TER's explanation on why the Church of Christ in teh NT has a structure
So we see, that God has appointed FIRST Apostles, SECOND prophets, THIRD teachers,... There is most certainly a hierarchy in the Body of the Christ.
Of course you would, jmdrake, because otherwise it would go against everything you've been taught! Nonetheless, that is exactly what St. Paul means and that order is INDEED important, which is exactly why St. Paul enumerated the list.
Jmdrake, you state the 'government of the church is listed next to last', putting bold emphasis on the position (even after trying to make an argument that the order means nothing). You cant, my friend, have it both ways.
But to those who adhere to the original understanding of St. Paul's epistles, that is to those who are members of the SAME Church in Corinth which by the way has existed continuously from the day St. Paul wrote it until the present day (it happens to be a Greek Orthodox Church), St. Paul places the Apostles FIRST, and then the PROPHETS, and then the rest.
But your argument is regarding the relative position of the administrators of the Church, and what exactly is your point? Is the secretary of the Church greater then the Apostles? Is the treasurer of the Church greater then the Prophets? Is the person who went and cooked the prosphora (bread offering used in the Eucharist meal) greater then the presbyter who prayed over the Bread and served It? There indeed is a hierarchy of service and leadership, with Christ of course as the Head.
But this does not mean that those laity who assist in the administrative duties of the Church are not important because they are listed after the Apostles and Prophets. Not only are they important, they are necessary! In fact, St. Paul himself mentioned the administrators because they are necessary. But yet you still believe their was no structure or hierarchy to the Church from the beginning. How much proof do you need?
Here you are using jmdrake's interpretation which unfortunately is not consistent with the interpretation of the Church or with the Church Fathers. Now, if you are right, then the Church and all the Church Fathers are wrong. You are an extremely bright person and faithful Christian, of this I have no doubt, but I am inclined to give more credence to the Church and the Church Fathers over you. I think you can understand why. After all, I put their voice of interpretation above my own, and for good reason.
This is actually an excellent opportunity for a learning point, and I thank you for bringing this up. I hope I can clear this up.
The first mention of bishops occurs in Acts 1:20 with the word episkope (episcopal) which is literally "bishopric" and refers to the apostolic position of overseer. Indeed, the Apostles were the first Bishops (overseers), and indeed, they were presbyters (elders). You see, a Bishop is the top presbyter of the city (note the hierarchy), in other words, the head of the elders. Let's try to unpack this...
When it came time to find another Apostle, that is, another overseer with the grace of being an Apostle (overseer), they chose Mathias. Now, Mathias may seem like some random person to you because he was not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, but that does not mean this man was not a well known and respected disciple of Christ. In fact, he was one of the seventy called by Christ and fulfilled the requirements to be called an Apostle according to Acts 1:21: he "accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, ... a witness with us of His resurrection." Mathias may not be recognized by 90% of Christians today, but he most certainly was known to the majority of faithful in Jesus' day, even before he was selected to take up the place of the accursed Judas. If one studies the history of the Church, one would learn that Mathias the Apostle was born at Bethlehem of the Tribe of Judah and that from his early childhood he studied the Law of God under the guidance of St Simeon the God-receiver (the same Simeon who received the Lord as an infant in the Temple.) He eventually was stoned by the Sanhedrin. For more of his life, here is a link.
And this brings us to another very important point in demonstrating the hierarchy in the Church. There were in fact many Apostles of Christ, not just the Twelve, (though the Twelve were indeed higher in the hierarchy). Jesus once sent out seventy at one time, and these too were Apostles, all with the power and grace that came with it, healing and performing all types of wonders in His Name. In fact, you should read about the lives of these saints since they are not listed in the New Testament, and therefore, to some modern churches, they may as well have never existed. Indeed, these Apostles traveled across the known world, spreading the Good News, becoming Bishops (oh, there's that word again!) in various cities and regions, and ultimately a great number of them becoming martyrs for the faith. But before giving their lives for the faith, a great number of them conferred the grace of overseer (that is, Bishops!) by the sacrament of laying on the hands, just as was instructed by Christ.
But wait, you say it is never written in the Bible that Christ told them to lay hands and confer such authority and apostolic succession!
But you don't really believe everything Christ ever told or instructed His disciples are exclusively written in the pages of the Gospels alone, do you? St. Luke starts Acts by saying 'He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen'. And in the next sentence Christ was 'being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.'
He wasn't telling them for forty days how nice the weather was. He was instructing them on how they would build His Church! How they should structure it, how they would chose those who would succeed them and by what manner. How they would resolve differences and how they should worship and pray. Christ was preparing them to build His Church in full knowledge that He was soon to ascend to the Father. Just because St. Luke didn't write down anything He told them those forty days doesn't mean He stood silent and left them with no instructions! And we can discern those instructions easily when we take our blinders off and check our baggage at the door and read the Scriptures and the writings of the Early Church with an open mind and open heart.
For example, you say:
Here are a few to meditate on (by the way, for your education, the word 'elder' in the New Testament is the word 'presbyteros' in the original Greek writings, which was shortened to the word 'prest' and finally known to us in English as 'priest'. So, when you read 'elder' in the New Testament, you are actually reading the word 'priest'
In fact, the word presbyteros is used interchangeably in the Bible when describing Bishops, Priests or those who presided as leaders of the communities. What did all of these people have in common? They were all priests!
But anyway here is a short list:
1 Timothy 5:17
Let the elders (the original word being presbyter, TER) who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Do not receive an accusation against an elder (the original word being presbyter, TER) except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
Here's a good one!:
So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
When you read the original Greek, it LITERALLY says: "So when they had cheirotoneo (which literally means 'to ordain by the laying of hands' and is translated in English as 'appointed') presbyterio in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Here are some more:
1 Titus 5
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders (that is, laying on the hands of presbyters, TER) in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
But anyway, I have done enough babbling. If you want to learn about the orders and structure of the Church from someone who knows MUCH more then I will ever know about the Church Christ established, read the writings of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch from AD 67-107, who wrote extensively about the presence of the four orders in church government during the very heart of the New Testament era. Indeed, to the church at Philadelphia he writes of 'Christians [laity] at one with the bishop and the presbyters and the deacons".
How much more proof do you need?