Was there a Governing Body in the first century? This is the transcript of Fred Franz's September 7, 1975 Gilead graduation talk where he argued against the existence of a first century governing body.

  Well, what about Jerusalem and the body down there? Later on the account tells us that Barnabas took Paul, or Saul of Tarsus, down to Jerusalem. But they were all afraid of him! And Saul of Tarsus, or Paul, tells us that when he went up there to Jerusalem he saw none of the apostles except Peter, with whom he spent fifteen days, and also, uh, the apostle James. [Note: this is an error, as Galatians 1:18, 19 indicates it was "James the brother of the Lord," not the apostle James.] Those are the only two. And then he went back to Tarsus, and, uh, he continued on his way. Later on, why, Barnabas was sent down there to Antioch, and he hunted up Saul, brought him there, and, uh, they talked in Antioch for quite a while. Paul became a member of the Antioch congregation. And he was one of the prophets there in that congregation, specially mentioned. And then, all of a sudden, as he was serving there, uh, in Antioch, in Syria not in Israel, but in Syria why, God's spirit spoke to that congregation there in Antioch and said, 'Now, of all things you set aside, you, this congregation in Antioch, YOU set aside these two men, namely, Barnabas and Saul, for the work for which I have commissioned them.' And so the Antioch congregation did that! And they laid their hands upon Paul, or Saul, and Barnabas and sent them forth as a number of translations read 'sent them forth.' And then they went forth by the holy spirit operating through the Antioch congregation, and they went out on their first missionary assignment.

So you see, the Lord Jesus Christ was acting as Head of the congregation and taking action directly, without consulting anybody here on earth what he could do or what he could NOT do. And he acted in that way with regard to, to Saul and Barnabas. And they were both apostles of the Antioch congregation. And so they went out on the work and had great success, and in course of time they completed their first missionary tour, and where did they go where did they report? Well, there's a record, you read it for yourself in the closing verses of the fourteenth chapter of Acts: THEY WENT BACK TO ANTIOCH, TO THE CONGREGATION THERE, and the account says they related things in detail to them, to this congregation that had committed them to the undeserved kindness of God for the work that they had performed. So there's where they reported. So the record also says, now they stayed in Antioch not a little time.

Well, now, what happened? All of a sudden something, eh, occurs, and, uh, Paul and Barnabas, they go up to Jerusalem. Well, what's the matter? What brings them up to Jerusalem? Well, is it, uh, the body of apostles and of other elders of the Jerusalem congregation that have summoned them up there and said, 'Looka here. We have heard that you two men have gone out on a missionary tour and you finished it, and you haven't come up here to Jerusalem to report to us. DO YOU KNOW WHO WE ARE? We're the Counsel of Jerusalem! Do you two recognize the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ? If you don't come on up here in a hurry, we're going to take disciplinary action against you.' Is that what the account says? Well, if they had acted that way toward Paul and Barnabas, because they reported to the congregation, uh, by means of which the holy spirit had sent them out, then this Counsel of Jerusalem, of apostles and of other elders of the Jewish congregation would have put themselves ABOVE the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But that isn't what occurred. You know what happened, how Jews came down from Jerusalem and stirred up the matter of circumcision, and, eh, it troubled the congregation there in Antioch so much that the ANTIOCH congregation sent Paul and Barnabas UP TO JERUSALEM, to have the Counsel settle the issue. And, of course, being sent by the Couns by the congregation at Antioch, they had to come back and report and advise the congregation of the settlement of the question, or the decision that was made by the Counsel there at Jerusalem. And THEN it was, when they were arguing in favor of Christians from the gentiles not having to be circumcised like Jews it was THEN that Paul and Barnabas told what God had done by means of them in the gentile world. And THEN it was that the counsel got the report. Then they went back to Antico...och,, which had sent them forth to make known the decision, and the Jewish, then, eh, Counsel, why, sent along two men, Judas and Silas, with them. And so they delivered the report from the Counsel and, eh, there was great rejoicing among the gentile believers.

Fred Franz was the vice president of the Watchtower Society at the time he gave this talk, and became the president two years later.