There are many differences between the church of the New Testament and the various denominations that we see around us today. One of the most profound of these differences is the way in which the church is governed. What are some of these differences?
In order to understand the differences between the New Testament church and the denominational world, we must first see what the Bible teaches about church government.
"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). Christ does not speak to us personally today (no matter what some may say). Rather, He speaks to us through His word. Therefore, when it comes to doctrine, the Bible should be our ONLY guide.
What do I mean by matters of expediency? Elders do not decide on doctrine. Christ has already done that for us. Instead, elders are in charge of HOW we go about obeying the commands of Christ. For example, Christ commanded us to teach all nations (Matthew 28:19). It would be up to elders to decide how to do that.
There are certain qualifications that an elder has to meet. "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, 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 use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 1 Timothy 3:1-11 (KJV)
There was never a congregation in the New Testament which had only one elder for its leader. There was always a plurality (more than one) of elders. There may be cases in which no men of the congregation meet the qualifications. In this case, the faithful men of the congregation perform the role of the elders.
Under the elders are deacons. The word "deacon" simply means "worker." A deacon is an individual who serves under an elder usually to head up certain tasks. The deacon has only the authority that the elders give him. There are qualifications for deacons also: "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 3:12-13 (KJV).
Throughout the ages, man has made countless changes to Godís perfect design.
In the New Testament, there was always a plurality of elders. The only time in the New Testament that a congregation seems to have had a single elder is mentioned in Third John. Diotrephes loved to have the preeminence in his congregation. There may have been other elders but Diotrephes was in charge. John condemned him for this. "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church." (3 John 9-10). Paul warned the Ephesian elders that among themselves, false teachers would arise; "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30). History shows us that shortly after Paulís life, some elders began to have preeminence over others and took charge of their congregations. This was against Godís plan and caused many problems. In Godís plan, if one congregation falls away, it does not have to affect other congregations. With one man over many congregations, if he went astray, ALL of his congregations went with him.
Again, there is no New Testament precedent for this practice. It is foreign to the Bible. Each congregation was autonomous, or self-ruling. This, again, helped to prevent a false teacher to cause numerous congregations to apostatize.
In recent years, there has been a strong push to allow women into leadership roles in the church. Many denominations have already done this. In the Faith and Values section of the July 14, 2000 Columbus Dispatch there was an article entitled Churchís first female Bishop recalls history. One part of the article reads, "With the election of a woman bishop, the AME Church stays on the path of other mainline Protestant denominations that find no scriptural block to female clergy." I am sorry to inform them of this, but there is a definite scriptural block to women in leadership roles of the church.
First notice, "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
Some like to argue that Paul was just a chauvinist or that this was just because of the customs of the day. However, Paul makes his argument for the order of creation. Adam was first formed and then Eve. It is not that he hated women or thought that men were better than women. He is pointing out that each must fulfill the role which God gave them. Notice this passage also; "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;" (1 Timothy 3:1-2). How can a woman be the husband of one wife? It is impossible.
Man has made many unauthorized changes to Godís perfect plan when it comes to church organization. If you are part of a religious organization that has changed Godís plan, donít you think it is time to get out?
We would be glad to assist you or answer any questions that you have regarding this matter or any other.
-- Ralph Price --