Congregational and Bible Churches have long raised a banner that lays claim to New Testament Principles. Disagreeing vehemently with their banners, hierarchal churches within the single pastor systems have taken to questioning Congregational reasoning and shaken sympathetic pastoral heads. Over all this the Roman Catholic Church has pointed to the shaky claims of the entire Protestant movement, stuck its thumbs in its theological breeches and scoffed. But I have to ask: who is right? What does a church established on New Testament principles actually look like?
Firstly, I’ll have to start with a few assumptions which I’m working under. I doubt these assumptions are very debatable anyway except for maybe the first assumption which sounds dispensational on the outset but is properly established by the subsequent assumptions [The way I have now structured the assumptions I think make a stronger case for being proper premises].
- Assumption One: The Church was something New. Jesus points out that upon this rock (being Peter or Christ, depending on your interpretation) the church would (in time: future) be built (Matt 16:18). And even though the church may have been hinted at in the Old Testament or spoken of as a Gathering (such as the Congregation of Israel), Paul points out that the church, when it became realized, was an unveiled thing (Rom 16:25-27)
- Assumption Two: The Church is made up of people. It does not consist of a building or institution but a group of people gathered not for an ideological position but underneath a person (Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Pet 2).
- Assumption Three: The church could only be built after some historical requirements were fulfilled. Paul would say that the prophets, the coming (suffering, death and resurrection) of Christ, and the apostles were all historical requirements for the Church. (Rom. 11; Eph 5:25-27; Col 1:24). Jesus points out that upon this rock (being Peter or Christ, depending on your interpretation) the Church would (in time: future) be built (Matt 16:18). And even though the church may have been hinted at in the Old Testament or spoken of as a Gathering (such as the Congregation of Israel), Paul points out that the church, when it became realized, was an unveiled thing (Rom 16:25-27) [I’ve changed my mind about the four assumptions deciding that I was correct in thinking that the first and the third assumption were too similar. I’ll operate with this framework and modify the bottom of the post accordingly.]
- Assumption Four: The church’s leadership is divine. In other words, the head authority of the church is Christ (Eph 1:22; 5:23) and the entire Church belongs to God (1Ti 3:15). It is altogether God’s church (2 Tim. 2:19). This is not to say that the leaders in the church are divine or that any one human in the church has a divine authority-this is to say that the origin, purpose, duty, equipping and demarcation of the church is solely divine. He specifies who is in, who is out, how the church will operate and for how long.
With these four assumptions in place there winds up being several entailments which I’ll deal with later but first I want to make sure: are there any other assumptions that should be made? Or are some of these assumptions repetitive–such as 1 and 3? [I’ve decided that these two assumptions are in fact repetitive and together they give stronger support to what the Third assumption was already stating]