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Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Titus 1 and pastors/elders/overseers

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  • randall hay
    Here is something I think you ll find interesting. It is a quote by St John Chrysostom, from around 400, in which he discusses the interchanging of terms
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 20, 2010
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      Here is something I think you'll find interesting. It is a quote by St John Chrysostom, from around 400, in which he discusses the interchanging of terms related to clergy in the NT.

      It is important to bear the Greek in mind!! In Greek a "diakonos" is a "servant," and a "presbyter" is an elder. While the church had a threefold ministry quite early---as we see in the epistles of Ignatius---the terms "diakonos" and "presbyteros" maintained their meanings as 'servant' and 'elder.' So, as you'll see, bishops were still referring to themselves as "diakonoi" and "presbyteroi" for centuries after the NT was written. You can't take this use of terms as evidence of a presbyterian ecclesiology!

      ---And please note that Titus 1:5 does not state that Paul will ordain bishops, but that Titus will. Titus was a bishop. The fathers are quite unanimous on that.

      I'm not sure where people get the idea the NT church was a bunch of congregations with voters but no hierarchy...unless it was from Enlightenment propaganda. Anyone can see---as you touched on---that the apostles were over the NT Church. If there were people over the church during the NT era, why wouldn't there be people over the Church after the NT era? It makes no sense.

      A Lutheran pastor on this site mentioned one time that he'd counted, and around two-thirds of the Lutheran churches in the world have bishops.

      Here's the quote from St John. (Chrysostom, by the way, can be considered the greatest Greek scholar of his age; he was archbishop of Constantinople, which is equivalent of leading patriarch, and the most influential exegete of the Church for 1600 years.)


      “To the fellow-Bishops and Deacons.” What is this? were there several Bishops of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so. For then they still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a diakonos. For this cause in writing to Timothy, he said, “Fulfil thy ministry,” when he was a Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by his saying to him, “Lay hands hastily on no man.” (1 Tim. v. 22.) And again, “Which was given thee with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.” (1 Tim. iv. 14.) Yet Presbyters would not have laid hands on a Bishop.

      And again, in writing to Titus, he says, “For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest appoint in every city, as I gave thee charge. If any man is blameless, the husband of one wife” (Tit. i. 5, 6.); which he says of the Bishop. And after saying this, he adds immediately, “For the Bishop must be blameless, as God’s steward, not self willed.” (Tit. i. 7.) So then, as I said, both the Presbyters were of old called Bishops and Deacons of Christ, and the Bishops Presbyters; and hence EVEN NOW many Bishops write, “To my fellow-Presbyter,” and, “To my fellow-Deacon.” But otherwise the specific name is distinctly appropriated to each, the Bishop and the Presbyter. “To the fellow-Bishops,” he says, “and Deacons”...

      Here, as writing to those of equal honor, [Paul] does not set down his
      rank of Teacher, but another, and that a great one. And what is that?
      He calls himself a “servant,” and not an Apostle. For great truly is
      this rank too, and the sum of all good things, to be a servant of
      Christ, and not merely to be called so. “The servant of Christ,” this
      is truly a free man in respect to sin, and being a genuine servant, he
      is not a servant to any other, since he would not be Christ’s servant,
      but by halves. And in again writing to the Romans also, he says, “Paul,
      a servant of Jesus Christ.” (Rom. i. 1.) But writing to the Corinthians
      and to Timothy he calls himself an “Apostle.” On what account then is
      this? Not because they were superior to Timothy. Far from it. But
      rather he honors them, and shows them attention, beyond all others to
      whom he wrote. For he also bears witness to great virtue in them. For
      besides, there indeed he was about to order many things, and therefore
      assumed his rank as an Apostle. But here he gives them no injunctions
      but such as they could perceive of themselves...

      Homily I on Philippians, NPNF Series I Vol. 13, p. 184

      From: Richard K. Futrell <PastorFutrell@...>
      To: LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Wed, January 20, 2010 1:22:38 PM
      Subject: [LutheransLookingEast] Titus 1 and pastors/elders/overseers

      Someone in my congregation had a question from Titus 1. This was my long-winded reply. I'd like an Eastern Orthodox understanding/ view to my response if you'd like to go there.

      The Bible uses the term “elders” to refer to men who are older in age (Acts 2:17; 1 Timothy 5:1), to officials among the Jews (Matthew 16:21, Luke 7:3), as well as to public ministers, that is, pastors (Acts 15:2; 20:17; 1 Peter 5:1). We see that elder/presbyter, overseer/bishop, and pastor are synonyms with overlapping meanings in the New Testament. But the terms are not exactly interchangeable, for they have differing semantic ranges. Also remember our use of “elder” for our elders is not biblical but is a holdover from our Germanic heritage as Lutherans. (That’s why it’s always best to speak as Scripture speaks to help prevent confusion.)

      That being said, we see in three passages where the early New Testament elders/presbyters and overseers/bishops were the same men with the same calls. In fact, their work is twice described using the word pastor (shepherd) as a verb:

      - 1 Peter 5:1: “So I urge the elders among you, as a fellow elder and witness of the Messiah’s suffering and as a partner in the glory about to be revealed--shepherd God’s flock among you!”

      - In Acts 20:17, Paul sends for the elders of the Ephesian congregation. The apostle tells these very elders in Acts 20:28: “Keep watch over yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.”

      - Titus 1:5: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town.

      The word for appoint also means ordain. So Paul was not telling Timothy to have “lay ministers” to be pastors or elders. He is ordaining them and he will act as their bishop. Here we see the beginnings of the historic Church government of bishops overseeing pastors (and deacons assisting pastors).

      The immediate post-apostolic Church Fathers, Polycarp and Clement, also used “bishop” and “presbyter” as synonyms for each other. Clement wrote in his epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 44, verses 1-5 (circa 95AD):

      1. And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that dissension would exist about the title of bishop. 2. So for this reason, having receiving full, advance knowledge [of this], they appointed those previously mentioned [bishops]. Then they gave additional instructions, that after they fell asleep, other approved men should succeed [them] in their work. 3. Therefore, we do not consider it right to remove from their work those appointed by them, [and] after, by other reputable men, [who have had] the consent of the entire congregation, and have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, with humility, peaceably, and impartially, [and], over time, of whom all have spoken well. 4. For it is not a small sin when we remove a bishop [who] has blamelessly and in a holy way handed out the gifts. 5. Blessed are the presbyters . . .

      Polycarp wrote in this epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 6, verse 1 (circa 120AD):

      1. And the presbyters also should be compassionate, merciful to all, turning back those who have gone astray, bishoping <looking after> all [the] ailing, not neglecting [the] widow, the orphan, [and] the poor, but doing what is honorable before God and people. [They should] stay away from all anger, favoritism, unrighteous judgment, being far removed from [the] love of money, not quick to believe [accusations] against someone, not abrupt in judgment, knowing that we are all in debt because of sin. [BTW, I love this from Polycarp and use it as my “mission” statement of who I am to be as a pastor!]

      From the whole of New Testament, we find that the apostles were overseers/bishops (Acts 1:20) and elders (1 Peter 5:1: 2 John 1; 3 John 1). The New Testament often used these titles interchangeably (compare 1 Timothy 3:1-7 with Titus 1:5-9.) and synonymous with what we, today, call the pastoral office.

      However, Ignatius differentiated the role of bishops and elders more specifically. We see the beginnings of this in scripture but also see bishop/overseer and presbyter/elder used interchangeably. So Polycarp and Clement stressed their similarities and Ignatius stressed their differences.

      Remember that “house churches” were the norm back then. Christianity was persecuted/illegal and people often worshiped in secret. So a pastor acted as a bishop (Titus in this case) and he ordained and/or appointed elders to preach, serve communion, etc in the house church where he was to serve. If the bishop was killed, then the elders would meet to select one to oversee them. And so the Church went on.

      In this context, deacons also served and were always in theological training to replace a martyred elder of a house church.

      This is probably more than you wanted to know. Our LCMS polity does not honestly admit the three-tier church government that started to form even while the New Testament was being written. We want to stress the church government that first formed yet also recognize the large overlap in meaning with the terms elder/presbyter and elder/overseer. Pastor was usually used a verb in the New Testament.

      Also, were pastors appointed? Yes. Despite our polity, we was must recognize what Scripture says. Also that Paul is writing this to Pastor Timothy (and similarly to Timothy)--and not to a congregation- -speaks volumes. That shows that he has the primary responsibility of choosing the pastors who will serve, not the congregation. This is where our LCMS polity does not grow out of the biblical witness but instead operates from a the-Bible-does- not-forbid- it mentality. Our Confessions say that we would have preferred the traditional Church government of Bishop, Elder, and Deacon--but since the Roman Catholic Church refused to ordain our pastors, we changed to a presbyteral form of ordination and polity (with early Church precedent in emergency situations)!

      But we know historically this appointing of pastors/elders was also done with the agreement and blessing of the congregation being served (refer back to what Clement said).

      Rich Futrell, Pastor

      Where we are to receive and confess the faith of the Church (in and with the Augsburg Confession): The faith once delivered to the saints, the faith of Christ Jesus, His Word of the Gospel, His full forgiveness of sins, His flesh and blood given and poured out for us, and His gracious gift of life for body, soul, and spirit.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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