The Pauline Authority Of The Local Church

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).

By the time the Lord spoke these words to Peter, He knew from the reaction of the religious leaders in Israel that they were not going to accept Him as their Messiah, but were rather going to kill Him. Hence we see Him here preparing for His death by giving Peter the power and authority to act in an official capacity in His absence. This power was then expanded to include a quorum of two of the twelve apostles (Matt. 18:18,19). We see the apostles exercising this authority in the early chapters of the Book of Acts.

However, the authority the Lord gave the twelve apostles had to do with authority in the “kingdom” church (Matt. 16:19), and we know that God interrupted the kingdom program after the stoning of Stephen. The Apostle Paul was then given the “authority” to act in an official capacity in the Lord’s absence during the dispensation of grace (II Cor. 10:8). This authority was then passed on through Paul’s epistles to the local church. Note Paul’s words in I Corinthians 5:

“For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present…”

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 5:3,4).

Here the Corinthians are assured that when they broke fellowship with the man living in open and unabashed sin (v. 1,2,13), they would be doing so in the “spirit” of the Apostle Paul. That is, they could be sure that the decision of their local church would carry with it his apostolic authority and “the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We see this principle again in II Corinthians 2:10:

“To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also; for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ.”

Here we find Paul claiming to be acting “in the person of Christ,” i.e., with His power and authority. And we also see him telling the Corinthians that when they acted, they acted in his authority, and in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

All of this is especially significant when we remember that Paul says these words to the Corinthians, the most carnal church to whom he wrote. Thus we know that the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ today resides in the humblest local church that recognizes the authority of the Apostle Paul in the present dispensation.

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