"THE CHURCH GOD BUILT PRESENTED BY STEVEN SCHILLER
In studying what should be the authority of the church...
We noted that it should be "the apostles' doctrine"
As contained in the pages of the New Testament
The New Testament provides a pattern that was followed by the early church...
The church at Jerusalem "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" - Ac 2:42
The apostles taught their doctrine "in every church" - 1Co 4:17
The pattern that we find for local churches includes such elements as...
The organization of the church
The worship of the church
The work of the church
[In this lesson and the next, we will examine what pattern emerges from the New Testament regarding the organization of the Lord's church in the local sense. But one might ask...]
WHY BE CONCERNED ABOUT CHURCH ORGANIZATION?
ORGANIZATION REVEALS PURPOSE...
When God creates something...
He has a purpose in mind
He designs His creation with the organization to accomplish His purpose
This is true in the physical realm
Certain animals were created as beasts of prey
Simply by looking at the animal's features (i.e., its organization), we can glean what its purpose is
This is true with the local church as well...
Seeing its organization will help us learn of the Lord's purpose for the church
This will be especially helpful later, when we examine the work of the church
APOSTASY OFTEN BEGINS WITH CHANGES IN ORGANIZATION...
One of the earliest departures from the New Testament was in church organization
Modern-day apostasies often start this way as well
Especially when people seek to change the purpose or work of the church!
[The organization of the church as revealed in the New Testament should not be taken lightly. The Lord had a purpose in mind, and organized the church to meet that purpose. With that said, let's now consider...]
CHURCH ORGANIZATION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
ELDERS TO OVERSEE THE LOCAL CONGREGATION...
A congregation, once fully developed, would have elders - cf. Ac 14:23; Tit 1:5
These elders were also called bishops and pastors
Elders (Grk., "presbuteros", presbyter) for they were older men
Bishops (Grk. "episkopos", overseer) for their task was to oversee the congregation - cf. Ac 20:17,28; 1Pe 5:1-2
Pastors (Grk. "poimen", shepherd) for their task was to shepherd and feed the flock of God - cf. Ac 20:17,28; 1 Pe 5:1-2
-- Not three distinct offices, but different ways to describe the men and their work (cf. Easton's Bible Dictionary, Moody Handbook of Theology)
Elders were appointed only after meeting stringent qualifications
The qualifications are listed in 1Ti 3:1,2,3,4,5,6-7; Tit 1:5,6,7,8-9
Note that they "must be..." (no exceptions), e.g....
Husband of one wife
With faithful children
-- Such qualifications prepared them for their role - cf. 1 Ti 3:5
In every congregation with elders, there was always a plurality, never just one
There were "elders" in every church - Ac 14:23
The church in Jerusalem had "elders" - Ac 15:2,4,6,22-23; 16:4; 21:18
The church at Ephesus had "elders" - Ac 20:17; 1Ti 5:17
There were to be "elders" in every city - Tit 1:5
When one was sick and wanted prayer, they were to call for the "elders" - Jm 5:14
Younger people were to submit to the "elders" - 1Pe 5:5
-- We never read of just one elder or bishop over one church or group of churches
The authority of the elders to oversee was limited...
They were to take heed to the flock of God "among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers" - Ac 20:28
They were to "shepherd the flock of God which is among you" - 1Pe 5:2
-- No elder (bishop, pastor) or group of elders had any authority beyond their local congregation!
DEACONS TO SERVE THE ELDERS AND THE CONGREGATION...
These were servants (Grk., "diakonos", servant, minister) who assisted the elders in the work of the church
Their qualifications are found in 1Ti 3:8,9,10,11,12-13
The work they do is a very noble one - 1Ti 3:13
While not identified as deacons per se, the seven men appointed to serve tables may have been prototypes of the service rendered - Ac 6:1,2,3,4,5-6
If so, then deacons are certainly "ministers of mercy"
THE MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION ITSELF...
Commonly called saints (Grk., "hagios", holy one) in the New Testament - cf. 1Co 1:2; Php 1:1
Also called disciples, Christians, believers, etc.
Among such members there may have been evangelists and teachers - Ep 4:11
Evangelists took the gospel to the lost
Teachers instructed and edified the members
Note: Those commonly referred to as preachers or ministers...
May do the work of both evangelist and teacher - e.g., 2Ti 4:5; 2:2
But whether they serve as evangelist, teacher, preacher, or minister, within the local church they likewise submit to the oversight of the elders
I.e., there is no indication they had "evangelistic oversight" or authority akin to that given to the bishops (elders, pastors)
They were to "take heed to the word", whereas elders were to "take heed to the flock" - cf. 1Ti 4:16; Ac 20:28
In Php 1:1, we find the organization of the local church alluded to in Paul's address:
"To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons"
Other than the members ("saints"), what organization existed in the local church was a two-tier system...
Bishops (also known as elders, pastors), of which there always more than just one
Deacons, who ministered to the congregation under the oversight of the bishops
The organization of the local church also suggests a threefold mission...
Bishops reflect the work of edification
Deacons reflect the work of benevolence
Teachers and evangelists, the work of evangelism
But it wasn't long before changes in the organization of the local church occurred. In our next study we shall note what happened then, and what changes often occur in the present...
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