The concept of local bishops developed in the second century of the church. This led eventually to popery and the subsequent corruption of Christendom. There is no basis for episcopy in scripture, and no evidence of it in apostolic times.
In his paper, ‘Episcopacy: What ground is there in Scripture or History for accounting it an Institution of God?’ (Collected Writings vol. 20 – Eccesiastical 4 – page 307), J N Darby looks back over Christian history, and sees how the early fathers accepted it as an institution. It seemed prudent at the time, maintaining orthodoxy, but it was a human institution whilst claiming to be an institution of God. By the end of the second century, the position of a single person as president of a local assembly was well established, and the church had become organised. How this originate, and who originated it?
We are called to stand apart from what is evil. But how do we act practically when it comes to our fellow believers, whatever their background or history. I believe that there are several considerations.
1. Do what the Lord would have done
2. Glorify the Lord yourself
3. Cause others to glorify the Lord
4. Go by scripture
5. Do not cause offence
6. Do not get into a dangerous situation – physically, mentally or spiritually.
151 Plymouth – 25th August 1846 To Mr Foulquier We are happy here, thanks be to God; the brethren are quite peaceful and make progress. It has seemed to me that, in the exercise of discipline, we have not given the first place enough to prayer. Without doubt, in flagrant cases, discipline must be […]
1862 To Mr B Beloved Brother I have just received your letter. I bless God with all my heart that He has strengthened you in body and soul. He is always faithful, always God; one can always count upon Him, whatever may be. His love does not change; He always thinks of us – a […]
December 1873 To Mr P Very dear Brother, … He was, and I have said this to him, entirely under the influence of this guilty inclination, fallen in heart, if not in body. And when one is thus, in a state of folly and bondage: one deceives oneself, one knows it, and one deceives oneself […]
Dublin, 1861 A M. P. Bien-aimé frère, …J’en viens à vos questions : 1° Je crois qu’il est très fâcheux qu’un frère fasse part de ses pensées, en public, sur des questions ou des choses où il ne connaît pas la pensée de l’assemblée. Au reste, en général, à moins que cela ne soit nécessaire […]
It seems to me that, if somebody who does not break the bread speaks in the assembly where the bread is broken, it is a very serious disorder. A man who separates himself wrongfully from the assembly of God is not in the position to instruct it as to its being reunited. That does not hindering his doing so outside of the meeting. I recognise what he has as a member of the body, but this position is disavowed to him if, when the body is reunited, as far as it can be reunited, he does not want to take his place in it.
The question of reception is often badly stated. We are not a body by voluntary association, but in the measure that we can be, we come together as members of the body of Christ, a gathering of His own, the work of the Holy Spirit. We do not receive persons amongst us to take the supper with us; Christ must have received them:
Venting Opionions in Christian Assembly
The epistles to Timothy and Titus are not addressed to churches, nor were they to be communicated to the churches as such. Of course the church of God has them, guiding us as to the individual conduct which is an unceasing obligation for Christians.