Depending on which sub-culture (denomination) of Christianity you associate with, you are bound to be faced with the notion of hierarchy. Some sub-cultures have extensive and elaborate hierarchies, while others have one or two positions of hierarchy and that’s it. The purpose of this post isn’t to examine all of the various hierarchy types that exist, but it is to highlight the various “Offices” that exist within the church. I’m also not going to dive into what each of these functions are. We’ve touched on this in other posts (in our Romans series and in our Ephesians series), but I wanted to have a post that was dedicated specifically to this issue.
First: If you’ve been following along in our Romans and Ephesians series, then you know that when we think of “the church” it is a reference to the collective body of believers, regardless of their separation by time, space and geography. God has called us out of Adam (the humanity ruined by sin) in order to bring us into Christ (the divine humanity arrayed in grace, righteousness and love). Being called out and gathered in Christ is what “church” means. When local groups of believers gather together, they are representing their true and ever present gathering together in Christ. These local groups are called “churches” for that reason. However, we should be careful not to conclude that these churches are legal/corporate entities of the State or that they are incorporated business that demand bylaws and corporate hierarchy. These Jesus groups were nothing more than believers gathering together in the midst of the perverse society they found themselves in. They were a city of refuge for each other. Keep this in mind because this explains the purpose and value of these “offices” we are going to talk about.
Second: The word “office” has been used to define a hierarchical position of authority in these Jesus groups. As mentioned above, some have several layers of this and others just a few. However, as we’ll see, the scriptures never lay out these as hallowed seats of authority, but rather these express FUNCTION in the body of Christ. The word ‘office’ comes from the word praxis, which carries the idea of DOING or PRACTICE– the idea of A THING TO BE DONE. All of this translates into FUNCTION. The question is, what are the various functions of the body? What are the various things to be done?
Third: I’m not sure if the scriptures have laid out every function that exists, but we can nonetheless see that the scriptures present a wide range of functions for the body of Christ. One thing to note as well, as we examine Paul’s writings especially, we find that often these functions are referred to as “gifts”. In 1Corinthians 12, Paul writes that every member of the body has been placed according to as it has pleased God. God has gifted each member with the abilities they need in order to carry out their function. In other words, God has personally equipped each member with their ability. And, as it works out, each member’s personal equipping is designed to funnel into one grand function – to build up the Jesus group as a whole. In other words, since each member of the body is not equipped to do the same things, each member therefore supplies to each other member that which the other member lacks. This is true holistically.
Last: What are these functions?
Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether PROPHECY, let us prophecy according to the proportion of faith; 12:7 Or MINISTRY, let us wait on our ministering; or he that TEACHETH, on teaching; 12:8 Or he that EXHORTETH, on exhortation: he that GIVETH, let him do it with simplicity; he that RULETH, with diligence; he that SHEWETH MERCY, with cherrfulness.
1Corinthians 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 12:5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 12:6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of WISDOM; to another the word of KNOWLEDGE by the same Spirit; 12:9 To another FAITH by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of HEALING by the same Spirit; 12:10 To another the working of MIRACLES; to another PROPHECY; to another DISCERNING OF SPIRITS; to another DIVERSE KINDS OF TONGUES; to another the INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES: 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, APOSTLES; and some, PROPHETS; and some, EVANGELISTS; and some, PASTORS and TEACHERS, 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
1Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a BISHOP, he desireth a good work.
1Timothy 3:8 Likewise must the DEACONS be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES; I magnify mine office
Did you see all of the “offices” (functions) of the church? Again, this may not be exhaustive, but stop to consider that there are more than just “two office of a local church”, as some would hold to, but also consider that there a plethora of functions that do not exist in our modern, liturgical hierarchies. The other thing to notice is that THERE IS NO HIERARCHY among these functions themselves. The only hierarchy that exists is Christ, as the Head, and then we, His body (Colossians 1:15-24). That’s it. As the Head, Christ has given each member of the body their abilities in order to serve the body holistically where He has placed them. Some of these abilities may be naturally present all one’s life. Others may manifest themselves as one grows in their faith. However, at the end of the day, these “offices” are nothing more than the abilities you have been equipped with – they are not seats of authority to hold within some Christian corporation.