Democracy or Theocracy: What the Bible Teaches
Pr. Sunny Kurian
The Greek word for church is ‘ecclesia.’ The idea conveyed through this word is ‘a community called to a special purpose'.
'Church', as revealed in the Bible, is a mystery which was kept in the heart of God, even from eternity (Eph.3:9-11). God elected the church in Christ even before the foundation of this world (Eph 1:4-6). As God brought forth Eve during a deep sleep given to Adam, it was His plan to bring forth the church through the vicarious suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross.
The Bible states that the church is the community of people bought by God with the most precious blood of Jesus Christ (Rom.3:24;1 Cor.6:19;1 Pet.1:18,19). The word ‘ecclesia’ is used 115 times in the New Testament.
The first statement made about ‘church’, was the one made by our Lord Jesus Christ (Mathew 16:18). It was not revealed to the Old Testament saints. When Christ says, “I will build my church” he says it in the future tense. We can strongly understand that the building of the New Testament church began on the day of Pentecost. It began when the Holy Spirit as steward, promised by Jesus, came down upon the 120 disciples of Christ who were tarrying in the upper room in Jerusalem. The process of the building of the church has continued ever since. It is being built on the Rock, Jesus Christ (Eph.2:20; 1 Pet. 2:4, 1 Cor. 3: 11; 10:1-4).
The church envisaged in the Bible is composed of only those who are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore the church of Christ is called the living church (1 Pet.2:4). Church is not just an organisation. All can become members of an organisation. But all cannot become members in the living church of God, which is the body of Jesus Christ. Only those who are regenerated, obeying the Word of God and living in holiness can continue as members of the church (1 Pet.1:18,19;1 Cor.12:30;1 Pet.1:14,15;1 Thess. 4:3,4;1Pet.2:4-9;Eph.5:27).
We must not consider church as a place to exhibit the abilities, to show the pomp of wealth, to use the power of groups or factions, to increase income or to expand the business of the members. The church belongs to , and it is an organism.
The New Testament church has a government and those who are administered by it. The New Testament government is not Episcopal in its form. Human gods and worshipping of individuals lead people astray from God’s purpose.
The Church needs rule. What the church needed was not democracy, but theocracy. When Israel departed from theocracy, they ran into danger of destruction and loss. The New Testament church must become very cautious of this danger in the church today.
God appoints the leaders for the church. The people of God are asked to submit to the God-appointed leaders of the church. If we disobey the God-appointed leaders, we become rebels in the light of the Word of God.
God appoints the ministers (Eph.4:11;1 Cor.12:28,29;12:12-13;). The purpose of the ministry and the ministers in the church is spiritual growth and unity of the church. The ministers must not use the church to implement their personal agendas, to govern like autocrats, or to gain wealth. Such things are punishable by God.
Those who lead the church must have gifts of governing and shepherding (1 Cor.12; 28). There is no alternative for this gift. “If it is leadership, do it diligently” (Rom 12:7) The leader must become a model to the people he leads. The leader has the authority to correct, rebuke and chastise the members.
Qualifications of a Church Leader
It is clearly stated in the Bible (1 Tim.3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) what the lifestyle and character of a leader should be. There are certain character traits which must be found in a leader”
1. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
2. not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
3. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
4. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?
5. He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.
6. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.”
“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
7. Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless - not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self controlled, upright, and holy and disciplined.
8. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy-message, as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
Also, in 2 Tim. 2:1-26, Paul lists the qualifications of church leaders.
It is extremely difficult for biblical patterns of church administration and today’s systems of church administration to go hand in hand. In the Bible, we see the system of casting lots for the selection of an apostle.
We have to seriously think about changing the present pattern of voting in the churches to select leaders. Those who come to church leadership by the approval of the ballot box must think twice before claiming that they are elected by God in the church. The truth is that they are elected by the people. Voting may be desirable for an organisation, but for a church, it is not desirable.
Urgency for a change
Politics and greed for power are at their peak in the churches today. Those who are not spiritual but wealthy conquer the church with their money power.
They use all craftiness and manipulation to win elections. The spiritual and anointed leaders keep away from these fights and are taken aback as they see the church go in the wrong direction. It is high time to repent and come back to the biblical pattern. Those who have come to power through underhanded means of money power and undue influence must give up such positions and the pave way for theocracy.
Don’t we feel sorry when we see the unspiritual contests for power today among those who once dedicated their lives for Christ and his service, pledging to sacrifice all they have for Christ and his church? Is it not shameful for those comparatively junior and immature to come to the forefront by using power and money? It is wrong for the church to have those who run around and impatiently canvass votes by any means to secure leadership posts in the church.
Those who gain wealth unjustly dilute the true doctrine once strongly preached and must repent. Also we must repent from the tendencies of changing the colour of dress, length of shirts and many other traditions which our forefathers gave up for the sake of biblical truths.
May God help us to submit to theocracy, and may the Holy Spirit help us to return to the apostolic pattern of church administration in our churches today.