Vol.XIII No.IX Pg.5
November 1976

- -Its Distinctive Role And Function

Robert F. Turner

(continued from preceding page)

and may receive (Acts 11:30). Such a group may collect funds (1 Cor. 16:2), pay wages (2 Cor. 11:8), care for widows indeed (1 Tim. 5: 16). It is absurd to deny that such a church is an entity or that it is organized literally. It functions as an organic whole, requiring some form of management (overseers), and servants (deacons) who act on behalf of the whole (Rom. 16:1; Phil. 2:25; Col. 1:17).

We are a part of the body of Jesus Christ by virtue of our obedience to Him, and the will of men cannot keep us out of that universal church. But our relationship in the local church is subject to the will and judgment of men. Jerusalem disciples refused to accept Paul into their fellowship because they were afraid of him (Acts 9:26-28). In Corinth, one was kept in the local fellowship who should not have been allowed there (1 Cor. 5:1-f), and elsewhere some were cast out of the church wrongfully (3 Jn. 9-10).

The local church, as an organization, is a functional implement. It is divinely authorized (see passages above) and appointed (see Titus 1:5), as the means by which saints pool their efforts and resources to accomplish divine purposes. It is brought into existence by the will of saints, as its need is dictated by circumstances of place and opportunity; and the importance of such together activity is impressed upon us as a part of faithfulness (Heb. 10:23-f). It may be viewed as the result of faithfulness to the Lord, under given circumstances, without being considered as the means of redemption nor as the object or focal point for our faith. As circumstances change, the local church may be discontinued without affecting the life of the universal organism from which it sprang. (We are assuming, of course, a situation where there no longer exists a plurality of saints who could work as one.) There is no spiritual life for an individual saint apart from the organism (body) of Christ; but ones spiritual life does not depend upon the existence of a local organization. Barnabas exhorted brethren to cleave unto the Lord NOT unto the church (Acts 11:20, 21, 23).

With the previously given definition of organism in mind; is my relationship with another saint in Bur- net, Texas governed by our relation to the whole local church in Burnet, or by our relation to the whole universal body of Christ? Of what body do we find our basic sphere of fellowship? To what head must we mutually look for guidance? To what Vine must we mutually cling in order to bear acceptable fruit? With no desire nor intent to deprecate the importance of saints working together in a local church. I must conclude that our work there grows out of and is dependent upon our relationship in the Lord. Our primary loyalty must be to Him. In fact, my lack of faithfulness to the Head (Christ) may be valid reason for my being expelled from the fellowship of the local church.

We therefore conclude that while the universal church is permanent — a figurative organism; the local church is an organizational implement, dictated by circumstances, to be used by saints in local collective functions.