Showing posts with label watch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label watch. Show all posts

06 March 2013

A joy, not a burden

Leaders in the church, Part 3
< Follow my leader | Index | Leading, Matthew 1:11-17 >

Having examined the first part of Hebrews 13:17 in detail, we can work through the rest of the verse more easily. We are to be a joy to those who are watchful amongst us, being a burden to them would be counterproductive and unhelpful.

Watching and alert
Working through the first part of Hebrews 13:17 in detail showed that the translation might be 'Trust those who lead the way for you and don't obstruct them.'

The rest of the verse explains why we should trust them and the result of doing so. (Hebrews 13:17 - Greek interlinear)

Those who 'lead the way for us' are pioneers, and like all pioneers they are alert, even wary. The Greek word ἀγρυπνοῦσιν (agrypnousin, Strong's 3982) suggests watchful awareness.

This watchfulness is applied to our lives (ψυχῶν, psychōn, Strong's 5590) as we follow in their footsteps. ψυχῶν is translated 'lives' more often than 'souls'. It's used, for example, in Matthew 10:39, 'Whoever finds their life (ψυχὴν) will lose it and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it'.

Watchful pioneers - These watchful pioneers are alert not just on their own account, but especially concerning the lives of those with them. They have a strong sense of responsibility and a duty of care. Think of this verse in terms of a young church recently planted and you'll get the idea.

If you are a more experienced believer helping half a dozen new followers of Yahshua you will be concerned about every aspect of their lives and keen to see them grow up into the fullness of the stature of the Messiah. You would share the sense of duty and responsibility described in this verse. You would want them to grow true and strong until they, in turn, could go out to make disciples.

It's the same sense of duty and care that drove Paul to write so many letters to the churches he had planted.

Moving to the last part of the verse, note that the word 'work' in the NIV translation is not there in the Greek. The word ποιῶσιν (poiōsin, Strong's 4160) means to do or make something. If it's work at all it's in the sense of assembly or construction, but more likely it merely refers back to the doing. 'That they may do it with joy and not with groans'.

The verse in English - Putting the entire verse together we might translate it something like this.

'Trust those who lead the way for you and don't obstruct them. They look out for you with a sense of duty so let them do it with joy rather than groaning. There'd be little value for you in that.'

There is no sense in this verse to support any form of hierarchical leadership structure. Rather, it describes an organic, flowing process involving a following of those who have gone further and leading to increasing maturity in the body as a whole.

Jesus came to bring life, more abundant life. He does this by setting us free from ourselves and enabling us to live in and with him, daily. We can all be helped along the way by associating with those who have travelled further, responding to their watchfulness and hearing what they say.

There's little value for us in being troublesome. That will simply slow our own progress. Is that what we want?

Questions: 
  • Does this translation make more or less sense to you than the traditional versions?
  • Is there someone who personifies this 'leading the way' role in your own life?
  • Are you watching over others? Is is a joyful experience or a cause of groaning?

See also:


< Follow my leader | Index | Leading, Matthew 1:11-17 >

16 September 2012

Keeping watch

We consider the Koine Greek word 'episcopos' and see how Luke uses it in Acts as he records how Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem. It seems that Paul was most concerned with preventing misleading teaching from confusing and scattering the believers.

A flock of sheep
Let's take a look at another Greek word used in the New Testament and usually understood as a leadership term. The word is ἐπίσκοπος (episcopos) and is variously translated bishop, overseer, ruler or supervisor.

It literally means someone who looks around, or across, or on. Does it have the sense of governing others in some way, or might it rather have the sense of keeping watch and staying alert as a way of serving others?

There is a widespread perception and presumption that New Testament authors intended it in the former sense.

We can rule out 'Bishop' in the formal sense used by Anglicans, Catholics and others. The early church had no hierarchical structures anything like those of these groups. Nor is the term 'episcopos' understood in this way by methodists, baptists, or most other more recent church groups. They usually retain some form of structure and government, but often limited to the management of local congregations. Terms like overseer, elder, deacon, pastor, moderator may be employed, but are not normally used to denote hierarchical position.

To understand 'episcopos' properly we need to examine how it is used by the original authors and how readers at the time might have understood it. There are five passages where it's used in the New Testament. We'll check them out one by one. (Note that the word ending varies in Greek, depending on context and the rules of grammar.)

Saying goodbye to the Ephesians - ἐπισκόπους is used in Acts 20:28. To properly understand this passage we need some context, I recommend reading Acts 20:13-21:1. Paul has called the elders from Ephesus to meet him on the coast before he sets off for Kos on his journey to Jerusalem. (We'll look at the term 'elder' in a later article.) It's an emotional meeting, a final farewell. For Paul it's a short pause on a long journey.

In verses 17-21 he reminds them how he lived when he was with them. He was humble and severely tested, but he spoke only what was helpful and taught in their homes about repentance and faith.

In verses 22-25 he explains why he's leaving and that he won't be back.

In verses 26-36 he reminds them again of his teaching and tells them to keep watch and act as shepherds. They have a duty to keep watch, and it's very clear that this means guarding against wrong teaching. They are to be on their guard against the things he warned them of over and over again.

They were appointed by the Spirit (not by men, not even by Paul). They are called not to govern but to be alert for error and to be shepherds. In other words their responsibility is to be aware of the right way and trustworthy in walking it so the sheep will be safe in following them.

Paul commits them to 'Elohim and the word of his grace'. They are to be built up by the Lord, set apart for him, helping the weak by working hard to supply their own needs, giving not receiving.

ἐπισκόπους evidently has a sense of being vigilant and guarding against wrong teaching. There's an emphasis on bearing in mind the dangers and pitfalls, and on humbly serving and leading by example so that the sheep remain safe.

Next time we'll look at  the use of this word in Philippians 1:1.


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