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Congregational Authority (part 1)

2014.06.30 raised handsThere are several examples from Scripture that demonstrate the fact that congregations exercise authority over certain matters. For my own sake, I have divided a number of these examples into three categories. Here is the first of those categories with the passages that give it support.1

(1) The congregation chooses individuals for specific tasks, sends them on their way, and holds them accountable for their ministries.

Examples:

  • Peter was held accountable to the church in Jerusalem for his ministry of evangelism: “When Peter went up to Jerusalem. . . . Peter began and explained it to them in order . . .” (Acts 11:2, 18).
  • Barnabas was sent by Jerusalem to investigate the Gentile conversions in Antioch: “the church in Jerusalem . . . they sent Barnabas to Antioch” (Acts 11:22).
  • Barnabas and Saul were sent by the church in Antioch on a missionary journey: “they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3). Admittedly, it is unclear to whom “they” is referring in Acts 13:3. However, the next point seems to indicate the church’s involvement.
  • When Barnabas and Paul returned to Antioch, they reported of their missionary endeavors to the church: “And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them” (Acts 14:27).
  • Paul and Barnabas were sent by the church in Antioch to clear up a doctrinal matter with the church in Jerusalem: “So, being sent on their way by the church” (Acts 15:3; cf. 15:1–2).
  • As led by the apostles and elders, the church in Jerusalem sent a letter to Antioch clarifying their position on a doctrinal matter in question: “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 15:22).
  • This final example is helpful as well, though a difference from the previous examples would be that this one involves multiple churches agreeing over sending one person for a given task. The “famous brother” was sent with Paul to hold him and others accountable for transporting funds to Jerusalem to help during the time of famine: “he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us. . . . We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us” (2 Cor 8:19–20; cf. 8:18–21).

 

David Huffstutler

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.

  1. For a longer discussion of the examples below, see Kevin Bauder, Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 2012), 92–99. []

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