Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 17, 1953
NUMBER 19, PAGE 4-5a

Philippi And Corinth

From all the chaos and confusion that has attended the "centralized control" controversy a few facts are beginning to emerge in fairly clear-cut outline. For one thing, it now begins to appear that there is a practical agreement in theory among all of us as to the New Testament teaching concerning the autonomy, independency, and equality of congregations of Christians. Are we not all agreed that the Bible teaches the autonomy of each congregation, its full equality in God's sight with every other congregation, and its absolute independency? This equality, furthermore, is not dependent on a church's having an eldership. A New Testament congregation without elders (and there were such, and can be such) is still an independent, autonomous congregation in God's sight, sharing full equality with a congregation of a thousand members and with twenty-five elders.

The real issue seems to be over whether or not these principles of equality, independency, and autonomy have been in any degree violated, or are threatened with violation, in any of our modern arrangements. As Brother Brewer stated it in a recent issue of the Gospel Advocate:

"If there is any church today called a "sponsoring church" that has gone beyond the principles set forth in the explanations and definitions, then we claim no responsibility for that, nor do we agree to defend what that church is doing. If churches have surrendered their responsibility, if they have yielded up their independence and have become a subordinate to a superior church, then we do not approve, much less defend, this. All of this is implied in the inquiries and the charges that are coming to us by mail. If any of the charges are true, we disclaim responsibility and beg to be excused from acting as defense attorney. However, we have yet to be convinced that these charges are true and that such things are today being practiced."

Modern Operations In Ancient Settings

Sometimes it is possible to see the full significance of an act, and appreciate its character more truly if the deed can be put in an ancient setting. That's what we want to do with this matter of "centralized control."

Brother Brewer himself has suggested to us the possibility that Philippi was Paul's "sponsoring church" when he preached in Corinth, and that Philippi gathered funds from others churches and forwarded them on, along with her own support, to the apostle. Let us go along with our brother on that assumption and see what we have:

1. Paul going into Corinth was supported by Philippi and other congregations who sent to him through the Philippian church.

2. After some months in Corinth, and by virtue of hard and trying labor, Paul sent word back to Philippi that the Corinthians were receiving the gospel, and that a fine little congregation of eighteen souls had now been established. They were meeting regularly for worship, and were happy and united in their new relationship.

3. A disagreement arose between Paul and the church in Philippi over certain work that was being done over

in Athens (to which Philippi was also sending support).

4. The final result of the difference was that the Philippian church sent Paul a peremptory demand that he return to Philippi "within thirty days," and declared that they would no longer support him at all.

6. The Corinthian church, knowing nothing of the controversy between Paul and Philippi, was busy and happy in the kingdom of Christ. The members all loved and honored Paul, and felt an eternal depth of gratitude to him for his having brought them out of heathenism into the full and glorious salvation which is in Christ.

6. Other faithful churches over the country, hearing that Philippi was withdrawing her support of Paul, came forward to volunteer their help that Paul might remain with the struggling little band in Corinth, and so bring them on to a strong and mature congregation in Christ.

7. Then Philippi stepped forward again with the emphatic declaration that Corinth is "OUR" work; and we have plans to send another man there to preach for the Corinthian church!!

8. Was Corinth consulted about this? NO! Were the wishes of the Corinthian church known? YES! They wanted Paul to remain with them. Did Paul want to remain? YES! Could Paul have remained without the support of Philippi? Quite easily. By what right did Philippi exercise "control" over the Corinthian church? Did the fact that she had supported Paul when he planted the church there give her the right to CONTROL the church in Corinth? to tell her who could, and who could not, preach for her?

The Application

We really don't need to make any application. For Philippi in the above picture just substitute the name of "Grove Avenue, San Antonio." For Paul substitute the name of Richard Smith, and for Corinth substitute the name of Karlsruhe, Germany. And with those changes the picture is accurate and correct. This is what actually happened.

Now, will Brother Brewer still contend that there has been no violation of the rights of a congregation? If he does, we say his case is hopeless! There would be no point in any further discussion of the matter with him.

— F. Y. T.