I. In the organization of the church, we read - Eph 4:11
A. There were Apostles and prophets, involved in the establishment of the church.
B. There are evangelists (preachers), pastors (elders), and teachers, involved in continuing the work to build up the church.
C. Each part, working together, causes the growth of the church - Eph 4:14-16
1. Though these offices are a key part, each of us is needed to build the Lord’s church.
2. I Cor. 12:12-18 - Each member exists because God put them there for the benefit of the church.
D. In the functioning of the church, there are other duties to be preformed.
1. People need to watch over the day to day activities of a congregation - Acts 6:1-3
2. People may be sent to deliver aid that a church has gathered or to act on a church’s behalf. - I Cor. 16:3-4, Phil. 2:25-26.
3. People may be sent to teach God’s Word were it has not reached before - Acts 13:1-3
E. As you can see, decisions had to be made and someone had to choose. How did the early church organize itself for making decisions?
II. Case studies
A. Acts 6:1-6
1. A problem arose in the distribution of aid among the saints.
2. From I Tim. 5:9-10, we know that the church cared for certain widows who had no family to support them. It is apparent that the church in Jerusalem had a large number of widows to care for.
3. The apostles told the brethren to pick out seven men to be put in charge of caring for these widows. They could not be any men, because they represented the church.
4. Notice who did the choosing – the WHOLE church (verse 5).
5. Interestingly, even though the apostles were there. Even though they were impartial and inspired by the Holy Spirit, yet they said it was the church’s responsibility to do the selection.
6. Once chosen, the apostles ordained them into their office.
B. Acts 13:1-3
1. The Holy Spirit asked that Saul and Barnabas be set apart for special work.
2. The church laid hands on them and sent them out.
3. When they returned, they reported to the whole church, who had commended them to the work - Acts 14:26-28
C. Acts 15:4, 22, 30
1. The whole church gathered to hear Paul and Barnabas’s report. When it became apparent there was a problem, the elders and apostles gathered to debate the matter, but the debate was before the whole church, because they approved of the solution.
2. It was the whole church who chose men to send with the letter.
3. It was the whole church who received the letter and reports.
D. I Cor 5:4-5
1. When a man was found in sin, it was the whole church who withdrew.
2. It was a punishment inflicted by the majority - I Cor 2:6
3. This matches Christ’s instructions - Matt 18:17
E. I Cor 16:3, II Cor 8:18-19
1. Men were selected by the churches to carry their gifts to Jerusalem.
III. One thing that is noticeable, we do not find small groups making decisions on behalf of the church
A. One brother noted that the church seems to pick up fads from outside and applies them to its organization.
1. Soon after the first century, we learn that the church took on a hierarchical organization, modeled after the Roman empire.
2. Though in the last century, the church made decisions as a whole, it was only this century that men’s business meetings began, modeled after the way businesses are operated.
B. What is noticeable is there is no record of a men-only group making decisions for the whole.
C. Churches did function for periods of time without elders - Acts 14:23
1. However, we cannot assume any organization is acceptable. We have New Testament patterns and we ought to follow them.
2. Sometimes brethren come away with the notion that elders make all the decisions.
a. Notice that the Apostles did not select the men for serving the widows in Acts 6.
b. Notice that the Apostles and elders did not alone select men to carry and testify to the decision in Acts 15.
c. It is likely that decisions in Corinth and in Antioch were made in the presence of elders.
IV. The reason for a men-only group operating the church in the absences of elders is due to concerns that women remain in subjection.
A. Since decisions of the church were made by the whole church in the first century, such concerns are legitimate.
B. However, we have regulations dealing with this problem - I Tim 2:11-12, I Cor 14:34-35
1. By this we can conclude that women can and are present in the worship service.
2. By this we can conclude that when the whole church gathered to consider a matter, women were present as well, though they did not participate in the debates that accompanied the decisions.
3. However, since the whole church gave its approval, it means that the women were able to indicate their agreement or disagreement with the decision.
4. Just as sing does not violate the command to be silent in the churches, indicating agreement or disagreement does not violate the command either.
a. Though the elders and Apostles ruled over the church, the church still gave their approval.
b. Though the Apostles ordained men, the church still selected men to serve widows.
5. However, questioning a decision or arguing for or against a side does overstep the bounds.