The Lord organized the church with Jesus as head, apostles,
prophets, elders, deacons, evangelists, teachers, and members
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
- 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
- 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.
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
- Acts 1:21-22 He must be an eye witness of Jesus
beginning with the baptism of John, and a witness of His
- 2 Cor. 12:11-12; Rom. 15:18-19 As an apostle,
he must possess miraculous power and performs signs of
- 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
- Eph. 2:19-22 They are the foundation of the
church, with Christ.
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.
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.
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
- Acts 11:27-28 They foretold future events.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us the following regarding
- 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
- 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;
- 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).
Since there are no apostles to lay hands on people today,
we know that everyone claiming to be a prophet is a false
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
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
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"
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
- 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
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
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.
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
Christians' Responsibility to Elders
Members of a congregation have responsibilities toward the
- 1 Th. 5:12-13 Members should
appreciate and esteem elders. They are to pay attention
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 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.
- 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
- Warn against apostasy (1 Tim. 1:3-4; 4:1-6; 1 Tim.
- 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
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
- 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
- Older women teaching younger women (Tit. 2:3-5).
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.
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.
- They are people who know God and obey the gospel (2
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
- God no longer gives people miraculous power, so there
can't be apostles or prophets.