Friday, December 21

NT Churches with OT Structures

When did we start going back to the Old Testament to find systems of organization, leadership and finances for New Testament churches? Alan Knox hits the nail on the head with his recent Old Testament Structures and the Church. Here are Alan's thoughts on the subject...

Often, when I'm talking to people about church structures and organizations, they usually point me to Old Testament structure to defend hierarchies, authorities, buildings, positions...temples, tithes, etc...

The conversations tend to go something like this (in a condensed form, of course):

Person #1: "The pastor has authority over the local church."
Me: "I can't find anything in Scripture that gives the pastors authority over anyone."
Person #1: "Well, you have to go back to the priest system of the Old Testament."

Person #2: "You should give tithes to the local church."
Me: "I can't find any teaching in Scripture that tells us to give money to a local church."
Person #2: "Well, you have to go back to the tithe system of the Old Testament."

Person #3: "You need someone trained in music to lead your worship."
Me: "I'm sorry but I don't see that in Scripture. Nor do I see music called worship."
Person #3: "Well, you have to go back to the Levites of the Old Testament."

Person #4: "Why are you not saving money to build a church (meaning, 'church building')."
Me: "I don't see a requirement for having a church building in the new testament."
Person #4: "Well, you have to go back to the temple in the Old Testament."

Here's my concern: I don't see the New Testament authors making these connections. Instead, I see the New Testament writers calling all believers "priests" (Rom 15:16; 1 Pet 2:5,9; Rev 1:6; Heb 10:19-22 - notice the resemblance to the sanctification of priests). But, pastors/elders/overseers are never specifically referred to as "priests".

Once again, all believers are taught to share generously with those who are in need, with those who are traveling away from home in order to proclaim the gospel, and with those who teach and lead them well (Acts 2:45; 4:34-35; James 2:15-16; Gal 6:6; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17; 3 John 3-6). But, I do not see the New Testament authors comparing this to the tithe of the Old Testament, nor requiring a tithe to be given to the "local church".

Similarly, all believers are encouraged to exhort one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; 1 Cor 14:26). However, I don't see where training, practice, or even talent is a prerequisite for this singing (although, it does seem that being filled with the Spirit is a prerequisite). Also, I can't find any connection between singing in the New Testament and the Levites of the Old Testament.

Finally, I also see that all followers of Jesus Christ are compared to the "temple" (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21). But, as far as I can tell, "temple" is never associated with a designated meeting place for Christians.

So, where did this contemporary practices come from? When did we start going back to the Old Testament to find systems of organization and leadership and finances? When did the Book of Nehemiah start teaching how to have a successful church building campaign? The exact details of how and when and why these interpretations of the Old Testament filtered into the church continue to be debated among church historians today. I think they all started when the church ceased to be the people of God and started to become an institution. In order to justify the institution, the leaders had to go back to the Old Testament system - the very system that the author of Hebrews calls a "shadow" of the reality that we have in Jesus Christ.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post... I ask these questions all the time, and the response I get is usually "what's wrong with it?" I think some people think that the Bible doesn't say we "can't" do these things, so it's cool. But the real question is what did Jesus do?

Billy said...

How does Matthew 23:23 play into the subject?

GuyMuse said...


True, the Bible doesn't prohibit these things, agreed. But what is "Plan A" in Scripture? This is what I and people like Alan Knox are trying to get at. It's like we have substituted God's original plans for the church for others.


You ask about Matt.23:23, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

My reading of this verse is that Jesus is speaking to scribes and Pharisees who were under the Law of Moses. When he admonishes them to not neglect the former, they were indeed under the law which requires tithing. But after Jesus death on the cross and resurrection, wasn't the veil in the temple ripped from top to bottom--that which binds us to the law and temple? Where do we find thereafter in the NT where we are expected to keep any of the OT Law of Moses? My reading of St. Paul's letters is that he used a lot of ink trying to point this very fact out to those Jewish believers still insisting upon Gentile believers having to conform to the Law. At least this is what my understanding of Matt.23:23.

Bryan Riley said...

I think we often follow the world's systems and then look for biblical justifications.

Gabryel Arias said...

I'm with you 100% on your post brother Guy.

And to add to what you said, I believe that the first structure/pattern in scripture: the Tabernacle of Moses, which contained the ark/presence of God, was always intended to be Mobile. In my humble opinion I do not believe it was ever God's original intention to establish a Stationary Temple. Nevertheless, God granted the desire of king David's heart. And praise God that, like you said, we are now His temple in which He dwells.

You know I found it interesting that upon reading Mat 16:24 ("...If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow me.") That that word Cross, is the same greek word that is used for "stake" like the one that's used to pitch a tent. Could that mean that God would want us (all who follow Christ) to be willing to pick up our tent/stake and follow Him where ever He pleases?

In regards to where do we find in the NT where we are expected to keep any of the OT Law of Moses?

I believe that just as God has been restoring much revelation to the Body of Christ in reference to how the chruch truly ought to be. I also believe there is a major restoration taking place on how the gentile believing chruch, understands and relates to the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish people from a Hebraic pespective.

Jesus said in Mat 5:17-19: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (Torah) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them ..... Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

There is way too much to talk about on this subject, that would have to be a whole nother topic by it self. Two good books that bring major insight to what God is doing in this area are: NO LONGER STANGERS-Rediscovering the Chosen People and the Jewish Roots of Christianity by Dr. Richard Booker and The MAP Revolution by Bishop Bierman, this book can be downloaded for free at

Blessings everyone...
Your brother in the Lord from Sunny South Florida,

Gabryel Arias

Les Puryear said...


I think we need to be careful not to take this too far. According to the logic I have read here, then one could say, "Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, so it must be okay with Him."

Jesus never had to say anything about homosexuality because the OT was already very clear about it being sin.

Remember, Christ kept all of the law and the only bible He had was the OT.

Just like the flawed argument about homosexuality, the same applies to tithing and worship.

If we start determining doctrine by the absence of things addressed in the NT, we'll soon become the Church of Christ instead of evangelical Christians.

Let's take the whole counsel of scripture, not just the part we like.


GuyMuse said...

Bryan, Gabryel, and Les,

Thanks to each of you for your input on Alan Knox's post.

Gabryel, I would love to read the two books you recommend. They sound interesting. I guess in all fairness it would be helpful to not try and lump all these issues into one pile. They should probably be dealt with individually (eg. tithing).

Les, let's take the whole counsel of scripture, not just the part we like... I can't speak for Alan, but my own observation is that maybe we need to reexamine some of the issues we have taken for granted as "biblical." What does the NT actually teach about such things as tithing, hierarchies, temples, etc. We just assume our familiar evangelical traditions and practices are what is found in the Word of God. In reality many of them are not. They come from an OT mindset--the very thing Paul spent so much time writing about in his letters to the early churches. Does that make these practices wrong? Not necessarily. But to continue to defend hierarchies, authorities, buildings, positions, temples, tithes, etc. FROM OT PRACTICES and Mosaic Law is simply not binding upon New Testament believers and churches! Where do we find in the NT a system of institutionalized priesthood, temple worship, and tithes to maintain this created infrastructure? What we see in Acts and in Paul's church planting in the Gentile world, are different patterns and model than that found in OT and Mosaic Law.

So what in the OT is binding upon NT believers? That is a good question for someone out there to blog about!

Mark M said...

I'd like to address the "institutionalized priesthood" thought. As already observed, the priesthood of the O.T. has been replaced by the priesthood of believers. But the church has ignored the N.T. pattern of church governance and established the professional clergy, and in many cases an entire hierarchy of clergy. The most obvious example of this is probably the Roman Catholic Church with its priests, bishops, cardinals, and the pope. But many evangelical denominations are certainly guilty of similar structures. By requiring a church leader to be professional, ordained clergy and reserving many functions of the church for them only, these churches have denied the sacred calling for its laity.

The N.T. pattern of church leadership is to have a council of elders to lead the church functioning as shepherds, teachers, and overseers. I call it a “council” because the N.T. pattern is for this leadership to be shared by a group of elders, not a lone pastor.

In Alan Knox’s thoughts that Guy quoted at the top, he wrote:
Person #1: "The pastor has authority over the local church.
Me: "I can't find anything in Scripture that gives the pastors authority over anyone."

The N.T. teaching is that the elders are in authority over the local church. That does not make them priests, but it does establish an authority in the church. This authority is apparent in Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

You can also see that elders have authority in 1 Peter 5:1-3: Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

Grace & peace,

Gabryel Arias said...

So what in the OT is binding upon NT believers?

Depending on what your escotology is and what denominational back ground you may come from will determine your views and answer to this question.

Reformed Christianity tends to subdivide the Law/Torah into three areas: moral, civil, and ceremonial. It's says that the ceremonial laws were only for Israel and were only temporary. And that the moral law remains valid today and are for everyone.

The Dispensationalist view suggest that the entire Law/Torah has been
abolished and replaced with a New Testament and a New Law-the Law of Christ.

We could read Acts 15 and simply say these laws are for the Jews and these for the Gentiles.

Nevertheless I think there's more to it than just that. Due to lack of time I can't finish my train of be continued....

For those who may read the MAP Revolution, even though it contains much truth, I recommend it be read with a grain of salt.

Brother Gabryel

GuyMuse said...


I think we are closer to agreeing than you think, but would like to clarify what you mean by

The NT teaching is that the elders are in authority over the local church.

If your view of "authority" places men "over" others as in a military command structure, or executive hierarchy, or "head" of the church, then I would disagree. Jesus (Matt.20:25-28), Peter (I Pet.5:1-3) and Paul (Acts 20:28) all speak of servant leadership/shepherds amongst the flock, not "over" them.

And as for this authority is apparent in Hebrews 13:17 OBEY YOUR LEADERS AND SUBMIT TO THEM... the idea is not a blind obedience based upon the leaders positional superiority as some kind of officials; rather, the Greek use of the word peitho which means to "yield to persuasion" or "allow oneself to be persuaded." New Testament church leaders do not command fellow believers to obey or else...but is more in line with what Frank Viola says, their leadership largely rested upon their ability to persuade the assembly into a unified apprehension of the Lord's mind rather than to force it into raw submission--a la, "if you won't submit to us, you'll just have to find another church to attend."

So, are we saying the same thing? I hope so! :)

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for taking a jab at answering my question what in the OT is binding upon NT believers?

I found your statements quite interesting about the differing views on the OT and the Law as understood by Reformed and Dispensationalist Theology. I would indeed be grateful for you to flesh these thoughts out a bit more for me. In a way, it would seem both contain elements of truth. But this is territory that I do not know much about, so would appreciate you, or anybody else shedding a bit more light on the subject.

Mark M said...


Greetings, brother. I did not mean to disagree, but to simply note what the N.T. says about the elders’ authority. Your comment expresses my view as well. Elders are to be servant leaders, not rulers or dictators. They are not to “lord it over” the flock, but the flock is exhorted to voluntarily submit to their leadership. The elders are in authority, but are not to be authoritarian. They are not to be heavy-handed, manipulative, play power games, or be arrogant and aloof. They are accountable to their fellow brethren and to God. J.I. Packer says, “Authoritarianism is authority corrupted.” [Freedom and Authority]

You wrote that elders are “shepherds amongst the flock, not ‘over’ them.” When I wrote that elders are in authority over the local church, I did not mean this in an authoritarian way, although I can see why someone might misunderstand that, so it is worth clarifying. I only used the word “over” because it is a normal way of speaking of authority (for an example of this, see 1 Cor. 7:4 in either NAS or ESV).

So, yes, I think we are saying the same thing.

Alan Knox said...


This has been an awesome discussion on your blog as well as on mine. I don't have anything to add to what you have already said. The author of Hebrews called all of the OT structures "shadows" of the new reality that we have in Jesus Christ. I'm glad that many people are realizing that we are continuing to live in the shadows in many ways. Thanks for continuing the discussion here! Hopefully, many, many people will continue to think about and discuss these issues. I think the church will be stronger because of it.


GuyMuse said...


Thanks for the clarification. The "lording it over" type of leadership is one of the most difficult issues we deal with as missionaries overseas, and is a huge obstacle that causes endless headaches for us.


It has indeed been interesting. Thanks for such a great post on a timely issue. I think there is still much that could be mined out of this subject. Have you ever blogged on the Heb.13:17 passage? It is the one passage that is used to justify everyone in church to submit and obey blindly to local pastoral authority.


Alan Knox said...


Yes, Hebrews 13:17 is a verse that is often used to justify authoritarian leadership. Of course, that verse does not speak to leaders at all - it speaks to those who are following. I also believe that it is one of the most mis-translated verses in Scripture. And, in answer to you question, I have studied that verse and I've written about it in a blog post called "Obey and Submit? (Hebrews 13:17)".

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!


GuyMuse said...


Excellent explanation of a difficult passage. This verse keeps popping up in our ministry and is very hard to convince people of a proper understanding of these pointed verbs obey and submit. I am considering taking the time to translate your study and make it available to our people.

Gabryel Arias said...

Resuming where I left off on the question “What in the OT is binding on NT believers?”

I briefly mentioned before the views of Reform Theology and Dispensationalism, but I also believe there is Restorational view on Theology that isn’t very popular today, simply because it’s something new ( actually old ) that’s being restored in our day. We’ve seen a lot of it of this blog by brother Guy and many others who have been given major insight/revelation of how the Church of God should be (like it used to be).

My background is Baptist/Non-Denominational, and as I searched the scriptures, and asked certain questions that were taboo to my denomination, those questions were conveniently explained off, never giving me any satisfactory answers. For example where are all the signs that Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18 that are suppose to follow a believer once they believe and are baptized in His name? It was questions like these that I never got a satisfactory answer to. Now I now that God will always give to you according to your faith and motives (1 Cor. 13:13; 14:1 ). At that point I realized it becomes very difficult for someone with denominational arguments to convince a man whose had the biblical experience. Unfortunately, many of these experiences have been taken to the extreme and at times been given more enfaces than other solid doctrines that are of primary importance to the heart of God.

I believe God is the Restoring Business and when we look back at the way His-story began in Genesis 1;2 it looks very similar to the way it’s going to end - Revelations 21;22. Acts 3:21-22 says that the Heavens are holding/receiving Jesus until the times of restoration are complete.

With that said I’d like to share my view on the question “what in the OT is binding upon NT?” Now I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of things above nor on the things that I’m about to share, but they make pretty good sense to me. I’m sure that there may be some brethren that may disagree and that’s okay.

Here goes (please excuse me if it’s a little lengthy):

As stated earlier in this blog, according to the gospel writings, Jesus never came to abolish the Law nor the Prophets but to fulfill them to the tee. He constantly rebuked those Pharisees and the Sadducees that would put the traditions of men (their many erroneous interpretation/applications of the Law) above the commandments of God.

In the same manner Paul a Torah-Observant Jew, who regularly attended synagogue (Acts 17:2), and kept the Jewish Feasts, Laws and Customs of his people (Acts 25:8; 28:17); who at times seems like he is speaking against the Law in his epistles, is actually speaking against the same thing Jesus was speaking against: The Misuse and Misinterpretation of the Law.

The apparent discrepancies that we some times find in his letters have to do with several things. But first let me say that the Hebrew word for Law (Torah), unfortunately does not have the same meaning as the Greek word for Law (Nomos).

In Hebrew the word Law and its root “yarah”, mean: “to take aim”, “to shoot”, “to hit the mark” it’s an archery term. And it also means to “point out”, “to teach”, “to instruct”, “to guide”, so that the archer would be able to hit his target. So, Law/Torah in its biblical sense means instructions, teachings and directions for how to walk with God.
Thus “sin” means: to miss the mark.

Unfortunately when the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek (Septuagint) around 250 B.C., the Greeks did not have an equivalent word for the Hebrew word Torah (which we know for the Jews means instructions in righteous living) nor it’s variants. The closest thing they had was the Greek word Nomos, which interpreted by our Western concept of Law means a burdensome, legalistic set of rules and regulation.

This combined with the anti-semitism of the early gentile church fathers i.e. Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, etc. (for those that may not know the anti-semitism was really really bad, a little research will reveal a whole bunch of unpleasant stuff.) resulted in a major misinterpretation of the saying of Jesus, the gospel writers and the epistles when referring to the Law/Torah.

Taking into consideration the things just mentioned above helps to bring clarity to some of the misunderstood scriptures like the ones that say we are no longer “under the law” or the “works of the law”. Here these scriptures are not referring to the Torah it self, but to the misuse of the Torah, much like the yoke the Pharisees were placing on the people and the Judaizers on new Christians.

Romans 10:4 states “ Christ is the end of the Law”, that word “end” in the Greek is the word “telos” and is more accurately translated as “Purpose” or “Goal”. Thus this scripture would properly mean that the Purpose or Goal of the Torah is faith in Messiah Jesus. Now, because the same Greek word Nomos is used in practically all NT scriptures and makes no distinction when referring to the Torah itself or the Misuse of it, it becomes difficult to tell the difference, and then renders Paul as someone who can’t make up his mind: Is “ the Law/Torah holy, just and good ” - Romans 7: 12 or isn’t it.

I believe seeing scripture from this perspective makes everything much more consistent and for me it just seems to make sense. Another reason why I believe this is important,
is because the way the gentile church relates to Israel, it’s people and it’s Torah will play a major role in the Lords return.

We all as individual members in the body of Christ have our part to play, and one of those parts is to provoke Israel to jealousy - Romans 11:11. In addition to this, Jesus said that He would not return until Jerusalem/Israel/The Jews say “ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” - Mat 23:39 . I don’t believe neither of these things will happen until the gentile church learns how to relate to Israel (the land), it’s people (the Jews), and it’s Torah.

I think it’s important for us to remember that we are the Wild Olive branches that have been grafted into them, the Natural Olive Tree. We don’t sustain them, but they sustain us. God never made any covenant with the gentiles. It is they who are the bearers of the Covenants and the Promises; we were once strangers in the flesh having no hope in the world. But through the blood of Messiah Jesus we are now part of the commonwealth of Israel, and made partakers in the Covenant and the Promises made to them, now the adoptions of sons belong to us as well ( Ephesians 2:12-14 & Romans 9:4,5).

Romans 11:25-26 says : “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel will be saved…”

I believe that as we Christians humble ourselves and recognize the Jewish Roots of our faith, the Blindness that keeps the Jews from receiving their Messiah will be removed. And this with several other factors will allow the Heavens to release Jesus and come to establish his Kingdom (Acts 3:21-22).

So what in the OT is binding upon NT believers?

Well, I believe that the commandments of God are here for our own good, to protect us and bless us abundantly (Deu. 28; Josh 1:7-8; Psalm 119). Of course there are some that cannot be applied today nor are they applicable at all, but many others “yes”. Acts 15 gives certain basic laws to the new gentile believers, but it seems to me that according to verse 21 they were encouraged to continue learning more, for their own good, and for continued fellowship with their jewish brethren.

Bottom line…Salvation has always been by Grace (Hebrew: Chesed) through faith. Which commandments should gentiles keep then? I think that’s up to each one to decide and also depends on how close your associations are with our jewish believing counter parts . Although the statement that Jesus makes in Matthew 5:19 gives us much to think about : “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

There is much we can learn for our Messianic brothers in the faith. I would encourage anyone who’s interested in learning more about the roots of their faith do a Google search and ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment and lead you into all truth. Keep in mind that just as Christianity and Judaism have different denominations, so do our Messianic brother, this is why I suggest you ask the Lord for discernment and truth.

I hope this sheds some light - from a different angle – to the question posed.

In Him,

Gabryel Arias

GuyMuse said...


Thank you for such a thorough and thought-provoking answer. I never expected such a detailed answer when asking the question about what in the OT is binding upon NT believers. As you point out, there is indeed much we can learn from our Messianic brothers in the faith. I appreciate your comments in that they remind me of an excellent audio series done by Beresford Job entitled, "The Tradition of the Elders" which can be downloaded as mp3 files on his website. I think, Gabryel, you would be greatly blessed, as I was, by this series. In fact, these lectures make one of the clearest presentations of what happened to the 1st century church planted by Jesus and the apostles. I warn you, though, if you should choose to listen to this series, your whole perception of Christianity and the church will forever be altered!