“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1 ESV).
One example of a Godly aspiration involves a person who seeks the office of a spiritual overseer or “bishop.” A man who holds that ambition is someone who pursues a “good work” (ASV), an “honorable position” (NLT), or an “excellent task” (AMP).
Before we consider the qualifications for this position, let’s take a closer look at this job description…
“The word ‘bishop’ is the rendering of episkopos. The verbal form is episkopeo, ‘to look over, to oversee, to superintend, to exercise oversight or care over.’ The word came originally from secular life, referring to the foreman of a construction gang, or the supervisor of building construction, for instance.
Thayer defines the word; ‘an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent.’ The word was taken up by the Church, and designated an overseer of any Christian church. The responsibilities of this office have to do with the oversight and direction of the spiritual life of the local church.” (1)
Another source provides us with further insight into the responsibilities that accompany this role…
“His duties included ruling (1 Tim. 5:17), pastoring or shepherding the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), guarding the truth (Titus 1:9), and general oversight of the work, including finances (Acts 11:30).” (3)
As mentioned earlier, several other New Testament words are closely aligned with this position including…
- “Elder” (presbuteros, Acts 20:17, Titus 1:5).
- “Pastor” (poimenas, Ephesians 4:11, see also 1 Peter 5:2).
- “Rulers” (proistamenoi, Romans 12:8, see also 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
- “Overseer” (Acts 20:28).
These designations identify a man who exercises spiritual care and authority over a church congregation. Words like “ruler” and “overseer” are self-explanatory in this respect while “pastor” offers an easily-recognizable association with a shepherd who provides spiritual leadership. However, we might question why the words “bishop” and “elder” seem to be used interchangeably to describe this role.
Once source offers the following response to that question…
“The answer is that presbuteros (G4245) described these leaders of the Church as they personally were. They were the elder men, the older and respected members of the community. Episkopos (G1985), on the other hand, described their function, which was to oversee the life and the work of the Church. The one word described the man; the other described his task.” (3)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Timothy 3:1] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Ryrie Study Notes, [1 Timothy 3:1] © 1986, 1995 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp
(3) Barclay, William. “Commentary on 1 Timothy 3:1-16”. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-timothy-3.html. 1956-1959.