foundation truth

Lesson 33 - church government

The Bible identifies three main areas of government in society: the home, civil government, and Church authority. I Corinthians 11:1-3;
Romans 13:1-7; Hebrews 13:17. In this lesson, we will deal with the Church government. I Corinthians 12:28

WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR GOVERNMENT?

Without government, there would be lawlessness, anarchy, and disorder. Judges 17:6, 21:25; II Thessalonians 2:4; II Peter 2:10; Jude 8

WHAT FORM OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT REVEAL?

It should be noted not only what offices we do find delineated in Scripture, but also the absence of any description of the officialdom
found in denominationalism. There are two offices defined within the organization of the local church, although there are many ministries.
These are bishops and deacons. Their status was independent of ecclesiastical authority and directly related to Jesus Christ. “Paul and
Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Philippians 1:1

WHAT ARE THE DEFINITIONS OF THE OFFICE OF A BISHOP?

There are three main words used in the New Testament, and they refer to the same person:

  • Elder – (Presbyturos) which means “senior,” when used in reference to the Church is the opposite of “novice.” It speaks of the man.
  • Bishop – (Episcopos) overseer. This is the scriptural name given to the position. It speaks of his office.
  • Pastor – (Poimen) means “shepherd;” one who is a feeder. It speaks of his work.

NOTE: The fivefold ministry described in Ephesians 4:9-11 are all elders with leadership responsibility. Their titles describe their particular work in the Body of Christ.

WHERE DO THE SCRIPTURES INTERRELATE THESE WORDS?

  • Paul called the elders of the Church at Ephesus to “therefore take heed yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishops) to shepherd (pastor) the church of God.” Acts 20:28
  • “I exhort… shepherd (pastor) the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers (the verb for bishop).” I Peter 5:1-2; Titus 1:5-7

DOES THE BIBLE TEACH PLURALITY OF ELDERSHIP?

Yes. In relation to local churches, the word for elder is always in the plural. Acts 14:19-23

  • Acts 14:23 – “Elders in every Church”
  • Acts 15:4-23- “Elders in Jerusalem”
  • Acts 16:4 – “Elders in Jerusalem”
  • Acts 20:17- “Elders of Ephesus”
  • Acts 21:17, 18 – “Elders of Jerusalem”
  • I Timothy 5:1, 17-21 – “let the Elders rule”
  • James 5:14 – “Call for the Elders of the Church”
  • I Peter 5:1 – “The Elders which are among you”
  • Titus 1:5-11 – “Ordain Elders in every city”
  • Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey them that rule”

However, the Holy Spirit always chooses one of the elders to be the “leading elder or senior pastor.”

It is impossible for one elder to meet all the spiritual needs of a strong church. As the church grows, the wise leader will surround himself with qualified people who will help him pastor the people.

WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF AN ELDER?

I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9 shows the moral, domestic, and spiritual qualifications required of those who are elders in the Church.

WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF A DEACON?

  • Deacon (Diakanos) – used 3 times. I Timothy 3:8; Philippians 1:1
  • Minister (Diakanos) – used 20 times. Mark 10:43-45
  • Servant (Diakanos) – used 7 times. Mark 9:35

Deacon means a minister or a servant. In relationship to the Church, the elders and deacons are involved in ruling and serving the people of God.

WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A DEACON?

Acts 6:3; I Timothy 3:8-13 shows the moral, domestic, and spiritual qualifications of deacons in the church.

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About the Author: Dr. Dale Yerton

Dr. Yerton serves as an overseer of a network of churches across the world. What began as a network of six church groups representing 500 churches in Mexico has grown into an international ministry. 

He and Evelyn, his wife over fifty years, live in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. They have two daughters: Lora–married to the Rev. Vince Farrell, pastors of Journey Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky–and Kari—also of Hopkinsville–and are the proud grandparents of Emma and Bennett Farrell.

Dale Yerton