Home > Brandenburg, The Church, Worship > Dan, Bethel, and Parachurch Organizations

Dan, Bethel, and Parachurch Organizations

August 3, 2010

1 Kings 12:25-33 is a pivotal section of scripture.  In those verses we get some insight into God’s thinking about what He said about worship.  God wanted the kingdom split at that juncture (1 Kings 11, 12:1-24).  However, He didn’t want changes in worship, like changes in the manner, the place, and the time of prescribed worship.  To keep his crowd and make it all more convenient, Jeroboam built new places of worship at Dan and Bethel.  “But God didn’t say that they couldn’t worship somewhere else!”  He did say Jerusalem, but He didn’t say “not Dan and Bethel.”  And Jeroboam did argue the advantages of Dan and Bethel.  And that reminds me of Saul arguing the advantages of what He did.  Stuff makes sense to us that is different than what God said.

Today God prescribes the worship in a place too—the church.  I’m happy about all the writing today that criticizes the modern violations of the means and manner of worship.  I believe we have New Testament absolutes about the kind of music God wants to receive in worship.  I think contemporary Christian music is a travesty.  But what about all the deviations of New Testament place of worship?  Why then the silence about this aberration?  The worship prescriptions of Romans 12 don’t stop at vv. 1-2.  You move to vv. 3-8 to find the place of the “reasonable service,” that is, “spiritual worship.”  The place is the church.  Is modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism moving out of the limitation of the church akin to Jeroboam moving out of the limitation of Jerusalem?  I believe they are.

The church is the New Testament temple of God (1 Cor 3:16-17).  The church is the means by which God has chosen to make known His manifold wisdom (Eph 3:10).   God designed the church to protect and propagate the truth (1 Tim 3:15).  God has chosen in this age for the church to judge all matters (1 Cor 6).   Unto God is glory in the church (Eph 3:21).   Jesus gave His authority and the promise of His presence to the church (Mt 16:18-19; 18:15-17; 28:18-20).

Neither the college, the mission board, the convention, the association, the fellowship, nor the camp are found in the Bible.  They fall outside the limits of biblical teaching, like Dan and Bethel did and like the cart that carried the ark did.  Some might say that those things are not prescribed, but neither are they wrong.  They are simply out there to supplement the church.  They come up beside the church (“para”) to help the church.  Consider what God says about the issue of place with Jeroboam in 1 Kings 12:30:  “And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.”  Worshiping in Dan was a sin.

Some might argue that these organizations are just additions.  They aren’t replacements for the church.  But they are innovations that deviate from scriptural worship.

Someone might say that they are well-intentioned.  They’ve got good motives.   Uzzah seemed to have a good motive too when he touched the ark.  And Saul had a good motive when he kept the best of the animals to use for sacrifices.

Someone might contend that these people are doing good things.  They have good preaching, good music, and say the right things to one another that are helpful for the Lord.  They are a good opportunity to serve.  For instance, in the chapel at the Christian university, the preacher preached a good message and the student body sang really good hymns to worship the Lord.  Is that true?  If you took various components of Jerusalem worship and moved them to Dan and Bethel would they be acceptable?  Verse thirty of chapter twelve says it was a sin.  It was a sin.  Deviating from God’s prescription for worship is sin.

Faith is simply taking God at His Word.  Romans 14:23 says that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  God says do it this way and we do it another way.  That’s sin.  Jesus always did the Father’s will.   Like Him, we are to be sanctified by the truth, not by our opinions, by what we think will work, or by what makes us feel good.  We are not sanctified by an unbiblical way of doing things.

The Jews thought signs were an effective means of accomplishing God’s will.  The Greeks thought that wisdom would work if relied upon.  Fundamentalists and evangelicals think that parachurch organizations will help.  They can even start listing all the good ways that those non or un-scriptural organizations have helped, just like Charismatics will list all the ways that signs have helped their ministries.  But then in 1 Corinthians 3 we see that if we don’t do it His way, it is wood, hay, and stubble.  It’s not how God wanted us to build.

So, in other words, I’m not wanting people to have their works be worthless.  I don’t want them to be sinning.  We probably would all say that we want God to be honored.  So I want you to think about this.  The fact that I wrote this could become the big deal here.  The big deal is our worship of God.  What God says about that worship is the big deal.  I can’t make someone’s worship valueless.  They do that to themselves.  I’m just reporting.

OK.  Now this is the part that most will think is the tough part.  I could have even left it out.  But I don’t want to be confusing here.  Still, however, I’m going to put it in the way of question.  What about Bill Rice Ranch, The Wilds, Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Ambassador Baptist College, Baptist World Mission, Baptist International Missions Incorporated, or the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches?

I’ll ask it before you do.  What about Jackhammer?  What about ‘What is Truth’?  Fair question.   These aren’t organizations.  These aren’t institutions.  I’m not serving the Lord at Jackhammer.   I’m sent by my church to preach where ever I preach, including online.  Jackhammer is nothing more than an element like an offering plate, a cell phone, or a letter.  Everything I write here represents my church, exactly what my church would teach.  I don’t compromise anything my church teaches to write here.   Jackhammer and What Is Truth for me are elements in the ministry of my church.

Many of the arguments for parachurch organizations parallel very closely to the kind of rationalization that Jeroboam made in his own heart.  They will work better.  They’re just necessary in the times in which we live.   A lot of good experiences have been had in and through them.

I know my last three paragraphs might be the most popular in the whole piece.  The other popular thing, even more important than judging whether the teaching is scriptural, is to make sure that I’m practicing it all consistently.  But read everything that comes up to those three paragraphs.  Think about that first and consider whether parachurch organizations are sin.

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  1. Gary
    August 3, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Kent,

    Do you concider your church building or the members of your congregation to be “the church”?

  2. August 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Gary. The church is the assembly of immersed believers, assembling in a particular locale.

  3. August 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Are Bible Colleges intended to be houses of worship and/or supplant the local church? Couldn’t a Bible College be viewed as churches cooperating for training?

  4. August 3, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    D4,

    What is the corporate singing of a college or camp? Is that worship? What is it that the preachers or teachers are doing in a college or camp? They call that “service,” don’t they? I think a Bible college could be viewed as churches cooperating if that’s what churches were doing. Is that what church authority and cooperation and service looks like in scripture? What church are the leaders serving with?

    I think there are many more thoughts and questions.

  5. August 3, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    “However, He didn’t want changes in worship, like changes in the manner, the place, and the time of prescribed worship.” You’re absolutely correct.

  6. August 3, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Am I allowed to sing a hymn with a Christian friend as we hike in the woods? Am I trying displace the church with that unauthorized corporate worship?

  7. August 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    D4,

    OK. If Israel worshiped in the high places and in Dan and Bethel, plus in Jerusalem, would that have permissible? As long as it accompanied already practiced offerings? That would be a more parallel question. Is spontaneous personal worship the same as an additional institution that takes up the same service as the church when it is in fact not the church?

    Is God’s way sufficient? Did God fail with His plan, not foreseeing the necessity of institutions in addition to the church to accomplish service to Him?

  8. Gary
    August 3, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Kent,

    Ok Ok. I looked up the definition of a parachurch and the main problem that I had with the definition was that they are separate from a denomination or church.

    I’m with you in the fact that I believe very strongly in having a “covering” over a ministry.

    Throughout the NT it was the church that prayed for and sent out its missionaries. Those who were not sent by the church, but had their own belief system i.e. circumsision necessary for salvation, always caused problems and confusion. It is necessary to have accountability and correct doctrine.

    In regards to where to worship though, I’m not sure if we’re in total agreement. The early christians met sometimes in various houses and even in the catacolmes. They worshiped where ever they could.

    I wanted to write more, but I have to get up early tomorrow. God Bless.

  9. August 3, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Gary,

    Again, I’m not talking about where the church meets. I’ve never mentioned that. It was still all the church.

    Thanks.

  10. d4v34x
    August 4, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Kent Brandenburg :
    Is spontaneous personal worship the same as an additional institution that takes up the same service as the church when it is in fact not the church?

    No one sitting in a bible college chapel hour thinks its church. Two or three, 200 or 3000, He is in their midst and they may sing to Him and be edified by His Word.

    • August 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm

      d4,

      Personally I don’t know if you can defend that statement. Having gone to Bible College, I’m not sure what some of them were thinking in the chapel hour.

      I also believe Brother Kent is talking about the functions, given exclusively to the churches by Christ, that the “paras” take upon themselves.

    • August 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm

      d4v34x :

      Kent Brandenburg :
      Is spontaneous personal worship the same as an additional institution that takes up the same service as the church when it is in fact not the church?

      No one sitting in a bible college chapel hour thinks its church. Two or three, 200 or 3000, He is in their midst and they may sing to Him and be edified by His Word.

      Look at what you wrote. You are looking at this from people’s (man’s) perspective. It doesn’t matter what someone thinks about what he’s doing. What matters is what is in fact taking place and whether it is what scripture teaches. The two or three who are gathered, in the context of Mt 18, is a church context. It’s two or three church members.

  11. Jeff Davis
    August 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I don’t get it……….where should a Christian young person go to college, a Christian College or some Godless state college? I choose not to send my children to the School of the Philistines, not at any level.

  12. August 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    That is a good question, Brother Jeff. And, I am sure Brother Kent will answer it. But, here is my take. For the kind of training that Christ commanded His churches to do, Bible College has no authority. For example, training pastors, missionaries, etc.

    It does not mean, in my opinion, that a Christian College could not train in other areas. I am probably not saying this well, but I am getting ready for church.

    God bless!

  13. Gary
    August 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Art

    what is the purpose of Bible colleges, if they are not to train pastors and missionaries?

    Didn’t you and Kent go to a Bible college to become equiped for your calling?

  14. August 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Jeff. There are churches with colleges. I didn’t list any of those in the post because they are churches.

    Gary, I went to a parachurch college when I didn’t know any better. While I was there, I regularly thought there was something wrong.

  15. August 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Where do the “sons of the prophets” that Elisha worked with fit into this discussion? Thanks,

  16. August 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Jeff,

    Did Elisha have authority to train the prophets? He was a prophet of Israel, ordained by God, operating under God’s authority.

  17. Duncan
    August 5, 2010 at 5:45 am

    Just a thought, Was it so much a problem of worshipping at Dan and Bethel rather than worshipping the calves that were placed there? The reason that God commanded that men worship before one particular altar (given when in the wilderness and all the House of Israel was gathered together) was that they were coming out of idols in Egypt (see Ezekiel’s words on Aholah and Aholibah), and they still had this clinging to them. Notice then how often Israel went into idols, so that even in the temple there was an image of jealousy, men worshipping by looking at pictures, and about twenty-five men worshipping the sun [Lucifer in the occult] at the Eastern Gate). Just a question for my own understanding of your position.

  18. August 5, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Hi Duncan,

    If you look at the previous chapter, God has placed His name in Jerusalem. His presence was in the temple there. God had spared Judah in part because of Jerusalem (11:32, 36). Remember earlier when God’s glory entered the temple at its dedication? The house of the LORD was in Jerusalem. There was a problem with the graven images, certainly the manner of worship was altered too, violating the second commandment, but also the move to Dan and Bethel out of convenience for the Northern Kingdom. God had promised to Jeroboam that he and his descendants would be great if they obeyed God’s Word. Instead of putting his faith in God’s promise, He put His faith in his own reasoning and what would work.

  19. Duncan
    August 5, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    The interesting thing I see about the split was that it came as a judgment for not following God by Israel in the first place. Truly, it was not God’s highest plan. In fact, if Rehoboam had not been a fool (and Ecclesiastes, aka the Repentance of Solomon, indicates that Solomon knew him to be one), the split would never have happened. The fact that Jeraboam instituted the worship of the calves seems to indicate that the split was part of God’s permissive will (IMHO) rather than being a cut-and-dried matter (that is, it depended on whether or not Rehoboam would be a godly king or a tyrant).

  20. Duncan
    August 6, 2010 at 6:52 am

    Just another question,

    If there is nothing acceptable to God that is outside the local church context, why is it that you have this team blog with men from outside your own church?

  21. August 6, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Duncan,

    Read the last three paragraphs of the post. I anticipated that question.

    Churches can cooperate with one another, but they are still churches when it is all said and done. I’m in fellowship with a lot of different churches and we get together, like we see in Acts 15. Paul was sent by one church, authorized to start other churches, and then took up offerings from the churches for another church. We still have all churches when we’re done. I’ve seen churches get together for camp—all rent the same camp and hold their own camp.

  22. d4v34x
    August 6, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Bro. B.

    What would you think of a Bible College that didn’t have a chapel service or special meetings or sing hymns together?

    Do you read the command to Timothy to commit the things he had learned to faithful men so that they could teach others also as one to be carried out in the local church only?

    • August 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      D4,

      I would expect a parachurch college to do all of the above. It’s not something I don’t understand. I spent 13 years in Watertown. Yes, faithful men are faithful to what? Faithful to Scripture. Passing down exactly what we see in the Bible, not attempting to lend a “helpful hand” to how God said to do it. We’re sanctified through the truth, not our opinions or ideas.

      Thanks.

  23. Kristy
    August 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Kent,
    You are correct that there are churches with colleges. I endured one of them for a semester. However, I was never part of their church. I was always under the authority of my church back home. So would it not be wrong for these churches with colleges to accept students from outside of their church? I fail to see the consistency here.

    • August 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      Kristy,

      I’m not recommending every church college. And I don’t know you, but I can also understand your term “endured.” However, it’s consistent for churches to cooperate with one another in the training of young people.

      Think about this. Early in Israel’s history, Jeroboam departed from God’s way. Then that continued for the next 18 kings until Israel was taken by Assyria. When we’re thirteen generations into it, that doesn’t make something unscriptural to be right.

      Many of the organizations I have cited, started on their own without church authority. Churches have given them their endorsement, but they are not under the authority of a church. They are institutions separate from a church.

      Thanks.

  24. Duncan
    August 9, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Kent Brandenburg :Hi Gary. The church is the assembly of immersed believers, assembling in a particular locale.

    Would you state that unimmersed believers meeting to worship God due to their being incarcerated in labour camps in Siberia (where baptism by immersion is not an option) would not be a church?

  25. Duncan
    August 10, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Lest any get the idea that I am in favour of “parachurch organisations” one should consider that unless a school, camp, or other ministry is under the authority of a central “mother church” to which all who attend that ministry (eg school, camp, &c) are required to attend, great problems tend to arise. By sending students to multiple churches, multiple philosophies are introduced to the campus. This permits modernism to come, or even Barthianism, into that organisation. It also allows for the standards to be lowered or even eradicated completely. An example of this may be seen in Bob Jones University, which is not under the authority of a mother church but sends its students to various churches in the community. Because not all churches have the same standards, confusion is unnecessarily brought in. One of the results of this is that Stephen Jones is now pressing to do away with the standards all together. The same holds for fellowships. Several years ago the GARBC began sending Sunday School literature to young children that attempted to show pre-fallen creation (the result was a strongly suggestive pornography). In other cases, those who try to resist the encroachments of modernism, Barthianism, Deism, &c in denominational contexts may be turned out of their churches (which their own people bought and paid for out of their own resources) – such happened to Dr. Gresham Machen and Dr. McIntyre who were defrocked by the PCUSA for resisting a liberal missionary, and that is why the Bible Presbyterians hold to the complete autonomy of each congregation. The only reason I am asking these questions is to see if the statements made herein can hold up to cross-examination.

  26. August 12, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Duncan,

    We shouldn’t get doctrine or practice from hypotheticals. If we took out all of the circumstances mentioned and reduced it to a syllogism, the meeting in Siberia wouldn’t be a church because it doesn’t conform to what Scripture says is a church.

  27. August 13, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Kent,

    This is not hypotheticals. The vast majority of believers since the Reformation belonged to non-immersion Churches. Are you really arguing that they never attended a Church? Do you not think that with the Holy Spirit in them leading them to all truth in translating the KJV, launching Bible societies, 3 Great Awakenings etc. was defective in that He missed leading them to the most fundamental truth of what was a Church?? That is a strange and anomalous way to view the providence of God.

    Just for the record – I am totally opposed to the idea of local church only teaching. In the OT the people were seen as one people in prayer and worship even when the met at different locations and synagogues to worship. Presbyterian government goes all the way back to Moses when he appointed elders to help rule one people. In the NT Church, there is absolutely no indication that the local churches were to be seen as independent of each other. In fact the apostolic preachers and writers make every effort to let the newest churches see their essential unity with intense interest and involvement in the other congregations by giving, correction, encouragement, and teaching to encourage sound doctrine. If every particular church independently determined its confession, there would be little practical effect on its locality, let alone the world.

    To cite Hodge,

    The apostles constituted a bond of union to the whole body of believers. There is not the slightest evidence that the apostles had different dioceses. Paul wrote with full authority to the Church in Rome before he had ever visited the imperial city. Peter addressed his epistles to the churches of Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, the very centre of Paul’s field of labour. That the apostles exercised this general jurisdiction, and were thus the bond of external union to the Church, arose, as we have seen, from the very nature of their office. Having been commissioned to found and organize the Church, and being so filled with the Spirit as to render them infallible, their word was law. Their inspiration necessarily secured this universal authority. We accordingly find that they everywhere exercised the powers not only of teachers, but also of rulers. Paul speaks of the power given to him for edification; of the things which he ordained in all the churches. His epistles are filled with such orders, which were binding authority then as now. He threatens the Corinthians to come to them with a rod; he cut off a member of their church, whom they had neglected to discipline; and he delivered Hymeneus and Alexander unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme. As a historical fact, therefore, the apostolic churches were not independent congregations, but were all subject to one common authority.

    This is further evident from the Council at Jerusalem. Nothing need be assumed that is not expressly mentioned in the record. The simple facts of the case are, that a controversy having arisen in the church at Antioch, concerning the Mosaic law, instead of settling it among themselves as an independent body, they referred the case to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, and there it was authoritatively decided, not for that church only, but for all others. Paul, therefore, in his next missionary journey, as he “passed through the cities, delivered to them,” it is said, “the decrees for to keep, which were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.” Acts xvi. 4. It matters not whether the authority of that Council was due to the inspiration of its chief members or not. It is enough that it had authority over the whole Church. The several congregations were not independent, but were united under one common tribunal.

  28. PS Ferguson
    August 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Let me also add Kent’s own analysis from his blog on verb forms that I full agree with:

    “Is it possible that for centuries, students of Scripture were wrong on the meaning of the verbs of the New Testament? Would the Holy Spirit have allowed this? Did we really need Porter and Carson to come along to bring us the true understanding of the Bible that the church has missed these thousands of years? I have noticed that the nature of modern scholarship is the continued seeking for some new break through that will set apart one scholar from another. In the secular world, the new discovery certainly can exalt the scholar to a place of prominence in the scholar community or society. I see even evangelical scholars to take up this same kind of tact. There are so many smart guys with advanced degrees that one can hardly be noticed as significant or special without some new discovery or find on the resume.

    Unfortunately, much of the new “science” of the modern scholars flies in the face of what has been believed and taught by believers for a long, long time. And, of course, that tends toward believers being dependent on the new sacral society of scholars instead of the teachers in the church. And it really does remove a certainty in the meaning of the Bible. How do we know that some other new “find” could in the future overturn what we have already switched to believing because of the last great discovery of scholarship?”

    I hope we got that – Kent states that the Holy Spirit would NOT be leading believers to wrong conclusions over Greek verbs for centuries. I could not agree more!

    However, I hope he will be as consistent in applying this principle to baptiso as he is to gegraptai

  29. August 13, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Paul,

    I appreciate your coming here and interacting. I would include all believers in something—the family of God and the kingdom of God. People are baptized into a church (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor 12:13). You say that we take a strange and anomalous view of the church and yet our position is based on the meaning of the word ekklesia, historic and scriptural. The ekklesia was local only before it was used in Scripture. It’s how people in that day would have understood it. And then it is how it is used in the NT. Think of all the time you see the word “churches,” plural. And then references like at the beginning of 1 Cor, the church of God at Corinth. When you get a singular use of ekklesia, it isn’t going to suddenly change in meaning. The singular noun can only be a particular or a generic. When ekklesia is not a particular church, it is the generic usage of “church,” seeing “church” used in an institutional way. There’s much more that can be said, but your Augustinian, Platonic understanding of ekklesia is eisegetical.

    Now you may be thinking that you’ve got history on your side, but that is not the case. Not only do I have scripture for my point of view, but I also have history because Clement of Rome was local only in ecclesiology. Then you look at the Schleitheim Confession and that is earlier than many other modern confessions—it is local only.

    When you compare the church to Israel, you’ve got issues too. Israel was a nation. It was a nation that came from one man, Abraham, so they were also a family. I believe other people could convert to the Lord and worship within the nation Israel, but Israel was still a nation. The church is not a nation. It is an assembly of immersed believers, and this church is found in New Testament churches all over the world.

    Paul, if you believe that the body of Christ is all believers, how do you explain 1 Cor 12:25 and no schism in the body?

    If the body of Christ is all believers, then why did he exclude himself by saying to the church at Corinth, “ye are the body of Christ”?

    There was a unity in the churches in the NT, yes. They were unified by the apostolic or/and then scriptural authority. In the same way, the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice. That is what unifies our church with other churches—belief and practice.

    You say “the Jerusalem council,” which was nothing more than a meeting of two churches, Jerusalem and Antioch, to sort out some problems between them.

    As far as the differences between churches, see Revelation 2 and 3. Those churches had differences. When they were disobedient and doctrinally wrong, was that the Holy Spirit? Of course not. By the way, if one church, like Laodicea went apostate and Christ removed His candlestick, did that mean that all the churches were apostate? Again, of course not. The churches were independent of one another.

    I see that you wrote another comment. This comment ought to answer that one too.

  30. August 13, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Hi Kent – I may answer you in full some other time. A few quick thoughts:

    (1) I note you do not deal with my point as to why the Holy Spirit led the majority of saints over the centuries away from the truth in baptiso. Either you latest theory is wrong or the “immersion only=church” one is. You need to choose.

    (2) I don’t know where you get the idea that ecclesia constitutes a local church only idea. Stephen uses the exact same Greek word in Acts 7:38 to describe the whole nation of Israel. So my point stands that we can look to the OT pattern (and I have Romans 15:4 and 1 Cor. 10:11telling me to do so) and see how the ecclesia was seen – one body under one doctrinal rule but at times in separate locations and synagogues! There is no indication that the rulers of each synagogue were to see each one as independent autonomous entities.

    (3) You say, “this church is found in New Testament churches all over the world” – no one is disputing that. You are arguing much more than that without Scriptural warrant; namely that each local church is necessarily to be seen as independent of each other and autonomous. It is strange that if that is true why the apostles practiced multi-church authority and wrote and acted as if all the local churches should regard themselves as united and organically linked.

    (4) Jerusalem Council – this was not simply a meeting of two churches to resolve a disagreement. Indeed, even if that were true then it undermines your position as we have two churches involved in the decision acting collectively and not autonomously in this. Secondly, as Hodge rightly pointed out their decision was issued as a “decree” or “dogmata” and in Acts 16:4 they went to “cities” in plural (you could say churches) and “delivered them the decrees for to keep that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.” Now leaving aside your presuppositions as a IFB, it has got to be acknowledged that this is a strange way to establish the doctrine of the autonomy and independence of local churches!! These were not optional decrees open for debate!

    • August 14, 2010 at 3:27 pm

      Paul,

      I don’t agree with your majority of the saints. You have no way of proving that, but I don’t agree with it. The reason why you think you have the majority is because you represent the state church position. The state church was free to write and publish, but the non-state church was running for its lives and could not write and publish. They were trying to keep from getting killed or imprisoned by either Protestant or Catholic state churches. That doesn’t mean that those unpublished saints were in the minority, however. And I explained how that there could be differences by what I see in Revelation 2-3. Churches differ based on their degree of alignment with scripture. For instance, I can be thankful for all the scriptural parts of the Westminster Confession—love rejoiceth in the truth. That does not, however, mean that I will accept the error that is there.

      Ekklesia is an assembly. That is what it means. There is no “universal assembly”—those two terms are mutually exclusive. Israel was an assembly, a congregation, in the wilderness. They met. They assembled. They congregated. Do all believers congregate? Of course not. And you didn’t have Israels, plural, like you have churches, plural. That seems to be very obvious, so much so that I don’t how it misses you. When Jesus said, I will build my church, he was differentiating His assembly from Israel. The church and Israel are different. You’re stretching Rom 15:4 and 1 Cor 10:11 to something beyond what they teach. And a synagogue is not “Israel.”

      How the church is found in churches is that “the church” is generic, very much like “the husband” is generic in Eph 5:23. If “the church” is universal and invisible, then “the husband” must be universal and invisible too. There is no such thing as a platonic singular noun. That is not a grammatical usage in any language. That’s how “the church” is all over the world, is just like “the husband” is all over the world. True churches are all over the world as there are husbands all over the world.

      As far as churches being independent. They each have a pastor and deacons (1 Tim 3, Tit 1). Each church makes decisions, like church discipline (Mt 18:15-17). Individual churches send missionaries like we see in Acts 13. It was the church there at Antioch that sent Paul out and then it was there in Acts 14:27 that Paul came back to give a report.

      As far as the “Jerusalem council” (look for those words in the text—you won’t find it), it actually says in Acts 15 (since we get our understanding from scripture) in v. 3 that the church sent Paul and Barnabas and certain others to speak to the church at Jerusalem. Notice that it is the church at Antioch and then the church at Jerusalem—two churches—not one church. Some people from Judea were causing problems for the church at Antioch because they were preaching false doctrine. Paul and Barnabas and others went up (in elevation) there to alleviate that problem. Of course, at that time, there was the existence of apostles, and that complicated things more. The Jerusalem church obviously had great influence, so it was a problem that must be dealt with. In addition to that, there was no finished NT, so they had to rely on the apostles for their doctrine.

      The church, it is true, has one doctrine. It is Scripture alone that is the basis for faith and practice. Our cooperation with other churches will depend on the alignment with what God’s Word says.

      You still haven’t answered my questions either.

  31. August 13, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    @ Mr. Ferguson & Pastor Brandenburg

    When exactly did Paul become an apostle? Was he already an apostle by the time of the meeting at Jerusalem? If so was he just being humble because he considered himself least of the aposles because he persecuted the church and laid waiste to it? I ask because if he was an apostle during this time he would be on an equal level with the other apostles right?

    • August 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

      Paul was equal with other apostles. The best answer as to when Paul became an apostle would be when he became part of the church through baptism. God placed the apostles in the church (Eph 4). Apostolos means “sent one.” How did God send? Through the church.

  32. Duncan
    August 14, 2010 at 4:51 am

    When one makes an absolute statement, he invites hypotheticals to see if it holds up. You state that they are not a church, yet the only matter that would hinder you saying otherwise is that they have not been immersed – something beyond their control. I do not think that is reasonable.

    • August 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

      Duncan,

      We get our understanding of church from Scripture, not from hypotheticals. I don’t decide what is reasonable and what is not. Faith is what pleases God, so we just do what He said. When someone is saved in prison, he’s in the family of God and the kingdom of God. He isn’t in a church until he is baptized. We shouldn’t make up a new, unscriptural understanding of church based on our thinking that God is unreasonable in what He requires. Certain Old Testament Levites could not be priests because of skin disorders. Is that unreasonable? They had no control over their skin disorders.

  33. Duncan
    August 14, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Generally speaking it was because of sin that leprosy came – see the requirement about a trespass offering at their cleansing. What bothered me about it was that you seemed to state that they were not in conformity to God’s Word based on something outside their control.

    • August 14, 2010 at 10:23 pm

      Duncan,

      You brought up the hypothetical. I’m not saying anything about whether they are conforming to the Word of God. I’m saying they aren’t a church.

  34. August 16, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Hi Kent

    Thanks for interacting also.

    You are the one making absolute statements about what constitutes a Church and what is the only biblical model for church polity. So far, most uncharacteristically, you have not come out with any explicit biblical or significant historical theology to back up your claims.

    (1) You say that I have not backed up my thesis by statistics. Are you disputing that all the Reformed Churches are numerically significant? I take it that you accept that the Three Great Awakenings, the KJV Translators, the founders of most of the Bible Societies, founders of the Sunday School and Missionary Society Movements were overwhelmingly non-immersionist. Whether that equates to the numbers of Baptists in history is not really the point. You were the one making absolute statements about the Holy Spirit leading His true people in respect of doctrine. You want to apply that to gegraptai (I agree!) but you curiously want to abrogate the same principle when it comes to baptiso. Why this inconsistency?

    (2) The use of ecclesia for the whole of Israel is significant – remember, you are the one trying to build a ecclesiological argument from it. If ecclesia can mean one body of people that is made up of individual tribes, separated into individual synagogues, ruled by elders with a Sanhedrin as the highest body of authority then why cannot the church when it is clear it was modeled on many aspects of the OT pattern. Do you think it was significant that are so many parallels in the NT Church with Israel/OT Church?

    (3) I do not understand your “platonic singular noun” argument about husband and church. Can you elaborate.

    (4) No one is disputing that the local churches had their own pastors, deacons, sent missionaries etc. That is a long way from establishing that they were autonomous from one another and had no organic linkage. If the Apostle Paul had only authority as a member of Antioch, he had a strange way of showing this limited authority when he wrote his epistles to other churches. John and Peter also seemed to share the same confusion! Note also that the Jerusalem church called Paul “our beloved” in Acts 15:25 – did they get mixed up over Paul’s membership? Or had Paul just transferred to another independent autonomous church at Jerusalem?

    (5) The Jerusalem Church had more than a great deal of influence. They made “decrees” or “dogmata” in Acts 16:4 which were delivered to the churches from the apostles and elders. They were not given them to deliberate over and then vote on but we are told “for to keep” or as the Greek term can be rendered “to guard.” Now even the most prejudiced Baptist, must see that this is more than a suggestion. It is the same Greek word used in Luke 2:1 and I don’t think Caesar was making a suggestion (cf. Eph 2:15; Col. 2:14 for further usage of the same word)!

    (6) Your other questions – 1 Cor 12:25 and “ye are the body of Christ” – I think you are reading way too much into these words. They do not prove your point. For instance, you accepted we are all part of universal “family of God” – how do we get into that family? Through union with Christ. So all are part of the body of Christ. Christ’s body we are explicitly warned is not divided (1 Cor 1:13).

    As I said you are the one making absolute statements, so I would have expected explicit clear statements from Scripture backing your position. So far all the weight of scriptural evidence is against your presuppositions.

  35. August 16, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Paul Ferguson :

    You are the one making absolute statements about what constitutes a Church and what is the only biblical model for church polity. So far, most uncharacteristically, you have not come out with any explicit biblical or significant historical theology to back up your claims.

    (1) You say that I have not backed up my thesis by statistics. Are you disputing that all the Reformed Churches are numerically significant? I take it that you accept that the Three Great Awakenings, the KJV Translators, the founders of most of the Bible Societies, founders of the Sunday School and Missionary Society Movements were overwhelmingly non-immersionist. Whether that equates to the numbers of Baptists in history is not really the point. You were the one making absolute statements about the Holy Spirit leading His true people in respect of doctrine. You want to apply that to gegraptai (I agree!) but you curiously want to abrogate the same principle when it comes to baptiso. Why this inconsistency?

    I am making an exegetical point, Paul. I’m not giving a lot of detail, because I’m trying to be concise. The use of the plural “churches.” The use of phrases like “church of God at Corinth.” And then when you have “the church” used that doesn’t refer to a particular church, it must be a generic usage of the singular noun, because that is the only other use of the singular. If it is a singular, it is either particular or generic. I used “the husband” as an example from the same context. That isn’t a universial, invisible, platonic husband. I believe that the reformers did not improve on Catholic ecclesiology. That’s your stumbling block, I believe. They also didn’t improve on Catholic eschatology. That’s how they came up with the state church concept and they didn’t reform that at all. They made a big point of justification, which was good. I also gave history—I mentioned Clement of Rome and the Schleitheim Confession. I’m not going to give long quotes from them. They are easily obtainable online with a google search.

    The difference between this ecclesiological point and the bibliological one is that the bibliological point is the same across the board. There was only one position on bibliology. That is not the case in ecclesiology. I think that the historic point is important in that way. Of course, as you know, we start with the Bible on every doctrine.

    (2) The use of ecclesia for the whole of Israel is significant – remember, you are the one trying to build a ecclesiological argument from it. If ecclesia can mean one body of people that is made up of individual tribes, separated into individual synagogues, ruled by elders with a Sanhedrin as the highest body of authority then why cannot the church when it is clear it was modeled on many aspects of the OT pattern. Do you think it was significant that are so many parallels in the NT Church with Israel/OT Church?

    Israel gathered. The synagogues didn’t happen to be the congregation of Israel. The congregation of Israel were the meetings that God ordained in Scripture, not what developed out of needs related to their disobedience to God’s prescribed worship for Israel. They met for Passover, for Tabernacles, etc. In that way, they were a congregation. Jeroboam changed that dimension of Israel’s worship and God reacted very harshly to it.

    (3) I do not understand your “platonic singular noun” argument about husband and church. Can you elaborate.

    Augustine mixed platonic philosophy with theology. This was common in Roman Catholicism. See Thomas Acquinas. They had latched onto allegorical interpretation from Origin. When the Donatists confronted Augustine about why there were so many unbelievers in the “church,” he said that there was the true catholic church, the invisible one, then the visible catholic church. This creation of an invisible church came from his platonic philosophy. The reformers picked up on this ecclesiology, seeing in the Bible something that didn’t exist.

    There is no special platonic usage of the singular noun. The noun is either particular or generic. If I told you that I answered “the phone,” that would still be an actual phone, but I would be using that singular noun in a generic way. A church is still an actual church when the singular noun “church” is used in a generic way. It doesn’t stop becoming an assembly, which is the meaning of the word. And it is how it is exclusively used in the New Testament. An assembly is always local.

    (4) No one is disputing that the local churches had their own pastors, deacons, sent missionaries etc. That is a long way from establishing that they were autonomous from one another and had no organic linkage. If the Apostle Paul had only authority as a member of Antioch, he had a strange way of showing this limited authority when he wrote his epistles to other churches. John and Peter also seemed to share the same confusion! Note also that the Jerusalem church called Paul “our beloved” in Acts 15:25 – did they get mixed up over Paul’s membership? Or had Paul just transferred to another independent autonomous church at Jerusalem?

    Nothing in this paragraph is presents anything that is a challenge to the meaning of ekklesia and how it is used. Especially in the apostolic period, churches were tied together by the apostles. Now the Bible stands as each churches final authority for faith and practice, not some kind of hierarchical structure invented by Roman Catholicism, which Jesus warned about in Revelation, the doctrine of the Nicolaitines.

    (5) The Jerusalem Church had more than a great deal of influence. They made “decrees” or “dogmata” in Acts 16:4 which were delivered to the churches from the apostles and elders. They were not given them to deliberate over and then vote on but we are told “for to keep” or as the Greek term can be rendered “to guard.” Now even the most prejudiced Baptist, must see that this is more than a suggestion. It is the same Greek word used in Luke 2:1 and I don’t think Caesar was making a suggestion (cf. Eph 2:15; Col. 2:14 for further usage of the same word)!

    Again, they received the apostles doctrine as it were the Word of God, until the end of the apostolic age.

    (6) Your other questions – 1 Cor 12:25 and “ye are the body of Christ” – I think you are reading way too much into these words. They do not prove your point. For instance, you accepted we are all part of universal “family of God” – how do we get into that family? Through union with Christ. So all are part of the body of Christ. Christ’s body we are explicitly warned is not divided (1 Cor 1:13).

    If the body of Christ is all believers, that would clash with the doctrine of separation. God will not deny Himself. God said no schism in the body.

    Paul defined the body of Christ when he said “ye are the body of Christ,” excluding himself. If the body of Christ were all believers, he must needs say, “we are the body of Christ,” including himself. Find one other place where we get a definition of the body of Christ. You won’t find it, so we must rely on 1 Cor 12:27 for ecclesiology.

    I would rely on the 115 times of ekklesia is used in the NT for my understanding of “church.” There are very few instances of a generic usage of the singular noun, but there is no basis for a two body or two church understanding from Scripture. The reason for using the “body” analogy is to show something local. “Body” is not a universal concept.

  36. PS Ferguson
    August 16, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Kent

    Let me respond to you in the same order:

    (1) You still have not explained why the Holy Spirit is working in this anomalous manner in leading the saints of God to understand gegraptai but not in baptiso and what constitutes a church.

    The use of the term “churches” does not prove your point at all. That is merely a geographical distinction grouping them together such as “the Churches of Judea” in Acts 9:31 and Galatians 1:22 and of “the Churches of Galatia” in Galatians 1:2. Give me one verse that states that each church was independent and autonomous from each other. In Acts 2:46, Luke reported that the disciples broke bread “from house to house” yet there was one church at Jerusalem with a plethora of pastors/teachers. The size of all the house congregations together was “many thousands of Jews…which believe” (Acts 21:20).

    You cannot simply appeal to the apostolic age to explain the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council. If that was the case, then the Apostle Paul could have just used his apostolic authority at Antioch and settled the issue. But he did not and neither did Peter. Both submitted to the decrees of the “Apostles and elders” (Acts 16:4). This is affirmed in (Acts 21:25), where it is said that all the elders ordained this, “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing.” The Scriptures intimate a presbyterian linkage of the churches by implication and by apostolic example. As Gillespie says, “So then the elders did decree, ordain, and conclude these things to be imposed upon the Churches of the Gentiles, and not the apostles only.” Notice also this same Presbytery body ordered Paul in Acts 21 to obey them, “do this therefore that we say unto thee” (Acts 21:23). Yet, you are maintaining that Paul was a member of an autonomous church at Antioch.

    This fits perfectly with Deuteronomy 17 and with the OT view of ecclesiastical government. From the beginning of the nation of Israel when it was considered as a separate and distinguishable people, i.e., the Exodus, it had Elders at the most local areas possible. The apostles carried the same institution of elderships into the structure and government of the Christian Church. Dabney points out how that the local government of Hebrews was by Elders in their cities, but also in the synagogues. Interestingly, Luke 22:66 offers this comparison.

    (2) The synagogues were attended and preached in by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. There is no indication that they rejected the OT pattern that they emerged from. In fact, there is every implication that the same pattern was then used for the NT Church (Luke 22:66).

    (3) I am still confused as to your issue between distinguishing between invisible/visible church. It was the Apostle Paul that stated that not all Israel was of Israel. It was John that said that some went out from us who were not of us.

    (4) You said, “not some kind of hierarchical structure invented by Roman Catholicism, which Jesus warned about in Revelation, the doctrine of the Nicolaitines.” As I appointed out to you the Presbyterian structure is derived from the OT, then mirrored in the NT Church. It has nothing to do with the RCC. As for the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, I don’t think you or I can be definitive what that is. If you want to use Rev 2-3 for ecclesiology then look for the “Baptist” modeled church in which its name means “the people rule” – not a good church!

    (5) No Kent – they received the decrees to keep from the apostles and elders (see my extended comment under (1) above). You are deliberately subverting the meaning of this to fit with your presuppositions (something you accused Calvinist of in your Sovereignty post). The Apostolic authority was not utilized in this situation.

    (6) Paul stated that Christ cannot be divided (1 Cor 1:13). If that is true then all of us are part of His body. I am amazed that you cannot see this. Are you saying that we are all united to a different Christ in salvation?

  37. Joshua
    August 16, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Paul,

    Have you ever read the LCO position outlined before? If not, perhaps a few minutes perusing B. H. Carroll’s two lectures from the turn of the 20th century would help you to see where Kent is coming from. You can find them here: http://www.theologue.org/Ecclesia/Ecclesia-BHCarroll.html

    Please accept my apologies if this is something you have already studied before, as it isn’t my intention to slight your knowledge. I just got the impression when you asked Kent for full historical and Biblical backing that you hadn’t run into LCO’s much before, and hadn’t heard most of their basic premises. If that’s the case, then Carroll’s lectures should bring you up to speed. They’re not large, but they are a pretty good primer. Again, my apologies if you have already studied it. I’m enjoying this debate.

    Joshua

  38. August 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    PS Ferguson :

    (1) You still have not explained why the Holy Spirit is working in this anomalous manner in leading the saints of God to understand gegraptai but not in baptiso and what constitutes a church.

    What I specifically said over at WIT is that not seeing time in verbs is brand new in history as of 1990-ish. The local only position isn’t new. I hope that answers it, because it does seem clear to me.

    The use of the term “churches” does not prove your point at all. That is merely a geographical distinction grouping them together such as “the Churches of Judea” in Acts 9:31 and Galatians 1:22 and of “the Churches of Galatia” in Galatians 1:2.

    There are 37 usages of “churches” and they are not all geographical distinctions (Rom 16:4; 1 Cor 7:17; 2 Cor 12:13—just three, but there are more). But even when Scripture says the “churches of” an area, we still see that there are several churches, not one church. Churches are assemblies. Then you’ve got the “church which is at” verses (Jerusalem-Acts 8:1; Antioch-13:1; Caeserea-18:22; Cenchria-Rom 16:1; etc.).

    Give me one verse that states that each church was independent and autonomous from each other. In Acts 2:46, Luke reported that the disciples broke bread “from house to house” yet there was one church at Jerusalem with a plethora of pastors/teachers. The size of all the house congregations together was “many thousands of Jews…which believe” (Acts 21:20).

    I have no problem with a plurality of pastors. I did prove that churches were self-governing. The church at Antioch sent representatives down to the church at Jerusalem in Acts 15. Those were separate self-governing churches. Each church is responsible for church discipline (Mt 18; 1 Cor 5; 2 Thess 3; etc). Each church was being dealt with separately in Rev 2 and 3. They were seven separate churches with separate problems. True churches will have a lot in common, but they are independent of one another.

    You cannot simply appeal to the apostolic age to explain the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council. If that was the case, then the Apostle Paul could have just used his apostolic authority at Antioch and settled the issue. But he did not and neither did Peter. Both submitted to the decrees of the “Apostles and elders” (Acts 16:4). This is affirmed in (Acts 21:25), where it is said that all the elders ordained this, “As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing.” The Scriptures intimate a presbyterian linkage of the churches by implication and by apostolic example. As Gillespie says, “So then the elders did decree, ordain, and conclude these things to be imposed upon the Churches of the Gentiles, and not the apostles only.” Notice also this same Presbytery body ordered Paul in Acts 21 to obey them, “do this therefore that we say unto thee” (Acts 21:23). Yet, you are maintaining that Paul was a member of an autonomous church at Antioch.

    This is a long conversation that I might not have time for. If the presbytery was still at work, I don’t understand why it wasn’t working in Revelation 2 and 3. I do think we can rest in the apostolic age argument. People didn’t have completed NT as a source of authority for faith and practice, so they still followed the instruction of the apostle (1 Thess 2:13; Eph 4:11-12). We don’t have apostles today, but they did then.

    This fits perfectly with Deuteronomy 17 and with the OT view of ecclesiastical government. From the beginning of the nation of Israel when it was considered as a separate and distinguishable people, i.e., the Exodus, it had Elders at the most local areas possible. The apostles carried the same institution of elderships into the structure and government of the Christian Church. Dabney points out how that the local government of Hebrews was by Elders in their cities, but also in the synagogues. Interestingly, Luke 22:66 offers this comparison.

    (2) The synagogues were attended and preached in by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. There is no indication that they rejected the OT pattern that they emerged from. In fact, there is every implication that the same pattern was then used for the NT Church (Luke 22:66).

    I understand what you are saying, and I think that Jews would have been accustomed to something in the churches that was like the synagogue. However, the synagogue doesn’t make room for a universal-local church idea. The synagogue wasn’t Israel. Israel itself was a congregation. It was still the Jerusalem church even though they were meeting in houses. It was local. Certainly the doctrine of the early churches would have been more similar than today, but you can see the problems in Revelation 2 and 3 that had developed that differentiated churches in 90AD.

    (3) I am still confused as to your issue between distinguishing between invisible/visible church. It was the Apostle Paul that stated that not all Israel was of Israel. It was John that said that some went out from us who were not of us.

    This is still missing it. A church with unbelievers who creep in unaware is still a church. A church is local. All I was saying was the invisible and visible church idea came from platonism in Augustine. The reformers took that particular ecclesiology from Augustine, but it was Roman Catholic.

    (4) You said, “not some kind of hierarchical structure invented by Roman Catholicism, which Jesus warned about in Revelation, the doctrine of the Nicolaitines.” As I appointed out to you the Presbyterian structure is derived from the OT, then mirrored in the NT Church. It has nothing to do with the RCC. As for the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, I don’t think you or I can be definitive what that is. If you want to use Rev 2-3 for ecclesiology then look for the “Baptist” modeled church in which its name means “the people rule” – not a good church!

    The hierarchical structure seen in RCC, episcopalian, orthodox, etc. does see some kind of apostolic succession that did not exist. You see only pastor (bishop) and deacons as the two church offices in the NT (1 tim 3). I’ve already talked about the congregational form of church gov’t, but we also see pastoral oversight (Acts 20:28; Heb 13:17; etc.).

    (5) No Kent – they received the decrees to keep from the apostles and elders (see my extended comment under (1) above). You are deliberately subverting the meaning of this to fit with your presuppositions (something you accused Calvinist of in your Sovereignty post). The Apostolic authority was not utilized in this situation.

    The apostles in Jerusalem and then Paul could tell these churches what to do based upon apostolic authority. And I don’t question the unity of the church. There is only one NT church—Christ’s church. And the commonality of “the church” is based upon scripture.

    (6) Paul stated that Christ cannot be divided (1 Cor 1:13). If that is true then all of us are part of His body. I am amazed that you cannot see this. Are you saying that we are all united to a different Christ in salvation?

    It is true that Christ isn’t divided. That’s why there is unity in His body, which is local only. Each church has a pastor, the Lord’s Table, and church discipline to keep that unity. A church with a pastor and deacons is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). The church is not synonymous with the family of God and the kingdom of God. There is only one Christ, but the one faith is executed, is preserved, and propagated in the church, which is, again, local only. Each church keeps the truth. To preserve the truth, churches practice separation from other churches.

  39. August 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Hi Joshua

    I have not read Carroll’s arguments in detail. I was assuming that Kent would be summarizing the best of them in his replies as he holds the same position. I am simply testing Kent’s absolute statements against the Scriptures in this area.

    Kent

    Let me answer your points:

    (1) You said more than that at WIT. You said that the Holy Spirit would be guiding the saints into all truth on Greek verbs. That was the substance of your argument. (Incidentally, you claim to be a dispensationalist which is attested as a recent system of interpretation by its adherents) Let me cite your words, “Is it possible that for centuries, students of Scripture were wrong on the meaning of the verbs of the New Testament? Would the Holy Spirit have allowed this?” This rhetorical question is expecting the answer in the negative – so why has the Holy Spirit been leading so many true believers into all error in respect of baptiso and away from true churches? That is the thesis you must defend in your absolute ecclesiology.

    (2) Rom 16:4; 1 Cor 7:17; 2 Cor 12:13 – do not prove your point at all. Paul worked among “churches” – think we can all agree on that whether we are local church only or not. Paul never stated anywhere that they were independent of each other. You are building a fundamental point of your ecclesiology merely from inference or silence. If you want to persuade us, you need a little more than that.

    Another good example of this type of fallacy is BH Carroll claiming that Paul was applying the term “body” “holy temple” only, “to a particular New Testament congregation.” Now that is putting words into Paul that he never said. As NT saints in Ephesus or Corinth they were part of this body and temple. That does not mean they were the only ones. He also calls them “saints” and “believers” – are saints and believers only local also? In your previous posting you argued from Paul’s statement that, “ye are the body of Christ.” This is not a sound way to do exegesis. For instance, John also mentions the apostles as a distinct group from himself in Rev 18:20; 21:14. According to your system of hermeneutics that puts John outside the apostolic band!

    (3) Still awaiting for that verse which states that each church was independent and autonomous from each other. You made the statement so back it up or withdraw.

    (4) The point of Rev 2-3 was that God was speaking directly to the 7 churches. That does not rule out a local presbytery then intervening in light of the revealed Scripture. You could ask the same point – what was the point in having a pastor in the churches in Rev 2-3 if God has to speak directly to them? You have sidestepped the point on why Paul and Peter with Apostolic authority deliberately let the Jerusalem council of Apostles and elders determine the decrees. You have also not answered why Paul (who you say was a member of the autonomous church in Antioch) accepted that the elders in Jerusalem could tell him what to do in Acts 21:23. The retreat to “they were apostles” argument does not help your case much – the fact that apostles directly intervened across “churches” and ordered them to do things is indicative of the unity of the churches not their independency.

    (5) I am glad you see the OT link with the Presbyterian system and as the early church was predominantly Jewish you can see the wisdom of this in the NT. So 4 million people can be a local congregation even though they have multiple synagogues and ruling elders (e.g. Acts 13:15) but not the NT Church? Again, Rev 2-3 does not prove anything. They were individual churches with specific and differing problems so Christ spoke to their specific needs. The Apostle Paul does the same – Corinth had different problems from the Galations church. Timothy had differing needs of instructions from Titus or Philemon. However, Paul also told them to share his epistles with other churches.

    (6) You are trying to poison the wells here with this Platonism/Catholic jibe. I have explained that our ecclesia position is taken from the OT pattern (Acts 7:38), which was then replicated in NT, especially Acts 15, and then in heaven (Heb 12:23). If Augustine or the RCC accepted this – so what? They accept Genesis in the Canon so do we throw that out also? The ecclesia was not local in the OT but one and we all believe the ecclesia in heaven is one (Heb 12:23) so why the need and urgency in making the NT one separated?

    (7) I am not arguing for the Episcopal system – it is clear that local churches have delegated powers even from the apostles. However, the fact remains that the NT churches saw each other as having organic links and practiced this in their lines of authority.

    (8) Again Kent – they received the decrees to keep from the apostles and elders (see my extended comment above). The Apostolic authority was not utilized in this situation. So why do you keep trying to use it as a fig leaf to protect your presuppositions. The Apostle Paul submitted to the rulings of the elders at Antioch and Jerusalem. Hardly suggestive of your position!

  40. August 18, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Paul Ferguson :

    (1) You said more than that at WIT. You said that the Holy Spirit would be guiding the saints into all truth on Greek verbs. That was the substance of your argument. (Incidentally, you claim to be a dispensationalist which is attested as a recent system of interpretation by its adherents) Let me cite your words, “Is it possible that for centuries, students of Scripture were wrong on the meaning of the verbs of the New Testament? Would the Holy Spirit have allowed this?” This rhetorical question is expecting the answer in the negative – so why has the Holy Spirit been leading so many true believers into all error in respect of baptiso and away from true churches? That is the thesis you must defend in your absolute ecclesiology.

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear to you at WIT. When I say “students of Scripture,” I mean “all students of Scripture.” We really don’t have to say “all” technically to mean “all.” No students of Scripture had seen it the way Porter and Carson saw it. That would mean that there was a total apostasy in this one area, which would not be true. Would there be doctrinal error? Yes. But not total doctrinal error. Hopefully you get it now. You really are attempting to make some hay here where there is none.

    As far as dispensationalism is concerned, I don’t mind not calling myself a dispensationalist, but it really doesn’t make any difference, because my literal interpretation of scripture would have people understand me to be one. I don’t mind not having the title, but the approach to scripture is right. The reformers were in doctrinal error in their ecclesiology and in their eschatology. The Bible is my sole authority for faith and practice. As the reformers themselves said, Ad fontes. Back to the sources. Scripture is the source of doctrine.

    (2) Rom 16:4; 1 Cor 7:17; 2 Cor 12:13 – do not prove your point at all. Paul worked among “churches” – think we can all agree on that whether we are local church only or not. Paul never stated anywhere that they were independent of each other. You are building a fundamental point of your ecclesiology merely from inference or silence. If you want to persuade us, you need a little more than that.

    The point I am building here is that ekklesia is local only. The use of the plural “churches” would be evidence of that. The two meaning of ekklesia position, your position, is the one with the burden of proof. It’s a unique approach to scripture, to make a term mean two things without exegetical proof, and in so doing to come up with an unassembled assembly, which is a contradiction to the meaning of ekklesia. If a word means “assembly,” and then you see “assemblies,” but then someone says, “no, it is actually one church,” that clashes with the usage. So it does prove something. Plus you made a point that “churches” were speaking always of a regional church. Well, that is wrong, Paul, as seen in my at least three examples. So you need to check your fig leaf in this case.

    Another good example of this type of fallacy is BH Carroll claiming that Paul was applying the term “body” “holy temple” only, “to a particular New Testament congregation.” Now that is putting words into Paul that he never said. As NT saints in Ephesus or Corinth they were part of this body and temple. That does not mean they were the only ones. He also calls them “saints” and “believers” – are saints and believers only local also? In your previous posting you argued from Paul’s statement that, “ye are the body of Christ.” This is not a sound way to do exegesis. For instance, John also mentions the apostles as a distinct group from himself in Rev 18:20; 21:14. According to your system of hermeneutics that puts John outside the apostolic band!

    It is you here who is twisted in his hermeneutic. And I mean that in a loving way. Paul told the church at Corinth, “ye are the temple of God” (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16). The grammar there excludes Paul from that temple. They were a separate temple in their own right. You’ve got a problem there for yourself, Paul. So you should admit it or withdraw. We’re finally getting you to answer this one and you don’t get it done. Unless Paul himself wasn’t in the temple of God, there is more than one temple of God today. Each church was the temple of God.

    Then your examples in Revelation about the apostles. Nice try, but they prove nothing. Since they are your best shot, they really do show your problem grammatically. The second reference (21:14) really says nothing. The first example (18:20) doesn’t exclude John from the apostles. That text isn’t defining the apostles. He says in the imperative “Rejoice . . . . the apostles.” An imperative verb with a plural accusative of direct object. In 1 Cor 12:27 we have an indicative verb, “are,” with an emphatic noun, emphasizing the exclusiveness, and a singular predicate nominative “body of Christ.” Body must be definite because Christ is definite. So literally “ye yourselves are THE body of Christ.” That’s a definition, sir. “Ye yourselves” and “the body of Christ” are interchangeable. John was defining nothing regarding the apostles. He was not excluding himself with the imperative “Rejoice,” no emphatic. It’s apples and oranges from 1 Cor 12:27. You’ve got at least to give some similar construction and you don’t.

    And really you are proving my point. John was an apostle speaking to other apostles. That doesn’t exclude him from the apostles. Paul was a member of the body of Christ. He was speaking to members of a different body, not the same one he was a member, which is why he excluded himself. John was not the same apostle as the other apostles, but a separate apostle. And “apostles” is plural. Paul was not in the same body as the church at Corinth. It really does crush your understanding of “the body of Christ.” In the only definition of the body in the NT, we see that it is local only.

    (3) Still awaiting for that verse which states that each church was independent and autonomous from each other. You made the statement so back it up or withdraw.

    You want a proof text for independent and autonomous. That’s not always how doctrine works. Now I do have a proof text for “the body of Christ” being local only, but for independent and autonomous, I’ve got the following. An aggregation of local churches was never looked upon organizationally as a “church,” but always as “churches,” emphasizing the individual prerogatives of each congregation (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 11:16). Each local church chose its own officers (Acts 6:1-6). Each exercised its own discipline (1 Cor 5:13). Churches were not responsible to any higher ecclesiastical body (since there were none), but were subject only to God (Rev. 2:4-5). Internal problems were handled by the individual congregation (1 Cor 6:1-5). The maintenance of pure doctrine was the responsibility of the local assembly (1 Tim 3:15; Rev 2:14-16). The Holy Spirit directs each local group of believers (Acts 13:1-2).

    We see in those verses independent, autonomous assemblies. Each one was responsible separately to Jesus, not to some hierarchy. Where is the hierarchy in Revelation 2-3? Where is the presbytery getting involved there? No, Jesus and the church leader, the pastor in his right hand. Not one leader going to seven churches, but a separate leader for each church. The example in 90 AD is that each church submitted directly to Jesus.

    (4) The point of Rev 2-3 was that God was speaking directly to the 7 churches. That does not rule out a local presbytery then intervening in light of the revealed Scripture. You could ask the same point – what was the point in having a pastor in the churches in Rev 2-3 if God has to speak directly to them? You have sidestepped the point on why Paul and Peter with Apostolic authority deliberately let the Jerusalem council of Apostles and elders determine the decrees. You have also not answered why Paul (who you say was a member of the autonomous church in Antioch) accepted that the elders in Jerusalem could tell him what to do in Acts 21:23. The retreat to “they were apostles” argument does not help your case much – the fact that apostles directly intervened across “churches” and ordered them to do things is indicative of the unity of the churches not their independency.

    You’ve got the problem here. All I’ve got to do is show how that churches operated independently and autonomously. I’ve done that. I have no doubt the influence of the Jerusalem church in that time period, but more so the apostolic authority. I think unity between churches is something we should strive to have, based on this type of example, but it doesn’t prove a continued hierachical form of authority in which authorities outside of the church ruled over the churches. You take this way too far and you ignore the other evidence.

    (5) I am glad you see the OT link with the Presbyterian system and as the early church was predominantly Jewish you can see the wisdom of this in the NT. So 4 million people can be a local congregation even though they have multiple synagogues and ruling elders (e.g. Acts 13:15) but not the NT Church? Again, Rev 2-3 does not prove anything. They were individual churches with specific and differing problems so Christ spoke to their specific needs. The Apostle Paul does the same – Corinth had different problems from the Galations church. Timothy had differing needs of instructions from Titus or Philemon. However, Paul also told them to share his epistles with other churches.

    Christ walked in the midst of the churches, plural, not the church, singular. Revelation 1-3. You are claiming too much here, and you know that. Israel was the congregation in the one example of Israel being an assembly. You are moving into speculation with your synagogue example, because you have no text that says what you are saying. We shouldn’t get our doctrine from speculation. And you do this to make room for an unscriptural ecclesiology. Your example in Acts 13:15 was an example of Paul evangelizing in the synagogue. That really does defeat your purpose.

    There is unity between true churches. That I agree, and have never questioned that. What brings them together is the common doctrine and practice, i.e., the scriptures they shared. But that unity doesn’t undo their autonomy and independence.

    (6) You are trying to poison the wells here with this Platonism/Catholic jibe. I have explained that our ecclesia position is taken from the OT pattern (Acts 7:38), which was then replicated in NT, especially Acts 15, and then in heaven (Heb 12:23). If Augustine or the RCC accepted this – so what? They accept Genesis in the Canon so do we throw that out also? The ecclesia was not local in the OT but one and we all believe the ecclesia in heaven is one (Heb 12:23) so why the need and urgency in making the NT one separated?

    Israel was a congregation in the wilderness. That fits with the understanding of ekklesia. It doesn’t follow that you’ve got a God-ordained pattern with the synagogue being “churches” and Israel being “the church.” I can be happy you are trying to find that idea in scripture. It isn’t there, but you are doing your best to make a spider web like connection there. However, where it actually came from was Augustines platonic philosophy and then borrowed from the reformers. You wouldn’t have gotten those ideas from the Bible. They are not there. You’ve got to go outside of Scripture to get them. Yes, there will be an assembly in heaven. All believers will be together there ASSEMBLING. An assembly is still an assembly. Why bypass the plain meaning to keep alive this system invented by RCC to control everyone under its authority?

    (7) I am not arguing for the Episcopal system – it is clear that local churches have delegated powers even from the apostles. However, the fact remains that the NT churches saw each other as having organic links and practiced this in their lines of authority.

    There is a link between true churches. They have the same authority, the Bible and Jesus. That links them together.

    (8) Again Kent – they received the decrees to keep from the apostles and elders (see my extended comment above). The Apostolic authority was not utilized in this situation. So why do you keep trying to use it as a fig leaf to protect your presuppositions. The Apostle Paul submitted to the rulings of the elders at Antioch and Jerusalem. Hardly suggestive of your position!

    All I see there is interchurch cooperation heavily influenced in that apostolic age by the church Jesus started. The church in Jerusalem was two churches removed from all the churches started through Paul’s ministry. Jerusalem to Antioch to whatever church started out of Antioch. The Antioch church came mainly out of scattered Jerusalem church members. There was a problem between churches because of the Jew-Gentile problem. We can see that churches ought to try to get along. You use the word “decree.” They told Paul what to do and he did it. But he also withstood Peter to his face. He saw the wisdom in some things Jerusalem said and some things he saw were not so good.

    You’ve still got a problem, because you have no examples of a universal church, the church, the body, being all believers. It’s always an assembly of believers. Sure all believers will be assembled in heaven, but that doesn’t make that assembly the church that Jesus started on earth. Of course, my blog was to show that the NT church was the place of worship. We’ve gone off a ways from there.

    Thanks Paul. It’s an interesting discussion. I’ve never had anyone challenge the scriptural church govt position. Going out door-to-door evangelizing, I don’t talk to people who know enough or would even think about it. I’ve had maybe three or four Catholics in all my years enter into something like this, but never a Presbyterian.

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