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    September 7, 1888

    “The Duties of Church Officers. The Bishops” The Signs of the Times 14, 35, pp. 551, 552.

    WE have already shown that the terms “elder” and “bishop” denote the same officer, the one being derived from the Hebrew usage, and the other being adapted from the Greek: the term “elder” signifying the dignity of the office, while that of “bishop” signifies its duties. It is not at all necessary, therefore, to avoid the term bishop in speaking of the elder of a church. Any man who is regularly chosen and ordained to the eldership of a church is, so far as the office is concerned, as really a bishop as anybody is or can be; and it is perfectly proper to call him bishop.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.1

    The duties of the bishops are suggested in the Greek word used to designate the officer—episkopos. This word is composed of two others—epi and skopos. The word skopos is the real root, as epi is but a prepositional prefix. The word skopos signifies, “one that watches, one that looks about, or after things;” spoken of a “housekeeper,” a “guardian,” a “protectors.” Mostly, however, it is used with the meaning of a “lookout man, watchman, watcher, stationed in some high place (skopia) to overlook a country, especially in war;” used also to designate “a scout.” (Liddell and Scott.) It is very easy to be seen how readily and appropriately this word would be chosen from the Greek, and adapted to the office of the elder, when it is remembered how often in the Scriptures Christians are spoken of, not only as dwellers in a strange country, but in an enemy’s country. The Christian life is represented as a warfare. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. The Christian is a soldier clothed in complete armor; protected by a shield; holding a sword; and ever watchful, prayerful, and vigilant. 2 Timothy 2:3, 4; Ephesians 6:11-18; 1 Peter 5:8, 9.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.2

    This little band of soldiers, then, on the way to their own country, having to make their way through both a strange and an enemy’s country, choose one of their number and set him upon—epi—a high place—skopia—thus making him their episkopos, their lookout man, their sentinel, to watch for danger; their scout, to detect the plans of the enemy. This is the idea conveyed in the texts which speak of the bishops and their duties. In Paul’s address to the elders of the church at Ephesus, he said: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” Acts 20:28. And Peter says to the elders, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof.” 1 Peter 5:2. And in Hebrews it is said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” Chap. 13:17. The duty of the bishop is, therefore, to be a watchman, not only outside of the church but in the church as well—not only to watch the enemy, but also to watch those within his own camp.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.3

    This view corresponds to the idea suggested by the phrase above quoted from both Peter and Paul, “Feed the flock of God.” The idea here suggested is that of a shepherd; and this is directly conveyed by Peter in the same chapter before referred to, where he says: “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:4. Christ is the chief Shepherd, he is “that great Shepherd of the sheep,” and the bishops are under-shepherds. This word and its scriptural illustrations give an excellent, perhaps the best, view of the duties of the bishop.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.4

    Peter in writing thus to the elders speaks of himself as “also an elder;” and when he exhorts the elders to “feed the flock of God,” he is only repeating to them the command which Christ gave to him. As that conversation which the Saviour had with Peter has a direct bearing upon this subject, we shall here repeat it entire.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.5

    “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-17.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.6

    These words of Christ to Peter are too often passed by with the observation only that Jesus in asking Peter this question three times, was delicately bringing to his mind his thrice-repeated denial of his Lord. We do not deny that that idea was in the Saviour’s words; but we believe that there is also another point in his words, a point that is weighted with a most important meaning for everybody, and especially to everyone who is called to the office of elder. It will be noticed that three times the Saviour told Peter to feed the flock, and each time before he told him this he asked him, “Lovest thou me?” Thus he would impress upon Peter, and upon every soul who should come after Peter, in his place, the all-important consideration that before he should attempt to feed Christ’s flock, he must be assured in his very soul that he loves Christ. To every man who is chosen to the office of elder, this question is asked: “Lovest thou me?” “Feed my lambs.” And again the second time: “Lovest thou me?” “Feed my sheep.” And the third time: “Lovest thou me?” “Feed my sheep.” And oh, that it might be repeated from the depths of the heart of every elder of every church in the land, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee?”SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.7

    Jesus himself has given us one characteristic of a good shepherd: “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” At the reading of this, the mind of one who is familiar with the Scriptures, not only remembers that Jesus gave his life for the sheep, but almost instantly reverts to the instance that occurred in the life of David: “And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock; and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear.” 1 Samuel 17:34-36. Think of that stripling facing a lion to rescue a lamb; and not only facing him, but facing him so closely that when the lion rose to strike him, he could grasp the lion by the beard. There was a good shepherd. He put his life in the balance against that of a lamb. He risked his life to save the life of a sheep. “But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” John 10:12, 13. To protect the sheep, the good shepherd will face a bear, or a lion, or both; but the hireling will run when he sees but a wolf coming.SITI September 7, 1888, page 551.8

    Another duty of the good shepherd is to seek for the straying. “If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14. When one of the flock has gone astray and is lost, it is not sufficient excuse for the shepherd to say, “I had not time to visit him.” He has not time for anything else just then. That is what he is there for. Of the Lord it is said: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11. This is the work of a shepherd.SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.1

    David, in that beautiful psalm, the twenty-third, speaks of the Lord as his shepherd:—SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.2

    “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This is the way the chief Shepherd does with his flock. Therefore, as the elders are under-shepherds, as they must be like the chief Shepherd, thus must they do; to make the flock to lie down in green pastures—fresh pastures, pastures of tender grass; to lead them beside the still waters; to restore their souls; to lead them in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake; to comfort, and encourage them as they enter the valley of the shadow of death; to prepare a table before them in the presence of their enemies; and thus to make goodness and mercy to follow them all the days of their lives, and that they may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.3

    To the elders of the church it is said by Paul:—SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.4

    “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. [sic.]SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.5

    And by Peter:—SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.6

    “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; 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; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:1-4.SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.7


    To be a deacon of the church is to be a servant of the church, for in the Greek the meaning of the word deacon is a servant. This is also shown by translation of the word in Romans 16:1: “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.” The word translated servant is diakanon—deaconess. Phebe was deaconess of the church at Cenchrea, and was going to Rome on business, and Paul asked the Roman Christians to help her because she had been a helper of many.SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.8

    The account given in the Scriptures of the first election of the deacons shows what their duties are: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch; whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” Acts 6:1-6.SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.9

    It is recorded before, that there was a common fund, that whosoever had houses or lands sold them and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet, “and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” Acts 4:34, 35. The very purpose, therefore, of the choosing of deacons was that they should have charge of the temporal matters of the church. In short, they are properly the treasurers of the church, and the sooner we as a people reach the place where we shall have the deacons filling the office of treasurers the sooner we shall be in harmony with Scripture order on that point.SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.10

    As the deacons are the servants of the church, to them also properly falls the duty of providing and preparing the elements for the celebration of the ordinances of the Lord’s house; of arranging for baptisms; and, in short, all such things that pertain to the work of the church.SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.11

    We are glad, indeed, that this subject of church officers and their duties is being given special attention among us as a people. We earnestly pray that it may end in securing that efficiency in the work of the church that becometh a “people whose God is the Lord.”SITI September 7, 1888, page 552.12


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