Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Peters: "The local assembly and the individual believer belong organically together."

One of the implications of the continuity of church ministry down through the centuries is a very real connection to the original ministry of the apostles. But one of the characteristics that has been lost in recent times is the centrality of the local church and the corporate nature of gospel ministry.

In "A Biblical Theology of Missions", George Peters makes the case from 2 Corinthians 8 and Philippians 2, and even as the priesthood of the believer as a fundamental truth of Scripture is to be maintained, there is no *authoritative" autonomy of the individual believer in the ministry of the gospel. Or, drawing upon an analogy from the legendary history of the Lone Star State, the Bible knows of no lone ranger cowboys in the work of the gospel.

So Peters:

"We must be careful...not to..put the congregation as an organization between Christ and the individual believer in such a manner that it destroys the precious doctrine of the personal relationship and individual priesthood of the believer. The Christ-church-individual relationship is not a salvation relationship, as indicated before; it is an authority relationship and refers to service rather than salvation. But neither must the individual priesthood of the believer be elevated above the church as the mystic body of Christ or local congregation of believers. One danger is as perilous as the other.

"We have reached here another one of the New Testament’s seeming paradoxes where only the spiritual mind can deliver us from contradictions and frustrations. The local assembly and the individual believer belong organically together, and they must function harmoniously if the full biblical truth is to be manifested. While there is governmental autonomy of the local church, there is no such governmental autonomy of the individual believer. Neither is there governmental autonomy of the individual missionary when it relates to his service.

"The missionary is always a sent one and remains under authority of the church or church-delegated agency. He is always only a representative of authority, never an authority in himself. The authority of Christ seems to be delegated and transferred to the local congregation of believers. No one lives unto himself nor is anyone a law or authority unto himself.

"Thus, while the call of Christ comes directly to the individual and there is a sending forth by Christ Himself, a spiritual church will also sense the call either directly or indirectly. And, a humble and spiritually minded individual will gladly submit to the authoritive commissioning by the local assembly as the representative body of Christ and sustain a responsible relationship to the sending authority." - George Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, pp. 222-223