CHAPTER 10

THE CHURCH


Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpow­er it (Matthew 16:18).


As the above statement of Jesus makes obvious, bringing the Church into being was a very impor­tant part of His ministry. The community that is brought into being by God is created through a covenant. They are bound together in a way that is appropriate to the nature of the cove­nant. The old cove­nant was made with the physical (or adopted) descendants of Abra­ham, bound together into a nation by circum­ci­sion and by acceptance of the law of Moses. In the fullness of time, in fulfill­ment of His long-standing promise through the prophet Jeremi­ah,1 Jesus brought a new cove­nant from the Father. Because of the great difference between the two covenants, He had to reconstitute His people, binding them together to Him by different bonds, the bonds of faith’s surren­der to Jesus and of bap­tism. The brother­hood called the “Church” is indeed precious in the eyes of her Lord; He died for her:


Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blame­less (Ephesians 5:25-27).


In the thinking of perhaps most modern democracies, and of most Americans, the individ­u­al is the primary unit, and society is merely an association of in­dividuals (as loose an asso­ci­ation as possible, for some). But to God’s way of thinking that kind of individual­ism is both selfish and de­ceived. We are created with natures that require an intimate and disciplined relationship to a godly society before we can be fully human. The right kind of society is so important for us, and exerts so much influence upon us, that God has crea­ted that right kind of society Him­self. For the period of the old cove­nant that society was Israel; for the new cove­nant that society is the Church. As followers of Christ, our identity and allegiance are to be far more roo­ted in the Church than in the culture in which we live. He sees us dis­ciples not as indepen­dent agents, but as individual members of His society; and that is the way that we must learn to see our­selves. But first we must find such a society.


The meaning of “Church”


What is the reality or picture that the word “Church” ought to create in our minds? “Church” is the word that is used to translate the Greek word “ekklesía” (“ekklesia”).2 That term was used among the Greeks to “denote the assemb­ly of citizens, called out from their homes to vote on legislation and transact other public business.”3 Thus, it designated an assem­bly of all who had the rights of citizenship.4 Trans­lated into a Biblical con­text, it would be the number of those who have a right to gather in the assembly of the covenan­ted people of God, whether or not they are ac­tually as­sembled. In other words, I am a member of the “ekklesía” if I have the right to par­ticipate in the assem­bly when one is called. As we shall see, there are a number of terms that are used to describe the people of the new covenant, but the fact that the term “as­sembly” (i.e., “Church”) is used more than all of the rest of them combined tells us something very sig­nifi­cant about the nature of that people. It tells us that in God’s eyes it is very im­portant for His people to be together; Chris­tians are never more fully themselves than when they are assembled before the Lord. But what is the nature of this assembly of the people of God?


The local church


The word “church” occurs some 110 times in the New Testament, and in 100 of them it refers either to a local congregation (e.g., Galatians 1:2: Revelation 1:4) or, less often, to the actual assembling of a local congregation (e.g., 1 Corinthians 14:19, 35).5 And in the ten other occasions when the term “church” is used in a wider sense, it does not refer to some or­ga­nization beyond the local body, but to the total number of the elect of God seen as one large assembly in the mind of God (e.g., Ephesians 3:10, 5:22-32; Colossians 1:18, 24). To think of “the church” in this wider sense as if it meant an or­ganization of all the congregations who are now on the earth, under one person or governing body, would actual­ly be far less than what is pictured in the Scrip­tures.6 In the New Testament there is “a church,” “the chur­ches” (of a particular area; e.g., Galatians 1:2), and “the church” (in the ab­stract, col­lective sense of the term mentioned above).


Therefore, whenever you read the world “church” in the Scriptures, picture first a local congregation. And even when “the church” in the broader sense is being described in the New Testa­ment, it is a description that applies equally well to the local body. The church is fully manifested when­ever a church assembles (if it is a faithful body). Whatever is true of “the church” is also true of the local community (e.g., Ephesians 1:22-23, 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:15). What­ever promise or authority is given to “the church” is also to be claimed by each local con­gregation (e.g., Matthew 16:18-19, with Matthew 18:15-20 and John 20:23). For this reason, Paul could say to the congregation at Corinth, “Now you (Corin­thi­ans) are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).


One does not need to go beyond the local body in order to see “the body of Christ” fully manifested; one only needs to find an authentic local body! God has ordained, and will there­fore enable, that each congregation, once properly estab­lished, will be able to come to maturity with the aid of the Spirit and the New Testa­ment. It will also need to be in fellowship and in mutual ministry with other con­gre­gations; it will need to enter into a common mind with the other congregations in its region over various is­sues that arise; but it will not need to be under the regu­lar rule of any other person or organization in order to be consid­ered apostolic.7 It may need ex­hortation, rebuke or visitation from other congregations; it is con­ceiv­able that other congregations might even have to sever communion with it until such time as it may return to obedience, but that congregation is not ruled by any other exter­nal authority than its own elders, and cannot be reformed by the exercise of external authority. With the Scriptures, we can see this principle being used in Revelation 3:14f, for example. The church in Laodi­cea was in such bad spiritual condition that Jesus told them He was going to spit them out of His mouth. They were soundly rebuked and warned to repent. But Jesus did not tell John or any other apostles to go to Laodi­cea, remove the elders who had failed so miserably, excom­municate the trou­ble makers, and appoint a new group of elders, did He? And if anyone had the right to do such a thing, it would have been the apostles. And fur­ther, when John complained about Diotrephes, who loved to be first among the brethren and refused to accept him (3 John 9), what did the apostle do? “For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does” (vs. 10). What that sounds like is a warn­ing that the apostle will come and rebuke the power-hungry Diotrephes in the midst of the assemb­ly, so that the elders and brethren can choose what to do about him. The clo­sest we come to direct action over a congregation in the New Testa­ment is in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, when Paul brings judgment and directs the congregation to deli­ver over to Satan a member that was guilty of fornication: the evidence that this provides is that the apostles who raised up congregations may need to continue super­vising them.8


Coming slightly beyond the apostolic period, we can cite the example of Cle­ment of Rome.9 When the church in Corinth was having difficulties, leading to rebel­lion by some against their elders, Clement wrote a letter in the name of the Roman Church. In that letter there was much encourage­ment and much rebuke; there was also direct advice about their need to sub­mit to their elders. The Roman congregation even sent several godly belie­vers along with the letter, to be the representatives of the church to the Corinthians. But there was not even a hint of direct exercise of authority over the Corinthian believers by either Clement or the church at Rome. This is in marked contrast to the actions of pope-bishops of Rome, like Victor, who within one hundred years of Clement, in their own name and au­thority, excommunicated whole regions of churches for rather trivial dif­ferences, such as the date of the Easter celebration. What a sad departure from the Spirit of Jesus that was!



How is the church described by God?


1. The body of Christ


This is the most common metaphor by which the church is described (e.g., Romans 12:4f; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:22-32; Colossians 1:24). It tells us several things of great importance about the whole Church and about the local church.


First, it tells us that the church is the way by which Christ from heaven com­mu­nicates Himself to the world. Our bodies enable us to accomplish our intentions. Through His fleshly body Jesus com­municat­ed and did the will of His Father when upon the earth; and now, He intends that it be through each local church com­mu­nity that He reveals Himself to the world and contin­ues to do the will of the Father. Just as it was required of faith back then to see through and beyond the flesh and blood of Jesus and behold God incarnate, so it is required of faith now to look beyond the people of the local body and see Jesus indwelling that body through His Spirit, mak­ing it His own body.


Secondly, the use of “body” imagery tells us something of the degree of commit­ment, intima­cy, unity and common life that God wants for believers in the local assembly. The imagery of a human body provides the context for God’s picture of the “fellowship”10 in which He intends for us to walk (e.g., Acts 2:42-46; 1 Corinthians 1:9-10; 1 John 1:3-7). We are to have the kind of re­lationship with each other that the organs of a body have with each other. All that each organ produces is for the well-being of every other cell in the body. This imagery implies a very deep unity of thought, decision mak­ing, accoun­tability, discipline and coordina­tion of action -- the kind of unity Paul actually commands in 1 Corinthians 1:10:


I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (or, “united in thinking and in decision-mak­ing”).


The local community of disciples is to be a tightly-knit body, not a loose and occa­sional as­socia­tion for the purpose of worship. As in a human body, every need of every organ is the neces­sary concern of the whole body. If any human body were as loosely knit together as is the average congregation of believers, it would die very quickly. We shall talk more about the church’s “common life” at a later point, but it may be said here that any congregation which does not have a number of its people quite spon­taneously entering into such expres­sions of common life as we see in the book of Acts can hardly be taking the “body of Christ” imagery as seriously as it was in­ten­ded.



2. The temple of God

(1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21-22)


These New Testament passages show that in apostolic Christianity the congregation is like the individual disciple: a temple in which God quite literally dwells through His Spirit. In the world of Biblical times, where did a person go when he wanted to get as close as possible to his god and to offer prayer? To the temple of that god, of course. God’s temple used to be at Jerusalem, but now He has a temple in the assembly of every faithful and Spirit-empow­ered body of disciples. This is why when the believers assemble they should be open to seeing great and marvelous things occur­ring, for they are not alone in that assemb­ly.


3. The household of God

(Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15; Galatians 6:10)


Given the amount of personal privacy and space available in our day and culture, the term “house­hold” creates for most of us a picture of one mother and father, and a few chil­dren. But this was not the picture created in Biblical times (as well as in many cultures of the modern “third world”). The term “house­hold” back then created a significantly larger picture. A “household” may well have included families from several generations, as well as unmar­ried or widowed adult brothers and sisters, and any ser­vants and slaves, all of whom provided various services so that the com­plex work of the home and es­tate could be carried on and assure the common survival and prosperity. The proper image under­lying the term “house­hold” is that of a group of closely-related people liv­ing and working toge­ther for the common good. The application of this image to describe the church shows us that the Christian congre­gation is to be far more than a doctrinal and worship­ping or­ga­nization in the mind of God.11


4. A holy, separated people

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession... aliens and strangers” (1 Peter 2:9, 11; see also Revelation 1:6, 5:10; Titus 2:14; 2 Corinthians 6:16-17).


These passages that describe the separation of the church tell us several things. First, they teach us that in an apostolic community the mem­bers of the church have consciously and decisively separa­ted them­selves from the world through their person­al calling to follow Christ (2 Timothy 1:9). The church can be composed only of those who have aban­doned the world and worldly ways in order to have Christ, and to have the life of Christ within them.


Secondly, these descriptions tell us that the church is always in opposition to the world, no matter how tolerant any particular culture may be toward the church. The Spirit of God will always lead those who follow Him into a non-violent opposition to this world’s way of doing things, for the world is inherently and compulsively opposed to recognizing, trusting and obeying its Creator. In most important spheres, the kingdom of God in America (and in every other nation) is in competi­tion with Ameri­can society over the souls of those who live in Ameri­ca. Those who repre­sent the kingdom of God here (or any­where else) are like the citizens of an empire who discov­ered that their kingdom’s un­righteous king (Satan) had gone into rebellion against the righteous empe­ror and had with­drawn his kingdom into a state of rebellion; they therefore transfer their al­legiance back to the emperor, and try to convince the mem­bers of the kingdom to quit being in allegiance to the usurping king, and to come back to their emperor (know­­ing that only a mino­rity will). And for this reason, every culture has to act against true churches within its borders, ranging from civilized argument to bloody re­pression.


5. A distinct society

The church is called to manifest the social life of the kingdom of God. The church, in the form of faithful local congregations, is that divine society for the planet Earth. Each local congregation is to provide the people of its area with an alterna­tive to the local worldly society around it, an alter­nate society whose superior existence will be a most compell­ing adver­tise­ment that life is freer, happier, smoother and more creative when men quit living life the world’s way and live it God’s way instead. The world can cer­tainly sup­press the church’s social existence by making it unlawful for the church to assemble or function accord­ing to her con­stitution (e.g., to edu­cate our own children).


The world can also trick the church out of its social exis­tence, as it has done rather successfully since the time of Con­stan­tine, by creating the illusion that, as a “Christian” society, it is on the church’s side and can take care of provid­ing the social side of the church’s life.


However, the Scriptures are full of references to the distinctiveness of church society from worldly society. Having its own way of life and some degree of autonomy as a society is inherent in the church’s being constituted as a “people” (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). Furthermore, the church’s members must not “be bound together with un­believers; for what partnership have right­eousness and lawlessness, or what fellow­ship has light with darkness” (2 Corinthians 6:14; read through verse 18). In what areas does “bound together” apply? It logically applies to any areas of human endeavor where there is a “yoking” together of two or more people, so that one is respon­si­ble for the other’s actions: mar­riages and business partnerships, are an example of such yoking.


The congregational society also has its own courts if they are nee­ded (1 Corinthians 6:1f). And the church society has its own administration of discipline, to handle any kind of problem that may arise (see, for example, Matthew 18:15-18; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Corinthians 5:5-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 1 Timothy 1:20). As we see in those texts, some disciplines are punitive, in order that the offender may feel the true gravity of his deed and that the rest may fear (1 Timothy 5:20). But most disci­pline is simply a godly exhor­tation to live up to our responsibilities, an exhortation which all of us need in certain areas of our lives. And some discipline is also in the form of training the poorly disci­plined by those who are competent: training parents in child-raising, training home­makers in effi­cient homemak­ing, training those who have poor spending habits, training people in good disciplines of prayer, etc.


The church is also to provide its own “social security,” and each congrega­tion is con­science-bound to see that other faithful congregations have “equality” with them -- our con­gre­gation’s “abun­dance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:14; see also Acts 2:43-47, 4:32-37; Romans 15:25-27; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 1 Timothy 5:3-16). If Christians are going to live up to such commonly used and abused Scriptural terms as “family” and “brotherhood,” they will have to start rising above the best that even the unbelieving world can experience. Even an unbe­lieving husband, for exam­ple, who really loves his wife and chil­dren does not want to live at a higher standard of living than they do. How much more then will apostolic Christians want to live at a modest standard of living and then rejoice at being able to elevate the standard of living of the poorer members of the brotherhood.12 When a person surren­ders him­self to Christ in the church he is to receive the lifelong support of that assemb­ly in which he is an organ, no matter how unem­ployable, ill or old he may become (being also subject to godly discipline from that body, as we have already indicated ). Have you ever thought of your congre­gation as being your social security?


Hear this Christians! The gospel was intended by Christ to create a so­cial revo­lution -- among believ­ers only -- in the form of that revolu­tion­ary society He called “My Church.”13


One amazing possibility within the society of believers is the possibility for a fully common life, the kind of life Jesus had with His disciples, and the life which His Spirit inserted into the center of the Jerusalem Church after Pentecost (Acts 2:44-46, 4:32-37). Those who are yielded to the Spirit of Jesus will want and need to be as intimately re­lated to other such disci­ples as they can be: friendships, meals, finan­ces, housing, jobs, etc. The fully developed form of that life was never man­datory for all disciples, but it was volun­tarily and joyfully entered by many, as belie­vers’ hearts were conquered and melted by seeing the ge­nero­sity of the love of their common Savior: how He set aside incredible honor and glory to come live with us, and how generous He is to bestow His riches upon us. This wonderful kind of life should never be im­posed by man as the required norm for all mem­bers of the congregation -- as the Hut­terite Ana­baptists did, sadly -- because it is completely depen­dent upon the free desire of the believer, upon his var­ious respon­sibilities, and upon the depth of his walk with Christ. The apparently universal nature of the Jerusalem con­gregation’s common life was never a re­quired norm -- there is no such apos­tolic command to the churches. That congregation is rather to be considered a “type” that had been carefully pre­pared for by God, and was quite unique: all of its mem­bers (with few excep­tions) were “devout Jews” (Acts 2:5), matured and dis­ci­plined under the law, peo­ple who had seen Jesus per­sonally (2:22) and had heard the anointed gospel of His apostles.


This common way of life is also capable of varying degrees of participation, as out­lined above. All that is really necessary within a congregation is that there be a core where such life is fully developed; it is up to the Spirit to draw disciples into it, and up to them to get as “close to the fire” as they can without feeling burned. Having said that, however, it must be noted that the common life is not inci­dental to the fellowship of the church; it is rather a necessary manifesta­tion of the social life of the kingdom of God.14 It is an essential part of God’s solution to the poverty, joblessness, injustice and inequality that fill this planet, and people who hunger and thirst for justice in the way God does should be excited at the prospect of being a part of His solution. The corrup­tion that is in the world can be reduced to one word: “lust” (2 Peter 1:4). And lust, in whatev­er form it may take, boils down to a desire for what is unlawful and corrupting. It springs from a compul­sive distrust of God’s promise to provide all that we need at the right time, and it is deeply ingrained within the flesh of us all. What better way to war against this deadly compul­sion than to open up all that we possess to the fellow citizens with whom we shall share eternal glory (in common) in the new Jerusalem? Life in the society of the church was struc­tured by the Spirit of Jesus to permit the anticipa­tion of heaven­ly glory even now, and the anticipa­tion of the heavenly life-style even now (at least, in their beginning forms). Does it not thrill your heart to realize that the church is actually God’s answer to all of the pressing prob­lems of human exis­tence?


6. An authority-filled body


As Christ’s body, the Christian com­mu­ni­ty is the place where His authori­ty is exercised. The local church, if in a condition of faithful­ness, can speak and act with the authority of Christ Himself (Matthew 18:14-20). This is possible because it is possible for the assembly of a faithful band of disciples to enter into the mind of Christ in any important issue (e.g., Acts 15); Christ can communicate His will and His solutions to His people, who listen to that will and are ready to obey that will.


The church must necessarily have the authority to enforce all of the commands of the Lord and of the apostles. A cardinal principle and axiom of church authority, therefore, is this: Wherever there is a responsibility or a com­mand, the local church has authority to see that it is faithfully ex­ecuted.


If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if any­one does not recognize this, he is not recognized (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).


“He is not recognized.” By whom? By Paul, of course; but also by the con­gregation that is faithful to Paul. Such a statement implies authority to enforce it. The local church therefore has divinely-given authority to see that Paul’s instruc­tions (and there­fore all the instructions in the New Testa­ment) are being faithfully car­ried out.


So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us (2 Thessalonians 2:15).


What would such a command be worth if it were not addressed to a body that had the authority to see that it was carried out by its members? And, indeed, Paul makes such an assumption of autho­rity even clearer a few paragraphs later:


And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter take spe­cial note of that man and do not associate with him, that he may be put to shame (3:14).


Such commands are not vague admonitions, nor are they addressed merely to individual believers. They require and assume autho­rity to carry them out in particular cases. The concept and practice of authori­ty in the church has been alien to Protestant ways of thinking for generations now, but there can be no recovery of apostolic Christianity without a reco­very of the authority promised and implied in the apostol­ic writings.


It is obvious that the church can only command of us what is required by Christ and His apostles, as recorded in the Scrip­tures -- no more and no less. But what specific areas do the Scrip­tures bring under the authority of the local church?



It is rather obvious that this understanding of the church’s au­thority implies that Protestants have much to learn from the Catho­lic tradi­tions of Chris­tendom about the nature and the ex­tent of the authority that is given to the local church by Christ (to the church, mind you, not to popes, councils or denomination­al head­quarters)16 In their reaction­ary attitudes and hasty scho­lar­ship, the Protestant reformers minimized the authority that the church has a right to exercise in the name of Christ. And, in doing so, they created the conditions for the future the­ologi­cal chaos and the cult of the individual that by our day have already swept over Protes­tantism. The relative ease with which heresy and outright unbelief have swept through various Protes­tant denomi­nations has been due in large mea­sure to the absence of organs of local church authority. The lack of the structures and tradi­tions of authori­ty led to the local chur­ches’ inability to examine and come to a common mind about various new movements and to render an effective judgment concerning those move­ments.


The significance of all this

Do you want to know the significance of the restoration of the in­tegrity, the discipline the ministries and the common life of the local church? When the local Christian communi­ty is walking in the possession of its rightful, Christ-bestowed inheritance the fol­lowing will be no longer needed (among Chris­tians): the psychologist’s counsel,17 missionary societies, life and health insurance, unemployment com­pensation and bank loans.18 Is that too bold and “idealistic,” or is it simply what Christians can have if they are wil­ling to pay the price for it?




NEXT CHAPTER


FOOTNOTES


1 Jeremiah 31:31-34 <back>

2 In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same Greek term is translated “assembly” (N.A.S.B. translation). It’s meaning overlaps with the term “sunagoge” (“sunagwgh” from which the term “synagogue” is derived). Both terms can refer to the whole assembly of Israel in the abstract (e.g. Psalm 111:1, 149:1), to large actual purpose­ful gather­ings of the people (e.g., Ex. 12:3, Deut. 9:10), or to smaller groups (e.g., of prophets in 1 Samuel 19:20, stones in Job 7:17). <back>

3 Paul Jewett, “CHURCH,” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), p. 226. <back>

4 Its secular use is seen in Acts 19:39. <back>

5 Thomas M. Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Cen­turies (Minnea­polis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1977), p. 10-11. <back>

6 In those few cases where the term is used in a broader sense than that of the local community, “the church” can be thought to denote not merely all the belie­vers or congregations who are now on earth, but all who will in fact be assembled around God in the coming heavenly city, seen as if they were al­ready in assembly: all of the elect who have lived, who do now live, and who will live. That great assembly is not only an abstrac­tion and ideal, but is the actual number of saints who will be in the fu­ture assembly, every one of whom is already known by God. <back>

7 The section on the apostolic ministry in the next chapter will des­cribe the only partial exception to this principle. <back>

8 Paul was the founding apostle of the Corinthian Church, for which see Acts 18. <back>

9 “The First Epistle of Clement.” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, Roberts & Donaldson, ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1885; reprint 1973), p. 1-21. In later tradition, when monarchical “bish­ops” had evolved into preeminence over their fellow elders, Clement was regarded as a bishop of Rome. In fact, how­ever, he was probably one among the presbyters (elders) of the church in Rome. <back>

10 Greek: “koinwnia” - “koinonía”. <back>

11 This picture of a household helps us to understand the baptism of the two “households” in Acts 16: that of Lydia (vss. 14-15) and that of the Ephesian jailer (vs. 30-33). While we would not think of using the term “house­hold” unless there were children involved, people in Biblical times would have no such restriction. That is why the author of Acts could also say that the household of the jailer also “believed” (vs. 34). <back>

12 One of course sees here the need for leadership that provides care­ful super­vision and correc­tive disci­plines as well. The same apostle who taught us to have instincts for equality in the brotherhood also taught us “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). <back>

13 It ought to go without saying, that there is nothing at all sinful in the eyes of God for someone to choose to have homeowner’s or auto insurance (usually a legal require­ment), or to have a life insurance policy. One man has faith to eat all things, while another does not; one has faith to forgo life insurance, and another does not see it as an article of faith (See Romans 14). Who am I to judge the servant of another in this kind of matter? <back>

14 See the supplemental essay, “The Jerusalem ‘Experiment’(?)” <back>

15 i.e., the authority only declares that the person had severed himself from Christ by his unrepented sin. <back>

16 Councils of congregational leaders can of course meet together to resolve all manner of problems that concern a given region; and of course they would have access to the mind of Christ. But the conclusions of that assembly would not be authorita­tive and binding in and of themselves; the local bodies retain their authority, and must accept any such council’s conclusions as being of Christ before they have autho­ri­­ty in that body. This is similar to the concept of conciliar authority in Eastern Orthodox Churches (although they give authority to “national churches” instead of local churches): it is acceptance by the church that makes a council authoritative, not its own claim of being ecumeni­cal. <back>

17 Biblical counsel, intimate fellowship and deliverance ministry will eliminate the need for it; it only came into being by virtue of the lack of those things. <back>

18 These things are not at all being condemned as sinful. What is being affirmed is that they will simply wither and cease among believers because their counter­parts avail­able in the body life of the church are quite superior. <back>