What does God say about this? Is it right to have church hierarchy and order or is it right to do whatever you want? Or both?
First, it is always best to establish vocabulary to make sure we’re on the same page.
The Church (1577 eÍkklhsiða)
o a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
* an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
* the assembly of the Israelites
* any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously
* in a Christian sense
• an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
• a company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake
• those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body
• the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
• the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven
I did some study on “the church,” as defined in the Christian sense above, in scripture and here are some things that I have found:
Matthew 18:17 shows that ‘the church’ has some involvement when a brother or sister in Christ is living in sin. It does not indicate a specific person or office within the church in which to take the matter to, it simply says, ‘the church’. Therefore, the church as a whole does have some authority,
Acts 14:23 indicates that men can appoint men within a local church. In addition, it would show that the disciples felt that there should be some kind of leadership in each church. It is also interesting that these elders were basically new converts.
Acts 16:4-5 Indicates that Paul and Timothy delivered to the churches the regulations decided upon by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. This would seem to establish some sort of central governing body for the church in Jerusalem and that Paul felt he needed to convey regulations to all the churches in his care. Acts 15:41 indicates that Paul established or confirmed many churches, so it did not have to be the governing body at Jerusalem that established new churches.
There are several house churches mentioned. It doesn’t indicate how they got started, but I would tend to believe it couldn’t have been much different than it is today. However, the one major difference I can see between today and then is that you had to be a serious believer to start one then as you would open the doors to persecution, imprisonment, or death. It wasn’t a decision made lightly. (Romans 16:1-5; 1 Cor 16:19 at Aquila and Priscillas; Col 4:15-16 at Nymphas; Phm 1:2)
Actually, a few realizations came to me while doing this study.
Getting back to basics as Paul paralleled the marriage of a husband and wife with Christ and the church. Eph 4:23-32. Truly in a marriage, there is no set in stone hierarchy as far a society goes. It’s not like at a place of employment where there is usually a boss over a boss over a boss. It’s just a man and a woman. Yet, God established a hierarchy of the man being the head. In other words, the man really is only accountable to God. As a brother in Christ, he could be “disciplined” by the church as outlined in Matthew 18. But as the husband, he is the leader.
When we really look at the church in scripture, one thing becomes clear, Christ is the head of the church, just as the husband is to be head of the household.
Acts 2:47 shows us who really increases the church – the Lord.
Acts 20:17-28 shows who really establishes the overseers of the churches – Holy Spirit. Overseer = a superintendent, that is, Christian officer in general charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively): – bishop, overseer.
1 Cor 12:28 shows who sets people apart within the church – God
Eph 1:22 shows who is the real head of the church – Christ.
What I’ve gathered from this is that God is into order. There needs to be someone leading, establishing the rules, and keeping confusion down. There should be elders, decons, teachers, pastors, etc. The church can be held in any kind of location, even in a house. But ultimately, it is God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit that will establish those people, set apart those people, and add to the number in the church.
Bottom line to all of this is, regardless of the denomination or non-denomination, the different doctrines or non-doctrines, Christ builds the church, no one else does. God has brought many beautiful things, and many powerful servants out of the dirty, filthy, most corrupt places in the Bible. I have no doubt that out of the worst denomination or worst doctrine you can think of, God is calling someone right now, despite the work of man.
For those of us who are brother’s and sister’s in Christ, looking for a good church home? Just like anywhere else, you will have people who are false prophets, false teachers and some who will establish churches on their own. This is why Christ said that we needed to know people by their fruits. Too often, we tend to view the fruits of a pastor by the number of the congregation. But that is not accurate. It is by their fruits in their own personal lives that we should know them. As Paul says, 1 Tim 3:5, if a man can not know how to rule over his own house, how should he care for the church?
What does God say about this?
He [Christ] also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]. (Col 1:18)
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ~ Jesus (Matthew 16:18)
Thanks for the journey through scripture.