Ever wonder about the hierarchy that exists within churches? Churches have senior pastors, associate pastors, deacons, deaconesses, pulpit committees, deacon boards, and if we looked at the Catholic structure, we would find a more ornate structure still. Since we are looking at 1Timothy 3, we will be focusing on pastors (bishops) and deacons, as those are two that Timothy calls out specifically.
One thing we ought to establish first is the idea of church. Our modern times have given us the idea that church is somewhere we go. Instead of church being a living organism, we’ve rendered it to another destination to frequent at certain times of the week. But, we know that scripture teaches that the word “church” is just a synonym for a “gathering” or an “assembly” or a “congregation.”
Psalm 22:22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.
Hebrews 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
We see that congregation in Psalm 22 is quoted as “church” in Hebrews 2. So, who makes up this congregation? In the areas were folks lived, believers would simply congregate to encourage one another, edify one another, supply for one another – it was simply an opportunity to take refuge from the world with other believers. Paul writes that believers are Christ’s body and it is Christ’s body that is the church (the congregation).
Ephesians 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Ephesians 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
Ephesians 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
One of the great truths of being in Christ’s body is that although we may be members in particular, we are all one in Christ.
Romans 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another
So, is the location for this gathering important? No, not as important as we’ve made it to be anyway. The believers gathering together was/is/will be what is important. For the sake of space, I won’t list them, but do a word search sometime on “church” and “house” to get an idea where these folks would gather – it wasn’t in large “church buildings”, but it was in the houses of fellow believers. Why? Because folks lived together in communities and would regularly meet one with another. This isn’t to say that a “church building” is wrong, but is simply to show the organic nature of the early church.
Is there supposed to be any order within the assembly? Is there supposed to be different roles? Some today would have a fit if they knew folks were meeting outside of the purview of their “watchful eye.”
Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office
Note the word “office” at the end of the verse. At the time that the King James was translated, it was translated by those heavily influenced by a staunch liturgical hierarchy. And, to that end, the bias they had because of their organization is reflected in the word they chose to translate praxis. However, praxis is not a word that carries the idea of “official title” or “official position”, but is one that carries the idea of “functionality.”
1Corinthians 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.
1Corinthians 12:15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
1Corinthians 12:16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
1Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
1Corinthians 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
1Corinthians 12:19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
1Corinthians 12:20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
In other words, each member of the body functions for the greater body. Paul goes on in the chapter to say that even the comely of members has God given abundantly more honor so that the entire body would be tempered together. This way, as Paul says, no schism should arise by one part believing they have a higher calling than another part. For indeed, even though we have different functions, we are one in Christ. The eye does no good if it is just a title to hold, but the eye’s function is what is desired. If the heart were to say, “I’m the heart”, it would do you no good for indeed the heart must do its function. The heart doesn’t decide to be a heart and then function thereto – the heart is the heart because of the function it does.
This idea of functionality is to be understood when we start looking at 1Timothy 3. Paul has been instructing Timothy on how to live in light of the doctrines of Christ. And, one thing to note is that this is how to live in society or every day life. But, even in Timothy’s day, there was no shortage of folks who would infiltrate the minds of believers and teach information contrary to the doctrines of Christ. As chapter 2 closes, Paul is laying out some basics regarding men and women and the protection that the man is to give to the woman because of the propensity for women to be led away to false doctrine. This isn’t to say that men cannot be led away to false doctrine, but is to say that godly men are to protect their women from the false doctrines that are propagated by ungodly men (those already swayed by false doctrine). Paul is going to keep this idea in mind as he starts chapter 3.