THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (Part 4)
The Christian congregation
In the prophecy of Revelation, it represents the worldwide Christian congregation. But what does it mean that the Apostle John measures the spiritual temple sanctuary, and not the outer courtyard given to the nations. The “Measuring” is a judgment, or an authority that does not exceed the limits of the spiritual sanctuary temple (Amos 7:7–9). The fact that God asks the apostle John to measure shows that this authority was given to a man, the apostle John, who was probably the last apostle still alive. More generally, the measuring of the spiritual sanctuary, symbolizes the authority on earth, within this spiritual temple sanctuary, the Christian congregation, would be entrusted to men (and not in the outer courtyard of this Sanctuary): “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world” (John 17:16)) ((Revelation 11: 1,2). It is again the Apostle Paul who showed how a congregation should be administered.
The angel of the congregation: The Elders, The Overseers and The Stewards
As suggested by the glorified Jesus Christ, the Christian congregation must be administered by at least one “angel”, a “messenger” or a “priest” who transmits to the congregation the sacred declarations of God, through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Acts 17:11). The Apostle Paul designated them as “elders”, “overseers” or “stewards”:
“This statement is trustworthy: If a man is reaching out to be an overseer, he is desirous of a fine work. The overseer should therefore be irreprehensible, a husband of one wife, moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, but reasonable, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having his children in subjection with all seriousness (for if any man does not know how to preside over his own household, how will he care for the congregation of God?), not a newly converted man, for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment passed on the Devil. Moreover, he should also have a fine testimony from outsiders so that he does not fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil” (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9).
The word of the Greek text, translated as “overseer” is “ἐπίσκοπος” (epískopos) (Strong’s Concordance (G1985)): “an overseer a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church”. In the text of Titus 1:5–9, the word “presbyteros” is used for “elders”, with other synonymic expressions, such as that of “overseers” (epískopos) and “steward” (oikonomos (G3623)). If we merge all the spiritual functions of the elders, the overseers and the stewards, we understand that they are teachers of the Word of God, but also, they can be judges in the congregation (Matthew 18:15–17). The only function the Apostle Paul does not directly write, is the prayer within the congregation, although it is obvious that they were praying on behalf of the congregation. The disciple James describes them primarily, as people who pray for Christians spiritually sick: “Is there anyone sick among you? Let him call the elders of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, applying oil to him in the name of Jehovah” (James 5:14). Thus, the elders, the overseers or the stewards, of the congregation have three major roles in the congregation: The Prayer, The Teaching, and The Judgment of the congregation. Who in the temple sanctuary fulfilled these three functions? burning spiritual incense offerings, praying (Psalms 141: 2), teaching (Malachi 2:7) and judging (Deuteronomy 19:15–17)? The priests.
If the elders or supervisors are priests, why then did not the Apostle Paul and the other apostles directly use the word “priest” to designate the elders of the Christian congregation (“hiereus” (G2409); “chief priest” “archiereus” (G749)), which is well differentiated from the word of “elders”, in Matthew (16:21; 21:23; 26: 3)? The first meaning definition of “hiereus” is that of “sacrificer” (and not of people who pray, teach or judge in the name of a congregation), whether in Israel, but also in the cities of Rome, Corinth and many others with Greco-Roman customs (1 Corinthians 10: 18–22). At the time, the fact of appointing the elders as priests, even in a spiritual sense, would have created, perhaps, a confusion: The image of the priest sacrificer of the temple of Herod, the Christians no longer under the Mosaic Law, and the Greco-Roman priest in the pagan temples. The word “elder” is closely associated, in their role, with the chief priests, as judges, in the narrative of the Gospels. The high priest finds his correspondence in Jesus Christ, himself (Hebrews 4:14). The congregation elders, in his right hand, are the priests of the spiritual sanctuary temple (Revelation 1:20).
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