The Local Church and the Magisterium

Yesterday, Restless Pilgrim suggested (correctly) that my answer left "intimate fellowships" as deciding the correct interpretation of Scripture. I wanted to elevate my response from a comment to a post.

Note that the purpose of the Scriptures is to equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17), not to resolve disputes over doubtful doctrines (1 Tim. 1:4ff). The Holy Spirit will not feed our "sick obsessions" (1 Tim. 6:3ff).

Intimate Fellowships and a "Living Authority" to Resolve Scriptural Disputes

If that intimate fellowship is the church, then the Scriptures tell us that "The Anointing will teach you all things, and it is true, and not a lie" (1 Jn. 2:27).

Other authorities have failed us. They have not produced the fruit Jesus spoke of. The promise of the Scriptures, however, is that disciples together, joined in Jesus’ name, will be led into what is true. They will speak the truth in love to one another, and they will be delivered from deceivers and from being tossed around on the waves of doctrine (Eph. 4:11-16).

Eph. 4:11-16 and 1 Jn. 2:27 settle the question of what church it is that is the pillar and authority of the truth (the "magisterium"). It’s the local church, as long as they are following Christ rather than just standing on tradition.

Rev. 2-3 is another great section showing us this. Jesus took responsibility for each of these local churches, speaking to them individually through John the elder.

So, yes, I’m saying that intimate fellowships—of disciples following Christ, committed to being the church—will be led into proper interpretations of Scripture by following Christ. The Holy Spirit resolves questions about what to do, which is the purpose of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17); he will rarely resolve doctrinal disputes unless they have practical application or have some sort of important application to unity.

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2 Responses to The Local Church and the Magisterium

  1. I just don’t think that history bears this out. If intimate fellowships really do, in fact, lead Christians to the correct interpretation of Scripture then one would expect more of these communities to reach the *same* interpretations.

    However, from the non-magisterial reformers onwards I see just as much chaos as among the larger magisterial reformers.

    “It’s the local church, as long as they are following Christ rather than just standing on tradition”

    Catholic and Orthodox would both agree that we shouldn’t “just” stand on tradition (depending upon what you mean by that term), but that we should also be “following Christ”. The trouble comes when you try and nail down what “following Christ” means.

    “Jesus took responsibility for each of these local churches, speaking to them individually through John the elder.”

    I don’t really see what this proves. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the Church is only a global entity. It’s not an either/or situation.

    • Shammah says:

      I think I’m just going to drop the discussion of intimate fellowships. I can’t explain it better, nor do I think it would help if I did.

      Here’s the facts:

      1 John 2:27 and Eph. 4 give a promise to the people of God together in one place that they will be led into truth. 1 Tim. 3:15 says that the church is the pillar and support of the truth.

      Thus, it is clear scripturally that the local church, not some hierarchical organization, is the pillar and support of the truth. I think it can be clearly seen that the early Christians agree as long as you combine that with “the rule of faith,” of which the Nicene Creed is an excellent example and later creeds poor examples.

      I need to comment on your last line, though. Let’s be in reality here. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches believe that if you do not submit to their global entity, then you are in some way outside the church of Christ. It is their official dogma, and many of their members evangelize that very point on a regular basis.

      Further, the official position of the RCC is that what they consider “dogma” must be believed by Christians. Yet any honest historian will tell you that it is a joke to suggest that all their dogma comes from the apostles, even though the official position of the RCC is that their dogmas are apostolic.

      In other words, our starting point is that RCC claims are false, that it’s very easy to see they are false, and that when everyone submits to RCC claims, the result is tyranny, superstition, idol worship, the loss of the Gospel, and persecution of those who would preserve the Gospel.

      Beginning there, I am using the early Christian writings and the Bible to show that the local church–the gathering of the saints–is promised that they will be given truth and indeed will be the pillar and support of the truth.

      The saints don’t come together often, though. Usually they have already joined themselves to an organization that they attend, confusing that with joining the family of God.

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