Acts 20:28; Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5-7; Titus 1; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Corinthians 16:15; 1 Peter 2:25
The Greek word ἑπίσκοπος is once translated “overseer” (Acts 20:2828Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)), and this occurrence shows conclusively that the “elders” and the “bishops” were the same. Paul called for the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:1717And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17)), and called them “overseers.” The same thing is seen in the epistle to Titus: Paul left Titus in Crete to “ordain elders in every city.... for a bishop must be blameless” (Titus 1:5-75For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; (Titus 1:5‑7)). The above two passages prove that, instead of a bishop being set over a large district, with inferior clergy (as they are called) under him, as is now the custom in Christendom, each city had more than one bishop or overseer, and at that time there was only one assembly in a city. Titus was to ordain (literally “to appoint”) elders in every city.
In Titus 1 and in 1 Timothy 3:1-71This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1‑7) the qualifications necessary for a bishop are given. Special gifts are not mentioned, but moral qualities are essential. A bishop must be “blameless, the husband of one wife, having his children in subjection ... ”; also he must be able to “take care” of the church of God, and be “apt to teach.” The bishops of Ephesus were exhorted to take heed to all the flock, and to feed the church of God. Though an apostle or his delegate was the instrument used in the appointment of the bishops, and thus the unity of the church was preserved, Paul could say “the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:2828Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)).
Elders were established to exercise godly care in the undivided local assembly—to “shepherd” the flock. Any attempt to appoint them now would be, not only without the necessary apostolic authority, but would ignore the divided state of the church. Such elders could only assume authority over a fragment of the church in a locality, and that with no apostolic sanction. That no security for the church was to be found in them is proved by the warning of the apostle, that among themselves should men arise, speaking perverse things; and in view of this he commends them, not to some ecclesiastical authority, or to a church council, but “to God, and to the word of his grace,” a resource which all Christians still have. Happily there are now servants of God who care for the saints, those who are “apt to teach,” and gifted to feed the flock of God; and who, without any apostolic appointment, addict themselves to the work of the ministry, as did the house of Stephanas in early days (1 Cor. 16:1515I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) (1 Corinthians 16:15)). All such should be acknowledged, and be highly esteemed for their work’s sake. In one passage the Lord is Himself called the Shepherd and Bishop of souls; and who can care for and feed His saints as He? (1 Pet. 2:2525For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25)).