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CHRIST ALONE OUR LEADER

 

Why Does Christ Assembly Teach a Plurality of Elders and No Clergy?

 

God gave the church only one Head, Jesus Christ, that He might have the preeminence in all  things (Colossians 1:18). God draws people into the church by faith in Jesus Christ through grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus emphasized that His body has many diverse members, each one essential to the proper function of the whole body (Romans 12:3-5). Jesus never intended the diversity of spiritual gifts to cause divisions or ranks within the Body of Christ, but rather that “all the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:25), so that the individual members suffer and rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26).

 

Spiritual Unity. God bestowed spiritual gifts upon members of the Body of Christ for the edification and unification of the members, so that they may all be one in Christ, the Head of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12). Jesus prayed earnestly for this unity, that all believers may be one, even as He is one with His Father (John 17:21). God commands believers to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). To that end, God has “called believers in one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). As Head of the Church, Jesus Christ personally leads His followers as a Shepherd tends His flock (John 10:10-17). He never intends for His followers to suffer divisions or seek personal glory, but to abstain from following men or dividing themselves into ranks or factions (1 Corinthians 3:1-9). The ministry flows from the spiritual gifts given to all believers, not from offices or officers within the church. Many people forget this essential pattern of New Testament practice.

 

Avoid Titles. Jesus specifically taught His disciples to avoid titles that exalted one believer above another believer. In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus told His disciples to call no man “Rabbi,” “Father,” “Teacher,” or “Leader.” Calling any believer a “Teacher” or “Leader” of the church or bible study specifically violates the command of Christ to avoid such titles. He alone is the Teacher and shares that title with no man (Matthew 23:8). Jesus warned His disciples to beware of such respectful greetings in public (Mark 12:38). Religious leaders, such as the scribes and pharisees, loved the honor and prestige bestowed upon them by the crowds, but Jesus warned His disciples to avoid such self-importance. Some people today love titles like “Reverend” or “Father.” These titles spread division in the body of Christ by separating people into ranks: clergy and laity. Jesus has only one Body and He alone is the Head of that church (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Ephesians 1:15-23). The Bible teaches that Christ alone should be first in all things, and that all believers should treat one another as brothers and sisters (Matthew 23:8). No one should pretend to be any more important than any other believer (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). In fact, Jesus said that the greatest among believers shall be the servant of believers (Matthew 23:11).

 

Servant Leaders. Jesus created His body of believers for “good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Among those good works, Jesus emphasized loving service to God and our neighbors (Mark 12:28-34). He also emphasized that every believer has a duty of service to God (Luke 4:8; Colossians 3:24).

 

Priesthood of All Believers. Every believer stands before God as a priest of God (1 Peter 2:9-10), to perform the services of a priest, offering both himself and all that he possesses as sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1-2). As priests, we exercise God’s spiritual gifts in the humility of daily self-sacrifice (Romans 12:3-8). Pastors and teachers use their gifts to equip believers, so that believers may perform the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13). Believers, gifted by God, and not “the clergy,” perform the work of ministry. Believers alone comprise one body, which Christ anointed for the work of service to all other believers as His holy priests (1 Peter 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 1:21-24).  Great damage has been done to the church through some men and women anointing themselves as leaders in charge of the ministry.  Through spiritual gifts, apportioned by God as He deems best and with at least one spiritual gift bestowed upon every believer, the Holy Spirit energizes believers to perform the work of ministry.  One man or one woman ministry never formed the pattern for assembly practice.  God did, however, provide an organizational structure for the church.

 

Elders and Deacons. God appointed “elders” (“πρεσβυτέρους“) within the local church to perform “overseeing” (“ἐπισκοποῦντες“) functions. Some denominations distinguish between “bishops” and “elders,” but the New Testament writers used those terms interchangeably. In Acts 20:17, Paul called the Ephesian elders of the church (“τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας“) to gather to him. Referring to those same men, he told them in Acts 20:28 to “be on guard for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (“ἐπισκόπους“), to shepherd (“ποιμαίνειν“) the church of God. . . .” God called these men “elders.” They performed the work of “shepherding” the church at Ephesus. The Holy Spirit had appointed them to the office of “overseer,” but even then the overseers were “among” the flock (“ἐν “), denoting that they came from the flock and labored within the flock. Titus 1:5, 7 also shows the terms “elder” and “overseer” used interchangeably. See also 1 Peter 5:1-2 for the same office and function description. Acts 6:1-6 describes “deacons” (“dιακόνους”) as spiritual men, who oversaw the feeding ministry and also preached the Word of God (see Stephen and Philip in Acts 7 and 8). Later, the office of deacon became a part of the church (1 Timothy 3:8-13). As believers, we must obey (“πείθεσθε“) the leaders (“ἡγουμένοις“) of the church, and they must act as men who will give an account to God of the souls they watch over with joy (Hebrews 13:17).  Therefore, we recognize both elders and deacons as offices within the church.

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As we study, we seek to love Jesus more because His word has instructed us so that we learn His ways. Eternal life consists in knowing God the Father, and Jesus Christ Whom God sent. As the eternal God of Glory, One with His Father, the Son of God took flesh and dwelt among us. Because of His death, He used His blood to purchase our redemption. He was raised for our justification. We now live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved us and gave Himself for us. By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit abides in every born-again believer and fills us with His presence and blessings. He leads us into all truth. Jesus is the truth, and the way, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Jesus, our Lord. 
 
We look forward to His imminent return to the clouds of earth, to snatch away the believers alive on earth, so that we may be forever with the Lord. When He returns to the clouds, He will bring with Him all those people in Christ who died before His return to the clouds. We encourage one another with the promises of God, Who makes our path grow brighter and brighter, until the full light of day shines forth. We love Jesus and look forward to seeing Him soon. After Jesus removes the believers from the earth, then a terrible period of seven years follows where God brings measured and precise judgments upon the people alive on earth. God cut those days of  Tribulation short, or no flesh would have been saved. Jesus will then return to earth, slay His enemies, and place His feet on the Mount of Olives where He ascended to heaven. He will then reign on earth for a thousand years, and believers will reign with Him. After the Millennial Reign of Christ, all unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment, and they will suffer according to their deeds done on earth. They will be cast into the Lake of Fire, a place of torment night and day for eternity, because they never received the free gift of salvation while alive on earth. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God. Today we invite you to come and see Jesus, and learn from Him, for He is gentle and humble in heart. Take His yoke upon you, for His burden is easy and His yoke is light. He will give you rest for your soul as you trust Him. We receive salvation only from Jesus, by faith alone in Jesus, Who gives us the free gift of eternal life. 
 
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