Paul's Passing Thoughts

A Warning To The Watchmen

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on March 14, 2018

Today, Facebook’s “On This Day” feature reminded me of a scripture passage I had posted a few years ago from one of my daily Bible readings. It was a blessed reminder to me because when I stumble across verses like this it only serves to affirm or reinforce a scriptural truth I have already learned in my constant study.

1 Timothy chapter 3 lists the qualifications of an “elder” or “bishop”. In the Greek, the word επισκοπος (epi-skope-os) is a compound word. “Epi” means “over”. The word “skopos” is where we get the word “scope”, and it means to look outward; to see from a distance; to watch carefully and attentively. The word is really better translated “overseer.”

The function of an overseer is not one of authority. The etymology of the word actually describes someone who stands at the top of a fortress wall as a sentry looking outward for any signs of danger. A sentry has no authority. He has no power to command or enforce action. His job is simply to send out the warning cry when danger is coming so that appropriate action can be taken by others.

This is the way it is with an elder in an assembly. He may be gifted to teach, but his role is that of a sentry looking out for danger and warning others to take appropriate action. Note: he has no call to compel the action. He cannot force others to take action. All he does is sound the warning cry.

With regard to 1 Timothy 3, in most of your bibles you may see the expression, “if a man desires the office of a bishop.” The manuscript says nothing like that. The word “office” is not in the manuscript. In fact the word “man” isn’t even in there. The way this verse literally reads in the Greek is “if any desire oversight,” or “If any desire to be overseen.” The desire to have an overseer begins with the assembly. Overseers are optional. The assembly gets to decide if it wants an overseer or not.

Paul goes on to say further that if you want an overseer, that is a good thing. It is probably a good idea to have someone on guard duty. If there is danger out there, and there is, you probably want to have someone who is adept at finding it; seeing it early, and warning others to take action. But such a person has no call to exercise authority to compel others to take action.

To help us better understand this role of “overseer”, consider a passage in the Old Testament that uses a similar word: “watchman.”

1Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 3if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; 4then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. (5He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him.) But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

6But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

7So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. 8When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

10Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

~ Ezekiel 33:1-11

I realize that this is a rather long passage, and I am not going to break down the whole thing, but I wanted you to see the context. God uses a metaphor that Israel can clearly understand: national defense. The implications are clear. If you have a watchman (i.e. overseer) on a wall who sees danger coming on the horizon and does not sound the alarm, that watchman is culpable for any lives that are lost as a direct result of his negligence. God makes it clear to Ezekiel that his role as a prophet is the same as a watchman. He has been given a message by God to deliver to the nation of Israel. It is Ezekiel’s responsibility to sound the warning cry.

But what should be obvious from this passage is that the only responsibility the watchman has is to sound the alarm; to give the warning. It is not his job to compel the action of those who hear his warning. Notice that God did not give any authority to Ezekiel to compel Israel to action. Ezekiel did not have the power to coerce Israel with “church discipline” if they did not heed his warning.

(On a side note, notice that God specifically says in this passage that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked! Yet you have men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards who blatantly contradict the plain teaching of scripture.)

The words of Ezekiel should be a stern reminder to both the elders and laity in the institutional church.   Elders have no authority. It is their role as overseers to be on the lookout for false doctrine that would do great harm to Christ’s assembly. Instead it is very often the elders themselves doing the harm; teaching for doctrine the traditions of men rather than the plain sense of scripture and compelling the laity to obey them unconditionally and abusing them for their own self-interest. These men will have to answer to God one day for these things. You who follow these men must understand that they will not be the ones standing in your place giving an account for you in eternity. While they will indeed have to give an account for the miserable failures that they are as watchmen, you will be accountable for your own actions (or inactions) as well.

~ Andy

The Desire for and Qualifications of an Overseer – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on July 22, 2017

Originally published on October 2, 2014

 andy-profile-1As I began to put my thoughts down on “paper” (I don’t actually use paper, I jot everything down in a Word document and then fill in the blanks) it soon became apparent that the nature of this topic would be too unwieldy to limit to a single article. Therefore I have decided to address this topic in two parts.

I was inspired to write this article after viewing Paul and Susan’s latest edition of Gnostic Watch Weekly (9/26/2014). At the end of the video, Susan made reference to the qualification of an elder found in 1 Timothy 3, and used that in contrast to the alleged qualifications that reformed bloggers feel one should have in order to be qualified to post a comment on their blogs. I wanted to expand on each one of those qualifications of an elder in detail. But before I do that, I think it is necessary to first make sure we have an understanding of what an elder is. And before we do that, we first need to discuss the definition of an “overseer”.

What is an “Overseer”?

The word translated as “bishop” in the King James comes from the Greek verb επισκεπτομαι (ep-ee-skep-toh-my). It is made up of the words “epi”, meaning “over”, and “skopos”, meaning to peer about or referring to a watch or sentry or lookout. Taken together, we get the idea of “over-seer”. The word “supervisor” has the same meaning: “super”, meaning over, and “visor”, having to do with vision, seeing, or watching. So an overseer is basically a supervisor. Interestingly enough, a supervisor is a secular role and not specifically a religious one. So Paul is referring to a role that is not inherently a religious one but has a counterpart in the secular world.

How is this different from an “elder”?

While “overseer” has more to do with the role itself, the term “elder” refers more to the individual filling the role. The word “elder” is the Greek word πρεσβυτερος (pres-byoo-ter-os). It comes from the word “presbus” meaning “elderly”. In the Jewish religious/political system, the Sanhedrin was made up of elected representatives of the people called “elders” or πρεσβυτερος. Typically, these representatives were elderly men who were well respected and honored by the people.

The Jewish “synagogue” teaching model was also usually supervised by an “elder”. So with the advent of the New Testament assemblies, followers of Christ (who at the beginning were all converted Jews) simply continued to follow the synagogue model. And each fellowship selected an elder (πρεσβυτερος) to supervise/oversee (επισκεπτομαι) them.

When we come to 1 Timothy 3, Paul is addressing the qualification for the role of overseer, thus the use of the word επισκεπτομαι rather than the πρεσβυτερος. Although, granted, the significance is minor, and in general the words could be used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

However, there is a significant difference between the forms of the word “overseer”. Please notice the difference between the words in verse 1 and verse 2:

Verse 1   επισκοπη (ep-ee-skope-ay) – noun: oversight; supervision

Verse 2   επισκοπος (ep-ee-skope-os) – noun: overseer; supervisor

Notice, that the words come from the same root, but the words are different! Even though they are both nouns, the first refers to the function, the second refers to the role. Why is this important? Let me explain.

Disclaimer: I am about to say something extremely controversial. Now consider yourself warned.

I believe that Paul is NOT addressing the issue of someone who desires TO BE an overseer.  GASP!  “How can you say that?” you might ask.  Because of the way this reads in the Greek.  While the King James renders this verse this way:

“If a man desire the office of a bishop”

This is how it appears in the Greek:

ει             τις           επισκοπης             οργεται

if             any         (of) oversight        is craving

This is where the difference in the words used is important. It does not say, “if anyone desires to be an overseer.” Literally it reads, “if any is desiring of oversight”. The question we must ask then is to whom or what does the indefinite pronoun “any” refer? Remember the context of 1 Timothy. Paul has gone ahead to Macedonia and has left Timothy behind in Ephesus to act as his proxy. The purpose of the letter to Timothy is to advise him on how to handle certain issues within the various assemblies there. So the “any” in verse 1 of chapter 3 must be referring to the assemblies. Paul is saying, if any of the assemblies desire oversight, they desire a good thing.

Two things should become immediately apparent here. First, that there were some assemblies that did not have an overseer. And second, the implication here would be that an overseer is optional. That’s huge! And that flies in the face of 500 years of orthodoxy. But when you consider the context and the grammatical structure of the text, it fits together perfectly. Paul is telling Timothy, if there are any assemblies that want oversight, that’s a good thing. He then proceeds to instruct Timothy on what the job requirements are for an overseer.

This is very similar to what happened in Acts chapter 6 when the Hellenistic Jews were being left out of the daily distribution to the needy, and the ethnic Jews were getting preferential treatment. The assemblies came to the apostles to solve this problem. But instead, the apostles instructed them to look to themselves for the solution. They gave them a set of criteria for deacons and told them to find men who meet these criteria and have them manage it. The apostles could have very easily said, “Ok, we appoint so and so, and such and such, and they have the authority.” But instead, they believed that those in the assemblies had the ability to select their own deacons. Likewise in this instance, Paul did not instruct Timothy to appoint specific men to the positions of overseer. He left it up to the assemblies to select their own if they so desired.

So, having then examined the relationship of elders and overseers, in part two we will study in detail each of the qualifications of an overseer. You can think of this as a job description. If you were seeking a candidate to fill a role, think about what kind of attributes you would want. What are the attributes that make for a good overseer for a home fellowship?

Andy

Update 12/29/2016: The Cross Conference 2016 Inside Report

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on December 30, 2016

The Desire for and Qualifications of an Overseer – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on June 28, 2016

Originally published on October 2, 2014

andy-profile-1As I began to put my thoughts down on “paper” (I don’t actually use paper, I jot everything down in a Word document and then fill in the blanks) it soon became apparent that the nature of this topic would be too unwieldy to limit to a single article. Therefore I have decided to address this topic in two parts.

I was inspired to write this article after viewing Paul and Susan’s latest edition of Gnostic Watch Weekly (9/26/2014). At the end of the video, Susan made reference to the qualification of an elder found in 1 Timothy 3, and used that in contrast to the alleged qualifications that reformed bloggers feel one should have in order to be qualified to post a comment on their blogs. I wanted to expand on each one of those qualifications of an elder in detail. But before I do that, I think it is necessary to first make sure we have an understanding of what an elder is. And before we do that, we first need to discuss the definition of an “overseer”.

What is an “Overseer”?

The word translated as “bishop” in the King James comes from the Greek verb επισκεπτομαι (ep-ee-skep-toh-my). It is made up of the words “epi”, meaning “over”, and “skopos”, meaning to peer about or referring to a watch or sentry or lookout. Taken together, we get the idea of “over-seer”. The word “supervisor” has the same meaning: “super”, meaning over, and “visor”, having to do with vision, seeing, or watching. So an overseer is basically a supervisor. Interestingly enough, a supervisor is a secular role and not specifically a religious one. So Paul is referring to a role that is not inherently a religious one but has a counterpart in the secular world.

How is this different from an “elder”?

While “overseer” has more to do with the role itself, the term “elder” refers more to the individual filling the role. The word “elder” is the Greek word πρεσβυτερος (pres-byoo-ter-os). It comes from the word “presbus” meaning “elderly”. In the Jewish religious/political system, the Sanhedrin was made up of elected representatives of the people called “elders” or πρεσβυτερος. Typically, these representatives were elderly men who were well respected and honored by the people.

The Jewish “synagogue” teaching model was also usually supervised by an “elder”. So with the advent of the New Testament assemblies, followers of Christ (who at the beginning were all converted Jews) simply continued to follow the synagogue model. And each fellowship selected an elder (πρεσβυτερος) to supervise/oversee (επισκεπτομαι) them.

When we come to 1 Timothy 3, Paul is addressing the qualification for the role of overseer, thus the use of the word επισκεπτομαι rather than the πρεσβυτερος. Although, granted, the significance is minor, and in general the words could be used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.

However, there is a significant difference between the forms of the word “overseer”. Please notice the difference between the words in verse 1 and verse 2:

Verse 1   επισκοπη (ep-ee-skope-ay) – noun: oversight; supervision

Verse 2   επισκοπος (ep-ee-skope-os) – noun: overseer; supervisor

Notice, that the words come from the same root, but the words are different! Even though they are both nouns, the first refers to the function, the second refers to the role. Why is this important? Let me explain.

Disclaimer: I am about to say something extremely controversial. Now consider yourself warned.

I believe that Paul is NOT addressing the issue of someone who desires TO BE an overseer.  GASP!  “How can you say that?” you might ask.  Because of the way this reads in the Greek.  While the King James renders this verse this way:

“If a man desire the office of a bishop”

This is how it appears in the Greek:

ει             τις           επισκοπης             οργεται

if             any         (of) oversight        is craving

This is where the difference in the words used is important. It does not say, “if anyone desires to be an overseer.” Literally it reads, “if any is desiring of oversight”. The question we must ask then is to whom or what does the indefinite pronoun “any” refer? Remember the context of 1 Timothy. Paul has gone ahead to Macedonia and has left Timothy behind in Ephesus to act as his proxy. The purpose of the letter to Timothy is to advise him on how to handle certain issues within the various assemblies there. So the “any” in verse 1 of chapter 3 must be referring to the assemblies. Paul is saying, if any of the assemblies desire oversight, they desire a good thing.

Two things should become immediately apparent here. First, that there were some assemblies that did not have an overseer. And second, the implication here would be that an overseer is optional. That’s huge! And that flies in the face of 500 years of orthodoxy. But when you consider the context and the grammatical structure of the text, it fits together perfectly. Paul is telling Timothy, if there are any assemblies that want oversight, that’s a good thing. He then proceeds to instruct Timothy on what the job requirements are for an overseer.

This is very similar to what happened in Acts chapter 6 when the Hellenistic Jews were being left out of the daily distribution to the needy, and the ethnic Jews were getting preferential treatment. The assemblies came to the apostles to solve this problem. But instead, the apostles instructed them to look to themselves for the solution. They gave them a set of criteria for deacons and told them to find men who meet these criteria and have them manage it. The apostles could have very easily said, “Ok, we appoint so and so, and such and such, and they have the authority.” But instead, they believed that those in the assemblies had the ability to select their own deacons. Likewise in this instance, Paul did not instruct Timothy to appoint specific men to the positions of overseer. He left it up to the assemblies to select their own if they so desired.

So, having then examined the relationship of elders and overseers, in part two we will study in detail each of the qualifications of an overseer. You can think of this as a job description. If you were seeking a candidate to fill a role, think about what kind of attributes you would want. What are the attributes that make for a good overseer for a home fellowship?

Andy

Elders

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 1, 2015
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