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Organization of the Church
Bible study on the organization of the church.

The Lord organized the church with Jesus as head, apostles, prophets, elders, deacons, evangelists, teachers, and members (saints).

God has organized His church in a specific way, by which we must be organized to be a congregation of Christ's church (2 Jn. 1:9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

  • Phil. 3:17 We must walk according to the apostolic pattern.
  • 1 Cor. 4:16 We must imitate the apostles.
  • 2 Th. 2:15 We must keep the apostolic traditions revealed in God's word.
  • Tit. 1:5; 1 Cor. 14:40 The church (assembly) must be orderly.
  • 1 Cor. 11:34 If it's not orderly, we bring judgment upon ourselves.
  • Mk. 7:6-9 If we are not organized as God ordains, our worship is vain.
  • Gal. 6:2 We must be organized according to Christ's law (1 Cor. 9:21; Col. 3:17).

John says, "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son" (2 Jn. 1:9).

  • A congregation of Jesus' church is organized as God commands in His word.


Christ is the Head

Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, "He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything" (Col. 1:18).

Since Jesus is head of the church:

  • Matt. 28:18-20 He has all authority.
  • Eph. 5:22-24 We are subject to Him in everything --- individually, and as a church.
  • Heb. 5:9 We must obey Him.
  • 2 Jn. 1:9 We must abide in His teaching (doctrine).

A church that obeys Jesus, is organized as He commands.



Speaking of Jesus, Paul says, "And He gave some as apostles. . . ." (Eph. 4:11).

The word "apostle" literally means one sent forth. In the Bible, it's used two ways:

  • In a general sense it denotes a messenger (e.g., Jesus, Titus, and Barnabas).
  • In a specific sense it denotes an apostle appointed by Jesus to have authority in the church (e.g., Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthias, and Paul).

Qualifications of Apostles
There are specific qualifications that must be met before one can be an apostle (i.e., one appointed by Jesus to have authority in the church). It's important to note that no one today can meet these qualifications.

  • Matt. 28:18-20; Gal. 1:1 He must be ordained by Jesus.
  • Acts 1:21-22 He must be an eye witness of Jesus beginning with the baptism of John, and a witness of His resurrection.
  • 2 Cor. 12:11-12; Rom. 15:18-19 As an apostle, he must possess miraculous power and performs signs of apostleship.
  • Acts 8:17-19 As an apostle, he must impart miraculous power by the laying on of his hands.

Paul was the last person qualified and appointed as an apostle. No apostles were appointed after him; therefore, no apostles are upon earth today.

  • 1 Cor. 15:5-8 Jesus appeared last of all to Paul; therefore, he was the last man qualified and appointed to become an apostle (1 Cor. 9:1-2).

Work of Apostles
The apostles were ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), acting on His behalf and in His stead.

  • Matt. 28:18-20 They were commissioned by Jesus to preach, convert, and teach.
  • 1 Jn. 1:1-7 When we have fellowship with the apostles through their doctrine, we have fellowship with Christ and God.

The apostles testified of Jesus, as witnesses of His life and resurrection (Jn. 15:26-27; Acts 1:6-8).

The apostles preached the gospel (Mk. 16:15-16).

  • Matt. 16:19 They communicated the word, the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).
  • Jn. 16:7-11 They convicted the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
  • 2 Cor. 3:2-6 They were ministers of the new covenant.
  • Eph. 2:19-22 They are the foundation of the church, with Christ.

False Apostles
Paul was afraid the Corinthians would be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ, by people preaching another Jesus (gospel) whom he had not preached (2 Cor. 11:3-4). One way they could be led astray was by false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13).

Speaking of false apostles, Paul says they are "deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds" (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

Today, there are men who call themselves apostles, just as in the first century; and we are obligated to test them (Rev. 2:2). Fortunately, it's easy to test these men, since no one is qualified to be an apostle today. Everyone who claims to be an apostle of Christ is a false apostle.



"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets. . . ." (Eph. 4:11).

The word "prophet" literally means one who speaks forth. A prophet does not necessarily foretell the future, rather he speaks forth the mind of God, which can include foretelling of future events.

Appointment of Prophets
Prophets were appointed by the laying on of the apostles hands (Acts 8:17-19; 19:6), after which the Lord poured out of His Spirit upon them (cf. Acts 2:17-18).

Since the apostles are dead, and can't lay their hands on people, there can't be prophets upon the earth today.

Judged By Their Fruits
Jesus commands us to judge prophets by their fruits (Matt. 7:15-20).

To judge a prophet, we see whether his prophesies come true. If they don't, we know he's not a prophet of God (Deut. 18:15, 20-22).

For example, Joseph Smith and Ellen White predicted the world would come to an end in the 1800s. Since an apostle had not laid his hands upon them, and since their prophesies didn't come true, we must conclude they were false prophets.

Male and Female Prophets
Although there were male and female prophets in the first century (Acts 2:17), only men were permitted to prophesy in the church (1 Cor. 14:29-33). Women were permitted to prophesy other places, if their heads were covered (1 Cor. 11:5; 14:34-35). Philip's daughters are examples of female prophets in the first century (Acts 21:8-9).

Work of Prophets
Prophets performed specific work.

  • Eph. 3:4-5 They spoke the word of God.
  • 1 Tim. 4:14 They revealed God's counsel.
  • 1 Cor. 14:37 They distinguished between the word of God and the doctrines of men.
  • Acts 15:32; 1 Cor. 14:3-4, 31 They encouraged, strengthened, edified, exhorted, consoled, and taught the brethren.
  • Acts 11:27-28 They foretold future events.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us the following regarding prophesy:

  • 1 Cor. 13:8 The gift of prophesy was temporary.
  • 1 Cor. 13:9 With prophesy, people only knew in part and prophesied in part.
  • 1 Cor. 13:10 Prophesy was done away with when the "perfect" came.
  • 1 Cor. 12:31 There was a better way to live, other than being guided by the gift of prophesy.

The gift of prophesy ceased around the end of the first century.

  • The "perfect" came in the first century, marking the end of prophesy (1 Cor. 13:10).
    • The "perfect" relates to the revelation of the "perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25), which is the word (law) of Christ.
    • Jesus said we will be judged by His words (Jn. 12:48). And, James said we will be judged by the law of liberty (Jas. 1:25; 2:12). Therefore, the words of Christ (spoken by Jesus or His apostles) constitute the law of liberty --- the law of Christ and the law of liberty are synonymous (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; Jas. 1:25).
  • After the first century, no apostles were on earth to lay hands upon people. Therefore, no one could receive the gift of prophesy (Acts 8:17-19; 19:6).

False Prophets
Since there are no apostles to lay hands on people today, we know that everyone claiming to be a prophet is a false prophet.

False prophets use lying wonders (fake miracles, magic tricks) to deceive people (2 Th. 2:8-12). Elymas is an example of one of these individuals, a magician who opposed Paul, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith (Acts 13:8).

It's interesting to see what Paul says to Elymas, referring to his deceitful religious practices: "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord" (Acts 13:10)?

Peter also tells us that false prophets use sin and lust to lure people away from God (2 Pet. 2:1-3, 10, 12-15, 18-19).

Today, some people lure people into their religion with fornication, like Warren Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who sanctioned polygamy and rape of 14-year-old girls, insisting it was God's will for these girls to marry adult men, even against their will.

As with brethren in the first century, we must reject false prophets, and anyone who teaches a gospel contrary to the gospel in the New Testament. Paul says, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed" (Gal. 1:8)!



Three Terms For Elders There are three words in the Bible referring to elders, denoting a specific human quality or specific characteristic of His work.

  • Acts 11:30 Presbuteros translated "elder" and "presbyter" denotes that fact that he is an older man.
  • 1 Tim. 3:2 Episkopos translated "bishop" and "overseer" denotes his oversight of the church.
  • Acts 20:28 Poimen translated "pastor" and "shepherd" denotes his leading and feeding of the flock (church).

Paul uses all three terms regarding the elders at Ephesus (Acts 20:17, 28). Therefore, all three terms are designations of the same office, and not designations of separate offices as some affirm in religion today.

Plurality of Elders in a Congregation
In the New Testament, a plurality of elders rule over a congregation (Acts 14:23; 15:2-6; 20:17, 28; Tit. 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1-5).

Only a plurality of elders are appointed in a congregation (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5).

In Ephesus, Paul warns of the future apostasy of elders (Acts 20:28-30). When reviewing secular history we see this apostasy included a single elder ruling over a congregation, then a single elder ruling over multiple congregations, as they moved away from the apostolic pattern (1 Pet. 5:1-5).

Qualifications of Elders
The qualifications of elders are in 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9.

It's not my intention to list or analyze these qualities, most of which should be present in every Christian. But generally speaking, an elder is a strong Christian man who is married and has children who are Christians. He's able to teach, with a good track record as a spiritual leader in his home, showing he has the experience and ability to be a spiritual leader in the church.

Many strong Christians aren't qualified to be an elder, often due to life experiences or their lot in life. But we all serve the Lord in whatever ways we are blessed, knowing that our service is equally important to everyone else (Eph. 4:16).

For example, the apostle Paul wasn't qualified to be an elder. But his work in the Lord was very important to the church in the first century, and to the church today.

Work of Elders
Elders are the spiritual leaders of the church.

  • Acts 20:28-29 Elders spiritually guard themselves and the congregation, watching for wolves who could harm the flock with false doctrines (Acts 20:28-29).
  • 1 Pet. 5:2 Elders shepherd and oversee the flock.
    • "Shepherd" figuratively denotes the responsibility an elder has over the sheep. Elders rule over the flock, care for the flock, and spiritually feed the flock according to the commands of the Chief Shepherd (Jn. 10:1f; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4).
  • 1 Tim. 3:5 Elders take care of the church.
  • 1 Pet. 5:3 Elders do not rule as lords, but as examples to the flocks. They do not "drive" but "lead" the flock.
  • Heb. 13:17 Elders will give account for themselves and the discharge of their office.

Christians' Responsibility to Elders
Members of a congregation have responsibilities toward the elders.

  • 1 Th. 5:12-13 Members should appreciate and esteem elders. They are to pay attention to them.
  • 1 Tim. 5:17-18 Members should consider elders worthy of double honor if they rule well, and financially support them as needed.
  • 1 Tim. 5:19-20 Members shouldn't receive an accusation against an elder without two or three witnesses. Elders who are guilty of unrepentant sin should be openly rebuked.
  • Heb. 13:7 Members should imitate elders' faith.
  • Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:5 Members should obey and be subject to the elders.
  • Jas. 5:14-15 Members should call on the elders when needed.
  • 2 Cor. 5:10 Members will be judged as to their relationship with the elders.



Diakonos is the Greek word translated "deacon." It's also translated "minister" and "servant."

In a general sense, diakonos denotes a person who serves, like Phoebe (Rom. 16:1; 1 Tim. 4:6). In this way, the word applies to all Christians, since all of us serve God and our brethren (Col. 3:24; Gal. 5:13).

In a specific sense, though, the word applies to a specific group of men in the congregations who are called Deacons (Phil. 1:1).

Qualifications of Deacons
The qualifications of deacons are in 1 Timothy 3:8-12.

It's not my intention to list or analyze these qualities, most of which should be present in every Christian. But generally speaking, deacons are strong Christian men who are married and have children, displaying a good track record of managing their homes well. Their children can be younger, and don't have to be Christians, which is different from the qualifications of elders.

Many strong Christians aren't qualified to be a deacon, but we all serve the Lord in whatever ways we are blessed, knowing that everyone's service is equally important to God (Eph. 4:16).

For example, Timothy and Titus were not qualified to be deacons, but their service was valuable in converting unbelievers and strengthening the church.

Work of Deacons
As the word diakonos indicates, deacons serve the church.

By reviewing the men appointed to serve the church in Jerusalem, we can better understand the work of deacons (Acts 6:1-6). Notice these men were put in charge of a task (Acts 6:3), while other Christians were already performing the work (Acts 6:1).

Deacons are put in charge of certain tasks, performing their work under the oversight of the elders. They're not slaves of the congregation, so everyone else can sit around doing nothing. Rather they're in charge of certain tasks, with other Christians helping them --- they are managers (1 Tim. 3:12).



An evangelist is a messenger of good and denotes a preacher of the gospel. For example:

  • Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8), and preached the good news (Acts 8:12).
  • Timothy was an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5), and preached the word (2 Tim. 4:2).

Congregations can financially support an evangelist for his work, although some are self supported (1 Cor. 9:3-14).

Qualities of Evangelists
Although there isn't a list of qualifications for evangelists, we find qualities an evangelist should possess.

  • Disciplined for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7).
  • Example to believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Tim. 4:12).
  • Paying close attention to himself and to his teaching (1 Tim. 4:16).
  • Free from sin (1 Tim. 5:22).
  • Diligent, accurately handling the word of truth, avoiding worldly and empty chatter (2 Tim. 2:15-16).
  • Fleeing lusts and pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Tim. 2:22; cf. 1 Tim. 6:3-11).
  • Gently correcting those who are in opposition (2 Tim. 2:25).
  • Continuing in the things learned in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

Work of Evangelists
The work of an evangelist includes:

  • Preach the word (Acts 8:5, 12, 35, 40).
  • Preach in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2).
  • Reprove (convince), rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).
  • Baptize people who believe (Acts 8:12, 38).
  • Equip the saints and build up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12).
  • Warn against apostasy (1 Tim. 1:3-4; 4:1-6; 1 Tim. 6:20-21).
  • Entrust the gospel to faithful men who will be able to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).
  • Appoint elders (Tit. 1:5).
  • Teach sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1).



The word "teacher" means one who instructs and trains. The word is used of God, Christ, apostles, pastors, people who instruct others in the church, and parents.

Like first century Antioch, teachers are in local congregations (Acts 13:1).

Teachers receive a stricter judgment, held accountable for the things they teach (Jas. 3:1), which may cause some Christians to shrink from their responsibility. But, all of us have a responsibility to grow and mature, becoming teachers in whatever capacity God blesses us (Heb. 5:11-14).

Qualities of Teachers
Although there aren't specific qualifications for teachers, there are qualities teachers should possess.

  • Not dull of hearing (Heb. 5:11).
  • Know the elementary principles of the oracles of God (Heb. 5:12; 6:1-2).
  • Accustomed to (skilled in) the word of righteousness (Heb. 5:13).
  • Senses trained to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:14).
  • Faithful (2 Tim. 2:2).
  • Able to teach (2 Tim. 2:2).

Work of Teachers
The work of teachers includes:

  • Equipping the saints, building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12).
  • Older women teaching younger women (Tit. 2:3-5).

False Teachers
Peter tells us there will always be false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1). Therefore, every generation must watch out for people who teach false doctrines, drawing Christians away from God (Acts 20:28-30).

Anyone who teaches a false doctrine is "accursed," meaning doomed to destruction.

Paul says, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed" (Gal. 1:8-9)!



The word "saint" denotes one who is sanctified and holy.

In many churches, saints compose a special subgroup of people who've meritoriously met a prescribed criteria. But this is not the case in the Bible, wherein every member of the church is a saint.

From Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians, we learn the following about saints:

  • Saint are people who believe --- Christians (2 Th. 1:10).
  • They are people who know God and obey the gospel (2 Th. 1:8).

And from Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, we learn that saints are all who are "in Christ" (Eph. 1:1). These people were baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27), and have the free gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23).



Today in the church we have:

  • Christ, as the head.
  • Elders, as the spiritual overseers of the church.
  • Deacons, who manage the affairs of the church under the elders' oversight.
  • Evangelists, who preach the word of God.
  • Teachers, who instruct and train.
  • Saints, a term used of all Christians.

We don't have apostles or prophets upon the earth.

  • Paul was the last person qualified, and appointed as an apostle.
  • God no longer gives people miraculous power, so there can't be apostles or prophets.