Monday, August 20, 2012

Church Government

is there such a thing as proper church goverment? I think there is and based on Scripture, Church History and Tradition we get a pretty good idea of what a proper Church government should look like. here' is a mini Study Bible Article to get you thinking caps on and to get you started on researching things out for yourselves.

"The Four "Orders" In Church Government"
  "The New Testament teaches that all four "orders" which form the government of the Church-laity, deacons, presbyters, and bishops-are necessary to the proper functioning of the body of Christ. All four are clearly visible in Paul's first letter to Timothy. 1. The laity are also called "saints" (Rom. 1:7; 2Cor. 1:1; 1Tim. 5:10), the "faithful" (Eph. 1:1), and "brethren" (Col. 1:2). The laity (Greek laos) are the people of God, the "priesthood" (1 Pt. 2:4-10). Technically, the term "laity" includes the clergy, though in our day the word usually refers to those in the Church who are not ordained. It is from among the laity that the other three orders emerge. 2. The deacon, literally "servants," are ordained to serve the Church and must meet high qualifications (1 Tim 3:8-13). The apostles were the first to take on the service tasks of the deacons, and when the workload became too great they called for "seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business" (Acts 6:3). Besides serving the material needs of the people, deacons occupy a crucial role in the liturgical life of the Church. 3. The presbyters, or elders, are visible throughout the New Testament. Their ministry from the start was to "rule," "labor in the word," and teach true "doctrine" (1 Tim 5:17) in the local congregation. Paul "appointed elders in every church" (Acts 14:23) and later instructed his apostolic apprentice, Titus, to do the same in Crete (Titus 1:5). From the word "presbyter" came the shorter form of "priest," which finally became "priest." In no way is the ordained Christian priesthood seen as a throwback to or a reenacting of the Old Testament priesthood. Rather, joined to Christ who is our High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:6, 10), the Orthodox priest is likewise a minister of a new covenant that supersedes the old. 4. The bishop is the "overseer" of the congregation an clergy in a given area. Often the terms "bishop" and "elder" are used interchangeably in the New Testament (Acts 20:17,28), with the bishop being the leader of the elders. The qualifications for bishop listed in 1 Timothy 3:17 and Titus 1:7-9 underscore this role. Nonetheless, the bishopric is a specific office both in the New Testament and in the early Church. The Twelve were the first to hold this office (in Acts 1:20 "office" could literally be translated "bishopric") and they in turn consecrated other bishops to follow them. For example, Timothy and Titus are clearly of a separate order from that of elder (see 1 Tim. 5:17-22; Titus 1:5). Early records show James was bishop of Jerusalem by AD 49 and functioned accordingly at the first council there (Acts 15:13-22). Peter is on record as the first bishop of Antioch prior to AD 53, and later first bishop of Rome, where he was martyred about AD 65. Perhaps the strongest early reference outside the New Testament to the presence of the four orders in church government occurs in the writings of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch from AD 67-107, the very heart of the New Testament era. To the church at Philadelphia (see Rev. 3:7-13) he writes of "Christians [laity] at one with the bishop and the presbyters and the deacons. In the Orthodox Church, authority is resident in all four orders, with the bishop providing the center of unity. His authority is not over the Church, but within the Church. He is an icon of Jesus Christ, "the Shepherd and Overseer [literally, bishop] of your souls" (1 Pt. 2:25). Church leadership does not consist of one or more of the orders functioning without the others. Rather, the Church, with Christ as Head, is conducted like a symphony orchestra, a family, the body of Christ, where all the members in their given offices work together as the dwelling place of the Holy Trinity.

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