[19] Church: Characteristics and Governance

64.    What are the important characteristics of the church?

a. The church is an assembly of people who are called out by God for life in the Holy Spirit. b. Visible and invisible church: c. Biblical descriptions: d. Attributes or internal characteristics: (1) unity: as one spiritual body of Christ (Eph 4:2-15; 1Co 1:10; Gal 1:6-8)

(2) holiness: separated from the world (Eph 5:25-26; Jn 17:14)

(3) catholicity: the invisible church, including all believers of all ages and all nations

(4) apostolicity: teaching what the apostles taught (Gal 1:8-9; Jude 3)

e. Marks or external characteristics: (1) true preaching of the Word of God (Jn 8:31-32; 14:23; 1Jn 5:1-3): true to the fundamentals and with a controlling influence on faith and practice (2Ti 2:14-15; Jude 3)

(2) right administration of the sacraments (Mt 28:19; Ac 2:42): as a visible preaching of the Word

(3) faithful exercise of discipline for eternal accountability (1Co 5:1-5; 2Co 2:5-7; Titus 3:10-11): in order to maintain purity of doctrine and to safeguard the holiness of the sacraments

f. Purposes of the Church: (1) ministry to God: worship (Eph 1:12; Col 3:16)

(2) ministry to believers: nurture (Eph 4:12-13; Col 1:28)

(3) ministry to the world: evangelism and mercy (Mt 28:19; Lk 6:35-36)

65.    How should a church be governed? a. The visible church needs some organization, leadership, and governance but Jesus left to his apostles to make judgments as the Holy Spirit would lead them. There is no divinely appointed system of church government and each system claims Biblical support.   b. Systems of church government: (1) Episcopalian: power exclusively held by archbishops as the successors of the apostles, delegated in turn to bishops in dioceses, rectors and vicars in parishes; ordinary believers (laymen) have absolutely no share in government; example, Anglican Church

(2) Presbyterian: members choose elders for office but their authority is not delegated by the people but directly by Christ; elders from local churches constitute a presbytery which has authority over several churches in a region; example, Presbyterian Church

(3) Congregational: officers (elders and deacons) have no other power than those delegated to them by the members; they govern local churches only; example, Baptist Church

c. Officers or leaders: (they are servants not governors) (1) Qualifications:
(2) Work of elders (some called bishops or pastors, 1Ti 3:1-7; 5:17; Titus 1:5-9; 1Pe 5:1-3): administrative (to rule, 1Ti 5:17; Titus 1:7), pastoral (to shepherd, 1Pe 5:2), educational (to teach, Eph 4:12-13; 1Ti 3:2), officiative (to lead in church functions, Jas 5:14), representative (to represent the church, Ac 20:17; 1Ti 5:17)   (3) Work of deacons (Ac 6:1-6; 1Ti 3:8-12; Php 1:1): appointed for a special function such as to help the poor (Ac 6:1-6) and to relieve the elders (Ac 6:1-4)
d. Ordination of officers: not receiving power, just an official recognition, commendation, and setting apart of one whom God has previously chosen to serve
66.    When should church discipline be exercised, and how? a. Discipline is very different from punishment. Punishment is designed to execute retribution for a wrong done. Discipline is to encourage the restoration and reconciliation of one involved in wrongdoing.

b. Reasons why discipline is necessary:

(1) purification: so that God may not be insulted by the term "Christian" being used by those who lead corrupt lives (1Co 5:7; 1Ti 5:19-20)

(2) protection: so that good people may not be affected by regular contact with the wicked like a yeast working through the whole batch of dough (1Co 5:6,11)

(3) restoration: so that the sinner may feel ashamed and repent of his error (Mt 18:15; 1Co 5:5; Gal 2:11; 2Th 3:14)

c. Types of wrongdoing (living contrary to the standards of the church): false teaching (Gal 1:8-9; 1Ti 1:20; 6:3-5; 2Jn 9-11; Rev 2:14-16), divisiveness (Ro 16:17-18; Titus 3:10), open sexual immorality (1Co 5:1-13), sinning in personal conflicts such as accusations (Mt 18:15-20)

d. Progressive steps:

(1) private reproof (Mt 18:15; Lk 17:3)

(2) private conference: reprove with 2 or 3 witnesses (Dt 19:15; Mt 18:16)

(3) public announcement: reprove before the church (Mt 18:17; 1Ti 5:20)

(4) public exclusion: "disfellowship" (Mt 18:17; 1Co 5:5; 2Th 3:14-15; 1Ti 1:20)

(5) turn away from the offender (Ro 16:17-19)

e. Caution: There are different degree of sins: some are merely lapses while others are deliberate crimes. In discipline, it is always incorrect to be unloving and unnecessarily severe.