(The Church – God’s Masterpiece – Part 12)

by Pastor-teacher Dennis Rokser

In our last article we considered the need for spiritual leadership in the church, along with answering the question, "Who is the one true Head of the church?" The sole and singular biblical answer is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour desires to direct His Church through the ministries of the Holy Spirit and via the Word of God. Regarding the vital ministry of the Spirit of Christ, our Lord predicted on the eve of His crucifixion…

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (John 16:13-14)

In light of Jesus Christ's promises concerning the Holy Spirit's coming (Acts 2) and ministry, it should not surprise us to observe that Luke records a number of the activities of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2:33)

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. (Acts 4:8-10)

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:31-33)

Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. (Acts 6:3)

And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:15-18)

As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. (Acts 13:2-5)

Jesus Christ, through the supernatural and superintending ministry of the Holy Spirit, is building His Church. And it is important to note that not only are individual believers indwelt and sealed by the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 1:13), but each local church is also a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

Please observe the plural "ye" (referring to all the saints at Corinth – 1:2) in constrast to the "temple of God" (singular). The word for "temple" (naos) refers to that part of the temple which was the inner sanctuary of God's presence, whereas the Greek word "hieron" (also translated "temple") included all the temple property.1 The word "temple" is also without the definite article in the Greek, stressing the nature of the temple (the dwelling place of God) instead of specifying an individual temple. These verses then act as a strong warning to all believers (including church leaders), to recognize that each local church is a temple of God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and set apart unto God for His divine purposes ("holy"). Therefore, anyone who destroys a local church through false teaching or sowing discord can expect serious discipline by God.

Thus, each local church needs to submit to the Headship of Jesus Christ in all their decisions and services, along with recognizing the directing presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst! The personal and practical acknowledgement of these truths should cause spiritual leaders to humbly depend upon God for the divine direction and enablement to faithfully shepherd God's flock.



  1. "pastor-teacher"
  2. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. (Ephesians 4:11)

    If the Granville Sharp rule2 applies to this grammatical construction (and most Greek scholars believe it does), the phrase "pastors and teachers" is best translated "pastors-teachers."3 The word "pastor" (poimen) literally means a shepherd, while his ministry and gift involves teaching the Word of God. Pastor-teachers are a key gift given from Jesus Christ for the edification of His church during this present age. The phrase "pastor-teacher" emphasizes the ministry of these spiritual leaders.

  3. "elder"
  4. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:20-23)

    For 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. (Titus 1:5)

    The term "elder" (presbuteros) was a very familiar concept to the Jewish mindset. It's Hebrew counterpart described aged men in a general sense, and city or spiritual leaders specifically. When applied to the context of the New Testament church, the word "elder" emphasizes the needed maturity of the spiritual leaders.

  5. "bishop"

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless,… (1 Timothy 3:1-2a)

For 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 1:7)

The word "bishop" (episkopos) has a Gentile nuance as this term was used of Greek city administrators who had delegated authority by the Emperor. Their responsibility was to "oversee" the affairs of a new colony or acquisition. When employed in the Epistles, "episkopos" was used to underscore the mentality and function of the spiritual leaders who were to act as overseers regarding the spiritual care of their local church.


The New Testament indicates that all three terms were used interchangeably in referring to the same people and function in the spiritual leadership of the church. First of all, this is scripturally supported by observing that all three terms are used to refer to the same leaders in the same passage.

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17)

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episkopous), to feed (poimaino) the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

This synonymous interchange of terms is further set forth in the writing of the apostle Peter.

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed (poimaino) the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight (episkopeo) thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. (1 Peter 5:1-2)

Secondly, this biblical truth can be substantiated by comparing the required qualifications of a "bishop" (1 Timothy 3:1-7), with the qualifications of an "elder" (Titus 1:5-6) or "bishop" (Titus 1:7-9). The overwhelming similarities grant substantial proof that these are not three different people and functions, but are one and the same.



While both elders and deacons are to be saved men who are serving the Lord, their distinction is clearly indicated by deacons having separate stated qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13) from the pastor/elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7). First of all, their difference lies in the area of authority, as elders have spiritual authority over deacons. Deacons (diakonos – literally, a servant) are to carry out the directives of the elders. A second area of difference is that the elders are to serve the Lord and His church by feeding and leading God's flock (Acts 20:28), while the deacons are to assist the elders, oftentimes by addressing the physical needs of the church (Acts 6), though not entirely or necessarily.4 Thirdly, a pastor must be "apt to teach" (skilled/gifted in teaching – 1 Timothy 3:2), while no such require-ment is placed on a deacon. Fourthly, there is oftentimes a difference in experience and maturity between an elder and deacon, though not always. Thus, the areas of authority, spheres of function, giftedness, and normally maturity distinguish an elder from a deacon.

Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons. (Philippians 1:1)

However, what biblical term is not used to refer to the spiritual leaders of the church? It is the word "reverend." This is because "reverend" is found only one time in the Bible in reference to God, never in reference to a man.

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever. (Psalm 111:9-10) ¢

In our next article we will consider the nature of spiritual leadership.


  1. See "Called To Be Saints" by Robert Gromacki (Baker), pg. 50; or "The First Epistle To The Corinthians" by Gordon Fee (Eerdmans), pg. 146.
  2. "In Greek, when two nouns are connected by kai and the article precedes only the first noun, there is a close connection between the two. That connection always indicates at least some type of unity." "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics" by Daniel Wallace (Zondervan), pg. 270.
  3. Those favoring this position are Daniel Wallace, Kenneth Wuest, Charles Hodge, Harold Hoehner, etc.
  4. While this distinction is presumed in light of Acts 6, this is not clearly stated in the New Testament, especially since there were no official church buildings to maintain till the third century. In a general sense "diakonia" is used of Paul's ministry in Acts 20:24 and he was hardly scrubbing the church's toilets. Paul also uses "diakonia" to refer to his apostleship in Romans 11:13, 1 Timothy 1:12, 1 Corinthians 3:5. Diakonos was also used of Epaphras and his ministry of prayer (Colossians 1:7, 4:12-13). However, it is clear from Scripture that deacons assist the elders of the church. But one need not limit this to the "physical" needs of a local assembly. Thus, at Duluth Bible Church our deacons assist the elders by serving in a variety of "spiritual" and "physical" ways.

Dennis Rokser has been involved with the Duluth Bible Church for the last 17 years, serving as pastor-teacher for the last fourteen years.


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