The Organization of the Church
The Church of the Bible, Lesson 6 of 13
Christ built the church (Matthew 16:18). That church is made up of the called out, the world over (Colossians 1:13-14). It is made up of the saved (Acts 2:47). It is His spiritual body (Ephesians 4:4).
The church is all over the world. It is made up of hundreds and thousands of individual congregations. Each congregation is made up of many individual members. This means that the government of the church is local. It is not national or international. In other words, the Lord's church does not have an earthly head or an earthly headquarters.
The Bible teaches that Christ is the head of the church. Let us observe the following verses: "and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23). "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18). Now what do these verses teach? They teach that Christ is the head of the body, which is the church. How many heads are there? Just one! Christ is that one. He does not share that position with anyone else.
Since Christ is that head of the church, that means He is the head of each local congregation or local church. It also means He is the head of each member of the church. Paul said, "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Next, each local congregation is to have its own organization. Remember Christ is the head of the church. From among the members, elders and deacons are to be appointed. They are to see after the spiritual and physical sides of things (Acts 6). Notice too that the Bible always speaks of more than one elder over a congregation. Never is there only one elder ruling over them. Neither do you ever have the elders and deacons of one congregation taking control of another congregation. Congregations are to fellowship one another. However, they do not exercise control over each other.
The words elder, pastor, bishop, shepherd, and presbyter all have reference to the same office. So, an elder is a pastor, a bishop, etc. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul listed a number of qualifications: "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach; no brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (but if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." These qualifications are also stated in Titus 1:5-9. Not everyone in the church can be an elder. Only those qualified can be appointed. Even then, there must always be more than one of such men. In some congregations, no male members are qualified to be elders. The men of the church then must take care of the business matters until they grow and develop enough for elders to be appointed.
Deacons are also to be appointed to serve under the elders. They are known as servants. They are to work under the direction of the local elders. Paul lists their qualifications: "Deacons in like manner must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless. Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
Now this is the divine organization of the church. Christ is the head. Each congregation is to have its own elders and deacons. Under their authority are the preacher and teachers and members. This is the Lord's way. If one congregation goes into error, the others may continue faithful. Or, if all of the congregations depart from the truth but one, then it is possible for that one to be faithful. In the Lord's plan of organization, each congregation is autonomous or independent from the other congregations. They are not tied together by man-made laws, but by love. They therefore have fellowship with one another. They work together. They are one in Christ. His way cannot be improved on.
Nowhere in the Bible do you read of Peter or any other man being the head of the church. Nowhere do you read of a bishop ruling over a number of congregations. Nowhere do you read of only one pastor, or of a preacher, being head over a congregation. Nowhere do you read of a clergy or laity. The majority of the religious world has departed from God's organization of the church. That is one reason there is so much division in the world. Let us therefore determine to return to the Bible for the true pattern for church organization.
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