The word bishop comes from the Greek episcopos, which means overseer. Next to apostles, the bishop is the highest church office and the local congregations of the early church communities rested in the hands of bishops, called the episcopal type of church government and mandated by apostolic authority. In the five-fold ministry, the office of bishop comes under the heading of pastor, along with the elder an deacon. The bishop would be a man given the duty of seeing that those things done by those under his charge are done rightly. The bishop would be the guardian of souls, the one who watches over their welfare. Paul described them to Titus saying that a "bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker (brawler), not given to filthy lucre. But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able to by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers."

The bishops throughout history are depicted as the organizers, administrators, magnates, and politicians, unfortunately, it later began to take on a broader authority. When Luther and Calvin arrived they changed to a presbyterian form which puts the church in the hands of the deacons. With Luther, it was necessary to destroy unity because it was the Catholic bishops that had to be opposed to bring about the Protestant and the Catholic Reformation. Thomas Aquinas wrote that one evil Bishop is certainly the ruin of many men. Calvin however just wanted to purge the church of all things catholic and revert to the first century. New England Puritans of the seventeenth century appealed to Parliament to purge the country of all Bishops.

Ignatius in his letter to the Philadelphians equated obedience to Christ to obedience to the Bishop. "Pay attention to the Bishop so that God will pay attention to you. Let us be eager not to oppose the Bishop, so that we may be subject to God." Ignatius writes also to the Ephesians telling them: "Surely, Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, for His part is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, though appointed throughout the vast, wide earth, represent for their part the mind of Jesus Christ. Hence it is proper for you to act in agreement with the mind of the bishop; and this you do. Certain it is that your presbytery, which is a credit to its name, is a credit to God; for it harmonizes with the bishop as completely as the strings with a harp." Gregory the Great in his book Pastoral Care taught that the "Bishop should be above all a teacher and director of souls, a man of meditation, self-searching, and humility, a minister, not a master."

Robert McAfee Brown goes as far as you can on this issue. In his book "The Ecumenical Revolution", Mr. Brown agrees that a fully reunited church will have bishops: "For some - to repeat the traditional distinctions - episcopacy is of the very esse, the very being, of the church, and without it there is no church at all. For others it is of the plene esse, the fullness, of the church, and without it there can be a church but it will be a defective church. For the rest, episcopacy is of the bene esse, the well-being, of the church, a helpful and important way of demonstrating the historic continuity of the church with its past. It remains true that the difference of order between the churches which claim the episcopal succession and other churches appears to be at the present time the most formidable obstacle in the way of intercommunion."

It is not what they want to hear but here goes anyway. The Puritan principle of the autonomous congregation stands in conflict with the centralized unity of the episcopalian structure and in direct defiance of New Testament apostolic mandate. "This is a true saying," writes Paul to Timothy, " If a man desires the office of a Bishop, he desires a good work."

The disciples of Jesus became missionaries and traveled the world leaving behind them the beginnings of the Christian church. They appointed bishops of the church wherever they went. Here are some of the early ones:
James, bishop of the Jerusalem church, Linus, bishop of Rome, Cletus, Clement I, Evaristus. There is a Greek legend that places Jason, bishop of Tarsus in Cilicia, going with St. Sosipater, Bishop of Iconium, to Corfu, evangelizing and dying there. Hermagoras, consecrated Bishop by Peter, together with his deacon Fortunatus. Simeon, son of Clopas succeeded James as bishop of Jerusalem. Linus appointed bishop of Rome before the death of Peter. Papias, a pupil of John was the Bishop of Hierapolis. Iraneus writes that the bishop of Ephesus was Oneismus, another source says of Berea. Jerome says Apollos became Bishop of Corinth. Aristarchus was the bishop of Thessalonica. Ignatius of Antioch was the first century Bishop of Antioch in Syria. Ignatius says that Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna, Polybius was the bishop of the Trallians and Damas, the bishop of the Magnesians. Jerome is of the opinion that Apollos afterwards returned from Ephesus to Corinth from Crete and remained there until the divisions were over and later became Bishop of Corinth. There is also a tradition that Apollos became Bishop of Caesarea. Dionysius the Areopagite appointed Bishop of Athens.

The topic of bishops is very important to the end-time church but not many people really care. By nature the end-time church is made up of many religious groups tied together by the loose coalition of apostles, pastors, prophets, evangelists and teachers of the same mind acting as One. A unified church should come about with the office of the bishop being restored to its full spiritual potential in the pastoral mind-set of the five-fold and should be fulfilled in the apostolic and pastoral callings. The restoration is rooted in the historical Wesleyan and Whitefield revivals of the Great Awakening that typified the Philadelphian church of Revelation. Fortunately the office of bishop was continued in most of the churches of the five-fold ministry in the 20th century and in many of the charismatic and pentecostal groups within the mainstream denominations.
[07, 16, 17, 43, 51, 78, 111, 114, 57, I Timothy, 78, 293, 12, 15, Titus, 308, 355, 338, BD, 377, 380, Acts, Lex]

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