Structure In The Bible

Many students and pastors of churches find the structure of the Bible to be dull, boring or even intimidating. Each book is a part of a larger section that often is so large that it can appear to be overwhelming. The sections, books and verses can all seem like foreign and unattainable concepts for these people. But for others, the Bible’s structure presents an opportunity for them to find congruence within Scripture and an outlet for them to express their skills as writers, speakers or preachers. The division of the Bible into three major parts: the Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, and Prophets along with other sections such is Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles has many benefits both in intellectual understanding and practicality.

The Bible is a large collection of books, poems, revelations etc., written by dozens of people over a period of thousands of years. This can make it difficult to read and comprehend. But like we do with modern books, there are structures that can help us better understand the many varied parts that form the whole.

The Bible is a compilation of books written by about 40 authors, over a period of about 1,500 years. Most scholars would agree it was written in three main stages: the oral stage (before ~150 BCE), the literary stage (150 BCE–100 CE), and the third stage (100–400 CE).

This article is about biblical structure, a subject frequently misunderstood. Some suppose that the Bible’s book-length narratives are chronological, others that they are not. It may seem like a trivial issue when we view the Bible as authoritative because it is said to be inspired of God. The harmonizing of the apparent contradictions in the Bible’s book-length chronologies, however, can be an important part of presenting the Bible in its purity and power.

Structure In The Bible

There are four basic forms of church government in existence today. They are episcopal, presbyterian, congregational, and non-governmental, but it should be noted that those terms are by no means restricted to their corresponding denominational name (e.g., some Baptist churches use a presbyterian form of government). Although these forms are not specifically laid out in the Bible, we do have some guidelines that we can apply.

Church Structure – Head of the church
If we were to create an organizational chart, Jesus Christ would fill the positions of Founder, President, CEO, CFO, and Chairman of the Board. In biblical language, Christ is “head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22; cf. Colossians 1:18). The church is “his body, of which he is the Savior” (Ephesians 5:23). Jesus’ relationship with the church is very close and loving, for “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He desires “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27).

Church Structure – Church offices
The pastor (literally, “shepherd”) is the human head of a church. In the early church, it seems there was a plurality of elders, also called “bishops” or “overseers.” It is the elders who lead the church and are responsible for teaching the Word and guiding, admonishing, and exhorting the people of God. (See 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Acts 14:23.) The man who fills the duties of a pastor/teacher is actually one of the elders.

The other office in the church is that of deacon. Deacons are men who handle the practical concerns of the church, such as caring for the sick, elderly or widowed and maintaining buildings or other property. (See Acts 6:1-6 and 1 Timothy 3:8-12.)

Church Structure – Relationship between the offices
Deacons were first chosen by the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 6). The apostles, who functioned as elders there, appointed the deacons and set out their duties. Thus, deacons have always been under the authority of the elders.

While the teaching pastor shares responsibility for spiritual oversight with the other elders of a church, Paul indicates the position carries an added obligation. “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). Thus, the pastor and other elders are equal in authority but not in duty.

The average Protestant church in America has a paid pastor who preaches and shepherds and often a paid assistant pastor who can “direct the affairs of the church well.”

Church Structure – Relationships between churches
Paul was concerned with how various churches supported each other, especially since each church is “the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Paul praised the Philippians for sharing with him “in the matter of giving and receiving” (Philippians 4:15), which means they supported him financially so he could strengthen other churches. Paul also facilitated the collection of aid for the beleaguered church in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17; Romans 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8-9). Throughout the New Testament, churches sent each other greetings (1 Corinthians 16:19), sent members to visit and help other churches (Acts 11:22, 25-26; 14:27), and cooperated to reach agreements on right doctrine (Acts 15:1-35).

Structure In The Bible

Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV / 18 helpful votes 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

1 Corinthians 14:40 ESV / 14 helpful votes 

But all things should be done decently and in order.

1 Timothy 3:1-16 ESV / 10 helpful votes 

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? …

Galatians 6:12 ESV / 9 helpful votes 

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

Genesis 15:17-21 ESV / 8 helpful votes 

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Jude 1:1 ESV / 6 helpful votes 

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

Matthew 6:33 ESV / 6 helpful votes 

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Deuteronomy 17:8-12 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

“If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the Lord your God will choose. And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the Lord will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

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