Which Church?

Which Church?

Since Jesus established his church, and the New Testament describes his church, do you think it might be a good idea to follow the biblical example: in church organization? in doctrine? in church worship? Here’s what Scriptures say about the church.

1. New Testament authorizes three positions in Christ’s church:

Elders

Elders (also called presbyters, bishops, overseers, pastors, or shepherds, without distinction of office or rank) were men (always men) chosen from the members to oversee and set an example for the congregation. Also they are to encourage the congregation with sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (1 Peter 5:1-4) (1 Titus 1:9) For the requirements for this position see: 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

Deacons

Deacons were men chosen to serve the congregation (overlook the daily distribution of food or wait on tables.) (Acts 6:1-7) For requirements for both the deacon and his wife, see: 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Paul also mentions deacons in his address to the church at Philippi. (Philippians 1:1) At least two men, Stephen and Philip, chosen as deacons in the Jerusalem church also preached or evangelized.

Evangelists

Evangelists (preachers, ministers) are preachers of the Gospel. (Ephesians 4:11) (1 Timothy 4:13-16) (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Those three positions were the only ones created for Christ’s church. Notice that no singular person was placed in charge of any congregation. And there was no higher organization than the local congregation. Synods, Councils, Conventions, Popes, Ecclesiastical Legislative Bodies, Associations or Conferences with delegates from different congregations are nowhere to be found in the Bible. They didn’t exist in the church you read about in the New Testament.

2. Christ instituted two church sacraments:

Baptism

Jesus ordered his apostles to make disciples in every nation “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)

Jesus says baptism is essential for salvation. (Mark 16:16) And Peter says it is required for the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 2:38)

Who was baptized? Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:13), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:38), Saul, who was later called Paul (Acts 9:18), Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth (Acts 16:14-15), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:33), Crispus, the synagogue ruler (Acts 18:8) (1 Corinthians 1:14), twelve disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-5), and men and women at city in Samaria. (Acts 8:5-12)

What did all of these people have in common? They were all believing adults. Were children also baptized? Some claim there were, and they cite these passages to support their position. Acts 16:15 states that “[Lydia] and members of her household were baptized.” Acts 16:33 reads: “[The jailer] and all of his family were baptized.” And Acts 18:8 says that Crispus and “his entire household” were baptized.

Do “members of her household,” “all of his family,” and “his entire household” imply that children and infants were also baptized? Notice that the jailer “and his whole family” had come to believe in God. (Acts 16:34) Similarly, Crispus “and his entire household believed in the Lord.” (Acts 18:8)

In both instances, all believed, and all were baptized. Clearly we are not speaking of infants or very small children in this context. Those who were baptized were mature enough to believe in Christ.

How were these believing “adults” baptized? Romans 6:3-4 speaks of baptism as a symbolic burial with Christ. And in Acts 8:38 Philip took the Ethiopian eunuch “down into the water” to baptize him. Baptism was and is emersion. Throughout the first century baptism and emersion were synonymous.

Lord’s Supper; The Eucharist; The Holy Communion

In Matthew we read: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’

“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28)

In the Gospel according to John, the significance of this act becomes clear. Jesus: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

He repeated and emphasized his words: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54)

Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, explained where this custom originated. He says: “The tradition which I handed on to you came from the Lord himself: that on the night of his arrest the Lord Jesus took bread and after giving thanks to God broke it and said: ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in memory of me.’

In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said: ‘This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.’ For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.'” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 REB)

Paul informs us that the early church carried on this tradition and tells us when they did it. “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.” (Acts 20:7)

The apostle again speaks of the Lord’s Supper when he warned the Corinthians: “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29)

Such respected historians as Eusebius of Caesarea and Johann August Wilhelm Neander tell us that Christians in the early centuries of the church took the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.

3. New Testament instructs us how to worship:

Prayer

Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances; (1 Thessalonians 5:18) for God’s help; (1 Timothy 5:5) for each other; (James 5:16) for whatever we want to request; (Philippians 4:6) for rulers, officials, and everyone. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

James says we don’t get what we want because we don’t pray for it. Or if we do pray for it, our request is denied because of our wrong motives. (James 4:2-3) Pray whenever you are sick or in trouble, advises James. (James 5:14)

Prayer was a part of the New Testament church’s worship. (Acts 2:42) (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Giving

Paul tells us of the collection taken for God’s people in the Galatian and Corinthian churches. “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (1 Corinthians 16:2)

Reading Scriptures

By the early part of the first century, Jews had established the tradition of reading the Law and Prophets in their synagogue services. Paul told Timothy to devote himself to the “public reading of scriptures, preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13) Thus the Jewish custom was carried over into church worship.

In Colossians we find Paul instructing the Colossians and the Laodiceans to exchange letters he had written and read both. (Colossians 4:16) And in Thessalonians, he tells the church to read his letter to all the brothers. (1 Thessalonians 5:27) Thereby, what was to become portions of the New Testament was already being read in the church along with the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament.

Singing

Here are all the New Testament references to hymns, songs, and spiritual songs.

After Jesus and the apostles’ Passover meal, “they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:30 NKJV)

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25)

Paul: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19)

Paul: “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” (1 Corinthians 14:15)

Paul: “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)

Paul encourages us to: “admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

James: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)

Notice musical instruments, choirs, and solos were not mentioned in church worship. They were later additions not authorized by the scriptures. Historically, the first appearance of instrumental music in church worship was not until the sixth century A.D., and it was not widely accepted until the eighth century.

A number of religious leaders including: John Calvin, John Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon strongly opposed the use of