Shelby G. Floyd
From prison Paul addressed the church in Philippi, “together with the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). There is no authority for the “one man pastor system” found in almost all denominational churches. Neither is there any foundation for the hierarchy of the Roman church, with the Pope as the head of the church. There is only one head of the church and that is Christ the Lord:
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Each congregation of the church universal is to be governed by a “council of elders,” “body of elders,” or “group of elders.” This group of elders is described in the New Testament by several synonyms as depicted in the following chart:
|Biblical Synonym||Biblical Passage|
|Body of Elders||1 Timothy 4:14|
|Overseer||1 Timothy 3:1|
|Elders||1 Peter 5:1|
|Shepherds||1 Peter 5:2|
As you will notice, each one of these synonyms is always in the plural and not in the singular. Therefore, in the New Testament each church or congregation was autonomous, being ruled by Christ the Chief Shepherd and his under shepherds—the body of elders. Paul advised Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14 NIV).
The first departure from the “ancient order” was in church government as was predicted by Paul to the Ephesian “body of elders.” While on his third evangelistic journey, and in a hurry to return to Jerusalem,
…Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them…Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:17, 18, 28-32 NIV).
God’s way is always best. So let all who respect “God and the word of his grace,” also respect his pattern for the polity of the church with its “elders and deacons.”
Copyright © 2014 Shelby Floyd All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, IN 46142