THE LOCAL CHURCH
In this lesson, as the above title indicates, we will be dealing with the Local Church and its various aspects. We will see what a local church is and what it is not; what is the purpose of a local church; church; and the pastor of a local church. Then we will conclude with discussing problems that are being faced by local churches today.
I. DEFINITION OF A LOCAL CHURCH
We will define what a local church is and what it is not.
A. What a Local Church IS.
“The Local Assembly is the physical body by which the Body of Christ is manifested.”–(Mark Cambron, Bible Doctrines; Beliefs that Matter,
“A local church is a body of baptized (by immersion) believers gathered together by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of carrying out the principles and precepts of God’s Word”–(Emery H. Bancroft, Elemental Theology).
A local church is an organism.
It is a living entity because it is composed of living and functioning people who themselves are organism; therefore,
a local church itself must be judged to be an organism.
A local church is an organization.
Because it is composed of people, who need to be organized and guided in order to accomplish a common goal;
the local church must be organized and have its own functioning officers.
A local church is a corporation
a. For its own economic protection, and,
b. For the protection of its membership
There are many false ideas regarding what a local church is, so now we will attempt to clarify some of these false ideas.
B. What a local church is NOT.
1. A Local Church is not an extension of Israel.
Israel and the Church are different in calling.
a. Israel’s calling was earthly–to an earthly inheritance;
b. The local church, being part of the Body of Christ, is heavenly in calling—to heavenly blessings.
It is a sad fact that many people have the false, and totally unscriptural idea that God is finished with Israel, and therefore all the O.T. promises given to Israel have been taken over (perhaps in some spiritual sense) by the churches. Such an idea, known as “Replacement Theology,” is heretical at best, and not just un-Scriptural; but is even anti-Scriptural. Such teaching blasphemes God for it is an outright attack on the veracity of God Himself. There are two basic differences between Israel and the church.
2. Israel and the local church are different in worship.
a. Israel offered sacrifices looking forward to the Coming of Messiah.
b. The local church believes that there is no more sacrifice that can be made for sin;
that Christ made the sacrifice once and for all (Heb. 9:14-15; 10:25-28).
There is NO MORE sacrifice that can be made for our sins! Christ has already done it ALL. The local church worships looking back at what Christ has already done for
3. The Local Church is not the Body of Christ.
Rather, a local church is composed of those who themselves are part of the Body of Christ.
This can be proven by some pertinent questions:
4. The Local Church is not the Kingdom of Heaven.
Nor is it even part of the Kingdom of Heaven,
for the term Kingdom of Heaven refers to the Messianic earthly rule of Jesus Christ as is set forth in the Davidic Covenant of II Samuel 7:12-16.
II. PURPOSE OF A LOCAL CHURCH
A. A Local Church is to Worship God (Phil. 3:3; H
This is its primary purpose.
B. A local church is to be a witness.
It is to be a witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, a witness to the truth of the Word of God.
C. A local church is to perfect the local believers.
To “perfect” the believers means to “grow” or “mature” the local believers unto the ministry (Eph. 4:12).
D. A local church is to evangelize its local area.
To reach the lost and dying world around them.
III. PASTOR OF A LOCAL CHURCH
The pastor is one of Christ’s gifts to His local churches.For its good, Christ set up four main gifts for His fledgling churches.
A. Gift of Apostle
Paul tells us in Eph. 2:20 that these apostles were the foundation stones of the Church, with Christ Himself as the Chief Cornerstone. That foundation was been laid (in the First Century A.D.) so there is no longer a need for apostles. Therefore, the Office of Apostle no longer exists. Let us examine some facts regarding these apostles.
1. Apostles were appointed by Christ Himself.his we know in the case of the twelve, and as Paul claimed for himself (Gal. 1:1).
2. Apostles had the Gift of Miraculous Workings by which their supernatural mission was attested.
In spite of the fact there are some men today may attempt to take this title upon themselves,
there are no longer any apostles.
B. Gift of Prophet
These prophets were important during the time that the full canon of the Word of God (the Bible) was being written. However, this Gift of Prophet also no longer exists, for the Word of God is now completed—“…that which is perfect is come…” (I Cor. 13:10).
Unfortunately (and erroneously) there are those would attempt to make I Cor. 13:10 apply to the Second Coming of Christ, but a close examination of this verse in its original Greek will show that this is impossible. The Greek word translated as “that” is teleion which is a neuter case word, and should have been literally translated as “perfect thing.” Paul is speaking of a thing, not a person. If he were speaking of Christ, he would have used a masculine pronoun, and not this neuter pronoun as he uses here. To assert that this applies to Christ to call Him an it; and that would be blasphemy—speaking derogatorily or evil of the Son of God.
No one in their right mind can imagine Paul speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ as an “it.” The “that” referred to is the Bible, the Word of God in its completed form. The Bible, (God’s written revelation of Himself) became completed with the writing of the Book of the Revelation (about 95 A.D). and nothing more is to be in the way of revelation from God (Rev. 22:18-19).
- Purpose for the Prophet
In each local assembly Christ would raise up certain ones to whom he gave this Gift of Prophecy, which consisted of both the gifts of foretelling and forth telling. Whenever He had something that He wanted to be known to a local assembly, the Lord would reveal IT to the prophet in that local assembly, and then that prophet would forth tell, or reveal it to the assembly. But now, because the canon of the Word of God is complete, there is no longer the gift of prophecy.
2. No purpose now for the Prophet
All that the Lord wants His local churches to know is contained in the Bible, the verbally inspired, inerrent, and complete Word of God. Also, in Rev. 22:18, we see that words of Christ: “…I testify unto every man that heareth the word of the prophecy of this book, ‘If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.’”
Therefore, we must conclude that there cannot be any more prophecy, for any prophecies would be adding to the Book of the Revelation; a crime that is herein condemned by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, we must conclude that the Gift of Prophet no longer exists.
C. Gift of Evangelist
We now come to the third of the gifts which Christ gave to His Church. This is the gift of evangelist. Let us look at the word evangelist as it is used in the N.T.
1. Only one Biblical evangelist.
It is interesting that in all the N.T. there is only one man who is called an evangelist.
a. Philip the Evangelist (Acts 21:8)
b. Philip the Deacon
Philip was also one of the original 7 deacons (Acts 6:5).
2. N.T. evangelists were really traveling missionaries.
It is also interesting that Paul, though being an apostle, also did the work of an evangelist. N.T. evangelists went into new territory, and they did it all alone with the Spirit of God Who went before them. These ancient evangelists were not only preachers of the gospel, but they were also church planters. Apollos in the Book of Acts is a good example of such.
3. Comparison with today’s evangelists.
Those whom we call evangelists today are really not the same as the evangelists of the First Century church.
4. Miss-use of evangelists
Unfortunately, many of the evangelists of today are filling the position of pastor, and this has caused great confusion in the Body of Christ.
D. Gift of Pastor (Eph. 4:11)
This position is in operation today but unfortunately there is much misunderstanding as to just what a pastor is to do.
Unfortunately most of those who hold this position to not really understand what they are scripturally supposed to be doing. When we closely examine Eph. 4:11 we will find that this might be a hyphenated word; i.e., pastor-teacher, for he fulfills both positions at the same time
1. The Position of pastor-teacher.
To really understand this position we must examine it as is written in the original Greek text (poimên kai didaskalos). What we have here are two nouns and a conjunction. First we will examine these two noun.
This word means “shepherd.” This denotes the function of the position.
(1) Task of a shepherd–what he does.
To understand the true meaning of this word we must determine just what it is that a shepherd does.
(a) The shepherd feeds his flock;
(b) The shepherd protects his flock;
(c) The shepherd leads his flock;
(d) The shepherd watches over his flock;
(2) What the shepherd CANNOT do.
There is one thing that the shepherd cannot possibly do: he cannot reproduce his flock. Then who does reproduce his flock? The answer is simple and obvious: the flock reproduces itself!
As the English text indicates, this word means, “teacher, instructor or trainer.”
This denotes the duty of the position of pastor.
Notice that nowhere do we see that this positions shows that the pastor is to be the sole, or even chief soul-winner. In fact, the passage does not indicate that the pastor is even to do the evangelizing, or soul-winning (i.e., flock reproducing), in the local church. Now, having investigated the two nouns, we now come to the third Greek word—the conjunction.
c. kai– This little Greek word is a very interesting word.
This word kai is usually translated into English as “and;” but, interestingly enough, it can also be rendered as “even,” or “also.” Therefore, perhaps a better way of translating these three words might be, “shepherd (or pastor), even a teacher;” or, perhaps as “shepherd (or pastor), also a teacher.” But we are not finished with this office of pastor. We have looked at: the meaning of the office; ; and the duty of the office. of pastor. But there is third aspect of this position.
2. Position of Overseer ( aka, Bishop) (I Tim. 3:1-2)
In this chapter the Holy Spirit, through the inspired pen of the apostle Paul, introduces us to the third aspect of this position of pastor-teacher; to the position of overseer of the local church, for that is what the word really means.
a. The original Greek word.
The Greek word which we translate as “bishop” is (episkopos).
b. Meaning of the word. means “overseer.”|
Unfortunately, the KJV translators erroneously rendered this word as, “bishop.”
Why they did mis-translating we will look into lster.
This describes the authority of the office of pastor, for a pastor has been given, by Christ Himself, the oversight of the local church. But even though he has this authority from Christ, remember, as the Lord Jesus said, “for unto whosoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Along with the authority given to pastors comes a grave responsibility to the Lord as to how he fulfills this position.
c. Qualifications for the position
When we examine the qualifications of I Tim. 3:2-7, we find that all but one of these have to do with the personal or ethical qualifications of bishops. This one exception is found in verse 2, which says that the bishop must be, “apt to teach.” Notice that this qualification goes along with that which was given in Eph. 4:11—“pastor and teacher.”You cannot get around the fact that a pastor’s primary responsibility to his flock is that he is to be their teacher, and he must have the ability to do that very thing.
There is yet one more title at which we must look, and to do so we must go to Acts 20:17 to find this title.This is the title of “elder.”
3. Position of Elder (acts 20:17, 28)
a. The original word
The Greek word that is translated as “elder,” is (presbuteros).
(1) This is the root word from which we get our English word of presbytery or Presbyterian.
(2) This denotes the dignity due the office.
When we look at Acts 20:28 we see that Paul is speaking to these “elders” from Ephesus, he applies the task of pastor–“…the flock,” and the task of overseer—“which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers,” to these very same elders. Also, when we look at I Peter 5:1-2, we see that that apostle also applies these titles together to himself..
Now to summarize these four titles: pastor, teacher, overseer-bishop and elder—all four of these titles are for the one and same office; to the Office of Pastor of a local church (flock). Each of these titles shows a differ aspect or function of this all-important office in the local church.
Pastor: This denotes the function of the office.
The one who is to feed the flock; guard and protect the flock from heresy, and leads the flock of the local church.
Teacher: This denotes the duty of the office.
This is how the pastor feeds the local flock.
And to what purpose does he feed this flock? The answer is found back in Eph. 4:12—“for the perfecting (growing; maturing) of the saints (believers; church members), for the work of the ministry (train believers to be Sunday School teachers; deacons; soul-winners), for the edifying of the Body of Christ.”
Bishop–Overseer: This denotes the authority of the office.
The pastor has the administrative authority over the local church. It is his responsibility to choose teachers and song leaders; to decide who is to come to the pulpit and preach, or teach; and to decide on which ministries the church is to proceed.
Elder: This denotes the dignity and honor due the office.
This shows that the pastor is to treated with respect and honor. But understand, that all four titles apply to the one and same office of pastor of the local church.
IV. PROBLEM WITH TRANSLATIONS
We now come to a problem; or rather, several problems that are prevalent today, and even in the KJV translation of the Bible.
1. Why did the KJV translators render the Greek word (episkopos) as “bishop” instead of its true meaning of “overseer?”
2. Why do some denominations have the position of “bishop”
That is, one who serves as some sort of boss-preacher, who rules over pastors of local churches?|
3. Why do some denominations have the position of “elders” when the term really applies to the position of pastor?
1. Regarding the mis-translation of episkopos to “bishop.”
This came about because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church over the Church of England.
This may also explain why the translators changed all the Greek/Hebrew proper names to Latin names.
a. Church of England broke away from Roman Catholic Church.
Never forget that it had only been about a century that the Church of England, (i.e., Episcopal Church) had broken away from the Catholic Church. However, when they broke away they did not move away far enough. They brought out they brought out much of their Catholic teaching with them.
b. Church of England brought with them “bishops”
Catholic Church has “bishops” and also Church of England also has “bishops.”
2. Regarding the position “bishop” in many denominations.
For the answer of this we must go all the way back to the First Century and the Seven Churches of Asia.
a. Church of Ephesus (Rev. 2:
In this verse we find the word, “Nicolaitans;” and we also find that this is a term that Christ said that He HATES.
(1). Meaning of Nicolaitans.
This word comes from a combination of two Greek words.
(a). Greek verb—(nikaô)
Meaning: “to conquer; to rule.”
(b). Greek noun—(laos)
Meaning: “the people.
This is the root word from which we get our word, “laity.”
(c) Greek words combined:
When we combine the words (nikaô) and (laos) we get the word Nicolaitan.
(2). Identity of Nicolaitans.
They were a group within the Church who were attempting to set up a priestly hierarchy or holy order.
Most likely, they were attempting to model the Church after the O.T. order of priests, Levites and common people. This is really the beginning of the priesthood and hierarchical system that became the Roman Catholic Church, and the Lord Jesus Christ says that He HATES such a system.
When we put these two words together we get the real meaning of Nicolaitan: “to rule the people or to conquer the people.” In Rev. 2:6 we see that Christ commends the Church of Ephesus (which represents the First Century Church) because of its resisting these, “deeds of the Nicolaitans.” However, when we look on to Rev. 3:15, to the Church of Pergamos:
b. Church of Pergamos (Rev. 3:15)
This church represents the Fourth Century Church) we see that Nicolaitism is now a doctrine of the Church.
By the Fourth Century, when the Roman emperor Constantine usurped author over the church and made himself the head of the church instead of Christ, the apostate leaders of the church had made Nicolaitism is now a doctrine or tenet of the Church.
3. Problem of Nicolaitism in the Church today.
The Reformers of the Protestant Reformation, those who “protested” and pulled out of the paganism of the Roman Catholic Church, did a great work in their day; however, when these churches and denominations did come out of Romish paganism, they all had the same problem: they did not come out far enough. Each of these church/denominational groups brought out with them, and retained, some part of Catholicism.
All of the Reformers retained some form of the Doctrine of the Nicolaitans. REMEMBER: this is something that Christ personally said He HATES (Rev. 2:6). Simply stated, Nicolaitanism is a church denomination that has some form, or other, of a hierarchal system in its church polity (government) system. Any church system, or denomination, that has some form in which there are separate positions of bishops, elders or priesthood contains some form of Nicolaitanism; and REMEMBER: this is something that Christ personally said He HATES (Rev. 2:6). Any system that makes the position of “elder” or “bishop/overseer” to apply to anyone but the position of pastor is a form of Nicolaitanism.
Such a plan is foreign to and in contradiction of the N.T. plan for a local church to be a DEMOCRACY. God's plan is that each local assembly is to be autonomous, without any one assembly or body having the ascendancy over any other. The vote of each local assembly is to be final and there is no higher authority to which one can appeal than that of the voting body of local believers. This fact of each individual church being a democracy is illustrated in Acts 6 when the church there in Jerusalem was told to pick from (vote on) their midst seven men. This fact is also demonstrated in the churches meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 15).