expounding of the Scriptures. The synagogues held united prayer and exercised discipline. They were democratic in government, and independent of each other. It has sometimes been said that election of officers by the membership of the church came from the Greek ejkklhsi>a , or popular assembly. But Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 1:438, says of the elders of the synagogue that, ?their election depended on the choice of the congregation.? Talmud, Berachob, 55 a : ?No ruler is appointed over a congregation, unless the congregation is consulted.?
(c) Any number of believers, therefore, may constitute themselves into a Christian church by adopting for their rule of faith and practice Christ?s law as laid down in the New Testament, and by associating themselves together, in accordance with it for his worship and service. It is important, where practicable, that a council of churches be previously called to advise the brethren proposing this union as to the desirableness of constituting a new and distinct local body and if it be found desirable, to recognize them after its formation as being a church of Christ. But such action of a council, however valuable as affording ground for the fellowship of other churches, is not constitutive but is simply declaratory and without such action, the body of believers alluded to, if formed after the N. T. example, may notwithstanding be a true church of Christ. Still further, a band of converts, among the heathen or providentially precluded from access to existing churches might rightfully appoint one of their number to baptize the rest and then might organize, de novo, a New Testament church.
The church at Antioch was apparently self-created and self-directed. There is no evidence that any human authority outside of the converts there was invoked to constitute or to organize the church. As John Spillsbury put it about 1640: ?When there is a beginning, some must be first.? The initiative lies in the individual convert and in his duty to obey the commands of Christ. No body of Christians can excuse itself for disobedience upon the plea that it has no officers. It can elect its own officers. Councils have no authority to constitute churches. Their work is simply that of recognizing the already existing organization and of pledging the fellowship of the churches, which they represent. If God can, of the stones raise up children unto Abraham, he can also raise up pastors and teachers from within the company of believers whom he has converted and saved.
Hagenbach, Hist. Doct., 2:294, quotes from Luther, as follows: ?If a company of pious Christian laymen were captured and sent to a desert
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