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1st Century Pillars of Faith or a Governing Body?

Pillars, page two


What was the setup of the first century Christian congregation and how did its leadership function as revealed in the NT?

Why discuss this?

The issue shouldn't have been a difficult one since the account is clear and concise.  However, when looking at all the various church leaderships, it is clear that in this all of the churches differ from the pattern the first century Christian church set us in the NT.  Some may believe that their church doesn't differ?  To those I say, read on.

Some churches have priests, but in the New Testament, the word priest doesn't even exist in regard to earthly Christians !  Titles employed are elders, presbyters, or bishops.  Other titles are ministerial servants, deacons. Of course, the churches use tittles such as priests, and other titles such as pastor, friar, monk, or brother. 

Most of us do not remember where some of these titles originate and what they mean.  As an example below is the etymology from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language 1913 about this subject.
Quote: "
Bishop /Bish´op/ (?), n. [OE. bischop, biscop, bisceop, AS. bisceop, biscop, L. episcopus overseer, superintendent, bishop, fr. Gr. ?, ? over + ? inspector, fr. root of ?, ?, to look to, perh. akin to L. specere to look at. See Spy, and cf. Episcopal.]
1. A spiritual overseer, superintendent, or director.
Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
1 Pet. ii. 25.
It is a fact now generally recognized by theologians of all shades of opinion, that in the language of the New Testament the same officer in the church is called indifferently "bishop" ( ? ) and "elder" or "presbyter."
J. B. Lightfoot.
2. In the Roman Catholic, Greek, and Anglican or Protestant Episcopal churches, one ordained to the highest order of the ministry, superior to the priesthood, and generally claiming to be a successor of the Apostles. The bishop is usually the spiritual head or ruler of a diocese, bishopric, or see.
Bishop in partibus [infidelium] (R. C. Ch.), a bishop of a see which does not actually exist; one who has the office of bishop, without especial jurisdiction. Shipley. -- Titular bishop (R. C. Ch.), a term officially substituted in 1882 for bishop in partibus. -- Bench of Bishops. See under Bench.
3. In the Methodist Episcopal and some other churches, one of the highest church officers or superintendents.

Deacon /Dea´con/ (dē´k'n), n. [OE. diakne, deakne, deken, AS. diacon, deacon, L. diaconus, fr. Gr. ? a servant or minister, a minister of the church; of uncertain origin. In sense 2 prob. confused with dean.] 1. (Eccl.) An officer in Christian churches appointed to perform certain subordinate duties varying in different communions. In the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches, a person admitted to the lowest order in the ministry, subordinate to the bishops and priests. In Presbyterian churches, he is subordinate to the minister and elders, and has charge of certain duties connected with the communion service and the care of the poor. In Congregational churches, he is subordinate to the pastor, and has duties as in the Presbyterian church.
"

Presently Our Only Priest

The only priest that Christians have been given – that is, until Christ's future revelation in royal power after the Great Tribulation  – was that of a dead man resurrected to heavenly glory and then appointed high priest over all mankind – namely, our beloved Lord Christ Jesus. (Heb 3:1) Because of being of the tribe of Judah, in no way could he become priest prior to his death.
 Hebrews 7:14, For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. (KJV)
One church at least employs the term Governing Body for its de facto government, its oligarchy, an entity endowed with complete control of all church dogma and all matters related to the church – a body that has relished in its recent ascent to power by excommunicating dissenters to its church dogma.  Some of the ones excommunicated over this issue did not go against Bible doctrine.  If a church truly is the Church of Christ, the true church, would Christ approve of such behaviour?  Would the church use its powers in this fashion?  Would it persecute those who truly follow Bible doctrine, teach Bible doctrine?

The Catholics have the Pope.   If he, or a counsel of Bishops establish Catholic dogma, I am uncertain of.  Still, it also very much seems to be a kind of governing body of unlimited power within the church.  This body however has mellowed some over the centuries.  It doesn't burn dissenters any longer, and rarely one hears about members being excommunicated.  The Protestants dissented, but clearly, this was not the laity's opposition; rather, it was the clergy which then became that church's governing body.

The number of denominations and the variety of names employed for these leaderships is beyond the scope of this article.    Nonetheless, it is clear that this study is warranted, that most churches have some kind of governing bodies whatever their name is – if indeed these are named.

Pillars

In the old Greek temples that most of us have seen pictures of, pillars were supporting the roof and keept the building standing.  God's temple of which Christ is the foundation stone, is being built up of living pillars, the Saints.
Revelation 3:12, He that shall overcome, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go out no more; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and my new name. (DRC)
The first century Christians recognized this before receiving the Revelation from Christ.  Many decades earlier, Paul reveals this concept in the letter to the Galatians:
Galatians 2:9, And when they had known the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship: that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision.  (DRC)
It is interesting to note that upon having become a Christian and an apostle by Jesus revelation and appointment, Paul did not go up to consult with the apostles living in Jerusalem.
Galatians 1:16, But when it pleased him, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, immediately I condescended not to flesh and blood. 17Neither went I to Jerusalem, to the apostles who were before me: but I went into Arabia, and again I returned to Damascus. (DRC)

Revelation 2:2, I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:  (KJV)
An argument about this has been made by a known scholar.  His statements seem to express the belief that this disproves the existence of a Governing Body in the first century church.  His claim, which I heard, had as support only the scriptural reference in Galations just quoted I will try to include more data so that a conclusion based on the general scriptural evidence may be reached in regard to that belief.  The prior scripture only gives us the viewpoint we should have in regard to the idolatry of men.

Please do remember that Paul here says, "I condescended not to flesh and blood."   This makes an obvious point, doesn't it?  Paul had no need to consult any human authority – is what he is saying.  He had no need to consult a governing body.   Also, Jesus told us in Rev 2:2 to verify from the scriptures what even apostles claim.  No one is exempt from having their claims totally verified by the Bible.  All claims must hold up to a vigorous scriptural examination – that is our holy duty, sacred duty.  Our sacred duty is not to obey self-proclaimed apostles no matter how high and mighty they may seem.
A. But does that disprove the existence of such a body in the first century?  That is a question this article will try to answer. 
B. Also, if a body existed what does Paul's statement about "I condescended not to flesh and blood" mean in its regard?

Still, there are things to ponder in the book of Acts.  The subject is quite complex and many scriptures are presented for anyone to reach his own conclusion on the next page

Pillars, page two


 
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