Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH – PART 2
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
(Colossians 1: 18) (Romans 12: 4-8) (1 Corinthians 12: 28) (Ephesians 4: 11-13)
[Although this article applies primarily to the Church, the principles in it still apply to all of God’s consecrated people.]
ALTHOUGH THE Church is completely organized for her mission, she is not organized for all missions. She is not organized for politics, for few of her members are qualified for politics, and the attempt on the part of certain ones to make her mission include politics has resulted in evil to both the Church and the State. She is not organized for business apart from that necessary for her to conduct her work (as described in the previous article), for very few of her members have marked business capacity. She is not organized to solve labor problems, for few of her members have the time, talents and spirit to grapple with such problems. Nor is secular education a field for the exercise of the Church’s organization, for her members as a rule are not “wise.” And the Church is not organized for ecclesiasticism, for her membership lacks the spirit, hopes, aims and qualities of ecclesiasticism.
Of course, she very properly can make use of human helps in the form of mail, the internet, vehicles of transportation, telephone, printing and business systems. She may also make use of buildings, inventions, literary products in history, archeology, etc., and such works as concordances, Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, lexicons, atlases, etc. But she does not use these as organizations under her control, nor may she permit any external body to control her. Therefore she cannot form a business corporation or company for conducting her mission toward God or man.
Worldly Organizations Unnecessary for the Church
To claim that she cannot accomplish her work without a corporation, a board of directors or some other additional organization implies that God failed to instruct her by her inspired teachers, orally or in the Scriptures, to avail herself of the privileges of the corporations or business companies sanctioned by the Roman government in the times of Jesus and the Apostles; and that He thus failed to give her a complete organization for her mission. To claim that she cannot accomplish her work without such an organization implies that nominal Christians were right in adding to the original constitution of the Church; that the true Church was wrong in protesting against such additions; and that men are wiser than God, when it comes to being “practical”!
The Old and New Testaments ignore any organization, except the Church’s own constitution, as necessary to carry out her work. This is not an oversight, for God, when describing the entire organization of the Church, purposely omitted mention of other bodies, societies, companies, or corporations in the Church. He wanted it understood that none of these were necessary for the Church in carrying out the purposes of her existence. We thus recognize that the Church through her general servants, assisted by the brethren generally, is perfectly organized to prosecute successfully the general interests of her mission. Through these general servants, the servants of the local churches, and all other brethren in and out of these local congregations, she is perfectly organized to successfully fulfill the local interests of her mission. She should therefore refuse to accept the service of all hierarchies, general councils, synods, general assemblies, conferences, presbyteries, boards, corporations, committees, etc., which seek to control her work, and not be under her control, as additions to her Divine constitution and as unnecessary and harmful to her mission. Biblical passages and facts, as well as the facts of Church history, prove this to be true.
Church’s Organization Undermined Following Apostles’ Death
The organization of the Church began to be undermined with the bishops being made a distinct order in the Church from the elders, or presbyters, and with the “clergy” becoming distinct from the “laity.” Each church, ceasing to have many bishops, that is, presbyters (Acts 20: 17, 28) (Philippians 1: 1) (Titus 1: 4-9), began in the second century to have only one bishop, who was placed over the other bishops, or presbyters, and deacons – the only two kinds of servants of a local church (1 Timothy 3: 1-15). These bishops, in the interest of their power, began to call synods or councils to legislate for the supposed common interests – not of the Church, but of the churches of entire districts and provinces.
The first of these church synods or councils was held in Syria in 166 A.D. These synods or councils prove that the churches were externally organized with one another, a thing that was foreign to the Apostles. Before many decades, these “provinces of the Church” were presided over by archbishops, whose power continued to increase. All of these archbishops, distributed over the three territorial divisions of the Roman Empire, were in the third century made subject to the patriarchs, of whom there were then three – one at Rome, one at Antioch and one at Alexandria. These introduced other organizations into “the Church,” all of them foreign and subversive to the original constitution of the Church.
And ever since, all organizations that have been added to the original constitution of the Church have been added on the plea that they were necessary for the work of the Church. However, these were only necessary for the mission of the nominal church, which lost sight of the Divinely given mission of the real Church, and which set up a mission of its own, unauthorized for the Gospel Age – the conversion of the world and the Church’s reign over it for a thousand years before Christ’s Second Advent.
The Church’s Real Unity
The unity of the true Church in the one spirit, one hope, one work, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God was strong enough to enable individuals individually (Acts 8: 1-7), and individual churches individually (Acts 13: 1-4), through representatives, to carry out the mission of the Church. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find a collection of churches uniting organizationally through committees, boards, societies, corporations or otherwise to send forth the message of the Word, through persons and local churches individually as such, whether the latter were the former’s representatives or not (Acts 13: 1-4) (Philippians 4: 10-18).
It is true that a combination of churches did organizationally, through a committee that they appointed, an earthly, deacon work, that is, raised money for, and distributed it to the needy saints (2 Corinthians 8: 16-24). But such a combination never in the New Testament through a committee, board, society, corporation or otherwise did an organizational work in furthering the spread of the Word.
Church’s Organization Sufficient for Her Mission
We may therefore conclude that the Church was perfectly organized in the Harvest of the Jewish Age by God for her Divinely intended mission; that her organization is that of one Body under Jesus her Head, with the Apostles as His plenipotentiaries, fully qualified infallibly and perfectly to bind upon and loose from her all necessary things as teachers of the general Church (Matthew 18: 18). He also arranged for “secondarily prophets” (such as Marsiglio, Luther, Wesley, etc.) to act as the exclusively visible but not inspired, or infallible, or perfect teachers of the general Church, after the Apostles fell asleep, as they (for example, in Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, etc.) cooperated with the Apostles as such before these fell asleep. God furthermore arranged for the evangelists (as sharers with the Apostles and “secondarily prophets”) in serving especially in giving the elementary truths of the Word to outsiders and beginners.
God arranged for chosen pastors and teachers to minister the truths to local churches, with helps (deacons and deaconesses) to minister apart from applying the Word. He also arranged for governments (chairmen, committees, etc.) to conduct the external business of the local ecclesias, and with every member, official or unofficial, cooperating in the mission of the Church according to his spiritual qualities, human talents and providential situation. This Church as organized in itself by God is perfectly adapted to fulfill her mission in the world, and any attempt to fasten upon her another organization is repugnant to her formation, and harmful to the interests of her Divine mission.
As consecrated Bible students, we stand committed to the policy of upholding the Biblical organization of the Church, and of opposing any attempt to corrupt her organization by introducing into her any other kind of an organization – opposing it as a dead weight, a hindrance, an injury and a cancer to be removed for her and others’ good. The organization of the Church is for its purposes perfect, sufficient, spiritual, sublime and effective. It is worthy of our appreciation, love and support. May we seek to maintain and perpetuate this arrangement, and defend all efforts to hinder, injure, pervert, limit or add to this organization in its Divinely ordained existence and ministry.