In this modern day we have many organizations and super-organizations. As a result, some of the current church organizations have added to their structure organizations and super organizations which have no foundation in the Scriptures.
Some teach and believe that the church must have a head upon the earth who has authority over all the church thoughout all the world. Others feel that each state or district over the land must be divided and sub-divided and various conferences or boards head them and govern their activities. This has brought about many digressions from the Bible pattern which is given by inspiration. It shall be our purpose in this lesson to study what the scriptures teach on the subject of church autonomy or government.
One of the first things we must learn is that no individual may become the head of church autonomy or government.
The Bible Teaches That…
1. JESUS IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH.
Ephesians 1:22-23 we read: "And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” In Ephesians 5:23 we read: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body."
The Bible Teaches That…
2. JESUS CALLED AND APPOINTED 12 APOSTLES TO CARRY OUT THE COMMISSION OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL.
The names of the apostles were: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, Bartholomew, James (the less), Simon, Thaddaeus and Judas Iscariot. These men Jesus prepared and with the exception of Judas Iscariot, they did as the Lord commanded them to do. Matthias was appointed to take Judas' place and they were given power to preach the gospel beginning from Pentecost, Acts 2. Jesus promised them the Holy Ghost which would guide them into all truth. In Matthew 16 we find that Jesus told his disciples that He would build the church and give them (speaking to Peter directly), the keys of the kingdom. Then beginning with Acts chapter 2 we find that they received the Holy Ghost and began to preach the gospel and the church was established.
Most of these apostles suffered violent deaths for the sake of the church but yet carried the gospel to the whole world in a short time. There were also other outstanding men, the apostle Paul, Barnabas, Philip the evangelist, Timothy, Titus, Stephen and many others who laboured valiantly in spreading the gospel.
There were also prophets and teachers in the early church who helped to carry on the work. After the church was established in the various cities we find that certain men were appointed in the church as elders, or overseers.
The Bible Teaches That…
3. ELDERS WERE TO OVERSEE THE FLOCK.
In Acts 20:28 we read: "Therefore take heed unto yourselves and to the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He had purchased with His own blood." This was instruction given to elders of the church of Ephesus who came over to Miletus to see him.
These elders were to be appointed in every congregation of every city. In Acts 14:23, we find that as Paul returned from his first missionary journey he stopped in the cities and ordained elders in every church. In Titus 1:5, Paul told Titus: "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."
These examples show us that there should be elders of each congregation and that these elders are to rule over these congregations in love that they might work together in the advancement of the kingdom of Christ.
In 1 Timothy 5:17 we read: "Let the elders that rule well, be counted worthy of double honor…" The elders then are to be godly men (qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9); who have the best interest of the church at heart and will work for the Lord but not lord it over the church as one who owns it but rather one who is a loyal servant of God. There are also other positions in the church today.
The Bible Teaches That…
4. THAT MEN, CALLED DEACONS WERE ALSO APPOINTED TO HELP IN MINISTERING TO THE NEEDS OF THE HUNGRY AND SUCH MATERIAL NEEDS AS THERE WERE.
In the church at Jerusalem, Acts chapter 6, we have the case where the Grecian widows were being neglected in the daily ministration so the Apostles called the multitude of disciples together and told them to select seven men who were - "full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom," to take care of this work. So far as we can find, these men were considered deacons and served in this capacity in the work of the church.
The word deacon means servant. In 1 Timothy 3:8-13, we have qualifications of deacons given. The work of elders and deacons then, covers a great extent of definite positions in the church. The work of the apostles has been completed and also the prophecies have ceased, therefore we do not need these positions in the church today. However, there is constant need for godly elders and deacons to help in these particular works of the church.
OTHER POSITIONS IN THE CHURCH ARE SUCH AS:
Evangelists - ministers of the gospel who preach the gospel and help to establish congregations, also, help to strengthen brethren wherever possible.
Teachers - Men who are able to aid in teaching classes and various people as opportunity arises.
Members - Each member of a congregation has a responsibility as a member of the body to work according to their several abilities to help in furthering the cause of Christ.
Each congregation is an independent body of Christians with elders, deacons, members and in some cases where it is large enough, a gospel, preacher to work with them and in the general area spreading the gospel of the kingdom as every opportunity arises.
There should be no conferences or divided districts in which a person or number of persons has more control over one local congregation.
Also, the scriptures show that there is to be a plurality of elders and no example is given of any one person governing a congregation by himself. If we follow the example given in the scriptures we may be certain that we are doing that which is right and know that we have the proper church organization as outlined in the Bible.
NAME THE 12 APOSTLES FIRST SELECTED.
Section 2 - Fill in the blanks.
"And hath put _____ things under His feet, and gave Him to be the _____ over all things to the _____ which is his ______, the fullness of him that filleth all in all."
"For the _____ is the head of the _____, even as Christ is the _____ of the church: and He is the _____of the Body.
Jesus said that He would build His _____.
"Take heed unto _____, and to the ______, over the which the ______ hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath _____ with His own blood."
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest _____ the things that are wanting, and _____ in every city.
Section 3 - True or False
Jesus is the only head of the church.
It is not Scriptural to have a head of the church on earth.
Elders are to be appointed in every church.
Deacons are to be appointed to help in ministering to the needs of the hungry, and such like.
Question 5 Each congregation is independent of another.
Question 6 There is a job for every member of the church.
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