Was the Church of Antioch a Single Congregation or a Presbytery?

presbyteryantiochThe church of Antioch, in Syria, consisted also of more congregations than one. This appears, 1. From the multitude of believers at Antioch, and 2. From the multitudes of prophets and preachers that ministered at Antioch.

1. From the multitude of believers at Antioch.

1. After the dispersion upon Saul’s persecution, the Lord Jesus was preached at Antioch, and a great number believed, etc. (Acts 11:21).

2. Upon Barnabas’s preaching there, much people was added to the Lord (Acts 11:24).

3. Barnabas and Saul for a year together taught much people there, and disciples there so mightily multiplied, that there Christ’s disciples first received the eminent and famous denomination of Christians, and so were and still are called throughout the whole world (Acts 11:25-26).

2. From the multitudes of prophets and preachers that ministered at Antioch.

1. Upon the dispersion of the Jews at Jerusalem, divers of them (being men of Cyprus and Cyrene) preached the Lord Jesus at Antioch (Acts 11:20); here must be three or four preachers at least, otherwise they would not be men of Cyprus and Cyrene.

2. After this Barnabas was sent to preach at Antioch; there is a fifth (Acts 11:22-24).

3. Barnabas finds so much work at Antioch, that he goes to Tarsus to bring Saul thither to help him; there is a sixth (verses 25-26).

4. Besides these, there came prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch in those days; there are at least two more, viz. eight in all (Acts 11:27-28).

5. Further, besides Barnabas and Saul, three more teachers are named, viz. Simon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen (Acts 13:1-3).

6. Yea, “Paul and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also” (Acts 15:35).

Now sum up all, what a multitude of believers, and what a college of preachers were here at Antioch! How is it possible that all these preachers should bustle themselves about one congregation (and doubtless they abhorred idleness) in dispensing the ordinances of Christ to them only? or how could so many members meet in one single congregation at once, ordinarily to partake of all ordinances?

Excerpt from The Divine Right of Presbyterian Church Government (Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici) by the London Provincial Assembly of 1646.

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