Bishop

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The ministers of God's government are truly titular servants of the people.

Bishops and Overseers

The word overseer is translated from the same word we see as bishop.[1]

These terms "bishop" are used regularly in today's modern Church but what did they mean at the time to the first century Christians?

Does the modern church do what the first century church did?

Do Modern Christians depend on the Church for its Daily ministration like the first century Church?

Are modern bishops fulfilling the same purpose as the original bishops or overseers of the early Church?

The Church is defined as one form of government. For any government to function, there must be participation by the people in the supply and demand of services within and to participants of society.

The titular leaders of a free government cannot be given power to exercise authority over how much or when the people entrust their ministers with their freewill offering. Christ commanded that His appointed ministers not “exercise authority”. When the people lose their daily right to choose, they are made subjects.

What is given is given freely and completely, like a burnt offering or bread cast upon the water, but the free will choice to give must remain with the people. The choice and manner of service provided by that gift must remain entirely with the minister, who is a servant of God. In essence, this form of sacred purpose trust, with the minister as the steward (a kind of trustee), is at the foundation of His Church and the Daily ministration of Pure Religion.

It has been customary that another group oversee the ministers. Of course, in truth, the actual overseer of the Church is the Holy Spirit or what is sometimes called the Comforter.[2]

The Apostles met the requirements laid down by Christ. They were prepared to represent the Holy Spirit, and when they had received the power to do so from that Spirit, they were able to go out and preach the Kingdom as the physical representatives of that Comforter. They exercised no authority by their own hand over the people, but relied entirely upon the power of that Holy Spirit.


The Ancient Orders of Overseers

We see more than one word "paqad" translated [3] overseer in the Old Testament. It appears more than three hundred times in the Bible but only translated overseer a few times. Most of the time it is translated number. If you added the letter Hey to paqad you got the word pequddah[4] which included ideas like "oversight, care, custody, mustering, visitation, store".

All these words together described the role of an overseer in the national network of the tens, hundreds, and thousands. They supplied oversight to prevent corruption; They were part of a charitable network providing care and welfare for the people; They would take custody of the property of the ministers they served in the case of death or loss of capacity to make sure it got to the next minister chosen by the people. In time of war or attack they would muster those who would come to the aid of society; In the time of disease or famine they would not just visit but bring aid to to those communities that needed more help which is what the practice of Pure Religion was all about; Because they were connected in the network, gathering with other overseers of congregations they could call on a huge storehouse of aid without putting all their supplies in one place.

Before the Church and the Church in the wilderness there was Abraham and Melchisedec who was tithed to and provided a righteous mammon through a network of living Altars.

Israel, the early Church and many nations throughout history gathered in a numerical pattern of tens, hundreds, and thousands. An overseer is a joint heir in a national network and one of the main purposes of an overseer was to account for those he served by keeping everyone connected in a system of service. He would gather with other overseers like himself in his own congregation called an Order. Those who chose him as overseer did so in hope that he would connect them with the rest of the people seeking the kingdom of God in other congregations.

Fractal Network

Congregations of the people are not corporate in nature but Free Assemblies only, but orders are corporate. They are the appointed corpus of Christ.

Everyone should understand that a minister's congregation is composed of the ministers he gathers with in congregation not the congregation that has chosen him to be there minister of service.

His role is to serve the congregation by connecting it to all the congregations in the whole network of the corpus of Christ. He begins to do that by gathering with other ministers like himself.

It is every congregants responsibility to oversee his brother within the congregation or community of Christians and even the strangers in their midst. We are to rebuke all whom we love and we are to love even our enemy.

If any do wrong we should expose their wrong doing if needed to protect others.

This is why we are told as many as I love I also rebuke.

Orders are congregations of dedicated ministers who are not altars of clay but altars of stone.

Each order chooses a minister who is also an overseer of the order. He hopefully will gather with other ministers of orders like himself in order to form another order.

To do that there must be more than one order so that the minister/overseers of two or more orders can began to form another order one level up in the tens, hundreds, and thousands.

"But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Matthew 23:11

Again this is fractal networking where a portion of each crystal is actually a part of the crystal connection to the next crystal forming it.

The Poor Overseers of a Free Church

The ordination requirements of the overseeing ministry of Christ are extremely controversial today, but have been a tradition both at the time of Christ and before. They are well documented in the Biblical text, but neglected by many modern ministers. The Levites did not belong to themselves as freemen, like those in the congregation of the people, but they “belonged” to God. They were His firstborn servants, appointed to minister to the people according to the Holy Spirit as it moved in them and in the people. They had no right to hold a free dominion offered by God to all men. They had no inheritance in the land as a personal estate. The same was clearly true at the time of Jesus’ appointment of His ministers.

In the Bible we see the Greek word ‘episkopos’ meaning overseer.[5] It is often translated as bishop. In the early Church, an archbishop was merely an overseer of overseers. This was a part of the network of the Church ordering itself in groups of tens. Ten families and one minister, ten ministers and their minister or overseer. The early Church used this pattern. But the church of Constantine did not.

On the 30th of April, 311, the emperor Galerius had posted an Edict of Tolerance at Nicomedia making provisions for the Christians, who had “followed such a caprice and had fallen into such a folly that they would not obey the institutes of antiquity” which had been established for the welfare of the people. The Edict of Milan commanded that the “places where they were previously accustomed to assemble” “the same shall be restored to the Christians” including restitution of the value of property taken from the Christians, “without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception.”

Constantine was not the first to grant tolerance or restitution, but he was the first to grant favor. His instant converts were often required to get baptized, but not to repent. In 325, a small portion of the Church[6] was about to take a big turn down a new path, from which they have not yet returned.

The First Council of Nicaea endorsed the new Christianity of Constantine, the “Bishop of Bishops.” The vast majority of Christians opposed many of his precepts, but he did end violent persecution. However, a new threat loomed in the complacency of his Pax Romana. The Emperor bestowed gifts from the spoils of war and heavy taxation, winning favor with some, bringing in a seed of corruption until finally, Theodosius I made Christianity the “state religion” or could call the state religion Christianity.

These new Christians came to believe without repentance. They were enticed by the favor and grace of emperors, not Christ. These bribes for their faith included millions of dollars in land, gold, and silver, given out of the treasury of Rome. These royal grants were given to bishops who came to his councils and remained, or to those who were appointed by his own permission and authority. These new bishops were soon issuing edicts and commands, even calling for the persecution of pagans or Christians who did not bow down to the thinking of this new church.

The citizens of Milan were truly "instant Christians". They eventually elected Ambrose the Bishop of Milan. Ambrose, a roman lawyer and governor, had tortured prisoners and entertained prostitutes. At first he refused the election, knowing little of Christianity or the ways of Christ. But with popular support and the emperor’s encouragement, he relented and within a week he was baptized with water.

Except for words and names, there was little alteration of the spirit of these new Christians. Ambrose did take a leave of absence from his employment with the empire to study some of the basic requirements for the ministers of Christ. As bishop of the Church he knew he could own no property in his own name and apportioned his money to the poor, donating his lands, except for provision for his sister Marcellina, and committing some of his property to the care of his family by his brother.

All the ordained ministers of the Church gave up any personal estate or wealth to follow in the service of God. This had been true for Christ,[7] the apostles,[8] and new ministers[9] of the Church the same as it had been for the Levites[10] called out by Moses to serve the tents of the congregations. This was necessary to maintain a government of service, as was the network of small intimate congregations.

The true overseers of the Church remained faithful, refusing Faith-Based initiative of the emperor, not only for the Church, but for themselves. They were not masters of those they served, but servants of Christ by serving those they ministered unto. The highest overseer is servant of servants.

The true overseer was an ordained minister meeting the qualifications of Christ, being in the world but not of it. Their full faith and fidelity must belong totally to God. They could not apply on behalf of the Church or themselves for gifts or grace of any sovereign or government. Christ was their king and they were His bondservant alone. No minister following Christ could apply to Rome for protection because God’s kingdom is not of their “world”, their “apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government.” To maintain an autonomous church the same continues to be true for its ordained ministers.

The ministers of Israel held a similar status even before kings began to appoint them without meeting these requirements of God given to Moses concerning the called out Levites. In those days when there was no king in Israel,[11] it had been the election by the courts of the people[12] that chose the ministers of God’s kingdom. They were paid according to their service[13] by the offerings of the people of a free nation under God. This peculiar and separate status of the overseers and ordained ministers of the government of God might be called today a vow of poverty.

This is one of the more controversial subjects concerning the nature of the early Church established by Christ. Like so many things from those ancient days, the meaning and purpose has been shrouded in rituals and ceremonies. Few understand the full significance of that unique status or how it applies today.

We ask no one to accept anything because it is written. We encourage everyone to study out the truth in other sources and their own hearts and minds, praying to the Father for guidance and understanding.

In The Free Church Report we have tried to shed a new light of understanding on how these ancient precepts and requirements can play an essential role in the free church and free congregations of the people and how, without the implementation of these precepts upon precepts of Christ and the prophets, the Church becomes vulnerable to the powers and spirit of the “world”. There are multiple concepts centering around the proper application of the biblical doctrine of “no inheritance” or a “vow of poverty” and it is important that we have a clear understanding rather than a blind faith in these matters.

Because words and phrases are defined in many ways according to their context and usage, we will need to define terms used in this work according to the message and doctrines of Christ. Titles like Bishop or Overseer and Minister or Elder must be defined within the context of the time of Christ, limiting those positions to His instructions. We can't merely accept the definition of modern churches simply because they are common in today’s thinking or religious circles and institutions.

Bishop in the Bible

1 Timothy 3:1 "This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."
Titus 1:6 "If any be blameless[14], the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God[15]; not selfwilled,[16] not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."

Each of us are to be led by the Holy Spirit with that overseer the Bishop of our soul.[17]


Ruling Bishops

It was the Church established by Constantine who brought in bishops and priests who could exercise authority one over the other. We certainly see that pattern with Ambrose and Augustine of Hippo.

The book "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna shows the introduction of many pagan holidays and ideas. It also suggests that there were no official offices or official leaders in the early Church. [18]

The suggestion that Ignatius of Antioch was instrumental in establishing an authoritarian office is an unwarranted supposition if not "Entirely Spurious". [19]

There were offices in the original Church appointed by Jesus who was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed, the highest son of David. He said he was going to take the kingdom from[20] the Pharisees who sat in the seat of Moses and appoint it to his little flock who would bear fruit. To say "Up until the second century, the church had no official leadership." is simply not true. Yes they had leaders and those leaders bishops, ministers and deacons were officially appointed but the word they should use to describe that office is "titular".

Even the Seven Men elected by the people but appointed by Peter over a certain business just like the Seven men appointed in the Old Testament was an office. They had authority over what was given them but not over the people who gave it.

These ministers of the early Church had a job to do. Christians would not pray to the Fathers of the earth nor to those men who called themselves Benefactors who exercised authority. They would not eat the Free bread of Rome nor sign up for the Imperial Cult of Rome because that would have been covetous.

Because they would not take the benefits of those pagan government temples they often came into conflict with Rome. Christians lived by faith, hope and charity which is love and they practiced that love as a peculiar people according to the perfect law of liberty.


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Footnotes

  1. 1985 ~ἐπίσκοπος~ episkopos \@ep-is’-kop-os\@ from 1909 and 4649 (in the sense of 1983); n m AV-bishop 6, overseer 1; 7
    1) an overseer
    1a) a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent
    1b) the superintendent, elder, pastor, or overseer of a Christian church; the NT uses the term bishop, overseers, 1985 pastors, 4166 elders, and presbyters 4245 interchangeably {#Ac 20:17,28, Eph 4:11, Tit 1:5,7, 1Pe 5:1-4 etc.}
  2. Parakletos translated comforter 4, advocate 1. 1) summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid. 1a) one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate.
  3. 06485 ^דקפ^ paqad \@paw-kad’\@ a primitive root; v; AV-number 119, visit 59, punish 31, appoint 14, commit 6, miss 6, set 6, charge 5, governor 5, lack 4, oversight 4, officers 4, counted 3, empty 3, ruler 3, overseer 3, judgment 2, misc 28; 305 v
    1) to attend to, muster, number, reckon, visit, punish, appoint, look after, care for
    1a) (Qal)
    1a1) to pay attention to, observe
    1a2) to attend to
    1a3) to seek, look about for
    1a4) to seek in vain, need, miss, lack
    1a5) to visit
    1a6) to visit upon, punish
    1a7) to pass in review, muster, number
    1a8) to appoint, assign, lay upon as a charge, deposit
    1b) (Niphal)
    1b1) to be sought, be needed, be missed, be lacking
    1b2) to be visited
    1b3) to be visited upon
    1b4) to be appointed
    1b5) to be watched over
    1c) (Piel) to muster, call up
    1d) (Pual) to be passed in review, be caused to miss, be called, be called to account
    1e) (Hiphil)
    1e1) to set over, make overseer, appoint an overseer
    1e2) to commit, entrust, commit for care, deposit
    1f) (Hophal)
    1f1) to be visited
    1f2) to be deposited
    1f3) to be made overseer, be entrusted
    1g) (Hithpael) numbered
    1h) (Hothpael) numbered
    n m pl abstr
    2) musterings, expenses
  4. 06486 ^הדקפ^ pᵉquddah \@pek-ood-daw’\@ pass part of 06485; n f; AV-visitation 13, office 5, charge 2, oversight 2, officers 2, orderings 1, account 1, custody 1, numbers 1, misc 4; 32
    1) oversight, care, custody, mustering, visitation, store
    1a) visitation, punishment
    1b) oversight, charge, office, overseer, class of officers
    1c) mustering
    1d) store
  5. Episkopos. a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, a bishop.
  6. Constantine invited all 1800 bishops (about 1000 in the east and 800 in the west), but only about 250 were present. Many, like Eusebius of Caesarea, walked out.
  7. 32 Corinthians 8:9 “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
  8. Matthew 13:44, 19:2;Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33, 18:22, 14:33 “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
  9. Acts 4:36... 5:11. “... Joses ...a Levite, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.... But a certain man named Ananias... kept back part of the price... fell down, and gave up the ghost”
  10. Numbers 18:20, 24; 26:62. Deuteronomy 18:2
  11. Judges 17:6 “In those days [there was] no king in Israel, [but] every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes.”
  12. 1 Chronicles 9:22 “All these [which were] chosen to be porters in the gates [were] two hundred and twelve. These were reckoned by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office. The word villages is far more often translated courts from the Hebrew word chatser and the word genealogy is from yachas which had to do with their family group.”
  13. Numbers 7:5 “Take [it] of them, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service.”
  14. 410 ~ἀνέγκλητος~ anegkletos \@an-eng’-klay-tos\@ from 1 (as a negative particle) and a derivative of 1458; adj AV-blameless 4, unreproveable 1; 5 1) that cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused, blameless For Synonyms see entry 5887
  15. 3623 ~οἰκονόμος~ oikonomos \@oy-kon-om’-os\@ from 3624 and the base of 3551; n m AV-steward 8, chamberlain 1, governor 1; 10
    1) the manager of household or of household affairs
    1a) esp. a steward, manager, superintendent (whether free-born or as was usually the case, a freed-man or a slave) to whom the head of the house or proprietor has intrusted the management of his affairs, the care of receipts and expenditures, and the duty of dealing out the proper portion to every servant and even to the children not yet of age
    1b) the manager of a farm or landed estate, an overseer
    1c) the superintendent of the city’s finances, the treasurer of a city (or of treasurers or quaestors of kings)
    2) metaph. the apostles and other Christian teachers and bishops and overseers
  16. This word is from two words meaning self pleasure. The Essenes you to have a phrase translated as "lovers of soft things" concerning ministers who took benefits from governors
  17. 1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
  18. "Up until the second century, the church had no official leadership. That it had leaders is without dispute. But the leadership was unofficial in the sense that there were no religious 'offices'. "The Birth of One-Bishop Rule."
  19. Dr. William P. Killen regarded most all the Ignatian epistles as being "Entirely Spurious" having been pseudepigraphically composed in the 3rd century which would be after the surge of Constantine's Church which was looking for justification for its episcopal hierarchical polity as a form of church governance. Killen, William P., The Ignatian Epistles Entirely Spurious, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1886
  20. Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.