Arhive pe categorii: Church Truth



Curtis Pugh

Poteau, Oklahoma



We are well aware that the popular notion today is that the church was born on the Day of Pentecost following the Lord’s ascension back to Heaven.  Whether one believes in a universal visible church or a universal invisible church or only in local churches, this is the common theory prevalent today.  Since the Lord Jesus promised “…I will build my church…” we think it better to believe Him rather than some theory of man that says the Holy Spirit built the church.  (See Matthew 16:18).  The Greek word for “build” transliterates as “oikodomeo” and means to “dome up” or complete a house or building.  Further to the point, John the Baptist used the word “bride” of Christ’s congregation while He was on earth, saying “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29).  The term “bride” is used consistently throughout the New Testament as a metaphor speaking of Christ’s Church, so it seems clear that John said that Christ had a Church prior to Pentecost!


Baptist elder S.E. Anderson in one of his books lists 21 things that Christ’s (local) Church had before Pentecost.  Here is Bro. Anderson’s list.

  1. 1.           Believers before Pentecost had the Gospel.  (Matt. 4:23; Acts 19:4)


  1. 2.           Believers before Pentecost were genuinely converted. (Luke 1:15-17; 19:1-10)


  1. 3.           Believers before Pentecost were baptized after conversion. (Matt. 3:6-8)


  1. 4.           Believers before Pentecost had Christ as their Head. (Matt. 23:8)


  1. 5.           Believers before Pentecost were instructed in Church polity. (Matt. 18:15-20)


  1. 6.           Believers before Pentecost were ordained. (John 15:16)


  1. 7.           Believers before Pentecost were commissioned (Matt. 28:16-20)


  1. 8.           Believers before Pentecost were organized enough for their needs. (John 13:29)


  1. 9.           Believers before Pentecost had a missions program. (Matt. 10:1- 11:1)


  1. 10.       Believers before Pentecost had the essentials of church-life. (Evangelism, service and worship, and the presence of Christ among them) (Matt. 4:9; 18:20)


  1. 11.       Believers before Pentecost had qualified pastors. (John 21:15-17)


  1. 12.       Believers before Pentecost had the Lord’s Supper. (Matt. 26:26-30)


  1. 13.       Believers before Pentecost had the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)


  1. 14.       Believers before Pentecost had Divine power to do Christ’s work. (Luke 9:1)


  1. 15.       Believers before Pentecost sang “in the midst of the church.” (compare Heb. 2:12; with Matt. 26:30)


  1. 16.       Believers before Pentecost had prayer meetings. (Acts 1:14)


  1. 17.       Believers before Pentecost had business meetings. (Acts 1:15-26)


  1. 18.       Believers before Pentecost had a membership roll. (Matt. 10:2-4; Acts 1:13-15)


  1. 19.       Believers before Pentecost were united into a church in such a way that they could be “added unto.” (Acts 2:1 & 41)


  1. 20.       Believers before Pentecost had Christ as their Foundation and Corner Stone (Matt: 16:18; 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20)


  1. 21.       Believers before Pentecost had Christ for a time as their pastor (“poimen”). Eph. 4:11 & John 10:14.


Now we raise this question: What did the church have after Pentecost that she did not have before Pentecost?  She lacked one thing prior to Pentecost: The public testimony of God’s power.  This was shown to all observers when Christ, the Divine Administrator, immersed His waiting Church into the Holy Spirit with demonstrable power as seen on that day of Pentecost.  Prior to Pentecost she existed and lacked nothing that she gained on Pentecost other than that public testimony of Divine favor.  So it was with the temple built by Solomon.  It was complete and existed prior to the time the visible glory of the Lord filled the house.  It was a real temple fitted for the worship and service of God, lacking only the visible Presence of God.  (See 1 Kings chapter 8).  And the Lord’s Church, prior to Pentecost, was a real, functioning Church, lacking only the manifestation of the glory and power of God which came on that Day of Pentecost. 


IF a church of any kind was born or built or formed on Pentecost, why is the Bible silent on this matter?  There is not a verse in the Bible that says that any kind of church came into being on Pentecost.  And IF a church was established on Pentecost, she had to reach back into an old dispensation to get baptism, the Lord’s Supper and to get authority to make converts, baptize them, and teach them to observe what Christ commanded.  Why do I say this?  Because baptism, the supper, and the great commission were all entrusted to a body that existed prior to the church IF the church began on Pentecost.  What body was this?  So then, any church established after the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ has no ordinances and no commission or authority to act.  And this is true for all churches which came into existence after Christ built His Church.  What holes men dig for themselves when they leave off believing and following the Bible!


When Did the church Become Universal Davis Huckabee

When Did the church Become Universal
Davis Huckabee
Much is said today about the „Universal Church,” and probably ninety percent of the professing Christian world holds in theory this doctrine in one or the other of its two forms. So common is the belief in this that it is accepted as an axiom, or self-evident truth, that there is at present a universal church. Few people dare to question this idea and fewer still will put forth the effort necessary to determine if the „church” spoken of in the New Testament is of this character. In fact, one risks being ostracized as a rank heretic if he even questions this doctrine.
Doubtless a majority of Baptists presently hold to this theory, though this has not always been the case, for while there have long been some Baptists who have held it, yet these were in the minority until they had been subjected to long periods of influence from pedo-baptists. But we believe that any Baptist who consistently thinks through this theory, and compares it with Scripture and with historic Baptist principles will be constrained to part company either with it, or with his Baptist principles, for they are mutually antagonistic.
Truth does not change. Some truths may be emphasized more than others at times. And truth may have various applications in different circumstances, but it does not change. And this is no less true of church truth than of any other form of truth. If a man should tell us that two thousand years ago two plus two equaled four, but that after a couple of hundred years, two plus two came to equal six. And if he told us that later two plus two came to equal forty-seven, and finally it came to equal one hundred thirty one, we would quickly conclude that the man was either a madman, or else that he knew absolutely nothing of mathematics. Yet, this is exactly what the advocates of the universal church theory teach in essence.
If the New Testament type of church is presently a universal organization, then it must have always been. If, on the other hand, if it was not originally universal, then it cannot now be supposed to be so, for while there may certainly be growth in size, there cannot be a change in the basic constitution of the church without it ceasing to be what it was originally. The New Testament church is likened to a body, but while bodies may grow, they never change their basic constitution except In death. Now if it can be shown that the Lord’s churches were not believed nor taught to be universal for the first two or three hundred years after Christ, will not this indicate that universality was not originally any part of the constitution of scriptural churches? Verily so! There are three principle thoughts to be considered in the course of this study, the first of which is—
I. The Theory Examined.
Necessarily there must be a correct understanding of the terms used in this study, so we will endeavor to define the terms used. The New Testament meaning of the word translated „church” is „a called out assembly.” Our English word „church” in present day usage has a much broader meaning. Its broadest signification is simply „a religious organization of some sort.” In fact, in some instances, „religious” does not even enter into it. When this writer came to his present pastorate, and the church was organized and decided to call itself „Heritage Baptist Church,” it was found that already in the city of Salem, Ohio, there was an incorporated group called „The Heritage Church.” It was nothing more than a young peoples’ ball team.
The word „universal” signifies „of, for, or including all or the whole of something specified; not limited or restricted.. .present or occurring everywhere or in all things.” Therefore, „the Universal Church” would be a religious organization of some sort which is not limited or restricted to any one location, but which may be found occurring everywhere. This is the commonly understood meaning of „the Church.” This is a confusing of the Church of God with the Family of God.
This definition is slightly modified by different advocates of this theory, depending on whether they hold to the „Universal Visible” or „Universal Invisible” Church theory. A large portion of Protestantism and all of Catholicism hold the former view, and explain it substantially as All of the different denominations of professing Christians in the world are simply different „branches” of the one „Universal, True Church.” Thus they agree to recognize one another as scriptural churches no matter how great their differences may be. „You don’t unchurch me, and I won’t unchurch you,” is their attitude. Very broad-minded indeed! But they forget that the Apostle to the Gentiles did not set such a broad-minded example. Far from recognizing those legalistic and Judaizing men who followed him around and tried to bring the Gentiles under a yoke of bondage to works, he condemned them as „false apostles, deceitful workers,” and the devil’s ministers (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Paul did not recognize as „fellowmembers of the Universal, True Church” those who taught false religious dogma. Indeed, he would allow nothing but what he taught to be the truth, and pronounced a curse upon every departure from it. „But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” Gal. 1:8. Paul evidently did not subscribe to this modem theory of the church, and therefore, he would be considered by many as a bigot of the worst kind, for he not only unchurched, but even unchristianized all who did not believe and teach as he did. But who will lay sin to his charge for so doing?
This Universal Visible Church theory is held by many denominations, and it matters not to them how diverse the different „branches” may be in doctrine and practice, all are content if they can but trace a historical connection somehow back to Rome. Almost all state churches fall into this category.
The second view of the „Universal Church” is called the „Universal Invisible Church” theory, and those holding to this theory may, or may not believe that there is a Universal Visible Church on earth. But they do believe that there is an Invisible Church that is comprised of all truly saved persons, whether living or dead. This view also makes it possible to be very broad-minded toward heretics and immoral persons, for no matter how divergent in beliefs and practices two individuals or churches may be, they can always fellowship together because „after all, we are all members of the Universal Invisible Church.”
Those who hold this view often try to justify it by the fact that „all believers are members of the Body of Christ, which is the church.” Some who disclaim belief in any universal church, still believe that every true believer is a member of the „Body of Christ.” But these two cannot be separated. The Body of Christ and the Church of Christ are one and the same (Col. 1:24). But the Scriptures nowhere even intimate that every believer is a member of the Body of Christ. On the contrary, everywhere that reference is made to someone being a member of the Body of Christ, it is in direct reference to that one being a member of a local congregation. Nowhere in all of the New Testament is there a single reference to any unchurched Christian being a member of the Body of Christ. It is a purely gratuitous assumption to think so.
Advocates of both forms of the Universal Church theory believe and teach that every local church is a part of the Universal Church. The Scriptures do not teach this. In fact, they refute this teaching. 1 Corinthians 12 is one of the favorite resorts of those who advocate the Universal Church theory. Yet, after numerous references to the Body of Christ, in which he likens the church to a human body, Paul concludes by saying, „Now ye [the Corinthians] are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:27). There is no definite article here so that it is literally „a body.” Observe that he did not say „Ye are a part of the Body…” Nor can this meaning be forced into this text. To try is to pervert Scripture in order to justify false teachings. Obviously the church at Corinth was not exclusively the Body of Christ, for other churches were also so denominated, but just as obviously the church at Corinth was not partially the Body of Christ.
Proponents of this theory cite such Scriptures as Ephesians 4:4 in an endeavor to justify their theory. „There is one body,” and other texts that speak of „one body” are cited as proof that there is numerically but One Church, and they conclude that all the local assemblies must be but parts of it. However, the fact that the plural „churches” is often used is clear evidence that the Body, which is the Church, is not numerically one. In what sense, then, is the Body of Christ „one”? It is „one” generically; i.e., there is but one kind of body or church, and that is the local assembly. It is self-evident that there were local assemblies in the New Testament, and the fact that there were numerous of these proves that the „Body” was not „one” numerically. Therefore, by the process of elimination we can come to but one conclusion, namely, that the body of Christ, the Church, is „one” so far as kind is concerned, and that one kind is a local assembly. In no other way can all the Biblical terms be harmonized, and this involves taking each term in its most natural meaning. The majority of usages of „church” make this truth evident, and only a lot of twisting and wresting of the Word of God can interpret this any other way. Who wants a doctrine that must be arrived at in this way.
„Universal church” is actually a contradiction in terms, for the word translated „church,” when scripturally used, cannot be applied to anything but a local assembly. The Greek word ekklesia means assembly or congregation, and there is no Biblical usage where it does not have the connotation of an actual assembling. „Locality inheres in ecclesia. There can be no assembly now or hereafter without a place to meet. When existing in fact, both the particular assembly in time, and the general assembly in eternity, are both visible and spiritual.. .Ecclesia remains throughout an organized assembly whose members are properly called out from their private homes or business to attend to public affairs.”—B. H. Carroll, Ecclesia—The Church, pp. 21-22, 31.
Not only is the word „Universal” a contradiction of the word „Church,” but the word „universal” (Greek katholikos) is not found in the Greek New Testament, nor in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint). In the second century it began to creep into some religious writings, and some copyists of New Testament books began to append it to some of them, as in the uninspired title „The First Epistle General (katholikos) of Peter.” Yet even in these usages it was a contradiction, for Peter’s epistle was not general or universal, but had four distinct limitations in its address.
By the third century, this word had come to be used fairly commonly of the church, but not so much in the sense of „universal” as of „orthodox.” It referred to what was generally held by all Christians. Eusebius, the Church Historian of the fourth century uses it several times in such a way as to show that the expression had more to do with a sectarian designation—i.e., „Catholic—Orthodox”—than as descriptive of extensiveness. See Cruse’s note in Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., Book VI, Chap. 43. A Universal Church in the present day sense, was unknown for several centuries after Christ. So obviously the Church was not originally Universal in nature. Here was an unscriptural word that gradually came to represent an unscriptural idea in peoples’ minds.
The concept of a Universal Church is nothing more than that—a concept. It cannot have any existence from a historical standpoint, as is admitted by some of the greatest scholars who have studied the question. F. J. A. Hort, who strongly advocated this theory of the church, after giving over half of his volume to a fruitless search for scriptural proof of such a church in the New Testament, admits this. „Here [Col. 1:18], at last, for the first time in the Acts and Epistles, we have ‘the Ecclesia’ spoken of in the sense of the one universal Ecclesia. And it comes more from the theological than from the historical side; i.e., less from the actual circumstances of the actual Christian communities than from a development of thoughts respecting the place and office of the Son of God. His headship was felt to involve the unity of all those who were united to Him.”—The Christian Ecclesia, p. 148.
Observe from this: (1) Dr. Hort could not find a Universal Church anywhere in the Bible but (as he supposed) this one place. (2) Here, he was compelled to admit that this was not a historical church, but only a theological concept. (3) It was developed here, he admits, only from thoughts concerning Christ’s place and office—from human reasoning. Yet, (4) Even here, this is not a legitimate deduction from the text, for Christ may be „Head of the body, the church” in at least three different ways without necessitating the present existence of a Universal Church. B. H. Carroll speaks of this. „When in some of the foregoing Scriptures, Christ is represented as head over all things to the church—His body, you easily meet all the requirements of the language by saying: (1) He is head over all things to His earth church as an institution. (2) He is head over all things to any particular earth church. (3) He is head over all things to His general assembly in glory.”—Ecclesia—The Church, p. 39. (5) The problem that is suggested by #(3) is that man has a strong tendency to trust in his own fallible reasoning instead of in the Lord’s infallible revelation. In many areas besides church truth, people bind themselves to „what seems reasonable,” instead of simply asking, „What saith the Lord?” and yielding obediently to that. Most of the problem in assuming that the Body of Christ must be made up of all believers derives from the fact that „it sounds reasonable,” but Scripture is contrary to this idea. Human reasoning is often defective in regard to spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:11-13).
The Universal Church theory is a fabrication of men’s minds, and not a New Testament teaching. It was first produced by proud men that desired to subjugate as many persons under their own personal rule as possible, and so they fabricated the theory of the „one visible and catholic church.” Read the histories of Christianity in the second and following centuries, and one will see this clearly in all the wranglings between different would be „bishops.” This theory has been perpetuated by men of like pride and ambition, who found this theory a convenient point of fellowship, where the unpopular stand on local church truth and responsibility could be avoided. We would not be thought to put a blanket condemnation upon all that hold to this theory, for we must admit that many hold this theory through ignorance, as this writer once did. It is the writer’s fervent hope and prayer that such persons will be stirred up to an independent study of this subject, and that they will come to a knowledge of the glorious truth of the local church. We proceed to consider—
II. The Truth Expounded.
The title of this study is in the form of a question, and we propose to answer it in the course of this division. To begin with, we might ask, „Was the Jerusalem church universal?” When they had their business meeting before the day of Pentecost there were but one hundred and twenty names or thereabout on the church roll. I think that no one will be mad enough to say that this constituted it a universal church. And even after there had been added several thousands on several different occasions, this church was still not universal. Some historians have estimated that the Jerusalem church may have had as many as fifty thousand members by the end of the first century, yet it was never otherwise than a local church. There is scriptural evidence, however, as we shall see, that before this great number was attained, this church was broken up into numerous independent congregations in the various places where they met. And this would be more in harmony with the meaning of ekklesia.
The one seeming exception to this usage is the reading of some manuscripts as followed by the Revised Version of Acts 9:31. „So the church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being edified; and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, was multiplied.” This appears to speak of the church in a provincial sense. Yet, nowhere else in the whole of Scripture is the word ever used in this way. And, we find several explanations that show that this was not an exception to the rule. (1) The reading adopted by the Authorized Version may be the right one, and the plural „churches” the intended meaning. But, (2) there is no evidence that there existed a single church beside the Jerusalem church at this time. And (3) we are expressly told that the members of this church had been scattered through these same regions by persecution (Acts 8:1). (4) Not only so, but the persecution by Saul is declared to have been directed only against the Jerusalem church (Acts 8:1; 9:13). Therefore, (5) this refers simply to the church at Jerusalem whose scattered members were constrained to have isolated meetings wherever they were.
„The word probably denotes the original church at Jerusalem, whose members were by persecution widely scattered throughout Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and held meetings wherever they were, but still belonged to the same original organization. When Paul wrote to the Galatians nearly twenty years later, these separate meetings had been organized into distinct churches; and so he speaks (Gal. 1:22), in reference to the same period, of the churches of Judaea which were in Christ.”—John A. Broadus, Commentary on Matthew, p. 359.
It is certainly folly of the worst kind to give a meaning to a single passage of Scripture which contradicts all other usages of the word or subject, when all passages can be easily harmonized by putting a different interpretation upon the passage in question. To hold that Acts 9:31 teaches a provincial church is to make it contradict the consistent usage of the word ekklesia in the New Testament, but to accept the above explanation is to harmonize all usages in the New Testament. But in order to justify their disobedience of the Word of God, some have no qualms about holding to contradictory interpretations of Scripture. But the point is clear: the Jerusalem church was not universal, and it never became universal.
We pass on to ask if that great missionary church at Antioch was universal? Again we believe that no one will take the affirmative of this. Everything that is written in the New Testament of this church makes it clear beyond any contradiction that it was never anything but a local assembly. The same is true of the churches at Ephesus, Colosse, Corinth, Thessalonica, and everywhere else that the word „church” is used. It is a word that, by its very meaning, is incapable of being anything but local.
The consistent New Testament usage is to refer to a single Christian assembly as a „church.” When a larger area is concerned where more than one Christian assembly is found, it is always simply the plural „churches.” Thus do we read of „confirming the churches” (Acts 15:41); „so were the churches established” (Acts 16:5); „the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4); „the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16); „so ordain I in all churches” (1 Cor. 7:17); „neither the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16); „All churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33); „keep silence in the churches” (1 Cor. 14:34); „the churches of Galatia” (1 Cor. 16:1); „the churches of Asia” (1 Cor. 16:19); „the churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1); „throughout all the churches” (2 Cor. 8:18); „chosen of the churches” (2 Cor. 8:19); „the messengers of the churches” (2 Cor. 8:23); „before the churches” (2 Cor. 8:24); „I robbed other churches” (2 Cor. 11:8); „inferior to other churches” (2 Cor. 12:13); „the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2); the churches of Judaea,” Gal. 1:22; „the churches of God” (1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Thess. 1:4); „the seven churches” (Rev. 1:4, 11, 20) (bis); „the churches” (2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 22:16). Because Scripture is from God, it is always consistent with itself, and so it is in regard to church truth.
Here are thirty-three times when the plural „churches” is used. According to the Universal Church theory, these should never have been used, for according to this theory, when any segment of Christianity larger than the local assembly is referred to, it should be called „The Universal Church,” or, at least, „The Church.” Modern day theologians are want to speak of the „Whole Church” when referring to the supposed Universal Church, but the Scriptures do not so speak. Three times the phrase „the whole church” is used in the New Testament, and in each instance it cannot possibly refer to anything but a local congregation. See Acts 15:22; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 14:23. What a tremendous blunder the inspiring Spirit made in each of these instances, if we believe the reasoning of those that hold to the theory of the Universal Church! But it seems rather as if God had foreseen all the human confusion over the word „church” and refuted all humanistic ideas beforehand.
The Greek word rendered „church” appears 115 times in the New Testament, and of this number, all but seventeen have clear and certain reference to some particular, local assembly. Of these seventeen, four refer to non-Christian assemblies (viz., Acts 7:38; 19:32, 39, 41). Of the thirteen remaining, two have in view the coming Glory Church, which is not a present reality. These are Ephesians 5:27 and Hebrews 12:23. The eleven remaining passages (viz., Matthew 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23, 24, 25, 29, 32; Col. 1:18, 24), are all used generically or institutionally. These passages are primarily the ones that are held to teach a Universal Church, yet such is not the case, as an examination of each will prove.
In Matthew 16:18, the word „church” is used institutionally, that is, considered as an institution comprised of at least one scriptural church in every day from the founding of it until Christ comes again. The Universal Church theory cannot be forced upon this passage without doing violence to it. The gates of Hades may, and often have, prevailed against individual churches, but against the church considered as an institution, they shall not. He has promised perpetuity through this age for His church as an institution, and His own wisdom and power will fulfill this promise.
In the remaining passages, the word „church” is used generically, i. e., as when a person speaks of some genus or species of thing without reference to any specific individual member of that genus. But when the generic usage changes to the specific, it always refers to a specific local assembly, as all of the other references in the New Testament show. To illustrate: if someone should say, „The dog is man’s best friend,” no rational person would think that he was speaking of a Universal Dog, either visible or invisible, made up of all the dogs in the world. Any thinking person would know that he was speaking generically, that is, that what is true of the species, is generally true of every individual member of the species. On the other hand, if the same person should say, „My dog is black and white,” it would be known that he was speaking of some specific canine. Thus, the majority of the usages of the word „church” in the New Testament refer to some specific church, but those usages in Ephesians and Colossians listed above are simply generic usages, in which „church” is used abstractly. However, whenever the abstract becomes concrete, it must partake of the nature of all the specific churches mentioned in the New Testament, that is, it is a local assembly.
The books of Ephesians and Colossians are almost the sole refuge of those who espouse the theory of the Universal Church. Yet if these references to „The Church” must be construed as proving the existence of a „Universal Church,” then consider what Ephesians 5:23 must prove. „The husband is the head of the wife,” must therefore also be proof of the existence of a „Universal Husband” made up of all the husbands in the world, and of a „Universal Wife” made up of all the wives in the world, for the usage is exactly the same in both cases. Yes, this would be an absurdity! But it would be no more of an absurdity than the theory of a „Universal Church.”
Alluding to the scriptural illustration of husband and wife again, we realize that what is meant is simply that, considered as a distinct class, the husband is to be the head of the wife in every right marital relationship. And if this is not so, then there is a wrong relationship. But when we pass to a concrete example, we say, „John Jones is the head of his wife.” It is no more generic and abstract, but specific.
Let us look at these references in Ephesians and Colossians and see if this is not true. „Gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22-23). „And he is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18). Generally speaking, the church will be subject to Christ, and so, every specific, local assembly, if it is scripturally constituted, will be subject to its Head, Christ. When it ceases this right relationship, it risks the Lord terminating the relationship by removing its candlestick, as was threatened to the Ephesian church (Rev. 2:4-5).
„To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10). To the church, considered generically, is committed the task of being a teacher of the spiritual hosts in the heavenlies. But this responsibility cannot be discharged except by specific local assemblies as members of that genus. No Universal, Invisible Church could do so.
„Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:2 1). Whether considered abstractly as a genus, or concretely as some specific member of the genus, it is the duty of a church to glorify God by Christ Jesus. But in the practical fulfillment of this duty, no nebulous will-o-the-wisp thing such as the imagined „Universal, Invisible Church” could ever fulfill this duty. Those to whom the churches are to witness and minister are physical, visible, real beings, and an invisible church cannot have any reaction upon, or relevance to, such.
„For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). Consistency demands that the word „church” be dealt with here in the same way as the words „husband” and „wife” are. All three of these terms are used generically—in reference to a genus of things. If the Church, considered generically, is to be subject to Christ, then so also is every specific individual, church. The same logic applies in verse 24. Sadly, many churches are not subject to their Head, but have invented their own programs, and rest in their own power.
„Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). Just as Christ died for the church considered generically, so, in like manner, He died for every individual church. See also verse 29 where the same thing applies. Truth may often be spoken abstractly, but practicality operates in the realm of the concrete, and that is where God’s will is done. God is glorified in actual workings, not in mere theory.
„This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). Some say that the language used in these verses in Ephesians is too broad and lofty to have application to a local church. „The use of the word ‘church’ in a sense too broad for the application to a particular church must be found in this letter, if anywhere. In view of this fact, it is fortunate that we have such historical passages touching the Ephesian church as appear in Acts 20:17-38 and 1 Timothy 3:14. In both these passages there can be no doubt that the address concerns the particular church at Ephesus, and yet these broad terms are used. Take heed to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.’ These things write I unto thee…that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.’ There is no term so broad, whether house, temple, body, flock, bride, but may be applied to a particular church, because each particular church in itself alone foreshadows the church in glory.”—B. H. Carroll, Commentary on Ephesians, p. 167.
„…For his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). Obviously, Paul’s ministry, which he mentions in V25, was not in any Universal Church, but was confined exclusively to local assemblies, and not to any one in particular. So, he speaks of the church generically that what he says may have application to „all the churches,” over which he had the care (2 Cor. 11:28).
Some people mistake the import of the commands to the churches because they do not realize that the Lord treats every church as if it were the only one in existence. He does not say to one, „You must concern yourself solely with local evangelism.” Nor to another, „You must be a great doctrinal church.” Nor to yet a third, „You must be a great missionary church.” Nor yet again to another, „You must be a great benevolent church.” No! He commits the same responsibilities to each and every church. And should every other church on earth but one be suddenly removed, it would neither lessen nor add to that church’s responsibilities. Therefore, when the Word of God speaks of the Church institutionally or generically, the terms are purposefully left broad enough that every local, particular assembly may take it as though it was addressed to it personally, for it does, indeed, apply to every church individually.
To answer the question contained in the title of this study: We believe that the New Testament church has never become universal, but that there is but one kind of church mentioned in the New Testament, and that one kind is the local church body. The Universal Church theory is a Pedobaptist „foundling” which has been left upon the Baptist doorstep, and which, having been taken in, is rapidly consuming the inheritance of the legitimate sons of the household.
The idea of a Universal Visible Church was not conceived for two or three centuries after the founding of the Lord’s Church, and so, it was by that many centuries too late to be New Testament truth. And when it did come on the scene, it was the product of men that were doctrinally very unsound, and they used this idea to promote their pride and ambition, as they sought to be lords over greater and greater numbers. Early Church Histories make this plain.
The idea of a Universal Invisible Church was of even later origin, not coming on the scene until the days of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. This makes this theory over fifteen hundred years too late to be New Testament Truth. „The whole of the modern Baptist idea of a now existent ‘universal, invisible church’ was borrowed from pedobaptist confessions of faith in the Reformation times, and the pedo-baptists devised it to offset the equally erroneous idea of the Romanist ‘universal visible church.’ We need to be well indoctrinated on this point, because the error is not harmless. It is used to depreciate Christ’s earthly church, ‘the pillar and ground of the truth.”’—B. H. Carroll, Commentary on Ephesians, p. 164. Yet most advocates of this theory treat it as if it was clearly written in stone all through the New Testament. But it is not so.
Dr. Carroll makes a point here that is not realized by most advocates of this theory. One will search in vain for any historical references to a „Universal Invisible Church” before the Reformation. We have been told that there is possibly such a reference in Augustine’s „City Of God,” written in the fourth or fifth century, for what it is worth. If so, this was still at least four centuries too late to be New Testament Church Truth, and this was by a Roman Catholic, not an evangelical Christian. He was a rabid hater of all that did not agree with the Catholic Church, and persecuted the Baptists of his day with great vigor.
But even this possible reference may not have been a historical fact, for another Roman Catholic, J. B. Bossuet, says that the idea of a „Universal Invisible Church” originated in the days of the Reformation. So he evidently knew not of any such reference to this in Augustine’s writings, with which he would certainly have been familiar. He says that Protestants invented this idea when taunted by Catholics with the impossibility of finding a visible church of their faith before the Reformation. „Here is the dogma of an invisible Church, as clearly established as the dogma of the visible Church had been before. That is to say, the Reformation, struck at first with the true notion of the Church, defined it so as that her visibility came into her very essence; but afterwards fell into other notions through the impossibility of finding a church always visible of her belief. That it was this inevitable perplexity which drove the Calvinian Churches upon this chimera of a Church invisible (emphasis mine—DWH) none can doubt, after hearing Mr. Jurieu. That which moved (says he) some reformed doctors (he should have said whole Churches of the reformation) in their own Confessions of Faith, to cast themselves into the perplexity they were entangled in upon their denying the perpetual visibility of the Church, was because they believed, by owning the Church always visible, they should find it difficult to answer the question which the Church of Rome so often makes us:—Where was our Church a hundred and fifty years ago? If the Church be always visible, your Calvinist and Lutheran Church is not the true Church, for that was not visible.”’—J. B. Bossuet, History of the Variations of the Protestant churches, Vol. 2, pp. 289-290. What a challenging statement this is to those that hold so tenaciously to the idea of a „Universal Invisible Church.”
As we said before, this is fifteen hundred years too late to be New Testament Truth, and so, can be nothing but a human invention, and so, heresy. Who is willing to embrace as Truth what was almost certainly unknown for fifteen hundred years after Christ established His Church and sent it on its ministry. How much better to accept the clear New Testament teaching that the Church is always and only a local assembly as cannot be doubted if we take the New Testament for our authority.
Here then is the historical origin of both these views. Who desires to embrace such a doctrine? With the question answered as to when the church became universal, we need to note the danger involved in this theory. Therefore we consider—
III. The Tendency Explained.
As noted before, this theory leads to the depreciation of the local church, for almost invariably the „Universal Church” takes precedence and importance over the local body. Yet even the most ardent advocates of this theory are constrained to admit that at most only a dozen or so verses can even be thought to refer to this. This means that even if these abstract references to the Church were granted to teach the present existence of a Universal Church, still the local church is given a ten-to-one prominence over the „Universal.” But is this the ratio of importance assigned to the local church by those who hold this theory? Hardly! Most advocates of this theory almost completely ignore the local institution, or, if they speak of it at all, they do so scornfully, treating it as an insignificant, unimportant little nothing that no self-respecting Christian would be found in, except at his funeral. But it was the local Church for which Christ’s blood was shed, for Paul’ statement to this effect was addressed to the elders appointed over this church as bishops. Acts 20:28 cannot have reference to some „Universal Church,” for there are no bishops over the Universal Church.
We heartily deprecate the Universal Church theory in both its forms, yet the holding of these theories would not be quite so bad if advocates of it among Baptists would give the local church its proper place and respect, but such is seldom, if ever, the case. If the local assembly is the „pillar and ground of the truth,” as Scripture assures us that it is (1 Tim. 3:15), then all of our loyalty belongs to it, and we have no right to yield allegiance to any other religious organization on earth or supposedly in heaven that competes with it. Therefore, it becomes sin to compromise with other denominations on the basis of a supposed common membership in the „Universal Church,” for this would be to subordinate the Church of God to a human organization, for the „Universal Church” in both its forms is a human invention.
Here, therefore, is a second tendency of this theory—to promote compromise between various denominations. The „Universal Church” theory is a compromiser’s delight, for it not only justifies compromise, it demands it. For no matter how immoral or heretical a professing Christian may be, a more faithful saint is excused by this theory from taking a stand against the other’s careless lifestyle. Yea, more, he dare not speak against the other, for by his own confession „we are members one of another” (Rom. 12:5), of the same „universal” body, according to this theory. And he would, himself be reproached as „uncharitable, judgmental and self-righteous,” for criticizing a fellow member of the „Universal Church.” And not only is this so concerning individual Christians, but it is equally so concerning churches.
On the plea that „we are all members of the Universal Church,” there is the gradual eroding away of all that is distinctively Baptistic, until, at our present day, many churches that call themselves „Baptist” differ from the rest of the religious world in name only. If Baptists have a scriptural distinctiveness from other denominations, as they certainly do, then they ought to protect and perpetuate that distinction. If they do not, then they ought to take down their name, merge with the rest of the religious world, and cease being a source of division and antagonism to the rest of the religious world. And sadly, many ignorant and spineless „Baptists” have done just that. Ignorance of their age-spanning history has caused many to assume that they are nothing more than just another „Protestant” group that originated in recent times. And, tragedy of tragedies, it is the practice in most large Baptist seminaries teach the lie that Baptists are just another Protestant group. Real Baptists have never been Protestants, for as a distinct denomination, they antedated all others, Catholic and Protestant alike. Who does one think all those noble martyrs through the ages were? Faithful, uncompromising Baptists, for the most part!
However, it is evident that Baptists do have a scriptural distinctiveness that has dated from the first century of this era down to the present time. All of the religious truth that is in the world today is here because multiplied millions of Baptist martyrs died to preserve it while Catholicism, the only other existing „Christian” denomination until the Reformation, was corrupting it. And while we rejoice to know that some other denominations have adopted some of the Baptist distinctives in recent centuries, yet „all the counsel of God” is still rarely found, and so, the work of Baptists is far from done. Much has been done by the Evil One to destroy the truth, and we are presently faced with one of the most insidious plots yet—the plan to destroy the truth by compromise and corruption—and the Universal Church theory is the most efficient weapon for this purpose.
The widespread trend among Baptist churches of uniting in super-church organizations such as conventions, associations, fellowships, etc., tends to promote the idea of a „Universal Church”—a Universal Baptist Church—for the member churches are considered as parts of a whole. Indeed, it has become fashionable among Southern Baptists to speak of their Convention as „The Southern Baptist Church.” This is a corruption of biblical Church Truth, and it will inevitably lead to the people of the pews accepting the theory of a „universal church” in the Protestant sense, and perhaps even in the Catholic sense. That is always the tendency of compromise. It finds no stopping place once it is allowed even in seemingly small matters.
The Universal Church theory is the very foundation of the present Ecumenical movement, and it is the rallying point around which Rome hopes to draw all groups. Already, great numbers believe that salvation makes one a member of the „Universal Invisible Church.” And it will be but a short step for Rome to convince many that they must become members of the „Universal Visible Church” (Rome), „outside of which there is no salvation,” which has been Rome’s teaching since her origin in the third century. Many thoughtless Baptists are a lot closer to this than they realize.
But even nearer at home, the Universal Church theory has a corrupting tendency on the local church, for it tends to discredit the democratic, congregational government of the local church. Those who are taught that salvation makes one a member of the Universal Church, are often hard to convince that one must measure up to several other requirements before he can become a member of the local body. This leads to a disparagement of „that little old insignificant local church.” This theory has too often led to the let-down of baptismal standards for church membership, so that a person is accepted on any sort of baptism, so long as he professes to be saved.
The advocacy of this theory makes for an easy Christianity (?). It requires no doctrinal soundness. It demands no separated life, but allows one to imitate the manners of the „heathen round about” who claim to also be members of the Universal Church. It allows—yea, it encourages—a person to fellowship with all sorts of spiritual deviates. But an easy Christianity in this world was never promised to the followers of the Crucified One. Indeed, our Lord said, „The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). And again, „In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And once again, „Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22).
This writer can see much evil in the theory of the Universal Church, but he is unable to see any good in it. Its whole appeal is to the flesh and pride of man, both of which are evil in the sight of the Lord. May Almighty God impart to us the strength necessary to stand firm in the Truth, no matter how unpopular it is. „Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (Heb. 13:13).


Davis Huckabee
It is obvious from the most casual observation that the great majority of professed Christians and church members have only the foggiest notion of what the purpose of a New Testament Church is, and many have totally erroneous views of its purpose. Yet the Lord has not left His people and His churches in the world for no reason. But how many church members act as if their lives were their own, and they had no responsibility to anyone but self.
It is said that a guest speaker at a mental institution proposed the question „Why Are We All Here?” To which one of the inmates replied, „Because we are not all there!” We propose to ask this question in regard to New Testament Churches. Why are churches left in the world? What are the purposes of the churches? It is to be feared that there are many churches that have left off to do their duty unto the Lord, and have become, to all practical purposes, dead churches. The reason for this state of affairs may be traced to the members, many of whom are like the man of whom the minister unthinkingly remarked at the beginning of a funeral sermon that „This corpse has been a member of this church for forty years.” Too many spiritually dead church members will make for a spiritually dead church as well.
Do we have the right concept of the purposes of a New Testament church? Clearly many church members do not understand what their reason for existence as Christians and as a church is, else they would live and act differently than they do. Yet the Scriptures present no uncertain testimony in this matter, but clearly define the purposes for the churches’ existence, and we become guilty before God if we do not fulfill these purposes. Many people, if we may judge by their actions, seem to think that the church is some sort of a social club, or else that it is the instrument of political propaganda, or the instrument for the correcting of social and economic evils. But none of these are the primary purpose for the existence of the Lord’s churches, though all of these things may be effected in a greater or lesser degree by the faithful ministry of a church. We propose to ask this question then, and to answer it both negatively and positively in six different considerations, the first of which is—
I. It Is Not For The Egoism of the Carnal.
Many who profess to be devout Christians and think themselves to be the best kind of church members, yet have the idea that the church exists only for the sake of its members. They expect the church to cater to the selfish ego of its members in all things, so that where this attitude obtains in the church, there is generally little ever accomplished by the church beyond the entertaining and comforting of its own carnal members. Such a church will almost always have the fanciest and most comfortable building, the largest organ, and the most elaborate ritual, the most polished messages and the most easy-going discipline of any church in town. But it will also be the most carnal and worldly church, and will do less for the glory of God than almost any other church in town.
A consideration of the church calendar in some newspapers looks like a theater marquee or calendar for the town’s social clubs, for there will be movies, plays and skits to entertain, and socials, luncheons and pot-luck suppers to attract those „whose god is their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Other churches think that they must constantly have some kind of contest going on in order to keep the church members interested in coming. But all of these things defeat their own purpose in that they develop a carnal and worldly membership, which must be constantly feed on this same milk-sop diet, and even then they will eventually sicken of it and leave. It is true that a diet of strong meat and hard work will run some members off from a church. But those carnal ones would never be profitable to the church or to the Lord under any circumstances anyhow, and if they are catered to, they will leaven the rest of the church with their worldliness.
A great deal is made today of „making Christianity relevant to the masses,” „reaching the outsiders,” and „interesting people in the church.” But if this is done at the cost of compromise, it benefits neither the outsiders nor the church. Some years ago, this writer thought about this, and the following poem was the result of that meditation. I trust that the consideration of this may provoke some to more scriptural attitudes in this matter.
Must We Make Christianity Relevant?
You’ve got to make it relevant,”
Was the pig’s great cry.
„You’ve got to come and join me
Down here in my sty.”
So the farmer stepped over
And the pig said with a grin
„Welcome to our lovely company
Come and wade right in.
Now the farmer had a motive grand
For wading in the sty.
He thought he’d improve the pig
By his example by and by.
But time passed by and the pig
Said, „Now I plainly see
That you’re nothing more or less
Than just a pig like me.”
How tragic that so many preachers
Think that they men’s souls can win
By compromising the truth of God
And condoning the world’s sin.
God has never given any person or church the authority to lower the standards to suit the tastes of the world, and anyone does so only at the cost of the Lord’s blessings. Only the Spirit of God can make Christianity relevant to the unbelieving masses. He does so by converting men and making them new creations in Christ, created unto good works and ordained to walk in them, cleansed from the defilements of the flesh and renewed in their minds so as to have new and hallowed ambitions to glorify God.
Much is being made in some circles of the need to appeal to the youth, or to some other special groups, yet where in Scripture is any segment of humanity ever given special emphasis or consideration over another? The truth is that God has always had a consistent method of dealing with all people regardless of their social status or standing, age or aptitude. If anyone is so conceited as to think that he merits special consideration, he is too inflated with his own self-importance to ever be of any use either to the glory of God, or to the up-building of the church.
If a person must be treated like a king and borne about on a silk pillow in order to get him to come to church, then he shows no great evidences of discipleship. „Jesus said unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). If we would follow Jesus, then we must walk in the path of humility and self-denial, for the kingdom age is not yet come. We must be servants now, if we would rule as kings then.
Man is by nature a proud and egotistical creature, and only grace can change him from this self-centered attitude. Therefore, if there has been no teaching of the need for selflessness in the Christian, or if the Christian has not taken heed to this teaching, he will continue to be vain and egotistical and self-centered, and will want the church to revolve around him and his desires. This can never be, if the church is to fulfill its Divinely given purpose.
This ego-centric attitude often goes far toward defeating the true purposes of the church in that so much of the church’s time and finances are spent on keeping the carnal members comfortable and content that there is little left to spend on spreading the truth. Sometimes a church will spend the Lord’s money on something that brings no glory to God, but which only satisfies the carnality of its members, and then have the unmitigated gall to denominate this „doing home missions.” But mission work, whether home or foreign, must never be disassociated from preaching the Gospel, baptizing the converts and teaching them the Truth of God’s Word. Mission work must embody these elements, and where these things are missing, it is not mission work, whatever else it may be.
It has been rightly observed that as a people’s spirituality ebbs and wanes, their love of comfort, pomp and ritual increases, and vice versa. The spiritual condition of a church may be judged by what the most emphasis is placed upon in the church. A church does not exist primarily for the benefits its own members, and in actuality, a church is more important than even the aggregate rights of all its present members, for it exists that God might be glorified by the salvation of yet future generations of people. This is why not even a one hundred percent vote to do something is necessarily right. The carnal ego must never be allowed to dictate the purpose and practice of a church. But more positively, we must consider the purposes of the church, that—
II. It Is For The Evangelization Of Sinners.
On this positive note, the Scripture has not left us in any doubt, for one of the commissions that the Lord gave to His churches just before He ascended back to the Father was worded in this way: „Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19), literal rendering. To make disciples is nothing less than getting them saved and committed to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. Another form of this commission is given in Mark 16:15, which reveals how this was to be done: „And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Our Lord has left His churches in the world to be witnesses of Him, and to be soul-saving stations in this life, and any church that falls to recognize this as one of its primal functions, so far fails of its purpose in being left on earth. Not only does such a church fail to fulfill its purpose as far as glorifying God is concerned, but it also fails to perpetuate its own existence, for a scriptural church only lives on as it continues to add converts to its membership. Therefore, let a church cease to evangelize and it immediately begins to stagnate and die. It is only a matter of time before it will cease to exist, unless it repents and does its first works. In this, there is a judicial destruction from the Lord, as is intimated in Revelation 2:4-5: „Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” The first works here, we would judge, were the making of disciples because of a love for the Lord, and when this failed, Jesus called upon this church to repent and return to its original labors else He would cause it to cease from being His church.
It is only by the preaching of the Gospel that souls can be saved, for „after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Therefore it is not enough that men be merely taught a catechism, or made to repeat a creed, nor be convinced intellectually of the existence of God, for none of these things avail to the saving of the soul. True, these are all elements that enter in more or less in conversion, but they are not the primary factors.
A great deal is made by some of „witnessing” to lost souls, and it is true that Acts 1:8 declares that „ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,” (literal rendering). However, an erroneous conclusion has arisen in some people’s minds from this, and some have thought that men could be made disciples simply by intellectual arguments, and so some have contented themselves with merely getting people to make a profession of faith in Christ. It is very instructive, however, to consider the history of evangelism subsequent to Acts 1:8, for by far the majority of those who were discipled after this, professed to be saved after the public preaching of the Word. We would not be mistaken in this. All Christians, whether faithful or unfaithful, are witnesses of Jesus Christ. But they may, by their lives, be witnessing a lie, but all are witnessing something. This is all that can be drawn from Acts 1:8. It is a declaration, not a command. They witness of Jesus, whether true or false. However, this is in reference to the Lord’s church, and it is the corporate witness of the church that is meant, for the coming of the Comforter was upon the church in order to endue it with power that would make its preaching effectual. Faithful Christians will first of all witness by their lives, and they should vocally witness of the saving grace of God to others as they have opportunity, and as the Spirit leads them. The mistake to be avoided is in substituting personal witnessing for public preaching. In no Scripture does the Lord promise to save people by personal witnessing, although He may do so on occasion, but when this happens, it is generally because the witnessing is of the nature of preaching the Gospel. Often the promise is given that people shall be saved through the preaching of the Gospel to them. „But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:8-9, 13-14). „Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Cor. 15:11). „In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour” (Titus 1:2-3). „Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did” (Acts 8:4-6).
One passage only speaks of „winning souls” (Prov. 11:30), and that is not exactly the most evangelical Book in the Bible, yet modern evangelism has built a whole system of doctrine on this one passage. A veritable pyramid based on a single Scripture. Yet the Hebrew word rendered „winneth” here appears almost a thousand times in the Old Testament, but is never again rendered this way. Of 965 appearances, almost 800 are rendered „take,” „take away,” or „carry away.” „He that takes away souls is wise hardly sounds like a godly work.
Not only so, but the Hebrew word for „wise” is the same that is used in Ezekiel 28:3 of the Antichrist. From the devil’s earliest appearance in Scripture he is seen as the great taker away of souls by his subtlety and wicked devices (Gen. 3:1; 2 Cor. 2:11;11:3). It is to be feared that many professed „soul winners” more resemble those in Matthew 23:15, than they do godly servants. We are not against personal witnessing, but only want to emphasize what Scripture emphasizes, for there are few texts that emphasize witnessing, but there are a great number that enjoin the preaching of the Gospel. How easy it is to get things all out of proportion in an endeavor to glorify self.
The reason for this lies in the natural tendency of man to put too much emphasis upon human works and accomplishments that the flesh might be glorified. The Holy Spirit alone can convert any person, and He does this by the instrumentality of the Word of God. „Whereunto he called you by our gospel” (2 Thess. 2:14). „. . .and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). „. . . I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). „Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth . . .” (Jam. 1:18). „Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23). The faithful presentation of the Gospel is the only way whereby men may be converted and become Christians.
People may be swayed by the oratory of a glib tongued witness, but they cannot be converted thereby. It is also a sad truth that some over-zealous „soul winners” have made themselves so obnoxious to lost people that the lost person made a false profession of faith in order to get rid of them. Or else he becomes so hardened that no one would ever again have an opportunity to present the Gospel to him. This writer has know some of both classes, and it has never seemed that the „soul winner” involved did anything except try to exalt himself in so doing.
The very word „evangelism” is derived from the Greek word that is translated „gospel,” so it can never be separated from the proclamation of the Gospel except to the corrupting of true evangelism. This is Satan’s fondest desire, and he cares not how zealous a Christian may be, if he is but confused or mistaken in the presentation of the truth about salvation. Let us never forget that „it is the Spirit that quickeneth,” or giveth life (John 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6). He does this by means of the gospel, and therefore it is the duty of the church both collectively and as individual members to faithfully present the truth to the lost.
God has ordained that „Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21). This being so, evangelism should never be isolated from the church, for to the church was this commission given, and none but members of true churches can scripturally discharge this responsibility.
God would be more glorified, more souls would be truly saved, and fewer unregenerate people would be brought into churches, if there was less emphasis placed upon individuals „winning souls” by force of argument, and more emphasis was placed upon getting them under the Gospel as declared from the pulpits of the churches. In dealing with persons privately and individually, it is entirely too easy to resort to high pressure tactics to get them to profess Christ, but where there is the public preaching of the Gospel, this danger is greatly lessened. However, let no one use this danger as an excuse to neglect private, personal witnessing.
Great responsibility rests upon the Lord’s churches to be faithful in declaring the Gospel, for He has committed to them the Word of truth to be declared among all nations. This is one of the purposes of the churches’ existence. We dare not ignore it. But we note that the church has other duties, for we also observe—
III. It Is The Embodiment Of Converts.
By the word „embody” is meant „to form into a body,” or „to introduce into a body.” This duty is also declared in the commission in Matthew 28:19: „baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” By baptism, a new convert is incorporated into the Body of Christ. Contrary to common belief, no one is in the Body of Christ by salvation, for this is no part of salvation. Only by water baptism is anyone brought into a Body of Christ (a church), as it is written: „For in one spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Cor. 12:13-14), literal rendering.
Many want this to refer to a baptism by the Holy Spirit, that is a part of salvation, but there are numerous scriptural disqualifications of this idea, a few of which are as follows. (1) Holy Spirit baptism was never „by” the Spirit, for the inspired language is always „in the Holy Spirit.” He was the element, not the agent, of it. (2) Holy Spirit baptism was never upon individuals, as such, but always upon corporate groups of people. (3) Holy Spirit baptism had nothing to do with salvation, but was always an authentication of a group of believers as a New Testament house of witness. It was similar to the coming of the Shekinah glory upon first the Tabernacle, and later upon the Temple. (4) Baptism in the Holy Spirit only occurred three, or possibly four times in history, the first three times conforming to the three divisions of the commission in Acts 1:8 as God authenticated Jews, then Samaritans, and finally Gentiles as His House of witness. The possible fourth time is in Acts 19:1-7, where the reorganization of a pseudo-church may have been authenticated by God. However, this is not so certainly the same as the first three. (5) By the time that Paul was inspired to write Ephesians 4:5 there was only one baptism, and that one water baptism. Holy Spirit baptism had by now ceased to be. (6) Though the translators capitalized „Spirit” in 1 Corinthians 12:13, it is not certain that this refers to the Holy Spirit, for the identically same phrase occurs in Philippians 1:27 where it is clearly in reference to a spiritual attitude in a believer. (7) This is in harmony with scriptural requirements, for there is a proper purpose required before any one can be scripturally baptized, and that is the possession of the „one spirit” of obedient faith that all candidates for baptism must have. (8) This is confirmed by the fact that all such converts have been made to drink of one Spirit, Who leads believers into the truth, John 16:13. (9) This baptism is „into one body,” which is the Body of Christ, the local assembly, which is the only „Church” that Scripture knows anything about (Eph. 1:22-23). Note carefully that this does not say that all are baptized into the same body, but as each person is scripturally baptized into some church, he fulfills what is written here. (10) All of this is in harmony with the meaning of the word translated „church,” for ekklesla always refers to an assembly. It can have no reference to anything that cannot and does not assemble on stated occasions. „Universal church” is a contradiction of terms.
It is common in these last apostate days of this age to teach that „salvation makes one a member of The Church,” but the Scriptures do not so speak. In the New Testament, church membership is always something that was subsequent to salvation, as we see in Acts 2:47: „But the Lord was adding those being saved daily to the church,” literal rendering. It is evident that it was not by salvation that these were daily added to the church for both the tenses and voices of the two verbs are different. „Adding” is imperfect active, while „being saved” is present passive participle. However, the fact that God daily added the new converts to the church makes it clear that this is not something to be put off indefinitely, as so many professed converts now do.
Baptism is, in the commission in Matthew 28:19, the third thing commanded, and it is to be noted that it is commanded equally with the going and the making of disciples. In both cases, it is only the will of the individual that limits the fulfillment of this duty. Churches today have become tragically lax concerning this ordinance, and whereas this was once one of the strong points of Baptist Church life, and that which marked them off from other denominations, today it is seemingly a matter of shame to many. To hold to a scriptural baptism is not to be overly zealous about a non-essential, as some would characterize it. Baptism is a symbol of a very important reality, and it has always been so that when the symbol has been corrupted, the thing symbolized was not long kept pure.
The church has the ordinance of baptism committed to it, and it is not at liberty to either change or abolish it, but must continue to administer it in the same way that it was delivered to it, for this only is praiseworthy. „Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2). It was the uniform practice of all of the apostolic churches to administer this ordinance to every person who professed Christ, and not a single instance is left on record of the neglect of this. We have the record of a few being baptized who were not saved, as was manifested later, but not a single professed believer except the thief on the cross was suffered to neglect being baptized.
Yet many today would excuse the proper administration of this ordinance, and often practice no professed form of it on the plea that it is „non-essential.” But „nonessential” to what? The phrase „non-essential” is a relative term, and cannot stand alone. It is used of two objects and their relationship to one another. To say that baptism is „non-essential” makes no sense unless what it is non-essential to is stated. Is it meant that it is non-essential to salvation? Then this is true. But so are also all other duties except faith. Does this therefore mean that we can dispense with everything except faith? Its non-essentiality to salvation does not justify the ignoring of that which the Head of the Church has commanded. And there is no such thing as any thing being non-essential to obedience.
Nothing is clearer than that the Lord has commanded His churches to administer this ordinance to all converts, and to refuse to do so under any pretense is to fly in the face of the Lord’s command, and to be an outright rebel against Him. Jesus said „He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day”( John 12:48). And again, „If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And yet again, „Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Can anything be plainer than this? In what light, then, do these verses put those who live in disobedience?
Peter speaks of baptism in 1 Peter 3:2 1, and shows some important facts about it. „The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Note that (1) Baptism is a figure, or likeness, and therefore not the actual substance. (2) It is not an actual cleansing of the filth of the flesh, which is the claim of all advocates of baptismal regeneration, but is like the salvation by water of Noah and his family (v. 20), which was only a physical deliverance. (3) It is the answer of a good conscience toward God in that it is obedience to His command.
Herein may be seen the importance of this ordinance for every born again person, for it testifies to the spiritual realties of his salvation. Baptism testifies to a changed relationship before God because of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and this is the „answer of a good conscience toward God.” Those that refuse to be baptized according to the New Testament pattern, therefore refuse to measure up to the requirements for scriptural baptism, because they count it a thing of no importance. Yet, can that be non-essential which pictures the very essence of our hope—the Gospel facts of Christ’s death and resurrection?
It is the church’s responsibility to baptize all those who are led to a saving knowledge of the truth by its ministry, yet it cannot do this against the convert’s will. But the tragic truth is that many churches do not try to fulfill this commanded ministry. No church can be excused if this is simply a matter of neglect, but if the professed convert refuses to be baptized, then there is nothing that the church can do about it. But let every New Testament church recognize that it has a divine command to baptize all its converts into its membership, according to the apostolic pattern if it possibly can.
„Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. . .And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:41, 47). It is true that some manuscripts omit the word „church” in the latter verse, but this makes little difference in the sense, and in deed, many scholars agree that the word, or some other similar in meaning is necessary to make any proper sense of this verse.
It is clear to all unbiased readers of the New Testament that Jesus not only commanded the churches of the apostolic age to baptize all their converts, but that this rule was rigidly followed, and that no exceptions are recorded. It is obvious from this, then, that those who would claim to be the same as New Testament churches must also baptize all their converts into their membership, and that according to the pattern of the New Testament.
Furthermore, the same Divine commission which enjoined these preceding duties, also commanded yet another, which is that—
IV. It Is For The Indoctrination Of The Saints.
„. . . Teaching them to observe in a practical way all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), literal rendering. This is no mere theoretical teaching that is commanded, for it requires the teaching of the converts „to observe” or practice those things that Jesus had commanded. To learn the theory of something is easy, but to learn to put that theory into practice is something else again, and it is in this that so many professed Christians so signally fail. Too many want only to be casual observers of Christianity instead of being soldiers in the midst of the battle.
There is a great deal of emphasis put upon the teaching of doctrine in the Scriptures, and this is the great need of the day, for all too many professed Christians know not what they should believe, and have little concern to learn. But if a church is to be really effective in fulfilling its purpose on earth, it must teach its members so as to make them sound in the faith, for a church will not long remain in the true Faith if it is not sound in that Faith. Many people disparage doctrine as though it were a thing of no matter, but it is actually impossible to either teach or preach without presenting doctrine, for this is what teaching is. Nor is it sufficient for the purpose to only dabble in a few of the „milk” doctrines, for Jesus commanded a comprehensive teaching by the church: „. . . teaching them to observe all things . . .”
That it is easy for believers to retrogress in the knowledge of the doctrines of the Word of God instead of making progress, is obvious from Hebrews 5:12-14. „For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” These Hebrew believers had not progressed beyond the infancy stage in their knowledge of the doctrines. Yea, some had even let slip some of the truths that they had gained, and hence the admonition of the writer. The statement in Hebrews 2:1 is interesting as it is in the original language: „Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them leak out as water from a leaky bucket.” This is why continual reprogramming of the mind with doctrinal truth is needed, even in mature believers. Our minds leak spiritual truth. Let any believer but think about it, and he will find that this has often happened to him.
It is always much easier for Christians to sit back and listen to an evangelistic message where all of the responsibility is put upon the lost to come to Christ for salvation, and many saved people want nothing more than this. But it is the doctrinal messages that obligate each one to learn and apply the things learned that make for Christian growth and steadfastness. Perhaps this is why so many Christians dislike doctrinal messages—they would prefer to be left alone in their spiritual infancy.
Paul puts a great deal of emphasis upon doctrine in all of his epistles, and indeed his epistles to the Romans and Galatians are two of the most strongly doctrinal treatises ever written. In the pastoral epistles he often speaks of the need for the preacher to set forth sound doctrine to the people over whom he is set as pastor. „If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (1 Tim. 4:6).
The importance of sound doctrine cannot be over-emphasized in the churches, for this alone is the way to maintain a sound church. Where a church is sound in doctrine, there is not a great likelihood of it passing out of existence, for while it may become backslidden while being sound in doctrine, that very soundness in doctrine tends to correct the backslidden condition. The perpetuation of the truth is very important to a church, and is actually of greater importance than the salvation of individual souls. In Luke 13:24 the Scriptures admonish individuals to strive or agonize (Greek agonizomai) to enter in at the strait gait of salvation, but in Jude 3 they admonish believers to earnestly contend, or superagonize (Greek epagonizestha) for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For let one soul not be concerned about being saved, and the result is only that he will be lost. But let a church not be concerned about being sound in the faith, and not only will its members become doctrinally unsound, but sooner or later it will become corrupted as to the plan of redemption, and untold souls will be everlastingly lost because of its failure to perpetuate the truth. Few people realize the far-reaching effects of doctrinal looseness.
We have before remarked that a church must continue to make disciples in order to its own perpetuation. It must also faithfully indoctrinate its converts in order to maintain its original nature. For if the members of a church are not faithfully taught its doctrines, they will gradually adopt some other, looser system of doctrine and soon become so radically different from the original constitution as not to remotely resemble it. One has only to consider the present doctrinal belief of the Church of Rome as contrasted with the Roman church to which Paul wrote, to see the truth of this statement. Heresy seldom comes about in one gigantic apostasy, but rather is a prolonged departure from the truth by minute and graduated steps, no one of which is sufficient in itself to attract much attention, but which all add up to a serious declension from the truth.
The church exists in order to promote doctrinal soundness in those whom it has led to Christ and baptized because thereby only can it develop the next generation of servants of Christ to continue to carry forth the banner of the Cross. The very word „disciple” means „a learner,” and so, is suggestive of the character of the followers of Christ as being those who are constantly learning of Him and His will. This is also suggestive of the kind of a ministry that a church ought to have toward its own members. It ought to be constantly endeavoring to confirm them in the truth. Such was Paul’s practice on his missionary journeys. „And when they had preached the Gospel to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22), literal rendering. Paul was concerned to leave behind him churches that were sound enough to be self-perpetuating.
Sadly enough, there are many churches that are not fulfilling their purpose so far as their own members are concerned. They are content only to see people saved, and perhaps baptized into the membership, and then they leave them as helpless babes, weak in the faith, and fair prey to any spiritual wolf that may happen by. These things ought not to be, for our Lord has given as part of the great Magna Carta of His churches the command to teach the disciples to keep „all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” In the very nature of the case, this must be an endless task inasmuch as no one ever comes to a full and perfect knowledge in this life, and there are new members that need to be taught being constantly added to the membership.
Neither does this duty relate just to the red letter portions of the Four Gospels. The Lord’s statement in John 16:13-14 that the Holy Spirit would „receive of mine and shew it unto” the churches concerns these „all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). All of the New Testament is the Holy Spirit’s revelation to specially chosen men, who were inspired to record what Jesus had taught during His earthly ministry. Thus, the entire New Testament is „The Faith” which was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), and is the Textbook for the Church’s teaching. Nor does this exclude the Old Testament, for that is the basis of much of the New Testament, as shown by the numerous quotations from it in the New Testament.
But furthermore, the church has an additional task, which is that—
V. It Is For The Edification Of The Church.
The word „edify” originally meant to build up an edifice or building, but this was often used in a metaphorical rather than in a literal sense. The New Testament speaks of the church as a spiritual building (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; 1 Pet. 2:5), so that the metaphorical sense is very appropriate. The church therefore has a purpose which is reflexive—i. e., it has a purpose which is especially concerned with its own spiritual welfare.
Every ability that a church member has ought to be bent to this end—the edification of the church. So Paul often says: „Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. . .How is it then, brethren? When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying” (1 Cor. 14:12, 26).
The great mistake that all too many church members make is in thinking that they are permitted to live and die unto themselves, and that what they possess, they possess only for themselves. But see Romans 14:7-9. The Scriptures declare that anytime anyone is given more of anything than what is needed for one’s own sufficiency, it is given only that one may have sufficiency to abound in every good work. „And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that (the Greek word so rendered denotes purpose) ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). In the Greek text „all” appears five times here—the number of grace.
No one is given a talent, treasure or time simply for selfish use, but it is given to be used for the spiritual building up of the church, and consequently, for the glory of God. This is why God has set certain gifted individuals in each church—that they might thereby edify the church. „And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). Sometimes a church isn’t being edified, but this is never because of God’s failure to provide. Generally it is because the gifted person isn’t exercising his gift, or else because the church isn’t availing itself of the ability of that gifted person. Such edifying talent isn’t forced upon any church. It must absorb the edifying in order to profit by it.
From this it is clear that each church must be conscious of its own gifted members, and use them for its own best interests. For a talented person who is suffered to stand idle is a loss to the church, and isn’t given the opportunity to serve God as he was meant to do. Many churches are guilty of despairing in their need, or else of looking outside the membership for the help it needs, instead of prayerfully seeking God’s will in the matter, then looking within itself for the answer. We heard of an instance many years ago that illustrates this. A Baptist church that had a small seminary needed a Greek teacher, and while it was contemplating trying to hire one from outside, it found that a long time lay member had taken a degree in Greek some years before, and was very knowledgeable in it. This one was hired, and served for many years in this capacity.
Only one hundred years or more ago, many churches, when they lost a pastor, would look within their own ranks for some gifted man to be ordained to this work. And often such a man lived out the rest of his days discharging this work to which he had been called by the church. It was often so that no one was more surprised at being called to this work than the man himself, yet it became obvious that this was God’s will.
The twelfth chapter of I Corinthians speaks at length concerning the gifts of the Spirit, and how they are diverse the one from another, but the statement is made that „the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (v. 7). How needful it is that every church member have this truth impressed upon him that he might be more diligent to use his individual abilities for the profit and promotion of the church that it might indeed glorify God. Like any other kind of building in this world, the church must be constantly built up, or else it will deteriorate, for it is in the very nature of all things of this world that they decay and fall into disrepair unless they are constantly worked upon and repaired.
Tragically, most church members find it easier, and apparently more enjoyable to tear down than to build up. But what they do not realize is that it takes no talent whatsoever to tear down. Anyone with a bitter spirit can do this, but it takes real talent and dedication and spirituality to build up a church. It is a very appropriate question for each church member to ask whether he is tearing down or building up his church.
Thus, it is to be seen that the church does not exist alone for the benefit of outsiders. It also has a great responsibility to itself, to be conscious, not only of the needs of its own members, but also of the potential abilities and uses of its own members, and to put them to the very best uses. A fruit tree must first grow to substantial height, form and strength before it is capable of bearing fruit, and the same truth applies to a church. It must develop and grow inwardly as it prepares for outward service to the Lord. A church must indoctrinate and edify its own members even as it evangelizes the lost and embodies the new converts unto itself. And no church adequately discharges its proper function if any one of these is left off.
And there is one final purpose for the church’s existence, and while this is inclusive of much of the foregoing, it is a more comprehensive purpose than any of the foregoing. This is that—
VI. It Is For The Extension Of The Kingdom.
Every New Testament church is an agent for the kingdom of God, and it works for the final fulfillment of the kingdom. The church and the kingdom are not the same thing, as is evident from many things. The kingdom is universal, while the church is local. The kingdom is eternal, while the church came into existence only two thousand years ago, and is a creature of time. The kingdom encompasses both lost and saved, worshipper of God and infidel in its widest earthly form, yet the church is only for those who have professed faith in the Father and the Son. And there are many other ways in which the kingdom and the church may be contrasted, but few ways in which they may be compared. Universal church people try to make these to be the same thing.
We have said that the kingdom encompasses both lost and save, and this is true in the broadest meaning of the word, yet there is an inner circle of the kingdom which comprises the eternal form of the kingdom. This is composed only of truly born again persons (John 3:3), and the church is the agent in bringing people into this narrower form of the kingdom. Thus, Paul wrote: „Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Only by experiencing the new birth is one in the Kingdom of Christ. The church accomplishes this work through the ministry of evangelism, and for this reason, as well as others, church work is also kingdom work. See what is written of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. „When they had preached the gospel to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22), literal rendering. Again, on another of his missionary journeys, Paul „went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8; See also Acts 28:31). According to Acts 20:24-25, his preaching of the Gospel of the grace of God, was also the preaching of the kingdom of God.
Individual churches are brought into existence, labor for a time, and then pass off the scene, but their labors, insofar as they are faithful to the Word of God, endure forever, for they accomplish the extension of the kingdom of God on earth. At present, it is doubtful if there is a true New Testament church on earth that is over three hundred years old, for in time they all come to naught, but the kingdom continues to exist, and is extended in every age by the faithful ministry of true churches. One has but to consider how often, in epistles written to churches, their labors are referred to as advancing the kingdom of God, to see that the churches are indeed agents for the kingdom of God.
Too often church members have too low an estimate of their purpose as individuals and as a corporate body, and therefore they never rise to their fullest potential in the service of the Lord. If one never thinks of the church as anything more than a human society, organized for no other reason than the fulfillment of human needs and desires, naturally one’s labors are not going to be of a very high character. But let one once grasp the idea that the church is a divinely instituted body which exists for the purpose of extending the kingdom of God on earth, and it will make a great deal of difference in one’s outlook and attitude. To understand that God has committed to the hands of the churches the work of extending His kingdom on earth should make every church member more cognizant of his responsibility to be faithful in all things. He actually has the power committed to him of the Lord, to extend the kingdom of God on earth. Whenever the Gospel is preached, wherever men are exhorted to repent and believe the Gospel, then and there the kingdom of God is being preached. Thus it is written: „Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). And again, Paul, after referring to his preaching of repentance and faith to the Ephesians, he denominated this the „preaching of the kingdom of God” (Acts 20:21, 25).
It is to be feared that too many Bible students, in their endeavor to establish a human theory of dispensationalism, overlook the fact that God has a plan which works harmoniously in every dispensation, and which is not defeated by the failures and mistakes of men. The fulfillment of this plan is what is referred to in the Scriptures as „The kingdom of God,” and is that which glorifies God. Thus, this plan ought to be the determining factor in all human plans and actions. Every Christian ought to take this plan into consideration in every thing that he does, and nothing ought to ever be done which would be out of harmony with it. If this were the case, then all New Testament churches would always be very effective agents in the extension of the kingdom. Unfortunately, such is not the case.
When all things are considered, the church has a formidable task committed to it, and one that could never be discharged but for divine grace and power. Yet, the Lord has given to every New Testament church all that is needed to faithfully fulfill its purpose on earth, and consequently, no church has any excuse for redelegating any of its responsibilities to any one else. Each one must either do its duties, or else be accountable for its neglect of them. It is an indictment of the wisdom of God to claim that God had ordained a work for His churches which is impractical for them to do in this day. God foresaw and took into consideration all exigencies before He ordained the age-spanning work of the churches. Therefore it behooves all churches which claim to be patterned after those of the New Testament to lay aside all human inventions and reasonings, and to return in obedience to the simplicity of first century Christianity. When this is done, then may the churches expect to receive the Lord’s blessings.
Nothing so frustrates the fulfillment of a church’s responsibilities like putting too much dependence upon either human wisdom or human strength. God has so ordered all things that they shall contribute to His eternal glory, and whatsoever detracts from that is wrong, no matter how reasonable or appealing it may appear to human minds. Satan cares not how zealous one may be if he can only be diverted from the right purposes, or led to do things in wrong ways, or from wrong motives.


By Curtis Pugh

n the New Testament we find certain characteristics or marks that are essential to all churches of the New Testament kind. A New Testament kind of church is the kind Jesus started. It is the kind He promised a continual existence. It is the kind He is pleased with today. It is His church. We believe it is the only kind of church that is acceptable to God. If we would find churches of the New Testament kind, we must look for those essential marks or characteristics which we find in the New Testament. Others have done this and some have left helpful information behind. For instance, some years ago a Southern Baptist Convention pastor, J.M Carroll, presented lectures in different places in the United States on the subject of Baptist history. His lectures were extremely popular among the Baptists, many of whom were ignorant of their own history. After his death his lecture notes were put in book form. We quote from the introduction to Bro. Carroll’s little book, THE TRAIL OF BLOOD. (This little book has been translated into Romanian and is available free. If you wish to obtain this little book, contact the address printed on this booklet.) In the introduction to THE TRAIL OF BLOOD, Baptist pastor Clarence Walker wrote:

“In any town there are many different churches – all claiming to be the true church. Dr. Carroll did as you can do now – take the marks, or teachings, of the different churches and find the ones which have these marks, or doctrines. The ones which have these marks, or doctrines, taught in God’s Word, are the true churches.”

It is clear that Jesus cannot the founder of all the different “churches.” They have origins different from the church Jesus founded. They have different doctrines and different practices from the church Jesus founded. They have different doctrines and different practices from each other. He founded His kind of church because He wanted it to be a specific kind of church. He wanted it to have certain characteristics. Since God alone knows best what will please Him, it is logical that only the kind of church Christ founded can please Him. It is important that the reader keep this last statement in mind. God knows what pleases Him better than we do. Christ founded the kind of church He wanted. Men may think they know better than Christ and so they may make changes in Christ’s churches or they may start their own kind of church, but Christ’s churches are the kind He started. These are the kind of churches that please Him.
A few words about the importance of the churches is in order here. Just as the whole Bible is Christ centered, the whole New Testament has a second emphasis and that is the churches. The four Gospels tell us of the ministry of Christ and include His work in building His first church. The Book of Acts records how that one church evangelized and many were born from her through ordained men. The Epistles were mostly written to individual churches or groups of churches dealing with doctrinal and practical issues within the churches. Those New Testament books addressed to individuals were written to men who labored in the churches and in establishing new ones. The Book of Revelation has in it seven letters from Christ addressed to seven individual churches and the rest of the book deals with events, most of which take place prior to Christ returning to the earth to reign with His bride. So the New Testament certainly gives great importance to Christ’s kind of New Testament churches! The words were addressed to members of churches – true churches – churches of the kind Jesus founded.
Christ is said to have a special love for His church (Eph. 5:25). She is so important to Him as to be pictured as His bride (John 3:29) and to her as the bride of Christ is given the work of evangelism in connection with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20; Rev. 22:17). Today, many would try to live for Christ, worship and serve God outside of Christ’s kind of churches. Because of the importance of Christ’s churches, as the New Testament evidences, we doubt whether such worship and service is acceptable to God and to Christ. After all, it is in the church that God is glorified through Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:21). Man made organizations glorify the man that founded them, often bearing his name. Only in true churches of Christ is the Lord Jesus Christ glorified. What true believer, taught in the Word, would try to please God outside of a God-approved church?
Jesus said, „I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus also promised that His presence would be with His Churches even down to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). Because of these promises of Christ we can expect to find true New Testament Churches in existence somewhere in the world in our own time. They may not be in every city or even in every country and you may not have found them, but they exist.
If we would find the Lord’s Churches we must not judge them according to our own ideas and preferences (Isa. 55:9). We must judge them according to the Word of God. They are not to be known by some special name, for anyone can use a name and claim that name makes them special. They are not to be known by temporary, external signs, but by those things which are essential and perpetual. They are not necessarily the churches of Christ because of their great size, popularity, prestige, or political influence. False churches are often the most popular and influential. It has always been true that God’s people are a small number (Luke 12:32; Rom. 11:5; Isa. 1:9; John 6:65-57). God’s remnant has never been influential in the eyes of the world or the world’s religions. If God has given you eyes to see the truth about His remnant, you may be well on the way to locating true New Testament churches. If your eyes are enthralled by size and worldly prestige, you are deceived already. Just because some group at the present time has the “advantage” does not make them Christ’s churches (see Jude verse 16).
Even in the days of the apostles some men left the truth (Acts 15:24; 1 John 2:19). They formed their own kind of “churches” with their “disciples” (Acts 20:30). Some of these, along with other defectors from the truth, gradually became the Catholic group. This group later split into the eastern and western branches. Later in history the Protestant Reformation occurred. At that time several men founded churches according to their own beliefs. They had their own ideas and preferences. They had many beliefs and practices that were identical to the Harlot. All of them believed in baptismal regeneration. They all practiced infant baptism for salvation. They brought this idea, and others, along with them when they were excluded from the Harlot church. These men did not follow the Bible regardless of what you may have heard. Neither did their churches. Neither do their churches follow the Bible today. They all teach and practice the soul-damning doctrine of baptismal regeneration. They “baptize” infants – admittedly without Scriptural instruction or example. The churches these “reformers” founded were their own and not Christ’s churches. These Protestant churches which exist today cannot be Christ’s churches because they (1) were founded by some man other than Jesus Christ and (2) preach a false gospel (see 2 Cor. 11:4 and Gal. 1:6), have different officers, different governments, etc., etc. Today’s more recent man-made churches are not the churches of Christ because they came out of these Protestant daughters of the Harlot. It is impossible to bring a clean thing out of an unclean thing (Job 14:4). Because of this impossibility a “reformation” of the Harlot (making an unclean thing clean) was not and is not possible! A genuine reformation did not take place for the filth of the false gospel of the Harlot still clings to the man-made churches which came out of her. Not only was and is a reformation impossible, none was needed! Christ had His churches on the earth so that it was not necessary to clean up (reform) the Harlot to make her Christ’s church. So we conclude that the “Protestant Reformation” accomplished no real good. It did produce some “churches” with less detestible doctrines and practices in the opinion of the world, but they are still the daughters of the harlot and are themselves harlots according to the Bible. (Rev. 17:5). The famous ”Protestant Reformation” only produced more false churches – it did not produce Christ’s kind of New Testament churches. Any student of history will verify this for they know that the churches of the “Protestant Reformation” do not bear the marks of the churches of the New Testament.
In his book Bro. Carroll listed eleven marks or characteristics of true New Testament Churches. These are Scriptural marks. These are essential marks. Christ’s churches have borne these marks down through the centuries since He established the first one. The true churches of Christ bear these marks today. We are convinced that in our time this kind of church is to be found among the people called Baptists. This is because of the (1) origin of the Baptists and (2) the doctrine and practice of mainline Baptists down through the centuries. We are convinced that some Baptist churches bear these eleven essential marks of New Testament churches. We are equally convinced that not all “Baptist churches” are true New Testament Churches. Any group can call themselves a “church.” Any “church” can call herself “Baptist.” Unless a church bears the essential marks of a New Testament Church they are not a true Church of Christ regardless of their name. Consider these eleven Scriptural marks of New Testament Churches and may God guide you in finding true New Testament churches – Christ’s churches!

HE FIRST MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH: “The Head and Founder of New Testament Churches is CHRIST. He is the only lawgiver. The church is only the executive (Matt. 16:18; Col. 1:18).”
It is not enough just to say that Christ is the Head of a church! He must actually be the Head! He must direct the activities and work of the church. If Christ is not the Head of a church, He is only a figurehead. If Christ is not the Head of a church, He has no real part in that church. In order to be the Head of a church, Christ’s Word, the Bible, must be obeyed. If we would follow Christ, we cannot omit any part of the Lord’s instructions to us, nor can we add to them.
There are two errors into which men fall relative to the Headship of Christ over each church. Some would substitute a pope. They may not call him or her a pope. They may call him or her a pastor or a teacher or a prophet. It does not matter what he or she is called, if his ideas are followed instead of the instructions of Christ, he is a pope. Many “churches” today follow the teachings of some long-dead “pope” and are loyal to his interpretations of the Bible or to his additional “revelations” than they are to the simple words of the Bible. The second error is tradition and this error is more subtle. Traditions – Baptist traditions or traditions of the Harlot and her Protestant daughters – it does not matter the source. They all result in false worship. They are the commandments of men and are not according to truth (Matt 15:19). True worship must be not only a spiritual matter, it must be – it absolutely MUST be according to truth (John 4:23-24). The Bible has nothing good to say about religious traditions. In His entire ministry Jesus had nothing good to say about religious traditions! Jesus and His disciples did not conform to the religious traditions of His day (see Mark 7:1-7; Matt. 12:1-7). If we would be Christ’s churches, we must have nothing good to say about religious traditions. Since there is nothing good about them we must not follow them! Just as Jesus and His first church rejected the religious traditions of their day, so must we reject the religious traditions of our day. This is part of going outside the camp and bearing His reproach (Heb. 13:13).
The origin of religious traditions can universally be traced to paganism and idolatry. If the Bible is clear on anything, it is this: Christ’s church, His bride, is to be pure from idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14, 21; 1 John 5:21). Neither are the Lord’s churches to be involved in Jewish observances and holy days (Gal. 4:9-11; Titus 1:14). Most certainly Christ’s churches are not to participate in the pagan holidays that are popular with the world and the false churches of the world.
One thing is absolutely clear. A church that is ruled by anyone or anything other than Christ and His Word is not a New Testament kind of church. It is something else. Whether pope or tradition, anything or anyone that is followed other than Christ becomes the head of a church. Such a replacement means that the church has become another kind of church. It is not Christ’s church for He is not the Head of it. He did not build that kind of church. He is not present in her meetings for she lacks His authority.
Christ gave to His churches certain rights or authority. He did not give them unlimited authority, but specific authority. This authority relates to the job He gave the churches to do while He is away. The first kind of authority Christ gave to His churches is judicial authority: by that we mean the authority to judge. Churches have only limited judicial power (1 Cor. 5:12-13). By following the democratic process (voting), the members of each church have the right to determine (judge) who is qualified for membership. In the same manner (voting) the members of each church have the right to determine who is to be excluded from the fellowship of the church (1 Cor. 5:9-13, note especially verse 12). Such action must be based, of course, on Christ’s teachings concerning this matter (Matt. 18:15-17). This they must act according to the Word of God if they would be Christ’s kind of church. They are equally responsible to treat those excluded members according to the New Testament (Matt. 18:17; 2 Thess. 3:15). The Bible does not teach shunning of excluded members. They are to actively seek the restoration of excluded members to full fellowship with the Church (Matt. 18:17, 2 Cor. 2:7). Based on the Bible and the Bible alone, churches have the authority to judge a man’s preaching as to whether it is truth or not (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 John 4:1). So you see, a church has only limited judicial authority.
The second kind of authority Christ gave to His churches is executive power. This executive power is unlimited so that we can say that true Churches are executive in nature. By that we mean they are responsible to carry out the instructions of Christ who is to be the Head of each church (Luke 6:46). There is no limitation in this matter. There is no acceptable excuse for a church not carrying out the instructions of Christ. Churches are to obey Christ’s instructions to them. They are to carry out His commandments and follow His example (Matt 28:18; 1 John 2:6). This is the reason Christ left His kind of churches on earth, that they might do exactly what He wants them to do.
There is a third kind of power and that is legislative power. Churches do not have legislative power! Christ did not give them legislative power. We mean they do not have authority to make rules and regulations. Christ is the lawgiver! They cannot change the rules, instructions and commandments given by Christ. They have no right to change the ordinances or any of the teachings of the Bible. They have no right to change the Scriptural practices of the churches, or to make innovations in the worship of God. In their evangelism they must use only the methods of the New Testament, that is, the methods Christ and His apostles used. They have no authority to make innovations or to follow the inventions of men.
Christ established a church just as He promised He would do (Matt. 16:18). If He did not He is a liar at worst or a failure at best. (There is no Scripture that teaches that the church or anything else was founded on “Pentecost.”) Christ built His church from material prepared by John the Baptist. From the first church that Christ established during His earthly ministry all true churches have descended. The New Testament pattern of church succession is this: baptized, ordained men who were acting in connection with an already-existing church traveled and evangelized, baptized converts and organized them into churches. This is clear from the Book of Acts. It is in this way that Christ’s kind of churches have continued existence. Such a continuance of New Testament churches is not apostolic succession, ministerial succession, nor merely baptismal succession. New Testament churches start other New Testament churches through men whom they send forth to do this work. This is the New Testament pattern.
A church established in connection with anyone other than Jesus Christ is not His. A church that does not obey the New Testament certainly does not have Christ for her head. A church without Christ as her head is not a New Testament kind of church. Christ is both the Head and Founder of His New Testament kind of churches.

HE SECOND MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH: “Its only rule of faith and practice–THE BIBLE (II Tim. 3:15-17).”
To accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice means that the Bible alone is the source and standard of truth. Additional “revelations” which are claimed by some people are not accepted as the Word of God in New Testament churches. Visions and dreams, “tongues” etc., of this modern era are not received as God’s messages. The teaching (doctrine) and practice of a true Church must be according to the Bible. The rule of faith and practice of New Testament churches is not the approved dogma of some established religion. It is not the teaching of some seminary, institute, or university. It is not the dogma of some self-proclaimed “prophet” or “teacher.” It is not the dogma of any association, convention, union, or other extra-biblical, man-made organization of churches. It is not a man-made confession of faith. (Such confessions may be good, but they cannot be authoratative. They cannot be the standard of judging truth.) Only the Bible is authoratative! Only the Bible is the standard of determining what is truth. Neither can a true church select only certain portions of the New Testament to believe and obey. All the Bible is the Word of God and all is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:16). All of it is to be believed.
Sound Baptists believe that you must have “chapter and verse” for everything believed, everything taught, and everything done in a New Testament church. It is to the Bible, the whole Bible, and the Bibe alone they appeal for their doctrine and practice. A church which follows the Bible is better than one that does not. We do not mean that the people are better, but that the church is better because it is obedient to God. New Testament churches must base their doctrine and practice on the Bible. If a true church discovers that she is teaching or acting contrary to the Word of God she is constrained by her Biblical principles to change them so that she conforms to the Bible.
New Testament churches believe a great many things in common with many other churches, but they believe more. They believe all the counsel of God and, like Paul, are committed to proclaiming it even though it makes them unpopular (Acts 20:27). Any church which does not have as its only rule of faith and practice the Holy Bible is not a New Testament kind of church.

HE THIRD MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH: “Its name—‘CHURCH,’ ‘CHURCHES’ (Matt. 16:18; Rev. 22:16).”
Christ’s churches have been called by many names down through the centuries. Most often these have been nicknames. These nicknames were given with the purpose of slandering Christ’s simple congregations of Scripturally baptized belivers. The important thing here is to note that Christ’s churches have never sought prestige by claiming for themselves great and pompous names. They have never sought for worldly or worldwide recognition. They have never worked for power and prestige. They never have and never will fit in with the current popular “mega-church mania.” They have never sought for official status with any government as an official “state church.” “Disciples,” “the Way,” “sect of the Nazarenes,” “Christians” and “churches” are the terms used in the New Testament for those congregations which are Christ’s. From their beginning, the doctrine of true churches has been called heresy by worldly religionists (Acts 24:14). This is to be expected in every century. Those who stand for Bible truth stand against humanism in all its shapes.
When the churches were first established there was no need for distinguishing names. Then all churches were Christ’s true churches. However, with the apostasy of some, even in the early days of the churches, distinctions had to be made (2 Thess. 2:3; 1 John 2:19). The simple Bible-believing churches of Christ remained content to exist without claiming prestigous names for themselves. They would rather be right doctrinally and right with God rather than popular. They were content to let the world call them by whatever nickname was popular at the time. Down through the years some have been called Paulicians after Paul who was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Others have been named for the region in which they were strongest. Some were slandered for their pure lives by being called Cathari or “pure ones.” Overall they were accused of being “ana-baptists” which means re-baptizers. They were called this because they insisted on baptizing aright all those who came to them from other groups. (They refused to accept the baptisms of churches which were not of like faith and practice with them. Refusing to accept the baptisms of different churches is the continued practice of Christ’s churches in our time. Sound churches accept as valid only baptisms administered by churches of like faith and practice with them.) So today, New Testament churches are willing to be called by an abbreviated form of “ana-baptist,” that is “Baptist.”
But it is not the name which makes a church a true church of Christ. Three things are essential for a church to be a true church: she must have the (1) proper origin, (2) correct doctrine and (3) Scriptural practices – it is these marks we are considering in this article which display the character of of Christ’s true churches.

HE FOURTH MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH: “Its polity–CONGREGATIONAL–all members equal (Matt. 20:24-28; Matt. 23:5-12).”
Each New Testament church is a democracy under Christ the Head (Acts 1:26; 6:5; 15:22). That means that every member, young or old, male or female, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, free or slave, it matters not, each member has an equal voice in determining what the church does and does not do. It is wrong for one person to seek to rule a church (3 John 1:9-11). A New Testament church does not have as it’s head a dictator. Dictatorial powers can be held by one man or a committee or board of some sort. Sometimes a rich man will try to be the head of the church. Christ’s churches do not have such dictators for their head. Even the apostles were not dictators nor absolute rulers (2 Cor. 1:24) and neither are the officers of New Testament churches.
Jesus taught His church that they were all equals. That is true in Christ’s churches today. Each may have different gifts and therefore different responsibilities, but all are equal. All the members are “brethren.” Titles such as “doctor,” “reverend,” “father,” and such like are evil because they destroy that equality (Matt. 23:8). All members in fellowship with a New Testament church have an equal vote. That vote is to be exercised in business meetings, in the calling of a pastor and the dismissal of a pastor for just cause, in the selection of deacons, in determining who shall be admitted to membership in the church, and in the exclusion and restoration of wayward members, etc. (Acts 1:15-26; Acts 6:1-6). Pastors, deacons or other groups within a “church” which take away the democratic rights of the members of a church are thieves and unless they genuinely and publicly repent, should be excluded from the church. Officers in a church are to be servants (Matt. 20:25-27; 2 Cor. 4:5; Eph. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:19). They are not to be lords nor are they to be treated as such (1 Pet. 5:3). Even the apostles were not regarded as having lordship over the brethren (2 Cor. 1:24).
A New Testament kind of church is not a “republic. A “republic” is a form of government where the members elect a few from among them and these few make the decisions. Neither is a New Testament kind of church an “oligarchy.” An “oligarchy” is a government where power is in the hands of a few, perhaps in a board which chooses its own successors so as to perpetuate its own existence. Neither of these styles of government can be found in the New Testament. Simple, every-member democracy is the kind of government of a New Testament kind of church. In this way power is kept from the hands of a few. It is true that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Pure democracy is the best guard against corruption!
Paul wrote in Romans 12:17 that we are to “…Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” In light of this verse, secret meetings of the congregation or any portion thereof are seen to be contrary to the teaching of the Word of God and should not be allowed. The New Testament indicates that unbelievers were allowed in the meetings of the churches in the days of the apostles (see 1 Cor. 14:23, 24 for example). Paul testified that the ministry of Christ and His first church were done in the open for all to see (Acts 26:26). Why should we think it necessary to operate differently than our Lord and His first church operated?
Of a certainty, any church which does not practice real congregational government in its affairs is not a New Testament kind of church. Christ’s churches have a congregational or democratic church government. Anything more is without Scriptural basis.

HE FIFTH MARK OF A TRUE CHURCH: “Its members–only saved people (Eph. 2:21; I Peter 2:5).”
Babies cannot be baptized into the membership of a New Testament church for they are not believers and faith is required for baptism. (Acts 8:37). So, a church which has infant members is not a New Testament kind of church. Neither can a state church be a New Testament kind of church for in these “churches” all citizens are automatically church members. Only those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit are acceptable as candidates for baptism. Only those who give the evidence of true repentance and faith, are elegible to be members of one of Christ’s churches. For this we have the whole testimony of the New Testament beginning with John the Baptist (Matt. 3:18).
Being the child of believing parents does not qualify a person for baptism and church membership. Having grown up in a Christian home and in church does not qualify a person for baptism and church membership. Attendance at catechism classes does not qualify a person for baptism and church membership. Performing some kind of physical response to an appeal at the close of a religious meeting does not qualify a person for baptism and church membership. Experienceing some kind of ecstatic or unusual religious experience does not qualify a person for baptism and church membership. Conversion (true repentance, faith, baptism, a changed life) – these are the outward evidences of the new birth. Apart from this new birth – the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit – no person is qualified for church membership.
Mere words of testimony from a candidate for membership will not suffice. In the New Testament evidence was required before a doubtful candidate was received into membership (Acts 9:26). Biblical evidence of regeneration must be seen in the life of the individual. A church which carelessly admits unsaved people as members has ceased being a true church where spiritual sheep are fed the Word of God. It has become a synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9; Rev. 3:9). It will be observed that such a “synagogue” will soon have as its chief business the entertainment of spiritual goats. There will be much talk about the Word of God, the worship of God, evangelism, etc., but this is merely a smokescreen. It is the way of the flesh to substitute carnal religious activity in the place of flesh-mortifying genuine spirituality. These synagogues of Satan shall fill up their time and occupy themselves with musicals, recitals, theatricals, sports, parties, feasts, holiday celebrations, political endeavors, denominational organizations and other activities which are pleasing to the fleshly minded. These things they must do to keep the spiritual goats happy and in attendance (at least part of the time) at the “church.”
Any church which accepts as members those people who do not give genuine evidence of an inner change of heart cannot be a New Testament church (Matt. 3:7-9). A New Testament church is composed of professing believers whose lives give evidence of a genuine spiritual regeneration – a new birth in the inner man. Anything else is a different kind of church.

Christ gave to His church ordinances. He did not give them sacraments. Sacraments are rituals with saving ability. Ordinances are memorial observances. They cause the children of God to seriously remember and contemplate the finished work of Christ and they display the Gospel of Christ to the world (1 Cor. 11:26). They picture the finished work of Christ. The ordinances are the Gospel in picture form.
Christ gave to His church two and only two ordinances. He did not give any others. Marriage in the church is not an ordinance. Last rites are not an ordinance. Being burried in sacred soil is not an ordinance. Christening babies is not an ordinance. Dedicating babies is not an ordinance. The ritual washing of feet is not an ordinance. The wearing of robes or other special clothing is not an ordinance. The ceremonial washing of pots and the dedication of buildings are not ordinances. Nor are any other rituals, traditions, and ceremonies which are popular with the religious world. The two church ordinances are baptism and the Lord’s supper.
These two ordinances are church ordinances. They are not pastor ordinances nor deacon ordinances. By that we mean that neither the pastor nor the deacons have control or authority over these ordinances. It is the church that must decide (vote) as to who is qualified to be baptized and be admitted to church membership. Neither the pastor nor the deacons nor any other group within a church has that authority. It is the church who must authorize the pastor or another Brother to administer baptism. Similarly, it is the church who must authorize the pastor or another Brother to administer the supper. These two ordinances are church ordinances in that baptism is a prerequisite to church membership and the door to it. Baptism and church membership are only related to a “local” church. A person cannot Scripturally hold membership in more than one church at a time. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed by a “local” church only so that discipline can be maintained (1 Cor. 5:11; 11:20). Non-members of a church cannot Scripturally participate in the supper.
Scriptural baptism includes (1) a Scriptural candidate, (2) a Scriptural motive, (3) a Scriptural mode, and (4) a Scriptural administrator. If any one of these four requirements is lacking, the act is invalid. Only believers are Scriptural candidates, that is, only they are qualified to be baptized (Acts 8:37). Thus those “baptized” in infancy are not Scripturally baptized. There is neither Biblical commandment nor example for infant baptism. Those who “baptize” babies do so because they attribute to baptism a saving ability, thus their motive for baptism is unscriptural. All agree that immersion in water (not in grape juice or some other liquid) is the original and therefore Scriptural mode. Thus pouring or sprinkling are not Scriptural modes. Those “baptized” by the Harlot or her daughters (Rev. 17:5) are not Scripturally baptized for they are not His bride and therefore lack Christ’s authority. A church which receives the unscriptural “baptisms” of apostate or man-made “churches” cannot be regarded as a virgin bride of Christ which ought to be the goal of every church and every pastor for the church he serves (2 Cor. 11:2). Such a “church” has polluted herself with the Harlot and her daughters (Rev. 18:4). Such a polluted church is not a true church and cannot be regarded as a Scriptural administrator of baptism. And no person can be Scripturally allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper until he has been Scripturally baptized. This is the pattern of the whole New Testament. Thus those with polluted “baptisms” are not eligible to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
We have often heard of parents preserving the possessions of a child who had gone away from home exactly the way the child left them. They wanted the child’s things to be exactly the way he wanted them when he returned. We can understand that. We can identify with that. We can understand the friends of Christ wanting to preserve the ordinances of Christ just as He left them to His churches (John 15:14). What we cannot understand is one of Christ’s friends wanting to change the things Christ left to us. But there are some who would say it does not matter as to the candidate, the mode, the motive or the administrator of baptism. They say that sincerity is enough. The details of baptism do not matter. Others would omit one or more of the requirements for baptism as stated above. Similiarly there are some who would say it does not matter what kind of bread or drink is used in the supper. Some preachers in America are so liberal and care so little for the things of Christ that they say the Lord’s supper can be observed by eating a McDonald’s hamburger and drinking a coke! They too say sincerity is enough. They say it does not matter what elements are used in the supper. We do not know, but we do not think these are true friends of Christ.
We believe that the Supper, like baptism must meet four requirements to be a valid and Scriptural observance of the ordinance Christ left. There must be (1) Scriptural participants, (2) a Scriptural motive for eating and drinking, (3) Scriptural elements, and (4) a Scriptural administrator. Briefly stated (because of lack of space) we believe the Bible teaches that Scriptural participants are the members in good standing of one New Testament church. The Scriptural motive for eating the supper is to proclaim the Lord’s death. It is the communion of a church with her Head. It is NOT the communion of believers one with another. Such a thing is not taught in the New Testament. The Scriptural elements are unleavened bread and wine. The Scriptural administrator is a New Testament church. Ordinarily the Supper is administered by the pastor, but in the absence of a pastor, the church may authorize a Brother to administer the supper because the ordinances are church ordinances and not tied to any specific office within the church.
The supper instituted by the Lord consisted of wine and unleavened bread. We know the bread was unleavened because Christ instituted the supper very near the time of the Passover feast. During that season it was forbidden even to have leaven in the houses anywhere in Israel (Exodus 12:15). No leavened bread was available! Furthermore we know that the bloody sacrifices of the Lord could not include leaven (Ex. 34:25). If this was true of natural sacrifices, how much more is it true of the one true sacrifice of Christ’s own body and blood! We know that the Jews have consistently used wine from the beginning as the only drink at the Passover meal. We know that wine and not grape juice was used because the grape harvest was in August or September. The Lord instituted His supper in the spring. No grape juice was available then! Lacking refrigeration, the Jews allowed their grape juice to ferment and so to be conserved. When fermentation is complete the leaven is dead. The wine is poured off its lees and the wine is clear and free from leaven. This procedure which is a part of wine making is alluded to in Jeremiah 48:11. Leaven pictures sin, particularly the sin of hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). To picture the body and blood of Christ using elements containing leaven is to picture the body and blood of Christ as sinful. A sinful Christ could save no one. Because of the significance of these things, the elements are important as they “preach” in a visible way the Gospel of Christ.
We do not understand those who wish to change the ordinances of Christ for ease, pleasure or comfort. Some who call themselves “Christians” have changed the mode of baptism. They have said that immersion is not dignified, that it is unpleasant, that it is inconvenient, etc., and thus have justified to themselves changing it to sprinkling or pouring. Others have changed the elements in the Supper and have given various excuses for doing so. Rather than use wine, some have preferred grape juice, but there is nothing symbolical about grape juice other than the fact it symbolizes the sin of hyprocisy for it is filled with leaven. Some have given as a reason for changing the misuse of alchohol. But who would dare say that the small amount of wine consumed by an individual in the Supper is the abuse of alchohol. People will use considerably more alchohol in cough medicine without a thought, but then refuse to obey the Bible in the use of wine. They will do for their physical bodies what they will not do for their souls. One of the most ridiculous excuses ever heard for ceasing to use wine was that the wine tasted bad! Have the people of God become so pleasure-loving and so in love with comforts and ease that they cannot stand the taste of wine? Was not the cup which Christ drank for His people a bitter cup? Even Israel from ancient times was required to eat bitter herbs along with the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:8; Num. 9:11). Besides all that, where did we get the idea that the Lord’s Supper – the remembrance of His awful suffering and death – should be suited to the effeminate tastes of soft, modern “Christians?” Those who claim to be the friends of Christ and yet who do not obey Him we think are not true friends (John 15:14).
But we do know most certainly that to change the ordinances into soul-saving sacraments or to claim that through the observance of rituals grace is bestowed on the participant is to pervert the Gospel of the grace of God. A church cannot be a true church of Christ if she preaches a false gospel of works whether in words or in the ordinances which picture the Gospel.

A hierarchy of ministers, priests, prelates, metropolitans, cardinals, etc., etc., is unknown to the Bible. Two and only two ordained offices are known to the Bible. Those two offices are pastors and deacons. The office of deacon was instituted only in the church when the number of members was extremely large and there was a genuine need for such a position. The church existed prior to the existence of this office and a New Testament church can exist without a deacon or deacons today if they are not needed. The office of deacon is subject to the oversight of the pastor (Acts 20:17, 28). These offices were usually filled in the Bible by God raising up men from within the congregation. He enabled them to do the work to which He called them. “Professionalism” in the ministry was unknown. The idea that a man can attend a Bible institute or seminary and by that be qualified to preach and to pastor is not a Biblical concept at all. It is the way of the world and not the way of God, and it has done great harm. Moses and Paul were educated men, but before God used them, He “reeducated” them in the desert. God is still training His servants in His way!
These two offices are limited to men only. Women are to be silent in the churches and therefore cannot serve as preachers, pastors, teachers of men, pastors, etc. (1 Cor. 14:34, 35). The men who fill these offices are to be servants of the church (2 Cor. 4:5; Matt. 20:27; Matt. 23:11; Mark 9:35; 1 Cor. 9:19). The Greek word “deacon” means a servant. While the deacons are to be concerned with the physical and financial needs of the people, the pastors ought to give themselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer (Acts 6:4). It is the job of the pastor to feed the sheep (John 21:16). He is not a pope nor is he to exercise lordship over the congregation which he serves (1 Pet. 5:3). The office of pastor is not that of an overlord or administrator. He is to be settled among the people he serves, to share their joys and sorrows, to experience the same standard of living as they enjoy or endure, and is to care for the people as a father for his family although he is only another Brother.
These officers are necessarily subject to the discipline of the church in which they serve. Sins committed by deacons or pastors, like those of any other member, can result in their exclusion from the church. The church has executive authority over these two ordained officers. They serve at her pleasure. If they do not, they are untouchable overlords and will become corrupt in their offices. The love of money, prestige, power, etc., will consume them and destroy both their ministries and their churches.
Any church which has a hierarchy of overlords whatever they be called is not a New Testament church.

HE EIGHTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its work–getting folks saved, baptizing them (with a baptism that meets all the requirements of God’s Word), teaching them (‘to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’) (Matt. 28:16-20).”
God has given to His churches all that is needed to do His work (2 Tim. 3:17). The Word of God is all that is needed to accomplish the work God gave to His church. Psycological tricks, emotional manipulations, entertainments, charismatic personalities, musical talents, and high-pressure tactics do not accomplish the work of God. All the man-made, humanistic Arminian tactics in the world will not add one person to the number God has elected to salvation. He will save His elect. They shall “come” (John 6:37). In the salvation of His elect God uses legitimate and Scriptural means and has given His churches work to do. The work of God given to His churches is three-fold: (1) Scriptural evangelization, (2) Scriptural baptism, (3) Scriptural teaching of converts in New Testament churches. The Spirit of God working in connection with the preaching of the Word of God is what accompishes the work of God! This work does not require magnificent buildings, worldly entertainment, shows, or a professional church staff. The proof that none of these things are necessary is this: none of the churches of the New Testament had any of these things, yet they accomplished the work of God in their places! Churches which become entangled with huge buildings, worldly programs, spectacular entertainment and paid professionals become slaves to such things and cease doing the work Christ intends for His Churches to do. We believe this is true of both individuals and churches (2 Tim. 2:4).
Any church which is not involved in doing the three-fold work of Christ in Christ’s way cannot be a New Testament kind of church.

HE NINTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its financial plan—‘Even so (TITHES and OFFERINGS) hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel’ (I Cor. 9:14).”
A New Testament church must be autonomous (self-governing). This is the whold New Testament pattern. It also must be self-supporting in whatever measure is possible. Sometimes churches become destitute and need financial help. Perhaps at times they need the supply of ministerial help. A church may need special help at critical times in their existence. That is one thing. But continually depending on other churches for money is not God’s way of finance.
Pastors are to be paid by the church that they pastor. This is right and Biblical. However, sometimes it is necessary that pastors work at secular employment. Paul worked a few times as a tentmaker to meet his own needs and the needs of others. Church members, regardless of poverty or riches, need to be taught to do their part in supporting their church. The tithe is an equal burden among the members. Churches are not to be robbers. They are not to require their members to contribute more than is right. Churches are not to engage in business schemes, bazzars, carnivals or other means of making money. Neither should they ask the world to help them pay their bills. Surely if God is in a church and what it is doing, He can from the members raise the funds needed to sustain the work through tithes and offerings. Churches, like families, should not attempt to live beyond their income. To do so is bad business and eventually those who go this way will come to ruin.
A church which cannot pay its own bills needs to reduce their overhead until they can meet their obligations from among themselves. Pastors ought not to become beggars whether before the world or before other churches. This is dishonoring to Christ! He is the Head and Bridegroom of each church. He is responsible to supply the needs of His virgin bride. Neither should a church of Christ adopt the attitude of the world and the world’s churches with regard to a visible display of wealth. The world’s churches display their wealth in magnificient buildings, expensive clothing, jewelry, fine furnishings, costly equipment and other things which impress those who are worldly minded. It must always be remembered that a church is made up of the members. A church is not the building, the equipment, the furnishings, the automobiles or other things regarded as important to the world and its churches.
Any church that resorts to the ways of the world and the world’s churches for its fnancial needs is not a New Testament kind of church. New Testament churches strive to be self-supporting in their finances.

HE TENTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its weapons of warfare–spiritual, not carnal (II Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:10-20).”
False churches, that is the Harlot and her harlot daughters and “the abominations of the earth,” their pastors and other officers hate the truth. They hate Christ’s true churches which stand for the truth (Rev. 17:5, 6). Worldly religious organizations make use of political maneuvering, political connections, political pressure and the currying of favor of this world’s governments. False churches are determined to have the approval of the world’s religious groups and the world’s governments regardless of the cost. They are worldly minded and seek after the things of the world. They form extra-biblical alliances to further their goals. They mean harm to Christ’s New Testament kind of churches. They will use their worldly influence with the government to make things difficult for religious groups who refuse to have a part in their ecumenical projects for Christ’s churches have ever opposed the union of churches into one organization. They resort to intimidation, threats, lies and even inciting men to do physical harm to those who disagree with them. It is observable that every man-made religious organization of churches eventually falls into the trap of promoting the union of churches into one world-wide “church.” In their unions they sink to the lowest common denominator and thus come to promote ecumenicalism. Thus, eventually, false churches and their organizations become active against those who oppose the union of all religions into one ecumenical church. Such are the worldly weapons of worldly religionists. Those who possess this persecuting spirit toward the followers of Christ demonstrate that they themselves are without the new birth. They prove that they do not know the Lord Jesus nor His Father (John 15:18-21, John 16:1-3).
But God has given His churches greater weapons than those of the world’s churches. They are enumerated for us in Eph. 6:13-18. The use of these spiritual weapons has been demonstrated in the lives of those New Testament preachers and saints who walked this way before us. Those weapons are “truth,” “righteousness,” “the preparation of the Gospel of peace,” “faith,” “salvation,” “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God,” and persevering “prayer,” and “supplication.”
Any church which uses the weapons of this world cannot be a New Testament kind of Church. New Testament churches use New Testament weapons to accomplish the work of Christ.

HE ELEVENTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its independence–separation of Church and State (Matt. 22:21).”
“What has Christ to do with Caesar?” This is ever the watchword of the Lord’s true New Testament kind of churches. The Bible teaches and true churches require that their members be good citizens of the country in which they find themselves. They are to be obedient to all the laws of the land unless those laws are contrary to the Word of God (1 Pet. 2:13-17, Acts 4:18,19).
But that same Bible teaches that the various governments of this world have no control over the churches in their doctrine, their worship or their service to God. Neither are the Lord’s churches to join themselves to this world’s governments. Neither are they to receive financial support from the government. When they do so they cease to be the servants of Christ for the governments of this world require obedience of their partners (Rom. 6:16, 1 Cor. 7:23, 1 Pet. 2:19). Let those whose hearts are inclined to worldly things seek the prestige, favor, power, and political connections which governments are willing to exchange for control over those churches who join with them.
But a church is guilty of spiritual adultery and cannot be a New Testament kind of church if she is joined to a governmental power. This was the case with Israel (Isa. 30:1-3; Rev. 17:1,2; Hosea 8:9, Ezek. 16:23-35). Surely it is no different in the case of churches.
Christ’s churches are subject to Christ as their Head. In doing so, they cannot be subject in spiritual matters to any government. Thus they are to be independent of governmental control whether civil government or the government of some religious institution.

ONCLUSION: The Word of God is clear. Regardless of what a church may try to claim, if that church does not measure up to the essential characteristics of the churches of the New Testament, that church is not a New Testament Church. Those who call themselves Baptists ought to be New Testament Christians who worship and serve God in New Testament Baptist Churches. If churches exist which are not the New Testament kind of churches they are not pleasing to Christ. They are mere religionists and partakers of the sins of the Harlot and shall receive of her plagues (Rev. 18:4).
If you are vitally interested in being a member of a New Testament kind of church and cannot locate one in your area, we invite you to contact us. We will do our best to help you locate such a church. If such a church does not exist in your area, we will be happy to do what we can to see that one is organized there for the glory of Jesus Christ and the spiritual well-being of the children of God! Amen.

„Universal Church” Heresy by R. K. Maiden

„Universal Church” Heresy
by R. K. Maiden
Questions to be answered in this article:
• Wherein is ecclesiological liberalism more dangerous than theological liberalism?
• Why are Baptists not „Protestants?”
• Show that the New Testament church is a local body of believers rather than a general body.
• What was the tap-root of the ecclesiological heresy?
• Where and how did this error start?
• Show how Protestantism fell heir to this heresy.
• Give proof that the Federal Council of Churches sponsors this heresy.
• Show that some Baptist leaders are accepting the heresy.
• Show that acceptance of the „branch” theory destroys Baptist witness and Baptist churches.
• Should Baptists honor the teaching of Christ or capitulate to the current militant effervescing sentimentality on the „church branch” theory?
• Tell of recent efforts of „unionists” to unite with anti-Christian religionists. Give substance of utterance of Dr. Cadman, President of the Federal Council on this.
• Tell of the action of Church Students’ Conference, where churches and the Lord of the churches were declared effete, and a humanitarian, socialistic „church” proposed.
• Give further proof that to rob Christ of His glory as Redeemer and Lord is the real „unionistic” objective.
• How can Baptists offset this vast program to betray the Lord and His churches?
The counsels of perfection of the Apostles regarding unity are not of union of organization, but of keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. That was the essential requirement of the apostolic church, where variety of organization was already experienced. Many therefore regard what is called „the need for external unity” as outside the program of those who follow God’s Word. There is deep truth in the recent utterance of a minister who said, „I do not see any object in sweeping churches into one organization. It will be a peril rather than a help. High religious organization always has been a peril.” . . . Those beliefs of doctrine which are based upon the Written Word have always produced the same unique spiritual experience everywhere in all places and ages. Reunion that would compromise God’s Word or its doctrines could only prove to be a broken reed. Reunion of the denominations in their present state would have a two-fold effect (1) It would separate real believers in Christ from the federation of professing believers bent upon uniformity. (2) It would consolidate those who are preparing the way for the pseudo-Christian scientific, humanitarian church of anti-Christ. In spite of the vast clamour for external union, through all of the varieties of organization in visible church groups today, those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ are one the world over, There is ONE FLOCK, but MANY FOLDS.–Prof. C. W. Hale Amos, of Cambridge University, in The Church or the World?
„Universal Church” Heresy
Preliminary observations. Some of my readers, not aware of the present aggressions of liberalism, may think me unduly exercised over Liberalistic programs and advances. But such readers would not register surprise at my attitude if they were conversant with all the facts. I have no disposition to exaggerate current conditions and trends, but am deeply concerned. Our Baptist Zion is either unaware of the menace of ecclesiological liberalism or else supinely indifferent, The chief concern so far shown among us seems to be with theological liberalism, This, too, is a menace of prodigious proportions. But this giant heresy is being recognized for what it is and is being courageously opposed and exposed, while little is being said or done in defense of New Testament ecclesiology–the New Testament Church. I do not hesitate to go on record as firmly holding the belief that Baptists have more to fear from ecclesiological liberalism than from theological liberalism. If, as all true Baptists believe, Baptists have a heaven-given mission in the world and message for the world, and would faithfully perform their mission and deliver their message, at all costs they must maintain their separateness, loyalty and integrity,
Baptists not „Protestants.” When I use here the terms „Protestant” and „Protestantism,” I do not include Baptists, who should never be classified with Protestants. Such classification does violence to the facts of history. Baptists were bravely protesting against the doctrines and practices of Rome long before there was any Protestantism. „The People Called Baptists” should have their eyes opened to the fact that there is a deliberate effort on the part of leading Liberalists to oppose the truth by covering the whole land with an enveloping fog of sentimentalism. I find myself unable to escape the conclusion that our Baptist churches cannot hope permanently to survive and function as New Testament churches, except on the condition that they, at all costs, shall maintain churches that are in fact and not merely in theory and claim New Testament churches, in doctrine, in polity and in practice. They have nothing to gain but much–even their own right to exist as a separate body–to lose by compromises and entangling alliances.
New Testament meaning of „church.” It is important to keep definitely in mind the fact that in its beginning the great apostasy was ecclesiastical. It was a departure by gradual almost insensible, processes from the simple, independent, self-governing polity of the earlier churches. The drift toward episcopacy had set in before the death of the last Apostles. Baptists have held and taught that Christ „built” a church. „I will build my church.” Ecclesia (church) He named it. Let the meaning of the word be examined. In what sense did Christ and the writers of the New Testament use it? Christ did not invent it, nor did He put into it any unfamiliar or unusual meaning. It was borrowed from the Greeks, and is a compound of two Greek words, a preposition and a verb, meaning primarily „called out.” Omitting three or four doubtful instances, the word translated „church” occurs 113 times in the New Testament. It is used in three senses. In ninety-two instances it is used in the primary and ordinary sense; that is, of a particular, independent, autonomous body, as „The Church at Jerusalem,” „Antioch,” „Corinth,” etc. Then it is used a few times in the abstract or institutional sense, as in Matthew 16:18. When the term is used without reference to a particular church, it is used in the institutional sense, but when reduced to the concrete it becomes a particular church. The term is used also in the sense of a general assembly, a purely spiritual sense, as in Heb. 12:23 and Eph. 5:25-27. But in every instance of this kind the assembly is a thing in prospect, and not now in actual existence. That is, it teaches us that there is not now, but there will be, a general assembly of all the redeemed of all time–past, present and future. This assembly can now have only an ideal existence. It is manifest, therefore, that the only church now in existence after the New Testament order and having New Testament authority, is the particular, independent, self-governing, unattached body of baptized believers-a pure democracy, a normal Baptist church. It is significant that Christ’s last message was not to the church, but to the churches. (Rev. chap. 1). John saw the crucified, risen, ascended and glorified Christ „in the midst of the golden lamp stands.” John was commanded to „write in a book an account of what you see and send it to the seven churches.” The message to the Church at Ephesus begins: „This is what He who holds the seven stars in the grasp of His right hand says, He who walks to and fro among the lamp stands of gold. The seven lamp stands are the seven churches.” To those who accept Revelation as divinely inspired and authoritative, the representation of Christ in the midst of the churches, walking to and fro among them, should be the end of all controversy as to whether „My [His] church” is a universal, invisible, unorganized, unintegrated company, or a visible, spiritual, self-governing company of baptized believers–a small visible, spiritual democracy.
Parent ecclesiological heresy. The conception and adoption of the „universal church” theory is the parent heresy in ecclesiology. How, when and where did this theory originate? The change from the idea of the individual, self-governing church to the universal church had its origin in one of the most colossal blunders of all Christian history–that of making ecclesia and basileia identical. So far from being identical, the difference between „Church” and „Kingdom” is so great as to require that they be contrasted rather than compared. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament never confused the two terms; never used one where the other can be substituted without doing violence to both terms. With two or three exceptions, ecclesia is used in the New Testament in the local, particular, multiple sense, while, without a single exception, basileia is used in the singular and universal sense. The taproot of the universal church theory is the identification of the Church and the Kingdom, making these two coincident, co-extensive and co-terminous. The theory of the identity of Church and Kingdom and of the universality of the church were twin-born. New Testament writers knew nothing of a world church. As nearly as can be determined, the first formal, official identification of Church and Kingdom was projected when the Roman Empire became nominally Christianized, about the time of the consummation of the great ecclesiastical apostasy. It was the Ecumenical Council of Nice, called by Constantine, Emperor of Rome, that affirmed and projected as its creed the idea of a „Catholic” World Church. From then down to the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century, the universal, visible theory of the church held the field, except for the scattered, comparatively obscure, hunted and persecuted little churches, known by various names at different times and places–churches of the New Testament type in doctrine and polity. Following the Reformation period and born of the Reformation movement, there emerged a new theory of the church–the universal, invisible spiritual theory.
Protestantism adopted Rome’s heresy. Protestantism stood at its beginning and continues to stand for the identification of Church and Kingdom. It reasons that since the Kingdom is universal, the Church must be universal. And, too, since the Kingdom is invisible and spiritual, the church must be invisible and spiritual. So we find that the genesis of the heresies of the universal, invisible, spiritual church is in treating Church and Kingdom as synonymous. „If Christ and His appointed messengers cautiously preserved the distinction between ‘Church’ and ‘Kingdom,’ uniformly treating the former as local and visible, and the latter as universal and invisible, nothing but harm can come from blurring the line of demarcation which they have set, and so confusing their teaching concerning each. The two ideas–that of a local organization on one side, and that of a scattered and unaffiliated world community on the other–are too incongruous to dwell harmoniously together under a common designation” (Thomas, Church and Kingdom, p. 292).
Church „branch” theory. The „branch” theory is the natural offspring of the universal, invisible, which was born of the mother heresy–making Church and Kingdom identical. When the 1936 Preaching Mission, sponsored by the Federal Council of Churches, was underway, E. Stanley Jones acted as the special spokesman for the Council, keeping it and its aims before the people. While this is being written, my eye caught the following paragraph in the Watchman-Examiner of December 24, 1936:
„Dr. E. Stanley Jones, in the interest church union, urges the formation of a kind of super-church entitled ‘The Church of Christ in America,’ which will comprise all denominations. He would suggest that the various denominations be called after their denominational names in this way, for example, ‘The Presbyterian Branch of the Church of Christ in America.’ He says: ‘The figure that I have in mind is that of a tree, with many different branches adhering to the central trunk,–The Church of Christ in America–and that trunk in turn adhering into the root–Christ.'”
This, „The Church of Christ In America,” is the logical sequence of the „universal, invisible, spiritual” theory and the „branch” theory of the church. Beyond doubt Dr. Jones speaks not only his own mind but the mind of the Federal Council of Churches, and incidently reveals the Council’s ultimate objective. What he proposes is similar to what was proposed and undertaken by the „Follow-Up” Committee of the Edinburgh Conference. That committee, it is recalled, took a swing around the world, visiting mission fields and holding conferences to foster the idea of unifying different mission interests, bringing them into co-operative relation and under common control, and to unionize and nationalize the churches–Baptist, Methodist and what not. Happily this undertaking ended in inglorious failure. This church branch program did not eventuate as its promoters planned and expected, but it had an educational value in the interest of its heretical theory. The leaven of ecclesiastical liberalism was carried abroad. Seeds were sown that will germinate and grow into a harvest of „universal church” sentiment and practice. The position assumed and the program revealed by Dr. Jones and the Federal Council is practically the same as that of the Edinburgh „Follow-Up Committee.”
Baptists infested with the theory. Our Baptist churches should refuse to be deceived by the wooing and cooing of the Federal Council of Churches. It is making „a nose of wax” of New Testament teaching concerning the church. Where it is not doing this, New Testament teaching is ignored and treated as of little consequence, and New Testament authority is nonchalantly flouted. It would if it could, and will if it can, dominate Baptist churches and disintegrate the Baptist denomination. Concerning the church, a false and misleading terminology is gaining currency, and that, too, among Baptists. More and more Baptists are yielding to the clamor for a more liberal interpretation of the term church, and more and more they are thinking, speaking and writing of the church in pedo-Baptist terms and with pedo-Baptist meaning. In his book: Can a Man be a Christian Today?, Dr. W. L. Poteat, former president of Wake Forest College, in referring to organized Christianity, calls it „The Christian Church.” Here is a quotation from a sermon preached by Prof. Marshall, Bible teacher of McMaster University, Canada, a Baptist institution: „Baptists do not regard baptism as essential to membership of the Christian Church–the church universal–even though they insist on immersion as a condition of admittance into the Baptist section of the Christian Church.” Here we have the branch theory espoused and acclaimed by a prominent Baptist–the „Church Universal” with a ”Baptist Section.” This unscriptural, anti-scriptural, theory of the church is gradually sweeping a wider area.
Will Baptists dig their own grave? The Baptist denomination digs its own grave when it consents to be counted as one of the „fifty-seven Varieties.” It cannot survive, and has neither need nor right to survive, if it suffer itself to be classified as a „section” or „branch” of the so-called „universal, invisible, spiritual church.” A Baptist church that thinks of itself as a „branch” or „section” of a „universal, invisible, spiritual church,” or „the Christian Church,” is a Baptist church in name only. Baptist churches that co-ordinate the Baptist denomination and themselves with the churches of other denominations, and accord to these churches New Testament standing, are acting consistently, not with Baptist principles and polity, but with their liberal attitude and practice, when they affiliate, federate and co-operate with non-Baptist bodies. By their liberal attitude and practice they put themselves under obligation to practice inter-denominational comity to its utmost limits, to accept the baptisms of non-Baptist bodies as scriptural and valid, to exchange letters with non-Baptist bodies, to practice open communion, and adopt the policy of open membership. This is the inescapable logic of the „Church branch” theory.
Baptists must resist the disintegrating program. The consistent, self-respecting, self-preserving, Christ-honoring position for our Baptist churches in this day of shallow thinking, dissolving convictions, loose loyalty and effervescing sentimentality, is to
deny New Testament church standing to all religious bodies that refuse to practice New Testament polity and reject as unscriptural and invalid any and all of their ecclesiastical acts. Baptists need desperately to review their own Baptist history, rethink the Baptist position and rediscover the Baptist conscience. „The anvil on which the Jesuit hammer will break to pieces is the Baptist conscience. I would like all the world through to put the Baptist conscience against the Jesuits.” This is true witness by Hugh Price Hughes, noted Wesleyan Minister in England. If our Baptist people and churches would maintain their loyalty to the law of the New Testament relative to the church, they must utterly repudiate the program, and stubbornly and courageously resist the encroachments of the Federal Council of Churches, the organized, recognized, aggressive, official representative of ecclesiological liberalism.
Recapitulation. The false identification of Church and Kingdom begat the empire theory of Papal Rome, and the universal, invisible, spiritual theory of Protestantism, which begat the Church branch theory, which begat the Federal Council, which begat–what? The Luther Reformation was not a full break with Rome. The Reformers got out of Rome only to wander eternally in the wilderness. They had rebelled against and discarded the papal theory of the visible, universal church, but had not gone on to accept the New Testament Church type. So the post-Reformation leaders found themselves under the necessity of inventing a theory to set over against the papal theory. So the universal, invisible, spiritual theory of the church was invented. And this is now the working theory of all Protestantism–the theory that Baptists are up against, the theory that threatens and purposes, through the agency of the Federal Council, the disintegration of the Baptist denomination.
Unionism raised to ‘nth power. Once off the New Testament reservation and out into the wide spaces there is no telling how far those afflicted with unionitis may wander, or what crazy notions they may get into their heads. In ecclesiological liberalism, which invariably ripens into unionism, there is a whole brood of potential follies. Recently, in a public address at Omaha, Neb., Dr. Charles M. Sheldon, author of In His Steps, advocated and urged the merging of all Protestants, Catholics and Jews into one great organization–an international church. „The time has come,” he said, „for denominations to pass on to something else.” When Dr. S. Parks Cadman was president of the Federal Council, he made a tour through Ohio and Indiana, delivering addresses in a number of cities. The object of these meetings and addresses was to narrow and dim the line of separation between denominations, bring them closer together and create generally an atmosphere of „unity”–not unity in Christ but tacked on to His name. In this tour of addresses, Dr. Cadman was spokesman for the Federal Council. It was reported that the Indianapolis meeting was arranged by a committee composed of three Jews, three Catholics and three Protestants. Dr. Cadman’s address was published in part in Christian Work, as follows: „We must believe in the Jews who gave to civilization the idea of God the Father of all, the Roman Catholics, who, to quote Principal H. R. Workman, furnished for seven hundred years the only center of faith and love and light upon the earth. Let us leave our theological weapons at the door and gather in the temple of brotherhood, where we can sit, all bands of us, elbow to elbow. Surely Americans can unite upon the religion of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.”
The „Universal Church” being hatched before our eyes. This fits in with the world church heresy. In Dr. Cadman’s program there is no recognition of so much as the existence of the New Testament church. And he was expressing the attitude and revealing the program of the Federal Council of Churches. „Civilization,” we are being told, „has now reached a point at which the eyes of all Christian men should be turned distinctly in the direction of the universal church with a view of its organization.” There is being hatched out of the universal church theory a brood of noisy ecclesiastical liberals who are berating denominationalism. The country was furnished with an illustration of the daring and dangerous lengths to which the universal, invisible church doctrine may be carried, in the Student Conference, held a few years ago at Evanston, Ill., where war was openly declared on denominationalism, where churches were pronounced failures and the teachings of Jesus were acclaimed impracticable and effete, and where a program for a universal, humanitarian, socialistic church, was announced.
To rob Christ of His glory the ultimate objective. A while ago a prominent churchman voiced the hope for a consolidation of Christendom that would take in Unitarians and the papal hierarchy. The vastly wealthy John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who has withdrawn all support from the Northern Baptist Program, announces his purpose from now on to march with the liberalists and unionists, and put his money behind their program. When all the denominations are blended into one he would call it, „The Church of the Living God.” Some time ago announcement was made in the public press of a movement to be launched at Berkley, Calif., for a cosmic religion and world church. Christ, Buddha and Confucius, were to be taken as great; religious founders and leaders, on equal terms. The objective, it was said, was the blending of all religions into one and all churches into one. This, it was claimed will be „cosmic” religion–the basic religion. There was made a concrete exhibit of the „brotherhood of man” in the Parliament of Religions at the great exposition at Chicago. Cardinal Gibbons, representative of the Vatican, held the center of the stage, and opened the meeting with prayer. Grouped about him were representatives of Brahma, Buddha and Mohammed. All united in repeating the Lord’s prayer, led by a Jewish Rabbi, a Shinto priest invoked the benediction of eight million deities of Japan. Never, on so great scale, has Christianity been so compromised and disgraced. But here were ecclesiastical liberalism and unionism, in their uttermost and ultimate reach. And all this is, potentially, in the union for which many are pleading and for the full bringing of which the Federal Council is committed.
Baptists Must Awake. Baptists and Baptist churches here and there are dipping their colors to this ecclesiastically evaporating, disintegrating movement. The simple, specific, serious purpose of this discussion is to plead with all the earnestness and conviction of my soul the cause of the simple New Testament church, the independent, self-governing body of baptized believers, as against the visible empire conception of Romanism and the universal, invisible, spiritual conception of Protestantism The New Testament church, opposed and oppressed by the visible empire church theory of papal Rome on one side and the universal, invisible, spiritual church theory of Protestantism on the other side, must awake to its danger and rise to its defense.
[Pastor Wilson’s comments: This excellent article appeared in Re-thinking Baptist Doctrines, a book published in 1937 by The Western Recorder, a Southern Baptist periodical. The book is a compilation of the writings of some of the leading pastors and educators in the Southern Baptist Convention. It is indeed sad that the convictions expressed in this article and in the others that appeared in that book are completely foreign to Southern Baptists of our day. To quote from the author of this article: „A Baptist church that thinks of itself as a ‘branch’ or ‘section’ of a ‘universal, invisible, spiritual church,’ or ‘the Christian Church,’ is a Baptist church in name only.” This unfortunately applies, perhaps without exception, to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention today.]

wenty Proofs That the Church Existed Prior to Pentecost by Pastor Greg Wilson

Twenty Proofs
That the Church Existed Prior to Pentecost
by Pastor Greg Wilson
1. The literal meaning of the word church (ekklesia). From ek, meaning „out” and kaleo meaning „to call.” Jesus called out His disciples from the disciples of John early in His public ministry, forming the church or called-out assembly (John 1:35-51).

2. Christ said He would leave His “house” on earth when He went on a “far journey” (ascended back unto heaven) (Mark 13: 31-37). The church is identified as His “house” (Heb. 3:1-6; 1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 2:20,21; 1 Cor. 3:16). Christ ascended prior to Pentecost (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11).

3. Christ spoke of His disciples as a “flock” prior to Pentecost (Luke 12:32; Matt. 26:31,32). The church is identified as the “flock” of God (Acts 20:28,29; 1 Pet. 5:2,3).

4. They preached the gospel prior to Pentecost (Mark 1:1; 3:14; Matt. 10:14; Luke 10:1-17).

5. They had Holy Spirit power prior to Pentecost (Matt. 10:5, 19,20).

6. They baptized prior to Pentecost (John 4:1,2).

7. They received the Lord’s Supper prior to Pentecost (Matt. 26:26; Luke 22:17-20; Mark 14:22-26).

8. They had an ordained ministry prior to Pentecost (Mark 3:14; cf. 1 Cor. 12:28).

9. They had church discipline prior to Pentecost (Matt. 18:15-17).

10. They had Christ as their “head” prior to Pentecost (John 13:14; cf. Eph. 1:22,23).

11. They had a membership of 120 prior to Pentecost (Acts 1:15; note, “names”).

12. They had a business meeting and elected officers prior to Pentecost (Acts 1:15-26).

13. They had a treasurer prior to Pentecost (John 13:29).

14. They “added” 3,000 on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

15. They had the “Great Commission” prior to Pentecost (Matt. 28:19,20).

16. Christ was “building” His church prior to Pentecost (Matt. 16:18).

17. They (“us”) had been in existence (“companied with us”) “from the baptism of John” (Acts 1:21,22).

18. The Bridegroom was with His Bride (the church) prior to Pentecost (John 3:29; cf. Eph. 5:22-33; 2 Cor. 11:2).

19. Christ sang in His church prior to Pentecost (Mark 14:26; in fulfillment of Psalm 22:22; see Heb. 2:12).

20. There is NO Scripture anywhere to indicate that the church began at Pentecost.

Prior to Pentecost they were a body of baptized believers banded together to carry out the will of Jesus Christ.
________________________________________THAT IS A CHURCH!!!



Does the Bible teach that a man’s wife is UNIVERSAL AND INVISIBLE? Well, let’s see:
Eph. 5:23 says: „The husband is the head of the wife.”
It says it just as certain as certain can be. Does it really mean that such a wife is UNIVERSAL AND INVISIBLE? You say it does not. But wait and see what you have done if you decide that such plain language does not mean what it says.
It says very plainly, „THE HUSBAND IS THE HEAD OF THE WIFE.” Is there such a thing in reality as a GREAT BIG UNIVERSAL WIFE who includes all the little wives? You say NO. Then what do you mean by quoting the rest of the verse to mean a GREAT BIG UNIVERSAL CHURCH, when it says that „CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH”?
Mark you it says “The husband is the head of the WIFE, even as Christ is the head of the CHURCH. The word EVEN means in the SAME WAY, so let us put the meanings of the words instead of the words used, which is a good rule for interpretation, and see how it reads: “The husband is the head of the UNIVERSAL AND INVISIBLE WIFE in the way as Christ is the head of the UNIVERSAL INVISIBLE CHURCH.” There you are! Remember the word church always means CONGREGATION, never anything else. A congregation is necessarily LOCAL. It would not be a congregation if it were not LOCAL. So let us read it as it means: „The husband is the head of the (LOCAL) wife, even as Christ is the head of the LOCAL congregation.” A congregation is just as local as the wife is. You cannot conceive of a UNIVERSAL LOCAL WIFE, then why try to make out a UNIVERSAL LOCAL CONGREGATION?
The family is the foundation of civilization. Does that mean that there is a UNIVERSAL INVISIBLE FAMILY? You say NO. Then when it says,
1 Tim. 3:15, „The church is the pillar and the ground of truth.”
Why do you get the idea that the CHURCH means a UNIVERSAL INVISIBLE CHURCH? As well try to think of “THE FAMILY” as a great UNIVERSAL INVISIBLE FAMILY.
When we say the jury is a safeguard to the citizen’s welfare, do we mean a great UNIVERSAL JURY? Certainly not. Such language is easily understood when we consider that when we say THE WIFE or the FAMILY, or THE JURY or THE CHURCH we use the language in the INSTITUTIONAL SENSE, viz., the church as an institution, the jury as an institution.
The eagle is king of birds. Do we mean some great big eagle, a great UNIVERSAL INVISIBLE EAGLE which includes all little eagles? Certainly not, but the eagle as a species. When we say the lion is the king of beasts, do we mean a great big UNIVERSAL LION which includes all little lions? Certainly not, but we mean the lion as a species. So when we speak of THE CHURCH we mean the CHURCH AS AN INSTITUTION. Why do we easily understand such language when we speak of the FAMILY, and the WIFE, and the JURY, and the EAGLE, and the LION, and then go wild when we speak of the church in the same way? The UNIVERSAL WIFE IS JUST AS SCRIPTURAL AS THE UNIVERSAL INVISIBLE CHURCH.
A church is always local and the Bible never uses the word in any other sense than a LOCAL CONGREGATION. The general Universal Church idea is essentially a ROMAN CATHOLIC idea copied by many who think they are opposed to Catholicism. We should be sure to always use Bible words in the Bible sense and not copy after Roman Catholics in anything.
– Reprinted from The Baptist Examiner, July 3, 1948.
Copied from the February 17, 1968 issue of The Baptist Examiner


of the
Read and assented to at the Admission of Members.
HAVING been enabled, through divine grace, to give up ourselves to the Lord, and likewise to one another by the will of God, we account it a duty incumbent upon us, to make a declaration of our faith and practice, to the honour of Christ, and the glory of his name; knowing, that as with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, so with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; (Rom. 10:10) a which declaration is as follows, namely,
I. We believe, That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, are (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:21) the word of God, and the only (John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Peter 1:19, 20) rule of faith and practice.
II. We believe, That there is but one (Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jer. 10:10) only living and true God: that there are (1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19) three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, who are equal in nature, power, and glory; and that the Son ((John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Rom. 9:5; 1 John 5:20) and the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18) are as truly and properly God as the Father. These three divine persons are distinguished from each other, by peculiar relative properties: The distinguishing character and relative property of the first person is begetting; he has begotten a Son of the same nature with him, and who is the express image of his person; (Ps. 2:7; Heb. 1:3) and therefore is with great propriety called the Father: The distinguishing character and relative property of the second person is that he is begotten; and he is called the only begotten of the Father, and his own proper Son; (John 1:14; Rom. 8:3, 32) not a Son by creation, as angels and men are, nor by adoption, as saints are, nor by office, as civil magistrates; but by nature, by the Father’s eternal generation (Ps. 2:7) of him in the divine nature; and therefore he is truly called the Son: The distinguishing character and relative property of the third person is to be breathed by the Father and the Son, and to proceed from both, (Job 33:4; Ps. 33:6; John 15:26 and 20:26 and 20:22; Gal. 4:6) and is very Properly called the Spirit, or breath of both. These three distinct divine persons, we profess to reverence, serve, and worship as the one true God. (1 John 5:7; Matthew 4:10)
III. We believe, That before the world began God did elect (Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:4 and 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; 1 John 3:1; Gal. 4:4, 5; John 1:12) a certain number of men unto everlasting salvation whom he did predestinate to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ of his own free grace, and according to the good pleasure of his will; and that in pursuance of this gracious design, he did contrive and make a covenant (2 Sam. 23:5; Ps. 89:2, 28, 34; Isa. 42:6) of grace and peace with his son Jesus Christ, on the behalf of those persons; wherein a Saviour (Ps. 89:19; Isa. 49:6) was appointed, and all spiritual (2 Sam. 23:5; Isa. 55:3; Eph. 1:3) blessings provided for them; as also that their (Deut. 33:3; John 6:37, 39 and 10:28, 29; Jude 1) persons, with all their grace (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:3; Col. 3:3, 4) and glory, were put into the hands of Christ, and made his care and charge.
IV. We believe, That God created the first man, Adam, after his image, and in his likeness, an upright, holy, and innocent creature, capable of serving and glorifying him: (Gen. 1:26, 27; Eccl. 7:29; Ps. 8:5) but he sinning, all his posterity sinned in him, and came short of the glory of God; (Rom. 5:12 and 3:23) the guilt of whose sin is imputed; (Rom. 5:12, 14, 18, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22; Eph. 2:3) and a corrupt nature derived to all his offspring descending from him by ordinary and natural generation: (Job 14:4; Ps. 51:5; John 3:6; Ezek. 16:4-6) that they are by their first birth carnal and unclean; averse to all that is good, incapable of doing any, and prone to every (Rom. 8:7, 8 and 3:10-12; Gem 6:5) sin: and are also by nature children of wrath, and under a sentence of condemnation; (Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:12, 18) and so are subject, not only to a corporal death, (Gen. 2:7; Rom. 5:12, 14; Heb. 9:27) and involved in a moral one, commonly called spiritual; (Matthew 8:21; Luke 15:24, 32; John 5:25; Eph. 3:1) but are also liable to an eternal death, (Rom. 5:18 and 6:23; Eph. 2:3) as considered in the first Adam, fallen and sinners; from all which there is no deliverance, but by Christ, the second Adam. (Rom. 6:23 and 7:24, 25 and 8:2; 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:45, 47)
V. We believe, That the Lord Jesus Christ, being set up from (Prov. 8:22, 23; Heb. 12:24) everlasting as the Mediator of the covenant, and he having engaged to be the (Ps. 49:6-8; Heb. 7:22) Surety of his people, did In al. 4:4; Heb. 2:14, 16, 17) human nature, and not before, neither in whole, nor in part; his human soul being a creature, existed not from eternity, but was created and formed in his body by him that forms the spirit of man within him, when that was conceived in the womb of the virgin; and so his human nature consists of a true body and a reasonable soul: both which, together and at once the Son of God assumed into union with his divine person, when made of a woman, and not before; in which nature he really suffered, and died (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3; Eph. 5:2; 1 Peter 3:18) as the substitute of his people, in their room and stead; whereby he made all that satisfaction (Rom. 8:3, 4 and 10:4; Isa. 42:21; Rom. 8:1, 33, 34) for heir sins, which the law and justice of God could require; as well as made way for all those blessings (1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7) which are needful for them both for time and eternity.
VI. We believe, That eternal Redemption which Christ has obtained by the shedding of his blood (Matthew 20:28; John 10:11, 15; Rev. 5:9; Rom. 8:30) is special and particular: that is to say, that it was only intentionally designed for the elect of God, and sheep of Christ, who only share the special and peculiar blessings of it.
VII. We believe, That the justification of God’s elect, is only by the righteousness (Rom. 3:28 and 4:6 and 5:16-19) of Christ imputed to them, without the consideration of any works of righteousness done by them; and that the full and free pardon of all their sins and transgressions, past, present, and to come, is only through the blood of Christ, (Rom. 3:25; Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:13; 1 John 1:7, 9) according to the riches of his grace.
VIII. We believe, That the work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and faith, is not an act of (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16 and 8:7) man’s free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious, and irresistible grace (Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3; Eph. 1:19; Isa. 43:13) of God.
IX. We believe, that all those, who are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit, shall certainly and finally (Matthew 24:24; John 6:39, 40 and 10:28, 29; Matthew 16:18; Ps. 125:1, 2; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24; Heb. 2:13; Rom. 8:30) persevere; so that not one of them shall ever perish, but shall have everlasting life.
X. We believe, That there will be a resurrection of the dead; (Acts 24:15; John 528, 29; Dan. 12:2) both of the just and unjust; and that Christ will come a second time to judge (Heb. 9:28; Acts 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 1 Thess. 4:15-17) both quick and dead; when he will take vengeance on the wicked, and introduce his own people into his kingdom and glory, where they shall be for ever with him.
XI. We believe, That Baptism (Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of Christ, to be continued until his second coming; and that the former is absolutely requisite to the latter; that is to say, that those (Acts 2:41 and 9:18, 26) only are to be admitted into the communion of the church, and to participate of all ordinances in it, (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12, 36, 37 and 16:31-34 and 8:8) who upon profession of their faith, have been baptized, (Matthew 3:6, 16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38, 39; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12) by immersion, in the name of the Father, (Matthew 28:19) and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
XII. We also believe, That singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs vocally, (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) is an ordinance of the Gospel, to be performed by believers; but that as to time, place, and manner, every one ought to be left to their (James 5:13) liberty in using it.
Now all, and each of these doctrines and ordinances, we look upon ourselves under the greatest obligation to embrace, maintain,, and defend; believing it to be our duty (Phil. 1:27; Jude 3) to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel.
And whereas we are very sensible, that our conversation, both in the world and in the church, ought to be as becometh the Gospel of Christ; (Phil. 1:27) we judge it our incumbent duty, to (Col. 4:5) walk in wisdom towards them that are without, to exercise a conscience (Acts 24:16) void of offence towards God and men, by living (Titus 2:12) soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.
And as to our regards to each other, in our church-communion; we esteem it our duty to (Eph. 4:1-3; Rom. 12:9, 10, 16; Phil. 2:2, 3) walk with, each other in all humility and brotherly love; to watch (Lev. 19:17; Phil. 2:4) over each other’s conversation; to stir up one (Heb. 10:24, 25) another to love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as we have opportunity, to worship God according to his revealed will; and, when the case requires, to warn, (1 Thess. 5:14; Rom. 15:14; Lev. 19:17; Matthew 18:15-17) rebuke, and admonish one another, according to the rules of the Gospel.
Moreover, we think ourselves obliged (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26) to sympathize with each other, in all conditions, both inward and outward, which God, in his providence, may bring its into; as also to (Rom. 15:1; Eph. 4:12; Col. 3:13) bear with one another’s weaknesses, failings and infirmities; and particularly to pray for one another, (Eph. 6:18, 19; 2 Thess. 3:1) and that the Gospel, and the ordinances thereof, might be blessed to the edification and comfort of each others souls, and for the gathering in of others to Christ, besides those who are already gathered.
All which duties we desire to be found in the performance of, through the gracious assistance of the Holy Spirit whilst we both admire and adore the grace, which has given us a place, and a name in God’s house, better than that of sons and daughters. (Isa. 56:5)

Scofield’s Untrue „Church” By S. E. Anderson

Scofield’s Untrue „Church”
By S. E. Anderson
The New Scofield Reference Bible speaks of a „true” church as distinguished from visible and local churches. It also insists that the Holy Spirit „formed” the church on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, but
I. Christ Built His Church, as He said. „I will build my church” (Mt. 16:18).
A church is an assembly, or congregation, of baptized believers who work and meet together in order to worship and obey the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. She can exist without her own separate edifice, or building.
The church which Christ built was not built in a day. It was a process rather than an event. It consisted of individuals who were saved, baptized, and taught to obey Christ who called them to Himself. She was a group of believers called out from the world and united with Christ as leader.
The church, as the body of Christ, would do the same kind of work that Christ did teaching, preaching, and healing (Mt. 4:23).
The twelve disciples, with Christ as their Head, Leader, and Shepherd (poimen, pastor, Jn. 10:11, 14), did real church work in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. They preached the gospel, baptized converts and taught them, and healed the sick. They cast out demons, comforted the sorrowing, and ministered to people’s needs, even as true and real churches do now.
The membership list of the first church Christ built is emphasized by being recorded four times: Matthew 10:2-4; 1 Mark. 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13. The Twelve were the foundation of the first church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph 2:20), placed in the church by Christ, the chief cornerstone (Jn. 15:16).
„I will build” (oEkodomeso) is future tense. Christ is still building His churches. Acts 9:31 tells of churches in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria which were still being built, or edified (oikodomoumene). The same word for „building” is used of the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 14:3, 5, 12, 26). The Corinthian church needed continuous building, as all churches do. The church at Ephesus likewise was continually being built (Eph. 4:12, 16, 29). Those churches had started long before, but their building continued.
Parents say, „We are going to build Johnny’s health.” A pastor says of his new charge, „I am going to build a mission giving church.” A lawyer says, „I will build a good case.” All those mean that they will continue to build what they had previously started. So with Christ in Matthew 16:18.
The four Gospels reveal that Christian believers, before Pentecost, had the soul saving gospel; converts were baptized and had the Lord’s Supper; they were instructed in church truths, obeying Christ, being ordained by Him, and were organized enough for their needs. They had programs for evangelism, missions, teaching, healing, and counseling; they had divine power to heal the sick and to raise the dead; they had the Holy Spirit; they had prayer and business meetings; they were „added unto,” and they had Christ as their Head. The first New Testament church was very much alive.
An amateur taxidermist saw an owl in a barber shop. „Look at that owl,” he said; „its eyes are off color; its neck is too short; its feet are crooked; whoever stuffed …” Then the owl turned its head and winked at the barber!
Even so today, many are parroting Scofield’s mistake by saying, „The church could not begin until Pentecost.” It did and it started well.
No verse says the church began at Pentecost. No verse says the Holy Spirit „formed” her. Was Scofield evasive, or naive, or what, in substituting „formed” for „built”? Christ said that He Himself would build the church. Why not believe Him? Who would trust a physician, druggist, or banker who juggled words to support a pet theory? (I have used Scofield Bibles nearly fifty years and plan to continue. Most of the notes are good, but not all.)
When Christ said, „I will build my church,” He did not say it had not then been started.
II Christ was the Head of His church, as He said.
He told His disciples, „One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren … for one is your Master, even Christ” (Mt. 23:8, 10). So, already in the Gospels, He was „head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22), and He was already „head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18).
Surely the church could be as real a church with Christ the Head physically present, as with Him absent and the Holy Spirit invisibly present.
The word, „shepherd,” means pastor, and Christ was the only perfect pastor any church ever had. Why refuse the best example of church our world has ever known? Why ignore the church in the four Gospels as our model? Why not believe what Christ said and did?
III Christ was in the New Testament, as He said.
„This is my blood of the new testament,” He said, In Matthew 26:28.
The four Gospels are not in the Old Testament as Scofield intimated in his notes on Exodus 19:1 and Acts 2:1. Not one verse says that Pentecost began a new era or dispensation, or any change in church activities. In fact the Greek New Testament does not mention „church” in Acts until 5:11.
Scofield has far too many dubious „pivotal” passages—
Matthew 11:28; 13:3; 16:20,21; Acts 2:1—all in questionable places. Far better are these: „The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). „For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Mt. 11:13). „The law and the prophets were until John” (Lk. 16:16). „The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). „That word (gospel) … after the baptism which John preached” (Acts 10:37). „When John had first preached, before his (Christ’s) coming…” (Acts 13:24).
Notice that John the Baptist did preach the New Testament, saving gospel (Lk. 1:69, 77; 3:18). The „kingdom” John preached was the same from Matthew 3:2 to Acts 28:31. Of the multitudes who received that spiritual kingdom, nearly all were Jews; yet John’s gospel included Gentiles also (Jn. 1:29).
John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:15); he saw multitudes converted and baptized (Mt. 3:5, 6); he was 100% Christian (Jn. 1:15; 3:30); he was fully endorsed by Christ (Lk. 7:24-30) and by the apostles (Acts 1:21); he was as much a Christian as Stephen. All that makes him the first Christian martyr. He was in the New Testament dispensation. So was Christ in the days of His flesh whatever some dispensationalists may say.
Those who argue endlessly that the Christian era did not begin until Pentecost thereby rob us of precious Christian church truth in four of the most important books in the Bible. What a loss—a needless tragedy.
IV. Christ saved sinners in the four Gospels, as He said.
Scofield’s note on page 987 suggests that the four Gospels had only a group of „Jewish disciples” but that the Epistles have the „regenerate” —as though no one was regenerated in the Gospels, with the Savior there! !
One dispensationalist wrote, „If the church was started prior to the cross, it has no Savior.” Incredible! Christ came to save people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). He did save multitudes (Lk. 7:47-50; 19:9, 10; 23:43; Jn. 3:16, 17; 4:1, 2; 12:47; I Tim. 1:15).
Nearly every man buys his first car, and his first house, „on time” or with a contract for future payments. The first New Testament converts, manifested by their immersion, trusted in Christ’s future death and resurrection for the full payment of their salvation. Proof texts are abundant.
Some dispensationalists speak of „The rapture of the church,” meaning all those saved since Pentecost. What about those saved— and who died—before Pentecost? And does any verse mention „church” in connection with the Second Coming of Christ? All believers, including all those in the kingdom, will be caught up with Christ, even though they have failed to join a real church.
V. Christ Endorsed John the Baptist, as He said.
John was the greatest (Mt 11:11-14; Lk 7:24-30; 20:4)
John baptized Christ, witnessed by the Father and Holy Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17). What greater honor could any Christian have?
John prepared people, as the Twelve, for Christ (Jn. 1:35-45; Acts 1:21).
Scofield erred on page 1009 in saying it is the „Messiah’s earthly kingdom” that the Baptist came to announce (Mt. 3:2; 11:11). Not so; he proclaimed a spiritual kingdom—the same kingdom mentioned twenty-six times after the resurrection of Christ. Why should one repent for a kingdom 2000 years away? Jesus said about the poor in spirit, „Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). He also told us to seek the kingdom now (Mt. 6:33). He said the kingdom had already come (Mt. 12:28), and that it should be preached in all the world (Mt. 24:14). Paul preached it everywhere (Acts 19:8, 28:31).
Christ refused an earthly kingdom offered to Him by „a great multitude” of about 5,000 men (Jn. 6:1-15). He said His kingdom was „not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). From the first, He came to die for sins and to rise again. That act of redemption He portrayed and promised in His baptism (Mt. 3:13-17); 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 1 Pet.3:21). He never shifted from a kingdom to a cross, as Scofield indicated (pg. 1021).
The kingdom preached form Matthew 3:2 to Acts 28:31 was the spiritual realm with Christ as King. Every saved person, obeying Christ, is in that kingdom. The repentant thief on the cross entered it then and there, The Ethiopian entered it the moment he believed, before his baptism.
That kingdom is similar to the so-called „true, invisible universal” church of Scofield. If he had stayed with his definition of „church” on page 1021 (assembly … gathering of people), if he had let the church be the church, if he had defined the kingdom correctly—then less confusion would follow. Christ did not say, „I will build two churches.”
Every saved person is in the kingdom, before and without joining a church— which he ought to join. The smaller church(es) and the larger kingdom are like concentric circles, with Christ at the center of each. The New Testament age has only one kingdom but many churches (tools of the kingdom).
Since the churches are „built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; 3:5), then John the Baptist as a prophet (Lk. 7:2; 20:6) was part of the foundation of the churches).
It seems that the antipathy of European theologians toward Baptists has resulted in downgrading John the Baptist. Whatever the cause, it is time we learned and followed Christ’s high respect for the first Christian.
VI Christ Baptizes Believers In the Holy Spirit, as He said.
„For John truly baptized in water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now,” said Jesus in Acts 1:5.
The King James translators were anti-immersionists which explains their use of „with water” and „with the Holy Spirit” instead of in as in the Greek.
Six places identify Christ as our baptizer in the Spirit (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16). In no verse is it said that the Holy Spirit baptizes anyone.
In ten places Scofield said the Holy Spirit baptizes each believer into „the body of Christ” (pages 157, 987, 1016, 1162, 1163, 1174, 1244, 1272 1275, 1324). In each case Scofieldians are confused by the King James version of 1 Corinthians 12:13, „For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body …” A better version is „For indeed we were all brought into one body by baptism, in the one spirit, whether we are Jews or Greeks
The latter version fits the facts well. It was by immersion that 3,000 converts were „added unto” the church in Acts 2:41-47. The same baptism initiated the Corinthian Christians into their church (Acts 18:8). A convert cannot rightly join a church before, or without, baptism. Baptism, with its required evidences of conversion, is the last thing one needs to do in order to become a member of a church.
In New Testament times, before the sprinkling heresy began, baptism was the pivotal step whereby converts left their old lives and entered the new fellowship of churches. Then it was not disputed, denied, or delayed; it was obeyed promptly after conversion (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8). An unbaptized convert was disobedient; baptism was and is the first obligation of a new believer.
Anti-immersionists minimize baptism, contrary to Scripture. The one word, „baptized,” describes the entire work of Christ and of John the Baptist in many places— John 1:25-27, 31, 33; 3:22, 23, 26; 4:1, 2; 10:40; Acts 10:37 13:24. Why? Because baptism portrays the gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15: 1-4; Rom 6:4; Col. 2:12). In the light of the above sixteen clear verses, it is easy to see water baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3, and Ephesians 4:5.
Those who reject immersion place themselves with the Pharisees and lawyers who „rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized by him” (Lk. 7:30) John’s baptism was equated with the counsel of God which means His purpose, or will. Yet some dispensationalists dare to downgrade baptism to a mere optional ritual. No wonder they refuse to recognize it in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
The one body (1 Cor. 12:13) is the one church at Corinth, for it was a body. The „body” metaphor is used for the Corinthian church eighteen times from verses 12 to 27. As a body it met regularly „on the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 5:4;10:16,17;11:17,18, 20, 33; 14:23, 26; 16:1, 2). An imaginary, invisible, universal church cannot meet, and never will meet. Therefore, Scofield’s „true” church cannot be a BODY, any more than bricks scattered all over a city can be a building.
The abuse and misuse of 1 Corinthians 12:13, is too much like the Mormons’ use of 15:29 in baptizing for the dead. In each case, confusing doctrine, like an inverted pyramid, is built on one obscure or difficult verse.
1 Corinthians 12:13 cannot refer to Pentecost, for neither Paul nor the Corinthians were there (4:15). Never is it said the Holy Spirit baptizes anyone. It is Christ who built His church. He baptizes believers in the Spirit.
Some dispensationalists downgrade Christ (p. 1162) by denying Him as Builder and Baptizer. They wrongly emphasize the Holy Spirit above Christ in Acts, but the names of the Father (with pronouns) in Acts number 275, of Christ 248, and of the Holy Spirit 57. The Holy Spirit inspired it that way.
VII. Christ Built Real Churches, as He said.
The only adjective used for a New Testament church in this age is the one Christ used — „I will build my church.” That makes it a new, true church. The one He led, doing real church work in Palestine, was a true church. So was each of the churches in „all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31), many of which could well have been started when Christ’s first church won converts in many localities, baptized them and taught them, all before Pentecost. Why not? Would a missionary now leave his converts without organizing them for continued work and worship? No, nor would Christ— or Paul.
Scofield imagined an invisible, universal, non-assembling, and hence non-functioning, non-company of believers to be „the true church” (pp. 1162, 1299, 1324). Then, are visible churches not true churches/ (We know that a church may have unsaved members in her — look at Judas, but she can still be a real church. Scofield referred to his „true church” in thirty-eight New Testament passages.)
The emphasis on an imaginary „church” gives comfort to irresponsible, lazy and useless Christians who refuse to join and support real churches. Their excuse: „we belong to the true church.” Such a foggy „church” is poor defense against heresies and cults; it is poor help to underpaid pastors and missionaries; it pays no utility or janitor bills; it builds no churches or parsonages; it supports no hospitals or orphanages. What does it do?
Scofield’s „true” church has no meeting place, meeting, pastor, deacon, treasurer, clerk discipline, baptism, Lord’s Supper, choir, commission, responsibility, Sunday School or conference. So, is it true?
Why should anyone disembody the church(es) Christ built? Is that treating Him fairly? Christ loved the church —of visible, imperfect people like us. He wants us to have vigorous churches. But some dispensationalists emphasize an imaginary church, though some of them may belong to real churches.
Real, visible churches are the only organizations Christ left to do all His work, in all the world, in all the centuries. Why, then, weaken His ministry by exalting an imaginary, helpless thing over real churches? When we cheapen the real bodies of Christ, we cheapen the Head of those bodies.
The word „church” is sometimes used in a generic, or institutional sense, meaning all real churches. Christ used the word „church” twenty-three times, of which twenty-two meant local, visible, real churches. In Matthew 16:18 His use of „church” can mean all real churches. In Ephesians and Colossians the singular form stands for all real churches, just as a dozen other singular nouns in those books stand for all separate items so named.
Utterly impossible and meaningless, with Scofield’s misuse of „true,” are the metaphors for „church,” such as, body, building, candlestick, flock, pillar, and house. Each one has to be local, visible, tangible, and real to make sense. As for „bride,” one that is visible is preferred by most mend When we all get to heaven all real churches will be one bride—and visible. In the meantime, Christ can be the Head of each church, as He is of each man (I Cor. 11:3).
Is the church an organism? No, for an organism is a single living thing such as a bug, a bird, or a beast. An organization is a systematized group of organisms; so a church is an organized group of Christians. A dictionary should settle the matter, but the word, „church,” has been mangled so badly by heresies that a dictionary offers sixteen different definitions!
Let us show proper respect to vital membership in real gospel churches. That is Christ’s plan. We have no obligation to an „invisible” church.
In spite of some foggy dispensational distortions of New Testament church truth, each Christian is duty bound to support his nearby gospel church, trying always to build her up in faith and works. That is the New Testament plan. There is no plan to build an imaginary invisible phantom.
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Dr. J. P. Boyce
Editor’s Introduction
Several years, ago, in the mid- 1970s, I purchased J. A. Broadus’ Biography of James P. Boyce. In it, I found out about Dr. Boyce’s work on ekklesia. Dr. Broadus referred to it as an unpublished work. I understood that to mean this work was never published in any form, not simply unpublished in a separate form. Soon thereafter I made arrangements with Dr. Ronald Deering, Curator at the Boyce Memorial Library at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., to try and find Dr. Boyce’s unpublished work on ekklesia. Dr. Deering was very kind and helpful and gave me freedom to go through all the known works of Boyce, including all his estate papers. There were boxes and boxes of these. Brother Larry Burton, of Louisville, helped me in this investigation. After we looked for many, many hours, still we found nothing.
I had the set of The Christian Review in my personal library. After I sold these, I kept my notes on the important items in each volume. A few months ago, I ordered this work from The Historical Archives of The Southern Baptist Convention. When this work came back to me, I noted it briefly, and then put it aside. I knew it was a very good and important work which, to my knowledge, had never been published as a separate work. In the process of time, while gathering materials for a proposed www site on Christology, I noted some remarks from Dr. Boyce’s Abstract of Theology in which he touches on the Church in the atonement, and sets forth his views of the two fold usage of the term church. Basically, he understood the term in the same way that Dr. J. M. Pendleton did, no invisible church.
This discovery started me thinking about this old work on ekklesia. As I reread it, I noted that it was almost on the same plan and level of Boyce’s great work on Theology. Therefore, by the inward evidence, I concluded that this was the great work Dr. Broadus mentioned, and called an unpublished work on Ekklesia. I had tried to locate it in its handwritten form.
In this work, there are some points I wish to note:
Dr. Boyce refers to a better Greek Text in several places. It is regretted that he and many of those dear brethren, in that age, followed the Bible Revision movement. They were a part of The Bible Union. That movement wanted to set aside the Textus Receptus and hold to the Egyptians Texts, or what became later known as the Westcott-Hort Texts. In no way to we agree that these Gnostic texts are the better texts. I feel that if Dr. Boyce were living today, he would not reject the TR in favor of the Gnostic Texts. In his days, these texts were not fully known as they are now. In no way do I agree that the Gnostic Texts are better Greek Texts than the text family known as the Textus Receptus is.
Dr. Boyce quotes several authorities defining ekklesia. Most of them are correct in their definitions. At one point, dealing with the unorganized multitude in Acts 19, Dr. Boyce disagrees with the conclusions of the writer he quotes and seems to make the ekklesia a part of the unorganized mod. I differ on this and do not. I feel a better reading from the T R shows that the unorganized mod was separate from the ekklesia, but that if the ekklesia continued as it was, it would be called a part of the unorganized mob.
Often times the editors of The Christian Review felt it was necessary to differ with Dr. Boyce. These differences are found in various footnotes.
Dr. Boyce maintained almost word for word the concepts of John Spilsbury and the first generation of Particular Baptists. He says ekklesia refers either to the particular church or churches or the general church. He does not use the term general church, but universal church. He does not know about any invisible church. The general church is made up of the sum total of members of the visible gospel churches. To be a member of the universal church or general church, one must first become a member of the gospel church. I am amused by the way the northern, liberal editors of The Christian Review differed from his concepts. They made footnotes and don’t want their readers to believe they hold to the views of the writer. Of course not, they were invisible churchites. One important point I noted was this, Dr. Boyce held the same views on conversion that John Spilsbury and the others held, that is, when one is converted, it is more than having faith in Christ Jesus, it is into the true and visible order of Christ Jesus. The Christian Review editors denied this concept of conversion. The work is very well organized, scholarly, with many Greek and Hebrew words. His conclusions are, all the figurative usages for the ekklesia support the visible church concept only.
I hope you enjoy this great work from the past. Dr. Boyce truly was a giant in his thoughts and knowledge as well as in his spirituality.
From One who has been given a Reason to Hope He is In that True Faith and Order of Jesus Christ; A Debtor to Mercy!
Dr. R.E. Pound
Assistant Editors.
No branch of Christian Theology have more books been written than on that of Church Polity; and yet it is remarkable that even in the best of these but little attempt has been made to exhibit the true meaning of the word which is used throughout the New Testament to designate the body in question. Most writers seem either to take it for granted that it has the meanings assigned it, or else they are content to infer this from the passages in which it occurs A thorough investigation into the origin and import of the word itself, I am persuaded, is not to be found in the English language. And yet such an investigation, any one will see, must go far to settle the question, as to the nature of the true Church of Christ,—a question which must be settled before the Savior’s prayer can be answered, and His disciples „all become one, as he and, the Father are one.” Such an investigation is here attempted.
The word „Church,” as it occurs in our current English literature, is used in a variety of senses. Webster assigns it no less than nine distinct meanings’. Some of these, however, are very unusual, if not entirely fanciful. The following are its ordinary meanings:
1. It is used of a building consecrated to religious worship. This is its entomological and most usual signification, bring derived from the Greek word kuriakos which means, „pertaining to a lord or master,” as in the expressions, „Lord’s Supper,” and „Lord’s Day,” 1 Cor. xi: 20, Rev. i: 10. Afterwards, in the writing? of the Greek Fathers, the neuter form of the adjective with the article— thus, -was used substantively to mean the Lord’s house, or a place of worship.* From this was derived the Anglo-Saxon circe, and the German Kirche, whence our word Church was formed. The earliest uses of the word arc in this sense, as denoting the house or place of worship.
The following arc examples:—”The kyng gef ys men grete giftes, and let arere chirches up, that the Schrewes adown caste.”—R. Gloucester, A. 1). 1297. ” For the commons, upon festival days, where they shoulden go to church to serve God, then gon they to taverns.”—Sir John Mandeville, A. D. 1360. „She was a worthy woman, housbands at the chirche dore she had five.”—Chaucer, 1390. ” Thou hast done sinne, whether in other men’s houses, or in thine own, in field, in chirche,” &’c.—Chaucer. Although as early as Wickliffe’s time it had acquired the sense of a religious assembly or congregation, ((for he uses it in this sense in his version of the New Testament,) the fact that it is hardly ever used in this sense in the versions that followed Wickliffe’s, previous to that of King James, but is employed by them not as the translation of ekklesia, but in the phrase „robbers of churches” (Acts 19: 37), by which. they render „posilous,” literally robbers of temples,—shows that it continued for a long time to be used almost exclusively in its primitive and etymological signification. It would have been well for the world and the cause of religion had it always been restricted to this use, and never employed as the translation of ekklesia.
2. It is used of a religious society or congregation, meeting statedly at one place:—the container for the contained; as „cup ” is used for its contents (1. Cor. xi: 26—1 27), and „house” for its inmates.
• See Scapala’s Greek Lex., Liddell and Scott’s, the Ency. Americana, Webster’s largo Dictionary, Crowell’s Ch. Mem. Man., p. 33, Coleman’s Ch. Antiq., p. 177. Schaff’s Hist. Ap. Church, p. 7.
3. It is a implied to a collective body of individual churches forming one ecclesiastical government, nearly synonymous with denomination;’ as the Church of England, the Presbyterian, the Episcopal, the Methodist Church As the Baptist denomination is not thus one government or a unit, as are the others mentioned, it is not proper to speak of it as „the Baptist Church.” This phrase necessarily conveys a false idea.
4. The word Church is used of the entire body of the professors of Christianity, taken as a class, and in distinct-ion from these who make no such profession. This we distinguish between „the Church” and „the world ”
Now if the word be indefinite in its signification, it is manifest that to know its meaning as an English word, in common English literature, will by no means enable us to determine what at it means as employed in our New Testament Scriptures.
In our common version the word occurs one hundred and fifteen times- -exclusive of the one example in Acts xix: 37, already referred to;—and in every instance it is used as the translation of the same Greek word, which is ekklesia.
It is the meaning of this word, then, that we are concerned to know, and which is to determine the meaning of the word ‘ Church’ as employed in our common version. How then is the true import of this word to be ascertained? The sources of evidence are the following: First, the meaning of the word in classic Greek, and in the Septuagint, or in other words, its meaning previous to, and at the of its employment by the sacred writers. Second, the testimony of the Greek lexicons or the New Testament. Third, an examination of all the passages of Scripture in which the word is used. And fourth, the descriptions and explanations given by the sacred writers, of the ekklesia.
The New Testament writers did not coin the word, but they found it already in common use, as a word having a distinct and definite meaning in Greek books, and in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures—the Septuagint. It is obvious that they must have used it in the same general sense, as conveying, the same leading idea, as in previous and common use; otherwise it would either have conveyed no idea to their readers or a wrong one. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, to doctrine what is its classical meaning, and what modifications of this word were effected by its use in the Septuagint.
The word ekklesia, is formed from the two words, ek, out of, and kalioo, to call; and hence it literally signifies the called out. Steplianus, and Scapula, define it, „an assembly called out, an assemblage, also the place of an assemblage.” Donnegan, ” an assembly of the people at Athens, convoked by heralds; also the place of assembly.” Liddell and Scott, „an assembly of the citizens, summoned by the criers, the legislative assembly.”
Eschenburg, in his „Manual of Classical Literature,” page 509, thus describes the legislative assemblies here referred to:
” Assembling of the people—ekklesia—were very frequent at Athens, and had an important influence. In these the acts of the senate were canvassed, laws were proposed and approved or rejected, magistrates appointed, war declared, and the like. 1 The place where they met was either the market place,—agape,—or a broad space near the mountain called the Puyx, or the theatre of Bacchus. The ordinary assemblies—ekklesiai kuriai—were held monthly on established days; the extraordinary—ekklesia sugklrtoi—were called on during pressing and important emergencies. The people voted by stretching forth their hands—xipotonia,—and sometimes by a mode of balloting, in which beans and stones were cast into vessels prepared for the purpose.”
Similar assemblies called by the same name, ekklesiai, were, held in Sparta. See page 517. In this sense the word is often used by Demosthenes, as where he speaks of the treaty ratified in the ekklesia,” and of „an extraordinary ekklesia called by the officers,” and of the proceedings of the ekklesia.”*
Some of the later authorities, as Liddell and Scott even, restrict the word, as found in classic Greek, to this meaning alone. To the same effect is the statement of the learned Trench, „ekklesia,” he says, ” as all
• See Champing’s Demos. on the Crown, pp. 8, l0, 19, &c.
know, was the lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all those possessed of the rights of citizenship, for the transaction of public affairs.” An able article in favor of the same view, was publish in volume twentieth (July No.) of this Review. But while this was doubtless the original and more usual signification of the word, it certainly was used to designate any popular assembly, any gathering or meeting of persons, formally or informally, for business purposes. In this sense Xenophon uses it, when in his Anabasis he says that Clearchus, one of the generals of Cyrus, „called together an assembly—ekklesia—of his soldiers.” * It certainly has no reference here to „the legislative assembly at Athens,” or of „the qualified citizens ” of any of ” the free cities of Greece,” but means simply, an assembly, as it usually does when used, as here, without the article. Lucian also uses the word in the general sense of an assembly, for he employs it to designate the assemblies of the gods, as when he makes it a part of the office of Mercury to call together, or ” summon to the assemblies „—tais ekklesiais xr puttein.*
In this general sense Luke, we think, employs the, word in two out of; the three instances of its occurrence in the 19th chapter of Acts. . In each of these places, it is rendered in our common version „assembly,” viz. in verses, 32, 39, 41. In verses 32 and 41, it is applied to the promiscuous assemblage who had come together into the theatre at Ephesus, at the outcry and alarm given by Demetrius and his fellow-craftsman. See verse 29. The word ekklesia is here used interchangeably with ton otmon „the people,” in verse 30; with tou oxlou, „the multitude,” in verse 33 ; and with tris sustprchrs tautes, ” this concourse,” in verse 40. These terms have different shades of meaning, but they all refer to the same thing, and are designed only to give variety to the narrative, and to describe the subject under different points of view.
• See Xenophon’s Anabasis, Book I. Chapter 3. Cleveland’s ed., p. 9. t Lucian’s Dialogues. 8. ” Mercury and Maias.”
The writer already referred to contends that the word ekklesia is used here in its ” primary Grecian sense,” as denoting ” (the assembly of the qualified citizens called together;” and that „it was not the oxlos. nor the drmos, nor the plithos, which the presiding officer—’ the town-clerk’—addressed and dismissed, but the ekklesia,, which was included within, yet distinct from them all.”* We dissent from this view, first, because there is no intimation in the narrative of the convocation or assembling of this body—the legislative ekklesia—on the occasion referred to; secondly, because the address of the „town-clerk” seems intended for the assembly at large, and not for the ekklesia, as forming a part of it. His language is, ” Ye men of Athens,” &c. Although this expression might have included only the members of the legislative Ekklesia, it is not natural thus to restrict it, unless the context requires us to do this. On the other hand the context seems plainly to forbid this restriction. For it will be observed, that in verses 35 and 36,, the ” town-clerk” remonstrates with his auditors (the persons whom he addresses) for their boisterous cry, „Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” and in verse 37, for having brought out „those, men”—'” Gaius and Aristarchus—Paul’s companions in travel”—whilst they had done nothing to merit their indignation. However, it was the. populace, and not the ekklesia, or any of its members as such, that had done these things. For in verses 33 and 34 it is said, that ” Alexander would have made his defense unto the people, but when they (that is, ” the people”) knew that he was a Jew, all (that is, all the people) with one voice, about the space of two hours, cried out,” &c. Here it is manifest that it was the citizens generally, and not the portion of them composing the legislative Ekklesia only, that raised the cry. And these, too, it is equally evident, were the persons that in verse 29, are said to have „caught Gaius, and Aristarchus, and rushed with one accord into the theatre;” and thirdly, the allusion of the town-clerk in verse 39, to „the lawful assembly”—te entomo ekklesia it should be rendered, in allusion to the legislative assembly or Ekklesia of the free cities of Greece, shows that the body here addressed by the town clerk, and designated as „ekklesia,” was the promiscuous assembly there convened. Had this functionary intended to intimate that it was an irregular meeting of the legislative Ekklesia that he was addressing, he would have omitted the article in designating that body, and have spoken of it not as the lawful assembly, but a lawful assembly.
* Christian Review, vol. 20, p. 437.
The authorities and examples given are sufficient to prove that ekklesia, in classic Greek, meant, at the time of its employment by the New Testament writers, first, a legislative assembly of qualified citizens; and secondarily, any assembly called together or convening for purposes of business. In either case, it involved at least these particulars:
1. A collection of individuals taken out of and distinguished from the general mass.
2. Such a collection consisting of persons capable of personal deliberation—rational agents.
3. Such a collection united by common interests and mutual co-operation.
4. 4. Such a collection accomplishing its purposes by the exercise of popular rights, or the participation of each individual in the affairs of the whole body.
Whatever may have been. its „consecration” or appropriation by the sacred writers, it is fair to suppose that the word was used by: them of a body characterized by these particulars; for those are essential to its meaning; and hence, to use it in a different sense Would have been to render it unintelligible for popular use,
But here it is of importance to inquire what influence, if any, was exerted upon its meaning by its use in the & Septuagint—the Greek version of the Old Testament, from which the writers of the New sometimes quote.
In this the word occurs seventy-six times in the Canonical Books, and in every instance as the translation of the same Hebrew word, which is ^”Pi? or some other equivalent derivative of the verb ””i?. In only five instances is it used as the translation of these other derivatives. In all the other examples it stands as the equivalent of „^p.. The verb ^i? means, according to Gesenius, ” to call, to call together, to convoke, to assemble,” and is thus the exact equivalent of the Greek kalioo, the root, and the principal of the two words, from which ekklesia is derived. The noun n^)? is therefore, etymologically, the almost exact equivalent of ekklesia and is accordingly defined by Gesenius, 1. a coming together, an assembling ; 2. an assembly, congregation, convocation, (a) Specially of the assembly or convocation of the people of Israel for any cause; mostly for religious purposes. (b) In a wider sense, of any assembly or multitude of men.”
From a careful comparison of all the passages in the Septuagint, in which the word ekklesia, occurs, I can discover but three applications of the word, viz :,
1. It is used to mean an assembly or collection of persons for any purpose; as in Psa. 26 : 6, where it occurs in the expression, „the congregation of evil doers,” that is, ” the wicked.” In the same sense is it used in Ps. 89: 5, rendered in our common version, „the congregation of the saints,” but which, according to Gesenius and Alexander, should be ” holy ones,” that is, „angels”—the reference here being to the heavenly world.* In 1 Samuel 19 : 20, it is rendered „company,” that is, of the prophets.
2. It is used of the common or; political assemblies of the Jewish people, as in Judges 21: 8, where it is rendered „assembly,” and in 1 Chron. 29: 3, where it is rendered „congregation.”
3. It is used of the religious assemblies of the Israelites, as in Deut. 18: 16, where it is rendered „assembly,” and in 2 Chron. 1: 3, 5, where it is rendered „congregation.”
The word ekklesia, then, like its Hebrew equivalent, has a definite and restricted sense throughout the Septuagint. It is never wed of the Jewish nation, or of a family. To express these ideas, the word sunagoge is employed, as the translation of ” which, unlike p, means, among other things according to Gesenius, ” community, family, household.” It. is a significant fact, that ekklesia, is never used to translate this word. The authors of the Septuagint understood its meaning too well to apply it to any but conscious, rational, and responsible agents—those capable of being ” called out. As sunagoge from an and ayo, ” to lead Or gather together,” may be applied both to active and passive agents or subjects, it was appropriately lately used in the more general and comprehensive sense in which we find it throughout the Septuagint. The chief difference between ekklesia, and sunagogue, as their respective etymologies indicate, is, that the first is used only of active agents, while the latter is used both of active and passive agents.*
•See „Alexander on the Psalms,”— vol. 2 p. 278
It will be seen, therefore, that the meaning of ekklesia, in the Septuagint,, does not diner materially from the meaning it has in Classic Greek. The chief difference is, that in the Septuagint it is used of a religious assembly, as well as of other convocations ; and this, without altering its meaning, brings it nearer to its New Testament application. Moreover, in the Septuagint, it is applied to a particular congregation or assembly of worshippers, and also to the whole class of such worshippers, considered as constituting one. body; as in Deut. 23: 1-3, 31: 30; for although this formed but one assembly, still it embraced the aggregate of all the true worshippers all who professed the true religion at that time. If, then, the New Testament Writers intended or expected to be understood by their readers, they must have used the word in a sense which accorded with one or more of these, its established meanings.
The testimony or statement of a lexicon is only the opinion of an individual critic, and is of very little importance apart from the examples and proof texts, going to sustain the statements and definitions given. It is the actual usage of a language in the employment of any word, that is to determine the meaning of that word, and not the mere opinions and declarations of men, however learned they may be. In fact, it is not so much learning as common sense that is concerned in such a decision. The learning serves only to find out the examples of the occurrence of any word ; common sense must decide, in view of the context and scope of the passage, what its meaning must be. It is not every learned man that has the common sense or judgment necessary to make a sound and reliable critic. Still, as scholars who are supposed to have devoted more than ordinary attention to such studies, the lexicographers in question ought to be heard. The following is the substance of their testimony as to the meaning of ekklesia, In the New Testament.
• The word synagogue is used even of beasts, Judg. 14:8. Ps. 68: 31.
Scapula defines it, ” the universal assembly called to life eternal, who profess the true religion of Christ; also particular assemblies into which this universal assembly is distributed also applied to a particular family, or to those in it who profess Christ—and to a synod or presbytery, that is, a college of elders.” Stephanus gives substantially the same definition, Greenfield field, „any public assembly, a congregation, a Christian assembly, a Church.” Wahl, „an assembly, that is, a multitude of citizens called out and assembled ill a convenient public place. In the Jewish sense, a multitude assembled in a sacred convention—a society. In the Christian sense, a multitude of men called out and assembled by authority of Jesus, through his public criers the apostles, for the worship. of the true God—a sacred assembly, a society of Christians; used in a general sense, and of particular assemblies of Christians.” Robinson, „a convocation, assembly, congregation. (1.) Properly of persons legally called out or Summoned, Acts xix.: 31), and hence also of a tumultuous assembly not legal.—Acts 19: 32—41. In the Jewish sense, congregation, assembly, of the people for worship. (2.) In the Christian sense, an assembly, that is, of Christians. Hence the Church, the Christian Church, (1) a particular Church, (2) the Church universal.” These examples embody the opinions of all the leading lexicographers on the subject. And it will be seen that they all agree in the following particulars :
1. That the word means primarily any assembly of individuals.
2. That the word is used in this general sense in the New Testament.
3. That in accordance with this meaning it is applied to individual congregations of Christians.
4. That it is used also in a general sense to denote the aggregate of all such congregations, or the sum total of all who profess the true religion.
A few of the early lexicographers, as Scapula and Stephanus, assign it additional meanings, as „a synod,” „a family,” „a college of elders;” these, however, are meanings so foreign from the primary and ordinary signification of the word, a and so uncalled for by the necessities of interpretation, that they are now by the best authorities entirely exploded.
This much then we may regard as settled, so far as the lexicons can settle it,—that wherever ekklesia occurs in the New Testament in a religious or Christian sense, it refers either to an individual congregation or society of Christians, or to the entire body of professing Christians, taken as a whole. This definition certainly carries great plausibility with it, from the fact that it makes the meaning of the word in the New Testament to agree in substance with its meanings in the classics and in the Septuagint. It makes the sacred writers to have written as to be understood by the readers.
In determining the meaning of the word from the examples of its use in the New Testament, we are to keep in mind its established meanings as a word in common use at the time of its employment by the sacred writers: and from these meanings we must not in substance depart, unless imperatively required to do this by the plain necessities of the case. According to a fundamental law of interpretation, and a rule of common sense, we must presume that the New Testament writers used the word in its ordinary signification, until it is plainly shown in any case that they did not.
The word ekklesia has in the New Testament two applications—a general and a special one. In its general application it refers to any assembly of persons, whether for secular or religion purposes; in its special application it refers to a Christian organization of some kind.
In its general application the word occurs but five times in the whole New Testament. Three of these, as already shown, are in Acts xix: 32, 39, •II, where in our common version it is rendered „assembly,” referring in, verses 32 and 41 to the tumultuous gathering of the populace at Ephesus, and in verse 39 to the „lawful” or legislative assembly, common to the free cities of Greece. In Acts vii:38 it occurs in the statement, „This is he (Moses)) that was in the Church ekklesia, in the wilderness, with the Angel who spoke to him in the Mount Sinai.” Here it means, according to Professor Hackett, Bloomfield and others, „the assembly of the Hebrews’ congregated at Sinai at the time of the promulgation of the law,”—as described in Exodus xix : 17. It does not mean the Jewish nation, but a portion of them—the male adults—”called out” and assembled by Divine command for the reception of the Ten Commandments. The other example is in Hebrews ii: 12, „In the midst of the Church will 1 sing praise unto thee.” This is a quotation from Psalms xxii: 22, where the Septuagint also has ekklesia. By „the Church” here is meant, as Stuart and Alexander explain it, an assembly or congregation for public worship. The Apostle is treating of Christ’s incarnation—His brotherhood with His disciples;—and quotes the passage from the Psalms to show that the doctrine is recognized in the Old Testament. „The implication is,” saying Professor Stuart, ” that he who sings praise in the midst of the assembly must be like them, and one of their number.”*
In the remaining examples of its use the word is employed one hundred and ten times in its special application to a Christian assembly or organization. It has been shown by clear and declarative lire examples, that the word signified at the time of its employment by the New Testament writers, first, a legislative assembly of citizens called out, or selected from the general mass; secondly, any popular assembly called or gathered together for business purposes; and thirdly, an assembly or con congregation meeting together for religious worship. In this last sense it had two applications, as designating, 1. any congregation of worshippers among the Jews; and 2. the aggregate of all that thus met for religious worship: the whole body of these; as in Deut. xxiii: 1, 3, xxxi: 30. And these are the only meanings that the word had. Bearing this in mind, we shall be prepared to determine its meaning in any place where it occurs in the New Testament.
The first example of its use is in Matt. xvi:18 —” upon this rock I will build my church.” Our Lord calls the ekklesia here „my church,” and by the expression „I will build,” shows in what sense it was to be his. „Build” is here, of course, used figuratively, for gathering and uniting men or believers to himself as the promised Messiah. Our Lord was addressing his disciples in the character of the Messiah, and by his ” church” would be naturally understood by them to denote the body of His followers, the subjects of the New Dispensation, just as the ekklesia of the Jews constituted the true subjects of the Old Dispensation, The word, then, seems evidently used in allusion to the ekklesia of the Septuagint, and in the same sense substantially, that is, as meaning congregation. And the assurance which Christ gives, that „the gates of hell”—or more properly of hades, that is of death or the underworld—”shall not prevail against it,”—this congregation—shows that it was not his church considered as a single assembly or organization that he
*Stuart on Hebrews, page 317.
meant, but his church as embracing the collective body of his follower. No single church or congregation of that day has been proof against „the gates of hades”—not one has been perpetual; but the order of things which Christ established, and the body of his followers as organized into separate congregations for the carrying out of that order,—this ekklesia, His congregation in this sense—has been perpetual; there has been no age when this church of Christ has ceased to exist, or when ” the gates of hell prevailed against it,” and there never will be, to the end of time.
The general scope of the passage confirms this interpretation. In reply to Christ’s inquiry, Peter, speaking for the other apostles as well as for himself, uttered his noble confession—” Thou art the Christ”—that is, the Messiah— „he Son of the living God.” After which our Lord says, „And I say also unto thee,”—that is, „As you have made this confession, I, on my part declare, that thou art Peter,” (or Rock), „and upon this rock I will build, (or more properly build up) my church,” &c. This is plainly an example of Paronomasia; but in what sense was Christ’s ekklesia or congregation built upon Peter? Not upon his person— not upon the man—but upon his preaching, as was literally the fact on the day of Pentecost, and which was evidently the fulfillment of the promise here made to him by Christ. Through Peter’s preaching in one day ” there were added unto them,” that is to the ekklesia,, the congregation, „about three thousand souls.” The church, as the organized company of Christ’s disciples, was in existence at the time of his uttering this promise, and was only to be built up upon Peter. For similar examples of the use of aixodomino in the sense of to build up, see 1 Cor. iii: 9, l0, 1 Peter ii: 5, Acts ix: 31.
It is worthy of note, then, that the first use of the word ekklesia is in its enlarged sense, meaning „the church universal,” and that this „church universal” consists only of those who make a regular and Scriptural profession of their faith in Christ as His disciples, and are thereby united to his authorized companies or congregations of disciples.
The next occurrence of the word is in Matt. xviii: 17, where our Lord is giving directions for the disposal of private offences between brethren. In case the offender refuses to hear the ” two or three” that have been called in as assistants, the other party is then to ” tell it unto the church,” „and if he neglect to hear the church,” he adds, ” let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Here „the church” is spoken of as a definite organization or society, haying ultimate Jurisdiction in certain transactions Every rule of criticism requires us to understand the word ekklesia here in its restricted sense, as meaning a local assembly on congregation of Christians. It is wholly gratuitous; to suppose that the word here means the elder ship, or the deacon ship, or any part of a church, as the representative of the whole church At the time the words were uttered there was no such thing as the eldership or deaconship for the church was in its infancy, and as yet incomplete in its organization—and if there had been, no reader would ever have understood the word ekklesia to indicate these, far it had never been used in such a sense.
In these two examples, which are the only ones that occur in the Gospels, we have illustrations of the two, and the only two meanings which the word has throughout the New Testament, when used in its sacred sense. In every place where the word occurs, it means either particular Local congregation of professed Christians, or the whole body of the professed disciples of Christ—that is, the aggregate not of the churches, but of the membership of all the local churches. Men are added to the „church universal” by becoming members of the „local churches.”* No man car be a member of the church universal, who is not a member of a regular, local gospel church—a church built upon the model of those established by Christ and His apostles , according to the specific terms of his commission to his apostles, Matthew xxviii:19,20. *
*It may perhaps be in place to remark—once for all—that the author of each article is to be considered personally responsible for the sentiments he expresses, and that the Editors disclaim all responsibility, except the general one, that every discussion admitted into the pages of the Review shall be such as seems to them, scholar-like, dignified, and upon the whole tending to promote the elucidation of truth,—(Editors.)
The church universal is not an organized body, or a body so constituted as to form and exercise the functions of one ecclesiastical government. This suggests an important rule by which we may generally ascertain whether the word „church”—ekklesia—as it occurs in the New Testament, refers to a single congregation of Christians, or to the general congregation, „the church universal.” When the church is spoken of us discharging the functions that belong properly to an organized body—as of assembling together, exercising discipline, appointing officers, sending forth messengers, it is, in such cases; always a
*While such is the view which the laws of language and the principles of interpretation, as we understand them, compel us to take-—namely, that „the church universal” is simply the aggregate of the membership of all the local churches at any given period and that the term ekklesia therefore, had essentially the same application, whether used in its enlarged or in its restricted sense, in the one case referring to a totality, and in the other to a part or parts of that totality-we would not be understood as holding, that there are no true believers out of the church. One the contrary, believing as we do that faith and conversion must precede membership in the church, it is a legitimate inference from our view, that persons may be truly converted and yet never become members of the church. As there may be and are false believers and unconverted persons in the church, so there may be and are multitudes of converted persons who are not in the church. The church, as the body of Christ, is an external, visible organization, and the condition or medium of admission must, in the nature of things, be in part external also. The leading design of baptism was to serve as a part of this condition. „We are all baptized into one body”- I Cor. 12:13. The person who was casting out devils in Christ’s name, and whom the disciples had forbidden, because he followed not with them, was doubtless a true believer, though from some cause he had not entered the fold of Christ. When our Lord prays that those who should hereafter believe in him might be one, as he and the Father are one, he teaches that men may and do become believers without being ecclesiastically united with each other. When Paul speaks of „the church of God which he has purchased with his own blood,” he alludes to the local congregation at Ephesus,- Acts xx:17, 28. It is not to be inferred from this, that no other congregations or believers were thus „purchased.” And so when the same apostle, Eph. v: 25, says that „Christ loved the church and gave himself for it,” he does not exclude Christians of other ages from being the subjects of Christ’s love and redemption. These and similar passages only assert the special regard of the Father and Son for the church. In other places they are represented as loving and providing for the salvation of all men, and especially of all believers.–I Tim. 4:10. To be a true believer, therefore, will ensure one’s salvation: and yet this does not prove that one can be saved as well out of the church as in it, or that the term church-ekklesia-is applicable to believers simply, or to any but the members of the local congregations of any given age.
a particular local congregation that is meant. This twofold application, in the Scriptures, of the word ekklesia, accords very nearly with a similar application of the word family, as commonly used by us. This word, like the word „church,” is properly used in only two senses, that is, of a single family, and of the whole race of man. And so, too, when we speak of the „human family,” or of family in its general sense, we do not think of it as an organized body, or as a body made up of separate individual families united into one, but as a class or order of beings, made up of individuals belonging to the several single families.
Such we are to presume to be the meanings of the word in the New Testament . Any other application would have been entirely arbitrary, and can be admitted only when it has been shown that the other applications are in any case altogether impossible. Whoever asserts that the word is used in any other sense, assumes the burden of proof. The presumption! is against him ; and this can be set aside only by positive and adequate evidence. The following are all the places—twenty in number— where the word means ” the church universal.” Matt. xvi: 18; Rom. xvi: 23 ; 1 Cor. x : 32, xii: 28, xv : 9; Gal. i:13; Eph. i: 22, iii: 10, 21; v: 23, 24, 25, 27, 27,, 32 ; Phil. iii: 6; Col, i: 18,24; 1 Tim. iii: 15; Heb. xii: 23. In all these passages it will be seen that the word denotes a class of persons distinguished by their relation to, Christ as his professed followers. Thus, when Paul calls Gaius the „host” not of himself only, but „of the whole church,” he means not a any one congregation, but the Christian brotherhood generally. So when he says, „Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God,” it is manifest that he speaks of „the church” as he does of the Jews and Gentiles, viz. as a class. When the same Apostle says that God ” set in the church” „apostles, prophets, workers of miracles,” &c., he evidently alludes not to any local congregation of Christians, for these extra-ordinary offices did not appertain to local societies or congregations, but they were „set” in the church at large- the collective body of Christ’s disciples. In several places Paul speaks of his having ” persecuted the church.” But it was the professed disciples, the members generally of the local congregations that he persecuted. When Christ is said to be ” the head of the church,” and the church „the body of Christ,” both senses of the word are included—that is, subjection to Christ is predicated of the local congregation and of the entire body of Christ’s disciples; and this subjection is open and visible. When it is said, „Christ loved the church,” it is plainly ” the church” in the general sense that is meant. ! ” The Church of God,” which Paul calls ” the house of God,” and • the pillar and ground of the truth,” may be applicable to a local congregation, but it seems to refer rather to the followers of Christ, generally, as a whole. „The church of the first born” mentioned in Heb. xii: 23, and to which the Hebrew Christians are described as having „come,” is evidently used in contradistinction to the Jewish ekklesia,” the congregation of pious Israelites, which embraced the whole body of the true subjects of that economy. See, as before, Deut. xxiii: 1-; 31:30. Paul is contrasting the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and showing the superiority of the latter over the former; and he describes the subjects of this dispensation— the collective body of Christ’s disciples on earth—as „the church of the first born, which are written in heaven’ They are called ” the first-born,” because, says Stuart,’ ” primogeniture, among the Hebrews, conferred distinguished rights and privileges?”—and these are the peculiar portion of Christians ; and they are said to be ” written,” or enrolled ” in heaven,” to mark their heavenly citizenship, and the nature of their true blessedness. According to the best editions of the Greek text, the term panagrus—”general assembly”—is connected not with ekklesia,—but with ageless, angels— and hence the passage should read, ” but ye are come to the general assembly, of angels, to the church of the firstborn,” &c.
*See Tittman’ Gr. Text, by Robinson, Bloomfieid, Stuart on Hebrews; OIshausen and Ebrard on Heb. Revision of Hebrews for Am. Bible Union.
The following are the places—ninety in all—where the word” is used of a particular congregation of Christians. Matt. 18; 17; Acts 2; 47; 5: 11; 8: 1,3; 9: 31; ll: 22, 26; 12 : 1 5; 13: 1; 14: 23, 27; 15 : 3, 4, 22, 41; 16: 5; 18:22; 20: 17, 28; Rom. 16; 1, 4,5, 16; 1 Cor. 1 : 2, 4: 17;6: 4:7: 17; II: 16, 18, 22; 14: 4, 5, 12, 19, 23, 28, 33, 34,35; 16: 1, 19; 2 Cor. 1:1; 8: 1, 18, 19, 23, 24: 11: 8, 28; 12: 1 ; Gal. 1: 2, 22;. Phil. 4: 15; Col. 4: 15, 16; 1 Thess, I: I; 2: 14; 2Thess. 1: 1,4; 1 Tim. 3:5 5: 16; Philem. 2 James 3: 14; 3 John 6: 9, 10; Rev. 1: 4, 11, 20; 2: 1,7, 8, II, 12, 17, 18, 23, 29; 3: 1, 6, 7,13, 14; 22:16. In all these cases it will be seen that the distinctive idea is that of a definite and local society or congregation, organized under one distinct, independent, and popular government. Thus when our Lord, in Matt. xviii: 17, directs the offended brother to ” tell it to the church,” he plainly designates such a body, as already shown. And so when it is said, Acts ii: 47 ” the Lord added to the church daily,” the allusion is to a definite, local body, which was the first local church—that at Jerusalem. And the method or rule of augmentation is definitely stated, when it is said in verse 41, ” then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand a souls.” So, too, when Luke tells us, Acts 14 : 27, that Paul and Barnabus „gathered the church together” at Antioch, a local assembly is plainly meant. The use of the plural number, which is very frequent, precludes all doubt as to the word meaning, in such cases, a local congregation. The sacred writers always use the plural when they hare occasion to speak of a plurality of a single church; as ” the churches of Asia,” „the churches of Macedonian,’ „the churches of Galatia,” &c. The word church—ekklesia–—in the singular number, is never once used to designate an association or confederacy of churches’ contiguous to each other, as in a city or province. This supposed application of the word, is contended for by some, on the supposition that in the larger, cities, where churches were formed, as Jerusalem, Corinth, Thessalonica, &s., there must have been more single congregations than one, and yet in each case we find that the body of Christian believers, in each of these cities, is designated by the word ” church.” This is specially urged in reference to the city of Jerusalem, where, on the day of Pentecost, three thousand were added to the church, and where other and frequent accessions were made, till the number of believers was „about five thousand.” And from other accessions it is supposed that there wore in Jerusalem at one time, „not less than ten thousand believers.” „Now, in what place,” it is asked, „could such a mass of individuals form a single congregation?” And the alleged difficulty is yet increased by supposing that the number of spectators drawn to those meetings, by curiosity and other motives, would at least be equal to the number of disciples, so as to form, with them, the numerous multitude of twenty thousand persons Now all this difficulty arises from overlooking several obvious facts. In the first place, the sacred historian expressly tells us, Acts v: 12, that ” they,” the church, or body of the disciples, „were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.” If Luke tells the truth, the question is settled ; for he declares that they (did all meet together in one place. But, in the second place, the objector should have noticed that it is said, in Acts ii: 2, that the multitude assembled on the day of Pentecost, and from which the greater part of the Christian converts were gathered, was made up of men ” out of every nation under heaven.” Many of these, after their conversion, returned to their distant homes, which must have very much reduced the number of members that attended the meetings. Besides, it is not to he supposed that the whole number that remained could at any one time be present at a meeting. But should the number of disciples have become so large as to render it inconvenient for them to meet together ordinarily in one place, they might have divided into several meetings for purposes of worship and preaching, and yet all together form but one ekklesia, or organized society. If there had been a plurality of organized congregations, or churches, in a city where only one is spoken of, we can see no reason why the plural, churches,” should not have been used to designate them. And if a collection of separate churches in a city might be called a church, why did not the sacred writers call such a collection in a province, a church, instead of being so particular in all such cases to, use the plural where more than one are alluded to?* As a confirmation of this view and in order remove an apparent difficulty, refer to Acts xi: 22, where it is said, „Then tidings of these things came Unto the cars of the church which was in Jerusalem, and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.” Here the same persons to whose ears the tidings came, that is, the brotherhood generally in the city, are said to have sent Barnabas ; to do which, they must have assembled together in one place, for there is nothing said of their acting by representatives. It is shown, too, by this, that the body designated as „the church” consisted of only a part of the number that constituted its entire membership, for the „tidings” related to the doings of some of their number at Antioch. We are not to infer from this, that „the church” here means only a part of the church, but rather the acting membership, in contra-distinction from its entire constituency. The legislature of any state is the body composed of all the representatives from such State; and because less than the whole number of these may be called a legislature, it does not follow that the term, legislature, means apart of such body, though it may designate the acting body in contradistinction from the entire membership. The use of the term „church” is parallel. In two places, namely, 1 Cor. xi: 18 and 22, the word ekklesia— is supposed, by some, to mean the place of worship. But there is here no necessity for departing from the uniform signification of the word. The phrase, ” when ye come together in the church,” is similar to that we use when we speak of the national representative „in Congress assembled.”
*The case, after all, was not peculiar. The writer has the pastoral charge of a church (with a large colored membership) numbering more than three thousand members; and yet it is but one organized body. Like the church at Jerusalem, many of its members dwell at a distance, so that the attendance at any one time is rarely too large to be accommodated. Different portions, for advantage, may meet at separate places for worship, but still they all belong to one and the same ekklesia, or organic body.
The best editions of the Greek text leave out the article here, land read it, „when ye come together in church—in assembly. The meaning is, ” when ye meet together in a church capacity, as a church,”—which they always did when the Lord’s Supper was to he administered, to which allusion is here made. In the question, „Have ye not houses to eat and drink in or despise ye the church of God?” we are not to place „house” and ” church” in opposition; hut the Apostle’s argument, according to Dr. Rees, is this, ” What can be the reason of the abuse? Is it because ye have not houses of your own in which to eat and drink? Or is it because ye despise the Christian congregation to which you belong?” „This,” he adds, „is more in the style and spirit of the New Testament, than to speak of despising stone walls.”‘* „The circumstances of the apostolic church,” says Olshausen, „were not yet of a nature that Christians could possess buildings which were exclusively churches.” Such buildings did not exist till the close of the second century.
The import of ekklesia will more fully appear by attending to the descriptions given of the organization, it designates and the qualities ascribed to it by the New Testament writers. They describe the church at large and also the local congregation, as:
A Temple, A Temple, Matt. xvi : 18, ” On this rock I will build up my church.” 1 Cor. iii: 16, 17, ” Ye are the temple of God,” &c. 2 Cor. vi: 16″ The temple of the living God.” Eph. ii: 20, 22, ” An holy temple in the Lord.” 1 Peter ii; 6, „Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house.”
A Flock Acts xx: 28, „Take heed unto—all the flock— to feed—poimainsin, to tend as a flock—the church of God,” &c. Luke xii. 3 Fear not little flock.” John x: 16, „There shall be one fold and one
*See Rees’ Cyclopedia Article, „Church.”
t See Coleman’s Christian Antiquities, p. 179
Shepherd.” 1 Peter v : 2, 3, ” Feed the flock of God,” &c.
The body of Christ, Eph. i: 22 23, ” Gave him (Christ) to be the head .over all things to the church, which is his body,” &c. l Cor. xii: 27, ” Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” Col. i: 18, „And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church.”
The bride, „the Lamb’s wife,” Eph. v: 23, 25 „The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” Rev. xxi: 9, „I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife Rev. xxii: 17, ” The Spirit and the bride (that is, the church) say come.”
Now these figurative representations plainly indicate three things as essential qualities of the ekklesia, the church of Christ:
1st. 1st. That a single church is a local, independent society, incapable of combination and consolidation with other similar ones. A ” temple” is such a structure.
2d. That its constituency or membership is such as to adapt it to the service of God, that is, they must be capable of obeying, and willing to obey the will of ” the head.” Hence they must all be adults, not infants; and spiritual believers in Christ, not unconverted persons; and they must be outwardly united to Christ by being ” buried, with him by baptism :” and
3d, That the appropriate office and business of the church is not to rule, but to be ruled by Christ; not to make laws, but simply to execute the laws which He has already made. These representations accord with the general teachings of the New Testament.
First, The apostles teach us that the churches were distinct and independent, by addressing them as such, and speaking of them as distinct bodies. Thus, the church at Jerusalem, which may: be regarded as a model of all the other churches, is so described in Acts ii: 44, 46, ” And all they that believed (which is only another expression for, the whole church”) were together—and they continued, daily with one accord in the temple.” The supposed instance of church confederacy , in the 15th chapter of Acts, is all imaginary. A delegation from the church at Antioch is sent to Jerusalem to consult „the apostles and elders.” An answer is returned containing an authoritative injunction. This injunction they make—not use church or as a confederation of churches—a presbytery, synod, convention, or council—but as inspired men. Their language is, „It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” Can any body of uninspired men, adopt this language? But there is here no confederation, for the delegates take no part in the council, which consists only of the apostles and the brethren in Jerusalem. Besides, the business was of a legislative character, related to law-making, with which the church, as a mere executive body, has nothing to do. It was business that inspired men alone could settle.
The Scriptures do not permit any church to devolve upon some of its members, or upon any other church or churches, the rights and duties that belong to it. Thus, each church chooses its own officers, Acts vi : 3. And these are only the agents of the church, and are responsible to it for the proper discharge of their duties.—1 John iv: 1, Rev. ii: 2, compared with verse 7. The only church officers known to the New Testament, were the pastor (called also „bishop” and „elder”), and deacons.” And these acted in matters of government and discipline only in co-operation with the whole church. This is evident from the fact, that the apostle addresses his Epistles not to the officers of the church, but to the church and officers together, Phil. i: 1 ; and that his instructions, which are to govern any church in the exercise of its discipline, are given not to the officers, nor to a part of the church, but to the whole church. This applies to cases of admitting members, excluding and restoring them. Sec Romans xiv: 1; 1 Corinthians v: 11,13; 2 Corinthians ii: 6, 8. The office of the pastor is to ” take care of the church,” that is, of a single congregation of believers; and to „feed,” or tend, the flock of Christ.—1 Timothy iii: 5, Acts xx: 28. This he is to do by „declaring unto them the whole counsel of God.” The business of the deacons is to „serve tables,” or take charge of the secular interests of the church, and to take care of the poor.—Acts vi: 24.
Secondly: Secondly: The Scripture also plainly teach us, that a true church of Christ, is a company of converted persons, ” a congregation of faithful men,” baptized upon a profession of their faith in Christ. Such was the ” model church” at Jerusalem, which we are told, (Acts, second chapter,) was composed of such as were first „pricked in their hearts,” or convicted for sin, who then „repented,” and having gladly received the word,” were then ” baptized” and ” added ” to the church. And the whole church is described, in verse forty-four, as „all that believed.” This was an exact carrying out of Christ’s command who instructed his apostles, Matthew xxviii: 19, ” to teach—mathetinsati, make disciples of—all nations, baptizing them,” and after thus bringing them into the church, then ” teaching them to (observe all things that he had commanded them.” „This embraces,” says Dr. Bloomfield, a learned Episcopalian, ” three particulars; 1. To disciple them or convert them to the faith; 2. To initiate them into the church by baptism ; 3. To instruct them, when baptized, in the doctrines and duties of a Christian life.” This commission, as Bloomfield and other Pedobaptist writers admit, gave the apostles no authority to admit into the church any but believers. Had Christ intended that infants also should be admitted, he would undoubtedly have given directions to this effect in his commission. It would then have been, „teach all nations, baptizing them and their children.” This addition to the command is practically made by all who admit infants to baptism and church membership. And with such the addition has almost entirely set aside the command, for with Pedobaptist churches generally the addition has become the rule, and the command itself the exception. Thus have they literally, as our Lord said, „made the commandment of God of none effect by their tradition. „Matthew xv: 6. But on what grounds are infants admitted?- Not on the ground that they are believers, for „faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Not on the ground that they are holy beings, for they „are by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Not on the ground that they derive a title to the privileges of church membership from their natural descent their pious parentage, for this error was corrected as long ago as the time of John the Baptist, when he said to the unconverted Pharisees and Sadducess, who had applied for admission, by baptism, to the Messiah’s kingdom, on the ground of their natural descent from Abraham, „Think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our Father;’ for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham;” —the meaning of which is, „It is not to the natural descendants of the faithful that the covenant blessings are promised, but to those who are like him—his children—in respect to character, which a person may be who is not at all related to him by natural descent.”—Matthew iii: 9. Compare Romans iv: 11: 18, where this thought is fully developed. Nor are infants to be admitted into the church because they are unholy, and in order to their conversion ; because for the same reason unconverted adults ought to be admitted, which would at once nullify the very fundamental idea of the church, as the ekklesia, the ” called out,” and directly violate the command of Christ to receive and baptize believers only.
The church is a voluntary society, and it is absurd to speak of any but voluntary agents being members of it. The Jewish nation was no church. It is no where called a church in the Scriptures. The only church there spoken of, as belonging to the Old Testament dispensation, was the „congregation” or ” assembly” of adult worshippers. Infants were admitted not into the church, the ekklesia or congregation, but into the nation by the rite of circumcision, which was therefore a merely political or national, arrangement and institution, designed to perpetuate the Jewish nation, so that, and until the promised Messiah might in due time appear from among them. Even if the Christian Church, therefore, were modeled after the Jewish, it would thereby utterly exclude infants from its membership. But the Scriptures plainly teach, that the whole Jewish economy was superseded by the Christian, which is not a modification of that, but altogether a different thing, both in name and nature. „The law and the prophets (that is, the Jewish dispensation) were until John; since that time the kingdom of God (the Christian dispensation) is preached, and every man presses into it, Luke 16:16.
The Apostle says to the Christian brethren, at Corinth, 1 Corinthians xii: 27, „Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” Every member of a church, then, is a member of Christ’s „body.” And if so, is it not manifestly absurd to think of placing in that body, ” members” that are incapable of understanding and obeying the will of „the head? Again, the members of a church all sustain to Christ the relation of branches to a vine. ” I am the vine,” he says, „and ye are the branches.” But he declares that only fruitful branches— such persons as are obedient to his will—are allowed to remain even visibly united to him; for „every branch in me, he says, ” that beareth not fruit he taketh away.”—John xv : 1, 5. How improper, and in direct violation of these instructions, then, must it be, to introduce, recognize and retain in this relation to Christ, and as members of his church, infants, who are utterly i incapable of bearing any fruit at all No, a true church of Christ has no such carnal, impracticable materials, but its members, „as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ’.’—1 Peter ii: 5.
Thirdly: Thirdly: So also is a church,—as the figure of a body in its relation to the head implies,—a merely executive body, charged with the duty, not of making laws but of obeying them. The lead makes the laws for the body. And so the Scriptures represent Christ as the only law-giver, the only head of the Church. It would be a monstrosity for a body to have more than one head ; and so is it for the Church to submit to any other authority than that of Christ, whether it is that of a king, a pope, a prelate, or the clergy. The members of the natural body, too, all occupy the same relation to the head. No one assumes the functions of the head, or acts for the rest, or delegates its powers and responsibilities to another; but all alike receive the biddings of the head) and act as a whole in obeying them, though each one has its appropriate office to perform. And such is the Church as described by the inspired penmen. They tell us it has „but one Master, even Christ,” and that its members are ” all brethren,”—Matthew xxiii : 8 ; that it is ” built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, that is, upon the authority and inspired teachings of these as set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. And hence any ” church ” not built upon this foundation—that is, not conformed in its structure and operations to these instructions—fails to come within the definition here laid down of a true church of Christ.
Moreover, this foundation is complete; these instructions of the Head arc all-sufficient; and hence it is said, that „other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid.”1 Corinthians iii: 11. We need, then, no „apostolic succession.” A succession of apostles is no more needed, and is no more practicable, than is a succession of mediators. Neither is needed because their work was complete, and because both, in effect, still live, and will live to the end of time. The Savior’s work is of unwasting efficacy, and the labors of His inspired apostles are still dispensed through the written Word.
It is a singular fallacy to suppose, as some do, that the Church was left by Christ at liberty to make any changes or modifications in its organization and government that it might sees fit to make. This would be for the Divine „Head” to suspend his authority and control, and permit and expect a society, a „body,” of poor, erring, fallen, beings, to cease for a time to occupy the position of a „body,” and to assume the discharge of the office of that infallible Head !—a body without a head—or a body both body and head at the same time!
Thus simple and unique was the organization of the primitive church. Such is the ekklesia of the New Testament. Let none presume, by altering His work, to be wiser than their Divine Master, who significantly says to his professed followers,” The servant is not greater than his lord.” If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”


Churches of God A.W. Pink

Churches of God
A.W. Pink
„For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews” (I Thess. 2:14).
The ignorance which prevails in Christendom today concerning the truth about the Churches of God is deeper and more general than error on any other Scriptural subject. Many who are quite sound evangelically and are well taught on what we call the great fundamentals of the faith, are most unsound ecclesiastically. Mark the fearful confusion that abounds respecting the term itself. There are few words in the English language with a greater variety of meanings than „church.” The man in the street understands by „church” the building in which people congregate for public worship. Those who know better, apply the term to the members in spiritual fellowship who meet in that building. Others use it in a denominational way and speak of „the Methodist Church” or „Presbyterian Church.” Again, it is employed nationally of the state-religious institution as „the Church of England” or „the Church of Scotland.” With Papists the word „church” is practically synonymous with „salvation,” for they are taught that all outside the vale of „Holy Mother Church” are eternally lost.
Many of the Lord’s own people seem to be strangely indifferent concerning God’s mind on this important subject. One from whose teachings on the church we differ widely has well said, „Sad it is to hear men devoted in the Gospel, clear expounders of the Word of God, telling us that they do not trouble themselves about church doctrine; that salvation is the all-important theme; and the establishing of Christians in the fundamentals is all that is necessary. We see men giving chapter and verse for every statement, and dwelling upon the infallible authority of the Word of God, quietly closing their eyes to its teachings upon the church, probably connected with that for which they can give no Scriptural authority, and apparently contented to bring others into the same relationship.”
What constitutes a New Testament church? That multitudes of professing Christians treat this question as one of trifling importance is plain. Their actions show it. They take little or no trouble to find out. Some are content to remain outside of any earthly church. Others join some church out of sentimental considerations, because their parents or partner in marriage belonged to it. Others join a church from lower motives still, such as business or political considerations. But this ought not to be. If the reader is an Anglican, he should be so, because he is fully persuaded that his is the most Scriptural church. If he is a Presbyterian, he should be so, from conviction that his „church” is most in accord with God’s Word. So, if he is a Baptist or Methodist, etc.
There are many others who have little hope of arriving at a satisfactory answer to the question, What constitutes a New Testament church? The fearful confusion which now obtains in Christendom, the numerous sects and denominations differing so widely both as to doctrine and church-order and government, has discouraged them. They have not the time to carefully examine the rival claims of the various denominations. Most Christians are busy people who have to work for a living, and hence they do not have the leisure necessary to properly investigate the Scriptural merits of the different ecclesiastical systems. Consequently, they dismiss the matter from their minds as being one too difficult and complex for them to hope of arriving at a satisfactory and conclusive solution. But this ought not to be. Instead of these differences of opinion disheartening us, they should stimulate to greater exertion for arriving at the mind of God. We are told to „buy the truth,” which implies that effort and personal sacrifice are required. We are bidden to „prove all things.”
Now, it should be obvious to all that there must be a more excellent way than examining the creeds and articles of faith of all the Denominations. The only wise and satisfactory method of discovering the Divine answer to our question, What constitutes a New Testament church? is to turn to the New Testament itself and carefully study its teachings about the „church.” Not some godly man’s views; not accepting the creed of the church to which my parents belonged; but „proving all things” for myself! God’s people have no right to organize a church on different lines from those which governed the churches in New Testament times. An institution whose teachings or government are contrary to the New Testament is certainly not a New Testament „church.”
Now if God has deemed it of sufficient importance to place on record upon the pages of Inspiration what a New Testament church is, then surely it should be of sufficient importance for very redeemed man or woman to study that record, and not only so but to bow to its authority and conform their conduct thereto. We shall thus appeal to the New Testament only and seek God’s answer to our question.
1. A New Testament church is a local body of believers. Much confusion has been caused by the employment of adjectives which are not to be met with in the N.T. Were you to ask some Christians, To what church do you belong? they would answer, The great insivible church of Christ-a church which is as intangible as it is invisible. How many recite the so-called Apostles’ Creed, „I believe in the holy catholic Church,” which most certainly was not an article in the Apostles’ „creed.” Others speak of „the Church militant” and „the Church triumphant,” but neither are these terms found in Scripture, and to employ them is only to create difficulty and confusion. The moment we cease to „hold fast the form of sound words” (II Tim. 1:13) and employ unscriptural terms, we only befog ourselves and others. We cannot improve upon the language of Holy Writ. There is no need to invent extra terms; to do so is to cast reflexion on the vocabulary of the Holy Spirit. When people talk of „the universal Church of Christ” they employ another unscriptural and antiscriptural expression. What they really mean is „the Family of God.” This latter appellation includes the whole company of God’s elect; but „Church” does not.
Now the kind of church which is emphasized in the N.T. is neither invisible nor universal; but instead, visible and local. The Greek word for „church” is ecclesia, and those who know anything of that language are agreed that the word signifies „An Assembly.” Now an „assembly” is a company of people who actually assemble. If they never „assemble,” then it is a misuse of language to call them „an Assembly.” Therefore, as all of God’s people never have yet assembled together, there is today no „universal Church” or „Assembly.” That „Church” is yet future; as yet it has no concrete or corporate existence.
In proof of what has been said above, let us examine those passages where the term was used by our Lord Himself during the days of His flesh. Only twice in the four Gospels do we find Christ speaking of the „church.” The first is in Matthew 16:18 where He said unto Peter, „Upon this Rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What kind of a „church” was the Saviour here referring to? The vast majority of Christians have understood it as the great invisible, mystical, and universal Church, which comprises all His redeemed. But they are certainly wrong. Had this been His meaning He had necessarily said, „Upon this Rock I am building My church.” Instead, He used the future tense, „I will build,” which shows clearly that at the time He spoke, His „church” had no existence, save in the purpose of God. the „church” to which Christ referred in Matthew 16:18 could not be a universal one, that is, a church which included all the saints of God, for the tense of the verb used by Him on this occasion manifestly excluded the O. T. saints! Thus, the first time that the word „church” occurs in the N. T. it has no reference to a general or universal one. Further, our Lord could not be referring to the Church in glory, for it will be in no danger of „the gates of hell”! His declaration that, „the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” makes it clear beyond all doubt that Christ was referring to His church upon earth, and thus, to a visible and local church.
The only other record we have of our Lord speaking about the „church” while He was on earth, is found in Matthew 18:17, „If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Now the only kind of a „church” to which a brother could relate his „fault” is a visible and local one. So obvious is this, there is no need to further enlarge upon it.
In the final book of the N. T. we find our Saviour again using this term. First in Revelation 1:11 He says to John, „What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia.” Here again it is plain that the Lord was speaking of local churches. Following this, we find the word „church” is upon His lips nineteen more times in the Revelation, and in every passage the reference was to local churches. Seven times over He says, „He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” not „what the Spirit saith unto the Church”-which is what would have been said had the popular view been correct. The last reference is in Revelation 22:16, „I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches:” The reason for this being, that as yet, the Church of Christ has no tangible and corporate existence, either in glory or upon earth; all that He now has here is His local „churches.”
In further proof that the kind of „church” which is emphasised in the N. T. is a local and visible one we appeal to other facts of Scripture. We read of „The church which was at Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1). „The church that was at Antioch” (Acts 13:1), „The church of God which is at Corinth” (I Cor. 1:2)-note carefully that though this church is linked with, yet is it definitely distinguished from „all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,”! Again; we read of „churches” in the plural number: „Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria” (Acts 9:31), „The churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16), „Unto the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2). Thus it is seen that, that which was prominent and dominant in N. T. times was local and visible churches.
2. A New Testament church is a local body of baptized believers. By „baptized believers” we mean Christians who have been immersed in water. Throughout the N. T. there is not a single case recorded of any one becoming a member of a church of Jesus Christ without his first being baptized; but there are many cases in point, many indications and proofs that those who belonged to the churches in the days of the apostles were baptized Christians.
Let us turn first to the last clause of Acts 2:47: „And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be (the V. R. correctly gives it „were”) saved.” Note carefully it does not say that „God,” or „the Holy Spirit,” or „Christ,” but „The Lord added.” The reason for this is as follows: „The Lord” brings in the thought of authority, and those whom He „added to the church” had submitted to His lordship. The way in which they had „submitted” is told us in vv. 41-42: „Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls,” etc. thus, in the earliest days of this dispensation, „the Lord added” to His church saved people who were baptized.
Take the first of the Epistles. Romans 12:4-5 shows that the saints at Rome were a local church. Turn back now to Romans 6:4-5 where we find the apostle saying to and of these church members at Rome, „Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” Thus, the saints in the local church at Rome were baptized believers.
Take the church at Corinth. In Acts 18:8 we read, „Many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” Further proof that the Corinthian saints were baptized believers is found in I Cor. 1:13-14; 10:2,6; I Cor. 12:13 rightly translated and punctuated (we hope to deal with this passage separately in a future article) expressly affirms that entrance into the local assembly is by water baptism.
Ere passing to the next point let it be said that a church made up of baptized believers is obviously and necessarily a „Baptist church”-what else could it be termed? This is the name which God gave to the first man whom He called and commissioned to do any baptizing. He named him „John the Baptist.” Hence real „Baptists” have no reason to be ashamed of or to apologise for the scriptural name they bear. If someone askes, Why did not the Holy Spirit speak of the „Baptist church at Corinth” or „The Baptist churches of Galatia”? We answer, for this reason: there was, at that time, no need for this distinguishing adjective; there were no other kind of churches in the days of the apostles but Baptist churches. They were all „Baptist churches” then; that is to say, they were all composed of scripturally-baptized believers. It is men who have invented all other „churches” (?) and church-names now in existence.
3. A New Testament church is a local body of baptized believers in organized relationship. This is necessarily implied in the term itself. An „Assembly is a company of people met together in organized relationship, otherwise there would be nothing to distinguish it from a crowd or mob. Clear proof of this is found in Acts 19:39, „But if ye enquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.” These words were spoken by the „town clerk” to the Ephesian multitude which was disturbing the peace. Having „appeased the people,” and having affirmed that the apostles were neither robbers of churches nor blasphemers of their goddess, he reminded Demetrius and his fellows that „the law is open, and there are deputies,” and bade them „implead one another.” The Greek word for „assembly” in this passage is ecclesia, and the reference was to the Roman court, i.e., an organization governed by law.
Again, the figures used by the Holy Spirit in connection with the „church” are pertinent only to a local organization. In Romans 12 and in I Corinthians 12 He employs the human „body” as an anology or illustration. Nothing could be more unsuitable to portray some „invisible” and „universal” church whose members are scattered far and wide. The reader scarcely needs to be reminded that there is not a more perfect organization on this earth than the human body-each member in its appointed place, each to fulfil its own office and perform its distinctive function. Again, in I Timothy 3:15 the church is called the „house of God.” The „house” speaks of ordered relationships: each resident having his own room, the furniture being suitably placed, etc.
Further proof that a New Testament „church” is a local company of baptized believers in organized relationship is found in Acts 7:38, where the Holy Spirit applies the term ecclesia to the children of Israel–„the church in the wilderness.” Now the children of Israel in the wilderness were a redeemed, separated baptized, organized „Assembly.” Some may be surprised at the assertion that they were baptized. But the Word of God is very explicit on this point. „Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (I Cor. 10:1-2). So, too, they were organized; they had their „princes” (Num. 7:2) and „priests,” their „elders” (Ex. 24:1) and „officers” (Deut. 1:15). Therefore, we may see the propriety of applying the term ecclesia to Israel in the wilderness, and discover how its application to them enables us to define its exact meaning. It thus shows us that a New Testament „church” has its officers, its „elders” (which is the same as „bishops”), „deacons” (I Tim. 3:1,12), „treasurer” (John 12:6; II Cor. 8:19), and „clerk”–„number of names” (Acts 1:15) clearly implies a register.
4. A New Testament church is a local body of baptized believers in organized relationship, publicly and corporately worshipping God in the ways of His appointment. To fully amplify this heading would necessitate us quoting a goodly portion of the N.T. Let the reader go carefully through the book of Acts and the Epistles, with an unprejudiced mind, and he will find abundant confirmation. Attempting the briefest possible summary of it, we would say: First, by maintaining „the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). Second, by preserving and perpetuating Scriptural baptism and the Lord’s Supper: „keep the ordinances” as they were delivered to the church (I Cor. 11:2). Third, by maintaining a holy discipline: Heb. 13:17; I Tim. 5:20-21, etc. Fourth, by going into all the world and preaching the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
5. A New Testament church is independent of all but God. Each local church is entirely independent of any others. A church in one city has no authority over a church in another. Nor can a number of local churches scripturally elect a „board,” „presbytery,” or „pope” to lord it over the members of those churches. Each church is self-governed, compare I Corinthians 16:3; II Cor. 8:19. By church-government we mean that its work is administrative and not legislative.
A N.T. church is to do all things „decently and in order” (I Cor. 14:40), and its only authorative guide for „order” is the Holy Scriptures. Its one unerring standard, its final court of appeal, by which all issues of faith, doctrine, and Christian living are to be measured and settled, is the Bible, and nothing but the Bible. Its only Head is Christ: He is its Legislator, Resource, and Lord.
The local church is to be governed by what „the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Hence it necessarily follows that it is altogether separate from the State, and must refuse any support from it. While its members are enjoined by Scripture to be „subject unto the higher powers that be” (Rom. 13:1), they must not permit any dictation from the State in matters of faith or practice.
The administration of the government of a N. T. church resides in its own membership, and not in any special body or order of men, either within or without it. A majority of its members decide the actions of the church. This is clear from the Greek of II Corinthians 2:6, „Sufficient to such a man (a disorderly brother who had been disciplined) is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.” The Greek for the last two words is hupo ton pleionon.” Pleionon is an adjective, in the comparative degree, and literally rendered the clause signifies „by the majority,” and is so rendered by Dr. Charles Hodge, than whom there have been few more spiritual and competent Greek scholars. Bagster’s Interlinear renders it „by the greater portion,” and the margin of the R.V. gives „Greek the more.” The definite article obliges us to render it „by the more” or „by the majority.”
To sum up. Unless you have a company of regenerated and believing people, scripturally baptized, organized on N. T. lines, worshipping God in the ways of his appointing-particularly in having fellowship with the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, maintaining the ordinances, preserving strict discipline, active in evangelistic endeavour-it is not a „New Testament church,” whatever it may or may not call itself. But a church possessing these characteristics is the only institution on this earth ordained, built, and approved of by the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, next to being saved, the writer deems it his greatest privilege of all to belong to one of His „churches.” May Divine grace increasingly enable him to walk as becometh a member of it.
(Studies in the Scriptures, Dec. 1927, pp. 277-281).


By Rosco Brong

Published in the Berea Baptist Banner May 5 , 1992.

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of
the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”
(Eph. 4:12).
Fanciful misinterpretations and misapplications of
figurative language in the Bible are among the means
used by Satan and his ministers to discredit the Word of
God among the ignorant. With reference to the New
Testament Church, Satan has accomplished one of his
most cunning deceptions in the popular though ridicu-lous
myth that the figurative “body of Christ,” as Christ’s
church is scripturally called, is not really a body at all,
but is identical with the family or the kingdom of God.
Scripture passages in which the church is referred to
and described under the figure of a human body as the
body of Christ include: Rom. 12:4, 5; I Cor. 10:16,17;
12:12-28; Eph. 1:23; 4:4, 12-16; 5:23-30; Col. 1:18, 24;
2:19; 3:15.
A careful and intelligent study of these scriptures in
context is enough to expose to the Bible believer the
evident fallacy and folly of the universal church heresy.


“For as we have many members in one body. .
.so we, being many, are one body in Christ” (Rom.
12:4-5). The essence of the comparison is the organiza-tion
of different members in one body. If a human body
is ground into hamburger and fed to the dogs on six
continents, it is no longer a human body. Neither do
Christians constitute a body scattered around the world
in space and through 19 or 20 centuries in time. The
idea is so superbly silly that it could have been spawned
only by Satan and adopted by people more influenced
by the philosophy of Plato than by the teachings of
“We have many members in one body” (v. 4),
referring to the human body of each of us, does not
mean that we have one big universal invisible human
body. But such a monstrous idea is exactly as sensible
as the idea that the one body in verse 5 is universal or
Ecumenical, modernistic, and compromising inter-preters
who reject the Lord’s church but try to count
themselves in a mythical universal church need to study
the abstract, generic, institutional, general, distributive,
and ideal uses of words; or, if they already understand
the truth about the church and reject it, they need to get
Repeating, the essence of the comparison of a genu-ine
New Testament church to the human body is the
fact that each is an organization or organism having dif-ferent
members with different functions but all function-ing
for their mutual profit in the whole body.


“We being many are one bread, and one body:
for we are all partakers of that one bread” (I Cor.
10:16-17). The reference, of course, is to the Lord’s Sup-per,
which is scripturally observed by the members of
one church or at least one kind of church eating from
one loaf or at least from one kind of bread.
But of course there are in the world many genuine
children of God who belong to false churches or to no
church at all, and who partake of different kinds of bread
in mockeries of the Lord’s Supper or never partake at
all; and of course those Christians are no part of the
“one body,” or one kind of body, referred to here.


More than anywhere else in the Bible, the figure of
the human body to represent an organized church is
elaborated in I Corinthians 12:12-28. The baptism in
verse 13 is of course water baptism; the one body is
what would today be called a Baptist church.
Note the words “no schism” in verse 25. Advocates
of a universal church have an imaginary body full of
schisms or splits—surely nothing fit to represent Christ,
Who is not divided (I Cor. 1:10-13).
Verse 26 beautifully describes the ideal fellowship in
a genuine church; I suppose that no believer in a uni-versal
church is stupid enough to pretend that the lan-guage
fits his imaginary body.


God gave Christ to be “Head over all things to the
church, which is his body, the fulness of him that
filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Christ in turn (Eph. 4)
“gave gifts. . .for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Again the expression “one body” in Ephesians 4:4
means one kind of body, just as “one baptism” in the
next verse means one kind of baptism.
Edification of a genuine New Testament church, an
organized body of baptized believers under the headship
of Christ, is fittingly figured in Ephesians 4:11-16. Note
the emphasis in verse 16 on “the whole body fitly
joined together.” In plain words, the figure means that
the church needs to be well organized in order to expe-rience
“the effectual working in the measure of
every part.”


“For the husband is the head of the wife, even
as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the
saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23). “The church” or
“the body” is no more universal or invisible than “the
husband” or “the wife.” The terms are used abstractly,
generically, or ideally, and express reality only when
applied to real entities. No man ever yet loved a univer-.The Body of Christ by Rosco Brong – Page 2
sal invisible wife. The church which Christ loved and
for which He gave Himself (v. 25) is an organized body
of baptized believers in Him, having Him alone as its


“And he is the head of the body, the church:
who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead;
that in all things he might have the preeminence”
(Col. 1:18). See how Christ has honored and exalted
the church which He Himself organized during His per-sonal
ministry on earth and declared that He would
continue to build upon Himself! Under the figure of a
building, He is its foundation; under the figure of a body,
He is its Head.
Shall He recognize as members of His body rebel-lious
children who have refused to join themselves to
Him as Head in a church relationship? The supposition
is mere fatuous fancy, without a shred of scriptural sup-port.


Paul rejoiced in his sufferings for the saints at Colosse
that he might “fill up that which is behind of the
afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake,
which is the church” (Col. 1:24). Of that church, he
tells us in the next verse, he was “made a minister.”
Now, it hardly needs to be pointed out to intelligent
readers that Paul’s ministry was not performed merely
in an abstract idea, but in real assemblies of the saints
having definite organization and location.
Because or by means of the sufferings of Paul and the
afflictions of Christ in the flesh of other faithful minis-ters
through the centuries, the figurative body of Christ,
formed during His earthly ministry, has endured to this
good hour; and such churches will be here when He
comes again (Matt. 16:18; 28:20; Eph. 3:21; etc.).


Christianity in general is in a spiritual decline, hav-ing
less and less of God as it has more and more in
numbers and wealth; less and less of truth as it dotes
more and more on bogus miracles; or, in the language
of scripture, “having a form of godliness, but deny-ing
the power thereof” (II Tim. 3:5).
A genuine New Testament church, however, being
an organized body holding fast to Christ as its Head,
“from which all the body by joints and bands hav-ing
nourishment ministered, and knit together,
increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).
This is the kind of growth we need.


“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to
the which also ye are called in one body; and be
ye thankful” (Col. 3:15). How can the peace of God
rule in hearts that rebel against the teaching of His Word
on the church and its ordinances?
The first church at Jerusalem (before Pentecost) had
a roll or list of names to the number of “about an hun-dred
and twenty” (Acts 1:15). They had been called
not only to salvation but also to the peace of God ruling
in their hearts in one body. As one body they carried
on business for the Lord, including the election of
Matthias as a successor to Judas Iscariot.
How thankful we ought to be, if our names are en-rolled
not only in the Lamb’s book of life, but also in
the membership of the kind of church which Jesus or-ganized,
commissioned, and promised to be with until
the end of the age! (Matt. 16:18; 28:20). True members
of this kind of church will eventually be brought together
in one heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, as the bride of
Christ (Rev. 21:2).


Saul of Tarsus learned that when he persecuted the
church he persecuted Christ (Acts 9:4), and as Paul the
apostle to the Gentiles he learned to honor and serve
Christ by honoring and serving His churches. Modern
seekers for self-glory who downgrade and minimize the
sacred importance of Christ’s churches are either min-isters
of Satan or unfaithful in their ministry for Christ.
Enemies of truth may accuse us of believing that only
Baptists are saved. They lie. Salvation and church mem-bership
are two different things. Every saved person on
earth ought to be a member of a genuine New Testa-ment
church, but many saved people, perhaps most of
them, are not. Their numbers cannot justify their dis-obedience
(Ex. 23:2).
Jesus organized and commissioned only one kind of
church. That kind of church is better in the sight of God
than false churches organized by men, and certainly it
is infinitely better than a universal church which does
not even exist except in heretical imaginations.

CHURCH PURITY Preserved By Discipline Elder Oscar B. Mink

Preserved By Discipline
Elder Oscar B. Mink
” Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump . . .”
1 Corinthians 5:7
The Lord knowing that His churches would be made up of impure people, a people who would all too often give vent to their old nature, gave His churches a disciplinary formula and authority to effectively deal with every infraction of the moral and doctrinal standards He had delineated and committed to their keeping. Love for God and reverence for His word is the root from which purity grows, and every deviation from the disciplinary criteria which the Lord gave His churches, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is done at the cost of purity and respect for the Lord’s church.
Every Baptist church should experience a consistent maturation process. However, we must remember and clearly understand that this imperative growth or progress is inextricably bonded to the exercise of church discipline. Churches that fail to exercise discipline, will retrogress in its every relationship to God, and will be chastened of the Lord. It is through the medium of discipline that decency and order is maintained in the church.
The God of the Bible is the perfect disciplinarian: „For whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, but He (does it) for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:6, 10, 11). The words „Chastise” and „Discipline” are perfect synonyms, and when applied by the church, it is for the sake and development of both, the church and the erring member.
Every New Testament church is an entity with divinely vouchsafed autonomy, whereby the church is enabled to deal with and alleviate their problems. Notwithstanding, no church can ever arrive in its earthly tenure where discipline is no longer needed, but every church can by being consistent in the practice of discipline mitigate its heartaches. Obedience to Scripture is the ground of resourcefulness, and a church that is faithful in its practice of discipline will minimize its impediments. Discipline purifies the church, and the offspring of spiritual purity is church unity.
Conversely, „A child left to himself will bring his mother to shame,” and an undisciplined church offender will bring an obvious nature to the church (Prov. 29:15; 1 Cor. 5:6).
Church discipline often runs counter to the emotions and sentiment of some members of the church, but a church seeking the honor of God, the preservation of church purity, and the good of the subject, should not be deterred by the unwarranted feelings of some members in so vital a matter. When the church has exhausted all of its options, and is left without any further recourse, it must for the favor of God and the welfare of the church, invoke the biblically prescribed discipline, lest the church be found guilty of harboring iniquity (1 Cor. 13:6).
The purpose of discipline is not to un-church, but to in-church the erring member, and this lofty end should be diligently sought by the church. Whether or not the desired climax is realized, the church will be strengthened by its endeavor to keep itself pure. If the disciplined person is caused to see his error, and comes to the realization that the church was not unfair toward him in its handling of the matter, he will then know that the church was all the while seeking his good. He will own his mistake, approve the action of the church, and will seek realignment with the church. But if the offensive member is left undisciplined, he will by his evil example entice others to disrespect church authority.
God has authorized and qualified His churches to administer discipline (2 Thess. 3:6, 14) and the church which fails to practice this divine injunction will suffer spiritual suffocation, which will, if not corrected, culminate in fearful rejection of the disobedient church by the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the first things the military gives a new recruit is a book of rules, for the military knows it cannot function effectively without discipline. No government can long endure without discipline, and neither can a family. The Benjamin Spock philosophy which advises parents to turn their kids loose, and they will discover by themselves how to cope with the world, has wrought havoc in a great number of families. It is the parents’ responsibilities to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4; Prov. 22:6). What is true with governments and families in the matter of discipline is super imposed on the church, for it is in the church that the glory of God is to be seen throughout all ages (Eph. 3:21).
Excessive discipline can be the means of relieving the church of many ills and difficulties, but the church needs to ever keep in mind that no form or measure of discipline absolves guilt, and it is for this reason the church should guard against making the excluded person feel comfortable with his exclusion. It is not that the love of the church for the debarred person has diminished, but for the discipline to achieve the desired end, which is restoration of the excluded person to church membership. There is of necessity a circumscription of all spiritual relationship with the excluded. Bounds must be set by the church which tends toward making the excluded person acutely aware of what he has forfeited by his exclusion. These forfeitures are of such a nature, that the excluded person cannot be productive in any phase of his spiritual stewardship, and this spiritual disability of the excluded person leaves no room for church fellowship with him (Eph. 5:11).
The purpose of ecclesiastical ostracism should invariably be instructive, and free of undue castigation. The church has no punitive power that allows for physical infliction. It is in this divinely disallowed area of discipline that Romanism and Protestantism have shamefully and brutally erred, resulting in multiplied millions of Baptist martyrs. There is no room in church discipline for one carnal stripe, much less forty. How much more then is the guilt of blood letting Romanism and Protestantism!
God has committed the keeping of the spiritual sword to His church (Eph. 6:17), and has thereby given His churches power to judge those within their membership. Conversely, God has placed the carnal sword in the hands of divinely ordained governments (Rom. 13:1-4), and there can never in this world be a God pleasing merger of the two.
Paul instructed the church at Corinth to exclude the incestuous man, and keep no company with him (1 Cor. 5:11). All spiritual intercourse with the excluded person should be in the main, if not altogether, restricted to rebuke and admonition; for anything more could cause the church offender to have a toned down conception of his exclusion. Patronizing of the excluded person in his contention against the church will cause confusion in the church, and confusion is the ground from which discord grows and discord is the mother of excessive criticism and this undue criticism is the begetter of alienation.
The common and hateful result of alienation within the membership of the church is spiritual deterioration and a further detraction of members. But this catastrophic situation can be avoided by realizing that hostility is an emotion of the carnal heart, and is never more wrong than when directed toward a sister or brother within the church family.
„For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (Jam. 3:16-18). The cause of the spiritual decline of a church is from within the church, and never from without. This is why Paul warned the Galatian churches, saying: „But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15). Notwithstanding, some usurpers of peace from without may try and exert an evil influence upon the church, but they can do nothing to hurt the church unless the church allows it.
Accord and affinity are God bestowed blessings, and are to be promoted by the church, and protected by the church, with just and merited discipline. Offenses will come (Luke 17:1), but the church that owns the rule of God in its government is more than equal to the offense, and will when the need arises use its disciplinary authority to preserve the peace and nobility of the church.
The church should never lose sight of its coveted objective in the exercise of excessive discipline, which is to correct and reclaim the excluded person. Therefore, it is the obligation of the entire membership of the church to be exceedingly careful in its relationship to the excluded person, so as to do nothing that would impair the effectiveness of the discipline, and thereby cause the church to come short of its cherished goal (Rom. 16:17; Jam. 5:20).
Excessive discipline may seem at first to some to be unduly rigid or severe, but it is not so, for there is no element of cruelty in it, and it is not without pardoning flexibility. When the U.S. Marines drums one out of the Corp, he is stripped of all identification with the Corp, his buttons and insignias are torn from his uniform, and he is sent on his way; never to be restored to the Corp. Sister branches of the military would not for the briefest moment consider receiving the dishonorably discharged Corpsman into their branch of the military. But the excessive discipline of the church is not that absolute, but has an amazing remedial power in it, whereby the discharged person may be joyfully restored to membership in the church.
However, there is a growing and prevailing tendency toward disrespect among the Lord’s churches for the disciplinary authority of sister churches. The autonomy and independence of the local church should never be infringed upon by any external power, and we need to remember that church independence does not include the right for a church to ignore the disciplinary authority of churches of like faith and order. Nevertheless, some churches and pastors in defense of receiving excluded people, say: „No church or preacher can tell our church whom we may receive or not receive into our membership.” This haughty attitude and conduct has been the means of sundering long standing friendships, and has gone far in negating the authority of local churches over their membership.
No two New Testament churches are totally free of practical or doctrinal variance, and in some cases the nature of the variance is such, that so as to avoid rivalry, fellowship between the varying churches must be and will be accordingly circumscribed. But New Testament churches should never be competitors one with another, and should rejoice at the betterment of conditions in every sister church. Howbeit, and to our shame, this is not always the case.
It is possible for a church to err in its practice of excessive discipline, but it is not likely. Moreover, no sister church is better qualified to judge in the matter than the church that administered the discipline. When a child is disciplined by its Mother, it does not run to the house of its Aunt, and say: „My Mother gave me a whipping, and I want to live at your house.” If such an instance occurred the Aunt would tell the child, „You go straight home, and apologize to your Mother.” The Aunt’s motive in rebuking the child, is deep concern for the welfare of the child, and love and respect for her sister. However, it appears in our time that this kind of honor between sister churches is disgracefully on the wane.
After the offending brother has become obdurate and disregards the twice repeated effort toward reconciliation by the offended brother, Christ said: ” Tell it to the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:15-17). In these words Christ was speaking by way of anticipation to all of His churches, and while the words „heathen” and „publican” are not synonymous with reprobation, they do mean one with whom there can be no church fellowship (Rom. 16:17; 2 Thess. 3:14).
Ethics has never reached a higher plain than that which is found in the government of New Testament Baptist churches, and never more so than in the matter of church discipline. This is why excessive discipline is the last measure to be used by the church in its effort to reconcile an erring member. When a member is scripturally excluded from a New Testament Baptist church, it is divinely incumbent upon all sister churches to honor the action of the disciplining church, for Christ speaking to His churches, said: „Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). This is an awesome truth, but it does not say, there is absolutely no way an excluded person can be taken into the membership of a church of like faith and order. But it does emphatically teach that ALL New Testament churches should be exceedingly careful so as not to receive people into their membership whose exclusion is „bound” in heaven. GOD FORBID!
No man can ever extricate himself from his responsibility to God, and no bona fide church member can ever bring his responsibility to the Lord’s church to a conclusion. Exclusion of a person from the membership of a New Testament Baptist church does not terminate the excluded person’s responsibility to the excluding church. On the contrary, exclusion draws attention to his shortcomings, and highlights his responsibility and duty toward the amendment of his error and his need of reconciliation to the church.
While the excluded person is not, during the time of his exclusion, under any further disciplinary authority of the church, he is yet subject of the authority of the Head of the church, Jesus Christ, and will be dealt with by the unerring government of God. Adam’s exclusion from the garden of paradise did not absolve or free him of his responsibility to God. The excluded person is yet a subject of Divine authority, and his primary duty is to repent of his offense against the church and seek restoration of membership in the church.
Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25), and the highest honor this side of a person’s experiential adoption into the family of God, is to be a member of one of the Lord’s precious churches. It is the unabating responsibility of every member to keep the glory of God in the church untarnished, for it is a blemish less Bride that enters the marriage chambers in glory (Eph. 5:27).


Davis Huckabee
The dictionary defines a parasite as a person or thing that exists at the expense of another without contributing anything in return. Many parasites, if not eradicated, will so completely take over its host’s lifeblood as to cause it to die. Such, in effect, are many things in the ecclesiastical world today. There are practices and traditions of men which, without Scriptural basis, have crept into churches and attached themselves to their lifeblood, and are gradually weakening them, and hindering them from the fulfillment of their scriptural duties.
It goes without saying that many church members are parasites, because they never contribute any thing spiritually, physically or financially. In many cases, this is due to the fact that they have never been truly born again, and consequently they have no real love for the Lord, His church, or His people. Their main reasons for attending church are selfish reasons; i.e., as a balm to their conscience, to flatter their own exalted estimate of their piety, or simply to be seen of men. While these are the “hypocrites” that are such stumbling blocks to many outside the church, it is not with these that we wish to deal at this time. While these may and should attend church services, they certainly have no place on the membership roll until they have been genuinely saved. An occasional lost person in the membership of a church is not as likely to corrupt a church (the First Baptist Church had its Judas Iscariot) as when the church condones some parasitic influence which derives its very life from the church.
Several modern day practices should be recognized as church parasites, and eradicated from church life before they devour the spiritual life of the church. It shall be our purpose to examine several of these.
I. Alien Immersion is a Church Parasite.
Only a few short years ago one seldom heard of a Baptist church that was so inconsistent as to accept any and every immersion as scriptural. Churches then recognized that not only was it necessary to have a scriptural subject, purpose and mode for baptism, but that there must also be a scriptural authority as well. Why, then, do they not so recognize that today? Is it not because many churches fail to teach any doctrine whatsoever, and so, most church members are ignorant of duties? And is it not also because many churches, in their proud ambition to become the largest and most prestigious church in town, are willing to compromise on duty when they know it? And is it not also, in many cases, that in their zeal to promote the “program” of the denomination, they have forgotten that the denomination proceeds only from the local level, and only so long as the local church is kept doctrinally sound, will the denomination prosper? These and other equally unworthy reasons are the cause of much corruption.
Few things are so important to the church, and upon which its perpetuity is so contingent, as the right administration of the ordinances. Yet church doctrine and church history are presently the most neglected of Christian doctrines. All too many Baptist ministerial students have been taught that Baptists originated in the 17th century when John Smyth dipped himself and several others, and that Baptists are just “another Protestant denomination.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Smyth’s “baptism” was no more scriptural than if a man should accidentally slip and fall into the baptistery. Not only so, but history records no regular Baptist church descending from Smyth and his group, but it records numerous sound Baptist churches that antedated Smyth, many by centuries.
To accept any and all immersion as scriptural baptism is indeed a thing alien to the faith of the New Testament, and the practice of historic Baptists. Every baptism in the New Testament was not only immersion, but it was immersion that was backed up by proper authority. Most were by church authority, and the exceptions to this rule were performed on the authority of the Lord Himself. John, “a man sent from God” (John 1:6), was authorized to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17), by baptizing them upon their repentance and faith in the Coming One. His baptism was the only baptism that Jesus and His earlier disciples had, and it was Baptist baptism.
To accept the immersion of a church is to recognize that church as a valid New Testament church, and to so recognize it, is to condone its beliefs and practices. Not only so, but to accept a person as a member simply because he has been immersed is the height of folly, for most Protestant denominations, including those that immerse, baptize is order to save. Hence, any person accepted from such a group would corrupt the church that received him, because he would, in all probability come into the membership a lost person.
Even if there is little doubt that a person who has been immersed by another denomination is really saved, it is still unscriptural to accept him without a scriptural baptism, which he does not have if he was baptized by any other than a New Testament church. When a person becomes a citizen of this nation of ours, he must have the oath of allegiance administered to him by someone duly authorized to do so, not by just someone who may be inclined to do so. No less should the Christian have his oath of allegiance to Christ administered by some one who is duly authorized, else it is invalid, how ever much he may love the Lord. Baptism is “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19), and as such is a confession of discipleship and allegiance. Being a Christian no more gives authority to someone to baptize others than being an American citizen gives one the authority to administer the oath of allegiance by which one officially becomes a citizen of the nation.
There is but one scriptural administrator of baptism in the present dispensation—a New Testament church—and no group that originated as a distinct denomination this side of the First Century can lay claim to being such. It was no nebulous, indistinct and undefined group that Jesus called “My church.” It was in all fundamental points a Baptist church. Only Baptists can trace an unbroken perpetuity of faith and practice (and it is by faith and practice, and not by the name that Baptists are to be traced, since the name is only some four hundred years old), all the way back to the First Century. All Protestant groups can trace their lineage only back to the days of the Reformation. And the Harlot Rome only goes back to about the Fourth Century.
Any church that has reason to suspect the scripturality of the baptism of any individual should only accept him by experience and baptism. There can be no scriptural baptism unless there is (1) A scriptural subject—a saved person. (2) A scriptural mode—immersion in water. (3) A scriptural purpose—to confess one’s discipleship, and to picture the burial and resurrection of Christ, which is one’s only hope of salvation, and one’s own death to sin, and spiritual resurrection to walk in newness of life. And (4) A scriptural administrator—a New Testament church. To accept alien immersion that is not regular baptism because in some way foreign to the New Testament doctrine of baptism is to receive leaven into the church, something that will corrupt the church life, and that will contribute nothing to the church. It is a parasite !
II. Open Communion is a Church Parasite.
Here is another parasite that will eat out the very vitals of church life, but which contributes nothing more than a fleshly pride in the “open-mindedness” of the church which does so. Ask the churches that were pastored by Robert Hall and John Bunyan in the 1600’s. Both these men were, contrary to common Baptist beliefs, advocates of open communion, and based their arguments on the need to be loving and open to Christians of other denominations by inviting them to their observance of the Lord’s Table. The Baptist churches pastored by these men ceased to be Baptist churches in the next generation, and such is always the tendency of open communion.
Sadly, many of the professing Christians of our day are more open-minded on this subject than was either the Lord Jesus or His apostles. We cannot know the hearts of those that compromise on this matter. But whether it is because of ignorance of the Word of God, a mistaken zeal to encourage those that are in disobedience to the truth, or simply because they do not have the backbone to take a stand for the teachings of the Bible when it conflicts with the traditions of men, they are living in disobedience to the Scriptures.
But, someone says, “All other denominations commune with one another.” Yes! Because they have absolutely nothing to lose. One Protestant church has just as much scripturality about its polity and perpetuity as another, which is none. They cannot corrupt their church life by intercommunion, because they have no scriptural church life to begin with. And note carefully that I am referring to church life—life as a true, New Testament type church that has been born out of an already existing New Testament church—not eternal life—for individual salvation is not under discussion. One of the basic laws set in motion by the Creator in the beginning is that all organisms—living beings—are begotten “after his kind” (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25, etc). Man cannot create any living thing, for that is the province of God alone. Therefore if a church has not been biblically born of another already existing church, “after his kind,” it is not one of the Lord’s churches, but is only a man-made institution that is in competition with the Lord’s churches.
Even Protestants agree that a person cannot scripturally commune unless he has been scripturally baptized, which is one the bases of the Baptist position. Dr. William Wall, who wrote what is considered the most able defense of infant baptism ever written, says: “No church ever gave the communion to any person before they were baptized. Among all the absurdities that ever were held, none ever maintained that any person should partake of the communion before he was baptized”—History of Infant Baptism, Part II, Chapter IX. Because we base our beliefs upon Scripture alone, we do not believe that Catholics or Protestants have scriptural baptism, and on the basis of this, we axe no more inconsistent than they are in denying the Supper to the unbaptized, for we believe the same thing. The difference is in their and our view of baptism, not of the qualifications for the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, if we believe that others do not have scriptural baptism, what right do we have to invite them to the Lord’s Table with us. The New Testament nowhere gives any example of anyone partaking of the Supper except scripturally baptized believers.
But many miss the point completely on this issue. The scriptural teaching of the New Testament concerning this ordinance is that it is a church ordinance, not a Christian ordinance nor a denominational ordinance. It is to be observed only in and by the local church itself. No intercommunion of churches, even where they are of “like faith and order,” is to be found in the New Testament. Scripture says the Lord’s Supper is to be observed “. . .when ye come together in the church. . .” (1 Cor. 11:18), that is, in church capacity. Yea, the very elements likewise demand that only members of that church observing it are to partake of it, for the “cup” is one, as is the “bread.” And 1 Corinthians 10:17 expounds the “one bread” or loaf to signify the unity of the body partaking of it. This is something that cannot be true of participants that come from different churches of the same denomination, and even less true where participants are from other denominations with widely differing faiths and practices. There is no unity between such. Open and Inter Communion are both contradictions of the required unity for the right observation of the Lord’s Supper.
It is no reflection upon any individual or upon any other church to restrict the Supper to members of that church observing it only. It is simply the manifestation of love to the Lord in obeying His commandments. Do we invite others, even when they are “of like faith and order” to take part in our business meetings, and to vote upon local church business? If we did, we would have confusion upon confusion.
Let the reader search diligently in the New Testament but he will find no intercommunion between churches at the Lord’s Table. Many Baptists pride themselves upon their supposed scriptural observance of communion because they only commune with those “of like faith and order,” but the same Scriptures that condemn open communion, in the same breath condemn intercommunion even between those who believe and practice alike. Let it be repeated. The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, never observed in the New Testament by any but members of the church observing it.
Both Acts 2:42, 46 and Acts 20:7, 11 are private meals, and are no proof texts for any kind of observance of the Lord’s Supper. From the first institution, the Supper has been restricted to local church observance, and to change from the original pattern to open or to inter communion is to corrupt the church life, as well as the ordinance itself, and it adds nothing that is profitable to the church. Any kind of communion except that which is restricted to the members of the local assembly, is a church parasite, and should be eradicated.
How sad that man presumes to be so “charitable” to those who reject the scriptural pattern of church life and practice, that he honors them more than the commandments of the Lord. Can we expect anything but censure from the Lord if we do?
III. The Universal Church Theory is a Church Parasite.
This is another men-pleasing doctrine that one does not attack with impunity. To say anything against this theory is, in the eyes of most of the religious world, tantamount to heresy of the worst sort. But let a man hold heretical views of the person and work of Christ, the plan of salvation, or the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and he will still be generally tolerated, and perhaps even considered a good fellow, so long as he admits that “we are all members of the universal church anyhow.”
As with all doctrines and traditions of men, this theory adds nothing of value to the local church. It does, on the other hand, promote unionizing with almost every professing Christian group on the aforementioned ground of a supposed common membership in “the big church.” With this spirit of unionizing, there naturally comes a tendency to grow lax upon doctrine, for why should one take a strict stand and incur the enmity of fellow “members” of the “universal church,” when by common consent membership in the “universal church” requires nothing more than salvation. This theory also promotes immorality in those who are naturally more carnal-minded. Why should one deny himself any carnal pleasure out of fear of the discipline of the local church, if he thinks that he also, at the same time, holds membership in the “universal church” from whence he cannot be excluded, no matter how corrupt his life may be?
Let it never be forgotten that it was not, and is not, the supposed “universal, invisible” church that does the work of evangelizing, baptizing, teaching, comforting, edifying, etc. It is always and only the local church! Why then should such a theory be entertained when it does absolutely nothing good, but only corrupts true churches in order to inflate the pride of carnal man?
Many Scriptures have been perverted and twisted to try to justify this theory, but it cannot be done. It is not to be denied that there is “glory church” which is in prospect, which, when it comes on the scene will truly be universal, even while it will yet be local, but to try to make this a present reality is to go beyond New Testament teachings. It is only “in the dispensation of the FULLNESS OF TIMES” that God will “gather together IN ONE all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (Eph. 1:10). How, indeed, could there be a universal church (assembly, as the word means), so long as there is, by common assent, no assembly at any time or place? “It follows that if one part of the membership is now in heaven, another part on earth, another part not yet born, there is as yet no assembly, except in prospect. And if a part are as yet non-existent, how can one say the general assembly exists now?”—B. H. Carroll, Ecclesia—The Church, p. 7.
Most Scriptures which are used as proof-texts of this theory make one of the following mistakes: (1) Taking a generic or abstract usage of the word ekklesia (church), as in Ephesians 1:22; 3:21; 5:24, et al., and trying to make it encompass all Christians or churches. But see what foolishness and confusion is wrought if the same reasoning is applied to other such generic usages. If we used the same reasoning in Ephesians 5:23, we must conclude that there is also a “universal husband and a “universal wife.” But who would be so silly as to advocate this. A generic or abstract usage has application simply to any given individual of the species, not to a specific one. And generic usages are common in most languages. When the abstract ekklesia becomes concrete, it is always a local, visible, congregation of believers like that found in the New Testament.
(2) The institutional usage is often made to mean the totality of believers or churches. But when ekklesia is so used, it deals with the church as an institution, and encompasses only a continuity of the faith; i.e., it views the Lord’s Church as having at least one such local assembly in every moment of time from its origin to the return of Christ. This is the sense of Matthew 16:18. It does not, and cannot comprehend the aggregate of all churches because many, in times past, have been overcome by the gates of Hades. But this guarantees that there will continue to be at least one true New Testament church in every moment of time until Christ returns.
(3) Passages which, when they are closely examined as to their context, are found to refer to some specific church, are applied to the supposed universal church, as, e. g., the phrase “THE church,” as found in the Ephesian epistle. While this phrase sometimes has a generic usage, it also has a primary application to the Ephesian church. A letter containing the phrase “the church” would naturally be limited if the letter is addressed to some specific church such as “Heritage Baptist Church,” unless the context admits application to some other church. But even if the phrase were used in a generic sense, it would still be limited to any other given church as it corresponded to the one addressed.
(4) Some supposed proof-texts for a universal church are the result of poor translations; e.g., Ephesians 2:21 which, in the A. V. seems to teach that all churches in the aggregate comprise a single building. But when rendered as it is literally in the Greek, “in whom each individual building, being fitly framed together grows into a holy temple in the Lord,” an entirely different sense is seen. This is proven to be the true sense by verse 22 where the Ephesian church is expressly excluded from being in some “universal” building by the words “ye also.” This shows that this church, while not a part of some general building, was nonetheless an example of the principle of verse 21.
(5) Other passages which have reference to the future “glory church” that will be comprised of all the saved, are twisted to mean a present universal assembly, when they have legitimate application only to the future.
The universal church theory in this dispensation: (1) Does not evangelize the lost, baptize new converts, teach the doctrines of the Word, edify God’s people, contend for the faith, nor any of the other things that are the responsibility of true churches. (2) Usurps the honor that is due to the local church. (3) Promotes many hurtful things for the local assemblies. (4) Has no Scriptural basis, but is, as F. J. A Hort, one of its most zealous advocates admitted, based only upon theological reasonings. (5) Is a parasite, and as such, it draws all of its life from the local institution, in return for which, it does nothing helpful, but does weaken the life, duty and glory of the local assembly. Like all parasites, it should be destroyed and buried unmourned. “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21). Glory in which church? The one that faithfully serves Him, namely the local independent New Testament church.
IV. Extra—Church Mission Work is a Parasite.
It is not the writer’s purpose to pick on some particular board, fellowship, association, convention, etc. They are all built upon a rotten foundation, and as someone has rather humorously said, “No clever arrangement of rotten eggs will ever make a good omelet.” If one is wrong, then all that practice the same system are wrong, and the Scriptures conclude every organization that places itself between the church and the mission field in the category of a usurper, and an unscriptural machine.
The New Testament mission plan should be plain enough for anyone who can read. As given in Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 13:1-3 and other places, it requires the missionary to be called by the Holy Spirit to the work. He is then to be set aside and sent out under the authority of some church (which alone was authorized by the Head of the Churches to do this work) of which he is a member and be supported directly by other churches. His work is to go to whatever field the Lord has directed him, there to make disciples by preaching the Gospel, baptize the converts, then to teach them to make a practice of all the things that Jesus taught (which is comprised in the New Testament, John 16:12-14). Such a plan leaves little room for the glorification of human inventions and in such there will be no leakage of mission funds “to oil the machinery” of humanly devised mission boards. Such will prevent groups of men from usurping the authority of a church, or taking the place of the Holy Spirit by determining who can and who cannot go to mission fields, and sending those it thinks best fitted.
The New Testament mission plan makes the churches responsible for the propagation of the Gospel. It gives them the obligation of discipline over their members who are on the mission field, should any irregularity in doctrine or morals arise. This also makes it possible for them to know exactly who they are supporting, what is being accomplished, and what things need to be prayed for and supported in finances.
Most unscriptural mission programs have the right idea in cooperating together, but they go astray in sending the finances to a human organization for distribution to missionaries. Such an organization is a superfluous body, a parasite, for it requires part of the finances for its own maintenance, or else funds from some other source that could be used for the direct support of missionaries. Where the missionary is church sent and church-supported, there is no such parasite to support, and the mission funds may be used with peak efficiency. This is the New Testament plan, and it cannot be improved upon, and man may only try to do so to his own confusion.
In many cases, membership in such a convention, association, fellowship, etc., has been made a test of fellowship between Baptists, which is another unscriptural practice. This only goes further to show that such a church parasite saps the spiritual life, as well as the physical life of those churches that subject themselves to them.
Mission boards, etc., were unknown until only two or three centuries ago, which again speaks of their extra-biblical character, and most of them were organized in the knowledge that they had no divine authority. Dr. Thomas Armitage, himself a “board” Baptist, has well said that: “At first, in many places, these began as simple annual meetings for religious exercises simply, but they naturally drifted into organic bodies including other objects as well. The Baptists were very jealous of them, fearing that they might trench on the independency of the Churches and come in time to exercise authority after the order of presbyteries (as history has proven that they would—DWH.), instead of confining themselves to fraternal aims. This has always been the tendency in the voluntary bodies of Christian history, and for this reason Associations will bear close watching at all times, as they are simply human in their origins.”—History of Baptists, p. 715.
To condone such extra-biblical practices, is to say, in effect, either that God did not know the best way for mission work to be done, or else to say that the Divine revelation relative to church doctrine and practice is still open arid in the progress of development toward the ideal, which would be an indictment of the inspiration of the New Testament. If this is not what Baptists mean when they condone these things, they should make a clean break and get back to the scriptural pattern. No other praiseworthy path is open.
Inasmuch as the church is God’s chosen vehicle of Divine truth to the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Eph. 3:10, 21; Jude 3), it is little wonder that the devil is going to such lengths to corrupt and turn it aside. The strange thing is that the Lord’s people, who have been born again and indwelled by the Spirit of God should be so beguiled as not to recognize these worldly innovations as the parasites that they are. It would appear from the results that in many cases Baptists have been open-minded toward all except the leadership of the Spirit, and the Word of God, to which their minds are closed. It is indeed strange that Baptists, who have long maintained that the only safe rule of faith and practice is the New Testament, should now begin to follow the devious ways of men, and to depart from the New Testament practice in so many ways.
Let us never forget that a parasite takes but it never gives. It is a totally selfish creature, and all of these things which we have looked at are parasites. No other word can adequately describe them. What will Baptists do about them?
It resolves itself into a personal and individual responsibility. It is not enough to say, “What is my church going to do about it?” The question must be, “What am I personally going to do about it?” The first duty begins with the study of the Scriptures, which are God’s law for mankind. The next step is doing what the Scriptures prescribe as God’s will. “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:25).
One thing is certain: a parasite cannot live without a host. If the Lord’s people would refuse to host such parasites, most would die a natural death. God grant that it may be so.


Printed on the cover of the book are these words: TWO SERMONS BY W.PARKINSON. A JUBILEE SERMON, Containing A HISTORY OF THE ORIGIN Of The FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN THE CITY OF NEW-YORK, And Its Progress During The First Fifty Years Since Its Constitution “Delivered in the Meeting-house of said Church, Jan. 1, 1813. By WM. PARKINSON, A.M., Pastor. I have taken the liberty of emphasizing in bold type some phrases of Elder Parkinson’s that relate to the present controversy.


“The present church in this place, originated in the manner following: About the year 1745, Mr. Jeremiah Dodge, a member of the Baptist church at Fish-Kill, settled in this city, and opened a prayer meeting in his own house: at this meeting some of those who had been members of the former church, attended, and occasionally officiated; but as they were Arminians, and Mr. Dodge a strict adherent to the doctrines of grace, they enjoyed but little satisfaction together. Some time in the same year, 1745, Elder Benjamin Miller of the Scotch Plains, visited the city (probably at the invitation of Mr. Dodge) and baptized Mr. Joseph Meeks. Thenceforward the prayer meeting was held at the house of Mr. Meeks and that of Mr. Dodge alternately; and these two brethren and Mr. Robert North (formerly of the Arminian church) united in giving an invitation to Mr. John Pine (a licentiate in the church at Fishkill) to come and preach to them. His labors were rendered useful; partly in reconciling some of the former church to the doctrines of grace, and partly, in the conversion of others. His place of preaching appears to have been, chiefly, the dwelling house of Mr. Meeks. In 1750 Mr. Pine died: after which they were visited by Elder James Carman (of Cranberry) who baptized at different times, until there number was increased to thirteen: when they were advised to join themselves to the church at the Scotch Plains, so as to be considered a branch of that church, and to have their pastor (Elder Benjamin Miller) to preach and administer the Lord’s supper to them once a quarter. This was effected in 1753. Mr. Miller had visited them but a few times, when the congregation became too large to be accommodated in any private house, that was at their service, and therefore they hired, as the best and most commodious place their circumstances enabled them to procure, a rigging loft in Cart and Horse-street, which they fitted up for public worship. Here they statedly assembled for three or four years; when, this place being otherwise disposed of by the owner, they (such of them as could be accommodated) returned to the dwelling house of Mr. Joseph Meeks; where they continued to hold their meetings for about one year. Then they purchased a part of the ground on which the house we now occupy stands, and erected upon it a small meeting house, which was opened on the 14th of March, 1760.
Having then a place for public worship, and their number being increased to twenty-seven, they solicited and obtained from the church at the Scotch Plains, a letter of dismission, bearing date the 12th of June, 1762; and on the 19th of the same month they were constituted a church, by the assistance of Elders Benjamin Miller and John Gano.”


“Soon after (a disturbance in the church created by certain men), the church (First Baptist Church of New York) was considerably agitated by a difference of opinion about the management of psalmody. It had been the usage of the church to have the lines parceled out; but a large majority becoming in favor of singing from books, as we now do, a resolution was past (sic) to adopt this mode; where upon the minority, consisting of fourteen, took dismissions, and having obtained the approbation of the church they had left, on June 5th, 1790, they were constituted under the name of the Second Baptist Church in New-York, by Elders Miller and Gano.” (parenthetical information supplied by C.A.P.)


Arthur W. Pink
For almost ten years after his regeneration the writer never doubted that the „body” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12 had reference to „the Church Universal.” This was taught him by those known as „Plymouth Brethren,” which is found in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible, and is widely accepted by evangelicals and prophetic students. Not until God brought him among Southern Baptists (a high privilege for which he will ever be deeply thankful) did he first hear the above view challenged. But it was difficult for him to weigh impartially an exposition which meant the refutation of a teaching received from men highly respected, to say nothing of confessing he had held an altogether erroneous concept so long, and had allowed himself to read 1 Corinthians 12 (and similar passages) through other men’s spectacles. However, of late, the writer has been led to make a prayerful and independent study of the subject for himself, with the result that he is obliged to renounce his former view as utterly untenable and unscriptural.
The Authorized Version of 1 Corinthians 12:13 reads as follows: „For by one Spirit are we all baptized into the body”—concerning this we shall have more to say later on. On 1 Corinthians 12 Dr. Scofield, in his Reference Bible, has this to say: „Chapter 12 concerns the Spirit in relation to the body of Christ. This relation is twofold: (1) The baptism with the Spirit forms the Body by uniting believers to Christ, the risen and glorified Head, and to each other (vs. 12, 13). The symbol of the Body thus formed is the natural, human body (v. 12), and all the analogies are freely used (vs. 14-26). (2) To each believer is given a spiritual enablement and capacity for specific service,” etc., etc. In capitalizing the word „body” Dr. Scofield unquestionably has in mind „the Church Universal.” Should there be any doubt upon this point it is at once dispelled by a reference to the notes of Dr. Scofield on Hebrews 12:23—”The true church, composed of the whole number of regenerate persons from Pentecost to the First Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:52,) united together and to Christ by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12, 13), is the Body of which He is the Head.” It is to be noted that in both places the Doctor speaks of „the baptism with the Spirit,” but in 1 Corinthians 12:13 there is no mention made at all of any baptism „with” the Holy Spirit, either in the English or in the Greek; such is merely a figment of the Doctor’s imagination.
The Revised Version of 1 Corinthians 12:13 reads thus: „For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body.” We believe this is much better and a more accurate translation of the Greek than the Authorized Version rendering. But we have one fault to find with the Revised Version rendering too. The capitalizing of the word „spirit” (pneumati) is utterly misleading, and while it is well nigh impossible to get the real meaning of the verse. For the benefit of those who do not read the New Testament in the Greek, we may say that in the language in which the New Testament was originally written there are no capital letters used, except at the beginning of a book or paragraph. Pneuma is always written in the Greek with a small „s,” and it is a question of exposition and interpretation, not of translation in any wise, whether a small „s” or a capital „S” is to be used each instance where the word for spirit is used. In many instances it is translated with a small „s”—spirit (Matt. 5:3; Rom. 1:4; 1:9; 1 Cor 2:11; 5:3; etc.). In others, where the Holy Spirit of God is referred to, a capital is rightly employed. Furthermore, the Greek word pneuma is used not only to denote sometimes the Holy Spirit of God, and at others the spirit of man ( as contra-distinguished from his soul and body), but it is also employed psychologically; we read of „the spirit (neuma)of meekness” (1 Cor. 4:21), and of „the spirit (neuma) of cowardice” (2 Tim. 1:7), etc. Again, in Philippians 1:27 we read „stand fast in one spirit.” Here „spirit” has the force of oneness of thought, accord, object. Note that in Philippians 1:27 the Greek for „in one spirit” is precisely the same in every respect, as the Greek at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 12:13, and in Philippians 1:27 even the translators of the Authorized Version have used only a small „s” for „spirit”—as they most certainly ought to have done in 1 Corinthians 12:13. One other point concerning the Greek: The preposition translated „by” in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is „en,” which is translated in the New Testament „among” 114 times, „by” 142, „with” 139, „in” 1,863 times. Comment is needless. „In one spirit were we all baptized” should be the rendering of 1 Corinthians 12:13. The „baptism” here is not Holy Spirit baptism at all, but water baptism. Note: whenever we read of „baptism” in the New Testament without anything in the verse or context which expressly describes it (as in Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5, etc.), it is always water baptism which is in view.
„In one spirit were we all baptized into one body.” Into what body? The „church Universal” or a local church of Christ? We submit that a careful study of 1 Corinthians 12 can furnish only one possible answer—a local Baptist church. Note the following points.
(1) The head of the „body” described here in 1 Corinthians 12 is seen to be on earth—verse 16, 17. Now it would be utterly incongruous to represent the Head of the mystical, universal church (supposing such a thing existed, which, as yet it certainly does not) as on earth, for the Head of that church which, in the future, will be the universal Church of Christ, is in heaven, and it is in heaven the universal church will assemble (see Heb. 12:22-24). But it is perfectly fitting to represent (in the illustration of the human body) the head of the local church as on earth, for wherever a local New Testament church assembles for worship or to transact business for Christ, He is in their midst (Matt. 18:20).
(2) In 1 Corinthians 12:22, 23, we read of members of the body which seem to be „more feeble,” and of those „less honorable” and of „uncomely” parts of members. Now such characteristics of members of the human body accurately illustrates the differences which exist between the spiritual states of various members in a local assembly, but the illustration of the „body” here fails completely if the „Church Universal” is in view, for when the Church Universal meets in heaven every member of it will be „like Christ,” „fashioned into the body of glory,” and such comparisons as „more feeble,” „less honorable,” „uncomely members,” will forever be a thing of the past!
(3) In 1 Corinthians 12:24 the apostle speaks of what God has done in order that there should be no schism in the body (v. 25). Now let any impartial reader ask, in what body is a schism (division) possible? Certainly not in the Church Universal for that is solely of Divine workmanship, into which human responsibility and failure do not enter. When the church of the First-Born assembles in heaven, glorified, „not having spot or wrinkle or anything,” there will be no „schism” there. But in the church which the apostle is contemplating in 1 Corinthians 12 there was „schism” (see 1 Cor. 11:18, etc.). Therefore it is proof positive that it is the local church, and not the Church Universal, which is in view in 1 Corinthians 12.
(4) In Corinthians 12:26 we read „and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it: or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Now is this true of a Universal Church? Certainly not. Is it true that whenever a believer in Christ in India or China (of whom I have never even heard) „suffers” that „all the members,” all believers in America, „suffers” with it or him? Certainly not. But it is true ideally, and often in experience that when one member of a local church „suffers” all the members of that local church suffer too. We must refrain from adding further arguments.
Sufficient has been advanced, we trust, to prove that the „body” referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is a local church, and that the „human body” is here used to illustrate the mutual dependence and relationship existing between its various members. From this established and incontrovertible fact several conclusions follow:
First, the „baptism” by which one enters „into” a New Testament church is water baptism, for the Holy Spirit does not „baptize” anybody into a local assembly.
Second, no matter what our nationality—Jew or Gentile—no matter what our social standing—slave or freeman—all the members of the local church have been baptized „in one spirit,” that is, in one mind, purpose, accord, and there is therefore oneness of aim for them to follow, oneness of privilege to enjoy, oneness of responsibility to discharge. Furthermore, they are said to „drink of one spirit,” that is, they are one, and all appropriate (symbolized by „drink”) this oneness of spirit.
Third, there is only one way of entrance into a local church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is by „baptism” scripturally performed by a scripturally qualified and scripturally authorized administrator, for we read „in one spirit we were all baptized into one body.” It therefore follows that none save those who have been Scripturally „baptized” have entered „into” a New Testament Church, all others being members of nothing but man-made institutions. Hence the tremendous importance of „keeping the ordinances” as they have been delivered by Christ Himself to His churches.
The writer would apologize for writing at such length (he has condensed as much as he possibly could) but cherishes the hope that his own personal confession with which he began this article will exercise others to search the Scriptures more diligently and to „prove all things” for themselves, not accepting the teaching of any man, no matter who he may be. Brethren, let us covet to be „Bereans.”


By H. Boyce Taylor

Published in the Berea Baptist Banner May 5, 1991.

Before we go further in the study of Revelation it will
be well for us to get clearly in mind our reasons for say-ing
that ekklesia never means any thing but an organized
assembly. Every man’s interpretation of Revelation de-pends
on what he means by the word ekklesia or church.
If he starts wrong by perverting the words of the Lord
Jesus and making His ekklesia mean an universal, invis-ible,
unorganized and unassembling body, then his
whole exposition of Revelation will be heretical. He lays
an heretical foundation and his building will be wood,
hay and stubble. So we want to go patiently into what
the New Testament means by the word ekklesia or church.
We maintain that in all and every place where it is found
in the New Testament, whether used of Israel in the wil-derness
or of the church of the Firstborn in Heaven or
the citizens of Ephesus or of a New Testament church, it
always and every where refers to an organized assem-bly.
Its two fundamental and “essential ideas are orga-nization
and assembly”. We think we have good and
sufficient reasons for maintaining that position. Our
readers will have to be the jury to render a verdict as to
whether our contention will hold. Here are our reasons
for saying so.
1. Our first reason for contending that the word ekklesia
never means any thing but an organized and an assem-bling
church is that the Lord Jesus, who is the author of
the Book of Revelation, uses the word ekklesia 20 times
in Revelation and every time He uses it, He refers to a
local organized and assembling church. Seven times He
uses it in the singular in naming the seven churches of
Asia. Thirteen times He uses it in the plural referring to
these seven churches and their successors. Whenever
He spoke of a larger group than a local church He al-ways
used it in the plural.
2. B. H. Carroll for many years a teacher at Baylor
University and later the founder of the Southwestern
Theological Seminary, in a newspaper controversy with
W. J. McClothlin as to the meaning of the word ekklesia,
says: “The proposed new sense (of the word ekklesia)
destroys the essential ideas of the old word, namely,
organization and assembly, and would leave Christ with-out
an institution, an official business body on this earth.
Our Lord Himself uses the word 23 times—once in Mat-thew
16; twice in Matthew 18; and 20 times in Revela-tion.
These 23 instances settle the meaning of the word.”
3. Back in the days when T. T. Eaton was the editor
of the Western Recorder, in discussing with the
“invisiblisticists” the meaning of the word ekklesia in
Matthew 16:18 he gives these seven reasons for saying
the church Jesus built was a local church.
(1). That is the meaning of the word “Ekklesia.”
(2). That is Christ’s universal usage of the word.
(3). That is the only meaning that would have been
understood by the Apostles.
(4). That is the only kind of church recognized in the
New Testament.
(5). That is the only kind of church to which the prom-ise
has been fulfilled.
(6). That is the only kind of church adapted to hu-man
(7). That is the only kind that is suited to preach a
pure Gospel.
4. Prof. H. E. Dana of the Fort Worth Seminary in his
book, Christ’s Ekklesia, page 23 says: “There were in the
classical use of this term four elements pertinent to its
New Testament meaning: (1) the assembly was local;
(2) it was autonomous; (3) it pre-supposed definite quali-fications;
(4) it was conducted on democratic principles”.
5. Probably the Rotheham translation of the Scrip-tures
is one of the best and most accurate of all the ver-sions.
In the appendix on page 268, in giving his rea-sons
why he uniformly translates the word ekklesia by
the word assembly, he says: “It is well known that the
Greek word for ‘Church’ is ekklesia, and that ekklesia
strictly and fully means ‘called-out-assembly.’” The very
fact that Mr. Rotherham uniformly translates the word
ekklesia assembly throughout the New Testament is the
very strongest proof possible that he thought the word
ekklesia meant only an “organized and assembling” body.
6. Ramsey in St. Paul the Traveller says on page 124:
“The term (ekklesia) originally implied the assembled
constituted a self-governing body like a free city”.
7. Harnack in his History of Dogma says the Catholic
or Universal idea of the church sprang up in the third
third of the third century. Eusebius, Tertullian, Clement
of Alexandria, Hiero, Cornelius, and Cyprian all speak
of “Holy Churches” and never of the catholic or univer-sal
church. On page 83, of Vol. III, Harnack says: “No
one thought of the desperate idea of the invisible church:
this would probably have brought about a lapse from
pure Christianity far more rapidly than the idea of the
Holy Catholic Church”. Do not forget that, Scofield’s
idea of the invisible church is a lapse from pure Chris-tianity.
It is neither biblical nor scriptural but is a des-perate
idea born in the brain of a heretic and swallowed
by Scofield in our day to decoy Baptists into the camp
of the enemies of the only true churches, built and pre-served
by the Lord Jesus Himself.
8. Prof. Royal of Wake Forest College, whom South-ern
Baptists never had a better teacher of Greek, when
asked if he knew of any passage in classical Greek, where
the word ekklesia was ever used of unassembled or.The Meaning of Ekklesia by H. B. Taylor – Page 2
unassembling persons, said: “I do not know of any such
passage in classic Greek”.
9. Joseph Cross, in his book, Coals From The Altar says
this: “We hear much of the invisible church as contra-distinguished
from the church visible. Of an invisible
church in this world I know nothing: the Word of God
says nothing: nor can anything of the kind exist, except
in the brain of a heretic. The church is a body: but what
sort of a body is that which can neither be seen nor
identified? A body is an organism, occupying space and
having a definite locality. A mere aggregation is not a
body: there must be organization as well. A heap of
heads, hands, feet and other members would not make
a body: they must be united in a system, each in its
proper place and pervaded by a common life. So a col-lection
of stones, bricks and timber would not be a house:
the material must be built up together, in artistic order,
adapted to utility. So a mass of roots, trunks and branches
would not be a vine or a tree: the several parts must be
developed according to the laws of nature from the same
seed and nourished by the same sap.”
10. Bishop Hort, one of the publishers of the Wescott
and Hort Greek Testament, whose scholarship and abil-ity
certainly can not be called in question, confesses the
“necessity of finding some other than etymological,
grammatical or historical grounds” on which to prove
the universal church. That means it can not be proved
by the word ekklesia nor by the grammatical construc-tion
of New Testament Greek nor by the historical use
of the word ekklesia in New Testament days. Where does
Mr. Hort say then that the idea of an universal church
came from? He says the idea of an universal church came
from away this side of the New Testament from the the-ology
of uninspired men. Note what he says, He says
that the idea of an universal church is not “the proper
original of ekklesia”: that it is not traceable to “Current
usage”: that the Word ekklesia is always limited by Paul
himself to a local organization which has a “correspond-ing
unity of its own”; “each is a body of Christ and a
sanctuary of God”. By each he means each local church.
Again he says: Paul uniformly speaks of the individual
church “as a body of Christ”—I Cor. 12:27: “a virgin” —
II Cor. 11:2: “a temple.” I Cor. 3:16.
In Ephesians 2:21 he refers to the Ephesian church
as “a holy temple.” In Colossians 3:15 he calls the
Colossian church “called in one body.” All the refer-ences
are from Hort’s Christian Ekklesia. Mr. Hort’s tes-timony
that Paul’s use of the word ekklesia in Ephesians
and Colossians is to the local church at Ephesus and
Colosse is especially convincing because Scofield and
all the balance of the universal church heretics go to
Ephesians and Colossians to substantiate their heretical
teachings. Again Mr. Hort argues that in breaking down
the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile and alien
classes of all sorts, the local church is the chief, if not the
only agency through which this change is manifest.
11. Jesse B. Thomas in his book, Church and Kingdom,
calls attention to the fact that in John 2:19-21 Jesus calls
His own body a temple. This involved both local and
visible tangibility (II Pet. 1:16; I John 1:1). So building
in Matthew 16:18. All these allusions, according to Mr.
Thomas point irresistibly to a concrete organism. In
Ephesians 2:21 (R. V.) the local church is spoken of as
“each several building.” “Fitly framed” refers to the
local church as a building and “fitly joined and com-pacted”
as a body. The first in 2:21 and the latter in
12. Alexander Campbell said in the Christian Baptist,
p. 214: “Ekklesia literally signifies an assembly called out
from others and is used among the Greeks, particularly
the Athenians, for their popular assemblies, summoned
by their chief magistrates and in which none but citi-zens
had a right to sit. By inherent power it may be
applied to any body of men called out and assembled
in one place. If it ever loses the idea of calling out and
assembling, it loses its principle features and its primi-tive
13. David Lipscombe in the Gospel Advocate Oct. 28,
1926: “There is not the shadow of any universal church
in the New Testament, nor is there the representation of
a tangible church or of one that may be reached and
associated with, save the local church”. Again the same
article Mr. Lipscombe says: “Just so, when speaking of
things common to all churches, we say the church is the
body of Christ, not meaning that all the churches are
consolidated to make one body, but that each and ev-ery
church is the body of Christ in its locality and what
is common to all is affirmed of the church as of one
body. This style of speech is common. This can be its
only meaning. There is no development of the church
of Christ in the world save in the local church. Paul uses
this same general language of the church being the body
of Christ to the church at Corinth that he does to the
Colossians, Ephesians and others: ‘Ye are the body of
Christ and members in particular.’ The church at
Rome, the church at Ephesus, at Colosse, each was just
as much ‘the body of Christ and members in par-ticular’
as the church at Corinth. The church at Jerusa-lem
was a complete body of Christ before another
church was established. It lost none of its completeness
when other churches were planted. And every other
church was as complete within itself as was this church
at Jerusalem. Each church was in itself a complete body
of Christ, without any reference to any other church or
churches in existence.
God has given to us the local church as the only mani-festation
of His body. It is the only body ordained or
recognized by God as acceptable to Him. It is the “pil-lar
and support of the truth.” It is “the body of
Christ.” The body of which He is the Head. “From
whom the whole body fitly joined together and
compacted by that which every joint supplieth,
according to the effectual working in the measure
of every part, maketh increase of the body unto.The Meaning of Ekklesia by H. B. Taylor – Page 3
the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).
Let us sum up a little.
The word church was used by the Master 23 times
and always meant a local church. Mr. Hort of the
Westcott-Hort New Testament, admits that Paul never
used it of anything but a local church. Scholars testify
that ekklesia was never used in classic Greek except of
an assembled or assembling body. The two essential
ideas in the word ekklesia are assembly and organiza-tion.
Every illustration of a church in the New Testa-ment,
such as temple or house or body, makes the veri-est
of nonsense, if it is not assembled and organized.
The etymology of the word ekklesia makes it of neces-sity
a local church. The grammatical construction of the
passages where used can not be twisted to mean any-thing
but a local church. Both Hort and Harnack testify
that historically the word ekklesia was never used of any-thing
but a local church, until long after the close of the
New Testament. So you are on safe ground, when you
say that the church, which as the body of Christ, is al-ways
a local Baptist church. Selah! !
(News and Truth, April 6, 1932, Murray, Ky.).



By Ronnie Wolfe 1, Pastor
First Baptist Church
Harrison, Ohio

„We will consider this topic in four sections with the following titles: A Church Enclosed, A Church Fragmented, A Church Estranged, A Church Extended.

„A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse” (S. of S. 4:12)
The Lord’s church is a distinct and separate organization from any other on the earth. The local church is not simply a fraction or a part of a larger and similar organization. She is loved by God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. God purchased the church (local concept) with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Jesus Christ delegated authority to his church (Matt. 28:18-20). The Holy Spirit approved the church (local concept) on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1-3).
As we think of the church’s being a distinct organization unlike any other in the world, let us consider briefly her authority by example.
Example #1: In Acts chapter 6 we read of a problem arising in the church regarding the „daily ministration.” The problem was solved by a general agreement [today we think of that as a church vote] wherein they chose seven men to take care of the „daily ministration.” The church exercised her distinct authority in doing this. Being members of this church, they voted in agreement to select these seven men.
Proposition #1: What if ten of the members of this church met somewhere away from the regular meeting place and voted to do something about the problem of the „daily ministration”? Would their agreement together or their vote determine what was or what was not to be done in regard to this „daily ministration”? The answer is no.
Example #2: In Acts chapter 15 we read of the disagreement that came to the churches over circumcision and the Mosaic Law. When the meeting took place, an agreement was made that is recorded in verse 20. In verse 22 we find that it pleased the apostles, the elders, with the whole church.
Proposition #2: If there were some in the church who met on their own and came to some conclusions concerning circumcision, would it have any validity in the „inclosed” church? The answer is no. In fact, the sect of the Pharisees (verse 5) did just that; but when it was considered in the context of the church, their decision was refused. Notice also that the persuasion of the „sect” was not even considered by the local church until their influence had caused confusion within the local church.
So, in saying that the church is „inclosed” this writer is advocating that each church of the Lord Jesus is completely independent of all other organizations and that no decisions pertaining to the work of God through the churches can be made outside this local establishment.
Keep this in mind as we consider the next point, which naturally follows.


„That there should be no schism” (I Cor. 12:25)
This very sect mentioned under our first point (the sect of the Pharisees, Acts 15:5) shows their true form in this chapter. First, we must notice that they were believers. These were not lost sinners who were trying to penetrate the church, but this „sect” formed right within the church itself.
They had formed their own clique and had formed their own sub-theology. They were not teaching works for salvation; they were simply putting the burden of the Law on Christian believers.
The most important aspect of this example, though, is that this sub-set of believers had separated themselves from the church and had taken authority upon themselves to carry on the business of the Lord’s church. Acts 15:24 tells us that they „went out from us.” This is the perfect example of a small group of believers in a particular church who decide arbitrarily to meet in a different location and appoint themselves to be a body and take upon themselves the authority to select a pastor and deacons and to serve the ordinances; namely, baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
This is done on a regular and ongoing basis in Baptist churches around the country. What is wrong with this? Let us consider it by example.
Example: Bro. and Mrs. Swakley are saved through the ministry of the Shawnee Baptist Church. They both submit themselves to baptism under the authority of this church. After baptism, they are members in good standing with the privilege of participating in various aspects of that church’s ministries and activities. They may now vote on issues brought up by that church. They may be served the Lord’s Supper by that church and may partake of the same on a regular basis as long as they are members in good standing. They may NOT, however, make personal and private decisions for the church. Whatever decisions are made come before the church for discussion and consideration and are voted upon by the entire membership before any actions are taken.
Now, let us say, that Bro. Swakley moves to a different city and cannot find a Bible-teaching church to attend; so he decides (on his own) that he will get a few believers together and start meeting for prayer and fellowship. After some time and consideration, Bro. and Mrs. Swakley decide that they may as well have a church in that community; so they take the following action: A preacher called to come to preach to them on a regular basis. The preacher preaches for awhile and someone is saved. They determine that the new believer must be baptized, so they decide that the preacher is to do the baptizing. The new convert is immersed in water just the way they used to do at the previous church. Now he is a member of this „church”.
At this stage of the drama most people would automatically and without question call this group of people a church. But if we follow through with this example logically, we find that some problems arise. Following are some statements and questions that will, I hope, show the problems.
1. To what church did this couple belong when they were first saved and baptized? Shawnee Baptist Church.
2. By what authority did they perform their privileges in that local church? Local church authority.
3. When they moved away from the community of the Shawnee Baptist Church, where was their membership? It remained at the Shawnee Baptist Church.
4. Was there anything wrong with meeting with other believers for prayer and fellowship? Absolutely not!
5. Was it wrong for them to call for a preacher to come and preach to them? Not per se! But a mental attitude is being formed at this time, an attitude of worshipping and functioning as a church.
6. What is now the status of the Swakley’s membership at Shawnee Baptist Church? By continuing to be members they remain obligated to the church and are under its authority. Distance does not change that. Names are not removed simply because people move to a different place except for nonattendance, which is done because of lack of faithfulness to the church. That is no way to have your name removed from a church roll.
7. Were they wrong for having the new convert baptized? Yes. Having their membership back at Shawnee Baptist, they usurped the authority of Shawnee Baptist Church by asking for the baptism of a new convert on their own.
If they had lived around the corner from the meeting place of Shawnee Baptist Church, would they have taken the same authority upon themselves? Then what makes it all right to do at a distance? Distance does not change authority.
Do you see what is happening? The same thing that happened in Acts chapter 15. A new „sect” is being organized and is going out „from us.”
8. Upon baptizing the new convert the authority for baptism was changed from the church to an individual or a fragment. Making this decision to baptize, whether it be made by one person or a few, is usurping the authority of the church; because it becomes an arbitrary decision. Now, does the authority for baptism, then, lie in the preacher? Some would say that it does; but if you will notice the above example, the authority is actually wielded by Mr. and Mrs. Swakley.
Mr. & Mrs. Swakley have now decided to vote without consent of the church to which they belong. Remember, distance makes no difference in authority. Mr. and Mrs. Swakley have now fragmented the Shawnee Baptist Church by separating to themselves and claiming authority which they do not have. This is no different from ten of the men of a church meeting outside of the building in the parking lot and making decisions for the church. These ten men have no business deciding who will or will not be baptized, because if their discussion determines that Mr. Back be baptized, they must first bring it up before the church before Mr. Back can be baptized. This is church authority.
If these same ten men decided to carry on church business by themselves and simply stay away from the Shawnee Baptist Church, they are still wrong in these ways.
1. They are wrong for not attending their church (Heb. 10:25).
2. They are wrong for not giving to their church (I Cor. 16:1).
3. They are wrong for not visiting for their church (2 Cor. 5:20).
You may ask why they cannot simply ask for their names to be removed from the church roll of Shawnee Baptist Church. That can be done, but that is a negative aspect. That is like saying that you no longer agree with the theology or the program of the church and do not want to be like them or a part of them.
Not only that, but if your name is removed from a roll by request, you are still submitting to the authority of the church and are considered a disciplined member.
Too, if your name were removed from Shawnee Baptist Church by request, to what church would you belong? If you say none, then how do you become a member of another church?
In our example, the person simply places himself in the new church, and others are added according to his agreement; therefore, the first person to begin the work becomes the authority for all the actions of the church. The authority rests completely upon that one person.
You do no become a member of any local church simply by declaring that you are such. We have many people in the Harrison area who claim to be members of First Baptist Church but are not.
So we see how innocently that a church can be fragmented. Christ is against a church schism, and this is what develops under the example given.

„Certain which went out from us” (Acts 15:24)
When the foregoing example has been developed completely, we find a fine-looking building sitting on the corner of some city somewhere having people attend regularly and being baptized regularly and functioning in the same manner as the Shawnee Baptist Church before mentioned.
But remember that the authority for all this church business comes from one person, the person who got the ball rolling. They will tell you perhaps that the preacher has the authority to baptize, but you tell me who asked the preacher to come and do the baptizing and I will tell you that it was Mr. and/or Mrs. Swakley. So the authority for baptism, church business, the Lord’s Supper, church discipline, etc. came from the Swakleys.
This church, instead of being just another Baptist church on another corner in another city is an estranged church, not a true church at all. At what time did the Shawnee Baptist Church vote to give the Swakleys (members of Shawnee) permission to meet together and carry on business as a church? At no time. They assumed it. They claimed it. Yea, they usurped the authority of their own church, betrayed that church, and estranged themselves from that church just as the „sect” in Acts chapter 15 did.


„Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19)
The Bible offers a proper way for extending the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to spread throughout the world with her influence and her Gospel. This in modern times is called the „mother church” method. You will not find this phrase in the Scriptures, but the principle is definitely presented by example especially in the book of Acts.

Institutional Authority – A Biblical Principle

Please refer to Deuteronomy chapter 12. This chapter shows an ancient principle that was practiced by Israel from the commandment of God. Notice especially these verses:
Verse 5: But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come.
Verse 8: Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.
Verse 13: Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest.
This same authority is found in the New Testament beginning with the preaching of John the Baptist and continuing throughout what is commonly called the church age. John was a man „sent from God” (John 1:33). John did not just begin a ministry of his own, but he had God’s direct authority.
This authority continues to our present age. The authority of John was given to the church by Christ in Matt. 28:18-20:
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power [authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Jesus And The Apostles Had John’s Baptism

Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles did anything regarding the church until they were baptized by John, so John’s baptism carried a very powerful authority. Even the Pharisees demanded to know by what authority Christ did the things that he did (See Matt. 21:23). Jesus answered the Pharisees with a question: The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? (Matt. 21:25). The Pharisees could not tell Jesus from where the authority of John came. That is because they refused to recognize Heaven’s authority (See Luke 7:29-30).

From One Church To Another: The Biblical Pattern

The church at Jerusalem was the first church in existence. When it was found that there were believers in Samaria through Philip’s preaching, the church at Jerusalem sent Peter and John; and they laid their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the demonstration of the Holy Spirit [authority] just as the believers in Jerusalem had received. This receiving of the Holy Spirit was God’s institutional sanction. This was necessary because the Samaritans thought that God’s authority was already upon them (See John 4:20).
When Saul of Tarsus was saved he was taken to Damascus. [See Acts 9:1-19] A man by the name of Ananias, who evidently was affiliated with the church at Jerusalem (see verse 13), 2 was sent (verse 17) to Saul that he might pray for him and that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. So, even Paul’s ministry was sanctioned by the church at Jerusalem. He was not an authority of himself.
When Paul and Silas were to begin their first missionary journey, they were sent out by the church at Antioch; and when they returned from their missionary journey, they reported to the church at Antioch. That is because they were not a ministry unto themselves, but their ministry was through the local church. Paul teaches us in Eph. 3:21 that God receives glory only through the church.
So down through the ages a continual line of authoritative baptisms has existed even unto our day.
If a person, then, begins a ministry without the express authority of an existing church of the Lord Jesus Christ, then he is a ministry to himself and has divided the church of the Lord and caused a schism, which the Lord hates. He has become a „denomination” of his own, and his ministry is not approved of God. He has taken authority unto himself despite the pattern that God has laid down in Scripture over and over.
May God bless us as we spread the Gospel by way of the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. He promised that no matter how long the world stands the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church of the Lord. So the authority of God continues throughout history form the time of Christ. Every spiritual worker should be very careful to be sure that this authority is taken with responsibility in order not to usurp the authority of Christ’s churches. (Eph. 3:21)”
1. Baptist elder Ronnie Wolfe graciously gave permission to include this excellent article as an appendix to this volume.
2. Whether Ananias was a member of the Jerusalem church or the Damascus church is beside the point. The point is he was a member of a New Testament church and acted with church-authority. It seems likely that Ananias had previously been a member of the Jerusalem church and consequently heard of the outrages perpetrated by Saul against the Lord’s church. It seems probable that at the time of Saul’s conversion Ananias was a member of the Damascus church. That he was at this time resident in Damascus is clear. It would seem that he took Saul to meet „with the disciples which were at Damascus,” for we find Saul assembling with them (Acts 9:19). Obviously Ananias had authority since he not only put his hands on Saul with the result that Saul received the Holy Ghost, but Ananias also baptized him. Some think he was one of the seventy disciples. Extra-biblical writers say he was pastor of the Damascus church. This seems highly probable, but is not absolutely known [C.A.P.].
Remarks on the Use of the Term „Mother Church”
by Curtis Pugh
Some Brethren object to the use of the term „Mother Church.” While they are correct in their point that the term is not used in Scripture, neither are such words as „the rapture,” „gambling,” „rape,” etc., but the concepts are dealt with nevertheless. Many scholars, including non-Baptist R.C.H. Lenski, have maintained that John addressed the letter we call 2 John to a church under the simile of an „elect lady” with „children” (v. 1). („Lady” is nowhere used of a woman in the Bible, unless here). This „elect lady” had an „elect sister” who also had „children” (v. 13). If this view is correct, there can be no argument as to the propriety of the term „mother church.”
Furthermore, the false church-system is given the name „Mother of Harlots.” While we would disassociate ourselves completely from her, nevertheless, the concept of motherhood in relation to churches, although false ones, is set forth clearly in this instance. It seems clear that the concept of each church being or having the capability of being a „mother” is Biblical even if the term itself is not used. The reader will note that churches are likened to a „bride.” Certainly the Biblical pattern is that no church was ever established without previous „church connection” or authority from an already existing church – a „mother church.”

Mega Church Mania by William L. Brown

Mega Church Mania
William L. Brown
Pastor, Carmichael Baptist Church
The media, as well as thousands, are being drawn into the newest fad, „Mega Church Mania.” A recent article in the Sacramento Bee (March 30, 1997) reported on a local area church (Bayside Covenant) that began about two years ago with only 161 in attendance at its first meeting. It is now running around 1,800. The attention was drawn to this church because it is the newest fad in reaching out to the multitudes and because of the quick growth. The By-line records „New style of worship finds converts.” The attraction is stated as a mixture of laughter, pop music, Letterman like top ten lists, and mass marketing.” All this seems to have been inspired by the Willow Creek Church in Chicago which draws an average of 15,000 people each weekend. The idea is to draw people in with „high energy music, dramatics and scripted productions.” A quote from the senior pastor, Ray Johnson, at Bayside, is quoted, as saying their church is „a church for people who don’t like church.”
One of the families who now attend regularly is quoted as saying „I was brought up Catholic and the whole strict religion part is not for me.” The writer of this piece went on to state an additional comment, „we like the morality and ethics stressed here – and some religion mixed in.” Going further into the article we find another new church springing up in the same general area (Rocklin, California) called „The Bridge.” The quote from this pastor is, „Hymns are outdated for us. The sermon of the past does not speak our language.” Read on and you’ll find they may use „popular songs from singers such as Joan Osborne, or sermons on doubt accompanied by a video clip from the Steve Martin film ‘Leap of Faith’.”
In another recent article in Forbes magazine, dated May 5, 1997 you can read about the marketing strategy and business acumen of the Willow Creek church. The title of the article ought to tell you something which reads, „Willow Creek: the flock that rocks.” This is a church with an annual income of 22 million dollars. 13 million come from the member contributions and the remaining 9 million come from their „food sales, the church store and fees from the Willow Creek Association. Hybels, the senior pastor at Willow Creek, is quoted as saying he attended a management seminar and „began to see that marketing God has something in common with selling a product.” He later hung a poster on the door outside his office which read, „What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?”
Something is drastically wrong when we read how a pastor resigned his present pastorate to join up with Hybel’s association and start his own church using the Willow Creek model. A church that grew to 450 notes „Success” for this man. Something is wrong when we look at Willow Creek as a „Harvard Business School case study.” Mega Church Mania has arrived and is in full swing. When a story in Forbes magazine (May 5, 1997) tells us how „a rock group helps atheists, agnostics, and lapsed Christians find spiritual fulfillment” we have a taken a giant step backwards in a supposedly progressive ministry.
The idea of making atheists, agnostics and backslidden Christians comfortable in the worship services of a „church” is not something I would want to do, and certainly not something that would be accomplished by preaching truth. I’d like to see them recreate John the Baptist’s encounter with the Pharisees and Saducees that came to him for baptism. Maybe they would like to revisit the time Christ entered into the temple and found that it had been turned into a den of thieves. They had turned a place of worship into a place to make money. Sounds sort of familiar to me! He didn’t gather together His disciples and decide to put on a play so people could better understand God. He reinstated what had long since been lost, truth, and the preaching of repentance! John the Baptist didn’t start a band to sing contemporary songs about the how nice the water was in Jordan. He preached repentance and he preached the need for fruit before he would administer baptism upon anyone.
Truth has become a beggar, a vagrant trying to find a home in the pulpits of America. Repentance is a lost word and an often unseen work. The interest of many has turned from a desire to see the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to a desire to be entertained and pumped up. I suppose Jonathan Edwards classic sermon entitled „Sinners in the hands of an Angry God” would be rejected by these churches because it’s message does not speak their language. I’m sure it doesn’t because it is the language of God’s word which is sadly missing from these pulpits of glass podiums and giant video screens. But, this is what happens when we mold our worship services to the lost world rather than the worship of an Almighty and Jealous God. This is not the end result but only the sad beginning of a degrading service designed to accommodate and interest lost people. The dilemma we find present here is that of depending on our creativity rather than upon the preaching of God’s word and His wonderful grace.
It matters not if we have the greatest orator of all ages preaching the purest gospel message. If the Holy Spirit does not quicken the dead sinner they will remain lost. You and I do not have the liberty to alter the message, the method, or means by which God will save lost sinners. David learned this very truth when he attempted to bring the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem on an ox cart. That may have been okay for the Philistines who happily sent the ark away, but not for the people of God. That mistake cost Uzzah his life when in sincerity he attempted to steady the ark as it tipped when the cart was shaken. The instructions were clear as to how the ark was to be carried by the people of God and when that means was modified they found nothing but trouble.
Lost sinners need to hear about God’s judgement of sin; because of what man is (a sinner by nature), because of what man has done (broken God’s law), and because of what man has not done (they do not believe). John 16:8 tells us the ministry of the Holy Spirit is not to entertain but „when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Man’s nature is thoroughly corrupt and yet remains unhorrified by that fact. If the contemporary preacher continues to coddle man in his state of sin he will remain there, lost and on the way to hell. The gospel was fashioned in the wisdom of God and it is through the foolishness of preaching that gospel that God has chosen to „save them that believe.” If man adds to God’s design he is adding a little leaven and a little leaven, leaven’s the whole lump.
God forbid that we should fall prey to the fowler’s snare and try to improve upon the message, method, or means of reaching the lost. It will ultimately lead to a corruption of the gospel which will be a gospel of a different kind and lead untold thousands into the pits of hell. What we need are churches that will get the world of their church and get going out into the world preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.Our commission is to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all things whatsoever we have been commanded. That isn’t an option!


by Rick Perdue
„Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” – Proverbs 22:28
The term „Old Landmarkers” was first used to describe J.R. Graves and those in harmony with the principles that he advocated in the mid-1800’s. Like the name „Christian” (Acts 11:26) the name „Landmarker” was first used in derision by those opposed to the principles which J.R. Graves and others espoused. The term came from an article entitled „An Old Landmark Reset,” written by J.M. Pendleton at the request of J.R. Graves and published in 1854. The term applies to those doctrines concerning the church, which set Landmarkers apart from the rest of professing Christendom, and especially from modern day Baptists. J.R. Graves in his book, „Old Landmarkism: What Is It?”, listed seven marks of Landmarkism. They are combined into four in this article.
If these principles are landmarks that J.R. Graves, J.M. Pendleton and others set forth, then they are of men, not of God, and are to be discarded. On the other hand, if, as they asserted, they simply reset Landmarks which others by their loose practices had removed, then these „principles will be seen in the scriptures, and will therefore be of God. If they are of God, then it is our solemn responsibility to follow them, no matter how it might affect us or our personal relationship with others. We ought to obey God rather than man. Let us consider:
THE CHURCH IS OF DIVINE ORIGIN. Jesus called it His Church as He spake to the disciples in Matthew 16:18, „And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Some erroneously say that it was built on Peter or on Peter’s confession, but when scripture is compared with scripture, we must conclude that Jesus Himself is the Rock upon which He is building up His Church. Compare the following scriptures:
„For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11.
„Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.
„Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,” 1 Peter 2: 6,7.
The material that Jesus used to begin His church was prepared by the one who was sent from God: John the Baptist.
Two Old Testament scriptures foretold John’s coming. Both are quoted in the New Testament. Isaiah prophecies of John with these words: „The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3 (see Matthew 3:1-3). Malachi prophesied of the coming of John and the coming of Christ, „Behold, I will send my messenger, and he (John the Baptist) shall prepare the way before me (Jesus, God the Son): and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of host.” Malachi 3:1.
Jesus took of the material that John prepared and began His Church during His personal earthly ministry. He began to call them out along the shores of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-22), and He set them in order on the mountaintop (1 Corinthians 12:28 and Luke 6:12, 13). This „called-out assembly” accompanied Him during His earthly ministry, Just before He ascended back to the Father, He gave them the authority to carry on His work here on earth (Matthew 28:19,20).
Jesus promised His Church continued existence until the end of the age, when He would come again to receive them unto Himself. This is known as church succession or perpetuity. This principle is expressed in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus said, „…the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He also said that He would be with them alway (Matthew 28:20).
THE CHURCH IS A LOCAL, VISIBLE BODY. The word church is used in the New Testament to identify a local assembly of Jesus’ disciples who are joined together in faith and purpose. The Greek word ekklesia (ekklesia) means a „called-out assembly” and was used in the time of the Roman Empire to designate the assembly that was called out from the citizenry of the Roman city-state and authorized to conduct its business. Thus, a New Testament church is a called out assembly of saints that have been given authority by the Lord Jesus Christ to carry out his business.
The word church is used in the singular when referring to a particular church in a particular place. For example; „Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth.” 1 Corinthians 1:2. There are perhaps a few places where it is used in the generic sense. Yet even then there should be no confusion. We use words every day in the generic sense without losing the individuality of the single unit. If we say that the home is the cornerstone of human society, what do we mean by the home? A huge conglomeration of all the homes in the world? Of course not! We think of the individual unit. Why then should the generic use of the word church cause so much confusion and general acceptance of a universal church, which is no more reasonable, logical, or scriptural than a universal home of which we are all members?
Churches is used in the plural when referring to more than one local church. „And all the brethren which are with me unto the churches of Galatia:” Galatians 1:2). Again in Revelation 1:11, we read. „What thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia:”
Not only is a church a local, visible body, but it is autonomous. Each local church is self-governing, answering only to her head, the Lord Jesus Christ. The church at Antioch, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, sent Barnabas and Saul out as missionaries without consulting the apostles who were at Jerusalem (Acts 13:1-4). When some heretics from Jerusalem had disturbed things in Antioch, the church there sent a delegation to Jerusalem to discuss the issue. Once there, the whole church at Jerusalem made recommendations to the church at Antioch and other Gentile churches where the false teachers had been. Their language was not the edict of a higher power, but rather the recommendation of a sister church: „it seemed good unto us…” and „…if you keep yourselves, ye shall do well. ” Acts 15.
Such is still the relationship between New Testament churches who have a desire to cooperate in mutual endeavors and fellowship as equals around the truths of God’s Word.
THE CHURCH HAS A REGENERATE MEMBERSHIP. That one must be saved in order to qualify for membership in a New Testament church is clearly a principle of the Scripture. A person must know Christ as Saviour before being baptized, and baptism is a prerequisite to becoming a member of a New Testament church. Christ must come before the water.
When many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John to be baptized, he demanded that they „…bring forth fruit meet for repentance,” Matthew 3:8. John only baptized those who have evidence of repentance and expressed faith in Jesus, who would come after him (Acts 19:4). True New Testament churches do the same today.
In Matthew 5:15,16, Jesus likens the church to a candlestick. If you will notice, the candles must be lit before they go on a candlestick. Peter, in 1 Peter 2:5, illustrates the church with a house built of living stones. The stones must be living stones to become a part of the spiritual house. It is not the putting of the candle on the candlestick that lights it, nor is it the placing of a stone in the spiritual house that makes it living. Thus, members must be regenerated before they become members of a New Testament church.
A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH HAS TWO ORDINANCES: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They are not sacraments which contribute to our salvation, but pictorial ordinances which declare our salvation by the finished work of Christ.
To be scriptural, Baptism must have these four elements: the proper candidate, the proper mode, the proper purpose, and the proper authority. Only one who professes faith in Jesus Christ as their only and all-sufficient Saviour is a proper candidate for Baptism. You must have experienced the cleansing power of the blood before you are a fit subject for the water. Only those who had the blood applied in Egypt made it through the Red Sea (a type of Baptism – 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Pharaoh and his army perished in the Sea trying to follow Israel. So those who enter into Baptism without the blood of Jesus Christ for a covering and cleansing shall perish.
Scriptural Baptism is by immersion in water. The word means to dip or immerse. No other mode of Baptism properly represents the burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4).
The purpose of Baptism is to declare our faith in Christ Jesus: That He died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures and thereby secured our eternal redemption. In Baptism we identify with the Lord Jesus Christ and His church: „For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body,” 1 Corinthians 12:13. Baptism is not to put away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a conscience already cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).
The final ingredient in scriptural Baptism is the proper authority. Who does the baptizing is important. Jesus choose His disciples from among those who had been baptized by John the Baptist because he was the one sent from God (John 1:6). Jesus passed that authority on to His church (Matthew 28:16-20) and His churches are the only ones with scriptural authority. If a church is not identifiable by the „landmarks” that have been presented, she does not have scriptural authority. Should any question the restrictiveness of this they are referred to Acts 18:24-19:4. There, some disciples who had apparently been baptized by Apollos (who, though he was mighty in the scriptures, fervent in spirit, saved and scripturally baptized, had no authority) were baptized again by Paul (who had authority).
The other ordinance of a New Testament Church is the Lord’s Supper. If it is a church ordinance, then it should be clear by now that it must be restricted to the members of the local body (the only kind of church known in the scriptures). It is to be observed as a body. Paul’s language on the matter is clear. When he speaks of the resurrection, when all the saints shall rise, he uses the all inclusive term we, but when he speaks of the Lord’s Supper his language is different. In 1 Corinthians 11:26 he writes, „As oft as YE eat this bread, and drink this cup,”. Not WE, but YE. YE who? The church of God which was at Corinth, that’s who.
The Lord’s Supper is to be observed with the proper elements: unleavened bread and the unleavened fruit of the vine. Leaven is a type of sin, and nothing with leaven in it can properly represent the sinless body and blood of Jesus. It is to be observed in remembrance of His death till He come. It is looking back, as well as a looking forward to that time when He will observe it new with us in His Father’s kingdom.
CONCLUSION: If a bird looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and waddles like a duck, then I assume that it is a duck. If it is not a duck it will not do any of the above, though it be called a duck. Just so, the Lord’s churches can be identified by their doctrine and practice.
If churches do not teach and practice these truths, they should not be accepted as New Testament Churches and their ordinances and ordinations are to be rejected. It is by the preservation of the ordinances that New Testament church authority is preserved from one generation to another. May the Lord enable us to earnestly contend for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints!


by Forrest L. Keener
„For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
This is a verse which has, through the years, received a huge amount of attention. I have read a great deal of material on the subject, and even distributed a lot of tracts with which I am less than totally pleased. I will try, in this brief tract, to state what I feel is the extremely simple and pointed truth of this verse. May I say to begin with, I don’t think we need to be an egoistical or a translation expert to understand it; it is just not that complicated. It says precisely and simply what it seems to say.
I have read many discourses which approach this verse as if we needed some particular insight into great mysteries, or an ability to dig out very obscure interpretations of other Bible verses, to understand this one. These approaches normally lead to some „necessary implication” of a „universal body.” This wrong interpretation of I Cor. 12:13 („For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”) is supported by a wrong interpretation of Ephesians 4:3 and 4, („Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;”) and in turn that wrong interpretation of Ephesians 4:3 and 4 is supported by the same wrong interpretation of I Cor. 12:13. The fact of the matter is that neither of these verses so much as hints at any kind of a universal body. In fact, the words universal and body are so antagonistic to each other, that we should be forced into laughter, by merely hearing them so used. The word body always means something that is localized by union and united by locality, while the word universal, as used in this respect, means something that is everywhere. Infinitude of locality always necessitates a spirit, as opposed to a body. Why the complication then? It is because of the carry-over of Catholicism, even through Protestantism, in so much of our „Christian literature.”
If it were not for the Catholic teaching that the „body of Christ” is literally the visible universal (Catholic) church, or the Protestant teaching that the „body of Christ” is literally the invisible universal („Holy Catholic”) church, no such notion would ever exist among evangelical Christians. They certainly would not, in a million years, arrive at it, merely by reading I Cor. 12:13, Eph. 4:3,4 and Eph. 5:25-27. The fact is that to arrive at a universal church interpretation of these verses, a man must start with this Catholic presupposition and use these verses as proof texts to support it. I want to take each of the determinative words of I Cor. 12:13 and show that this passage does not even suggest universalism. Then, I want to very briefly expound the verse in its simple contextual meaning.
„For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” It has been argued by some, who realized the error of the Catholic interpretation, that the Spirit here was „a spirit of unity,” and should be translated spirit not Spirit. Such a conclusion is not necessary, and I do not believe it is either accurate or logically justified. The Spirit here is the Spirit of the context. He is the Spirit who, according to verse 3, leads one to confess Christ, in verse 4 bestows diversities of gifts, and in verse 7 manifests Himself for the overall profit of the church. He is the same Spirit who, in verse 8, gives the word of wisdom to one and the word of knowledge to another, and who in verses 9 and 10, gives gifts of faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers tongues, and interpretation. He is the same Spirit who, in verse 11, sovereignly divides gifts to men, individually as it pleases Him. It is, by every contextual standard of interpretation the „Spirit” of the context and thus, the Holy Spirit who is mentioned here.
„For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” It is thought, by the universalist, that this word, if properly translated, forces us to believe that this verse has the Holy Spirit baptizing us into Christ literally, and thus the baptism could not be water baptism, and the body referred to could not be a local church. This is interpretation either by presupposition, or by panic, or some of both. The word by need carry no such meaning. It simply means we are led by the Holy Spirit to unite with that body (local church), exactly as we are led by the Spirit to confess Christ in verse 3. This is how Simeon, in Luke 2:27, came into the temple at the time of Christ’s dedication. („And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,”) He came by the influence of, or the leadership of, the Holy Spirit.
„For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” Again the „body” of this verse is the body of the context, that is the church at Corinth. This is what Paul is, throughout the chapter, illustrating by the human body. The first question that should be asked here is this: Is the word „body” in this verse, that is the body of Christ, being used literally or figuratively? Is Paul saying we are literally being placed by this baptism into the physical, fleshly, actual, biological body of Christ? Of course not! He is using the human body, in this chapter, to illustrate the truth of necessary union and interdependency within the church, and he is using this metaphor, „body of Christ,” to illustrate the relationship that the local church has with Christ as her „head,” which is simply to say He has complete authority over the church. To make the use of the words body or head more literal than that is to violate the whole nature of the chapter and indeed the entire epistle. Let it farther be understood that we are to think locally, that is of the church at Corinth, and locally as these truths apply to us in any church. Only in this setting can verses like 25 and 26 have any applicable reference to the context. Members of a local, visible assembly are to have the same care one for the other, suffer with each other and rejoice when another is honored. If there were such a thing as an invisible, universal body (whatever that might possibly be) this conduct would surely not be possible for them. So the term body here is a metaphorical term describing the relationship that the members of the church at Corinth had with each other under Christ their head. He is talking specifically of the body, that is the church, at Corinth. Oh, but someone asks, does Christ have many bodies? This is a foolish question. Once we see the metaphorical use of the word body;in this passage we understand that the usage is generic or institutional and thus is not numerical in any sense of being either singular or plural.
Let me illustrate this truth in this way: Christ took a piece or loaf of bread, on the night before His crucifixion, He broke it and said, „Take eat, this is my body.” He was simply saying this piece of bread, which you are to eat, pictures my body. But He said „This is my body.” Now, are we to understand that this was the only piece of bread about which that statement could be made, or that all pieces of bread are a composite part of one great piece? Absurd! When we see that the statement is a metaphorical one, and could be rightly made of any qualifying piece of bread, that is unleavened bread consecrated to the purpose of symbolizing Christ’s body, we see the truth that applies in I Cor. 12:13. Any proper qualifying piece of bread, at any proper time, and in any proper place and setting, could be referred to as „His body,” and in the singular, without violence to any other piece. The very same thing applies easily and automatically to any true church, and it does no violence to any other true church, nor does it so much as hint that they are composite parts of the same thing. Moreover, it does not hint at the foolish idea that the local church is only the manifestation or as some prefer to say, the only visible manifestation of the „real thing,” „the true church,” or the „universal church.” Notice this truth as applied to the human body in I Cor. 12:15: Can the foot say „… I am not of the body…” What body? It speaks of the human body as an object, not an individual. So is the normal case in all metaphorical usages.
„For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” Some have said the word WE here of necessity includes Paul, who was obviously not a member of that local assembly, and thus the usage of WE; supports a universal interpretation. Nonsense! If the word WE in verse 13 necessarily included him, the word YE in verse 27 of the same chapter would necessarily exclude him. The principle, that we are each part of a local body, applies to Paul, and thus he uses the word WE in an editorial sense. However, throughout the epistle and especially in the context, he excludes himself from this body of which he is speaking in this chapter. Notice verses 1,2,3, and 27. In none of these places does he imply that he is including himself in the body to whom he is speaking. To understand his editorial use of the word WE in verse 13, notice the use of the word I in chapter 13, verses 1-3. His usage here is hypothetical as if he had not love and became as sounding brass, but he does not really include himself in that group. For an example of the use of the word WE, which does not include both first and second persons, notice I Thes. 3:1. Notice I Thes. 5:5, where he, in the same verse, uses YE and WE referring to the same group. So don’t let the word WE in I Cor. 12:13 be used to erroneously point you in a universal direction. It implies no such thing!
„For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” The universalist’s interpretation of this verse is essentially this: The Holy Spirit places (baptizes) us into the „true church,” „The Body of Christ.” They make this a statement of regeneration, that is to say salvation is the Holy Spirit baptizing us into the „true church,” the universal body of Christ. But where in Scripture is salvation referred to as „baptism” either in or by the Holy Spirit? While it is true that baptism is used metaphorically to describe salvation, salvation is never referred to as baptism in or by anything or anyone, unless I Cor. 12:13 is the only place. No ground is laid for it anywhere in Scripture. The believers of Luke 3:16 and Acts 1:5 were promised the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It was fulfilled to them in Acts 2:1-4, but no one would claim that this was their regeneration. Salvation is not the context of I Cor. 12:13, the context is conduct in the local church. Again, salvation is not the context of Eph. 4:4. In reading Eph. 4:1-3 you find that mutual conduct among the members of the church at Ephesus is the context. This will be the case everywhere in Scripture you see the illustration of the body used. Regeneration is never the context. I thus conclude that no place in Scripture ever refers to salvation as baptism in, or by, the Holy Spirit. These people in the church at Corinth had been led by the Holy Spirit to confess Christ, and had by the same Spirit been led to identify themselves with that particular body, by water baptism. It was by the ordinance of water baptism that they had come into the fellowship of that body (the church at Corinth).
The message and exhortation of I Cor.12:13 and 14 is this: Cease your individual competition in the attempted display of spiritual gifts. Notice the first and last verses this chapter are clearly this, and every verse in between is right on that line. This verse is simply saying: All of you whether Jew or Gentile, whether bond or free have been led by the Holy Spirit to, by water baptism, unite yourself with this body (the church at Corinth). Now stop competing for position and pre-eminence, as if you were a unit within yourself, and accept the place in the body to which God has sovereignly appointed you, because you are by the design of God all dependent upon each other.
If this simple truth is missed, we not only entertain a totally wrong concept of Bible doctrine and definition of the biblical word church, we miss the glorious practical appeal for church unity and inter-submission within our church. Any notion of a universal church becomes an escape from the obligation to the local church, and to proper conduct within the local body, the true and only church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

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