Sabbath, May 12, 2007
IN APOSTOLIC TIME
1. How was the church organized in the time of the apostles?
Acts 6:1-7 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
“In the early church at first the apostles were all things to all men. Then the needs of the people suggested deacons. The organization con¬tinued to develop, and some thirty years later we see the great apostle telling Titus that he was left in Crete to ‘set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city,’ and writing Timothy about the character and establishment of bishops (elders) and deacons. Again, he wrote:
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he… gave gifts unto men…. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” –Arthur Whitefield Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, vol. 1, pp.
2. How were Christians organized in the time of Apostle Paul?
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
“This was in harmony with the gospel plan of uniting in one body all believers in Christ, and this plan Paul was careful to follow throughout his ministry. Those who in any place were by his labor led to accept Christ as the Saviour were at the proper time organized into a church. Even when the believers were but few in number, this was done. The Christians were thus taught to help one another, remembering the promise, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.’ Matthew 18:20.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 185, 186.
“From country to country and from city to city Paul went, preaching of Christ and establishing churches. Wherever he could find a hearing, he labored to counterwork error and to turn the feet of men and women into the path of right. Those who by his labors in any place were led to accept Christ, he organized into a church. No matter how few in number they might be, this was done. And Paul did not forget the churches thus established. However small a church might be, it was the object of his care and interest.” –The Story of Redemption, p. 310.
OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS
3. Why were early Seventh-day Adventists reluctant to be organized?
Galatians 5:1-3 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
“From the very outset, Sabbath-keeping Adventists were characterized by their eagerness to understand God’s will and to walk in His way. In their advent experience of the mid 1840’s they had witnessed the stable Protestant churches, with their creedal stakes firmly driven, turn from great truths taught in the word of God. Many of these Adventists had been cast out of these churches because of their advent hope, a hope which sprang from the Scriptures. They had seen their former brethren enter into active opposition to those who held and expounded Bible truths. This led them to be fearful of formality and church organization.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. xvii.
4. When was the first direct call for organization given?
Ephesians 4:4-7 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
“But as the way began to open for the heralding of the third angel’s message, the need for organization developed, and in January, 1850, Ellen White was shown that the Sabbath-keeping Adventists should bring their work into order, for ‘everything in heaven was in perfect order.’” –Testi¬monies to Ministers and
5. What other factors dictated that organization should be made?
1 Corinthians 12:4-12 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
“Organization comes as the result of increased membership and exercise of energies. A small group may follow a leader who suffices for all needs or who delegates some of his duties. But with the increase of num¬bers and the multiplication of activities, there becomes apparent the need of organization.” –Arthur Whitefield Spalding,
6. How was the first apostolic style of organization introduced among early Seventh-day Adventists?
1 Timothy 3:1-13 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
“The first evidence of organization among the Sabbath-keeping Adventists came in the appointment or election of deacons in each band, or church. This practice appears in 1853, in Joseph Bates’ own church at Fairhaven, and in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, also at Jackson and Sylvan, Michigan.” –Arthur Whitefield Spalding, Origin
7. What was the duty of these deacons?
2 Timothy 4:1, 2 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
“The deacon was generally the sole church officer, and appears to have united in himself the duties of elder and deacon, except when, at irregular intervals, a minister might visit them. Indeed, the chief reason given for the appointment of deacons was that they might see to the celebration of the ‘ordinances of the Lord’s house’– the Lord’s supper, and ‘the ordinance of humility,’ or foot washing – since the minister’s visits might be a year or more apart. But with this start in local church organization, it was soon perceived that the gospel order provided by the apostles required the selection of both elders and deacons, and those two offices were established.” –Arthur Whitefield Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, vol. 1, p. 294.