New Testament Order of Local Congregations
James B. Roberts
For generations faithful gospel preachers have been proclaiming the scriptural organization of the Lord's church as opposed to the man-made ecclesiasticisms of churches not mentioned in the Bible. We have all heard excellent discourses on the truths of the New Testament order of the local congregation of saints. In Philippians 1: 1 we read of the bishops and deacons, who with the saints in that place composed the church there. In Acts 20:28 and again in I Peter 5:1-5 we can read in detail how these bishops were to serve in that office. Again Paul writes in I Timothy 3:1-13 and in Titus 1:5-9 giving us detailed qualifications for these bishops and deacons.
We can immediately see that the organization of the church as set forth in the New Testament is orderly and purposefully planned. Many are the times that we have pointed to these scriptures to demonstrate to the denominational churches that the Lord's body has only one Head Christ Jesus. We have shown that there is no organic organization on earth higher than the eldership of the local congregation. We reject completely the boards, synods, councils, etc. which men have devised to manage the affairs of their churches. These higher forms of church government are foreign to the New Testament and therefore have no function in the religion of Jesus Christ. We do not need these super governments, because the Lord has not planned His church to function through such organizational structures.
Is it not clear then that the organization of the church and the function of the church are inseparable? Christ intends for His people to function and has therefore organized them so that they will be fully equipped to carry out that function.
Our Christian Church brethren years ago decided that the church was too loosely organized to function efficiently, and took it upon themselves to reorganize the church so that it would fit the function they had in mind. Such an attitude reflects either ignorance of the New Testament order or disrespect for Christ's planning and organization.
The most prevalent error of our day among brethren is the attempt to function beyond the scriptural organization. They admittedly take the position that the so-called sponsoring church with its contributing churches can function more efficiently than any local congregation can by itself. On face value this should cause brethren to awaken. Was Christ short-sighted in authorizing an organization incapable of carrying out the function for which it was designed? Certainly NOT! The local church is sufficient to function as Christ intended it. Then why do brethren make one large congregation into a central planning organization through which many congregations function? The answer is evident. They feel exactly as the Christian church promoters of the missionary society felt years ago. They do not believe that the local congregation (the highest level organization authorized by Christ) is capable of carrying out the function which they desire. Further, they know that brethren would not accept a missionary society as such, so they pick an eldership of a local church (a scriptural organization) and cause it to function (unscripturally) in exactly the same way as they would have desired a super organization to function. Can you not see the error?
If a function requires an unscriptural organization or requires a scriptural organization to function unscripturally, is there not an apparent error involved? If the local church (a scriptural organization) could fulfill the function within its own divinely authorized organizational structure, why do brethren seem to prefer to function through another supposedly scriptural organization? It is therefore obvious that the central organizational structure of the sponsoring church is more than a local congregation. It is a centralized super-organization as evidenced by the relation which it sustains to the many contributing churches. It is therefore an UNSCRIPTURAL ORGANIZATION b cause of the way it attempts to FUNCTION as an UNAUTHORIZED CENTRAL ORGANIZATION. The fact that it is scripturally organized to function as a local congregation does not justify its attempt to function in an unauthorized way.
You know, brethren, we might just trust in God's Word and be content with following the New Testament order which never mentions a sponsoring church or a contributing church as brethren are now promoting them, just as it never mentions missionary societies, synods, or dioceses.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 5, pp. 10-11