THERE BEING NO HIERARCHY IN THE CHURCH
Furthermore, in the early church there was no hierarchy. Yet today in many Christian organizations there is a class called the clergy. Is this according to the Bible? You can serve God, and I also can serve God. We all can serve God. Is there any difference between your service and my service to God? We may have different functions and points of emphasis, but essentially your service and mine should not be different. If we all intend to attain God’s original goal, every one of us should serve God (1 Pet. 2:9).
In the early church, every believer was a serving one. Before they were saved, they lived for mammon, but from the day they were saved, they were separated from the world by the Lord. They still had their occupations, but their occupations were only for their livelihood. Their primary occupation was to serve God. We must be like the early believers if we intend to serve God. Our job should become our secondary occupation, merely for us to make a living. We no longer live on the earth to make a living for ourselves but to serve God. The early apostles and disciples all lived this way.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE HIERARCHY
In A.D. 313, Constantine made Christianity the state religion and strongly promoted it. He encouraged the Romans to join the church and promised them rewards. Basically, those who joined the church for rewards were not regenerated or saved and therefore could not serve God. They came into Christianity, but Christ did not come into them. They had not been saved by God to come out of the world; rather, they were still in union with the world. When the number of such ones increased, some of them decided to bring the Judaic system and practice into Christianity. In Judaism, not everyone could serve God; only the priests could. The professing Christians brought the Jewish priestly system into Christianity so that they could continue their worldly living without caring for the spiritual things. All spiritual matters were entrusted to the priests. In the Catholic Church the priests were called “fathers.” The so-called Catholic fathers are equivalent to the priests in Judaism, and the long robes which they wear are the same as the robes of the Old Testament priests.
During the time of the Reformation, the reforms carried out by Luther were very limited. In fact, the Protestant churches inherited many traditions from the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church had priests; the Protestant churches had pastors. Many of the Protestant churches were called state churches. For example, the Anglican Church, or the Church of England, was established as a state church with its pastors and bishops receiving salaries from the government. Even today, when the king or queen of England is crowned, the archbishop has to lay hands on him or her.
When the Episcopalian Church spread to China, it was still a state church and still had its clergy, which was copied from the priestly system of the Roman Catholic Church. Later, in Protestantism there were the private churches. Some Christians saw the truth in the Bible concerning baptism—that a person should be baptized after believing in the Lord. Others saw that the church should be administered by the elders. Consequently, those who were in favor of baptism formed the Baptist church while those who approved of the administration of the church by the elders formed the Presbyterian church. Later John Wesley was raised up by the Lord, and subsequently the Wesleyan church was formed. All these so-called churches have a pastoral system. Up to the present, in the Roman Catholic Church the priests still handle the sacred duties and serve God on behalf of the common people. The Protestant state churches have their bishops while the private churches have their pastors. Such a concept of a clergy-laity system seriously damages people and hinders them from serving God.
(The Pursuit of a Christian, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)