THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 12-23-01
LESSON TITLE: ORGANIZATION OF THE LORD'S CHURCH
Good morning and Happy Holidays! Thank you for joining us today for The Living Word. I hope everyone had a great week. And I hope you are ready to begin this new week with a day of service and offering to your God.
As always, it is our commitment through this program to proclaim the simple truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - which is confirmed for us in the Bible. I hope you all have your Bible's handy and I hope you are ready to worship God together as we sing praises to His name and study from His wondrous word. Now let's begin by talking to our Father in prayer!
We want to begin our songs of praise this morning by singing a hymn which magnifies our God for who He is and what He means to us! So, at this time won't you join in with the congregation as we together sing, "Sweeter Than All."
(SONG # 1)
Well, another year is gone and here we are just a few days before Christmas. What a wonderful time of the year it is to take advantage of time off from work and to enjoy special gatherings with family and friends. I hope everyone will make the most of this exciting occasion and I hope you will make lasting memories for years to come.
Are your kids as excited as mine? Yes, in just a few days old Santa is going to come down those chimneys, through those windows, or maybe you even leave the door open for him. However, the gifts get there, what excitement and joy there will be on the morning of December 25.
However, as we have such a good time during this wondrous season of the year, let's all remember that as Christians we celebrate the wonders of Christ every first day of the week. Let's not allow holidays such as this to become a religious crutch - causing us to somehow feel that if we can show God we love Him once a year He will be satisfied. The reality is, so many in the religious world who claim to Love God will go to services around the holidays to in some way pay a yearly due! However, through Biblical example, God commands us to gather ever first day of the week. And in the New Testament we see that those who loved God regularly gathered to worship Him.
Furthermore, we all know that Scriptures are silent about when Christ was born. We do not find a command, hint or even suggestion in the Holy Bible that any such holiday called Christmas was ever instituted by our God. No man knows the day Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem. Therefore, let's enjoy this season and those things which relate to it in a secular way, but let's take advantage as Christians to live everyday as a living sacrifice to God, because that is our required service before Him, Romans 12:1,2.
Finally, let me remind you of what Paul said in Galatians 4:16. There we read, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Although we are all thankful for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must always remember to focus on that which makes Him our Lord and Savior - His Death! It is true that Jesus had to be born to die, but the fact is, whether He was born or not, without His suffering and cruel death on Calvary - we would not have the opportunity to be Children of God. So I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to worship your God on this the Lord's Day. But not only today, but at every opportunity and every day - as you are able to serve the one who created you.
It is great to have brother Jerry Sullins with us again to lead us in the lesson of the day. As many of you already know, brother Sullins is a missionary in Zambia, Africa - where he directs the Zambia School of Biblical Studies. It is always a pleasure to have my father with us on the program.
This morning we will continue our study on the Lord's Church. Our specific topic today will deal with the "Organization of the Lord's Church! So, please continue with us this morning, and after our next song together Brother Sullins will return with our study from God's Word. The name of our next hymn is, "To Christ Be True!"
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Jerry Sullins
It's a pleasure to be with you again on The Living Word broadcast here in Springfield, Missouri. I'm delighted to have this opportunity to again present to you from the word of God the organization of the Lord's church. Looking at the religious world today and seeing the various religious bodies, there are so many different types of organizations and ways that the religious organizations are organized. Our question this morning is "Did Christ leave a design for the organization of the church?" That's a very important question because we know as the Bible instructs we need to have the authority of Jesus Christ in all matters that pertain to religion. So it would be very, very important for us to know if Christ did leave a design for the organization of His church.
I'd like for us to just review what has been studied in the past weeks. We found out that Christ built His church (Matthew 16:18). "Jesus said upon this rock, I will build my church. The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." That means that Christ built one church.
Also in Acts chapter 20 and verse 28, it tells us that "Christ purchased the church with His own blood."
Now who is the head of the church? As far as religious organizations are concerned today, some people will refer to their head of the church and it would be some man other than Jesus Christ. But the Bible tells us that Christ is the head of the church. In fact Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:22-23 that "God hath put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness that filleth all in all." So Christ is the head of His church and any organization on earth that calls itself Christ's church, but yet on the other hand refers to itself as having a head other than Christ could not be the organization that we read of in the Bible.
Christ is the savior of the body. Ephesians 5:23 says, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even also as Christ is the head of the church and He is the savior of the body."
The church is referred to as Christ's kingdom in Colossians chapter 1 with verse 13. It says, "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of His dear son." Then in verse 18 it says, "He is the head of the body of the church."
So there in those few verses the Bible refers to the organization that Jesus built as His church, His body and His kingdom. So people are always wondering about whether the kingdom has come yet or not. Well, the fact is the kingdom has come as we have revealed in previous studies to this. Jesus even told His disciples in Mark chapter 9, verse 1 that "they who were standing there would not taste of death til they saw the kingdom of God come with power from on high."
Now knowing all of these things that Christ built His church, and that Christ purchased the church with His own blood, and that He is the head of the body, the church, and that He has built His kingdom and that it is present and alive today, would we surmise that Christ left His church with no pattern to follow as far as organization is concerned? Well certainly it would be strange for us to even conceive of such an idea. How can we believe in any way that the apostles directed the church to have no organizational structure? Why would we believe that Christ actually established His church and gave it no way to be organized? So let's just shortly this morning look at what the Bible has to say about the organization of the church.
Now first of all, when we think about the church of the Bible, we are talking about the church that we read of as it was established in Acts chapter 2. Did it have any organization? Well certainly it did. We see that the church was spoken of in a universal sense. When Jesus said, "Upon this rock, I will build my church," He was talking about the church universal. And we know that that church that would be established on the day of Pentecost which is recorded for us in Acts chapter 2 it was the church in whom all peoples of the earth would be invited to come because Jesus told His disciples to "go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (all nations) baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and lo I am with you always even to the end of the world."
Now Mark recorded His great commission in Mark 16 and 15 where He said, "Go into all the world and baptize these people into Christ for the remission of their sins." Paul also recorded in Romans chapter 6 verses 3 and 4 where "baptism is spoken of as a burial" but as is stated in Acts chapter 2, verse 38 that "we're to repent and to be baptized every one of us in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins."
To whom were these people added? Well it says in Acts chapter 2, verse 47, and this is when the church was actually established. It says there that "the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved." And earlier in that chapter it says that "three thousand were baptized on the day of Pentecost." So those baptized believers, those who believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, those who have repented of their sins, and those who had been baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins, (Acts 2:38) were added to the Lord's church." So the church is spoken of in a universal sense. But also in the scripture as we see simply and we won't spend a lot of time on this, that the church is spoken of in a regional sense, just like the region of Missouri and all of it's different counties. The region of Galatia was mentioned. Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia as it is recorded in Galatians 1, verse 2. So Paul was not only writing to one assembly of Christians, but he was writing to many assemblies of Christians in the province of Galatia. But also the church is spoken of more clearly in the local sense because Paul addressed a letter to the Romans, that is the church at Rome to the church at Rome, to the saints at Rome in Romans 1, verse 7. And to the church at Corinth, he wrote to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 2. And to the church at Philippi. He wrote to the elders and deacons and to the saints at Philippi. So these were local churches that were organized according to the pattern that was revealed to us in the New Testament.
Now let us consider that the church as far as the Bible is concerned has no headquarters on earth. It has no headquarters in the United States of America, and it has no headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. That is the church that we read about in the New Testament. The common question that is asked us in Zambia, Africa is this. Where is the headquarters for the churches of Christ? Well my friend, the headquarters for the churches of Christ is in heaven. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." There is no worldly headquarters for the churches of Christ that we read about in the Bible and for those churches that follow the Biblical pattern. So if someone were to ask me and some have asked me here in America, "Where is the headquarters for the church of Christ?" There is no such earthly headquarters. Jesus Christ is the head of His church and the headquarters for the churches of Christ which we all are a part as baptized believers is in heaven itself. The headquarters is a spiritual one because it is a spiritual kingdom that we are a part of.
As we look into the New Testament, we will see that each congregation in the New Testament was self-governing. The Corinthian church was not subject to the church of Jerusalem. Although the Jerusalem church was the first church to be established or where the church actually began. It was not that the headquarters for the church was in Jerusalem for it was not. As you probably remember from last week's lesson as I've been told the autonomy of the local churches in the New Testament was spoken on and this proved this to be the point. The churches of Galatia were not subject to the church of Antioch, although the church in Antioch was instrumental in getting the gospel preached throughout Asia Minor. None of those churches in Asia Minor were subject to the church in Antioch. None of those churches in Asia Minor were subject to the church in Jerusalem. They were all self-governing, autonomous groups. That is, all of them govern themselves within themselves and they were not subject to one another. There are many churches of Christ here in Springfield, Missouri. You may ask yourself, "Well, do you follow this New Testament pattern of autonomy?" Well certainly we do. There are many churches of Christ in Springfield, Missouri but I challenge you to call any of those offices and ask them where the headquarters of the church of Christ is. They will tell you it is in heaven. They will tell you that they are not subject to the Kansas Expressway church of Christ. Nor is the Kansas Expressway church of Christ subject to the Sunshine church of Christ or other churches of Christ. Now you have to remember I am not from Springfield, Missouri so I may have these names just a little bit wrong. But the point is that no church of Christ in Missouri is subject to any other church of Christ in Missouri. No church of Christ in Missouri is subject to any other church of Christ anywhere in this world because every church of Christ is governing within itself. That's the way the New Testament pattern is.
In Ephesians 4, verses 11 through 12, I want us to read just for a few moments about the church itself, the organization of the church and how it was in the 1st century. That's Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11 through 12. And Paul says here, Paul an apostle of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said, "And He Himself (that is Christ) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers." Then verse 12 says, "For the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Now this gives us an insight and there are many other verses which give us an insight into how the local church is to be organized and gives us a direct insight into how the local church is to be organized. The local church itself as is revealed here in these few verses of scripture is to be organized in positions that people take in the local church itself. For instance, the church is lead by a group of people that are called pastors. We would interpret that as shepherds. They are also called elders. They are called presbyters. They are called overseers. Their qualifications are found in 1 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1 through 7 and in Titus chapter 1, verses 5 through 9. Now it does not take a perfect man to be a pastor of a local church because no one is perfect. But it does take a man who aspires to and who qualifies according to the qualifications that are found in these passages of scripture. I don't see how anyone who is 17, 18 years old or 25 years old, how he can be an elder in the Lord's church, that is, a spiritual overseer of the Lord's church because he is not in any sense referred to as an elder which means an older person. So therefore when you see men walking around in our community and they have a lapel pin on there that says "Elder so and so" and they are not even married. One of the qualifications by the way of an elder is to have believing children and that that person must be married. Then how could they be a pastor? How could they be an overseer? How could they be an elder in the local church? Well the fact is that they cannot be if they are following the scripture. Now sometimes some will refer to my son as the pastor of the Kansas Expressway church of Christ. Well that's just not true. He is not the pastor. He is an evangelist. Ray is not qualified to be the pastor of the Kansas Expressway church of Christ because he himself does not meet some of the qualifications that are found in Timothy and also in Titus. So my friends, simply what we're trying to say is this. We need to call people by Bible names and we need to make sure that we're calling them properly. So you would refer to my son, Ray, as the evangelist for the Kansas Expressway church of Christ or a minister of the Kansas Expressway church of Christ because he does not meet the qualifications. So when you call a minister of the church of Christ or an evangelist of the church of Christ "pastor", you may see him look a little bit funny. Now he's not wanting to insult you in any way. He is simply trying to say and sometimes he will say in a nice way, "My friend, I am not a pastor." Now he doesn't mean that he is not trying to lead the church in knowing the word of God because that is his role, but he's simply trying to say, "I do not meet the qualifications that are found in the scripture that would make it be possible for me to be a pastor."
Now He set some in the church also to be deacons. There was a great need in the Jerusalem church for the administering unto the widows in the Jerusalem church and so a group of men called deacons, which is actually special servants, were called in and appointed and they had to meet the qualifications that are found in 1 Timothy chapter 3, verses 8 through 10.
Ephesians 4 again, 11 and 12 mentions the role that someone must play in the church of an evangelist which I just referred to just a few moments ago. Paul claimed to be an evangelist. It simply means a proclaimer or herald of the good news that Jesus Christ is coming to this world. Timothy was an evangelist as we see recorded in 2 Timothy 4, verse 2 where Paul encouraged him to "preach the word. Be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, resort, instruct with all long-suffering and doctrine."
There were teachers in the local churches in the 1st century. There were prophets that were special teachers in that day and time inspired of the Holy Spirit to bring forth the word of God.
But in all, we are all members of the body of Christ as is revealed to us in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 12. Members in particular. We all have different functions.
Now as we consider this matter this morning, let us remember that the apostles set in order the early church. They instructed the early church in all matters that pertain to life and godliness. In fact, Peter said in 2 Peter 1, verse 3 that "God has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." We must make sure that we do all of those things according to the pattern that is revealed to us in the New Testament. The organization of the local church is very clear to understand in the New Testament and we must follow that pattern. As far as what Paul said in Colossians 3:17, "And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." So my friend, consider these things and try to do your best to follow the pattern that is found in the New Testament.
Thank you very much.
(Song #3 - When upon life's billows)
What a wondrous time we have had together in participating in the things of God. I hope we all have been encouraged through our time spent together. Please remember, you are invited to join us every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to this service of God.
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As members of the church of our Lord, may we all strive to make sure that we organize ourselves according to God's Will and not our own. This is the only way to be pleasing before the Father!