In the letter of Peter in the New Testament, the first letter—there are two of them—in the first letter attributed to Peter in the New Testament canon, we have a sentence in which Jesus is given the titles Pastor, or Shepherd, and Bishop. That’s how it’s translated in the King James version. In the Revised Standard Version, it would be Shepherd and Guardian, Guardian of your souls. And this is the context in which it is found. It says (II Peter 2:21-25):
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps: he committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips; when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree of the cross (or of the tree, simply) that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed, for you were straying like sheep, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
That’s how it reads in the Revised Standard Version. In the King James version, it goes this way:
For even hereunto were you called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps, who did no sin; neither was guile found in his mouth; who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously; who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed, for you were as sheep going astray, but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
So RSV says “Shepherd and Guardian”; King James says “Shepherd and Bishop.” In Greek, what that last line would sound like is this: “For as sheep you were wandering—ēte gar hōs provata planōmenoi.” And that’s where you get the term “planē, wander.” It’s where they get the English word “planet.” Planets are those bodies in the sky that wander around, but that’s a technical term in classical Orthodox Christian spiritual literature: “planē” means “delusion,” in Slavonic, “prelest.” So the sheep were delusional. They’re wandering all over the place. They’re lost. They’re not knowing what is happening.
“Alla—but, on the other hand—epestraphēte nyn—you turned now—epi ton poimena kai episkopon tōn psychōn hymōn—now you have turned to the shepherd (the poimen, poimena) and the episkopos of your souls, of the soul of you or of your lives,” it could be translated, “of your life”; “the pastor or the shepherd and the bishop of your life, of your soul”—in plural: “souls.”
We have already reflected in our reflections on the names and titles of Jesus, of the Lord as the Good Shepherd. And, of course, that’s found primarily in St. John’s Gospel, the tenth chapter, where the Lord says very clearly, “I am the Good Shepherd” and “the Shepherd knows his sheep.” And we reflected that Jesus, in using the terminology of the Shepherd, he is hearkening back to the writings of the prophets were it says that the shepherds have all gone astray; they have all gone badly; the priests are doing awful; the prophets are prophesying wrongly; everything is a total mess. And then the Lord God Almighty says that he himself in the last days is going to come himself and to shepherd his own sheep. Isaiah says it, “I will be the shepherd to them. I will shepherd my sheep. They will know me.”
Jesus applies all that to himself in St. John’s Gospel, so what it says is:
I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not see the wolf coming and they leave the sheep and they flee. And the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd.
And then he even says that he is the door of the sheepfold, the gate that enters into the sheepfold. And those who go by another way are thieves and robbers and that, when the sheep hear their voice, they don’t even follow them, but when the sheep [hear] the shepherd’s voice, they follow, and he leads them out and he takes care of them. Then, of course, you have the very famous lines, like, for example, in the psalm, “The Lord shepherds me.” It’s a verb there, actually, but we translate it in English, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, leads me by still waters. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear nothing.”
So you have here again in the New Testament in the [First] Letter of Peter, where Jesus is called the Shepherd or the Pastor, the Pastor or Shepherd, with all that that means for tending, guarding, caring for, feeding, nourishing, protecting his people, his flock. But you have here also, in this particular text of Peter, not only the term “shepherd, poimen,” but “episkopos, bishop”: “and the Bishop of your souls.”
The term “bishop” in Greek is “episkopos,” and, of course, it’s used primarily in the New Testament Scriptures for the heads of Christian communities, for those whom the apostles put in charge over communities of believing people, over churches. And, of course, the verb form, “[episkepeō],” the exercising of episcopate and over the episcopizing activity, it is applied to people. So, for example, in Philippians, the letter is written to the deacons and bishops, to the diakonoi and the episkopoi, the ministers, the servants, the workers, and the bishops, the episkopoi.
Technically, literally, the term “episkopos” means an overseer. “Epi-” is “over” or “on,” and “skopos,” of course, means “to see,” like telescope, microscope; you have that word “skopos.” So the bishop is the overseer. Another way of putting it, if you use the same synonymous terms would be “super-visor.” “Epi-” would be “super-,” you know, like “super,” and then the one who sees would be to have vision: super-vision. So “episkope” would be “supervision,” and the bishop would be the “supervisor,” the one who oversees, the one who looks upon and cares for.
In the Book of Acts, for example, when they’re choosing a successor to Judas, and they’re replacing him, they say, “Let another take his episkope.” Let another take his supervising or overseeing position that he had as one of the Twelve. And here it is certainly the teaching of the New Testament that the apostles, certainly the original twelve, they exercised episkope; they oversaw the Church of Christ. They were placed in that position as overseers or superintendents, caretakers, and in that sense, pastors.
And, of course, these terms are used in the Christian Church for those who do head communities and govern and care for communities of Christians, so that in many churches the head of the church is called a pastor. And Protestants like to use that [term], especially those who don’t like to use the term “elders” or “priests.” The term “presvyteros” means an elder or an old person, and then that became a name almost synonymous with the term “episkopos” or “bishop” in the earliest Church. And in general in the earliest Church, these terms were very fluid when they were applied to positions and ministries within the Church, terms like “episkopos, presvyteros, diakonos,” even “hegumenos.”
For example, the term “hegumenos” means “someone who governs.” The “hegoumenikon” in philosophy is the faculty of a person’s mind. In Isaiah, where you have that canticle about “God with us,” the Emmanuel—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting…—one of the terms there is “hegumenos, the governor.” And in the 51st Psalm, when it says, “Create in me a new heart. Put a new and,” it says, “pnevma hegumenikon—give to me a governing spirit.” And that term, “hegumenos,” became the classical, popular, technical term in Eastern Orthodox Christianity [from] the earliest days for the head of a monastic community, an abbot or an abbess.
“Abbess” and “abbot” come from the terms “abba” and “amma” which have to do with being a father or a mother. “Avva” is father; “amma” is mother. But then, now, in English, we say “abbot, abbess,” but in Greek and Slavonic and other [languages], the term is not “abbot” and “abbess”; it’s “hegumen” or “hegumenos” and “hegumenia.” And the same thing is true in Slavonic: “igumen” and “igumenia.” It means “abbot” and “abbess,” but it means, basically, overseer, superintendent, the one who exercises care, the one who protects, the one who guards, the one who nourishes, the one who feeds, the one who makes sure that everything in is in order. That’s what that particular term means.
Here [what] we just want to note today in our very short and simple reflection on this point is that that term is applied to Jesus. In the [First] Letter of Peter, it’s applied directly to Jesus: “the shepherd (or pastor) and bishop (episkopos) of your souls, of your lives.” That same term was applied to those who held the oversight or superintending positions in the Church, and we will not read this now, but you should read letters to Timothy, letters to Titus, where it tells how the man—and it’s got to be a man, the husband of one wife and so on—how the man who has the pastoral or superintending position is supposed to be, what kind of a person that man is supposed to be. And it’s in Titus and it’s in Timothy, and it’s highly recommended that we go back to it from time to time to remind ourselves what the qualifications are for people in the Church who, in the place of Christ, are superintending or supervising or overseeing Christian communities.
And here, why not? We can take the time here just to very quickly read what is said about how the people should be who have those functions. They should be above reproach: of course, Christ himself was sinless. The husband of one wife: of course, Christ himself was celibate, but his one wife [was] his people, Israel and the Church; he’s the Bridegroom, [they’re] the Bride. Then it says that [he] should be temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher. Now, Christ was all of those things. Christ himself was definitely sensible and temperate and dignified and hospitable and an apt teacher. He was the Teacher sent from God. He was the Rabbi, the Didaskolos.
Then it says: no drunkard, not given to wine, not being an alcoholic. Christ was accused of being a wine-bibber, because he ate and drank with the sinners, but he himself was not. And then it says not violent, but gentle, and Christ is the most non-violent, the most gentle, the most meek. He even says, “Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. Learn from me,” he says. And then, of course, you have the Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” And then meekness is applied to Moses; meekness is applied to David in the Holy Scriptures, so a superintendent, an episkopos or a pastor, a shepherd, has to have these qualities.
Then it says not quarrelsome, not involved in anger, not disputatious. And then it says no lover of money, and of course, Jesus was totally poor. He had no money. He said, “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, the Son of man has no place to lay his head.” He had the money that was given to him that they gave out to the poor and to the needy. Then the one who is exercising episkopē, who is the episkopos, he must manage his own household well, must have good relation in his family, keeping his own children submissive and respectful in every way. So the superintendent or the supervisor, the overseer has to first care for his own family before he can care for the family of the Church, the family of God.
Then it says he has to know how to care for God’s Church, and then it even says not a recent convert—and here, of course, Jesus learns everything from God himself from all eternity, according to St. John’s Gospel, and the apostles who become the first exercisers of episkopē... Although the apostles were not bishops of any particular churches, they were universal teachers and universal supervisors, universal superintendents, universal overseers. They lived in various places where they exercised the overseeing, but in technical, canonical terms, the first bishop of a place was not the apostle. It was the first man that the apostle had entrusted.
So, for example, St. Irenaeus, when listing the bishops in Rome, he says the holy church founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul, who exercised the first pastoral and episcopal functions in that church, that’s the church founded by them, but the first bishop was Linus. The second was bishop was Clement. The third bishop was Eleftherios. I think I got the order right; certainly Linus was the first, but he calls him the first. So bishops technically were bishops, were men who were heads of local geographic communities or communities in certain regions or certain cities. That’s what it means to be a bishop later on in the Church.
Then it says he must not be puffed up with conceit or fall into condemnation of the devil. He must be well thought of by outsiders lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. You find the same thing in the Titus letter. But these are qualities… Why we list these qualities about the mere mortals who have to exercise pastoral life and episcopal care in the Church is because they have to be sacramental images of Christ himself. And here, we would just repeat again what we said when we spoke about Jesus as the High Priest, Jesus as the one great High Priest, Jesus as the Teacher.
He’s the only one. Jesus as the Prophet. There’s only one Prophet; there’s only one Teacher; there’s only one High Priest; there’s only one Pastor; and there’s only one Bishop for Christians. That’s Jesus Christ himself. He is it. He’s the only one. He has the definite article: the Teacher, the Prophet, the Teacher, the High Priest, the Master, the Overseer, the Governor, the Supervisor, the Superintendent, the Bishop, the Pastor, the Shepherd—that’s Jesus. And it’s he and he alone.
However, the teaching arose very early that men, and in some cases, women, but when it came to bishop and presbyter and pastors of communities in the earliest Church it was only men… And in the Eastern Orthodox Church today it’s only men who have to follow these qualifications that I just read from the First Letter [to] Timothy, and the Orthodox canonical tradition follows that very, very strictly. I should maybe qualify that right away: it should follow that strictly; sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes by what they call “oikonomia” or something, they break the rules, but there’re rules there that should not be broken.
And in my own personal opinion, if I can throw it in here, I think that among the Christian people, among the members of the Christian Church, oikonomia and mercy and laxity in some sense—leniency is a better word—going the extra mile, going the extra hundred mile, is always in order for the regular people, the baptized, chrismated people who are perhaps not knowing what they did when they were baptized or got into the Church or never were taught or whatever, there can be extreme mercy and leniency and what’s called “oikonomia,” dispensations toward these people, relative to their behavior. But I think it should never be applied to the clergy, should never be applied to the klēros, to the pastors and the bishops and the priests and the deacons and presbyters and the elders and the abbots. Never.
The minute you start doing that, you wreck the Church, and I think history proves it. History proves it. Of course, there are the exceptions that can “prove the rule,” but, generally speaking, the strict biblical, scriptural teaching should be applied to the men who have that ministry, of being sacramental icons of the one Christ himself, because we repeat: this ministry is Christ’s. Christ is the Teacher, not the bishop or the priest. Christ is the Prophet, and the bishop and the priest prophesy in the name of Christ and by the power of Christ and by the Spirit of Christ. Jesus Christ is the High Priest, and the priest offers himself and the faithful together with all the people in the royal priesthood to God through the one High Priest, Jesus Christ.
So it’s the priesthood of Christ that is expressed in the priesthood of all believers and in the priesthood of the presbyters and the bishops. The one, that one man, that one Son of God, that one true Adam, God himself in human flesh—he’s the only one, and the rest of us, it’s by faith and grace and by his condescension and by his mercy that we exercise his ministry, his diakonia, his episkopē, his pastoral care in and for the people of God, within the Church and even beyond the walls of the church. That’s why the bishops and the priests have to be, according to Timothy, well thought of by people outside, because these activities are not just for the members of the Church; they’re for every human being. They’re for everyone, because Christ is for everyone. He is for everyone the Teacher, the Pastor, the Good Shepherd, the Bishop, and so on, but he’s certainly that of our souls, of our lives, those who are believers, as it says in the letter to Timothy.
Everything that human beings are, they are because of the grace of God by the Holy Spirit, and whatever we are, we are because of Christ, because we are clothed with Christ in baptism. We are sealed with God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, in chrismation. And so we exercise these. You’ll find in other letters of the Apostle Paul, for example, the Corinthian letter, the Romans letter, the Ephesian letter, the Philippian letter, that to be pastoral, to be governing, to be administrating, these can be special charisms that people in the community have, and they have them by the Spirit of God.
And they don’t belong just to the bishops and the presbyters and the deacons. They can belong to any member of the Church, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, educated [or] uneducated, trained or not trained. God can give these gifts to those to exercise these particular functions, but they are functions that technically, theologically, dogmatically, belong to Christ and to Christ alone, and we participate in them. We share in them. By grace and by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can actualize what belongs to Christ himself and to Christ alone.
We reflected a bit about the word “shepherd,” and I don’t think we need to do it any more, any longer. We did it twice already. We did it when we spoke about Christ as the Good Shepherd, and we just did it now, today. But let’s say a little bit more about episkopos. In other talks on Ancient Faith Radio, I’ve discussed this point, but I’d like to discuss it now in terms of Jesus himself, because it is very interesting that this term, “episkopos,” is used in Scripture. It’s very interesting that that particular word was chosen.
It’s chosen for obvious reasons, because it’s a wonderful word: “epi-skopos, epi-skopē, over-sight, over-seeing, over-seer, super-vision, super-intending. It’s the one who is over the others for the sake of their good. St. Augustine somewhere said, “When it comes to me as a bishop, I am the superintendent. I am the overseer. I am the head, even.” He says, “But when it comes to myself as a Christian, then I’m a Christian exactly the same way as everybody else is.”
The bishop, the episkopos, first has to be a human being and a Christian. Then he can be the one who oversees. And he’s chosen from among the flock to be the one who is overseeing. We can dare to say that this is the same thing that is true with Jesus. Certainly it’s true with the shepherds and the priests and the pastors of the Old Covenant, the shepherd-kings. They were chosen from among the people, and very often, by the grace of God, in ways that the people didn’t expect. For example, he chooses David, who is the seventh of the [sons] of Jesse. He chooses, when it’s the case between Jacob and Esau, he chooses Jacob. He chooses Isaac and not Ishmael. God can choose. God can [do that]. Jesus is the chosen one; he’s the one who’s chosen from all human beings to be this, but he’s the one who was chosen as the Virgin’s Child and as the very Son of God who has become man, but he’s still taken from among his brethren. That’s very important, and in the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus says, “I’m not ashamed to call them brethren, because I share in the same flesh and blood.”
And then Jesus says, as one of the people, as a member of Israel, as a member of God’s chosen, which he is as a human being, and then is humanly chosen to be the Christ and to be the Savior and the Messiah and so on, from among the people, humanly speaking. I underline that: humanly speaking. It’s because he also has all the qualities for that particular service and ministry. Jesus is capable, humanly speaking, of doing all these things, because, humanly speaking, as a man, he has fulfilled everything that is necessary to have in order to be the Episkopos, in order to be even the Vasilevs, to be the King, to be the High Priest, to be the Prophet, to be the Teacher.
He has all the qualifications, humanly speaking, and he has them because the Spirit of God is in him and upon him from the time he’s conceived in his mother’s womb. All through his childhood he increases and multiplies by the Holy Spirit—not multiplies, but he increases and grows by the Holy Spirit. And then, when he is baptized in the Jordan, the Spirit is seen to descend and to rest upon him, making him to be, humanly speaking, what he is as a man.
And St. Athanasius and St. Basil in their letters on the Holy Spirit, they say that Jesus in the Baptism, and even in their homilies on baptism, St. Gregory the Theologian also, says that he has to do all these things as a man in order to fill his ministry, and his ministry is to be the Good Shepherd and to be the Pastor who lays down his life for the flock and to be the sheep, too. He is to be the High Priest who offers himself in sacrifice, and he is to be the Episkopos who cares [for] and governs the others who are members of the Church.
But what is interesting here is that the term “episkopos” was actually a name in the ancient world for a slave, for a servant. So to exercise episcopos, to be an overseer, to be a superintendent, a caretaker, you first have to be a servant. It’s one of the servants who is made episkopos, and in the ancient world in the household, the oikos, the household… And by the way, we should just point out that the Church is called the oikos tou Theou, the household of God: “the pillar and the bulwark of truth in the household of God.” And by the way, just a little trivial point here in translation, when Orthodox Christians pray in church at the Great Litany, we say, “For this holy house, and for those who enter here with faith and fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.”
“For this holy house, for those who enter with faith, reverence, and the fear of God, let us pray to the Lord.” And that was translated into Slavonic as “hram,” which means “a temple,” but in Greek that word would have been “naos.” It wouldn’t have been “oikos.” And then, when it got translated into English, we say, “For this holy house,” and people think of the temple, of the building, but actually “oikos” doesn’t mean the building. It means the household. So when we pray in Greek, “For those who enter into this holy house”—”oikou toutou” in Greek, in dative case—”oikos” means the household.
So it’s a family setting, but the episkopos in the family setting is one of the servants who is placed over the master’s good to take care of the household. In the ancient household, in the ancient oikos, the episkopos was a chief servant; he was a doulos. He was a slave. And so it’s so interesting that here, the term of the chief slave is given to Jesus, that he is the Shepherd—he is also the King, the Priest, the High Priest, and all these things—but he is the Episkopos, meaning he is the chief servant.
We know that one of the titles of Jesus is servant: doulos, slave; that he is the servant of Yahweh. And that other term for servant, “pais,” which can mean “son,” but it’s also “son” in the sense of “boy,” in the sense of “servant.” Now, whether we use “pais” or “diakonos” or “doulos” or whatever term that’s used in Greek, Jesus is certainly the servant, but when he’s called “Episkopos,” that means he’s the top servant. He’s the servant of all the servants; that he is the servant over the other servants, because all the members of the household of God are servants of God, too, and the servants become sons by grace of God through Jesus. But we begin as servants.
This is the Letter to the Galatians, and it’s the Gospel of St. John: “I called you servants; now I [call] you friends. You’re going to be what I am. You’re going to be sons of God.” In [the] Galatian letter, it says that though we were slaves of God, Christ came as the Son of God and he gave us huiosethia, the status of sonship, and then we are now sons of God. The servants become the sons. That’s very important, but the servant element still remains. We begin as servants, and we always recognize [ourselves] as servants. Even in church we are called servants. We mentioned this just recently in a talk on the radio. When we go to Holy Communion, it’s “the servant of God.” When we’re ordained, it’s “the servant of God.” When we’re buried, when we die, it’s “the servant of God.” It’s “servant.”
Jesus is the Servant of all servants. He is the suffering servant. He is the ebed Yahweh, the servant of the Lord himself, the pais Kyriou. That’s what he is in Isaiah. That’s what he is in the New Testament. That’s what he is when he’s put up on the Cross and killed for us. He’s giving himself as the Servant. By his wounds we are healed. So he becomes the Lord who becomes our slave who becomes our servant. You might say that the Son of God becomes the Servant of God so that the servants of God could become the sons of God. That would be a wonderful way to put it: God becomes human to make humans divine; God becomes a slave to make slaves sons, sons and daughters. But even the daughters have [the] status of sons, in biblical legality, because the daughter can inherit everything. The daughter can be an heir as much as any son can be, and even any first-born son. We spoke about this already in these reflections.
So today what we want to see: when Jesus is called Episkopos, that’s the name of a slave; that’s a servant title, but it’s the chief servant. It’s the head servant. It’s the top servant. As I’ve said before on the radio, in a formulaic way, it could be put this way: the episkopos in the household of the master, the lord and the king, is not the master, not the lord, and not the king, and nothing belongs to him. It all belongs to the master, the lord, and the king. That’s why a synonym for “episkopos” in Scripture is “oikonomos,” meaning the chief steward, a steward, like stewardship: “oikonomia, stewardship.”
So anyway, this chief episkopos, this episkopos, this chief servant, is not master, not despotis, not vasilevs, not master or king. He’s not kyrios; he’s not the lord. He’s a servant. But everything that belongs to the master and the lord, he is in charge of. He’s in charge of all of the master’s servants. He’s in charge of all of the master’s goods. He’s in charge of all of the master’s properties. He has all the master’s power. He has all the master’s authority. He has everything that belongs to the master. He functions in persona, in the place of the master. When you see him, you see the master. When you hear him, you hear the master. When he commands, you’re hearing the command of the master. When he orders you to do something, you obey him as the master. But he’s not really the master! The real master is the master.
Here, in the Christian Church, this is very important, because the real master, the real lord, the real episkopos is Christ himself! So the human episkopoi, the human bishops, the human teachers, the human prophets, the human stewards, they do that by the grace of God in Christ. They are icons of Christ, presences of Christ. They are surrogates, even, you might say sometimes, vicars. They stand in his place, representatives, making present. But he’s not absent! He’s there acting in and through them. But the one who is in, present, acting in and through them, is Christ himself. That is the Christian view.
When a priest, for example, celebrates the Divine Liturgy, Christ is the one who offers and [is offered]. When a teacher teaches, it’s Christ who is teaching. When a diakonos, a deacon, serves, it is Christ who is serving. When a prophet prophesies, it is Christ who is prophesying. Everything is Christ, and we become the hands, the feet, the eyes, the nose, the ears, the presence of Christ—but we’re not Christ. Only Christ is Christ. And so that is why, in traditional language, the head of Christian community is called an episkopos, because he’s a chief slave; he’s a chief servant. But he’s only a servant, still. He’s not the lord; he’s a servant.
Through history, the titles of lord and master were given to bishops: “kyrios.” We call the bishop “Kyr, Lord, my lord,” because even in England the bishops were called lords and ladies and all those kind of titles. And then, under the Turkish yoke, the bishop had the title Despotis, Master, which was once a secular title, but it was given to the bishops under the Turkish yoke because they had to care for all of the Christians in the Byzantine Empire, not just their spiritual or liturgical or Christian needs, but all their needs. The bishops functioned simply as secular rulers, and then they became despotes; they became masters, in that sense, overseers of the total life of their flock, not just their spiritual life.
But the term “episkopos” originally was also, in a sense, a totalitarian term. The overseer of the community had the authority and the power of the master in every way, including property, including marriage lives, including where people lived and all these kinds of things. It was very severe, very strict, because he was dealing with slaves who were not free. They were not free of their own; they were servants like him, but he was the chief servant. And that is why, traditionally—and here you have the famous line of Pope St. Gregory the Great of Rome, where he said every bishop, beginning with the bishop of Rome, is the “servus servorum Dei,” the servant of the servants of God, the doulos ton doulōn tou Kyriou, the servant of the servants of God himself.
With Christ, you have this double thing: humanly, in the oikonomia, he’s a slave and a servant, but he’s also Lord and God. He’s Lord and God and slave and servant at one time in his own person. Now, we become everything that we are in and through him, christs by grace, by faith, so we become servants with him also, suffering with him, co-sufferers, co-slaves. But then we become sons, then we become lords. We even become gods; we are even deified through him. So what Christ is in himself, Master and Lord, as well as Episkopos and Doulos and Oikonomos and [Poimen], Pastor, all these things we can become by faith and grace [through] him.
Different people can have different aspects of these different gifts in different [intensities] and for different ministries and for different purposes. But what we have to remember now, and today when we hear Jesus Christ being called “the Shepherd and the Bishop of your souls,” this “[poimen] kai episkopos tōn psychōn hymōn”—could be “your souls” or “our souls”—this is Christ and Christ alone.
So when we contemplate the names and the titles of Jesus, we know that all names and titles that are given to humans first of all belong to Jesus himself. In some sense, Jesus is the only human being, even, the only Adam. Jesus is the only Jew. He’s the only Israelite, really. Everything is reduced to this one Person, or fulfilled in this one Person, whichever way you want to put it. It’s all fulfilled and completed in him. It all becomes him, but he alone is it. We are it by participation, by resemblance, by grace, by faith, but he is it, and what we just want to remember today is that when we say, “Jesus Christ is it, the only one,” what we want to remember now is that he is not the only High Priest, the only Prophet, the only Teacher, but he is also the only Shepherd and he is also the only Bishop, the only Episkopos.