Even casual discussions with friends and loved ones who are outside of the churches of Christ can reveal a very strange mythology that has developed around them.
They are sometimes mischaracterized, maligned, and ostracized on the basis of misunderstood or poorly explained practices. Not all the criticisms, of course, are unfair or false, even if the scriptural basis for the differences among us goes unexplored. It is the mythology about churches of Christ that concerns us now, the kind of thing one hears about them from those operating according to ignorance or malice. Continue reading » Legends of the Churches of Christ
One of the grandest facts about the ongoing findings of archaeology is that it never fails to produce unique and interesting finds that open up new proofs for conclusions previously unknown. One such find was the law code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi was the sixth king in the Babylonian dynasty and ruled from approximately 1792 to 1750 B.C. He was a great military leader, enlarging Babylon from a small city-state into a vast world empire, covering all the land from the Tigris to the Euphrates. However, Hammurabi is best known for his extensive list of law codes. Scholars date the code c. 1780 B.C. The stele on which the code was written was discovered by an Egyptologist named Gustav Jequier in 1901. The find was located in modern-day Iran, near the ancient Babylonian city of Susa.
The law code consists of an introduction stating that Hammurabi was chosen by the gods to record the code, followed by 282 statements of law, and concluded with an epilogue. What is unique about this code is that unlike other ancient findings, it is completely intact.
Continue reading » The Law Code of Hammurabi
Proposition 1: The Scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).
This debate is important because Vance suggests a radical departure from the practice of the NT and makes his unscriptural “pattern” a test of fellowship. As one who serves as an evangelist and an elder in a local church, I deny his affirmative as both unscriptural and impractical. Our difference is not personal nor is his honesty or sincerity impugned.
Continue reading » First Negative
Editor’s Note: Brother Roberts is presently preparing for a move to the Tampa, Florida area, to work with the Forest Hills congregation. As such, I have taken the liberty of reprinting an article Tom wrote for the West Side Weekly, a bulletin published by the West Side church in Fort Worth, TX in the time brother Roberts preached for that congregation.
The date of the article is November 20, 1977. At that time, brother Roberts was dealing with the error of “Neo-Calvinism” in the Dallas, Fort Worth area. Among other criticisms he and others received in their defense of truth was the charge that they were “meddling” in the affairs of other congregations.
While the illustration is dated, (typewriters instead of computers and the internet), the argument used to refute this quibble is the same. Truth does not violate autonomy! We commend his article to you. (Stan)
One hears a lot of objections these days to the use of bulletins by churches. They are used, it is said, to meddle in other churches’ affairs and to ruin the reputation of preachers who deviate from orthodox positions. I believe we need to consider these charges.
A bulletin, properly used, is simply a teaching medium of a congregation. It is used in much the same way that a radio program is used: to expand the teaching area that can be reached by the local church. A bulletin can be as versatile as gospel preaching in that it can be used for local members or for those not Christians or for a combined audience of Christians and non-Christians. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with a church using a bulletin, nor a radio program, nor any other means to proclaim the truth.
Continue reading » Associate Editorials: Bulletins and Church Typewriters
The Gospel Guardian (November 1972, reprint from 1956)
To have the proper background to enable us to understand the “autonomy of the local church,” we must have an understanding of the New Testament uses of the word “church.” By an investigation of the word of the Lord it will become evident that the word “church” is used in two senses by divine writers. First, it is used in what may be called the “universal” sense. This simply means that the word “church” is used to include all of the saved in all of the world. When Jesus said, in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” he certainly did not refer to any particular local congregation, for if he did, then all other congregations would be without divine origin. The word was used in the institutional, or universal, sense. The same is true of the statement made by Paul in Ephesians 5:25, as well as in many other New Testament references. However, in the second place, the word is used in a “local” sense. By this use of the word reference is made to all the saved in some particular locality, as “the church of God” at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:1, 2), or “the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). The “local” sense of the word is also found in such expressions as “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2), “the churches of Judea” (Galatians 1:22), and “the seven churches which are in Asia” (Revelation 1:4). The first, or “universal,” sense of the word refers to the people of God in the aggregate, but the second, or “local,” sense of the word has to do with “local congregations.” With this proper meaning of the word in mind, as used by New Testament writers, let us consider the “autonomy of the local church.” Continue reading » Voices from the Past: The Autonomy of the Local Church (W. Curtis Porter)
In Matthew 16 the inspired historian revealed a promise made by Jesus to Peter and his other disciples. The promise concerned a significant aspect of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. In verse 18 Jesus said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The church of Christ is a divine institution, formed by Christ, and governed by principles established by Him and His ambassadors, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
Unfortunately men have continually shown themselves unwilling to acquiesce to Christ’s will regarding His church, and have altered the divine plan. Departures have been seen with regard to the worship of the church. Men have promoted innovations such as instruments of music to accompany the singing which is commanded in scripture, and have altered acts of worship such as the Lord’s Supper to the point where they are almost unrecognizable distortions of the divine plan. Men have distorted the work of the church as well, a common example of this is the present emphasis on the church as an agent of social change. This social emphasis is a far cry from the work of evangelism and edification indicated by Paul when he declared the church to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). Men have changed at their whim the organization of the church. There has been the activation of the “universal” church, the centralization and consolidation of authority; and the alliance of the church with human institutions, councils and societies. Among the distortions of God’s blueprint for the church, and the focus of this article, is an assault on the concept of church autonomy as revealed in scripture. Continue reading » Editorial: The Parameters of Church Autonomy
I. Congregational Autonomy (Definition of Terms)
A. Congregation (Local Churches)
1. Local churches the only government (organization) God ever gave his people
a. Church “Universal” has no structure (cf. Matthew 16:18)
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
1) Simply the “called out” of God; Christians; Relationship, not structure.
b. Church “Local”, an organization (Organized by God, consisting of various elements) (cf. Phil. 1:1)
“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:”
2. When we speak of congregational autonomy, we mean the autonomy of the local church
1. Webster’s New World Dictionary (College Edition) “Self-government”
2. Etymology – “auto” (self); “nomos” (law) ~ Self law
“Nothing is more plainly taught in the Word of God with greater misunderstanding than the scope of activity of the local church. I especially make reference to the autonomy of the local church. If Christians fail to grasp this truth, then untold harm will result as they are swept into complete apostasy.
“Autonomy is defined: ‘The condition or quality of being autonomous. especially, the power or right of self-government’ (Funk & Wagnalls). When the word autonomy is used with reference to the church of our Lord, it should be understood that allusion is that each church has the divine right to govern itself.” (Robert L. McDonald, The Discerner, Local Church Autonomy, October 1991, Page 2). Continue reading » Sermon Study: A Study and Application of Congregational Autonomy