"Local not Universal" Church Series #3
The church (ecclesia =assembly) is the body of Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." But what is "the church ?"
It is not an impersonal Christendom or Christianity. We should not have to argue that point Scripturally. Neither is it the aggregate of all churches and denominational organizations, for such an interpretation of Scripture would be impossible.
It is not the Roman church as ancient as may be its unscriptural traditions, its un-Biblical teachings and its perverse practices so contrary to the New Testament.
It is not the Church of England whose name admittedly like the above attests that it is not the church of Christ any more than any other national church.
It is not the church of Luther nor the church of John Wesley nor the Presbyterian or Reformed churches as started by John Calvin.
It is not an impersonal mongrelized imaginary church of America or of Europe or of the Western Hemisphere or of the Orient. And for sure it is not the creeping, growing Frankenstein monster, the developing ecumenical movement.
Yet all of the above concepts are freely and repeatedly designated and called ''the church" by an apostate Christianity.
Why all these false, confusing and deceiving views of the church?
Mainly because that terrible translation of the Greek word "ecclesia" into English as "church" has, because of its non-relationship to the Bible word, become the leaking patched tent that covers a multitude of soaked sins.
Christians recognizing the above analysis as true, ought to be highly suspicious of any usage of the English word "church" which cannot be substantiated by a study of the real meaning of the Greek word "ecclesia". But a gullible laity, led by entrenched denominational officials and clergy whose official status and power depends upon continued submission to the status-quo, do not even question if possibly the entire ecclesiastical structure is without New Testament credentials. To blandly, kindly and boastfully say the English word "church" means the aggregate of all Christian believers, dead and alive and all across the world, mainly because some reference Bible note says so, which note was written by a man or men who had no adequate application or concept of the Bible teaching on the local New Testament church, is to be unexcusably gullible and credulous.
So we come back to Ephesians 1:22-23. This verse should be interpreted in the light of the truth of other Scripture rather than come to it with an already and previously accepted belief in the church equalling a universal, invisible aggregate of all Christians and then reading that concept into this verse.
The church is never spoken of as a mystery. The word mystery (Gk-mysterian) means something revealed. And Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, " refers primarily to the great truth of the oneness of husband and wife and that Christ and His church (ecclesia assembly) are one also. But to read into this verse a "universa1, invisible aggregate of all Christians" is to have to put this idea in first before taking it out.
The "mystery of Christ", Ephesians 3:3-4, is not the church but the revelation that God's new organization for this age, the church (local churches) was to be a body which would include both Jews and Gentiles and that they should both be saved and have the same inheritance in Christ, v. 6. "That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. " This interpretation, which we believe is correct, magnifies the purpose, position and ministry of the local church to be sure and does not allow for an escape from responsibility to local churches by Christians and the centrality of the local church in God's program as the medium intended for His work. If this truth was recognized as it should be -- to use a figure of Jesus -- one would observe that most free-lance Christian organizations spring up like a seed sown on stony places, but when the sun comes up they are scorched and because they have no root, wither away.
Thus the ministering gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" were for a local church such as that at Ephesus. They were not intended for some vague universal, invisible aggregate of saints which never meets and which according to that view would include dead people as well as the living.
This would mean that verses 15-16, "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 of itself in love, " have to do with a Christian's relationship to a local church not some intangible relationship to a vague body of invisible people who are not identifiable .
Now it is very evident that a body is something that functions in a unified, carefully directed manner with planned objectives. Certainly if any collective group is going to claim that it is "a" or "the" body of Christ, then it ought to be able to demonstrate that first of all it has collective action and secondly that that collective action is directed personally by Christ according to revealed wisdom, planning and objective which He, Christ, has laid out and which He is continually aiding that collective, functioning group (His body) to accomplish.
Go to: The Church - The Bride of Christ
"Local not Universal" Church Series #4