Posted by: mattcolvin | November 20, 2011

Philippians 1:1-11: Apostolic greetings to bishops and deacons

Monday of the 22nd Week after Trinity: Philippians 1:1-11.

This is one of Paul’s prison epistles. I always like to remind people that it is also a letter of Timothy. Paul is able to extend “grace and peace’ from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus
the Messiah” because he is empowered to speak as a plenipotentiary representative of Jesus, that is, an apostle. But note that Timothy is included. He is Paul’s deputy and sidekick, and thus shares in his apostolic office.

Paul addresses the church “with the bishops and deacons.” I don’t want to get too deep into church office debates here, but I’ll note that the best Anglican scholars (e.g. Roger Beckwith) admit that we have to do with a two-office system, not three (so bishop + deacon, not bishop + presbyter + deacon), and that bishops arose by elevation from the presbyterate, and not by descent from the apostles. The REC’s declaration of principles also seems to be in line with this claim about episcopal polity: it is “not of divine right” but only “ancient and desirable.” So while I believe that episcopacy is the best and most Biblical form of church government, I do not believe that the Bible requires it, or that other forms of polity are invalid, or that there is much to be gained by claims about pedigree of ordination.

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