A society without proper authority and order will result in chaos. Guy Prentiss Waters justly says that God has instituted authority structures to promote an orderly society. An ideal government will stand guard over the lives and rights of its citizens. Conversely, it is in the best interest of every subject to remain within the bounds of civil law. If this is the case, then it is morally reprehensible for the church of Christ to assume that He has left her to her own rule.
Waters looks at a foundational text in Hebrews 3:6 ("whose house we are") showing that while Moses was a faithful steward in the house, Christ was the faithful Son over the house. Christ is the Head of this one house, the church, though His rule has been administered differently. Historically, the twofold distinction between Christ's essential dominion and mediatorial messianic dominion helped to clear up confusion. Obviously, not every member of the "house" in the OT was regenerate (e.g. Achan), as not every member in the "house" of the NT who professes to be, is saved. Through this distinction between the invisible and the visible church, Waters presents Israel as a kind of 'macro'-church, with the household baptisms of Acts similarly depicting 'micro'-churches. Throughout the Bible the issue at stake was not whether the whole church was saved, rather, that the head of the household being saved resulted in the entire household being called out and set apart for God through circumcision/baptism (Gen 17:27). Covenant signs & seals are given of God, and so by intention provisions of grace, and cannot only be established by human conditioning or learning as signs of our commitment to God. Waters depicts circumcision/baptism as signs & seals, without making them bare signs: 'Just as spiritual circumcision once had its counterpart in physical circumcision, so we may infer that spiritual baptism now has its counterpart in water baptism.' p 24
The strength of this impressive counter-argument forces upon the church the question of church membership. A host of biblical texts presuppose membership, even resolving the common misconception of 'believer's baptism' (one who confesses must, therefore, be a believer, Matt 7:21). What follows is an exact biblical understanding of the source, mode, and limit of church power in gathering and ordering the church before God. If the church as we know it was owned of Christ (implicit in "My church", Matt 16:18), a significant advantage is gained and a great theological truth is defended. Christ is the church's one foundation, its Rock, and not Peter. Christ has not ceded His authority to rule the church to others who claim extraordinary authority, but rather works mediately through those whom the church recognizes He has vested with spiritual gifts. The Westminster Assembly embraced Christ's care of church discipline entrusted to 'the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate' (The Westminster Confession Of Faith 30.1) based on Christ handing to the apostles collectively the discipline of the church. If the offender refuses to listen to the church, he is to be put out of the church (Matt 18:17). However fallible, church discipline must never be seen as 'punishment'. It is exercised to the glory of God, for the purity of the church, and for the good of the sinner, according to the precepts found in Scripture.
Following Christ still further, Waters insists on a visible distinction between the spheres of God and government (Matt 22:15). Civil government owes its kingdom's authority (the sword) to God the Creator, while ecclesiastical government owes its kingdom's authority (the keys) to Christ the Mediator. Both serve divine ends. On the strength of scriptural precept alone Waters convincingly brings reason to the case for church government being 'jure divino', and wholly contrary to philanthropic congregational rule. 'It does not rest upon a ground of human expediency, but of Divine Appointment.' James Bannerman, The Church Of Christ 2:204 This truth is not to be sought anywhere else, but in the preaching of the apostles.