• Elders

    by Published on 07-29-2013 01:46 PM     Number of Views: 1317 
    1. Categories:
    2. Apostles Set up Churches,
    3. Boundary of Local Assembly,
    4. Elders

    What happens if you don't get the right understanding of the Church and how the Church is organized?

    Aristotle wrote, "The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold." In other words, a small lie at the beginning may lead to a complete break with reality somewhere down the line.

    Satan, therefore, tries to plant a small lie and over time lets it grow all the while man thinks he is doing the right thing or managing the problem as best he can when in reality the paradigm must shift and go back to the way it was originally intended.

    The Church is defined in two ways: (a) universal born-again body of believers; (b) according to locality, e.g. church of Houston in the churches of Texas or the church of Antioch in the churches of Syria. Such is the account of every instance of the word "church" in the Scriptures.

    It is not defined as a congregation of some denomination (denominations are outlawed in Scripture, for don't say "I of Cephas" or "I of Apollos" and don't even say "I of Christ" for that divides the body falsely also), nor is it defined even as an independent body of believers of some congregation. Congregationalism is most certainly false.

    If someone asks you what church you belong to, tell them the church of your locality and give the name of your locality you reside in. You could further respond by saying you fellowship at a particular meeting place at someone's house, and provide the Elder of that meeting place as well as the Elder of your locality who approved of the Elder of your meeting place.

    Do you know who the Apostle(s) - directly chosen by God - are for the churches of your state or region and the Apostle who appointed the Elder of your church locality? And are you aware whether or not the Elder of your meeting place has been approved by the Elder of your locality?
    by Published on 10-18-2010 04:53 AM     Number of Views: 782 
    1. Categories:
    2. Boundary of Local Assembly,
    3. Elders

    The Elders of Each Church Locality are Responsible

    The Bible usually takes a city, the smallest executive governmental area, as the boundary of a local assembly. A local assembly is the unit of the Church in God’s word. It does not join with other assemblies and make the resulting larger church a central church. In other words, in the eyes of God, He has not made Rome as the central church. He never makes any local assembly the center of the churches to be in control of other assemblies. There is no center on earth in God’s government. Even Jerusalem was not a center to the early churches.
    by Published on 10-18-2010 03:27 AM     Number of Views: 1735 
    1. Categories:
    2. Elders

    How God Appoints Elders

    How does God appoint elders? In a gathering, there will be a few brothers who appear to be more advanced spiritually than the rest. They seem to have a better testimony, and they do desire to perform the work of an eldership. They begin to function as elders would. Accordingly, an apostle will make them elders to serve the local brethren. The church at Ephesus can serve as a good example of this. At first there were only saved believers in Ephesus because elders had not yet been appointed. But on the second visit of the relevant apostle (in this case, Paul), we find elders are there. The first apostolic trip which Paul took out from Antioch was for the purpose of preaching the gospel and saving souls. Later on, he established elders in each city previously visited (Acts 14.23). Before an assembly is established, the saints are weak, and therefore they need support. But when individuals are raised up to take the responsibility of elders, the apostle concerned will appoint them.

    In other instances, however, the apostles were unable to go to places to appoint elders, and so they sent special envoys to perform the task. Timothy, Titus and others were such persons sent by the apostles. They went to different cities and appointed elders to take local responsibility in the church according to the order of the apostles.

    Since the appointment of elders is for the purpose of representing the authority of God, these elders should understand that Christ is the Head and that He desires to express His will in the Church. They need to seek the mind of the Lord in order to manifest His authority in the assembly. For God uses these men to make decisions on matters as to whether to proceed or to stop. All the other brethren in the assembly need to learn to submit to them. Naturally we do not expect anyone to control us, but these elders do not lord it over us; they simply represent God’s delegated authority, to which we submit ourselves.

    What God has ordained from eternity are both authority and submission. Yet many believers do not like to submit to authority. The world today is full of lawlessness, and I am afraid "the mystery of lawlessness" (2 Thess. 2.7) has already infiltrated the Church. How greatly children criticize their parents without fear, how often wives dominate their husbands, how much students attack their principals and teachers, and how laborers freely strike against their companies! Such things are rampant in our time. Even as the Scriptures predict, now is the time when "the lawless one shall be revealed" (2 Thess. 2.8). If we Christians are not careful, we too will be following after the Antichrist instead of Christ himself. How can we ever expect others to submit to authority if we ourselves do not submit to it? If God should be pleased to place some in the position of authority, we others should learn to submit to them: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account" (Heb. 13.17). In the light of this, we need to submit to the elders.

    The Title and the Appointment of Elders

    To briefly sum up, then, (1) elders are bishops, (2) elders are plural in number, and (3) elders are appointed by apostles or those specially sent by them. Today we know that the question of apostles (as to whether they exist) is unresolved. How, then, will the elders be chosen? From a study of God’s word, we would agree to the following deduction: Since the question of apostles is still unsettled, there is no way to appoint elders officially. We cannot give the title of elder to anyone. If we were to do so, we would have to ask where the apostle is who can appoint the elders. Having said this, however, we do not mean to say that there are not men today who can function as elders. Though there may not be the title of elders today, there nevertheless are men in every place who are like elders and who do the work of the eldership. They act as informal or unofficial elders. Yet the question still remains, How are they raised up? Who asks them to act as elders informally? We must answer that they are appointed by the informal apostles.

    Though this question of apostles remains controversial, there is nonetheless a class of people today who are performing the works of apostles—such works as preaching the gospel and establishing churches. They confess that they fall short of the holiness, power, victory and labor of the apostles because they can only do a small portion—perhaps one thousandth—of the works of the early apostles. Yet God uses these people in our day to labor in various places just as He used the apostles in the earlier days. Formerly it was these apostles who established churches everywhere, but now it is these informal apostles who do such work. We admit they are far inferior to the early apostles, that they are not worthy to be called apostles; nevertheless, we cannot but acknowledge them as doing part of the apostolic work. These men are those whom God uses in today’s ruinous state of the Church as apostles.

    God uses these servants to save sinners and to gather believers together. They are therefore the most qualified persons to help those believers whom they lead and to know who among them should receive honor and act as elders. We who labor in apostolic work are only helping the brethren to submit to these local men. We must be careful lest we fall into the traditional concept of apostolic succession or the special teaching that bishops have apostolic authority. Suppose, for example, that brother Chu is laboring in Potung and that he has led people to Christ. If he asks brother Wang to come to appoint elders, the latter will not know whom to appoint, for only brother Chu knows the local condition. He has led them and nourished them. He knows their spiritual state because he cares for their souls. He alone can help the brethren there to submit to those few among them who function as elders.

    We cannot but submit to authority. May God give us humility. If we are not to act as elders, then we are to submit to people who are
    as elders. We need to learn to be submissive people. If our flesh has been deeply judged, we will view submission to be something easy, beautiful and sweet. But wherever the flesh is not judged, the church will never be built there. If the brethren have their flesh dealt with, there will be no problem in submission. Hence those who do the work of apostles ought to assist the brethren to see who should act as elders and how they should submit to these men.
    by Published on 10-18-2010 01:39 AM     Number of Views: 855 
    1. Categories:
    2. Apostles Set up Churches,
    3. Elders

    The Church Is One
    The Church and the Work I: Assembly Life, 49-52, by Watchman Nee

    The Bible teaches that the Church is one. The Church which Paul belonged to is the same Church to which we all belong. Our Church is the Church also of the apostle John, Martin Luther, Calvin [I know you are probably thinking that is odd for Watchman Nee to mention Luther and Calvin since Nee is clearly OSAS Arminian, but I think he was just using them as alleged giants of the faith, just as he used Wesley below also, even though Wesley was not Arminian] and all the other regenerated people throughout Church history. The Church of the Bible has no distinction as to time, geography, or race. In the eyes of God, from the beginning to the end, past and present, at home and abroad, there is only one Church, not two or more Churches. The Bible recognizes the body of Christ, which is one and one only. There can never be two bodies of Christ because there is but one Head. Though the members are many, the body is one. Hence all the saved people, ancient and modern, at home and abroad, form one Church, one body.

    Why, then, are there “the churches” in various places? Since the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God (Eph. 4.4-6), why do the Scriptures mention the churches? Is there any contradiction in the Bible? For it speaks of one body on the one hand and the churches on the other. This tells us of the different aspects of the Church. Actually, there is only one Church, for the body of Christ is one. But in different localities, there may be as many as three to five thousand believers gathered together or as little as two or three (Matt. 18.20). In any city or village where a group of believers is gathered together, those believers there are the church in that city or village. The Scriptures most emphatically employ the phrase “the church in (or at)” such and such a place. The word “in” shows us that the Church is one, even though its various members are scattered and sojourn in many, many localities. The Bible treats all the believers who sojourn in a given locality as constituting the local church, a miniature representative of the one and only Church.

    One thing is exceedingly precious: “We, who are many, are one bread” (1 Cor. 10.17). The “we” here includes all the believers. There is only one loaf. Hence do not imagine that there is one loaf in Shanghai and another loaf in Peking, and so forth. From the physical viewpoint, there may be tens of thousands of loaves throughout the world; from the spiritual viewpoint, however, there is but one bread loaf before God. Why is there but one loaf? Because being in the flesh we are restricted by time and space. If it were possible, all the believers in the entire world would break one loaf of bread together. But we know that that is not possible. Even so, though all the believers in all the different places throughout the world break the bread respectively, before God there is but one bread loaf being broken. The bread which the hands of the brethren in Shanghai touch is the same bread which the brethren in Peking and the brethren in Hanchow touch. The bread which is broken everywhere represents the one body of Christ. For God has only one Church in the world. And this Church is spread out throughout every city and every village world-wide. And the churches which are thus spread out are called the churches in these cities and villages. For the sake of convenience, these churches in the many cities and villages of the world are called “the churches of God” (2 Thess. 1.4; 1 Cor. 11.16; cf. also 1 Thess. 2.14). In actuality, the churches of God are the Church of God. The Lord calls us to break bread lest we forget the churches at various places. We are not to be an independent church, but to be joined with others as one Church. This is why we use one bread loaf to aid us in recognizing that though there are many believers—past and present, at home and abroad—and many local churches, there is nevertheless but one loaf of bread.

    The bread which we believers world-wide break may amount to tens of thousands of loaves, yet the body of Christ which the bread represents is only one. The Lord that the bread speaks of is also one.

    So that all the miniature local churches stand for the entire body of Christ. A local assembly may have only fifty people gathered together, but what it represents is the entire body of believers, both past and present, at home and abroad. The bread which any local assembly breaks, however small that assembly may be, represents Peter, Paul, Martin Luther, Wesley, and you and me. Wherever the local assembly is, it is a representation of the body of Christ. Therefore no church may take independent action. In all its actions it must take the entire body into consideration. In the meeting, you should not see just the few brothers and sisters who sit by you; instead you should see the entire body of Christ. What you do is not only related to the brothers and sisters immediately around you but it is also related to the whole body of Christ. Because we are one body, what you as a member do is what the body of Christ does. One member may affect the whole body.

    The Chinese who live in the South Seas are mainly Fukien and Kwangtung∗ in origin. In many cities and villages in the South Seas there are Overseas Chinese Fraternities. Though the number of the members of these fraternities varies, wherever the fraternities are in power, the Chinese which they represent are in power; and wherever these fraternities are under oppression, the Chinese they represent also come under oppression. Now just as these fraternities represent China throughout the South Seas, so we in the place where we sojourn represent the Church. From this we can readily perceive the relationship the action of each local assembly has to that of the entire body of Christ, as well as the mutual relationship that obtains among these local assemblies themselves. Though you may be only a miniature church in a single locality, God will nonetheless use this miniature church to manifest the universal Church. So that the small local assembly here is to represent the all-inclusive body of Christ.

    ∗Two southern mainland Chinese provinces.—Translator

    For this reason it cannot but maintain relationship with other local assemblies as well as with brothers and sisters in other places.