WILL THERE BE A BAPTIST POPE?
A CLOUD OF WITNESSES FOR THE DEFENSE OF LOCAL CHURCH AUTONOMY AND INDEPENDENCY
By Wayne Camp
INTRODUCTION TO PART V
In the October installment of this study on the autonomy and independency of each and every local church of our Lord Jesus Christ, I used the church in Antioch as an example of church independency. I wanted to print the article by Bro. Settlemoir in full in one issue. Therefore, my space is limited this month. In view of that, I simply want to extend the message on Antioch to include some other uninspired witnesses who affirmed that Antioch was a full-fledged, organized church of the Lord Jesus Christ when she sent forth Paul and Barnabas to the work to which God had called them and when they conferred with Jerusalem concerning some matters which included circumcision.
Our witnesses last time affirmed clearly and scripturally that Antioch was independent and autonomous in her actions in these matters. Now, let us hear from some other witnesses on this particular. Was Antioch still under the authority of Jerusalem or was she a fully functional independent church when the events recorded in Acts chapters 13-15 took place? I maintain she was independent. The two witnesses I quoted last time maintained she was. Now, let me call some other witnesses who specifically discuss these matters and affirm the independence and autonomy of Antioch at the time.
T. P. SIMMONS
I have quoted Bro. Simmons before in this study. But, let us hear from him again on the actions of Antioch in sending forth their missionaries. He wrote, "THE SETTING APART OF BARNABAS AND SAUL. In this we see the independence of New Testament churches. The church at Antioch, although it was much younger than the church at Jerusalem acted in this matter independent of the church at Jerusalem and without so much as consulting, the church at Jerusalem. Cf. Acts 13:1-3. Neither did the church consult the apostles."1
According to Bro. Simmons, the church at Antioch did not consult the apostles nor Jerusalem on this matter. They did not need to for they were an independent, self-governing body. They had the authority and command of the Holy Spirit who told them to do this.
Eld. Emery H. Bancroft wrote on the matter related in Acts 15. He said, "If anything is plain in the Scriptures certainly this is. The fifteenth chapter of Acts, which has sometimes been adduced to show that the church at Jerusalem exercised a controlling influence over others, if properly understood, has just the opposite bearing. Some men had gone down from Jerusalem to Antioch and taught that the Gentile Christians, in order to be saved, must become Jews, and keep the whole law by submitting to the rite of circumcision, and be received as proselytes Into the Jewish nation. On this question, with marked forbearance to both parties, but without departing one iota from the gospel principle of faith in Christ as essential to salvation, the church at Jerusalem sent a courteous and loving letter by the hand of special messengers to say that in their opinion it was not necessary for Gentiles to become Jews first in order to become Christians, but, in order to refrain from wounding the sensibilities of the Jewish brethren, it was right that Gentile converts should avoid certain offensive practices. Here, there is no hint of lordship on the part of the Jerusalem church over the church at Antioch, neither does there appear anywhere else in the New Testament any trace whatever of superiority, or lordship of one church, or set of churches over another."2
In the thinking of Bancroft, there was no doubt that the church in Antioch was absolutely independent in her dealings with Jerusalem on the matters considered in Acts 15. She was answerable to none but the Lord in her church government.
"On the matter of sending out Paul and Barnabas, Bro. Pugh has written, "So it is with Christ. He has delegated His authority to His church. She is not only the 'pillar and ground of the truth,' but also to her was committed the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper as well as the authority to send forth teaching servants in the work of the Lord as the Holy Ghost calls and leads. While a man CAN (is able to) preach, immerse, and administer bread and wine, he MAY NOT (does not have permission to do so) unless the Holy Ghost sends him forth out of and by a New Testament church. This is the teaching and pattern of the New Testament!
This "church authority" delegated by Christ to His churches is seen in action in the New Testament. Consider the sending out of Paul (Saul) and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-4.
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."
"Note these several things:
(1) The men to be sent out were active teaching members "in the church that was at Antioch" which was a real, functioning "local" church.
(2) "The Holy Ghost said," speaks of the Divine call to service. Without the working of the Holy Ghost in both the individual called AND in his church there can be no Scriptural sending-out of men to do the work of "church planting".
(3) After more fasting and prayer the spiritual leaders in the church of which they were members "laid their hands on them" (that is, ordained them to the work).
(4) In this way they were "sent forth by the Holy Ghost." Both the sovereign working of the Spirit AND the obedience of the members of a New Testament church are required for an individual to be "sent forth by the Holy Ghost."
It is obvious that this witness also held that the church at Antioch was a real, functioning, organized, local, independent and autonomous body when she sent forth these missionaries. That is the only kind of church that has the authority to send out missionaries.
CONCLUSION TO PART V
This has been shorter than the previous articles on this subject. But, we have heard three other witnesses to the independency and autonomy of the local church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Three witnesses to the independency and autonomy of the local church at Antioch have spoken clearly. Antioch acted as an organized body that was sovereign in her relationship to other churches. She consulted with no one when she sent forth these missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. She consulted with no one when she received the offering for the poor in Jerusalem. She consulted no one about sending some representatives to Jerusalem seeking some advice from that independent, autonomous sister church. Our cloud of witnesses continues to increase.
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Last Updated Friday, March 04, 2011