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does God govern his Church? Does God work primarily through one man?
Is the true Church structure like a pyramid?
For years most
of us with a Worldwide Church of God (WCG) background were taught
that government in the Church is hierarchical in form. Our understanding
of hierarchical government in the Church was that God worked primarily
through one man and one man alone. We believed God directed the Church
by directing the top man and everyone else through a descending chain
of command. All power was invested in the top man and delegated at
his sole discretion. No doctrine, ordination, or major decision could
be made in the Church without authorization from the "earthly
of government in the Church took the form of a pyramid. The "earthly
head" was at the top of the pyramid. Underneath the "earthly
head" responsibility was delegated to men of lower rank, captains
thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. This structure, we were told,
was according to the instructions given to Moses in Exodus 18. Exodus
18 stood as the primary example of how the Church should be organized
according to the Worldwide Church of God.
It was thought,
therefore, that Moses was at the top of the pyramid and that underneath
him were the captains of thousands, captains of hundreds, captains
of fifties, and captains of tens in descending ranks. This structure
was transferred to the New Testament Church by saying that "the
Apostle" (Herbert Armstrong) sat in Moses' seat as the "earthly
head" of the Church. Underneath "the Apostle" in rank
were evangelists. Underneath evangelists in rank were pastors. Underneath
pastors in rank were preaching elders; then elders; then local church
elders; then deacons and deaconesses; and beneath all of these ranks
were the "lay" members "the PRIMARY BUILDING BLOCKS
of the Church" (Carl McNair, "How The Church
Functions: Roles and Duties of Members, Hosts, Deacons and Elders,"
Global Church News, July-August 1994, p. 6). It was taught that this
structure was supported by Ephesians 4:11 and 1Corinthians 12:28.
In this paper,
we will examine the above-mentioned scriptures, along with others,
to see the type of Government God has used. We will prove that God
does not primarily work through one man. Instead, God always desires
to have a direct relationship with his people. God's government is
not structured like a pyramid with descending ranks. God
uses the vine as the structure of government in His Church.
How God Governed Israel in the Old Testament
To begin, let's look at how God governed the Church when he brought
Israel out of Egypt. In Exodus 18 we read about the institution of
captains of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Was
this the beginning of government in the Nation of Israel? Was this
the institution of a government structure at all?
tend to read this chapter out of context as if Israel was in a total
state of anarchy prior to this incident. However, by taking note of
the context first, we immediately notice that prior to Exodus 18,
there was government in Israel. Israel had a natural form of tribal
government -- the elder system. The elders of Israel served as elected
representatives of the families, tribal sub-divisions, and tribes
in the government of Israel. This representative type of government
was non-hierarchical and non-pyramidal. Elders served their families
as representatives and leaders giving counsel and guidance. They were
representatives of their families and tribes, not
The elder system
of government differed vastly from the European hierarchical structure
of lords and serfs. Lords owned all the land; they had total power
and made unilateral decisions. In a hierarchical structure, authority
and responsibility is delegated downward. Lords are not accountable
to those beneath them.
In the elder
system, however, every family owns their own land and therefore every
family is a part of the decision-making process. The elders are chosen
by the families in each family branch to represent the family at meetings
of tribal leaders. Each tribe of Israel subdivided into family branches.
At the time of the Exodus, the 12 tribes were subdivided into a total
of 70 major family branches. The elected elder of each of these family
branches was one of the council of 70 elders that went up with Moses
on Mt. Sinai to see God (Exodus 24:9). Though we are not given exact
details, it is reasonable to conclude that each of the 70 major family
branches subdivided further into smaller family groupings lead by
In the elder
system, responsibility and authority is passed onto the representative
from the individual family units. This system therefore is not hierarchical;
nor does is divide the nation into ranks. Contrary to a hierarchical
system, elders are accountable to the family members who
of this is found in Exodus 3. In this chapter God calls Moses and
sends him to the elders of Israel. This verse establishes the fact
that Israel had an elder system of government; and God used this form
of government to communicate with the children of Israel. He did not
abolish this tribal form of government. By the way, this form of government
is still practiced in many African nations.
Exodus 18 must
be understood in light of the fact that Israel already had a system
of government. The time setting of this chapter is also significant.
Many assume the events of Exodus 18 took place prior to the events
of Exodus 20; but this is not true. Exodus 18 is an inset chapter.
This is proved by comparing Exodus 18:1-3 and Exodus 19. In Exodus
18 we read that Jethro meets with Moses at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
However, in Exodus 19 we are given the chronological account of Moses'
ARRIVAL at the foot of Mount Sinai. Thus we know that in time sequence,
the events of Exodus 19:1 occurred prior to the events of Exodus 18.
Furthermore, in Exodus 18:7 we find Jethro, after fully realizing
that the God of Israel truly is God, offering a sacrifice to the Eternal
upon the altar with Moses and the seventy elders of Israel. This could
not have been done prior to an altar being established at the foot
of Mount Sinai. The altar was not built until after Pentecost (when
the law was given in the ears of all Israel) and after Moses built
the altar which we read about in Exodus 24. The day after Pentecost,
Monday morning, Moses woke up early and built the altar (Exodus 24:4).
He then invited the seventy elders to a sacrifice with God on Mount
Sinai. Jethro's sacrifice to God would, therefore, have occurred after
With this background,
we can better understand the events that followed Jethro's sacrifice.
It says in Exodus 18:13
it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people:
and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening."
What day was the next day? Why did the people come to Moses for judgment?
Verse 16 states,
they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and
another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws."
was judging the people in solving disputes. The reason people were
coming to him was due to the fact that they had just received the
laws, the statutes, and judgments from God on Pentecost. The day after
Pentecost they offered sacrifices, and the next day (the morrow),
the Israelites came to Moses so he could judge and solve disputes.
when God spoke to Israel, a carnal people, they did not want God to
speak directly with them. They asked Moses to be a mediator.
God yielded to their request, allowing Moses to stand as the mediator
of the Old Covenant. Moses therefore held a position unique in human
history for he typified Christ in a way that no other human ever would.
No other human has ever stood between God and man except Christ. As
Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant so Christ is the mediator
of the New Covenant and all have access to Christ directly, not through
a hierarchy of men.
Since the people
did not have a direct relationship with God, they needed Moses to
judge them and to solve their disputes. However, Moses could not judge
the entire nation of Israel by himself, so Jethro recommended the
establishment of a judicial system to solve disputes. Though this
system was structured with captains of thousands, hundreds, fifties
and tens, the system was non-hierarchical. In a hierarchical system
directives flow from the top down through a chain of command. Thus
in a hierarchy, the superior initiates contact with his subordinate.
However, in Exodus 18, we do not see the judges initiating contact
with those who had a disputes. Rather the reverse was true. When two
people had a dispute, they took their matter before the lower court,
the captain of ten, to have the matter resolved. If the captain of
ten did not know God's judgment in the matter (for all judgment was
based on God's law and the will of God), then the matter was carried
to a higher court, captain of fifty. This system prevented the smallest
matters from going before Moses. However, it was not a system that
gave the captains of fifties power to direct the affairs of those
who were captains of tens. Neither did it empower those who were captains
of tens to direct the affairs of those they judged. They simply made
known the express will of God when a judgment was needed. These judges
also provided leadership because they were chosen from among those
who were already serving as elected elders.
election, it is also interesting to note that these judges were elected
by the people; they were not chosen from the top down
by Moses. Notice this in Deuteronomy 1:12-13,
"How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and
your burden, and your strife? Take you wise men, and understanding,
and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you."
initiated the judicial system and gave the judges their charge --
the judges were chosen by the children of Israel from among those
who were already serving as elders (known wise men) in Israel.
So when we examine
Exodus 18 in its proper context, the events do not support hierarchical
government at all. Exodus 18 recounts the establishment of a judicial
system in the nation of Israel, not a government system; and the judicial
system was non-hierarchical. The idea that God established a pyramid
form of government in Exodus 18, by which he ruled Israel for all
time is simply not scriptural. This is further disproved by the very
fact that God never ordained successors to the seat
of Moses with one typical and one actual exception. That being the
exception of Joshua as a type of Yeshua (Jesus).
was to bring Israel from Egypt to the Promise Land. Yet, because of
sin, Moses could not complete his mission. The lesson for us is that
with Moses alone we can never enter the Promise Land. We need Yeshua
to bring us in. This was typified by Joshua (same in Hebrew as Yeshua)
who was allowed by God to fulfill the latter part of Moses' mission
by leading Israel into the Promise Land. In that one sense alone,
Joshua sat in Moses' seat.
Joshua God appointed no successor -- proving that God
never intended to work through just one man. If God's
government was hierarchical and structured after the model of a pyramid,
God would always have to appoint someone to the top human position
in order to lead his people. The very fact that God appointed no one
shows that God does not work through pyramids. Pyramids are
pagan structures built by civilizations who neither knew nor worshipped
the true God.
Moses to be a mediator as a type of Christ, but even then God (Jesus)
was Israel's king. The mediation was meant to be temporary and even
during the time of mediation, God visibly led the entire nation by
a pillar of cloud in the day and fire by night. Every Israelite was
expected to follow God. Once Moses died, God expected them to follow
him directly. They were to look to God as their leader. That God expected
this is clearly seen in 1 Samuel 8 in the account of Israel asking
Samuel for a human king. God's response to their request was:
unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for
they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should
not reign over them"(1 Samuel 8:7).
Patterns of God's Government
of government follows a pattern or model evidenced in nature and in
life. An example of this is seen in our solar system by the relationship
of the sun and the planets that orbit around the sun. The sun's connection
with each planet is independent of the sun's connection to other planets.
The sun has a direct connection with each planet regardless of each
planet's proximity to the sun. The solar system is non-hierarchical.
Yet the sun is clearly the ruling body. Likewise in the human body,
the head rules the body but not through a hierarchy. We cannot say
that the eye is over the hand because it's closer to the head or a
part of the head. Nor could we say that it is more important. Every
part of the body is equally important.
The same is
true in the Church. Jesus Christ (God) is the living head of the Church.
He expects us to look to him and to him alone and to follow Him. We
are not to follow men. Since we have God's Holy Spirit, we should
not fall after the same example of disobedience that we read about
in 1 Samuel 8 by asking God to give us a man to lead us. We should
be content to follow God through his spirit.
In fact, we
are warned not to follow men in Jeremiah 17:5. Here the Eternal says,
be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose
heart departeth from the LORD."
God does not
require his children to have to trust men and what they tell us. That's
why he has given each one of us access to His Word. We have direct
access to God.
The New Testament Church is a spirit-led church. It is not a human
organization. It is a spiritual organism where the living head is
Jesus Christ himself.
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth
in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without
me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
God uses the
vine to typify organization of the Church. In God's model, every
member is a branch. Every member in the true church
is connected directly to Christ with no intermediaries. By using the
vine, Jesus showed us that God's government does not take the form
of a pyramid. He did not give us the idea that members are connected
to him through a descending chain of command. The structure of the
church is not a tree structure. It is a vine structure.
Paul outlines the only chain of command that exists in 1Corinthians
11:3. He says,
I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and
the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
The chain is
from the Father, to Christ to each family. Each family reports directly
to Christ, not through a chain of human leaders. Paul did not say
the head of every man is his local minister and the head of every
minister is the local evangelist, and the head of every evangelist
is his apostle and the head of the apostle is Christ. Such a structure
would in fact contradict the very first commandment because when we
have men standing between us and God, we are guilty of idolatry.
says no man can serve two masters. Paul said, there is One Lord (Eph
4:5). Yet, in hierarchical systems, those on lower levels have more
than one Lord, for they must answer to those who are above them in
rank. Each rank exercises lordship over those under them. To operate
successfully in such structures, each person learns to please the
man above him in rank. But Paul said,
I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be
the servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
You can't be
a servant of Christ and at the same time be required to follow the
dictates of men. There is only one true head that we need to submit
to and that head is Christ.
put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over
all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him
that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23).
committed all judgment unto the Son: ... And hath given him authority
to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John
We don't have
to answer to men. We are not accountable to the dictates of men. For
this reason Paul says,
why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought
thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of
Christ" (Romans 14:10).
structure of government hinders the leadership of Christ in the Church.
As if through a funnel, the works of Jesus are thought to be channeled
through one man, and from him they are thought to trickle down to
the rest of the congregation as delegated by the one man. In this
model of government, Jesus is thought to only communicate to members
through the one man, who for the church stands in the place of Christ.
An example of this would be seen if God were to give an unordained
member the gift of healing or gift of prophecy. In Churches using
the hierarchical structure, such a member would not be allowed to
use the gift in the church without first seeking approval from the
ministry. In most cases, if a member claimed to have the gift of prophecy,
he was told that the spirit speaking to him may not be of God, but
could be a demon.
long time evangelist, trained by Herbert W. Armstrong, said that he
would not accept anyone who said they were a prophet unless God spoke
to him first and told him so. He even suggested that he may one day
choose on his own to ordain someone to the "rank" of prophet.
This type of
hindrance is common place in churches that are organized in a hierarchical
manner. Such structures stop Jesus from directly leading the Church.
In effect, an organization that incorporates an hierarchical form
of government is telling God that you cannot lead these members except
God leads His Church: The Book of Acts
Now let's notice
in the book of Acts how God leads the Church of God by His Spirit.
The true Church of God is a Spirit-led Church. It is not the church
of men or a man, but in every sense the Church of God.
was resurrected and after he was seen by many in the space of about
forty days, He instructed His disciples to remain in Jerusalem and,
for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of
me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized
with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:4-5).
Before the arrival
of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the disciples were all together in
one place, number about one hundred and twenty all together (see 1:15).
Peter then discusses with the entire group the need for a replacement
for Judas. From this discussion we learn a couple of things about
the structure of the Church.
disciple was involved in the decision making process. When it says,
they appointed two ..." (v. 23),
it is apparent
that the entire 120 members participated in making this appointment.
If this had taken place in the days of WCG, the man at the top of
the pyramid would have made the decision and would not have involved
the general membership in the process.
Second, we see
from this example the true qualifications of an Apostle. True Apostles
were in every Biblical case, eye witnesses of the resurrected Jesus
Christ. Apostleship was a special gift given to the Church to bear
witness that Jesus rose from the dead according to the scriptures.
This gift was given so that the New Testament could be written. This
is why Paul was inspired to write that the Church was
upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20).
Third, we notice
that the saints did not seek their own will in this decision. Neither
did they look to any man for direction. They wanted God to make the
final decision. Since they did not yet possess the Holy Spirit they
cast lots so that God's will would be made know. However, once the
disciples received the Holy Spirit, they did not need to cast lots
any more -- for God was in them and directed them through His Spirit.
In Acts 2, we
read about the birth of the New Testament Church through the outpouring
of God's Holy Spirit. Contrary to the hierarchical structure,
the spirit was given directly by God to every member present.
If God's form of government was pyramidal, He should have given the
Holy Spirit to Peter alone, who in turn would have given it to the
other Apostles, who in turn would have laid hands on the rest of the
one hundred and twenty to give them the spirit. But it didn't happen
God dealt with
everyone the same way. God acknowledged no ranks.
Every saint received the Holy Spirit; and every saint was given divine
utterance and spoke in tongues. God revealed that he planned to speak
through all of the saints, not just a special few.
In Acts chapter 6, seven men were chosen to serve in the Church. This
incident also reveals a lot about government in the Church. Notice
first of all that the Apostles did not choose the servants themselves.
Instead, they said,
brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full
of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business"
mirrored that which took place in Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1:13.
Secondly, we notice that the men who were chosen were charged with
the moral oversight of the food being distributed daily to the widows
in need. Nowhere in this chapter were they referred to as deacons.
They were ministers in every sense of the word, and were actually
chosen as elders in the Church. Their selection and the subsequent
laying on of hands of the Apostles served to confirm what God was
already doing through them and to give them special charge and oversight
in the local Church.
did not take orders from the 12 Apostles. They were directed by Jesus
Christ. Stephen didn't have to seek permission from Peter to teach
in synagogue -- he was empowered by Christ (v. 8-10).
was martyred, we see that all of the saints were involved in preaching
the gospel and that they were not looking to men for instructions.
at that time there was a great persecution against the church which
was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout
the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles .... Therefore
they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word"
From these verses
we clearly see that everyone was preaching the Gospel.
The work of God was not a one man show.
As the history
of the early Church continues in Acts 8:5, we are given the account
of how one disciple who was scattered by the persecution preached
the word. We see Philip, who was one of the seven going into Samaria
preaching the gospel, healing sickness and casting out demons. As
a result of Philip's preaching, almost everyone in the city got baptized.
Philip didn't have to seek authorization from "headquarters"
before baptizing, he simply did whatever the Spirit led him to do.
Had he been a part of WCG, he would have been disfellowshipped for
acting without authorization.
when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had
received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:[this
proves that Philip acted without seeking approval from men, for
they heard about it after the fact] Who, when they were come down,
prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as
yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in
the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them,
and they received the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8:14-17).
were given a special gift to back up the witness they were giving
of the resurrection. Whomever they laid hands on received the Holy
Spirit in a visible way. A tongue of fire would fall on their head
and they would speak in tongues. That these visible signs were manifest
is attested to by the fact that Simon the sorcerer
that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was
given ... " (Acts 8:18).
gift was not given to the Apostles to prevent others from performing
baptisms, but to enhance the preaching of the Apostles' witness. God
backed them in a special way. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit given
to all who repented, and were baptized according to the scriptures
(Acts 2:38). Peter said,
are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost,
whom God hath given to them that obey him" (Acts 5:32).
had completed what God wanted him to do in Samaria the Spirit led
Philip toward the South unto Gaza where he met a man of Ethiopia,
a eunuch of great authority
the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near and join thyself to this
chariot" (Acts 8:29).
the Spirit was leading the Church
Those who teach
the hierarchical structure love to quote the next few verses which
Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias,
and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How
can I, except some man should guide me? " (v. 30-31).
From this they
say that we need a man to guide us. However, they tend to forget that
this conversation took place while the eunuch was yet unbaptized and
without the Holy Spirit. As we continue reading though, we see that
Philip preaches Jesus. As they passed by water the eunuch asked to
Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son
of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went
down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized
him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of
the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and
he went on his way rejoicing."
the eunuch didn't need a man to guide him anymore. The Spirit took
the man away. From henceforth the eunuch would be led by the Spirit.
Jesus Is The Living Head of His Church.
In Acts 9 we
read about the calling of the Apostle Paul. If the Church was structured
like a pyramid, then Christ should have revealed to Peter the "supposed
chief Apostle", that He was going to call Paul. In fact, Peter
should have been the one sent to Paul instead of Ananias. But God
didn't reveal Paul's calling to Peter at all. God called Paul and
Paul began preaching immediately without any mention of Peter. In
Galatians, Paul elaborates on this fact to show that his Apostleship
was not from man. It's also interesting to note in Acts 9:20 that
as soon as Paul was converted, he began preaching Christ. This would
never be allowed in a hierarchical structure. If a person came into
WCG and began preaching, even if he said God told him to do it, it
would not be allowed, and the person would be disfellowshipped if
In Acts 10,
God uses Peter to bring the first Gentiles into the Church. In chapter
11:2 we find the members contending with Peter for letting them come
in. This proves that Peter, like the elders of ancient Israel, was
accountable to those he served. He was not above the other saints
in rank. He couldn't threaten to disfellowship anyone who dared question
him. Nor did he at any point attempt to prove he was right by virtue
of his "position" in the Church, for there are no ranks
in the body of Christ. Rather, Peter explains that God revealed this
to him in a vision, and based on what God was doing, and the vision
that Peter received "they held their peace"
In Acts 13 God
speaks directly to a small group of prophets and teachers. None of
the original 12 were present. No instruction came to this group through
a chain of human leaders. The Holy Spirit simply said,
Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called
them" (Acts 13:2)
Again, by this
example, God clearly illustrates that His church is not organized
in a pyramid hierarchical manner. Once they were instructed by the
Spirit, they did what God directed them to do. If God tells
you to do something, what more approval do you need?
Acts 15 illustrates
how a doctrinal problem was solved. Notice that when this problem
arose, Paul didn't try to "pull rank." If he was at the
top of a pyramid over the Churches he served, there wouldn't even
have been any need for a conference. The fact that they held a conference,
proves that there were no ranks in the Church. It's also important
to note that everyone in the Church at Jerusalem participated in the
discussion. In verse 4 we see,
were received of the church and of the apostles and elders, and
they declared all things that God had done with them."
the certain Pharisees rose up and raised the dispute. Then they all
got together to resolve the issue with all the Apostles and elders.
We know that the entire Church was involved in the discussion because
the multitude is referred to in verse 12, and when James summarized
the conclusion, we read,
pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church ... "
We often quote
Acts 17:11, but we don't often focus on the anti-hierarchical nature
of the verse. Starting in verse 10 we read,
the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto
Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These
were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received
the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures
daily, whether those things were so" (vv. 10-11).
If Paul were
at the top of a pyramid, his word would carry some weight. But Paul
didn't expect anyone to accept his word. He had no authority of himself.
Paul confirmed that all authority rests in the Word of God. If each
member of the Church must prove everything from the Word of God himself,
then each member need only follow the Word of God. The Word of God
is the Head of the Church. We don't have to follow men.
Men can guide
us to the words of Christ. Men may have gifts that enable them to
see things others may not of themselves clearly see. Nonetheless,
such men must not strive to be the authority themselves. Their role
is simply to help people see the expressed will of God. Every member
of the Church must be following God.
In Acts 18,
we read about a certain Jew named Apollos. Apollos was teaching in
the synagogue knowing only the baptism of John. He didn't have to
wait for an "ordained" minister to authorize him to teach.
He wasn't even asked to take a back seat, in spite of his incomplete
understanding of the gospel. Instead, Aquila and Priscilla, simply
pulled him aside and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
And immediately they encouraged him to keep right on preaching, even
sending him forth with a letter of recommendation.
all that we've examined, scripture does not support a
hierarchical structure of government in God's Church. The
scriptures consistently show that God works directly with each member
through the written Word, and through the Living Word by His Spirit.
Yet, some would
argue, if we don't have hierarchy, won't we have anarchy?
means "no head", for the root word "arch" means
head. The prefix "hier" means "priests" (see Webster's
Dictionary). In a "hier-archy"
the priests have become the head of the Church. This is obviously
contrary to the structure God has placed in His Church, for God has
placed Christ as the head of the Church. The true structure of government
in the Church is not a hierarchy, it is what we might call a "Christ-archy,"
"christocracy," or simply a "Theocracy" -- "Theos"
of course being the Greek word for God.
In God's Church,
He is the Head. When men let Christ lead, we don't end up with confusion
and anarchy. Christ is capable of leading his Church, and the book
of Acts gives ample testimony to this fact.
Jesus commanded his disciples not to use a hierarchical form of government.
In Matthew 20:20-26 we read of an incident where the mother of James
and John, along with her sons, lobbied for the "top" two
positions in the Kingdom under Christ.
her, "Ye know not what ye ask" (v. 22).
She obviously didn't understand God's structure of Government. In
the Kingdom of God, everyone will sit with Christ in his throne. There
won't be any "top" positions under Christ. We will all rule
with Christ as a family. Jesus promised,
him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even
as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne"
enters God's kingdom will share in the rulership of the world. We
will lead the nations as a family, as a Kingdom of priests. All who
sit with Christ on His throne will be given
over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as
the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as
I received of my Father" (Rev. 2:26-27).
explained that he could not give them such a position above the other
saints whom he had called, the other ten Apostles, having overheard
moved with indignation against the two brethren" (Mat. 20:24).
Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes
of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them [the Greek term translated
"exercise dominion" is "katakurieuo", which
means "downward lordship" or "hierarchical control"]
and they that are great exercise authority [Greek "katexousiazo"
meaning "downward control"] upon them. But it shall
not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let
him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let
him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered
unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many"
not to exercise hierarchical control over others is as direct as any
of God's commandments. Jesus said, "IT SHALL NOT BE SO
AMONG YOU! "
and the Pharisees
In Matthew 23,
Jesus adds to this instruction by upbraiding the Pharisees for attempting
to exercise hierarchical control. He says,
scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of
Moses" (Mat. 23:2, New American Standard version).
This is obviously
the correct meaning of the Greek, for Jesus never suggested that the
Pharisees had authority from God to direct the lives of anyone. All
throughout the Gospels, Jesus instructed his disciples to disregard
the teachings of the Pharisees. The Pharisees thought they were above
the masses, but Jesus showed that they were above no one.
Speaking of them he said,
all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their
phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love
the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ;
and all ye are brethren" (Mat. 23:5-8).
Jesus told us not to call men Rabbi because we are all brethren. The
only one over us is Christ. Jesus is our Master. Everyone else is
on the same level. There are no ranks in the body of Christ.
call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father,
which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your
Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be
your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased;
and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (v. 9-12).
Though we abstained
from using the title "Father" in reference to the ministry,
we did use the title "Mr." which is an abbreviation for
"Mister" which according to Webster's Encyclopedic
dictionary of the English language is a variation of
the word "Master." We used "Mr." as a religious
title and broke the spirit of Christ's instruction -- creating a division
in the membership. In the WCG members were divided into two classes
-- clergy and laity. This division is contrary to the scriptures.
According to Christ, we are all brothers with no class divisions.
New Testament Scriptures
With all this
understood, let's turn now to the other two scriptures that have been
commonly misused by those who teach hierarchical government in the
Church -- Ephesian 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28.
In both cases
the subject being discussed is spiritual gifts, not rank or office.
Let's begin with Ephesians 4:11. Earlier in the chapter, Paul reminds
is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of
your calling;" (v. 4).
The true Church
is a spiritual organism not limited to any human corporate structure.
All who have the Holy Spirit are a part of the body of Christ.
Paul continued, saying there is
Lord (not several in an ascending chain of command), one faith,
one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through
all, and in you all."
these words affirm a non-hierarchical structure in the Church.
At this point,
Paul begins to discuss certain gifts Jesus has given to the church
to equip every member for the work of the ministry. Paul states,
unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of
the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high,
he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (vv. 7-8).
positions discussed in the following verses are the gifts that Jesus
gave to men. The gifts are listed as follows:
he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints,
for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ"
are not ranks in the Church, and the order of the listing in no way
implies a hierarchical structure. This is proved by examining the
gifts listed in the original Greek and understanding how these gifts
were used in the Church. For example, the gift translated as "teachers"
comes from the Greek word "didaskalos,"
Strong's Concordance #1320. Didaskalos
is used in the New Testament 58 times and most often in reference
to Christ. Jesus was a "didaskalos"
(teacher). Was he under the Apostles in rank?
is translated from the Greek word, "euaggelistes" (Strong's
#2099). This word is used three times in the New Testament. The first
use of the term is in Acts 21:8. Here we read,
the next [day] we that were of Paul's company departed, and came
unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist,
which was [one] of the seven; and abode with him. "
is referred to as one of the seven who were chosen to serve in Acts
6. Here he is called an evangelist. Yet, nowhere do we ever see Philip
raised in rank. He didn't start off as a teacher, then get raised
to the rank of pastor, and then raised again to the rank of evangelist.
Evangelism is a gift. It simply means a preacher of the Gospel as
opposed to an office of rank.
Now let's turn
to 1 Corinthians 12. Immediately, we notice that the chapter starts
concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant"
of this chapter is gifts, not ranks. This fact is confirmed by the
last verse in the chapter which states,
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The reason this
chapter was written was due to the fact that some in the Church thought
they were superior to others based on the gift they possessed. Paul
was therefore inspired to explain,
covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent
way" (v. 31).
there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are
differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are
diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh
all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every
man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word
of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing
by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another
prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds
of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these
worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man
severally as he will" (vv. 4-11).
Paul in these
verses made it clear that these gifts do not elevate one
man over another. He stressed that regardless of who
had which gift, it was God doing the work through His Spirit. Paul
also stressed here that God gave the gifts to whomever He willed.
Since any member could receive any gift, we realize that God was not
in any way validating a hierarchical structure.
As Paul continues
in the chapter, he uses the body as an analogy to explain that all
the members in the Church are equal regardless of what gift they might
have. Rather than supporting hierarchy, this chapter actually refutes
As we approach
the often misused verse (v. 28) we read, starting in verse 27,
ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath
set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly
teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments,
diversities of tongues" (vv. 27-28).
assume that this listing of gifts are actually descending ranks. Yet,
we have already proved that the context of the chapter is gifts, not
ranks. Further, we see that several of the gifts mentioned in the
list cannot even be thought of as ranks. Have you ever
seen anyone ordained to the rank of "diversities of tongues?"
Can one be raised from the rank of "healings" to the rank
of miracles? Or teachers?
Nothing in this
chapter supports the notion that these gifts are offices in the Church.
As Paul continues his letter in chapters 13 and 14, he shows that
love is more important than any other gift (ch. 13), and encourages
all of the members to pray for the gift of prophecy (ch. 14). If
members had to rise in rank to receive this gift, Paul would not have
encouraged them to pray for the gift. Further, in chapter
14, we see that various members had various gifts, and that these
gifts carried with them no connotation of rank.
The Word of
God is consistent from the beginning, straight through to the end
-- Jesus Christ is the living head of the Church. He is the vine,
and all the members are connected directly to Christ in a vine structure,
not through a chain of human leaders as represented in a corporate
tree structure or pyramid. As members of the body of Christ, we have
one head -- one arch. The "arch"
of the Church is Christ.