Autonomy of the Local Church

Matthew 22:17-21


I.         Introduction (Matthew 20:18-19)


A.      This is a most important truth for the Christian

B.       There is such a power-base that has been set up by the Catholic religious hierarchy, and by other denominations, over the people of churches whereas, Jesus vested all power in Himself, through people at the “grass-roots”

C.       Every politician knows the power of a grass-root movement

D.      It all started with Jesus

E.       The New Testament neither mandates nor gives examples of ecclesiastical hierarchies. The church is autonomous and sovereign in all its actions whether in discipline of members (1 Corinthians 6), election of officers (Acts 6) or in its associations with other churches (Acts 15).

F.       There is no higher authority than an assembly of believers meeting to transact business with a pastor as its leader. There is no ecclesiastical authority higher than the local church. The church is administered by the elected representatives of the members.


II.       Review - Biblical Authority (1Cor 1:10)


A.      The Authority Established by God (Psalm 138:2) – His Own Words

B.       The Authority of a Church therefore is: Not in apostles, experience, its leaders. It is ONLY in the words of almighty God

C.       What Other Authorities Does The Bible Say Exist? (Rom 13)


1.        Your parents

2.        The government – Garda, TD’s, councillors

3.        Pastors, Sunday School teachers


D.      What Do Baptists Do When Authorities Conflict (Acts 4:18,19)?


1.        We Stay by the Bible


a.       Won’t call a religious man “father”

b.       We don’t waste time trying to pray to Mary

c.       We dump idols and religious statues – dump them

d.       We love each other – even when it is hard to – because God says to

e.       We go out and tell a lost world how to get saved!

f.        And if it costs us our lives to obey this Book, so be it!


2.        We do what the Bible says over and above what the world says:


III.     Background


A.      Autonomy in relation to a New Testament church means Three Things


1.        Self-Governing – they make their own decisions

2.        Self-Supporting – they raise their own money

3.        Self-Propagating – they win the world around them


B.       When a group of bound Bible-believing Christians change any of these three things, they join the trek BACK to ROME!


IV.    Lesson - Autonomy of the Local Church


A.      Autonomy means “Self-Governing” (Acts 2:42; 5:29)


1.        In the New Testament, each Church


a.       Elected its own officers – deacons (Acts 6)

b.       Called its own pastor – never selected for them

c.       Disciplined its own members (1Cor 5)

d.       Sent out its own missionaries (Acts 13)

e.       Checked out other churches to see if they were doctrinally correct (Acts 11-15)


2.        "Autonomous" means Independent – or Free.


a.       That doesn’t mean we claim to be independent of

1)       God – not humanists

2)       Each other – not hermits

3)       The Bible – religionists

4)       Government – We know God ordained human government (Gen 9; Rom 13)

5)       Examination – we don’t hide from the world, but are an example to the world (Mt 5:16; 1tim 4:12)


a)       Of how a government should function

b)       Of how justice should operate

c)       Of what God expects of people


b.       What “free” does mean (John 8:36,38):


1)       We, as a Bible-believing church have become an authority under God – along side with government, and family - Equal

2)       We are therefore FREE from all dominion, and pose no threat of dominion to any


a)       No Bible-believing church fights any war

b)       An Irishman, or an American, or an English man may be required to fight

c)       But no Christian, representing a church fights anything!


3)       We are free from absolute human authority – king, or pope

4)       We are free from sin’s dominion – we are now free to do right

5)       We are free from this world’s dominion

6)       We are free from other churches – we as a group stand before God


3.        Three aspects of self-governing:


a.       The church is not subject to any group within us (Mt 23:8).


1)       The local church is governed as a body--not by internal organizations.

2)       No organization within governs the church.


a)       An inner-group, or secret society

b)       A particular Sunday School class

c)       A group of wealthy believers in the church

d)       The Choir

e)       The Christian School


b.       The church is not subject to any external group.


1)       No denomination, convention, association, fellowship, synod, etc.

2)       The local church is sovereign!


a)       Makes its decisions not on a whim, but based upon “Thus saith the Lord!”

b)       Makes its decisions are co-equal with the government

c)       It can therefore disagree with the government if the government is wrong


c.       The church is not subject to the State or Government (Mt 22:17-21)


1)       We do not look to the government for financial support, or for permission to do what we do – we operate within the laws of the land, but when the laws go against God’s commands (forced abortion, prohibition of soul-winning, etc.), we just press on anyway.

2)       When someone does break the laws of the land, we submit to the punishment enacted (Acts 25:11).


B.       Autonomy Means: "Self-Supporting"


1.        Meaning, each church is responsible for its own financial support.


a.       Someone might wonder where all the money goes that is given to this church ... well, we spent it!

b.       But we decided how it would be spent!

c.       And we didn’t “tithe” back to some “mother church” or to Rome.

d.       We can and will help other churches, but we will not attempt to “buy” other churches (manipulate), or allow other churches to control US with their gifts!


2.        It is our policy that we have no car boot sales, car washes, raffles, or bingo to support the local church.

3.        We simply tell folks to give into the offering box, and we trust the Lord

4.        That is God's plan - we didn't come up with it on our own.

5.        Now, if you want to sell your old stuff, and raise some money for a special gift to help with property purchase – AMEN!


C.       Autonomy Means "Self-Propagating".


1.        Self-propagating meaning "to multiply; to spread; to extend”


a.       Our mission: the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20).

b.       If a church is not carrying out the Great Commission, it will "redirect itself' and change direction.

c.       We must grow or die.

d.       Another way to look at it is that we must evangelize or we will fossilize!


2.        Either we follow God's direction as revealed in His Word or Satan will redirect us!

3.        A New Testament church is responsible for starting New Testament kind of churches! It is not the responsibility of denominations, or religious organisations, or private individuals – a church begets a church

4.        Mission churches - here and abroad.


a.       We have served as the sponsoring church for the Bible Baptist Church of Mallow.

b.       We have helped support church planters now in France and Bolivia.

c.       We want to get more involved in starting churches all over Europe and the world.


V.      Conclusion


A.      God designed the local church to be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. Those are distinctives held by Baptists. They are simply biblical! Not all Baptists operate this way, but we are independent/free Baptists. We answer to God and God alone for what we do as a church!

B.       If we fail, it will be because we have drifted from the course that was set by our Lord in His word! We cannot improve on God's plan in our lives, in our homes, or in our church! The only way to stay right is to follow the instructions of God’s absolute authority, the word of God!

C.       Do you know Christ as your Saviour today? Are you involved in the plan and purpose of God in and through this local church? Why not come and commit yourself to the Lord and to this church?


Next Week – The Priesthood of the Believer