The Independence of a Church
DISCUSSIONS in regard to the independence of every Baptist church and of the comity or interdependence of churches shown in the constitution of a church, in the ordination of a minister, and the formation of an Association of churches, have arisen and still continue.
As before said, a church, when organized and officered according to the gospel example and precept, is complete, distinct, and independent of every other organization on earth.
The church at Corinth was complete in itself. It was addressed as the supreme Corinthian court (if such an expression may be admitted). In the party divisions that arose - some for Paul, some for Cephas -- no hint of any court of appeal or of the interference of other churches is found. The same is true of the offender; they were to act as the hightest earthly tribunal -- from whose decision there was no appeal. "When ye are gathered together to deliver such an one (the incestuous man) unto Satan," that is, to expel him, turn him over to the society or kingdom to which he belongs.
Never is it heard of the neighboring church of Cenchrea, or any others having anything to do with this general offense or any appeal. When the church forgave the offender Paul acknowledged, as seen in these words, "To whom ye forgive anything I also forgive." The seven churches of Asia are recognized as distinct and independent. The acts of each were confined to itself. "Suffering that woman Jezebel to teach" was the guilt of the church in Thyatira; concerning this no other church interfered and for it no other church was blamed.
Baptists, all along the path of their history stained with their witnessing blood, have shown their adherence to the autonomy and independence of a gospel church. Opposed in its very nature to the kingdom of this world it has been oppressed and, so far as could be, has been crushed by priests and princes.
[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Typed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]
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