Rev. Mark H. Creech
January 20, 2010
Christ: the shepherd and bishop of our souls
By Rev. Mark H. Creech

There are two precious names given for God in I Peter 2:25, where Christ is referred to as the "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls."

Most Christians are familiar with the title "Shepherd." The most beloved Psalm, Psalm 23, proclaims: "The Lord is my shepherd." Isaiah says, "He will feed his flock like a shepherd: he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11).

Jesus took upon himself the title when he said, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (John 10:11).

The name "Shepherd" pictures the ceaseless vigilance and self-sacrificial love of God for those who become "the sheep of his pasture" (Psalm 100:3.)

The second title, "Bishop" is not as familiar to many Christians. Scottish Bible commentator, William Barclay, notes that "Bishop" is a word with a great history. In Homer's Illiad, Hector, the champion of the city of Troy, was a "Bishop" or guardian of that great city. In Plato's laws the "Bishop" was the guardian of the state, who "supervised personal conduct, keeping an eye on temperate and outrageous behavior, so as to punish him who needs punishment." In Athenian law, the "Bishop" was a governor, administrator, or inspector that was sent to see that the subject states observed law and order and were loyal. [1] In other words, Christ is the overseer of public morals the administrator of public law and order.

These two names show the dual nature of Christ's ministry. He is indeed the Shepherd of our souls. He rescues the lost sheep and provides personal salvation. He leads those who accept him in the way everlasting. By his presence in the human heart He frees them from the bondage of iniquity for self-government.

Without self-government no nation may be assured of the favor of God. Early America understood this requirement. At the very beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress appointed days of fasting and prayer that the people "may with united hearts confess and bewail their manifold sins and transgressions, and by sincere repentance and amendment of life appease his righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ obtain his pardon and forgiveness." [2] On another occasion, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation with this language: "The Congress do also in the most earnest manner, recommend to all members of the United States, and particularly the officers, civil and military, under them, the exercise of repentance and reformation; and further require of them the strict observance of the articles which forbade swearing and all immoralities." [3] Thus, what was most revolutionary about the American Revolutionary era, was the way its statesman of the day plead for holiness of conduct in "the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ."

But Christ is more than the Shepherd of our souls. He is also the Bishop of our souls. When man in the Garden of Eden rejected God's Law and sin entered the equation, man lost not only the ability to govern himself, but also the ability to effectively govern society. Christ, however, restores the power for both self and civil government. He is the administrator of public morals, public law, and public order. It is His commands that when followed produce a free people.

Christ is both the "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls." He provides both internal and external liberty. External forms proceed from internal power. This is also true for civil government.

Noah Webster wrote of this when he said:

    "Almost all civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the Christian religion...The religion which has introduced civil liberty, is the religion of Christ and his apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free constitutions of government..." [4]

The great orator and American Revolutionary, Patrick Henry has been attributed with this statement, which sums up the matter quite well:

    "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ." [5]

How can freedom be sustained without an understanding of these fundamental principles for a free people and a free government?

This is the Christian worldview for addressing public policy matters; this is the truth from which the church must operate. Its mission is to share with those in authority that Christ is still both the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. His way is not an impediment to freedom, as some would suggest. His way is the source of freedom, both from within and without.

NOTES:

[1]  The Letters of James and Peter, William Barclay, Westminster Press, Philadelphia 1976, pgs. 216-217

[2]  Christianity and the American Commonwealth, Bishop Charles B. Galloway, Delivered in the Chapel at Emory College, Oxford, Ga., 1898, American Vision, 2005, pg. 117

[3]  Ibid

[4]  History of the United States, Noah Webster (New Haven, 1833), pgs. 273-274

[5]  God's Providence in America's History, Steve C. Dawson, (Rancho cordova, CA: Steve C. Dawson, 1988), p.9:6

© Rev. Mark H. Creech

 

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Rev. Mark H. Creech

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.... (more)

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