In the beginning when the church gathered it was just a matter of only believers and non-believers. Today numerous other questions arise; such as “Connection,” “Order,” “Practice,” “Belief,” etc. But there are one or two things which must still govern this matter. They are: The local church or assembly is intended to be locally all that the Church as a whole is universally. It must not be smaller in its vision, its vocation, its relatedness. Though locally placed, it is universal in nature, outreach, concern, and function. If it lives unto itself it will die. Fullness is dependent upon its spiritual length and breadth, and height and depth.
The local church is the spiritual training-ground for all usefulness to the Lord. There all the essential lessons are learned, not by teaching alone, but by spiritual discipline. The very vital lesson of subjection to the Lord which means so much in the matter of spiritual growth is learned in a very practical way in a true assembly and fellowship life. All independent, unrelated, and merely personal life is impossible when the “Body” is truly recognized.
The matter of pre-eminent importance in the local church, as in the universal, is the absolute sovereign headship of Christ. Anything which usurps this, or in any way conflicts with it, will most certainly result in spiritual limitation and proportionate retarding of growth. Is this not why, in the New Testament churches, no one man exercised headship, but elders – not an elder – were appointed.
The “Body” principle is upheld in the corporate, and individual sovereignty is prevented. At Antioch the “Holy Spirit said” to a company of representative men, who were together in spiritual responsibility. Eldership is representation – spiritual measure, not ecclesiastical. The New Testament plurality of eldership means that the church is brought – as in and by its representatives – under the complete sovereignty of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
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