THE THIRD WITNESS
THE TESTIMONY OF THE SCRIPTURES
Christ's Church Revealed In The Scriptures
Writing concerning the Lord's Churches, Jarrell Huffman, pastor to the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church of Duncan, OK, wrote:
"This subject church truth must be reckoned with; it cannot be dismissed by subtle attacks on "Landmarkism," examining the works of the Puritans, or checking all of the lexicographers to see what they say or think. History is fine, but it gives only a secondary source of proof on any doctrine. First and foremost is the Word of God, the standard of faith and practice for the churches of the living God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:19-21). 1 Brackets mine: C.A.P.
"To the law and to the testimony," then. If what Baptists and their enemies have said about them be not warranted by Holy Writ, cast aside the opinions of men and cling to the truth of the Bible. If, however, the Bible does indeed teach the perpetuity of the Lord's churches, let us look around for churches which are (1) like unto the ones described in the New Testament and which have (2) a continual existence from that time. When we find churches meeting these two qualifications, then we shall have found the true churches of Christ!
Since all the Protestants, cults, interdenominationalist groups, etc., etc., are but of yesterday as to their origin, the only possible contenders for meeting the two aforementioned criteria are (1) the Catholics and (2) the Baptists. While the Catholics are seen to be almost as old as the Baptists, they have deviated from the principles of Bible Christianity so far as to be unrecognizable as New Testament churches. Catholicism fails in longevity and in kind: they are, in fact, apostate Baptists whose beginning is hundreds of years this side the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.
There are, however, among the people called Baptists, churches whose ordinances, officers, doctrines and practices are patterned after the teaching and example of the New Testament. Thus one of the criteria for qualifying as Christ's church is met. The basic doctrine of these churches requires that they were organized as churches by men having previous church connection, i.e. Scriptural baptism, as well as ordination and good standing with a previously existing church of like faith and practice.
Baptist churches which have consistently held strictly to these principles can be assured that they are successors to the first church by virtue of the very nature of the polity they espouse. The proof is this: no sound Baptists would approve of unbaptized persons forming themselves into a church and "baptizing" each other. Neither would they think to organize a new church without previous church connection. This church connection between previously existing churches and newly constituted ones is seen clearly throughout the book of Acts and is often referred to as "church authority" among sound Baptists. This is historic Baptist polity derived from the New Testament and has characterized sound churches down through the centuries whatever they may have been nicknamed. It is this historic polity that produces churches with a valid succession back to the Jerusalem church that Jesus founded.
Upon the solid rock of Scripture do we rest our case. While we have called as witnesses the voices of several outstanding Baptists and have presented the testimony of non-Baptists, neither our faith or practice rest upon the testimony of men. Regardless of the testimony of history, we would not dare ground our doctrine and polity upon it. If, however, the Scriptures teach a thing to be true and right we propose to believe it, advocate it and practice it though it cost us our very lives. We have no choice but to obey the Word of God and thus "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered..." (Jude verse 3).
Some questions for your reflection as you read this chapter are these: Did Christ organize His church or did someone else effect what He could not? Did Christ assign authority to conduct His work to anyone in particular? Was He specific in giving this authority? Did He give specific commands? Did He give such commands to specific persons? If so, in what capacity were these persons commissioned? Did Christ make any promises that require the perpetual succession of His churches? Did the teaching of Christ indicate or require that there be a succession of New Testament churches? Was church succession taught and/or assumed by the apostles? Was the practice of the apostles consistent with or contrary to the historic Baptist view? If the New Testament kind of churches did cease to exist, could they be "restarted" by some kind of "reformation?" Can baptism, if lost, be instituted again? If so, by whom? What qualifications, according to the pattern of Scripture, would be required of the one re-establishing the Lord's church and valid baptism? While it is not our plan to specifically answer every one of these questions, after reading this book you should be well on the way to resolving these questions for yourself.
That the Scriptures are meant to be the rule and guide of our faith (doctrine) and practice (conduct) is evident. While some may be satisfied to give lip service to this idea, it is our firm conviction that we must actually and really follow the Bible! Isaiah 8:20 says, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
As in all matters of both faith (what we believe) AND practice (what we do), faithful Baptists require a "Thus saith the Lord!" This is one principle which sets genuine Baptists apart from others. Protestants may claim to base their doctrine on the New Testament, but obviously their practice has been derived from either Romish traditions, paganism or the teachings of some man.
Consider this concrete example of Protestant profession contradicted by Protestant practice. Most Protestant groups claim to believe in salvation by grace alone through faith, but by their practice they deny what they say they believe. They put water on an unbelieving baby and teach that such a "baptism" makes the babe a child of God.
Baptists believe the New Testament contains both the instructions and the patterns necessary to know the truth and to practice it in a manner well-pleasing to God. Sound Baptists demand that their church practice be consistent with Bible truth.
The church of Christ in Thessalonica was commended for their faithfulness in following both the apostolic party AND the churches in Judea. The word "followers" is a translation of the Greek "mimetes" from whence comes our word 'mimic.' Notice the words as follows:
"And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord..." (1 Thess. 1:6).
"For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus..." (1 Thess. 2:14).
New Testament Baptist churches "mimic" the first church and others like it. They insist on not only believing the same doctrines but also following the godly pattern set before us by those churches. This belief that the New Testament is not only the guide for our faith, but also the pattern for our practice is a second principle which sets genuine Baptists apart from others.
We have no right to interject our own ideas, beliefs, practices or traditions into the worship and service of God. To do so nullifies God's Word, for after all, He has revealed in the Bible everything He wants us to know about spiritual things. The following verses clearly instruct us as to our obligation to be subject to the Bible in all things. Consider these warnings:
(Mark 7:13) "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye."
(Deut 4:2) "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."
(Deut 12:32) "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it."
(Rev 22:18) "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book."
It is devastatingly serious to tamper with the Word of God either in theological matters or in the matter of observance, practice and celebration.
That many in the days of the apostles (and ours) have perverted God's truth is the cause of the divisions within "Christendom." Because of their strict views, Baptists are often charged with causing divisions among Christians. Mature consideration shows that in reality others are the guilty parties. Those who have separated from Baptist churches and founded new ones are in reality guilty of schism and sowing discord among brethren. It is those churches which left off being Baptist churches and merged into the Catholic system that are in actuality the schismatics. Protestants, unable to stomach Romish corruption, either left or were ejected from Catholicism. Their "reformation" was only partial. They failed to return to the Lord's churches and went about to establish their own. Thus they, and not Baptists, are guilty of divisiveness and schism.
Multitudes have not followed the plain teachings of the Bible and have left the Lord's churches to follow some human leader. Others either lacking knowledge or unconcerned with truth, have started their own "churches" without considering or understanding the New Testament doctrine and pattern of church truth. This was the case even in the days of Christ's apostles. Consider these verses:
(2 Cor. 2:17) "For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ."
(2 Cor. 4:2) "But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
(1 John 2:19) "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
Many churches of our own time have been started by persons unwilling to follow historic Biblical doctrine and practice. Some openly "corrupt the word of God" and are guilty of "handling the word of God deceitfully." Others "were not all of us" and therefore "they went out from us." This has been done for so long and by so many that few in today's religious world even consider that they have no right to found their own churches.
The Catholic churches, both Eastern and Latin, and all their Protestant "offspring" are the results of people apostatizing from Bible truth and leaving the Lord's churches. Without a doubt many in these societies are sincere, but sincerity is no measure of the truth! Some "churches" were formed or "deformed" by persons leaving off New Testament practices. Others were formed by those who came partially out from the errors of Rome. Whichever is the case, all the various non-Baptist societies now known as "churches" have their origin apart from the founding work of Christ.
Many of these churches have their own "popes" - either dead or living - who rule as lords over them. If you doubt that Protestants set up their own infallible "popes," consider the following information concerning one of the larger and more socially acceptable Protestant bodies, the Methodists.
"In the application of human wisdom to the organization of a religious society, John Wesley was, as commonly remarked, more like Ignatius Loyola the founder of the Jesuits than any other man; he conformed the organization of Methodism more to that of Romanism than that of any other Protestant body... By his famous "Deed of Declaration to the Legal Hundred," "the Magna Charta of Methodism" (made in 1784, when he was eighty-one years of age), bequeathing the property and government of all his chapels in the United Kingdom to a hundred of his travelling preachers and their successors, on condition that they should accept as their basis of doctrine his Notes on the New Testament and the four volumes of his sermons published in or before A.D. 1771, he surpassed even the worldly wisdom of Catholicism, and made himself not only the infallible, but the eternal pope of his society. So his Twenty-five Articles of Religion are declared, in the Methodist Book of Discipline, to be unalterable. This makes Wesley the last and greatest authoritative teacher of the human race, and places him above Christ and His Apostles, as we are required to look through the medium of Wesley at all the Divine teaching, and to accept forever his interpretation of the doctrine and precepts of the Bible. How can any of the dear children of God be willing thus to substitute the headship of a sinful and fallible mortal for the headship of Christ?" 2 Brackets mine: C.A.P.
Wesley was neither the first nor the last Protestant to be set up as the final authority on spiritual truth. This writer, before becoming a Baptist, was once a follower of "Dr." C.I. Scofield, a long dead "pope" to many. Scofield's Bible notes and writings are often good and helpful but are sometimes dangerous in their error as well! Often great and helpful Bible teachers have been nearly idolized by those who follow their teachings.
Hurtful error as well as soul-damning heresies arise in the depraved hearts and minds of men and women who do not know the Scriptures. Therefore our only safe guide is the Word of God. This is clearly seen in the following words of Christ.
(Matt 22:29) "Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God."
It is the Word of God, the Bible, that tells of God's provision of salvation and that same Word is to teach us correct doctrine and guide our lives.
(2 Tim 3:15, 16) "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
Let the Roman Catholic Church claim infallibility for her popes! Let the Protestants set themselves up infallible guides! Such a practice has no foundation in the teachings of the Bible!
Roman Catholic scholars do not view the Scriptures in the same light as Baptists. They believe the Bible, not because they see and understand it to be the revealed truth of God, but because the Roman Catholic Church tells them to believe it. If you doubt this, hear the words of the venerated "Saint" Augustine.
"I would not believe the New Testament if the Roman Catholic Church doctrine did not command me to." 3 Brackets mine: C.A.P..
This is the reason "Saint" Augustine could pick and choose among the teachings of the Bible. He could select what he wanted to believe and practice from the Old Testament as well as from the New. He claimed to believe that all men were sinners,
"...except the Holy Virgin Mary, whom I desire, for the sake of the honour of the Lord, to leave entirely out of the question when the talk is of sin." 4
And yet some speak of Mary-worshipping Augustine as if he were next to Paul in preaching the truth of God. In my opinion, Spurgeon fell into this error. Augustine's authority was not the Bible, but was rather the Romish church which told him to believe the Bible along with her traditions and papal pronouncements. What a sober warning this ought to be to those who profess to believe the Bible! Let us believe it all! Let us be in submission to its authority, for it is the Word of God. How dare we select from among its teachings that which we like and deny that which may go contrary to our preconceived ideas. How sad that many in our own day will not believe the truth about the Lord's churches because it runs contrary to their own ideas!
Let the Protestants glorify some great theologian or teacher and follow after him or her if they insist. When the blind lead the blind "both fall into the ditch" (Matt. 15:14). But let those folk who profess to believe the Bible prove their belief in it by their obedience to it!
Among those churches called Baptist are to be found people who have been brought by God Himself to stand upon the New Testament as their only rule of faith and practice. They see in it both precept and pattern for acceptable worship and service. We believe this is the only course well-pleasing to God, the Divine Author of the Bible. If we have no Bible for either our doctrine or our practice, abandon such things as innovations of depraved mankind. On the other hand, if the Bible teaches it, we who "tremble at His word" can do nothing more or less than believe and obey it!
Three questions, in the main, should be set forth at this juncture. They are as follows:
(1) Do the Scriptures teach that Christ built His church during His earthly ministry, or do they teach that the Holy Ghost built it on the Jewish festival of Pentecost?
(2) Do the Scriptures assume that this kind of church would persevere until the Lord returns for her, or are there Scriptures which say she would totally apostatize?
(3) Do the Scriptures teach adequately about this kind of church so as to enable us to identify these churches today?
Keep these questions in mind as you consider the following pertinent points.
Christ Founded His Church
That Christ's church was built (established) by Him during His earthly ministry is evident from the Scriptures. He asserted that He would build it:
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
Without going into great length, it should be observed here that Christ did not say He would build His church on Peter. The word for "Peter" is, according to Strong, "Petros (pet'-ros); apparently a primary word; a (piece of) rock as a name, Petrus, an apostle," 5 but the word for "rock" upon which the church is built is "petra (pet'-ra); feminine a (mass of) rock (literally or figuratively)." 6 This second word, "petra" signifies a massive bedrock as illustrated in the following verses:
Matt 7:24-25: "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock" (petra). "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock" (petra).
Matt 27:60: "And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: (petra) and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed."
Mark 15:46: "And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, (petra) and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre."
Luke 6:48: "He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock (petra): and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock" (petra).
Romans 9:33: "As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock (petra) of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
1 Cor 10:4: "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock (petra) that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."
1 Pet 2:8: "And a stone of stumbling, and a rock (petra) of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."
These verses demonstrate that Christ contrasted Peter (petros), a small stone, with a massive rock (petra). Doubtless our Lord pointed to Himself as the Rock on which He established His church. (Compare with Jesus' use of "temple" in John 2:19.) He is "a foundation stone," "the foundation," and the apostles' and prophets' "foundation" as indicated in the following verses:
Isaiah 28:16: "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste."
1 Cor 3:10-12: "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble..."
Eph 2:20: "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."
Jesus Christ did NOT build His church on Peter, in spite of the Romish claims that Peter was her first pope. In this connection there is absolutely no Scriptural confirmation that Peter was ever in Rome, let alone was the first pope as the Roman Catholic Church claims! In fact, from the Scriptures we garner much that would cause us to be assured he never was in Rome. Consider:
(1) Paul wrote the great doctrinal Book of Romans to the church in Rome. It seems strange that he would need to do so if another apostle was already there with the church in Rome as the Papists affirm. What would be the necessity of such a letter?
(2) Even more conclusive is the fact that Paul, while greeting the church there in the beginning of his Roman letter, says nothing by way of greeting to Peter. Surely, if Peter was then present in Rome, Paul would have greeted him. If Peter was the Pope in Rome, Paul most certainly would have greeted him in his letter!
(3) Later Paul was confined in Rome, perhaps as many as three different times. From Rome during his imprisonments Paul wrote the Bible books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy alone Paul mentions 23 friends and foes, but never once in any of these books does he mention Peter! Surely if Peter had been in Rome, Paul would have mentioned him. Some individuals sent greetings to other brethren by the hand of Paul in these letters. Others are mentioned by name, but no mention is made of Peter. He obviously was not in Rome!
There just is no Bible confirmation that Peter was ever at Rome. Biblical evidence being to the contrary, Rome's claim to Peter being the first pope is seen to be another of her bogus assertions! It is just an empty, man-made tradition of no consequence or worth whatsoever.
What is significant for us to observe here is that while Christ did not say He would build His church on Peter, He DID say He would build His church! There is no hint in the words, "I will build my church" that anyone other than Christ was to be the agent in building it. Jesus did not say that the Father would build His church. Neither did He say that the Holy Spirit would build His church!
Neither is there a single Scripture verse that says or even hints that the Holy Ghost would build, begin or birth Christ's church on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. The idea that the church was founded on Pentecost has been taught so routinely that many presume it to be the "birthday of the church." Such an assumption has no basis in the Word of God! We believe Christ did what He said He would do: He built His church during His earthly ministry.
Christ Founded A Real Church
By the word "church" the Bible does not mean a regional, national or worldwide organization as some might think. Such a meaning for the word "church" is as foreign to the Bible as is the idea of a "universal, invisible church." These and other definitions have been given to the word "church," but a careful study of the word shows its local, visible nature. We quote James Strong again:
"ecclesia (ek-klay-see'-ah); a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation..." 7
Although Strong goes on to try to make "ecclesia" some-thing more than a "local church," he and others fail under both biblical evidence and the evidence of original language. He offers no Biblical or linguistic reason for his attempt to make "ecclesia" refer to a "universal church." Indeed, he could not, for there is neither Biblical nor linguistic basis for such an attempted definition! New Testament usage, secular usage and the Septuagint usage of the word "ecclesia" indicate it was only and always used of an organized, congregating body of people in a given locality.
One of the biggest hindrances to a proper understanding of New Testament church truth is the notion that the word church means more than one thing. For years this author followed the wisdom of the Protestants, notably "Dr." C.I. Scofield and his Dallas Seminary disciples who, without Scriptural warrant, teach several "kinds" of churches. To bolster their interdenominational views, they blithely assure us that there is an "invisible church."
B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) was the founder and first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and for thirty years served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas. He produced the following works, The Holy Spirit; Chrust and His Church; Evangelistic Sermons: Baptists and Their Doctrine; Inspiration of the Bible: Jesus the Christ; Revival Messages; and the seventeen volume An Interpretation of the English Bible; as well as other works. Elder Carroll wrote the following:
"Our Lord and the New Testament writers neither coined this word Greek "ecclesia" nor employed it in any unusual sense. Before their time it was in common use, of well-understood signification, and subject like any other word to varied employment, according to the established laws of language. That is, it might be used abstractly, or generically, or particularly, or prospectively, without losing its essential meaning...
"What, then, etymologically, is the meaning of this word? Its primary meaning is: An organized assembly, whose members have been properly called out from private homes or business to attend to public affairs. This definition necessarily implies prescribed conditions of membership...
"When, in this lesson, our Lord says: "On this rock I will build my "ecclesia" while the "my" distinguished His "ecclesia" from the Greek state "ecclesia" and the Old Testament "ecclesia," the word itself naturally retains its ordinary meaning...
"Commonly, that is, in nearly all the uses, it means: The particular assembly of Christ's baptized disciples on earth, as 'The church of God which is at Corinth.'
"To this class necessarily belong all abstract or generic uses of the word, for whenever the abstract or generic finds concrete expression, or takes operative shape, it is always a particular assembly." 8 Brackets mine: C.A.P..
Carroll goes on to point out that generic uses do not prove the existence of some "universal, invisible church" as imagined by Luther. Just as the Scriptures say, "The husband is the head of the wife" (Eph. 5:23), and yet no one is foolish enough to believe in one gigantic "husband" or one "universal, invisible wife." So when the Scriptures speak of the "church" in an abstract sense, we only find the church existent in assemblies of Scripturally baptized believers organized according to the New Testament. Carroll makes this point, writing as follows:
"For example, if an English statesman, referring to the right of each individual citizen to be tried by his peers, should say: 'On this rock England will build her jury and all power of tyrants shall not prevail against it,' he uses the term jury in an abstract sense, i.e., in the sense of an institution. But when this institution finds concrete expression, or becomes operative, it is always a particular jury of twelve men and never an aggregation of all juries into one big jury.
"Or if a law writer should say: 'In trials of fact, by oral testimony, the court shall be the judge of the law, and the jury shall be the judge of the facts,' and if he should add: 'In giving evidence, the witness shall tell what he knows to the jury, and not to the court,' he evidently uses the term 'court,' 'jury,' and 'witness' in a generic sense. But in the application the generic always becomes particular - i.e., a particular judge, a particular jury, or a particular witness, and never an aggregate of all judges into one big judge, nor of all juries into one big jury, nor of all witnesses into one big witness. Hence we say that the laws of language require that all abstract and generic uses of the word "ecclesia" should be classified with the particular assembly and not with the general assembly." 9
Further testimony to the New Testament usage of the word "ecclesia" is found in the standard work of W.E. Vine, not a Baptist, but a noted Greek scholar. He states:
"Ekklesia... was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of State... In the Sept. Septuagint - Greek translation of the Old Testament it is used to designate the gathering of Israel summoned for any definite purpose, or a gathering regarded as representative of the whole nation..." 10Brackets mine: C.A.P.
Honesty demanded that Vine place his definition in his dictionary, not under the letter "C" for church, but rather under "A" for assembly and that is where you will find his comments. Sadly, due no doubt to preconceived notions, Vine asserts with absolutely no etymological or Scriptural basis that the word can also refer to all the saved. Such inconsistency cannot rightly be called scholarship. Shame on Mr. Vine. We trust he knows better now!
Similarly, honesty forces Vincent, Robertson and others to admit that the etymology of the word demands a (local) assembly founded by Christ in contrast to the (local) Jewish assembly which was called a synagogue. There is no instance of Christ ever using the word in any but a local sense. Neither is it sensible to suppose that the apostles changed the meaning of the word to mean something universal and invisible. To have done so without making such a distinction clear would have been misleading, to say the least!
If common sense and the normal usage of language prevails, there is absolutely no reason to think that "church" means anything other than an assembly of Scripturally-baptized believers in Christ who are organized according to the New Testament. Only those who oppose the church or have an axe to grind in support of Protestantism find it necessary to make such a simple matter into a very complex one by insisting that there is an additional kind of church other than a "local" one. We are reminded of Paul's words to the church at Corinth whom he had "espoused" as a "chaste virgin" or bride to Jesus Christ. He wrote, "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." (2 Cor. 11:3). Simplicity lies in believing in the regular, usual, logical and linguistically authentic definition of the word church as a local congregation. Complexity and confusion arise when men manufacture additional definitions for the word "church" and then try to distinguish between them.
That these lexicographers who insist on blatantly inserting their own ideas into their definition of "church" are neither infallible nor free from preconceived notions, the Reformed scholar Berkhof tells us quite frankly:
"It is necessary to bear in mind that the Lexicons are not absolutely reliable, and that they are least so, when they descend to particulars. They merely embody those results of the exegetical labours of various interpreters that commended themselves to the discriminating judgement of the lexicographer, and often reveal a difference of opinion. It is quite possible, and in some cases perfectly evident, that the choice of a meaning was determined by dogmatical bias... If the interpreter has any reason to doubt the meaning of a word, as given by the Lexicon, he will have to investigate for himself." 11
Some have tried to argue that the word "ecclesia" - since it comes from two Greek words which basically mean "to call" and "out" must mean "the called out ones." Scofield and others pursue this unscientific and unreal route. By doing so they try to say that the "ecclesia" or "church" is therefore all the "called out" or elect of any one or even all ages.
We readily admit that the word "ecclesia" springs from the two words as mentioned, but would also point out that words often come to mean something other than a combination of their roots. Baptist elder Edward Overby points out:
"A few words should be said about the etymology of ekklesia before going on... A distinction should be maintained between the etymology of a word and its meaning at some particular time in history. Sometimes the two are the same: many times they are quire different. 'Hussy' came from 'huswife' which means housewife; today it means worthless women, or girl, or a pert girl. 'Con-stable' came from 'comes stabuli' which means attendant of the stables; today it means a peace officer. Ekklesia came from ekkletos which means called out but in the times prior to the New Testament it meant assembly or called out assembly. To say it means the called out is not correct. Broadus writes, 'The Greek word ecclesia signified primarily the assembly of citizens in a self governed state, being derived from ekklaleo to call out; i.e., out of their homes or places of business, to summon, as we speak of calling out the militia. The popular notion that it meant to call out in the sense of separation from others, is a mistake...' Hort also confirms this when he writes, 'There is no foundation for the widely spread notion that ekklesia means a people or a number of individual men called out of the world or mankind." 12
The word ecclesia always referred to an assembly gathered and organized to conduct business. This was the common usage before and during the days of the Lord Jesus on earth. S.E. Anderson points out:
"Some of the greatest Greek scholars say that no case has been found in classic Greek where ecclesia is used of unassembled or unassembling persons." 13
Further to the point, Roy Mason writes:
"Prof. Royal, of Wake Forest College, North Carolina, who taught Prof. A.T. Robertson, of the Louisville Seminary, and Prof. C.B. Williams, Greek, when asked if he knew of an instance in classic Greek where ecclesia was ever used of a class of 'unassembled or unassembling persons' said: 'I do not know of any such passage in classic Greek.' With this statement agree Professors Burton of Chicago University, Stifler of Crozer, Strong of Rochester and many other scholars." 14
Since neither Jesus nor His apostles ever indicated that they were using the word ecclesia in any but the well-known and commonly accepted usage of the day, it is a grievous violation of all the common sense rules of interpretation to substitute a different definition for the one they meant and the one their hearers understood. By such loose interpretative procedures as these, the Bible can be made to teach almost anything.
Pointing out that the church is always "local" and that we need not use that adjective before the word, J.B. Moody, in addressing the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention hosted by his church said:
"I never read of a local assembly, building, body, bride, city, congregation, candlestick, flock, fold, family, field, house, household, temple, vine, vineyard, woman, or wife. They may be local, but it is tautological tomfoolery to say so, except to distinguish them from some other kind. But there is no other. The kingdom is not local, but the church is necessarily so. When a church dies IN a place, it dies only TO the place, and scatters itself to others. Christ says, "I will REMOVE the candlestick OUT OF ITS PLACE..." 15
Again we quote the well-known and respected Elder Moody, this time from an address delivered at the Baptist Young Peoples Union Encampment at Estill Springs, Tennessee, on June 25, 1907:
"A universal church, visible or invisible, must have organization and officers and doctrine and government, or it can do nothing. Such a church could not be a steward of anything. It never meets to consult about anything and has no officers to execute anything. This senseless error about a universal church has deceived more people and wasted more energy and begot more bigotry than perhaps any other deceitful device of the devil... 'The Church of God' is a congregation. The expression 'Church of God' occurs twelve times, and any man, though blind in one eye and purblind in the other, can see it so in every case. The lion is a ferocious beast; every lion is a ferocious beast; but all lions are not a ferocious beast. That is an inconceivable conception; an "unsupposable" supposition and an unspeakable superstition. The executive ability is in the real beast and not in the unreal, buster. So of the horse, man, jury, church, etc... The universal church has been assumed, asserted and insisted on to the irrevocable damage of the faith for which we should contend. I don't believe in it. If there could be such a thing it could not do anything. It never has met, it has no doctrines, no officers, no government, no commission. You can't tell who is in it or how they got there. It is an invisible, impracticable, impeachable, impossible, impecunious imp, spread out into shallowness, enlarged into littleness and increased into nothingness. It makes a man feel too large for a contemptible little congregation that Christ organized for work. They think they are in the big church by reason of saving faith, and they don't see the need of being added to another church -a little, local, limited church, too small for their little finger. Let me magnify this "minified" and crucified church, which is the church of the living God." 16
To say that Christ did not build His church is to make Him out to be a liar at worst, or to be a failure at best. Neither is acceptable to the true Christian for we know our Lord to be both truthful and well able to accomplish all He wills to do.
While some attempt to hold to the position that while the church is limited to only Scripturally baptized believers in organized assemblies here on earth, it will include all the saved in Heaven, this position is to be rejected for at least four good reasons. The late Roy Mason, author and for many years pastor of the Buffalo Avenue Baptist Church (now Central Avenue Baptist Church) of Tampa, Florida, states our position clearly:
"To hold that the church is local and visible, and is a continuation of the institution that Christ started and promised to perpetuate, then to shift from this, the true church, and to teach that the church that finally assembles over yonder will be composed of all of these redeemed regardless of whether they ever belonged to any church or not, is an inexcusable contradiction. If that were true, then several other things would have to be true:
"1 - As already argued, the Bride would turn out to be different from the one betrothed to Christ.
"2 - Christ's promise that nothing would prevail against His church, would be proven false, for the institution started by Him would completely flop, for the church in Glory would prove to be a different thing entirely.
"3 - In such case, there would be no reward for the church that endured endless persecution for Christ, and that furnished fifty million martyrs for the defense of His truth.
"4 - Why should so much be made of the church that Jesus started? Why should its truth be defended so arduously? Why should members of this church have been willing to die for their beliefs, if in the final windup, the ultimate triumph is to be given to those who - some of them - persecuted those of the true church, or else ignored or disdained the true church? If all believers are to constitute the church in Glory - the Bride - then in the climax the church turns out to be something different than Christ's church here on this earth." 17
The teaching that two (or more) meanings of the word "church" are correct is of great harm to the cause of Christ. To have two "churches" with differing requirements for membership and different methods of entrance is to foment confusion in the minds of believers. We quote B.H. Carroll again regarding those who hold to a "universal, invisible church."
"...I honestly and strongly hold that even on this point his theory is erroneous and tends practically to great harm. Yes, I do most emphatically hold that this universal, invisible church theory is responsible for incalculable dishonor put upon the church of God on earth. I repeat that the theory of the co-existence, side by side, on earth of two churches of Christ, one formal and visible, the other real, invisible and spiritual, with different terms of membership, is exceedingly mischievous and is so confusing that every believer of it becomes muddled in running the lines of separation. Do let it sink deep in your minds that the tabernacle of Moses had the ex-clusive right of way in its allotted time and the temple of Solomon had the exclusive right of way in its allotted time - so the church of Christ on earth, the particular assembly, now has the exclusive right of way, and is without a rival on earth or in heaven..." 18 Brackets mine:C.A.P..
Christ Commissioned His Church
When anything is commissioned it receives delegated authority to act in behalf of another. That person or entity commissioned, when acting in official capacity, no longer acts on its own authority, but functions in the name of and on behalf of and by the express command of the superior granting the commission. The second mention of "church" in the New Testament is in Matt 18:15-18 and clearly demonstrates the authority of Christ as entrusted to His church:
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Notice that neither the pastor nor some imagined board has authority to act in this matter. The matter must be brought before the church (the membership) and they are to seek the mind of the Lord in the matter. The decision (vote) of the church in obedience to Christ is binding in Heaven as well as within the confines of the church.
Here the church is explicitly authorized and instructed to exclude from her fellowship those whose behavior brings reproach upon the Head of each true church. Are we to believe that Christ did not mean for His disciples to obey these words? Why did He not tell them they would be obligated to obey these instructions at some future undisclosed time? There is nothing here to indicate these instructions were not for them then and there. The idea that these are instructions for the "future church" find a basis only in the writings of "Dr." C.I. Scofield and his anti-Baptist followers.
Additionally, just prior to His ascension, Christ gave definite authority to act and specific directives for His church to heed on the following occasion:
"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28:16-20).
This authorization by Christ of His church to act is often called "The Great Commission." It is actually the FINAL commission, for there was an earlier one, just as specific and explicit, but of a somewhat different nature. It is found in Matt. 10:1-15. To understand the nature of a commission, the reader is urged to note that in that passage Christ's church was sent forth to a specific people, Israel, and Israel only. They were given definite directives as to what they were to do and not do. No one other than the Lord's church was given this commission; thus, no one other than His church was acting under His authority.
If the church did not originate until the festival of Pentecost as our Protestant neighbours affirm, then Christ is found to be in the rather preposterous position of giving guidance, authority and a commission to something which did not exist! Not only was the first commission given before Pentecost, but so also was the "Great" one. A candid reading of Matthew evidences that these words (i.e. the Commission) were spoken to actual men then in existence who were expected to obey. While they were instructed to wait for the power of the Holy Ghost which indeed came on the following Pentecost, no new or additional authority was given on that Jewish feast day.
Some would attempt to maintain that Christ, in Matt. 28:18-20, gave His authority and instructions to the eleven as ordinary men. Others inform us that He addressed them as apostles. Neither of these can conceivably be an accurate perception of the Commission, for if either of these be correct, His words, "and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." are insignificant rhetoric. According to this interpretation Christ was either mistaken or perhaps He was an outright fraud. It is obvious that neither as individuals nor as apostles have these men continued even to our day, and the "end of the world" has not come yet. Jesus has not continued with them either as individuals or apostles in the sense of which He spoke.
However, if we understand that Christ gave authority and instructions (the "Great Commission") to the eleven as His church, then we begin to understand His promise to be with them. This view is consistent with Revelation chapters 1-3 where He is revealed to be in the midst of the "seven candlesticks" which are the seven churches. Only if we understand that Christ gave authority to act in evangelism, baptism and teaching to His church, and promised perpetual existence to her, do we begin to realize that He really meant what He said in promising to be with them "alway".
Allow me to illustrate the matter of authority in this way. A man may possess the financial and physical ability to mine vast deposits of gold from the earth. He may busy himself about this work and enjoy great success in his labor. He CAN mine the gold. However, because society has enacted laws to attempt to ensure equity among her citizens, this man may lose not only all he has gained by mining, but also all he has previously owned. You see, IF a man does not have the authority to mine gold - if he has no legal claim to the ground he works - all his labor may be in vain. While he CAN mine the gold, he MAY not do so without proper authorization. He may even be subject to a fine levied against him because he violated the laws respecting mining.
So it is with Christ. He has delegated His authority to His church. She is not only the "pillar and ground of the truth," but also to her was committed the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper as well as the authority to send forth teaching servants in the work of the Lord as the Holy Ghost calls and leads. While a man CAN (is able to) preach, immerse, and administer bread and wine, he MAY NOT (does not have permission to do so) unless the Holy Ghost sends him forth out of and by a New Testament church. This is the teaching and pattern of the New Testament!
This "church authority" delegated by Christ to His churches is seen in action in the New Testament. Consider the sending out of Paul (Saul) and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-4.
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."
Note these several things:
(1) The men to be sent out were active teaching members "in the church that was at Antioch" which was a real, functioning "local" church.
(2) "The Holy Ghost said," speaks of the Divine call to service. Without the working of the Holy Ghost in both the individual called AND in his church there can be no Scriptural sending-out of men to do the work of "church planting".
(3) After more fasting and prayer the spiritual leaders in the church of which they were members "laid their hands on them" (that is, ordained them to the work).
(4) In this way they were "sent forth by the Holy Ghost." Both the sovereign working of the Spirit AND the obedience of the members of a New Testament church are required for an individual to be "sent forth by the Holy Ghost."
It is quite clear that the church at Antioch was involved in sending these Brethren out as evangelists. Baptists maintain that a church must be involved in separating (by ordination -which is appointment to service) and sending out evangelists (often called missionaries today) just as in the New Testament. It was to this church at Antioch that these Brethren were accountable. It was this church at Antioch to which they later returned. It was this church at Antioch to which they gave reports of their work. This "church connection" is consistently found in the New Testament. The New Testament knows nothing of "free lance" individuals being somehow "called of God" apart from a New Testament church. None were approved of God who went about preaching, baptizing and teaching apart from church authority having been given to them. Anyone who acts in such a "free lance" fashion does so without New Testament instruction or example and therefore without Divine authority.
Surely honest and sensible Christians who will lay aside preconceived notions and vested interests can see the truth here. The simple, clear meaning of these passages is that Christ built His church and invested her with the work of evangelism, baptism, and the teaching and observing of "all things whatsoever I have commanded you". Quite simply stated, Christ's church, through successive organizations, must necessarily continue to exist in perpetuity if these things are to be rightly carried out. If these are responsibilities given to the Lord's church, then she must continue to exist for these responsibilities to be continued.
Christ Guaranteed Perpetuity To His Church
Nothing can be more assuring to the true Christian than the words of Jesus Christ. If He gave a guarantee that His church would never cease to exist, then that church still exists! You may not have found it yet, but IF Christ promised its perpetuity, IT EXISTS! He said, in Matt. 16:18:
"I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
"Hell," according to Strong is: "haides (hah'-dace); properly, unseen, i.e. "Hades" or the place (state) of departed souls." 19
The idea conveyed by the term "gates" seems related to the fact that the rulers of Israel sat in the gate. The gate was the location of government for a city; thus, the "gate" was spoken of as the government. This is evidenced by the following verses:
Deut 25:7: "And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother."
Ruth 4:10, 11: "Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day. "And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem."
Daniel 2:49: "Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king."
In using the term "gates," the Lord Jesus was saying that the government of hell (the unseen evil spirit world) shall not prevail against His church! The word translated "prevail" is "katischuo (kat-is-khoo'-o); to overpower." 20 Can any Christian ask for a better guarantee than the word of Christ? Surely not! For this reason we believe that Christ's church has existed in succession and that there are churches of the same sort on the earth today.
The only alternative is to say that the church went off into apostasy sometime prior to or during the "Dark Ages." This popular Protestant view of history (that the church apostatized and required a "reformation") is to say that the church Christ founded ceased to exist. It is to say that Christ's church perished off the face of the earth, for apostate churches are spiritual harlots and not Christ's pure bride at all. Such churches cannot be Christ's! If Christ's churches ceased to exist, then it must follow that baptism was lost. Corrupt churches can only administer a false and corrupt baptism. Once lost, only by direct Divine intervention and authority could baptism ever be reinstated. This because no unbaptized man ever baptized anyone in the New Testament except John the Baptist, and he had direct Divine authority.
The historic Baptist position is that the Lord's churches did not cease to exist during the apostasy of the Dark Ages. Rather she continued and still continues to make disciples, mark them with John's baptism (which is Scriptural, Christian baptism) and mature them so as to fit them for the work of the ministry.
Christ Instituted A Perpetual Supper In His Church
Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote these words to the Scripturally-baptized church of Christ in Corinth:
"For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26).
This statement means nothing unless it means that the Lord's churches are to perpetually exist until He comes for them. Remember, the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, like baptism, was given to the Lord's churches to be observed by them as a church of Christ "TILL HE COME!" Paul, in instructing the Corinthian Church regarding abuses at the Lord's Table, said, "...when ye come together in the church..." (1 Cor. 11:18). The problem was obviously "in the church." Paul did not refer to being in a building, but rather the members meeting in "church capacity." It is therefore seen that the apostolic churches kept the ordinances "in the church," and so do the Lord's churches unto this day.
As quoted above, the promise to the Lord's church was that they were to continue observing the Supper "till he come." If the Protestants are right and the churches went off into apostasy, error and corruption in the Dark Ages, then the Lord's intent that the Supper be observed "TILL HE COME" has failed. If ALL the churches went off into apostasy, they ceased to exist as true churches of Christ. Scriptural baptism and the Lord's Supper ceased with them.
There is, however, no indication whatsoever that ALL churches apostatized. During the "Dark Ages" and at all other times since the earthly ministry of Christ, there have been churches, hidden away perhaps, but nonetheless faithfully standing for the truth of God regarding salvation and proper service. These are the churches of Christ!
Churches which are damnably corrupted either in practice or doctrine cease to be the Lord's churches. This is doubtless the meaning of the warnings to the seven churches of Revelation. Hear the message Christ sent to the "angels" (pastors) of these churches.
Rev 2:4-5: "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."
Rev 2:13-16 "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."
Rev 2:20-23 "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works."
Rev 3:1-3 "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."
Rev. 3:15-16 "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
The fact that individual churches have their "candlestick" removed does not imply that all churches have perished from off the earth, but only that a congregation has ceased being Christ's church in that place. That many churches have thus lost their "saltness" (Mark 9:50) is apparent. That a remnant of churches have remained faithful by the sovereign grace of God is also true.
It was to His church that Christ entrusted His ordinances to be kept as He instituted them. (Clearly the New Testament pattern, historic Baptist polity and sensible practice is that the Lord's supper be observed by the members of a church meeting together in church capacity. 21 See 1 Cor. 11:18 & 20.) Christ's words indicate that the Lord's supper was to be a perpetual memorial. It was to be observed until He comes. Therefore, in order for it to enjoy continual existence, His church must enjoy continual existence through successive congregations. So we say that the Lord's supper proves church succession or perpetuity.
Christ Designed His Church To Continue
SHE IS A BRIDE
That each church is a "chaste virgin" "espoused" to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2), in other words a "bride" of Christ, is evident to all who will study the Scriptures honestly (John 3:29; Rev. 21:2,9; 22:17). It is worthy of note that John the Baptist said he was neither Christ nor a part of the bride, but rather was the "friend of the bridegroom." In contrast to this pure "bride," the false religious system is likened to a "great whore" in Revelation chapters 17 and 18. This "Harlot" is clearly the Roman Catholic organization. She is also the mother of certain offspring, for she is called the "Mother of harlots." These harlot daughters are no doubt the Protestant "churches." We know of no others who could be said to be the offspring of Rome other than the Protestant churches, for they came out of her. Like natural children often do, these Protestant churches bear striking resemblance to their mother. So, then, we have two completely different kinds of churches: one pictured as a virtuous woman and the other a loose woman.
If the corrupt Roman church was ever the bride of Christ, then He is married to an harlot! (Espousal is marriage, not just engagement!) If Protestant churches are the bride of Christ, then Christ is married to a partially reformed harlot! If all churches are mere branches of corrupt Romanism, and we are all "unconscious Catholics" as she falsely claims, Christ has no pure bride, but is married to a trollop.
Neither can we believe that Christ is a widower! We raise the question then, can you really believe that Christ is presently without a bride on the earth - a bride who is anticipating His return for her? Surely not! Christ will return and find His bride hidden away out of sight, a godly remnant looking for His return! If that bride is not the Harlot or her daughters, then she must be sound New Testament Baptist churches. Nothing on the earth, other than a sound Baptist church, acts and looks like a New Testament church AND can offer proof of her continued existence since her founding by her Bridegroom in the days of His earthly sojourn.
SHE IS AN HOUSE
Each church is said to be "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). In architectural language, then, a church is responsible to support the truth as both footings and pillars support the upper structure of a building. It is in churches that the truth is taught, and it is the churches that are responsible to evangelize. If the church (institutionally speaking) ceased to exist because of apostasy, then the truth would crash to the ground and be lost. Can you really believe that Christ's church ceased to exist and required a re-formation under such men as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc., etc?
Church members are exhorted to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). To some who might object, claiming that a specific church is not mentioned in Jude we would enquire just what it was into which "certain men crept" in verse 4. Who but a church held agape-feasts as mentioned in verse 12? Obviously these people to whom Jude wrote existed in church capacity and they were responsible to God for the truth "once delivered to the saints."
God preserves His truth, and He does so by perpetually sustaining His churches which are made up of those who have received a love of the truth. Christ knew what He was doing when He designed and built His church. A church that has an hierarchy, once corrupt at the top, corrupts itself entirely. It matters not whether it is a Roman or Eastern Catholic hierarchy, Protestant denomination, Cult, "Baptist convention," "Baptist association," "Baptist mission board," or "Baptist fellowship." Anything beyond the "local" church, once corrupt at the top, corrupts itself entirely. This is the testimony of history! Each sound Baptist church has Christ "at the top" as her Head. Being autonomous entities, if one church should fall away into apostasy, the remaining churches are unaffected. If one ceases, others in other places continue. The pillar and ground of the truth will stand until Christ returns for her!
SHE IS KEPT BY HER SOVEREIGN FOUNDER
The plain fact of the matter is that Christ did build His church, and genuine believers in New Testament days were members of His churches. In fact, the book of Acts knows nothing of saved individuals who were not baptized into a church. Are we to believe that Christ's work in establishing His church has come to naught? Has Satan thus overcome the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Has the usurper god of this world dethroned the rightful Sovereign? Such things are unthinkable to all who are familiar with the teachings of the Bible!
To any unprejudiced student of the Bible it surely must be evident that Christ established His church. He gave her the responsibility of evangelizing, baptizing and teaching. As well He left her the observance of the two ordinances, both of which relate to the redeeming death of Christ for His elect. He promised to be with her until the end of the age and that the powers of the unseen spirit world would not be able to "prevail" over her.
That New Testament kind of church is yet with us today. It behooves every saint of God to locate such a church and join himself to it so that his service might be pleasing, orderly, acceptable to Christ and eternally rewarded.
1Jarrel E. Huffman, "The Elect Within the Elect," (The Berea Baptist Banner, South Point, Ohio/Mantachie, Miss., Milburn Cockrell, Ed., Vol. IX, Number 5, May, 1988), p. 7.
2 Hassell and Hassell, op. cit., pp. 334, 335.
3 Augustine, quoted by W.W. Everts, Introduction, W. A. Jarrell, BAPTIST CHURCH PERPETUITY, 1894), p. xi.
Everts wrote his introduction from Haverhill, Mass. in May of 1894. Formerly his was the Chair of Ecclesiastical History, Chicago Baptist Theological Seminary.
4 Augustine, De nat. Et grat. 36,42, Wilhelm, CHRIST AMONG US, A MODERN PRESENTATION OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH, 2nd Ed., (NY/Paramus, Paulist Press), p. 91.
5 James Strong, THE GREEK-HEBREW DICTIONARY AND ENGLISHMAN'S CONCORDANCE, (Seattle, Biblesoft, 1988), a software version of STRONG'S EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE OF THE BIBLE, James Strong, (Nashville, Abingdon).
6 Strong, ibid.
7 Strong, ibid.
8 B.H. Carroll, ECCLESIA - THE CHURCH, (Little Rock, AR, Challenge Press, n.d.), pp. 8, 9.
9 Carroll, ibid., p. 9.
10 W.E. Vine, AN EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS WITH THEIR PRECISE MEANINGS FOR ENGLISH READERS, (Westwood, NJ, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), pp. 83, 84.
11 Louis Berkhof, PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1950), pp. 68, 69.
12 Edward Hugh Overby, THE MEANING OF ECCLESIA IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, (Little Rock, Challenge Press, 1974), p. 10.
13 S.E. Anderson THE FIRST CHURCH, (Little Rock, Challenge Press, 1964), p. 88.
14 Roy Mason, THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT, (Clarksville, TN, Bible Baptist Church Publications, 1977), p. 28.
15 J.B. Moody, MY CHURCH, (Greenwood, SC, The Attic Press, Inc. 1974 reprint), p. 13.
16 Moody, ibid., pp. 30, 31, 36, 37.
17 Roy Mason, Th.D., THE MYTH OF THE UNIVERSAL INVISIBLE CHURCH THEORY EXPLODED, (Ashland, KY, Economy Printers, 1978), pp. 62, 63.
18 Carroll, op cit., p. 24
19 Strong, ibid.
20 Strong, ibid.
21 Only the "closed communion" position can harmonize with the instructions of the Bible regarding church discipline. A church which practices either "open communion" or "close communion" (sometimes called "denominational communion") is disorderly because she cannot exclude a member from the Table as required by the New Testament.
For instance: a member of such a church may be excluded for a disorderly walk, heresy, etc. The Bible command is "with such an one no, not to eat" (1 Cor. 5:11). Yet such an excluded member might very well have joined another church of similar order, as has often happened, whose practice in receiving members is not so careful. That excluded member, under the terms of either "open" or "close communion" could with perfect liberty return to a meeting of the church which excluded him and partake of the Lord's Table. The command "not to eat" would be disobeyed. Thus, Biblical church discipline is mocked and rendered useless by any other position than "local church members only" or "closed communion".
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