THE IMPORTANCE OF CHURCH ORGANIZATION
In the studying the organization of the church we are interested in and willing to accept only the organization of the church as revealed in the New Testament. Are you familiar with the organization of the church? Have you considered the importance of church organization? In lesson four we learned that God planned the church, Christ built the church and that it is the mission of the church to carry the gospel to all the world. Surely people with this universal and age lasting mission should be well organized. Just as the church has divine origin, it also has a divine organization and we must not change the divine order. The organization of the church is one way that we can identify the church that Jesus built. The church today must have the same organization that the church had in the New Testament, and this makes church organization important. If the church today does not have the same organization that the church had in the New Testament then it is not the same church that we read about in the New Testament. No group of people has ever changed the organization of the church as revealed in the New Testament that has not also changed God's plan of salvation, God's way of worship and God's requirements for the Christian life. It is also true that no group has ever changed God's plan of salvation or God's way of worship that has not also changed God's plan of church organization. Bible church organization, the Bible plan of salvation and the Bible way of worship stand or fall together. This makes church organization important.
WHAT IS THE FORM OF NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH ORGANIZATION?
In the New Testament, churches were congregational in government or organization. There is no higher form of organization in the New Testament than the local church. There is no district, state, national or international organization in the New Testament. church. In the New Testament there is no such thing as one church exercising authority over another church or congregation. there is no such thing as one man or group of men in a given church exercising authority over churches beyond the local church where they serve. The local church is the highest and only form of church organization known to the New Testament .
HOW IS THE LOCAL CHURCH ORGANIZED?
God placed elders over the local church. ''Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.'' (Acts 20:17,28). These men are referred to as elders (Acts 20:28), bishops (Phil. 1:1), pastors (Eph. 4:11), and presbyters (1 Tim. 4:14). there four titles refer to the same men in the church. Sometimes we refer to a person as a teacher, other times to the same person as a professor and at still other times to the same person as an instructor. All there titles refer to the same person.
The word elder means one of age or experience, the word bishop means an overseer, the word pastor means a shepherd or feeder, the word presbyter comes from a word that means elder or aged person and the word is usually translated ''elder'' in our English versions. These words indicate the different qualities and responsibilities of the men God placed over the local church. They are to oversee, shepherd or lead, teach or feed the church. Like a shepherd, they watch for the welfare of the church (Heb. 13:17).
In the Bible there was always a plurality of elders or bishops over the local church. There was never one bishop over a plurality of churches.
''And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church'' (Acts 20:17). Here Paul called for the elders (plural) were overseers of the church (singular) at a given city,, Ephesus. There elders (plural) were overseers of the church (singular) at Ephesus (Acts 20:28).
''Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons'' (Phil. 1:1). here we have Paul and Timothy addressing the saints or church at Philippi with the bishops (plural) and deacons (plural). A single church with a plurality of bishops.
''For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee'' (Titus 1:5). Crete was an island, they did not have one elder or bishop over all the churches on the island, rather, they had elders (plural) over each city or local church.
DEACONS-THERE OFFICE, WORK
To assist the elders in their work God appointed deacons. The word deacon means a minister or servant. There was a plurality of deacons in the church at Philippi, just as there was a plurality of bishops (Phil. 1:1). Paul give qualifications for deacons, just as he gives qualifications for elders (1 Tim. 3:8-13). The deacon has an office or place of responsibility in the church, just as a bishop has a responsibility. (1 Tim. 3:13). The bishop is to oversee the church, the deacon is to minister or serve in carrying out the work planned by the bishops. One work of deacons is to minister to the needy.
THE WORK OF THE EVANGELIST
Another part of the organization of the church is the evangelist. An evangelist is one who preaches the word. Philip was the evangelist at Caesarea (Acts 21:8). Timothy was to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). God set evangelists in the church just as He did pastors or bishops. (Remember that a pastor is a bishop). The evangelist is the preacher and he may preach full time for a local church or he may preach in evangelistic meetings continually in different cities. The preacher is not '' the pastor''. for a pastor is a bishop or elder in the local church. We should not call the preacher '' the pastor'' for he is not over the church, he is only a preacher of the word.
TEACHERS ARE IMPORTANT
God also set teachers in the church (Eph. 4:11). There were ''certain teachers'' in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1). Every local church today that is succeeding in reaching the lost has certain teachers that are studying, praying and teaching classes or individuals to show them the way of salvation.
Of course there are saints (Phil. 1:1) or members in every local church whom the bishops oversee, to whom the evangelist preaches and the teachers teach.
TO ILLUSTRATE CHURCH ORGANIZATION
The Chinese proverb that one picture is worth a thousand words still has merit. To elevate truth sometimes we need to call attention to what is not true. In the illustration on the true order of church organization revealed in the New Testament. In the other pictures we have shown examples of modern day church organization that is not according to the New Testament.
REMEMBER THIS POINT
The church is not the building, instead it is the people who worship in the building. In studying church organization we are concerned that Christians today be like Christians in the New Testament. We can never walk closer to Christ than when we follow the very words of instruction given by the inspired apostles of Christ. We can never be more like Christ than when we follow the examples of New Testament Christians in their work and worship. One example that we must observe in the example of church organization. Bible Christians pleased God because they followed ''the apostles' doctrine'' (Acts 2:42) and this included church organization.
We must strive to be like Christ as individuals. We do this when we take our cross and follow him (Matt. 16:24). We must also strive for the church in its work as a group to be what Christ wants it to be. The church has the greatest mission: When we do, we fail to please God. The church hast the greatest form of organization, a divine form of organization, the very from of organization that God wants His people to have. We must not depart from this form of organization and when we do we fail to please God.
A LESSON FROM HISTORY
As we look at history we find that man has never remained true to God's divine order for any long period of time. In the Garden of Eden it was God's will for man to dress the garden and keep it (Gen. 2:15). Man was free to eat of every tree in the Garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was God's will for man's happiness. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they changed the divine order, sin entered the world and they were driven from the Garden of Eden ( Gen. 3:24).
When God called Israel out of Egypt He gave to them the land of Canaan. God gave Israel a form of government with judges as their rulers (Judges 2:16-18). This form of government lasted about 300 years (Judges 11:26). The people became dissatisfied with God's form of government and asked Samuel and asked for a king, that they might be like all other nations (1 sa,. 8:19-20). The displeased Samuel for it was a rejection of God's form of government (1 Sam. 8:6-7). God allowed the change to be made and Saul, the first king, proved to be a wicked ruler. There were some good kings to be sure, but a change in the form of government was not Israel's need; their need was for a return to God's way of righteousness.
After the death of Solomon the Kingdom of Israel was divided between the north and south. Jeroboam became king of the north kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Israel, which included ten of the twelve tribes. Rehoboam was king in the south kingdom, which included only the one tribe of Judah. The tribe of Levi had no land inheritance and was not considered in the land division between the north and south kingdoms.
The temple was the place of worship and was located in Jerusalem, which was in the southern kingdom. Jeroboam was unwilling for the people to go to Jerusalem to worship. He reasoned that if the people went to the temple to offer sacrifices they would see the glory of the temple and of Jerusalem and would return to Rehoboam, the king of Judah or the southern kingdom. (1 Kings 12:26-27).
Jeroboam made two calves of gold, setting one in Bethel and the other in Dan (1 Kings 12:28-29). He said to the people, ''It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt'' (1 Kings 12:28). God's law required that priests come from the tribe of Levi. Jeroboam made priests of the lowest of the people who were not of the tribe of Levi (1 Kings 12:31). Jeroboam changed the divine order. He changed the place of worship from Jerusalem to Bethel and Dan. He changed the object of worship from God to idols. He changed the priesthood from the tribe of Levi to the lowest of the people. The northern kingdom, often referred to as the Kingdom of Israel, perished as a result to this change in God's divine order.
In the first part of our lesson we learned from the Bible about true church organization. This requires elders over the local church, deacons to assist them, evangelists to preach the word, teachers and members. God warned that the church would fall away. Paul warned the elders at Ephesus that men would arise ''. . . to draw away disciples after them'' (Acts 20:30). '' . . .some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils'' (1 Tim. 4:1).
One of the first departures from the New Testament was a departure in church organization. This began by elevating one elder or bishop to the position as chief bishop in the local church. This led to the election of one bishop over a province or district of churches. The next step was to have a universal bishop or pope over all churches of required several centuries to consummate this complete departure in church organization. Boniface III in the year 607 A.D. was the first to usurp the title of universal bishop or pope over all the church. The idea of a pope or universal bishop over the church was sincerely contested from its inception. No pope has ever been accepted by all who claim to be a part of the church. To have a pope over the church is as foreign to the organization of the New Testament church as Christ is to Satan.
With the departure from the New Testament in church organization came also a departure in teaching and worship. Baptism was changed from immersion to sprinkling. The Lord's Supper was changed to the Mass. The time for observing the Lord's Supper was changed from the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) to any day men prefer. Prayer, originally offered to God in the name of Christ (John 16:23; 1 Tim. 2:5), was changed to prayer offered in the name of Mary or no name at all if men so prefer. The many departures from the New Testament were characterized by Pope Leo X (1513-21) who '' . . . reaffirmed the Unam Sanctam, in which it is declared that every human being must be subject to the Roman Pontiff for salvation; issued indulgences for stipulated fees; declared burning of heretics a divine appointment.'' (Bible Handbook by H.H.Hally, Twenty-first Edition Revised, p. 8777). The moral and spiritual corruption of that day caused the Protestant Reformation, which was led by martin Luther and other outstanding men. One of the first attempted reforms was to change church government from a dictatorship to an independent congregational type of organization. The Reformation rejected the papal system bu failed to restore the true form of church organization.
The Reformation was followed by the Restoration Movement which began late in the eighteenth century. Seeing that the Reformation could not correct all the departures from the Bible, sincere men set out to restore the church of the New Testament. They did this by renouncing all man-made Creeds, Manuals and Disciplines and with the bible alone as their guide they sought to restore the church revealed in the new Testament. To do this it was necessary to restore the New testament organization of the church. Therefore the congregations established were set in order, with elders, deacons, evangelists, teachers and members. All ecclesiastical titles suck as Reverend, Arch Bishop, Arch Deacon, Father and Cardinal were dropped. only New Testament terms were used in referring to anyone in the church. This is still our plea: let the church today be like the church in the New Testament in organization, teaching and worship.
SECTION 1 - TRUE OR FALSE
Church organization is one way to identify the church that Jesus built.
The local church is the highest form of church organization known to the New Testament.
The New Testament church had a national form of organization, with headquarters in Antioch.
In the New Testament one church exercised authority over many other churches.
God placed bishops over the local church.
God placed one bishop over many churches (local congregations).
The words pastor and bishop refer to the same man in the church.
The church at Philippi had only one bishop.
Paul called for the elder of the church at Ephesus.
Today we should refer to the preacher as the pastor of the church.
SECTION 2 - MULTIPLE CHOICE
Israel wanted a king
to be like other nationsbecause God so commanded
In demanding a king, Israel
rejected God's form of governmentpleased God
______ was king in Judah.
Jerusalem was located in the
southern kingdomnorthern kingdom
The Kingdom ______.
of Israel perishedbecome strong as a result of the changes Jeroboam made in the priesthood and worship
One of the first departures the church made from
the New Testament was in organizationthe deity of Christ
_______ was the first to usurp the title of pope over all the church,
When the church departed from the New Testament in organization it
made many changes in teaching and worshipremained true to God in teaching and worship
The Protestant Reformation was led by
The Restoration Movement sought to
control state governmentrestore the church of the New Testament
SECTION 3 - FILL IN THE BLANKS
The Restoration Movement followed the ______________.
When men set out to restore the New Testament church they renounced all man-made _____________________.
Men sought to restore the New Testament church with the ________ only as their guide.
To restore the New Testament church it was necessary to restore the __________ of the church.
New Testament church organization requires _________ over the church, ________ to assist them, _______ to preach, _________ to teach, all _______ to work.
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