\o/    2 or 3 gathered, number 5

Every Christian is a Minister

The personal servant-ministry of every believer is the centerpiece of the Christian Home Church. This is our theme and our song. It is the drumbeat to which we march as we pass through this world into the next.

It is therefore no small consolation to our faith to behold the veracity of the Scriptures confirmed as the inspired sources echo one another in this tremendous matter.

Jesus Christ, the God-man: But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And 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. Matt. 23:8-11.

John, the apostle: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17.

Paul, premier missionary: Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Rom. 12:20.

John the Baptist, the greatest born of women: He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Luke 3:11.

James, the half-brother of Jesus: Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15-17.

Away, therefore, with the emaciated structures that designate some as "ministers" and others as "just laymen". Advocates of this ever-present, upside-down format are unable to trace it to Christ nor to his Apostles. The misguided zeal that defends these out-dated traditions is equaled only by that of modern evolutionists. The former violate the Biblical record as the latter violate the fossil record. Both are desperately trying to make pieces somehow fit together that do not fit together. These dots, however, do not connect.

The religions of today, with useless hierarchies concern us today because they are, we believe, impeding the progress of God's kingdom. They are impeding it by a scheme and a scam that sends many into the stands while a few monopolize the playing field. This is the reason that most Christians have yet to confront their identity as full-time, life-long ministers of the gospel and grace of God's Son. The term used in the original for minister or servant is diakonos. It should sound familiar. If deacon or servant is simply an office in the church, why would our Lord utilize this exact word when describing the Christian life in the above text? And likewise, in reviewing the lives and revealing the final destiny of every person on earth in Matt. 25:41-45: Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Diakonia is the general term that so perfectly symbolizes and summarizes the life-plan of every Christian&endash;male and female. If it were a word that signified, as it does today, a lower ecclesiastical officer, it would not be applied to Jesus Himself, Paul, Timothy, and to civil servants. Rom. 15:8; 1 Tim. 4:6; 1:12: Rom. 13:4.

These are plain facts that can be verified by any New Testament Greek lexicon or text. And please bear with us if we seem to be laboring these points. We are attempting in these first newsletters to figuratively "clear the land" before we "start to build." This is because function will invariably follow form. What the church is will determine what the church does.

This matter of officers is a sticking point with many of our brethren, if you have not noticed. Too many Home Church people as well are preoccupied with questions about whether they have enough "officers" to have a "real" church.

Pure Christianity instead summons every soldier to the battlefield, where they are to utilize their gifts for the good of man and for the glory of God. Acts 8:4. The spiritual armor of Ephesians 5 isn't for clergymen but for every man and every woman. The Lord has promised to furnish every saint with the requisite knowledge for these tasks. James 1:5.

The plain plan of God says, If you can do it, then you may do it, and you must do it. The plan of man says, "You cannot do anything unless we allow you and license you." This is certainly why Charles Spurgeon, England's unordained "Prince of Preachers" used to say and pray, "Lord, lead me not into a committee." This is why D.L. Moody was not "ordained" and did not seek to be. This is the reason why Paul and Peter wrote: Rom. 12:6-8, Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. And 1 Pet. 4:11: If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

This voluntary, servant-leadership ideal, we are confident, is what the world is now waiting to behold. This and this alone will turn their skeptical heads at this late hour. They are weary of all the self-serving forms of Christianity that have come and gone.

The spirit of diakonia can heal first our fragmented Christian army, then our fragmented society &endash; from the self-absorbed child to the want-it-all-now teenager to the power-playing spouse to the work-evading government handout recipient to the doing-little employee to the grabbing-it-all employer.

Furthermore the implementation of widespread Christian ministry will bring a halt to the spending orgy that has bankrupted the government of the United States and other socialist nations.

This service lifestyle, we are persuaded, will usher in an unprecedented era of evangelism and Kingdom advancement. It will, at long last, represent the triumph of good over evil as it represents the ultimate empowerment of both the Christian group and the Christian individual. The empowerment, we mean, that results in the giving up of power. Matt. 5:38-48, 1 Cor 6:7, Philippians 2:3-9, Prov. 11:24.

Let every follower of Jesus now rise up to his or her ministerial responsibility, regardless of what kind of terminology you employ. Begin now, if you have not, to serve God &endash; to love Him and your neighbor as yourself. Do not entertain the thought that you can somehow love and serve God without loving and serving your neighbor. In the time that is left, do not hide your talents in the napkin of covetousness while those about you are groping in the cruel darkness of spiritual and physical deprivation.

Above all, do not do as so many of the "clergy" and "laity" as they adopt all the language and vocabulary of servanthood and yet fail to be servants themselves. This is self-deceit and self-defeat of the greatest magnitude. Truly our excellent Saviour deserves better.

His own habit was to do good as he made his earthly sojourn. Acts 10:38. Mark 10:45: For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Function, Not Office

The New Testament lists at least fifteen different positions of leadership in the church. These include: apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors, elders, bishops, deacons, miracle workers, healers, tongues-speakers, helpers and administrators. This number includes, however, some positions of a temporary or passing nature, along with others which are alternative designations for the same persons. The matter is further confused by the fact that most of these terms have both specific and general connotations. The word apostle is used, for example, in the specific sense to identify the twelve specially chosen disciples of Jesus, along with Paul; but it is also used generally to describe one who was sent somewhere&endash;such as a missionary. Matt. 10:2-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:12-13, 1 Cor. 15:8, Acts 13:1, 14:14, 15:13,22, Gal. 1:19. It becomes apparent that, unless one approaches the New Testament with some preconceptions of a simple, exclusive order of leadership, it will not easily be found there.

Part of the difficulty lies in our tendency to think in terms of officers and titles, rather than of functions. Most simply stated, when something in God's will needed to be accomplished, a person was designated to do it. He or she might do it only once, for a brief period of time, or for a lifetime. Once the task was accomplished, no one else would be called upon to do it unless it needed to be done again to fulfill God's purposes. Along this line, O.L. Shelton has written: The work of all. . . was functional, not official. The needs of the congregations, or groups of Christians, created the work which was essential to the "building up of the body of Christ." People were appointed to perform the services that met the needs. (O.L Shelton, The Church Functioning Effectively, St. Louis: The Bethany Press, 1946. p.28).

Such a revolutionary concept is unheard of within our federal government's bureaucratic system, where offices come into existence to meet a need in time, but remain in existence in perpetuity, even though the need ceased to exist twenty years ago. Sadly, the same situation can exist within the church if this New Testament concept of the temporary functions is overlooked.

A startling discovery is made when one tries to find the term office anywhere in the New Testament. While many translators have arbitrarily taken the liberty of inserting the word into several passages (Acts 1:20; Rom. 11:13; 12:4; 1 Tim. 3:1, 10), it does NOT appear in the original Greek text. In fact, the term office is never used anywhere within the pages of the New Testament in application to any position of leadership in the church! Only in the case of Jesus (Heb. 5-7), who is described as a high priest after the order of Melchizadek, and of the Jewish priesthood (Luke 1:8) is such a term used. Its absence is deliberate and significant, although few seem to be aware of it. J.W. McGarvey, back in 1870, acknowledged that it might be absent, but considered the continued use of the word with application to church leaders as only a matter of semantics. (J.W. McGarvey, A Treatise on the Eldership, 1870: reprint, Murfreesboro: Dehoff Publications, 1962. p. 10). Doubtless, the translators shared his opinion, which is a reflection upon how deeply our culture has affected our thinking concerning leadership concepts. There is definitely a Greek word for office, but it is not used by the inspired writers to describe church leaders. A study of the Greek in each of these instances in the New Testament reveals that the actual word used is a term of specific function (overseeing, serving, etc.).

Herein, then, lies the source of much of our current confusion and impotence. We have insisted on taking functions and making them into offices, simply because that is the way it is done in our culture. We have gone so far as to even insert it into the text of our New Testaments to give the concept of offices some semblance of legitimacy. We have gone too far, and we have suffered the consequences! While many regard as a type of blasphemy the title "Reverend" applied to a pastor's name, due to its only Scriptural application to God, there ought to be even greater horror over the appropriation of the term "office" in its widespread application to positions of church leadership. The New Testament church has only one Officer&endash;Jesus! It is time to cast off preconceptions and to take a fresh look at the New Testament, considering the possibility that one might function without an office to meet needs with ministry&endash;however revolutionary that may be to us.

Moses Lard, and early spokesman for the Restoration Movement and editor of the Lard's Quarterly, maintained, as we have seen, "The overseers did not become such in virtue of their age, but in virtue of their special appointment to their office." (Moses E. Lard, "Ordination of Church Officers," Lard's Quarterly, July, 1865, p.351). Then he took the matter one step further: Before the ordination the man is an elder, and after it an elder; but before the ordination he is an elder without authority. It is the act of ordination that gives office, that gives authority. (Lard, p.360).

Lard was dead wrong on all counts! We have already demonstrated the fact that there is no office of elder. The fact of the matter is that there is no office of anything in the church. Jesus is the church's only officer, according to the Scriptures. A church which creates any offices for its leaders is defying the authority of Lord Jesus. Furthermore, it ceases to be a New Testament church, no matter what name they paint on the church sign. The concept of leaders as officers has invaded the church from our culture. We have been so enamored by this pagan notion that leaders must be officers that we have even licensed our Bible translators to violate the text and to substitute this word for the Scriptural words of function which appear in the Greek version (Acts 1:20; Rom. 11:13; 12:4; 1 Tim. 3:1, 10). Far more than a matter of semantics, which we have tended to lightly excuse as our prerogative, this counterfeit concept of church leadership amounts to treason. It is also the source of many of our problems in the church today.

The second error Lard makes is his assertion that the act of ordaining a man to the eldership conveys upon him authority over the church. This concept has been unanimously upheld throughout the churches&endash;without a shred of Scriptural evidence. In fact, the assumption of authority by any church leader constitutes outright mutiny against Christ, according to the Scriptures. Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt. 28:18). If this be so, where does the church get its authority to convey on the elders by virtue of their election, appointment or ordination? The authority is either wrested from Christ and handed over to the elders, or there is no authority to give them. It is not a commodity which the church can manufacture and distribute. Jesus owns all the rights to it. Lest we be accused of creating a tempest in a teapot over a fine point of trivia, or of straining the point of a single text, a careful examination of the use of the word authority in the New Testament is in order. The Greek word is exousia. It has a relatively wide range of meanings, which requires us to categorize the cases of its use in Scripture in order to comprehend the point.

The word is first used in relationship to free will and the freedom of choice, including personal rights of choice. In John 10:18 Jesus discusses His right, or choice, to lay down his life and to take it up again. In Acts 5:4 Peter points out that Ananias and Sapphira had the right of choice to do whatever they wished with the money they received from the property they had sold. In Romans 9:21 the potter's freedom of choice over what to do with his lump of clay is used as an example. 1 Corinthians 7:37 involves the making up of one's mind about marriage. 1 Corinthians 8:9 is a warning about exercising freedoms of choice without regard to their consequences which affect others. In 1 Corinthians 9:4, 5, 12 Paul is defending his rights concerning marriage and the expectation of financial support from the churches he serves. In Hebrews 13:10 the Christian is told he has an altar from which the Jewish priests have no right to eat. Revelation 13:5 speaks of the beast's limited freedom of activity and influence. Then in Revelation 22:14 those who wash their robes have the right to the tree of life and to entry into the holy city.

The second use of the word represents the ability to do something. Matthew 9:6, 8 and Mark 3:15 describe Jesus's ability or power to forgive sins and to drive out demons. John 1:12 discusses the right or ability of all who believe in Jesus to become the children of God. In Acts 8:19 Simon the Sorcerer is attempting to procure the ability to convey the powers of the Holy Spirit which he observed were passed on to others by the laying on of the hands of the Apostles. Revelation 9:19 refers to the source of the horses' power, and Revelation 13:2, 12 has to do with the abilities delegated to the first beast by the dragon, and to the second beast by the first. Luke 12:5 and Acts 1:7 both speak of God's power, and Acts 26:18 mentions Satan's power. Finally, Jesus's hearers conclude from His teaching that He must have extraordinary power. Matt 7:29; Mark 1:22.

The third use of the word involves authority or absolute power. This is the authority claimed by Jesus in Matthew 28:18, which we have cited. In Matthew 21:23, 24; Mark 11:28, 29, 33, and Luke 20:2, 8 Jesus' authority is questioned by the religious leaders of the Jews. In Matthew 10:1, Mark 6:7, and John 17:2, Jesus gives the twelve authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. In Acts 26:12 Paul recounts how he was traveling to Damascus at the time of his conversion under the commissioned authority of the chief priests. Then in Revelation 12:10 it again speaks of the authority of Christ.

The fourth category in which the word is used describes the power exercised by rulers and others in high places by virtue of their office. Concerning the actual ruling or official power, Matthew 8:9 quotes the centurion as declaring himself to be a man under authority; Luke 20:20 refers to the authority of the governor; Luke 19:17 describes the authority granted in the parable to govern 10 cities; and John 19:10, 11 is Pilate's declaration of his authority. Concerning the domain in which the power is executed, Luke 4:6 records Satan's attempt to tempt Jesus by offering Him his authority over the kingdoms of this world; in Luke 22:53 Jesus speaks of the reign of darkness; Luke 23:7 describes Herod's jurisdiction; Ephesians 2:22 is translated "kingdom of the air"; and Colossians 1:13 refers to the dominion of darkness. Concerning the bearers of authority, such as human officials and government, Luke 12:11; Romans 13:1, 2 and Titus 3:1 all speak of the Christian's responsibilities toward these. Then in Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10 and I Peter 3:22 it speaks of rulers and functionaries of the spirit world or heavenly realms. (William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1952, pp. 277-278.)

The fifth and final category centers on the sign of authority to be worn on a woman's head. The sole use of the word in this rather curious application is found in 1 Corinthians 11:10. Julia Staton says of this passage: In verses 5-10, was Paul speaking about veils, hats, or a certain way of fixing a woman's hair? Scholars are not sure. The Greek word could mean any one of them. At this point, we need to consider the customs of the time: (1) When in public, married women wore veils or their hair done up in a knot or braids on top of their heads ("covering on her head" could mean either). This was a sign to all that she was not available but belonged to and was under the leadership of her husband. (2) Available, unmarried women and prostitutes did not wear veils and wore their hair loose around their shoulders. (3) A woman had to shave her hair (or cut it off short) if found guilty of adultery. In essence, Paul was saying: if a wife appears to the community as a loose woman, she is reflecting dishonor upon her husband's character as well as her own. A loving, caring, Christian wife would not wish to do such a thing; she would instead want to show the world her pure relationship with her husband (v. 10). ( Julia Staton, What the Bible Says About Women, Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 1980 pp. 127-128.)

Two other Greek words are also questionably translated as authority in the New Testament. 1 Timothy 2:12 is Paul's statement concerning his refusal to permit women to "have authority over a man." This is an entirely different Greek verb, which is again used only this one time in Scripture. Its noun form means "master." In the verb form it appears to have been used in other contemporary literature to mean "to domineer over someone." (Arndt and Gingrich, p. 120.) The second Greek word is found in Titus 2:15, where Paul tells Titus, "Encourage and rebuke with all authority." The word means a command, order or injunction. It is used elsewhere in Scripture in Romans 16:26; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Timothy 1:1; and Titus 1:3. In each case it is translated as God's command. For example, Paul introduces himself as "an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ our hope" 1 Tim 1:1. So the concept involved in Paul's instruction to Titus is that he was to teach God's Word, with its applied encouragement and rebukes, realizing that he spoke for the Lord. He was communicating God's commands. He was granted no personal authority.

What is the point of all of this? We have taken the time and effort to examine every case in the New Testament where the word "authority" appears. It is NEVER used in connection with any elder or other church leader. There is never any indication that the church is granted any authority as a corporate body either. Churches can prepare and revise their by-laws until eternity, and they can cast votes in a million congregational meetings; but none of that will ever add up to an ounce of authority to do anything. All authority is vested in Jesus Christ.

Now, if elders have no authority, what do they have? The elders have responsibility. Jesus Christ is Lord (Eph. 1:22- 23; Phil. 2:9-11). He decides the purpose, lays down the rules, and writes the agenda for His church. The elders have the responsibility to uphold that agenda. They have no authority to revise it or to develop a substitute of their own. As the most mature spiritual leaders of a congregation, theirs is the greatest responsibility for leading all of the rest of the congregation in their growth toward Christ-likeness, fruitful ministry and the accomplishment of the church's mission and purpose.

Largely out of the widely-held misconceptions about the existence of an office and a delegated authority for elders, a multitude of other problems historically began to develop among the eldership. It is very similar to buttoning up a sweater. If you miss the match on the bottom button and its hole, everything else above that will come out wrong. Begin with a false premise, and you will almost always produce some false conclusions as a result.

What the Bible Says About Leadership, Arthur Harrington, College Press Publishing Co, Joplin, MO, 1985. pp 80-83, 154-160. Permission for use was gratefully obtained from the publisher.

...Ordinary Members

Paul rejects any formal distinction between official figures and ordinary members in the community. Had he wished to draw attention to the existence of offices as such, there were any number of Greek terms he could have used. However, the title arche (compare archon or archegos ) &endash;ruler, head, or leader&endash;often possessing in Greek a sense of legality or rank&endash;never refers to individuals within the communities but significantly refers only to Christ himself (Col. 1:18 cf. Rom. 15:12) or to various subsidiary supernatural powers. (1 Cor 2:6,8; Eph. 2:2; 6:12). The term time, which emphasizes dignity of office, and the term telos, which stresses the power inherent in such, are also absent from Paul's ecclesiastical vocabulary. Instead, as a general term for the service of individuals within the church, he uses almost uniformly the word diakonia, "service," or one of its related forms. Paul chooses a word that is quite everyday in character and that places the issue of dignity or position in a different framework.

Diakonia occurs only twice in the Septuagint and then in a quite general and secular sense. (1 Macc. II :58; Esth. 6:3). In Philo and Josephus it occasionally refers to "waiting at table" but more often to "serving" in general, (Philo, Contemplative Life .70, Josephus, Antiquities 2. 65; 11,163,166). both meanings being present in ordinary Greek usage. This "serving" covers a whole range of activities and people. Depending on the person whom one serves, it can involve fulfilling an important task or a less important one and can accord the one carrying it out greater or lesser significance. If the servants' master is a significant person, especially God, they have a significant role to play and have significance attached to them. But they do not possess this in and of themselves. It is a derived significance and stems from whose servant they are rather than from who they themselves are or even from what they do. So Paul is not using "servant" instead of "leadership" language to highlight inferior as opposed to superior tasks or positions. He uses it to highlight the dependent character of the work and responsibility in contrast with the independent stance that so often goes with leadership. Plato was typical of Greek philosophers when he wrote, "How can a man be happy when he has to serve someone?" (Plato, Gorgias, 491 e) The main difficulty he and other Greek philosophers had with "servanthood" and "slavery was not with the inferior nature of the work involved (often the work was at the higher educational, professional, or managerial level) but with the dependent nature of the relationship between servant or slave and master. Paul employs this term for service of any kind by any member of the community, whether insignificant or important, to any member of the community or of another community. He uses it of the service rendered by apostolic delegates (Col. 4:7; Eph. 6:21), including himself, (2 Cor. 4:1; 6:3ff.; 11:8,23; Rom. 11:13) other prominent figures within the church, (1 Cor. 16:15; Phil. 1:1; Col.. 1:7; 4:17) including women (Rom. 16:1), and all believers. 1 Cor. 12:5; 2 Cor. 8:4, 19-20; 9 :1; 12-13; Rom. 15:31, Eph. 4:12).

Significant for understanding the meaning of diakonia in relation to those being served is Paul's use of the word for the work of the Spirit and Christ (2 Cor. 3:8; Rom. 15:8). Its association with the Spirit confirms what has already been said about the Spirit's facilitating work within the community. The work of the Spirit takes place by neither compulsion nor force. Jesus said that he did not come to be served but "to serve and give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Paul holds up as a model those in the church who "have devoted themselves to the service of the saints" (1 Cor. 16:15). Because of this service Jesus rendered and its continuation through the Spirit, he is the arche (Col. 1:18) of the community. With his deliberate and consistent choice of this word, Paul rejects the idea of certain people in the community possessing formal rights and powers over ordinary members.

This renunciation of offices and of the titles and honors that belong to them, radically departs from first-century attitudes to religious organization. For example, the synagogue had many officials, beginning with the archisunagogos, who has already been mentioned. The hazzan was chiefly responsible for the conduct of public worship. (m. Sot. 7.7-8; m. Yom. 7.1; cf. Matt. 9:18; Mark 5:35ff.; Luke 4:20; 8:41, 49; 13:14; Acts 14:15; 18:8,17). The Gospels portray the Pharisees as occupying the chief seats in the synagogue (Matt 23:6). Members of the congregation could fulfill those responsibilities that were functions, not offices, (m. Ber. 5.5; m. R. Sh. 4.9; m. Tam. 5.1.) such as the reciting of the prayers, the announcing of the Sherna, the reading of the Scriptures, and the preaching of the homily (Luke 4:16-17; Acts 13:15), only when summoned to do so by its officers.

Officials also existed at Oumran and among the Essenes. The mebaqqerim, or guardians, distributed in the community and throughout the camps, assessed candidates applying for membership, (1 QS 6.13-14; CD 13.7-13) received reports about transgressions that had occurred (CD 9.16-20; 14.9-10) acted as the recipients and distributors of charitable gifts, and instructed members in the maxims of the Law and the rules of the community. (1 QS 6.19-20; CD 14.12-16) Whether or not these were identical with the priests, whose functions we have already noted, is not altogether clear.

In the mystery cults various grades of officials were attached to local shrines and temples. These looked after the administrative and financial aspects of the cult's operations. Most probably those who held official positions were themselves priests who belonged to the higher orders of the sacral hierarchy. (Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11.10, 12, 16-17, 22. Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 4ff.)

Paul also refuses to draw distinctions between members of the community according to the measure of "holiness" they possess. The principle that keeps Paul from having any leading caste of a priestly or official kind also extends to a rejection of any spiritual aristocracy within the community. All members of the community possess the Spirit. "Through one Spirit" they were all introduced into it (1 Cor. 12:13); "in one Spirit" they all have equal access to God (Eph. 2:18); "from one Spirit" they all draw the same resources (I Cor. 3:18); "by the (same) Spirit" all are to direct their lives (Gal. 5:25). Since it is the same Spirit who dwells in them all, share in the qualities of character that the Spirit produces (Gal. 5:22-23), and all participate in the gifts of ministry that the Spirit distributes (1 Cor. 12:4-11). All who belong to the community, therefore, are intrinsically "spiritual."

Paul's use of the terms laos, people, and hagios, holy, confirms this. Apart from its occurrence in OT quotations (1 Cor. 10:7; 14:21; Rom. 9:25-26; 10:21; 15:10) and in direct references to the Jewish nation (Rom 11:1-2), laos refers only to Christians as a whole, as those upon whom the promises of God concerning the creation of a "people" have fallen (2 Cor 6:6). Nowhere does the term refer to merely a part of the community, nor is it used in distinction from kieros, clergy. (It was only in the third century that the words for clergy and lay person came into Christian usage.) Nor does any one member of the community, or any group of members, possess a particular "holiness" denied to others. Because of its OT associations, Paul does sometimes use the plural of hagios for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (1 Cor.16: 1; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9: 1, 12; Rom. 15:25,26; Eph 2:19) even though elsewhere all believers in a particular region or community are referred to as "saints." (1 Cor. 1:2 ; 14:33; 16:15; 2 Cor. 1:2; 13:13; Rom. 1:7; 16:2, 15; Phi{. 1:2; 4:22; Col 1:2, 3, 12, 26; cf. 3:12; Eph. 1:2,15,18; 3:18; 5:3). In so describing the Jewish Christians, Paul does not mean they possess some inherent personal quality which sets them apart from others. In OT terms he simply refers to their having been "reserved" for, "set aside" by, or "dedicated" to God. Since all share equally in this, there cannot be different grades of holiness within the community.

The presence of the Spirit was not a central theme among the Pharisees and the Essenes. Still, as we have seen, a small succession of charismatic rabbis emerged outside the main body of adherents in Jerusalem and the Essenes had a reputation for their prophetic predictions and interpretation of dreams. Apart from these, it does seem that grades of achievement existed within Pharisaism, and at Qumran the council of the community ranked its members according to their level of spiritual attainment and enforced strict rules concerning participation in the community. (1 QS 6.25-27; 9.12-16; m. Hag. 2.5-6; m. Dem. 2-3.). In spite of this, there was a real participation by each person in the Oumran community since all "eat in common, bless in common, and deliberate in common," though only according to rank and under the supervision of a smaller group of the more senior members. (1 QS 6.2, 6-13.)

In Hellenism, a different atmosphere prevailed. Holy men who practiced divination and performed miracles, or socially disadvantaged but charismatically gifted individuals employed to practice their gifts for gain, existed in many places (compare Acts 16:16-18). There were also smaller groups who banded together in monastic societies and, like the Essenes, became noted for their virtuous way of life. Though Paul's view of a community of "saints" has something in common with such groups, and within it some exercised extraordinary powers, he rejects the idea that holiness involves isolation from the world or possession of unusual abilities. On the contrary, both of these can easily coexist with quite profane attitudes (1 Cor. 3:1-3). He has a different and less elitist understanding of "spirituality" and "holiness." So alien to his thinking is the later Christian notion of "the saint" as an extraordinarily holy person, that reference to the apostle as "Saint" Paul is ironic indeed.

Paul has no place in his view of community for the traditional distinctions between its members along cultic, official, or religious lines. This clears the ground for a more positive appraisal of his approach to responsibility in the community. We must now investigate the extent to which the high view he has of all believers affects their carrying out of various tasks within it. Where did the responsibility lie for the organization of church, including the common meal, the care of members, discipline, and the direction of the community?

Paul's Idea of Community. Revised Edition, Robert Banks. Hendrickson Publishers. Peabody, MA 1994. pp 131-135. This book was formerly published under the title: Paul's Idea of Community: The House Churches. Used by permission.

Robert Banks is one of the founding fathers of the modern Home Church Movement. He has generated much of the intellectual capital that sustained the movement in its early years.


One of the most surprising consistencies of the New Testament witnesses is seen in word statistics. The Greek language has a wealth of ideas and words about office. arch denotes office in the sense of precedence, being at the head, ruling; the term is used in the New Testament only for Jewish and Gentile authorities, and in a wider sense for Christ himself. The same is true of the designation of a person as arcwn, ruler. Both terms can also denote demonic powers. timh is office in the sense of a position of dignity. In the New Testament the only passage where it is used with this meaning is Heb. 5.4; it refers there to the high priest's official dignity which is Christ's due. telo" defines the complete power of office, and is nowhere found in this sense in the New Testament. The most suitable would be leitourgia, which means in Greek life the more or less voluntary services undertaken by the citizen for the community, and by the worshipper for the gods, and in the Septuagint (about 100 times) the ceremonial service performed by the priest. The same is true of the verb, which also defines the service offered to God by the layman, whereas the description of a person as a leitourgo", apart from the religious meaning, is also used in the Old Testament in a purely secular sense. The surprising result of an investigation of the New Testament is that this word-group occurs quite frequently. It denotes, however: (1) the service rendered by the Roman governmental authorities (Rom. 13.6); (2) the Old Testament or Jewish priestly service (Luke 1.23; Heb. 9.21; 10.11); (3) the service rendered by Jesus Christ himself (Heb. 8.2, 6); and (4) the service of the whole Church.

There is only one exception to this: in Rom. 15.16 Paul is called a leitourgo". Now this personal designation is certainly not typical, for it is used in Greek literature, as in the Septuagint, predominantly in a secular sense; but the sequel clearly describes the apostolic action as priestly, and so it may be supposed that Paul is using cultic language. Of course, this priestly action of the apostle does not mean that he is believed to mediate God's grace or revelation to men, but that he brings to God the nations' offering of praise in their faith and obedience. It is not his action, but the Church's faith, that is the offering of praise. What is striking, however, is not that the ceremonial idea is applied once in the New Testament to the action of an individual (an apostle, moreover, about whose peculiar position the Church knows quite well), but that it is consistently avoided elsewhere.

What we have just seen is verified in the word-group that includes priest, priesthood, and priestly action. In Judaism, as in paganism, there are priests. In the New Testament priesthood belongs to Jesus Christ alone...

As a general term for what we call "office", namely the service of individuals within the Church, there is, with a few exceptions, only one word: diakonia. Thus the New Testament throughout and uniformly chooses a word that is entirely unbiblical and non-religious and never includes association with a particular dignity or position. In the Greek Old Testament the word occurs only once, in a purely secular sense. The verb, which does not occur at all in the LXX, denotes in Philo and Josephus waiting at table and serving in general; in Josephus it refers to the action of a priest three times, twice in the middle voice (unusual in primitive Christian literature) and once in the active. In all three passages, however, the meaning is determined by the context. In Josephus the noun may mean quite generally the service of God, once also service at the sacrifice, and likewise the mutual service of the Essenes. diakono" means the servant of the prophet, and Josephus himself as the mediator of divine prophecy to the Roman general. In the development of Greek the basic meaning, "to serve at table", was extended to include the more comprehensive idea of "serving". It nearly always denotes something of inferior value, but in Hellenism it may also define the wise man's attitude towards God (not towards his fellow men). The New Testament's choice of this word is all the more striking in that the basic meaning "to serve at table" is still current throughout, as is the general meaning "to serve". Even the recently discovered writings of the Qumran group hardly give any more help. Of course, the serving by all believers in relation to God may be spoken of here, and it may be said that this is done in accordance with their authority. They may also speak of definite ministries to which a person attains because of his age, his merit, and his discernment, and which involve a certain superiority of position over others. But with that we have not, as far as the usage of the word diakonia is concerned, gone beyond the Old Testament, where, of course, serving and ministry are similarly spoken of. The corresponding Hebrew words, however, are rendered throughout the Septuagint by latreia or leitourgia, not by diakonia. This rendering can hardly be a whim of the translators into the Septuagint, for other writings show little difference in this respect. Thus there remain only the few hints of a new development of the Greek usage in the papyri, where official ministrants in the temple, as well as the devout in general, appear as servants of God, and Josephus' occasional usage already mentioned.

In view of the large number of terms available, the evidence of the choice of words is unmistakable. Before there has been any theological reflection all the New Testament witnesses are sure of one decisive fact: official priesthood, which exists to conciliate and mediate between God and the community, is found in Judaism and paganism; but since Jesus Christ there has been only one such office&endash;that of Jesus himself. It is shared by the whole Church, and never by one church member as distinct from others. Here therefore there is without exception the common priesthood, with no laity. Jewish priests presumably joined the Church, but they played no special part in it. Again the Church's completely different character in contrast to the Qumran community is clear.

This does not mean that the New Testament overlooks the fact that the form of this ministry varies, the differences being reduced to a minimum only in the Johannine writings. Before, however, we look at the diversity of ministries, the character peculiar to each ministry in the New Testament has to be described. The very choice of the word, which still clearly involves the idea of humble activity, proves that the Church wishes to denote the attitude of one who is at the service of God and his fellow-men, not a position carrying with it rights and powers. This new understanding is the continuing testimony to God's action in Jesus of Nazareth.

Church Order in the New Testament, Eduard Schweizer's classic work, 1959, SCM Press, London, pp. 171-177.

Deacons Defined

DEACON, DEACONESS, The term diako-no'''''", diakonos and its cognates occur many times in the NT, as do its synonyms uphreth" hupertes and doulo", doulos, with their respective cognates. It may be said in general that the terms denote the service or ministration of the bondservant (doulos), underling (hupertes) or helper (diakonos), in all shades and gradations of meaning both literal and metaphorical. It would serve no useful purpose to list and discuss all the passages in detail. Christianity has from the beginning stood for filial service to God and His kingdom and for brotherly helpfulness to man, and hence terms expressive of these functions abound in the NT. It behooves us to inquire whether they occur in a technical sense sufficiently defined to denote the institution of a special ecclesiastical office, from which the historical diaconate may confidently be said to be derived.

Many have sought the origin of the diaconate in the institution of the Seven at Jerusalem (Acts 6), and this view was countenanced by many of the church Fathers. The Seven were appointed to "serve tables", in order to permit the Twelve to continue steadfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word." They are not called deacons (diakonia), and the qualifications required are not the same as those prescribed by Paul in 1 Tim. 3:8-12; furthermore, Stephen appears in Acts preeminently as a preacher, and Philip as an evangelist. Paul clearly recognizes women as deaconesses... The obvious conclusion is that the Seven may be called the first deacons only in the sense that they were the earliest recorded helpers of the Twelve as directors of the church, and that they served in the capacity, among others, of specially appointed ministrants to the poor.

Paul says, "I commend, unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant [RV "or, deaconess"] of the church that is at Cenchreae" (Rom 16:1). This is by many taken as referring to an officially appointed deaconess; but the fact that there is in the earlier group of Paul's epistles no clear evidence of the institution of the diaconate, makes against this interpretation. Phoebe was clearly an honored helper in the church closely associated with that at Corinth, where likewise evidence of special ecclesiastical organization is wanting.

In Philippians 1 Paul and Timothy send greetings "to all the saints. . . at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Here then we find mention of "deacons" in a way to suggest a formal diaconate; but the want of definition as to their qualifications and duties renders it impossible to affirm with certainty the existence of the office. We conclude, therefore, that the Seven and Phoebe did not exercise the diaconate in a technical sense. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol 2, James Orr, Editor, Erdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1947, p.800.

Deacon, Deaconess&endash;(diakonos, masc. or fem.) means one who serves or ministers. In classical Greek the word commonly implies menial service. In the NT it implies the noble service of doing work for God or ministering to the needs of others; and the meaning of the term, with its cognates service or ministry and to serve and to minister is nearly everywhere quite general and does not indicate a special office. The Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, edited by James Hastings Vol 1, T.T. Clark, 1915, p.284.

Deacons&endash;Our knowledge of deacons in the early church is as scanty as it is of bishops, but for a different reason. As we have seen, service, diakonia, was the ideal and the task of every member of the church, and there was no immediate tendency to restrict the title to any particular group within it.

The word deacon is used of Jesus himself (Rom. 15:8) and&endash;Paul uses it both of Timothy's ministry and of his own (1 Tim. 4:6, 1:12). This should both remind us that all ministry in the New Testament is marked with the imprint of Jesus the Servant, and that the word is used of particular ministries only in a semi-technical sense. Freed to Serve, Michael Green, Word Publishing, Dallas, 1983, p.53.

The Table Servers in Acts 6

When the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples, and said: It is not reason that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the holy Spirit, and Phillip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of Antioch, whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them, Acts 6:16.

How plain it is that the servants here spoken of, are those ones elected from the community of believers for a special purpose rather than an office. Nothing more need be done to determine this, than to read the testimony. No inference is needed: the injunction to choose, and the act of election, are alike plainly stated. Not so with any office. And if the reason be asked the reply is easy. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are spiritual gifts; they are the bestowments of the Head of the church, they are stewards of God, and not like the table-servers, the mere stewards of the temporalities of the church.

As we do not find the latter included in the enumeration of the Messiah's gifts, so in their case alone is the election of the church called for. We do not say that the church stewards are not as other brethren, the servants of the Lord; and we do not affirm that this service which they receive by the choice of the brethren, is not like every act of the Christian life, to be rendered as to the Lord; but we do submit that in the matter of the spiritual services the Lord alone is Elector, Appointer, and Master, while in this business of temporalities, the proprietorship of the church is acknowledged by its election of those who are to have charge of its property. He must be of dull understanding who sees not the distinction here submitted, and perceives not in it a sufficient reason why, in respect to table servers only, the choice of the ecclesia is found in Scripture.

The narrative quoted distinguishes the spiritual diakonia from the temporal&endash;the diaconate of the word from the diaconate of the tables. "It is not reason," said the apostles, "that we should leave the word of God and serve tables, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." As we have elsewhere said, the term rendered ministration in verse first, and ministry in verse fourth, is one, namely, diakonia. But in the one case it is the daily ministry, ministration, or service of tables, and in the other that of the word of God.

It is thus evident that the word diakonos, diakonos, variously rendered deacon, servant, and minister, does not of itself denote what is now meant by a deacon, inasmuch as, in one reference or other it is applied to all the servants of the Lord. And it is thus also evident that accurately to designate the functions of the workers now under review, the compound term table-servers is best. It is only by inference that the diakonoi mentioned in connection with the episcopoi of Phil. 1:1, and 1 Tim. 3:1-13, are held to be mere deacons in the modern sense, or table-servers in the primitive, for, as we have shown, the word is applied through the apostolic letters with reference to all departments of Christian ministry. But we are not dealing with the uncertain when we point out, as now done, that it was expressly "this business" of "the daily ministration in the serving of tables" to which the seven were appointed.

Churches should cooperate in greater measures with one another in this matter of community welfare. While the administration of all the funds of the church belongs to the stated corps of stewards, yet it is competent for the churches severally, or conjointly, to choose brethren expressly for any special service of this kind. The church in Philippi alone for some time communicated in this way with Paul, through its chosen Epaphroditus. But at length the churches in Macedonia, in general, concurred in the choice of Paul and his coadjutors as their messengers in the administration of their bounty. Phil. 4: 10-19; 2 Cor. 8:16-24.

By this simple, inexpensive, and efficient arrangement, constant communication was maintained between the first preachers and the churches of their planting, and the clumsy, slow routine of the modern society system of working had no existence, and no call for any. An efficient staff of table-servers in each church renders entirely unnecessary hired and salaried secretaries, treasurers, traveling agents, and other adjuncts of modern schemes.

This masterful treatment of Acts 6 is from Thomas Milner's hand. The Messiahs's Service, p. 351f, 1858.

May the Lord bless you and keep you and cause his face to shine upon you and give you peace. Amen.

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Matthew 20:26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

Matthew 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Matthew 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Mark 10:43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

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