Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Jesus the Bishop (1 Peter 2:18-25)

"For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer [Bishop] of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25).

The English word "bishop" translates the Greek word episkopos. That word is an augmentation of the Greek word skopos, meaning “one who looks.” An epi-skopos is “one who looks closely or intently.” The Latin equivalent is super-visus, someone who looks over and manages things, from which we get supervisor. Since an English equivalent is overseer, some translations of the Bible use overseer for bishop.

In the New Testament, all elders are bishops and all bishops are elders. Thus, in a local church, the pastor and elders of the congregation carry out an episcopal function of overseeing and supervising the church. Some churches have higher ranks of overseers, and reserve the term bishop for those higher ranks. You can see that the Anglican Church (Episcopal Church in America) is so named because it is governed by episkopoi, bishops.

The ultimate Bishop, of course, is God Himself. Jesus, as God’s representative, is our Bishop. He watches over us and sees all that we do. The French atheist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote bitterly against the idea of a God who knows everything about us and does not allow us any privacy. For the Christian, the fact that God knows everything we think and do can be disquieting or even frightening, but it is ultimately comforting. “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me,” says the song.

Interestingly, when the noun episkopos is converted into a verb, “to bishop,” it takes on the meaning in Greek of “to visit.” The bishop as inspector visits the smaller congregations under his oversight. Jesus in Revelation 2–3 presents Himself as the Bishop who is going to make a tour of the churches of Asia Minor and set things right. Paul also writes to various churches that he will be coming to visit them with the same purpose.

The Old Testament “day of visitation” pictures God Himself descending to His people, visiting them, bringing them consolation. The Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68–79) makes reference to God’s approaching visitation, for the birth of Christ was nigh. James says that “pure religion” consists of being bishops to one another, visiting widows and the fatherless (James 1:27).

Apply today’s lesson to yourself. Are you responsible to 'bishop' anybody? Are you an officer in a church? Do you lead a Bible study? Are you a parent? Are you an older brother or sister? Are you a supervisor on the job? Consider how Jesus, as your Archbishop, can enable you in your job of bishoping.