SPECIAL TOPIC: CHURCH POLITY (from 1 Timothy 5:17)

I. NT Leaders

The term "elder" (presbuteros) was an OT designation of leadership, while the term "overseer" (episkopos, cf. 1 Tim. 3:1) was a Greek city-state designation of leadership. These two terms are used synonymously in the NT (cf. Acts 20:17, 28 and 1 Pet. 5:1-2. They are used of the office/function of pastor in Titus 1:5,7.

II. The NT Polity

The NT cannot be used to establish a divine church polity. It records all three developed forms, especially in the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15.

1. episcopalian (James as authoritative leader, cf. Acts 15)

2. presbyterian (a group of elders reviewed, cf. Acts 15) 

3. congregational (the congregations voted, cf. Acts 15)

III. House Churches

The plural in 1 Tim. 5:17, Acts 20:17, and Titus 1:5 could possibly point toward house churches. The early church did not have separate buildings until the third century. No one home was large enough to accommodate all the believers, therefore, different Christian homes around the larger cities opened their doors for the regular meetings of the Christian community. This approach also protected the church from being arrested all at once.

Exactly how the leadership of a city with several house churches was organized is unclear. As the church grew, organization was needed. The form of that organization is not as crucial as the godliness of the leaders (cf. 1 Timothy 3).


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