And take…the sword of the Spirit, which  is the word of God.   Ephesians 6:17


Volume 20, Number 39

Published by
Mt. Baker
church of Christ

1860 Mt. Baker HWY
Mailing Address:

       P.O. Box 30821
  Bellingham, WA 98228
       (360) 752-2692

Bible Classes..........9:30 AM
Worship..10:30AM; 6:00PM

Bible Classes.........7:00 PM
All sing last Wednesday

Web sites:
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Editor......Joe R. Price

Morris Bass
Rich Brooks

Aaron Bass
Shane Bass
Mike Finn
Dan Head


In this issue:

Walk by the Spirit
Joe R. Price

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  (Galatians 5:16-17)

Each of us chooses either to live spiritual lives or to satisfy the flesh. Just as Jesus said we cannot serve two masters, the apostle teaches we cannot walk (live) by the Spirit and after the flesh at the same time. They are opposite tendencies that produce opposite fruit. The works of the flesh will keep its bearer out of the kingdom of heaven, while the fruit of the Spirit evidences kingdom citizenship (Gal. 5:19-23).

To walk “by the Spirit” means to live by the gospel which the Holy Spirit revealed (cf. Gal. 3:1-5; 5:18, 25). We will bear the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives when we “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23).

To accomplish this walk one must willingly subject himself to “the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5-8). Let us heartily renew our minds and conform to the will of God instead of this evil age (Rom. 12:2). May we more diligently “crucify the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof” and live in subjection to the gospel of Christ (Gal. 5:24).

As you make daily decisions affecting your life, be sure to consider how those decisions affect your soul’s salvation. “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27).  To accomplish that, walk by the Spirit and not after the flesh. 


The Autonomy of the Local Church
Joe R. Price


1.  Understanding and properly applying congregational autonomy continues to be an important topic for God’s people.
2.  Questions about autonomy are raised due to concerns over doctrinal and moral purity, fellowship and the unity of believers.
3.  Questions about autonomy the NT answers:
  a.  What is congregational autonomy?
  b.  What are the prerogatives (rights, privileges, freedom, license) and limits (boundaries) of congregational autonomy?
  c.  Does autonomy mean each congregation decides truth for itself?
  d.  Does autonomy mean that the teaching and work of a local church is the private concern of each congregation (nobody else’s business)?
  e.  Can the same truth be preached to every church without violating autonomy?


  (Autonomy: "self-law", hence, self-governing ...the right of self-government...a self-governing community.)
-Autonomy = Independence and self-government. NT evidence of congregational autonomy:

  A.  Each Local Church is a Complete Organization Within Itself, Acts 14:23; 20:28; Phil. 1:1.
    1.  Not dependent upon any man, machinery or hierarchy to direct its function or handle its affairs -- Christ is authority over each, Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 3:17.
    2.  No denominational (interlinking) structure of churches is in the New Testament.

  B.  Each Local Church is Independent in its Organization and Work.
    1.  Organization:
      a.  Each has its own elders, Acts 14:23.
      b.  Only local oversight, 1 Pet. 5:2-3.
    2.  Work (concurrent cooperation with other churches, but never relinquishing direct action (no sponsoring church or centralization):
      a.  Benevolence, 1 Cor. 16:1-3.
      b.  Preaching gospel, 2 Cor. 11:8.
      c.  Edification of its members, Acts 13:1.

  C.  Each Local Church has its Own Elders to Whom its Members are Subject, Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2-3; 1 Thess. 5:12-14.
    1.  Elders are to rule by the authority of revealed truth, Acts 20:27-28.
    2.  Elders have no authority to violate revealed truth, or to lead their charge into error, 1 Tim. 5:19-20; Acts 20:29-32.

  D.  Congregational Autonomy Provides a Safeguard for the Spiritual Well-being of the Saints, 1 Pet. 5:2-3; Heb. 13:17.

Summary to this point:

  • Prerogatives of autonomy: Each church is free from the control of any other church, centralized power, ruling hierarchy, denominational organization.

  • Limits of autonomy: The boundary of revealed truth (1 Cor. 4:17; 14:37).


  A.  Does not Mean Each Church Decides What is True Doctrine for Itself.
-Illus.: “Each church decides for itself what it will teach and practice, and nobody has the right to question, review or rebuke it.”

    1.  The scriptures establish truth – We must hear, believe and obey it, 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:37.
      a.  A pattern of sound words to hold fast, 2 Tim. 1:13.
      b.  The apostolic traditions, 2 Thess. 2:15.
      c.  Same truth to be taught and imitated in each church, 1 Cor. 4:16-17.

    2.  Through study we learn the truth, 2 Tim. 2:15; cf. Gal. 1:8-9 (Eph. 3:3-4).

    3.  Revelation establishes truth, not congregational autonomy.
      a.  The necessity of baptism? (Mk. 16:16)
      b.  Instrumental music in worship? (Eph. 5:19)
      c.  Divorce and remarriage for any cause? (Matt. 19:9)
      d.  Meals as the work of the local church? (1 Cor. 11:22, 34)
      e.  Whom we fellowship? (2 Jno. 9-11)

    4.  The case of the Jerusalem church, Acts 15:22-29. It did not make or bind a decision upon any other church. It defended truth and communicated that defense of truth to other churches.
      a.  Warned brethren in other places about teachers of error, v. 24.
      b.  Commended teachers of truth, v. 25-26.
      c.  Sent men with their letter to teach the same truth, v. 27.
      d.  Declared principles of truth the Holy Spirit had revealed, v. 28-29.
-God did not use a wrong means to declare a right message.

    5.  Illus. of Autonomy violated: An “Ephesus-Pergamos Alliance” demanding Smyrna conform to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:6, 15).

  B.  Does not Mean Each Church is Immune From “Outside” Teaching, Reproof, Rebuke and Correction, 2 Tim. 3:16-4:5.

    1.  Some think each church is insulated from rebuke and protected from the exposure of review. This idea of autonomy rejects the very nature of gospel preaching.
    2.  If this is true, then what of such passages as Col. 4:16 and 1 Thess. 5:27?
    3.  Truth is not bound by congregational independence or autonomy. Examples:

      a.  Rev. 2:14-16: The false doctrines being taught at Pergamos were addressed by John (Jesus) to call them to repentance – and its false beliefs were made known to the other 6 churches of Asia (which would help protect them by exposing the error and sin).
      b.  1 Cor. 1:11; 5:1: The error at Corinth was reported to Paul by someone who was competent and trustworthy. This did not violate Corinth’s autonomy, nor did Paul’s rebuke of their sins.
      c.  Colosse: Col. 2:1-8. Paul was not a member of Colosse, but he defended truth to them. He did not violate their autonomy.

    4.  Objection: “But Paul was an apostle - he could do that. We are not apostles, therefore, we can’t.”
      a.  1 Cor. 4:16-17; 11:1: We are to imitate Paul. While we cannot imitate his place as an apostle, we can appeal to it and imitate his message and his methods of delivering it.
      b.  Phil. 3:17 (4:9): Paul set a pattern we can and should follow.

    5.  So, we can teach the apostolic message (NT) regardless of congregational boundaries (autonomy).
      a.  Then, each church decides whether it will abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 Jno. 9-11).
      b.  cf. Acts 15:30-31; 16:4-5: Truth was delivered, and churches accepted the truth.
      c.  By accepting and obeying the truth, the churches were in fellowship with God and His people.
      d.  If they had rejected it they would have come under the rebuke of truth (to try to save their souls), Jude 3, 22-23; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20.

  C.  Does not Mean it is Impossible to have Unity in Teaching and Practice, Jno. 17:20-21; 1 Cor. 4:17.

    -The same truth taught in every church will produce the same fruit in every church, Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27.
    1.  Yes, there will be differences in areas of expediency (which allows for authorized differences).
    2.  But, there should not be diversity of doctrine and morality, Eph. 4:4-6.


1.  Congregational autonomy / independence was not given to churches to shield them from the reach and scrutiny of divine truth. We cannot appeal to autonomy as a “King’s X” to escape the reach and power of truth, 1 Cor. 4:14-21.

2.  Each church should be willing to receive instruction and rebuke from Christ (through His word) to remain true to the Lord (Rev. 2 and 3).

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Sentence Sermons
Eternity is a long time to think about what you should have done.
What on Earth are you doing for Heaven’s sake?


Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated.  07/21/2018

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