Who Governs the Church?

This is a paper from my internship. Please note, I only have two pages to write this paper. Therefore, my goal is not to be exhaustive. Enjoy!

First, and foremost, Christ Governs the church. He has been appointed head over everything of the church (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18). The church is Christ’s; he bought it with his blood (Col. 1:20). Therefore, the entire church is subject, and should subject themselves, to his authority. This is accomplished through a desire to be obedient to the word of God. Therefore, the church in their obedience should love God, and love his neighbor (Luke 10:27).

Christ has left his Holy Spirit to aid the church in their subjugation to him. The Spirit is to teach and remind the church of the teachings of Christ (John 14:26; 1 John 2:27). Furthermore, Christ’s method of accomplishing this is due to the fact that the Holy Spirit filled the church at Pentecost (Acts 2).

The (local) church as a whole is called to various tasks in scripture that show that the congregation as a whole has authority over its members. Mark Dever points this out in his work, What is a Healthy Church? He states:

…the congregation appears to assume final responsibility. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul blames not the pastors, elders, or deacons for tolerating a man’s sin, but the congregation. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul refers to what a majority of them had done in disciplining an erring member. In Galatians 1, Paul calls on the congregation themselves to judge the false teaching they had been hearing. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul reproves not just the false teachers but also those who paid them to teach what their itching ears wanted to hear. (115)

Though Dever uses the term “responsibility,” it would be just as easy to substitute “authority” in its place and not lose its meaning. Therefore, the church, through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, is the authority over the local church gathering. All local churches are then subject to Christ.

This does not mean that all members of the body of the church are equal. There are some that are called out (or appointed—Tit. 1:5–9) that bear a special responsibility to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2); these members are called “elders.”

Elders should generally bear certain characteristics. 1st Timothy points out that he must be:

above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greed—one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity.  (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap. (1 Tim 3:2–7)

If someone does not match these qualifications, then they should not be considered as elders.

            Elders also bear a certain responsibility in their ministry to the flock. Elders are called to teach the local church (Acts 29:31; Titus 1:9; Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Tim. 5:17). The elder is also supposed to shepherd the flock. This involves teaching, but it also involves protecting the flock from false doctrine (John 10:11–13; Acts 20:29–31), as well as, watching over the needs of the flock (Heb. 13:17; James 5:14). Finally, the elder is charged with leading his flock (Titus 1:7).

            Finally, there should be a plurality of elders. Every passage that speaks of elders speaks of them as more than one elder. (Acts 14:23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; Titus 1:5; James 5:14).


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