We have a different definition of ‘church’. Not a religious organization, that is recreating the problem Jesus had with Judaism.
I think this depends on how he defines “religious organization.” Google defines an organization as “an organized body of people with a particular purpose, especially a business, society, [or] association.” And it defines organized as “arranged in a systematic way, especially on a large scale.”
Now, to me, the church Jesus started was that: it was a body of people, they had a common purpose, and there was a systematic arrangement among them. Since the definition matches up, at least in my mind, I think your friend must have a different definition of organization than Google does. That’s fine, but if we are using different definitions than we might save ourselves some trouble by finding that out. I recommend asking him if he agrees with Google’s definition. If he does, then ask which part of that definition isn’t in the church Jesus started.
If he says that the church Jesus started didn’t have a systematic arrangement, ask him if it had bishops. Point out verses like 1 Tim. 3:1, Titus 1:7, Philippians 1:1, and Acts 20:28. If some people in the church are bishops and other people are not, isn’t that a systematic arrangement?
The way the New Testament describes bishops, it seems like you couldn’t just say, “I’m a bishop,” and start being one. If you Could have done that, the term would have had no meaning. If you couldn’t just start being one, there had to be some process for making new bishops. The New Testament doesn’t indicate that each congregation hired and fired their own pastors like modern Baptist churches do. Galatians 2:9 talks about going to the Apostles to receive the right hand of fellowship. And 3 John 1:9-12 seems to show hierarchical authority: the Apostle John tells the church not to follow Diotrephes because he won’t accept John’s authority, and he apparently tells them to follow Demetrius instead. It’s not a congregationalist model, it’s a Catholic model.
One time I was talking with a Baptist about the church. I asked him why his church doesn’t have bishops. He answered: We don’t need them because we have Jesus. So I asked: But aren’t there bishops in the Bible? And he said: Yes, but sometimes God changes things. So I asked: How do you know what to change and what to keep? And he said: We use the Bible to figure that out. So I asked: Does the Bible say somewhere that we should stop having bishops? And he said: No, but we don’t need bishops because we have Jesus.
He then started explaining that liberty is the primary thing, and that’s why his church was called Liberty Baptist Church. Then he walked away. I think I planted a seed though: his church was clearly not following the biblical model, and he didn’t know why. The biblical church is a church with authority, structure, and organzational characteristics of an international scale. Baptist churches aren’t like that.
The biblical definition of church, the body of Christ, is those who believe, repent, have been baptized, have the Holy Spirit.
But aren’t they under bishops? And don’t those bishops need to be approved by somebody? The Bible verses I quoted earlier indicate that they do. The problem for Protestants is, their earliest leaders were not approved by the surviving Church authority, they did not even pretend to be – and things have not improved today.
Church discipline in Matthew 18 is in a local church.
I don’t think so. Here’s one reason why: if it was only a local church thing, then if you didn’t like the decision they gave, you could just go to the church down the street. That’s what happens in modern Protestant churches. If you don’t like the decisions at one church, you just leave it. Modern Protestants clearly don’t think they are bound to the authority of their current church. If this passage really taught that you had to listen to your local church, it would violate the Protestant churches’s fundamental doctrine: sola scriptura. It would replace the one magisterium Protestants object to with a million smaller ones. The fact is, this passage says you have to listen to somebody. If Sola Scriptura is true, that passage is false. This person is trying to get around that by saying you have to listen to your local congregation – but that only makes his problem worse.
I hope that helps. God bless!