Elders and Deacons

“Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”

(Philippians 1:1)

Finally, we see that Paul not only addresses this letter to the people of the church, but to its leadership — the overseers and the deacons. It is certainly true that Paul speaks of other sorts of servants in the church…administrators, teachers, evangelists, etc… (1 Corinthians 12:27-30; Ephesians 4:11), but it would seem that these two offices serve as broader categories within which the other offices find their definition and qualification. Thus, however many offices in the church that a particular group happens to hold to, offices fall under the broad category of oversight or service.

What should also be noted — and is arguably more significant — is the reminder that the church itself does not exist as a broad and extended group of individuals. Believers are not autonomous, to put it another way. God has brought us together as one body — a larger institution — under the leadership and direction of officers. Like the Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:9), we are all men and women under authority…one of which is the godly leadership of the church that God the Father has raised up to honor his Son. True, there has been much wicked leadership through the generations — the unfaithful shepherds that God condemns (Ezekiel 34:1-6) — and while these wicked shepherds are often the ones that sear themselves into our memories, history has been filled with many, many faithful shepherds who labor in quiet obscurity amongst their flock. Though we like our independence, when we wander independently, we wander astray.

Thus, Paul addresses the entire church, a unified body of Christ, called and purposed to tear down the strongholds of the devil in this world (2 Corinthians 10:4-6) and making disciples  of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20), all that the Father draws to the Son (John 6:44). This is a body made up of believers in covenant with one another under the leadership of Elders and Deacons, all to God’s glory. Were more of our congregations to think this way, I imagine that we would not have as many struggles within our churches and we would be quicker to weed out false shepherds from our midst.

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