Identity of the Church of Christ

Local Church Autonomy

As we scroll through the pages of the New Testament and look upon the pattern of worship and church organization, we see something different than what the world is used to. Most every organization has a headquarters or legislative body somewhere on earth. However that is one thing that is missing in the pages of the New Testament.

The Lordship of Jesus Christ is without question, and we see that Christ rules from His Throne at the right hand of God in Heaven. The authority that Christ has (Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:21-23) is found written in His holy word. Even Christ taught that His words would judge us (John 12:48) and by extension, the words of the apostles would judge us (John 14-17). Therefore, the examples and pattern that is given to us in the scriptures is sure and steadfast, and we know without doubt, that if we follow the pattern that was done in the days of the apostles that had the divine guidance, we are following a good thing approved by God, and within His authority (Colossians 3:17).

As we view each local congregation or assembly of saints, we see that no two cooperated in concert, yet we see all working in concert with the revealed truths. We see the churches following divine guidance in their work in each place. Much can be learned by reading the letters to the various churches, and of course what is not said of the churches is very important as well. This is how we establish authority.

If you look carefully, the relationship each congregation had with an outside entity almost always viewed their individual relationship within Christ Jesus. Very few passages of scripture are instances of one church dealing with another. Acts 11 gives us a glimpse that brethren in one place helped brethren in another place. Acts 15 gives us the same message, but notice that it is the brethren dealing with each other and not the churches. In 2 Corinthians 11:8, we see Paul talking of other churches supporting him while he was at Corinth. Philippi was one of those churches.

Many churches were instrumental in sending out the gospel message and the result was that many other churches were planted. That was the extent of the relationship that one had with another. If there were any rules to be laid down by anyone, it was the message of the apostles doctrine and that was the message of Christ. No New Testament church is seen to be a sponsor of another, and no church exercised oversight of another.

Our King and Lord is Jesus Christ, and it is Divinity that must be considered when we make our decisions. But all too often, we make our decisions based upon what others would think. Remember the two articles on “Conforming To Conformity” we had during this series? That is one of our problems. We often become more concerned by what other brethren will think than what God and Jesus have taught us. Thus we fail to fulfill our full potential as a body of Christians.

We in the conservative churches of Christ have often been accused of being tradition bound. That is not necessarily a negative thing, but sometimes it can be. Each eldership of each congregation and each group of men at non-eldership churches need to make decisions independent of other churches and independent of what they think others will perceive. As long as we make decisions based upon the thoughts of other churches, or what we think they might think, we have not achieved full autonomy. Only when Christ is our leader and guide, and our decisions are in consideration of Him only, will we be right. Seek the approval of Christ and not men.

Keep studying God’s word, Carey Scott

Go to the November article

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