As in other areas, innovations have crept into the organization of the New Testament church. In fact, it seems that it was in this area that innovations first made their entrance into this sacred body. We read in Acts 20:28-30, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” The apostle Paul is talking to the Elders of the church at Ephesus. He tells them that from among themselves men would arise and draw away disciples. This was done. In fact, Paul later stated in 2 Thess. 2:7, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work...” Through the organizational make-up of the Lord's Body, Satan found a way to destroy that which was good. And it eventually led to the Dark Ages.

What type of organization did the church have? Where were its headquarters, and who ruled it? All of these questions are important, and demand an answer. First of all, we must remember that Christ is the head of the church. In Eph. 1:22-23, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Again, in Col. 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 might have the preeminence.” Since Christ is the head, and He is in heaven, the church has no earthly headquarters. If it did, that would be proof that it was being governed by human beings, and not God. Thus any other organizational make-up that the church might have, must be in harmony with the teachings of the scriptures, and the Head, Christ.

It might be well to point out that presently there is no such organization as is common to human denominations, known in the Bible. No boards, directors, superintendents, etc., etc. The papal system is also unscriptural!. There is no authority for a universal earthly head of the church. This entire system came about by a misuse of power and a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. In New Testament times each congregation was an independent group. They had their own Elders and Deacons. They exercised no authority over other congregations. Nor were they engaged in unscriptural co-operative efforts. This is what is known as “congregational autonomy” meaning that each church was a unit within itself. That is the way it should be today, but alas--innovations!! Just how long this continued, we don't know. We do know that soon after Paul had the conversation with the Ephesian elders the trend away from things scriptural started. The churches formed organizations. Grouped themselves together. For example, the elders of one church would get together with the elders of another church, etc., until many churches were represented. Men were chosen out of the group to represent them at even larger meetings with other groups until this process built, and built. Finally, the end was the election of one man to become the universal Bishop over the entire church. He was called the Pope. Now, granted this did not happen overnight. In fact, it took years and years even for the first few steps to take place. But in time the gigantic monster of anti-scriptural organization reared its ugly head. That which had begun so successfully was, at least for the present, destroyed, or greatly hampered.

Today, religious organizations are built largely upon the likes and dislikes of man. The main object is “get the job done”. The how isn't even taken into consideration. That is with reference to its being scriptural. What we need now, is for the church to return to the original plan of organization: each church a unit, with its elders and deacons. In Phil. 1: 1 it reads, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” The bishops were originally the principal officers in the local church, along with the deacons. The title “elder” or “presbyter” applied to the same person; “elder” referred to his maturity and dignity, while “bishop” referred to his work of superintendence or overseer. The title “deacon” primarily denotes a servant or helper.

Let us now notice the qualifications of these men called bishops and deacons. I Tim 3:1-13, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husband of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Again we find these instructions in Titus 1:6-9, “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” So gives the qualifications of the men who are to exercise the oversight in the local church along with their helpers.

But what about a church that has no elders and deacons? What prevails here? The answer to this question is seen in Paul's instructions to Titus, Il preacher or Evangelist. Note Chapter 1 :5, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” It was the job of the preacher or evangelist to set in order the congregations so that they could stand on their own feet so to speak.

Elders Deacons
1. Must desire office 1. Grave
2. Without reproach or blameless 2. Blameless
3. Husband of one wife 3. Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience
4. Temperate 4. Proved
5. Sober-minded 5. Not double-tongued
6. Orderly 6. Not given to much wine
7. Given to hospitality 7. Not greedy of filthy lucre
8. Apt to teach 8. Husband of one wife
9. Not given to wine 9. Rule children and own house well.
10. No striker (non-violent) 10. His wife must not be a slanderer, but grave, temperate, and faithful in all things.
11. Gentle
12. Rule own house well, having faithful children
13. Have good testimony of outsiders
14. Lover of good
15. Holy
16. Just
17. Not contentious
18. No lover of money
19. Not a novice
20. Not self-willed
21. Not soon angry