Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 1, Ch. 10, “Organization of the Apostolic Church.” Loc. 6856-7245
§58 “Literature” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 6856).
Schaff dates the apostolic period as the time when Acts and the Epistles were being written, roughly in A.D. 60-70. He also considers the Didache and the letters of Clement and Ignatius to speak rather directly to this period. The period has received a great deal of commentary, evidenced by Schaff’s extensive bibliography.
§59 “The Christian Ministry, and its Relation to the Christian Community” (Ibid., Loc. 6920).
The visible church was established by Christ. It is present with leaders, locations, and the rites of baptism and communion. Jesus gave little other detail about the structure (Ibid., Loc. 6925). There is an office of the ministry which focuses on preaching, administering sacraments, and the power of the keys, from the very beginning. The organization of the visible church is intended to nurture Christians so they can serve in Christ’s kingdom for good (Ibid., Loc. 6953).
§60 “Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists” (Ibid., Loc. 6985).
The apostles, having too much to care for directly, assigned other offices, rooted in the apostolic office, beginning in Acts 5. The function of apostle, prophet, and evangelist was performed universally, rather than only in one congregation (Ibid., Loc. 6995). Generally these roles have disappeared, though Schaff thinks they may re-surface occasionally.
§61 “Presbyters or Bishops” (Ibid, Loc. 7020).
The presbyters, also called bishops, and the deacons, or helpers, were two roles in the local church. The bishops are normally a plurality in the local church. The bishops are normally a plurality in one congregation (Ibid., Loc. 7031). By the time of Ignatius, the bishop was the head of a congregation which had a council of presbyters (Ibid., Loc. 7036). Schaff discusses the change in structure in brief.
§62 “Deacons and Deaconesses” (Ibid., Loc. 7083).
The helpers of the Church first appear in Acts 6. “The presbyters were the custodians, the deacons the collectors and distributors, of the charitable funds” (Ibid., Loc. 7093).
§63 “Church Discipline” (Ibid., Loc. 7109).
Moral failure has always existed in the Church. Discipline is important, providing purification for the church and “a means of repentance and reform” for the offender (Ibid., Loc. 7125). Schaff describes various biblical situations of discipline. Normally it leads to restoration.
§64 “The Council at Jerusalem” (Ibid., Loc. 7141).
The council assembled in 50 included apostles, elders, and “brethren” (Ibid.). The local bishop presided. There was discussion and dissent, but a final resolution and announcement. Over time, laity and even lower ranking clergy have been removed from such councils (Ibid., Loc. 7157).
§65 “The Church and the Kingdom of Christ” (Ibid., Loc. 7198). In the apostolic period the Church had its own government, but was not a state. It was rather a manifestation of God’s kingdom within the existing culture. It is often depicted as a body (Ibid., Loc. 7214).