Bishop of Our Souls

For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (v. 25).  

- 1 Peter 2:25

A flock of sheep in the field is notorious for its tendency to wander about. When the flock has no shepherd, individual sheep can end up far away from their flock and in great danger.

In his prophecy of the Suffering Servant, Isaiah tells us that we are like sheep that have gone astray (53:6). Like sheep, we are prone to wandering about aimlessly. We sin and lose our way, finding ourselves in all kinds of danger. As with sheep, we are in need of a shepherd to guard us and to keep us in the fold.

Of course, as today’s passage tells us, Jesus is this Shepherd (1 Peter 2:25). Our Savior is the one who protects us and guides us. He is the one who restores us when we succumb to sin and find ourselves far from His presence.

Peter also says Jesus is the “overseer,” or “bishop” (kjv) of our souls. This is not surprising because the Greek term we translate as “bishop,” episkopos, has a meaning close to that of “shepherd.” In ancient Greece, episkopos could refer to any official who had a supervisory function. To do his job well, an episkopos had to be intimately aware of what his people were doing. He had to watch out for them to ensure they were prepared for anything that came their way.

Given that God sees all that there is, we can think of Him as the greatest bishop of all. This has frightened some people; the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre embraced atheism because he could not stand the idea of a being who knew everything about him. For those who are not in Christ, the existence of an all-seeing God is a horrible prospect because it means that they will be subject to perfect judgment for their transgressions. Yet even though our Creator does gaze at us to evaluate the depths of our sin, we who are in Christ know that His watch over us is, in the final analysis, as a loving father.

Christ, the incarnate God Himself, is the holy, loving bishop of our souls. He is intensely concerned for His own and looks after us to preserve our souls and empower us to fulfill His purposes for us. Just as our Father in heaven knows every hair on our head (Matt. 10:30), so too does the Son have His eye on us every second. Indeed, He is concerned with even the smallest details of our lives. 

Coram Deo

Dr. R.C. Sproul says that you can summarize the Bible thusly: God, who by His mighty power and wisdom sustains the universe in all its complexities, nevertheless has His eye on each and every one of His people, so intent is He on their welfare. Even when human shepherds and elders fail us, Christ is leading us through the valley, keeping us safe that we might see Him one day in glory (Ps. 23). Let us be comforted by this fact no matter what is happening in our lives.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 139
Matthew 6:25–34
Galatians 6:1
1 Timothy 4:16

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