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The Church – Part 11

OTHER SCRIPTURES USED TO SUPPORT THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH

I will deal with these next verses as a unit because the response to all of them is essentially the same. The phrase “the church of God” is used eight times in the New Testament.

I Corinthians 10:32

Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

I Corinthians 15:9

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Galatians 1:13

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

Acts 20:28

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

I Corinthians 1:2

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

I Corinthians 11:22

What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

II Corinthians 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:

I Timothy 3:5

(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

All of these verses are speaking of a local church. Acts 20:28 and I Timothy 3:5 are talking to or about pastors and their responsibilities to their particular local church. There is no way to apply these two usages of the phrase “church of God” to a universal church since the supposed universal church has no pastor.

I Corinthians 1:2 and II Corinthians 1:1 both tell us these epistles were written to the “church of God which is at Corinth.” This is pretty good proof the phrase “church of God” refers to a local church.

I Corinthians 11:22 speaks of events that happened in the church of Corinth. The church of God here is a local church, the church at Corinth. Again, the phrase as used here cannot be speaking of a universal church.

Out of the eight times this phrase is used, five of them definitely refer to the local church. Just like the use of the word ecclesia, the majority evidence points to a local church.

Now let’s look at the three verses where it is not so evident that they are talking about a local church.

I Corinthians 10:32 says not to offend the Jews, the Gentiles, or “the church of God.” This is written to a church that is called the church of God in the first chapter. This is talking about not offending the Jews or the Gentiles in the church of Corinth. Again, this verse is not talking about the universal church, it is talking about the church at Corinth.

I Corinthians 15:9 and Galatians 1:13 both talk about Paul’s persecution of “the church of God.” There is no evidence that Paul ever persecuted a church other than the church at Jerusalem. When he left Jerusalem to persecute the church at Damascus, he had his saving encounter with Christ.

Paul knew that when you have several groups of people organized into assemblies for the purpose of carrying out God’s work, they are not a single church, but churches. Here is what Galatians 1:2 says:

“And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:”

How different is this from statements like “the church in America” or “the persecuted church” meaning Christians in a given area or situation. If Paul spoke of the churches in a region in the plural, shouldn’t we do the same thing? Do we know something he didn’t know? Paul also spoke of the “churches of God” in I Corinthians 11:16, I Thessalonians 2:14, and II Thessalonians 1:4. The church of God is a local church and there are many of them.

Just as there is no universal church, there is no regional or national church. To use the word church to mean anything other than a local church is a misuse of the word.

Some people would take exception with what I have just said. They would use Acts 9:31

Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

Of course, when we read this verse in the King James Version we don’t see any support for the universal church idea, but if we look at some other versions, like the American Standard Version, the NIV, the New Living Translation, the Contemporary English Version, the Message, etc., we will see something different. These versions translate the word ecclesia as church in the singular. All the translations based on the Received Text translate church in the plural and those Bible translations based on the Westcott/Hort text translate church in the singular.

The debate on the underlying text for the Bible translations is better left for another time but I will say this much: The received text is supported by more than 95% of the existing Greek manuscripts. The Westcott/Hort text is based on manuscripts that do not even agree with themselves. I’ll take the 95% over the 5%.

Ephesians 1:10 is also used to support the universal church idea. It says:

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

It is difficult to answer those who use this verse because I can’t see any reason why this verse would be considered support for the universal church. This verse says that all things will be gathered together in Christ. It includes all things in Heaven and in the earth. Does the universal church include all things in Heaven? I know of no one who believes that angels are part of the universal church.

This passage does not say anything about the church or the body of Christ. There is no mention of either the church or the body until twelve verses later. Ephesians 1:22 and 23 speak of Christ being the head over all things to the church. I have already shown that these two verses fit well with the doctrine of a local church.

In these last two chapters, I have looked at all the passages used to support the supposed universal church. You may not agree with my interpretations on all of these passages, but you cannot argue that these interpretations do not follow proper rules of interpretation. Just because some passages may allow for a universal church does not make the doctrine true.

When the meaning of the word “ecclesia” at the time of the writing of the New Testament meant a local assembly of some kind, and when every passage where the word is used can be interpreted in the light of a local church, the burden of proof is on those who believe that there is a universal church.

There is not one passage that I have found, or that anyone else has been able to show me that clearly teaches a universal church or body. We must stick with the clear teaching of the Word of God and not change things just because someone thinks there is a universal church.


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The Church – Part 10

WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED FROM SCOFIELD’S PROOF TEXTS

We have looked at Scofield’s proof texts without finding a universal church doctrine explicitly or even implied within the Bible. We have seen that the passages used by Scofield to support his “true church” do not support this doctrine. It must be admitted that some of the passages he used can, if taken in isolation, be used to support the universal church doctrine. When considered in the whole of the teaching in the New Testament on the church, using proper rules of interpretation, and with the proper use of the institutional sense of words, none of the passages of Scripture cited above require the word ecclesia to mean anything other than a local assembly.

The vast majority of the passages where the word “ecclesia” is used refer without question to local churches. Those few that are not clearly speaking of a local church do fit well with the idea of a local church. There must be a contextual reason to change the meaning of a word. One cannot change the meaning of words simply to support a preconceived doctrinal system. The doctrine of the universal church should be rejected because there is no scriptural support.

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The Church – Part 9

SCOFIELD’S PROOF TEXTS – Part 9

I Thessalonians 4:16-17

For the Lord Himself shall descend from
heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the
trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which
are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the
clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the
Lord.

The
first question I must ask is where do we find the word church
mentioned in this passage? A person must view this passage with a
preconceived idea of a universal church to which all saved people are
added upon their salvation if they find a universal church here. If
one doesn’t come with this presumption, one cannot find the church in
these two verses.

The
catching up here is often wrongly called the “Rapture of the
Church.” What we see here is the Rapture of the saints which
includes the dead in Christ, and those who are in Christ yet still
alive at His coming.

At
the Rapture there will be a calling out of all who are in Christ,
both dead and alive. This will form an ecclesia. This church still
will not be universal because it will not include the Old Testament
saints, nor will it include the Tribulation saints or the Millennium
saints. Another thing about this ecclesia that differs from the
universal church theory is that it will be both visible and local.
That is, you will be able to see it with your eyes and all of its
members will be gathered together in one place.

One
reads this universal church proof-text with astonishment since there
is no mention of the word church here at all. Of course, those who
are already convinced of the existence of the universal church would
assume that it is the “Rapture of the Church” because they
believe that all the saved make up the universal church. Paul gives
no basis for such an assumption, not in this passage or anywhere else
in Scripture.

If
the Bible supported the doctrine of a universal church, then the
Rapture could be called the “Rapture of the Church”. Since
the Bible does not support a universal church doctrine, a more
accurate term would be “Rapture of the saints”.

Apart
from preconceptions, there is no universal church found in these
verses. Again, we must take what the Bible says over what theology
books say.

Hebrews 12:22-23

But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto
the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an
innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of
the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of
all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.

It
is obvious that what is referred to here is future even though this
passage speaks in the present tense (ye are come). We are not yet
come to the heavenly Jerusalem, that event is yet future.

Another
thing that is obvious is that there are two groups of people
mentioned here, the general assembly, and the church of the
firstborn. Some interpret these as being the same thing, the general
assembly equaling the church of the firstborn. This does not hold up
grammatically. We have two entities here, the general assembly, and
the church of the firstborn. The word “and” indicates that
these are two separate entities. It is true that the word “and”
used here could mean that they are two different names for the same
thing, but that is not what would first come to mind when reading
these phrases. There is further evidence in the passage that shows
they cannot be the same thing. We are told that they “are”
in heaven, not that “it is” in heaven. The plural here
proves that these are two distinct entities.

The
word ecclesia means a called out assembly, but the Greek word
translated general assembly is not ecclesia. It is πανηγυρις,
which means a mass meeting. Who would be in the general assembly? The
Bible doesn’t tell us so I can only speculate that it would include
the Old Testament saints, the Tribulation saints, and the Millennium
saints.

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The Church – Part 8

SCOFIELD’S PROOF TEXTS – Part 8

EPHESIANS 5:23-33

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

This passage is one of the best examples in the Bible of the generic or institutional usage of words. In Verse 23 there are four words used in the institutional sense; husband, wife, church, and body. No one would ever make the words husband or the wife mean universal, why do some insist on doing so with the words church and the body? The answer is simple: doctrinal preconception or prejudice.

When the words husband and wife are used in a concrete form, they always mean a specific husband and wife. Likewise, every time the church is mentioned in a concrete sense, it is always spoken of as a local entity. This passage was is written to the local church at Ephesus, which was a local entity.

The generic usage here is proper because each good church should be submitted to Christ as every good wife should be submitted to her husband. Since the vast majority of usages of the word church require a local church interpretation, there is no reason for it to mean anything different here. There is nothing in the context which forces a different meaning.

Many use Verse 27 to prove that the church is universal because it says He wants to present it “a church, not having spot or wrinkle.” As we have seen, the preceding verses refer to a local church in an institutional sense. What is there in the context that changes the meaning here? The fact that it says a church? No! This means that He desires that each church be presented as a glorious church.

Some say that this verse is speaking about the future universal church in prospect. By this they mean all the saints gathered in heaven after the Rapture. If that is what it means it will be a local church, not a universal church. It will not include all the saved because there will be at least two groups in heaven. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of the general assembly and the church of the firstborn.

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Like most other passages used to support the universal church, if you read Ephesians 5:23-33 without prejudice, there is no reason to believe this passage is speaking of a universal church. Although it may be possible to interpret a given passage as speaking of a universal church, this is not sufficient reason to change the meaning of the word “ecclesia.” To change its meaning, there must be something that obligates, not permits this change.

COLOSSIANS 1:18-24

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

All I should have to say on this passage is “ditto”, but at the risk of being redundant, I will offer similar answers here. Consistent interpretation requires the word church to be local here as elsewhere unless the context requires another interpretation.

Consistency of thought is necessary in our interpretation of Scripture. This passage ends by Paul speaking of his sufferings for you, the church at Colosse, and then he talks of the afflictions (sufferings) of Christ in his flesh for Christ’s body’s sake. Then Paul states that His body is the church. Which church did Paul say he suffered for in the same verse? It was the church at Colosse, not a universal church. There is no reason to differentiate between the sufferings for “you”, the church at Colosse, and the sufferings for the church unless one brings his preconceptions to the passage.

How can a body or an assembly that is disconnected, dispersed throughout space and time, and never brought together still be called a body or an assembly? To use body and assembly to refer to something that is not an assembly and does not assemble is to use the words liberally, as the liberals do. It is to twist the Scriptures beyond sensible meaning. If we take this liberty, we can make the Scriptures say anything we want them to say.

It is a mistake to assume the verses that refer to the body of Christ must be speaking of something different and broader than a local church. This is especially true since Paul refers to the local church at Corinth as “the body of Christ” in I Corinthians 12:27.

HEBREWS 2:12

Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee

This verse refers back to the prophecy of Psalm 22:22 which says:

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Since Psalm 22 is looking forward to real events in Christ’s earthly life, His crucifixion and His resurrection, it is reasonable to think that His praising God in the midst of the congregation refers to some real event in His earthly life as well.

Do we find a time when He did sing praises in the midst of the congregation (the church)? Yes, we do:

And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26)

The context of this verse is in a called out group of believers meeting together to worship God. This was every bit an ecclesia or church.

Even C.I. Scofield applies Psalm 22:22 to an event before Pentecost, the supposed birthday of the church. He says this verse refers to John 20:17:

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

I don’t see how Scofield could tie these two verses together, because Christ tells Mary Magdalene to tell the brethren, instead of telling them Himself. Nevertheless, since Psalm 22:22 uses the word “congregation” and since this fits well with the definition of ecclesia, Scofield linking the verses places the church in existence before Pentecost.

Whether the prophecy was fulfilled in Mark 14:26 or in John 20:17, it was fulfilled before the supposed birth of the church. This is just one of the many inconsistencies of those who teach there is a universal church to which all are added upon their salvation.

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The Church – Part 7

SCOFIELD’S PROOF TEXTS – Part 4

EPHESIANS 2:19-22

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Just a simple look at the pronouns used should show us that Paul is talking about a local church here. He is writing to a local church and he repeatedly says “ye” not “we.” Ye is a plural pronoun which indicates a group of people and excludes others. As such Paul includes the church at Ephesus and excludes himself and those who are members of other churches.

The things Paul talks about in these verses refer to the church at Ephesus. They are also true of all other scriptural churches, but only because the other churches are also a group for which these things are also true. These things do not apply because there is a universal church, but because they are true of any church in the same way certain things are true of any bicycle. All bicycles have two wheels and a frame to hold them together. All scriptural churches have a saved membership who are fellow citizens with all the saints in the Kingdom of God. All saved members of scriptural churches are part of the household of God (the family of God). All scriptural churches are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and Christ is the chief cornerstone. Each church is fitly framed together and grows as “an holy temple in the Lord.”

Look closely at the last sentence of this passage which says that, like all other churches, they are “also” built together into a habitation of God. Each local church is an habitation where God meets with that part of His people who meet there.

It is difficult to see how this passage can be used to support the universal church doctrine. Since Paul is speaking to a local church, the phrase “all the building” must refer to that building. To interpret this passage to mean anything other than a local church is not required by the text. In my opinion, to make it mean a universal church does great violence to the passage.

As I read the commentaries on this passage, it amazes me how educated men can arrive at the conclusions they do. For example, John Gill, a Baptist pastor who lived from 1697 to 1771 wrote the following concerning this passage:

“This building is to be understood of all the saints, and people of God; of the whole universal church, which is God’s building; and is a building of a spiritual nature and will abide for ever: and this is fitly framed together; it consists of various parts, as a building does; some saints are comparable to beams, some to rafters, others to pillars, etc. and these are joined and united to one another and are set in an exact symmetry and proportion, and in a proper subserviency to each other; and so as to make for the good, the strength, and beauty of the whole. And it all centers in Christ; he has a great concern in this building; he is the master builder, and the foundation and cornerstone; and it being knit together in him,”

Note that he said that the building is to be understood of all the saints. He makes the statement without offering any proof, at least in this part of his commentary. A little research shows where he got this idea. He received his education from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. This university was formed in 1495 by William Elphingstone, the Bishop of Aberdeen under the authority of King James IV and Pope Alexander VI. You will note that this was before the Protestant Reformation and that it was originally a Catholic university. When the Reformation came to Scotland, it became a Presbyterian university which kept the doctrine of a universal church. Of course, the Protestant universal church became invisible instead of visible as the Catholic Church had taught.

There are some things I find interesting in John Gill’s commentary, as well as in the commentaries of many others. He describes a building as the sum of its parts but he forgets that it is not a building until those parts are brought together in one place and assembled. A building is not made while the components are still in the lumber yard or on the truck on the way to the building site. It is not a building until the parts are assembled.

The text says that the building is “fitly framed together” and that they, the church at Ephesus, are “builded together” to form an habitation for God. These metaphors only work if the building is local.

Since universities of that day required government approval, and since the government only approved those universities that were approved by the state church, to receive a university education it was necessary to sit at the feet of the Protestants. As a result, many of the pastors of those days were “protestantized” by their Protestant professors.

This is just one reason that it is necessary to study the Scriptures for yourself. This is also why this work is not filled with quotes from “experts and theologians.” I do not expect you, as readers of this work, to assume that I am correct, I expect you to study these things for yourselves. Your conclusions should come from a study of the Scriptures, not from a study of what other men think. What others have written can be helpful, but it must always be compared with the Scriptures.

Let me conclude this section by saying that Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus about the fact that they were a building fitly framed together. This is true for all local churches, but not for a universal church. Remember, those who invented the idea of a universal church did not work together with others who were part of the supposed universal body of Christ. They persecuted and killed those who disagreed with them. Does that sound like a “building fitly framed together?”

EPHESIANS 3:1-10

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

There are two phrases that cause some to apply this passage to the universal church. The first is “of the same body,” and the second is “known by the church.” If you keep in mind what we have learned so far, you will understand that these phrases apply just as easily to the idea of a local church as they do to a universal church.

Most, if not all, of the first-century churches had both Jews and Gentiles in their membership. If you remember how Paul started churches by first going to the synagogue of the Jews, you will understand why this was almost always the case.

The mystery Paul is talking about here is that Jews and Gentiles would be joined together in one body. The very thought of this in the first century would shock either Jew or Gentile. The mystery that is spoken of in this passage is that in Christ all are one. It is not the mystery of some new kind of “ecclesia” that is never explained in Scripture.

In the Old Testament God worked through the nation of Israel which formed an assembly which moved as a unit and often met together as a unit. It is called “the church in the wilderness” in Acts 7:38. Although it had God as its ultimate head, as a church has Christ, it had an earthly leader, Moses, just as a church has an earthly leader, the pastor. It had requirements for membership. It was exclusionary: you had to be a Jew or a convert to Judaism. The only members were those who were alive at any given time. It did not include dead or yet unborn Jews.

It was through this local group that God worked in the Old Testament. In the New Testament God works through the local church. The supposed universal church cannot carry out the work of God on earth because it has no substance. The purpose (intent) of the church is to make known “the manifold wisdom of God.” How does it do this if it cannot be seen because it is invisible? How does it do this if it has many branches that disagree with one another? Would not this confusion show a lack of wisdom on the part of God?

For the true church to make known the wisdom of God it must, first of all, be in agreement concerning God’s precepts. In the supposed universal church we have Catholics that teach that we are saved by grace, through faith, plus sacraments, plus works. We also have the various reformed churches teach man has no choice in his salvation, but that God has predetermined who will be saved. Then there are the denominations which teach you are saved by grace, through faith, but that you are kept by works, making your ultimate salvation based on your works. There are also churches which teach that one is saved by grace, through faith, without any kind of works for salvation or for keeping their salvation. This leads to confusion, not unity. How could this be the “true church?”

You will only learn of God’s manifold wisdom in local churches where there is agreement in doctrine and practice. To have the unity needed to make known God’s manifold wisdom there must be a faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture.

God’s work has always been done through something local. During the patriarchal period, it was the family. During the time of Israel, it was a nation. During the church age, it is the local New Testament church.

I realize that I have digressed a bit in this section, but the bottom line is that Paul can only be talking about a local church in this passage. He is specifically speaking of the church at Ephesus, but the truths spoken of here apply to any local church of any age. They cannot apply to a supposed universal church.

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The Church – Part 6

SCOFIELD’S PROOF TEXTS – Part 3

II CORINTHIANS 11:2-3

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

It is really difficult to understand how anyone could see any reference to the universal church in this passage. Paul is still talking to a local church. Again, he excludes himself by using the word “you” instead of “us.”

Paul’s talking about having “espoused you to one husband” and that he desires to present them as a “chaste virgin” implies that he is talking about the Bride of Christ. The use of the word “you” instead of “us” would eliminate Paul from the bride unless he was talking about the members of the church at Corinth making up part of the bride. It would be Paul’s desire also that the members of his home church, the church at Antioch, also be espoused to one husband and be a chaste virgin and make up another part of the bride.

In Verse 1, Paul asks the church at Corinth to bear with his folly. He is saying that his concern (jealousy) for them may seem foolish, but he asks them to bear him out, or listen to what he has to say. Paul had probably won many of the members of this church to the Lord and he was certainly responsible for the existence of this church. He had a purpose in starting this church. It was to be a pure church and that, at Christ’s return, its members would be prepared to make up part of His bride.

Verses 3 and 4 express the fear that Paul had. He feared that this church might turn from the simplicity of Christ and the Gospel to another Jesus, another spirit, or another gospel. Remember that he wrote his first epistle to this church to deal with serious problems within this church which, if not corrected, would have led to just such things.

We must also understand that it is not Paul who espouses the Bride to Christ. Whatever may be meant by the phrases “espoused you to one husband” and “chaste virgin”, one thing is sure. They refer to a local church, the church of God which is at Corinth (I Corinthians 1:2 and II Corinthians 1:1), not to a universal church.

Again, there is no reason to make this passage refer to anything but a local church unless it is read with prejudice. Remember, there must be something in the context that obligates the word church meaning other than local before universal definition can be ascribed.

EPHESIANS 1:22-23

And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.

It may seem redundant to keep saying that the word church is sometimes used in the institutional sense, but most of the passages used to support the universal church doctrine fit well with the doctrine of the local church if this is kept in mind. To continue in my redundancy, there must be something in the context that requires changing the word ecclesia from local to universal. It is not enough to simply permit this change in meaning.

We have already seen that an ecclesia and a body both mean a local group of individual parts joined together in a manner to function together as a unit. All the descriptions of both in Scripture clearly show this. The church meets together (Matthew 18, Acts 1 and 2, etc.); it functions as a unit (I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, etc.). They are bound together as a functioning unit (Ephesians 2, I Peter 2, etc.). A body doesn’t have an arm in Kansas, and a leg in New York and a house or building does not have a wall in Montana and a roof in Florida.

This passage, like others we have looked at, is written to a local church and must be interpreted in that context. While the church epistles are for all of us, we must look at them as written to a church and not to individuals.

Notice that this passage says that all things are under Christ’s feet and that He is given to be head over all things to the church. If all things are under His feet and He is head of all things to the church, is He a contortionist? As the head of each church, all things are under His authority (under His feet) and He is to be consulted in all things as the head of each church.

I have already dealt with the phrase “body of Christ” but for the sake of clarity let us look at it again. The “body of Christ” is not His physical body in the same sense as your body is you. Each church is His body in the sense that it belongs to Him as His possession. As the owner of each church, He has the right to deal with each church as He sees fit. Read Revelation Chapters Two and Three to see this principle in action.

If we keep proper principles of interpretation in mind, we have no problem understanding this passage in the light of local church doctrine. The scriptural principles describing a particular church are true of all churches. If Jesus was the head of the body He owned in Ephesus in the first century, He is also the head of the church where I am presently a member in the twenty-first century.

People only see the universal church in these verses because this is what they have been taught. It is found in the notes of most study Bibles so people assume this concept is true without further investigation. Surely Scofield, Ryrie, John MacArthur, and many others couldn’t be wrong, could they? Remember, the Christians of Berea were more noble because they compared what they were taught by the Apostle Paul with the Scriptures to ensure that what he taught was true to the Word of God.

Since the Bible is its own best interpreter, why don’t we let the Bible tell us what is meant by the word “body”?

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 fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:12-16

The body is something that is “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.” its purpose is that “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 fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”

The universal church is not fitly joined together and it does not effectually work together. It is certain that there is now no universal agreement in doctrine, or in the understanding of Christ. The supposed universal church is “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”

Everything the Scriptures command the church to do can only be done by a local church. Every description in Scripture of a church or a body describes a local church or body. This is the kind of church over which Christ has designated Himself to be the Head.

The final phrase of this passage says, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Many use this phrase to force the universal church doctrine into this passage. Again, let the Bible tells us what it means. In Ephesians 3:19 we have the explanation, which says:

And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

This is part of Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus, a local church. The prayer is that the members of this church (ye) be filled with “all the fulness of God.”

There is nothing in Ephesians 1:22-23 that obligates the teaching of a universal church. There is nothing in this passage that does not fit the doctrine of a local church. We still have no reason to believe that the word church is anything but what the Greek word ecclesia means it to be, a local assembly.

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Soulwinning – Part 7

Some compromise in order to grow

Because of the difficulties of reaching the lost, too many churches are becoming “progressive.” They do so because they can attract more people. If you attract people to your church with the methods of the world, you can expect to get worldly people. Here are some areas of compromise used to draw people into churches;

All positive messages

They say we need to preach an all positive message so we don’t offend anyone. One of the leaders on the subject of keeping everything positive was Dr. Lee Roberson, the founder of Tennessee Temple. I do not want to take away from the greatness of this man, but he was one of the leaders in the all positive preaching movement. Here is what he had to say on the issue:

“I kept my mind and ministry settled — winning people to Christ, getting people to grow in grace,.. Stay out of controversy in the pulpit–stay out of it and stay on the main line. I think that helped me a lot. I tried to avoid personalities and stay on the main line: preaching the gospel, emphasis on winning people to Christ, emphasis on developing the spiritual life, dying to self, the fullness of the Spirit, the second coming–kept on the positive side, kept negatives away from the people.”

This may sound good on the surface, but it is not the scriptural pattern preachers are to follow. If you study God’s preachers in the Bible, you will find they most always started by being negative. The warning came first, then the positive solution.

If you want to see the long term result of the positive only message, just look at what has happened to Highland Park Baptist Church since Dr. Roberson’s death. It has gone totally new evangelical and progressive. It is but a shell of the great church it once was.

Attracting people with CCM

Music is an important part of our worship, but it is the foolishness of preaching that is the power of God unto salvation.

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 Corinthians 1:21)

There are three purposes for music in our worship. The most important is to glorify God and sing praises to Him. Music also encourages the hearts of the children of God. Thirdly, it prepares the hearts for the preaching of God’s Word.

Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is designed to work on the emotions and fleshly instincts of the listener. It is also designed to glorify the performer. I said performer, and not singer, because it is a performance designed to lift up the performer.

The stated goal of many CCM artists is to break down the separation between various denominations. They don’t understand the differences are doctrinal, and these barriers should never be broken down. The problem is that many Baptist churches today are allowing the barriers of separation to be broken down.

Compromising on church ordinances

As Baptists, we believe there are two ordinances given by the Lord to each of His churches. They are baptism and the Lord’s Supper or Table. Neither one of them adds anything to our spirituality or to our salvation. There are completely symbolic.

Baptism is symbolic of our salvation. It pictures our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It tells the world that we now belong to Him. There was a time when no true Baptist would accept anything but Baptist baptism. The reason for this was that in addition to identifying us with our Lord, it also identifies us with the doctrine of that baptizing authority. Anything else was called alien baptism, and was rejected.

The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance that was given as a memorial of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. It is to be a time of self-examination. In Scripture, it is only partaken of in the context of, and under the authority of, a local church. There is no example of any outsider being asked to partake with that church. The fact that it requires self-examination implies that another purpose for this ordinance is for the purity of the church. Paul’s instruction to the church at Corinth seem to indicate that the church must have authority over those who partake, and no church has authority over anyone but its own members.

The meager results of our evangelistic efforts are cause by our compromise. We have compromised the message, the purpose, the meaning of words, and God’s principles. To solve the problems with our evangelism, we must go back to God’s word and find out where we have gone astray. As I often say, we need to get our theology from the Bible, and not from theology books and commentaries.

To be continued…