THERE IS NEED to study
again the simple organization, corporate life, and function of the church
of the New Testament. Organizationally, that church stands out as being
local, independent, and autonomous in nature (bound only by love to other
local, independent, and autonomous churches). That local church was under
the direct oversight of men called "elders" who themselves were under Christ.
Evangelists were sent out from this local church to win the world for Christ.
Deacons were servants to assist the elders in the work of the church. And
all the members constituted a priesthood of believers, serving the God
of heaven and standing on equal footing before their Lord.
SOME PRODDING THOUGHTS
(AND MORE TO COME)
Today in so-called Christendom we are confronted with varying degrees
of departure from this simplicity, with the most glaring example seen in
a monolithic system with a single man as its head. And within this organization
are others exercising such authority all the way down to the local level.
Then other denominational spin-offs can be seen bearing a strong resemblance
to the original. One man over a multiplicity of churches is called a "bishop,"
whereas in the New Testament there were several "bishops" (elders) over
one local church. And then in many local situations one man called "the
minister" is very much parallel to the apostate system just mentioned (that
has one man over a universal church). Generally, "right reverends" and
clergymen have replaced the simplicity of the New Testament way of doing
When believing men sincerely study the Scriptures, they will seek
to restore the local church in all of its simplicity (and they have). It
will be a local, independent, and autonomous body. But when their love
grows cold, and they cease to respect the Scriptures, the old departure
that was originally prophesied in the early church begins to take place
all over again. They look beyond the local scene with an eye to ecclesiastical
organizations and denominational setups that usurp and eventually replace
the local church in Godís plan. It doesnít happen all at once, but it happens,
and has repeatedly happened.
We offer these words as prodding thoughts. As stated, we need to
study anew the organizational structure and function of the early church.
It may be that there are things that need to be taught all over again (or
even understood for the first time).
(NOTE: For the beginning of a meaningful study, check out the
article "An Examination and An Overview of Ephesians 4:11" and more