committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

II. THE FORM AND ATTRIBUTES OF THE CHURCH OF GOD.


      The English word church is derived from the Greek kuriakon, "belonging to the Lord." The Greek word Ekklesia, in the New Testament, comes from ek, out of, and kalio, I call. Hence its first and primary meaning is:

      1. A congregation or assembly of persons, whether good or bad, called out and separated from the rest of the community for some special purpose (Joe 2:15 Ac 19:39,41).

      2. It is used to denote the congregations of Israel, or the Jewish nation (Nu 16:33 Ac 8:38).

      3. In its New Testament sense it is used to signify, [173]

      1. A community of saints, united together for the worship of God, according to Scriptures (Mt 18:17 Ro 16:1 Ac 14:23 1Co 1:2 Re 1:4).

      2. The whole number, or collective body of Christians, throughout the world (Ac 2:47 20:28 1Co 10:32 15:9 Ga 1:13 Eph 3:10 5:23,24 Heb 12:23).

      3. Believers in one family (Ro 16:5 Col 4:15 Phm 1:2).

      Accordingly, the saints, or body of believers, in any given place, constitute the Church of God in that place; whilst those different, local and individual churches, collectively taken, constitute the one, holy, general church of God, spread abroad throughout the world.

      This, then, being the primary and appropriate use and meaning of the term Ekklesia, in the New Testament, it will be easy to perceive what the true nature and form of the Church of God is.

      If she is constituted, or made up of saints, Christians, or true believers, (as the use of the word indicate), then such only are scripturally entitled to membership. And if she is a society of saints or Christians, then a congenial government is necessarily implied; for no society can well exist without order, and order supposes rule, discipline, and control; and these imply a ruling and controlling power.

      Organization, therefore, is fairly predicated of every gospel church. And we believe no church to be scripturally organized without a competent number of bishops and deacons. These two classes are the only regular, permanent church officers recognized in the New Testament. There were, besides these, other officers in the primitive church; but these were temporary, special, and extraordinary officers, than otherwise.

      Bishops and elders (for these we hold to be convertible appellations, and designations of the same office, Ac 20:17,28 Tit 1:5,7) are the teaching and ruling officers of the church in both her spiritual and secular departments; whilst the deacons are the servants of the church and assistants to the elders in secular affairs (Ac 6:1-5).

      Hence, we may readily and clearly perceive, that the form of government which God has ordained in his church, is not, and cannot be Papal, nor Patriarchal, nor Magisterial, nor Episcopal, nor Congregational; but, in its popular sense, PRESBYTERIAN; that is, a government vested in the hands of, and administered by, the elders or presbyters of each individual or particular church (Ac 20:17).

      The Church of God, like the House of Israel, made up of individual households or societies, and these in an organized state, are placed under the rule and government of Elders and Deacons.

      The proper way to appoint the officers of a church is, to elect the ruling elders and deacons by a vote of the church, in which all the members, males and females, may, and of right ought to participate. (See Ac 6:2,3 Ga 3:28.)

      The term of office each church has a right to determine. But both reason and Scripture, we think, dictate the propriety of making these temporary, and not perpetual, or life-officers. If they are elected for a limited term, the church may displace them when she has it in her power to elect men of superior gifts and qualifications; and in the absence of that opportunity she loses nothing, because the same officers are always re-eligible.

      Teaching elders, or preachers of the gospel, ought always to be chosen or called of God; that is, moved, inclined, or disposed by the Holy Spirit, to take upon them the performance of the sacred functions of the gospel ministry. A divine call should always be antecedent to an ecclesiastical one. {c}

      The official functions and jurisdiction [174] of ruling elders and deacons are confined to the particular churches to which they belong; but the teaching elders, or preachers carry with them all their ecclesiastical functions ex-officio. Hence, Peter, John, Paul, and others, were elders in all the churches wherever they went; whereas, the elders of the cities of Crete, and of the churches of Jerusalem, Ephesus, Antioch, Corinth, Lystra, Iconium, &c., were elders only in the local churches where they resided.

      This, then, being the essential and organic form of the Church of God, to her rightfully appertain the following attributes, namely:

      1. Visibility.
      2. Unity.
      3. Sanctify.
      4. Universality; and,
      5. Perpetuity.

      1st. Visibility is a prime attribute of the Church of God. God intended his church to be "the light of the world,"

      Mt 5:14. Ye are the light of the world.

and this light to be "as clear as the sun and as fair as the moon."

      So 6:10. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?

Hence he compares her in another place to "a city that is set on a hill, and that cannot be hid."

      Mt 5:14. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

 

      2dly. Unity is another essential attribute of the Church of God. The union of sects into one general Evangelical Alliance, or into one human organization, diverse in character, faith, and practice from the one true Church of God, as characterized in the Bible, we have no belief in, nor sympathy for. But the oneness, or unity of all true believers in one holy Church of God, on the Bible plan, and under the reign and government of Jesus Christ, is a consummation we most devoutly wish for: and this union being founded on the immutable counsels of God, we believe implicitly, that here, under Messiah's reign, in the Church of God, and nowhere else, in the proper rallying ground, and the true platform of Christian union, where all can, will, and ought to meet and unite in order to be "one, perfectly one, as the Father and the Son are one."

      Joh 10:16. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
      Joh 13:34. A new commandment I give to you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
      Joh 17:21. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
      22. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.
      23. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
      Eph 2:14. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
      15. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.

      3dly. Sanctity is also an essential attribute of the true church. Hence none but saints, or holy ones, have a just and scriptural claim to membership in the Church of God. The house of Israel was a type of the Church of God; and just as that house or nation, was made up of the natural seed of Abraham, so likewise is the true church of his spiritual seed. Now, as believers only, can become the spiritual seed of Abraham; hence, none but sound converts and true believers ought to be recognized and tolerated as approved members in the church. The religious association of unconverted persons, or their incorporation with the "saints of the Most High" [Da 7:18, &c.] is directly subversive of the designs of God with regard to his church.

      Joh 17:14. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
      19. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
      Ac 5:13. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them; but the people magnified them.
      1Co 3:11. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
      17. If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
      Eph 5:26. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
      27. 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.
      1Pe 1:15. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
      16. Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Mt 13:33. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

      4thly. Universality is likewise a prominent attribute in the Church of the First Born. A few passages will set this in a [175] clear light. These few may suffice:--

      Mt 13:33 Another parable spake he to them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
      Ps 72:8. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
      Isa 2:2.And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
      Da 2:34. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
      35. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

      5thly. Perpetuity is another principal attribute of the true church. The Church of God is built upon an immovable rock, and "the gates of hell," we are told, "shall never prevail against her." This "kingdom," therefore, "is an everlasting kingdom."

      Mt 16:18. 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.
      Da 2:44. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
      Da 4:3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.


      {c} What is here affirmed concerning church elders, goes upon the assumption that teaching and ruling elders are of Divine appointment. The truth and certainty of this fact, may be argued from the following considerations, to wit: (1) Because God has set in the church Teachers and Rulers (1Co 12:28). (2) Because there is a distinction made between teaching and ruling elders (1Ti 5:17). (3) Because there were a plurality of elders in the primitive churches (Ac 14:23 20:17 Tit 2:5). (4) Because these elders, in most cases, were appointed or chosen, by other elders or the churches themselves (Ac 14:23 1:23-26).

 
 
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