The visitation that Jesus brought when he came to live and walk amongst us was more than just a social, “Hi, how are you?” visit. Jesus came not just to socialize with man, but to experience first hand his plight, to feel his pain, and to lead him out of his suffering and into abundant life. The Greek word used for “visitation” is the word “episkopee”, which means to “inspect, investigate, or visit.” This is the same root word used of Moses when he left the
“If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:42-44)
The shepherding ministry of Jesus was later delegated to his followers after His death and resurrection. Using the same word for “visitation”, Peter made the following remark concerning Judas. “Let another man take his office.” (Acts 1:20) In referring to Judas’ former “office” he uses the same Greek word for “visitation.” It is clear that Peter understood that they were to continue Jesus' ministry of visitation. They were to extend Jesus’ shepherding ministry to those entrusted to their care. They were to be the ones who would watch over, inspect, and care for the flock.
The fact that God would call men to such a shepherding role was clearly prophesied in the Old Testament. “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15) “I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing.” (Jeremiah 23:4) Jesus noted in His day that the people of God were, “distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Even so, today many of God’s people are struggling through life like sheep with no one to care, feed, or guide them. If ever there has been a need for godly men who will care for and shepherd the flock of God, it is today. Today, as much as in Jesus’ day, there is a need for visitation.
I believe that those whom God has called as elders in the Body of Christ are those whom God intends to be the shepherds over His flock. As we consider the role of elders in the local church, I want to examine what the scriptures reveal concerning their authority, their role, and their function.
More to come… David