become a Bishop must posses certain spiritual gifts. This graphic shows the minimum requirements. A Bishop could have more than the ones listed here though.

Bishop Gifts

When a person desires the position of being a Bishop, they should be focused on administering, guiding, and overseeing. They are a person who is a leader, who sees the whole picture, is able to delegate, and understands each of the roles of the administration gifts, each of the functions of the operations gifts, and each of the uses of the manifestations gifts. A good example of a Bishop besides Timothy and Titus would be to study Nehemiah. He displayed extraordinary leadership skills despite the atmosphere of the people.

Obtaining the office of a Bishop does come with some disadvantages. That much power and authority can be used in a negative way if the person is not careful. If you are seeking this office, follow these suggestions:

  • Don’t become lazy by telling other people what to do and never doing anything yourself.
  • Be sensitive to the needs and situations of others when dictating demands.
  • Don’t use people for your own selfish desires.
  • Don’t overlook character flaws in people who shouldn’t hold certain positions or responsibilities.
  • Don’t overload people with tasks.
  • Don’t overstep your authority.
  • Be open to listening to other people’s ideas.
  • Don’t neglect praying.
  • Don’t take foolish pride in your position.

Above all, keep Christ at the head and seek His will for all decision making. Trust that God knows what’s best and lean not on just your own understanding. Remember what Gideon said to the men of Israel:

Judges 8:23 (KJV)

23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.

Challenge Questions:

If you have a Bishop in your church, do they meet these qualifications?

If you don’t have a Bishop in your church, why not?

Do you agree with the assessment of which spiritual gifts a Bishop must have?

After looking over this study on Bishops, do you agree with my assessment that a Bishop is a singular individual in charge of the other administrative positions, or do you believe that a Bishop is plural and encompasses all the administrative positions?

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