Part IV


By Wayne Camp


In recent issues of the paper we have been reviewing an article called "Mother Churches and Daughter Churches" and then showing that there is a cloud of witnesses that would disagree with a number of statements made in that article.

There can be no doubt that the churches of the New Testament period were independent of each other. Though there are those who would tell us otherwise, they were free from any authority except that of their Head and Founder, the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of the pastors and churches with which I am acquainted boldly proclaim and faithfully practice this precious biblical and Baptist principle of church independency. But, occasionally there comes word that churches do have authority over other churches. Such an instance is the article and tract called "Mother Churches and Daughter Churches." In that article and tract, the author states his thesis clearly and unmistakably, "But I intend to demonstrate from the Scriptures that there were Churches in the apostolic age which DID HAVE authority over other Churches! And in so demonstrating this authority one over another, I will demonstrate that some of these Churches were viewed, not as sisters and equals but as "mothers" and as having authority over the younger Churches! I submit that if I can demonstrate this authority of one Church over another, I can demonstrate the concept of 'Mother Churches and Daughter Churches'!"

Again he wrote, "The Jerusalem Church exercised authority over those Churches organized out of her in similar fashion as a mother exercises authority over her young daughters!"

I will not comment on the statements. They speak for themselves. The reader may draw his own conclusions. They are pretty self-explanatory.


In the last issue I showed some of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ on the independency and autonomy of local churches. In this message I want to direct attention to the independent and autonomous nature and actions of the church at Antioch. The church at Antioch came into being when baptized believers were scattered under persecution. Acts 11:19-21 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.


When the church at Jerusalem heard about the great blessings of the Lord in Antioch, they sent Barnabas down to look into the report of the spread of the gospel in that part of the world. Acts 11:22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. When Barnabas came to Antioch and saw what had happened and was happening, he admonished the disciples to cleave unto the Lord. Acts 11:23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

To understand what was meant when he told them to cleave unto the Lord, we need to look at the word cleave. According to Strong's Lexicon the Greek word translated cleave is prosmeno {prosmenw} and is translated in the KJV, continue with 1 time, continue in 1 time, be with 1 time, cleave unto 1 time, tarry 1 time, abide still 1 time for a total of 6 times. It means, according to Strong, 1) to remain with, to continue with one; 2) to hold fast to: the grace of God received in the Gospel; 3) to remain still, tarry, stay. It does not have in it the idea of starting something new, such as a church. Rather, it has in it the idea of continuing on in the very manner in which they were going, remaining with what they were already doing, holding fast to what they already had and were doing. But Strong is not alone in his definition and explanation of cleave.

According to A. T. Robertson the word, as used in this verse, means "to keep on remaining loyal."1

W. E. Vine says the word has the idea of abiding, to abide longer. It means to continue in a thing. Paul and Barnabas used it in this manner. Acts 13:43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. It is obvious that The word translated continue in this verse is the same as translated cleave in Acts 11. Paul and Barnabas are not admonishing them to START in the grace of God. They were already in it. They were admonishing them to continue in what they were already doing, to carry on as they were already, to abide longer in that in which they were already abiding.

Paul uses the word again in this same manner. 1 Timothy 5:5 Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. The idea is that a widow, to be classified as a "widow indeed" must have already been supplicating and praying night and day. She must continue on to fit into the number of widows who are cared for by the church.

According to Thayer the word means "to remain with, to continue with, to be stedfastly devoted to, to hold fast to, to continue in, to remain still."2

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary gives the word cleave one meaning. It means "to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly."

Matthew Henry says the word has the idea of "not to fall off from following him, not to flag and tire in following him."

The evidence is overwhelming. Barnabas did not encourage them to start something that was not there. He simply encouraged them to continue on as they were, an independent, self-governing body of scripturally baptized believers fervently working together in the Lord's vineyard, a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The next few chapters make it clear that Barnabas was received into the membership of that church. There is no indication whatever that they consulted with Jerusalem about receiving him. They did not have to get permission from her to receive him. Churches of the Lord Jesus Christ have the biblical authority to receive members. Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. No other church or pastor has the right to govern nor dictate to another church in this matter. Therefore, Antioch acted independently and autonomously in the matter of receiving Barnabas. He began preaching for them and teaching them. Though Scripture does not precisely say so, at some point he apparently became an elder of this assembly for he is so named in Acts 13. The congregation of the church in Antioch continued to grow at a rapid pace. Acts 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.


With the rapid growth at Antioch, more assistance was needed in the preaching and teaching work of the assembly. Without any evidence of consultation with the church at Jerusalem, Barnabas went to Tarsus to get Paul to assist him in the work at Antioch. Acts 11:25-26 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. There is absolutely no indication that Barnabas or the church at Antioch consulted with Jerusalem or any other church in this matter. They acted independently of any other congregation. They were completely autonomous in this matter. There is no indication that a letter was sent to Jerusalem asking permission to get Paul for this work. There were no letters of authority from Jerusalem telling Barnabas and the assembly to go and get Paul. It just seems that if Antioch were still under the authority of Jerusalem at this time, and Barnabas and those at Antioch were still members at Jerusalem, there would be some indication that they consulted with Jerusalem before Barnabas went to get Paul.


By the time we get to time period in which Acts 12 is set, the church at Antioch is large enough that they receive an offering for the brethren in Judaea. When the offering was complete, the church asked Paul and Barnabas to take the offering to Judaea. Again, all indications are that Antioch acted totally independently of the church at Jerusalem. There is not the slightest indication that they consulted with Jerusalem on the matter.

They were not told by Jerusalem to take up the offering.

Jerusalem did not tell them how or by whom they should get the offering to Jerusalem.

The church was acting independently and autonomously in this matter. The church at Antioch was not under any other church's dominion or authority. All indications are that when this prophesied dearth came during the days of Claudius Caesar, the church at Antioch, without any outside interference or commands, raised this offering and sent it by the men whom they independently chose to take it there.


Then we come to Acts 13 and again we see the church in Antioch acting independently and autonomously. By this time Paul and Barnabas have returned from Jerusalem bringing the young preacher, John Mark. In addition, as the church has grown, there are more elders among them, sharing in the pastoral responsibilities. Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. There are six named brethren who were prophets and teachers in this assembly. There was at least one other there named Silas who was later chosen by Paul to accompany him on his second missionary journey.

Surely this large assembly that is at least two or more years old and that has six named elders working in the teaching and preaching ministry there in the church is not still under the authority of Jerusalem. It is almost staggering to think that someone would suggest that such a large church with a multiplicity of elders would still be under the authority of the church in Jerusalem. But, that is what we are asked to believe.

As they minister to the Lord, the Holy Spirit commands the church at Antioch to separate Barnabas and Paul to do the work to which he has called him. Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Let me call a very important fact to your attention. If, in fact, this was an unorganized assembly that was still under the authority of Jerusalem, it seems that the Holy Spirit would have instructed the church at Jerusalem to send out these missionaries.

According to the popular tradition, if Antioch were not an independent church at this time, Paul and Barnabas would still be members at Jerusalem. If, in fact, Antioch was not truly a church at this time, the entire assembly, according to the tradition, would be members of the international church that was headquartered in Jerusalem. Antioch would only be a branch of the body in Jerusalem. Therefore, it seems the Holy Spirit would have instructed Jerusalem to send forth these missionaries whom he had called.

What does the Holy Spirit do? He instructs this assembly in Antioch to do this. He instructed the assembly in Antioch, not Jerusalem, to send forth these missionaries. Whatever they were, they could carry out the command and commission of the Holy Spirit without any evident input or instructions from Jerusalem.

In the light of the traditional law, this raises a some very important questions. If, in fact, the folks at Antioch were still NOT an ORGANIZED church, by what authority were they sending forth missionaries? If this group of baptized believers did NOT compose a TRUE church at this time, by what authority were they sending forth Paul and Barnabas? If, in fact, the baptized believers who were assembling in Antioch were members in Jerusalem, what qualified them to send forth missionaries separate and independent of Jerusalem? I would like to know if an unorganized group of baptized believers had the authority to launch what proved to be the most momentous mission effort of the entire church age?

The Holy Spirit was evidently satisfied that Antioch was a true, organized, independent, autonomous church that needed no directions, commands, or authority from Jerusalem to send forth missionaries. Dear Reader, please notice that they received their authority, yeah, their command, to send forth Barnabas and Paul directly from the Lord, not from Jerusalem.

We further note that they did not hesitate to act independently in this matter. They apparently never even considered consulting with Jerusalem on the matter. When they received the command by the Holy Spirit they fasted, prayed and then laid hands on them and sent them away. Acts 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. They had a direct command of the Holy Spirit to obey and needed no authority from any other church in this matter.

It is also noteworthy that Paul and Barnabas did not see any need to consult Jerusalem on the matter. In the past both had been members there but were no more. They were members and pastors in Antioch. Now, called by the Holy Spirit and separated to that work in obedience to the command of the Holy Spirit, they immediately set off to do the work to which God had called them. Acts 13:4-5 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.

The missionaries separated from Antioch go forth to the work. For several months, perhaps more than a year, they travel, preach, and baptize. Churches are organized and pastors are ordained in those churches they organize. When the journey is over, Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch (not Jerusalem) and make known to the church what happened with them on that journey. Acts 14:26-27 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. 27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

What marvelous simplicity when mission work is done as the Lord directed! They had gone from Antioch to Selucia, to Salamis in Cyprus, to Paphos in Cyprus, to Perga in Pamphylia, to Antioch in Pisidia, to Iconium, to Lystra, to Derbe, back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, to Perga, to Attalia and finally back to Antioch of Syria from which they were sent. In several, if not all of these places, they had seen the establishment of churches—independent, autonomous, local churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had apparently not even contacted Antioch, much less Jerusalem, during their journey. And, believe it or not, this was all accomplished without even a month spent in deputation work raising support for the trip.


While Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch after their successful journey, a problem arose concerning circumcision and other Jewish customs which some desired to force onto the churches and believers among the Gentiles. When a strong disputation arose between these Judaizers and Paul and Barnabas, the independent, autonomous church in Antioch determined they should seek the advice of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. Acts 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

When they came to Jerusalem they were received of the church there. When the matter was fully discussed the church at Jerusalem, with the apostles and elders, sent a letter giving their recommendation in the matter. Acts 15:22-23 Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.

In the matters recorded in Acts 15 we have one independent, autonomous congregation that desired the advice of another such assembly in which there were several people, including the apostles, who had companied with Christ during his personal ministry and were personally acquainted with his teachings.


I would like to call some uninspired witnesses on this very matter. What have Baptists historically held on this matter? Do others agree or disagree with the idea that this was an independent church at Antioch or was it an unorganized body in a subordinate relationship to the church in Jerusalem.

Of that situation recorded in Acts 15, E. T. Hiscox comments, "The course pursued by the Church at Antioch, in Syria is suggestive. When a difficulty arose pertaining to the engrafting of Jewish customs upon a Christian polity, respecting which they were in doubt, they sent a delegation to the Church at Jerusalem, as being not only at the seat of the Jewish cultus, but of the earliest Christian knowledge as well, besides having in their fellowship the apostles. From this source, therefore, they would obtain authoritative instruction.—Acts 15. This deputation, including Paul and Barnabas, on their arrival did not appeal to any select company of officials, not even to the inspired Apostles; but to the whole Church, inclusive of these. "And when they came to Jerusalem they were received of the Church, and of the Apostles, and elders."—v. 4. After a full statement and discussion of the case, and an expressed opinion by James, the pastor of the Church, they agreed on what reply to make to the Church at Antioch. "Then pleased it the apostles, and elders, with the whole Church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas."—V. 22. In addition to this delegation they sent letters also conveying their judgment in the case. And these letters recognized the Church in its three estates. "The apostles and elders and brethren greeting, unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch."—V. 23. And they added, "It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord." And "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to US."—VS. 25-28.

One independent Church, wishing advice, sought counsel of another independent Church, in whose experience and wisdom they had more confidence than in their own. And the Church appealed to, in the exercise of their independence, gave the advice sought. Nor did the Apostles, though inspired, assume to dictate in this matter, or to act without the cooperation of the elders and brethren. Nor yet did the Apostles and elders assume to act alone; "all the multitude," and "the whole church," were present to hear and act with their leaders."3

It is unequivocally evident that Hiscox held they were an independent, autonomous body. They were not subordinate to Jerusalem.

In a similar manner, another brother has written, "The action of the church at Antioch is suggestive of church independency. When a difficulty arose about the influence of Jewish customs upon Christian doctrine, the Antiochian church 'determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question' (Acts 15:2).

"This company did not appeal to a select company, but to the complete church in Jerusalem: 'And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the, church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them' (Acts 15:4).

"After a fair hearing of the case and proper consideration of the matter, the Jerusalem church replied to the church at Antioch: 'Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: namely, Judas surnamed Barnabas. and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia' (Acts 15:22-23).

"Here we see one INDEPENDENT CHURCH, wishing advice, seeking counsel of another INDEPENDENT CHURCH whose wisdom and experience they trusted (Emp mine, RWC). The Jerusalem church acting as a sovereign, autonomous, independent body gave the advice sought. The Apostles did not dictate this information. They acted in cooperation with the elders and the whole church."4


We have seen that the church at Antioch acted independently and autonomously in a number of matters. I have not mentioned (in this article) that the missionaries returned and reported to the church at Antioch. It is apparent that there was no consultation with Jerusalem as to where this report should be given. If the folks at Antioch were actually members in Jerusalem, and if the church at Antioch was really not an organized true body of Christ, one wonders why the missionaries did not report to Jerusalem instead of Antioch. They did not go to Jerusalem. After the last stop on their journey, they headed straight to Antioch where they reported. Acts 14:26-27 And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. 27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.


It was from Antioch, not Jerusalem, that the missionaries were sent forth to do the work to which God had called them. And, it was to Antioch that they returned and reported. It was the independent, autonomous body in Antioch that sent a delegation to Jerusalem seeking advice. It was to an independent, autonomous body in Antioch that the congregation in Jerusalem sent its advice. It is unequivocally evident that the church in Antioch was a local, visible, independent, autonomous body carrying out the Lord's work, not some distant part of a dissected, divided, international body headquartered in Jerusalem.

No association, no mission board, no presbytery, not convention, and no church, not even Jerusalem, had any governmental authority over her. She was independent as far as any outside intrusion into her affairs was concerned. The position that she was still under the "motherly authority" of Jerusalem, if it could be sustained, and if it were tolerated by Baptists, would pave the way for the first Baptist Pope.

1 Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol. III, p. 158.

2 Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 548.

3 Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, Edward T. Hiscox, P. 153-154..

4 "The Independency of the Church," Eld. Milburn Cockrell, The Baptist Examiner, Vol. 50, No. 10, March 15, 1980, Pp. 3, 5, 6.

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Friday, March 04, 2011