“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us…” (Acts 15:28).
In Paul’s first letter to the Church at Ephesus, it is written, “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28). God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided a biblical model for government in the Church.
The Nature of Biblical Theocracy
The government of The Church of God flows in and through Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God is the Church’s founder, and maker of its laws and government. Matthew’s writings records, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
The Church is the place where God rules. Therefore, the Church must be subject to Him in everything. The Church is the government of God. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Although the actual term “theocracy” does not appear in the Scriptures, the principle of theocracy is found in both the Church in the wilderness, and the Church in the New Testament. The ultimate realization of government by God in the Millennium illustrates the totality of God’s rule. The term “theocracy” was probably first used by the Jewish Historian Josephus, in referring to the government of God as opposed to the other forms of government. Its basic meaning comes from the Greek words, theos for God and kratos for power. The power to rule resides in God; therefore, the ultimate meaning of Theocracy is “God rules.” Theocracy is not government by one person, not by a few people, not by a privileged class of people, and not by the majority of people; rather, it is government under the direct rule of God.
According to the Scriptures, pure theocracy operates by three fundamental truths. True theocracy hinges on the law given by God, the rule under the direction of God, and the willing submission to God by the people. Pure theocracy cannot and will not work unless all three of these principles are prominent in the practice of theocratic government. These three foundational principles of theocracy are not only scripturally sound, but they are upheld by the General Assembly of The Church of God.
Jesus Christ: The Head of the Church
The Church of God recognizes that the highest authority in The Church of God under pure theocracy is, and must always be, Jesus Christ. For the Church to operate under theocratic government, God must have the rule over the Church. While Jesus was on the earth, He spoke the words of His Father, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). Jesus is plainly saying that whatever He says is just what the Father has told Him to say. When Jesus ruled the Church in His earthly ministry — God ruled the Church.
However, Jesus, after finishing His earthly ministry, went back to the father. The authoritative agency in the Church became the Holy Ghost. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). The Spirit receives of Christ and reveals it to the Church. Again, this simply means that Christ is the Head of the Church, and the Word of God is the basis for the rule of God.
The fifteenth Assembly, in 1920, went on record with this statement: “We recognize Christ as the head of the Church and the Supreme ruler. He speaks to us by the Holy Ghost, and we settle all questions and disputes by the word of God, and as it seems good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” The Word of God, through the ministry of the Holy Ghost, as interpreted by the General Assembly, is the supreme voice of authority in The Church of God. One of the first rulings of the General Assembly was “we do not consider ourselves a legislative or executive body, but judicial only.”
The Role of The General Assembly
The General Assembly is not a legislative or executive body, but judicial only. Since the Assembly is the highest tribunal of authority for the interpretation of the Scriptures, its purpose is to search the Scriptures for additional light and knowledge of the Church, to give prayerful consideration to all necessary business matters, and to recommend practices relative to the administration of the Church’s commission. It must strive to keep everything in harmony with The Word of God.
The perfect rule of God is ascertained as the General Assembly perfectly interprets the Word of God. The scriptural basis for the General Assembly is found in the practices of God’s people in the Bible, especially, as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Acts. The council at Jerusalem, which occurred around 50 A.D. has set the pattern for ages to come. The book of Acts gives strong evidence for a central authority in church government.
The delegates of the General Assembly, who have been entrusted with the noble task to search out and apply the laws of the glorious government, consist of the General Overseer and all the members of The Church of God in attendance from around the world. Only male members who are in good standing have an actual voice in decision-making procedures of the Church; however, all members are encouraged to attend and assist the Church as the proper interpretation of the Scripture is sought.
To be chosen to participate in the Divine government of God is one of the highest honors conferred upon man, and it should be approached with all seriousness, because the decisions will affect all the Church worldwide. For pure theocracy to be in operation, the government of The Church of God must be held by men of highest spiritual quality.
Additional information about the purpose and authority of the General Assembly can be found in our resource center.
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