This past Sunday night I began a new sermon series on the structure of the church. Though I’ve covered these topics many times in the past, there is a need to cover this material as we are on the verge of ordaining a new slate of deacons. The first sermon was more of a Bible study than a sermon. In this Bible study I sought to provide an overview of the rest of the series (see below) and merely walked/talked through key passages which will be explored in more depth as the series progresses. The messages which follow in this series will be expositions of key texts on these topics. Below are my brief notes from Sunday night:
Ekklesia is the Greek word translated church in the NT. It means a “called out assembly” which is a compound word of the proposition ek and the verb kaleo. The verb kaleo means “call” and is used in the NT for God’s sovereign call of individuals to salvation. Therefore ekklesia or church is a people, not a place. This building is the place where the church meets.
Definitions of the church abound. One from the Reformation era is particularly helpful. The reformers described the church as present wherever the Word of God was preached and the sacraments/ordinances administered properly. This is a good definition, but for the purposes of this series I’ve developed another working definition for us to work through for the purpose of teaching this series on the governing structure. This definition will no doubt be revised to be made more clear as the series progresses. In other words, I am not entirely happy with it. Any suggestions given would be appreciated! Anyway, here’s what I came up with for didactic purposes:
The church is a body of regenerate baptized believers who are ruled by Christ through His Word, with spiritual leadership provided by the bishops/elders/pastors and whose temporal needs are served by the deacons, and it is with the congregation that the final responsibility for doctrine and membership rests.
The word ekklesia is translated church somewhere between 109 (Hammett) and 114 (Dever) times in the New Testament. It can refer to both the local congregation (visible) or the universal (invisible) church. But the overwhelming majority of times (90+) it refers to local churches.
In other words, the New Testament does teach the concept of the universal church (made up of all believers chronologically and geographically), but its overwhelming emphasis is upon local congregations.
After giving these brief words of introduction, I proceeded to walkie-talkie through the following which is the basic outline of the remaining series:
I. The Church is Ruled by Christ Through His Word, Colossians 1:15-19; Ephesians 2:19-22.
II. The Church is Led by Elders, Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Philippians 1:1-2; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
III. The Church is Served by Deacons, Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
IV. The Church is a Congregation of Regenerate Baptized Believers with Whom the Final Responsibility for Doctrine and Membership Rests, 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2:6; Galatians 1:6-9.