Bishops are like Field Generals

In the Apostle Paul’s mind, the bishop of the church is a lot like a field general.  In I Timothy 3, Paul adapts the qualities of a good general developed by a 1st Greek philosopher, Onasander.   Onasander’s list includes being temperate, vigilant, frugal, hardened to labor, free from avarice, neither too young or too old, a father of children, a ready speaker, a man with a good reputation.

The Apostle Paul baptizes the Greek’s list.

Paul adapts Onasander’s list and makes it “inspired” adding these qualities:


  • Able to teach
  • Not addicted to wine
  • Obedient children
  • Not a new Christian

When Paul offers specific counsel to Timothy, he asks him to “set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Until I arrive, attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching.”  Paul repeats one aspect of the bishop again, “Attend to yourself and to your teaching.” The writings of Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Melito, and Cypria give evidence to how seriously the early bishops viewed their role as teacher.

There is one other dynamic in Timothy’s calling.  Paul recount’s Timothy’s ordination:

“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands by the presbyterate.”

Prophecy is in our DNA. 

Gene Getz launched the “Fellowship Bible Church” movement in the 1970s (cf. “Sharpening the Focus of the Church”) found success excluding the gifts of the Spirit.  Just as Billy Graham became a world-phenomenon due to the sacrament of baptism, Gene Getz tapped into the universal gift prophecy.   Try as we might, the Church can’t escape the power of the gifts (cf. we love the “one another” passages because they fuel our prophetic selves”).   In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul instructs us of how critical prophecy is to the Church.

What happened to Prophecy? 

Instead of falling to Jesus’ feet, today’s Church falls to the feet of the “Angels of our Better Nature” (i.e. the cultural elites).   Instead of bowing to today’s gods, we need to follow the example of Revelation 19:10:

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Tertullian believed it was the bishops who expelled prophesy and failed to obey Paul’s command “Do not quench the Spirit, do hot despise prophesying”.   If you read the book of Acts, there were well-known prophets in Antioch and Jerusalem and Caesarea.  The early church manual, “The Didach” (circa 90 AD0) advised the church members to share their income with the prophets.   

Prophecy restored in the Church

Luke 7:36-50 offers a model of how to restore prophecy.


  1.   Stay in the world.   Jesus’ mission field was the world of the Pharisees.   Luke describes Jesus’ “reclining at the table with Simon the Pharisee.”
  2.   Publicize It.  “Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.” (v. 37)
  3.   Welcome the sinner.   “She stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.”  (v. 38)
  4.  Release your spiritual gifts.   “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” (v. 39)
  5.  Speak the truth.  Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” (v. 40)
  6.  The world needs to hear the truth.   “Tell me, teacher,” he (Simon the Pharisee) said.
  7.  Forgive sins.  Jesus gave the Church the power to forgive sins (cf. John 20:23).   Today’s church is the equivalent of this sinful woman.  We need forgiveness of sins.
  8.  Sinners are forgiven and the result is worship.  “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.” (v. 47)
  9.  Worship creates the spirit of prophecy.  Acts 13 states: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

 

Author: gbradepp

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