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Church Government Part 1: Offices of the Church

Barry is the founder and Professor of the M.Div. program for Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.

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God and Authority

From the very beginning, we can see that God accomplishes His work on the earth through authority structures. In the garden of Eden, He gives dominion to Adam and Eve. He tells them to bring all of creation under submission. Adam and Eve are to be the overseers of all the plants and animals. They are to multiply and their offspring is to continue to be the stewards and managers of the world. Adam has stewardship and responsibility to his wife eve. Eve is to be his helper and he is to be her leader and protector. This pattern of oversight continues throughout scripture.

God appoints Abram to be the father of his people. Later on, scripture will say that “Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Peter 3:6). God chooses Jacob over Esau to be the father of the 12 tribes that will comprise the nation of Israel. God will raise Moses to be the leader of the people in captivity. Moses is commissioned to bring them out of Egypt and into the promised land. And when Moses is overwhelmed with the task of leadership, his father-in-law Jethro tells him to appoint levels of overseers to manage the people.

We can see the same thing also in the prophets. The prophets have no authority to rule or command the people of their own. They are commissioned by God to bring His message. And God expects that the people will obey the message that He sends through them.

God will raise kings to rule the nation. The appointment of Saul was punishment for the rebellion of the people of Israel for their impatience and their misguided desires. Later, God will appoint David as king of Israel. And through David, God will create a lineage that will continue to rule over Israel for centuries.

In all the above cases, we see God delegating stewardship as well as authorizing authority to those whom He appointed. And it is no different in the New Testament Church. In the Church, there is a need for administration and oversight. Stewardship and administration take place through two offices. We have the office of the deacon and the elder. We see the establishment of the office of deacon very early in the New Testament Church.

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Deacons and the Early Church

We know from Acts chapter 2, that 3000 were converted by Peter’s first sermon. Imagine a congregation of 3000 people with only 12 men to shepherd them. This would have been a ministerial and administrative challenge, to say the least. These new converts met in houses and were dependent upon each other.

Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4

The 12 would focus upon the spiritual needs of the congregation.The spiritual duties in the Church are composed primarily of the administration of the Word (through preaching and teaching) and prayer. The appointed men would care for the physical needs of the congregation. This will become known as the Office of Deacon. The word “deacon” simply means minister. This word clearly describes the tasks of the office.

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Qualifications

We find the qualifications for the office of Deacon as well as Pastor in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and the qualifications for a pastor are repeated in Titus 1:5-9. I do recommend you review these passages. The one distinction that is made between the two offices is that elders must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). This is not to say that deacons are forbidden to teach, but rather the point is that Pastors are to administer the Word. To administer the Word means that they must be able to preach and to teach. This mirrors what we saw in the book of Acts. Pastors are to give their time and attention to preaching, teaching, and praying, while deacons are to attend to the physical needs of the body.

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Offices and Ministries

Every believer has been given spiritual gifts. With these gifts, they are to do their part to build up the body of Christ. Paul has a few passages in his letters that give some examples of spiritual gifts. The gifts are given in relation to the ministry that God would have a member to perform in their church. It is important to distinguish between gifts of ministry and offices in the church. We can see an example of such gifts that function to edify and fulfill the duties of the Church in Ephesus 4:11.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers

The context makes it clear that these are not offices, per se, but functions in the church.

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Ephesians 4:7-8

Those who meet the above-mentioned qualifications for the office of deacon and of the pastor must also have the gifts commensurate to those offices. Deacons should have gifts related to service and administration. Elders also called shepherds or pastors and must have the ability to teach and a strong burden to pray. They are specifically called by God to “feed the sheep” and care for their souls.

Church Government Part 2: Prophets and Apostles

Comments

Barry G Carpenter (author) from Mindanao, Philippines on September 04, 2020:

Thank you for reading.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 04, 2020:

Quite interesting to learn.

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