Picturing Elders – Overseers

We have been studying the different titles for elders, which really serve as descriptions of the elder’s duties and service. We have already looked at the titles “elder” and “steward.” “Elder” describes the spiritual maturity of the elders. “Steward” describes their position as managers of God’s household. In this post we will look at the title “overseer.”

“Overseer” is a translation of the Greek word episkipos. This is where the Episcopal church gets its name. The KJV translates this as “bishop.” The biblical word “bishop” or “overseer” is used interchangeably with “elder.” 

This word refers to guardians. The elders are guardians who watch out for the safety and good of Jesus’ church. This is the word Paul uses in Acts 20:28, referring to the elders (Acts 20:17). Paul told the elders that the Holy Spirit had appointed them as overseers. So, they were elder-overseers. 

Paul told these elder-overseers to keep a close watch on themselves and Jesus’ flock (Acts 20:28). Paul then warned these elder-overseers that there would be wolves who would come in and not spare the flock (Acts 20:29-31). So, the elders serve as protectors, and they guard the flock of God from danger. 

In Titus 1:9 the elders (called “overseers” in 1:7) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. One of the reasons is to rebuke those who contradict the trustworthy Word. They need to be devoted to the Gospel, so they can rebuke those who contradict it. They must silence the false teachers (Titus 1:11) and rebuke them sharply (Titus 1:13). 

So, the elders are God’s guardians serving Jesus by protecting His church from false teachers and false doctrine. 

Questions for Reflection and Discussion – interact with Acts 20:17-38 and Titus 1:5-9:

  1. According to Paul, who appoints the overseers?

  2. What are they appointed to do?

  3. How do they accomplish this work?

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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by

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