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CHRIST’S CHURCH BEFORE PENTECOST Curtis Pugh Poteau, Oklahoma

CHRIST’S CHURCH BEFORE PENTECOST

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!

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When Did the church Become Universal Davis Huckabee

When Did the church Become Universal
Davis Huckabee
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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).
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WHAT IS THE CHURCH’S PURPOSE? Davis Huckabee

WHAT IS THE CHURCH’S PURPOSE?
Davis Huckabee
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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.
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WHAT IS A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH By Curtis Pugh

WHAT IS A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
By Curtis Pugh

I
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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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HE SIXTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its ordinances–BELIEVERS’ BAPTISM, FOLLOWED BY THE LORD’S SUPPER (Matt. 28:19-20).”
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.

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HE SEVENTH MARK OF A NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH: “Its officers–PASTORS AND DEACONS (I Tim. 3:1-16).”
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!
________________________________________

THE UNIVERSAL WIFE

THE UNIVERSAL WIFE

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

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