APOSTLES & BISHOPS
Yul Crawford wrote: "There is a new resurgence of Bishops in America. Do you
think this has to do with the resurgence of apostolic ministry?
"What is the difference in how Bishops are functioning and apostolic ministry?"
REPLY: First we must start out with a brief understanding of what a
"bishop" is and what a bishop does, to more fully understand their importance in light
of the resurgence of apostolic ministry.
17 From Miletus he (the Apostle Paul) sent to Ephesus and called for the elders (presbuteros) of the church. [NKJ]
28 "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopos), to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. [NKJ]
In the two passages above, two different words are used to describe the same group of people, indicating by the Scriptures that an Elder and Bishop (here translated overseer) are the same. The word Bishop literally means an Overseer. I have found it interesting to learn that the word, 'supervisor', means exactly the same thing, 'super' meaning, 'over or above', and '-visor', relating to the word vision; the two together literally meaning "overseer" or "one who has oversight".
The word "episkope" is used in 1 Timothy 3:1 to describe the Bishop as a Church Officer or official. But there are different levels of bishops and eldership within the Body of Christ. In 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus Christ is pictured as "the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls". In Acts 1:20, the Bible says about the Apostle Judas, "Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take." So we have seen that our Savior is a Bishop, an Apostle is a Bishop, and since Jesus is pictured as a Shepherd and Bishop in 1 Pet. 2:25, we must also conclude that Pastors are Bishops as well. In Titus 1:5, the Apostle Paul appointed Titus to ordain Elders in every city in Crete, and by so doing, he would be "setting in order the things that are lacking." One of the qualifications of an Elder / Bishop is that they must be able to teach, according to 1 Tim. 3:2. In 1 Peter 5:1-2, the Apostle exhorts or makes an urgent appeal for the Elders to "shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as Overseers." In these passages of Scripture he also confirms that an Apostle is a "fellow Elder", as he spoke of himself.
In James 5:14, the sick are instructed to call upon the Elders of the Church for prayer to be healed as they are anointed with oil in the name of the Lord. A fully functioning Elder will meet these requirements. Sad to say, I have seen Deacons being called upon to pray for the sick and anoint them with oil in the local assembly, and Elders were not even a part of the official staff, other than the Pastor and his assistants. Most Elders as we know, serve under the Pastor of a local assembly, and are called "Elders". But the Scripture clearly calls them in more than one place, Bishops (or Overseers) as well.
Titus, as we see, must have been an Elder or Bishop, responsible for ordaining Elders in all the cities that assemblies of Saints had been established. In his Eldership, he is here more functioning as a Bishop who in this case is an Apostle's Assistant. I know of an Apostle who has appointed a Pastor in another Country as a Bishop of his ministry because he is unable to constantly be in that Country. This Pastor also, in this case, is not only an Elder to his people as a Pastor, but is also an Elder or Bishop in overseeing the responsibilities of the ministry (mainly FREE Bible distribution) in that Region.
No matter how Gifted an Apostle may seem to be, the Apostle can never do the work of setting the Church in order alone. The Body of Christ needs strong Eldership and strong Elders if the fullness of Apostolic Order is to be restored to the Body of Christ. According to Acts 16:4-5, the Elders helped decide the decrees for the people to observe, which resulted in the churches being strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily. Acts 15:1-2, the Scriptures record that the Elders were involved in settling matters of doctrinal controversy. True Elders have an anointing to settle controversial doctrinal disputes with love. In some notes I wrote on Eldership, I included the following information on Elders:
1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them (A BIG ARGUMENT), they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
Elders help decide doctrinal issues or what is to be taught in the Churches. Elders have the Anointing to settle controversial doctrinal disputes with love. Extremely controversial doctrinal issues or questions should not be taken to another believer, but to the Eldership that has the Anointing and Grace and the Love to make sure that such discussions or questions do not mislead others or create division in the Church. One of the requirements of Elders is that they must be able to teach. Teachers protect against false prophets, false prophecies, false teachers, false doctrine, and if need be, false apostles and false apostolic order. That is why an Apostle, though greater in authority than a Pastor and his Eldership, does not have a Divine Right to go in and demand to speak to any congregation, because God has given the responsibility of protecting the Sheep to the Eldership, even against false Apostles who do not represent Christ in an orderly manner. It is the responsibility of the Elders to make aware to the Pastor anything that may mislead or cause division among the Saints. The Elders must report such things to the Pastor and not assume that the Pastor will be able to pick it up without the assistance of the rest of the Eldership.
To conclude, I do not believe that Bishops are called instead of Apostles in these days. I know of a particular denomination that uses Bishops as Overseers over Pastors of a particular Geographical location, while they don't acknowledge the Gift of Apostles at all. Just to let you know, all 5-Fold ministers are Elders or Bishops, but sadly, not all Bishops are 5-Fold. If a Bishop is a non-5-fold member of the Body of Christ, then rulership belongs to the 5-Fold Minister over him or her. It is not scriptural to set a Bishop over a Pastor unless that Bishop is a 5-Fold Minister himself. Each individual Gifting, and in this case, each level of Eldership is anointed by God for a specific purpose and function. Each level of Eldership or Bishopric has its own level of authority and ability to equip and train. How can a non-5-Fold Bishop Oversee a Region of Pastors if they are not at least called to be Pastors themselves? Any Bishop who is anointed by God to be an Elder under a Pastor, as a Pastoral Assistant, will not be successful at being an overseer of Pastors. This is out of Divine Order. Lower Ranking Elders cannot be Overseers of Higher Ranking Elders.
As an Apostle's Assistant, Titus was a Higher Ranking Elder than then the Elders which he appointed in Crete under Paul's Oversight of himself. If someone is to be a Bishop over other Pastors in a geographical location, that person. like Titus, must be Higher in authority than the ones they are appointing, and operating under the Authority of one higher than themselves, according to the example set in Scripture. The true or highest leader over the Elders that Titus was appointing, was the one who sent Titus to appoint them, meaning the Apostle Paul. This also means that Titus must have been a 5-Fold minister of the Gospel if he was appointing Eldership and Pastors of local assemblies. All local assemblies must have a Pastor and Elders, and not just Elders alone. Any assembly of Saint's where a 5-Fold minister is not leading is only an assembly of saints, but cannot be a fully functioning local Body.
In order to be a fully functioning local Body, 5-Fold must be present in order for 5-Fold equipping of the Saints to occur and for the work of the ministry to be done, according to the pattern that the New Testament has established. (Eph. 4:11-12) While all ministry gifts and abilities are necessary for the building up of the Body of Christ, the Body of Christ cannot be fully developed without the maturing abilities of the 5-Fold Anointing. According to Ephesians 4:12 the 5-Fold Gifts are given to the Body for perfecting or maturing the Saints. This maturing process equips the Saints for the work of the ministry, which is to build up the Body of Christ. This level of maturation described in verse 13 cannot be achieved by an ungoverned body that does not function in cooperation with the 5-Fold ministry.
Yes, God is raising up Bishops and Eldership of every level, to equip and to teach and train the great masses of souls that I believe are going to begin to pour into churches in an all-out end time revival. He is also raising up strong leadership full of strong male elders and women's leaders as assistants who will protect the sheep and guard this great and coming move of God.
Sincerely yours in Christ,