One City, One Church
Romans 16 (Revision 1)
Revision 1 – Notes on the Revision
This post is a revised version of the original entry. The original version of this post was incorrect about Cenchrea being within the city of Corinth. Cenchrea being “within” the city of Corinth is inaccurate. Cenchrea was certainly a port of Corinth, and it had its own settlement, a town, but it was not “within” the city of Corinth.
The “Biblical Pattern” of OCOC
Romans 16 delivers some starkly obvious blows to the “one city, one church” doctrine (OCOC), which is taught by the Lord’s Recovery. Although the Bible offers no prescriptive commandment regarding how to name a church, OCOC attempts to reconcile that, declaring certain parts of the Bible as “biblical patterns.” Although what the Recovery considers biblical patterns are only descriptive in nature, the Recovery interprets them as if they’re commandments, as if they’re prescriptive, even though that’s not true.
Conflating description with prescription is one of the main problems with OCOC. It already doesn’t hold up because God doesn’t command through His Word that Christians name churches anything, nor does He declare that Christians who don’t adhere to a certain naming standard are doing something wrong or missing some sort of blessing.
While the Bible’s identifying of churches is descriptive rather than prescriptive, biblical descriptions still matter in their own right but not in the same way with which the Recovery uses them in OCOC.
For the sake of argument, let’s ignore prescriptions versus descriptions and say that all church naming has to follow the biblical pattern of church naming. For the sake of argument, let’s hypothetically say that we can come to the conclusion that church naming is addressed in biblically descriptive patterns Christians must adhere to. Does OCOC hold up? Again, ignoring prescription versus description here is solely for the sake of argument; it does matter. But if it didn’t, the beginning of Romans 16 all by itself breaks OCOC logic entirely.
16:1 — Cenchrea Was a Port in Corinth
Take a look at the first verse in Romans 16.
16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae.Romans 16:1 (ESV)
The Bible recognizes a church at Cenchrea. But Cenchrea was not a city. Cenchrea was a port/harbor of Corinth. Corinth was itself a city, and the church in that city was identified as “the church of God that is in Corinth” in 1 Corinthians 1:2. But regarding Cenchrea, the Biblehub Atlas’ Encyclopedia says it was a harbor of Corinth:
CEN’CHREA, was the eastern harbor of Corinth and 5 ms. e. from the city, the remains of which are called Kenkris.Bible Hub Atlas Encyclopedia
And according to Strong’s Definitions:
Κεγχρεαί Kenchreaí, keng-khreh-a’-hee; probably from kegchros (millet); Cenchreæ, a port of Corinth:—Cencrea.Strong’s Definitions
According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it was “a port of Corinth.”
Kenchreai Archeological Archive describes Cenchrea as a settlement and region, Corinth’s eastern harbor, and a port-town.
The Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth describes Cenchrea as a smaller settlement surrounding the countryside of Corinthia. Regarding Corinth’s ownership of Cenchrea, the Archeological Museum of Ancient Corinth also says that Cenchrea “always was a satellite of Corinth, and proof of this is the fact that it never issued its own coinage.”
Needless to say, the fact that Cenchrea wasn’t a city but was a port-town of the city of Corinth breaks the pattern that OCOC attempts to follow. Based on the OCOC doctrine, the church in Cenchrea was supposedly using an incorrect, divisive name.
In Romans 16:1, the OCOC pattern doesn’t hold up. With the pattern broken just one time, OCOC is already logically flawed. For the sake of discussion, if there ever was a biblically descriptive pattern that was a requirement for oneness in Christianity, the OCOC doctrine doesn’t follow that pattern.
16:5 — “The Church in Their House“
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,
4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.
5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.Romans 16:3 – 5 (ESV)
OCOC doctrine offers no other naming pattern for identifying and naming a church other than one church and one city (i.e., the church in [city name] city). Based on this doctrine, it should be divisive for Paul to have said, “the church in their house” in Romans 16:5.
But it’s not. Paul was describing a specific church, a church that met in Prisca and Aquila’s house. The Bible describing and identifying a church as “the church in their house” is not a commandment saying that all Christians should name their churches “the church in [someone’s] house.”
If there ever was a biblical naming standard, OCOC could not ever possibly be that standard because “the church in their house” clearly breaks OCOC’s main rule.
Conclusion: OCOC is Not Possibly Biblical
The “one city, one church” doctrine is based on church identifications and descriptions in the Bible being uniform in pattern. Although this is already a flawed approach to hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible; Bible interpretation methodology), even the pattern OCOC doctrine attempts to adhere to doesn’t exist in the Bible. OCOC is logical fallacy.