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Featured Universal church

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Salty, Feb 6, 2023.

  1. Salty

    Salty 20,000 Posts Club
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    What are your thoughts about the "universal church"
     
  2. AustinC

    AustinC Well-Known Member

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    What do you mean by the "universal church?"
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. percho

    percho Well-Known Member
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    “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matt 16:18

    Universal maybe I think.

    Here's a thought question.

    Will there be a universal assembly at the coming of the Lord out through the gates of Hades, joined by those alive at that time, who have been added to the assembly?
     
  4. percho

    percho Well-Known Member
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    having foreseen, he did speak concerning the rising again of the Christ, that his soul was not left to (into) hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. Acts 2:31 YLT

    1 Thes 4:14 YLT for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, - so also God those asleep through Jesus he will bring with him,
    So also, what?

    The gates of hades?

    How did Jesus find the soul of him into hades? Did he pass from life into death therefore into hades when committed the Spirit of him into the hands of his Father?

    I also wonder if Jesus was ever renewed with Spirit, Holy after having committing the Spirit of him into the hands of the Father?

    Brings Acts 2:32,33 to mind.
     
  5. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    When used in its Christian connotation, ekklesia has two meanings. Firstly, it designates a single congregation. Paul writes to ‘The church of God which is in Corinth’ but also to ‘The churches of Galatia’. Nowhere are the congregations of one area put together and called a ‘church’. Paul writes, ‘I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea…’ (Gal 1:22 ). The church in Corinth may well have been split into ‘House Groups’ for much of the time since it did not have its own building, but it was able to meet together as a body on regular occasions (cf. 1 Cor 14:23 ), and so Paul refers to it as a single ekklesia.

    Secondly, ekklesia is also used to describe the whole people of God, the entire body of Christ. Paul writes that, ‘I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it’ (Gal 1:13 ), but when he met the Lord on the Damascus road, he was asked, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ This usage may be said to represent that great assembly of all Christians which is described in Rev 7:9ff.

    So we can see immediately that when we speak of, ‘The Medieval Church’, ‘the Church in Europe’, ‘the Church in Iraq’, ‘the Afro-Caribbean Church’ or, God forbid, ‘the Gay and Lesbian Church’, we are using ekklesia in a way that is unknown in the Bible. We should use the plural, or speak of ‘Christianity in the Middle Ages’ etc. Nor should we speak of buildings as ‘churches’. The church is the people. There is the story of the evangelical minister of a church that met in a beautiful old building. As he was opening it up in preparation for the morning service, he was approached by two tourists. “May we see your church please,” they asked. “Certainly,” he replied. “It will be along in about an hour!”

    We make a serious error if we describe denominations as churches- ‘The Methodist Church’ or ‘the Church of England.’ Far too often when people speak of ‘my church’, they are thinking of their denomination. Most denominations are utterly different from what they were when they were founded; rot and decay set in, and they rarely come in through the pew- a denomination is like a dead fish; it decays from the head down.
     
  6. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    The word "church" found in our KJV is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. In the Greek New Testament it occurs 115 times. In our KJV church is found 114 times. However, two of these times should be excluded from our study. In Acts 19:37 the Greek word is hierosulosnot ekklesia. This is the Greek word for temple. Then in I Peter 5:13 ekklesiadoes not occur in the Greek text. The word church is supplied by the translators. 'Ekklesia is translated three times "assembly" in Acts 19. Hence we need to subtract two passages in the KJV (Acts 19:37 and I Peter 5:13) which makes 112. Then we need to add 3 (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). Thus giving us 115 times ekklesia occurs in the Greek New Testament.

    THE NON CHRISTIAN USAGE

    In order to discover the primary and literal meaning of the Greek word ekklesia, let us look carefully at its non- Christian usage in Acts 19. "For the assembly (ekklesia) was confused" (Acts 19:32). Acts 19:39 says: "It shall be determined in a lawful assembly" (ekklesia). Acts 19:41 declares: "He dismissed the assembly" (ekklesia). Hence we see the competent scholars of the King James Version believed that the literal meaning of ekklesia was "assembly." They did not translate it "the called out."

    Wickcliff (1380) translates these three passages "church." Tyndale (1534), Cranmer (1539), the Geneva Bible (1557), and the Rhemish Version (1582) all translate the word in Acts 19 "congregation." The New International Version, the New English Bible, The New Testament by Charles Williams, the Twentieth Century New Testament, the Centenary Translation, the Judaean New Testament, the Weymouth Version, Moffatt's version, and the Emphasized Bible all translate all three verses in Acts 19 as "assembly." The Amplified New Testament translates verse 39 and 41 "assembly," but in verse 32 it is "gathering." The New Berkeley Version translates verse 32 and 39 "assembly," but in verse 41 it is "gathering." The New Testament in Basic English has "meeting" and so does the Good News for Modern Man (a version which is so bad it ought to be called bad news for any man).

    None of these translate ekklesia "the called out." If as our opponents claim the word means "the called out," why did not any of these scholars so translate? Yet they say all scholars agree with them! The word ekklesia does not mean "the called out." It means "assembly," "congregation," "gathering," or "meeting." This literal and primary meaning precludes the so-called universal, invisible church. There is no such thing as an assembly which cannot assemble, or a congregation which never congregates. The meaning of the word prohibits such a meaning. The universal, invisible church has never assembled and never will on this earth in this gospel age. Hence such a thing is a mere concept of the mind, having no real existence in time or place.

    One time in the New Testament the word church ekklesia is applied to the congregation or assembly of Israel in the wilderness: "This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us" (Acts 7:38). The congregation in the wilderness was not a church in the New Testament sense. But it was a local, visible body of people in one place. There was no universal, invisible congregation of the Israelites. This cannot mean "the whole number of regenerate persons from Pentecost to the first resurrection," nor can it mean "the whole number of the elect, the have been, are, or shall be gathered into one." Ekklesia (church) retains its primary and literal sense of assembly or congregation.

    ITS PLURAL USAGE

    The word Ekklesia in the plural form occurs 36 times in the Greek New Testament (Acts 9:31; 15:41; 16:5; Rom. 16:4, 16; I Cor. 7:17; 11:16; 14:33-34; 16:1,19; II Cor. 8:1, 18, 19, 23-24; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Gal. 1:2, 22; I Thess. 2:14; II Thess. 1:4; Rev. 1:4, 11, 20; 2:7, 11, 17, 23, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 22:16). So far as I know no one has yet invented the doctrine of the universal, invisible churches. Therefore, the plural tolerates nothing but the local idea. It leaves no place for either the universal, invisible church of the Protestants, or the universal visible church of the Catholics. These 36 plural usage's confirm the literal and primary sense of the word is correct. This leaves 75 other passages.
    Some make a big to do over Acts 9:31. They contend the Greek text has the word church in the singular here. It is true that Greek copies vary between "churches" and "church." The Alexandrian copy, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac, the Ethiopic Version, and some others read in the singular number. However, the Textus Receptus has "churches." I believe this is the proper original text, and I will leave the matter there. But even if one receives the translation of "church" rather than "churches," he does not have a universal, invisible church. Instead, he would have a provincial use of the word church, a thing which would favor the meaning of the word church as held by the Catholics.

    THE CHURCH IN A CERTAIN PLACE

    Twenty times the word church is used in the singular number, and it points to a church which meets in a certain place. These passages are as follows:
    "The church which was at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1).
    "The church which was in Jerusalem" (Acts 11:22).
    "The church that was in Antioch" (Acts 13:1).
    "The church at Cenchrea" (Rom. 16:1).
    "The church that is in their house" (Rom. 16:5).
    "The church of God which is at Corinth" (I Cor. 1:2).
    "The church which is in his house" (Col. 4:15).
    "The church of the Laodiceans" (Col. 4:16).
    "The church of the Thessalonians" (I Thess. 1:1).
    "The church of the Thessalonians" (II Thess. 1:1).
    "The church in thy house" (Phile. 2).
    "The church of Ephesus" (Rev. 2:1).
    "The church in Smyrna" (Rev. 2:8).
    "The church at Pergamos" (Rev. 2:12).
    "The church in Thyatira" (Rev. 2:18).
    "The church in Sardis" (Rev. 3:1).
    "The church in Philadelphia" (Rev. 3:7).
    "The church of the Laodiceans" (Rev.3:14).
    These verses most certainly refer to a local church, an assembly of people who meet in a given locality, a body of baptized believers. There is no such thing as a universal, invisible church which meets in a certain place. A church which gathers in a certain place is both local and visible. This leaves 55 more verses to consider.

    LOCATION IN THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT

    In 23 other passages the word church is located in a certain place in the immediate context. These verses are as follows:
    "The Lord added to the (Jerusalem) church" (Acts 2:47).
    "Fear came upon all the (Jerusalem) church" (Acts 8:3).
    "As for Saul, he made havock of the (Jerusalem) church" (Acts 8:3).
    "His hands to vex certain of the (Jerusalem) church (Acts 12:1).
    "But prayer was made without ceasing of the (Jerusalem) church" (Acts 12:5).
    "And being brought on their way by the (Antioch) church" (Acts 15:3).
    "They were received by the (Jerusalem) church" (Acts 15:4).
    "He ... saluted the (Jerusalem) church" (Acts 18:22).
    "Called the elders of the (Ephesian) church" (Acts 20:17).
    "The church that is in their house" (Rom. 16:5). The name of this church is uncertain, but it was local for it met in a house.
    "Least esteemed in the (Corinthian) church" (I Cor. 6:4).
    "Despise ye the church of God" (I Cor. 11:22). Paul called the Corinthian church by this title in I Corinthians 1:1.
    "He that prophesieth edifieth the (Corinthian) church" (I Cor. 14:4).
    "The (Corinthian) church may receive edifying" (I Cor. 14:5).
    "The edifying of the (Corinthian) church" (I Cor. 14:12).
    "In the (Corinthian) church I had rather speak" (I Cor. 14:19).
    "Let him keep silence in the (Corinthian) church" (I Cor. 14:28).
    "For women to speak in the (Corinthian) church" (I Cor. 14:35).
    "Let not the (Ephesian) church be charged" (I Tim. 5:16).
    "In the midst of the (Jerusalem) church will I sing praise unto thee" (Heb. 2:12).
    "Thy charity before the (Ephesian) church" (III John 6).
    "I wrote unto the (Ephesian) church" (III John 9).
    "Casteth them out of the (Ephesian) church" (III John 10).
    con't
     
  7. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    IN CONNECTION WITH COMING TOGETHER

    We are now going on to consider the remaining 32 passages. Three times the word church is connected with a coming together. This precluded a universal, invisible church in the strongest possible manner. They also demonstrate what a church really is in the New Testament sense. These verses can mean nothing but a local, visible body of baptized believers.

    First, consider Acts 11:26 which says: "And it came to pass, that they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people." The reference is to the church at Antioch. With this local, visible body of baptized believers Paul and Barnabas assembled themselves; they assembled with the assembly. We also see that the church is a place where people assemble to hear the Bible taught.

    Second, look at Acts 14:27: "And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles." Please note the words ''gathered the church together.'' A church in the New Testament sense can be gathered together in one place. In this one place the things of God can be rehearsed. Such can never be said of some supposed universal, invisible church.

    Third, I Corinthians 11:18 tells us: "For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it." Please observe the words "when ye come together in the church." A church is a place where people "come together.., into one place" (I Cor. 11:20). To use the word church of some ideal multitude who have never come together into one place is absurd. Such a thing cannot be a church in the Biblical sense; it is only a mythical church, a church that is made to exist in religious minds out of theological necessity.

    THE WHOLE CHURCH

    We now have 29 passages left. Thus far we have not found even one thing which in the least resembles the universal, invisible church. To the universal church people the whole church consists of "the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one." But in the New Testament "the whole church" is always used to refer to a local church. Then why do they use the expression "the whole church" to mean all the elect? Where is their Scriptural authority for doing so?

    I shall prove what I have said. "If therefore the whole church come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?" (I Cor. 14:23). The whole church here could be assembled into one place. The meaning is the whole membership of the Corinthian church. Note Romans 16:23: "Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you." This is the church which met in Gaius' house, the church which could salute the Roman Christians. The same usage can be seen in Acts 15:22 "Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church." The "whole church," in this verse is the church at Jerusalem.

    COUPLED WITH OTHER WORDS

    We are now down to 26 passages yet to be studied. Two times the word church is accompanied by the word "every."
    "And when they had ordained them elders in every church" (Acts 14:23).
    "I teach in every church" (I Cor. 4:17).
    One time church is coupled with "no."
    "No church communicated with me" (Phil. 4:15).

    These verses point also to a local visible body of baptized believers. These churches had elders and sent offerings. The universal, invisible church has no elders and sends no offerings, seeing it is a conception of the mind, having no existence in time or place, and is not a historical fact, being only an ideal multitude without organization, without action, and without corporate being.

    We have already seen that 92 out of the 115 times the word ,ekklesia(church) occurs in the Greek New Testament it means a local body as well defined as the legislative assembly of a Greek Free City. This makes it certain that the local idea commonly and exclusively rules in the New Testament. Ninety-two verses out of 115 favor my position - a very strong argument in favor of the Landmark position. Unless there are good reasons contained in the Scriptures themselves to make the word have a new meaning, we must always understand the word church to refer to a local body of baptized believers.

    FIVE OTHER SURELY LOCAL

    When one takes a close look at five other passages, he will see that they also point to a local body.
    I Timothy 3:5 says: "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" This cannot be the big church, for no pastor can take care of such a church.

    James 5:14 says: "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church." This, too, is a local assembly, for no one could call the elders of the universal, invisible church.

    Three other passages need not claim our attention long either.
    "I persecuted the church of God" (I Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13).
    "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church" (Phil. 3:6).

    Any person knows that Paul did not persecute the elect of all ages, some dead, some alive, and some not born. According to Acts 8:1-4, Saul or Paul persecuted the Jerusalem church. Here again the sense is doubtless local. Thus 97 out of the 115 permits the meaning of a local, visible body of persons. This leaves 18 more verses.

    con't
     
  8. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    THE MEANING OF 'EKKLESIA
    (Continued)

    I went to great length to examine the usage of ekklesia in the Greek New Testament. Ekklesia is the Greek word translated church in our English Bible. My examination revealed that in 97 of the 115 passages the word has the primary and literal meaning of a local, visible assembly. In none of these 97 verses did the word church mean a universal, invisible church consisting of all the elect.

    There remains 18 more verses to be examined. These are the debatable passages. Most theologians maintain the word church takes on a new meaning in these verses. They say that the 18 remaining passages use the word church in the larger sense, meaning a big universal church. This new meaning is contrary to the primary and literal meaning of ekklesia, and this new meaning is contradictory to the local idea which permeates the entire New Testament. The big church idea has been invented from theological necessity, not from etymological requirement.

    But do these remaining 18 verses authorize a new meaning of the word church? Or, does the word retain its primary meaning of a local, visible body of baptized believers? From what we have already seen the odds are 97 to 18 against such a new meaning. Nevertheless, the Biblical answer can be discovered only by a careful examination of these remaining 18 verses. If the word church has a new meaning the text and context should give sufficient evidence to warrant this new meaning. On the other hand, if such a meaning is not required, then we have every reason to reject the universal, invisible church theory as totally without scriptural warrant.

    THE GENERIC USE OF A WORD

    I believe that in a number of the remaining 18 verses the word church is used in the generic sense. In such a case the word may be singular and yet not refer to any particular object of the class but to every object of that class. Let me illustrate what I mean by a word being used abstractly, or generically. "The home is a Divine institution." The word home is used generically or abstractly in this sentence. The definite article with the word does not mean there is one particular home singled out from the rest. The word home has not taken on a new meaning; it retains its common meaning. There is no such thing as a universal, invisible home.

    The word church is used abstractly in some of these debatable verses, not referring to any particular church at any definite place, but to the church as an institution. When a concrete application of the word is made it must be to a particular local church somewhere. Most Bible scholars chose to ignore the abstract usage of the word church in the Bible, although they will freely concede such is true of other words. Rather than allowing the word to retain its common meaning throughout the New Testament, a most reasonable and logical thing to do, they ascribe a new meaning to the word. They say it must mean a universal, invisible church. ekklesia never had such a meaning in the Greek writings. This new meaning is contrary to the primary and literal meaning of ekklesia. If I can give a word a new meaning so as to fit my creed when the common meaning makes good sense, then I can change the entire Bible to suit my fancy and the next person can do the same!

    MATTHEW 16:18

    I shall take these verses in the order in which they occur in the books of the New Testament. The first one to be considered is Matthew 16:18. In this verse Jesus said: "And I say 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." Jesus is using the word church here in the generic, abstract, or institutional sense. He refers to the church as a Divine institution against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail. Yet it would have been understood by His hearers in a special sense as applicable to them.

    Jesus spoke here to His disciples (Matt. 16:13), the company of baptized believers which followed Him from the baptism of John (Acts 1:21-22). It was to the same group of baptized disciples He gave the rules of church discipline, the Lord's Supper, and the Great Commission. There can be no doubt that Jesus addressed His words to a local, visible body of baptized believers who constitute the first New Testament church in the world.

    The ordinary sense makes perfectly good sense in Matthew 16:18. First, the words were addressed to a local, visible body of baptized believers. They were not addressed to the elect of all ages. Second, those who heard these words would have understood ekklesia in its primary and ordinary sense. I say this because I cannot believe the Master Teacher would have intended a common word to have a new meaning without some word of explanation. Third, by reading the Gospels and the Book of Acts, we see the kind of church which Christ built. He personally built the church which later became known as the Jerusalem Church. Through this mother church He built other churches, all such churches were local, visible bodies like the first church.

    The fourth reason I believe 'ekklesia must be understood in its primary sense is because Jesus used this word 23 times, 3 times in Matthew and 20 times in Revelation. Twenty-one of these times the word is admitted by most as having the common meaning. Then why give it a new meaning in Matthew 16:18? Remember, the odds are 22 to 1 that Christ used it in its primary meaning. It seems to me to be the height of folly to assume that our Lord announced He would build a universal, invisible church, and then he never mentioned this church again while speaking 22 other times about a church He never promised to build!

    con't
     
  9. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    MATTHEW 18:17

    Some seem to think the big church is referred to in Matthew 18:17. The passage says: "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." This is surely a reference to the church which Christ had already founded. A person could only tell of a personal offense to a local church of baptized believers. It would be impossible to tell such to "the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one." Matthew 18:17 reveals that the church the matter can be told to can discipline a member. This can never be said of the so- called big church of Pedobaptists.

    ACTS 20:28

    Then there is Acts 20:28 which reads: "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." These words were addressed to the elders of the Ephesian church (Acts 20:17), and they can point only to the local church at Ephesus. These elders had a flock, a local assembly. They were to feed this church and keep heretics out of it (Acts 10:29). Such things could only be done in a local, visible body of baptized believers.

    But an objector will say, "This church was purchased by the blood of Christ. This must mean all the elect for whom Christ died." Not so! The Scriptures elsewhere limit the death of Christ to Israel (John 11:51) and to Paul (Gal. 2:20). Acts 20:28 teaches that the Ephesian Church was a blood- bought church, and such is true of every New Testament Baptist Church in the world.

    I CORINTHIANS 10:32

    Next is I Corinthians 10:32 which declares: "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God." The common meaning again makes good sense. At least two times Paul referred to the Corinthian church as "the church of God" (I Cor. 1:2; 11:22). It is only logical and proper to believe he used the word church in the same sense here.

    An objector will say, "But this is the church in the broadest sense, which embraces the whole number of the elect. This must be so for the passage speaks of Jews and Gentiles." This reasoning ignores the fact that many churches had both Jews and Gentiles in their membership. Also the offense mentioned in this verse was to individual Jews and Gentiles. Hence it must have referred to those living in the community where the Corinthian church was located. Paul is merely telling the Corinthian Church not to offend different racial groups nor the church of which they were members. It would have been impossible for them to have offended dead Jews and Gentiles as well as Jews and Gentiles not born.

    I CORINTHIANS 12:28

    Another passage is I Corinthians 12:28 which says: "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."

    Universal, invisible church contenders maintain that the apostles were not officers of a local church. They affirm that the ministry of the apostles was for all believers. But in what sense can it be said the apostles were ministers to the elect in the Old Testament time? Remember, the universal, invisible church "consists of the whole number of the elect, that HAVE BEEN, are, or shall be gathered into one."

    This contention ignores the fact that Jesus only personally set apostles in one church, the first church known as the Jerusalem Church (Matt. 10:1-4; Acts 8:1). These men worked with other local churches. They never at any time worked with the elect "that had been." The word church in this passage means the church in an institutional sense, with a particular reference to the Jerusalem church. The word church in I Corinthians 12:28 makes good sense in the local sense, and there is no reason to seek some other sense. Why would Paul have suddenly given the word church a new meaning in this verse without any notice or explanation? If he had done so would the Corinthians have understood him?

    EPHESIANS 1:22

    Universal church men consider the Book of Ephesians their stronghold. One passage they rely upon to teach their doctrine is Ephesians 1:22 which reads: "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church." Here the word church is used generically, abstractly, or in the institutional sense. It states a truth which applies to each true New Testament church. Jesus Christ is the sovereign Ruler over each church, just as He is the head of every man (I Cor. 11:3).

    Some attempt to make the word church to mean in this verse the totality of all the redeemed of all ages. The context will not allow such a broad meaning of the word church in this verse. Christ was made the head of the church following His resurrection from the dead (Eph. 1:20-23). This precludes the covenant theologian's definition of the church. Nor is there any reason to see the universal, invisible church of the dispensationalists. The Lord rules over those in His churches in a more definite sense than over all believers. Those believers outside the purview of the churches are in a state of disobedience concerning the ordinances.

    When you hear someone say, "The husband is the head of his home," no one understands such a speaker is referring to a big universal home made up of all the little homes. They know the speaker has used the word home in the institutional sense. Then why can't they see that the word church is used in the institutional sense in Ephesians 1:22? The head of the church is locally and visibly present in Heaven at the Father's right hand. Likewise, His body on earth is local and visible; otherwise, you have a visible Head and an invisible body - a monstrous thing, a spooky church!

    EPHESIANS 3:10

    Next I call attention to 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." Some think the word church is expanded so as to comprehend all the saved in this verse. Such a new meaning is not at all necessary, unless you have a theory to defend. Again the word church is used generically. No single local church could monopolize such glorious work as is here referred to. It is the church institution which makes known the wisdom of God to men and angels. This institution only has God's command to teach all things Christ commanded by the authority of Heaven (Matt. 28:19-20).

    con't
     
  10. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    EPHESIANS 3:21

    Verse 21, of Ephesians Chapter 3, goes on to say: "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." This is another generic usage. God receives glory through the church as an institution. This means He receives it in each local assembly of baptized believers. Everything done in the church according to God's revealed will is to His glory. Preaching, teaching, praying, singing, giving, ordination of officers, and the administration of the ordinances are all to God's glory by Jesus Christ (I Cor. 14:23-24; II Cor. 8:19-23). God can receive no glory from an invisible church. But He can and does receive glory from the institution He founded "unto all generations of the age of ages."

    EPHESIANS 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32

    One of the chief proof texts of universal church men is said to be Ephesians 5. Others see in Ephesians 5 a church in prospect (generally called "the glory church"). Listen to the passage: "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. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it ... 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 ... For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church ... This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

    In this portion of Scripture Paul's primary object is to expound marriage. To do this he uses the relationship between Christ and the church as an illustration of the relationship which ought to exist between husband and wife. (See especially verses 23-25). What is said in these verses is as applicable to one church as another, just as what is said of the marriage relation is equally applicable to all husbands and wives.

    Paul does not in Ephesian 5 introduce a new teaching about some universal, invisible church. It would be exactly as sensible to argue from this verse for the existence of a universal, invisible wife as a universal, invisible church. One is just as Scriptural as the other.

    Look at the verse: "The husband is the head of the wife."

    Does this mean that there is a great big universal, invisible wife who includes all the little wives? Our opponents would say no. But then they turn around and say that the rest of the verse, "even as Christ is the head of the church," means that there is a universal, invisible church. They ignore the word "even" which means in the same way. To be consistent our opponent should believe in both a universal, invisible church and a universal, invisible wife. However, it would be much more sensible and Scriptural to see that the word wife and church are used generically in this verse.

    Some Baptists contend the word church is used in Ephesians 5 in a broad sense and not to a particular church. They say such a church has no real existence now except in the preparation of its members. They say it is not yet a church except in purpose, plan, and prospect. They say it is a church by anticipation. Then they go on to make this church in prospect include all the saved. Such Baptists have two kinds of churches in the Bible just as much as the Protestants.

    I do not believe in the so-called glory church of the future any more than a universal, invisible church at present. First, the apostle does not speak here in the future tense. "Christ is (not shall be) the head of the church." "The church is (not shall be) subject to Christ." There would have been no point in using the relationship between Christ and the church to illustrate the relationship which ought to exist between husband and wife, unless the relationship between Christ and the church already existed and was fairly well understood by the Ephesian Church.

    COLOSSIANS 1:18, 24

    It is urged by some that Colossians 1:18 teaches the big church theory: "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." Thismeans that Christ is the head of each local church, just as He is the head of every man (I Cor. 11:3).

    Colossians 1:24 reads: "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." Some make a big to do over the word body in this verse. They insist it means some big universal body consisting of the general community of all believers. I do not deny the church is the body of Christ. The Colossian Church was the body of Christ, and the church in the institutional sense is the body of Christ.

    To understand a symbol we must first understand the reality of the symbol. The body of a man is something both local and visible. The same may be said of the bodies of both plants and animals. Never does the word body mean a universal, invisible nothing. There is no such thing as a scattered, invisible, mystic, non-functioning body. A heap of heads, hands, and hearts do not make a body. Miscellaneous, scattered, unattached units do not make a body. Neither can invisible members scattered throughout the world and divided by centuries make up the body of Christ.

    Every local church in the apostolic age was the body of Christ in that place. The Corinthian Church was "the body of Christ" in the city of Corinth (I Cor. 12:27). The body in Ephesians 1:23; 4:4,12,16; 5:30 was the church body at Ephesus. Paul called the Ephesian Church "a building fitly framed together" (2:21), "built together" (2:2), and "fitly joined together" (4:16). Such togetherness can only be said of a local assembly of baptized believers. It cannot be said of some future church not yet joined together. Even so, the body in Colossians means the church at Colosse (1:1-2). All the body at Colosse was "knit together" (2:18), and they had all been "buried with him in baptism" (2:12).

    con't
     
  11. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    According to Ephesians 4:4, "There is one body" as to kind in this gospel age. If it is the universal, invisible body, then there is no local and particular body. On the other hand, if it is the local body (a thing which harmonizes with the Bible's definition of the body of Christ in I Corinthians 12:27), then there is no such thing as a universal, invisible body. One must either give up the local church or the big church. There are no more two kinds of bodies of Christ than there are two kinds of faith or two kinds of God. The baptism which puts one in the body in Ephesians 4:5 is water baptism, seeing it is a baptism which follows faith: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Water baptism puts one in a local church, not some invisible church.

    I TIMOTHY 3:15

    Another debatable verse is I Timothy 3:15 which says: "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how that thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Some would make "the church of the living God" the big church. Others expand the term "the house of God" to mean the whole body of believers. This is all wrong.

    Beginning at chapter 1 of the Book we can see the church of the living God is the church at Ephesus. In chapter 3 the context is about bishops and deacons, the officers of a local church. Thus Paul is telling Timothy about behavior in the church at Ephesus. How could Timothy be responsible to conduct himself properly in the universal, invisible church? Behaving in a universal, invisible church is absurd! How could millions of believers, divided by centuries, teaching doctrines opposed to each other, be considered "the pillar and ground of the truth"? Only a true local church which holds to sound doctrine can be considered the pillar and ground of the truth.

    HEBREWS 12:22-24

    The chief proof text for either the universal, invisible church or the glory church is supposed to be Hebrews 12:22-24. It is written: "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 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, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."

    Many are absolutely sure the word church means something quite different than its common meaning in these verses. Here they say it definitely means a universal, invisible church. Others would refer it to a future glory church consisting of all believers. A brief examination of the verse excludes both ideas. This cannot refer to the universal, invisible church of all believers, for the writer says, "Ye are come." The invisible church has not come together as some of its members are unborn. Nor can it point to some sort of a visible glory church to be gathered in Heaven at some future day. "Ye are come" militates strongly against the glory church idea. The writer does not speak in Hebrews 12:22-24 of a future church, but of a present church.

    This section of Hebrews 12 contrasts the Old Testament dispensation with the New Testament dispensation, the earthly Mount Sinai with spiritual Mount Zion. The writer shows the excellencies of the New Covenant are far superior to the Law Covenant. This is being done as a means of causing the Hebrews to persevere in their Christian profession.

    We cannot understand this to mean these Jewish Christians had literally come to Mount Zion in Jerusalem, for that was as true of the whole Jewish nation as of those the apostle addressed. Nor can we understand that they were literally in Heaven, for none to whom he wrote were in Heaven at the time he spoke. He must have meant that by the characteristics of the new dispensation the Hebrew Christians had done these things. He is showing the blessings which presently belong to the gospel dispensation. These are not future but present. Hence he says: "Ye are come."

    Mount Zion speaks of the gospel church as a Divine institution. The Hebrews had come to Mount Zion by becoming members of the New Testament church. "The city of the living God" is another reference to the church. The church is compared to a city (Matt. 5:13-16) and a building (Matt. 16:18; I Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:19-22). "The heavenly Jerusalem" speaks of the church as it is the future home of the bride (Rev. 21:9-10). The "myriads of angels in full assembly" (improved translation) show how baptized believers in a church are social worshippers with angels (I Cor. 11:10; Eph. 3:10).

    All these things were so because they were come into the church of the firstborn. Those in the church in the Hebrew Epistle were registered in Heaven, but they were not yet in Heaven. "God the Judge of all" shows how God is the qualified Judge of all, especially those in the church (I Peter 4:17). "The spirits of just men made perfect" meansjustified men made perfect in Christ. The church is a fellowship of such men, and in Christ they are as perfect on earth as they ever will be in Heaven (Col. 2:10). "To Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling" means the Hebrew Christians had come to Christ by faith (Rom. 3:25) and been sprinkled with His precious blood (Heb. 10:22). Church members symbolize this blessed relationship by the observation of the Lord's Supper in a local church (Matt. 26:27-30).

    OBSERVATIONS

    Thus we have concluded our examination of every one of the 115 verses in the New Testament dealing with the church. Out of the entire 115 we have not found one single verse which teaches the universal, invisible church. Therefore, I conclude the term "invisible" church is most appropriate as the big church is no place found in the New Testament. In the New Testament, there is no reference that does not fall under the local idea or one of its logical derivatives, which is simply the local idea in another form. The Bible is utterly innocent of the inward conflict of the theory of a universal, invisible church. It is everywhere self-consistent.

    The Landmark position is overwhelmingly affirmed by the Word of God.

    J.R. Graves, Old Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God.

    Landmarkism before J. R. Graves


    The purpose of this booklet is to show that Landmark principles were not an “innovation” in the mid 19th Century, but rather were known and practiced by some (not all) Baptists in previous centuries. My purpose is to provide historical information that will place the Landmark movement in its proper historical context.

     
  12. AustinC

    AustinC Well-Known Member

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    The universal church.

    *Revelation 7:9-12*
    After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
     
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  13. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    I think the idea of the "universal church" is every born anew believer within the body of Christ, whereas the local assembly refers to physically alive believers and professors who fellowship together to worship God, train members to serve Christ and reach the lost for Christ.
     
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  14. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    It depends on what one means.

    As a Baptist I've seen "Church" (capital C) used to refer to the Bride (to all Christians....i.e., the Church of Jesus Christ).

    People like RBC Howell and J.R. Graves used the fuller "catholic church" to refer to all Christians (nit the Catholic Church).

    But we often use "church" to refer to congregations.
     
  15. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    The Concept of the Church as A Universal, Invisible,
    Mystical, Spiritual Body Composed of all Believers,
    Either of All Time or the Church Age

    by E. Nile Fisher

    With all that may commend itself to this view, together with the number of Bible teachers who embrace it, it yet remains an interpretation carrying with it some of the gravest questions and paradoxes. There are some eighteen problems existing in the face of it.

    1. The problem of etymology and usage of "ecclesia."
    The terms "universal" and "invisible" are opposed to the original meanings of "ecclesia." There is the problem of the attempt to unfold a supposed greater truth by the usage of a word in a limited and unprecedented sense.

    2. The problem of history.
    Harnack, in History of Dogma declares, "The expression, invisible church, is found for the first time in Hegessipus, Eusebius, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Hiero, Cornelius, and Cyprian, all used the term, holy churches, and never the Catholic or Universal Church." [See note at the end of paper.]

    H. Boyce Taylor points out in his book, Why be A Baptist?, [pages 51-52] "...Hort in his book, The Christian Ekklesia confesses the necessity of finding some other than etymological, grammatical or historical grounds by which to prove the idea of a universal church.

    He admitted that the use of the word ekklesia* was 'always limited by Paul himself to a local organization, which has a corresponding unity of its own: each is a body of Christ and a sanctuary of God.' Look at this statement.

    That, 'The Christian Ekklesia' ever refers to anything but a local church cannot be proved by history: it cannot be proved from the etymology of the word: and it cannot be proved by the grammatical construction of the Scriptures where used.


    ( *Alan note: this is a link to the first of several posts in this thread which show every occurrence of the word "church" found in our KJV is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. & what was my source?? I can't find it/ If I do, I'll post it.)

    The only ground, Mr. Hort says, on which the use of the word as referring to anything but a local church can be defended at all, is on theological grounds.

    That means you cannot prove it from the Greek New Testament at all: but you perhaps might read it into the New Testament from some book of theology."

    Mr. Hort was famed for his scholarship in the field of Greek, and with Westcott, published an edition of the Greek New Testament.

    3. The problem of Matthew 16:18-19 with 18:17-18.
    Jesus said, "...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" [Matthew 16:18-19].

    "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church..."

    "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be bound in heaven" [18:17-18].

    It is apparent that the church in Matthew 16:18 is the same as that in 18:17. Verse 19 of the 16th chapter and verse 18 of the 18th chapter tie them together and so identify them. It is furthermore apparent that the church of chapter 18 is local. There is no possible way to tell a thing unto a universal church. It is, therefore, imperative for the sake of consistency, to accept 16:18 as local, otherwise there exists a problem without solution.

    4. The problem of the existence of a church without divine command.
    If Matthew 16:18 means an invisible, universal, mystical, spiritual church, there is no divine command, nor evidence for the existence of local churches given. Yet more than 95 of the 111 uses of the word ecclesia are unquestionably local, with divine command to have elders and deacons. There is the problem of a divine authority for officers of an institution that exists apart from divine authority.

    5. The problem of the existence of an invisible church without explanation.
    On the other hand, without Matthew 16:18 to support the theory of an invisible, mystical, universal church, it would exist without reference to beginning, authority, structure, or commission.

    6. The problem of I Corinthians 11:18-22.
    Verses 18-20 twice reference is made to the Corinthians coming together in the church. Undoubtedly this means their gathering in the local assembly in Corinth. Verse 22 then goes on to state, "What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God..." This church that gathered together in a locality is called The Church of God. Chapter 10, verse 32 records the same phrase. If The Church of God refers to a universal, invisible, mystical, spiritual body composed of all believers, how can it gather together in one place before the rapture?

    7. The problem of I Corinthians 12:14-21.
    If there exists literally a universal, invisible, mystical, spiritual body, composed of all believers, of which Christ is the head, how is it that some members are likened to the eye, others to the ear, and. some to the nose; all of which are parts of the head. These members are here on earth and Christ the head is in heaven. Yet these members are said to be part of the head.

    If there is a literal body now in existence on the universal plane in all its mystical wonder, the Scripture in question is impossible of explanation. If, however, the term "body" is a metaphor to explain the nature of a local church, there exists no problem in this passage.

    8. The problem of I Corinthians 12:22-23.
    There are members said to be "more feeble" and "less honorable." Are those feeble members necessary to a universal, invisible, mystical church, the product of divine workmanship? It must certainly be conceded that whatever this universal church is by nature, it could not be perfect.

    Furthermore, if this refers to a universal body, designed by, and under the operation of the Holy Spirit, how is it possible for men to set some in places of honor, as verse 23 suggests? This is a thing that Christ said was impossible in God's universal program when the disciples sought places of honor. This is possible in the local church however.

    9. The problem of I Corinthians 12:24-25.
    If there is a universal church existing now, and I Corinthians 12 refers to it by the term "body," then it is subject to schism. Paul gives instruction and said, "That there be no schism in the body..." But how can this possibly be? Certainly such a church would be the product of divine workmanship into which human responsibility and failure do not enter. Paul definitely affirms [verse 27] "Ye (Corinthian believers) are the body of Christ," and then he goes on to state [11:18] "When ye come together in the church, I hear there be divisions among you."

    There not only can be, but there was in Corinth, division or schism in "the body."

    10. The problem of I Corinthians 12:26.
    "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it: or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."

    If this is a universal church, we have the following proposition: A Christian in Africa suffers. We do not know him. We are not acquainted with the circumstances of the case. We never heard of it. How can this possibly affect us in America? Do we rejoice when all or any of the Chinese brethren rejoice? Does every Christian the world around rejoice or suffer when you and I do? This is a condition that can only be experienced in a local assembly.

    11. The problem of I Corinthians 12:27.
    "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."

    Paul speaks of the Corinthians believers, even excluding himself. They were said to be The Body of Christ. How could this situation obtain if the terms "Body," or "body of Christ," mean a universal church?

    12. The problem of Ephesians 1:22-23 with 3:19.
    "...and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."

    This is the most often used Scripture to refer to the universal church. Yet, even this same body, "filled unto all the fulness of God," is presently applied, in the apostle's prayer, to the particular congregation in 3:19 when he prays they might be "filled with all the fulness of God."


    con't
     
    #15 Alan Gross, Feb 8, 2023
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2023
  16. JD731

    JD731 Well-Known Member

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    There is safety in biblical terminology and rightly dividing while allowing the context to establish how broad is the application of the term/terms. Oftentimes the wheel runs off and there is confusion when non biblical terminology like "universal church" is used. Not everyone would understand the term the same way. If scriptural terms were used then there would be a possibility of defining the term according to how God puts it forth and uses it and there might be some agreement or persuasion.
     
  17. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    13. The problem of Ephesians 2:21-22.
    The church is said to be the temple or dwelling of God. The text [ARV] "In whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit."

    "Each several building" is a reference to the local church. It carries the idea of each local congregation, of which the Ephesian church was one. It is difficult to conceive of the church as a temple referring to a universal thing. Each several building - each local congregation grows together to form a holy temple in the Lord. It is clear that "temple" is a metaphor used of local churches in their place as the habitation of God.

    14. The problem of Ephesians 4:3.
    This, with the verses that follow, form an exhortation to the Ephesian church to unity. The sevenfold basis of unity is given, one of which is said to be "one body." How could that church, or any other, keep the unity in the matter of one body, if that body is universal and invisible?

    15. The problem of Ephesians 4: 7-12.
    Christ has given evangelists, pastors and teachers for the "perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." How can evangelists, pastors and teachers edify a universal, spiritual body, when they can only minister in one locality at one time? They could edify part of it (if it were universal), but not the whole of it. Yet they are said to be given to edify The Body of Christ.

    16. The problem of Ephesians 4:12-16.
    As we have seen in the above, Christ gave His church the gifts "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying if itself in love."

    How can a universal, invisible church come to a full maturity and be not tossed about by every wind of doctrine? If this refers, as many believe, to the universal church, it has never reached this position. It would follow, therefore that the gifts (for they were given to this end) have all failed, and are failing, and probably will continue to do so until Jesus comes.

    17. The problem of Ephesians 5:25-27.
    "Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."

    How can a bride be existing as such when not yet wedded to Christ, nor complete? The bride must be complete, accepted and glorified according to this Scripture and Revelation 19.

    18. The problem of the actual nature of a universal church.
    If a universal church is in existence today, what is it? Of whom is it composed? If it is the body of the redeemed from Pentecost to the Rapture, the same thing obtains. Can a part of the whole exist as the whole? If the body of Christ exists today as such, then a part of the whole is called the whole, else you do not have it in existence. Looking at it from another standpoint, can the church be universal until the last soul is saved? If so, then it is a universal church before it becomes universal.



    Furthermore, if the universal church exists today, where is it? Thousands of the redeemed are dead and their souls are in heaven; their bodies are in the grave. Thousands are living upon the earth in unredeemed bodies. Thousands (and perhaps millions) are yet to be saved. If all the saints, either of all time, or from Pentecost to the Rapture compose it, then part of it is in heaven, part of it is in the grave (for the glorified body is part of God's program according to Ephesians 5; Revelation 19; etc.), part of it is scattered upon the earth, part of it hasn't yet come to pass.

    With this in view, we have a universal body, with the members scattered over the earth, some members not yet in existence, and some scattered in heaven. This is a breakdown of the very idea of organic union and function as pictured in the term "body."

    And again, if there exists a universal church, what is it doing?

    It certainly is not carrying out the great commission.

    It has never baptized anyone.

    It has never called a preacher.

    It has never nurtured new converts.

    It has never set up a teaching program.

    It has never conducted a church service.

    It has never held a prayer meeting.

    It has never gathered together as an assembly.

    Where all of this has been done, it was done by local churches or individuals acting on their own.

    If there is a universal church existing today, what is its purpose? Why does it exist? It can't meet together. It can't organize to do the work of Christ. It can't promote an evangelistic campaign. It can't do anything but exist as a figment of some person's imagination. What good is a theological concept that can find no concrete expression? Note: [See page 1, article 2, The problem of history.]

    Again, [Volume 2, p. 83], "No one thought of the desperate idea of an 'invisible Church;' this notion would probably have brought about a lapse far more rapidly than the idea of the Holy Catholic Church."

    ==========
    [Bro. Fisher was pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Dayton, OH for 35 years. This article was written in the late 1950s and this copy is from Bro. Paul Kirkman, Fairborn, OH. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

     
  18. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    see: Ten Bible Proofs of Baptist Perpetuity By Rosco Brong, D.D.

    IF GOD'S WORD IS TRUE, THE CHURCH THAT JESUS STARTED
    STILL STANDS--HAS ENDURED!

    "The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
    (I Tim. 3:15.)

    A Solemn Warning

    When men reject Bible truth about the church, and refuse to recognize its rightful place as the body and bride of Christ, the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, they quickly lose other truth as well.

    The truth of God's Word is still upheld in the world today because of the faithfulness and the martyrs' blood of the true churches of God through the dark ages, and this truth will still be upheld to the end of the age because there will still be some churches, the true churches of our Lord, to serve as the pillar and ground of the truth.

    Revelation 12:6; "And the woman** fled into the wilderness,
    where she hath a place prepared of God,..."

    **The kind of churches Jesus Built.
    see:
    History of Baptist Churches



    ..."If the church that Jesus built was not a Baptist church, then we need to find out what kind of church it was, and join that church if we want our service to be pleasing to Him. (Alan note: and not have, "ICHABOD" the Glory of the Lord has departed written over the entrance door. 1 Samuel 4:21)

    One thing we can be sure of: if Jesus spoke the truth--and what real Christian would deny this?--the church that Jesus built has been in the world ever since and will be here till He comes again.

    The popular Protestant dogma in this connection speaks of an "invisible" church to which all Christians belong. More on this as we go along, but for the present note a few simple facts:

    a. Neither the expression "invisible church" nor the idea of such an expression can be found in the New Testament.

    b. The whole purpose of the "invisible church" dogma is to justify the Protestant splits from Roman Catholicism.

    But since Baptists are not Protestants*** and were never a part of the heretical Catholic system, we have no need of any such dogma to justify our existence.

    *** Quote from Baptists are not Protestants: "We reject the Protestant concept of a universal invisible church and the ecumenism which naturally springs from that concept.

    God certainly knows all those who are His and eternally views us as one in Christ, but in our experience, we will not be one assembly or church until all God's elect are gathered together in glory.

    Although every believer is in God's family and kingdom, the church of the New Testament is a local, visible assembly."


    c. Most Protestants and many ignorant Baptists suppose that Christ built two churches: the "invisible church" of their own vain imagining and the organized assemblies that they cannot help recognizing in the New Testament.

    Then, to add insult to injury, they call their imaginary monstrosity the "true" church!

    But the Bible says that there is only one body (church), that is, one kind of body, just as there is only one baptism, that is, one kind of baptism. (Eph. 4:4, 5.)

    d. Since there is no just reason to do otherwise, we must understand that Jesus used the word "church" (Greek"ekklesia") in Matt. 16:18 in the same general sense that it has everywhere else in the New Testament: that is, an assembly, almost always an organized assembly.

    The word here is used abstractly; that is, it expresses an idea whose realization is to be found in a particular organized assembly.
     
    #18 Alan Gross, Feb 8, 2023
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2023
  19. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    UNIVERSAL CHURCH VERSUS LOCAL CHURCH ONLY

    Did any Baptists prior to the time of J. R. Graves reject the doctrine of the Universal Church, and hold to the Landmark principle that the true church is local in nature?

    There is evidence that some Baptists before the time of J. R. Graves conceived of the Church in purely local terms. The Dordrecht Mennonite Confession of 1632 states that

    We believe in and confess a visible Church of God, consisting of those, who, as before remarked, have truly repented, and rightly believed; who are rightly baptized, united with God in heaven, and incorporated into the communion of saints on earth.

    The insistence on proper baptism foreshadows the later Landmark emphasis on this issue, suggesting that Christians who have not been “rightly baptized” are not part of the Church. See also John Smyth’s confession of 1609:

    The church of Christ is a company of the faithful, baptized after confession of sin and of faith.

    Article 33 of the First London Confession of 1644 (Baptist) gives a local-church definition for the Church:

    That Christ hath here on earth a spiritual kingdom, which is the Church, which he hath purchased and redeemed to himself, as a peculiar inheritance: which Church, as it is visible to us, is a company of visible Saints, called and separated from the world, by the word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of the faith of the Gospel, being baptized into that faith, and joined to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement, in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances, commanded by Christ their head and King.

    Article 7 of the Articles of Faith of the First Baptist Church of Newport, Rhode Island, adopted in 1727, states:

    A church is a company of believers organized for the observance of the ordinances and the promotion of Christ’s kingdom. Each church is independent and self-governed though in fraternal fellowship with other churches.

    There is no hint of a Universal Church to be seen here.

    The 1800 Doctrinal Statement of the Green River Association of Kentucky stated,

    We believe that the visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful persons, who have obtained fellowship with each other and have given themselves up to the Lord and one another, having agreed to keep up a Godly discipline according to the rules of the Gospel.

    The Sandy Creek Association Confession of 1816 stated

    That the visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful persons. . . .

    This same language was adopted by the Barren Creek Association in 1830.

    LeRoy Hogue’s treatise “A Study on the Antecedents of Landmarkism,” submitted in 1966 as a doctoral dissertation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a valuable source of information documenting Landmarkist beliefs among Baptists prior to the time of Graves. Hogue reports on the position of the Broad River Association of South Carolina:

    The Broad River Association, asked in 1812: ‘What is a Church?’ said in reply: ‘We believe a Gospel church consists of an indefinite number of saints joined together by consent, yet we think not complete without a minister.’

    Isaac Backus, a New England Baptist and church historian, stated,

    Christ has instituted none but particular churches. . . . Is any other visible church state instituted in the gospel, but a particular one? The church spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 18:15-18, is such an one as a brother can tell his grievance to, and whoever thought that could be to any other than a particular community. (Isaac Backus, “A Discourse Concerning the Materials, the Manner of Building and Power of Organizing of the Church of Christ,” 1773, pp. 17, 145)

    J. Newton Brown, editor of the New Hampshire Confession of 1833, wrote these words prior to the beginning of the Landmark movement:

    Christ has had, for 1800 years past, a visible church in earth - made up of the entire body of particular churches formed under the general constitution of the New Testament. . . The term ‘church’ is here used, it will be seen, not for the whole body of the elect which is ever invisible on earth. . . . (Quoted by Robert Ashcraft, “Landmarkism Revisited,” Mablevale, Arkansas, Ashcraft Publications, 2003, pp. 116-117).

    Article 13 of the New Hampshire Confession states,

    That a visible Church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel.

    There is no hint whatsoever of a Universal Church in this confession that has been very widely used by various groups of Baptists in America from 1833 to the present date.
     
  20. Alan Gross

    Alan Gross Well-Known Member

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    ?

    Acts 8:1-4; "
    1And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

    2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

    3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

    4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."


    "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;"?

    Really. What?
     
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