stoneshms.jpg - 54764 Bytes
Our Priority,
Our Philosophy,
Our Position,
Our Programs,
Our Physical LocationOutside Links-
Baptist Bastion,
Books and Bibles Online,
HomeSchool Sailor,
Fundamentally Basic,
Religions & Cults,
More Christian ResourcesSupported Missions,
Other Missions,
World Church DirectoryRecent Additions to Our Site
Home PageSermons in Type,
Sermons on Tape,
Doctrinal WritingsOur Pastor,
Our PeopleAsk the Pastor,
Pastors Pen Online,
Daily Devotions
galley.gif - 2962 Bytes
Ask Pastor


Topical Listing
clear.gif - 808 BytesBaptist Why's
clear.gif - 808 BytesBible Versions
clear.gif - 808 BytesCharismatics
clear.gif - 808 BytesChristian Living
clear.gif - 808 BytesChurch
clear.gif - 808 BytesEtymology
clear.gif - 808 BytesFamily
clear.gif - 808 BytesGeneral Bible
clear.gif - 808 BytesIsrael
clear.gif - 808 BytesReligions/Cults
clear.gif - 808 BytesSalvation/Growth
clear.gif - 808 BytesSin
clear.gif - 808 BytesHoly Spirit/Trinity
clear.gif - 808 BytesThe Pastor
clear.gif - 808 BytesWomen
Pastor's Pen

Quick Links
clear.gif - 808 Bytes
clear.gif - 808 BytesOur Priorities
clear.gif - 808 BytesOur Constitution
clear.gif - 808 BytesOur Pastor
clear.gif - 808 BytesOur Programs
clear.gif - 808 BytesOur Location
clear.gif - 808 BytesOur Missionaries

clear.gif - 808 Bytes
clear.gif - 808 BytesGoogle Search
clear.gif - 808 BytesGoogle Search
clear.gif - 808 BytesAsk the Pastor
clear.gif - 808 BytesDoctrinal Writings
clear.gif - 808 BytesFresh Supplies


Thank you for visiting. Please send spiritual comments to Pastor's Pen


Please e-mail all other comments to WindJammer


Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
clear.gif - 808 Bytes
clear.gif - 808 Bytes clear.gif - 808 Bytes
atp2.gif - 2137 Bytes
clear.gif - 808 Bytes

clear.gif - 808 Bytes Question:

clear.gif - 808 Bytes How do you come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a universal, invisible church?
clear.gif - 808 Bytes


Thanks for your inquiry into the truth concerning the church. The following is a brief outline of a message I preach concerning this topic.

Seven Reasons why I do not believe in a universal, invisible church.

I. The Linguistic Reason

"Ecclesia" has a meaning. When Christ used the word in Matt 16:18, he did not come up with a new word. His disciples knew what he meant, for they had gone to ecclesias all their lives. Now Christ was going to build His. Thayer says, "A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly". Thucidicies used it as, "The assembly of the people at a public place". In the Septuagint, it refers to "the assembly of Jews gathered for sacred purposes". It is used in Acts for a mob, or a group assembled together by chance. Thayer also gives the "Christian" definition: "An assembly of Christians gathered together for worship", or "a company of Christians". All these Thayer lists as definitions. Note the words used: "gathering into, assembly at, assembly gathered, gathered together". Then at the bottom of his lexicon, Thayer puts, (in a different style of type, which leads me to believe that he viewed this definition as being different from the others; probably because it is NOT a definition, but rather a theological concept), "The whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth". Note the difference, all the other definitions talk about assemble together, but this definition says "scattered throughout". Scattered and gathered are not the same thing! The word never meant scattered, it never meant everyone, it never meant universal, and to make it mean that is to change the meaning of the word! B. B. Warfield said, "The question is, after all, not what can the word be made to mean, but what DOES it mean, and the witness of its usage elsewhere, its form and mode of composition, and the sense given it by its readers from the first, supply here the primary evidence". In Matt 16:18, when Christ said He would build his church, what did the disciples think? Were they confused? Did they think that he had redefined the term that they always used? Of course not! They assumed He meant what He said-an assembly. Please note what others have said: James Broadus: "The Greek word ecclesia signified primarily the assembly of citizens in a self governed state, being derived from the ekkaleo- "to call out"- i.e. out of their homes or places of business, to summon as we speak of calling out the militia. The popular notion that it meant to call out in the sense of separation from others is a mistake." John Hort (certainly no wild-eyed fundamentalist, but as man who knew the Greek language): "There is no foundation for the widely spread notion that ecclesia means a people or a number of individuals called out of the world or mankind." He further states, " The English term church carries with it associations derived from institutions and doctrines of later times." C.I Schofield (who popularized the doctrine of the True Church verses the local church), "The word is used of any assembly, the word itself implies nothing more."

II. The Hermeneutic Reason

Principle 1- The sacred writers did not desire to be misunderstood.

Principle 2- Use the Grammatico-Historical method of interpretation. "Gather from the Scriptures themselves what the writers intended to convey." "Use the laws of grammar and the facts of history".

Principle 3- If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense

Principle 4-Interpret all Scripture in the light of other Scripture.

Principle 5- All interpretation must be grounded in the original languages.

Using these principles, we must come to the conclusion that ecclesia means a local assembly when it occurs. Christ was not trying to throw the disciples off by changing the meaning of the word. The laws of grammar indicate that a local assembly was meant, as do the facts of history. The idea of a literal local church works in every context- there is no passage that demands a different interpretation. The many clear uses of ecclesia show us the meaning of the obscure passages. The word meant something in the original language, and we dare not stray from it.

III. The Contextual Reason

In over 100 out of 115 times the word ecclesia is used in the New Testament, it is obviously a local assembly. In the 114 times it occurs in the Septuagint it is obviously a local assembly. Why then should the meaning be changed in those last few passages? In Matt 16, Christ talks about ecclesia, and in chapter 18 he talks about ecclesia. Did the word change meanings between those two spots? Most believe that Matt 16 is universal, but Matt 18 is local. Confusing, huh? In I Corinthians 12:13, Paul talks about a body, and in verse 25 he talks about a body. Is the body of verse 13 universal, but the body of verse 25 local? Did Paul keep using the same word in the same context, yet change its meaning? Schizophrenic!

IV. Illustrative Reason

Col. 1:18,24, Eph. 1:22-23, I Cor. 12:27 all indicate that the Body of Christ is the church. These two things equal each other. There is no question about that. God has chosen the body to illustrate the church. He could have chosen something universal and invisible, like the wind, to illustrate the church, but He did not. He chose something local and visible, a body, to illustrate His church. My body is right here. You can see it, you can touch it, it is all assembled together. All the parts are continually connected to each other. This is obviously not what takes place in as universal church concept.

V. Practical Reasons

I Cor. 12:26 states that all members of the body suffer and rejoice with all other members. That can only take place in a local church. We don't know all the other believers in the "universal church", so how can we suffer or rejoice with them? We can empathize with the needs of other churches that we hear about, but the bottom line is that we don't care about other church's needs like we care about our own. If we would go out to lunch together, and I were to slam my finger in the car door, you would sympathize with me. However, you would not react like I would. My heart would race, my blood pressure would rise, my voice would holler, my brain would react, my other hand would grab it, I might jump up and down, etc. Why would you not do all those things? Because it is not your body. I have a man in my church with cancer. Are you begging God for that need in every church service? Probably not. Why not? You are to weep with him, if we're all part of the same body. But you know what? We pray for him specifically at every service. Do you know why? He is a part of our body, and we do weep with him. Another member was rejoicing last night because of answered prayer. Did you rejoice? You didn't even know. How can that be, if we are all part of the same body? Some say that those verses refer to the local church, but still believe in a universal church. If 1Cor. 12:13 refers to a universal body, then these verse do to, or else Paul wrote in a very confusing manner by changing the meanings of words within paragraphs. Schizophrenic?

Ephesians 4:12,16 tells us that the office gifts were given to edify the body of Christ. If we believe in a universal church, that means that I as a pastor am to be edifying all Christians. I guess I am failing badly, because I don't know the vast majority of them. You are too, unless your ministry is more far-reaching than I think it is. Again, we can't say that these verse refer to the local church if we are going to say that Ephesians 1-3 refer to the universal church. Paul would be suffering from that schizophrenia again. I Cor. 14:4,5,26 teach that all Spiritual gifts were given to edify the church. People in my church are not edifying people in your church. Neither of us are edifying Christians in China or India. We are failing to use our gifts properly, if we believe in a universal body. Again, if I Cor. 12:13 is a universal body, I Cor. 14 is too.

I Cor. 12:25 says that there is to be no schism in the body. If this is a universal body, then we can never practice ecclesiastical separation from brethren. This would mean that Paul was in error in 2 Thes. 3:6,14-15 when he speaks of separating from disorderly brethren. I must open my pulpit to charismatics, baby sprinklers, those who deny eternal security, immoral pastors, those who deny inspiration, etc. All that matters is that they are saved. This is the position that led Jack Van Impe astray. He came out in the late 70's with his book "Heart Disease in the Body of Christ", in which he stated that since all believers were part of the body, then we ought to get along with all believers so that there would be no schism in the body. That ultimately led him to his current position, which is that Catholics are OK, etc. Of course, if I Cor. 12 is a universal church passage, then he is right, as are all those who espouse the ecumenical movement. If you hold to a local church only position, this problem is solved by church discipline. If someone is causing a schism, they are removed from the body. How do you remove someone from the universal church?

VI. Numerical Reasons

How do you get into the universal church? Of course, you get in by Spirit Baptism from I Cor. 12:13. Eph. 4:4-5 tell us that there is only one body. Since we know that body = church, this means that there is only one church. Which one is it: the local or the universal? You can't have both, when Paul clearly says there is only one. Verse 5 tells us that there is one baptism. Is it water or Spirit? It can't be both, because Paul clearly states that there is only one. It doesn't mean one "kind" of baptism (as in immersion vs. sprinkling), because we know that "baptize" means "immerse". There is one immersion: is it water or Spirit? If it is Spirit, then quit baptizing your converts. If it is water, then you don't have Spirit baptism into a universal body. We could discuss what Spirit Baptism means, but that will wait for a later date.

VII. Historical Reasons

Where did the concept of a universal church come from. We all know that the word "catholic" means "universal". The Catholics believed in a universal, visible church. The Reformers came out, but brought much of Catholicism with them (state church, infant baptism, etc.). They modified the Catholic concept into a universal, invisible theology. Pope Gregory the Great who called himself a "universal bishop". In the second century, Ignatius used the word "Catholic" with "church". Augustine taught the same thing in the 5th century.

What have Baptists believed? The Baptist Confession of 1646, Michael Sattler's Schleitheim Confession of 1527, the New Hampshire Confession of 1891, all hold to a local church position. A universal body is never mentioned. Baptists holding to a universal church position is a recent phenomenon. It came out of the Reformation, and the Reformers came out of Catholicism.

Ecclesia means assembly. It always has, and it always will. To make it mean anything else is to do violence to the word itself. I know that there are instances where you could plug a universal church in, and make it work. However, we know that there are places in the Scripture where you could plug in baptismal regeneration and make it work. Words have meaning, and all Scripture must be interpreted in the light of other Scripture. I do believe that the Bible may refer to the church in the future in Heaven. Do you know what that will be? A local and visible assembly!

I hope this helps you. May the Lord bless you.

clear.gif - 808 Bytes

Dr Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209

Return to Top

Return to The Galley
His Majesty's Service
Home of Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
clear.gif - 808 Bytes