Understanding The Bible
Return to Syllabus
BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
Edited by Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
THE PRESENT AGE AND THE DIVINE PURPOSE
(Including ECCLESIOLOGY: THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH)
THE PRESENT AGE
THE THREE GROUPS OF PEOPLE IN THIS AGE See 1 Corinthians 10:32
The Jew (nationally)
Romans 11:1 "Not cast away"
Romans 11:23-27 "Blindness in part, until fullness of Gentiles"
Romans 11:28-31 "They believe not now, but will obtain mercy"
Ephesians 2:11-13 Gentiles in the flesh are:
"Aliens from Israel;"
"Strangers from the covenants;"
"Have no hope;"
"Are without God."
There is a continuation of "the times of the Gentiles."
The Church (all the saved of this age)
Jew and Gentile on same terms. Romans 10:12;
"Jew nor Greek";
"bond nor free";
"male nor female";
"circumcision nor uncircumcision";
"Barbarian, Scythian" (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).
Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:13-22; "the Church. . .His body, " and in contrast to condition of Gentiles, believers now are:
Made nigh by blood v. 13
One new man 15
One body 16
Access by Spirit 18
Fellow citizens 19
Household of God 19
THE SCRIPTURE GIVING THE REVELATION REGARDING THIS AGE
2 Timothy 3:16 - "all Scripture is profitable"
Romans 15:4 - "things written aforetime are for our learning"
1 Corinthians 10:6 - "former things happened as types for us"
The Old Testament Scriptures did not contain the
revelation regarding the present age of the Church:
Ephesians 3:5 "in other generations not made known"
Ephesians 3:9 "from the beginning of the ages. . .hid in God"
Ephesians 3:11 "purposes of the ages. . .might now be known"
Romans 16:25 "Kept secret in the times of the ages"
Colossians 1:26 "hid from generations and ages past"
(It does not say "hid in Scripture, " or we would search the O.T. for predictions of the Church, but "hid in God"; it is a revelation not made known until God pleased through N.T. apostles and prophets, "now,"v.5.)
The Gospels, as a whole, do not contain the specific revelation of the present age.
The parables of Matthew 13, revealing the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, " set forth in general the conditions of "the present age of Christendom." In that general way they show "things which had hitherto been kept secret from the foundation of the earth, " Matthew 13:35.
Matthew 16:18 shows, while the Lord was on earth,
the Church was still a future purpose in the will of God.
the Acts tell us how Peter and the Apostolic
Council in Jerusalem, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, grew in
knowledge of the present purpose of God.
Acts 10 Vision on housetop and sermon to Cornelius at Caesarea
Acts 11 Peter's report to the apostles regarding his experience in the house of Cornelius received with astonishment.
Acts 15:13-18 James' pronouncement
The detailed revelation of God's purpose in this age of
the Church was given through Paul in his epistles; however, the other
apostles were not ignorant of this truth (as witness plural of Ephesians 3:5
"apostles and (NT) prophets"),
Ephesians 3:1-11 A crucial key summary
Colossians 1:25-27 Hid, but now made manifest
Ephesians 2:11-18 Now no middle wall of separation
THE BEGINNING OF THE PRESENT AGE: PENTECOST
There are those who hold that the Church began:
a. with Adam; others, that it began b. with Abel, or c. Abraham, or d. John the Baptist, or e. with Christ John. 3:22-30)? etc. Some contend that the Church is simply the spiritual Israel; others, that the Church began f. at Pentecost (which is correct); still others say g. at the end of the Acts period, and others, with the call of Paul (Acts 9), or with his special ministry of Acts 13.
Mt. 16:18 speaks of the Church of the Lord as future and
so rules out consideration of all the first of the above mentioned ideas,
i.e., (a) to (e).
(Acts 7:38, "Church in the wilderness, "and Acts 19:32-29,41, the town hall meeting in Ephesus, are not typical doctrinal uses of the word "church"; they show the un-technical meaning.)
The Church could not have existed before the death (Ephesians 5:25, 26-27), resurrection (Romans 4:25; Colossians 3:1-3), and ascension of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23); if so, it would have been headless. Nor could the Church have existed before the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, for (1 Corinthians 12:13) we become members of the Church by baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The Church in Acts is mentioned only in these places: 2:47 (R.V. omits); 5:11; 8:1,3; 9:31; 11:22,26; 12:1,5; 13:1; 14:23,27; 15:3-4,22,41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:37; 20:17,28.
Some think a certain "lingering opportunity" was given to Israel by the kingdom promise of Acts 3:19-21, and possibly implied in Acts 7:51,53, 56; however, this is debatable.
Romans 11 reveals that Israel was set aside before that; this was not because they rejected Christ as Head of the Church, but as the King for the kingdom. The Church is not revealed in the Old Testament and Israel would not be set aside for rejecting something not revealed until New Testament times.
Certain teachers erroneously hold that Israel's rejection was A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem.
The following Scripture formula has been suggested by Dr. S. Lewis Johnson (amended by CEM) to show when the Church began:
The prerequisite to the existence of the Church is the baptism into the one body by the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:13.
This could not have been during the life of our Lord on earth because:
The Lord indicates that the Church was future to the time of His ministry on earth, Matthew 16:18, and
It could not come to pass before His death and resurrection because the Holy Spirit who is the baptizer into the Church which is His body had not been given up to that time, John 7:37-39.
The Church must be purchased by His death, Ephesians 5:25-26, and share His resurrection life, Romans 4:25; Colossians 3:1-3.
The Holy Spirit was to be given shortly after the Lord's ascension, Acts 1:5. (The Church could not have come into existence before His ascension, for the exalted Christ must be Head over all things to His Church Ephesians 1:22-23.)
The Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost when He came as the baptizer.
It is clear that 1 Corinthians 12:13 had not yet occurred by the time of Acts 1:5, 7. The baptizing work of the Holy Spirit was yet future. (This work alone could "found" the Church.)
This coming of the Spirit is recorded to have taken place in Acts 2:1-4. (The phrase "baptized with the Spirit" not in Acts 2.)
Pentecost was clearly the fulfillment of the promise of Acts 1:5, 7, e.g., "not many days hence."
And, moreover. Acts 11:16 conclusively proves that the "baptism" by the Spirit then occurred at Pentecost.
Immediate and frequent references to the Church
closely following Acts 2 show that at that time on the Day of
Pentecost the Church came into existence: see Acts 2:47; (4:4);
5:11; 8:1, 3; etc.
THE CHARACTER AND COURSE OF THE CHURCH AGE
Revelation 2 and 3
There is not exact identification between Revelation 2-3 and Matthew 13 (especially as regards Laodicea and the Drag Net), but there is interesting similarity and comparison generally.
|A.||Ephesus||Desired||Pentecost||interested in organization||Sower|
|B.||Smyrna||Myrrh||Nero to 300||Church under persecution; enemy revealed||Tares|
|C.||Pergamum||Thoroughly married?||300 to 500-?||Worldly alliance||Mustard|
|D.||Thyatira||Continual sacrifice?||500-? to 1517
|E.||Sardis||Those escaping||Reformation||Empty profession||Treasure|
|F.||Philadelphia||Brotherly Love||18 & 19th Cent.||True Church of Last Days||Pearl|
|G.||Ladocea||People Ruling||Last Days||Period of apostasy||Drag-net|
DAYS" OF THE CHURCH AGE
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; James 5:1-10 2 Peter 2:1 to 3:8; Jude 1:1-24; Revelation 3:14-22
THE END OF THE
CHURCH AGE: The Translation (Rapture) of the Church to heaven
The end of this age is at the rapture of the Church, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; etc.
Some consider that the Church will go through the tribulation period upon earth, or into part of it. But the tribulation, the 70th week of Daniel, belongs to Israel's age, and the rapture of the Church occurs before Israel is again dealt with. By comparing Romans 11:11-15 with w.25-26, we see that Israel is set aside till the fullness of the Gentiles comes in; then she is taken up again in God's dealings. Three important "untils": (1) Romans ll:25 -- "until the fullness of Gentiles, " refers to the Church; (2) Luke 21:24 (Daniel 2:40-45) w. 34-35 -- "until the times of Gentiles, " refers to Gentile dominion in Jerusalem; (3) Matthew 23:39 (Romans ll:24)--"till ye shall say, 'Blessed is he that cometh, '" refers to Israel's conversion.
The Holy Spirit came at the beginning of this age (Acts 2) and leaves at the end of this age (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8), i.e., as related to His special ministry to the Church, His Body.
Note: The Church began as a mystery (Ephesians 3:1-6) and its consummation is a mystery (1 Corinthians 15:51ff.); it is, therefore, a unique program not related to Israel's program.
THE DIVINE PURPOSE IN THIS AGE
WHAT IT IS
Negatively, it is not to establish a universal kingdom of peace and righteousness. That is the purpose to be accomplished when Israel is exalted. Isaiah 2:1-5; 11:4; etc. Here the "Kingdom builders" and the proponents of the social gospel show their error.
it is rather personal righteousness imputed, Romans 3:22,26; 2 Corinthians
And personal peace is established with God, Romans 5:1, and the peace of God is enjoyed, Philippians 4:7, because Christ who made peace, Ephesians 2:15, is our peace, Ephesians 2:14.
Among others. Dr. H. C. Thiessen has carefully set forth the details of the purpose of God in this age, viz.
To offer "the
Gospel of the Grace of God" directly to all nations (Matthew 28:19; Luke
24:46-47). Not the Gospel of the kingdom as preached by John the Baptist,
Christ, and His disciples before Matthew 13 and to be preached in the
tribulation, Matthew 24:14.
Note: Observe four descriptive names of present ministry in Acts 20:
Basis: v.21, "Repentance toward God; faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
Specific: v.24, "Gospel of the grace of God."
General: v.25, "Kingdom of 'God'" (or Heaven--in mystery form).
"All the counsel of God."
To "call out from among the Gentiles a people for His name" (Acts 15:14). It is a calling-out process. Those ordained unto life believe (Acts 13:48). It is not a "leavening" process to accomplish the redemption of all mankind as some wrongfully apply Matthew 13:33-35 to mean.
To unite the people whom He has called out into one Body by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:13.27).
To give that people the position of adult sons (Galatians 4:1-7). The Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart is the first down payment of the inheritance. This means (a) Nearness to God; (b) Fellowship with Him; (c) Partnership with Him--all in a way that the Old Testament believer could never know.
To sanctify and build up that people (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Jude 20; Titus 2:14).
To reproduce His own character in that people (Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 4:1-10; Philippians 3:10).
To endue His
people with ministry gifts and use them in His service (Romans 12:6-8;
1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:11-13).
HOW IT IS TO ACCOMPLISHED
By the might of
the Holy Spirit come down from heaven
1 Thessalonians 1:5
By means of a
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
2 Timothy 2:20-21
instrumentality of local churches
(Dr. Thiessen sets forth the reasons for a local church, as follows):
That the elders might feed the flock Acts 20:28
That there might be definite oversight Hebrews 13:17
For the purpose of discipline 1 Timothy 5:20; 5:1-13
For the provision of a place of fellowship and worship Hebrews 10:22-25
To observe the Lord's supper for testimony and remembrance 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
For concerted prayer and worship Acts 2:42-47
To give out instruction for the work of the Gospel Ephesians 4:12
To provide a beginning place for missionary work Acts 13:2-3
d. By preaching of the Word,
evangelization and missionary effort Matthew 28:19 Acts 20:24 1 Corinthians
MAN'S REACTION TO THE DIVINE PURPOSE
On the part of the world: Jew and Gentile
The age is evil Galatians 1:4
It is under Satan 1 John 5:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4
Its political powers are godless Daniel 2
To it the preaching of Christ is foolishness 1 Corinthians 1:23
It is an unbelieving world Luke 18:8
It prates about wisdom 1 Corinthians 1:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:5-10 1 Timothy 6:20
Riches are its god Luke 12:30-34; 1 Timothy 6:7-10 James 5:1-6
It seeks "social betterment":
By effort of the
natural man. It says:
Man is inherently good;
That the life of Jesus is an example to be followed, But that His death is not atoning;
That the Bible is not a divine Book;
That sin is not a reality;
That there is no bodily resurrection;
That there is no heaven and no hell.
On the part of the professing Church
The seven parables of Matthew 13 show a general picture of the course of the age as a result of the testimony of the Gospel in the world.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation show prophetically seven phases of the spiritual history of the professing Church.
2 Timothy 3:1-7, 2 Peter 2:1-2; etc. show the prophesied apostasy in the professing Church.
The believer's responsibility to the world
He is to be not conformed to it. Romans 12:2 2 Timothy 4:10 1 Timothy 6:17-19
He is to live in it.
soberly (as to self)
righteously (as to others)
godly (as toward God)
waiting for the Lord, our Hope, Titus 2:12
He is to witness to and against it. Mark 16:15 Acts 1:8 John 16:7-11; 17:18
The ministers (i.e., believers who are servants of the Church) have failed to:
Give attention to His Word
Submit themselves to His Person
Separate themselves to Him from the world
Proclaim the Word
of grace to the lost
AND CONTRASTS BETWEEN THE PRESENT AGE AND PRECEDING AGES, PARTICULARLY
BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND ISRAEL
The Gospel was not new with this age (Galatians 3:8). Gracious forgiveness on the basis of blood sacrifice was always God's way of dealing.
But although it is perfectly plain that "the gospel was preached before unto Abraham," it is just as clear that the Church was not preached before unto Abraham! This was a sacred secret (mystery) "hid in God" (Colossians 1:26-27).
Two ministries were committed in a special way to the Apostle Paul, that of the Gospel (Colossians 1:23) and that of the Church (Colossians 1:24-25). The former was not new; the latter was new (cp. A, 2, a, p. 96).
BOTH of these messages were revelations; the gospel was a revelation, but not a "mystery, " whereas the Church was a revelation OF a "mystery."
THE SIMILARITIES OF ISRAEL TO THE CHURCH MAY BE SUMMARIZED:
Both have covenant relations
Both related to God by blood redemption centered in Christ
Both are witnesses to the world for God
Both Abraham's seed
Both to be glorified
Both called to separation
Many common doctrines
Both elect, Deuteronomy 7:6; Romans 11:28
Both loved of God, Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 5:25-27
Vitally related as illustrated by marriage (Church: "Bride"; Israel: "Wife"--divorced, restored, cp. Hosea 3)
individual privileges in Heaven
These similarities do not establish identity in view of the many contrasts listed below. The similarities show that there is a harmony and unity in all divine dealings, and that the same God who is the God of Israel is the God dealing with the Church. When God is working to accomplish His purposes through two groups there will be many similarities, but the similarity, in the light of the many contrasts, cannot be made to prove the two groups are identical.
If the Church is Israel, it can fulfill all covenants and thus no millennium is necessary. If the Church is distinct, the millennium is necessary.
THE CONTRASTS BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH MAY BE SUMMARIZED: (cp. Section III, E. (Abrahamic Covenant), 5. (Future fulfilment of Abrahamic Covenant to Israel)
Birth, which constitutes their standing
Israel - physical, Romans 9:7; Hebrews 11:18 (by natural generation)
spiritual, John 3:3 (by spiritual generation)
Israel - Looks to Abraham
Church - looks to
Relation to Covenants
Israel - All, especially beginning with Abrahamic
Abrahamic and New (indirectly related to these)
Israel - one nation
Church - all
Israel - national and individual
Israel - seen in all ages from Abraham on
Church - only
between two advents, and in Kingdom reign over earth
As to O.T. and N.T.
Israel in both
Church only in
Related to Christ's ministry
Israel - "lam sent only," Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24; Romans 15:8
Church - "go ye
to all, " Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15; Romans 15:3, 9; predicted by Christ, Matthew
16:18; cp. Acts 1:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:13
Relation to death of Christ
Israel - guilty nationally; repentant portion to be saved by it, Romans 11:26
Church - now
saved by that death, Ephesians 5:25-27
Relation to Christ
Israel - Messiah, Immanuel, King (used exclusively or at least not used of the Church)
Church - Head,
Bridegroom, Lord (not interchangeable with King)
Relation to the Father
Israel - by peculiar relationship, "Israel my son" (as unit), Hosea 11:1
Church - by
individual regeneration, "sons of God" (see Galatians 4:1-7)
Relation to the Spirit
Israel - came upon some, but did not necessarily stay, Exodus 35:30-31; 1 Sam. 10:6; 11:6; 16:14; Psalms 51:11; John 7:37-39
indwelling all, John 14:17; Galatians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:8
Israel - Mosaic system, Psalms 103:17-18. National law.
Church - Grace
system, 1 Corinthians 9:20-22; Galatians 5:1. Higher standard or code.
Israel - limited (but the enablement did not come through the law)
Church - full,
through the indwelling Spirit
(No parallel between these two discourses. If they are one and the same, we would expect an overlapping of detail.)
Israel - Olivet discourse, Matthew 24:25
Church - Upper
Room discourse and "Lord's Prayer," John 14-16, and 17
Two promises as to Christ's return
Israel - in power and glory for judgment, Matthew 24:31, regather; Matthew 25:31, "throne" - kingdom
Church - to
receive to Himself, John 14:1-3
Church is taken out before period of judgment
Two figures of relationship
Israel - servants, Isaiah 41:8; contra John 15:15, "friends"
Church - sons,
Galatians 4: 1-7
As to Christ's earthly reign
Israel - reigns with Christ as no. 1 nation on the earth (not to share throne)
Church - reigns
with Christ as royal consort over the earth (shares throne)
Israel - had a priesthood, Exodus 19:6; 28-29. The nation was offered privilege of all being priests, but was disqualified by sin of golden calf.
Church - is a
priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5-9; all are priests
Israel - wife of Jehovah, Hosea 2:16-23
Church - bride of
Christ, Ephesians 5:25-33
Position in Heaven
Israel - "spirits of just men, " Hebrews 12:22-24
Church - Church
of the firstborn, Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 4:5
Israel - will go through Tribulation
Church - raptured
D. SEVEN FIGURES OF THE CHURCH'S RELATION TO CHRIST
and the Sheep
Sheep used of a favored people in any age, Matthew 25:32-33; Luke 15:3-7.
Israel, Psalms 79:13; 97:5; Jeremiah 23:1; Ezekiel 34:6, 11-12
Church, John 10:7-27; 21:16-17; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:2-4
Gentile believers who enter into the kingdom, Matthew 25:31-46
guidance, helplessness, protection
The Vine and the Branches
Christ the Branch of Jehovah, Isaiah 4:2
Israel the vineyard, Isaiah 5:1-7
Used of Church, John 15
essential for power and fruit
Corner Stone and Stones of the Building
God dwelt with Israel in tabernacle and temple, Exodus 25:8; 29:43-46; 1 Kings 5-8
He dwells in the Church, Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5
Speaks of mutual
dependence through a vital union
High Priest and Kingdom of Priests
Israel had a priesthood, Exodus 19:6
Church is a priesthood, Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 1 Peter 2:5-9
ministry for Him
Head and body with members
Israel an organization
Church an organism, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12
Figure speaks of
authority from Head, of service, of fellowship
Last Adam and
1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Peter 2:5-9 Two factors in the New Creation
The resurrection of Christ
The whole company of believers vitally united to Christ, John 14:20
Speaks of a new
representative Head, unfallen and incapable of falling
The Bridegroom and the Bride
Note various marriage types in Scripture
Bride figure speaks of Christ's love, Ephesians 5:25
conditions yet future in regard to our position and future glory in Heaven
E. OTHER RELATIONSHIPS OF THE CHURCH
Related to Kingdom of God/Heaven (i.e., the Kingdom of the God of Heaven in "Mystery" form, Matthew 13)
Related to God
Temple or tabernacle, Ephesians 2:18-21; 1 Peter 2:4-7
Related to Christ, Ephesians 2:18-21
elated to the Spirit, Ephesians 2:18-21
Related to Angels, Ephesians 1:3; 2:13
In relation to Satan, Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 6:10-15
In relation to the World, Ephesians 4:14-16
In relation to Service, Revelation 19:7; Ephesians 2:7; 3:10,21
In relation to Saints of other Ages, Hebrews 11:40; John 14:3; 1 John 3:3; Ephesians 5:27
In relation to
Judgment, John 5:24; associated with the Judge, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3
DIFFERENT USES OF THE WORD "CHURCH"
The Greek word translated Church is ecclesia, technically pronounced ek-klay-see-ah; although popularly anglicized as ek-klee-zi-ah. I prefer the former.
The Greek word in its non-technical and primary sense means simply "a public gathering" (literally "a called-out company") wherever and whoever they may be. Opponents of dispensationalism desperately seek to prove that the people of God in the O.T. were also God's Church on the basis of the much-heralded phrase "the Church in the wilderness" in Stephen's speech. Acts 7:38. One need only remember the literal meaning of the word church to see that the argument is specious. The phrase simply means that here were a company of people (Israel) who had been gathered out from Egypt into the desert.
That this is the proper basic meaning
is also evident from the word as used three times in the account of the mob
gathered in the Ephesian amphitheatre fanned to fury by the silversmiths, each
time translated "assembly," Acts 19:32,39,41, i.e., a popular meeting. When the
meeting gathers together for religious purposes, the assemblage has come to be
called in our language Church, from the Anglo-Saxon circe (kirke), -.which is
evidently related to the Greek word for Lord (kurios), which itself comes from
kuros, meaning power. (The German is kirke; the Scots called it kirk.) Hence,
our English word carries the composite thought of an assemblage, gathered
together unto the Lord, composed of those who are the Lord's, called out from
the world. This gathering, because it is of divine origin and direction, is
expected to be an assemblage of power. Naturally, the place (building) in which
those people met, came to be called by their name, church (by metonymy);
cp. "He took the cup" (i.e., "cup" used for that which was in it).
But returning to the Greek word. God has taken up a common and everyday word describing people gathering together for ANY purpose, and has lifted it into a beautiful and wonderful sense to describe people gathering together unto Him, oró from the other side of the picture--to describe when God the Holy Spirit gathers them out from the world of sin and unto the Person of Christ in a new family, born of heaven.
Neither the Acts 7 or 19 usages of this word should have been translated even once with the technical English meaning of "Church, " but in every case left simply as assembly. Ironically, the phrase "robbers of churches" (in Acts 19:37) is not the word ecclesia at all, or faintly related to it! It is a technical word for temple-robbers . This shows how careless the King James translators were in the use of the English word "Church." Thus, nothing can be proved from its appearance in the AV.
It is most important to observe that
the first recorded usage in the N.T. is by our Lord Himself (Matthew 16:18).
There is one major idea throughout the N.T., namely, "called out" (Acts 15:14).
In its technical, scriptural usage, the term Church is used in the N.T. in the following FOUR senses in the N.T. (and growing out of the N.T.):
sometimes refers to
THE WHOLE BODY OF TRUE BELIEVERS IN THIS AGE
(from Pentecost to Rapture), Ephesians 3:9-15
(A large proportion of whom, at this time, are "invisible" to people on earth because they are already in heaven)
This is perhaps the explanation for the origin of the phrase "The Invisible Church, " a phrase much scorned by certain Christians who say the only real Church is the Church you can see right here and now on earth, i.e., "The Visible Church" (Christendom, or the local churches which compose Christendom).
There are also some who use the phrase "Invisible Church" to indicate the fact that anyone may see or know there are an actual group of people on earth, or in any given community or in a given congregation, who profess to be Christians, BUT ONLY GOD can unmistakably "see" those who are truly saved. You or I have no way of "seeing" unmistakably all who are truly saved; hence, the "true Church" is inevitably "invisible" to human eyes, although to a large extent it is composed of people to be found within the ranks of the "visible" Church.
sometimes refers to A LOCAL ASSEMBLY OF PROFESSED BELIEVERS
who gather together for worship, prayer, comfort, exhortation, discipline, witness to the lost, Bible study, and for service in their community and (by prayer and gift) to the ends of the earth. Of course, there are always likely to be some mere professors in such a group.
Such a group is, according to the Scripture, composed of "the saints in Christ Jesus which are at _______ (place), with the bishops
(overseers) and deacons" (Philippians 1:1).
This is the integral unit of God's work on earth in this age. All true Christians should be properly related to a local group of fellow Christians, to whom they live near enough for sharing fellowship, receiving spiritual help, and (if needed) being disciplined. We must be careful not to distort the great truth of "the invisible body of Christ" (the true Church) in such a way as to be mere "sermon tasters, " spiritual hoboes, " "absentee members" of distant churches for sentimental reasons (from which there can be no real help and to which we cannot lend any real assistance).
Likewise, Christians should see beyond a local body of believers to the whole Church (No. 1 above) and feel a kinship with the universal body of Christ. This is scriptural ecumenicity (Ephesians 6:18).
All Christians should be in fellowship with and answerable to some local body of believers. We should have membership in two churches (both No. 1 and No. 2), like the Thessalonians, namely, a local address "the church in Thessalonica" (No. 2), and a spiritual address "the Church which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ" (i.e.. No. 1, I Thessalonians 1:1).
"The Church" may sometimes refer to A GROUP OF CHURCHES (Galatians 1:22); e.g.,
A GROUP OF CHURCHES ASSOCIATED BY COMMON CONSENT ON GROUNDS OF PARTICULAR VIEWS OF DOCTRINE or/and CHURCH GOVERNMENT (e.g., a denomination), or
A GROUP OF
CHURCHES IN A GEOGRAPHICAL PLACE OR AREA (e.g., "the Church in Pennsylvania,
" "the Church in Latin America, " or "the Church in Chicago.". Also, e.g.,
the Churches of Galatia," Galatians 1:2.)
may sometimes refer to THE "VISIBLE" UNIVERSAL CHURCH
(e.g.. Galatians 1:13), the sum-total of all denominations and unrelated congregations in the world now or at any given time in Church history (e.g., "the Early Church" or "the Church Today," or "the Church of the Middle Ages"), Some use the term Christendom for this usage.
ORGANIZATION, AS TO PRINCIPLE OF GOVERNMENT (four kinds)
There have historically developed four kinds of church government, each claiming authority from the Scriptures. (For details, refer to the Denominational Distinctions course, or any standard book on the denominations):
Authoritarian (Rule by Roman pope). This view emphasizes the total
authority of the POPE over churches (and individuals who compose churches),
standing as Christ's Vice-regent in the world.
(Rule by bishops)
This starts with the same thesis as Authoritarian above (i.e., Christ gave His authority to His apostles, who passed it on to others, who passed it on to others, etc.), with this difference: the authority of the POPE is rejected.
The bishop's hands must be laid on people in ordination to the ministry (priesthood) and in confirmation of lay people into membership of local churches, in order to implement the spiritual impartation of the sacrament.
(Rule by presbytery)
Elders elected by churches form the local "session" which appoints representatives (pastor and one lay elder) to meet with representative elders of other churches in a reasonably small area, thus forming "the presbytery" which has authority over the pastors and the churches.
(Rule by the congregation, sovereign in itself and answerable only to
Such congregations can and should have fellowship with other congregations without changing the place of final authority as residing in each local church.
The majority of those attending PCB and most similar Christian schools, come from churches espousing this view. They urge the fact that this is the expressed perspective of the book of Acts and the epistles, even though (properly) spiritual comity and cooperation was demonstrated by the N.T. churches. See Acts 9:31; 15:41; 16:5; Romans 16:4; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 14:34; 16:1,19; 2 Corinthians 8:1,18-19,23-24; 12:13; Galatians 1:2, 22; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Revelation 1:4,11,20; 2:7,11,17,23; 3:6,13,22; 22:16.
ORGANIZATION AS TO PERSONNEL WHO RULE (SERVE AS OFFICERS) IN THE LOCAL
Different views are held, in harmony with church government pattern indicated above under G. Since few of our students accept the forms of government stated under G, 1 and 2, above, comment will cover only G, 3 and 4.
means "overseers" (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:1-11)
This title would seem to refer to THE FUNCTION of the office. It is to "oversee" the sheep; protect, guide, feed, discipline them. From the Latin has come the much more used term PASTOR, which means "shepherd, " and refers to the same function (e.g., John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2). It will be observed that Paul's instructions of Acts 20:28 were to the bishops (overseers) of the local congregation at Ephesus. (Webster defines "pastor" as "a spiritual overseer"; and while recognizing its different usage in high church circles, defines "bishop" with the same words, "a spiritual overseer.")
This title would seem to refer to THE DIGNITY of the office, and that office seems to be identical with "bishop" (or "pastor"), as note Titus l:5ff. Paul instructs Titus to "ordain elders in every city" (cp. Acts 14:23) who must be "the husband of one wife" (cp. instructions of 1 Timothy 3:2 re: the "bishop"). Paul then indissolubly connects the instructions re: a "bishop" (Titus 1:7-9) to what he has just said re: the "elder" (w.5-6) by the "For" of v.7. There can be no reasonable doubt that the "elders" are therefore "bishops" and vice versa. Presbyterians (and Reformed) not only call the pastor an "elder" ("teaching elder"), but laymen elected to serve on the session with him (and perhaps in the presbytery) are called "ruling elders." Baptists and others reserve the term "elder" for a synonym to "bishop" and "pastor."
Note: (I have increasingly inclined toward the view below.) Is it possible that elder describes the "officers" of the church whether ELDER - "bishop" (pastor) or "deacon"?
ELDERs of the church
BISHOP ("shepherd," i.e., pastor)
DEACON ("servant") (pastor's helper)
(literally, "one who serves")
are also plainly officers with spiritual duties, and likewise distinguished by the same spiritual qualities (cp. 1 Timothy 3:8-13) which are required of bishops (note " Likewise of v. 8).
Some groups (e.g.., Presbyterian) assign oversight of church benevolences to the "deacons, " usually on the basis of Acts 6:1-7. Although certainly these seven men "served" in the capacity appointed, it is neither there (Acts 6) or elsewhere stated that they were called "deacons." Philip is called an "evangelist" (Acts 21:8), but not a "deacon."
It would therefore seem more feasible to understand a "deacon" as a spiritually-minded "lay" officer who serves as a helper to the "pastor" in spiritual duties and the ruling of the church. (They prove they are fit to rule in the church by "ruling their own houses well, " 1 Timothy 3:12).
Note: The above-named officers (Numbers 1-3) rule in the house of God (references already cited); guard the truth (Titus 1:9); and shepherd the flock (Acts 20:28; John 21:16).
The term is used (Greek) of Phebe in Romans 16:1, implied of other feminine names mentioned in Romans 16, and many others (e.g., Philippians 4:2-3; and perhaps 1 Timothy 5:5,7,9-10; some also think the wives mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:11).
These would not occupy the office of the elder-pastor-bishop (1 Timothy 2:12), anymore than the (male) deacon would. They assist in the gospel work (Philippians 4:3) and perform deeds of courtesy, hospitality, mercy, and kindness (1 Timothy 5:10; Romans 16:1). Evidently therefore it would be wiser that they should not serve on a Board of Deacons (and Deaconesses), but minister as above indicated apart from any status of authority.
NOTE: Other offices (such as "trustees") may be created by a church to conform as good citizens to laws of civil governments (e.g., 1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1,5-7), or to assist in the performance of its service, but these offices should be recognized as of human origin and expedience and never be confused with those specified in Scripture and appointed by the Holy Spirit as He gifts men (Acts 20:28; 13:2-4; 14:23; 1 Timothy 1:12; 3:7,10). The church recognizes the Spirit's appointment and sets such men apart.
I. CHURCH POLITY AS TO BAPTISM AND THE LORD'S SUPPER (two ordinances, not sacraments)
BAPTISM (once for all)
Either baptism received in confession of personal faith (believer's baptism) by those old enough to express such faith (both in the case of immersionist groups of non-pedobaptists, or non-infants of those practicing pedo-baptism)
Or baptism received as infants in pedo-baptist groups, the infants being sponsored by parents or other adults who affirm the anticipated faith of the infant which it will exercise for itself when it grows up. (Later when the child personally endorses the prophecy of the baptism received normally in infancy, the ceremony of Confirmation is the name many groups give to the occasion of entering church membership.)
There are three modes of baptism practiced by churches:
Sprinkling of water on the head
Pouring of water
on the head (affusion)
These two are usually understood as symbolizing the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Dipping of the
professed believer under water, as picturing death and burial with Christ,
and then raising the believer out of the water, as picturing resurrection
with Christ, with a view to walking in "newness of life" (cp. 1 Corinthians
(The term immersion is normally used. This teacher feels the term is faulty in that it states that a person or thing is placed IN water (immersed), but the word does not clearly include the idea of bringing that which was immersed back out of the water. The word "dip" includes the double act of placing in and bringing out of the water which is necessary to death, burial, and resurrection picturization, Romans 6:3-5).
Note: There are some immersionist groups who baptize by trine-immersion, i.e., three times, forward (Grace Brethren) or backward (Grace Orthodox), once for each member of the Trinity. All non-immersionist groups receive anyone of the three modes as valid baptism. Immersionist groups deny Numbers (1) and (2) as valid baptism, since it does not portray the gospel as does No. (3), which alone is held as valid. It is argued that we have no more right to change the symbolism of baptism than we would have to change the symbolism of the Lord's Supper by using something other than bread and wine.
SUPPER (oft-repeated till He come!)
For varying viewpoints, see notes on 1 Corinthians 11 and Denominational Distinctions (Pastoral Training). There are four main views:
Transubstantiation (i.e., substance changed - trans)
At the consecrating words of the sacrificing priest, by a miracle the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.
Lutheran - Usually called Consubstantiation by non-Lutherans, but opposed by Lutherans. Con means with (the substance). Bread and wine remain bread and wine, but Christ is spiritually present "with, in, and under" the bread and wine and received by the communicant regardless of his spiritual status.
Calvinist - Spiritual presence view
Again the bread and wine remain bread and wine, but in a mystical way Christ is spiritually present and is received by believers (only) in a sacramental sense.
The bread and wine are simply symbols of Christ's body and blood. Christ is not present with them or received with them. The faith of the believer lays hold upon the truths involved in His death and as a result rejoices in , spiritual communion with Christ as we remember His death. Submission is called for with self-discipline, as it is the Lord's Supper. (We likewise joyfully look forward to Christ's return and the "Marriage Supper of the Lamb.")
These views have been simply charted as follows:
|Bread - Body||Bread - Body||Bread - Body|
|Wine - Blood||Wine - Blood||Wine - Blood|
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