Keith Hunt - Church Government - Page One   Restitution of All Things
  Home Next Page

Church Government

What the New Testament teaches on how churches should be governed

                          
Ancient Israel, before the New Testament Church of God began, was
called the "church in the wilderness"(Acts 7:38). It was
organized from the TOP down. There was God, then Moses, under
Moses there were Elders, captains over thousands, and hundreds
and so on down the pyramid of the chain of authority. Israel's
church - state government - was THEOCRATICAL, from God down to a
specific human leader who had total authority and leadership over
every other person in the nation. Was Israel's type of government
to be carried over into the Church of the New Covenant? If so
then we should be able to find ample evidence to support this
teaching from the writings of the New Testament. Let us humbly
search to find the truth of the matter.

                             by

                          Keith Hunt



     Using a "Harmony of the Gospels" book, we find that the
first recorded person we would classify as one of Jesus'
disciples was Andrew, who spent part of a day with Him(John
1:35-40). Andrew soon introduced Simon his brother to Jesus. When
Jesus saw Simon He instantly diagnosed his basic personality and
said: "So you are Simon the son of John. You shall be called
cephas(which means 'stone')." Harmony of the Gospels by Ralph
Heim.
     Now did Jesus by giving Simon a new name establish him as
HEAD apostle? The next day Jesus found Philip and he brought
Nathaniel to Jesus. Again Christ discerned the character of
Nathaniel, "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile"
(v.47).
Because you were the first to be called as one of Jesus'
disciples, or given another name, or have Christ state your
personality in a miraculous way - does that mean you are head
disciple?
     If so, Andrew could claim it as first named or recorded
disciple in the ministry of Jesus. Peter could claim it as being
given a new name. Philip could possibly claim such an office as
he was the first recorded person that Jesus said the words
"follow me" to.The truth is, in none of these passages did Jesus
name anyone as HEAD disciple.

     Actually the official calling of Peter and Andrew was some
time later, see a "Harmony of the Gospels" book. And James and
John were also called at the same time. If you study the Harmony
of the Gospels you will see that between these two incidents
in John chapter one and Luke chapter five(also recorded in
Matthew 4 and Mark 1) Jesus had disciples already following Him.
     Jesus chose 12 to be His close inner circle (Mark 3:13-19).
In the list of these twelve as given by Mark and Luke, Simon
Peter is put first. Now does this automatically of itself prove
that Peter was the CHIEF apostle? Let's not assume anything but
prove all things from God's own word.

                 WHO WAS THE CHIEF APOSTLE?

     For three and one half years Jesus was in close fellowship
with His chosen twelve disciples. He knew their strengths,
weaknesses, and their personalities. He had ample time to
determine WHO if anyone should be head apostle, who should be
second in command, who third, and so on down the line.
     We have recorded for us in the four Gospels three separate
incidents where Jesus could have made it very plain to them who
He had chosen to be chief among them and head of all the
ministers in the Church, the one with final authority and the
power of veto.

     The first incident is found in Mark 9:33-35 (the same
account is also given in Mat.18 and Luke 9) where we read: "And
they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house He asked
them, ' What were you discussing on the way?' but they were
silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who
was the GREATEST. And He sat down and called the twelve."
     Here was Jesus' golden opportunity to tell them the
governmental structure He wanted among themselves, here was His
chance to declare to them, the one, two, three, in the authority
line. But what DID He say? "And He said to them, if anyone would
be first(desired to be, wanted to be) HE MUST BE LAST OF ALL AND
SERVANT OF ALL" (RSV, emphasis mine).
     Jesus did not even hint that there was to be a pyramid type
of Church structure. He told them that if anyone in their own
mind desired such a position as being "top dog" that person had
better put himself last and be servant to all the others.
     To be the greatest in God's sight is to be humble and put
such a desire of exaltation out of your mind and go about
serving!

     Months went by and the disciples, or at least two of them,
forgot what Jesus had taught them. It is human nature to think
that in a group of twelve surely someone must be the greatest,
and maybe that someone is ME!
     On a certain day James and John came to Jesus and asked Him
if THEY could be the ones to sit on His right and left hand in
the Kingdom. Jesus said only the Father had the authority to
decide who would be given those positions, it was not for Him or
for them to decide (Mark 10:35-40).
     The account in Mark continues to say: "And when the ten
heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John, and Jesus
called them to Him and said to them, 'You know that those who are
supposed to rule over the Gentiles LORD it over them, and their
great men exercise authority over them. BUT IT SHALL NOT BE SO
AMONG YOU."
     They were not to exercise rulership over each other, they
were not to be like the governments of this world, having a
system of dictatorial pyramid authority. Continuing:
"But whoever would be great among you must be your SERVANT, and
whoever would be first among you must be SLAVE of all" (verses
43-44).
     How this incident must have come to the apostle Peter's mind
when he exhorted the elders: "Likewise you younger(in age and/or
length of service) submit(honor, respect, look to with
appreciation) unto the elder(in age and/or ones who have served
longer in the ministry). Yes, ALL of you be SUBJECT one to
another and be clothed with HUMILITY. For God resists the
PROUD(the self-important ones, those who would rule over others
and put themselves in some great office of authority) and gives
grace to the HUMBLE" (1 Peter 5:5, emphasis and amplified
myself).
     What words from a mighty man of God. Mighty in the way the
Lord used him. Think about Acts chapter two, then chapter 10, and
15. Think about the great miracles Peter did even to the point
that when his shadow passed over people they were healed!
Peter was a pillar in the Jerusalem Church of God (Gal.2). Yet he
also made his errors and went away from the path of truth at
times, so that the relative new comer to the apostle function,
the apostle Paul had to correct and rebuke him openly (Gal.2).
But he took it as a true child of God, he did not allow his pride
to get in the way, or allow his "ego" to be hurt and a root of
bitterness to spring up. He was exercised to bring forth the
fruits of righteousness from all the corrections he received from
the Lord. And so could pen those great words above. Peter was a
humble man, he was willing to be subject "one to another."

     Oh, how all the ministers of the Church of God need to
exhibit the character of Peter in this matter. I have personally
seen the exact opposite manifested many times by some who call
themselves the ministers of God. I wonder how many times the Lord
has seen this wrong attitude practiced down through the
centuries?

     Even after these two separate incidents, there still arose a
third time when: "A dispute also arose among them, which of them
would be regarded as the greatest" (Luke 22:24, RSV).
     Jesus again told them they were not to be like the
governments of this world. He gave them HIS EXAMPLE! Be a
servant, do not have the "I'm the greatest" attitude.
     He did specifically promise those twelve(Matthias replacing
Judas, Acts 2) a throne each - ruling one tribe of Israel in the
Kingdom(Mat.19:28). But He never said any of those thrones would
be above the others. Just as He never said any one of them would
be above the rest in authority in this physical life within the
function of the Church.
     What Jesus taught them over and over again was to have love
and service among themselves. What He inspired Peter to tell all
Elders was that they should be humble and be willing to be
subject to each other.

            DID JESUS MAKE PETER HEAD OF THE CHURCH?

     Some teach that Christ made Peter chief apostle over the New
Testament(NT) Church. Others teach that the true Church today is
headed by ONE man!

     Those who teach this idea often give Matthew 16:18-19 as
proof to the supremacy of one authoritarian man as head of the
Church. The Roman Catholic church claim the Pope is the direct
descendant of Peter who they say was made chief apostle by
Christ. But what is the real truth? Let's examine these verses in
Matthew very carefully.

     Jesus said: "And I say unto you, that you are Peter(Greek is
Petros - meaning a 'stone') and upon this rock(Greek is Petra -
meaning a 'ledge' or 'shelf of rock' or 'crag of rock') I will
build my church" (Mat.16:18).
     Notice the true meaning as originally written in the Greek
language. The English word "stone" is translated from the Greek
word "Petros" meaning a single stone or loose stone. The Greek
word "Kephas" means such a stone. But when Jesus said, "upon this
rock I will build my church" the Greek word used was not Kephas
or Petros but PETRA, a large massive rock.
     Speaking of the Israelites under Moses in the wilderness,
Paul wrote: "For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed
them; and THAT ROCK WAS CHRIST"(1 Cor.10:4).
     The CHURCH is described in Ephesians 2:20 as, " being built
upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, JESUS CHRIST
Himself being the CHIEF CORNERSTONE."
     Here Christ is said to be the HEAD or chief, the final
authority of the Church of God, not some individual mortal man!
     The real foundation of the Church is Jesus. "For other
foundations can no man lay than that is laid, which IS Jesus
Christ" (1 Cor.3:11).
     He is shown in Revelation 1:13-18 to be the living head, in
the midst of the Church. Read also these passages - Ephesians
5:23; 4:15; 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18,19; 2:19.

                    THE DISCIPLES GO FORTH

     Mark tells us that Jesus chose 12 special disciples (chapter
3:13,14). Luke says He called them apostles(chapter 6:13). It is
written He sent them "out to preach and have authority to cast
out demons" (Mark 3:14,15).
     Notice it! They were sent out to do WHAT? Have dictatorial
power and authority over the members of the Church? Have
authority of each other, over other ministers of Christ? NO! They
were given authority over DEMONS not other ministers. Jesus never
said they were to rule God's children with an iron hand, lording
it over them, acting like some little Hitler cracking the whip.
     Later again Christ sent out the twelve. He gave them POWER
and AUTHORITY yes, but over what? Not over each other - no! He
gave them authority over demons and power to heal every disease
and infirmity (see Mat.10:1-4; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:2).
     He sent them out TO PREACH! Preach what? Personal authority
over one another, a pecking order of Church organization? God's
word says, "......to PREACH the KINGDOM OF GOD."

     Jesus later appointed 70 others. He sent them out "two by
two" to do His work. He did not say that one of the two was chief
of the other. They were obviously a TEAM - two by two - two
standing alongside each other, neither having binding authority
over the other, but both being subject to each other and the
younger respecting the older as we have seen in 1 Peter 5.
     Please read carefully this account as given in Luke 10. The
only authority they had was to heal, cast out demons, and preach
the good news of the Kingdom.

     Jesus had ample time and opportunities to explain in some
detail to His first disciples how the Church should be structured
along a pyramid authority line if that was what He wanted it to
be like. But we find no such teaching from the lips of Christ in
the gospels. On the contrary, we find the exact opposite
teaching.
     His people and ministers were to be organized on two basic
pillars - LOVE to each other and a SERVING SERVANT attitude. Only
those who have some personal gain to follow for the wrong reasons
can fail to see these two pillars taught over and over again in
the four Gospels.
     The rest of the NT shows this does not mean ministers and
members are to be "door mats" to each other. Everyone walking
over each other, ignoring one another. It does not mean there is
to be no "correction" within the Church. It does not mean there
is to be no logical organization, for Paul was inspired to say
that things should be done "decently and in order" and that God
was "not the author of confusion" (1 Cor.14).
     What it simply means is that everything the Church does, its
ministers (elders/overseers) and members, is to be done with
respect of each other, humility and submissiveness to each other,
and with love and service for one another in all things.
     Some of the last words Christ said to His disciples was not
that they should try to dominate and establish authority over
each other in a hierarchy Church structure, but that collectively
they should with team work effort, "Go therefore and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them.. ....teaching them to
observe all that I have commanded you...." (Mat.28: 19-20).
     Here Jesus gives a THREE PART commission to His ministers
and followers: 1) make disciples 2) baptize 3) teach what Jesus
commanded.
     This is NEW Testament instruction for the NEW Covenant
Church of God and there is not one word here or anywhere from the
lips of Christ about establishing a "pecking orde" of authority
for His ministers and members of His spiritual body.
     Take a good look at Jesus' words found in Mark 16:15-18.
Again we have instruction to go and teach and baptize. The sheep
of the fold are to be fed and taught. Disciples are to be made
from all nations - preaching of the gospel. The Bride is to be
prepared for the Bridegroom.
     Certain signs (as the Lord gives and directs, see 1 Cor.12)
would follow within the Church. These signs were very evident in
the apostolic Church of the first century. In somewhat of a
lesser degree they are evident today among God's people, but will
be more powerful and more abundant near the return of Christ.
     Again you will notice in all this, in all these signs, there
is not one word about some GREAT order of hier-archal Church
structure to prove to the world the Church of God is the true and
only body of Christ.
     The largest "Christian'' church in the world today(with over
one billion members) claims that its church structure from one
head man down, is part of the proof that they are the true Church
founded upon the apostle Peter.
     As we can see from the four Gospels, NOTHING COULD BE
FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER!

     Famous King Arthur of British history who fought with his
noble Knights against the invading Anglo-Saxons, is famous in
part because of his establishing the "round table." He and his
top Knights, we would call them today by the name of "generals" -
all gathered round to discuss their plans of attack and defense,
seated at a ROUND table. King Arthur said he wanted it so, so
that there would be no head or no tail. All would feel as
important and as necessary as the next, including himself. In the
center of the table going in a full circle were the words: BY
SERVING EACH OTHER WE ARE FREE.
     Christianity had been well established for centuries in the
British Isles before Arthur came on the scene. It had been
brought there by many of the original disciples of Jesus. It was
a much purer Christianity than came later to Britain via the
Roman Catholic church. King Arthur was a God fearing man and his
realm was founded upon the "good book." I'm sure he knew and had
read the words of Christ as found in the gospels, part of those
words being "the Truth shall make you free."
     Arthur did not choose those words for his round table, but
took the teachings of Jesus that we have been looking at, and put
the heart of them into a phrase for his famous table - 
"By Serving Each Other We Are Free."

     If only the Church of God, its branches and its ministers,
down through the centuries, had always taken King Arthur's
attitude of heart, many problems springing from self-important
vanity and ego would have been eliminated, and much hurt and
damage and falsehood would have given way to humble teachableness
and growth.
     There are MANY truths in the word of God, one of them is
what King Arthur had come to so clearly see. No organization, no
government, no body of people can survive for long if it is not
founded on some basic godly principles. Arthur knew service was
one of those true foundations to keep a people out of the chains
of bondage and sin, and so he had engraved in the round table: By
Serving Each Other We Are Free.
     About 1500 years after King Arthur led his people with those
words, another leader over another part of the same peoples in a
different land, led his people with similar words that history
will etch into stone.
     His words were: "Do not say what can my country can do for
me, but say, what can I do for my country."
     Those words of President John F. Kennedy are the essence of
what Jesus taught His ministers and disciples.
     Please allow me to paraphrase what Christ taught His
followers:

     "If any one of you would desire to be the chief minister
with all and final authority. If any one among you would get
close to adopting the attitude of 'How can the other ministers
and people of God, the Church of God, serve me' then that
individual had better humble himself and go about serving
everyone that belongs to me, and for whom I gave my life. For I
did not come to put my feet up and be served by you all, but I
came to serve you. So you go and do likewise to each other. Do
not say,' what can I get from the Church'  but ' what can I do
for the Church.' "

     It is time for some in the Church of God to REPENT! To
repent of the rotten stinking, filthy, arrogant, conceited, vain,
attitude of mind and actions of words and deeds, that manifests
itself too often and by too many ministers towards other
ministers and members in the Church, an attitude of being a
self-righteous authoritarian dictator over others perceived to be
of lower in "rank" than themselves in the chain of Church
ministry and structure.
     It is time for those who have been guilty of such errors to
humble themselves under the mighty hand of the Lord, and to
prayerfully re-study this whole subject of the MINISTRY and
CHURCH GOVERNMENT to see more clearly from the teachings and
examples of the New Testament what the plain truth really is!

             THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH IS STARTED

     After Jesus had ascended to heaven(Acts 1:6-11) the
disciples were together in Jerusalem(v.5). Peter stood up and
spoke to them. Did that make Peter the head apostle? The account
does not say it did. Those who claim this proves Peter was chief
minister, must read into the account something that is completely
absent, and they do this to try to uphold a teaching that can not
be established with Biblical fact.
     In any group of persons you will have dominant leader type
people who will naturally lead out, Peter was one of those
individuals. Many studies today have been done by Business Firms
looking for leaders to prove this human natural phenomenon.
Peter was a"'born leader" as we say.
     He told the others that someone had to be chosen to replace
Judas (v.16-22). Now notice verse 23, " And THEY appointed
two...." It does not say that Peter chose two, or James, or some
other "chief/s" among the apostles, but it says "They" the whole
120 of them (v.15) chose the two.
     The account does not tell us HOW they chose the two men. So
that indeed does leave room for some administrative variance
within the workings of the Church.
     They could not decide which of these two men should take the
place and office of Judas. The teaching is clear, no apostle
standing up here to tell everyone that he and he alone  had final
authority to decide the matter.
     What did they do? The account tells us they prayed and cast
forth lots (v.24-26). It is not the purpose of this study to
examine what these lots may have been(the readers can avail
themselves with the Bible Commentaries for such inquiries).
Whether this was a voting ballot or pulling of straws makes no
difference to the point we want to make here.
     NO ONE MAN DECIDED THE ISSUE! Not even two, or three, or
four, or some board of persons. The matter and decision to be
made was too LARGE and IMPORTANT to be left to one man or a few
men.
     Peter certainly did not have sole authority to decide who
would take Judas' place. Not only that, but once that decision
was made, he did not have authority to ANNUAL it either!
     Is this an example that some issues are only for God to
decide and an organization may have to resort to casting some
type of "lot"? Well yes it is and then no it isn't. Let me
explain.
     Both men were qualified in the eyes of human beings. They
had met certain necessary criterion. Obviously, for whatever
reasons, the Holy Spirit was not giving the brethren any "clear"
or "obvious" mental answer as to which man should take Judas'
place within the twelve disciples.
     This was a once in a life time problem, maybe a once in the
life of the New Testament Church. This was not an every year, or
every 10 year occurrence for the Church of God. It was unique!
God had chosen the twelve disciples - it was only fitting He
should choose the man who would become part of that special
company, after all that man would be given one of the thrones to
rule one of the tribes of Israel(Mat.19).
     If an issue or situation should arise within a Church of God
organization that could be seen as just as important to the one
here in Acts, then I say this is an example left for us that
could be followed. But then, I must seriously question any
organization that believes it has a problem as important as
choosing one of the twelve apostles.

                       PETER'S POWER?

     After the Holy Spirit had come on the day of Pentecost, the
apostle Peter was very bold in his preaching of Christ. Thousands
were converted by his sermons. Great miracles were done by Peter.
We can read of all the things that Peter did and said in the
first five chapters of the book of Acts.
     Indeed it is true that Peter did take a leading role in the
early days of the Church. But is there any word in these first
chapters that Peter was chief or head in authority over the other
eleven apostles or the whole Jerusalem congregation? No! Not one
single word!
     Can we find in these chapters or anywhere(we shall come to
Acts 15 later) in the entire book of Acts, where ANY apostle
claimed he was "boss" of the rest of them and they had to comply
with his demands and "jump to his tune"? No!
     Does having the ability to speak with authority - preach
powerfully - do miracles - automatically qualify a person to be
chief or head of the Church? If it does, then the apostle Paul
would have been qualified to have dethroned anyone and taken over
the Church.
     Look at his record! When some men wanted to boast of their
deeds and talents, and others were looking at these men with
great admiration, Paul said to the Corinthian church, "Seeing
that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.....are they
ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more, in labors
more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more
frequently, in deaths often" (2 Cor.11:18,23).
     Paul continued to list his deeds for the gospel in verses
24-28. He was given visions and revelations of the throne of God,
possibly he was taken up to the throne of the Lord, although he
was unsure if it was reality or in the minds eye vision (chapter
12:1-7). At another time he told the Corinthians he spoke in
tongues more than any of them (1 Cor.14:18). There were times
when Paul did great miracles through the power of God's Spirit
(Acts 19:11-12). God used him to write 14 books of the inspired
New Testament scriptures. The number 14 is the number for
deliverance and salvation as used by God in His word. The number
7 is the number for perfection and completion. The number 2 is
for the Godhead(presently only the Father and the Son). Now 2 x 7
= 14. Paul was used to write not only salvation but DOUBLE
perfection.
     With ALL THIS Paul never once wrote that he was the human
head of the Church, nor did he ever state that Peter or any other
man was the head of the Church under Christ. The nearest thing we
can find in Paul's writings is the acknowledgement that some
men were looked upon as leaders and pillars of strength in the
Jerusalem church: "Then fourteen years after I went up again to
Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went
up by revelation....but privately to them which were of
reputation. But of these who seemed to be somewhat...." Notice
what Paul goes on to add to that statement, " whatever they were,
it makes no matter to me: God accepts no man's person, for they
who seemed to be somewhat, in conference added nothing to me, and
when JAMES, CEPHAS(Peter) and JOHN, who seemed to be pillars,
perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave me and
Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 2:1,2,6,9).

     It is I think more than interesting to note the order of the
names of the individuals Paul stated "seemed to be somewhat" in
the Jerusalem congregation - Peter's name does not appear first
in line. If there is any significance to the order of names(and
that question could be very debatable) and if Peter had been made
head of the Church by Christ, then Paul was doing an injustice to
Peter's authority by placing his name after that of James'.
     But the truth is, Paul is not stating in this passage that
any ONE man was head of the Jerusalem church or the Church of God
as a whole. There were leading men in the church at Jerusalem
just as there would be in any other local church where there was
a plurality of ministers. Yet that fact does not prove certain
ministers "lorded it over" other ministers with dictatorial
authority.
     While we are on the subject of the order of names as used in
the NT I will take some time to answer the argument put forth by
some concerning Paul and Barnabas. Some have claimed that Paul
was "over" Barnabas - that Paul had authority over Barnabas. They
have given as proof of this, the order of names.

     One Church of God organization in a piece of literature on
Church Government admitted that before Acts 13 the name of
Barnabas appeared BEFORE the name of Paul - see Acts 12:25 and
13:1,2. Then they went on to say that AFTER the Holy Spirit
separated Barnabas and Paul(Acts 13:1-3) for a special work, it
was Paul's name that appeared before Barnabas' name. They quoted
certain verses to prove this, thus claiming Paul had authority
over Barnabas. The verses they gave were as,
Acts 13:13,43,44-46,50; 15:2, 35.
     Now that looks pretty good IF you believe there is
significance in the order of names, IF you believe the NT teaches
an authority "pecking order" of ministerial structure, and IF YOU
READ THE BIBLE WITH TUNNEL VISION!
     It blows my mind that some would try to prove a point of
doctrine by giving you certain verses they claim shows the truth
they preach WHILE WITHIN THE SAME CHAPTERS ARE VERSES PROVING THE
OPPOSITE, if you believe the order of names has meaning in
authority.
     Read carefully from Acts 13:4 all the way to chapter 15:35.
Ah,ah, did you spot the verses that some glide right over with
blinkers on their eyes?
     There's one in chapter 13:7. The name of Barnabas is put
before the name of Paul, and that is AFTER verses 1-3. Another is
in chapter 14:12. Yes Paul was the chief IN WHAT? He was the
chief in speaking! Not authority! Paul like Peter was a fine
speaker. All ministers are to be able to teach(1 Tim.3:2), they
do not have to be great speakers or preachers. When conducting
evangelistic meetings as Barnabas and Paul were doing it is only
natural and wise to let the man with the gift of preaching do the
speaking most of the time.
     Notice verse 14 of chapter 14. The name of Barnabas appears
BEFORE that of Paul's. Then after Paul's name was put before that
of Barnabas' in Acts 15:2 Luke(the writer of Acts) turns right
around and places Barnabas' name BEFORE Paul's in verse 12. In
verse 22 Paul's name is placed before Barnabas' by Luke, then in
verse 25 he again reverses it and puts Barnabas' name first.
     Such is the folly of men who want to cling to false
teachings and will not be corrected by the word of the Lord. They
just do not have the "love of the truth" (2 Thes.2:10).

     From reading the first few chapters of the book of Galatians
and the rest of the epistles of Paul, together with the book of
Acts, one thing becomes very clear to those who have an honest
heart and will accept the truth of the word. Paul acknowledged
there was a work of the Lord coming from Jerusalem, an
organization with leading men such as James and Peter, a work
that belonged to God, preaching the same basic truths that he
Paul and Barnabas and others were preaching. But not for one
minute or one second did he ever believe God was not also using
him and others to also do the "work of God."
     Paul believed with all his might that he was just as much an
apostle as the twelve were. That he had just as much authority in
Christ as any of the rest. It is clear from the writings of Paul
that he did not believe in any hierarchy pyramid, one man down
authoritarian Church of God government, where men ruled over men
with dictatorial power. Paul respected other ministers who were
truly called and faithful to God. Paul had deep love and respect
for all of God's children, especially for those who went the
extra mile in serving the brethren and doing "the work." Paul was
a humble man, and God made sure he would stay that way by giving
him a "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor.12:7-9).


     Paul was a submissive man, he was both submissive to God and
to man. Concerning his submissiveness to other men/brethren, we
can find many examples. A few will suffice. The account in Acts
9:23-25 was no doubt at the request of the disciples who did not
want to see Paul killed. Notice the humility Paul exhibited even
after being personally taught by Christ Jesus, in what he wrote
in Galatians chapter 2:1-2 (with chap.1;12). He was willing to
let other ministers examine his beliefs and teachings so nothing
would be done in vain. He recognized they also had the Spirit of
God and were able to ascertain truth from error.
     What an attitude! Think about it! Jesus had personally
appeared to him on the road to Damascus and brought him to
repentance and conversion. He had been personally taught by
Christ. The Lord had given him many of the gifts of the Spirit.
He had performed healings and miracles. Yet, this man was willing
to be examined by some of the leading apostles to make sure he
had not run, or should run, in some useless vain manner that
would save no one.
     Now that is some beautiful heart and mind. Every minister
who calls himself a minister of the Lord had better cultivate
that attitude of Paul.
     He didn't go around acting like some pompous swell-headed
"know it all" from the number one University of the country. He
didn't proclaim to the world that he was the "only" apostle of
God. He never claimed that it was him who had the final authority
in the Church.
     Those who can not be like the apostle Paul are destined to
find themselves wallowing in the mire of their own filthy
vainness with whatever religious empire they established being
taken away and given to others of more noble humility and
character.
     How many ministers are willing to have their work and
teachings and writings, examined for possible errors by other
ministers filled with the Spirit of the Lord? In my experience I
am ashamed to say, it is very few. Even when done in the right
spirit of mind, most get their "back up" and think they are being
"attacked" if someone questions their teaching as being correct.
     We may not all agree on every last little verse in the word
of God, but we should endeavor to disagree without being
"disagreeable."
     Paul was willing for other reputable ministers to examine
the way he ran in the work of the Lord. Paul was willing to
submit to other ministers when it was right and correct to do so.
Another example of that can be found in Acts 21 and verses 17
through to 26.
     What was Peter's power and authority? Well, it was no more
than Paul's! If Peter got out of line, if he was in complete
error, if he was in the wrong and committing sin, then Paul had
no hesitation in correcting him, and if need be in front of
others at that (Gal.2:11-21).

               THE EARLY CHURCH AND COMMUNISM

     There are some people who have put themselves into a
communal type of life. They all dress alike, eat together, work
together and share equally their pooled wealth. Often Acts
4:32-37 and 5:1-11 are quoted to justify this way of living.

     Are these verses in Acts teaching this type of communistic
life for Christians? In verse 32 the multitude of disciples said
that their possessions they counted not just belonging to
themselves but to others also. That is an attitude of SHARING!
     We must understand and remember that the Church was just
starting - people were being converted by the hundreds and
thousands(3, 000 on the day of Pentecost alone - Acts 2:41). They
had found the truth of God, they would be excited, joyous, and
naturally wanted to stay on in Jerusalem to rejoice with and
fellowship with the disciples who had been with Jesus for three
and one half years.
     Imagine the monumental task it would have been just to have
fed and housed all those converts. They had come from all parts
of the known world to observe the feast of Pentecost and were now
converted to Christianity. Some were willing to sell their houses
and lands to give help to those in need. They gave AS every man
HAD NEED(v.45).
     Yes, those who had some real-estate were willing to sell
some or all of it and give the money to the apostles who in turn
gave that money to those in need as the situation arose.
     Even when they did sell a possession, it, the money, was
still THEIRS to do with as led by the Holy Spirit. "As long as it
remained unsold, was it not still your own? And (even) after it
was sold, was not(the money) at your disposal and under your
control?......" (chapter 5:4, Amplified Bible).
     Ananias and Sapphira died because they LIED about the price,
not because they were unwilling to practice communism (see
chapter 5:3).

     The NT Church never taught a communistic life style. God's
word teaches no such doctrine. But the word of the Lord does
teach a GIVING and a SHARING. A HELPING your brother as he needs
it (1 John 3:17-18).
     There was a need at that time in the Church's early
beginning, an unusually LARGE need, and all who could and wanted
to help, feed, clothe and house the brethren, did so readily.

                     SEVEN ARE APPOINTED

     As the Church grew there would(as with any growing
organization) naturally arise problems that would need resolving.
This is the case as we start into the sixth chapter of Acts.
     Certain things were being neglected(v.1). This was brought
to the attention of the apostles. They called the other
disciples(many of them) and asked them to choose seven men, whom
the total 12 apostles would agree to appoint over this matter of
physical duties(v.l-4).
     These seven men were chosen from among the "multitude of the
disciples." The apostles you will notice did lay down certain
qualifications that were to be found in choosing the seven. But
the initial choosing of these "diakonein" (today we call them
deacons) was done by the multitude of disciples.
     No indication here of some head minister calling or
appointing seven of his personal choosing. Even the twelve
apostles did not do it all by themselves. They were quite
confident that the other disciples were qualified to find men in
whom was the Spirit of God, wisdom, and honesty.

     Perhaps in this situation the multitude of disciples were
better qualified than the apostles in finding the right men, as
they were more personally and intimately acquainted with these
local men. Maybe they all lived in the same general area and
attended the local synagogues together.
     Whatever the case, for this specific circumstance (which may
or may not arise today) the apostles felt the congregation should
get involved.
     There had to be some system for choosing these men, but we
are not told what that system was they used. God merely gave us
the principle - we then have the liberty under the same situation
to work out the details. Perhaps all the disciples were asked to
submit a name either orally or in writing. Maybe it was a
"secret" ballot vote. Maybe some men even volunteered for the
responsibility. Whatever the method, one thing is for sure, it
was not some dictatorial man throwing his weight around who chose
them.
     After this mutual search for the seven candidates it is
important to notice that the whole group of 12 apostles appointed
them to that duty. Verse three says: " whom WE MAY appoint over
this business."

     I am sure that if the Holy Spirit had spoken to the twelve
that one or more of the seven was not suitable, they would not
have been appointed and the multitude would have had to find new
candidates.
     What this means is that the bottom line, is that the
ministers have the last word on those chosen for the duties of
deacons.
     This was a special situation, a never before situation in
the early life of the NT Church. It can not be used to claim the
NT Church of God is to be run from the bottom up, the members
picking by democratic vote their deacons and ministers. 
     Many Protestant churches so operate this way, but not one
verse in the NT can be found to support this view or practice. I
have personally witnessed members of a Protestant church hiring
ministers from a "preaching talent" contest, only they did not
call it that as such, but an "invitation" to preach with respect
to being hired. They chose a certain fellow who declined the
offer to go to another church, and then offered the job to the
runner up, who accepted.

     God, through the Holy Spirit did things a certain way at the
start of the NT Church within certain circumstances of context,
because it was not already in place, and something needed to be
done to solve the problem. Acts chapter six and verses one to
seven was one of those contexts.
     Later God inspired Paul to set down for the minister Timothy
and the Church of God, what specific qualifications were required
for the Eldership and deaconship (1 Timothy 3:1-15).
     The word of God is clear that it is the already ordained
Elders in the Church who have the last word on who they will lay
their hands upon in ordination to Eldership or deaconship. The
members may have some input to ascertain or to help the Elders
ascertain that a man has basically reached the qualifications of
2 Timothy 3, but it is the Elders who must give the final
decision, and it is their hands that are laid on the candidate.
     Any group of ministers within a local church or area of
churches would know over a period of time, by "their fruits" the
men whom God was calling to the ordained Eldership. The same
principle would apply to those worthy of ordination to
deaconship.
     In a less structured situation more help from the
congregation could be needed to make sure 2 Timothy 3 was
followed and met. And in those circumstances the words of
Paul to Timothy(an already ordained Elder) would apply even more:
"Lay hands suddenly on no man...."(1 Tim.5:22).

To be continued

First written in 1983. Re-written and revised in 1996.


  Home Top of Page Next Page

 
Navigation List:
 

 
Word Search:

PicoSearch
  Help