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What Is Your Final Authority?

As we live our lives we all have a final authority for the way we live them. For some the final authority is themselves. For some it is their church or religion. For some it is someone who is highly respected. For the true New Testament Baptist it is the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. What we choose to make our authority determines the way we live our lives.

Even though many Christians give lip service to the Bible being their final authority, few make it so. There may be a variety of reasons for this. I recently spoke to a person that said they trust their Sunday school teacher and pastor for understanding the Scriptures because she had not been taught how to study the Word of God for herself. This makes the Sunday school teacher and the pastor her final authority.

How can the Scriptures be one’s final authority if they are not understood. Christians must be taught how to study God’s Word so they understand it themselves. This is the only way they can truly hide God’s Word in their hearts.

One of the main reasons there are so many who depend on their pastor or Sunday school teacher for understanding is because too many of the teachers say things like, “in the Greek this really means…” How many ordinary Christians have the ability to read and understand the Greek? How many teachers who say this kind of thing can read and understand the Greek? I can tell you from experience that very few of either have the knowledge necessary to say how the Greek should be translated. This is why God has given us His Word in our own language.

I do know that it would be very difficult to bring together a group of more that fifty scholars today who could match the qualifications of those who translated the King James Bible. Many of the KJV translators could read and write elegant Greek and Hebrew by the time they were eight to ten years old. They also knew the sister languages which helps in the understanding of the words used. The fact that I speak French helps clarify the meaning of English words that have Latin or French origins.

Another reason that many who claim the Bible as their authority don’t really make it their authority is that they have not read it for themselves. They have depended upon what others have told them it says. What people say the Bible says is not always what it says.

Just reading the Bible is not enough. For example, many say that Revelation 1:3, promises a blessing for just reading the Word of God. But what does this verse actually say? It says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”

You will notice that the promise of blessing is not just for reading. The blessing requires three things. It must be read to find out what it says. It must be heard or understood. It must be kept or put into practice. All three are necessary for blessings to come. The blessings come from the keeping more than from the reading.

A third reason that many don’t make the Bible their final authority is that when the Scripture does not say what they want it to say, they will try to find a way to say that it does not mean what it says. One of the main examples I see among Bible believing Baptists relates to what is said in Titus Chapter two concerning women being “keepers at home.” I have heard good men change this to say “keepers of the home.” That is not what it says, nor is it what it means. Without getting into a long dissertation on this just let me say that it means just what it says. If you want the full implication, it means to be physically present to guard the home. One lexicon actually uses the example of a guard dog. The dog cannot guard my home if he is always gone to guard the home of someone else.

The following three passages of Scripture tell us why the Word of God should always be our final authority.

Proverbs 21:30 says “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.”

No one has more or better wisdom than God. No one has better understanding of creation and what is best. No one’s counsel can stand before Him. God is always right and anyone that disagrees with Him is always wrong.

Jeremiah 10:23 “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

This tells us that we are not able to direct our own steps. We need God’s word to guide us through the snares of this life. Satan is subtle and has thousands of years experience to use in deceiving us. Who do we think we are? We need God’s word to guide us.

In Psalms 37:23 we are told, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” A good man is a man who seeks God’s counsel in all things. His steps are ordered by the Lord.

There are two ways the phrase “he delighteth in his way” can be understood. It could mean that the good man delights in his way when he allows his steps to be ordered of God. It could also mean that God delights in the way of a good man who allows his steps to be guided by the Lord. It depends on the antecedent of the pronoun “he.” Either way, it is a good thing to have one’s steps ordered by the Lord.

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America Needs Baptists

A Prepared People

Not every people is suited for freedom. If there is not some control over the  passions of men, freedom gives license, and people do that which is right in their own eyes. Listen to what God has to say about man’s heart:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

There are no exceptions:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12)

When Adam fell, man’s nature was changed and frozen. Each and every human being is a sinner both by nature and by choice. There is nothing in the law that can fix this problem. All the law can do is tell us whether or not we have broken it.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

Since we have all broken God’s law, the law has no choice but to condemn us as sinners. Romans 6:23 tells us what the penalty for sin is:

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a)

This is talking about spiritual death. Everyone of us is born spiritually dead, and if the situation is not corrected, we will all die the second death, which is an eternity in the Lake of Fire.

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)

History has shown that sinful people will do wicked things. It happened in Israel of old, it is seen in the pagan nations, and America has proven to be no exception. As soon as the knowledge of God is rejected, people do the most wicked things. Romans Chapter 1 describes this in detail:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:18-32)

I don’t want to take the time to get into everything in this passage so I will let it speak for itself. What I do want you to notice in particular is that they did not want the knowledge of God, and they refused to glorify Him as God, making Him like their idols and like animals. If this doesn’t sound like modern America, I don’t know what does. Once this state of mind is reached, God gives them over to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind cannot reason correctly, and cannot come to proper judgment of things. As a result, things just get worse and worse.

The Fear of God

Something is missing in modern America, and in the world as a whole. The Bible tells us what it is:

There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:18)

We might expect this to be true for those who do not know God, that is, those we call the lost. The problem is, this is also true for most of those who claim to be Bible Believing Christians.

Here are some verses that tell us what the fear of the Lord is:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)

The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. (Proverbs 15:33)

There are other verses that I could include, but these four make some very important statements. The first tells us where knowledge starts. When we fear God, we seek to know about Him and what He expects of us.

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. Knowledge must come first, but once a person has the knowledge of God’s precepts and the penalty for breaking them, the fear of the Lord will cause him to use what he knows wisely.

The knowledge of the precepts of God, and the knowledge of how God blesses those who follow His precepts causes those who fear the Lord to hate all that is evil. He understands that God’s precepts are good, and violating them only brings pain.

Finally, the fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom. This really completes the circle. We start with knowledge, which leads us to wisely using that knowledge for the good of ourselves and others. From there, we hate all that brings pain upon ourselves and others, we hate evil. As we apply God’s precepts, wisdom causes us to study to learn more about what God expects, which leads to more knowledge, more wisdom, more hatred of evil, and a search for more knowledge of God.

Those who fear God will not live according to what is seen in Romans Chapter 1. When we live by God’s precepts, God becomes the God of our nation, and this brings His blessings.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalms 33:12)

If we want to keep our freedoms and our way of life, we need to get back to having a proper fear of God. This kind of fear restrains us from doing the evil things that freedom makes possible.

An Understanding of God’s Precepts

To have a proper fear of God, one must first understand God’s precepts. What is it that He expects of us? To understand the things of God, one must be a truly saved person.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The Gospel would have been lost had it not been for the Cathares/Baptists through the centuries. They were used of God to keep the Word of God pure. Without the Word of God, no one can be saved.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

From the time of the “Christianization” of Rome until the thirteenth century, most people did not have the Word of God in their native language, it was either in Greek or Latin. This changed starting in the fourteenth century and continued through the seventeenth century. It was during this time that the Scriptures were translated into the language of the people. It started with John Wycliffe, and ended with the translation of the King James Bible in 1611.

The availability of the Word of God for the common man made it possible for the man in the pew to know and understand God’s precepts. Understanding God’s precepts increased the fear of God in their hearts. It resulted in more true conversions to Christ instead of conversion to religion. Under the old system where only the elite and the priests, could read the Bible, there was a fear of the state church, but no fear of God.

As the people learned what God said, they became more restrained in their conduct. They knew that violating the precepts of God brought more than just temporal punishment. They started to understand the consequences of their sin, and used restraint to avoid those consequences. This was a necessary step in the preparation of a people for freedom.

In America we are starting to see our freedoms eroded because there are too many Americans who have departed from God’s precepts. They are doing things that cause harm to society. This is forcing the government to enact laws to restrict this kind of behavior. As the government passes these laws, we lose more and more freedom.

Baptist Influence Made Freedom Possible

We have seen that the Cathar people were pure people, people who lived holy lives. We have also seen that the Cathar people are the true Baptist people of our day.

There are some things that the Baptists did that led to America. To begin with, there would have been no reformation had the Baptists not insisted on keeping the Holy Scriptures pure.

John Wycliffe has been called the “morning star” of the Reformation. This is because of his insistence on giving the people the Word of God in their own language. It is his influence that caused the reformers to start studying the Scriptures. John Wycliffe was a Lollard, and the Lollards held to the same doctrine as the Cathares, they were Baptists.

The Reformation was a reformation of the Catholic Church. While it did change some things, it was not a complete departure from the doctrine held by Rome. They held to baptismal regeneration, the necessity of “baptizing” infants, sprinkling or pouring instead of immersion, and the union between church and state. They persecuted and killed Baptists for their beliefs.

In spite of the persecution, the Reformation did allow Baptists to gain some notoriety among the people. This happened because the people could now read the Bible. When they did, they learned that the Baptists were right. This made persecution by the state church much more difficult.

Another thing that having the Bible in your native language accomplished was the exposure of the corruption in the state churches. There was a movement within the Church of England that was called puritanism. As they tried to purify the Church of England, they found themselves being persecuted just like the Baptists.

The timing of all this had to come from God. The American colonies were just starting to be established. The persecuted Christians started moving to the colonies where they could have religious freedom. However, they only wanted religious freedom for themselves. They, in turn, persecuted those who differed from them, especially Baptists and Quakers.

Each colony had its state church, and oppressed all who were not part of it. Being a citizen of the colony was equated with being a member of the state church.

Under these conditions Baptists were able to flourish on the outskirts. As they grew in numbers, they became a force to be reckoned with. Thomas Jefferson got his ideas on government from the Baptist, and enshrined them in the Declaration of Independence. James Madison put Baptist principles in the Constitution through the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

It was only because of the influence of Baptists, and their principles of freedom, that we gained freedom in America. Let us never forget these facts, and let us pass them on to our children.

Tomorrow we will look at how we, as Baptists are losing our heritage, which has resulted in the loss of  our influence on our nation. The only hope for America is that Baptists return to what they were in ages past.

We Are Losing Our Heritage

We have learned that Baptists have a glorious history and heritage. It is the Baptists, by whatever name they have been called in any particular place at any particular time, that have kept the doctrines of Scripture pure through the ages.

This glorious heritage is being lost today. If our preachers and our schools don’t get back to teaching who we are, and where we came from, all that is Baptist, and all the benefits that come from our principles, will soon be lost.

It Cost Us Our Influence

The loss of our heritage has already cost us our influence in the world. It will end up destroying us as a people. God put it this way through the Prophet Hosea:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. (Hosea 4:6)

When we stop teaching who we are, the first generation doesn’t suffer too much loss because they know the truth. It is their children and grandchildren who suffer. We started loosing our heritage when Whitsittism took hold in the Southern Baptist Convention. Today many Baptists think they are the fruit of the Reformation, and that they are just another Protestant group.

As a result of our lost heritage, we are no longer a distinctive people. We have nothing to offer that the others don’t also offer. Our churches have become entertainment centers, just like the others. They don’t stand on Bible doctrine, just like the others.

There is no longer anything in the lives of most who call themselves Baptists to show there is something different. As a result, we have lost our influence.

We Need To Get It Back

America has forgotten that it was built on Christian principles. Most of America may never have known that those Christian values were actually Cathar/Baptist principles. The sad thing is that most Baptists are also ignorant of this truth. We have allowed ourselves to be divorced from our heritage, and we have let our nation down in doing so.

I want you to pay close attention to the following four verses from Matthew Chapter 5:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

As Christians, we are the salt of the earth. It doesn’t say we should be, it says we are. Salt accomplishes several things. First of all, salt adds to, or brings out flavor. This place called earth, that God created to be our home, is a wonderful place when God’s righteousness rules. It is a very difficult place to live when unrighteousness rules. When Christians flavor human society with righteousness, it shames the unsaved into living by righteous principles also. This gives life a much better flavor.

Salt also preserves. When a people live by the righteous principles of God, their society is preserved. God does not have to bring judgment, and His blessings can flow. When Christians cease being an influence for righteousness, God removes His blessing, and brings judgment. The judgment of God is upon America today, and only Christians returning to the righteous precepts of Scripture can turn away this judgment.

Salt purifies and heals. In the process of purifying and healing, salt stings. The purifying and healing process is painful because the bad things must be removed, and they don’t want to let go. If we want our nation healed, we must not be afraid of the pain that it will cause. People’s feelings will be hurt. People will get angry and try to remove us, just like a person will try and wash salt out of a wound because of the pain.

Salt that doesn’t do these things is useless. Christianity that doesn’t flavor, purify, and heal society is also without value to society. There was a time when Christians were looked up to and respected in America. Today Christians are looked down upon and seen as a problem in society. The reason is, we have lost our savor. It is time to get it back.

Likewise, we are the light of the world. Again, it is not that we should be, it is that we are. Light illuminates, it allows people to see. Christians should live lives that cause God to be glorified. Our works should be such that God receives glory from the lost world.

Light exposes error and reveals truth. Modern Christianity, including most who call themselves Baptists, has blended itself with the world. Today many churches have their flashing lights that look just like the lost world’s lights. Instead of exposing error and revealing truth, the light of most who profess to be Christians actually blinds the world to error and truth.

The Bible is very clear that, as the redeemed of God, we are to be different. There should be something that is visible showing that we are the children of God.

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:14)

Jesus gave Himself to redeem us for a purpose. The word “purify” in this passage has the Greek word “katharos” as its root. We are to be Cathares, or pure people. The word “peculiar” means different, not like others. We are to be a people that is zealous of good works. Too many want to divorce the Christian life from following the clear precepts of the Word of God.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)

There is a reason we are to be different. God has chosen us to be His representatives on this earth. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, and a peculiar people for the purpose of showing forth the praises of God. He has called us out of darkness into the light. That light should shine forth from every part of our lives.

The only hope for America is that we get back to our roots. We must regain our saltiness and clean the soot off our chimneys. It will cost us something to do this, just as it cost our Cathar ancestors. Through their line, God prepared a people for freedom. This free people changed the world. At no time since the first century, when they turned the world upside down, has a people had such an influence for God. Sadly, our lack of doctrinal purity, and our lack of purity of life, is allowing the forces of evil to increase. The result is a world that now mocks and laughs at us. It is time for a change.

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What Protestants Think About Baptists

Click on the image above to read, right click to download

This book published by the Presbyterian “Geneva Divinity School” will tell you what the Protestants think about our freedoms in America, and about the Baptist people who brought them to us. I highly suggest you read 

Here are some quotes from Protestant leaders concerning Baptists:

Perhaps another observation can be made, to illustrate the differences between Reformed and Baptistic thinking. That is the matter of human rights. Is the catholic and Reformed faith opposed to human rights? Yes, very much so.
                                                                                                                                               James B. Jordan

 Baptist history, theology and sociology must be presented. Its underlying presuppositions are devastating to civilization. 
                                                                                                                                                 Ray Sutton

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Seek Ye First

Seek Ye First The Kingdom of God

This morning I want to look at my life’s verse because it describes something that seems to be missing in modern Christianity. This verse has been my guide for more than 4 decades, and has proven itself to be true.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

This passage of Scripture gives us the secret to a successful and fruitful life. Let’s take a close look and see what it says, and how we can live a life that is pleasing to God.

Seek ye first

The word “seek” means to search, quest after, or to look for. In implies making a concentrated effort to find something. It is how parents respond when one of their children is lost. They not only expend their energy to seek the child, they also enlist the help of others. The longer the child is missing, the more intense the seeking.

As we go through our lives, it behooves us to seek to put the things of God first. That is really what the first and greatest commandment is all about.

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28-31)

If we seek to follow these two commandments, the rest of the law of God falls into place. Not only this, but we have God’s promise that we shall have everything we need in this life, but not necessarily everything we want.

There are many distractions in this life, put there by Satan, to keep us from finding the way of life.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

The wide gate is the gate of religion. It is wide and beautiful. It is a gate that attracts those seeking the pleasures of this life. Look at the pomp and ceremony of most pagan religions, including Catholicism. It is beautiful to behold. Many, I suppose we could even say most, enter in through this gate because it is so attractive. The problem is, it leads to destruction, and this destruction is eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire.

The gate that leads to life is not as attractive as the wide gate. It is narrow, and you can’t take your baggage (sin) with you. You can’t go in two by two. It is there for all, but most people are attracted by the beauty of the wide gate. The thing that saddens me the most is, there are few that find the narrow gate that leads to life. It must be sought for. God brings situations into the lives of everyone to get them to search for the right gate, but most prefer the easy way of the wide gate.

We are to put finding the right gate first in our lives. If we don’t, Satan will draw us toward his wide gate of destruction.

The kingdom of God

Since the first thing we are to seek is the Kingdom of God, we should know what to look for. Most people today are looking for something that gives them an emotional high. They want something that makes them feel good and gets them emotionally excited.

As much as I hate to say this, most things we call “revivals” are geared to doing the same thing. They are not really revivals, they are pep rallies. True revivals will cause people to fall on their faces before a holy God and bemoan their sinfulness.

Forgive me that short parentheses. Now let’s get back on track. What is the Kingdom of God?

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)

It is not the external things like food and drink. It is not some big party. It starts with righteousness, which we will look at in a moment.

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

Those who seek the Kingdom of God find peace with God. Once they have this peace with God, they can have the peace of God in any circumstance. When things are going well we have a kind of peace that can be mistaken for the peace of God. It is in times of trial that we really find the peace of God. It is that peace that comes from knowing that God is in control, and that He will not let anything come into our lives that does not work for good.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Over the years, this verse has brought me much comfort and peace during times of difficulty.

When we seek the Kingdom of God, we also have joy in the Holy Ghost. Happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness only comes when things are going well. Joy is something we can have, even when things are not going well. This joy is based upon the Holy Spirit reminding us who is in charge, and of His loving care for His children.

You can see from this that the Kingdom of God is something well worth seeking after.

His righteousness

While we are seeking the Kingdom of God, we are also to seek His righteousness. This entails two things. First of all, we need to remember that our own righteousness is not worth very much in God’s eyes. Here is what He thinks about it:

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

All the righteous things we do in ourselves are no better than filthy rags. The reason is, they are tainted with our sin, and are based upon a faulty standard. The only true righteousness we have is that which is imputed to us when we are in Christ. We are only in Christ when we have been born again.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

We can’t even see the Kingdom of God without the new birth.

Righteousness is simply doing that which is right. The issue is determining what standard is the authority for what is right. Here are a few possible standards:

  • The individual’s opinion,

  • Our peers,

  • Religious leaders,

  • Religious writings.

There may be others, but this is enough for my purposes here.

The question is, how do we determine which of these, if any, are the real standard by which we will be judged when we stand before God?

It is not as difficult as it sounds. The first three are not a good standard because they are all subjective. They depend on the opinions of fallible men. One man’s opinion is just as good as that of another man.

Religious writings are a bit more difficult because most of them claim to come from God. We must determine which of these religious writings bear the marks of God. If God is really God, He doesn’t make mistakes. The first thing to do is look for mistakes it the words that claim to come from God. Historical mistakes are easy to find in all religious writings except the Bible. If you look carefully, you will find contradictions in all religious writings except the Bible. Many have tried to find mistakes and contradictions in the Bible, but when all the facts were in, no one has succeeded.

Bible out shines all other religious works is in prophecy. I don’t have time to go over the accuracy of Bible prophecy. It is sufficient to know that most religious writings shy away from prophecy because their authors were not God. Those that do have prophecy are either too vague to check if their prophecies are accurate, or if they really to come to pass as predicted.

The only reliable standard for right and wrong, the only standard that does not evolve with societal opinions, is the Bible. Therefore, the only reliable standard for what is right and what is wrong is the Bible. All other religious writing have errors and could not come from God. God is the Creator, and He sets the standards by which He will judge when judgment time comes.

Once a person is saved, he is expected to live according to the righteous precepts of God.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

Sin is the transgression of God’s precepts.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4)

One day we will all answer to God for how we followed the righteous precepts of God’s law.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)

This is just as true for the saved as for the lost. The saved will answer for their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ and the lost at the Great White Through Judgment.

Are you ready to stand before God at the Judgment Bar?

These things shall be added unto you

When we first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we are promised that all of “these things” will be added unto us. What are “these things?”

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (Matthew 6:31-32)

This passage tells us that food, drink, and clothing, which are necessary for life in this world, will be given to us. There is no promise that we will not have bad thing happen in our lives. Actually, the Bible teaches just the opposite.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Living a godly life in Christ Jesus will bring problems. These problems, however, are only temporary, they will end when we join Christ in Heaven.

What is the worst thing this world can do to us? It can kill us, and that sounds pretty bad on the surface, but, is it? What happens when a true Christian dies?

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Death takes the Christian out of this evil world, and into the presence of our Lord. What could be better.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

And if that isn’t enough, listen to this next verse:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (2 Corinthians 4:17)

We need to wrap our minds around the fact that our life on earth is but temporary. There is more to follow. For the lost, it is eternal suffering in the Lake of Fire.

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

For the saved, it eternal life in the presence of our God.

Practical Issues

There are some very practical things we should learn from what we have seen so far. First of all, we need to examine ourselves to be sure we are in the faith.

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

There are many religious people who have never come to Christ on His terms. They believe in Him intellectually, but have not truly trusted in Him for salvation. They are still trusting in their own goodness, or in some rituals like baptism, for their salvation. After all, they are good people, and the did “pray the prayer.” The Bible says there are none good but God, and where in the Bible do you find that a prayer saves anyone? Isn’t prayer something you do? Doesn’t that make it a work? Are we saved by believing, or by working?

It is not wrong to pray when one gets saved, but it is not the praying that saves, it is the believing behind the prayer that saves.

Once we are saved, we are to live according to God’s precepts. Jesus said that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Every means every. We don’t have the right to pick and choose which words we obey. It is wrong (sin) to say that this or that passage was for a different time unless the Bible says it was.

The ceremonial law was given to the Jews to point them to the coming Messiah. They have been done away with. The law that says to remember the sabbath and keep it holy has not. This does not mean remember Saturday, it means remember the special day that is set aside to rest from work and to worship God. For the Jews, that was Saturday, for the New Testament believers, it was the first day of the week, or Sunday.

How many times have you heard someone say that all the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament, except the keeping of the sabbath? Well, is that true? No, it is not! Listen to this next verse.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)

Not only are we to keep that day of assembling together to worship God, we are to do it more and more as the end approaches.

There are many other things I could mention where we tend to ignore what God says in His Word, but I am going to have to stop here for today.

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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.