THE JUDAIZING PROBLEM, AND OTHERS
15th chapter of Acts is a
highly interesting chapter to study. With the termination
of the Old Testament Law on the cross (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews
Holy Spirit, step by step, was guiding the apostles and early church
truth” (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 13:9-10). Breaking with the Law was
not easy for
them and it took time for them to come into the fullness of the New
revelation. After God showed that Gentiles should be accepted into the
with the household of Cornelius (Acts 10 and 11), Paul and Barnabas
new ground as they were sent out into the Gentile world with the gospel
13, etc.). Being sent out from the church at
With this interesting Scripture noticed and highlighted, we now move on to some other thoughts arising in connection with this chapter. In response to our emphasis on wanting to have Scriptural precedent or principle behind all that we practice in the church, a person once said to this writer that the 15th chapter of Acts furnishes us a Scriptural example of a church convention, like that of a world, national or state convention (organizationally set up and drawn from many local churches). Thus, a national or other such regional name could be appropriately applied to the gathering. But does Acts 15 furnish such an example or precedent?
Review the first section of this article. The church at
We remind you that the church in the New Testament was made up of local, independent and autonomous entities. To apply world, national or regional names beyond the local church is to leap frog the simple New Testament concept and have a ready-made setup for a denominational identity (and apostasy in that direction). Who gave anyone the authority to thus name such gatherings, and thus imply that they are collectively representing a vast number of churches? In the New Testament, the stratum of the organization of the church does not go beyond the local church.
LOCAL, AUTONOMOUS CHURCHES
CORPORATELY speaking, the church has its being locally. When the New Testament makes reference to Christ’s followers in an organized sense in the world, or in any given region, it is never THE CHURCH, but CHURCHES. There is no such thing as a universal church or a national church. There is no such thing as a church organization in any sense of the word on a state, regional, or district basis (just the local, independent and autonomous church is all that we find in the inspired Scriptures). Yes, Christ said, “I will build my church,” but he is speaking of the whole church in a general sense and did not have reference to a collective unit or organization. When we read the New Testament Scriptures about Christ’s followers in an area, it was never THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, but CHURCHES OF CHRIST (Romans 16:16). It was never THE CHURCH OF MACEDONIA, but THE CHURCHES OF MACEDONIA (2 Corinthians 8:1). It was never THE CHURCH OF ASIA, but THE CHURCHES OF ASIA (THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA) (1 Corinthians 16:19; Revelation 1:4). It was never THE CHURCH OF GALATIA, but THE CHURCHES OF GALATIA (Galatians 1:2). It was never THE CHURCH OF JUDAEA, but THE CHURCHES OF JUDAEA (Galatians 1:22). And so we could go on!
Beloved, this is not without significance—in fact, it is
significant! This means the followers of Christ in the world or in any
area were not welded together by an ecclesiastical organization on a
scale, nor on the basis of some political region—but that each church
locally based, independent and autonomous in its church life and
Each was a complete entity within itself—the only entity. Therefore, we
the following: “The
Colossians 4:16 and Philippians 4:15 are also significant references. Philippians 4:15 is especially significant. The latter part of this latter reference reads: “NO CHURCH communicated with me concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.” By CHURCH he means the local church, for he is saying this in contrast with the local Philippian church, and this implies that Paul was not expecting CHURCHES (as a group) to communicate as an organized singular unit to support him—for the extent of the government and organization of the church was only local. (Yes, this implies that he was not expecting help from an organized unit such as a district or national church, nor from local churches working through a crystallized district or other organization beyond their local boundries: NO CHURCH communicated).
Thus, the only way we can speak of Christ’s followers in
world in an organizational sense (when speaking of more than one
is to speak of them as “CHURCHES OF CHRIST.” To think in terms of “THE
OF CHRIST” is to move in the direction of denominationalism.