Vol.III No.XII Pg.5
January 1967

Local Church Is No Sham

Robert F. Turner

Paul wanted to "join himself to the disciples" in Jerusalem. (Acts 9:26) What does this mean? It means he "wanted to be accepted and known among the saints in Jerusalem as being a true disciple and to enjoy all the blessings of fellowship and common togetherness enjoyed by the disciples." That is the explanation one brother makes of it, as he, of all things, ridicules the existence of the local church with its functions.

And what is a local church, but that relationship which he has described? Note, (1) Paul WAS a saint in Jerusalem, whether they accepted and recognized him or not. That relationship was established with God when he obeyed the gospel. But now he wanted something else---and rightly so. He wanted to be accepted and recognized by fellow saints. And to what end? (2) To enjoy the blessings of fellowship, etc. Does this mean he wished to worship with them? Who will deny it? Did he wish to work with them, as he encouraged saints to work together in Phil. 4:15; 1 Thess. 5:12, and elsewhere? Consistency demands it. And (3) what is this "common togetherness" of which our iconoclast speaks? Could it include such things as "had all things common" (Acts 2:44-f), selling possessions and making a pooled fund available for specified purposes? (5:32-f) If so (and I affirm it is) this is collective action by every fair standard of definition.

Paul's early rejection, then later reception by the Jerusalem disciples shows they exercised their will in this matter. (Acts 9:26-f) (Remember, Paul WAS a saint before acceptance.) So put it all together. Paul "held membership" (which in a scriptural sense means nothing more than being one of the group of saints who worked and worshipped together) in Jerusalem.

When someone seeks to prejudice his readers with sectarian terms, and denies the very existence of the organized local church----apparently because he doesn't like the word "organization," although he admits every element legitimately demanded by such a word---that fellow is getting close to being a true "iconoclast." Don't let the old meaning "breaker of images" fool you. Today an iconoclast is "One who attacks cherished beliefs as---(note, AS, not "or") shams; a radical." Webster's Unabridged. The first or historical definition does not fit today's ridiculer of the local church.

If there are those who have an erroneous conception of "church" (and I do not doubt they exist, and have written many articles on this theme) then meet their actual error. Positively set forth the scriptures on the subject. And get out of the local church (saints in---who enjoy all the blessings of fellowship and common togetherness) that supports you from a common treasury. Consistency would surely demand this.

Certainly "church" has been abused, as has many other words long used. If "ecclesia" had never been translated, usage would have abused it. (Witness "ecclesiastical") Changing the word will be of little help today unless we teach the N.T. meaning of whatever word we use; and an iconoclast never builds anything.