The first century Christians suffered severe persecutions. We see in the book of Acts, which is a history of the early church, that Christians were slandered, defamed,mobbed, imprisoned, boycotted, and even killed for their faith. Christians were targets for these attacks because they had left the pagan religious ritual and because of this they were blamed for everything from economic downturns to natural disasters. Many Christians were also strangers in town because they may left their home to flee persecution, and also many Christians in the first century had come from Jewish backgrounds. The early Christians had little security, many were slaves or of a very low social status and little or no recourse from the governing officials. Peter wrote this letter to encourage those being persecuted.
Peter in the next chapter or two discusses the role of the church leaders. You will see the terms Overseer, Bishop, Elder, and Deacon. These are the only titles you will see in the New Testament for leaders of the church. Overseer, Elder, and Bishop are used interchangeably for the same office. Then we have the Deacons. Lets look first at the first terms. Overseer, Elder, and Bishop all come from the Greek word, presbuteros, which means literally, “aged” which explains why it is commonly translated as elder. What is the role of the overseer, elder, or bishop?
1. To pastor or “sheperd” God’s church-feed, lead, guide, and nuture
2. to administrate or rule God’s church
3. to teach and to preach
4. to represent the church
5. to pray for the sick
The qualifications for this office are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. I find it interesting that the biblical standard does not mention being a graduate of a Bible College or Seminary. The qualification have much more to do with one’s character and moral standards than with education or social status. The main stream churches and denominations are doing themselves and God a great disservice by requiring advanced degress to pastor a church.
Now lets take a look at what the biblical role of the deacon is- Our word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos which literally means servant. The biblical role of the deacon is to tend to the physical needs among the believers. See Acts 6:1-6. The qualifications to be a deacon are almost the same as those of the overseer, elder, bishop. Again they are found in 1 Timothy 3.
1. blameless (v 10)
*2. husband of one wive ( v12)
3. not given to wine ( v 8)
4. not greedy for money ( v 8)
5. Rules own house well ( v12)
6. reverent (v 8)
7. not double tongued (v8)
8. has a pure conscience ( v9)
9. tested (v 20)
* This qualification has been cussed and discussed over the years to the point of causing splits among churches. I have a little different interpretation on this – this verse does not bar women from ministry nor does it bar a dicvorcee from serving in either of these capacities. Here again, many churches are doing themselves and God a disservice by misapplying this verse and not understanding it’s proper context.
Tune in to ULC Radio tomorrow(Wednesday Jan 18, 2012) from 9:00 pm for the rest of 1 Peter!