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Biblical Offices & Roles

So what exactly is the difference between an evangelist, a deacon, and an elder biblically? Why would God make these different roles in the church (c.f. Eph 4:12)? How do we tend to blend them all into one office? Here is a study of the different Greek words for each office we find in the N.T.

Ephesians 4:11 -

Apostle: ἀπόστολος - apostolos

•a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders

specifically applied to the twelve apostles of Christ

in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers

of Barnabas

of Timothy and Silvanus

Prophets: προφήτης - prophētēs

•in Greek writings, an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things

•one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence his organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation

the OT prophets, having foretold the kingdom, deeds and death, of Jesus the Messiah.

of John the Baptist, the herald of Jesus the Messiah

of the illustrious prophet, the Jews expected before the advent of the Messiah

the Messiah

of men filled with the Spirit of God, who by God's authority and command in words of weight pleads the cause of God and urges salvation of men

of prophets that appeared in the apostolic age among Christians

they are associated with the apostles

they discerned and did what is best for the Christian cause, foretelling certain future events. (Acts 11:27)

in the religious assemblies of the Christians, they were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak, having power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, and stimulate, their hearers

•a poet (because poets were believed to sing under divine inspiration)

of Epimenides (Tit. 1:12)

Evangelist: εὐαγγελιστής - euaggelistēs

1. a bringer of good tidings, an evangelist

2. the name given to the NT heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles

Teacher: διδάσκαλος - didaskalos

•a teacher

•in the NT one who teaches concerning the things of God, and the duties of man

one who is fitted to teach, or thinks himself so

the teachers of the Jewish religion

of those who by their great power as teachers draw crowds around them i.e. John the Baptist, Jesus

by preeminence used of Jesus by himself, as one who showed men the way of salvation

of the apostles, and of Paul

of those who in the religious assemblies of the Christians, undertook the work of teaching, with the special assistance of the Holy Spirit

of false teachers among Christians

Deacon: διάκονος - diakonos

1. one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister

a. the servant of a king

b. a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use

c. a waiter, one who serves food and drink

Elder: πρεσβύτερος - presbyteros

•elder, of age,

the elder of two people

advanced in life, an elder, a senior


•a term of rank or office

among the Jews

members of the great council or Sanhedrin (because in early times the rulers of the people, judges, etc., were selected from elderly men)

of those who in separate cities managed public affairs and administered justice

among the Christians, those who presided over the assemblies (or churches) The NT uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably

the twenty four members of the heavenly Sanhedrin or court seated on thrones around the throne of God

Overseer: ἐπισκοπή - episkopē

  • investigation, inspection, visitation

that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad


overseership, office, charge, the office of an elder

the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian church

Shepherd/Pastor: ποιμήν - poimēn

  • a herdsman, esp. a shepherd

in the parable, he to whose care and control others have committed themselves, and whose precepts they follow

  • metaph.the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church

of the overseers of the Christian assemblies

of kings and princes

Minister: διακονία - diakonia

  • service, ministering, esp. of those who execute the commands of others

  • of those who by the command of God proclaim and promote religion among men

of the office of Moses

of the office of the apostles and its administration

of the office of prophets, evangelists, elders etc.

  • the ministration of those who render to others the offices of Christian affection esp. those who help meet need by either collecting or distributing of charities

  • the office of the deacon in the church

  • the service of those who prepare and present food

  • So where does this leave you? Are you serving in one or more of these capacities? Do you aspire to one day? How will you allow God to lead you and use His gifts in you to build up His body, to His glory?


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