Autonomy and Athority - 2
Autonomy and Athority - 1
Founded by Apostolic Ministry
These autonomous assemblies were founded by Apostolic ministry commencing on the day of Pentecost when, in the power of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, they preached repentance and the remission of sins in the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2). Thereafter, the Apostolic method was to move out from a local assembly following the call of the Spirit, which was then gladly ratified by the local assembly who commended them to the grace of God for the ‘work' to which they had been divinely called.
“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 ” Acts 13:1-4. “And from thence sailed to Antioch , from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled” Acts 14.26.
That ‘work' was seen to be the planting of other local assemblies the same in constitution and nature as the one from which they had been commended, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed” Acts 14.23. There was nothing extra to the local assembly by way of church organisation or authority seen in any Apostolic practice throughout the New Testament. All spiritual work in the authoritative Apostolic age, which is the pattern for all succeeding generations of the church age, was carried out from the base of the local assembly with the end in view of establishing other and similar assemblies.
We emphasise that in the New Testament there was no organisation beyond the local assembly intruding between the worker and his commendation, with powers of authorisation or refusal, nor between an old established assembly and a newly formed assembly apart from the missionary-evangelist called and used by God.
Even in the crucial Gentile mission launched from Antioch, “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” Acts 13.1-3, the original assembly at Jerusalem had no part, neither was it consulted nor its Apostles involved. It was a work entirely administered by the sovereign Lord through the Spirit, involving just the one independent and autonomous assembly at Antioch .
Commenting on this vital point W.E.Vine writes, “A great missionary enterprise was initiated from Antioch , but instead of taking place under the authority of Jerusalem it was undertaken in entire independence of the Apostles there, and even of their delegates (Acts 13.1-3). Events at Jerusalem therefore provide no support for the establishment of a controlling centre for the organisation of the assemblies. One will search in vain in the Acts and the Epistles for even the intimation of the establishment of such an institution”.
We must conclude therefore that if the Lord ignored so important a centre as Jerusalem and initiated a work of such magnitude as reaching out to establish assemblies among Gentiles and in Gentile lands through an independent local assembly, then He has forever established this as the principle of divine working for the whole church age! Christ does not work through an authoritative ecclesiastical centre or body having power over many assemblies (even when that centre, as Jerusalem , contains His own chosen original Apostles), but He works directly and sovereignly through independent local assemblies reliant upon Him and responsible to Him alone!
Thus the great fact emerges once more that the only organisation seen in the New Testament is the local assembly—anything extra to this is unscriptural and therefore inadmissible.
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