Is there a "universal" church?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by 12strings, Jun 27, 2012.

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  1. 12strings

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    This is for those who would answer NO:

    1. What, in your mind is the danger of speaking about a universal church?

    2. What is your interpretation of Eph. 5 where christ "died for the church"?

    3. Is this debate really just semantics? Are both sides saying the same things but using different words...Does it even matter?

    4. If church refers to only local bodies, and we all know those are made of both true and false believers, then how does that fit?
     
  2. ktn4eg

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    I personally do not believe in a universal church. The statement(s) to which 12strings (and I suppose others will follow) where "church" is used are simply statements of the word "church" being used in the generic sense.

    EXAMPLE: We often will say that "Marriage is ordained by God." However, marriage only finds its manifestation in a "local" entity--one man married to one woman.

    My belief in a "local-church only" teaching is simply MY personal belief and therefore I do not condemn anyone else who chooses to believe differently. The leadership of the local church of which I've been a member for over 15 years (and probably most of her members) believes in the existence of the universal church.

    I'll tell anyone who asks (so far none has!) what my belief is regarding this point, but that doesn't keep me from supporting my church in prayer, financially, and otherwise. To me, this is not a "hill to die for."
     
  3. Tom Butler

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    This basically reflects my view, as well. As you said, sometimes the "church" is referred to in a generic or institutional sense, in the same way we would refer to the "family." We can bemoan the "breakdown in the family," but only real families break down.

    The generic or institutional "church" expresses itself through a real congregation.

    Regarding the opinion that the local church has both true and false believers, we all understand that in the purest since, the false believers are not truly members of the local church. Their names are simply on the roll. Their baptism is invalid and so is their membership.

    As I've said many times before, it is the local church which is commissioned to carry out the Great Commission. The "Universal" church is a useless fantasy, filled with people who believe heresy, and who do not, and cannot, carry out the Great Commission.

    And the fatal blow to the concept is, it cannot have meetings.
     
  4. OldRegular

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    There is a universal Church, just not a visible universal Church as the Roman Catholic communion insists.

    Jesus Christ said: I will build my church, not I will build my churches! The Church that Jesus Christ builds is composed only of those who are redeemed. A local body of believers may well include unbelievers. The Southern Baptist Faith and Message [2000] defines the Church: as follows:

    “The New Testament also speaks of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all the redeemed of all ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.”


    I believe that Paul is talking about the universal Church in the following Scripture:

    Ephesians 2:19-22
    19. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
    20. And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
    21. In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
    22. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.


    And again:

    Ephesians 5:25-27.
    25. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
    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.


    Finally Scripture tells us:
    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.[/u]

    The overseers cannot feed the unbeliever. Therefore, I believe that Paul, in his use of the words "all the flock and Church" in the above passage, is speaking of the total number of the redeemed who are alive at any time in history.
     
  5. USN2Pulpit

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    Thanks for that response, OldRegular. This is also how I see it.
     
  6. psalms109:31

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    John 3:
    22After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water,and people were coming and being baptized.24(This was before John was put in prison.)25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.26They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi,that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testifiedabout—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
    27To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.30 He must become greater; I must become less.”



    I believe in the local church, each pastor needs to take care of what they are given to a point they become less and He becomes greater. No matter even if it isn't as much as another.
     
    #6 psalms109:31, Jun 27, 2012
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  7. Yeshua1

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    the Universal Church is the Bride/Body of Christ, made up of ALL saved persons from time of jesus unto the Rapture of the Church!

    The local church has members who are saved, part of the Universal church, and those members not saved...

    faith in jesus entry way to Universal church, sealing by the Holy Spirit

    water Baptism entry into local church

    And whenever the saved members of ANY local church are bout doing the Lord's business/work, that is the Universal church in action!
     
  8. preachinjesus

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    Though the OP indicates this is a thread for those who deny the universal church, since there have been others who have responded positively about it I'll chime in here:

    The NT makes it clear that there is a universal church, and that it is the Body of Christ or all believers. Now theologians have usually noted there are two distinctions here: the invisible church and the visible church.

    I'd say that the universal church is the invisible church (which will only meet in the eschaton) while the visible church is the local churches around the world, throughout history. :)
     
  9. psalms109:31

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    All those in Christ the universal church that most maybe talking about is the responsibility of Christ and no way can we do anything about all those in Christ. We are responsible for what God has given to us, so we will not be given more than we can handle.

    We have Christ the head of the Church; He is over the elected pastors and minister, missionaries. Those who have been elected by the Church to be sent out or feed the flock are the branches. They reach out with the true vine producing fruit other believers. It would be nice that all were branches, but most can only do is follow. Some think of themselves higher than they ought to. The Elect our doing what they were prepared to do by the Church which is being led by Christ. So most who think they are elect are mimicking those who they are following.
     
  10. HeirofSalvation

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    #10 HeirofSalvation, Jun 27, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2012
  11. HeirofSalvation

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    I have not looked back into this....but I am willing to bet that the original S.B.C. statements contained no such statement. This is, a new development, I think. This is, in part, why I do not feel at home as a Southern Baptist as much as I used to. I read this, and personally, ask myself...where, where does the N.T. speak of it this way? Personally, I have never seen a satisfactory explanation for this, even though I read their "proof-texts", I have remained un-convinced....lol, in a way....I think it has been the mistaken influences of the "Universal Church" itself which has crept into S.B.C. thought which helps to foment what I think to be an error. "Self-fulfilling" prophecy so-to-speak. They begin to associate with U-church "ism" and soon enough..."U-church-ism" has become an embraced error. Wherever Southern Baptists got this idea from....I bet you it was the influence of other denominations, and not that it is "genetic" to Baptist thinking itself.
    This was, decidedly, not near as majority a view in Baptist circles, as it is now.
     
  12. Tom Butler

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    Let's look at Acts 20:28 for a minute:
    Paul is speaking to the elders from the congregation at Ephesus, who had come to see him.

    He exhorted them to be on guard for the flock. Which flock? Over the one whom the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (bishops)? Which one is that? The one at Ephesus, of course.

    He also told them to shepherd (pastor) the church of God. Which one? The one at Ephesus, over whom the Holy Spirit at made them overseers.

    He further identified the church of God as the one which Jesus purchased with his own blood. Which one? The one at Ephesus.

    This, by the way is the same church Paul mentioned in his letter to the Ephesian Church, whom Christ gave himself for. (Chapter 5)

    The elders/pastors/bishops at Ephesus were not over the Universal Church. They were the leaders of a congregation. The one at Ephesus.
     
  13. OldRegular

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    From: http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfmcomparison.asp

    1925 BF&M

    XII. The Gospel Church

    A church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ, governed by his laws, and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Its Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders, and deacons.

    *********************************************

    1963 BF&M

    VI. The Church

    A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a local body of baptized believers who are associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel, observing the two ordinances of Christ, committed to His teachings, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.

    This church is an autonomous body, operating through democratic processes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In such a congregation, members are equally responsible. Its Scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.

    The New Testament speaks also of the church as the body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages.

    ************************************************

    2000 BF&M

    VI. The Church

    A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

    The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

    ****************************************************

    As far as Baptists are concerned belief in a Universal Church -- which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation -- has no impact at all on the local church.

    My understanding of dispnsationalism is that it would reject the BF&M definition of the Church because they insist the Church is a "parenthesis" and is unique to the period between Pentecost and the so-called Rapture. Of course the Southern Baptist Convention is full of dispensationalists so I don't understand how that statement got in the BF&M.
     
  14. convicted1

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    :thumbs::thumbs::thumbs::thumbs:
     
  15. OldRegular

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    I never said that the Church at Ephesus was the Universal Church. How can you claim that Paul is not making a statement to all elders. Context is important but there are Scripture that have a much broader application than the immediate context!
     
  16. Tom Butler

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    I claim that Paul is not making a statement to all elders because he isn't. He's speaking to the elders from FBC Ephesus.

    These are elders from a local congregation.

    Now, Paul's admonitions could certainly be applied to elders in other local congregations. But the key is that the elders to whom Paul's advice and urging is directed, even in a broader sense, are still local church elders.

    There is no U-Church in view here.
     
  17. HeirofSalvation

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    As I expected...U-churchism in S.B.C. Statements of faith..is...a newer development:

     
  18. HeirofSalvation

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    I think if this passage is used to refer to a "Universal-Church" as you claim...then it would have to be refering to a Visisble Universal Church: such as Romanism teaches, and you reject, otherwise it makes no sense. If anyone is an "overseer" of any and/or all of the redeemed, even at any one time, then the Catholics are indeed correct about their ecclesiology.
     
  19. Bro. James

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    There are three distinct "ecclesia" camps: Universal and visible, aka The holy see; Universal and invisible, aka Reformation Protestants; and the usually in the minority group: Local and visible only.

    The universal error came in early then it goes through a highly biased secular historical fog for a couple of centuries to emerge as Universal Bishop and Pontifex Maximus--and other Roman Empire trappings facilitated by Constantine the Great One, circa 325 A.D. This error was never embraced by New Testament Churches which had always been local, visible and sovereign--and still are. Church authority and autonomy have been an issue from the beginning. Being first and lording over are not recently discovered aspects of the nature of humans. Then there is the Reformation, so called, of the Holy See. There have been other reformers and a new priesthood, started by Joseph Smith Jr., they claim 13 million adherents, in the Salt Lake group; but these are usurpers according to the group in Missouri. Someone is confused for sure.

    There is another error which is in tandem with universal church: baptismal regeneration. This error has created a universal quagmire of the unregenerated at very high levels of Who is Who in religion.

    The world is filled with religion--not True Christianity.

    What is in your wallet?

    Even so, come Lord Jesus.

    Peace,

    Bro. James
     
    #19 Bro. James, Jun 28, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 28, 2012
  20. OldRegular

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    Perhaps they have a better understanding of the Church now than in 1925.
     
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