By ranks we mean those positions within the church which are received through the laying on of hands by the church, and through special prayers and fasting, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit. • All these are scripturally based ranks which are mentioned in the Bible, by which we mean: the order of bishop, priest and deacon.
Bishops or Overseers (1) • The first bishops in the church were our fathers the apostles. They were bishops in ecumenical and not simply local terms, though St. James was the bishop of Jerusalem.
Bishops or Overseers (2) • Reference to His work as an overseer was also made in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when St. Peter said: “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” 1Peter 2:25
Bishops or Overseers (3) • Another example which brings together these two titles and functions, that of overseer and that of shepherd can be seen in the words of the apostle to the bishops of Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood” Acts 20:28
Bishops or Overseers (4) • The apostles were also bishops or archbishops in the same way that they were also priests and high priests. • They were bishops from the point of view of the priesthood, and archbishops or chief overseers, in respect of their relation with their spiritual sons and successors.
Bishops or Overseers (5) • Yet in exactly the same way, they were priests and chief priests: priests, because of their priestly activity, and high priests because of their leadership of all ranks of the priesthood.
Bishops or Overseers (6) • Overseers are also God’s representatives who are entrusted with God’s work. St. Paul writes to Titus saying: “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God.” Titus 1:7
Bishops or Overseers (7) • With the same meaning, St. Paul speaking about himself and about his assistants says: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and as stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” 1Cor.4:1,2
Bishops or Overseers (8) • The Bible explains the necessary qualifications for the rank of bishop or overseer. These include that the individual must be: “able to teach”, “must not be a recent convert” and “must also have a good reputation with outsiders” 1Tim.3:2-7
Bishops or Overseers (9) • In his epistle to Titus, St. Paul said that the overseer: “… holding fast to the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, encourage others by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” Titus 1:9
Bishops or Overseers (10) • Since these qualities and conditions are not possessed by every believer, this rank of priesthood is therefore not meant to be for anyone to assume. Nor is every believer specially responsible for taking care of God’s church in the ways in which his representative are.
Elders (11) • The word ‘elders’ comes in Acts 14:23, where it is said of Paul and Barnabas concerning their mission in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch that they: “…appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust”
Elders (12) • We notice here that the appointing of elders was accompanied by prayers and fasting, and these prayers would certainly have been the special ritual prayers for ordination, since the same terms, ‘prayer and fasting’ were used when Saul and Barnabas received the laying of hands (Acts 13:3)
Elders (13) • This rank is mentioned by St. Paul to his disciple Titus: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking and appoint elders in every city, as I commanded you” Titus 1:5
Elders (14) • And it comes again in James 5:14 “Is any one of you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sin, he will be forgiven”
Elders (16) • Notice that it doesn’t say in this verse: ‘call one of the believers who has a gift of healing’, but: “…call the elders of the church…” It isn’t speaking here of the gift of healing, but of the office of priest.
Elders (17) • See also what it says in 1Tim.5:17 about the elders: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine”
Elders (18) • Those whom the apostle mentioned in the previous quotations had been commissioned for two things: teaching and directing; they were said to be directors, also referred to as hegumens or archpriests
The difference between the bishop and the priest (1) • The first difference is that the bishops have the right to appoint the priests. St. Paul tells Timothy: “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins” 1Tim.5:22 • The same meaning is conveyed to his disciple Titus (1:5)
The difference between the bishop and the priest (2) • The canonical law of the Church mentions that the priest is to be appointed by one bishop, but that the bishop is to be appointed by the laying on of hands of no less than two or three bishops.
The difference between the bishop and the priest (3) • The second difference is that the bishop can judge or bring to trial a priest. Concerning this St. Paul says to Timothy: “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” 1Tim.5:19
The difference between the bishop and the priest (4) • The bishop also has the right to reward the priest. St. Paul says to his disciple Timothy in the same Epistle: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” 1Tim.5:17
Deacons (1) • Deacons are first mentioned in the Book of Acts (6) where certain conditions are stipulated by which those who are to be deacons should be distinguished from other believers, such as:- Should be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.- Should be ordained through the laying of hands of the apostles upon them.- Should carry out certain responsibilities in the church
Deacons (2) • The rank of bishop along with that of deacon, is mentioned at the beginning of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, where he says: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” Phil.1:1
Deacons (3) • There are special requirements for the deacon to be ordained. St. Paul says: “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double – tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money” 1Tim.3:8 • St. Paul also stipulates that the deacons should be tested first before being ordained 1Tim.3:10