Thursday, February 05, 2009

Congregational Government

Twice in Matthew Jesus says these words:
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19; 18:18
Interesting applications by J. Howard Yoder, here.
My two cents:
In both instances Jesus references "binding and loosing" in the context of the church [ekklesia], the only difference between the two is that one is addressed directly to Peter, "you" singular and the other, presumably is addressed to the assembled congregation, "you" plural. In other words, in one case Peter the Apostle is given heavenly authority to "bind and loose" things on earth, and in the other case that same authority is given to the church body, to the congregation.
Notice Paul the Apostle's words to the Corinthians:
Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present... 1 Corinthians 5:3-4
Another passage on church discipline. Paul seems to be saying that although I am not, physically present, the assembled church has the same authority to make judgments that I would have if I were present. Notice also that the phrase, "our Lord Jesus is present" may allude to Christ's words in Matthew 18:20, For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
Congregational government seems to take the place of apostolic authority. In the New Testament the apostles and Paul, and perhaps James rule with authority over the church, that authority is also vested in the gathered body of the church as well. Normal practice for New Testament churches, as taught by Paul at least, seems to be that what was apostolic authority now rests in the gathered whole as we assemble in Christ's name.


Chris said...

So is there a distinction in the NT between the authority of the church and the authority of the elders/pastors?

Chancellor Ben said...

I would make the distinction between apostolic authority and congregational authority; congregational authority being equal to apostolic authority when an apostle is not present. This is what I think Jesus and Paul were trying to say in the quoted passages. Maybe a discussion of "what is an apostle" is necessary. The role of the elder/pastor is of a different type. They seem to have a role of serving/teaching/living out the word before the church.