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
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.]
ORGANIZATION IS essential to the successful carrying out of a large undertaking. Therefore, organization marks the various forms of large scale human activities, such as civil governments, national alliances, religious denominations and federations, capitalistic combinations, aristocratic orders, labor groups, educational and benevolent institutions, fraternal and mutual societies, civic, reformatory and culture clubs and associations and even the natural family.
Any organization, to carry out the purposes of its existence, must have within itself the machinery by which to carry out its mission. Whatever is present in an organization that it not needed, nor adapted to its purposes, will be eliminated by wise organizers and executives.
In harmony with these principles, God, through Jesus and His Apostles, made the Church in its constitution an organization. Its organization is so complete that it may be called an organism whose parts form “the Body FITLY FRAMED and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part” (Ephesians 4: 16, American Standard Version). This organization is complete in God of itself for the purposes of its existence, and needs nothing organizationally outside of itself, for the successful execution of its mission.
In the Scriptures God has revealed to His Church the purposes of her organization, so that she could recognize what they are, cooperate with the Lord in realizing those purposes, reject all foreign elements and use all that are relevant to her mission.
The Church’s Gospel Age Mission
The Church’s Gospel Age mission has included: (1) a mission toward God and Christ, to glorify Them in all things (1 Corinthians 10: 31); (2) a threefold mission toward herself; and (3) a twofold mission toward the world.
The first part of (2) is: (A) to perfect herself in every good word and work (Ephesians 4: 11-32) (Revelation 19: 7, 8). This includes three things: (a) that she gather out of the world persons who are responsive to His invitation to become members of the Church (Psalm 45: 10, 11) (Acts 15: 14); (b) that she cleanse herself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (Ephesians 5: 25-27) (Colossians 3: 5-9); and (c) that she become like Christ in character (Romans 8: 29).
The second part of (2) is: (B) to sever herself from such of her members as fall into serious sin and/or gross error, and refuse to repent. This she has done sometimes: (a) by congregational action (1 Corinthians 5: 1-5, 13); sometimes (b) by individual action (1 Corinthians 5: 9-11); and sometimes (c) by general action (2 John 7-11).
The third part of (2) is: (C) to inaugurate and transact such business matters as are necessary for her to carry out her mission. These include the election of the servants of the local churches and the appointment of them to their services, maintenance of purity of doctrine and life, support of the servants of the Truth, relief of needy brethren and making arrangements for meetings and discipline.
Finally (3), the Church has had a twofold mission toward the world: (A) witnessing to the world with respect to sin, righteousness and judgment to come, that is, the coming Kingdom (Matthew 5: 13-16; 24: 14); and (B) reproving the world for sin, righteousness and the judgment to come (John 16: 8-11). In the Mediatorial Reign the Church will have a mission quite different from its Gospel Age mission to itself and to the world.
Biblical Organization of the Church
The Bible describes the organization of the Church under the figure of a human body, an organism, and not a loosely developed society or club (Colossians 1: 18) (1 Corinthians 12: 12-30) (Ephesians 4: 4-16) (Romans 12: 4-8). These Scriptures assure us that there is but one Body, one Organism, of Christ, having many members, with Jesus as the Head Member. They assure us that, as in the natural body the members are diverse from one another in their functions, some having a more important, others a less important office in the body, and that, despite this diversity, they are nevertheless harmoniously related to one another in mutual dependence, helpfulness, appreciation and sympathy – so it is with the Body of Christ.
Like the natural body, this Body, having many members, is but one, because it has the one spirit, one hope, one work, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God (Ephesians 4: 4-6). Its one Head under God does its thinking, planning, feeling, willing and directing; and it has pleased God to set the various members, each one in its place, in the Body (1 Corinthians 12: 18). This Head directs and used them according to their individual functions in the Body; and as in a normal natural body, where there is but one head, no member has a head separate and distinct from the other members, so in this Body. Jesus, whose Head is God (1 Corinthians 11: 3), is the Head of every member, and all members maintain their place in this Body by maintaining the condition upon which they entered it – acceptance of Christ as their Head.
How This Organization Reveals Itself
This organization manifests itself (1) in a particular way, that is, as spiritual, invisible and internal associations of brethren amid local, external and visible churches with their local servants, works, arrangements and meetings; and (2) in a general way, that is, as a spiritual, invisible and internal association without any externality and visibility (a) apart from its general servants – Jesus, the Apostles and the “secondarily prophets” (1 Corinthians 12: 28), who ministered to and co-operated with the general Church in individual churches, or in collections of them in conventions by word and work, or in more or less of their individual representatives by works, conversations, mails and the printed page; and (b) apart from its local servants ministering to the brethren in each local church.
The whole Body has been represented in each individual congregation because of its containing brethren among its members. The internal bond of union between the brethren at a particular locality and between them and all others is their spiritual fellowship in the one spirit, one hope, one work, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God. The external bond that is the point of contact between a local congregation and the members of the Body in that church is its works, its meetings, its officers and the occasional ministration and co-operation of the servants of the general Church; and the external bond that is the point of contact between the brethren of a local church and the brethren everywhere else is their conventions and works with the servants of the general Church.
The True Church Invisible
Thus we see that the true Church has been invisible both locally and generally, though it has manifested itself through its works, arrangements, meetings and servants visibly, whether it be in one place or all places. In other words, there has not been a visible general organization of the Church of the Living God (Hebrews 12: 23) that makes the various congregations or various individuals parts of a general visible body. But there has been a manifestation of a local part of the invisible Church in the form of local congregations externally organized, as described above.
This enables us to see that no denomination has been, nor have all the denominations combined, been the Body of Christ, but that the true Church has consisted exclusively of the sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1: 2), regardless of who they are or where they are. Thus no external, visible organization has been the true Church.
The description of the Body of Christ as an organism is given from various viewpoints in the four texts at the head of this article:
Colossians 1: 18 is a general description showing the two parts of the Christ in their relations – Jesus as Head, the Church as Body – without pointing out expressly the official relations of other members of this Body than Jesus.
Romans 12: 4-8 treats of the unity of the Body and the diversity and harmony of its members, mentioning the diverse functions of the official Body members in a local church without mentioning their official names, not those of the officers of the general Church.
Ephesians 4: 11-13 refers to the edifying servants of the Church, both general and local, as well as to those servants whose work is of a missionary character – evangelists.
1 Corinthians 12: 28, while omitting mention of evangelists, mentions all other official servants of the Church, both general and local. This passage is therefore all-comprehensive with regard to the servants of the Church, with the exception of the evangelists.
(to be continued)