Local/Universal Church

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by J.T., Jun 3, 2003.

  1. J.T.

    J.T.
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    Greetings All,
    As I continue to study, read, and talk to different preachers; I notice that there are those who believe in the "Universal Church" & some who believe it is "Local". I have no pre-conceived ideas,(I'm only 24...still a "novice") I want to know if both can be right or is it one or the other?
    Thanks for your thoughts
     
  2. RomOne16

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    I believe it is both.

    The universal church consists of all born again believers (the body of Christ).

    The local church is just that; a local assembly of born again believers.

    In Christ,

    Laura
     
  3. J.T.

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    TO ALL,
    was it something I said?
     
  4. Bartholomew

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    As I was brought up an Anglican, I used to believe in the "universal church". However, after recently joining a baptist church, my pastor told me he didn't believe that. And after looking at the Bible again, I can find LOTS of references to local churches; but NONE to a universal chruch. So I think I know which I'll believe... [​IMG]
     
  5. Pete Richert

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    Bartholomew,

    I think most references to a church in Scripture is a local body of believers but how about these.
    (All references are to the KJV)

    Ephesians 1:22
    And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church,

    Ephesians 3:10
    To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

    Ephesians 3:21
    Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

    Ephesians 5:23
    For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

    Ephesians 5:24
    Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing.

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

    Ephesians 5:27
    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.

    Ephesians 5:29
    For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

    Ephesians 5:32
    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

    Philippians 3:6
    Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

    Colossians 1:18
    And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

    Colossians 1:24
    Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

    Each of these seem to refer to all believers collectivly, though I guess an argument could be made that it is not The Church, but Each Church, or All Churches, though I don't know if there really is a difference.
     
  6. Major B

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    Here is the way I arrived at the local church position.

    First, and most importantly, the meaning of the word ekklesia. When you compare all the references, including those who refer to non-Christian or secular public assemblies, and when you examine the secular use of the word in historical Greek manuscripts, it means an assembly of people called out by one in authority for a particular purpose. If there is a universal church, it has never met! Local churches (a redundant term) are public assemblies called out by the authority of Jesus for the specific purpose of fulfilling the great commission and bringing glory to God.

    Second, the uses of the word that plainly refer to a local church can only mean a local church. (as in "the church that is in thy house...").

    Third, the more ambiguous uses of the term could mean universal church, but (1) they never specifically state such a thing, and (2) they also will allow a usage of "local church."

    I think the case for the local church is overwhelming.
     
  7. Pete Richert

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    So in Ephesians 5:25, which Church did Jesus give himself for? (Dear me, I hope it was mine [​IMG]

    It could mean Jesus gave himself for the church, that is, all churhes seperatly; but it seems more likely, Jesus gave himself for the church, that is all churches, that is all believers. He gave himself for all believers (or we wouln't be believers) and all believers are the church.

    Anyway, here is a few more questions I have for clarification.

    What is the Body of Christ?
    Is the Body of Christ the Church?
     
  8. Major B

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    If you look at the fullest treatment of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12), I'd say the body of Christ is the local church. How can Christ's body be many local churches? Well, see, God has this omnipresence thing going...Mat 18:15-20, Ps 139, all that...
     
  9. Dr. Bob

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    I feel that all believers from the Cross until the Rapture comprise the body of Christ. Generically, it can be thought of as the "church" (a collection of all the local assemblies together, or speaking of one on behalf of all), but I believe that the NT useage of ecclesia (church) is a local assembly.

    3 times of a local secular assembly (Jews in wilderness, Greeks in Ephesus) and 119 times of a local spiritual assembly.
     
  10. Artimaeus

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    Pete Richert, you are right in the verses you have chosen. Christ died for THE church. He is the head of THE church. Which local church did he give Himself for since it says church and not churches? The following says it better than my little pea brain ever could.

    Church — Derived probably from the Greek kuriakon (i.e., “the Lord’s house”), which was used by ancient authors for the place of worship.
    In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word ecclesia, which is synonymous with the Hebrew kahal of the Old Testament, both words meaning simply an assembly, the character of which can only be known from the connection in which the word is found. There is no clear instance of its being used for a place of meeting or of worship, although in post-apostolic times it early received this meaning. Nor is this word ever used to denote the inhabitants of a country united in the same profession, as when we say the “Church of England,” the “Church of Scotland,” etc.
    We find the word ecclesia used in the following senses in the New Testament: (1.) It is translated “assembly” in the ordinary classical sense (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
    (2.) It denotes the whole body of the redeemed, all those whom the Father has given to Christ, the invisible catholic church (Eph. 5:23, 25, 27, 29; Heb. 12:23).
    (3.) A few Christians associated together in observing the ordinances of the gospel are an ecclesia (Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15).
    (4.) All the Christians in a particular city, whether they assembled together in one place or in several places for religious worship, were an ecclesia. Thus all the disciples in Antioch, forming several congregations, were one church (Acts 13:1); so also we read of the “church of God at Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2), “the church at Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1), “the church of Ephesus” (Rev. 2:1), etc.
    (5.) The whole body of professing Christians throughout the world (1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Matt. 16:18) are the church of Christ.
    The church visible “consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children.” It is called “visible” because its members are known and its assemblies are public. Here there is a mixture of “wheat and chaff,” of saints and sinners. “God has commanded his people to organize themselves into distinct visible ecclesiastical communities, with constitutions, laws, and officers, badges, ordinances, and discipline, for the great purpose of giving visibility to his kingdom, of making known the gospel of that kingdom, and of gathering in all its elect subjects. Each one of these distinct organized communities which is faithful to the great King is an integral part of the visible church, and all together constitute the catholic or universal visible church.” A credible profession of the true religion constitutes a person a member of this church. This is “the kingdom of heaven,” whose character and progress are set forth in the parables recorded in Matt. 13.
    The church invisible “consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ, the head thereof.” This is a pure society, the church in which Christ dwells. It is the body of Christ. it is called “invisible” because the greater part of those who constitute it are already in heaven or are yet unborn, and also because its members still on earth cannot certainly be distinguished. The qualifications of membership in it are internal and are hidden. It is unseen except by Him who “searches the heart.” “The Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19).
    The church to which the attributes, prerogatives, and promises appertaining to Christ’s kingdom belong, is a spiritual body consisting of all true believers, i.e., the church invisible.
    (1.) Its unity. God has ever had only one church on earth. We sometimes speak of the Old Testament Church and of the New Testament church, but they are one and the same. The Old Testament church was not to be changed but enlarged (Isa. 49:13–23; 60:1–14). When the Jews are at length restored, they will not enter a new church, but will be grafted again into “their own olive tree” (Rom. 11:18–24; comp. Eph. 2:11–22). The apostles did not set up a new organization. Under their ministry disciples were “added” to the “church” already existing (Acts 2:47).
    (2.) Its universality. It is the “catholic” church; not confined to any particular country or outward organization, but comprehending all believers throughout the whole world.
    (3.) Its perpetuity. It will continue through all ages to the end of the world. It can never be destroyed. It is an “everlasting kindgdom.”
    Easton, M. G., M. A. D. D., Easton’s Bible Dictionary, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1996.
     
  11. Mitsy

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    Believe it or not, there is a denomination that calls itself "The Local Church". I don't think they have many Baptist beliefs, and it was started by an oriental man many years ago. Not a lot of churches within this group, but just FYI, here is their link.

    http://www.localchurches.org/
     
  12. rlvaughn

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    I agree, Major B. I find it somewhat unusual, though, that it seems in popular usage those who believe there are two churches or two aspects (local and universal) frequently talk and write about The Church as if there is only one, while those who believe there is one church (local only) are talking over and over about the local church as if there is another one.
    :confused:
     
  13. Major B

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    They are considered a cult. See the quote below from the Watchman Fellowship website:
    "Local Church, Anaheim, CA: Controversial movement begun in China in the early 1920s by Ni To-sheng (Watchman Nee). Growth and controversy developed during the administration of their second leader, the late Witness Lee, who moved to America in 1962 founding Living Stream Ministry. Among issues drawing criticism from evangelical Christians is the Local Church's use of the term “mingling” to describe the relationship between God and believers (i.e., Christians become both divine and human like Jesus). Some evangelicals have also charged that the church compromises the Trinity doctrine by confusing the Persons of the Holy Spirit and the Son in a way similar to modalism. The organization's exclusivity has also comme under fire. According to Lee, each city can and should have only one church. Denominationalism is seen as of the Devil. According to critics, the effect is that Lee-led local churches, usually called by the name of their cities (e.g., the Church in Anaheim or the Church in Chicago), become the only true expressions of the Body of Christ. Thus, according to former members, all other churches or denominations are seen as being outside the will of God or not true churches at all. The Local Church has also gained a reputation for threatening legal action to prevent unfavorable public evaluation of its movement. Even Christian critics have been targeted, adding to the evidence that they do not consider believers outside their movement to be true or obedient Christians (1 Corinthians 6:1–8). '
     
  14. Bible Student

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    I only believe in a local, visible assembly of believers, called the church. Though time and space will not allow an in-depth writing, here are a few reasons why.

    It is interesting that many who believe in this doctrine of the invisible church, in other areas of text are strictly for the normal usage of the language. Yet, in this area of doctrine it is ok to take a few verses and try to make the church mean something it is not to, I believe to follow the person of Scofield as he was the greatest teacher of this doctrine and area in the notes of his Bible.

    There is 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.

    “The word translated “church” occurs 113 times in the New Testament. It is used in three senses. In ninety-tow instances it is used in the primary and ordinary sense: that is, of a particular, independent, autonomous body, as “The Church at Jerusalem,” “Antioch,” “Corinth,” etc. Then it is used a few times in the abstract or institutional sense, as in Matthew 16:18. When the term is used without reference to a particular church, it is used in the institutional sense, but when reduced to the concrete it becomes a particular church. The term is used also in the sense of a general assembly, a purely spiritual sense, as in Heb. 12:23 and Eph. 5:25-27. But in every instance of this kind the assembly is a thing in prospect, and not now in actual existence. That is, it teaches us that there is not now, but there will be, a general assembly of all the redeemed of all time—past, present and future. This assembly can now have only an ideal existence. It is manifest, therefore, that the only church now in existence after the New Testament order and having New Testament authority, is the particular, independent, self-governing, unattached body of baptized believers-a pure democracy, a normal Baptist church.” Ronnie Wolfe

    Sorry this is so long but I believe it is important as a Baptist to stand against the universal invisible church. That is the reason that we have this tolerance today of allowing anyone believe anything they want and are compelled to “let’s just get along” cause we are all part of the “church.” It is a lie of the devil. It is time for Bible believers to get the power of the Holy Spirit and a backbone to take a real stand against apostasy.

    Richard [​IMG]
     
  15. Mitsy

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    Major,

    Thanks for the extra info on the "local church" group. I had wondered if they were a bit cultish in their beliefs, although I had not researched them thoroughly. I think it is very very sad that so many churches masquerade as a Christian group when they are actually cults in disguise.

    It was a rude awakening for myself when I realized that the United Pentecostal Church considered Baptist (and most other denominations) as NOT having the truth. Of course, that was so far off from what I believed, that I knew I couldn't continue to worship there.

    But I'm finding out that there are more and more "Christian?" churches that believe that salvation is obtained exclusively through their church or denomination (although many claim to be non-denominational). How very sad for people who want to belong and want to know Christ better. And ultimately, Christ's message was about inclusion and acceptance, not exclusion and superiority.
     
  16. Pete Richert

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    For all of those who subscribe soley to the local church, I feel like no one is answering the versus posted above.

    Thanks.
     
  17. Pastor Larry

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    This is simply not true. I am for the normal usage of language in all parts of Scripture, and on that basis, I reject the local church only theory. Above are listed some verses that support the idea of the universal or invisible church. There is only one body and it is made up of all believers in all places in this age.

    As a Baptist, I believe it is important to stand agains the local church only theory on the simple basis of allegiance to and proper exegesis of Scripture.

    I agree with your last statement, but that has no bearing. Those who are driven by Scripture are willing to take scriptural separation seriously. We have no problem with this invisible church doctrine and we separate from those who are disobedient in doctrine and practice. The truth is that your objection is not solidly based. Rejecting the universal church theory has not purified the church. Accept the universal church doctrine does not preclude obedience to Scripture.
     
  18. Bible Student

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    Sorry Pastor Larry but I disagree with you as I believe the meaning of the word church does not change in context here.

    The scripture is still speaking of a local visible body of believers. A visible universal church has no mission, no doctrine, no meeting place, no authority. Jesus gave all these things to the local visible body of believers.

    With this view, from about 400 AD even through the early years of this nation, the church killed the church, and all those who gave their lives for the truth of the Bible was in vain.

    Richard [​IMG]
     
  19. Pastor Larry

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    Which context are you talking about? When the Bible says that Jesus purchased "the church," (singular), there is no exegetical way you can make that mean "churches" or "one local church." He died for "the church." When the Bible says that the body of Christ is "the church," it most certainly does not say "the churches." Christ only has one body. I am a part of it and you are as well (I presume by your implicit testimony). Yet we are not a part of teh same local church. So what "church" are we both a part of?? The invisible church.

    [qutoe]A visible universal church has no mission, no doctrine, no meeting place, no authority. Jesus gave all these things to the local visible body of believers.[/quote]No he didn't. That local visible body was not yet assembled when he gave that command. Secondly the universal church does have a mission. It is worked out in the individual local church.

    On what possible basis do you say this?? I don't understand that at all. It doesn't seem to make sense here.
     
  20. Bible Student

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    That is the problem right there, you do not believe that Christ started the Church. The Apostles were called out and appointed before Acts, they received the Holy Soirit before Acts, And the commission was given to the church before Acts, Church doctrine was given to the already started church before Acts, in fact the three thousand souls were ADDED to the church and did not begin before Acts.

    Richard [​IMG]
     

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