Independent Churches - A Biblical Defense (Part 1) - Associations and Denominations are Unbiblical

Watch the video of this sermon on YouTube: Independent Churches - A Biblical Defense (Part 1) - Associations and Denominations are Unbiblical A copy of the outline can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. To listen to the next sermon in the series, click here: Part 2 For more info on why we aren't Primitive Baptists, click here: Why We Aren't Primitive Baptists Independent Churches - A Biblical Defense I. Denominations, associations, conventions, districts, synods, dioceses, and any other type of "church" hierarchies are unbiblical. 1. There are no Popes, Patriarchs, Major Archbishops, Cardinals, Primates, Metropolitans, Archbishops, or Diocesan Bishops in the Bible (Catholicism). 2. There are no Archdioceses or Dioceses in the Bible (Catholicism and Lutheranism). 3. There are no General Conferences, Council of Bishops, or Judicial Councils in the Bible (Methodism). 4. There are no Sessions, Presbyteries (in the Presbyterian denominational sense of the word), Synods, or General Assemblies in the Bible (Presbyterianism). 5. There are no General Councils, Conferences, Districts, Presidents, Vice Presidents, or District Superintendents in the Bible (Christian and Missionary Alliance-ism) 6. There are no Conventions, Associations, Conferences, or Unions of churches in the Bible (some Baptists - Southern Baptist, Primitive Baptist, etc.). II. The word "church" in the Bible refers to only three things: 1. A local congregation of baptized believers who assemble together to be taught about God and to worship Him (Act 11:26). A. Church n. - III. 10. A congregation of Christians locally organized into a society for religious worship and spiritual purposes, under the direction of one set of spiritual office-bearers. B. There are many local churches (Rom 16:4; 1Th 2:14; Rev 1:4). C. Local churches are named by their geographical location (Act 13:1; Rom 16:1; 1Co 1:2). D. Each local congregation is "the church" (1Co 6:4; 1Ti 3:5), not part of the church. E. Each local congregation is "the whole church" (Rom 16:23; 1Co 14:23), not part of the whole church. F. Each local congregation is "the body of Christ" (1Co 12:27), not part of the body of Christ. 2. The institution of the local church. A. Jesus built His church in Jerusalem which was a local church and promised that the institution of the local church would never be destroyed (Mat 16:18). i. Jesus was not referring to the local church at Jerusalem alone when He said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it because the local church in Jerusalem came to an end in 70AD when Jerusalem was destroyed. ii. It was rather the institution of the local church, which is the kingdom of God (Dan 2:44), that Jesus promised would not come to an end. B. There will be glory given to God in the church until the end of time (Eph 3:21). i. This cannot be speaking of a particular local church because all local churches come and go: none have lasted from the first century until now. ii. It is rather referring to the institution of the local church. iii. There will always be one or more local churches on this earth giving glory to God until the last day of time. 3. The congregation of all of God's redeemed elect from all time. A. This church is called the general assembly and church of the firstborn (Heb 12:23). B. This church is the bride of Christ for which He died (Eph 5:25-27). C. This church does not and cannot assemble on earth, but assembles in heaven. III. The word "church" in the Bible never refers to a denomination, association, convention, synod, diocese, group of congregations, or any other type of "church" hierarchy. 1. When more than one church is addressed in the Bible, they are called "churches", not "the church" (Rom 16:16; 1Co 16:19). 2. There is no office given in the NT to oversee multiple congregations or unbiblical organizations such as denominations, associations, conventions, synods, dioceses, etc. (the office of apostle will be addressed in Section IX). 3. A bishop is the overseer of a local church, not a "diocese" of congregations. A. Bishop n. - 1. A spiritual superintendent or overseer in the Christian Church. B. A bishop, an elder, and a pastor are three different titles for the same office (Tit 1:5-7; Act 20:17,28; Eph 4:11-12). C. Pastor n. - 1. A herdsman or shepherd. Now unusual. 2. A shepherd of souls; one who has the spiritual oversight over a company or body of Christians, as bishop, priest, minister, etc.; spec. the minister in charge of a church or congregation, with particular reference to the spiritual care of his ‘flock’. IV. Individual churches are addressed in the Bible, not denominations, associations, or groups of churches (1Co 1:2; 1Th 1:1). 1. Jesus addressed the seven churches in Asia individually, not collectively (Rev 2-3). A. Jesus did not address the book of Revelation to "the church in Asia", nor "the Asian Church", nor "the West-Asian Convention of Churches", nor "the Asian Association of Churches", but rather "to the seven churches which are in Asia" (Rev 1:4). B. Jesus praised or upbraided them based on their own actions (Rev 2-3). i. One church was not condemned or held responsible for the sins of another. ii. One church was not commended for the good works of another. C. If "the church" in the Bible refers to a denomination consisting of many congregations such as the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church, the Alliance Church, etc., then, for instance, how could one Lutheran congregation be held accountable for the sins of another Lutheran congregation in another country if "the Lutheran Church" were condemned in a letter by Jesus Christ for its sin? D. It obviously could not. 2. The letter to the churches of Galatia is an exception to the general rule in the Bible that churches are addressed individually, in that the epistle was addressed to more than one church (Gal 1:2). A. But even when Paul wrote to multiple congregations in Galatia, he addressed his letter to "the churches of Galatia" (Gal 1:2), not to "the church of Galatia" or to "the Galatian Church." B. Since there was more than one church in Galatia that had been infected with the same heresy, Paul efficiently addressed them together. C. Paul did similarly when he instructed the church at Colosse to read the letter that he sent to the church of the Laodiceans, and for the Colossians to likewise read their letter (Col 4:16). D. He did so because there were many general doctrinal and practical topics that were addressed in his epistles that were applicable to all local churches. V. Many of the Primitive Baptist churches are members of associations and oftentimes have elders from one or more churches governing, meddling in, or influencing another church. 1. This is unbiblical. 2. Christians should not be busybodies involved in other men's matters, and neither should pastors or churches (1Pe 4:15; Pro 26:17). 3. God warns His people against associating themselves with others (Isa 8:9-13; Isa 5:8-10). 4. Associate - 1. trans. To join (persons, or one person with (to arch.) another), in (to obs.) common purpose, action, or condition; to link together, unite, combine, ally, confederate. 5. When one pastor or church associates itself with another (such as Philadelphia with Laodicea, hypothetically), it would end up being a partaker of other men's sins (1Ti 5:22). 6. When a church communes together, they are all partakers together (1Co 10:17). A. Primitive Baptist churches that commune with other churches in the association who are in moral sin or doctrinal error would be partaking with sinners (Psa 50:18; Eph 5:3-7) and fellowshipping with darkness (Eph 5:11). B. A local church can guard against this within their local church by exercising church discipline and excluding commonly known sinners from the Lord's Table (1Co 5:1-13). i. Paul's instruction in 1Co 5 was to the local church at Corinth. a. No other church or pastor was told to exercise discipline on the church of Corinth, and therefore no other church can or should do it. b. The argument from silence applies here (Heb 7:13-14). ii. A local church would likely not be aware of a sin problem in another church in a different location that they were communing with once or twice a year. iii. If they did know about it and tried to exclude that church from their communion, they would be exercising authority that was never given to them. iv. To do so would require that an unscriptural office be created wherein one elder would have authority over other churches in the association. v. This is exactly what the Primitive Baptists have done: the position is called the Moderator of the association who is elected by Delegates sent from the several churches in the association. vi. Just to read the previous sentence should make sick any Christian who takes the Bible as his only rule for faith and practice. vii. Jesus is the head of the local church (Col 1:18 c/w 1Co 12:27) and to put another person or office between Jesus and His local church is to usurp His authority. viii. One unscriptural thing leads to another -- iniquity unto iniquity (Rom 6:19).
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