Friday, November 19, 2010

The Biblical case for a church democracy.

The charge of being unbiblical.) If you look through the Bible and are looking for a passage that says. This is the exact structure for which all Christians are to be organized; Thou shall have so many members so many members, so many meetings so many officers, so many procedures and that God will only bless one type of church organizational structure, then you will probably be sorely disappointed. I know I was!
But while the Bible doesn’t always directly deal with a topic, it is not therefore necessarily silent. The Bible speaks to the direct meaning of it’s passages and also speaks to us to today in what it directly implies.
An implication is when the Bible says a statement but only indirectly. We see the Lord Jesus using this hermeneutic(way of interpreting) when interpreting the law.
Matthew 5:18
18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

And so Jesus teaches by implication many of his doctrines like adultery
matthew 5:27-28
27Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Or murder...
Matthew 5:21-23
21Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

The liberation of Christ)
Galatians 4:28-5:14
28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
1Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
7Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
8This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
10I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
11And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
12I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Christians are no longer simply under authority as slaves, but of the authority as the adopted royal family. If this is the understanding concerning God's Highest laws, then why would the man-made authority of the clergy be so binding?

The personal lordship of Christ)
Romans 14:4
4Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
10But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

One concept which the democratic church advocates have not recently capitalized upon is the greatest biblical reason for democracy. The authority of Christ is a total monarchy. However, human authority is more indirect. But Christ is directly authoritative over us. We are not under the authority of sinners but instead the sinless Son of God.
Colossians 1:18
18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
So the highest authority in the local congregation is Christ through the Holy Spirit individually.

The voluntary nature of the New Covenant)
Believers baptism acts 2:38
38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Church discipline in the power of the congregation)
Matthew 18:15-20
15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Here there is no mention of some superior class of christians involved with the discipline in the church. Instead the local church is given divine authority from God to conduct this act. The congregation is the final human authority for itself.

The initiation of the clergy by the people)
Acts 6:3-6
3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
The deacons were elected by the congregation.
1Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Even the Apostle Paul was ordained by the holy Spirit through the congregation

21And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
22Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
23And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Now admittedly this passage is a little loose as to whether the elders were “elected”(Geneva Bible) by the apostle Paul or the congregations. However the congregation is the rational interpetation for the following reasons.
a. The converts are "the disciples" the subject of verse 22.
b. "on whom they had believed" seems to refer to the converts. Mentioning the apostles as believers is a waste of space.
c. The souls of the converts were first confirmed before the elders were commended.

The limitations upon the clergy)
Mark 9:38-41
38And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
39But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
40For he that is not against us is on our part.
41For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

Acts 20:28
28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
"over the which the Holy Ghost has made you over seers, to feed the Chruch of God" Pastoral authority is over those which the Holy Spirit, and not a manmade organization, has given you the opportunity to feed with the word of God.

1 Peter 5:1-5
1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.
4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Nottice the admonition in verse2 "which is among you" limiting authority to single congregations. "not by constraint, but willingly" this was not authority maintained through force or manipulation.
"Neither as being Lords over God's heretage." The apstor guides the Flock he doe snot own the flock.

The local congregation and the truth.
1 Timothy 3:15
15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

This is a fact of the local congregation. Paul is writing them and telling them that he is wanting to come to him. (obviously implying that he is not.) and then instructing them on how to behave when they are in the house of God. If this were a catholic or invisible church concept they would already be in the church.
So the local church is the house of God and the pillar of truth. This is why the local church must be autonomous to all human authorities.

Business meetings?)
While the Bible doesn’t actually have business meetings the way they are done according to Robert’s rules of order. They did meet together and issues would have been likely brought up. We see the first business meeeting took place in acts.

13And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James.
14These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
15And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
16Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
17For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
18Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
19And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
20For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
21Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
23And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
25That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
26And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
So they conducted there business replacing the treasurer and picked the top
candidates. Nottice Peter did not use top down authority to choose the successor? This passage clearly qualifies as the conducting of a NEw Testament Business meeting.

In corinthians we have situations describe where business could be conducted.
28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
29Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
30If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
32And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
40Let all things be done decently and in order.

So the church has a certain order and organization whereby it conducts its business. We see the major emphasis of the New Testament is to determine the will of God. Modern autonomous churches need to return to this model.

Shaky competition)
The offices of the Popes, cardinals, archbishops and priest are not found in the New Testament even though they are the highest authorities in the catholic church. the idea of a college of cardinals and a Pope are more simlar to the government system of the Roman Empire.
We see a similar dilemma in The eastern orthodox church in terms of arch bishops as well as infant baptized national church members.
Other systems like the presbyterian republican model might have some weight in the Old Testament but not in the New. The Anglican church is about even with the eastern orthodox in this regard.
All together congregationalism is the only biblical approach to church government.

In Christ,