Phil. 1:1- Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops (overseers) and the deacons:
This one verse probably best describes what New Testament government, order, and alignment was like in the early church. “Paul and Timothy” – Paul found Timothy in Lystra and Iconium and began to father him. Timothy began travelling as a part of the team with Paul, and they were going to Troas and that is where Paul had the “Macedonian Vision.”
Phil. 1:10-12- Now after he (Paul) seen the vision, immediately we (with Silas and Timothy) sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace , and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony And we were staying at that city for some days.
I wrote that passage to show how important it is for apostles and prophets to be obedient to the heavenly vision when they are sent into cities and regions. Philippi was a “chief city” and it became one of His most beloved churches. While he was in prison, they ministered to his necessities and needs time and again. They were the only church at that point who “communicated (shared and partnered) with him concerning “giving and receiving.”
But verse one sets the stage for New Testament order and alignment: 1) Paul and Timothy, apostles and bondservants of Jesus Christ; 2) The SAINTS- Those holy ones set apart as “consecrated ones to Christ.” 3) Bishops (overseers) – These were the “elders”, who had the responsibility to 1) Shepherd (feed/pastor) and 2) serve as overseers to these saints, the flock of God. 4) Deacons- The servants, or ministers of the Lord given for the ministry of helps.
This order does not mean the saints are more important than the bishops and deacons, it simply implies that the saints are those that God has chosen to reveal what are the riches of the glory of the mystery of God, which is “Christ in YOU, the hope of glory.” We are all Saints first and foremost, for our highest calling is what Paul wrote in Phil. 3:10- THAT I MAY KNOW HIM…
The elders are best described in Acts 20:28 and I. Peter 5:2: Acts 20:28- Therefore take heed to yourselves (elders) and to all the flock, “among” (simply means with and among) which the Holy Spirit has made you “overseers”, to “shepherd” (feed) the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood
I. Peter 5:2- Shepherd (pastor) the flock of God which is among, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly;
So, what is basically the scriptures saying?
The apostles and elders (bishops/overseers) have responsibility to serve the flock, the church of God for (1) apostolic alignment (vision, direction and purpose), and 2) feeding the flock, serving as overseers. It appears the apostles did not have “local administration” as must as they were the ones who ordained the elders and deacons, had a “fathering Heart and spirit to impart to the sons, and equip the saints for the work of ministry… (If we are not identifying the saints and putting them into “their” ministry, we are not doing our job…)
The elders again, had the responsibility to 1) Shepherd (pastor/feed) and 2) oversee the work as a team, primarily made up of those mature men and women, with differing giftings, so as bring the saints to a place of purpose and provision. They were normally those that were raised up as sons, then to be placed as elders, knowing the people and dwelling with and among them.
The deacons and the saints were called to serve the body of Christ as ministers and set apart ones, who also had responsibility to not only minister to one another, but to the world, with the ministry of love, prayer, evangelism and discipleship.
To sum it up, Paul the apostle, as a father to the leaders, shares in Phil. 4:15-17- Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated (shared and partnered, partakers of) with me concerning giving and receiving, but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.