Bishops and Deacons

I. Requirements for ordination
II. Bishop’s authority
III. Responsibility and personal relationship to the congregation IV. Exhortations to Bishops

I. Requirements for ordination (Top)

For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. Titus 1:7-9

Deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 1 Timothy 3:8-11

Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers. Didache (A.D. 80-140) ch. 15

So preaching everywhere in country and town, they (The Apostles) appointed their first-fruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe. And this they did in no new fashion; for indeed it had been written concerning bishops and deacons from very ancient times; for thus said the scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith. Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) ch.42

In like manner deacons should be blameless in the presence of His righteousness, as deacons of God and Christ and not of men; not calumniators, not double-tongued, not lovers of money, temperate in all things, compassionate, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord who became a minister (deacon) of all. Polycarp (A.D. 69-156) ch. 5

"And from the fifth mountain, which had green grass and was rugged, they that believed are such as these; they are faithful, but slow to learn and stubborn and self-pleasers, desiring to know all things, and yet they know nothing at all. By reason of this their stubbornness, understanding stood aloof from them, and a foolish senselessness entered into them; and they praise themselves as having understanding, and they desire to be self-appointed teachers, senseless though they are. Owing then to this pride of heart many, while they exalted themselves, have been made empty; for a mighty demon is stubbornness and vain confidence. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.51

II. Bishop’s authority (Top)

I. Bishop’s authority

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. Matthew 20:25-26

My child, remember night and day him who speaks the word of God to you, and honor him as you do the Lord. For wherever the lordly rule is uttered, there is the Lord. And seek out day by day the faces of the saints, in order that you may rest upon their words. Didache (A.D. 80-140) ch.4

For Christ is with them that are lowly of mind, not with them that exalt themselves over the flock. The scepter [of the majesty] of God, even our Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the pomp of arrogance or of pride, though He might have done so, but in lowliness of mind, according as the Holy Spirit spoke concerning Him. Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) ch.16

I do not command you, as though I were somewhat. For even though I am in bonds for the Name's sake, I am not yet perfected in Jesus Christ. [For] now am I beginning to be a disciple; and I speak to you as to my school-fellows. Ignatius: to the Ephesians (A.D. 35-105) ch.3

And in proportion as a man sees that his bishop is silent, let him fear him the more. For every one whom the Master of the household sends to be steward over His own house, we ought so to receive as Him that sent him. Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself. Ignatius: to the Ephesians (A.D. 35-105) ch.6

In like manner let all men respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, even as they should respect the bishop as being a type of the Father and the presbyters as the council of God and as the college of Apostles. Apart from these there is not even the name of a church. Ignatius: to the Trallians (A.D. 35-105) ch.3

I do not give you orders as Peter and Paul did. They were Apostles, I am a convict; they were free, but I am a slave to this very hour. Yet if I shall suffer, then am I a freed-man of Jesus Christ, and I shall rise free in Him. Now I am learning in my bonds to put away every desire. Ignatius: to the Romans (A.D. 35-105) ch.4

I am amazed at his forbearance; whose silence is more powerful than others' speech. For he is attuned in harmony with the commandments, as a lyre with its strings. Wherefore my soul blesses his godly mind, for I have found that it is virtuous and perfect -- even the imperturbable and calm temper which he has, while living in all godly forbearance. Ignatius: to the Philadelphians (A.D. 35-105) ch.1

Let no man do aught of things pertaining to the Church apart from the bishop. Let that be held a valid Eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it. Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be; even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal Church. It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve, this is well-pleasing also to God; that everything which you do may be sure and valid. Ignatius: to the Smyrnaeans (A.D. 35-105) ch.8

Life is for all those that keep the commandments of the Lord. But in the commandments there is nothing about first places, or about glory of any kind, but about long-suffering and humility in man. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg. 41

III. Responsibility and personal relationship to the congregation (Top)

Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day. Isaiah 65:5

For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honor to the presbyters among you. Clement of Rome (A.D. 96) ch.1

So then it becomes you to run in harmony with the mind of the bishop; which thing also you do. For your honorable presbytery, which is worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop, even as its strings to a lyre. Therefore in your concord and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung. Ignatius: to the Ephesians (A.D. 35-105) ch. 4

Yea, and it becomes you also not to presume upon the youth of your bishop, but according to the power of God the Father to render unto him all reverence, even as I have learned that the holy presbyters also have not taken advantage of his outwardly youthful estate, but give place to him as to one prudent in God; yet not to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, even to the Bishop of all. Ignatius: to the Magnesians (A.D. 35-105) ch. 3

Therefore as the Lord did nothing without the Father, [being united with Him], either by Himself or by the Apostles, so neither do you anything without the bishop and the presbyters. Ignatius: to the Magnesians (A.D. 35-105) ch.7

They that have the spots are deacons that exercised their office ill, and plundered the livelihood of widows and orphans, and made gain for themselves from the ministrations which they had received to perform. If then they abide in the same evil desire, they are dead and there is no hope of life for them. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.52

They that believed are such as these; bishops, hospitable persons, who gladly received into their houses at all times the servants of God without hypocrisy. [These bishops] at all times without ceasing sheltered the needy and the widows in their ministration and conducted themselves in purity at all times. These [all] then shall be sheltered by the Lord forever. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.52

IV. Exhortations to bishops (Top)

I beseech you who are superiors, if you will receive any counsel of my good-will, have among yourselves those to whom you may show kindness: do not forsake them. For the day is at hand on which all things shall perish with the evil [one]. The Lord is near, and His reward. Barnabas (A.D. 70-130) ch.21

Exhortation of Ignatius to Polycarp the Bishop at Smyrna:

If you love good disciples, this is not thankworthy in you. Rather bring the more rebellious to submission by gentleness. All wounds are not healed by the same salve. Allay sharp pains by cold compresses.

The season requires you, as pilots require winds or as a storm-tossed mariner a haven, that it may attain unto God. Be sober, as God's athlete. The prize is incorruption and life eternal, concerning which you also are persuaded.

Stand you firm, as an anvil when it is smitten. It is the part of a great athlete to receive blows and be victorious. But especially must we for God's sake endure all things, that He also may endure us. Be you more diligent than you are. Mark the seasons.

Let not widows be neglected. After the Lord be you their protector. Let nothing be done without your consent; neither do you anything without the consent of God, as indeed you doest not. Be steadfast.

Let meetings be held more frequently. Seek out all men by name. Ignatius: to Polycarp (A.D. 35-105) ch.2,3,4

Now therefore I say unto you that are rulers of the Church, and that occupy the chief seats; be not you like unto the sorcerers. The sorcerers indeed carry their drugs in boxes, but you carry your drug and your poison in your heart. You are case-hardened, and you will not cleanse your hearts and mix your wisdom together in a clean heart, that you may obtain mercy from the Great King. Look you therefore, children, lest these divisions of yours deprive you of your life. How is it that you wish to instruct the elect of the Lord, while you yourselves have no instruction? Instruct one another therefore, and have peace among yourselves. Hermas (A.D. 150) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.16