By Jason Hilburn
SYNONYMS FOR THE SAME OFFICE
(From three Greek words—presbuteros, episkopos, poimano)
Elders (most common term in the Bible) = bishops = overseers = shepherds = pastors
They could also be called rulers: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls…” (Heb. 13:17; cf. Heb. 13:7; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
BISHOPS = ELDERS
“…ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless…” (Titus 1:5-7; cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).
ELDERS = OVERSEERS
“And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church…the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers…” (Acts 20:17, 28).
OVERSEERS = SHEPHERDS
“…take heed to…all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church…” (Acts 20:28 NKJV; cf. 1 Pet. 2:25).
SHEPHERDS = PASTORS
The Greek root in “shepherd” (poimano) in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2 is from the same root in “pastors” (poimen) (Eph. 4:11). Poimen is most often translated as “shepherd(s)”. The word “pastors” is related to the word “pasture,” indicating those who oversee the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
ALWAYS A PLURALITY OF THESE MEN mentioned over each congregation— never one man as “the pastor” over a congregation.
“…they had ordained them elders [plural, JPH] in every church [singular, JPH]…” (Acts 14:23; cf. Acts 15:22; 20:17, 28; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5; Heb. 13:7, 17; James 5:14).
NOT THE SAME AS AN EVANGELIST, who is mentioned separately.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).
MUST MEET GOD’S REQUIREMENTS
(1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11; 1 Pet. 5:1-3).