The Nature Of A Church
Ephesians 3:21;5:22-27,32; Acts 2:41-42
Without the Bible we would know nothing of the Church. Without the Church we would know nothing of Bible Doctrine. Only with the Bible, the Church, and Doctrine can we expect to be faithful in faith and practice to our Baptist heritage. Millions of Baptist martyrs, all down through The ages of church history, have given their lives for “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” May we be as true to the faith as they were.
“The Baptist faith is radically and fundamentally different from that of all others. On this ground alone can their continued separate existence be justified.” -- M. P. Hunt, in The Baptist faith.
The word churchoccurs in the N.T. 115 times. It is used in four different ways:
1. Abstract - (Institution) Matt. 16:18
I go to church every Sunday. This refers to no particular church.
2. Generic - (Kind) Matt. 18:17
I belong to a Baptist Church. Not all churches but a certain denomination.
3. Particular - (Local) I Cor. 1:2
I belong to Ebenezer Baptist Church. A definite particular church in a locality
4. Prospective - (Glory) Eph. 5:27
After the rapture. All members of the Lord’s body (bride of Christ) will be gathered together.
Always, in its application to The followers of Christ, the word church refers either to a particular church or to the church as an institution. The N. T. knows nothing of an invisible, universal body of Christ. The “one body” of Ephesians 4:4 is the local, independent, self-governing, democratic body we know today as a Baptist church. “one body” means one kind of body, even as “one baptism” means one kind of baptism.
In answer to the question, “What is a church?” it may be said: A church is a congregation of Christ’s baptized disciples, acknowledging Him as their Head, relying on His atoning sacrifice for justification before God, and depending on the Holy Spirit for sanctification, united in the belief of the Gospel, agreeing to maintain its ordinances and obey its precepts, meeting together for worship, and cooperating for the extension of Christ’s kingdom in the world.
Baptists are neither Protestants nor Catholics.
The Roman Catholic church believes in a universal, visible church (visible kingdom of God on earth.)
Protestants believe in a universal invisible church. Some hold to a “church branch” theory, which means that their trunk and roots are found in the Roman Catholic church.
What kind of church did Jesus build? If the church which Jesus promised was “universal and invisible,” then it follows that the Baptist claim to perpetuity is absurd, and the product of an unwarranted arrogance. “Ecclesia” in Matt. 16:18 means a local assembly (called out assembly).
· The only kind of an assembly that can exist is “Local” and “Visible.” Christ said “I will build MY church.” The “my” distinguishes His ecclesia from the Greek state ecclesia, and the O.T. (national Israel) ecclesia, the word itself naturally retains its ordinary meaning – an organized assembly of people.
· Matt. 18:17 “Tell it to the church” - visible, local church only.
· Christ only promised to build one kind of “church.” The assemblies in Acts and the Epistles were not universal or invisible.
· The universal, invisible church theory is post-apostolic in its origin.
· The local assembly is the only kind of an assembly that can exist and fulfill the great commission.
· The conception of a universal, invisible church makes it the same as the “Kingdom of God.”
There are three spiritual spheres of a relationship to God and each must be studied that there be no confusion.
THE FAMILY OF GOD - (Eph. 3:14,15) The saved are born into the family by a spiritual new birth (Jn. 1:12-13, 3:3-7) and includes all believers from Adam to the last one saved, therefore it is not complete at this time. Baptism and church membership are not required, e.g. the thief on the cross.
THE KlNGDOM OF GOD - (Matt. 18:1-6) This is the realm in which God's will is obeyed at any one time. The saved are born into the kingdom. Therefore every saved person on earth at any one time is in the kingdom of God but not thereby in the Church of God as there is no meeting together of these people.
THE CHURCH OF GOD - (Acts 2:41-42, I Cor. 12:27 Body of Christ - Rom. 12:5, Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:24, Eph. 5:25) This is that organism that Christ started, loved and died for. The steps of getting into a church are repentance, faith in Christ, baptism, addition to the church. This church (Body) is visible, local and complete. The churches follow the four-fold commission of their head, Christ, to perpetuate themselves (Matt. 28:18-20). The churches, Baptist only, had a glorious beginning, a blood-written history, an illustrious present and a future as bright as the promises of God. Therefore church membership carries with it a great privilege, a wonderful opportunity, and an awesome obligation.
There are only three divine institutions (ordained of God) and these are:
1. The home - started in the Garden of Eden.
2. Human government - started after the flood.
3. The Church - started by Jesus Christ.
Of the three, the Church of Jesus Christ is the most misunderstood and misused. Its primary meaning is: an organized assembly, whose members have fulfilled certain scriptural and spiritual standards that God gives in His Word, meeting in public to proclaim the Gospel of their Saviour.
In the divine purpose from eternity, and in its consummation in glory, the whole number of the redeemed body of Christ - His true Baptist churches are conceived of as a unit, set forth in the scripture under the figure of the bride, or wife of the Lamb.
All the saved – “Family of God” – will be in Heaven. But only those in the “Church of God” will be in the Bride of Christ.