You Can’t Tell Me What to Do!
I. It is generally the cry of the unhappy
A. “You can’t tell me what to do!”
B. I don’t recall ever hearing this in response to something agreed upon. It always comes with a disagreement.
II. “I have the right to live my life as I see fit.”
A. While it is true that each individual is responsible for their decisions
1. Galatians 6:4-5 - Examine our own work.
2. Philippians 2:12 - Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
3. We emphasize the first part, but notice the later. At what is it that a person fears and trembles? Why, read the next verse.
4. While we each must choose, we each must give an account of our decisions. - II Corinthians 5:10
B. Each of us are independent, autonomous beings
1. The decisions we make affects our salvation and ours alone - Ezekiel 18:20
2. Yet, we are not free to do as we please.
a. We belong to God - Ezekiel 18:4
b. Our lives belong to the Lord - Romans 14:7-8
c. We live for the will of God - I Peter 4:1-2
d. The whole duty of man is to serve God - Ecclesiastes 12:13
C. While each of us is independent, the decisions we make often affect the lives of others.
1. Sins have consequences and those consequences are sometimes far reaching.
2. When Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, the consequence of her sin reached to affect every person who ever lived. - Romans 5:18
3. Notice that righteousness also has ramifications beyond the individual. - Romans 4:16-25
D. No, you don’t have the right to sin as you see fit. You don’t have the right to make someone else’s life miserable.
1. In fact, I have the opposite responsibility - Romans 12:9-13
E. Even though we are each responsible for our own decisions, we have the duty to encourage and counsel others to make the right decisions.
1. Parents are to train their children to do right - Proverbs 22:6
2. Fellow Christians are to encourage each other - Hebrews 10:23-25
3. When one is lost, we are to work to restore them - Galatians 6:1-2
4. Knowing the outcome, we seek to persuade others - II Corinthians 5:10-11
III. I’ve seen the same approach taken among congregations
A. The argument goes something on the order of “each congregation is autonomous, so what gives you the right to tell us what we need to do or with whom we may associate?”
B. The head of the church is Christ - Colossians 1:18
C. Elders oversee the work, but of only the congregation where they are elders
1. Acts 14:23 - Appointed in every church
2. They have a certain flock for whom they are responsible - Acts 20:28
3. They live and work among that flock - I Peter 5:2
D. There is no organization beyond the local church
1. There is no ongoing body or individual which operates between congregations.
E. Independence does not mean a congregation has the right to determine what is right or wrong.
1. After listing several things that a preacher believed there is no Scripture against the usage thereof, he stated, “You, however, believe that anything we put [in]to practice must have a ‘thus saith the Lord.’ I say we are permitted to have all the above because they have absolutely nothing to do regarding our salvation. The local church is autonomous (self-governed, independent) from other congregations. . . . My point is, God gives the leadership of the local church the latitude to decide or make decisions in discretionary or judgment[al] matters. (Hebrews 13:17)”
2. It is not simply a matter of judgment in how to implement a command of God. This brother believes that as long as God did not say “no” we are allowed to decide “yes” or “no”.
3. Yet the Scriptures are said to be complete - Acts 20:27; II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:3
4. Whatever we do must be with the authority of Christ - Colossians 3:17
5. No eldership, preacher, or any other man has the authority to loose where God has not loosed or bind where God has not bound.
6. Are there decisions that a local congregation must make? Most certainly!
a. We are commanded to meet and a survey of the Scriptures show that the location is flexible, so a congregation must choose the method of fulfilling this command.
b. We are commanded to teach the gospel, so we chose various methods to get that message out.
c. Yet in all our choices, there was first a command and then a choice where the command allowed some latitude.
F. While churches remain independent, one church may send aid to another church
1. The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to help build up the church there - Acts 11:19-26
a. Was autonomy violated? No, because Jerusalem supported Barnabas in his work.
b. The church in Antioch still had to make its own decisions.
c. There are several examples of churches supporting preachers in other areas, working at other churches - Philippians 4:14-16
d. The choice to support was the local congregation’s choice – Jerusalem choose to support Barnabas, Philippi choose to support Paul.
2. When a famine broke out in the Judea area, churches sent aid - Acts 11:27-30
a. Was the local autonomy of Jerusalem violated? No
b. It was the Gentile churches’ choice to send the money.
c. It was the local church’s choice to distribute the money, for the money when to the hands of the elders
G. While one church is independent of others, churches can advise
1. When members of the Jerusalem church when about spreading false doctrine, Antioch sent representatives to discuss the issue at the source - Acts 15:1-4
2. These men sought to persuade the congregation to follow God - Acts 15:12
3. Was Jerusalem’s autonomy violated?
a. No, because they are the ones who weighed the evidence.
b. It was they who decided to send warning to other churches that these members of their congregation were acting without authority - Acts 15:23-24
c. Their announcement of their rejection of these men’s teaching did not violate the other churches’ autonomy.
H. Worthy men were recommended by one church to another - Acts 18:27
I. Warnings were sent about unworthy men - I Timothy 1:20; II Timothy 2:17-19; 4:14-14
1. While these warnings went to Timothy, you must remember that Timothy was preaching at a different congregation than Paul.
2. Was autonomy violated? No, because each congregation must decide whether to heed the warnings or not.
IV. What happens when an individual or congregation leaves the truth, choosing the wrong path?
A. As already cited, individuals were noted for their false teaching - Romans 16:17
B. Individuals were commended for their work, as seen at the end of many letters, or by Timothy - Acts 16:1-2
C. Churches, too, develop reputations
1. Romans 16:19 - A report of their obedience was spread.
2. Romans 1:8 - The faith at Rome was known through the world.
D. Sometimes that reputation may be inaccurate - Revelation 3:1
E. Sometimes the reputation is that of standing in the wrong.
F. Who’s business is it that a congregation is teaching falsely? Everyone’s.
1. It affects the reputation of the church.
2. It impacts those traveling.
V. While we must make our own decisions and must live with the consequences, our responsibility for our brethren does not end at the door.