Ephesians 4:11 by Robert Dean
What are the responsibilities of a good shepherd? Listen to this message to learn what the Old Testament has to say about good shepherds. Hear about two examples, Moses and David. Contrast what they did with Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s descriptions of false shepherds who lead the people off the path God wants for them. Understand that just as God was the Good Shepherd in the Old Testament, so Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd in the New Testament where teaching the Word of God is shepherding the flock.

What is a Shepherd? Old Testament and New Testament
Ephesians 4:11
Ephesians Lesson #144
April 3, 2022
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Opening Prayer

“Father, we live in a world where there are so many disciples of the father of lies, the only way we can tell truth from error is from Your Word. For it is through taking in Your Word, studying it, letting Your Word have its way in our souls, not being conformed to the world, but being transformed by the renewing of our mind that we are able to develop skills of discernment, skills of the decision-making, skills of life that enable us to make good decisions from a position of strength, enable us to focus on that which has eternal value, and in all of that we are matured spiritually as God the Holy Spirit strengthens us in our inner man.

“Father, we pray that as we study Your Word today, coming to understand what the issues are in terms of the role of the pastor-teacher, we pray that You might strengthen us in our understanding of our purpose. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”

Slide 2

Continuing our study in Ephesians 4:11, which is a very significant passage because it tells us the purpose for the primary spiritual leadership of a congregation, which is provided by the Lord Jesus Christ to His church. 

There’s a lot of confusion over these things. If you have spent your life maybe migrating from one denominational church to another, or if you’ve gone to the nondescript generic brand so-called evangelical Christianity in mega-churches, then you’ve discovered that about 99.9% of what they do has nothing to do with biblical priorities.

We live in a world where there are a lot of people who are probably believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they have never been taught anything because they don’t even know that there are churches that exist that actually feed people the Word of God.

All of this is because what is taught in a lot of seminaries, what is taught in a lot of churches, is not based on the Word of God in terms of the ministry mission and the priorities of the pastor of the local church. And many pastors are not trained; they have no understanding of what it means.

As Earl Radmacher said 30+ years ago, that the evangelical church is the world’s largest nursery, and the nursery workers don’t have a clue how to get the babies out of diapers. That is sad, so it’s important for us to lay this down because this is the essence, really, of what makes us as a teaching Bible church distinctive and unique among what’s available among most churches. 

We in Houston can thank God because there are a number of congregations, which I won’t name, because every time we have a Chafer Conference, I run into somebody, maybe they’re Hispanic, maybe every now and then we have a few black pastors that show up, and they are listening to one of us who has a white congregation teaching of the Word of God, who has more formal training.

We thank God for them because they know what the truth is, and they just want to do the best they can with the gifts that God’s given them. There are so many congregations like this throughout this Houston area.

It’s been true for about the last 70 years that we’ve had these good Bible-teaching churches. Before that, they also had good Bible-teaching churches, but I haven’t lived that long, so I didn’t go to those churches until much later, where I knew most of those pastors.

Slide 3

We are looking at what the Bible teaches about shepherds. That’s what a pastor is. The same word that’s used for shepherd is the word that’s used for pastor.

Slide 4

In order to understand Ephesians 4:11–12 about this last gifted person, the pastor-teacher, we will study why it’s a combination gift, and why it should be understood that way next time. But today we’re still trying to understand what it means, that this is pastor-teacher. To give you a hint, a pastor has a focus on leadership and feeding, the teaching part is related to how that is done, how the gift functions, so that’s how these two words really fit together.

Slide 5


What the Bible says about Teaching

Previously we talked about the fact that there’s a lot of confusion over various translations of these Greek words related to proclaiming the gospel. Usually it is translated as “preaching the gospel,” and there are other words, so there’s a difference between preaching and teaching.

Slide 6

The Greek verb DIDASKO is teaching. It has to do with giving instruction and helping people to understand: 1, what the Bible says; 2, what it means; and 3, it usually makes it obvious what you are to do with it, which is application or in many ways implication. Teaching involves all of those things.

Then we saw that word is used some 55 times in the Gospels. Eight of those refer to others doing some form of teaching. One refers to the Father teaching; one refers to the Holy Spirit teaching.

Then the verb KERUSSO is more often than not associated with the content of the gospel. In some places where it doesn’t make it clear or it’s not obvious, there’s a rule in interpretation that you always interpret the vague or ambiguous or uncertain by the clear, by that which is precise. 

You don’t say, “Over here, it could mean X, Y or Z, but 98% of the time it’s used, it’s related, to the proclamation of the Gospels. So over here can relate to something else.” That’s bad hermeneutics.

If it means something in 95%, 98% of its uses, and then there three or four where it’s not as precise and it doesn’t give the content, then you can assume that the meaning that holds in 95%, 98% of the cases, it is the same meaning. So the clear always interprets the unclear.

Preaching: the Gospels have “the gospel of the Kingdom” as its primary content, which is “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” When you get into the Epistles, that changes to just the gospel related to Christ dying for our sins.

Slide 7


  • The content of preaching is most often the good news of the gospel.
  • The content of teaching is explanation of the Word of God, so that people are spiritually nourished and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 3:18.

We also learned that the concept related to EVANGELIZO and EVANGELIUM doesn’t have to do with preaching something, it has to do with proclaiming the good news, proclaiming the gospel that Christ died for our sins that we, therefore, have forgiveness of sin, and by trusting in Him and Him alone, we have everlasting life.

Slide 8

We looked at “What the Bible teaches about the Shepherd in the Old Testament”, because with almost everything that we have in the New Testament, the meaning of terms, the frame of reference, is always the Old Testament.

We are to reject someone as a false teacher who comes along and says, “We just need to get away from the Old Testament. We don’t need to teach it. It just causes problems and disagreement and conflict because of things that are taught there. We just need to stick with what’s in the New Testament.”

That is a popular view today, and those who hold that I would classify as a false teacher. You cannot really understand the New Testament without that framework from the Old Testament.

Slide 9

We looked at Psalm 23, which speaks of the Lord as our Shepherd, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want,” emphasizing the sufficiency of God’s grace. We won’t need anything; we lack nothing because He is our Shepherd.

Slide 10

In summary what we saw that this concept of shepherding is based on the verb ra‘ah. What’s interesting is that lot of times it’s a participle. (I know eyes are glazing over. We’re getting into all of those words that are not any part of your skill set), but a participle can function as a verb or function as a noun.

Nearly every time you see words translated “shepherd,” it’s this verb for feeding, for leading, for attending, for shepherding, for taking sheep to pasture. That’s the idea. We see that framework set early in Genesis 29:7b,

“Water the sheep, and go and feed them.” This is a literal command and feeding them is literally “shepherd them” or “pasture them.” Genesis 31:31; 30:36; 37:2, Joseph was pastoring or feeding the flock.

Slide 11

God is the ultimate pattern for understanding what a shepherd is, Genesis 49:24, He’s “the Shepherd,” “the Rock of Israel.”

Slide 12

The Shepherd in Psalm 23

1.      The shepherd leads. He makes the sheep to lie down in green pastures. That’s leadership. He takes them to where there is good food and makes them rest there, as a result of good feeding.

2.      He leads the sheep. Leading is a primary aspect of this pastor metaphor.

3.      He restores the sheep. When they are ill or they’ve been wounded, or they have some other health problem, He restores them.

4.      He guides them. In the text He guides beside the still water. In application that’s the Word of God. He refreshes them with the Word of God and leads them in paths of righteousness through the Word of God.

5.      The shepherd guides in paths of righteousness. 

6.      He protects and corrects. This is the role of the pastor, as we see it laid out most specifically in Psalm 23. Ultimately, it is the Word of God.

Slide 13

He protects and corrects, and look what the Word of God does. 2 Timothy 3:16–17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God, and is profitable for instruction—the King James translated it ‘doctrine.’ ”

Doctrine is a word that in a lot of circles is restricted to the study of systematic theology; it’s related to dogma. But that’s not how the Bible really uses the term nor do we. The instruction of the Word of God teaches us how to think, teaches us how to make decisions, teaches us right from wrong, it teaches us how we should live, and that is all part of what “doctrine” means. 

It’s very close to how the military uses “doctrine.” It includes everything from the original theoretical foundation of how they’re going to build a weapon system all the way to how it’s eventually used and developed in combat. When it comes to application in a military setting, there are some interesting examples.

For example, Lockheed Martin builds built the F-16 and F-35. But the field testing environment for both the F-16 and F-35 is Israel. These are sold to Israel, and they take them and make them better because they discover different applications, they rewrite the software, they do any number of other things.

But they start with the same basic concept which is what we would call the framework of what the Scripture teaches; it’s application. It is going to differ from person to person and situation to situation.

Slide 14

Our first example is Psalm 23.

A second example, Isaiah 40:11, talks about God as a Shepherd again, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd.”

Both of these words are the same in the Hebrew, the verb ra‘ah. It is used as a participle like a shepherd. It’s like those who feed the sheep. That’s how it would be understood if you did a more literal translation. He “will feed” is an imperfect verb.

The idea here is this verb, depending on the part of speech, whether it’s a participle or a verb, is going to have a slightly different sense. But its basic meaning is to shepherd, to feed, to tend the sheep, to lead the sheep—all within that same spectrum.

Slide 15

From the Old Testament, those who are identified as shepherds, as good leaders:

Examples of Good Shepherds

Slide 16

First example: Moses.

Slide 17

Exodus 2:16–17 to get an idea of how this word is used initially in terms of literal shepherds.

Exodus 2:16, “Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters.”

We learn later that this is Jethro, when the Midianites were sympathetic with the Hebrews. We studied this a little bit in our introduction to Gideon on Tuesday night in Judges, because by the time of the period of the judges, the Midianites are enemies seeking to oppress the Israelites. And the result is Gideon’s battle, which is the end of the Midianite threat; they’re never a problem again.

But at this stage there’s great support from the Midianites and from Jethro. In fact, Moses will marry one of the daughters of Jethro.

“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water—the Septuagint translates it with the verb form of POIMAINO for shepherding. Literally ‘they came and shepherded’—and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.”

Exodus 2:17, “Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.” That’s a different word there, translated “water” in Exodus 2:16, but it’s literally “shepherd,” so it’s providing nourishment for the sheep.

Slide 18

Exodus 3:1, the same verb, “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his Father-in-law [the verb ra‘ah]. And he led the flock—a different word, so part of tending is the idea of leading, guiding, driving the sheep—to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.—Another name for Mount Sinai.”

Psalm 78:52 uses it this way, referring to God’s leadership of Israel, “But He made His own people go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.”

God does this as the Shepherd of Israel: He guides them; He leads them. That’s the role of the pastor; the role of the shepherd.

Slide 19

Another example of a shepherd is in the case of David, who was a shepherd. He was the youngest of his brothers, and sort of the afterthought of his father in some sense, so he got the job of being away with the sheep, which is the lowest job or chore for the family.

But that gives him experience, because when he was out with the sheep, he was faced with many different opportunities to trust God. He’s out there with the sheep. He knows Scripture, knows who God is. We don’t know where he got that training, but we know that he was a strong believer, even as an adolescent.

He’s not a boy, like you see pictured in animation and cartoons. He is probably not even a young teenager. Because of what he’s going to say in this passage, we know that he had to be fairly strong. He is probably 17 or 18 years of age. He is too young to serve in the army, but he is old enough to have a pretty well-developed musculature, fairly agile, and is able to do some remarkable things.

David came to Saul saying, “Well, who is this uncircumcised Philistine out here? Why isn’t anybody fighting him?” Then he said that he would do it; he volunteers. 

Saul said, “Well, who are you? You’re just a kid! Why do you think you can go fight this champion of the Philistines?” David answered Saul in 1 Samuel 17:34, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep …” 

The word translated ‘keep’ is ra‘ah. See how many different ways this one word is translated, but if you keep it within a more narrow range, you understand that it’s all talking about the responsibilities of a shepherd. 

It’s translated “when,” but probably should be “whenever,” because it’s stating things that would normally happen while he was out in the wilderness, didn’t have anybody else to rely on. He couldn’t get on his cell phone and call 911. He couldn’t just hit the emergency button on his cell phone and have alarms go off.

He couldn’t pick up his AR15 or his 45 or anything like that. He didn’t even have a sword with him. All that he had was his shepherd’s crook and a short club that is usually described as a rod. That’s all he has with him except for his own moral courage shaped and formed by the Word of God and his sense of responsibility and his trust in God.

1 Samuel 17:34–35, “Whenever a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it.”

You have to think about that a little bit. He’s out there by himself. When is it normal for a lion or a bear to attack a flock? There are times certainly when they attack during the daytime, but they frequently will attack at night. So if you’ve got a lamb that’s being taken by a lion at night, then you’re going into the bush in the dark. That’s tough. That’s mental toughness at a young age, and he’s trusting God.

“… whenever a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth. And when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard.”

This is hand-to-hand combat with a lion or a bear. He’s not standing off at a distance, he is up close and personal. He can smell the fetid breath of the lion or the bear. He grabs it and struck it and killed it. You’ve got to be hitting a lion pretty hard with a club to kill it.

You don’t want to take five or six swings at it, because then you’re going to lose control of the situation, and it’s not going to be good. This has just always struck me as one of the most remarkable statements in Scripture about somebody’s courage and their strength.

Slide 20

1 Samuel 17:36, “Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.”

David’s whole framework was to look at the challenge from divine viewpoint. This isn’t just a lion or a bear, he’s got a responsibility over his flock, and God’s given him that responsibility. He’s trusting God in every single situation.

This is a great example of the faith-rest drill, because he concludes in 1 Samuel 17:37, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine—not much Saul could say about that.—And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you!’ ”

This is an example of what a shepherd does: he protects the sheep. This is the physical side, but when it is used as an analogy, that’s the role of a leader. To shepherd is applied to political leaders as well as spiritual leaders in the Old Testament

The role of the leader is to protect the people from enemies, a political leader from foreign and domestic leaders. If it is a spiritual shepherd, a priest or prophet, then they are to protect the people from false teaching, false doctrine, and the lies of the devil. We’re going to learn that that’s very much a part of the responsibility of a New Testament pastor.

Slide 21

Another example emphasizes the leadership responsibility. 

2 Samuel 5:2, “Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’”

When we studied 1 Samuel, all those times when David is being chased by Saul because he knows David has been anointed to be king of Israel, Saul is jealous, vindictive, and he wants to take David out so his own family can continue their reign and dynasty, David is in the wilderness.

What’s happening? All the people who are being disaffected and become homeless because of Saul’s bad economic policies, all these people who have gotten on the wrong side of Saul are leaving town and going down to join David in the wilderness, and he has to take care of them.

It’s on-the-job training, shifting from shepherding, taking care of and leading sheep, to taking care of and leading people. The Lord said to him, 2 Samuel 5:2, “You shall shepherd—same word—My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.”

This is an example of the metaphorical use of shepherd for a political ruler, a leader.

2 Samuel 7:8, “Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David. ‘Thus says Yahweh Sabaoth the Lord of the armies: “I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel.” ’ ” This is another sense of “shepherding.”

Slide 22

Psalm 78:70–71, reflecting upon God’s choice of David, “He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him—That is, God brought him to shepherd—same word, to shepherd to tend] to lead Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance.”

Slide 23

Another book that says a lot about shepherds is Jeremiah. Most of what Jeremiah focuses on are the bad shepherds, the evil shepherds, but in a couple of places he has a positive thing, or at least in this one place he has a positive statement:

Jeremiah 3:15, God is speaking of what will happen in the kingdom in the far future, in contrast to that time, “And I will give you shepherds—those who shepherd, those who tend, those who feed the sheep—according to My heart and who will feed you—again, the use of the verb there—with knowledge and understanding.”

Not only does a shepherd have the responsibility of leading, has a responsibility of protecting and guiding, but also has the responsibility of feeding with knowledge and understanding.

Knowledge” comes from the verb yada, which means just basic knowledge, instruction, giving them wisdom. That bleeds over into the second phrase “understanding,” which is really wisdom. The Hebrew is shakal, having to do with wisdom as well.

An understanding, so that you can apply it in making wise decisions and you will prosper in your life. That’s the idea. So the role of the shepherd is to teach, to train, to give knowledge and understanding, so that the people can be successful and prosperous in their life.

Slide 24

In contrast to that, we get a good look at the negatives, the false shepherds, in Israel.

Jeremiah 2:8, the priests are indicted for their failure to teach the Word. They’re atheist, agnostic; they’re not really trusting in God at all, “The priests did not say, ‘Where’s the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me.—They don’t handle the Law, they do not know God;—the rulers—it’s literally the same word, but it’s translated ‘rulers’ here, those who shepherd—also transgressed against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.”

There’s an indictment here. The use of “shepherd” includes both the political leadership, as well as the spiritual leadership of the prophets. That’s why he uses a broader term of those who shepherd, as opposed to narrowing it down to prophets and kings; it covers all of the bases.

They’re leading them into false worship, they’re leading them into the worship of false gods, not any different than probably 90% of professors in academia in this country who are leading our children astray with totally false information.

There are some good ones and Christians out there who are very solid, but we can’t trust schools that historically we could trust. Because what has happened in academia in the last 40 or 50 years, was happening when most of us were in university. Whether it was in the 60s 70s 80s or 90s, it was firmly ensconced by then as well. Also, the political leaders, so we face the same situation.   

As we studied in Judges on Tuesday night, human viewpoint is basically pagan monism. No matter how you shape it, it ends up in pagan monism, and that is what dominates the worldview. It has different manifestations and different looks, but that’s basically what it is.

Slide 25

Jeremiah 50:6, “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds—those who shepherd—have led them astray. They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill. They have forgotten the resting place.”

That’s what these false shepherds did. They lead them astray taking them to false pasturage where they were not going to get good food. That’s what a false teacher does, doesn’t provide food for the sheep.

Slide 26

Jeremiah 10:21, “For those who shepherd—I just went ahead and translated it that way. It’s a participle—have become dull-hearted and have not sought the Lord. Therefore, they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.”

Slide 27

Jeremiah 23, a lengthy indictment.

Jeremiah 23:1, “Woe to those who shepherd, who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Says the Lord.” Believers are Christ’s sheep in the body of Christ today and the Old Testament Israel was God’s sheep, God’s flock.

Jeremiah 23”2, “Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against those who shepherd, who feed My people: ‘You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings.’ ”

“Those who shepherd,” same word, “those who feed,” same word. Ra‘ah covers that field of meaning. It means to shepherd, which means primarily to feed, to tend, to guard, to protect, to lead.

Jeremiah 23:3, “ ‘But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries, where I’ve driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.’ ”

This is a promise to eventually restore Israel from all the nations that God has scattered them to and restore them to the land. That occurs at the end of the Tribulation period when God says, Jeremiah 23:4,

“‘I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them [that’s the responsibility of the shepherd, is to feed the sheep]; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking.’ ”

Slide 28

In Ezekiel the negatives, false shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:2, “Son of Man prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds, ‘Woe to those who shepherd Israel who shepherd/feed themselves! Should not those who shepherd, shepherd/feed the flocks?’ ”

Again and again we just see this whole emphasis that the role of the shepherd relates to feeding, caring, and leading.

Slide 29

Conclusion with this summary that in the Old Testament the shepherd is the one who:

  • Leads
  • Guides
  • Feeds with knowledge and understanding
  • Heals those who are wounded by sin
  • Provides security
  • Restores the scattered
  • Seeks the lost
  • Protects
  • Corrects. 

That’s the emphasis in the Old Testament.

These things are done in the New Testament through the Word of God. Pastors are to lead by the Word of God. They guide by the Word of God. This is the basis.

Slide 30

Isaiah 40:11, “God will feed His flock like a shepherd—same word both places;—He will gather the lambs with His arm—shows the care and the tenderness of God as our shepherd—and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”

Slide 31

Deuteronomy 8:3, “So He humbled you—Moses says to the Israelites,—allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

That is how we are fed according to Scripture.

Slide 32

What does the Bible Teach about Shepherds/Pastors in the New Testament?

Slide 33

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, a direct parallel between Yahweh our Shepherd, “I lack nothing,” Psalm 23:1. This is also applied to the Second Person of the Trinity because of the unity of the Godhead.

John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

Hebrews 13:20, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,”

1 Peter 2:25, “For you are like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

That’s an important phrase. Jesus is referred to as “the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.”

“Shepherd” is the noun POIMEN, and “overseer” is the noun EPISKOPOS from which we get our English word Episcopal. It was translated in the King James as “bishop.” Often in modern English it’s translated as “overseer.” But here there is a singular article in the Greek before “shepherd;” the article is not repeated before “overseer.” 

There is a rule in Greek that was discovered by a man named Granville Sharp. He recognized that when you have common nouns in the singular, and there is an article that precedes the first noun but no repetition of the article before the second noun, then those two nouns are referring to the same thing. We learn here that Jesus is the Overseer and Shepherd of our souls.

Slide 34

We find the same kind of construction in Acts 20. This is when Paul is finishing up his third missionary journey, he’s on his way to Jerusalem, and he really wants to speak to the pastors in Ephesus. So he calls for them to meet him, and he’s going to warn them about the fact that from among them false teachers will arise—wolves who are in sheep’s clothing.

There are a couple words here we have to understand as we go forward in our understanding of a pastor.

Acts 20:17, “From Miletus he sent to Ephesus—Miletus is right on the coast. Ephesus was up the coast a little bit, probably about 20 miles away—and called for the elders of the church.”

“Elders” is a different word, PRESBUTEROUS. I believe it means older. For example, if you’re getting past 40, and you start having problems with your eyes and need to go to the optometrist to get glasses, you have presbyopia. You’ve got old eyes. PRESBUTEROUS emphasizes age, maturity, something of that nature.

We’re told here that he goes to the elders of the church. A lot of times people will look at this and say, “Elders of the church, you have plural elders and singular church, so that means a church should have plural elders.” That form of government is called a “plurality of elders.”

There are problems with that:

1) There’s more than one church in Ephesus.

2) Passages in Acts talk about the church of Samaria, singular noun, but Samaria is a territory. There’s more than one congregation in Samaria. The singular “church” can and often does refer to a plurality of congregations.

This idea does not support what it seems to support in the King James and most translations, because a lot of the translators were held to either an Episcopal or Presbyterian form of government in England at the time.

They called for the elders of the church, the pastors of the different congregations in Ephesus.

Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers—EPISKOPOS—to shepherd—they’re elders, EPISKOPOS, called bishops, overseers; their function is to pastor—to shepherd the church of God which he has purchased with His own blood.”

Notice it’s the church of God here; it’s not the church of Ephesus. So they have a role to the body of Christ that we see in Ephesians 4:11 that He gave these gifted people to the church, the body of Christ. Not just to West Houston Bible Church or some other church, one local congregation. The gift of these gifted men are given to the body of Christ, not just to a single local congregation.

There are our words:


To shepherd is the verb POIMAINO.

Slide 36

Elder is the office. It refers to someone who is of spiritual maturity. It’s used in Titus 1:5–6. The term “bishop” or “overseer” emphasizes the authority or oversight function of this office. 

It’s interesting, in Titus 1:5–6 Paul uses the word PRESBUTEROUS “elder,” but in Titus 1:7 he calls the same people “overseer” EPISKOPOS. EPISKOPOS and elder are synonyms for the same person.

What are they to do? They are to shepherd. That puts those three terms together, so the pastor emphasizes the role and responsibility of the elder/bishop to feed the sheep through teaching.

1 Peter 5:1, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who ham a fellow elder,” PRESBUTEROS. 

What are they to do? 1 Peter 5:2, they are to “Shepherd—the verb POIMAINO: to shepherd, to feed, to lead, to guide, to take care of—the flock of God which is among you serving as overseers.”

We see elder, shepherding, and oversight all referring to the same person. Not like in Presbyterian forms of government where the elders are different from the pastor, and they don’t even refer to the term oversight or bishop.

We have to straighten all this out, and it’s a mess because of all these historic denominations.

Slide 38

The conclusion is that the role of the pastor is to lead, to guide, and feed through the Word of God. He protects and corrects. All of this is accomplished through the teaching of the Word of God. You instruct the people how to think, you help the people understand biblically how to make choices and how to trust God, and the result is that they mature.

Next time we will look at one of the central passages that we must understand. We read the Scriptures in John 21 earlier, but I didn’t get there. We will look at that and learn that the mission is to feed the sheep.

Closing Prayer

“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to come together, to understand that where it is the job of the pastor-shepherd to feed the sheep, it is the job of the sheep to feed, to eat, to drink. Then what happens is that what they learn is assimilated into their thinking and transforms them in their spiritual life into the image of Christ. It changes character, it changes thinking, it changes actions. Father, we pray that we would all be challenged in this area.

“Father, we also pray for those who may be unsaved, who are either here or listening online now or later, that the issue in life, the first important question that must be addressed, is how do I have eternal life? How am I to be saved? How am I going to recover from being a sinner?

“Scripture teaches that it’s not through repentance, it is not through works, it is not through ritual. It is through trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior, that He who knew no sin was made sin for us in order that the righteousness of God might be found in us.

“And that only by trusting in Christ can we have eternal life. We trust in Him because He is the Savior who died on the Cross, paid the penalty for our sins, so that by trusting in Him, His righteousness is then imputed to us, His life is given to us, we have eternal life, we have righteousness; and therefore, we have that life eternal that we can never lose.

“Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with these truths, and also those who are unbelievers, their need to trust in Christ. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”