As the General Conference session in San Antonio approaches, final arguments in the case for and against women’s ordination grow more earnest and passionate, with their strengths and vulnerabilities increasingly more evident. Such is certainly the case in the new article by Ty Gibson of Light Bearers Ministry titled “A Closer Look at Women’s Ordination.”Read More
Galatians 3:28 has been styled the “magna carta of humanity” (Paul Jewett, Man as Male, 142) by some egalitarians. They say “this verse shows that the church has, in past generations, maintained unbiblical support of a paternalistic church and family order. This has kept Christian women from rising to their God-ordained place of equality of position and authority alongside men in the leadership of the church and in the family."Read More
Christ represents the Husband, and the church represents the bride. They are expected to be symbolically intimate one with another. Speaking of Christ and the church Isaiah says, “For thy Maker is thine Husband” (54:5). If the local pastor represents Christ, and the local church represents the bride, then what would it mean if we took the male pastor out of his position to place a female pastor there?Read More
Two passages in the New Testament have frequently caused misunderstanding regarding the application within Christian circles of the universal Biblical principle of spiritual male headship.Read More
A small number of influential men will not decide this issue for the entire world church, and that is good. Let us pray for our leaders and delegates to vote to return to apostolic, primitive Bible godliness. The urgency of the times demands this in our decisions leading to, and at, General Conference Session in San Antonio, 2015.Read More
In a nutshell, the moderate position accepts that the Bible reveals an organizational ideal for male leadership in the church. It also recognizes, however, that the Bible indicates that this kind of organizational ideal is one that can be modified and adapted in certain circumstances, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to further the salvational mission and purpose of the Church.Read More
There is one argument for female ordination that always struck me as having considerable merit. It goes like this...Read More
In the current discussion and debate concerning whether Scripture permits women to be ordained to the office of pastor or elder, a concept that is frequently mentioned is the “priesthood of all believers.” That phrase, in fact, is the title of the first chapter of the book Women in Ministry. Raoul Dederen, the author of this chapter, comes to the conclusion that the priesthood of all believers “demands a partnership of men and women in all expressions of the ordained ministry.” And Dederen is not alone. Other contributors to the book also reference the priesthood of all believers as supporting women in pastoral ministry. The importance attached to this priesthood concept by those in favor of women’s ordination suggests that it deserves careful study. The question that needs to be answered is whether the priesthood of all believers lends any support to women taking the position of pastor or elder.
That believers are priests is a concept clearly taught in Scripture. Peter refers to believers collectively as “a holy priesthood” and “a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). But while this concept is important, it is probably one that the average church member rarely thinks about. That used to be the case for me as well. While I heard the phrase “priesthood of all believers” from time to time, I never really stopped to consider it.
That changed, however, when I came to Weimar College, where I am currently a student. Within a week of arriving on campus, I heard other students talking excitedly about this priesthood and its significance for relating to others within the body of Christ. The reason for this focus at Weimar is a professor named Leroy Moore. Dr. Moore, now 80 years old, has devoted his ministry to promoting unity in the church through what he calls “priesthood principles.” As a result of his influence, as well as through personal study, I have come to a clearer understanding of the priesthood of all believers. In order to fully understand this concept, we need a Biblical overview of priesthood. We will begin with the Old Testament.
The Priesthood in the Old Testament
From the time that sin entered the world until the Exodus, the patriarchs are described as carrying out priestly functions. After the Flood, “Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Gen. 8:20). Other patriarchs are similarly described as building altars and offering sacrifices and burnt offerings (See Gen. 12:7-8, 13:4, 18; 22:13; 26:25; 31:54; 33:20; 35:1-7; 46:1; Job 1:5; 42:8). These patriarchs also performed the priestly role of instructing their families about God’s ways. God said concerning Abraham, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19).
In the Abrahamic family, it appears that the son who received the birthright blessing was the one who performed the priestly functions for the family. This blessing included spiritual leadership of the family (Gen. 27:28-29). Ellen White confirms that this was the case: “In the earliest times every man was the priest of his own household. In the days of Abraham the priesthood was regarded as the birthright of the eldest son” (PP 350). In the Exodus, God’s choice of the firstborn was further substantiated. After sparing the firstborn of all who had the blood on their doorposts He commanded, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn” (Exod. 13:2).
Upon the Israelites’ arrival at Sinai, a new dimension of priesthood was defined:
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:3-6).
This is a very significant passage for understanding God’s unfolding plans for the world. A couple of observations can be made.
First, the language used here is the same as that used by Peter. He picks up the phrases “kingdom of priests” and “holy nation” from this passage. Additionally, it will be demonstrated later that the function he envisions for the priesthood of all believers is the same as what this passage envisions for Israel. It seems clear that Exodus 19 is the basis for Peter’s understanding. These factors suggest that the priesthood of all believers represents a continuity of God’s plans for his people, not something unique to a certain era.
Second, it appears that the primary function of this priesthood was an evangelistic one. At the heart of any priesthood is the work of mediation, and this priesthood was to do that work specifically by representing God to other nations. That seems to be what is communicated in the statement of Ex. 19:5-6, “You shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests” (emphasis supplied). Dederen agrees: “Their vocation was that of a priestly people, chosen and set apart for devotion to God and for the task of bringing God to all nations.”
This responsibility is essentially the same as that given to Abraham: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). This link to the Abrahamic covenant is confirmed by language of the priesthood passage itself: “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, . . . you shall be to me a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:5-6, emphasis supplied). This means that the priesthood of all believers existed before Sinai. It goes back at least as far as the call of Abraham.
It should be pointed out that although this priesthood role was God’s desire for Israel throughout the Old Testament, it was carried out only very minimally. The people of Israel largely kept the knowledge of God to themselves rather than spreading it throughout the earth. The prophets often had to remind them of their priesthood calling. Isaiah gave the message, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen’” (Isa. 43:10).
The existence of this all-inclusive priesthood, implicit in the call of Abraham and made fully known at Sinai, did not mean that there was not also an exclusive priesthood. Patriarchs still served as priests after God called Abraham. And the same chapter that identifies Israel as a kingdom of priests speaks of “the priests who come near to the LORD” (Ex. 19:22) as a group separate from “the people” (verse 21; cf. verse 24). The identification of these priests is problematic, as this is before the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood. It seems best, however, to identify them as the firstborn or as representatives from the firstborn. They are likely the same as the “young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD” (Ex. 24:5).
If another priesthood could exist alongside the priesthood of all believers, there is no reason to assume that the Aaronic priesthood, introduced in Exodus 28, replaced the kingdom of priests. If anything, the Aaronic priesthood took on the function that the priesthood of the firstborn had fulfilled. God’s original plan, however, may have been for the firstborn to assist Aaron and his sons. That is the role the Levites later fulfilled, and they are explicitly stated to have taken the place of the firstborn (Num. 3:12-13), presumably because of their faithfulness in the golden calf episode (cf. Ex. 32:25-29; PP 324).
The most compelling reason to believe that the kingdom of priests and the Aaronic priesthood were to exist side by side is that the two fulfilled very different purposes. While the kingdom of priests was to perform a general evangelistic role, the Aaronic priesthood exercised a specific leadership role with several distinct functions. These included:
- Typological—the ministry of the priests ultimately pointed forward to that of Christ (Heb. 8:1-5).
- Ritual—the priests led out in the cultic ceremonies of Israel (Lev. 1:5-9).
- Educational—the priests, as spiritual leaders, gave religious instruction (Deut. 33:10; 2 Chron. 15:3; Mal. 2:7).
Throughout the Old Testament, there was both a priesthood of all believers and a more limited priesthood. The limited priesthood consisted first of patriarchs, then of the firstborn, and finally of the family of Aaron. At the same time, every person in the covenant family who was faithful to the calling to “be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2) was a priest in an evangelistic sense. Unfortunately, though, Israel as a whole was largely unfaithful to this role.
The Priesthood in the New Testament
In the New Testament, a dramatic change takes place—the Aaronic priesthood loses its significance with the appearance of the antitypical High Priest. After His “once for all” sacrifice (Heb. 10:10), there has no longer been any need for the earthly priests to perform the symbolic sanctuary services (Hebrews 7; 8). Christ, as the antitype, performs the functions foreshadowed by the typological aspect of the priesthood. The ritual and educational aspects of the priesthood—which denoted spiritual leadership—were then taken over by leaders of Christian communities (see 1 Cor. 9:13-14, where Paul compares those who proclaim the gospel with priests). Church leaders were apparently the ones specifically designated to instruct their congregations in spiritual matters, and to lead out in Christian rituals, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
In contrast to this change in priesthood, the New Testament shows a remarkable continuity with the Old in regard to the priesthood of all believers. This is clearly demonstrated in Peter’s exposition of the concept, in which he draws heavily from a plethora of Old Testament passages (he quotes or alludes to Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14; Exod. 19:5-6; Isa. 43:21; Hos. 1:9-10; 2:23).
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet. 2:4-10).
This passage serves to clarify the identity and mission of believers based on their relation to Christ. The passages that Peter references speak either of Christ or of God’s purposes for Israel. What Peter seems to be saying is that believers in Christ are the ones who are part of the true Israel. As discussed previously, the Israelites performed the priesthood role only when they were faithful to the covenant. As a result, unbelieving Jews are not part of the priesthood. It is believers—both Jews and Gentiles—who comprise the priesthood representing the true Israel.
The roles of this priesthood are clearly defined. Believers are “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5) and “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (verse 9). The content of the spiritual sacrifices that believers are to offer is not defined here. Hebrews 13:15, though, is less ambiguous: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” This sacrifice of praise seems to be one of proclamation in that it involves acknowledging God’s name. It could be that offering these spiritual sacrifices is actually the same function as “[proclaiming] the excellencies of him who called you.”
Whatever the case may be, these roles of proclamation given to believers are essentially evangelistic. In harmony with Peter’s extensive use of Old Testament passages, the role he envisions for believers as priests is the same as that given to the kingdom of priests in the Old Testament—to represent God to those outside the covenant community, to those still in darkness.
Peter is not the only New Testament writer to speak of the priesthood of all believers. The book of Revelation also affirms it, and seems to point to both a present and eschatological scope of the priesthood. Revelation 1:5-6 speaks of a present experience: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” Later on in Revelation, believers are described as serving as priests during the Millennium: “They will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6). The nature of this eschatological role is not entirely clear.
What is clear in these passages—both in 1 Peter and in Revelation—is that the priesthood of all believers is based on connection with Christ. He is the “cornerstone chosen and precious,” upon which believers are “being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5-6). And it is because He “has freed us from our sins by his blood” that we are “priests to his God and Father” (Rev. 1:5-6). These passages associate incorporation into the priesthood with the work of Christ. The priesthood of all believers means that each individual is to have a direct connection with Christ.
Because of this connection, all believers are priests and should be involved in ministry. This does not mean, however, that all are called to the same ministry. 1 Corinthians 12, a chapter dealing with spiritual gifts, explains this concept by the metaphor of the body working together. Members individually receive the gifts from the Spirit that together produce a harmoniously functioning body. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (verse 7).
It is not up to the individual to decide independently what ministry he or she will take part in. The Holy Spirit is the One “who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (verse 11). In other words, not all forms of ministry are open to just anyone. All are called to be priests, but not all are called to the same forms of ministry. Dederen recognizes this principle: “Yet as priests of God and because they are priests, the Spirit calls some to specific ministries, including positions of leadership and oversight among God’s people.”
Anyone who thinks that the priesthood of all believers gives all believers a license to participate in any form of ministry should consider the example of Korah. He and his companions questioned the authority of Moses and Aaron with the claim, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (Num. 16:3). Korah seems to be alluding to the kingdom-of-priests concept in his statement, “For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them.” His argument was that because all the people were priests, the exclusive priesthood of Aaron and his family was uncalled for. By the end of the next chapter, however, God reaffirmed his choice of the family of Aaron to be priests in the midst of a kingdom of priests.
The Priesthood Today
So what significance does the priesthood of all believers have for our present discussion about the ordination of women? The priesthood concept doesn’t automatically mean that women can fulfill the role of pastor or elder, for two clear reasons. First, the example of the Old Testament. Contrary to Dederen, who sees “a radical transformation” taking place “with the move from Israel to the Christian church,” this article demonstrates that there is an essential continuity between the priesthood of all believers in the Old and New Testaments. And in the Old Testament, that priesthood existed harmoniously alongside another priesthood that was reserved for a particular group. Second, the principles of the New Testament. In the priesthood of all believers, all are called to ministry based on their connection with Christ, but not all are called to the same ministry. All are to be priests, but not all are to exercise positions of leadership within the body of Christ.
It is entirely possible that even within the priesthood of all believers there could be a certain ministry that is limited to a particular group. There is nothing inherent in the priesthood concept preventing this, but of course it isn’t required by it either. The priesthood of all believers by itself, then, neither supports nor opposes women as pastors or elders. It simply doesn’t answer our question. Further study of other principles of Scripture is needed in order to arrive at a conclusion on this topic.
As we seek a conclusion, there is one lesson from the priesthood of all believers we need to keep in mind. It is the priesthood of all believers. As Dederen points out, “The priesthood about which the New Testament speaks is a corporate priesthood, a priesthood of the whole Christian church.” What this means is that we need to resolve this issue corporately. Individuals must come together in humility to study the issue together. And various entities within the church, rather than pushing their own agenda and working independently, must cooperate with the decisions of the body as a whole.
Jeffrey Dale is an undergraduate theology student at Weimar College, and passionate about understanding the truths of God's Word and its relevance for the world and church.
During the current discussions regarding leadership roles within the church, one area often referenced is that of an apostle. What is an apostle? what are the qualifications? Is an apostle ordained to an office, or is it an inner calling manifested in a Spiritual Gift or both? What relevance is the apostle in the church today, and is the office or gift of apostle gender specific, or inclusive? The object of this article is to come to some initial conclusions regarding this type of ministry.
The Greek word for apostle is apostolos. Apostolos is used 81 times in the N.T. It is used only once each in Matthew and Mark, six in Luke and 30 in Acts. Except for four references in Jude and Revelation, the remaining 38 references are found in Paul’s writings.
Originally, the Greek word for apostle, apostolos, was used as an adjective. Initially it denoted the dispatch of a “fleet (or army) on a military expedition.” Later, it came to be applied to “the fleet itself and acquired the meaning of a naval expedition.” Finally, it referred to a “group of men sent out for a particular purpose, e.g., an army . . . [or a] band of colonists.” In Cynic-Stoic philosophy, it is a “technical term for commissioning and authorizing by a deity.” And in Greek culture, an apostle was known as “the champion of one religion"--missionaries for “religious propaganda.” When looking at Jewish literature, the term apostolos was “not widely used. . . [and] the term appears only twice in Josephus.”
The broader word group of which apostolos is associated, includes the verb apostello. “The frequency of apostello reflects the importance of being commissioned.” “The noun apostole derives its meaning from apostello, and it describes the office of an apostle (apostolate), or the act of sending rather than the thing sent. In secular usage it was a noun of action used for the sending of ships, the shooting of a missile, and the sending of a mummy. It also described the sending of an expedition.”
The meanings for apostolos in First Century Greek were:
1) One sent forth (apo, from stello- to send), ambassador, delegate, agent, envoy, any messenger-in a general sense- anyone sent (on a mission, service, business, assignment or errand), bearer of a commission, represent another person some way.
Interestingly, in the N.T. apostolos never means the act of sending. It “always denotes a man who is sent, and sent with full authority.” New Testament theologian Gerhard Kittel has commented that apostolos is a “commissioned representative of a congregation. . . [and] a bearer of the NT message.”
Pre-Eminent Apostle: Jesus Christ
The first mention of an apostle in the New Testament is in the life of Jesus Himself. In His final prayer, Jesus declared that the Father had “sent” Him. Throughout His life He had “manifested” the Father’s name, “glorified” Him on earth and represented Him so perfectly that when seeing Him, you saw “the Father.” Jesus was sent as an Ambassador and Delegate of the Father. He was truly the first apostle, not only in time but in primacy. In fact, Hebrews makes this clear when it describes Him as “the Apostle and High priest of our profession.” New Testament scholar Don Dent has noted that “before He sent out His own apostles, Jesus was Himself God’s apostle to the world. . . Jesus did not ask His apostles to do anything that He Himself had not already done.“ Therefore, when we consider the N.T. evidence for apostolos, we start with the Pattern for all others--Jesus Christ.
PHASE ONE: The Twelve
Jesus choose twelve men from those who followed Him, and named them apostles (“whom he also named apostles“). Ellen White comments on the reason why Jesus did this, “that He might send them forth as His witnesses, to declare to the world what they had seen and heard of Him.” Later, Jesus “sent” His apostles on a missionary tour, for the purpose of proclaiming “the kingdom of God,” “healing the sick,” and “preaching the gospel.” The criteria for belonging to this elite group was:
2) They would be “sent out to preach.”
3) They were to “have power to heal the sick and cast out devils.”
The Twelve continued to intact after Pentecost, but their mission shifted from being Ambassadors of Christ on earth, to the risen Christ in Heaven. The success of their mission was a result of two primary factors: first, they had been empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, second, they had been direct witnesses of Jesus’ ministry and learners of His teachings. The combination of these two factors enabled them “with great power” to give “witness of the resurrection of the Lord.” The Twelve had been trained and experienced in entering new places to prepare the way for the Jesus to enter, as a result they played a critical role in leading a movement that was spreading out from Jerusalem.
PHASE TWO: Office of Apostle
After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples were no longer in training. While Christ was with them personally, they were simply referred to as apostles. In Acts 1:25, the disciples prayed that God would show them who should take Judas’ position, that “he may take part of this ministry and apostleship (apostole). . .” (KJV). This is the first instance that the work and role of the apostles was referred to as an office or an organized function. The word “apostleship” (apostole) has three basic meanings:
The first two definitions of “apostole” don’t seem to fit the context of Acts 1:25, since it is referring to a collective group or company of people. In commenting on Judas’ fall, the disciples recognized that he had left their assembly (Acts 1:25- “. . . apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell“), thus the reference to an office. This office of The Twelve was a singular, non-repeatable ministry in the history of the church. Ellen White comments that “their office was the most important to which human beings had ever been called, and was second only to that of Christ Himself.” They had been commissioned by Jesus as direct witnesses of His life. Ellen White seems to confirm this understanding when she wrote that “the twelve were called to the apostolate.”
Interestingly, when The Twelve are mentioned in the N.T., the context contains words or phrases which identifies them. When apostolos is referring to The Twelve, the following indicators confirm their identity: 1) the number twelve, 2) the specific names of the twelve (“Peter,” “John,” etc.), 3) Jesus in person, while He walked on earth, 4) the definite article preceding the word apostles ("THE Apostles"- Gr.-tous, tois, ton apostolos), and 5) the context (Acts 1:2- “He had chosen”; Acts 4:33- “witness to the resurrection”; 2 Pet. 3:2- “apostles of the Lord”, etc.). When one or any of these contextual markers are present, Scripture is signaling that the passage is only referring to this special office of the twelve apostles.
PHASE THREE: Paul and companions
The expansion of the ministry of “apostolos” is seen in the work of Paul and his companions, Barnabas and Silas. “Paul was an apostle . . . because Jesus commissioned and sent him to accomplish His purpose. His commission was divine, because Jesus chose and sent him.” “Galatians 1:1 makes it clear that Paul’s apostleship was not based on any human mediator, but was divinely authorized.” Paul uses apostolos fourteen times for himself alone.
There came a point, after Paul had been working for about one year, that both he and Barnabas were ordained as special messengers to the Gentiles. “The Holy Spirit said, ‘Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them.’ When they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2,3). Ellen White comments on this incident, “before being sent forth as missionaries to the heathen world [they] were solemnly dedicated to God by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands.”
Interestingly, Paul and Barnabas were called “missionaries” in this passage. This seems to be the modern equivalent of the word “apostolos." Paul references this “rite” later when he declares “I am ordained (KJV- set, put- footnote- not making a case for the meaning of ord.) a preacher and an apostle.” It was at this point that Paul considered himself an apostle. Again, Ellen White comments on this incident, “Paul regarded the occasion of his formal ordination as marking the beginning of a new and important epoch in his lifework. It was from the time of this solemn ceremony, when, just before he was to depart on his first missionary Journey . . . that he afterward dated the beginning of his apostleship in the Christian church.”
From this time onward, Paul introduces himself as an apostle, and more specifically “an apostle to the Gentiles.” His apostleship appears to be specialized and singular, just as the office of the twelve was. In an apparent paradox, he calls himself “the least of the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle,” and yet asserts that he was “not inferior to the most eminent apostles.” He basically declared that although his role as an apostle was different than the twelve, in taking the Gospel Commission to the Gentiles,he was not inferior to them. The office of apostle (apostole) also applies to Paul and his companions. He refers to this three times in his own ministry: “we have received . . . Apostleship,” “the seal of my apostleship,” “Peter to the apostleship.”
Interestingly, Luke calls Paul and Barnabas apostles “only after they go on their first missionary journey.“ It was when Paul and Barnabas were fulfilling the Great Commission that they were considered apostolos. They were on an “equal footing with the prominent apostles, but with a different sphere of ministry.” Paul personally recruited both Silas and Timothy to join his missionary team, and their ministry functioned under his leadership (Acts 15:40-16:3). The fulfillment of the Gospel Commission through the labors of Paul, Barnabas, and his companions completed this “phase” of the role of apostolos.
First Thess. 2:6-7 refers to Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy as apostolos. The most straightforward reading is that these three men were foundational as a “planting team” bringing the gospel to this city. “Paul considered Silas and Timothy to be apostles in close association with his own apostleship. Paul considered those who worked with him preaching the gospel and establishing new churches to be apostles of Christ.”
PHASE FOUR: The Gift of Apostle
A shift in the biblical meaning of apostles took place after the initial establishment of churches. Up until this time the term apostolos was limited to those God had directly commissioned or ordained to fulfill the initial phase of the Gospel Commission. After the twelve, Paul and others had established churches, the apostolos became a spiritual gift through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It was no longer limited to the early church founders, but rather, those whom God gifted to be missionaries from the established churches. Ellen White explains:
Later in the history of the early Church, when in various parts of the world many groups of believers had been formed into churches, the organization of the church was further perfected. . . Some were endowed by the Holy Spirit with Special Gifts ‘and God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers . . .’ [1 Cor. 12:28 quoted]. (my emphasis)
Therefore, when the N.T. refers to the “Gift of Apostolos”- it seems to refer to the time after the initial establishment of churches had taken place (by the twelve, Paul, Barnabas, etc.), and the need for missionaries to be sent out from them was needed. Apostles have been needed in all ages and in all times since the apostolate closed in the first century. “Apostles are the first in a sequence of persons who build the church. . . [and] there is every indication that the gift was intended to be on-going.” “Apostles lay the foundation of the church. Their ministry focuses on the initial stage of church planting. This work can be strenuous and ‘dirty’ and often forgotten by those who come in later stages, but the apostle is critical in establishing the strong base and general pattern for the church within a specific geographic or ethno-linguistic boundary.” “Paul makes a careful distinction between their function as apostles and the calling as apostles of Christ to plant churches among the nations, by adding the modifier- ‘apostles OF CHRIST,’ ‘apostles OF THE CHURCHES’ or ‘apostles BEFORE ME.’”
The debate regarding the ongoing role of apostles centers around whether Paul was teaching that missionary apostles are an on-going gift (1 Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11), or whether he meant the unique ministries of eyewitnesses and specifically commissioned apostles. “The context of each passage seems to imply an on-going gift. The gift list in 1 Cor. 12 is in a chapter that emphasizes the diversity of gifts; the Body of Christ is not complete without all of them. If Paul assumed that apostles were not an on-going gift to the church, it seems incongruent with the basic argument of the chapter.” The gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 are given for the purpose of “equipping the saints to build up the church until we all attain to the fullness of Christ.”
New Testament scholar Harold Hoehner has stated, “apostle [in Eph. 4:11, 1 Cor. 12:28] refers to . . . the gift of apostle. There were people in addition to the original twelve who had not been with Jesus in His ministry and did not witness His resurrection but who are listed as apostles. . . It seems the main function of an apostle is to establish churches in areas that have not been reached by others.” Ephesians 4:11 teaches that the gift of Apostle is given until the Second Coming.
Apostles are the first gift, though we should understand this as a priority of sequence rather than of status. In practical terms, the other gifts are on hold until apostle has planted the new church. As a “Gift of the Spirit”--“the church does not ‘raise up’ its apostles, but responds to the apostolic witness.” Scholar David Garland notes: “Apostles appear first as the founders of the church communities.”
This brief survey of apostolos highlights the fact that “New Testament writers, and especially Paul, did not limit the use of apostolos to eyewitnesses. . . He viewed the apostles primarily as those who were commissioned for spreading the faith. . . And Paul’s basic concept when using the word is the missionary role of church planting.”
Apostolos has an evolving meaning in the New Testament. As was suggested, it goes through four general phases: Phase One: The Twelve- chosen by Jesus as His special witnesses of His Ministry from His baptism to His ascension; Phase Two: After Jesus ascension, their “training” had been completed, and they filled the office of the apostle. Their mission was to initiate and spread the Gospel Commission Jesus gave in Matt. 28, especially to the Jews; Phase Three: was seen in the ministry and office of Paul and his companions, in taking the gospel to the Gentiles, and planting churches throughout Asia and Asia Minor; Phase Four: represented a shift from an office to a spiritual gift. As delineated in 1 Cor. 12 and Eph. 4, the gift of apostle is gender inclusive, and based on an inner calling from God to a ministry of His choosing. “Apostles include men and women and children called and sent by God to fulfill the Great Commission through planting churches in pioneer areas.” Therefore, it is not gender or age specific, but Spirit inspired and commissioned.
Our understanding of the on-going role of apostles has several implications for our mission work in the modern church. The following application of the New Testament “Gift of Apostles” is worth noting:
1) Present day missionaries who proclaim the gospel and plant churches where Christ is not known, fulfill the same function as missionary apostles in the New Testament. While not all overseas ministry is apostolic in this sense, missions in every generation should prioritize this foundational role of apostles.
2 ) Mission work should develop with apostles as the base because they are God’s gift to lay the foundation of the church. Mission practice that is not built on apostles will likely have an inadequate foundation.
3 ) Apostles come from the churches, but the New Testament emphasizes that churches come from apostles.
4 ) The biblical model for the partnership of established churches with the work of apostles includes commissioning and releasing those who are called by God, hearing and affirming reports of what God is doing in pioneer areas, contributing to the financial support of apostles working in foreign lands.
5 ) When we view the apostle concept in terms of a spiritual gift fulfilled in a function, rather than an ecclesiastical office- we understand that “Apostleship” is not tied to a status, but to a task.
Footnotes  Doug Batchelor, (Taken from An open letter from Doug Batchelor regarding the response to his sermon) Women’s Ordination:
A Biblical Prospective” On February 6, 2010, I presented a message to my home church in Sacramento, California. While Jesus engaged women to share the gospel, He called only men to serve in the capacity of apostle. When Judas died, his replacement was chosen from among men (Mark 3:14; Acts 1:21). This is just the beginning of the evidence.” http://www.womenministrytruth.com/portals/7/documents/An-Open-Letter-From-Pastor-Doug-Batchelor.pdf
Stephen Bohr--“Who intentionally chose 12 male apostles when there were women able in ministry that could have been chosen as well? Who chose to place the names of 12 males on the gates of the New Jerusalem and 12 males on the foundations of the city?” http://secretsunsealed.org/Downloads/newsletter2Q12web.pdf
Randy Roberts--“And Junia was identified by Paul as a leading apostle. Women filled every leadership role you can imagine.” http://session.adventistfaith.org/roberts-edited
 In the textus receptus
 Plat. Ep., VII, 346a; referenced in Kittel, Ibid, p. 407
 Kittel, Ibid, p. 407
 Kittel, Ibid, p. 407
 Kittel, Ibid, p. 407
 Kittel, Ibid, p. 409
 Kittel, Ibid, 411
 Kittel, Ibid, 411
 Don Dent, The Ongoing Role of Apostles in Missions: The Forgotten Foundation, p. 31
 Karl Rengstorf, “Apostello, exapostello, apostolos, pseudapostolos, apostole.” TDNT, ed. Gerhard Kittle, 1:398-446
The word appears four times in the New Testament (Acts 1:25; Rom. 1:5; 1 Cor. 9:2; Gal. 2:8)
 W.E. Vine; Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words
 Hermann Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of the New Testament
 Joseph H. Thayer; Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
 S. Bagster, The Analytical Greek Lexicon
 Walter Bauer, Greek-English Lexicon
 Edward Robinson, Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament
E.W. Bullinger; Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek N.T. George Berry; Greek-English Lexicon
 Hermann Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of the New Testament
 George Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament
 Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott; A Greek-English Lexicon
 Samuel C. Loveland; A Greek Lexicon: Adapted to the N.T.: with English Definitions
 Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
 Samuel C. Loveland; A Greek Lexicon: Adapted to the N.T.: with English Definitions
 S. Bagster, The Analytical Greek Lexicon
 Alexander Souter; A pocket Lexicon to the Greek N.T.
 George Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament
Theologian Gerhard Kittel has noted- “Only occasionally in the Gk. Field does apostolos have a meaning related or apparently related ot that which it bears in the NT. . . In the older period apostolos is one of the special terms bound up with sea-faring, and more particularly with military expeditions; it almost a technical political term in this sense.”
(Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 407)
 In the older period apostolos is one of the special terms bound up with sea-faring, and more particularly with military expeditions; it almost a technical political term in this sense. (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 407)
 Throughout the NT the word is used only of men, although according to the course of things women might also have been called apostles. Yet this would have been a self-contradiction, since it is a legal term and women have very restricted legal competence in Judaism. (Kittel, Ibid, p. 421)
 Kittel, Ibid, 422
 John 17:21,25
 John 17:6
 John 17:4
 John 14:9
 Heb. 2:18
 Dent, Ibid, p. 34
 Matt. 10:2
 EG White, Desire of Ages, 291
 Luke 9:2
 Luke 9:2
 Luke 9:2
 Luke 9:6
 Mark 3:14
 Acts 1:22
 Acts 3:14
 Acts 3:14
 Mathias replaced Judas- Acts 1:25,26
 Acts 4:31
 Dent, Ibid, p. 37
 W. Bauer, Gr./Eng. Lexicon of the N.T.
 Abbott-Smith, Gr. Lexicon of the N.T., Thayers, Gr..Eng. Lex. Of the N.T., E.W. Bullinger, Critical Lexicon & Concordance to the Greek N.T., Henry Liddell & Robert Scott, Greek English Lexicon
 Cremer, Biblico-Theological Dict. Of Gr. N.T.
 Ed. Robinson, Gr. & Eng. Lexicon of the N.T., Frederick Danker, Concise Gk/Eng. Lex. Of the N.T.
 Tyro’s Greek/English Lexicon
 S. Bagster, Analytical Gr. N.T., W. Perschbacher, New Analytical Greek Lexicon
 Abbott-Smith, Liddell & Scott, Ibid
 Thayers, Ibid
 Abbott-Smith, Robinson, Cremer, Perschbacher, Bullinger
 Tyro, Abbott-Smith, Robinson, Cremer, Thayer, Perschbacher, Danker
 Thayer, Ibid
 Danker, Ibid
 Bagster, Ibid
 Bauer , Ibid
 Desire of Ages, 291
 Desire of Ages, 290
 The exception is when Paul is mentioned. The Definite article is used for him as well.
 1 Thess 1:1 identifies Paul, Silvanus and Timothy as the authors of 1 Thessalonians.
1.2. The man identified as Silvanus (Greek = Silouanos) in 1 Thess 1:1 as one of the authors of the letter is the same man known as Silas (Silas) in the Book of Acts. This is obvious from the fact that the movements of "Silvanus" in Paul's letters (1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1; 2 Cor 1:19; see 1 Pet 5:12) coincide with those of "Silas" in the Book of Acts (Acts 15:22, 27, 32 (34), 40; 16:19, 25, 29; 17:4, 10, 14, 15; 18:5). This man's given name was Silas, which was a Jewish name (see Josephus, War 2.520; 3.11, 20; Ant. 14.40; 18.204; Life 89-90, 272; t. Ber. 2.10); he took a similar sounding Roman name, Silvanus, presumably in order to facilitate his evangelistic work. http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/ntintro/1thess.htm
 Dent, Ibid, p. 39
 Dent, Ibid, p. 39
 Rom. 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor. 1:1, 9:1,2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1,11; Tit. 1:1
 RH 5/11/11
 1 Ti. 2:7; 2 Ti. 1:11
“Paul regarded his ordination as marking a new epoch in his life. From this time he afterward dated the beginning of his apostleship.” (Trials to Triumph, 87)
1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Ti. 1:1; 2 Ti 1:1; Tit. 1:1
 Rom. 11:13
 1 Cor. 9:
 1 Cor. 15:9
 2 Cor. 11:5- “most eminent” most likely referring to the Twelve Apostles.
 It was not to exalt self, but to magnify the grace of God, that Paul thus presented to those who were denying his apostleship, proof that he was “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” 2 Corinthians 11:5. Those who sought to belittle his calling and his work were fighting against Christ, whose grace and power were manifested through Paul. The apostle was forced, by the opposition of his enemies, to take a decided stand in maintaining his position and authority. (AA 388)
 Rom. 1:5
 1 Cor. 9:2
 Gal. 2:8
 Acts 4:36 and 9:27
 F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 12
 Silas and Timothy according to Col. 1:23.
 Dent, Ibid, p. 53
 Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 91, 92
 Dent, Ibid, p. 64
 Dent, Ibid, p. 64
 Ellis, E. Earle, “Paul and his co-workers,” p. 445
 Crag S. Keener, Gift and Giver, p. 105
 Dent, Ibid, p. 58
 Harold Hoehner, “Ephesians, An Exegetical Commentary,” p. 541
 Craig S. Keener, Gift and Giver, p. 128
 Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, p. 1014
 David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, p. 59
 Dent, Ibid, p. 5
 Dent, Ibid, p. 6
 Adapted from Dent, Ibid, p. 64,65
In the past three weekends are representatives of all municipalities in the Netherlands met for the five-year union congress. During this important event, the new directors of the church in the Netherlands appointed and that often receives the most attention in the immediate coverage. Yet there are two other important parts of the union congress: evaluating the past five years, and together look forward to the next five. The delegates evaluate on the basis of the reports of the union officials, and looking ahead do so by filing motions and plans.Read More
On Thursday, November 15, the executive committee of the Pacific Union Conference unanimously approved requests to ordain seven women and two men. Most of the women who were approved for ordination have been in ministry for several years -- in some cases several decades -- but have officially been considered “commissioned.” According to Bradford Newton, executive secretary of the Pacific Union, “This vote removes any reservations or limitations on the church’s affirmation of the ministry to which God has called these pastors and trainers of pastors.”Read More
The following is taken from NPUC FAQ page: Why is the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) discussing the topic of women’s ordination?
Our Seventh-day Adventist Church, since the early pioneers and Ellen White’s own ministry, has stood for the priesthood of all believers not restricted to age, ethnicity or gender. Because this issue has been discussed for decades and recently brought to a head by recent decisions of other union conferences, many members and leaders have asked NPUC leadership to address it candidly and objectively. Although our current NPUC bylaws do not preclude the ordination of women, we feel it is important to examine biblical counsel and the good advice of our Northwest believers.
Does this place the NPUC in a position contrary to world church policy?
We do not believe so, and have not currently taken any position that would contradict our church’s official stance. We respect our world church leadership and understand the challenges they face in addressing diverse cultural norms around the world. Yet our church structure, with its geographical divisions, unions and local conferences, is uniquely set up to adapt the outreach of its mission and message to cultural differences. Since union conferences have been tasked with the responsibility of determining ordinations within their territories, the NPUC feels this topic is important and appropriate to address here.
What about the world church study on the theology of ordination? How will that impact any NPUC action?
That world church committee is tasked with bringing a report in 2014. It is possible but not certain that it will be an agenda item at the 2015 General Conference session. Some have actively wondered if perhaps our system of ordination is not even biblical, but rather, based on a tradition far removed from our own Protestant roots. Our NPUC Ad Hoc Committee received its own study on the topic of ordination in a paper by Dr. John McVay, incoming Walla Walla University president. A copy of that document, entitled “Reflections on the Theology and Practice of Ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” is available online. As the world church studies its theological stance on ordination, we will eagerly join in that discussion. In the meantime, our own discovery process will move forward.
What process has been put in place to pursue a NPUC-wide decision on this issue?
More than a year ago, the NPUC executive committee set up a smaller Ad Hoc Committee on Women in Leadership which met during 2012 and looked at the issue from the perspectives of history, mission, church policy and unity. It presented a recommendation to the November 14 executive committee meeting that favored a decision in favor of the ordination of women. Executive committee members felt that before any firm decision on the issue is finalized an intentional effort should be made to bring as many Northwest members into the discussion as possible. Because of this, the executive committee voted at the Nov. 14 meeting to inform and educate members about the issue of ordination without regard to gender, to invite them to add their voice to the discussion and to allow for a potential future special constituency session to bring any proposed action to a vote.
So no timeline has yet been set up for any firm decisions?
No … however, that will be determined as soon as possible and presented here and on the soon-to-be-created NPUC Women in Leadership website.
Has the NPUC leadership already made up their minds? Is this process just an empty exercise?
Many of our executive committee members and other leaders believe strongly in the value of equal inclusion of women in all facets of Adventist ministry and leadership. Many others are supportive of women in ministry, but very opposed to the idea of ordaining women. No decision has been made, or will be made, without a clear process of conversation, active listening, biblical study and prayer. Some of that has already happened, and now we are expanding the invitation to all Northwest members. Through the process we will also stay in touch with our world church and division leaders.
Will the NPUC share any documents or reports that were developed by the Ad Hoc Committee?
Yes, the paper by Dr. John McVay referred to above, “Reflections on the Theology and Practice of Ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” is currently online and others will be online and linked here shortly.
How do we share our personal feedback to NPUC leadership on this issue?
As soon as NPUC leadership has determined an active process and timeline for discussion, more information will be added to this FAQ to provide instructions on how and where you may respond in a structured way to this issue. In the meantime, you are welcome to email your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. We plan to set up an NPUC Women in Leadership blog that should be online the week after Thanksgiving, where you can join a more public conversation. We realize there are many strong feelings about this topic on all different sides of the issue. Remember that it’s very possible for good people to have very different perspectives, so keep respect in the center of your comments.
As questions and comments come in, this FAQ page will no doubt adapt and expand. Thanks for being a respectful part of this ongoing process.
The North Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee met yesterday for their quarterly meeting, and voted to call a special constituency meeting to address ministerial ordination without regard to gender. They also voted to "inform and educate members of the rationale toward biblical church leadership without regard to gender; 2) engage and encourage constituents in structured conversation and discussion on women in ministry." The date for the special constituency meeting has not been set:
During their regularly-scheduled quarterly meeting held Nov. 14 in Ridgefield, Wash., North Pacific Union Conference executive committee members voted to engage Northwest membership in a discussion on gender-inclusiveness in gospel ministry. They approved a motion to 1) inform and educate Northwest members of the rationale toward biblical church leadership without regard to gender; 2) engage and encourage constituents in structured conversation and discussion on women in ministry; and 3) call a special session of the NPUC constituency to address ministerial ordination without regard to gender. The motion was presented in response to extensive reports provided by an Ad Hoc Committee on Women in Leadership which met during 2012. No date was specified at the meeting for a proposed constituency session, but that will be determined as the process for discussion and decision-making is further defined within the next month. As a start to the discussion, an initial FAQ page is now available, as is a research document from Dr. John McVay, incoming Walla Walla University president, entitled “Reflections on the Theology and Practice of Ordination in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Additional documents from the NPUC Ad Hoc Committee on Women in Leadership will be available online soon.
The subject of ecclesiology in the New Testament is a broad, interconnected and complex one. Therefore, as we consider this one aspect, there will inevitably be other areas left unresolved. Further studies dealing with deacons, ordination, apostles, E.G. White's understanding, etc. are needed, and will be proposed (Lord willing). The hermeneutical intent of these articles is to follow where the biblical evidence leads, and make conclusions based upon reasonable and consistent lexical, contextual and comparative evidence. In the investigation of these articles, two interesting points regarding leadership structure in the church have emerged: 1) There is a distinction between the offices of presbuteros, episkopos and poimen, and 2) while some offices are spiritual gifts (conferred by the Spirit and recognized by the Church), others are positions established through external, objective and verifiable criteria through prayerful evaluation by the church. This is not the final word on this subject, more research should be done. Part two has been added to help clarify some of the initial conclusions. I also wish to apologize for the technical nature of this article, but feel that some of these issues must be tackled. A word needs to be made in regards to lexical studies and hermeneutics in general. Ferdinand de Saussure has stated that in language “tout se tient” (all things hold together). What he means is that language must be viewed as an interconnected system in which the context provides the clues as to the meaning of the individual words used. Theologian Henry Scott Baldwin makes the following salient points:
- Lexical studies are nothing more than the summaries of contemporaneous uses of the word under consideration. Lexis is a description of what people who use the word normally mean to indicate.
- We have a pre-understanding of the word based on its use in other contexts. This is the dictionary meaning (denotation) we have in our lexicons. We then attempt to apply the meaning to the present context, and then check to see if the resulting sentence makes sense using this meaning.
- This methodology seeks to separate verb and noun. There are numerous examples in Greek where the verbal form does not correspond to all the meanings of the noun. We cannot uncritically assume that a noun we are studying is exactly equivalent to the verb forms in every one of its uses.
As shown in the first article, there are impressive lexical (dictionary) differences between the office of presbuteros and episkopos. An inaccurate understanding of what a word means at the time it was written, will negate all the good contextual, syntactical exegesis we may attempt. There is no doubt that context plays a critical role in an accurate understanding of the text. However, the meaning of the written words are the very foundation of an accurate biblical study. The context will determine which meaning should be used, but the objective starting point is to understand how a word was understood when the author wrote it. The lexical definition, therefore, should not be underestimated, when considering the meaning of a passage.
When dealing with the issue of hermeneutics--the self-authenticating, Protestant principle that Scripture interprets Scripture--should be maintained. We cannot assume that a specific passage or biblical writer will make sharp differences and distinctions between closely related subjects within a chapter, epistle or even all their writings. Examples of this include most of the fundamental beliefs (i.e. justification/sanctification, the differences within the trinity, etc.). It would be far more difficult to understand what Paul means when he penned “absent from the body and present with the Lord” if we didn’t have non-Pauline passages to help us know when we will be present with the Lord. Therefore, when approaching the subject of ecclesiology, we shouldn’t assume one writer will present the corpus of material, nor should we expect to necessarily find the answers to differences within a single passage or context.
1. Are elders (presbuteros) and bishops (episkopos) different and distinct offices?
A. Lexical and comparative evidence shows a distinction as seen in part one, the lexical meanings for presbuteros include primarily administrative, executive and judicial functions:
These definitions matched the biblical evidence when applied to this office. We also noticed that the primary definitions for episkopos focus on guarding, investigative and supervising roles. These definitions harmonize with the comparative biblical evidence as well. We should not underestimate the importance of lexical (dictionary) meanings.
While it is tempting to “run to the text” first and attempt exegesis, we will come up short unless an accurate understanding of the primary and extended meanings are discovered. Only after we know what a word meant when it was originally used, can we apply it to a biblical passage and context and hope to understand it.
B. The offices of episkopos and presbuteros seem to be indicated:
While this should not be the only argument in favor of an office for the episkopos and prebuteros, it is a supportive one. The Greek word episkope has several different meanings (Please see footnotes for a lexical breakdown). There are essentially three definitions for the Greek word episkope:
- Visitation, inspection, examination (usually by God, in mercy or judgment, He looks into, searches)
- Office of episkopos- specifically, ecclesiastical overseer.
- Office (generally), leaders of Christian communities, position, assignment (The N.T. uses episkope in the sense of ‘office’ as well as ‘visitation’)
There are four references for episkope:
- Lu. 19:44 “. . . knewest not the time of your visitation.”
- Acts 1:20 “ . . . his bishoprick let another take.” (KJV)
- 1 Ti. 3:1 “if a man desire the office of a bishop . . .”
- 1 Pet. 2:12 “. . . glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Both Luke 19:44 and 1 Peter 2:12 harmonize nicely with definition one when episkope is placed into their contexts. Acts 1:20 is contextually referring to apostles, so the meaning of an “office in general” would best align with this passage. Gerhard Kittel supports this understanding: “the apostolic office is described as episkope. . . The term is used for the apostolic office in Acts 1:16 only because the selection of a replacement was seen to be a fulfillment of the prophecy in Ps. 108:8.” The context of 1 Tim. 3:1 refers to the episkopos (1 Tim. 3:2). Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the “office of episkopos” (and not an “office in general”) is what Paul is referring to in 1 Tim. 3:1. Kittel agrees with this conclusion: “The term episkope in 1 Tim. 3:1 does not derive from Acts 1:20 or its O.T. original. It is newly coined on the basis of the title episkopos, which had meantime established itself in the early Church. This is the more easily possible, of course, because episkope is already used for ‘office’ in the language of the LXX.”
An argument in favor of an office for the presbuteros can be made from the word presbuterion. Lexically, there is support for a distinct office or body (Please see footnotes for references) which represents these officers. With presbuterion, there are essentially two meanings:
- Office, body, college, assembly, council of elders, “body of eldership.”
- Council or Senate of Jews (Sanhedrin), Christian Church, or any body.
There are two references of presbuterion in the N.T.:
- 1 Timothy 4:14- “. . . hands of the presbytery (presbuterion).”
- Acts 22:5- “. . . and all the estate of the elders (presbuterion).”
In Acts 22:5, the context is referring to the Jewish Sanhedrin, so definition two would apply. In 1 Timothy 4:14, the context is the Christian Church, not the Jewish body, so it is likely that it refers to the body of elders (definition one).
C. The names of the words themselves indicate they are offices, not functions:
For this study, we have been looking at presbuteros and episkopos as nouns. If these words indicated a “function” rather than an office, they would be represented by a verb or an adjective. For example, episkopeo is the verb “to look diligently.” While there are adjectival and verbal forms of these words, we have only been focusing on those represented by a noun.
D. Presbuteros and episkopos are referenced in different situations and with other offices:
Acts 14:23 “ordained elders in every church”
Phil. 1:1 “with the bishops and the deacons”
Acts 15:2,4,6 “the apostles and elders”
1 Tim. 3:2 “a bishop must be blameless”
Acts 20:17 “called the elders of the church”
Acts 25:15 “chief priests and elders”
Titus 1:5 “ordain elders in every city”
2. Is “pastor” a spiritual gift that is it given to all leadership?
In an effort to justify a calling or leading to pastoral ministry (the modern name for “Pastor“ does not seem to be in harmony with the biblical roles of episkopos and prebuteros), some are using the “Gifts of the Spirit” argument to support their belief. It is true the poimen (pastor) is a spiritual gift; it is listed in Eph. 4:11. But as we saw in Part One, the definitions for this word are specific, and do not include the meanings denotated for the presbuteros and episkopos. Furthermore, the biblical references for pastor (poimen) parallel the lexical meanings. In my opinion, this is significant, since it undermines the major propositions in favor of a subjective calling of God into the office of presbuteros or episkopos.
Finally, some see this gift as a function or activity that all or most leadership positions receive. The following include several reasons why this is untenable:
- Ephesians 4:11 -- “He gave some pastors....” It doesn’t say “He gave many” or “He gave all.” 1 Cor. 12:8-10 -- "The Holy Spirit gives . . . To one, to another . . . ., to another . . ., etc." signifying a selective distribution not a comprehensive one. Romans 12:4,5 -- Paul states that “all members have NOT THE SAME OFFICE . . . Having gifts differing....” Therefore, the gifts of the Spirit (including poimen) are selectively given by the Spirit to certain individuals. There is no textual evidence that poimen, or any other gifts, are given to a majority of the church;
- The noun poimen refers to a position. The verb poimaino refers to an action. The position of nurturing and caring is a spiritual gift, but this was not given to the presbuteros and episkopos. While the presbuteros were admonished to “feed (verb poimaino) the church of God” (Acts 20:28) and to “feed (verb poimaino) the flock of God” (1 Pet. 5:2), they were never asked to be the poimen (noun) in the Church of God. The action of feeding, caring and nurturing are simply duties Christ enjoined upon the leadership of His church (“feed My sheep" (Jn 21:16), not gifts.
- Can elder (presbuteros) perform the duties of bishop (episkopos) and vice-versa? There is persuasive evidence that an elder (presbuteros) can and should perform the duties of a bishop (episkopos). As noted in Part One, the presbuteros has the extended function of overseeing, and therefore can also be considered as an episkopos. This is seen in the following passages: Acts 20:17, 28 Paul “called for the elders [presbuteros] of the church. . . take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos] . . .”; Titus 1:5,7 “... and ordain elders [presbuteros] in every city ... a bishop [episkopos] must be blameless.”
Biblical evidence shows that the presbuteros fulfilled both its own roles and that of the episkopos:
- Acts 15:2,6 “the apostles and elders [presbuteros] to consider this question . . . Consider this matter.” (See also Acts. 16:4; Acts 4:5,8,23)
- Matt. 27:12 “He was accused of the chief priests and elders [presbuteros] . . .” (See Mk 15:1; Lk 9:22)
- Acts 20:31 “. . . therefore watch . . .”
- 1 Pet. 5:2 “. . . taking oversight . . . Of a ready mind”
The function(s) of the episkopos are outlined in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-9. In these passages, the episkopos’ duties do not include those of the presbuteros. Rather, they are in harmony with the lexical understanding of this office.
- Instructing -- 1 Tim. 3:2 “...able to teach" (didaktikos)
- Guarding -- 1 Tim. 3:5 “...take care (epimeleomai: to take care, Careful attention- of the church of God.”)
- Inspecting/Supervising/Review -- Titus 1:9 “Exhort (parakaleo). . Gainsayers"; Titus 1:9,13 “Convince (elegcho) . . . Gainsayers . . . Rebuke (elegcho) them sharply . . ”
An overview of the New Testament evidence does not show the episkopos functioning as an executive, administrative or judicial authority as do the presbuteros. Therefore, from the weight of evidence, the office of presbuteros can function as an episkopos, the episkopos obviously functions as itself, but the episkopos does not fulfill the role of the presbuteros.
4. Who is called to pray over the sick?
Interestingly, James 5:14 calls for the elders (presbuterous) to “pray for the sick of the church.” We have traditionally referred to this verse as referring to the local elders. At this point there is no attempt to take a dogmatic position on specifically who the presbuteros are, but it is certainly within the lexical understanding of presbuteros, to be involved in the caring and nurturing functions of the church, including prayer for the sick. Furthermore, unless we are compelled otherwise by Scripture, the episkopos and poimen are not included in this injunction.
5. Is the office of apostles (apostolos) linked with that of the bishop (episkopos)?
At first glance, Acts 1:20 seems to say that the office of the apostles is the same as the office of the episkopos, "his bishoprick (episkope- KJV) let another take." We have already seen that the office of the episkopos was referred to by episkope, but should the “office of the apostles” be understood in the same way? As already seen, the word episkope has three meanings: 1) Watching over, visitation, inspecting; 2) The office for an episkopos; 3) An office or “charge“ in generally.
From the context we know that Peter was speaking of an “office” and not an “action”- so meaning #1 is not possible. Also, we know from the context, the object of Peter’s presentation were not “Episkopos”- but rather “Apostolos.” Therefore, it is not referring to the office of the Episkopos, but to an “office” in general. This is why several translations have rendered it:
- “Let another man take his office” (NASB)
- “his office let another take” (ASV, RSV)
- “Let another take his office” (ESV)
Therefore, the office of apostles is not connected with the office of the episkopos. Rather, we must use the extended meaning for the word episkope and its meaning should be office or position.
6. Is the position of pastor distinct from its function?
The pastor (noun poimen) as discussed in part one, had the basic role of: guardian, nurturer, guide and teacher. As we discussed in question two above, there are times when the elders (presbuteros) were instructed to feed (verb poimano) the church of God. However, since feeding, nurturing and caring were actions, and not spiritual gifts, we must make a distinction between a function and a spiritual gift. Here are a few examples of presbuteros acting out the poimano:
- 1 Peter 5:1-4 "The elders [presbuteros] who are among you I exhort . . . To feed [verb form- Poimano] the flock of God which is among you..."
- Acts 20:17,28 "[Paul] sent to Ephesus and called for the elders [presbuteros] of the church. . . take heed . . . to shepherd [verb poimano] the church of God..."
This point is important, since some want to interchange the verbal forms of a word with the noun forms. In doing so, they neglect the contextual and the lexical meanings for the word. No where in Scripture do we see the presbuteros given the spiritual gift of being a pastor (poimen) whether explicit or implicit. While they lexically fulfill the functions of the poimen (nurturing, caring), they were not referred to by the poimen (noun).
In conclusion, after re-evaluating the N.T. testimony regarding the presbuteros, episkopos and poimen, the weight of evidence leans strongly in favor of three distinct and separate offices. As stated in the disclaimer, a thorough treatment of this subject should include the confirming influence of E.G. White’s statements. However, at this point, only a biblical study is possible due to time constraints. The role of pastor (poimen) is a spiritual gift, while elder and bishop are not (presbuteros, episkopos). What difference does all this make, especially in light of the current discussion regarding ordination? When church members assert their right to become a pastor by reason of an inner calling from God, we must ask them to which position are they called? If they feel called to the nurturing, caring and teaching position of the pastor (poimen), they have a legitimate argument to fulfill this role. If, however, they feel that it is the administrative, executive, judicial role of the presbuteros or the inspecting, watching role of the episkopos to which they are called, then the church must evaluate that subjective calling with the objective criterion that are listed in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8. Scripture must be the final arbiter of all callings, leadings, or gifts or we are left with wild subjectivism with no check or restraint. Finally, although a discussion for another day, bear in mind that the list for episkopos and presbuteros mentioned in Timothy and Titus, not only includes gender specificity, but also marital status and child-rearing responsibilities. We need to be consistent in our exegesis of these passages, by focusing so hard on one area, we may fail to account for other important criteria.
Footnotes will be added soon.
A Need for Accurate Information on Women’s Ordination Though I had attended both the 1990 and 1995 General Conference [GC] Sessions, somehow, over time my memory of the actual votes taken regarding women’s ordination had become fuzzy and confused. It was only since mid-2012, and in the midst of the expanding debates on this matter that I went to the recorded minutes of those pivotal GC sessions to consider what was voted, and on what stated basis the decisions were made.Read More
Do different roles equate to gender inequality? Life is full of paradoxes. From “Jumbo shrimp” and the “Beginning of the end” to “If you didn’t get this message call me”, paradoxes don’t seem to make much sense on the surface. However, the point of a paradox is to illustrate a truth, even if the statements seem to contradict each other.
Men and women have been created equal but unique. At first glance this looks like just another paradox. However, my purpose in this article is to demonstrate from Genesis that both male-female equality and male headship were instituted by God at creation.
Genesis 1-3 lays the very foundation of Biblical manhood and womanhood. All other verses must be interpreted consistently with these chapters. Here, the twin principles of male-female equality and male headship are properly defined, instituted, and remain permanent beneficent aspects of human existence.
Equality. Man and woman are equal in the sense that they bear God’s image equally.
Male headship. In the partnership of two spiritually equal human beings, man and woman, the man bears the primary responsibility to lead the partnership in a God-glorifying direction. The model of headship is our Lord, the Head of the church who gave Himself for us. Right here is a distinction that many fail to make in our world. The antithesis to male headship is male domination. By male domination I mean the assertion of the man’s will over the woman’s will, heedless of her spiritual equality, rights and value. This article will be completely misunderstood if the distinction between male headship and male domination is not kept in mind throughout. Feminism acknowledges no such distinction.
Christian feminism argues that God created man and woman as equals in a way that excludes male headship. According to them, male headship was imposed upon Eve as a penalty for her part in the fall. It follows, in this view, that a woman’s redemption in Christ releases her from the “punishment” of male headship. What then did God intend for our manhood and womanhood at the creation?
Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He them; male and female he created them.”
Each of these three lines makes a point. Line one tells us how we got here. We came from God. Line two highlights the divine image in man. We bear a resemblance to God. Line three boldly affirms the dual sexuality of man. We are male and female.
Finally in verse 28, God pronounces His benediction on man. “God blessed them and said to them…” In His benediction, the Creator also authorizes male and female together to carry out their mission to rule the lower creation. To sum up, man was created as royalty in God’s world, male and female alike bearing the divine glory equally. Most Christian feminists would heartily agree with this paragraph. But Genesis 2 and 3 are more controversial. I must challenge a point of feminism before we move on.
As in verse 26 and 27 God refers to both male and female as man in Genesis 5:2. “He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man.”
This is a striking fact indeed. It demands explanation. After all, if any of us were Creator, would we after creating humans use the name of only one sex as a generic term for both? I expect not. Our modern prejudices could detect a whiff of “discrimination” a mile away. But God cuts across the grain of our peculiar sensitivities when He names the human race, both man and woman, “man.”
Why would God do such a thing? Why would Moses carefully record such a thing? Surely God was wise and purposeful in this decision, as He is in every other! His referring to the human race as man tells us something about ourselves. Let me suggest that it only makes sense against the backdrop of male headship. God did not name the human race “woman.” If “woman” had been the more appropriate and illuminating designation, no doubt God would have used it. He does not even use a neutral term like “persons”, no doubt to the dismay of the more politically-correct among us.
Genesis 2 So was Eve Adam’s equal? Yes and no. She was his spiritual equal and, unlike the animals “suitable for him.” But she was not equal in that she was his “helper.’ God did not create man and woman in an undifferentiated way, and their mere maleness and femaleness identify their respective roles. A man just by virtue of his manhood is called to lead for God. A woman just by virtue of her womanhood is called to help for God. The very fact that God created human beings in the dual modality of male and female cautions us in an unqualified equation of the two sexes. This profound and beautiful distinction is not a biological triviality or accident. God wants men to be men and women to be women. A man trying to be a woman repulses us, and rightly so. It is perverse. The same is true when a woman attempts be a masculine.
Must the male headship side of the paradox be taken as an insult or threat to women? Not at all. Eve was Adam’s equal in the only sense in which equality creates personal worth. Adoption into God’s family. In a parallel sense, a church member has just as much freedom and significance as a church elder. But the elder is to lead and the member is to support – no cause for offense there. I see this fallacy again and again in feminist argumentation. “Subordination = denigration” and “equality equals indistinguishability.” Where does this convoluted thinking come from? Was the Son of God slighted because He came to do the will of the Father? Is the church denigrated by its subordination to the Lord? Never. Subordination is entailed in the very nature of a helping role (Genesis 2:18).
Why then, do some fellow church members resist this teaching so energetically? One reason is incidences of male domination asserted in the name of male headship. I have seen examples of this, along with examples of hostile, dominating women. Both are wrong. When truth is abused, a rival position (in this case feminism) that lacks logically compelling power can take on psychologically compelling power. In short, feminism is an emotive reaction to male domination, driven by pain or pride. But male domination is a personal moral failure, not a Biblical doctrine.
If we define ourselves out of a reaction to bad experiences we will be forever translating our past pain into the present where it damages ourselves and others. We must define ourselves not by personal injury, or popular hysteria, but by the pattern of gender and sexual truth taught here in the Holy Scriptures. As the head, the husband bears the primary responsibility to lead their partnership in a God-glorifying direction. This is a Biblical principle that stands forever apart from changing cultures. And when we exchange Biblical principles with culture, we can go down all kinds of wrong roads—such as the July 29th vote by the Columbia Union Committee to “ordain” women in opposition to the expressed will of the world church.
Illustration: Christian feminism claims that Jesus’ selection of twelve men as His disciples was merely a cultural accommodation designed to avoid conflict in His missionary enterprise on earth. In others words, Jesus was acting culturally and not on divine principle. Such thinking has a difficult task before it. One, it fails to explain how the foundation of the Holy City itself is based on cultural accommodation (Revelation 21:14). And two, it makes the Godhead guilty of departing from principle in the selection of initial church leadership. It is astonishing that any professed believer could bring such a charge against Him. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and allow that they simply haven’t thought it through.
The twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem are named after the twelve Apostles, and the gates are named after the twelve Tribes of Israel (Revelation 21:10-14). By permanently building cultural accommodation into the eternal foundation of the home of the redeemed, “christian feminism” makes the Lord guilty of immortalizing temporal cultural “exclusiveness.” This powerfully illustrates the bankruptcy of feminist theology. The Holy City rests solidly upon the principles of God, not upon the shifting sands of culture. Jesus’ selection of twelve men as His apostles was an intentional and principled choice by God (John 17:6).
Summary Male-female equality and male headship are woven into the very fabric of the Bible. Feminists themselves recognize this, to quote one writer “Feminist theology cannot be done from the existing base of the Christian Bible” (Rosemary Radford Ruether). This is the reason for the influx of current reinterpretations of Scripture to support their purposes. Yet it is wrong to wrest the Scriptures for any purpose. All of us have had the experience of discovering to our dismay that we have been making the Bible say what it doesn’t say. This can be turned around. To make such a discovery and then to repent is to grow in grace.
What might be the principle source of feminist angst to the Biblical text? Consider the following: there is no necessary relation between personal role and personal worth. Feminism denies this principle. To them, any limitation in role threatens or reduces personal worth. But why? Why must my position dictate my significance? Simple answer. Because the world reasons this way. But the gospel tells us that our glory, and our worth is measured by our personal conformity to Jesus the Christ. The absurdity of feminism lies in its irrational demand that a woman is not complete unless she occupies a position of headship. And what do we call something with two heads? A monster.
This past Sunday, a special constituency meeting of the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to authorize the ordination of women. Despite the pleas of General Conference President Ted Wilson, who was present at the meeting and spoke twice, the vote was not even close: 209 to 51. More than eighty percent (80%) of those present and casting votes voted for the motion to authorize ordination without regard to gender. A number of thoughts occur to me in light of this extremely lopsided vote. 1) The fight over female ordination was lost, in principle, when the church allowed females to be ordained as elders. The scriptural principle of male headship in the church (which is the main reason not to ordain women) was totally eviscerated by this compromise. The fight over female ordination was lost, as a political matter, when women were hired as pastors to do jobs indistinguishable from those done by men, and given a ceremonial confirmation (commissioning) indistinguishable from that given to men. These compromises rendered the refusal to ordain women politically indefensible.
2) The calls for unity, issued by the division heads at the GC some weeks ago and by Elder Wilson personally at this meeting, were unavailing. The world church must articulate a scriptural reason, a doctrinal principle, for opposing female ordination. The mere fact that divisions representing 85% of world membership do not want to ordain women will not suffice to prevent the divisions representing the 15% from doing so. For Adventists in North America, Europe and Australia/NZ, the fact that Adventists in Chad or Zambia are not ready to ordain women is not a good reason why we shouldn't do it. This argument has been made and has failed. Principle must be met with principle, and “unity” is not a principle. If unity were an overriding principle, then we would all still be Roman Catholics; basing faith and practice upon the Bible is more important than unity for unity's sake. If there is a principled basis for opposing female ordination, the church must articulate it.
3) The church has been studying this issue for 40 years; the idea that the church needs yet another study to understand Bible truth is risible, and was, in fact, ridiculed at the CUC constituency meeting. (Potomac Conference President William Miller stated, “One of our favorite pastimes as denomination is to commission another study.”) Ted Wilson knows how the SDA Church works at the highest levels, and he has concluded that another study will be helpful, perhaps as a parliamentary maneuver to prepare the issue for a church-wide vote at San Antonio. But there is no need for another study to see that there obviously is a doctrine of male headship in Scripture. Biblically, this is not a close question, but a closed question. We instinctively defend Sabbath-keeping, but the New Testament authority for keeping the Sabbath is insignificant in comparison to New Testament authority for patriarchy, for male headship in the home and in the church.
4) Although the doctrine of male headship is clear in Scripture, it is an issue that divides liberals and conservatives. Liberals wish to ignore the doctrine, whereas conservatives would uphold it. Studies by panels of “experts” and “theologians” merely reveal who is liberal and who is conservative. Liberals will always conclude that the verses pointing to patriarchy and male headship in the church are culturally conditioned and hence may safely be ignored. Conservatives will always conclude that it is not safe to brush these passages aside, if only because we will soon be brushing aside every verse in conflict with today's culture (most immediately with respect to homosexuality). Ultimately, the question is whether this is a liberal or a conservative church. I had assumed that the SDA Church was a conservative church, but, in light of this lopsided vote, the best that can be said is that the Adventist Church in North America is conservative on many issues, but has blind spots on important biblical issues, such as human sexuality and sex roles.
5) If the church is going to reverse the vote of the Columbia Union constituency (and the upcoming vote of the Pacific Union constituency) the only way forward is to draft a fundamental belief regarding male headship in the church and bring it up for a vote at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio. Only if there is an actual, bona fide, doctrine of male headship, which is violated by female ordination, can the church in North America and the developed world be brought to heel. It isn't too late to win this struggle, but it is too late if Ted Wilson and other conservative church leaders believe that appeals to unity, or appeals to wait for yet another study, can stop the momentum behind female ordination. I know that Ted Wilson wants to uphold Bible truth, and liberal machinations during the Paulsen tenure have left him in a weak position. But we cannot wait two more years to start making the biblical case for male headship in the church. We have to start promoting this doctrine now, while many Adventists are still open-minded on the issue. Most of those who are still willing to accept a doctrine of male headship in the church are now in other parts of the world, not in North America, but we had better start supporting them with Scriptural arguments now, not in two years.
6) It is important to emphasize that the vote in the Pacific Union on August 19 is not limited to the question of female ordination. The vote in the Pacific Union would alter the bylaws of that union, so that the union's working policies need not always be in compliance with the working policies of the GC and the North American Division. In effect, the Pacific Union is giving itself the right to ignore the world church, not just on female ordination but on any issue it chooses. Because this involves a change to the bylaws, the motion must carry by a two-thirds majority. (As we have seen, the motion in the Columbia Union carried by much more than two thirds, but that motion was limited to the issue of ordination.) My sense is that most of the delegates to the August 19 meeting are unaware of the sweeping nature of this change. If you know a delegate to this meeting, please make them aware that they are deciding whether to give the PUC effective carte blanche to ignore the world church whenever it wants to.
A special July 29 constituency meeting called by the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted a resolution: “That the Columbia Union Conference authorize ordination to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.” Using secret ballots, delegates from the eight conferences of the union’s mid-Atlantic United States territory voted 209 in favor and 51 opposed, with nine abstentions. The Columbia Union says it has 135,000 members in more than 700 congregations.
According to a statement issued by the Columbia Union Conference late Sunday, the union executive committee will no longer deny requests from conferences to ordain proven female ministers to the gospel ministry, but their calling will be fully recognized on par with their male counterparts.
“This is not an easy time for the church, but it is the time for the church,” said Dave Weigley, Columbia Union president, following the vote. “We are part of the worldwide church, and we are united in the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
Dan Jackson, North American Division president, cautioned, “What we are doing here today not only will impact us personally and as a union but will also impact our world church. I want to say that our primary accountability is to God.”
In extended remarks, Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson appealed to delegates not to move forward with the motion but to wait for the results of a worldwide study of ordination approved last October by the church’s Executive Committee, and expected in 2014.
“I come to you today because I care about matters of conscience,” he said. “I come to you because I care about the unity of the church at large.”
Lowell Cooper, a general vice president of the world church, challenged the premise that union conferences are authorized to make the kind of change envisioned under current denominational polity. “The idea that the authority and responsibility of one type of organization in the world family can be exercised autonomously and unilaterally is a concept alien to the ethos and practices of the [Seventh-day Adventist] Church,” he told the delegates.
Bill Miller, president of the Potomac Conference and chair of the ad hoc committee tasked with studying this issue, started his presentation of the committee’s report by reiterating that he was a “loyal member of God’s remnant church.” He then recounted the church’s history of discussions and decisions on the issue of ordaining women to gospel ministry.
Shortly after noon, Weigley, who chaired the special session, opened the floor for constituent input. Delegates quickly formed three long lines at the microphones. Many voiced their belief that all whom the Holy Spirit has clearly called to ministry should be ordained without regard to gender, though several admitted to being conflicted.
Larry Boggess, president of the Mountain View Conference, whose executive committee released a statement opposing the motion, said, “Lest it be misunderstood, I love you, too, even though I disagree with you. If we say we are the body of Christ, then we would act in unity. What we do today will not generate thousands of new members.”
Following the vote, Rick Remmers, president of the Chesapeake Conference, commented, “I appreciated greatly the spiritual tone set today and sensed the love and loyalty for our church.”
“I am so proud to be part of a historic day in the Columbia Union,” said Deborah Hill, a member of the Allegheny West Conference. “We voted on the right side of history and will work very hard to unify not only our union but to work more closely with the General Conference.”
Source: Adventist News Network
Observations of 1 Timothy 3:1,2 & Titus 1:5,6
Both proponents and opponents of women’s ordination have staked their claim to divergent interpretations of 1 Timothy 3:1,2 and Titus 1:5,6. While some see a plain reading of the verses as clear enough, others are challenging these passages with legitimate, yet more complex textual arguments. What did Paul mean when he wrote that a “bishop . . . [should be] the husband of one wife”? Or literally translated- “a bishop . . . [should be] a one wife husband“? Some view this passage through the lens of “culture”- claiming it should be applied to different times and places in “relevant“ ways. In a future article I will review why the “culturally-conditioned” argument is nothing more than subjectivism since it relies on conjectures, guesses and the social sciences (sociology, anthropology, etc.) rather than the biblical text. Furthermore, it constantly changes with time and location. Recently, some have jettisoned the “culturally-conditioned” argument for a “leading of the Spirit” one. Going so far as to claim that the Spirit cannot fall on the church until it ordains women as pastors and elders. Unfortunately, this is biblically untenable. The conditions for the “Latter Rain” are clearly outlined in Acts 2,3 and Revelation 3:18-20- and women‘s ordination is nowhere mentioned. One often hears the assertion “no conference, union or church should stand in the way of God‘s calling to me . . .” In my last article, we saw that the position of “pastor” (poimen) can indeed be filled by a women- since it is a “Spiritual Gift.” However, the functions of the “pastor” are NOT the same as those of the “bishop” (episkopos) and the “elder” (presbuteros) which are NOT spiritual gifts! Certain objective qualifications must be met before one can “apply“ for those positions (including 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Furthermore, the Spirit does NOT lead the church independently from the written Word He inspired. If some feel God is leading them to become “Bishops“ or “Elders,” the only way to confirm this would be with the “Measuring stick” of Scripture.
Still others feel that to continue “debating theology” is not “biblically practical”, that we don’t need theoretical perspectives, but to focus on being “mission-driven.” They see this “theological” argument as getting in the way of the mission of the church, an ecclesiological issue. But instead of carefully examining the text of Scripture and following a “thus saith the Lord”, they are using pragmatic and emotional reasons (women “pastors” in China, etc.) to buttress their position. “Legal” but questionable policy changes are being hastily pursued in order to vote in changes before the world church can study the issue and respond. These efforts, based on faulty hermeneutics, threaten to further disrupt the global unity of the church.
While this “mission-driven-movement” sounds nice and very “Adventist,” if it is not on rooted in Scripture, but on policy or ecclesiology- the efforts will be unsuccessful. For all these reasons (and others), it is helpful to re-visit the texts upon which those who oppose and affirm women “elders” are based: 1 Timothy 3:1,2 and Titus 1:5-7. My purpose is not to present a scholarly exegesis- but an overview of the clear textual evidence.
“The fact of gender, when considering a word in isolation, is of little importance . . . But in analyzing a sentence as a whole, gender may play a key role, especially when considered along with the adjectives, pronouns, and relative clauses that may be present. Taking note of the gender may alter altogether what a sentence may seem to be saying in English.” Interestingly, in Titus 1:5, the word “elder” (presbuteros) is in the accusative masculine. In the context of verses 5-7, nine of the descriptive nouns and adjectives of presbuteros are in the masculine. In 1 Timothy 3:2, the word for “bishop” (episkopos) is also in the accusative masculine. In the context of 1 Timothy 3:2, there are eight descriptive nouns and adjectives which are also in the masculine. These grammatical parallels seem more than just coincidental. While it doesn’t definitively show that an “elder” or “bishop” should be a “male,” it is grammatically consistent with that conclusion and strongly points that way.
1. “Elder,” “bishop,” “pastor” are different, distinct offices
In the last article we saw that the offices of “elder,” “bishop,” and “pastor” (presbuteros, episkopos, poimen) are distinct, although (as we noted) there is some overlap between them. To summarize the findings: the “elder” (presbuteros) deals primarily with executive, administrative and judicial areas of church policy. The “bishop” (episkopos) has supervisory, investigative and guardianship functions, while the “pastor” (poimen) is nurturing, guarding and teaching. We also saw that the “elder” and “bishop” are recognized and selected based upon external, objective criteria (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-8). After evaluation of the candidates based on these biblical standards, they are ordained. On the other hand, as we mentioned, the “pastor” is a spiritual gift that is recognized and affirmed without ordination and an explicit list of “external” qualifications. I described what seemed to be modern equivalent of these positions in the church today. (Please see previous article.)
The significance of these findings can’t be overstated, especially where Christians assert the Holy Spirit’s calling to be a “pastor”. Obviously, the word “pastor” doesn’t have the same meaning that it did in the Bible. So the etymology of this English word has undergone some changes since the New Testament. If one takes the position that the Holy Spirit has given them this gift then the position that they should fill is the poimen. However, if they desire to fulfill the role of the episkopos or presbuteros, even if they are called by the Spirit, they must be evaluated by criteria found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-7. The claim of the Spirit’s leading does not supersede the Spirit’s inspired word, which is used to “test” all “callings”.
2. Lexical (dictionary) meanings for episkopos and presbuteros are delineated for “men”
A word never means what it never meant. The purpose of a lexical (“dictionary”) definition, is to find out what a word meant at the time it was written. An important clue to what episkopos and presbuteros mean today is to understand their meaning when Paul penned Titus and 1 Timothy in the first century A.D. In order to do this, analytical, critical and theological Greek New Testament lexicons, expository Greek dictionaries, Greek-English concordances and New Testament Greek theological wordbooks should be consulted in order to understand. Strong’s Concordance has several weaknesses that I addressed in my previous article and should be probably be avoided when doing serious Bible study (at least it should not be used by itself).
A summary of the definitions are as follows:
- “The name given in Athens to the MEN sent into subdued states to conduct their affairs”
- “A MAN charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others rightly”
- “A body of old MEN” (presbuterion) ; “An old MAN” (presbus, presbutis)
- “Rulers of people, judges, etc., selected from elderly MEN”
- “Aged MEN” ; “In the Christian church they were MEN appointed”
- “Old MEN of the Jewish Sanhedrin” “Officers in the congregation of the Jewish Synagogue”
Interestingly, one area that was intentionally left out of my last study, was the significant use of masculine names (“men,” “man,”) when defining presbuteros and episkopos. Since the purpose of that study was only to show that there is a difference between the three offices, these were omitted. However, from a lexical standpoint, it seems likely that both the “elder” and “bishop” were to be served by men. There is no dictionary definition from the era the New Testament was written that define these Greek words as being filled by “women.” This isn’t a “cultural” issue since the “men” were from both the believing “Jewish community“ (Jewish Sanhedrin, etc.) and the non-believing “Greek community” (Athenian statesmen, politicians). This further strengthens the case against gender neutral inclusion for an episkopos or presbuteros.
3. The lexical (dictionary) definition for “Aner” is limited to three possibilities
As with the preceding section, we must also understand what the meaning of the word translated “husband” (aner) was in the First Century. These meanings are:
- An adult human male (of full age and stature- as opposed to a child or female)
- A husband
- A human being, an individual; someone; a person, generally (in terms of address)
Interestingly, in all the lexicons consulted (around 12), the word aner never means a “female,” “woman,” etc., but can refer to “people in general.” On the other hand, it definitely refers to a “male” or a “husband.” The third definition shouldn’t be considered in Timothy or Titus, since the phrase “human being of one wife” makes no sense. “One wife husband,” or “one woman man” seem to be the clear interpretation of “aner.” Since the context refers to “children” (1 Tim. 3:4) a “wife” (v. 2) and a “house” (v. 4), the most logical and contextually consistent interpretation would be to translate “aner“ as “husband”. Therefore, the Greek phrase “mias gunaikos andra (aner)” should probably be translated “one wife husband.”
Why did Paul use a word that may not always be referring to a “male” (aner) rather than a word that always refers to a “man” (arsen - pronounced “Are-sane”)? Because arsen does not lexically mean “husband.” It seems that Paul was trying to convey both “maleness” and “marriedness” within the same word. Therefore, the best word he could have used is aner. Another word anthropos also means a “male”, but like arsen, doesn’t define the marital status as aner does. Understanding aner as being a “(male) husband” is a significant point buttressing the argument that a “bishop” must be a “ married man.”
There are 215 references for the word aner in the New Testament. Of these, about 40% do not have “contextual markers.” A “marker” is a word(s) the author uses in context to identify which lexical (dictionary) meaning he intends for the word in question. These 40% are translated in the general sense of “humanity,” “people,” etc. Interestingly, however, when aner is to be interpreted as a “man” or “husband”, there are contextual markers that support that understanding. The remaining 60% have at least one of the following contextual markers:
- NAME OF THE MAN: Mentioned in the immediate context (“Joseph”- Matt. 1:16; “Peter”- Luke 5:8; “Jairus”- Luke 8:41; “Zaccheus”- Luke 19:2; “Adam”- 1 Tim. 2:12; etc.).
- FEMALE GENDER WORDS: In contradistinction from “males” in the same context (“Aged Women”- Titus 2:5; “Woman”- 1 Cor. 11:7; etc.).
- MARRIAGE WORDS: Speak of a “male’s spouse” in contrast to himself (“Wife”- Mark 10:2, 12; “Wives”- Eph. 5:24,25; “Widows”- 1 Tim. 5:9; etc.).
- FAMILY WORDS: Referring to male/female relations and progeny (“Women and children”- Matt. 14:21/Mk 6:44; “Father”- Lk 9:38; etc.).
- REPRODUCTION WORDS: Contrasting a “male” with “female characteristics” (“Virginity”- Luke 2:36; “Adulteress”- Rom. 7:2; “adulterer”- Rom. 7:2,3; “Childbearing,“ etc.).
- CONTEXT: There are times when the context makes it explicitly clear that “males“ are being spoken of (“twelve disciples”- Acts 1:21; The “Apostles”- Acts 5:25; “seven deacons”- Acts 6:3; etc.).
In 1 Timothy 3:2 there are several contextual markers that identify that a “male” is being spoken of: “Wife” (3:2; “Childbearing” (2:15), and “Woman” (2:11,12,14). In Titus 1:5,6, there is the marker “Wife” present. This contextual evidence strongly implies that a “bishop” and “elder” should only be a “male.”
The words “one woman man” or “one wife husband” (mias gunaikos andra) is an interesting and unusual way to communicate this phrase. If Paul wanted to convey a married man, why didn’t he say “a bishop must be a man who is married”? When we look at the syntax (sentence structure) we see that he was describing the quality or character of the man as well as his marital status.
The Greek word for “woman” is gune, and refers to any adult female (including wives). The King James Version translates gune as "woman" 129 times and "wife" 92 times. In 1 Timothy 3:2, gune (gunaikos) is “in the genitive and therefore deals with attribution. It may refer to relationship or quality, for the genitive defines by attributing a quality or relationship to the noun which it modifies."
Tony Capoccia has made the following insightful comment regarding the genitive:
“This should not be considered a possessive genitive, for that would mean that the word in the genitive indicates one who owns or possesses the noun it modifies. In that case the translation would be "a man owned by one woman." Nor can this be considered as a genitive of relationship ("a man who has [possesses] one wife") for there is no indication within the phrase or context that that relationship is implied. It is best to understand this "gunaikos" as being a genitive of quality, that is, giving a characteristic to the noun it modifies.”
The noun andra is the accusative singular of aner. “This accusative functions here as an object of the main verb ‘be’ along with a long list of other accusative nouns and participles. Stated simply, the clause is ‘Therefore . . . an elder must be . . . a man . . .’ The words ‘one woman’ modify "man" to explain what kind, or to qualify the noun by attributing to him this character.” N.T. Greek scholar Robertson adds that genitive of quality (also called attributive genitive). ‘expresses quality like an adjective indeed, but with more sharpness and distinctness.’ “Since the other qualification in 1 Timothy 3 deal with the man's character and since the grammatical structure is more naturally consistent with this emphasis, it seems best to understand the phrase as meaning that he is a one-woman type of man” or “a one-wife type of husband”.
In conclusion, the unique way of expressing the phrase “one wife husband” was Paul’s method of representing the “character” of "the bishop" ("ton episkopon") as well as his marital status. Syntax doesn’t negate the lexical, contextual and comparative evidence that has already shown that aner also refers to a “male husband.” Rather, the syntax shows what KIND of a “husband” Paul is referring to. Scholar Getz makes the following observation: "Paul needed it very clear that an elder in the church was to be a 'one-wife man' — loyal to her and her alone." The emphasis of sentence structure shows that the “bishop” must be completely faithful to his wife, and emphasizes moral purity. The syntax does not change the marital or gender status that we have already affirmed; it only clarifies its quality.
The context of 1 Timothy 3:1,2 extends back into chapter two. The foundation of what Paul lays for the office of the episkopos, is rooted in the creation and fall account of Genesis two and three. The issue of “teaching” and “women keeping silence” is the subject of my next article, so I won’t address this interesting topic now. We see Paul addressing the “authority” of man over a “woman” for two reasons. First, “Adam was formed first” (v. 13). Second, “Adam was not deceived” (v. 14). Genesis two and three give us some clues of Adam’s role as the leader/head of his “home”:
- God gave Adam instructions on how to care for the Garden (2:15)
- God instructed Adam in regards to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
- Adam named all the living creatures (2:19,20)
- Adam named “the Woman” (2:23)
- Only after Adam ate the fruit, were their “eyes opened” (3:7)
- God called unto “Adam” first (3:9)
- Man shall leave parents, “cleave” unto his wife- a sign of protection, guardian
Interestingly, the roles of the episkopos and presbuteros are similar to those seen in Adam’s functions. The executive and administrative roles of the presbuteros are seen in Adam’s naming the animals, directing the custody of the garden, and naming of “the Woman”. The supervisory and investigative functions are seen in Adam’s role as the informant of God’s will concerning the Tree of Knowledge and man’s “leaving father and mother.” The second reason for man’s “authority” over “woman” was rooted in the statement “Adam was not deceived.” Adam momentarily “investigated” the matter in his mind and knew what was right. He chose to follow his wife, however, and sinned blatantly. His ability to discern the deception (while Eve did not) play a role in why Paul mentions that “Adam was not deceived.” However, most importantly, Paul’s foundation for 1 Timothy 3 is rooted in the Genesis creation and fall account, not culture.
Our overview of 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 shows that a convincing biblical argument can be made for a “male” “elder” or “bishop”. Grammatical considerations showed that contextual nouns and adjectives are in the masculine, thus matching the genders for episkopos and presbuteros. The lexical considerations gave additional evidence that the offices of the episkopos and presbuteros, whether as “rulers of people, judges, statesmen, Sanhedrin, etc.”, were filled by “men.” Furthermore, the definition for aner (“husband”) supports a “male”/“husband” understanding over “humans in general.” A comparative study (using contextual markers) demonstrated that aner, when referring to a “male,” contains at least one each in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6. Further supporting the contention that Paul intended “males” to be the episkopos and presbuteros in the church. The syntactical considerations emphasizes the character of the “husband” while not negating the gender. Finally, the theological/contextual considerations shows that the office of episkopos (and by extension the presbuteros) are rooted in the creation and fall account, not in culture.
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Several studies have concluded that there is a difference in the average number of words that men and women speak daily. Nancy and I have found this to be true in our own lives and in the lives of almost everyone we minister to. Last evening we went to our favorite Chinese restaurant for another round of fried bean curd and vegetables. As I was making the food disappear, my wife wanted to talk. Between my eating and checking the weather updates on my iPhone, I overheard my wife comment quietly, "You're fun tonight.." Uh-oh™. On the surface we were at a typical male-female roadblock. Nancy wanted to connect, and I wanted a bit of space to eat and plan our work for the rest of the week. Part of the fun of marriage (29-years) is that moments like this happen all the time, but we have learned how to navigate around them. She has learned how to listen better, and I have learned how to communicate beyond monosyllabic, caveman grunts.
The consensus between such relationship stalwarts as Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Gary Smalley, and more recently, Mark Gungor is that men speak about half of the words daily that their female counterparts do. “Not wrong, just different" as Emerson Eggrich says.
There are various reasons for this difference. When a woman is upset she generally needs to talk about it. Wise husbands recognizing this will lend a listening ear to their wives during such moments instead of thinking about how cool it would be to parachute off a skyscraper (umm…guilty).
On the flip side, when a man is troubled, we tend to go quiet or go ape, depending on the circumstances.
In 2007 researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans to try to understand how men and women handle stress. Among the findings? Anxiety activates the "tend and befriend" reaction in women's limbic systems and the "fight or flight" response in men's prefrontal cortexes. Translation: Under pressure, women reach out, while guys go Rambo or clam up (1). I’m not a big fan of the “men are from Mars and women are from Kansas” or whatever that book was called, but I am a fan of the Bible, and the Scriptures tell us that men and women are fundamentally different in our created roles. And it’s a good thing.
"The brains of men and women, while similar in many ways, are more different than most scientists ever realized," says Larry Cahill, Ph.D., an associate at the University of California, where he researches emotion, memory, and the brain (2).
In spite of the evidence, there will always be modern-minded multitudes who don't want to believe that men & women are fundamentally different in our God-created cores (Pennebaker, Mehl, and CBS News itself). But hard truth is truth nonetheless and the hard truth is that we are different in a complimentary way. Guy’s brains have boxes, women have wires.
In 1996, I purchased the book Brain Sex for my library. Despite its provocative title, this informative book by David Jessel and Ann Moir helped me to understand what people like James Dobson and Gary Smalley already knew. Men and women tend to think differently. Not wrong, just different.
One benefit that some women derive from their wiring is the ability to utter those three little words—“I was wrong.” They may not admit it to men but they’ll admit it to others of their persuasion. Men have that ability too. Just not very often. The last man to use the “Sorry, I was wrong” box was Custer at Little Big Horn after he told his men, “Here they come boys. Don’t take any prisoners!” Oops. With God we can do better than that!
If I am focusing on my laptop at breakfast when Nancy wants to talk, she will feel frustrated/ignored. If she wants to tell me about a sister's emotional mood swings when I am reading Russell Sullivan's book on Rocky Marciano, I will feel like turning on the ceiling fan to blow some of the words out the windows. If I am waxing eloquent to my wife about the specific merits of polymeric isocyanates, it may cause her to have an out-of-body experience. What's the solution?
Quality over quantity. The solution is to learn how to communicate heart-to-heart. This takes less words (all the guys say YES!!) and the words have a heavier specific gravity, meaning they are worth more. This builds emotional intimacy (right here all the girls say "Yes!!"). So whether it is 20,000 words a day for women and 10,000 for the guys, or 16,000 words for the women and 8,000 for the guys—there are really only three words necessary for heart-to-heart communication. Are you ready?
“Are you happy?” “I need you” “I am lonely” “Can we pray?” “I love you” “We need Jesus” “There is hope” You are special “Let’s resolve this” “I was wrong” “Can I care?”
As you communicate on this deeper level beware of three bad words:
“Ready, aim, fire!” “I don’t care.” “Just shut up” “I won’t listen” “You are wrong” “I’m usually right” “What an idiot” “All about me…” “Get a life!” “I’m in charge” “Got my rights!”
So instead of counting words, smart couples will count the cost, count their blessings and count on God. That will give our words life, and most importantly quality over quantity.
- Corporate Wellness Magazine, “It’s all in your Head” Jason Krausert and Donna Tosky, May 2011
- Scientific American, May 2005