While I was teaching the session Revelation that took place in Ukraine, one of the pastors asked me which are the principles of organization of the local church from the New Testament. This question made me curious to study deeply the subject and I started with the Book of Acts. In this article I will share the first principles which I have found.
The authority was given for preaching the Gospel
Before His Ascension to heaven, the Lord Jesus told the disciples about the Holy Spirit that each of them would receive and which would give them authority to share the Gospel to the remotest part of the earth. So, authority was given not for creating and maintaining a well made system of management, but for the spreading of the Gospel and salvation of the sinners. The Savior told the apostles:
“It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)(NASB)
Apostles followed the maintenance of organization
Lord Jesus didn’t let another organization than that of the 12 apostles. After Judas sold Jesus and after the Resurrection and Ascension of the Savior to heaven, one of the first concerns Peter had, was maintaining this system of 12 apostles. Therefore, he came with an initiative, and we don’t read anywhere that the Lord Jesus asked him this or the Savior would make any reference to it later. Peter’s initiative was that someone would take the place of Judas to be an apostle and they did that by drawing lots, and none of the servants were elected in that way anymore.
The growth of the church implies the development of organization system
Because the apostles were concerned about the preaching of the Gospel and teaching those who became disciples, the church was increasing quickly.
Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 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 tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6)(NASB)
This job of “deacon” was established as a response to the needs generated by the growth of the church and to resolve a situation of conflict. Meanwhile, the establishment of this job was necessary to not load the apostles with other responsibilities, which he would have stopped them to preach the Word and, therefore, the Gospel would not have been spread with the same power.
Persecutions imposed changes of the organization system
In chapter 8 of the Book of Acts it is reported:
Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1)(NASB)
Suddenly many churches started to be planted and there was apostles’ responsibility to supervise and maintain well this wonderful work of Gospel spreading. It is reported in the same chapter:
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John. (Acts 8:14)(NASB)
In this case, the apostles, who composed the team who supervised the church co-worked beautifully and delegated the responsibilities wisely. All were concerned to spread the Gospel and not to obtain and maintain supremacy. In the next chapter it is written that “Peter went to visit all saints” and so he helped them in their spiritual growth.
The example of the Antioch church may serve as a model for planting and growth of a church and because many details about this church are included in the Book of Acts, we will be able to see also the genesis of the organization system of the church. I will write a separate article to address this subject.
Translated by Felicia Rotaru