Peace – Prayer – Joy – Love
Who We Are: Biblical Roots

Our Biblical Roots

Who We Are: Our Biblical Roots

  1. Ever Struggle to Explain what Congregationalism is?
    1. What’s in the tote?
    2. District Video Conference I was asked, “Aren’t they kind of different?”
    3. Understanding where we came from, what we believe & Who We Are
  2. Where Two or Three are Gathered
    1. Matthew 18:18-20 The Presence of Christ, not government authority –
      Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
      and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
      Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask,
      it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
      For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
    2. A dramatically different model from Roman Catholic/Church of England who top-down decided the where, how, & who of the local churches
    3. Matthew 16:18-19 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
    4. Similar wording structure in Matt. 16 & 18; church authority established
  3. Bound by Covenant
    1. We should probably consider the idea of church authority in the light of voluntary covenant. One of our Congregational leaders, Charles Packer, writes, … “it is necessary to understand that the endeavor of covenant-making and covenant-keeping has its roots deeply and broadly in the scriptures of Old and New Testament.”
    2. Covenant is an important feature in several places in Genesis; Abraham and that Relational Righteousness is revisited in Romans and Hebrews.
    3. Covenant is an important feature of Congregationalism as well as our own congregation here; we are bound together in voluntary covenant.
    4. Again Packer says “Abraham’s covenant with God became a basis for understanding how a church might be voluntarily bound together to realize Christ’s presence and be a blessing to the wider community and the world.”
    5. The Cambridge Platform of 1648, a foundational document of American Congregationalism points to that covenant between God & Abraham and God & Israel as “that which now makes the several societies of Gentil believers to be the church in these dayes.” … both our past & our present.
  4. The Local Church and the Church Universal
    1. Both our Call to Worship (Romans 12) & our first reading (1 Cor.12) speak to unity, equality & diversity in the body of Christ; the Church.
    2. In the Congregational Way, we are equals
      1. there are not elite members who are in charge.
        I am not even in charge. The people are in charge.
      2. The assembled congregation; where two or three are gathered together; where Christ is present; carry the authority given them to bind & to lose & to knock down the very gates of Hades itself.
    3. Again, the Cambridge Platform describes a Congregational church as “the institution of Christ…consisting of a company of Saints by calling,  united into one body, by a holy covenant, for the publick worship of God, and the mutuall edification one of another, in the Fellowship of the Lord Jesus.”
    4. The Savoy Declaration Platform of Polity in 1658 opens by declaring,  “By the appointments of the Father all Power for the Calling, Institution, Order, or Government of the Church, is invested in the supreme and sovereign manner in the Lord Jesus Christ, as King and Head thereof.”
    5. Remember how we mentioned earlier the problem that the Congregationalists had with authority & kingship being given to the King or the Pope to make decisions of polity & governance for the church? Congregationalists see this authority as derived specifically in Christ as manifested in each individual locally gathered Covenant Congregation.
    6. We believe that all of us gathered together here in this place are the complete body of Christ; the complete church under Christ’s headhship
  5. The Authority Invested in the Local Churches
    1. Our reading from Matthew 18 is famously the source of working out offenses between Christians and discipline within the church body. It is also a foundational piece pointing to the authority for resolution in the local body itself. This comes from the relational covenant we enter into voluntarily together; the authority & process for resolution comes from our relationship with one another under our Lord Jesus.
    2. Last week we read from Philippians 2 in regard to God showing solidarity with humanity by coming to live here among us in Jesus, to suffer and to die with us; even the lowliest and most despised of us.
    3. We are called to be of the “same mind” together with Christ.
  6. The Good News
    1. One last word here from Dr. Charles Packer, “In Congregationalism, there is the expectation as well as the opportunity for the congregation
      to determine its course regardless of the presence or absence of a
      settled official leader. Diverse as congregations might be in many regards,
      it is the unique challenge of each church to wrestle with the tough decisions and rely on God to “will and to work for his good pleasure.”
      “Authority in a Congregational church emerges from the congregation.
      The members of the local congregation have the right and obligation
      to use that authority very wisely.”
    2. The Congregational Way is hard. It is complicated by conflict. But we are entrusted and empowered by Our Lord Christ Jesus to face hard challenges together, as one united body, given the full authority to discern and journey together. We are bound together in voluntary covenant together, as an earthly precursor to the glory of the Kingdom of God to come. We are called to be engaged together, in love, for the work of ministry … look at your bulletin – we are all ministers here … for the good of each other and of our community.
    3. By very Word of God and the Holy Spirit we have all the gifts & graces we need to live this truth out in our midst; for love, mercy, forgiveness, unity, and love … did I mention love? … for God & for one another … Love the Lord with all your heart & love your neighbor as yourself.

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