During the last Passover, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem and saw the people selling oxen, doves and exchanging currency. Immediately he got angry and drove them away from that place, saying, “This is my Father’s house, don’t make it a den of the thieves”. Then the Jews asked him, what sign will you show to us because you are doing these things? Then Jesus told them, destroy this temple, I will build it in 3 days (John 2:19). During that time, people did not understand what did he mean by that. But his disciples could understand this after his resurrection (John 2:22). Yes, Lord was talking about the church, which he calls the body of Christ. Now, we who believe in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, belong to this temple; which is built by our Lord. This temple has an organizational structure and specific roles and responsibilities. The goal of this document is to clearly lay out the structure and purpose of this temple as per the Bible.
The structure of the temple
He (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church – Colossians 1:18
Here we see structurally there are two parts of this temple.
- Head (The Lord)
- Body (The church)
We know that the head is the central controlling part of our physical body. The head decides, controls, and commands various parts of our physical body. But we will look at “head” from an organizational perspective. If you see any organization, the person who established that can be seen as the head of that organization. He will appoint many others to make sure that the goal of the organization is met.
Being the head of the church, what did the Lord Jesus Christ do?
Founded the church
The Lord, Jesus Christ founded the church by his crucifixion and burial and resurrection process. He invested his blood that was shed on the cross of calvary to build this church. As he told in John 2:19, he built this church in 3 days.
- First Day: The crucifixion to be offered as the sin offering of the whole world (Isaiah 53:10)
- Second Day: Capturing the keys of the hell and the death (Revelation 1:18)
- Third-Day: Risen to be seated on the right hand of God (Luke 24:6) and sent the Holy Spirit to build the church.
Appointed the Holy Spirit as leader
After he founded the church, Jesus appointed the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, to set an order, to teach, to comfort as the chief executive officer of the church. If we look at the responsibilities –
- Comforter: Being the Spirit of God, he knows the will of the Father. He abides with and in the church. He teaches all the things and he will remind us of the teachings of the Lord, Jesus Christ (John 14-16,17, 26). Also, he bears witness with our spirit that we belong to God (Romans 8: 16)
- Witness Jesus Christ: Holy Spirit gives witness about the Lord Jesus Christ.(John 15: 26, 27).
- Reprover: If we study the word, the Holy Spirit reproves mainly in the 3 areas.(John 16: 8-11).
- Sin: Because the world did not believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit reproves or rebukes the world. So they may believe before the time is over.
- Righteousness: Because the Lord Jesus Christ went to be with the Father and the church will not see him anymore, the Holy Spirit reproves or rebukes the believer regarding the righteousness through the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Judgment: Because the prince of this world is judged, the Holy Spirit reproves or rebukes the world regarding the judgment to be followed for those who walk after the prince of this world.
- Guiding force: Holy Spirit guides the church to the perfect truth by hearing from the Father and speaking to the church. He also shows the church, the things to come. Always glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ and enables the church to glorify the head of the church (John 16: 13-15).
- Empowers the church: The Holy Spirit empowers the church (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8). How he is empowering the church? By granting the required gifts and resources. We will list them now
- Helps the believers to pray: the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26)
- Intercession for the believers: he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:27)
- Helps to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8: 13)
- Gives us confidence to call the heavenly Father as our own Abba, father (Romans 8: 15)
- Gives assurance that we belong to God (Romans 8:16)
- Distributing the Spiritual gifts to the believers (1 Corinthians 12:4 – 11)
- Enables the believers to bear the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,23)
With all these responsibilities, it the Holy Spirit who works in a believer and the church to achieve the vision of the founder of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the will of the Father in heaven. That vision is transforming each believer into the image and stature of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13) and preparing the church for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:26, 27).
The Holy Spirit established the physical form of the church on the day of Pentecost. Lord Jesus Christ told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem till the promise which is the Holy Spirit is sent upon them. We can see that in the Act of Apostles first chapter clearly –
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth – Acts 1: 4, 5, 8
Here on the day of Pentecost, the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit happened. This is a well-known incident. The rushing mighty wind and the cloven tongues like fire appeared and sat upon each one of them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4). On that day, the Holy Spirit enabled Peter to speak to the multitude like a scholar. They preached the gospel for the first time without Jesus being present with them. 3000 people were added with them. The first physical assembly of the believers of the Lord Jesus Christ is initiated in Jerusalem with these 3000 people, under the guidance of the apostles and the Holy Spirit. Then the work of the ministry in an assembly started with the following.
- The teaching of the doctrine (The word ministry)
- The breaking of the bread (The communion)
- Selling of the individual assets and living together(Acts 2:45)
- Gathering in the temple and in the houses, for the edification of their spirits
- Adding up of the new believers
- The church takes care of the needs of the believers (Acts 4:35 and Acts 6:1,2)
- Healing (Acts 3:7, Acts 4:22, Acts 5:15, 16)
If we observe the first church started by Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost with 3000 people, it was shaped up gradually as a template of the local assemblies in a place. Once the church in Jerusalem was scattered due to the great persecution, in the new places which the believers scattered, they were following the same pattern which they experienced in Jerusalem.
Holy Spirit structures the church
If we observe the work of the Holy Spirit in the church and through the church, we can understand various ministries are there in the church. We can observe 2 categories of structures
- Spiritual Structure
- Administration Structure
The following figure depicts the spiritual structure. In the spiritual structure, we can see few offices and ministries.
- Apostles (Apostolos Gr. G652): The meaning is someone that is sent forth with orders. (Mathew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Mathew 10:1). In the current church men of God who initiates any ministry or a church by the vision they receive from God, are entitled Apostles. But if we see, any ministry is a continuation of the ministry that was initiated on the day of Pentecost, with the initial 3000 believers. So, we can also think that the office of the Apostles is fulfilled with the 12 apostles and the Paul. Because, Paul received the command of God to preach the gospel unto the gentiles. So he was called by the Lord himself. Also few think that the church planting is the apostolic ministry. If we see the reason and pattern of the church plantation, initially the church was in the Jerusalem only. When the tribulation started then they scattered. So, it was not part of an apostolic mission but scattered due to the circumstances. Also, Lord himself gave the commandment to make the disciple everywhere in the whole world. So, church planting can be seen as a common ministry of reaching out new people.
- Prophets (Prophetes Gr. G4396): A prophet is someone by the inspiration of the Spirit of God, declares the future events particularly relating to the kingdom of God and salvation). Many people think of use the prophetic office as the future telling for the materialistic things also. But if we see the scripture, from the beginning God used prophets to convey the decisions, warnings and encouragements from God to His people mainly on the spiritual relationship with Him.
- Evangelists (euggelistes Gr. G2099): The bringer of good tidings. The heralds of the message of salvation through Christ. The evangelism ministry is to spread the gospel to the unbelievers.
- Pastors (Poimen Gr. G4166): Shepherds. These are the overseers of the local assemblies. These are the people who are responsible and accountable for the flock whom the Lord assigned to their shepherdship.
- Teachers (didaskalos Gr. G1320): These are the teachers of the message of the Lord and the doctrine under the supervision and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- Word Ministry: We see in Acts 2, Peter could preach with wisdom and knowledge.
- Healing: We see them, throughout the ministry of Jesus and through the ministry of the church in the book of Acts.
- Miracles: This ministry also can be seen, throughout the ministry of the church in the book of Acts.
- Prophecy: God uses prophetic ministry to encourage, admonish and direct people according to His will. Like in the case of Peter and Cornelius, he directed them. In the vision, God directed Peter to understand that the gentiles are part of the church. Peter could understand that Ananias and Saphira deceived the Spirit of God etc.
- Discerning Spirits: Paul rebuking Bar-Jesus the magician and rebuking the girl with divination spirit, comes to this category.
- Speaking in tongues: We can see this on the day of Pentecost and in the house of Cornelius and with the disciples of John in Corinth and also from the letters of Paul.
- Interpretation of tongues: We can see in the letter of Paul to the Corinthians regarding this ministry.
If we observe the early events in the church, the major highlights are, every one sold their assets and brought to the apostles and that wealth is used for all the believers. Also, we can see from Acts 6:1, there was a daily services to feed and to attend the requirements of the believers. These are not spiritual but to meet the physical and social requirements of the believers or the church. In Acts 6, we can see the calling of apostles to choose 7 men to oversee the administration section. Later through Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, the Holy Spirit provided the details of the administrative structure. We can see the following roles in the administration structure
- Bishops (Episkope Gr. G1984): Overseer or a presiding officer fo the activities of the church, in all the offices.
- Elders (Presbyteros Gr. G4245): Elder in age and in experience to guide the people. Mainly to guide the deacons of an office to which the elder is responsible.
- Deacons (diakonos Gr. G1249): Who executes the commands of another. Mainly within the office in which he is placed.
As per the vision of our Lord, spiritual edification and transforming into the perfect image of the Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate goal of the church. So the administration structure is an enabler for the spiritual structure. Pastors are the shepherds of the flock of the Lord. In the local assemblies, the Pastor is responsible to bring up the believers, working with other offices of teaching, prophecy and healing and with administration department for the edification and well being of the local assembly. This local assembly is part of the universal church. If we read 1 Peter 2:5, we together built up a spiritual house or temple. And individually we are the temples of God too (1 Corinthians 3:16). God’s wisdom is greater than the wisdom of the world. God provided the necessary establishment for the spiritual edification and growth of a believer through the body of Christ. All we need to do is, continue stedfastly in the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ which was given to the apostles and the fellowship of saints in the place we are kept by God, and in breaking of bread to remember the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross, and in prayers and intercessions for the kingdom (country and the place you are living), temple (the universal church and the local assembly you are having fellowship with) and believers (co-believers in the assembly you are going and the believers globally. May God bless all of us with his wisdom to understand the oneness in the church to cooperate and work with Holy Spirit and be transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!