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Choosing a Pastor

By Bill Fallon

Church Leadership in the New Testament, Part 1

The New Testament Church

The Meaning of the word “Church”

In modern English the word “church” is used in several ways:

1. A building designated as a place of worship.

2. A denomination or particular sect, i.e. Baptist, Methodist.

3. The Body of Christ; the universal church composed of all believers from Pentecost to the Rapture.

4. The local church, a geographically limited assembly of believers who meet in a specific location composed of members of the universal church.

 Only the last two of these are recognized in the New Testament.  The Greek word translated “church” in the N.T. is “ekklesia, ().” It literally means “a called out group or assembly.” It was used of the nation of Israel while in the wilderness (Acts 7:38) but not while they were in the land. It is also translated “assembly” and used of a gathering of citizens in a public meeting place (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). These two uses of the word are in striking contrast to the N.T. Church that Jesus said that He would build (Matt. 16:18). He was referring to what is commonly called the “universal” church, “the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22, 23) which He “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). You cannot join this one. You must be spiritually born into it by belief in Christ (John 3:3, 16).

The Origin of the Church

The church was a mystery (something previously not revealed) in the Old Testament (Eph. 5:32). It was first prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 16:18, “...thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church... .” There is a Greek play on words in this prophecy. Thou art Peter (petros, ), literally a stone or a rock), and upon this rock, (petra, , literally a rock-mass, referring to himself), I will build My church. The church is not being built upon Peter as the Roman Church claims, but upon Jesus Himself.

When did the church begin? The Bible does not specifically give that answer. Based on the facts given to us in Scripture, the Day of Pentecost seems to be the most reasonable answer. (1) Shortly before His crucifixion Jesus reassures his disciples that after He is gone that the Comforter will come, the Spirit of truth (John 14:16, 17; 16:7). After His resurrection and immediately before His ascension He tells them more specifically to go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father. They were there to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:3-5), (All believers now are baptized in the Spirit without waiting — I Cor. 12:13.) (2) The Power that they would receive was for the purpose of being witnesses of Jesus (v8). Part of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy is recorded in chapter 2 of Acts. The Holy Spirit came upon them and others. Many witnessed the miraculous signs that accompanied this event. After Peter’s evangelistic message there were “added unto them about three thousand souls” (v41). This same group of believers participated in some “church-type” activities (vs 42-46) and was first called the church in v47. The rest of the book of Acts records the fulfillment of the Gospel being spread to “Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Many churches were started and we begin to see some of God’s plan for the purposes of the local church and how it is to be organized.

The Purpose of the Church

The ultimate purpose of the church is to bring honor and glory to its Head, Jesus Christ. It fulfills this purpose by obedience to Him as found in God’s word. This goal is specifically achieved by our compliance to some commands that Jesus left for us:

Mark 16:15, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Matt. 28:19,20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

These commands include telling others of the good news of salvation through belief in Jesus, discipling, baptizing, and teaching others to obey Christ. (In verse 28, the first rendering of the word “teach” literally means to “disciple”).

 To accomplish this task, the church needs some tools. I Cor. 12 and Rom. 12 speak of spiritual gifts or enablements that God gives to believers as He pleases. These gifts are varied and essential (I Cor. 12), they are to be exercised in divine love (chap 13), and they are to be used for the edification of the body which brings honor to the Head (chap 14). Note how many times variations of the words, “know” or “understand” occur in this “edification” chapter.

Eph. 4:11-16, speaks of gifts that He gives to the church; men with a specific commission or objective. These are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. Eph. 2:20 tells us that the church was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” The foundation of the building has already been laid (the apostles and the prophets, we have the completed word of God), now we are building the rest of the building until He returns for His church. We still have need of the evangelist and the pastor/teacher.

 Notice the balance of the text. These men are given for the maturing or completing of the saints, for the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ, for ensuring sound doctrine, spiritual growth, promoting the speaking of truth in love, and much more.

The Pastor/Teacher has a great responsibility. What does the Bible say about his requirements? Hint: Study I Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Do these verses refer to the pastor/teacher of Eph. 4:11?


 (1). It had to be after the statement Jesus made in Matt. 16:18, “…I will build my church.” It also had to be after the crucifixion of Christ; Eph. 2:11-20, the Gentiles who were “far off” v13, have been brought near by the “blood of Christ,” and reconciled Jew and Gentile into “one body by the cross.” It had to be before the events recorded which occurred immediately after Pentecost (Acts 2:47).

 (2). Contrary to some prevalent doctrine, God’s word nowhere tells us to be baptized in/by/with  the Spirit. Believers of this age are already baptized into His body. All the references to Holy Spirit baptism (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; I Cor 12:13) are in the indicative mood (not imperative as in a command). The commands to the believer in reference to the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16; Gal. 5:25; Eph. 4:30; Eph. 5:18; I Thess. 5:19) have to do with yieldedness and obedience, not seeking a baptism which we already have (I Cor. 12:13).

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