Universal Church

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Jeremy Seth, Aug 4, 2016.

  1. Jeremy Seth

    Jeremy Seth
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    Is there such a thing as the "universal church", meaning something beyond a local congregation?
    If so, at what level is the distinction made?

    Baptist Faith & Message 2000
     
  2. Smyth

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    See Ephesians chapter 2. The nation of believers isn't called the "universal Church", it's called "Israel". But, it's the same thing.
     
  3. TCassidy

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    The language "universal church" is foreign to the bible. The idea of something being "universal" means it is not limited to one specific location but is everywhere. That is the exact opposite of the meaning of "ekklesia" translated "church." An "ekklasia" is a group who have been called out to assemble in a single specific location. The word "church" in the bible is almost always used in the context of a specific location: "The Church at Ephesus."

    The "something beyond the local congregation" is never referred to as "the universal church" (which is an oxymoron). In Ephesians 3:14-15 it is called "the Family of God" and in many other passages it is called "The Kingdom of God" (as He rules in the hearts of men, not to be confused with the yet future Kingdom of God on Earth).

    All of the Family of God are in Christ, seated with Him in the Heavenlies, and thus one with Him in body.

    However, the term "body of Christ" can also be applied to the local congregation as we use the term "student body" and "body politic," In that sense every local assembly is a body of baptized believers belonging to Christ, semantically shortened to "body of Christ." But, in my opinion, the first use is the most common.
     
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  4. HankD

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    Perhaps it's my Catholic upbringing - I had to attend Catholic school for a while (off and on), learn the "theology" through the sacrament of Confirmation (13 years old). They are big fans of said "universal" church and I adhere to the idea of a "universal" church although I don't like the term "universal" as it is not, as Tom said, a scriptural word.

    Rather I would use the term "invisible" (Greek aoratos - unseen) church, that is unseen by men, seen or known only to God - Definition (for this discussion) : The church - both seen and unseen - The collective assembly of all born again believers of the past and present.

    HankD
     
  5. Smyth

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    Galatians 6:16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God [aka the universal church].

    2 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
     
  6. Squire Robertsson

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    On a practical note, I use the "Family of God" model. It allows for both close and distant relationships and for the odd black sheep.
     
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  7. TCassidy

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    I have never seen an "invisible" church. (Did you see what I did there?) (Did you see what I did with "see" there?) (This could go on for a long time!) :D:D:D:D:D
     
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  8. HankD

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    OK, OK, Clever. We can't "see" who is born again with our physical eyes.
    Except perhaps as demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit.

    Just like we can't "see" the wind but we can "see" the effects it has (trees rustling, etc...). :D:D

    Hmm. John 3 somewhere?

    HankD
     
  9. TCassidy

    TCassidy
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    As the definition of "church" is "an organized assembly of baptized believers" how can they be invisible? And if they were invisible how would you know you were with them if you couldn't see them? You may just be sitting in the room all alone. :)
     
  10. HankD

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    Prayer, it's happened before
    2 Kings 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see :D

    HankD
     
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  11. The Biblicist

    The Biblicist
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    The idea of a universal invisible church is the result of several errors. The first error is the failure to understand that in every single instance in pre-New Testament literature and classical Greek the meaning by usage of the Greek ekklesia never exceeds a visible assembly of persons. The second error is the failure to understand that in classical Greek that ekklesia used with the definite article is commonly used in the institutional sense and if applied to the New Testament there would be no text in the New Testament that could be used to convey a universal invisible kind of ekklesia. The third error is the failure to see that every single metaphor used for the church in the New Testament is local and visible by nature and no metaphor that conveys invisibility or universality is ever used to describe the church. The fourth error is the confusion of universal church scholars make between ekklesia and the family of God.
    The fifth error is their failure to see that the ekklesia is the visible administrator of the ordinances within the kingdom of God and therefore the visible representative of the kingdom of God just as the nation of Israel was the visible representation of the kingdom of God on earth in the Old Testament. Hence, when one looks at the visible local assembly of baptized believers or the ekklesia of Christ they see the visible representation of God's kingdom or rule on earth and in that sense they see the ekklesia as a "holy nation" as Israel was the visible representation of the kingdom in the Old Testament.

    Finally, the most serious error of the big church view is that it confuses salvation with the church. Churches in the New Testament require salvation before membership while the big church view requires church membership in order to be saved because if one is not in this concept of the church they are not saved and to be in it is to be saved and to be outside it is to be lost. Then they turn right around and claim the concrete ekklesia should be modeled after the "true" church as they believe the concrete church is the visible expression of the "true" big church. If they follow this through, then concrete churches should not demand water baptism for membership, and in reality deny need for membership but merely show up. Also it would lead to rejection of church discipline of any "brother" (1 Cor. 5:11; 2 Thes. 3:6, 14) as the "true" church does not remove any "brother" from its membership.
     
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  12. HankD

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    When writing about church matters many authors use the phrase "the church" as a matter of convenience in referring to all the local churches at large.

    although I have used "the churches" (referring to all the local churches at large).

    I dislike the "universal" church because it is not a scriptural word but then again neither can the word "Trinity" be found in the scripture although it is a biblical composite concept that I fully believe.

    Rather as I have said before I like the phrase "invisible" or "unseen".

    Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
    invisible aoratos Friberg 00547 Not able to be seen.

    Unfortunately any given local church can be have a "mixed multitude" (saved and unsaved, wheat and tares) membership in spite of our best efforts to avoid this fact.

    So the invisible Church or the Church which men cannot see but God alone is the collective assembly of all those born of the Spirit whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

    This is what I mean when I use the phrase "The Church" and use the phrase "Christendom" to mean the mixed multitude of saved and unsaved (wheat and tares) in the collective visible assemblies (although I have used "the church" to mean the collective local assemblies where the context shows it is the mixed multitude).

    Hebrews 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.


    HankD
     
    #12 HankD, Aug 5, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2016
  13. Jeremy Seth

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    I'm very glad to see popular support for the local church being the exclusive meaning of the term, I have had trouble supporting my case and yall's input is very helpful

    I don't think this is a trend out of convenience, I think its origin is in a doctrinal belief in such a catholic church.
     
  14. Smyth

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    The phrase "universal Church" (often even expressed as the lower-case c catholic Church) may come from the Roman Catholic Church. But, the whole of [true] Christians are part of a universal church, which is the body of Christ, the family of God, and the Israel of God. In a secular sense, the entire Christian community can also be called the Church, such as the Protestant Church.
     
  15. HankD

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    OK if you think so, maybe... but it's true for me.

    BTW though I use the term the invisible or unseen (seen only by God) church my own emphasis is on the local church as is the NT.

    HankD
     
  16. TCassidy

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    I am not convinced the use of "church" to refer to all local churches collectively is of a "catholic" nature.

    I believe the word is used in a generic sense. No church in particular, all churches in general.

    Just as I might say "I believe the horse is the most magnificent animal of God's creation." That does not indicate I believe in a universal, invisible horse. I am just using the term generically.

    I find the church to be universal (churches can be found everywhere) but I don't believe in a universal church. :)
     
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  17. Martin Marprelate

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    Have a look at Matthew 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 12:23. There are a few other instances where the usage appears to be universal rather than local, but those come to mind immediately.
    From the Baptist 1689 Confession:

    Chapter 26: Of the Church
    1._____ The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
    ( Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23; Ephesians 5:23, 27, 32 )
    2._____ All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.
    ( 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:20-22 )
    3._____ The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.
    ( 1 Corinthians 5; Revelation 2; Revelation 3; Revelation 18:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12; Matthew 16:18; Psalms 72:17; Psalm 102:28; Revelation 12:17 )
    4._____ The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
    ( Colossians 1:18; Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-9 )
    5._____ In the execution of this power wherewith he is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.
    ( John 10:16; John 12:32; Matthew 28:20; Matthew 18:15-20 )
    6._____ The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.
    ( Romans. 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 2:41, 42; Acts 5:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 9:13 )
    7._____ To each of these churches thus gathered, according to his mind declared in his word, he hath given all that power and authority, which is in any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to observe; with commands and rules for the due and right exerting, and executing of that power.
    ( Matthew 18:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 5:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 )
    8._____ A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.
    ( Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1 )
     
  18. AVL1984

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    TCassidy, then with your view being expressed here as only the "local" church, and I know where you're coming from because I was raised the same way except that my father believed in the Universal Invisible Church (he was raised in Boy's Town...so that could be part of the reason)...where would you stand on something like the "Hillsong" model of churches.....individual Independent churches, but considered "universal" in a sense?? Could you explain it for us a bit more clearly? Thank you, sir. ;)
     
  19. TCassidy

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    Similar to the "Local Church" movement of Watchman Nee. The idea is, of course, completely unbiblical. For a church to assume authority over an entire community, including the non-christians and Christians not in fellowship of that church, is patently absurd.

    Of course, the "Local Church" movement has nothing to do with the concept of a "universal church" as articulated by many Christians and many doctrinal statements. I am not certain how I can make my position any clearer.

    What part do you think needs clarification?

     
  20. HankD

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    This is still the dogma of the local Church of Rome. We (the world of Christendom) are all "separated brethren".

    HankD
     

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