The Foundation and Structure of the Church:
The word Ekklēsía is often used when referring to the Church. In the New Testament, the Greek word describes a public assembly summoned by a herald. It is derived from two words. One is ek that means “out” and the other is kaleín or kaleō that means “to call”. We are thus the “called out ones”. The Hebrew uses the word Qāhāl. This refers to the congregation of the people of Israel who gathered before the Lord.
The Kingdom of God is to be our theme or basis of preaching, modeled on the ministry of Jesus. John the Baptist came preaching this message, telling God’s people to be ready for His appearing.
In Acts, reference to the Church denotes a company or group of believers.
We read of churches in Jerusalem (Acts 5:11), Antioch (Acts 13:1), and Caesarea (Acts 18:22). The book of revelation contains letters to seven churches at specific locations.
In acts 9:31 after Paul was converted, we see mention of churches throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria.
Paul wrote to the church of God which is at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2)
He sent greetings to Phebe, who he described as a servant of the church at Cenchrea in Romans 16:1 and Priscilla and Aquilla in Romans 16:3-4 (see also 1 Corinthians 16:19) whose home was the church.
All through that chapter, Paul gave greetings to the saints. Believers are saints! We no not need any man or organization to declare us so. Blood washed, redeemed believers in Jesus Christ are all classed as saints. According to Ephesians 1, what we call the church is to reveal the mystery of God’s will and this requires revelation of that purpose. In Ephesians 1:20-23, Paul says that God raised Christ form the dead, set Him down in the heavenlies as ultimate and supreme ruler for all time, put everything under His feet and gave Him (Jesus) to be the head of all things relating to the church…which is His body!
We…are the Church.
Assumptions and traditions:
Before we go much further, I want to reveal that what we loosely call the church...isn't necessarily The Church!
There are any assumptions and traditions in the "church" that have no scriptural basis whatever. For example, the nativity story that I like and will always treasure states that there were three wise men who presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
Some of us also believe that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus' birth. The bible does not say that either. It does say that Joseph married her and did not know her until after the Lord's birth. It would appear from later scriptures that they had their own children. Jesus had brothers and sisters! See Matthew 13:55, 27:56 and Galatians 1:19. Whilst there are many women with the name of Mary, there are too many incidents recorded in the bible that indicate that Jesus' mother had her own children with Joseph. This may shock and offend some people but it is worth investigating further.
The point I want to make is that what is often called "The Church" might not be the Church that Jesus spoke about.
The Chief Cornerstone:
We are the church, for specific reasons. Paul said-
Jesus is the chief cornerstone!
A Cornerstone or foundation stone was the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. It is very important, because all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
Over time a cornerstone became a ceremonial masonry stone, or replica, set in a prominent location on the outside of a building, with an inscription on the stone indicating the construction dates of the building and the names of architect, builder and other significant individuals. The rite of laying a cornerstone is an important cultural component of eastern architecture and metaphorically in sacred architecture generally. There are six references to cornerstones in both the Old and New Testaments.
Some cornerstones include time capsules from, or engravings commemorating the time a particular building was built as seen in the above picture.
The cornerstone is Jesus and the apostles and prophets are aligned to Him. We shall deal with apostles, prophets and other ministries in the church elsewhere, but suffice it to say at this point that they are supposed to remain with us till the end of this age.
This church or building is to be assembled in such a way so that it can grow into a habitation of God through the Spirit! In other words, the Holy Spirit works on us, with us, to us, through us or in any way you like to describe to bring each and every believer into a dwelling place or temple in which God can dwell. It has nothing to do with denominations, cathedrals, A Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury or the president of an organization.
The Church is not a human organization; it is God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), created in accordance with His eternal purpose in Christ (Ephesians 1:4), reveal the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9), that in it He might show the exceeding riches of His grace (Ephesians 2:7). See also Ephesians 3:9-19; 4:4-7 and of course, the reference to the Gift ministries listed in Ephesians 4:8-16.
The Head of the Church:
We have seen that Jesus is the chief cornerstone. He is the Head of the Church and we are likened to His body. Ths body contains many diffferent parts, all of which differ in role, purpose, function, size, shape and so on. For example the eye cannot do what the ear does and the big toe cannot breathe air, so every individual part or member is unique and has a specific part to play. If one member is not functioning, the whole body suffers and this is consistent with the various gifts and ministries that the lord has given His church. We shall deal with these aspects in depth elsewhere.
What I wish to do now is to share scripture references to Christ, being the Head.
And He has put all things under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church [a headship exercised throughout the church], Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself]. Ephesians 1:22-23
...let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). For because of Him the whole body (the church, in all its various parts), closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.
[Now] He is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He is the Firstborn of all creation. For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him. And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).
He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]. For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently. Colossians 1:15-19
You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
Commissioning the Church:
Throughout His ministry, Jesus chose others to help him. We have traditionally been taught that Jesus had 12 disciples, assuming many things that may not be correct, but in fact, there were several hundreds of followers.
In Luke 6:13 we see that He called His disciples to Him and Out of those disciples, He chose 12 who He called Apostles. The Greek word is Apostolos and it simply means someone who has been chosen for a specific task and thus sent on an assignment. Such a person is a delegate, a representative or an ambassador. He Himself is our Chief Apostle, having been sent by the Father. See Hebrews 3:1.
In Like 10, Jesus appointed an additional 70 who He sent on assignments. That makes 82! John 6:60-71 reveals that many of Jesus’ disciples left him. There were 120 people in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost and Paul reveals I 1 Corinthians 15:6 that at least 500 people saw Jesus after His resurrection.
In Matthew 28, Jesus appeared to the women and His disciples and said-
His commission was to teach all nations, baptize them and teach them to observe everything He had commanded them. The word for Nations is ethnos that basically means all ethnic groups of people who are located all over the world.
This is a command.
The word for teach is mathēteuō. It describes the function of training and making of disciples, using words like instruct, instruction and teaching. We are to thus teach people how to do what Jesus told them to do. That is, to observe all things that He commanded them! This comes right round to the ministry assignments that He sent them on. He taught, He preached, He healed the sick, He cast out demons, He revealed the Kingdom of heaven or, more correctly, the kingdom of God (that is God’s way of doing things).
Turn now to Mark chapter 16.
And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature [of the whole human race]. He who believes [who adheres to and trusts in and relies on the Gospel and Him Whom it sets forth] and is baptized will be saved [from the penalty of eternal death]; but he who does not believe [who does not adhere to and trust in and rely on the Gospel and Him Whom it sets forth] will be condemned. And these attesting signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; They will pick up serpents; and [even] if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well.
Most Christians accept the part about going into all the world and preaching the Gospel to everyone. Sadly, many propel want to tear out the remaining parts that talk about the signs, but the signs are a characteristic of His own ministry and are what He gave us so that He could go with us and confirm the message! It’s all there in read ink in my bible and He did not make any time constraints or specify that this was only for those eleven! Jesus spoke about “Those” who believe. He used words like they and them. We cannot pick and choose how and whom He uses for His purpose.
Luke’s account in chapter 24 is interesting. Jesus appeared to the two disciples (one was Cleopas) on the road to Emmaus. Here we see a disciple who was never mentioned before. During that conversation, He called them that they were foolish (sluggish in mind and dull of perception), slow in heart to believe, adhere to and trust what the prophets had said. He then started explaining things about Himself, starting with Moses. Later when everyone was gathered together in the house, He appeared to everyone of them, ate food and told them much the same tings. Luke said that He opened their understanding s that they could understand the scriptures.
Modern theologians do not take such matters into consideration and as a result do not gain this kind of understanding.
If they lack this understanding they lack the truth about His Church and everything else for that matter.
The Lord then issued the command that most Christians seem to partially acknowledge, as part of the great commission. He instructed them to wait in Jerusalem first to be endued with power on high. They had just spent 3 years with Him and had embarked on power-packed ministries in their own right. He was telling them that in order to continue doing what He did, they needed what He had!
The commission to the church includes receiving the Holy Spirit!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever according to Peter and His word abides forever. What He said then is just as valid today.
In John chapters 20 and 21, Jesus appeared to the disciples and ministered to them for some period of time, He did things that John admitted were not fully recorded and that if they could have been written down, the whole world itself would not be big enough to contain the record. See John 20:30—31 and John 21:25.
He was with them for 40 days. Acts 1:1-3. In that time, He spoke about the Kingdom of God. He would be leaving them soon and had to prepare them to take over His ministry. They needed to know how to go about it!
In Acts 1:4, He repeated his earlier command to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit baptism we so desperately need. The word power is mentioned. It is dynamis. It is like explosive latent power or ability such as is stored up in a stick of dynamite. They already had another meaning of the word power that is exousia. It means authority. It is possible to have authority but no power to back it up!
Far too many parts of the Church sadly deny this and try to do the work Jesus wanted done without the tools with which they can do the work.
Later in acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and He has remained here ever since.
Many things happened after that and it is not my intention to dwell on those aspects here as they are covered elsewhere, but it is my belief that this is where the church may have been birthed.
Jesus ’command was to start in Jerusalem and spread out from there (see Acts 1:8), but the church never really left Jerusalem until persecution came and they then started to “go ye” into all the world. In this light, we may also be able to say that at such time, the Church was birthed and started to activate the commission.
Paul told a young pastor-
His advice is very relevant today. We are indeed living in troubled times in which all kinds of religion are being promoted or people are living as if God does not exist.
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times.
There are two words or phrases to consider in Paul’s advice. One is approved. The other is rightly dividing.
The word approved is Dokimos.
As it is today, people pay good money for gold and silver and expect to receive the full weight of that commodity.
Unscrupulous money-changers shaved off those rough edges and kept the filings. After a while, they accumulated a considerable and valuable amount.
People were thus being cheated.
The situation grew so bad that laws were made to make this practice illegal. The coinage had to be full weight or approved and thus full value of the precious metal. The term used was dokimos.
Today, people are being cheated of the full value of precious truth by various man-made religion ideas and opinions. Part of the function of the five ascension gift ministries is to ensure “dokimos”.
The second thing to consider is the term rightly dividing. It is the Greek word Orthotomeō. Its basic meaning is to make a clean, straight and sharp cut or incision.
It is derived from two words, one of which is Orthos. It speaks about precise vertical or horizontal alignment and about being level, straight and true, or honesty. The second word is Tomos. This describes the act of being able to make precise, straight, sharp, cleanly divisions or incisions. Some references to Orthotomeō are made in medical science. Imagine having surgery when the doctor uses a blunt scalpel and has to repeatedly make hacking, chopping movements during surgery. I’d prefer one precise, clean incision that that if I needed surgery.
Paul thus stated that our studies of God’s word should be clearly defined, accurate, precise and have the results that God intended them to have.
This is one reason for our presentations. We desire for you, the reader, to know God and to experience everything He has for you, without having to guess, or be left useless and powerless in all areas of life.
Our studies are all based on scripture and designed to bring you to the state whereby you can meet the following criteria… approved to God, perfect in Christ and compete in Him.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
As we have seen, from the very beginning, there are apostles, beginning with the 12 apostles and later with others. This office (or function) is so important that the foundational apostles’ first major leadership act was to appoint another apostle to replace Judas (Acts 1:15–26).
In Ephesians 4:11 Paul provides a similar list to the above, but here he includes evangelists and pastors (the shepherds).
This is not permitted in some parts of the church and it makes me wonder if that kind of organisation and structure is correct or not. It often encroaches into the areas of manipulation, domination and control. Legalism and formalism follow and the members of that particular church never come into the fulness of what God has for them.
Paul also considered elders to be a vital function of the early church. He asked Titus to appoint elders in every town in Crete (Titus 1:7). If the Church is to be classed as a Church in a certain place as we have discussed earlier, Titus sought to suitably qualified people to lead that particular church.
The term elder is also translated as bishop to function as overseers (see Acts 20:17; 28 and Titus 1:5-9).
1Timothy 4:14 refers to a group of elders collectively as the “council of elders” and this could indicate an organised administrative body, but again is uncertain.
Pleases consider that if a person held a church office that they were de facto elders.
In acts 6, the early church was growing at such a rate that the apostles needed some help. They chose suitably qualified men to help with the workload.
...as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
These men were the first deacons. The Greek word is diakonos and it means servant. They were chosen to look after the daily affairs of the Church or the people. They were not chosen to govern or rule as is often seen today. Deacons were to be supportive of the pastors and render practical assistance, not to control the pastors as if in a church board.
These men were elders. Church governance became more formalised in the early second century after the pioneers died. At this point, the roles were diversified for some reason, but in the New Testament, no such distinction is made. Appointments of such people perhaps became acceptable due to growth, but I doubt if they were originally designed to be held in the same esteem as bishops, archbishops, cardinals, canons, and various other rankings as seen today. I am of the opinion that such positions are man-made.
I prefer to hold only to the descriptions that are listed in the canon of scripture.
As a closing thought on this patter, the priesthood, that is often seen today is not scriptural. There is only one high priest and His name is Jesus. There is only one advocate with the Father and He is Jesus. See Hebrews 3:1; 4:14-16; 5:9-10; 6:20; 7;14-17, 24; 8:1-6; 9:7-8, 12-14; 1 John 2:1.
Order and Discipline:
The early churches maintained order and exercised exercised discipline. Unfortunately, the issues of order and discipline are clouded by excess, and over-control. Some denominations exercise such hard handed discipline the people are under subjection and in fact exposed to control.
The pastor exercises dictatorial control over the people and in turn he or she may be ruled by a governing body in a headquarters in a geographical location somewhere else.
In our day and age, we certainly need to be avoid erroneous teachings and practices for many reasons so it is good to have some standards.
What is often overlooked in a central administration, is the fact that each individual Church is just that.
We each face different manners an customs. For example, here in my country, it is considered impolite to eat noisily and to burp. In other countries, slurping and burping is an expression of appreciation.
Imposing a strict denominationally based set of rules and regulations in any Church can therefore be difficult.
We must also consider that some scriptures refer to Jews and not to the Church, so trying to apply strict regulations in some instances might not be appropriate.
Let us take Matthew 18:15-20, where the Lord tells us how to handle a situation. Please bear in mind that He is discussing humility and offences. There was a power struggle I place here as the disciples wanted to know who was best and who should be the leader.
Firstly, we are to love each other and forgive each other, but here He says that we are supposed to have a private conversation with the person who has trespassed against us. If this does not work, we are to take witnesses. If that does not work, then we can sever the relationship.
On many occasions, such a stand is not taken. The pastor or ruling official sometimes acts as judge, jury and executioner.
It appears that the final determination of disciplinary matters is in the hands of the local church. That local Church could be in a completely different situation to another. In 1 corinthians 5 and in 2 corinthians 2, Paul seems to offer his counsel and advice, but asks the local Church to handle its own problems.
Some leaders were chosen by the congregations. Others were appointed or instituted by Paul and Barnabas, or Peter and John. See 1 Timothy 4:4; 2 Timothy 1:6 and Titus 1:5, but we cannot infer that this was an arbitrary imposition of a higher Church governing body. They seemed to work together and confer with each other. They seemed to rely on how the Holy Spirit led them as seen in Acts 15:22 onwards.
When it came to matters of order an discipline, it seemed that each local assembly operated more like that, than by the dictates of an administrative body, or by one man who could handle things in a dictatorial manner.
Do not be a rebel and refuse to accept leadership, but recognize leadership for what it is. Wherever you are, you have the right and the authority to check things out scripturally and by the Holy Ghost.
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