Pauline Local Church Polity: Conduct of the Ministry

The Pauline Bootcamp: Session VI

Trinity Grace Fellowship

5 July 1997

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§0. Introduction. This session, along with the previous two sessions, comprises that unit of our Pauline Bootcamp dedicated to Pauline ecclesiology. These previous two session established, respectively, the Pauline apostleship as the only apostleship of the Body of Christ as well as the infrastructure and officers of the local assembly as the only authorized organizational unit of the Body of Christ.. This session quasi-completes our unit on Pauline ecclesiology by focusing on how the ministry ought to be conducted within the local assembly—missing is a section on hospitality and the Lord's Table, which will be appended to the session on (lack of) symbolism and ceremonialism.

This session will allow us to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the sole function of the local assembly for the individual saint; is the local assembly a place for collective worship?
  2. How is the local assembly to be financially supported; should officers be financially supported by the congregation or should the officers support their ministry to the congregation?
  3. Is the primary purpose of music in the assembly to inspire public worship or to teach doctrine and exhort musically, who directs/supervises music, and who is allowed to sing solos to the congregation?
  4. What is the role of the local assembly in adjudicating disputes between individual saints?
  5. Who should receive financial support from the local assembly, and what is the responsibility of the assembly towards the poor?

This session, in conjunction with the previous two sessions, affirms that the sole purpose of the assembly is to equip the individual saint to perform his/her ministry as a member of the Body of Christ; that the officers are to be financially independent of the congregation; that the teaching officers have charge of all teaching aspects of the ministry of the assembly; that adjudication of disputes between saints is a bottom-up procedure; and that the assembly has fiscal responsibility only to poor saints who have no other other means and who provide a service to the assembly. Additional applications include:

  1. The assembly is not a sanctuary or holy place; and there is no public worship, rather only the worship of individual hearts.
  2. Bishops alone supervise music in the assembly; only bishops can regularly sing solos in assembly; and no women can sing solos in assembly. On the other hand, all are to sing as part of the congregation; and anyone can sing solos outside the official confines of the meeting of the assembly.
  3. The poor of society, while possibly a concern of individual saints, is not the business of the local assembly.

Many of the issues dealt with in this session dovetail both with the peculiar calling of the Body discussed in prior sessions as well as with the absence of ceremonial and symbolic practice in the Body discussed in the last session. An outline of this session is as follows:

§1. Function of the Local Assembly in the Ministry of Individual Saint
§2. Financial Support of the Officers of the Local Assembly
§3. Role and Place of Music in the Local Assembly
§4. Role of Local Assembly in Adjudication of Disputes

§1. Function of the Local Assembly in the Ministry of Individual Saint.

(1) The official function of the local assembly is that of its officers, and the function of its officers is, according to Eph. 4:12–16, to:

(a) perfect the saints unto the work of the ministry;
(b) build up the Body of Christ until all attain the unity of the One Faith (4:4–6), which in context is the Great Mystery of the Pauline Gospel (1:9; 3:1–12; 5:32, cf. I Tim. 3:9);
(c) build up the Body of Christ until all attain the unity of the detailed knowledge of the Son of God, which in contest means the detailed knowledge of Christ as revealed in the Great Mystery, i.e. detailed knowledge of Christ as Head of the Body;
(d) build up the Body of Christ until all attain mature malehood, the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ.

And the means by which the officers are to do this is:

(e) Speaking the truth, i.e. the Mystery, in the love of obligation (agape), in order that Christ as Head should nourish each saint individually, even as each part of a body is wired individually to the head, so that true unity is centered in the Head.

(2) The function of the individuals of a local assembly is to minister the Mystery to each other and build each other up in the One Faith: cf. I Cor. 12:12-27; 13:1–13. See Scriptures of (1) above and also Rom. 16:25, I Cor. 2:7, Eph. 6:19, Col. 1:26–27; 2:2; 4:3, I Tim. 3:9.

(3) To sum up: the purpose of the local assembly is to facilitate the building of the individual saint up in the Mystery of the Body of Christ so as to equip him/her to carry out their own ministry. See the above and cf. Gal. 6:4–5.

(4) It is not the function of the local assembly to be a place of public "worship" or to orchestrate "worship".

(a) No such function is ever stated in the passages above or in those outlining the responsibilities of the officers (I Tim. 3; 5, Tit. 1; 2).
(b) Such a concept means a holy place, only Israel had a holy place, and the Body is not Israel: cf. Matt. 5:5, Eph. 2:6.
(c) Orchestration of public worship means symbolism and ceremonies and holidays, and these are forbidden to the Body of Christ: I Cor. 11:1–15, Gal. 4:8–11, Col. 2:8–23.

§2. Financial Support of the Officers of the Local Assembly.

(1) Paul was never dependent for his livelyhood on any assembly in which he ministered, and Paul insured that such was the case by always having employment when necessary—there was no "stepping out by faith" as is commonly taught in evangelical circles. On the other hand, voluntary offerings from those mature in the faith were never refused; but offerings from those immature in the faith were always refused.

(a) Paul was a tentmaker by trade, a trade in which he could support himself whenever necessary: Acts 17:17 (Athens), Acts 18:1–4 (Corinth), Acts 20:33-35 (Ephesus).

(b) Paul accepted voluntary gifts from mature saints and assemblies, but refused money from others:

(i) Certain saints gave as they wished (I Cor. 16:1–4) to elect Israel; but support from this assembly for Paul's ministry was consistently refused (II Cor. 11:8–9; 12:13–19).
(ii) Philippian saints were mature (Phil. 1:7; 2:12) and they initiated contact with Paul concerning giving (Phil. 4:15). Similar comments for the Thessalonian assembly (I Thess. 1:3–7; 2:9, II Thess. 2:8).
(iii) Paul could claim a right to support, a right he forebore (I Cor. 9:14–19).

(2) Paul is the apostolic example established by Christ for all Body members, especially the officers of the assembly:

(a) Paul's fiscal conduct and example to the officers: example for Titus as an apostle (II Cor. 8:23; 12:13–19); example for the Ephesian officers (Acts 20:17, 33–35).
(b) Paul is the apostolic example for the Body of Christ in all matters of faith, doctrine, and practice: Rom. 16:17, I Cor. 11:1, Phil. 2:12; 3:17; 4:9, I Thess. 1:6, II Thess. 2:15; 3:6.

Thus officers must be able to ensure their financial independence of the assembly in which they serve.

(3) To sum up, each Body member is to provide for his/her own livelyhood and ministry and not be dependent on others, yet be willing to join financially with those, and only those, mature in the faith providing his/her livelyhood and family obligations have first been satisfied. If the assembly gives to saints, then teaching officers have priority within the deaconate, and officers generally take double priority over non-officers. Non-officers are supported if and only if they are mature in the Mystery, destitute, have no family of government or other means of support, and if they render the assembly service as compensation; hence the assembly has no obligation to the poor of society.

(a) Provision for one's own household comes first: I Thess. 4:11; II Thess. 3:10–1I; I Tim. 5:8.
(b) Wealthy are to give out of their abundance and enjoy the rest: I Tim. 6:17–19.
(c) Destitute are supported only under the conditions specified above: I Tim. 5:3–16. The only exception durint the "transitional period" was the support of the poor of elect Israel: I Cor. 16:1–4.
(d) Double priorty of officers, especially teaching officers: I Tim. 5:17–18.

(4) Paul canonized rabbinic law concerning the support of synagogues in Diaspora: rabbis learned a trade and supported their own ministry to the congregation. The Body assemblies are also in Exile, and were modified from the synagogue, as established in the previous session of this bootcamp.

(a) Students were sons of their rabbis, and the rabbis taught that "he who does not teach his son a trade has raised a thief".
(b) R. Akiba would take oak barrels to synagogue and finish them while giving his lessons to drive home the point that his ministry was self-supported.

(5) All is different with Israel's kingdom gospel: priests and officers are paid by mandatory tithes; the Twelve were to do no servile work at all; the other saints were to give all to the ministry and wait charismatically upon the Lord for provision. And the poor of society were the responsibility of all.

(a) Priests receive, and Israel pays, a tithe: Gen. 14:20 (Heb. 7:2–4), Lev. 27:32, Nu. 10:38; 18:21–26, Mal. 3:8–10.
(b) Twelve were to be wholly dependent upon contribution of saints: Matt. 10:5–15, Luke 9:3–5, Acts 6:2–4.
(c) Saints gave all they had, even their livelihood: Mark 12:41–44, Acts 2:44–46; 4:31–37; 5:1–11.
(d) Poor were to be provided for: Luke 16:19–31, Acts 2:44–46; 3:1–16; 4:31–37; 6:2–4.
(e) Israel's program shows the Body program to be generous to the saints: I Cor. 9:1–15–...

§3. Role and Place of Music in the Local Assembly.

(1) Role of music in Israel's program:

(a) Doctrine and exhortation: singing of Israel's Law and Hope to the Lord.

(i) I Chron. 25:1–6: Israel's choirs were comprised solely of prophets, those qualified to proclaim.
(ii) The term "maschil" in Ps. 32, 42, 44, 45, 52, 54, 55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 142 explicitly means instruction or doctrine.
(iii) Instruments were allowed as indicated throughout the Hebrew canon; the word "psalm" refers to string instruments; and the psalms often indicate the accompanient to be used.
(iv) The doctrinal content of Israel's music concerned her specific salvation and Hope: Moses taught and admonished Israel in song (Deut. 31:30–32:44); Saul prophesied musically (I Sam. 10:5–13); David and the choirs of Israel taught and prophesied musically (Ps. 1, 22, 69, 136, etc); Elisha prophesied in song (II Kings 3:15); etc.

(b) Ceremonies and the Temple, i.e. public worship. See the role of the choirs and instruments in the ceremonial aspects in I Chron. 25:1–6, II Chron. 5:11–14.

(2) Role of music in the local assemblies of the Body of Christ.

(a) Teaching and exhortation: singing of the Mystery and the Body Hope to God in praise of what Christ has done for us: Eph. 5:18b–20, Col. 3:16–17.

(i) The Laodecian (aka Ephesian) and Colossian letter are to correlated, point by point: Col. 4:16.
(ii) "Be filled-up-to-the-full in spirit" refers to the same thing as "It is commanded that the Logos of the Christ indwell you filled-up-to-the-full".
(iii) Given the content of these two letters—Eph. 1:9; 3:1–17; 5:32; 6:19, Col. 1:23–29; 2:2; 4:3—this means "filling the heart and mind with the Mystery concerning the Body of Christ". This is confirmed by the fact that the phrases "the Logos of the Lord" (I Tim. 6:3, I Thess. 1:8; 4:15, II Thess 3:1) and "(the) Logos of (the) truth" (II Cor. 6:7, Eph. 1:13, Col. 1:5) refer without exception to that spoken by the Logos to Paul, namely the Mystery concerning Christ as Head over the Body of Christ; and "the Logos of God" (Col. 1:25, I Thess. 2:15, I Tim. 4:5, II Tim. 2:9, Tit. 2:5) in the passages cited refer to the same, and this phrase generally throughout Paul has this meaning (though not without exception). This is also confirmed by the phrase "in all wisdom", for "wisdom" in the good sense in Paul has reference to the Mystery (I Cor. 2:7; 12:8, Eph. 1:8, 17; 3:10, Col. 1:9, 25–28).
(iv) "Speaking to yourselves" refers to the same thing as "Truly-admonishingly-teaching yourselves", and both emphasize that the purpose of music is to embed the mystery deep into the consciousness of the Body saint through the poetry, melody, and rhythm of music. Music is part of the Divine methodology to implement the goals of Eph. 3:17 ("Christ should dwell in your hearts through the faith [i.e. One Faith = the Mystery]") and Col. 1:28 ("Whom we preach [Christ according to the Mystery], admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom"). Thus the purpose of music is teaching, i.e. catechial, not public worship; and this confirms the function of an assembly—no ceremonies, no holy place, no public worship, no manipulation of emotions through music toward ritual or public worship. It also follows that assembly music is under the supervision of the officers, specifically the teaching officers, that only bishops can sing solos, and that non-officers, including women, are not to sing solos (I Cor. 14:34–35, I Tim. 2:11–12).
(v) "In psalms", psalmos refers to a twitching of the fingers, i.e. the plucking of string instruments, and it also refers to the psalms of Israel. Several conclusions follow:

  • Instruments are appropriate in the assembly, but only to support singing, as it was with the psalms.
  • The psalms of Israel, e.g. Psalm 1 and Psalm 136, are models for Body singing since they are doctrinally dense and dispensationally specific.

(vi) "hymns". humnos refers to songs in praise of gods, heroes, and conquerers. Christ has triumphed for us in every way (Rom. 8:32–34 (17–39), I Cor. 15:51–57, Eph. 2:1–7, 11–16, Col. 2:15 (8–23), etc), including conquering the ceremonies and rituals and holidays on our behalf. Where are the songs praising Him for the specific atonement and salvation wrought for the Body of Christ? Israel's songs praise Him for their specific salvation!
(vii) "spiritual songs". odais pneumatikais refers to singing of those things which concern the regenerate spirit of a Body saint, namely the Mystery, or restated, those things which the Spirit is giving us, namely those things declared in the Mystery.
(viii) "Singing with the grace in your hearts to God / the Lord". The grace, or this grace, is that which is peculiarly the Body's from the Father (see the distinctive greetings of the Pauline epistles). "In your hearts" means in all your conscious thinking (Ps. 119:11, 34, Prov. 14:33; 23:7, Matt. 22:37, Mark 2:6–8, Luke 3:15, etc). Directed toward God, as the word "hymn" indicates. Our musical instruction is sung to God. Restated, if we are singing properly to God, then we are being doctrinally instructed and admonished; contrapositively, if it is not musical instruction in the Mystery, then it is not being sung to God.
(ix) The reference to women prophesying (I Cor. 11:4–5) can be understood as participating in the congregational singing (since singing was prophesying, or forth-telling, in song—see discussion of Israel's music above) and collective congregational verbal responses to the 18 benedictions which the Corinthian synagogue followed.

(b) Israel's psalms as role models for Body "psalms": see (a) above.

A Body Version of Psalms 1 & 136

§4. Role of Local Assembly in Adjudication of Disputes.

(1) Procedure in the synagogue: Matt. 18:15–17. This is a bottoms-up approach to resolving disputes. Note that the assembly refereed to here means the officers of the synagogue deliberating the matter in a public hearing before the whole congregation. There are essentially three steps:

(a) Try to settle the matter privately;
(b) Try to settle the matter in the presence of two or three witnesses;
(c) Settle the matter before the officers of the synagogue in the presence of the congregation.

If the synagogue rules against an individual, then he is regarded as an outsider and is disfellowshipped.

(2) Procedure in the Pauline assembly. The procedure is essentially the same as for the synagogue.

(a) I Cor. 6:1–8. The officers had not performed their job to adjuducate these disputes when the unofficial means failed, and the saints resorted to the courts. Again, the Corinthian assembly was the synagogue of Corinth.
(b) Tit. 3:10. The same three steps seem implicitly to be here, with explicit reference to the last step, namely that of disfellowship.
(c) I Cor. 5:1–13 and II Cor, 2:1–10. Disciplinary issues follow the same procedure of adjudication.
(d) There must always be a plan of reconciliation (see previous Scriptures).

(3) The local assembly is the only authorized organizational unit in the Body of Christ (search and see). It follows that one local assembly does not discipline a member of another assembly pertaining to matters of that other assembly; assembly X would only have a right to discipline a member of another assembly in regards to that person's relationship to assembly X. Each assembly is to mind its own affairs. Assemblies, like individual saints, are not to be busybodies: Gal. 6:4–5, I Thess. 4:11. Any organization other than what God ordains is a division of those units which are ordained. Thus any denominational overstructure, or any involvement of one assembly in the affiars of another is therefore a violation of the One Body: Eph. 4:4–6.