Chapter NINE CHRIST – THE HEAD OF THE Church
“In the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.” *** Psalm 116:19
God will be in the midst of those who worship Him in Jerusalem; the place of True Worship.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the mist of them.” *** Matthew 18:20
Where two or three are gathered in His name, He will dwell in the midst of them. Jesus was speaking of His Spiritual presence, not His physical presence. When we come together in God’s order, He promises to be in our midst. But when His order is not observed, He is grieved because of His children of disobedience. Jerusalem represents God’s true place of worship. If we are to come into the courts of His presence and praise, we must come into His order that there may be “Order in His Court”.
ELDERS – THE STRENGTH OF THE BODY
God has ordained and established the eldership to be the strength in His Body. The elders are set in the Body to do the work of the ministry. Paul wrote,
“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ.” *** Ephesians 4:11-12
Paul recorded that, when Jesus ascended up on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men, *** Ephesians 4:8. These gifts were for the perfecting of the saints. The word perfecting is KATARTISMOS and means “to prepare fully”. God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as gifts to the Body, to fully prepare and equip the saints for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the Body of Christ.
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” *** Ephesians 4:13
God’s Body is to come into the unity of the faith. Jude stated,
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” *** Jude 3
We are to contend for the faith that was delivered unto the saints. Paul informs us,
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” *** Ephesians 4:5
Today, the church system would have us believe that every denomination is a faith. A common question is, “What faith are you?” We do not have a choice. If we are not part of the faith that was delivered unto the saints, then we are part of a pseudo-religious order that is man-made. God sent His gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers that they may bring His Body, not only into the unity of the faith, but into the knowledge of the Son of God. Many confess His name, but few are crying out as Paul,
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” *** Philippians 3:10
Paul was crying out to know Him. He wanted to understand the power of His resurrection. He wanted to fellowship with Christ’s sufferings and be made conformable unto His death; the death of the flesh. The gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are to bring the Body of Christ into the perfect man that Paul spoke of in *** Ephesians 4:13.
The word perfect here is TELEIOS and means “complete, finished, mature, full age and full grown”. The gifts of God to the church are to be used to grow up the Body, until they come into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, *** Ephesians 4:13. Yet most denominational systems no longer recognize the apostle and prophet. Some even erroneously state that the apostle and prophet, along with healing and the gifts of the Spirit, passed away with the last of the original apostles.
It should be plain to all that, because of this, the church has failed in this most important task of bringing the Body into the unity of the faith. Then we ask, “Why?” It is because God’s order for leadership has been violated or ignored. God has given us all the tools. We simply need to learn to use them. The qualifications for leadership are plain. The next thing, then, to consider is, “How is the leadership to function, and what part do the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers have in the eldership of His Body?”
The first thing we must know for sure is that God speaks with one voice. Many ask, “How many should be in the eldership?” The most common answer is, “Five, because you need an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher.” There is nothing written in God’s Word that precludes that a man can not have more than one of these callings. Paul certainly had all five of the gift ministries. There are men today who operate in more than one of these ministries, if not all five. Jesus, our example, operated in all five.
The next common reason for having an odd number in the eldership is so there will be a tie breaker in decision making; three against two, or four against three. But again, we observe from the examples in God’s Word that there is no recorded eldership with an uneven number. In the Old Testament, there were twelve patriarchs and seventy elders. In the New Testament, there were twelve disciples and twelve apostles.
It is not necessary to have an odd number of men in the eldership because God speaks with one voice. He does not speak one thing to one elder and something else to another. There is to be no tie breaker vote. There is to be no vote at all. There is only to be agreement as the Holy Spirit speaks. “So, how many elders should there be?” The answer is, “More than one, and as many as are needed to take care of the ministry in the Body.” There must be more than one, because God’s leadership is not a one- man leadership; although, this is what it has become in most churches.
When Christ, the Head, speaks to His Body, He speaks through His eldership, whether it be two or seventy. He will speak with one voice to all. If the eldership is hearing the voice of the Spirit, there will be no misunderstanding of what the Holy Spirit’s purpose is, and decisions will be with no disagreements. When the eldership is established on this basis, and operates in this fashion, Christ truly will become the head of His Body; the church.
Most churches today have their boards, committees, eldership, deacons and trustees. But one man has the veto power to over-ride any decision these groups make. The groups simply become rubber stamps for the over-riding authority. Then there is the exact opposite. In many churches these various groups, boards and committees totally run the work and the pastor or preacher is hired by them. He is under their total control and can do or say nothing that would bring disapproval from those entrenched in dictatorship. Both of these systems create a two- headed church. Christ is to be the only head of the church. The church government is to be established upon His shoulder; the eldership.
The vast majority of churches are two-headed. The pastor or boards have the pre-eminence and control of what is allowed to go on in their church and among their sheep. In the two-headed church system, God is only allowed to speak through the second head. If God speaks to anyone other than the recognized head, it cannot be accepted because it did not come through the second head first.
Will the two-headed church work? It cannot. This is a deformity in the Body. When one man, or a group of self-appointed men have control and say, then the voice of God is hindered or muted altogether. In reality, the two-headed church system becomes a one-man show and Christ is ignored as the head entirely. God’s desire is that proper order come into His Body, with Christ as the only head, and His government established upon His shoulder; the eldership.
Most churches are set up with a pastor who goes by various titles. Next comes the elders, deacons, committees, boards, trustees, cell group leaders, music leaders, youth leaders, singles leaders; the list is endless. All are under the headship of the pastor. All the messages to the Body must come through him. He has become the head. The work becomes his work, his church and his flock. He receives the glory, honor, and respect for the church. And in most cases, He demands the glory, the honor and the respect. His needs are totally met. His house is furnished. There are retirement plans, all his insurance is paid, stock option plans, paid vacations and sometimes expense accounts are included. The pastor has all the benefits any big business could afford him. These requirements must be met, along with an appropriate salary, before he is willing to take the job. What a difference from the example Jesus, the Great Shepherd, revealed unto us. Jesus stated,
“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” *** Mark 10:45
Jesus came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give His life for many. John recorded another example Jesus gave,
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” *** John 10:11-13
True shepherds are those who give their life for the flock. The hireling does not care for the sheep. He is simply a hired shepherd, and when a better offer comes along, he is gone. It could be more money, a bigger church or a better benefit package. These generally demand total control and say in every area. The people are made to believe that the voice of God can only speak through him.
Most denominational churches are required to select their pastor from the group sent from their headquarters; pastors who have completed their seminary and have met their requirements to minister in their churches. Others choose to select their pastor from private, non-denominational colleges who teach what their board believes, and are in agreement with their doctrine. The pastors try out for the job after they have been screened by the pastoral committee, and one is selected. Chiefly, their job consists of merely maintaining numbers.
We are to ask, “What order did God ordain to select a pastor?” As we begin to seek God’s order, and as we begin to allow Him to function freely in His Body, it becomes clear that God appoints the eldership to do the work of the ministry. We also know God will set every ministry needed in the eldership to minister to the needs of the Body.
When Titus was told to ordain elders in every city, he was to look for the qualifications Paul had given. One of the qualifications for elders was that they be “apt (able) to teach.” God will set those able to teach in the eldership. It is not necessary to go to the hireling system to select a pastor. The pastor is to be selected from the eldership. When the pastor is selected, he does not become separated from the eldership, but functions as elder in church government with no more say than any one of the other elders.
Another question that is asked is, “If all the elders are co-equal in authority, who runs the meeting?” Paul spoke,
“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” *** I Corinthians 4:15
Though there be ten thousand instructors in Christ, there are not many fathers. The fathers God sets in the eldership have the Father’s heart. The father’s heart says, “I want my sons to do better than I have done.” A father does not have an over- riding spirit, but has the ministry of uplift, to encourage and direct, but not to lord over. Peter gave direction to the eldership,
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” *** I Peter 5:2-3
Peter gave strict instructions to the eldership. They are to feed the flock of God. Whose flock? God’s flock! The eldership is to oversee the flock, not try to change the flock of God into their image, or have the flock become what they think it ought to be. The eldership is to bring the flock into the unity of the faith, into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, not by constraint, by force or unwillingness and not for filthy lucre (to be eager for base gain). The elders are, instead, to have a willing mind. They are not to lord over God’s heritage (His Body). Elders are to be examples to the flock. Their lives should exemplify Christ in everything they do and say.
It is not the eldership’s job to tell the sheep how to be sheep. It is their job to lead God’s sheep, His heritage, beside the still, pure waters and in the green pastures. The still waters are the uncorrupted Word of God. The green pastures are where they can feed on the things of God that produce life. The eldership is to see that God’s heritage can find rest, and walk in the paths of righteousness. The elders are to minister to God’s heritage, His name- sake, His Christ-Ones through the Holy Spirit. Paul gave the elders, who operate in God’s order, a promise,
“When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” *** I Peter 5:4
DEACONS – THE LABORERS
The next order God sets in the church are the Deacons; the Laborers. The word deacon is the Greek word DIAKONOS and means “servant or attendant”. DIAKONOS is not always translated deacon. It is also translated “servant or minister”. It should be plain by the scriptures that, when the elders of the early church told the multitude to pick out seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, *** Acts 6:3, they had more in mind for these men than them waiting on tables. From the beginning of the church age, God set the established order for the position of deacon. The deacons responsibilities consisted of taking care of the church. The deacons were to be the head of the labour force. The position of a deacon is the training area for leadership.
One of the most important attributes in leadership is a servant’s heart to serve God’s people. The young man who desires the office of a deacon must first have a proven record of being willing to labour and learn as a servant. The qualifications for a deacon are very similar to those for the eldership. If deacons are to be raised into the position of eldership, they must show the same attributes necessary for the elders. The deacon must desire to say as Jesus, “I want to minister, not be ministered to.”
Checking the history of the original seven young men chosen to be deacons, we find that of the seven, not much is known of two, Nicanor and Timon. Nicolas was believed to be the founder of the Nicolaitanes. Jesus stated that He hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, *** Revelation 2:6. Two others were made elders of churches; Prochorus, in Nicomedia and Parmenas in Soli. Parmenas was martyred in Philippi. Philip became an evangelist. Much is recorded of Philip in the book of Acts. Stephen became a great expositor of the Word, and was the first martyr in the church. Four of the seven became great leaders in the church.
When one is made a deacon, it is a proving and training ground. Because one is made a deacon, it does not necessitate that he be raised into the leadership. He must be proven in every area before he is taken into the eldership. The deacon not only learns to be in authority to get the physical work done in the ministry, but while he is learning to serve, he is also learning to submit to the authority of the eldership. To be in authority, one must learn to submit to authority. Elders must learn to submit to the headship of Christ and the deacons must learn to submit to the authority of the elders.
“How many deacons should there be? Do we need seven because there were seven appointed in the first church? Should there be an uneven number?” The answer is, “How ever many are needed to take care of the flock, so the elders may be given to the Word, prayer and the work of the ministry.” The church may need only one deacon, or they may need many. It all depends on the size of the flock.
Another determining factor would be how many deacons the elders would be able to work with to raise up into leadership; and how many new leaders are needed for the expanding flock. Some of these young men will be trained and sent out as evangelists. They may be endowed with other gifts that God has set in the church: apostle, prophet, pastor or teacher, administration, government, helps and so forth. The elders will need to work diligently to prepare the deacons to exercise their gift so they are prepared when they are sent out from the church by the laying on of the elders’ hands.
The elders need to instruct the deacons in performing every duty in the church: teaching, counseling, admonishing, exhortation and leading in various activities. Under the guidance and direction of the eldership, the deacons are given certain authority by the elders.
The deacons are to show forth the same attributes of the elders. Fourteen of the 26 qualifications for leadership are also directed to the deacons. One of the qualifications is: He must not be a novice, *** I Timothy 3:6. The word novice means “newly planted, or a new convert, one who is inexperienced”. A prospective deacon should have a good report, showing a willingness to work and serve God’s people, before any disciple is considered for deaconship. This takes considerable time to be proven and recognized.
It is not absolutely necessary that a candidate for eldership be brought up through the deaconship. No direction in the Word is given in this area. The apostle to the church can, with the full agreement of the total eldership, raise up an elder. Nevertheless, the deaconship is the natural training ground for leadership.
LEARNERS – THE DISCIPLES
The third group in the church are the learners, or the disciples. The word for disciple is MATHETOS and means “a learner; those who accomplish, endeavor and learn to do”. Jesus called His disciples unto Himself to teach them His ways. It is the eldership’s job to teach their disciples God’s ways, His order, His principles and His judgments.
God has sent His people, His sheep, to the church to be fed, nurtured, loved and discipled, not entertained. They are not to have their ears tickled to make sure they return next Sunday. A relationship to God demands change. If there is no change, there is no God. If the disciple is self-willed and refuses to change, then God can never use that disciple.
When Jesus spoke to the multitude that they must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, *** John 6:56, they received this as a hard saying and turned away and departed from Him, *** John 6:60. Jesus did not try to get them to return. Instead, He turned to His disciples and said, “Will ye also go away?” *** John 6:67. Jesus gave even those closest to Him opportunity to leave if they would not receive His Word.
“Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” *** John 6:68
If the church is putting forth the eternal Word of life, the true disciples will not leave. But those who want to play church to look good in the eyes of men, will. The Word offends those who will not be cleansed by it.
The disciples are to learn the ways of God. They must become a part of what God designed church to be. The church is not to be filled with unconverted sinners who have no heart for God. They can only cause strife and division, which has been the history of the church. God has given direction to the disciples as to his or her relationship to the eldership.
“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” *** I Timothy 5:19
The disciple is not to receive an accusation against an elder. The word accusation means “to speak against”. If someone is speaking against an elder, then two or three witnesses should be called to hear the accusation. This would solve many problems in the church.
“Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.” *** I Timothy 5:1
Rebuke not an elder. The word rebuke means “to strike at”. The disciple is admonished to treat him as a father, and not strike back at him.
“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the Word and doctrine.” *** I Timothy 5:17
The disciples are to afford double honor to the elders who rule well, who labor in the Word and doctrine. They are to be respected and honored, not deified or revered. Jesus spoke,
“The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” *** Matthew 10:24
The disciple is not above his master. The word master means “teacher”. A disciple who thinks he is better than his teacher will not learn very much. A teacher not only teaches from a text book, but his life is to be a teacher also. We must be assured that God is stricter with the elders than He is with the disciples. Luke recorded Jesus’ words,
“The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master (teacher).” *** Luke 6:40
The word perfect means “mature”. The mature shall be as the teacher. Why is the teacher necessary in the assembly? He is there to teach and mature the disciples. He is God’s gift to the church. The writer of Hebrews also gave instructions to the disciples,
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” *** Hebrews 13:7
The word remember means “to be mindful of”. The disciples need to be mindful of those who have spoken the Word of God. The word conversation means “way of life”. Not only is the disciple to receive the Word, but he or she is to follow their teacher’s walk of faith as they are ensamples to the flock.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” *** Hebrews 13:17
The disciple is to obey and submit to the eldership, for they watch for their souls. God ordained the eldership, His shoulder, to minister, feed, admonish, correct, teach and love His flock; His Body.
There are only three members in the church: leaders (elders), laborers (deacons) and learners (disciples). When these three come into God’s order, God will again release His power, authority and blessings upon the church. As long as man insists on doing it his way, Christ can never become the head of the church.
Until the local church comes into order, and ceases to be two-headed, it will remain full of spots and wrinkles. God’s power and authority will never be released upon this disorder. In this condition, God’s people will remain a weak, overcome people, instead of becoming the strong overcoming church that God ordained on the day of Pentecost. God will judge those who refuse to hear what the Spirit is saying unto the church in this hour. God is looking for a Body of believers who will come into His order so that He may place His head upon His Body, and take it into the courts of His presence. Then there will be Order in His Court”.
1. Why did God give apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers?
2. What fundamental principle is lacking in today’s churches’ attempt to bring about the unity of the faith?
3. Does it matter how many elders a church has? Why?
4. Explain the erroneous concept of the two-headed church.
5. What order did God ordain to select a pastor?
6. In God’s true church who runs the meetings?
7. What is the job of the Elders?
8. What is the job of the Deacons?
9. One of the most important attributes in leadership is a _______________ _______________ ___ _______ ______________ __________________.
10. Explain the training aspect of a Deacon.
11. What is the responsibility of the Elders to the Deacons?
12. A relationship with God demands ________________.
13. Name and explain attributes of a Disciple.
14. What will happen when Elders, Deacons and Disciples come into God’s order?