Tuesday, September 04, 2007

IF IT'S NOT CONSISTENT, IT'S NOT THE TRUTH (Part Three)

Whoever is reading this I might assume believes in one God in tune with Deuteronomy 6:4: "The LORD our God is one LORD." We don't worship two gods, but One. Consistent with the unity of the Godhead is the unity of the teachings of Scripture. God doesn't contradict Himself; neither does His Word. Among all the tenets of the Bible, the doctrine of separation will not contradict the doctrine of unity. If it does, then we know that an interpretation of one or both of those doctrines cannot be correct.

The Correct Teaching on Separation and Unity: It Will Not Contradict Itself

The key to a consistent belief and practice of separation and unity is ecclesiology. The Scriptural, exegetical, grammatical-historical view of the church is necessary for a correct and consistent position on separation and unity. Someone who believes the true church and the body of Christ is all believers must allow for no division with any believer--1 Corinthians 12:25: "There should be no schism in the body." And yet we have those passages on separation that instruct us to separate from other believers (2 Thess. 3:6-15; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-11). You cannot practice Scriptural unity and separation if you believe that the church is all saints.

The Crux of Consistency

Something must be wrong. What is it? The church or the body of Christ isn't all believers. The church is an assembly or congregation as is the body of Christ. We find the term ekklesia ("church") 117 times in the New Testament. In over 110 of those usages we have a particular congregation in view. Sometimes we know it is an individual congregation.

Acts 8:1, "And 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."

Acts 11:26, "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."

1 Corinthians 1:2, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth. . . ."

Thirty-seven times ekklesia ("church") is used in the plural ("churches") to refer to several assemblies or congregations.

Acts 16:5, "And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily."

1 Corinthians 7:17, "But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches."

A singular noun, according to the rule of grammar, is either particular or generic. In a very few usages in the New Testament, ekklesia is used as a generic. A generic, representative of a particular noun, always assumes the particular. When ekklesia is used generically, it still represents a particular church in reality. We see this usage in Ephesians 5:23-25:

23 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. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Since ekklesia means "assembly," the Ephesians would have thought of their assembly. They certainly would not have contemplated some sort of unassembled, universal, invisible entity. A universal church is a contradiction in terms. The Ephesian church would have thought of the church in the same sense they would have thought of "the husband" and "the wife" in v. 23. They wouldn't have thought that "the husband" or "the wife" was a universal, invisible husband or wife. That understanding would defy Greek grammar. Instead, those Ephesians would have understood ekklesia like people in that day would have understood it and like the other 110+ times it is used and like the 23 times that Jesus uses it in the New Testament (read Rev. 2 & 3).

Instead of interpreting "church" according to grammar and usage, most fundamentalists and evangelicals read a "universal church" into the text. Here is how their typical doctrinal statement reads for "church":

We believe that the true Church is composed of all such persons, who through saving faith in Jesus Christ, have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and are united together in the body of Christ of which He is the Head.
The doctrinal statement of the Central Baptist Theological Seminary says:

We believe that the Church, the Body of Christ, is composed of all true believers who are placed into that Body by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit.
This view of the church, not taught in Scripture (without reading into it), makes impossible a New Testament practice of separation and unity. They're view of the church can't be true. Scripture cannot contradict itself. Their view requires contradictions.

Consistent Practice of Unity

On the other hand, how does the correct position on the church, the exegetical one, result in a consistent practice? First, a church (the only one, the local one) can practice Scriptural unity. God has given His assembly the ability to maintain no schism in the body. How? A church should and can have one doctrine ("one faith," Eph. 4:5) and practice church discipline based upon that. A church member may think differently than the rest of the church, but he cannot cause division ("heresy," Titus 3:10, 11) based upon differences. The church is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), so the church agrees on its doctrine. Each member unifies with that church by means of the ordinances of baptism (1 Cor. 12:13) and the Lord's Table (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17) and the office of the Pastor (1, 2 Timothy, & Titus). A member who will not fit into the church thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think (Rom. 12:3).

Someone may ask, "What about soul liberty?" Soul liberty is not the right to cause disunity in a church. Everyone can read the Bible on his own, can understand it on his own, and is free to help the whole church come to the right position. God wants "one accord" and "one mind" (Acts 1:14; 2:46; Philip. 1:27; 2:2) for His church. Ten times the phrase "one accord" is applied to the church in the New Testament. Since the church has One Spirit, it isn't likely that you are right, but the whole church is wrong. On issues of liberty, they are exactly that, issues of liberty. A person has liberty to practice differently where the church had decided it is an issue of liberty.

Christ's assembly can and should have perfect unity. Fundamentalists and evangelicals do not have perfect unity in their body. They stay perpetually disobedient with their schisms in the body. Instead of unifying, they separate with other believers in their body.

Consistent Practice of Separation

Second, the only right doctrine of the church will result in a Scriptural practice of separation. We have already seen in the separation passages that we are to separate over any and every doctrine of Scripture. In those separation passages, where does separation occur? It occurs at the church. A church separates from those in it with a different doctrine (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Romans 16:17). A church follows a pattern set in Matthew 18:15-17 and Titus 3:10, 11 of warning and patience (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15). A church allows its members to grow and change. When members fail, a church works at restoration (Galatians 6:1-3).

A church follows the same principles of separation with other churches as it does with its own members. A church separates over its agreed-upon doctrine and practice, giving other churches and their members the opportunity for change, repentance, and growth. The church itself chooses the terms of separation; however, separating over all of the doctrines of Scripture, especially since man is to live by every Word of God (Matthew 4:4).
Some might ask, "So do you separate over every single teaching of Scripture?" The way our church practices is to separate over everything that Scripture teaches, the actual doctrine and practices of Scripture. For instance, we don't separate over the interpretation of the vow of Jephthah, of the identity of the sons of God in Genesis 6, or other matters of interpretation like these. We don't separate over every aspect of the issue of divorce and remarriage. With my leadership, our church makes the decision about where we draw the line, and it is at the opposition to divorce. We expect another church to hate divorce. Regarding the Lord's Supper, we expect another church to protect the purity of the Lord's Table whether they be closed or close. We will not fellowship with a church which practices open communion. We will separate over music and dress and the doctrine of preservation. We could go through every doctrine over which we break fellowship, but our goal is to affect other professing brethren toward our faith and practice. We will only separate once we have given ample opportunity for consideration of what we believe and teach. The goal, like it is with those in the church, is restoration.
In order for fundamentalists or evangelicals, who believe universal church, to attempt to retain a sense of unity, they give up on a Scriptural practice of separation. They must go through the tortured taxonomies and ranking of doctrines in order to figure out what it is that they must separate over. They look for common ground around a certain number of doctrines and practices. What I have observed is that the chief considerations become political---the doctrines have become more politically correct than theologically. These churches often attempt to fit into a particular circle of influence, usually orbiting a Bible college or seminary. It is difficult to discern who evangelicals officially separate from. An evangelical pastor will write a book about a doctrine he thinks is being considerably abused, but then he will fellowship with those presently involved in perverting the doctrine. All of the actions mentioned in this paragraph combined make for great confusion among fundamentalists and evangelicals on separation and unity.
The pivotal doctrine for Scriptural separation and unity is ecclesiology. When someone has the wrong view of the church, he won't be able to practice separation and unity consistently. The teachings will contradict each other. I call on all fundamentalists and evangelicals to turn to the ecclesiology that results in consistency, the doctrine of the church that comes from the plain teaching of Scripture. I ask you to please stop devaluing doctrine by unscriptural unity. I beg of you to rely on the Bible alone as a basis for separation.

The Consequences of Contradicting the Doctrines of Separation and Unity

This paragraph does not officially continue this essay. Call it an aside. I am planning on finishing this with a very practical ending. I want everyone to know that I have not had more enjoyment and peace since practicing separation and unity based on an exegesis of Scripture. I'll tell you sometime about how I got started. Our church and I began a little over ten years ago.


Part four to come soon.

18 comments:

Don Johnson said...

"on this rock I will build my church"...

I am curious how you see this generic use to assume the particular.

When you quote 1 Cor 12.25 as opposed to the verses on separation, I think that you are creating a false dichotomy. It seems pretty clear in 1 Cor 12 that Paul is talking about a local body, not a universal body.

Generally speaking the advocates for unity are looking at Jn 17 and Eph 4 more than 1 Cor 12, I think.

Anyway, I would appreciate understanding your take on Mt 16.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

A generic assembly assumes there is a particular assembly. If you had two men who were assemblymen in their two respective countries, both nations having a house of representatives, one might say, "'My assembly' is an august body." By saying "my," he would be differentiating His assembly from other assemblies, other governing institutions.

The term ekklesia was already found in secuular literature to refer to the town meeting of the Greek city state. Old Testament Israel was the "assembly of Jehovah"---later in Acts it is called the "assembly in the wilderness." Christ differentiates His assembly from other assemblies by saying "my." At that time, His assembly was only the assembly in Jerusalem, but all assemblies that started out of that assembly were also His assembly---having the same nature or characteristics.

If I said, "Tomorrow I'm going to work on my car," how would that be a universal, invisible car? And how would that assume that I had only one? Replace "car" with "chair" and "phone," and it doesn't change the usage. Those are all proper, grammatical understandings of the singular noun. This Platonic, Augustinian usage of the singular noun is not found in Greek grammar. It was invented by state churchists.

Don, I agree that 1 Cor. 12:25 is local. Of course, I think a body can only be local. But at what point did "body" in 1 Cor. 12:13, which universal church people take as the "universal church," become local in 1 Cor. 12?

Concerning Eph. 4, the "universal body" has one faith? (and one baptism?)

Don Johnson said...

Hi Kent, I started to reply earlier, but gave up... needed to think about it a bit.

You say, "At that time, His assembly was only the assembly in Jerusalem, but all assemblies that started out of that assembly were also His assembly---having the same nature or characteristics."

But that's not quite right. He had no assembly as such at that moment since he said, "I willbuild my church." Future tense, eh?

He wasn't distinguishing his assembly from other assemblies, he was prophesying his future assembly.

I don't get the paragraph about the car... I am sure you know what you mean, but it doesn't appear to make sense to me.

Last, about 'the body'. 1 Cor 12 is somewhat difficult. I see what you mean about the earlier verses, they certainly could have a broader application than merely a local body (as far as the language goes). As for Eph 4, of course the universal body has one faith. That is how you tell who the heretics are! And one baptism (dunk 'em). There are some who are members of the body who remain unbaptized (and thereby disobedient), but they are members of Christ by faith regardless.

Well that's it for now...

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Don,

Thanks for answering. I really am not trying to win an argument here. It is what I believe. I would believe the universal position if it was there.

First, "I will build," future tense. Yes. "Build" is oikodomeo, translated elsewhere "edify," that is, with the sense of "build up"---"I will build up my church." Jesus promises to edify His church. He give it church discipline (Matthew 18), the Lord's Table (Matthew 26), the Great Commission (Matthew 28), the Holy Spirit (John 21, Acts 2), etc. This also explains my car illustration. I will work on my car, my phone, my chair. None of these assume a universal, invisible entity. An assembly is still an assembly.

You say "broader application" about 1 Cor. 12:13. I don't how application is involved. It should be "interpretation." "Body" is defined in 1 Cor. 12:27. "Ye are the body of Christ," the church at Corinth, local. It is local. We would need to have "body" defined as something "universal" somewhere to see body, which is a local concept anyway, communicating something local. When Paul says in 1 Cor. 6, "your body is," we would know that a body is at one place at one time.

In Eph. 4, does the "universal church" have "one faith." What is the faith about which one can be a heretick? That's what these three posts have been all about. Heresy is a local church matter (Tit. 3:10, 11), a faction in a church. If "universal church" people believe in one baptism, what is it? Spirit or water? They believe in two.

William D said...

Hi Brother Kent,
I'm working on a reply, but it will take some time...however i do have a question:

Is there any historic Baptist confessions that hold to the ecclesiology that you explained in this post?

The reason I ask is because I grew up being taught this interpretation of ecclesiology by people like Jack Hyles whose teachings I have come to reject on almost every level. But when I read old confessions of faith like the London Baptist Confession of 1689, they believed in the universal view. The people with the oldest record of holding your view of ecclesiology are the old school John R Rice crowd who laid the ground work for our modern IFBX friends.

Kent Brandenburg said...

William,

Thanks for your comments. Actually, the earliest confessions were local only in their ecclesiology. It certainly did not come from Jack Hyles. He was Johnny (or Jackie) come lately anyway in his local only, when it became somewhat fashionable at one point, probably more as a reaction to Bob Jones (who opposed him) than it was that he was some deep theologian.

The London Baptist Confession, of course, came out of the English separatists, which were reformed, so the reformers and, therefore, Augustine influenced their view of the church.

Here's a good bit of history though.

Read the Schletheim Confession, 1527, of the Anabaptist Michael Sattler. That is local only. http://www.bibleviews.com/Schleitheim-JCWenger.html

Before the Catholicism of Irenaeus affected ecclesiology, look at the first century church father, Clement of Rome. His ecclesiology is local only. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-roberts.html

Way before John R. Rice (who was not local only---he was definitely universal), a scholarly work is done by B. H. Carroll. http://www.siteone.com/religion/baptist/baptistpage/Distinctives/church/PRINT/print_carroll_church.htm

Of course, more important, a grammatical-historical interpretation of the Bible is local only. Thanks for asking, William.

Don Johnson said...

Kent, as a matter of curiosity, where do you see local church only in the Schleitheim Confession? I have a copy here that seems identical to the one on the web. I am having trouble seeing any clear reference to a local only view. It doesn't seem that the question of 'what is the church' is really addressed in that document, but maybe I'm just missing it.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Don,

You see it clearly in this paragraph. The one body is the local church, the one we are water baptized into, and the one that we can be disciplined out of.

"The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves to the Lord, to walk in His commandments, and with all those who are baptized into the one body of Christ and who are called brethren or sisters, and yet who slip sometimes and fall into error and sin, being inadvertently overtaken. The same shall be admonished twice in secret and the third time openly disciplined or banned according to the command of Christ. Matt. 18"

It is local only here, as only the local church takes the Lord's Table. And Christ is the Head of the local church, referencing those passages that are most often interpreted as universal.

"All those who wish to break one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ, and all who wish to drink of one drink as a remembrance of the shed blood of Christ, shall be united beforehand by baptism in one body of Christ which is the church of God and whose Head is Christ."

In this paragraph, the confession is obviously referencing Eph. 4, and it is local.

"Therefore it is and must be (thus): Whoever has not been called by one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one Spirit, to one body, with all the children of God's church, cannot be made (into) one bread with them, as indeed must be done if one is truly to break bread according to the command of Christ."

It is in this paragraph:

"The pastor in the church of God shall, as Paul has prescribed, be one who out-and-out has a good report of those who are outside the faith. This office shall be to read, to admonish and teach, to warn, to discipline, to ban in the church, to lead out in prayer for the advancement of all the brethren and sisters, to lift up the bread when it is to be broken, and in all things to see to the care of the body of Christ, in order that it may be built up and developed, and the mouth of the slanderer be stopped."

Out of the whole confession, Don, there is no universal church. When it references the passages that are the proof passages of universal church people, the confession deals with them as the local church.

The confession is local only.

Travis said...

I'm really late to this discussion, but I'm puzzled. The local church vs. the universal church is not what has me perplexed. Like you I hold to a local church ecclesiology. I am confused (once again) about your view of separation. In your abbreviated list of issues over which you'd separate you mention "dress" but affirm that you'd not separate with a church that practiced "close" communion. So, if a church does not teach/practice that women can't wear pants etc., that is something over which to separate, but if a church teaches that communion may be served to any person who belongs to a church "of like faith and practice" that is ok? Are you saying that both views of communion (closed and close) are right?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Travis,

What I find interesting in this discussion is that I don't get comments as to whether what I am teaching here is true, point by point. The one issue that people are looking at is if I myself am consistent with what I say I believe here. And if they think I'm not consistent, does that make what I'm teaching here not true? Of course not. There are inconsistencies all over the place with those who rank doctrines, but that doesn't matter because they have a basic policy of inconsistency. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Our church separates based on the unity we have in doctrine. We believe Scripture is plain. The Bible doesn't decide paper or plastic for us. We use principles, but there is liberty in that area.

Scripture doesn't actually teach these three words---close, closed, open. We are applying Scripture based on what we see to be the example of the churches in Acts and the epistles in order to come to our position. Our church practices closed. We practice it because we believe it is the communion of the body and the body is local only. I believe that it is the right position, even though there is no "thou shalt practice closed" in Scripture. I believe the purpose of closed is to keep the table pure to honor Christ. That is clear. Our separation stand as a church is that the table should be kept pure. We decide that as a church. That doesn't mean that we think there is the existence of more than one type of communion. Those words---close, closed, and open---came after Scripture was written. I believe the basics of the Lord's Table---purity, in the church, by the church, for the church---and the safest position is closed. Again our church has unity and we separate over our church doctrine. If you want to separate from us over that, you could do that, and I would understand it. You would need to help me understand first if you were to practice it like we do.

Regarding dress, I can't get past "abomination to God." The historic practice of Deut. 22:5 has been pants/skirt. The male symbol, the item of male dress, the differentiating item, is still pants. That hasn't been replaced. God says that the woman wearing the thing designed for a man is an abomination to Him. You may say there are male and female pants, but that hasn't been designated in our culture. The purpose of pants on women hasn't been for differentiation but for sameness. I still believe it is an abomination to God. Do you think that an abomination to God is worth separating over? In another issue of dress---nakedness---is nudity worth separating over? That's why we separate. I don't know of a passage that says that open communion is an abomination to God.

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing---last sentence---I meant "I don't know of a passage that says that close communion is an abomination to God." We would separate over open communion, but the point of the sentence still stands.

Dave Mallinak said...

Weighing in on the separation issue over "close" as opposed to "closed," I think another point here is that we separate over the issues that God says to separate over. That must be the standard. Not disagreements of interpretations and particular issues, but when God says to separate, we separate. What God says to separate over, we separate over.

Kent and I have debated the issue of close/closed communion before. I think our various positions are known. And if all the closed communionists stood as Kent does, I would gladly fellowship with them all.

The one thing that prevents me is a frequent double standard that I have encountered. We have supported missionaries from churches that were "closed" for years. Weren't we surprised then to learn that these same churches would not even CONSIDER a missionary sent out of our church. They knew that we were "close" and not "closed," and they would only fellowship one way... from the receiving end.

Maybe someone can explain to me how that kind of separation works. "It is better to receive than give," I guess. Those churches can fellowship from the receiving end, but not from the giving end.

But when we support a missionary, we support THE CHURCH he is sent from. We consider that to be fellowship. We'll not support a missionary from a church that we separate from. If we wouldn't fellowship with the church, we won't support the missionary.

We've learned to ask a question. If a missionary calls seeking support, and he is from a "closed" communion church, we tell him that we are "close" and ask him if his church would allow one of our missionaries to present his work, since his church is "close."

We ask that because we know that those missionaries sent out of "closed" churches, who won't think about supporting a missionary out of ours, sadly will never breathe a word of it while he is with us.

But then, it would sound funny to say, "Even though we wouldn't even consider supporting a missionary sent out of your church, we were wondering if you would support us."

Of course, if a missionary ever said that to me, I'd be more than happy to consider him.

If they can't be up front about it though...

Travis said...

Dave, I agree with your comment, and I would take the same approach. I have no problem fellowshipping with a church that is "close".

Kent, the point of my comment was not that closed churches should separate from close. I was simply surprised that dress (and by that I'm assuming the "pants" issue) would be considered a valid reason to break and/or not fellowship with a church, but not close communion. (I do not want to hijack this thread with the pants issue either. You have dealt with that elsewhere.)

What I do find odd is that you would not (I suppose) fellowship with my church because I do not hold to the view that women wearing pants is an abomination before God; despite the fact that we agree on the church and on the gospel. (I'm sure we agree on more. I'm not trying to provide an exhaustive list.) That is what motivated my comment.

William D said...

1Corinthians 12:13-18
13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14For the body is not one member, but many.
15If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

It seems that the understanding of the doctrine of the church is the lynch pin for the whole separation issue. What convinced me of a universal church idea was the above scripture. Of course, I believe in the local church which is what makes the invisible church visible. If we are baptized into ONE body, and that body is the local church, then which local church am I baptized into? It must be speaking of the mroe broad sense of the body of Christ, the church universal.

If I am to interpret that this passage is only speaking about the individual church of Corinth, then I have to interpret all the rebukes against this church to only be appicable to that local church instead of the universal church.

It seems that I am going to have to do some heavy review of this subject of the church first before i get into ecclesiastical separation. Thanks for the post.

Michael said...

William D,

I understand your line of thinking here, but I disagree. I cannot repeat this often enough or loud enough: Doctrine will never contradict doctrine. God will never hold two contradicting points of view.

There are other passages of scripture, quoted earlier in this post, that refer to churches (plural) “as in all the churches of the saints”. If the Universal Church position was correct, then there would never be a plural, it would always be singular, Church, since the whole church (from the Universal point of view) is one body.


“If I am to interpret that this passage is only speaking about the individual church of Corinth, then I have to interpret all the rebukes against this church to only be applicable to that local church instead of the universal church.”

Not so. Scripture is both literal and prophetic, and applies both in the present and future tense. Paul said that these things were written for our ensample, so we are to learn from then so we don’t make the same mistakes.

Take for example the book of Jonah. He was literally swallowed by a whale. He literally spent 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the whale, and he literally physically came out of that whale. But the meaning of this transcends the book of Jonah. We can learn many lessons from Jonah about bitterness, the mercy of God, and forgiveness. Because we have the complete revelation of God, we know now that there was also a prophetic meaning that applied to the death burial and resurrection of the Lord.

Does any of this mean that Jonah was not literally swallowed by a literal whale? Does this mean that the city of Nineveh did not literally repent? Does this mean that the lessons of Mercy, etc, do not apply to you and I in this day and hour? Of course not.

The same applies to Corinthians. The meaning of the statement is clear; the book was addressed to a particular visible local assembly of believers. That church literally had major problems of carnality among its members, and God chose to include this book in the canon of scripture because He wanted us to learn from their mistakes.

Michael said...

“It seems that the understanding of the doctrine of the church is the lynch pin for the whole separation issue. What convinced me of a universal church idea was the above scripture. Of course, I believe in the local church which is what makes the invisible church visible. If we are baptized into ONE body, and that body is the local church, then which local church am I baptized into? It must be speaking of the more broad sense of the body of Christ, the church universal.”

There is a reason God created the Local Visible Independent Baptist Church, far greater that separation, but related to it and affected by it. That reason is Perpetuity. God promised that the church that He founded would continue until He came again. He ensured this though the structure that He formed. Each called out body of believers is a complete body, and vvery office named in the bible, teachers, preachers, helpers, etc, is all found in each and every local church. The simplicity of this structure, and the separation of each body, is what ensured perpetuity. God made the promise, and He delivered it by the design of the Local Church. My church is compete, lacking nothing, and is capable of completing the Great Commission all on its own, as is yours. Our only connection is (and should be) that we are of the same faith. When Amos said can two walk together except they be agreed, he was not talking about you and I agreeing with each other, but rather that you and I are both in agreement with God, and walking with Him. And if we both do that, we can also walk together. Ok, I will let that rabbit go. Back to perpetuity.

If we were all one universal church and your church went sour, it could and would eventually taint my church. Take Rome, any protestant church, or even the SBC. In the SBC case, the “convention” is the “universal” part, the entity that joined them together, and the church is the local visible part (from the universal point of view). But a church went sour, soured the convention, and then soured the entire lot. One single sour church infects the whole body.

But God’s plan of “local church only” protects against this. If my church goes sour, you may morn over it, but you can go on. If your church was the last church on earth that had not gone into apostasy or heresy, your church could by itself send missionaries, plant churches, and repopulate the entire world with true biblically correct and doctrinally correct churches. The only method that will ensure this is the Local Church. Any form of Universal Church, any hierarchy over the local church, has always without fail led to apostasy and heresy within the churches that subscribe to that. The “church” in Rome, and all her Protestant children all hold to this Universal Church idea, and they are the proof of the end fruit of the universal church idea.


I would encourage you not to let one single scripture be the basis for your position. Look at the whole body of scripture, and ask “Why did you do it that way Lord”. He will tell you. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth liberally and upbradeth not.

Fresh Dirt said...

I am once again amazed at the amount of language games played here. Ekklesia was used in the roman empire to refer to assemblies of appointed citizens who would gather to deliberate on city issues. Jesus uses the word ekklesia first in Matthew 16:18, on this rock I will build my ekklesia and the gates of hades (death/hell) will not prevail against it. "The gates of hell" refers to the city gates of Caesaria where death sentences were handed out for sedition against the empire. Jesus' statement is clear. On this rock (which refers to Peter's confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God-- similar language was used of Caesar in that day, thus a dichotomy is created by Peter to say that Jesus is the new Caesar), I will build MY ekklesia, my seat of government, my way of citizenship. And these gates of death of the Roman empire and its ekklesia will not be able to stand against it. And in fact, rome with its ekklesia fell to this rock. Jesus is Lord vs Caesar is Lord. Jesus is Son of God vs Caesar as son of God. Jesus is ruler vs Caesar as ruler. Jesus as the way vs anti-christ as way. Matthew 18 is the second usage of ekklesia by jesus and he begins describing his rules for governing. If their is a conflict, you must confront your brother face to face, etc. He explains the process for dispute in his ekklesia. This is directly in conflict with the rules of dispute in the roman ekklesia. For the romans, if you had a major dispute, then you could challenge one another in a violent fight, you could use your political power to discredit and ruin the other person, etc. In Christ's ekklesia, disputes are handled in peace and love with accountability for change and repentance. If the process does not change the person, then he is removed (rather than killed or reputation ruined). Christ's ways are so much better than man's way. Christ is so much better than empire (Roman or American or whatever nation).
If you have such an understanding of ekklesia, then you are able to apply the bible to spiritual formation of your life and your faith community so much better than these petty arguments over the "nature" of the church. the nature is simple... it is the way of Jesus vs the way of the world.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Fresh Dirt,

Ekklesia was the Greek ekklesia of the Greek city-states (polis), but I essentially agree with you here. Jesus was differentiating His assembly from other governing institutions. And in Matthew 18, He edifies His ekklesia with instruction on discipline.