The Work Of The Church
Headship of the church
Jehovah God planned
the church from before the beginning of time.
The Holy Spirit of God instituted the church of God with power on the
day of Pentecost after Christ's resurrection, 50 days after the Passover. Moreover, Jesus Christ the Son of God
purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 2:1-43): the supreme
demonstration of God's love for His creation.
Ephesians 3:8-12 To me, who am less than the least of all the
saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the
unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the
fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the
ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;
10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made
known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
11 according to the eternal purpose which
He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have
boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26
that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27
that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or
wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Acts 20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all
the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the
church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
If God alone planned
the church, purchased it, and instituted it, then He is its sole designer,
owner, builder, and head.
Ephesians 1:22-23 And He put all things under His
feet, and gave Him to be head over all
things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of
Him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 4:15, 16 …but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up
in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – 16
from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint
supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its
share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Therefore, only God
is in the position to determine and reveal what is the purpose of His church,
who are its members, how it is to function, and by whose name it is called.
Subjection of the church
As Christ is the
head of the church, then the church is to be in subjection to Him. It is unreasonable for the hands and feet of
the body to not do what the head tells them to do, as if they have minds of
their own. To illustrate, we consider a
man seriously sick and dysfunctional who has no control of his hands and feet.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven
and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all
things that I have commanded you; and lo, I
am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the
Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head
of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just
as the church is subject to Christ, so let the
wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church,
who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may
have the preeminence.
The folly of insubordination
For us to act
contrary to supreme authority of Jesus Christ is foolishness. Consider if someone today plans to establish
a manufacturing company and invests his own money and effort, determining to
make and sell cupcakes. We understand
that he alone has the right to decide what will be the name of his company, the
recipes for his cupcakes, the qualifications required of his employees, the selling
price of his products, and his hours of store operation. Intuitively, no employee has the right
without the owner's consent to change anything, because it is not his
company. Even if he dares to change just
one thing, it is deemed insubordination and non-conformance: action worthy of
employee dismissal. If one would want to
change the recipes, change the product form, or change the selling price, he
would need to start his own company, wherein he would have control over these
things. However, in doing so, he could
not legitimately claim that it is the same company as the original, regardless
of what name he gives his new company.
As easy as this is
to understand, these principles are completely lost in application in every
other religious institution today, even though they might claim allegiance to
Jehovah God. These institutions have
actually changed their head; they follow the teaching of some man who is a
reformer or inventor of new doctrine.
They often change the institution's name to honor the originator or
reflect some principle of their new doctrine.
Terms of membership are changed, as well as the structure and
organization of these bodies. Moreover,
as will be the focus of this study, they change the mission, purpose, and
function of the church. Even though they
might still claim to be a part of the Lord's church, if they change just one
thing, Jesus Christ is no longer the controller. It is no longer the Lord's church but man's
by hostile take-over. We need to
understand that God is angry with such rebellion, but this is the operating
principle of denominationalism today.
Looking to scripture, the rebellion of Korah and the resulting
consequences are recorded as an example for our instruction.
3 [Korah and
all his company] gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them,
"You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy,
every one of them, and the LORD is among them.
Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" …
30 [And Moses
said:] "If the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and
swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the
pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD." 31
Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground
split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and
swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all
their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into
the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.
Old Testament scriptures contain many more lessons about rebellion against God.
Leviticus 10:1-3 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each
took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire
before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out
from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3
And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those
who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must
be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace.
Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel;
everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
The authenticity of the church
The nation of Israel
wanted to be like the other nations around them. This sounds familiar when we see sometimes
efforts in churches of Christ today to be more like the denominations around
them. Being different from other
churches ought to be something we embrace (Acts 17:18; 1 Peter 4:4; 2
1 Samuel 8:6-8 [The elders] said to him, "Look, you are
old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.
Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they
said, "Give us a king to judge us."
So Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel,
"Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have
not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.
8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that
I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day-- with which they have
forsaken Me and served other gods-- so they are doing to you also."
All other churches
not in compliance are imposters and are rejected by the Lord.
Mark 7:6-13 7 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
Acts 4:10-20 12 Nor is there salvation in any
other, for there is no other name under heaven
given among men by which we must be saved.
Galatians 1:3-19 9 As we have said before, so now I
say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to
you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
There is a
difference between doctrinal matters and judgmental matters in the church. For example, consider these statements in
Acts 15:19-22 "…Therefore I judge that we should not
trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but
that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual
immorality, from things strangled, and from blood…." 22 Then it
pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of
their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also
named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.
Note that when the
apostles write that we are to abstain from fornication, it is a not a matter of
judgment and opinion; it is an immutable matter of doctrine. We have no liberty in the matter. However, note that how the message is sent
and who are the carriers are matters of judgment. They choose Judas and Silas, but they could
have just as well chosen others.
There is nothing
inherently wrong about human, denominational traditions in the church, as long
as they are only non-binding expediencies for generic, scriptural
authority. For example, the church may
very well purchase a meeting house like denominations do, but it is an
authorized expediency for assembling. We
may have many human traditions in the church, as long as they are merely authorized
expediencies and are not bound as divine law.
For further examples, we may traditionally meet on Wednesday nights for
Bible study or stand to sing a hymn after the assembly is exhorted to obey the
gospel. These things are authorized as
expediencies, as long as we recognize that they are not binding.
An examination of
authority in religion is an essential precursor to this study. Without understanding the interpretive rules
and methods of hermeneutics and sound reasoning, a Bible student will not have
the knowledge to rightly divide (literally, straightly cutting) the word of
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to
God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of
As this study
progresses into examining the means and methods of executing the work of the
church, we must particularly have a clear working knowledge of expediencies as
presented in a study of authority. A
detailed investigation of authority is not the intent of this study, but the
following brief review is offered.
Our source of authority
God's word alone is our source, not the words of
men (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
The silence of scripture authorizes nothing
There is a difference between what God has
ordained and what man has originated (Luke 20:4).
Methods of establishing authority
Direct recorded commands or statements (Luke
Necessary inferences driving forced conclusions
(Mark 12:26, 27).
Approved examples (Matthew 12:5).
Recognizing specifics and generics
Specific terminology is limiting; it excludes
and restricts. All things of a different
type or kind are automatically omitted.
Generic terminology is loosing; it includes and
allows. All things of like type or kind
are automatically permitted.
There is a difference between that which is
pertinent and relevant in a description and that which is coincidental and
Rules of expediencies
Expediencies are convenient,
optional, and discretionary means, methods, tools, or aids for executing a
For a thing to be expedient, it must not add,
subtract, or substitute anything (1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Samuel 15:15).
For a thing to be expedient, it must not be
specified or essential; expediencies pertain only to generics (Genesis 6:14;
For a thing to be expedient, it must edify or
build up, never tear down (1 Corinthians 10:23-33, 1 Corinthians 14:26).
For a thing to be expedient, it must not offend
a weak brother (1 Corinthians 8:7-13, 1 Corinthians 10:32).
For a thing to be expedient, it must be lawful
(1 Chronicles 13:7-10; 15:2; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23).
terminology is to be interpreted literally if possible. If the language of scripture is figurative,
it should be a forced conclusion on the basis of fixed rules of interpretation
(2 Timothy 1:13).
Rule of context: figurative if demanded by the
Rule of impossibility: figurative if the literal
imposes an impossible situation.
Rule of contradiction: figurative if the literal
contradicts clear teaching in other passages.
Rule of absurdity: figurative if the literal
meaning is nonsense.
Rule of revelation: figurative when the writer
reveals that it is.
There are sound ways
of reasoning in the scriptures, and there are perverted ways (2 Peter
2:9-20). Truthful conclusions can only
follow reasoning based on both truthful premises and valid inferences. Fallacies in reasoning must be recognized in
order to be avoided.
Fallacy of authority: the words of respected men
are assumed to be true.
Fallacy of force: the words of powerful men are
assumed to be true to avoid penalty.
Fallacy of pity: a statement is assumed to be
true to avoid unfavorable consequences.
Fallacy of emotion: a statement is assumed to be
true based on our feelings.
Fallacy of ignorance: a statement is assumed
true because it cannot be proven false.
Fallacy of ambiguity: a statement is assumed
true based on substitute word meanings.
Set Aside Self-will And Preconceptions
The Bible alone will
be our guide in this study. As we begin,
we must put aside all our preconceived impressions of the church. The variety church denominations around us
have taken their work into many different missions and functions not revealed
in scripture as divinely appointed for the church. Even in the church bearing the name of Christ
alone, the unauthorized activities of human tradition sometimes creep in, which
we might readily and unwittingly accept as God-ordained due our cultural
familiarity with typical denominational practices. Moreover, when unauthorized practices are
challenged in churches today, people will often attempt to defend them by
saying nothing more than, "I don't see anything wrong with it." Authority for actions in the church ought to
be based on something more than this. We
should be able to produce from scripture a direct statement, approved example,
or necessary inference that authorizes every activity in the church.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all
in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Ephesians 4:17-19 This I say, therefore, and testify in the
Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the
futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened,
being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them,
because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling,
have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with
Renounce the commandments of men
We need to take an
open and fresh look at scripture and renounce the contrary writings and
teachings of preachers, elders, and colleges, no matter who they are (Acts
4:19; 5:29). If we cannot find in
scripture the authority for the church to be involved in some function, we need
to stop doing it.
1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times
some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines
of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience
seared with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not
consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the
doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing
nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which
come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings
of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness
is a means of gain. From such withdraw
2 Timothy 4:1-4 I charge you therefore before God and the
Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and
His kingdom: 2 Preach the word!
Be ready in season and out of season.
Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according
to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for
themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the
truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Titus 1:14 …not giving heed to Jewish fables and
commandments of men who turn from the truth.
The burden of proof
Bear in mind that the
responsibility to show the authority to perform a thing in the church rests
upon those who would intend to do it. It
is not the duty of others to prove that there is no authority for it.
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and
always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the
hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
The question is not
over what God expressly forbids but over what He expressly ordains.
Let us move forward
by next looking in scripture at some grounding principles for the church.
Thoughts For Review: Introduction
When did God plan the church? What was the purchase price of the church?
Why is the church to be in subjection to Christ?
When Korah and his company perished for their
rebellion (Numbers 16), did the remaining congregation of the Israelites learn
the lesson of submission? How many
altogether perished before the matter was settled?
What reason did the elders of the nation of
Israel give Samuel when they asked him to appoint a king over them? How does this sometimes relate to unwholesome
attitudes in the Lord's church today?
What is our sole source of authority in the
State the three basic methods by which authority
is established from scripture.
Explain the fundamental difference between
specific and generic terminology. What
is an expediency, and how does an expediency apply relative to specific and generic
cases? List three rules of expediencies
and be prepared to explain them from scripture.
List two formal fallacies of reasoning and give
Are all human traditions in the church
unlawful? If not, explain the difference
between lawful and unlawful human traditions in the church.
a brother suggests a certain activity for the church and then asks what would
be wrong with doing it, with is the fundamental fallacy with this process?
Some material in this study is derived or directly quoted
from the following texts, which are suggested for further study and additional
(BDB) "Revised Whittaker's
Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon," 1906, 1997, Logos Research
(JHT) "A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New
Testament," Joseph Henry Thayer, 1979, Zondervan Publishing House
"Greek-English Lexicon Of The New
Testament: Based On Semantic Domains," Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A.
Nida, 1989, New York: United Bible Societies
"Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New
Testament,", Timothy and Barbara Friberg, 1994
(WEV) "Expository Dictionary Of New
Testament Words," W. E. Vine, 1966, Flemming H. Revell Co.
"A Manual Grammar Of The Greek New
Testament," 1927, 1955, Dana and Mantey, Macmillan Co.
LXX Septuaginta (LXT) (Old Greek Jewish
Scriptures) edited by Alfred Rahlfs, 1935, the German Bible Society
"New Testament Words," William
Barclay, SCM Press Ltd., 1964
(TBA) "The Bible Almanac," Packer,
Tenney, White, Jr., 1980, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(OED) Online Etymology Dictionary,
"The Bible in English: Its History and
Influence," 2003, David Daniell
"Walking By Faith," Roy E. Cogdill,
1957, 1967, The Gospel Guardian Company
"Old Issues Do Not Fade Away – A Study In
Centralization Of Churches And Institutionalism," Gene Frost, 1975, 1976,
(M-W) The Merriam-Webster American English
Dictionary Online, 2012
Wikipedia: web-based free-content encyclopedia,
Bible translations referenced in this work include:
KJV: King James
Standard Version (1901)
NKJ: New King James
NAU: New American
Standard Bible (1995)
Literal Translation (1862, 1898)
TNT: Tyndale New
Bible quotations in this work are from the NKJ unless
otherwise indicated. Anglicized
equivalents of Greek and Hebrew words appear in all upper case characters with
the approximate pronunciation following in braces.