The Forum

The Forum

Assembly Principles

This excellent letter is in reply to the question appearing in the March 1965 number regarding overseers. Not only does the firm scriptural premise commend this answer, but so does its spiritual tone.

Assembly principles are previewed in the Old Testament, predicted in the Gospels, practised in the Acts, and promulgated in the Epistles. The consistent witness of this wide variety of instruction precludes the idea that ministerial gift, governmental authority and financial control can properly be concentrated in and monopolized by a single brother in a local assembly.

The tabernacle in the wilderness perhaps provides the most complete Old Testament typology of Christ and His Church. And here we find upright boards to represent the common standing and corporate unity of church saints, and Aaronites, Kohathites, Gershonites and Merarites to illustrate the divinel-appointed distention of services and division of labour by which assembly activities are to be performed.

In Matthew 18, the very passage in which the Lord speaks of a gathering of somewhat less than “normal size” (two or three gathered together to His Name), He counsels an injured brother to carry his final appeal not to a specially prominent official of the assembly, but to the assembly itself.

Acts 6 shows a plurality of apostles and deacons functioning in the Jerusalem assembly; Acts 13 reveals a plurality of prophets and teachers ministering in the assembly at Antioch; and Acts 20 mentions a plurality of elders governing the Ephesian church.

Paul addresses a plurality of saints, bishops and deacons in the salutation of his Philippian epistle; insists upon diversity in unity (many members in one body) respecting the exercise of spiritual gifts in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4; and enjoins Titus to ordain a plurality of elders in every city.

Diotrephes draws the scathing censure of the Apostle of Love (3 John) for demanding preeminence, rejecting apostolic authority, attacking with malicious words, manipulating formal fellowship, and casting gracious brethren out of the assembly. What a practical denial of the true composition, unity and scriptural regulation of a local church! Should a brother in an assembly of normal size find the great majority of decisions, services, ministry and control devolving upon himself, well might he appeal to his brethren to seek the Lord with him in concerted prayer, that the traits of a normal assembly might be developed in his assembly of “normal size”.

—R. F. H.