House Church Talk - authority

David Anderson david at
Wed Apr 7 13:18:03 EDT 2004

    Hi all, 

I was discussing church authority on another list. Some of this may be of 
interest to you...

Onesimus was exhorted by Paul to return and continue under the authority 
of his master, Philemon. Here is another example of authority outside the 
church, albeit in a Christian context. Inside the church, slaves and 
masters stood side by side as co-equals - brothers in Christ. Philemon, 
btw, was part of a house church:

1: ¶ Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto 
Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2  And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the 
church in thy house:

I come from a Presbyterian background. Presbyterians take much pride in 
their system of church courts. They have a local Session, a regional 
Presbytery, and a national body sometimes referred to as the General 
Assembly. Years ago, I actually had to point out to another Presbie 
minister that the disciplinary process in Mat thew 18 did not require a 
group of elders - much less these other courts: 

Matt. 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go 
and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, 
thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take 
with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses 
every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell 
it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto 
thee as an heathen man and a publican. 

Several years ago, I preached at a small Presbie church in the Bristol, 
VA area. The church doors are now padlocked and the paint is peeling 
away. Why? Because none of the members or even the officers had the 
"authority" to preach or administer the sacraments. Funny, those who 
believe that they are authorized to do such things also believe that they 
should be paid for these services. In this case, the money had dried up.

Another point of interest: Over the years, I noticed that among the 
ministers in our Presbytery, that those who were called to another church 
were almost always called to a larger church. I am sure there must have 
been an occasional exception somewhere but this was definitely the 

      David Anderson


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