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Section 7. Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian/
The Church... Then and Now

 

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The Church... Then and Now
Part III

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee

With the average human being's love of pomp and show, rituals and ceremonies, ranks and titles, the temptation to import some facets of the Old Testament priesthood must have been overwhelming to the early leaders, who imposed them on New Testament Christianity. And, since then we have, as usual, accepted the status quo, never bothering to look any deeper.

INDEX TO ALL SIX SECTIONS

     PART I: Introduction... How We 'Do Church'.Church or Ekklesia? The English Word "Church" Is An Unacceptable Translation of Ekklesia. When Was The Ekklesia Established, Origin of The English Word "Church"? Where Did The Early Church Meet? From House Churches to Formal Buildings, Constantine, The Roman Pietas and The Construction of Churches. The Basilica and The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak. The Edict of Thessalonica

    PART II: The Four Main Reasons Modern Christians 'Do Church'. Worship and the "Worship Service". The Meaning of "Worship" As Defined by The Hebrew and Greek Words. Is "Worship" The Primary Reason Why Christians Are Supposed To Meet? Evangelism, The Sermon, Fellowship. The Primary Objective Of The Gathering Of Believers According to The Scriptures. Is The Church Supposed To Be a Largely Spectator Event?

      You Are Here 001orange PART III: Church Leaders... Then and Now. Local New Testament Congregations and Their Spiritual Leaders. Origin of the word "Clergy". The "Elders" and Their Function....Rule or Tend? The Pastors and Priests, The Bishops... The Chair and The Titles. Were There "Bishops" In The New Testament? The Ministers/Deacons. The Elders.. How They Were Appointed, What Their Job Was, and How Many were in Each Church. Summary.

    PART IV: Re-inventing The Church System. Man Apparently Got Carried Away by A Sense of His Own Importance....With a Little Help From A Roman Emperor. Protecting The Man Made Institution Called "The Church". The Latin Vulgate and The Tyndale Translation. Birth of The Church of England. The See-Saw Battle of Power. James VI, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and The KJV. The Reformation and Modern Versions.

    PART V: Two Ways of "Doing Church". The New Testament Blue Print. The Extended Family. Can A Layman Wear Three Hats? The Lord's Supper....A Full Meal and A Celebration. Why The Pattern of Church in The New Testament Was A House Church. The Church has Become a Theatrical Extravaganza. A Summary of Benefits for The Pastors and Members of A House Church. Heresy and Apostasy Have Been Given Free Reign In The Traditional Church. Importing Old Testament Levitical Patterns. The High Cost of The "Priesthood"

    PART VI: The Bible... Our Rule Of Faith And Practice? Was The Pattern of The Early Church A God Given Blueprint For all Time? Uniformity of Practice In The Early Church. Ask Yourself This. Summary and Conclusion.

    PART VII: How Quickly The Rot Set In.... Catholicism and The Councils. Regardless of the torrent of words and the many Scriptural verses quoted, the decisions the various councils came to were based on the aye's and the nay's. Not only did numerical superiority win the day, but the decisions made by every one of the earliest Ecumenical Councils was based, not what they supposed Holy Scripture might mean, but on tradition. Although evangelical leaders are fond of telling us that the churches of the day did not have a papacy, tabernacles on the altars in their churches (which signified their belief in transubstantiation). Also that they did not believe in the Immaculate Conception/Bodily Assumption of Mary, purgatory, indulgences etc. etc. etc. all of which can be proven to be false.

     

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ON THIS PAGE

Church Leaders... Then and Now
Local New Testament Congregations and Their Spiritual Leaders
Origin of the word "Clergy"
The "Elders"
 Pastors
Priests?

Bishops?
The Chair and The Titles
Were There "Bishops" In The New Testament?

The Ministers/Deacons

The Elders.. How They Were Appointed, What Their Job Was, and How Many were in Each Church
Summary

 

Church Leaders... Then and Now

Local New Testament Congregations and Their Spiritual Leaders
A simple matter of geography meant that the early church was organized into local congregations, which Paul referred to as "the churches of Christ" in Romans 16:16,

"the churches of God" (1 Corinthians 11:16 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14), "the churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33). He also spoke of the "churches of Galatia" (1 Corinthians 16:1 and Galatians 1:2). the churches of Asia" (1 Corinthians 16:19), the "churches of Macedonia" (2 Corinthians 8:1), the churches of Judea (Galatians 1:22) etc.

While the New Testament does speak of men appointed to look after the spiritual welfare of these different churches, we need to remember that only the original Bible, as it was written in the Hebrew and Greek, was infallible. Therefore, in order to accurately determine what role these men played in the local churches, we have to study the specific Greek words used by the inspired authors of the New Testament and what those words meant.  And, when we do, we will find that many of the modern terms we use in reference to the leaders of the church, do find their roots in the New Testament, but the concept behind the words has changed to a very large degree.

For example, take the word "clergy" which has been derived from a Greek word in the New Testament. However, the original word has absolutely nothing to do with "a body of people ordained for religious service", which is what the English word "clergy" means.


Origin of the word "Clergy"
The online etymology dictionary says one of the two origins of the word "clergy" is an old French word.. clergié, meaning clerics or learned men. It comes from from Late Latin clericus (17) which, in turn, comes from the Greek adjective klerikos, derived from kleros "lot' or "inheritance". (18) Note how kleros is used in the New Testament...

    Paul quotes God as telling him to "get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance (kleros) among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:16-18 NASB)

    giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance (kleros) of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14 NASB)

The Bible does not use kleros to describe someone appointed to an office in the church. All God's people receive a "place" or "inheritance" (kleros) through the gospel. Peter spoke of a royal priesthood of believers, who can, through Jesus Christ, offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, with the implication that all believers are able to offer their own sacrifices to God, without an earthly intermediary. This "holy nation", or universal body of believers has no earthly head or organizational structure. Nor does it need anyone to intercede or mediate on its behalf.

    you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ... But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  (1 Peter 2:5,9 NASB)

Therefore, one has to wonder how in the world a Greek word that means share, portion, or inheritance, came to mean a body of ordained religious practitioners. No one seems to know for sure. The Catholic Encyclopedia says. (All Emphasis Added)

    The word cleric (Lat., clericus from clerus) is derived from the Greek kleros, a "lot". In the Septuagint, this word is used in the literal sense quite frequently, though not in its later technical sense. In the First Epistle of St. Peter (v, 3) it is applied to the entire body of the faithful. The use of the word in its present restricted meaning occurs, however, as early as the third century. It is found in Tertullian (De idol., c. viii), Origen (Hom. in Jer., xi, 3) and Clement of Alexandria (Quis dives salvetur, c. xlii) in this sense. It is not easy to determine exactly how the word came to have its present determinate meaning. The "Pontificale Romanum" refers to clerics as being those whose "lot" is the Lord Himself, and St. Jerome explicitly derives the name from that fact. These statements do not give us, however, the steps by which kleros, "lot" became "clergy" or "cleric". Probably the best suggested explanation is, that from lot or portion, it came to mean a particular lot or office assigned to some one, and finally the person himself possessing the lot or office. [19] See The Septuagint.

In other words, by the third century, the original meaning of the priesthood as being the entire body of the faithful, had been changed to being the elite few who, as they also say, were placed to "rule" the church. A man-made ecclesiastical order had trumped the original plan for the church.

In fact, the situation is so bad that should the ranked clergy and all the buildings disappear to morrow, most Christians would bemoan the loss of their "church".


The "Elders"
The Greek word presbuteros is the source of the word "presbyter". It occurs over 70 times in the New Testament, and literally means an elder, or senior, as is clearly shown from how it is used in Paul's first letter to Timothy

    Do not sharply rebuke an older (presbuteros) man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older (presbuteros) women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are widows indeed; (1 Timothy 5:1-3 NASB)

However, the word "elder" does not necessarily mean "elderly". It can simply mean "older" but not necessarily "old". Remember that Timothy was a relatively young man, which is why Paul told him not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). In other words, "elder" could simply mean those older and/or more experienced. Mature men who could handle the duties and responsibilities of the leader of the church.


Overseers
That the elders were the overseers of the flock is evident from Acts 20, in which we are told that Paul called to himself "the elders of the church" (Vs. 17), whom he reminded of his dedication to the gospel and spoke of what he was about to suffer. Paul then cautioned them to guard the flock against the "savage wolves" that would arise upon his departure (a warning we choose to ignore today.. to our peril). In the context of this last warning he tells the elders, that they had to "be on guard" for themselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (episkopos), to shepherd (poimaino) the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.

Noting that the word translated "oversight", is the Greek episkopeo, which means to 'oversee' or 'look diligently' Peter's instructions to the elders themselves were very clear.

    Therefore, I exhort the elders (presbuteros) among you, as your fellow elder (sumpresbuteros) and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd (poimaino) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (episkopeo) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders (presbuteros); and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:1-5 NASB)

In summary, the word "elder" described the maturity of the men, who were the "overseers" of the local congregations. However did "overseeing" a congregation mean "ruling it", or "tending" it?


Oversee... Rule or Tend?
The Catholic Encyclopedia further says (All Emphasis Added)

    the distinction between clergy and laity was recognized in New Testament times is plain from St. Paul's statement that the bishops have been placed by the Holy Ghost to rule the Church (Acts 20:28), for the right to rule implies a correlative obligation to obey. (19)

Which would be laughable is it were not such a serious matter. The Greek word used in Acts 20:28 is poimaino, which means to "tend as a shepherd", and is used about 12 times in the New Testament. The second example from the book of Jude (below), makes it very clear that the word means "tend" or "care for". The men Jude speaks about cared only for themselves, not the congregation as a whole.

    1) Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends (poimaino) a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? (1 Corinthians 9:7 NASB)

    2) These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring (poimaino) for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; (Jude 1:12 NASB)

One other example, as translated by the KJV and the NASB, also makes it very clear that poimaino means to shepherd.

    For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed (poimaino) them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17 KJV)

    for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd (poimaino) , and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17 NASB)

Therefore, in Acts 20, Paul was clearly telling the elders to care for, and protect, the flock.

    "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28 NASB)

Finally, the closing chapter of the book of John relates a conversation between Jesus and Peter, in which Jesus used two different words to instruct Peter regarding the flock...

    So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend (bosko) My lambs." He *said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Shepherd (poimaino) My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Tend (bosko) My sheep. (John 21:15-17 NASB)

The Greek word bosko used twice above, means to pasture or graze, which is why it has often been translated "feed". It would have made absolutely no sense for the Lord to twice tell Peter to "feed" His sheep, and once to "rule" over them. All three instructions were to care for the flock.

In support of this, poimaino is used 4 times in the book of Revelation, three times in reference to pagan nations, and once in reference to believers. However, it is very clear that the word is being used very differently in both cases. Please see Footnote I


The Pastors
For whatever reason, in Ephesians 4:11, poimen has been translated "pastor". However, the same word was translated "shepherd" in the other 17 times it is used in the New Testament. And if we have not already sufficiently made the point, the exact sense of poimen is "shepherd", as shown by many verses.

    Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd (poimen). (Matthew 9:36 NASB)

    All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd (poimen) separates the sheep from the goats; (Matthew 25:32 NASB)

    In the same region there were some shepherds (poimen) staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night... And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds (poimen). But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds (poimen) went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8, 18-20 NASB)

    I am the good shepherd (poimen) , and I know My own and My own know Me, (John 10:14 NASB)

    For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd (poimen) and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25 NASB)

Although the word "pastor" stems from the French pastor, pastur (herdsman, shepherd), and from the Latin pastorem, which also means "shepherd", the concept of a pastor has been completely altered. Now a single pastor does all the teaching, counselling, and decision making in the church.


Priests
Besides the Catholic and Orthodox churches, the Anglicans and Episcopalians also ordain priests. Fascinatingly, the word priest is also derived from the Greek word presbyteros (20) or "elder". The problem is that, in the hierarchy of the church, the word "priest" usually means

    a clergyman in Christian churches who ranks below a bishop but above a deacon, but has the authority to perform or administer various religious rites. (21)

    one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion especially as a mediatory agent between humans and God (22)

However, according to the New Testament, there are no priests, only elders.... the presbyteros.

Perhaps some of the wrong thinking was initiated by the fact that the Greek word hiereus literally, and figuratively, means a "priest". However, it was never ever used for the head of the New testament church but, in all but one case, is found in the book of Hebrews, always in reference to the temporary priesthood of the Old Testament temple, as compared to Jesus' unchanging and permanent priesthood

    (for they indeed became priests (hiereus) without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, "the Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, 'you are a priest (hiereus) forever'"); (Hebrews 7:21 NASB)

    The former priests (hiereus), on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood (hierosune) permanently. (Hebrews 7:23-24 NASB)

Significantly, the only other time the word is used is when Peter refers to the collective church as a "priesthood"

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood (hierosune) , a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9 NASB)


Bishops
The noun episkope or "overseer" has often been translated "bishop" in the KJV, simply because the word bishop comes from the Old English bisceop, derived from the Late Latin episcopus, which eventually finds its way back the Greek episkopos or (watcher or overseer). (23) Note that we have already shown that the role of the overseer was to shepherd or tend the sheep.

    1) It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer (episkope), it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer (episkopos), then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (1 Timothy 3:1-2 NASB)

    This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop (episkope), he desireth a good work. A bishop (episkopos)then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (1 Timothy 3:1-2 KJV)

    2) For the overseer (episkopos) must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, (Titus 1:7 NASB)

    For a bishop (episkopos) must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; (Titus 1:7 KJV)

    3) For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian (episkopos)of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25 NASB)

    For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop (episkopos) of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25 KJV)

Yet, in modern usage, a "bishop" is a high-ranking Christian cleric. The website of the Orthodox Church has the following statement...

    the office of bishop is the leading Church ministry. The word bishop (episkopos, in Greek) means overseer. Each of the bishops has exactly the same service to perform. No bishop is "over" any other bishop in the Church and, indeed, the bishop himself is not "over" his church, hut is himself within and of the Church as one of its members. (24)

All of which sounds fine, but the reality is a little different. An archived news article on the same site talks about "His Grace", Bishop Jonah of Fort Worth who was elected "Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada". The picture shows a man dressed in all the trappings and finery someone could think of, including gold chains, tall hat, robes, and a gold staff (SEE). The clothes only serve to emphasize the elevated position of the man.

The power given the bishops is obvious by the fact that the word "Cathedral" represents the authority of the bishop


The Chair and The Titles:

The online Etymological dictionary defines Cathedral as the "seat of a bishop in his church". It adds the suffix al to the word Cathedra, the Latin word for "chair", which comes from the Greek, kathedra or seat. Cathedra refers to the chair or throne of a bishop, and is a symbol of the bishop's teaching authority in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and, to some extent, may have remained so in the Anglican and Lutheran churches. The traditional position of the cathedra, or bishop's throne, was in the apse, behind the high altar, which is where the magistrate or emperor sat in the Roman basilica. In some orthodox cathedrals, seats for the priests are arranged on either side of the bishop's chair.

The term, Ex cathedra, which literally means "from the chair", is used to designate official pronouncements of the pope intended for a world audience. As a throne or armchair symbolizes the power to teach, the cathedra in this case refers to the teaching authority over the whole church. For an encyclical to be considered infallible, the pope must speak "ex-cathedra". (25). (Encyclical: Papal documents explicitly addressed to the patriarchs, primates, archbishops, and bishops of the Universal Church)

Besides which the title "His Grace" or "Her Grace" is used for various high ranking personages. It was used to address the King or Queen of Scotland up to 1707, and to address monarchs of England prior to Henry VIII. Today, the term is used when referring to non-royal dukes and duchesses in the United Kingdom.

Archbishops in both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are often called "His Eminence". However, the very term "eminence" means 'a position of great distinction or superiority'. And, par for the course, they too are dressed up to the nines. SEE picture of "His Eminence", Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who even has his own coat of arms. SEE

(Incidentally, a common form of address for pastors is probably the least offensive of all the other more exalted titles.... "reverend" being simply the anglicized version of the Latin reverendus "(he who is) to be respected".


Were There "Bishops" In The New Testament?
As said by the web site of the Orthodox church (All Emphasis Added)

    The priests of the Church, also called presbyters, are those who assist the bishop in his work. In the present day, the priests normally exercise the function of pastors of the local churches or parishes, a function which was normally done by the bishops in early times.... Apart from his bishop and his own particular parish community, the priest has no "powers" and, indeed, no services to perform. Thus, on the altar table of each Christian community headed by the priest as pastor, there is the cloth called the antimension signed by the bishop which is the permission to the community to gather and to act as the Church of God. Without the antimension, the priest and his people cannot function legitimately, and the actions of the assembly cannot be considered as being authentically "of the Church.” (26).

The United Methodist church says

     "A bishop serves as a general superintendent for the church, assigned to a geographical area". They are clergy elected and consecrated to the office of bishop and are responsible for seeing that the "rules and regulations developed by General Conference are carried out". (27) This higher ranking office was a later invention of man.

The problem is that as previously mentioned, the word "priest" comes from the Greek word presbyteros, which means elder... the elders being the ones who oversaw the church. However, when you read the English word "bishop" in the New Testament, remember that it is simply a translation of the Greek word episkopos which means "overseer". 

In summary, the New Testament makes no distinction between the "bishop", and the "priest" or "pastor", which are all modern names for the same "elders" who "oversaw" or shepherded the flock. Bishops and archbishops who look after entire regions and are in some way above the pastors etc. are a modern invention. .


The Ministers/Deacons
Diakonos: The New Testament also uses diakonos in reference to the spiritual leaders of local congregations, a word that has been translated both "minister" and "deacon". Paul was described a "minister" to the gentiles, both Ephesus and Colossae being largely Gentile churches)

    to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister (diakonos), according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. (Ephesians 3:6-7 NASB)

    if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister (diakonos). (Colossians 1:23 NASB)

    Deacons (diakonos) likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain.... Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. (1 Timothy 3:8, 12 NASB)

In Romans 16:1 Paul called the obviously female Phoebe "a servant (diakonos) of the church", whom he commended to the Romans. But Phoebe was not an "elder", a role that seemed to be strictly reserved for males. That the elders, or overseers, of the church were different from the deacons, is made evident by the following verse.

    Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers (episkopos) and deacons (diakonos) (Philippians 1:1 NASB)

In English, the word "deacon" usually means an ordained minister ranking immediately below a priest (in Roman Catholic and other episcopal churches), or a lay official appointed or elected to assist the minister (in Protestant churches). If you type the word "deacon" into Google images, you will come up with a lot of pictures of men in fancy robes and funny hats. (Unlike in the Methodist, Anglican, and Episcopal churches, Baptist deacons do not wear robes). Neither the description, nor the visual images, of deacons come anywhere close to being true to the original meaning and intent of the Greek word diakonos. Strong's defines diakonos as being an "attendant", or "a waiter (at table or in other menial duties)". In support of this, diakonos has often been translated "servant" in the New Testament.

    "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant (diakonos)(Matthew 20:26 NASB)

    Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant (diakonos) of all." (Mark 9:35 NASB)

That there is no question that diakonos actually means "servant" is shown by Mary's words, and subsequent events at the wedding in Cana,

    His mother said to the servants (diakonos), "Whatever He says to you, do it."... When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants (diakonos)who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom...." (John 2:5,9 NASB)

However, while the word can literally mean menial service like waiting on tables....

    So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve (diakoneo) tables. (Acts 6:2 NASB)

.... many examples of diakoneo in the New Testament demonstrated a labor of love.

    Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister (diakoneo) to Him. (Matthew 4:11 NASB)

    He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited (diakoneo) on Him. (Matthew 8:15 NASB)

    For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered (diakoneo) and in still ministering (diakoneo) to the saints. (Hebrews 6:10 NASB)

Jesus often used the word diakoneo to define the role of a true disciple. When the disciples began arguing about who was the greatest among them, Jesus compared the harsh, dictatorial rule of the Roman emperor with His own willingness to serve, stressing that His kingdom is established on different principles from those of the world. His subjects were not to expect titles, pomp or power, but he that was most humble was the greater.

    And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant (diakoneo). "For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves (diakoneo)? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves (diakoneo). "You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:23-30 NASB)

    But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. "It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant (diakonos), and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served (diakoneo), but to serve (diakoneo), and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

Deacons are well rewarded for faithful service

    For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:13 NASB)

Finally, far from the adulation afforded higher ranking members of the clergy today, Paul is quite clear that the deacons were to be first tested and could only "serve as deacons" if they were "beyond reproach" (1 Timothy 3:10 NASB). Also read...

    For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants (diakonos) through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:4-7 NASB)


From People Who "Ministered" To "the Order of Deacon"
Amazingly we went from "servants" to deacons and sub deacons who, in Catholicism, had

    "a very special relation to the sacred vessels and to the host and chalice both before and after consecration."  (28)

It has apparently become so complicated that the Presbyterian Church has entire books devoted to exploring ....

    "the role of the deacon in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its office as a ministry of sympathy, witness, and service" (29)

On the other hand, the United Methodist Church

    "instituted the Order of Deacon in 1996. Prior to that date, ordination as a deacon was a step toward ordination as an elder". Eligibility for ordination as deacon may come through four educational routes: bachelor's or equivalent degree and a master of divinity or equivalent degree; bachelor's degree and master's from an approved school of theology or seminary; bachelor's degree and master's degree in area of specialization and basic graduate theological studies; or bachelor's degree, professional certification and basic graduate theological studies (candidates older than 35). (30)

That is a drift of a million miles away from the Biblical requirements for a deacon, who, like the elders, had to be "men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain" (1 Timothy 3:8 NASB) and "husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households." (1 Timothy 3:12 NASB). Which are exactly the requirements for a deacon as set down by the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Texas. Additionally, their deacons are elected by their members of First Baptist Church, which is a Biblical as it gets. They start by saying

    The biblical qualifications for the deacon are found in 1st Timothy 3:8-13 and in Acts 6:3. These qualifications are set against the qualifications of the pastor which are listed in 1st Timothy 3:1-7. The similarities between the qualifications of pastors and deacons underscore the tremendous responsibility deacons have for service. Deacons, as with other leaders of the church, are held to a strict accountability by God and should also be by the local church.

You can read the rest by copying and pasting this URL into your browser.... http://www.atlantafbc.org/ministries/deacons/deacon-qualifications.html

The Bible knows nothing of deacons/ministers who are set apart from, and superior to, the rank and file. While deserving of all the respect we can give them, a true minister of Christ is there to serve His flock.

Having talked about priests and pastors, bishops and deacons, let us return to the "elders" who tended the flock and find out a little more about them. How were they appointed, what was their job description, and how many of them were in each church.


The Elders.. How They Were Appointed, What Their Job Was, and How Many were in Each Church

The Function of The Elders
Note the word underlined in the quote below

    if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. (1 Timothy 3:1)

The emphasis was on the job description of the prospective shepherd. God was not, and is not, looking for men who are aspiring to a position. They did not 'hold office, but performed a function, which was to "shepherd" or "tend" the flock in their care, not for gain, but voluntarily. Additionally they were to provide an example to the flock, not "lord it over" them.

And what exactly did the elder have to do. Their task was (is) multifold... They had to be able to preach and teach (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17), be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3; Hebrews 13:7), handle disputes (Acts 15:2), visit and pray for the sick (James 5:14), handle money (Acts 11:30, 1 Corinthians 16:3) etc.

Also, and very importantly, the overseer must also guard his flock against the "savage wolves" that Paul prophesied would rise from among the flock (Acts 20: 28-31). He has to hold "fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict". Silencing "rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers" who teach things that they should not. (Titus 1:9-11)

Is it any wonder then that the qualifications required of those who wish to become overseers in the church are stringent.

    It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer (Gk. episkope), it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer (episkopos), then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7 NASB)

    For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer (Gk. episkope) must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:5-9 NASB)

    Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:1-3 NASB)

But, on the positive side, a Godly and diligent "elder" was worthy of "double honor" (1 Timothy 5:17), who would receive an "unfading crown of glory" when the Chief Shepherd appears (1 Peter 5:4)


How The Elders Were "Appointed"?
The Greek word tithemi used quite often in the New Testament, literally and figuratively means, "to place", or to "appoint". For example

    They laid hands on the apostles and put (tithemi) them in a public jail. (Acts 5:18 NASB)

    Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid (tithemi) Jesus there. (John 19:42 NASB)

In this sense 1) Jesus chose His own disciples, 2) God chose Paul to be an apostle and 3) chose the other apostles, teachers, prophets etc. of the early church

    1) You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed (tithemi) you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (John 15:16 NASB)

    2) For this I was appointed (tithemi) a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:7 NASB)

    3) And God has appointed (tithemi) in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28 NASB)

However tithemi is not the word used when Titus was instructed to appoint "elders" in every city

    For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint (cheirotoneo) elders (presbuteros) in every city as I directed you, (Titus 1:5 NASB)

The word translated "appointed" is the Greek cheirotoneo, which Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines as follows: Properly, to vote by stretching out the hand or to create or appoint by vote. (31) In other words, the church voted in their own leaders. That this was understood is made evident by Young's literal translation of Acts 14:23, which tells us that when Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium and to Antioch, they "appointed elders for them in every church". However, note how rendered the same verse

    When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:23 NASB)

    and having appointed to them by vote elders in every assembly, having prayed with fastings, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:23 YLT)

2 Corinthians 8:19 further supports this by saying Titus was "appointed (cheirotoneo) by the churches."

Yet note, that although the early church elected their own leaders, the Bible tells us that even this procedure was governed by the Holy Spirit who guided the decision making process. In effect, it was the Spirit of God that chose the leaders.

    "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made (tithemi) you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28 NASB)

Additionally, common sense,  dictates that the leaders were 'home grown' .... chosen from among the members of the particular church they were to lead. As Acts tells us, when Paul returned to certain cities, he then appointed elders in every church. In other words, on his first trip he preached the word and established a church, but only later returned to appoint an elder. On the second go around, he did not take with him a graduate of the Bible college in Jerusalem to look after their churches.

    After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:21-23 NASB)

Not only was the newly planted church without an elder for an unspecified period of time, but every elder had to have been a fairly new believer when he was appointed. No formal theological training and certainly no 'masters of divinity' among them.

But in our world, we "ordain" our "clergy". And while we may not admit it, when individuals are consecrated in an ordination ceremony, they are not only considered fit to perform various religious rites and ceremonies, but now have all authority in the church. Worse, the gifts that were formerly given to many to edify the church, are now miraculously supposed to be concentrated in the one person.


How Many Elders Were There?
One additional fact bears noting. The church overseers, or elders, were always referred to in the plural. Paul and Barnabas "appointed elders (plural) in every church", and instructed Titus to do the same

    When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:23 NASB)

    For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders (presbuteros) in every city as I directed you, (Titus 1:5 NASB)

Their debate with the men of Judea about circumcision was taken before the elders (plural) in Jerusalem, who received them

    And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. (Acts 15:2 NASB)

    When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. (Acts 15:4 NASB)

When Paul was in Miletus, he wanted to speak with the leaders of the Ephesian church, therefore sent for "the elders (plural) of the church"

    From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17 NASB)

    The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17 NASB)

It is obvious that James assumed that there would be more than one elder in every church, since he instructed Christians, regardless of their location, to "call for the elders (plural) of the church"

    Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; (James 5:14 NASB)


Mutual Decision Making
The sixth chapter of Acts demonstrates how the disciples and the congregation worked together. When the Hellenistic Jews complained because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food, the apostles came to a collective decision which "found approval with the whole congregation"

When in Acts 15, the very critical issue of circumcision, and obedience to the law of Moses came up it was generally decided that "Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue" (Vs. 15:2). In Jerusalem Peter told them how God has given the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, after which James, the head of the church in Jerusalem, made the judgment that the Gentiles were only to abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication etc. This decision was sent by letter to Antioch with Paul, Barnabus and several others, which was decided by the apostles, the elders, and the whole church.  Notice especially verse 25 and the expression, “having become of one mind” (Acts 15:25).

    Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas--Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.. it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, (Acts 15:22, 25 NASB)

Therefore, according to the New Testament, all local churches had at least two elders, who had to meet stringent requirements, in order to be appointed to the hugely important job of tending the flock under their care. (See 1 Peter 5:1-5 1 and Timothy 3:1-7 above). And all decisions, whether large and small, were made by a plurality of elders, with the participation of the entire church.

If one wishes to follow the example given us by the New Testament church, one man cannot oversee a local church, as is the custom in so many denominational churches today.


Summary

Clergy: The English word "clergy" finds its roots in the Greek word kleros, which means "lot' or "inheritance". The Bible does not use kleros to describe someone appointed to an office in the church but, as Acts 26:16-18 and Colossians 1:12-14 show, all God's people receive a "place" or "inheritance" (kleros) through the gospel. It is completely unclear as to how kleros or "lot" became "clergy" with the meaning of one ordained to service

The Elders: The spiritual welfare of the early church was looked after by the "elders", which is a translation of the Greek presbuteros. "Elder" does not necessarily mean "old", but could simply refer to  those older and/or more experienced. Mature men who could handle the duties and responsibilities of the leader of the church. There were always at least two elders attached to a church. The job of the elders (presbuteros) was to oversee (episkope), or shepherd (poimaino) the flock which made up the church. Their diligence in looking after the people entrusted to their care including guarding the flock against the "savage wolves" that Paul warned would arise upon his departure. The term shepherd (poimaino) used as a verb, indicated that he "tended" the flock, not ruled over them.

Overseer or Bishop: However the related word episkopos or overseer, has often been translated into the English Bishop which, in modern usage, is a high-ranking Christian cleric, often decked out in embroidered robes and gold chains. He is often addressed as "your Grace" which was used to address the King or Queen of Scotland and English monarchs. Archbishops in both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are often called "His Eminence" ... the very term "eminence" meaning 'a position of great distinction or superiority'

Priest: The word priest is also derived from the Greek word presbyteros which, as said above, means elder, not a mediatory agent between humans and God, nor a clergyman ranked below a bishop and a deacon, who is authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion.

Minister/Deacon: The Greek word diakonos is often translated "minister" or "deacon". Paul called himself a minister (diakonos) to the gentiles, and the obviously female Phoebe was called a "deacon" (diakonos), but as many verses unequivocally show, diakonos means "servant" and has been translated so many many times in the New Testament. if nothing else, this should tell us that that the person who had the job of a minister or deacon, served the people. But in our world we have invented institutions like "the Order of Deacon" and published entire books on their roles in the church. Additionally we have altered the qualifications required for a man to become a deacon. The New Testament's requirements could almost be covered by the word "Godly", but we require advanced degrees.

Pastor: The word "pastor" only occurs once in the NASB and KJV versions of the New Testament, translated from the Greek word poimen. Every other time this word appears it is rightly translated "shepherd". I say rightly because it usually occurs in connection with the word "sheep". The word "pastor" does stem from the Latin word for sheep, but the entire concept of shepherding a flock has been virtually lost. The modern day pastor usually has far more people in his church than he can possibly disciple to any degree of effectiveness, and is required to wear more hats than any human being should be called upon to do. According to the Bible, the pastor's primary job in the local church is to preach and teach, "admonish" and be an example to the flock. He is not an administrator, a fund raiser, a politician, a diplomat, an attorney, nor a CEO. His job is to keep his small flock on the straight and narrow until the second coming of Christ.

In short there were elders who oversaw the church, plus ministers or deacons, all of whom were there to serve the congregation. And, by the way, they were all elected by vote. So what changed?

    How did a bunch of local extended families become a huge universal organization, with layer upon layer of ranks, each subordinate to the one above?

    How did a spirit led church, become an vast organization with dozens of rules and regulations that governed every conceivable aspect of the Christian's belief system?

    How did a God given freedom to contribute to the church meetings become a formal liturgical service, set in stone by the church hierarchy?

In short, how did man managed to reinvent the entire church system? 

The answer is relatively simple. With the average human being's love of pomp and show, rituals and ceremonies, ranks and titles, the temptation to import some facets of the Old Testament priesthood must have been overwhelming to the early leaders, who imposed them on New Testament Christianity.

And, since then we have, as usual, accepted the status quo, never bothering to look any deeper.


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CONTINUE ON TO PART IV: Re-inventing The Church System. Man Apparently Got Carried Away by A Sense of His Own Importance....With a Little Help From A Roman Emperor. Protecting The Man Made Institution Called "The Church". The Latin Vulgate and The Tyndale Translation. Birth of The Church of England. The See-Saw Battle of Power. James VI, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and The KJV. The Reformation and Modern Versions.

 

End Notes
(17) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=clergy

(18) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=clerk&allowed_in_frame=0

(19) http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04049b.htm

(20) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=priest

(21) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/priest

(22) Merriam-Webster online. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/priest

(23) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bishop

(24) The Sacraments. Holy Orders. http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/holy-orders

(25) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=cathedra&searchmode=none

(26) The Sacraments. Holy Orders. http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/holy-orders

(27) United Methodist Communications. Frequently Asked Questions about the Council of Bishops.
http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.4572065/k.80DF/Frequently_Asked_Questions.htm#COBofficers

(28) The Catholic Encyclopedia. Origin and early history of the diaconate. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04647c.htm

(29) The Presbyterian Deacon An Essential Guide. By Earl S. Johnson, Jr.
http://www.thepresbyterianleader.com/Products/0664502377/the-presbyterian-deacon.aspx?nocrumb=true

(30) Deacons & Diaconal Ministers. http://www.gbhem.org/site/c.lsKSL3POLvF/b.3589309/k.86F7/Deacons__Diaconal_Ministers.htm

(31) http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/cheirotoneo.html

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The Church... Then and Now. Part II

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