1Paul and Timotheus, servants of Jesus Christ While Paul is accustomed, in the inscription of his epistles, to employ titles of distinction, with the view of procuring credit for himself and his ministry, there was no need of lengthened commendations in writing to the Philippians, who had known him by experience as a true Apostle of Christ, and still acknowledged him as such beyond all controversy. For they had persevered in the calling of God steadfastly, and in an even tenor. (24)
Bishops He names the pastors separately, for the sake of honor. We may, however, infer from this, that the name of bishop is common to all the ministers of the Word, inasmuch as he assigns several bishops to one Church. The titles, therefore, of bishop and pastor, are synonymous. And this is one of the passages which Jerome quotes for proving this in his epistle to Evagrius, (25) and in his exposition of the Epistle to Titus. (26) Afterwards (27) there crept in the custom of applying the name of bishop exclusively to the person whom the presbyters in each church appointed over their company. (28) It originated, however, in a human custom, and rests on no Scripture authority. I acknowledge, indeed, that, as the minds and manners of men are, there cannot be order maintained among the ministers of the word, without one presiding over the others. I speak of particular bodies, (29) not of whole provinces, much less of the whole world. Now, although we must not contend for words, it were at the same time better for us in speaking to follow the Holy Spirit, the author of tongues, than to change for the worse forms of speech which are dictated to us by Him. For from the corrupted signification of the word this evil has resulted, that, as if all the presbyters (30) were not colleagues, called to the same office, one of them, under the pretext of a new appellation, usurped dominion over the others.
Deacons. This term may be taken in two ways — either as meaning administrators, and curators of the poor, or for elders, who were appointed for the regulation of morals. As, however, it is more generally made use of by Paul in the former sense, I understand it rather as meaning stewards, who superintended the distributing and receiving of alms. On the other points consult the preceding commentaries.
(24) “Sans se desbaucher;” — “ corrupting themselves.”
(25) “Evagrius, a native of Antioch, and a presbyter apparently of the Church of Antioch. He traveled into the west of Europe, and was acquainted with Jerome, who describes him as a man acris ac ferventis ingenii , (of a keen and warm temper.)” — Smith’ Dictionary of Greek Biography and Mythology. — Ed.
(26) The reader will find both of the passages referred to quoted at full length in the Institutes, vol. iii. pp. 75, 76. — Ed.
(27) “Depuis les temps de l’;” — “ the times of the Apostle.”
(28) “Ordonnoyent conducteur de leur congregation;” — “ leader of their congregation.”
(29) “De chacun corps d’ en particulier;” — “ each body of the Church in particular.”
(30) “Tous prestres et pasteurs;” — “ priests and pastors.”