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)
God is the Master designer. We need only look at the physical universe to realize this. Psalm 19:1 tells us that, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.” The intricate and marvelous design of the creation shows the wisdom of God. “O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all…” (Psalm 104:24). Of course, God’s wisdom can be seen in other things He has designed – like the church. Ephesians 3:10 teaches that the “manifold wisdom of God” is made known through the church.
God is the Creator and Designer of the local church, too. His wisdom is seen in the way the church is designed to work just as it is seen in the way the physical creation is designed to work. Men cannot improve upon God’s designs. At our best, we learn to read the blueprints and follow them.
Unfortunately, many fail to recognize this when it comes to the local church. They view the local church as some sort of free-form association of Christians, whose own members are at liberty to determine its form and function – how it will work and what it will do. Continue reading » The Work God Gave the Local Church
I am honored to participate in this issue of Watchman Magazine and I thank brother Roberts for the invitation. While I am honored on the personal level, of far greater significance is: (1) the opportunity of this avenue to teach, and (2) the important theme of this special issue. My specific assignment is “The Works Assigned to the Local Church” to which I now proceed.
Local Churches: Fact or Fiction?Is the “local church” authorized and functional in the New Testament or is it a result of human imagination and tradition? This might seem too fundamental a question for some, yet for others it is totally valid. We must first establish that local churches are valid before we can profitably discuss the works assigned to them. My appeal is “What does the Scripture say?” (Rom. 4:3). Continue reading » The Works Assigned to the Local Church
A disciple is a student, a follower, and an imitator of his or her teacher. Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). The Lord expressed Himself plainly: disciples have work to do, and it will cost them something. It is only right, since He denied Himself and took up the cross on our behalf, that we serve Him thus.
The Scriptures also describe Christians as priests of the Most High God. “You…are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). What is that sacrifice? “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). These passages indicate that Christians–all Christians–have a responsibility before God. Every one of us is a priest, and every one of us must offer himself or herself up as a sacrifice to Him by denying ungodliness and worldly desires–yes, and even denying ourselves! Continue reading » The Work of Disciples
Every so often we learn of some unsavory action of a “televangelist.” Through the misadventures of these men the word “evangelist” often takes on a less than desirable air in its usage in modern society. Like other words and relationships, this word, in its proper religious sense, had its beginnings with God and has become tainted by what men have done with it.
In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul tells Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Evangelists are mentioned among those the Lord gave the church “for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). They thus have an important place in God’s plan for the church, the saved. As the title indicates, the purpose of this article is to tell what place in God’s scheme an evangelist has. Continue reading » The Work of Evangelists
The Church Must TeachA congregation that is effective in carrying out its Scriptural mission will place much emphasis upon teaching the Word of God. Paul said to Timothy: “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Please note that the context demands that the word “church” as used here refers to the local church. We can say this without fear of contradiction since Paul has just concluded his instructions to Timothy concerning the qualifications of “bishops” and “deacons.” Such men only serve in a local congregation. But you will note that our passage plainly says that “the church . . . is the pillar and ground of the truth.” The word “ground” translates the Gr. HEDRAIOMA, meaning “a support, bulwark, stay (from hedraios, stedfast, firm; from hedra, a seat), is translated ‘ground’ in 1 Tim. 3:15 (said of a local church); the R.V. marg., ‘stay’ is preferable” (Vine). Therefore, brethren, it is of paramount importance for a local congregation to accept the responsibility of teaching God’s Word and equip itself fully for this necessary function, not sparing any expense as long as it is within the guidelines of Scriptural authority (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Continue reading » The Work of Bible Class Teachers
Paul directed his letter to the church at Philippi specifically “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” From its contextual proximity to the office of bishop, the reader can ascertain that Paul is addressing a group of people serving in the office of deacon. They are not merely servants as all Christians are commanded to be, but fill that special office of deacon assigned by the Holy Spirit to qualified men thus appointed. It is our aim to discern what is the work of the deacons within the church of Jesus Christ. Because the mission of the office is somewhat obscure, various denominations have evidently mutated the office and actually elevated it above that of bishop. It would be a mistake to consider the modern deacon tradition among artificial religions to be indicative of the Bible mandate for the office. Instead, we search the scriptures and find three distinct lines of reasoning to guide our quest:
- The implication of the Greek word diakonos which is translated “deacon” in various passages.
- The qualifications given for the office by the Holy Spirit in 1 Timothy 3.
- The likelihood that the apostles’ selection of seven men to assist their work in Acts 6 constitutes a prototypical deaconship. Continue reading » The Work of Deacons
Archie E. Proctor
Elder, Pruett & Lobit church
The term “elder” in the New Testament, is used in two senses: first, to designate an older man as compared to a younger (Romans 9:12, Luke 1:18). Secondly, to designate men who are appointed to a position of authority in a local congregation of the Lord’s Church (Acts 20:17,28) . It is in this second sense to which this article is addressed.
For those readers who are not familiar with the term, elders were appointed in every church (Acts 14:23) and had to meet certain qualifications to be selected for this office (1Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). In short, elders were to be older men, not recent converts, who had been married to one wife, with believing children, who ruled their households well, were hospitable, of good reputation, sober, just, holy, full of wisdom, and well versed in the word of God. Continue reading » The Work of Elders
“Paul and Timothy, servant of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…” (Phil. 1:1).
In our world today, we hear of mega-mergers, hyper-marts, metroplexes and one-world political ideologies. These terms are indications of the current thinking of “the bigger, the better.” Whether political, economic, religious or otherwise, trends are representative of movement toward massive alliances in structure.
In Europe, numerous nations are merging into a “common market” which will wield greater financial and political clout in world affairs. The “Euro-dollar” will replace currencies in the separate nations, yielding to an acceptable currency throughout the Common Market Alliance.
Politically, Americans are faced with an encroaching federal government which grows in power over the states. Continue reading » Editorial: The Church in the Eternal Purpose of God
The work of women in the local church must be defined by gospel standards and not by our culture. The way we live is vastly different from New Testament times but God has permanently set the pattern for work and organization of the church outside of time and human influence. Regardless of how much more social freedom women have today, the work of women in the church is the same as it was when Priscilla traveled with her husband, when Dorcas made clothes for the needy, and when Phoebe was serving the church in Cenchrea. To learn our role, we must go the Bible and follow its examples and commands. This article will attempt to study all of the positive roles that women played in the New Testament.
Women with JesusBefore the church was established, women assisted in the life of Jesus by providing for his needs from their substance. Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many other who helped him this way (Luke 8:1-3). Domestic duties, from clean clothes to good meals, help workers to do their job whether they are carpenters or evangelists. These women were blessed that they were able to serve Him and the disciples this way.Mary Magdalene stayed with Him to the cross as did his mother, aunt, and Mary the wife of Clopas. After his death, these women may have helped Joseph and Nicodemus prepare his body. Mary Magdalene was still visiting his tomb on the first day of the week and she wouldn’t leave even when she discovered his body was missing. I’m glad the two angels and Jesus himself appeared to her there. She was a woman of great devotion (John 19-20). Continue reading » The Distaff: The Role of Women in the Local Church
Beats there a heart so brave that it does not fear to bring up the subject of discipline in the church? Only the newest babe in Christ or somone totally out of touch with the history of local churches could fail to realize that exercising church discipline is fraught with troubles and heartaches. Strong elders shake with trepidation and mature preachers measure their job security when the necessity arises. Friendship and fellowship are tested, family ties are strained, motives are searched and suspected, wounded feelings are multiplied and churches are sometimes split in an attempt to “withdraw from the disorderly.” Of late, the additional prospect of lawsuits has a chilling effect on this action and the first step is to check with an insurance agent to be sure that liability coverage is available before the church acts to correct a wayward member. In the light of such turmoil, some are led to ask, “Who needs it?” It seems as though more harm than good can result. Perhaps it is best to leave well enough alone; it is not worth the risk; let’s just leave such matters up to God and the final Judgment. Is there some compelling reason why we must have discipline in the church? Is it worthwhile? Is the cost too great to pay? What are the reasons that faithful Christians will consider in the light of such difficulties? Continue reading » Solid Food: Why We Must Have Discipline in the Church
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
Even the most casual of Bible students is able to determine that the “us” of Ephesians 1, which as a group has been chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world”, has reference to the church of God which Christ “purchased with His own blood” (cf. Acts 20:28). Most Christians are able to give a concise definition of the term “church”, derived from the greek term “ekklesia”, and referring to the “called out” which are the people of God. Fundamental lessons we learn as babes in Christ allow us to identify the church built by Christ (Matthew 16:18), and to respect its grand design which had its origin in the mind of God “before the foundation of the world.” Continue reading » Editorial: Thinking About the Church
In the first century, one of the seven wonders of the world occupied prominence in Ephesus. It was the temple of the goddess Diana. One hundred seven columns, each sixty feet high, arose from a marshy bed to support the roof of the temple. What comparisons and contrasts must have crossed Timothy’s mind in Ephesus when he read, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground for the truth” ( 1 Timothy 3:14-15). As the many columns provided support for a physical structure, the spiritual realm focuses attention upon God’s household or family (cf. 1 Timothy 3:5), the church, supporting the truth revealed by God. But what a contrast! The church upholds the “truth” of “the living God”, instead of the “lie” of “lifeless” pagan idolatry.
The church is a collectivity of people who are individually called out of the world of sin by the truth of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14), and purchased or redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28, Revelation 5:9-10). Therefore, each individual member of the church should be enthusiastically involved in offering helpful support to the truth of God. Is it not “the truth” of the gospel that gives each hearer eternal hope in heaven (Colossians 1:5)? Is it not “the truth” which each person can know that frees the individual from sin (John 8:32)? And , is it not “the truth” of the gospel that offers purification from one’s sins when he or she obeys it (1 Peter 1:22)? Continue reading » Pillar and Ground of the Truth: The Local Church’s Role in Supporting the Truth
The apostle Paul proclaimed his steadfast resolve to stand with the truth of God by saying, “I am set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17, v.16 in ASV). Was such a responsibility for Paul in his unique place as an apostle or did other Christians also have the same responsibility? Since that gospel was defended by apostles in the first century, are modern Christians free from the task of defending it from present day assaults? Can preachers, elders and saints of our time legitimately excuse current failures to use the Spirit’s sword to expose error by claiming that modern Christians lack the apostolic credentials to undertake this task?
The culture around us disdains those who defend Bible truth as an absolute. They teach, as fundamental, the tenets of relativism. They assure us with absolute certainty that we cannot know anything for certain. To assert that the principles and actions of another are wrong is to commit the cardinal sin of our age: intolerance. In many schools, our children have been taught that “diversity” should be celebrated. That acceptance of “diversity” was, at first, limited to accepting those of diverse races and economic backgrounds. If it had stayed at that point, all of us could give a hearty “AMEN” to the concept because such is clearly taught in Scripture (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:7-11; Jas. 2:1-9). However, the proponents of accepting and celebrating “diversity” went on to include adultery, fornication, homosexuality, false religion, and a host of other sinful actions in the category of “diversity” and “alternate lifestyles” which are to be accepted and celebrated. It is at this point that the child of God must see the shift in definition and oppose any movement to accept sinful principles and action. God has always demanded His people to hate, reject and oppose every evil way (Psa. 119:128; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:11; Eph. 5:6-12; 2 Jn. 9-11). Continue reading » Set for the Defense of the Gospel: Protecting the Local Church