Ephesians 4:7-16; Spiritual gifts – the leaders, part 4.

Class Outline:

Wednesday October 20,2021

Leadership: pastor-teacher, minister (deacon: diakonos), and “elder” and “overseer.


It should be noted at the start that spiritual gifts are not limited to sex or a particular age group. Before you say, “Wait, women can’t be pastors,” it is true that they cannot hold the office of pastor, for they, according to Paul, should not exercise authority over a man in the church. But the Bible does not exclusively tell us that a woman cannot have a gift of teaching, or shepherding, or ministering for that matter. We can imagine, for instance, a woman who runs a Christian school, or who works with children, or is a counselor, who has the gift of shepherding. None of those positions violate Paul’s mandates. In the NT we find prophetesses:


ACT 21:7-9

And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. 8 And on the next day we departed and came to Caesarea; and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses.


And we find a woman who is a diakonos.


ROM 16:1

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant (diakonos) of the church which is at Cenchrea;


It doesn’t mean that either the prophetesses or Phoebe held positions of authority, yet, at least in the case of the daughters of Phillip, the prophetesses must have had the gift of prophecy in which God directly spoke to them.


It seems from the biblical data that pastor-teacher, elder, and overseer are very similar if not three titles for the same position.


Elder and overseer is equated by Paul and they seem to have the same function as the shepherd or pastor. Presbuteros comes from presbus which means an old man. In the gospels, the elders of the people or “of the Jews” were enemies of Jesus. They are usually pictured as collaborating with the chief priests.


The term is then used in a positive light in Act 11 for the elders of Judea. The context shows us that they were the leaders of the churches in that large area.


Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each church in the cities of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.


ACT 14:21-22

And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."


ACT 14:23

14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.


In Act 15 and 16, the apostles and elders work side by side and both make policy for the church.


ACT 15:1-2

And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.


The roles and duties of elders in the Book of Acts is ambiguous.


Paul equates presbuteros with episkopos [lit. watch over] and they are to shepherd (poimaino).


To the elders at Ephesus, Paul some years later said…


ACT 20:17-18

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders (presbuteros) of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them:


ACT 20:28

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopos), to shepherd (poimaino - verb) the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”


The flock needs to be protected from the enemies of life by teaching sound truth, to warn and exhort, work hard, helping the weak, serving and giving.


ACT 20:29-35

"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. 34 "You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 "In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"


We find the same equating in Titus.


TIT 1:5-9

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.


The primary qualification for an elder was spiritual maturity and ability to teach.


We will soon see more of a similar description of the character of the elder/overseer in 1Ti 3. No matter what titles we give to the rulership of each assembly, they are to rule well, be of high character, and teach well.


[slide] Elder is presbuteros, which also doesn’t make Paul’s list in Eph 4, but which Paul uses interchangeably with episkopos. In ACT 20:17, Paul calls the elders from Ephesus and says to them (vs. 28) that the Holy Spirit made them overseers (episkopos) of the flock.


Presbuteros/Episkopos did not make Paul’s list in Eph 4, but they were to “shepherd” (poimaino - to act as a shepherd) = feed the church (ACT 20:28).


The point to all of these titles is leading, protecting, teaching truth and application.


A fed flock is a strong flock. The congregation should not want for truth and knowledge, and they should be served with the things that will maximize accumulation of truth.


Whether Paul envisioned the idea of elders which became popular later on in the church, is not certain.


It is clear that Paul expected that there be responsible leadership in the church.


1TI 5:17-22

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages." 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those [elders in context] who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning. 21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. 22 Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.


James also writes of elders of the church. John, in his second and third epistles, calls himself “the elder” in the opening salutations. It might simply be a reference to his age.


Paul extolls the character of the episkopos (one who watches over) in:

1TI 3:2-4

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate [sober or self-controlled], prudent [moderate behavior, also akin to sober], respectable [well mannered, honorable], hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine [literally: at wine] or pugnacious [brawler], but gentle, uncontentious [not a fighter], free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.”


Classically this word (to watch over) was originally a religious expression which referred to gods who guarded and protected individuals or cities. Later it could refer to individuals who had a trusted position in a polis (city). The word occurs five times in the NT. Jesus Christ is the Overseer of our souls (1PE 2:25). Twice it is the position in the church (1TI 3:2; TIT 1:7). Once it joins together with diakonos in PHI 1:1. As we have seen, in Act 20, it is used interchangeably by Paul with elder. As we’ve also seen, they were found in local churches.


A leader must be a spiritual, self-controlled man, and of very good character.


The pastor (the one shepherding) is to be a teacher. The elder and overseer are the same, or at least similar, according to Paul, and the elder is supposed to shepherd according to Peter and Paul. Paul also lists a gift of teaching which might (we cannot know for sure) not include a leadership position. We’ll explore the uses of “teacher” when we finish vs. 11.


Jesus used poimaino when He told Peter to feed His sheep in JOH 21:16. Peter uses it in instructing the elders of the church.


JOH 21:15-17

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My lambs."  16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep."  17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him," Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You. "Jesus said to him," Tend My sheep.