Certain Baptists, many of them, in the 19th century began accepting non-Baptist baptism and interdenominational sharing of pulpits. These changes from the norm became rampant. Others, however, repudiated these practices as unbiblical. They understood that Baptists through the centuries had suffered over such doctrine as baptism. From the others, leaders emerged, who encouraged Baptists to return to scriptural and historical moorings among which were local only ecclesiology, church perpetuity, and authoritative baptism. They applied to a certain degree the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation, which taught that doctrinal and practical distinctions were worth preserving. They believed that when professing believers and churches begin to stray from right teaching and behavior, something should be done about it. The stances of these leaders and their proponents became known as landmarkism.
Kevin Bauder in his chapter, "landmarkism," treats the conviction of the landmarkers as an intrusion on a path of orthodoxy instead of the opposite truth. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism encroached on the biblical belief and practice of the legitimate line of true New Testament churches. Bauder classifies local only ecclesiology as a deviation from biblical teaching. He writes (p. 208):
Paul's teaching n 1 Corinthians 12:13 definitely indicates, first, that a universal Body of Christ exists; second, that this body includes all believers and not just members of a particular congregation; and third, that this body is constituted in or by the Holy Spirit.Bauder sees 1 Corinthians 12:13 as the proof text for the catholicity of the church. I've shown so far in this series of posts that in no way does 1 Corinthians 12:13 teach any of those three points above that he asserts. He doesn't prove them with exegesis. He reads into the text and really just assumes his position without justification.
Bauder says that the catholic church "is the church in the truest sense of that term." This is how most advocates of a universal church express it, that "the true church is all believers and a local church is the visible manifestation of the true one." The mystical or invisible being the "true," one should recognize as platonism. Plato saw the reality in the ideal with actual items only a visible manifestation. The ideal is the object in its truest sense, hence a universal church, the church of the ideal, with an actual church merely a visible manifestation.
Bauder goes to Ephesians to bolster his universal church belief. He asks, "Can the word church rightly be applied to this body?" To evince that point, he uses Ephesians 1:22-23, which read:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.Bauder doesn't prove anything, just alleges that the church is all believers. Why is it all believers? Bauders reasoning goes, 1 Corinthians 12:13 says the body is all believers (which it doesn't, it says the opposite, see 12:27) and since the body is the church in Ephesians 1:22-23, then the church is also all believers.
When New Testament authors use the word "church" in the singular, such as "the church," they either write of a specific assembly or are employing the generic use of the singular noun. Those are the only two grammatical choices for a singular noun. The application and invention of some type of platonic usage of the singular noun is not found applied to any other noun in the New Testament.
I've noticed Bauder's assumptions concerning the universal church are typical for those who accept that teaching. It relies on circular reasoning: Ephesians 1 teaches it because 1 Corinthians 12:13 teaches it, and why does 1 Corinthians 12:13 teach it? Because Ephesians 1 teaches it.
Bauder does this too with Ephesians 5. He writes:
If we already believe that the universal Body of Christ can be called the church, we will almost inescapably see the universal, invisible church in Ephesians 5:22-33.He provides no exegetical basis from Ephesians 5 to make that point. He assumes a universal church in Ephesians 5 for there to be one. His only explanation is that since individual churches have unbelievers in them, Paul could not present them as the bride of Christ. That doesn't prove his point and it really does the opposite. A husband loves his wife by sanctifying her, like Christ sanctifies the church. Even if the church were all believers, is Bauder saying that the church will have reached 100% sanctification when it is presented to Christ? That line of reasoning doesn't prove anything, and if it did, it also undermines Bauder's own position. He needed to think his argument all the way through, including his own position in his evaluation.
A lot in the text of Ephesians 5 contradicts a universal church understanding. Bauder, like almost all universal church advocates, takes the metaphor of the bride further than he should. Ephesians 5:23 reads, "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." "The church" is another generic singular noun. It has to be, or else "the husband" and "the wife" also must necessarily be a universal, invisible husband and wife. The verse actually has both of the two usages of the singular noun. "The husband" is a generic singular and "the saviour" is a specific or particular singular.
"The husband" is not speaking of any specific or particular husband and "the church" is not speaking of any specific or particular church. No one attempts to redefine "husband" to mean something different than it is, just because it is used in a generic way. No one would say that there is only one husband, just because it is used in the singular.
A slightly different translation of Ephesians 5:23 can make a difference to one's understanding, such as what William Tyndale did with his translation there, "even as Christ is the head of the congregation." The Greek word means "congregation" or "assembly." If one understands the word as "the congregation" it is more difficult, even impossible, to fathom something universal in Ephesians 5. Tyndale does the same in Ephesians 5:32, "I speak between Christ and the congregation," even as he does through the New Testament. Was Tyndale a Landmarker?
The term "bride" doesn't occur in Ephesians 5. The Apostle Paul is teaching concerning the husband and wife relationship in Ephesians 5:22-33, and he uses Christ's relationship to the church to illustrate the relationship of the husband to his wife. Does Paul's comparison in Ephesians 5 mean that the church is "the bride of Christ"? It might surprise you to know that the "bride of Christ" isn't terminology found in the New Testament anywhere. The words "bride" and "Christ" do not appear together in any verse in the New Testament.
Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (5:25), but that doesn't mean that the church is Jesus' bride. Revelation 21:2 says that the New Jerusalem is "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." I would assume that is also "the bride" of Revelation 21:9 and 22:17. Is "the bride" there "the church"? Ephesians 5 is a wife metaphor, just like John 14:2-3 are one, and just like Revelation 21 and 22 are a bride metaphor. The Greek word translated "bride" in Revelation 21 and 22 is translated "daughter-in-law" in Matthew 10:35 and Luke 12:53, so the word itself isn't even always a "bride."
Ephesians 5:26-33 proceed to describe how Jesus' loves the church, as an example of how the husband is to love the wife. This doesn't mean the church is His wife. The language is metaphorical, very much like the body metaphor with Jesus as the Head and individuals in the church as body parts or members. Like body parts of a real body submit to their head, the members of a church submit to Jesus. These are metaphors.
The next post will talk about landmarkism and "alien immersion."