Organization and Meeting Local Assembly
The basis for organization of the local ekklhsia can be nothing less than the Blueprint or Pattern set forth in the New Testament itself. The Scriptures are profitable for doctrine so that the saints may be equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The establishment of the Church is one of the works which Christ called His disciples to perform. Paul instructed Timothy concerning the organization and government of the local assembly.
First Timothy 3:15 reads:
I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
The house of God is not a brick and mortar structure. It is a spiritual house established upon the teaching of the apostles and prophets. No one group is entirely consistent. Nevertheless, an attempt should be made to follow as many details as possible of the pattern of the ekklhsia revealed in the New Testament.
The fact is that the Apostles fulfilling the ministry which God gave them, laid a complete and perfect foundation for the Church, both as regards structure and doctrine. A careful and unbiased study of the New Testament will make it abundantly clear that a full and detailed revelation is given regarding the structure of the Church and that all the congregations planted in apostolic times were organized in accordance with that pattern.18
But a proper theory of development does not exclude the idea of a church organization already complete in all essential particulars before the close of the inspired canon, so that the record of it may constitute a providential example of binding authority upon all subsequent ages.19
Paul was concerned that correct order was established in every local assembly:
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord (I Cor. 14:37).
A Meeting of the Local Church / Assembly
Chapters 11-14 of First Corinthians give a glimpse of a normal meeting of a New Testament assembly. This gathering was a Spirit led event. It centered around the remembrance of the Lord through the breaking of Bread. There was no particular order of service and no specific moderator of the meeting. The sequence of events was not planned. Neither Priests nor Clerics presided.
The service of the apostolic assemblies has been shown to center around the “breaking of bread” and to have been a Spirit-led service, with much opportunity for the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit. The meeting was not supervised by any one man, but was open to the ministry of any man, according to the Spirit’s moving.20
The participation in worship was not confined to the official members, but to every male member it was permitted to utter his apprehension of the truth.21
The Christian assemblies of the first period of the Apostolic Age, unlike those of later times, appear not to have been necessarily controlled by any fixed order of presiding ministers.22
The meeting of the local assembly included worship, prayers, and hymns to the Lord but also more than this. When the saints gathered, different members may have had a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation. Sometimes the Spirit came upon one individual which caused others to sit in silence while that person gave a revelation. This leading of the Spirit was to be tested and judged by others with regard to both presentation and content. All was done for edification of the saints in a decent and orderly fashion (cf. I Cor. 14:26, 40).
Teaching, as we have already said, was free in the Apostolic churches, in the sense that whoever felt himself impelled by an upward impulse to address his brethren, might do so at the proper time in the service.23
Even edification by the word was not assigned exclusively to one individual; but every man who felt the inward call to it might give utterance to the word in the assembled church.24
Each member played an important role in the gathering of the local assembly. Every member of the body played a necessary part in the corporate meeting of the ekklhsia.
18 Alexander R. Hay, The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary (Buenos Aires: SEMCA, 1947) p. 127.
19 Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1947) p. 896.
20 Donald L. Norbie, New Testament Church Organization (Kansas City: Walterick, 1948) p. 33.
21 Albert Newman, A Manual of Church History (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1933), p. 141.
22 Authur P. Stanley, The Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians (London: John Murray, 1882) p. 277.
23 George P. Fisher, The Beginnings of Christianity (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1890) p. 558.
24 Augustus Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church (Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1856) I, p. 181.
Copyright 2008 by Joe Fogle. All rights reserved.