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FIVE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT

(That You Have Never Ever In Your Entire Life Heard Preached From A Pulpit)

by Gerald R. Thompson

Introduction

Next: The Diffusion Principle of Authority
More: Priesthoods, Clergy & Spiritual Authority
Also: Church as Institution, Association & Corporation
And: The Visible Church in Real Life
Last: The Office of Pastor; Religious Corruption

[Caution: If you don’t want to know what it is your church and your minister have not been telling you all these years, put this essay down now and read something else. If you aren’t willing to think for yourself and to search for the truth no matter where it may lead, stop right here. This essay will bring you nothing but pain. Ignorance is bliss.]

INTRODUCTION

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Pet. 4:17.

Ah yes, one of my all time favorite Bible verses. Why? Because long story short: It’s time for us to get our own house in order, people (who claim to be the people of God)! And for all of you hyper-dispensationalists – no, this verse does not apply solely to Jews.

If you’ve read my Call For Reclaiming Church Government, you will see that I’ve taken a rather severe position with respect to the role (or lack thereof) of clergy in the Church. After listening to comments from readers and thinking on the matter some more, I decided to offer some additional considerations supported by a biblical analysis. The Call, after all, only puts forward propositions and doesn’t provide any scriptural proofs or underlying analysis. But perhaps now is a good time to expand on the subject to give some context to the propositions I have put forward.

In order to understand the biblical nature of church government, we need to examine five key biblical principles, namely: 1) the diffusion principle of authority and how it applies to the Church; 2) the role of the clergy and the universal priesthood of believers; 3) the nature of spiritual authority – who has it, what it can be used for, and whether it gives anyone the right to rule others in the Church; 4) how the heavenly or invisible Church interrelates with the earthly or visible church; and 5) the nature of the Church as a corporation and what that means with respect to its internal governing structure. I doubt you have ever heard any one of these five principles preached from a pulpit in any church.

There is a general principle in scripture that evidence of a fact or a proposition should be established upon the testimony of two or three witnesses. Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16, 20; 1 Tim. 5:19. Here, I suggest, we may take each of the five biblical principles as a witness, which when put together are found to always be in agreement pointing to the exact same conclusions, and thus provide a quintuple witness of the analysis I am putting forward. In this way we may know that the analysis is true and firm.

Now, let me provide a brief overview of these five principles so you can see the order and progression of the overall analysis. The 1st Principle (diffusion of authority) will lay the foundation that God has not put anyone in charge of the worldwide Church except Jesus (who is in heaven at the moment), leaving the Church without a visible (i.e., human) head until Christ returns.

The 1st Principle leaves open the question of whether God has entrusted leadership of the church at the local level to various “spiritual persons.” So, the 2nd Principle addresses the question of whether God has entrusted church leadership to the clergy or a priesthood. We then move on to the 3rd Principle, where the question is whether the distribution of spiritual authority via the sacraments, spiritual gifts, or spiritual offices is such that we may reasonably infer certain persons are in charge of the church.

The 4th Principle will help us examine the difference between the way the invisible Church which God has instituted is governed, and the way visible church associations are governed. When we get to the 5th Principle, (the Church as a corporation) we will find out who is actually in charge of God’s Church until Christ returns.

Following these, I will take a look at how modern churches function in real life, and the extent to which they follow these biblical principles of church government. I will wrap up this essay with an examination of the office of pastor in greater detail, and also ask the question, Where Do We Go From Here?

(Note: I know the terminology gets confusing at times, but I view the heavenly Church as functionally equivalent to the spiritual Church, the invisible Church, and the universal Church. Similarly, when it comes to the earthly church, it is functionally equivalent to the temporal church, the visible church, and the local church. For purposes of this essay, the distinction I wish to make is between the Church body that God has created and the church organizations that people have made. This distinction is the key to understanding the matter of church government.)

Next: The Diffusion Principle of Authority
More: Priesthoods, Clergy & Spiritual Authority
Also: Church as Institution, Association & Corporation
And: The Visible Church in Real Life
Last: The Office of Pastor; Religious Corruption

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