The Teaching Office

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DavidO's picture

Ted,

You've misread me.  I said that, assuming Acts 15 includes authoritative participation by the congregation, then Acts 16:4 refers to that process in a partial way.  Or, put another way, refers to the (whole-church) council by the officers who led it.

Jay's picture

DavidO wrote:

They wrote this letter by them:

The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,

To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.[g] If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

Farewell.

I re-read Acts 15 and 16 this morning, and was struck by the same parts that David emphasized.  Nice work!

Not only that, but the whole point of the letter was that Christians needed to know that they were not supposed to add the Jewish rites to their beliefs in Christ as Messiah (15:1-4).  To add those things to non-Jews, as Peter said:

“Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.  And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them,by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?  But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

James (is this the half-brother of the Lord?) added:

“Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
     and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
    and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
     says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

So of course it makes sense that the one church in Jerusalem would meet with the apostles and others to discuss this - the apostles had the best understanding and recollection of what Jesus actually taught.  Then, after then did that, they deemed the Jewish position as heresy.  Finally, they sent word of the doctrinal aberration to all other churches so that they knew how to handle this, which is where 16:4-5 are applicable:

As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Why were they being 'strengthened in the faith and gr[owing] daily'?  It was because the practice of observing Jewish rites had been discredited by the people that knew the most about what Jesus actually taught.  It is not a blanket endorsement of the ecclesiastical system that Ted teaches.

Basically, we're seeing the process of Deuteronomy 1 playing out here:

“At that time I said to you, ‘I am not able to bear you by myself. The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven. May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you! How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’ And you answered me, ‘The thing that you have spoken is good for us to do.’  So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.

My point, in short, is this - this is not a convocation of churches that are just trying to figure out something and is certainly not normative behavior for practice in our time.  This was a clear and serious doctrinal threat that merited the involvement of as many believers as possible, including the apostles AND Saul, so that the will of the Lord could be made known because they did not have the written Word yet and because there were well-meaning Jewish believers that practiced it.  Once that threat was analyzed and they came to agreement, the meeting ended.

There are no other NT examples of this kind of meeting.  There are no other NT examples of the kind of heretical position that Ted is teaching.  At this point, there is nothing else to say without giving the slightest agreement to Ted, which is why he can complain that we're not exegeting properly...he just doesn't like that clear and plain reading of the passage says, as others on this thread have pointed out.

Ted and James, you need to seriously reconsider this passage again, and Ted, you need to stop reading your system into the Bible.  It's not there, and you mishandle the Word of God when you teach this.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ted Bigelow's picture

DavidO wrote:

Ted,

You've misread me.  I said that, assuming Acts 15 includes authoritative participation by the congregation, then Acts 16:4 refers to that process in a partial way.  Or, put another way, refers to the (whole-church) council by the officers who led it.

Here's your quote - i don't see the "assuming" part:

To redirect, Dr. Bauder spent much of one article demonstrating that the congregation participated (Acts 15) along with the elders in determining doctrine.  Yes, they were led by the elders, but they gave approval as well.  That Acts 16:4 refers to that in a sort of partial way upends nothing.

Your last sentence says nothing about assuming, and instead makes an explicit assertion about Acts 16:4 based on you accepting Bauder's congregational claims on Acts 15:22.

As well, when you made these assertions you were immediately challenged to back them up on not just one, but two points:

Now you need to show why Acts 15:22 establishes governmental "approval" as opposed to just "going in along with." Remember, you are establishing church practice here, and the church belongs to Christ, so mere inference won't do. You also need to show why Acts 16:4 refers to only "partial" authority (other than that it fits your view of Acts 15:22). 

But you didn't respond at all to these points but instead responded with more criticisms. And now you are claiming I misread you because you were only assuming. 

 

You have also yet to rebut my assertion (yesterday, 1:32 pm) that Acts 16:4 makes congregationalism impossible. The very reason why the churches of nascent Christianity were required to obey the decrees of the JC is because they were decided upon "upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem" (Act 16:4). That's the text itself. The churches were not treated as the the ultimate authority on doctrinal matters (as per Bauder's claim).

Indeed, had they believed in congregational polity theology they would have sinned by accepting the authority of Paul and Silas and the apostles and elders in the JC. See, if those churches were the ultimate authority, as Bauder's ecclesiology claims, then they were responsible to approve or disapprove of it's adoption for their church. But they were not given that authority by Paul and Silas.

The end result, David, is that you simply can't believe Bauder's ecclesiology and Acts 16:4. One or the other has to go. Congregationalism presupposes sin in the text as Luke reports it. Either Paul and Silas sinned by forcing autonomous churches to obey the decisions of another church, or the churches of Derbe and Lystra sinned by obeying the authority of men outside their church. Or both happened, and therefore both Paul and Silas, and the churches, sinned.

Or, we can just believe Acts 16:4 as Luke wrote it.

 

 

DavidO's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

Here's your quote - i don't see the "assuming" part:

To redirect, Dr. Bauder spent much of one article demonstrating that the congregation participated (Acts 15) along with the elders in determining doctrine.  Yes, they were led by the elders, but they gave approval as well.  That Acts 16:4 refers to that in a sort of partial way upends nothing.

Your last sentence says nothing about assuming, and instead makes an explicit assertion about Acts 16:4 based on you accepting Bauder's congregational congregational claims on Acts 15:22.

Bolding mine.

Be well, Ted.

James K's picture

This is truly a marvel before us.  Jay, you may have reread the passage, but you are not following what I am saying.  Scroll up to where I quoted each of the verses.  NONE OF THEM SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE CHURCH DECIDING ANYTHING.  This is the entire point.  It is a complete argument from silence in the exact same method paedobaptizers argue their position.  It isn't there because you want it to be there.

The church was present to hear the official word from the apostles and elders, which is what Luke says happened multiple times.

Even in your most recent post, you didn't provide a single verse that says anything about the church making a decision.

Jay said:

So of course it makes sense that the one church in Jerusalem would meet with the apostles and others to discuss this - the apostles had the best understanding and recollection of what Jesus actually taught.

Show me the verse that says that anyone other than an apostle or elder made any theological contribution to the discussion.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

pvawter wrote:

JamesK,
Sorry, you will have to try harder than that. You cannot prove your assertion (that Acts 15 excludes the possibility of congregational authority) by showing that it may only have been the work of the elders and apostles. V.22 does not exclude the church from any role in the doctrinal discussion, and neither does their silence in v.12 (presumably the elders were silent then, too). And 16:4 does not say that the elders and the apostles reached their decision apart from the congregation.
Unfortunately for you, Luke did not explicitly state that the congregation was excluded from the doctrinal debate, so it is you, not I who are reading between the lines.

Just so that we are clear on this: you are arguing for the possibility of congregational authority then.  It doesn't exist in this chapter, but since there isn't a verse that says the congregation has no authority, you seem to think they might have had some.  Sounds like paedoism tactics.

My assertion is that it is only the apostles and elders who made the decision.  That is explicitly what Luke says multiple times.  I gave you the references.  The issue is whether or not you will recognize the Word as final.

The church's involvement in verse 22 is simply in selected messengers.  Read it again.

Only Barnabas and Paul were speaking during verse 12.  Everyone else was silent.  Luke only records the sayings of apostles and elders.

Luke had the opportunity on multiple occasions to say who made the doctrinal decisions and every time he said the apostles and elders.  He NEVER included the church as having a voice in DECIDING doctrine.

Recap: not only does Luke only record that the apostles and elders made the doctrinal decision on a very serious doctrinal matter, but Luke also leaves out any mention of the church participating in decision making.  Those who believe that the church was in on the doctrinal decision in any way other than agreement to the decision are simply reading tradition into the text.  The argument from silence might be convincing to those who want that system, but it doesn't make it true.  Jesus is the Lord of the church, and He has spoken with finality.  His apostles and elders are held accountable for doctrinal matters over the assembly.  That is what leadership looks like.  The emasculated pastor that Kevin has been promoting is a shameful failure of the task given by the Lord.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Jay's picture

James - you said:

That is exactly right Ted.  Kevin glossed right over Acts 16:4, which alone renders his entire article unhelpful.

Acts 15:6 - "Then the apostles and the elders assembled to consider this matter."

Acts 16:4 - "As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe."

Who met to decide?  Who made the decision?  The apostles and elders.  Kevin apparently saw that the church welcomed them and therefore had a say in the matter.  No, as you see from the text, the church AGREED with the decision of the apostles and elders.

I've read what you wrote.  You insist that the apostles and elders alone met to discuss the matter.  As DavidO said, there are numerous references to the entirety of the church in Jerusalem within Acts 15.

If you want to argue that the apostles and elders made the decision without input from the rest of the church, then what do you do with these verses:

15:4 - When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.

15:12 - And all the assembly (note the difference from the elders and deacons in v. 6) fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

15:22 - 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. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers...

15:24-29 - Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” 

16:4 says that the decision was made by the Apostles and Elders, yes.  But a significant portion of chapter 15 indicates congregational involvement and assent to what they said with their endorsement.  If the position of the Apostles and Elders were enough, then why bother get the congregation involved at all? Elders and Deacons are responsible to lead the church - and in this matter, they had involved the congregation (as they should).

Furthermore, the end of chapter 15 and the beginning of Acts 16 indicate that we have shifted from the 'universal' to the 'specific' - Luke is moving the narrative away from Jerusalem and back to just Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36, 39; 16:1).  So you can't argue that Luke is still referring back to just the Apostles and Elders as the sole leaders of the church when that's not the point that he is making.  Luke isn't giving a handbook on church structure and polity in Acts 16 - and it's eisegesis to argue that he is.  You can not and should not take one verse out of context to support an idea that you're pulling from somewhere else.

This is why Dr. Bauder says:

A right decision began with the apostles and elders, then included the congregation after the church had received teaching both from the apostle Peter (Acts 15:7-11) and the elder James (Acts 15:13-21). James, who was one of the pastors of the church, did more than to reflect upon abstruse biblical principles. He also applied those principles to the doctrinal problem in very direct ways, going so far as to state a solution for the church. All that was left was for the congregation to accept his solution.

In other words, James spoke to the issue in a way that ordinary church members did not and could not. He spoke with authority. He was not merely another voice within the church, but a teacher of the church. The congregation had a decision to make, but James had the right and duty to lead the congregation in reaching the correct decision. That is what pastoral authority looks like.

When a man becomes the pastor of a church today, the church will already have defined certain doctrinal parameters.

Just as an aside, if a church congregation called a pastor who decided to change the doctrinal parameters of that church, they would be well within their right (although they may be spiritually wrong) to terminate the pastor.  Because the church itself, not the elders and deacons, is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-16).

Even if I were to cede to you and Ted the entirety of the passage - which I'm tempted to do in order to try and move the conversation forward - the problem is that you still don't have another passage to base this idea off of, and it's still a new idea in over 1970 years of established church history.  It's still something that no one on SharperIron has heard of and very, very few agree with.  So you'll pardon me of the skepticism that it merits.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

pvawter's picture

JamesK,

you misunderstand what I am saying. The burden of proof is on you to show that Acts 15 cannot possibly be explained by congregational authority, which you cannot do without arguing for something other than what Luke explicitly states. For those of us who affirm the NT teaching of congregational rule, this passage is not critical other than that it does not preclude the involvement of the congregation in decision-making. Congregational polity does not rise or fall on one passage describing a historical event during the transitional time of the early church, but on the entire teaching of the NT, especially the epistles. But for one to argue that congregational decision-making is out of bounds, as you and Ted have both stated, he must be able to show that in every instance in the entire NT the congregation was excluded from any part of this process. You simply cannot support the claim that you are making.

Jay's picture

I was curious if I was the only one who read this, so I checked CCEL.  Here's Calvin's take on Acts 15:22-29:

22. It pleased the apostles. That tempest was made calm not without the singular grace of God, so that after the matter was thoroughly discussed, they did all agree together in sound doctrine. Also the modesty of the common people is gathered by this, because, after that they had referred the matter to the judgment of the apostles and the rest of teachers, they do now also subscribe to their decree; and, on the other side, the apostles did show some token of their equity, in that they set down nothing concerning the common cause of all the godly without admitting the people. For assuredly, this tyranny did spring from the pride of the pastors, that those things which appertain unto the common state of the whole Church are subject (the people being excluded) to the will, will not say lust, of a few. 143 We know what a hard matter it is to suppress the slanders of the wicked, to satisfy most men who are churlish and forward, to keep under the light and unskillful, to wipe away errors conceived, to heal up hatred, to appease contentions, [and] to abolish false reports. Peradventure, the enemies of Paul and Barnabas might have said that they had gotten letters by fair and flattering speeches; they might have invented some new cavil; the rude and weak might, by and by, have been troubled; but when chief men come with the letters, that they may gravely dispute the whole matter in presence, all sinister suspicion is taken away.

And I'm not even a Calvinist - but it's good to have him on my side for once... Biggrin

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

James K's picture

pvawter wrote:

JamesK,

you misunderstand what I am saying. The burden of proof is on you to show that Acts 15 cannot possibly be explained by congregational authority, which you cannot do without arguing for something other than what Luke explicitly states. For those of us who affirm the NT teaching of congregational rule, this passage is not critical other than that it does not preclude the involvement of the congregation in decision-making. Congregational polity does not rise or fall on one passage describing a historical event during the transitional time of the early church, but on the entire teaching of the NT, especially the epistles. But for one to argue that congregational decision-making is out of bounds, as you and Ted have both stated, he must be able to show that in every instance in the entire NT the congregation was excluded from any part of this process. You simply cannot support the claim that you are making.

Here is an example in the NT of how doctrinal decisions are made.  Luke is explicit that only the apostles and elders made the decision.  That isn't enough for you.  You believe congregationalism, therefore it is right apparently.  There is no other text in the entire NT where a similar example could be compared to that would argue for congregationalism.  So we are at an impass.  There is one passage.  I am content to not say more than the text says.  You are content to reiterate traditions of men, and yes, that is exactly what it is.  You will answer to the Lord of the church on your own and not to me.  I wish you well and may Jesus be glorified in your ministry friend.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

James K's picture

Jay, I will quote then respond.

I've read what you wrote.  You insist that the apostles and elders alone met to discuss the matter.  As DavidO said, there are numerous references to the entirety of the church in Jerusalem within Acts 15.

Not true.  I have said multiple times that the church was in fact there.  No one has denied that the church gathered together.  I think it is entirely possible some church folk even asked questions about this matter.  That is not the issue that I am getting at.

If you want to argue that the apostles and elders made the decision without input from the rest of the church, then what do you do with these verses:

15:4 - When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them.

15:12 - And all the assembly (note the difference from the elders and deacons in v. 6) fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

15:22 - 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. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers...

15:24-29 - Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” 

I have already given a verse commentary on most of these, but I will do so again.

15:4 - the church welcomed the messengers.  Nothing is said about the church deciding doctrine.

15:12 - note that ALL of the assembly, including the other apostles and elders.  Only two people were speaking at this point.  Even if the nonapostles and elders had spoken or asked questions, nothing is said about the church deciding doctrine.

15:22 - this is about choosing the messengers to rely the decision of the apostles and elders.  Nothing is said about the church deciding doctrine.

15:24-29 - who is the "us"?  Verse 23 tells us that the apostles and elders are the authors of the letters.  Here is the verse: They wrote this letter to be delivered by them: From the apostles and the elders, your brothers, To the brothers from among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.  Once again, nothing is said about the church deciding doctrine.

So what do I do with those verses?  Believe them I hope and then order church accordingly.

16:4 says that the decision was made by the Apostles and Elders, yes.  But a significant portion of chapter 15 indicates congregational involvement and assent to what they said with their endorsement.

The congregation was involved in the sense that they were present to hear the decision of the apostles and elders.  I have said as much.  The church did not have veto power over that decision though.  That is the rub isn't it?  Congregationalism allows the church not only oversight, but grants power where Christ did not.

Furthermore, the end of chapter 15 and the beginning of Acts 16 indicate that we have shifted from the 'universal' to the 'specific' - Luke is moving the narrative away from Jerusalem and back to just Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36, 39; 16:1).  So you can't argue that Luke is still referring back to just the Apostles and Elders as the sole leaders of the church when that's not the point that he is making.  Luke isn't giving a handbook on church structure and polity in Acts 16 - and it's eisegesis to argue that he is.  You can not and should not take one verse out of context to support an idea that you're pulling from somewhere else.

The authoritative message that Paul and Barnabas would carry to the churches was that the apostles and elders made a doctrinal determination.  That is the basis of 16:4.  Had it not been a decision of the apostles and elders, it would not have any authority over the church (see Acts 2:42).  I don't think it is a handbook in just this one chapter.  I think the entire NT is the handbook and this chapter is consistent with apostle and elder responsibility on correct doctrine not the church in general.  So this is not one verse out of context, this is yet another example consistent with all the NT.

Just as an aside, if a church congregation called a pastor who decided to change the doctrinal parameters of that church, they would be well within their right (although they may be spiritually wrong) to terminate the pastor.  Because the church itself, not the elders and deacons, is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-16).

The hiring and firing of pastors is another matter for another day.  This kind of idea though is why we have the chaos in the church that we do.  In those days when the church's King was ignored, every man believes what is right in his own eyes.

Even if I were to cede to you and Ted the entirety of the passage - which I'm tempted to do in order to try and move the conversation forward - the problem is that you still don't have another passage to base this idea off of, and it's still a new idea in over 1970 years of established church history.  It's still something that no one on SharperIron has heard of and very, very few agree with.  So you'll pardon me of the skepticism that it merits.

I know that on this particular point, Ted and I are in agreement.  I don't know that I would agree with every point he makes on other matters.  If I were to ask you how old congregationalism is, what would you say?  Would you say it is NT theology and it had fallen out of favor due to corrupt doctrine and church practice?  I will assure you, that what I am saying is quite a bit older than what you think it is.  Read more books about the history church order.  I fully understand the skepticism, but I will tell you now that I used to believe as you do now.  Keep wrestling with these matters and think through the implications.  May you be greatly blessed in your ministry friend.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

PSFerguson's picture

This system of Presbyterian governance is based on the NT model seen particularly in the decisions of the Jerusalem presbytery or council in Acts 15. In that inspired incident we see modelled the principles to guide us in church governance. We observe the deliberations and decrees of the Council of Jerusalem, which consisted of the leaders of a group of churches, setting forth the authoritative standards for all the congregations within its jurisdiction. The Council of Jerusalem issued binding “decrees for to keep” (Acts 16:4) to all the local churches. The word translated “decrees” is the Greek word dogmata, which is used to refer to a mandated law. Interestingly, the same Greek word is translated “decree” in Luke 2:1 with reference to the law issued by Caesar Augustus mandating all the Roman Empire to be taxed (cf. Acts 17:7; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14 for same point that dogmata is translated as authoritative law).

So the scope of the Council of Jerusalem’s authority was far wider than merely an advisory role, as they exercised a power of order by commanding other local churches in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia to desist from certain practices. The decree they issued was authoritative, decisive, and binding. The language has to be strained by prejudice to interpret “to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28) as merely advisory. These local congregations were clearly bound by the decisions of a higher court. This is the principle that can be undeniably deduced. 

If the apostles were really trying to teach the doctrine of the independence of local churches, they adopted a very strange model to resolve this dispute. For if there was ever a local church that had the ability to resolve theological disputes, surely Antioch was the place as it had as one of its Board of Elders the inspired Apostle Paul, who is widely regarded as the greatest theologian of his generation. Although Paul was an apostle with inspired authority (fully equal to the power of the others as he forcefully argued in Galatians 1:11-2:14), it is notable that he agreed to submit the question from the powerful church at Antioch to the deliberations and decisions of the Jerusalem council, which included the leaders of the church at Antioch and non-apostolic elders. This set a precedent that underlined the unity and interdependence of all local congregations within the NT apostolic jurisdiction. Indeed, it is hard to think of an example that is more contrary to the notion of self-governing, autonomous local churches than this one!

http://oldfaith.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/presbyterianchurch.pdf

josh p's picture

PSFerguson, what do you mean when you say Paul was inspired? The words he wrote in the autograph were inspired not he himself. Am I understanding you correctly? That Paul the man was walking around inspired by God?

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi PS,

We observe the deliberations and decrees of the Council of Jerusalem, which consisted of the leaders of a group of churches, setting forth the authoritative standards for all the congregations within its jurisdiction.

Unfortunately my friend in Christ, your viewpoint (which is elegantly and expertly expressed) called "connectionalism" suffers from the same man-centered speculation as Bauder's thesis. Here's four reasons why:

 

1) There is only one local church at the JC:

The phrase “the whole church” of Acts 15:22 is exactly what it sounds like — the one church in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 5:11). At the beginning of the chapter Luke states that when Paul and Barnabas and their companions “came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church” (Acts 15:4). His words make it clear that neither Paul nor Barnabas nor their traveling companions were a part of that church. Instead, they were welcomed by that church, and the church was in Jerusalem.

This same church is later mentioned in Acts 15:22 as “the whole church.” There is no hint in the intervening verses that there might be more than one church being represented for no other church is mentioned. Had Luke intended us to understand that multiple churches were represented at the Jerusalem Conference, he simply could have used the plural “churches” as he did a few verses later in Acts 15:41. Moreover, the verb “choose” in Acts 15:22 is both masculine and plural and therefore refers only to the “apostles and elders” choosing the delegates, not “the whole church.” And thus ends the connectionalist’s claim from Scripture.

To claim, as connectionalists do, that "the whole church" refers to the representatives from various churches is only assuming what one wishes to prove, for Luke has already shown the reader that "the whole church" means the vast majority of the people of the church, not its' representatives - see Acts 5:11, cf. Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 14:23.

 

2) The Churches of Christendom Were Not Involved in the Decrees, Yet All Were Required to Submit

Luke further undercuts the connectional claim when he explains that Paul (and Silas) went to the churches of his first missionary journey and “delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been decided by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4). Yet none of those churches were represented at the Conference. Had they been, their own representative(s) who voted in favor of the letter would have brought back to their own church its' decrees for immedaite obedience. They wouldn't have waited for Paul to make his way to them for the implementation (Acts 16:4).

Advocates for connectionalism further fail to explain why, if the Jerusalem Conference were attended by representatives of other churches, such representatives are not explicitly mentioned in the text. Nor are their churches. These omissions are incomprehensible if the Holy Spirit intended to positively teach connectionalism from Acts 15.

 

3) Like Congregationalism, Connectionalism Replaces the Unique Role of the Apostles as the Foundation of the Church with It's own Leaders

Luke's account of the Jerusalem Conference bears witness to the presence and importance of apostles inasmuch as every recorded speaker was an apostle, including Barnabas, Paul, Peter, and James (Acts 14:14, Galatians 1:19). Because an apostle’s authority extended over multiple churches the Conference’s decrees present themselves to “the brethren in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” as fully inspired by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:22–23, 28; 16:4) and authoritative over all churches, everywhere, and for all time.

Yet, connectional advocates claim that the Jerusalem Conference gives them a pattern that they fulfill today in their Synods and General Assemblies while appearing to ignore the fact that the vast majority (99%) of churches in Christendom could care less about their Synods and General Assemblies. In distinction the one-time decrees of the Jerusalem Conference ought to be the keen absorption of all Christians everywhere since they are given to us where Christ Himself is given to us - in Spirit-breathed Scripture.

People in connectional churches submit to Synod votes as binding on their ecclesial practices but yet are without apostolic authorization to be thus bound. This of necessity leads to authoritative church practices devoid of apostolic witness, and eventual apostasy. One need only observe the historical practices of connectional Presbyterians to both schism and then apostatize to affirm this sad reality.

Better, I believe, to apply the words of a Reformed theologian to the matter:

“…things happened in the history of redemption, in the formulation of the canon, that were extraordinary, illustrative of the history of redemption, typological, but not normative for us.” (R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession, 248).

Such is the Jerusalem Conference, for how can something attested but once in the book of Acts but never taught in the epistles (ie., connectionalism), be normative for your church? 

 

4) Conectionalism, Like Congregationalism, Rests It's Entire Practice on Examples without Precept

Here, brother, we finally take note of the ultimate fail of Kevin's congregationalism, and your own beloved connectionalism. It rests only on an example in Scripture, but has no precept. In this regard it has all the scriptural validity of snake-handling, head-coverings, paedo-communion, foot-washing, and speaking in tongues. Worse, it binds men's consciences to that which Scripture does not affirm, thus teaching genuine Christians to regard the business of the church with a presumptuous faith. This always leads to ecclesiastical disobedience. In the things of church, we reap what we sow.

 

Only the system of church governance called eldership possesses both precept and example in the sacred Scripture.

 

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Ted, let me begin by pointing out that, once again, you avoid questions. A very plain and clear question was put to you, and you ignore it.

And you also seem to ignore the fact that Kevin is addressing a situation where a man comes to pastor a church that already exists with a doctrinal statement.

Quote:
Please show me one instance where I or James have been interacted with here exegetically. We are the only ones making claims about the texts in Acts 15 and 16, and using the words of the texts themselves to defend our claims.
Many posts in this thread have pointed to the words in discussion, and in their context. In fact, if you took all your posts out, there would still be plenty of discussion of Acts 15 and 16. The fact that you disagree with them doesn’t mean you are the only one interacting with the text. You seem to be under the assumption that if people don’t agree with you, they are doing exegesis. That’s a faulty assumption. But in any case, just go back and read it. You will see plenty.

Quote:
Perhaps the reason no one has laid on hand on congregationalism is because every time it gets held up to Scripture it vaporizes.
Well, no. You have yet to answer the key texts, either here at SI or at your blog. The fact is, like it or not, that the congregation was involved in Acts 15. It says that in multiple places, as has been shown. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the congregation had no role in affirming the decrees. They clearly had a role in sending out messengers, and the decree appeals to the church as the one sending it. Why? There was apparently some force behind that that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. What, in your mind, was the point of noting that the church was involved?

Quote:
James and I are arguing that the writings of the NT alone deserve that ultimate place, and that while congregationalism does indeed claim such ultimacy for itself, it usurps Scripture and for that reason to be rejected as filthy rags and a blinding influence on men's power to come under the sole authority of Scripture.
Hyperbole and bombast aside, you aren’t arguing much of anything, much less that the NT alone has ultimate place since you ignore some of the NT. You are making assertions, but not bringing arguments from it. An argument involves giving reasons to support the assertion. (And I have read your website. It wasn’t convincing either.) Congregationalism is the only way to obey the authority of Scripture in some instances.

Quote:
That's all that's being debated here from a textual perspective. Short and to the point. If you are willing, go back to this post for several reasons, all based on the words from Acts 16:4, that show why congregationalism must be wrong.
But it didn’t show that.

Quote:
Brother, I'm going to hazard a guess that you are new to Acts 15 in that you claim it wasn't "doctrine at all."
Ah. You got me. I have never read Acts 15.

Quote:
Are you not confusing doctrine and practice?
No, not at all. The issue in Acts 15 was whether or not the Gentiles had to become like Jews (i.e., circumcision) to be part of the church. That salvation by faith was not being disputed is clear from Acts 15:7-11 which clearly says salvation is by faith. The question sent to the Jerusalem was the act of placing gentiles under the Law of Moses (Acts 15:10). To that question, the apostles, elders, and the congregation send word that Gentiles are not to be placed under the Law of Moses. As you can tell from the solution, the issue was the application of doctrine to the lives of Gentiles.

An issue you have yet to address (to my knowledge) is why, if this is strictly doctrine, the elders were involved at all. NT doctrine is on the authority of the apostles and prophets, not elders. That seems to me to have some relevance here.

In short, I think Acts 15 is an issue that a young church needed the advice of more spiritually mature Christians to handle a disturbing problem. The question was, as I said, How much do Gentiles need to become like Jews to be part of the church? The answer is, “Not much.” That’s why they didn’t need to be put under the Law, as those of the sect of the Pharisees (who I imagine were probably converted, v. 5) wanted to do. There were minimal requirements laid on them.

 

pvawter's picture

JamesK,
I am not able to give greater detail at this time, but compare the textual variants of v.23. I guess it depends on which text h you use, whether the church delivered the decree or not.

Jay's picture

Jay wrote:

Just as an aside, if a church congregation called a pastor who decided to change the doctrinal parameters of that church, they would be well within their right (although they may be spiritually wrong) to terminate the pastor.  Because the church itself, not the elders and deacons, is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-16).

At the risk of promoting myself, I wanted to circle back to this text for Ted.  How would you interpret the 1 Timothy 3:14-16 passage?

I'd also be interested in why you haven't merged with all the other local assemblies in your area or apologized for your own hypocrisy.  Seems to me that the preacher ought to practice what he believes...especially if he's blogging about it and trying to get others to agree with it here.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ted Bigelow's picture

[quote=Jay]

 

At the risk of promoting myself, I wanted to circle back to this text for Ted.  How would you interpret the 1 Timothy 3:14-16 passage?

I'd also be interested in why you haven't merged with all the other local assemblies in your area or apologized for your own hypocrisy.  Seems to me that the preacher ought to practice what he believes...especially if he's blogging about it and trying to get others to agree with it here.

 

Jay - I know now that when you ask a question its to find something to disagree with so you can make another posting. If my reply to David above at comment # 68273 didn't help you, then sorry, I'm not giving you more. You need to go submit to Jesus Christ in John 13:34-35.

GregH's picture

Ted, put everything else aside and answer the question that Jay, myself and others ask you:

How is what you are doing/did in CT consistent with your teaching about one church/per town, appointing elders, etc? 

From all appearances, you have a bit of credibility problem. I don't expect you to answer this question because you have been ducking it for months.

Jay's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

Hey David - in 1 Tim. 3:15, "is" is singular not plural - leading me to prefer the institution of the church over the people of the church. This is confirmed for me by the context as 1 Tim. 3 defines the two offices in the institutional church, elders, and deacons. Also, do a gut check - when do the people of church prevent the institution from slipping into a denial of 3:16? I'm sure there are some rare cases, but by far, the typical case is the institutional leaders who do that. 

Ted, 

I missed the earlier post.  My apologies.

That being said, you're practicing bad exegesis again here.  You are taking your position, twisting 3:1-13 into it to make vv.14-16 say something that it does not, and then using that passage to prove your doctrine.  Paul is clearly differentiating between the leader (Timothy) from the church in vv.14-16, and there is no exegetical reason to interpret the passage the way you do.  Unless, of course, you don't want to take the obvious interpretation.

Again, Calvin will suffice:

How thou oughtest to conduct thyself - By this mode of expression he commends the weight and dignity of the office; because pastors may be regarded as stewards, to whom God has committed the charge of governing his house. If any person has the superintendence of a large house, he labors night and day with earnest solicitude, that nothing may go wrong through his neglect, or ignorance, or carelessness. If only for men this is done, how much more should it be done for God?

In the house of God - There are good reasons why God bestows this name on his Church; for not only has he received us to be his children by the grace of adoption, but he also dwelleth in the midst of us.

The pillar and foundation of truth - No ordinary enhancement is derived from this appellation. Could it have been described in loftier language? Is anything more venerable, or more holy, than that everlasting truth which embraces both the glory of God and the salvation of men? Were all the praises of heathen philosophy, with which it has been adorned by its followers, collected into one heap, what is this in comparison of the dignity of this wisdom, which alone deserves to be called light and truth, and the instruction of life, and the way, and the kingdom of God? Now it is preserved on earth by the ministry of the Church alone. What a weight, therefore, rests on the pastors, who have been entrusted with the charge of so inestimable a treasure! With what impudent trifling do Papists argue from the words of Paul that all their absurdities ought to be held as oracles of God, because they are “the pillar of truth,” and therefore cannot err!

First, we ought to see why Paul adorns the Church with so magnificent a title. By holding out to pastors the greatness of the office, he undoubtedly intended to remind them with what fidelity, and industry, and reverence they ought to discharge it. How dreadful is the vengeance that awaits them, if, through their fault, that truth which is the image of the Divine glory, the light of the world, and the salvation of men, shall be allowed to fall! This consideration ought undoubtedly to lead pastors to tremble continually, not to deprive them of all energy, but to excite them to greater vigilance.

Hence we may easily conclude in what sense Paul uses these words. The reason why the Church is called the “pillar of truth” is, that she defends and spreads it by her agency. God does not himself come down from heaven to us, nor does he daily send angels to make known his truth; but he employs pastors, whom he has appointed for that purpose. To express it in a more homely manner, is not the Church the mother of all believers? Does she not regenerate them by the word of God, educate and nourish them through their whole life, strengthen, and bring them at length to absolute perfection? For the same reason, also, she is called “the pillar of truth;” because the office of administering doctrine, which God hath placed in her hands, is the only instrument of preserving the truth, that it may not perish from the remembrance of men. 

Reiterating the problems with your position - either exegetical or practical - isn't 'finding something else to disagree with so I can make another posting'.  It's restating so that someone in this discussion can get an clear answer from you. Telling me I need to go 'submit to Jesus' (which, btw, would really mean that I should submit to you, not Christ) on this matter is also rude and sinful, and a violation of James 4:11 - "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers."

Yes, I'm going after you on this website, and I'm doing it deliberately because I think you are here to spread confusion and dissention on what should be a very clear passage of Scripture.  You continue to take multiple passages out of context and force them to support a position that is novel and schismatic. If you are offended because I have called you out on your false teaching, then either reply with Scripture, clarify where I'm wrong, or apologize.  If you can't do that, then follow Galatians 6:1.  Don't resort to name calling and slander.  You aren't the only person on this website with theological, pastoral, and seminary experience.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bauder wrote:

Ultimately, the congregation must define the church’s doctrinal parameters. This is exactly what happened in the local church business meeting at Jerusalem in Acts 15. In the face of a doctrinal and practical challenge, the entire congregation participated in drawing a doctrinal line (Acts 15:22-23). Nevertheless, the solution to the problem did not come from an uninstructed congregation, nor did the church’s leaders permit a simple pooling of uninformed prejudices. A right decision began with the apostles and elders, then included the congregation after the church had received teaching both from the apostle Peter (Acts 15:7-11) and the elder James (Acts 15:13-21). James, who was one of the pastors of the church, did more than to reflect upon abstruse biblical principles. He also applied those principles to the doctrinal problem in very direct ways, going so far as to state a solution for the church. All that was left was for the congregation to accept his solution.

  • It is very clear from Acts 15:22-23 that the entire congregation, including the leaders, were involved in the drafting and dispatching of the letter.
  • It is also very clear that the congregation was steered and shepherded by the elders

He continues:

In other words, James spoke to the issue in a way that ordinary church members did not and could not. He spoke with authority. He was not merely another voice within the church, but a teacher of the church. The congregation had a decision to make, but James had the right and duty to lead the congregation in reaching the correct decision. That is what pastoral authority looks like

  • Very well said. I have seen nothing from James and Ted to dispute these rather basic observations. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ted Bigelow's picture

GregH wrote:

Ted, put everything else aside and answer the question that Jay, myself and others ask you:

How is what you are doing/did in CT consistent with your teaching about one church/per town, appointing elders, etc? 

From all appearances, you have a bit of credibility problem. I don't expect you to answer this question because you have been ducking it for months.

Greg, already answered in my last reply to you.

Ted Bigelow's picture

It is very clear from Acts 15:22-23 that the entire congregation, including the leaders, were involved in the drafting and dispatching of the letter.

Hi Tyler, the verb "chose" in Acts 15:22 - is it feminine singular or masculine plural?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

GregH wrote:

 

Ted, put everything else aside and answer the question that Jay, myself and others ask you:

How is what you are doing/did in CT consistent with your teaching about one church/per town, appointing elders, etc? 

From all appearances, you have a bit of credibility problem. I don't expect you to answer this question because you have been ducking it for months.

 

 

Greg, already answered in my last reply to you.

Actually Ted, you didn't. I went back and looked, and then I went back and read again the link you provided to your blog article. It doesn't answer the question. It never explains why you are not to be considered a hypocrite at best or a false teacher at worst, by the definition of your own blog, for helping to open another church in a city that already had churches in it within a convenient Sunday travel distance of yourself. The most precise quote I could find in the article was this one:

If you are thinking “that was then and now is now,” consider this. It’s not as if there weren’t “competing” churches in the cities of these NT churches. Such schismatic and heretical churches did form, thus earning Paul’s “ignore” commands, such as “have nothing to do with” (1 Tim. 4:7), and “turn away from” (Rom. 16:17). Such commands could not refer to ignoring and turning from people in one’s own church, for that would then disobey Christ’s command of love in John 13:34-35 and many other wonderful texts. 

Rather, Paul commanded all the Christians in a particular locale to ignore and repudiate all those in the churches of these false teachers that didn’t submit to his apostolic deposit of faith (1 Cor. 14:37-38, 1 Tim. 6:21, 2 Tim. 2:16, 2:23-25, 4:3-4, Titus 1:14, 3:9). His “ignore” commands show that these dangerous teachers were not off teaching themselves in their own homes, but led rival churches, for they were publically teaching error, and their teaching was a very real near-by threat to the one church of that region. 

So tell us all, finally Ted, should we identify you as a hypocrite or a false teacher? Because those appear to be only options you leave available in your article to describe yourself. Why shouldn't we "ignore and repudiate" you for being schismatic to the one true church, whichever one that was, that was already operating in your region?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ted Bigelow's picture

The most precise quote I could find in the article was this one

Chip - that's the quote you chose, but you missed the more apropos quotes. However, read the comments, especially 1.2.

"One true church?" Chip, if you had been the pastor of Sardis or Laodicea, would you have been the pastor of a true church?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

The most precise quote I could find in the article was this one

Chip - that's the quote you chose, but you missed the more apropos quotes. However, read the comments, especially 1.2.

"One true church?" Chip, if you had been the pastor of Sardis or Laodicea, would you have been the pastor of a true church?

Fine Ted, you say I missed the better quotes. Of course, you don't indicate why the quote I did point out shouldn't be applied to you. But if there are better quotes, bring them here and answer the question. I went back and read the comments, as you requested. You still didn't answer the question why we shouldn't consider you schismatic, by your own definition, for opening your church when others already existed in your city. You mention in your responses to your own blog that you had tried near the time of that writing to join with two other churches in your area, so we know there are other faithful churches by your standards. Why shouldn't we consider you at best a hypocrite and at worst a false teacher for not following the very advice you are promoting here? What gave you the biblical right to start your church instead of simply joining with the flock that was already present in your region? Why did you further divide the one true church of Christ in your region? 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jay's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

If you are offended because I have called you out on your false teaching, then either reply with Scripture, clarify where I'm wrong, or apologize. 

Bring it on Jay. Clearly state my false teaching.

Bring it on...says the man who can't or won't (at this point I'm leaning more towards won't) answer the multiple questions about why he divided the one true church in his town, and who won't apologize for slandering Dr. Bauder and charging him with false teaching.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

GregH's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

GregH wrote:

 

Ted, put everything else aside and answer the question that Jay, myself and others ask you:

How is what you are doing/did in CT consistent with your teaching about one church/per town, appointing elders, etc? 

From all appearances, you have a bit of credibility problem. I don't expect you to answer this question because you have been ducking it for months.

 

 

Greg, already answered in my last reply to you.

Um no, you have not answered the question. Not to me or anyone else. I am wondering why. Is it because you are scared to admit that you believe all the other churches in your town are apostate? I would remind everyone that not only does Ted probably think this but he also considers himself an apostle based on this post where he admits "it was sort of myself who "appointed" me." 

TylerR's picture

Editor

You asked:

Hi Tyler, the verb "chose" in Acts 15:22 - is it feminine singular or masculine plural?

Please just ask your question and stop being coy. What is your point?

Your position on ecclesiology is novel. I hope you would admit that. That, in and of itself, doesn't make it wrong. Dispensationalists have endured similar charges from our Covenant brethren. We have done a whole lot of leg-work in historical theology and proven that ours is indeed not a very novel position; there is historical precedent for premillennial, dispensational distinctives.  We have also done a whole lot of work in Biblical Theology to prove our point. Ryrie's Basis of the Premillennial Faith, Walvoord's Millennial Kingdom and McClain's Greatness of the Kingdom come to mind. That being said, I ask the following:

  • Where is your historical theology? Show me anybody from church history who has ever supported your position. Surely you're not the only one, are you?
  • Where is your Biblical Theology? March me through your NT ecclesiology and prove your point from somewhere other than Titus - prove it from the various epistle and Gospels throughout the whole NT.
  • Where is your Systematic Theology? Prove to me that your peculiar ecclesiology is supported by the entirety of the NT revelation, based on the sure foundation of BT.

Where is the heavy spade work to justify your position? Surely you suffered through hermeneutics class just like the rest of us did. Systematic Theology follows upon the heels of Biblical Theology. Where is yours? Moreover, where is historical precedent to support your claims? Let's really dig into this issue. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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