Lessons From Acts 15-The Church Of Christ Has No Earthly Headquarters

It is written:

Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. (Acts 15:2)

One of the unique characteristics of the church of Christ is the fact that it is has no earthy headquarters. Christ is the Head of the church, and He reigns from Heaven.

Matthew 28:18-And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Ephesians 1:22-23-And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23  which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 5:23-For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

Colossians 1:18-And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

Each congregation (church) is autonomous (self-governing) according to the pattern of New Testament Christianity (cf. Acts 14:23; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

However, many people believe that God had intended for the church in Jerusalem to be the “headquarters”of His church on Earth. After all, it is often asked, why else would the brethren in Acts 15 go to the church in Jerusalem for their conference on the Judaizers?

Let’s study.

The text in Acts makes it clear why various congregations went to Jerusalem for guidance on dealing with the false teachers. When we study the 15th chapter of Acts, we see exactly why these folks went to Jerusalem (and it had nothing to do with Jerusalem being a “head” church on Earth).

Notice what was located in Jerusalem:

Acts 15:2-Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the APOSTLES and elders, about this question.

Acts 15:4-And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the APOSTLES and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.

Acts 15:6-Now the APOSTLES and elders came together to consider this matter.

Acts 15:22-Then it pleased the APOSTLES and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

Acts 15:23-They wrote this letter by them: The APOSTLES, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.

In each of these verses, notice who heads the list: the APOSTLES.

This is important when we recognize the authority that the Apostles of Christ had in the early church. Notice the meaning behind the word translated “apostle” in the New Testament:

“…(apostolos), literally, ‘one sent forth,’ an envoy, missionary…For the meaning of this name as it meets us in the New Testament, reference is sometimes made to classical and Jewish parallels. In earlier Classical Greek there was a distinction between an aggelos or messenger and an apostolos, who was not a mere messenger, but a delegate or representative of the person who sent him.” (J.C. Lambert, ‘Apostles,’ in James Orr, The International Standard Encyclopedia, 11559 (Kindle Edition); OSNOVA)

“apostle, the English transliteration of a Greek word meaning ‘one who is sent out.’ An apostle is a personal messenger or envoy, commissioned to transmit the message or otherwise carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent. In the NT Gospels, the term is commonly associated with the inner circle of Jesus’s twelve disciples, chosen and commissioned by him to accompany him during his ministry, to receive his teachings and observe his actions, and to follow his instructions. Thus, they are uniquely qualified to both authenticate his message and carry on his work through the ministry of the church.” (Phillip L. Shuler, ‘Apostles,’ in Mark Allen Powell (General Editor), HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, 2830 (Kindle Edition; emphasis added); HarperCollins E-Books)

Apostello and Pempo. In secular Greek the verbs apostello and pempo are used of the sending of persons and things. There is, however, a discernible difference in the usage of the two terms. Pempo is used where mere sending is involved, whereas apostello is used to denote sending of persons with a commission and in some cases to denote a divine sending and authorization…Those who trace the idea of the Christian apostolate back to Jesus recognize, of course, that Jesus Himself probably did not use the Greek term apostolos. He would have used, most likely, either the Aramaic (Seliha), or the Hebrew “Saliah) equivalent…The institution of the Saliah is well documented in rabbinic writings…where it refers to someone who has been authorized to carry out certain functions on behalf of another. The adage ‘a man’s envoy is as himself’ occurs frequently in the rabbinic literature, and it underlines both the representative character of the Sailah and that he carries the full authority of his principal.” (C.G. Kruse, ‘Apostles,’ in Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight (Editors, Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels: A Compendium Of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, 2088-2104 (Kindle Edition; emphasis added); Downers Grove, Illinois; Intervarsity Press)

The Hebrew background of the Greek term also teaches us some important lessons as well:

“The word apostolos comes from the verb apostellein, which means to send out…..The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. In matters of religion, the Sanhedrin had authority over every Jew throughout the world. When the Sanhedrin came to a decision, that decision was given to an apostolos to convey it to the persons whom it concerned and to see that it was carried out. When such an apostolos went out, behind him and in him lay the authority of the Sanhedrin, whose representative he was.” (William Barclay, The Letters to the Galantians and Ephesians (The New Daily Study Bible), 85 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

The Apostles had an utterly unique authority in Christendom. Their authority from the Lord gave them the ability to bind and to loose (Matthew 18:18). This authority could not be passed on to others. Such was the nature involved in the word “apostle.”

“We saw in Chapter Four that the principle of apostolicity was central to the idea of a canon, and that it stems from the earliest days of the Christian community-indeed from the lifetime of Jesus himself. He appointed the Twelve to be his apostles, his shelichim, a word with very special meaning in Judaism. It meant a representative equipped with the full powers of his principal…“…It is interesting to note that the Jewish shaliach (apostle) could not hand on his commission to anyone else; it was for him alone…There was something unique and unrepeatable about their position. They were the guarantors of the continuity between the incarnate Jesus who walked the streets of Palestine and the glorified Jesus whom the church worshipped.” (Dr. Michael Green, The Books The Church Suppressed: Fiction And Truth In The Da Vinci Code, 84-84; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Monarch Books; emphasis added)

The reason why the church met in Jerusalem to discuss these matters was simple: Jerusalem is where the Apostles were living (at that particular time). It had nothing to do with Jerusalem being a “head church.”

the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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