Independency Proven in New Testament

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by John Lanier, Nov 12, 2013.

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  1. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Obviously the Old Testament church was not made up independent congregations. So if that is our starting place when we come to the New Testament, where does the New Testament change the system? Or for those of you who are not independency advocates, where do others teach that the system is changed to independency?
  2. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Baptists are not advocates of 'independency'. We strongly believe in church association and communion.

    However, we believe that each local church is 'autonomous'.

  3. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Clearly we can see in the New Testament that there are individual churches that seem to be autonomous, but we also see that authority exists above the church level, i.e. the Jerusalem Council. The question is whether or not that authority was binding, as in a Presbyterian system, or whether it was more spiritual and advisory in nature, as in a congregational system.
  4. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Ken. The Scripture proofs for Chapter 26, Paragraph 7 were helpful. Perhaps I should have phrased the question better. Where in the New Testament is it stated that there is no binding authority above the local church? Hopefully, this is a better way of phrasing it.

    To me this is a similar situation to that of covenant membership. In the Old Testament, children were circumcised apart from a profession. However, Baptists argue that this has changed in the New Testament in regards to baptism. Unless, I am wrong, the synagogues would not have been autonomous, correct? So, where does the New Testament show the change to autonomy in the New Testament?

    Sorry if I am making this difficult by my inability to ask good questions.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I agree with you.

    Is it consistent for me then as an independent to defend my view by then saying that we no longer have apostles to bind other churches under decrees?
  6. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I would certainly agree that the apostles intended their decree to be binding, but it seems a bit unclear as to whether or not this council had the power to enforce their decree by such means as might exist today in a Presbyterian system, i.e. courts and trials. As Baptists, we make many decrees and these are generally expected to be kept. An example would be that of the ordination of homosexuals. The SBC passed a resolution condemning this practice, and churches who depart from this will be asked to leave the fellowship. I guess the question is what would have been done to those churches in the first century who did not obey the Jerusalem Council's decree? Would they have been formally disciplined, as in Presbyterianism, or simply admonished and disassociated with, as in a Baptist system?
  7. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    It certainly seems likely that this was indeed the case, although we might press too far in assuming things like sessions, at least as we understand them today. I personally see much benefit in the Presbyterian form of government, and my stance as a Baptist has more to do with doctrine than with church government.
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    That is a good argument. Thanks. I need to chew on that....
  9. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Not a new debate; I hope to publish one of the first between Congregationalists and Presbyterians over what is the form of biblical church government next year. Mock up below. Stacked-sm.jpg
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    That would be great! I'd stand in line for it!
  11. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    You're absolutely right, doctrine was a poor choice of words. What I meant was that I am a Baptist because of my convictions regarding Baptism more so than my convictions regarding church government.
  12. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    Isn't the difference (mostly) to be found in whether the Acts 15 council type authority structure is occasional, or normative? I think all 'sides' accept that there was authority and connection at that council and connected with it....and congregations were expected to toe the line. However was this to lead to a fixed structure, or was it to be used occasionaly only?

    If normative then Presbyterian connectionalism would be an, if not 'the', orderly system that best allows the continuance of that authority structure.

    If occasional then the Independents would see that such authority structures may be needed sometimes within a certain grouping but not fixed in terms of authority to 'de-churching' other independent congregations for instance.
  13. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    Josh is exactly right. Some of our men at church were discussing this at breakfast the other day when going over our study material on the office of elder.

    Excerpted from Samuel E. Boyle's chapter in "Unto Every Good Work, a Manual for Elders (RPCNA)":
    McGill, in Church Government notes that this Jerusalem Council was a normal Christian deliberative council. No heavenly "Thus says the Lord" aided them in reaching a decision. Had the Holy Spirit chosen to reveal His will direct to Peter as "Pope," or to the apostles as "prelates", no "disputation" in which representatives of the people freely shared would have been necessary or respectful. Yet there was "much disputation" there. It is obvious that the Holy Spirit worked through Scripture, by human reason and testimonies of experience, to lead the Council to a consensus of opinion that they took as the right answer from the King and Head of the Church. "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us (Acts 15:28)".

    From the language of Acts 16:4, we are persuaded that the Council in Jerusalem was "presbyterian" in spirit in sending a letter to the churches. "And as they [Paul and Silas] went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees (Greek, ta dogmata) to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem." This word "decrees" is found in four other places in the New Testament; two referring to Roman Imperial decrees, and two others to the Mosaic ordinances of Israel. All refer to commands from constituted authority to those under them. These decrees were more than "advisory".

    The result of the Jerusalem Conference was that local churches generally accepted this official decision as final. "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily" (Acts 16:5).

    Here's a link to McGill's work online (Disclaimer, haven't read it yet, but it is in the queue):
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  14. nicnap

    nicnap Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    We? You got a mouse in your pocket? ;)
  15. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes, its my lunch ;)
  16. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    The same place where it is stated that there is binding authority above the local church: nowhere.

    Baptists come to this conclusion through good and necessary consequence as you can see from this discussion. The doctrine is not stated explicitly.

    I am not sure that Baptists and Presbyterians are very far from each other. Obviously, Presbyterians see some autonomy within the local church as Baptists do. If a Presbyterian church disagrees with the authority they are under, they many times split off and form their own denomination instead of yielding to that authority.
  17. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    That brings me back then to the OP. If in the OT, the local groups were not autonomous but had an authority above them and the NT does not explicitly change the model then where do we appeal to for the change?
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    They don't "split off." It might appear that way on a superficial view of it. In reality, however, there is a very careful process which shows great respect to the authority from which "dissent," "protest," or "secession" may be necessary. Where it is necessary, it is regarded only as a necessary evil, and all lawful means are sought to remedy it.

    Concerning "autonomy," the LBCF claims "all" power for order, worship and discipline is given to the congregation. That is basic Independency, which Presbyterians outrightly reject.
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    About "all power" for discipline being given to the congregation:

    In Matthew 18 the final court of appeals seems to be the whole congregation (local). How would a Presbyterian read this?
  20. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    "The church" has many significations and can only be defined by the context. What was the church at the time this was spoken? It might be regarded as the church of the Jews in general or the apostolic company in particular. What follows in verses 18-19 immediately addresses the apostolic company and ascribes disciplinary power to them. This is an instance of the church being identified by its office-bearers.
  21. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you for the clarification, Rev Winzer.
  22. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    I just noticed that the proof texts from LBC 26:7 do not include Rev 2 and 3. Baptists believe these passages support the autonomy of the local church in regards to discipline as well.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    In 1 Corinthians 5 we have an actual case study of an example of church discipline. In this case the apostle Paul writes the letter seemingly to the local congregation and exhorts the congregation (not just those elders, and not any regional body or presbytery). The exhortation is to “hand the man over to Satan” and “put the man out of the fellowship” and this appears to be out of the local fellowship of that local church.

    In light of this, how do we not also read Matthew 18 to mean a local church?
  24. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Does the Corinthian discipline affect the disciplined man, when he trips off to Philippi? Is he still under discipline? On what principle? If the fellowship he's been put out of is local, what business is it of the church in Philippi if there was another relationship gone sour?

    Should Philippi receive this man upon his profession of faith? Should they baptize him? On what basis would they accept any other "local" church-body's actions, whether positive or negative?

    It seems to me that Independents operate with selective connectionalism on particular subjects that they find conducive. The main thing seems to be that no other body of elders (a church as defined in any way) exercises formal authority over, or in conjunction with, a particular congregation. In which case, why should one baptism by Alpha-church count as far as Beta-church goes? Why should one excommunication by Beta-church count as far as Alpha-church goes? The acts of one church in principle have no force at all with another, unless it happens to suit them. There is no binding of one by the other, no common jurisdiction or discipline, nothing but perhaps a cooperative agreement. Nothing de jure.

    Presbyterians also face similar issues, but the first principle is that congregations are bound to one another, and there is jurisdiction and discipline that is in common. So, in the first place congregations in two locations that belong to the same church (i.e. denomination) recognize the discipline of the one body of elders as if it were their own act; it is a formal connection. In the second place, because we believe in visible catholicity even apart from formal ties, we also treat the discipline of churches outside of our bounds of unity nevertheless as proper acts, assuming we are able to recognize them according to the standard of the Word. The principle is alive, even if the formal ties are lacking. And in some cases, the recognition is formal, even if there is no common formal discipline, as in the case of NAPARC churches. So a PCA or URC act of discipline ordinarily should be respected as properly catholic even to an OPC.

    In yet other cases, we may not be able to recognize some or perhaps any acts of discipline, for good or ill, by a church or church-in-name. This doesn't violate the principle of catholicity; it simply places selective organizations outside what is recognizable as a body, whose parts (congregations) have claims on the rest.
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    In Paul's letter to the Galatians he addresses it not to "The Church" in that one specific region, but to "the churches." Also, it seems the majority of the usages of the word church points to local churches.

    I believe there is a connectionalism. And I believe there is a use of the word "Church" in its broad universal sense, but Matthew 18 and these Corinthian passages about discipline don't seem to mean that...they seem to be talking about individual local congregations.
  26. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is in my mind the greatest weakness de jure in independency, it doesn't need to be that way, and even in a Presbyerian structure it doesn't always work, but it must be conceded that the more formal connectionalism is a good foundation, if consistently applied. Every and all systems are open to abuse, being ignored or whatever by us sinners. I often think that independency (whether right or wrong in biblical terms) 'plays into the hands' of today's post-modern Western man's individualism.

    I don't mean that to say the system doesn't matter - it does, and there most certainly is a system of government revealed - identifying it is not necessarily simple.

    This is a good discussion - thanks for all the contributions so far.
  27. Captain Picard

    Captain Picard Puritan Board Freshman

    Does this mean the keys are handed down in a linear fashion? which PARTS of the keys? The temporal authority? The spiritual authority? The miracle working? Scripture-writing? What parts of the gifts the apostles received in "the keys" DO belong to the average believer? And, if the keys rest in perpetuity on a series of Apostolic successors, what is to prevent things such as John 20:23 from resting on Presbyters now? As I'm sure you have guessed, I ask because the argument that church hierarchies derive unique (eternal?) power from the keys given to Peter is a cornerstone of Romanism.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2013
  28. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    I am not sure if someone brought this up already but in many circles that are for Independency, the ordination process still includes elders outside the local church. Wouldn't this process be inconsistent with Independency because it would require the local church to ask for the authority of those outside it to intervene in its matters? Wouldn't asking an elder of a church of like faith but a different congregation to lay hands on a pastoral candidate be implying some sense of discipline and accountability?
  29. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Congregationalism seems to refer to church government within one church whereas independency seems to focus on polity in between different churches.
  30. jandrusk

    jandrusk Puritan Board Sophomore

    Each of the churches that Paul wrote to had specific issues he was addressing. It would not make any sense to make the Galatian heresy apply to all churches, when it was only a problem withe the Galatian church.
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