Authority for Church Organization

Every study must have a standard of authority. It must be a definite authority which all can depend upon to be right. What is the standard of authority in the study of church organization? How can we know which way is best?

Some think in religion that every man has the right to choose what he wants to do. But man’s opinion is not God’s standard in religion. God’s prophet said: “O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). The wise man warned: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12). The Lord Jesus Christ said: “But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:9). Therefore, in any religious matter, man’s opinion is not the authority. In church organization many men will say their plan is best. But the opinions of men are not dependable. We cannot know the truth by asking what seems best to ourselves.

A second wrong idea about religious authority is that whatever is practiced by the majority must be correct. The opinion of many men is no more reliable than the opinion of one man (Exodus 23:2; Judges 21:25). Jesus warned that on Judgment Day, many will claim to have done works in His name. But He will reject them because they did not do His will (Matthew 7:22-23). Most people will be lost because they followed the majority (Matthew 7:13-14). The Israelites wanted a king in order to be like the nations around them. By trying to be like others, they rejected God’s rule over His people (1 Samuel 8:5-7). The churches of Christ must not look at the churches around them and try to be like them. The Lord’s church is a called out group (2 Corinthians 6:17). They are different from all others (1 Peter 2:9). Most corruptions that enter into the organization of the Lord’s church come in because weak members want to be like the denominations. But the things which others do is not God’s standard of truth.

The only true standard of authority in religion is the New Testament. Books and creeds written by men are not accepted by God. Jesus has all authority in both Heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He gave the Holy Spirit to guide His apostles into all truth (John 16:13). Thus, what is written in Scripture is inspired of God. It tells us all we need to know and to do in order to go to Heaven (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We must not add to, nor take from, God’s Book (Revelation 22:18-19). All must abide in the teachings of Christ and not go beyond them (2 John 9-10). We must not change the Gospel (Galatians 1:7-9).

It must also be understood that the Old Testament is not the authority for Christians. It was “our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:24-25). The Old Testament law was taken out of the way and nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Christians are under a new and better covenant, the New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:6-13). We must learn God’s plan for the organization of His church from the New Testament.

We must examine every practice in the light of God’s Word (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1). Only the organization for the church which is found in the Bible is approved by God. We must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” ( Jude 3). We must speak “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11, KJV). Those who respect God’s authority will teach what the Bible teaches. They will also refuse to teach anything not authorized in Scripture. With respect for God’s Word as the only standard of authority in religion, we shall study the organization of the church (1 Thessalonians 5:21)