New Testament Church Proliferation Digest

 

Spreading the Gospel via House Churches

 


New Testament Church Proliferation Digest Friday, February 22 2002 Vol 02 : 047
Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] RE: Ephesians 4 -- to Link
[NTCP] A Question on "bishops"
[NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence
Re: [NTCP] A Question on "bishops"
[NTCP] Re: A Question on "bishops"

Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 14:07:16 -0500
From: David Anderson
Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

Hi church,

Michael dipped his quill into the bottle and wrote:

>A bishop (overseer) was not a cure-all, but he did (does) serve a
>purpose. And his presence too was addressed in the Scriptures. You probably
>do have one in your midst, David. If such an one desires to be a bishop, he
>desires a good thing ... (1 Tim 3:1).

Hi brother,

Upon closer inspection you'll see here that the literal rendering here pertains
to a function not to an office. --Overseership.-- Assuredly, it is the
particular function of the eldership, which is the OBVIOUS (?) context of 1 Tim
3.

So, let's just take one passage and see where this method could lead if
consistently applied: 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.

office of prophet office of minister office of teacher office of exhorter
office of giver office of ruler office of mercy shower

David Anderson in TN

I hope to have all digests archived soon so that we won't have to go back over
these same things but can rather build upon them later, if desired. BTW, I have
this daily 14 hr-away-from-home adventure called a job that all other things
must subordinate themselves to - not to mention my wonderful family of 8.
Cheers!


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Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 01:11:24 EST
From: TheologusCrucis

Subject: Re: [NTCP] RE: Ephesians 4 -- to Link

Hi, Link!

Good to hear from you.

I'm sorry that I can't respond to your post per point, but I find myself with a
limited amount of time;) The Great American Novel will have to wait!

I do want to respond to one thing, though -- about Ephesians 4. You wrote:

>>Here I think you might be reading some of your own American theology into
the Bible- particularly with your later comments about these people having
authority.>Where does Paul say that these people are supposed to be at 'the
center of a church?'>Paul has at least three gift lists. Some of these
ministries are repeated in them (at the beginning of the list in higher rank.)
This gift list happens to have 5 gifts in four types of individuals. I
Corinthians 12 has a much longer list. But somehow, Pentecostals and
Charismatics since the Latter Rain Movement have focused on these five gifts,
and tried to expand the concept of 'clergy' to include all five gifts.Hi, Link!

Good to hear from you.

I'm sorry that I can't respond to your post per point, but I find myself with a
limited amount of time;) The Great American Novel will have to wait!

I do want to respond to one thing, though -- about Ephesians 4. You wrote:

>>Here I think you might be reading some of your own American theology into
the Bible- particularly with your later comments about these people having
authority.

My theology is about a 180 degrees the opposite of American theology today! If
anyone is advocating structure over "freedom" or doctrine over emotional
individual intimacy with God -- that's against the grain in America, certainly
not with it!

>>Where does Paul say that these people are supposed to
be at 'the center of a church?'

It comes down to Ephesians 4 I guess. The context of the chapter is unity in
the Body. Verses 1-3 is a plea to "make yourselves united in the Holy Spirit,
and bind yourselves together with peace."

Verses 4-6 pretty much describes what an absolute monarchy has had as the ideal
it never attained: one king, one faith, one law, one people -- check out the
Roman Empire's and the Holy Roman Empire's futile quest for just this type of
government -- The Body of Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven.

"We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to
the same glorious future. There is only one Lord (King), one faith, one
baptism, and there is only one God the Father, who is over us (in reigning rule
&amp; authority) and in us all and living through us all." v. v. 4-6

Verses seven through ten introduces gifts that is linked to the rule of Christ
and gifts given to those in the body:

"However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the
generosity of Christ. That is why Scriptures say, 'When he ascended to the
heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.' Notice it
says "he ascended." This means Christ first came down to the world in which we
live. The same one who came down is the one who ascended higher than all the
heavens, SO HIS RULE MIGHT FILL THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE (emphasis mine, of
course!)."

Paul begins with a general "each one of us" but narrows it down by linking the
gifts, the people he's about to name, with the rule of the ascending King on
His way to rule the universe: (Verses 11-13)

"He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets,
the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers."

Although God has given each one in the body a gift, he has given these four
especially to the church as gifts for leadership/service.

"Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and to build up
the church, the body of Christ..."

These specific people have a responsibility that others don't -- they are to do
something with authority in service to others. These people are gifts in what
they do -- they do not have a gift, like hospitality, or tongues and
interpretation, or administration ... it is something they are.

"...until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we
will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of
Christ."

It sounds like that without these four gifts being in place and equipping and
building up the body, there will be no unity or maturity? house church groups,
even more that the institutional church , are so riddled with division because
of the radical individualism that is inbred into us (especially in the 2nd
Great Awakening). Admittedly I'm new to the house church movement, but the five
or six different ones I went to in my area over the last year and a half had a
group of individuals grouped around a couple of the natural leaders (who would
never in a million years admit that they were leaders) all celebrating their
individual spiritual journeys. And as soon as they thought they weren't being
affirmed as where "God wanted them to be," then -- boom! -- they were gone.

No apostle firmly establishing the group that God had called together by
teaching the Gospel, no prophet encouraging and building up the body, no
evangelist in the center of community proclaiming Christ and showing others
how, no shepherd because they had no direction except to "grow" individually in
the Lord, no teacher reproving or correcting or encouraging -- instead the
little "devotionals" on a rotating basis with the subject being variations on
"just how God touched me today deep in my spirit."

Why are most Christians, house church and institutional church , the like the
first part of these following verses and not like the second (into the Lord's
prayer more than Jabez's)?

"Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what
we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone
has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will
hold on to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ,
who is the head of His body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is
fitted together perfectly. As each part does it's own special work, it helps
the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of
love (v.v. 14-16)."

Jesus is King, He has gifted everyone with a gift and has left especially four
people to equip and build up His church, encouraging the rest to display their
gifts for a purpose with direction. Everyone grows -- and Christ is at the very
center as King, Gift-giver, and Grower!

>>Paul has at least three gift lists. Some
of these ministries are repeated in them (at the beginning of the list in
higher rank.) This gift list happens to have 5 gifts in four types of
individuals. I Corinthians 12 has a much longer list. But somehow, Pentecostals
and Charismatics since the Latter Rain Movement have focused on these five
gifts, and tried to expand the concept of 'clergy' to include all five gifts.

Again, I believe these four individuals are the gifts, they don't have these
gifts. And call 'em whatever you wanna -- they don't have to be "clergy" while
the rest are "laity." Call em whatever you want -- just make sure they're
there, or I believe the body experience will be one of major frustration....
Sure, Paul could teach, but he knew what he was, what God made him: an apostle.

Again, I only offer the above as my own opinion, my own interpretation of
Ephesians 4:1-16. I haven't ran across anyone who's written a vision of the
church like I've just described! I'm praying that God will help me to be that
apostle or evangelist, that He will establish His body in Amherst and it will
function according to the Scriptures instead of pragmatically to the time and
situation.

What do you think, Link? I'd love to have your input, brother! God bless you
and keep you...


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Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 15:00:52 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: [NTCP] A
Question on "bishops"

Dan Snyder wrote:

>I don't see the words "elders" or "overseers" being applied above a local
>level.
>
>Can ya'll help me get clear.

Brother Dan, that "ya'll" was the first indicator I received that you hail from
the Southern U.S. I am from Georgia. Where are you from? The following is
what I wrote to Mike Gastin in my one of my two Feb. 18 posts on the
"Confronting the Evidence" thread. Please pay particular attention to what I
bracket in *astericks*:

>>The bishop basically functioned as pastor over all the local
congregations in a city-- much like in Catholicism, and from where the
Catholics got this structure. Originally the bishop was over only one
congregation, *but as believers and congregations multiplied he was responsible
for each new church that appeared in that city/locale, with the PRESBYTERY and
DEACONATE under him, serving in the various congregations. This natural
development occurred within the lifetime of the Apostle John. It was not a
degeneration; it violates no NT church polity doctrine, and can be safely
modeled today ... provided the right kinds of guys are in the
servant-leadership billets: those who meet *all* the criteria outlined in 1
Tim. 3 and Tit. 1, and who are accountable downward or upwards (choose which
ever best fits your understanding of the idiom) to their bishop and
upward/downward (again, you choose) to the their congregations. Accountable in
two directions-- not to mention to Christ himself (Heb. 13:7).*

It might be the place here to re-issue a warning to all: many of us today are
still living in reaction to medieval Catholic corruption. And I just want to
say to you, "the war (there) is over!". (Yes Keith, even in Spain.) I know
that a few of you are really struggling with some of the things written above
because ... many of you are still living with your minds in the Protestant
Reformation-- and view the whole "bishop over a city" thing as too "Catholic".
Now if pushed, I'd admit to being a Protestant, and so *our* Reformation
brought-- and brings-- us back to the Bible as our sole source of canonized
divine revelation. Nevertheless, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others did not
ignore the historical writings of the toddling Church. They recognized that
when the Apostle John died (... before actually), the *whole* Church did not
walk off a cliff like a bunch of lemmings! That is what I gather some of you
believe. But Christ had said that "the gates of Hades" would not prevail over
her, and he meant what he said (Mat. 16:18). So the Reformers sometimes used
the "church fathers" to fill in the gaps for them, such as: what did the Church
look like in the years immediately following the Apostles? How much of that
was good? How much of it was bad?

Corruption certainly did creep in-- more in some sectors of the historical
Church than in others-- but actual sin can only be gauged by us when there are
violations of commandments. We cannot say that the structure which has a
bishop as pastor over an area-wide church, with PRESBYTERS (and DEACONS)
serving the people on the local level, is wrong simply "'cause that's the way
the Catholics did/do it"! A practice can be diagnosed as *wrong* when it
violates the commandments of God ... in the Bible.

The above "mono-bishop over a city" polity set-up could be unwise in certain
settings. Perhaps. Not the way I would necessarily understand it should be
done. Well ... okay. A cultural misfit-- seen that, done that. But morally
wrong? No. "Catholic" does not equal "bad". (Neither, by the way, does
"Jewish") What equals bad is when people sin. Violate God's revealed will.
That's bad. Evil. Wrong.

So what I'm trying to say is that there were natural developments of the Church
which worked their way into the Roman Catholic system such as MONOEPISCOPACY,
bishops over many congregations in a city/district, buildings, liturgy, etc.
which are not bad in themselves. So we must determine how much of our
uneasiness is based on violations of biblical commandments and how much is
simply the result of our anti-Catholic, anti-institutional church , anti-[fill
in the blank] bias. Then "react" righteously, i.e scripturally.


Subject: [NTCP] RE: Confronting the evidence

The following addresses issues raised by Stephanie, Mike G.

Stephanie wrote on the "Bishop does not automatically equal autocrat" thread
(her Feb. 20 post):

>However, just because something is permissible or allowable does not mean that
>it is ideal or edifying. The NT allows divorce for the reason of
>unfaithfulness, but is divorce good or godly?

In the same vein, Mike G. wrote on *this* thread:

>I understand that they are recorded in scripture as in early church history -
>but I have to ask about Saul as king over Israel. He was allowed by God to
>rule, but that rule was not blessed. It was permitted by God, but Saul was
>clearly not God's best for Israel.

Likewise, Keith wrote:

>Just a thought............ The Bible, allows for kings, When the people of
>Israel cried out for a king so that they could be like other nations, God gave
>them one. Some were good, most made a mess of it.

"Why's everybody always pickin' on me?!?!" ;-) These are good thoughts, gang.
Let me give you my quick (HAH!) reply:

"'I hate divorce,' says the LORD God of Israel" (Mal. 2:16).

Stephanie, can we find a similar statement or even an inference that God hates
mono-bishops; anything firm where we might infer that He hates that kind of
polity structure? The Nicolaitans do not count since the standard house
church-- and others'--interpretation of their group depends upon the
"etymological fallacy" for its "proof" and not on what ancient history itself
tells us about the schism:

"At this time the so-called sect of the NICOLAITANS made its appearance and
lasted for a very short time. Mention is made of it in the Apocalypse of John.
They boasted that the author of their sect was Nicolaus, one of the deacons
who, with Stephen, were appointed by the apostles for the purpose of
ministering to the poor. Clement of Alexandria, in the third book of his
Stromata, relates the following things concerning him. "They say that he had a
beautiful wife, and after the ascension of the Saviour, being accused by the
apostles of jealousy, he led her into their midst and gave permission to any
one that wished to marry her. For they say that this was in accord with that
saying of his, that one ought to abuse the flesh. And those that have followed
his heresy, imitating blindly and foolishly that which was done and said,
commit fornication without shame. But I understand that Nicolaus had to do with
no other woman than her to whom he was married, and that, so far as his
children are concerned, his daughters continued in a state of virginity until
old age, and his son remained uncorrupt. If this is so, when he brought his
wife, whom he jealously loved, into the midst of the apostles, he was evidently
renouncing his passion; and when he used the expression, 'to abuse the flesh,'
he was inculcating self-control in the face of those pleasures that are eagerly
pursued. For I suppose that, in accordance with the command of the Saviour, he
did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and the Lord. But they say that
Matthias also taught in the same manner that we ought to fight against and
abuse the flesh, and not give way to it for the sake of pleasure, but
strengthen the soul by faith and knowledge." So much concerning those who then
attempted to pervert the truth, but in less time than it has taken to tell it
became entirely extinct" (Eusebius ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY book 1, xxiv).

Mike, let's examine some verses together:

"The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his
feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is
his" (Gen. 49:10).

"When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken
possession of it and settled in it, and you say, 'Let us set a king over us
like all the nations around us,' be sure to appoint over you THE KING THE LORD
YOUR GOD CHOOSES" (Deu. 17:14, 15, emphasis mine).

Kingship was in the plan of God for Israel from way back. Prophesied in
Jacob's blessing of his sons; written up as a statute in the Torah (Law)
hundreds of years before the time of Saul. The people were not sinning or
disappointing God by desiring a king since provision was made for this desire
in their Torah (Law). The Israelite kingship was one aspect whereby God
provided salvation for all of humanity ("... and the obedience of the nations
is his"). Israel's monarchy provided the framework for Jesus to come to earth.

We are told of God's express displeasure over something at a transition time in
Israel's history, but, as I read the account, the primary issue in the Saul
incident was the people's choice of king versus God's choice of king:

"When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from THE KING YOU HAVE
CHOSEN, and the LORD will not answer you in that day" (1 Sam. 8:18, emphasis
mine).

"Now here is THE KING YOU HAVE CHOSEN, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has
set a king over you" (1 Sam. 12:13, emphasis mine).

True Samuel did say, "Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one
like him among all the people." (1 Sam. 10:24), and Saul the initially humble,
tall, appealing, handsome, warrior was chosen by lot, but there is an implied
irony in the whole narrative which can only be understood by stepping back a
bit from the story. God NEVER says He chose Saul TO BE KING. Just that He
chose him. One has to wonder for what. I think for a punishment. Had Israel
only waited one more generation, they would have gotten God's OWN kingly choice
in the person of David-- from the prophesied tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10)--
since God Himself said about Jesse's father: I HAVE CHOSEN one of his sons TO
BE KING" (1 Sam. 16:1, emphasis mine).

My point? Here too we have God explicitly stating His displeasure with
something. In Malachi, it was divorce. In Samuel, it was Israel's inability
to wait for God's promised provision for HIS choice of king, hence their
rejection of His rulership. He made known His chagrin ... and it was recorded
for posterity.

Whether you agree with every detail of my interpretation of Saul's story or
not, the two above counter-examples to MONOEPISCOPACY (divorce and kingship)
are nevertheless comparing apples to oranges since God elucidates His
displeasure in both accounts. In writing. We have something solid upon which
to base our negative evaluations. If you can provide one instance where God
(or any of His spokespersons) clearly states something against single bishop
congregations because they had only one bishop, a mono-bishop because he was a
mono-bishop, etc. I will be forced by my own logic to back down. But I know of
no such instances. Not yet at least. Can you guys show me any?

Stephanie wrote:

>SCRIPTURALLY it does not conflict at all with the doctrine of the priesthood
>of the believer, but in practice it surely does.

In practice it *can* conflict and has. But *all* systems of polity are open to
abuse. It is your sweeping assessment of a (by your own admission)
*scriptually permissible* MONOEPISCOPACY's practicality which kind of bothers
me, Stephanie. Lambs can find their voices under the guidance of a gentle
human under-shepherd. I've seen that. Maybe not too often in some
sub-cultures of the Church but, as you said, sometimes you can find a "true
overseer [who] manifests the character of Christ, and walks in a level of
maturity that displays meekness, gentleness and the true authority of Christ".
So you cannot disqualify the mono-bishop off-hand, since you too have seen him
succeed with some lambs.

In other cultures MONOEPISCOPACY may prove more effective than a plurality
model. I don't think we should be too over-arching in our evaluations,
dictating what is best for *everybody*-- especially when Scripture does not lay
down firm rules. Of course I agree with you that the universal emphasis should
be on Jesus as the Church's head. Not on a man. (The Scripture does say,
however, that in the hierarchy of creation, and in Church-wide human relations,
*man* is the woman's head [1 Cor. 11:2-- a "functional subordination"], though
in our eternal inheritance rights "there is neither ... male nor female" [Gal.
3:28, 29; church planter. Num. 27:1-7]). But we are not always in the best
positions to determine what is best for other Holy Spirit-endowed followers of
Jesus. Particularly when we cross cultures. So dear sister, why hold to a
position which appears to claim for yourself that right?

I agree with you that not every point of doctrine is chrystal clear in
Scripture. But I was astonished that you seemed to want to add rules where
none existed or were needed. Hence why I called what you did "quibbl[ing]".
(I'm glad you laughed instead of getting angry!). The ambiguity on some issues
may be God's way of telling us we have more freedom than we had once imagined!
Are we mature enough to walk in that liberty, or do we feel we need clear
markers, laid out at regular intervals, for every turn in the path? Stephanie,
I know you know that He is a loving Father; He knows what He is doing. He has
given to each of His children His Holy Spirit. We don't need to do His job for
Him by defining for all peoples what He has left indefinite. Right?

Back to Mike G.: I give to you the same essential answer. Brother, I sent you
a similar reply before; perhaps it bears repeating.

Mike G. wrote:

>So, we agree that a single bishop is not unscriptural, but in our
>understanding/wisdom, experiences, prayer, and study of group dynamics or any
>other related field, we come to believe that although allowable, it is not
>optimal. What then?

First of all, if we somewhat agree that MONOEPISCOPACY is *not* UNscriptural
then that in itself should tell us something. If it were morally wrong in all
circumstances then there would be some absolute biblical boundaries drawn.
There were not. Therefore those who have a closed paradigm against one-bishop
fellowships should at least broaden it to allow for their (one-bishop
fellowships') possibility under *certain* circumstances. Again, I contend that
the flexibility is built right into the NT revelation.

Secondly and in light of my first point, we should not define what is "optimal"
for every congregation according to our *own* "understanding/wisdom,
experiences, prayer, and study of group dynamics," etc. since I (and many
others with cross-cultural experience) have noticed these to be limited to our
*own* cultural perceptions. Yes, ... even prayer. Furthermore, "the heart is
deceitful ..." (Jer. 17:9) and can fool us into thinking that the result of our
"understanding/wisdom, experiences, prayer, and study of group dynamics," etc.
is what is best for others, when in fact it may not be. That is why we need
specific guidance from the Bible to make such a strong case. When no
definitive guidelines are drawn, we are wiser to allow for an informed
freedom-of-expression within Christ's universal body, trusting God's Spirit to
direct individual congregations within different contexts in "the way *[they]*
should go" (Pro. 22:6-- forgive me a loose application). I think God
purposefully left church polity a little ambiguous to account for the way
"group dynamics" work in various people-groups of the world since He knew His
gospel would be penetrating diverse cultures with different presupposed
structures of righteous leadership.

Some people-groups emphasize decisions made as a group, others more often vest
authority in one leader who makes responsible decisions for the whole
community. Both systems have been abused (ex. of the two systems from
politics, "democracy"- "fillibustering," and moral compromise in the
give-and-take process of vying for votes; "autocracy"- making decisions for
one's own benefit, whether to simply pad one's pockets or to ensure job
security). My point then is that *all* human governance is going to eventually
fail in one way or another-- despite its being ordained by God for the time
being (Dan. 4:17; Rom. 13:1). Even fathering and eldership fail. That is why
we pray "thy kingdom come". Remember, God's program-- which as we would
expect, has the greatest human good in mind-- is *not* an open forum, where
everyone has a say-so at every point. The LORD Himself is an autocrat and,
though we His children can sometimes sway Him, in the long-run His will is
absolute. All must willingly submit or ultimately perish.

>Am I able to say, "I believe that the plurality of elders is the optimal
>choice for any body of believers, based on my study of scripture and other
>sources and my experiences. I would not condemn anyone for not having more
>than one elder, but I would strongly urge them to identify and establish more
>than one."

I am glad you would not condemn anybody, Mike. But some people I have read on
this list would. That is precisely where I think folks need to reconsider
their strong stances. And change. I believe a person could probably make the
kind of statements you have written above ("optimal ...") within his/her own
culture, ... or maybe it would be better to say, "sub-culture". I do not think
such a person should make a definitive statement on church polity in a host
culture not his/her own. Paul planted churches within two main cultural
contexts: Jewish, and Greek-- cultures with which he was quite familiar, as an
insider. Both had a strong tradition of group-style decision making. Latin
culture Romans, however, were somewhat different-- more of the single-person
decision making type. These are trends I am citing and not hard-and-fast rules,
so please don't gig me with a counter example; in general these observations
will hold true.

When a group of people are themselves introduced to the Scriptures and taught
how to study them for themselves, then they can, with the Spirit's
illumination, discover what style makes the most sense in their own cultural
context. Based on how *they* read the Bible. Giving people the tools they
need, rather than passing-on to them our personal prejudices-- this I think is
the better path. Otherwise we run the risk of imposing our foreign worldviews
on other people likewise endowed with the Holy Spirit, thinking we're teaching
them God's truth. And thereby reaping the division this engenders. (I see
this all the time here in Israel!) If after careful study and much prayer a
church decides to appoint one primary bishop with elders and deacons in some
sense *under* him, can anyone honestly say that they *should* change to one of
our "plurality" model(s)? If so, why? (Feb. 11 post "Confronting the evidence"
thread).

Mike, while seeking to fight against a structure which-- in abusive
expressions-- has historically restricted the saints, be sure you do not set up
your own "papacy," making authoritative decisions for all the Church worldwide,
when God has given us His word and His Spirit to help us interpret and apply
His revelation to different cultural contexts. It is a self-defeating position
which hands down a "bull" that the MONOEPISCOPAL form of polity is "less than
ideal" and a "lower ... standard" when the Bible itself gives us no such
indication.

>The question of the bishop vs elders serving as bishops (overseers) was
>debated last century by men not of inferior learning

"Beggin yer pardon, sir," but I am on record agreeing that elders "is the same
animals" as bishops:

>>Furthermore, Titus clearly equated elders with overseers (Tit. 1:6, 7), so
I can't escape Link's logic by suggesting that elders and overseers had
different functions (Feb. 6 post, "Confronting the Evidence" thread).>Thanks
Dan for pointing out the parallel usage of the terms "elders" and "overseers"
in Act. 20-- a fact I had noted in Titus, but had overlooked in Acts (Feb. 11
post, "Confronting the Evidence" thread). He candidly admits, "As late therefore
>as the year 70 no distinct signs of episcopal government have hitherto
>appeared in Gentile Christendom" (p. 201).

I disagree with brother Lightfoot here. The historical evidence I posted on
this list speaks for itself-- no disrespect to him. (Have you ever seen his
Gospel commentaries, based upon ancient Jewish writings? Some good stuff, but
I disagree with him there occasionally too). Eusebius cites lists of the
bishops (singular) in various areas of the empire-wide Church, many starting
from before 70 A.D. Here is one example, from Rome. There are others, some
going back prior to 70 A.D., some starting later:

ROME:

" 'The blessed apostles having founded and established the church, entrusted
the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul speaks of this Linus in his
Epistles to Timothy. Anencletus succeeded him, and after Anencletus, in the
third place from the apostles, Clement received the episcopate. He had seen and
conversed with the blessed apostles, and their preaching was still sounding in
his ears, and their tradition was still before his eyes. Nor was he alone in
this, for many who had been taught by the apostles yet survived. In the times
of Clement, a serious dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth,
the church of Rome sent a most suitable letter to the Corinthians, reconciling
them in peace, renewing their faith, and proclaiming the doctrine lately
received from the apostles." A little farther on he [Ireneaus-- MICHAEL] says:
"Evarestus succeeded Clement, and Alexander, Evarestus. Then Xystus, the sixth
from the apostles, was appointed. After him Telesphorus, who suffered martyrdom
gloriously; then Hyginus; then Pius; and after him Anicetus; Sorer succeeded
Anicetus ; and now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, Eleutherus holds
the office of bishop. In the same order and succession the tradition in the
Church and the preaching of the truth has descended from the apostles unto us.'
" (citing Ireneaus, the "hearer of Polycarp," the disciple of John.
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, book V, vi).

>In those pages (491-504) he treats the Scriptural and precedential portions of
>the first century church including the equality of the Presbyter/Bishop.
>
>These are good places to start, imo. I'll unearth, too, that famous quotation
>about how theologians at the end of the nineteenth century of "all shades and
>varieties" admitting to the equality of bishops and elders in apostolic times.
>
>In other words, MIchael, this very same battle has already been fought in
>modern times on a massive scale. Your side lost.

Again David, I don't know where this idea of yours came from that I do not
equate elders and bishops (see my above two quotes). But I am enjoying the
historical interaction and the edifying sources you are producing. Keep
digging!

Michael
Jerusalem


------- <><><> -------


Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 10:23:38 -0800
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [NTCP] A Question on "bishops"

Deborah wrote:

>The bishop basically functioned as pastor over all the local congregations in
>a city-- much like in Catholicism, and from where the Catholics got this
>structure. Originally the bishop was over only one congregation, *but as
>believers and congregations multiplied he was responsible for each new church
>that appeared in that city/locale, with the >PRESBYTERY and DEACONATE under
>him, serving in the various congregations.

Dear Michael,

"...each new church that appeared in that city/locale,..."???

Without getting into a whole lot of Bible quoting, I need to say something
about the use of the law, even the law as Scripture or Scripture as law. For
that purpose, I would like to draw upon a Biblical word picture, a "plumb
line". You remember, "What do you see, Amos? 'a plumb line, ' I replied."

This word picture is a very serious indictment against the Catholic position
that the authority of the church is equal with the authority of the Scripture.

I don't know how much you know about a plumb line, but this much is basic, if
you touch it, you invalidate it. A plumb line must hang free of the object it
qualifies.

For instance, I may claim to be walking in the Spirit, or even that I have a
spiritual understanding, but if my walk or my understanding violates the plumb
line of God's Word, something is wrong with my walk or understanding. It is the
building, not the plumb line, that has the problem.

So when you talk about "...each new church that appeared in that city..." as
though the churches you are talking about are valid, then I look at the plumb
line, and ask, "What page is that on". If you tell me that it's not on any
page, but that it was the practice of early Church history, then I have to cry
foul, you have touched the plumb line.

In fact, the earlier in the building process that you touch the plumb line, the
more crooked will be the end result. Canonizing early extra Biblical Church
history is just as illegitimate as canonizing the extra- Biblical
pronouncements of church leadership or church practice.

A Masters in Biblical translation might be one thing, but historical
manipulation of the Scriptures is something else altogether.

While I am here, I would also like to respond to something you wrote to Mike:

"... Israel's monarchy provided the framework for Jesus to come to earth..."

If that is going to be your basis for recomending kings over us, then I have to
point out that, human sin is also the framework for Jesus to come to earth. But
I don't recommend it. The fact is that both earthly kings, and human sin, arise
because of our rejection of the kingship of The Lord. 1 Samuel 8:7,8

The king of Glory is one thing, Saul is something else.

Back to what you wrote to Mike once again:

"First of all, if we somewhat agree that MONOEPISCOPACY is *not* UNscriptural
then that in itself should tell us something. If it were morally wrong in all
circumstances then there would be some absolute biblical boundaries drawn.
There were not."

The implied answer to Paul's question is a fairly significant boundary, and
consistent with what we have said above: "Is Christ divided?"

I think not. So, consistent with the word picture you used with Stephanie, I
would have to say that when we have more then one church in a geographical
place, it looks to the world as though Christ is into adultary and divorce.

Again, I think not. So we get into the problem of my bishop can beat up your
bishop. This will never do. Let's not start our discussion by white washing the
status quo organization(s) of the church.

Let's go back to the plumbline, and please let's not touch it with our present
practice.

Yours in Christ,

Jay


------- <><><> -------


Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 09:10:58 -0800
From: Dan Snyder
Subject: [NTCP] Re: A Question on "bishops"

Hi Michael,

I appreciate your scholarship, bro. But what I meant was, can you show me
something from the BIBLE that shows the words "elders" or "overseers" being
applied above a local level.

I do appreciate church history and find traditions of interest. But as the Lord
tells us in Mark 7:13 - when it's a matter of traditions vs. the Word,
authority rests with God's Word.

Remember when the religionists asked the Lord about divorce? He took them back
to the beginning to show them God's real desire in the matter. When we talk
about the church life, the New Testament is really our "beginning". We need to
consider the NT if we want to see what's on God's heart.

Wanna try the question again?

Thanks,

Dan

Ps. I actually live in California, but I appreciate that a plural form of you
(ya'll) has found it's way into our language :)

 


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