Friday, August 26, 2011

Selective Reformation pt. 3

If the Reformation altered the trajectory of the doctrine of salvation, later work further got eschatology up to biblical speed with premillennialism, but ecclesiology still needs a massive upheaval in evangelicalism and most of fundamentalism. The ecclesiological mess also affects all the other doctrines, because the church is how God intended preservation of truth, so the wrong container allows for corruption of the truth. Something not a biblical church will not and has not protected the truth, has actually contributed to the spoiling of all doctrines. If we don't get the church right, everything else is bound to deteriorate.

The Bible is plain on the nature of the church. A church is an assembly. Assemblies are local only. The church in the Bible is local only. This can be proven in two simple ways, in either order of the following. First, there is not a single Bible verse or even phrase that defines the church as universal. Second, all the verses that would define the church, define it as local. If the Bible is really our final authority, on these bases, the church must be local only and not universal. I suggest again the deserted island approach. Treat the Bible like you have never read it and it's all you have on a deserted island. In reading it, could you find a "universal church" in there? The answer is no. You won't find it, even by implication.

If we don't find it in the Bible, then it must have come from some other source, which it did. The universal concept entered into man's consciousness in alignment with Roman Catholic thinking. Catholic itself means universal. And, of course, part of Satan's conspiracy against God is a one world religious monstrosity to which everyone is forced to belong (sound familiar?). That is the only one world religious organization in the Bible, Satan's one world thing, which finds its inception at the tower of Babel. The local only ecclesiology clashes with this one world mentality where the world has been and to where it is heading. Local only preserves and protects against one world. God told Cain not to get everyone together but the culture did anyway against the instruction of God and built cities that resulted in a flood. After the flood, people didn't pick up on their previous error and we've got universal redux, so that God confuses the languages to spread everything out again.

Today universal ecclesiology is the ideological source of many if not most of the problems in the world. Even in evangelicalism and fundamentalism, men have gladly dumbed down doctrine in subservience to a universal church idea. Men tolerate false belief in order to get along. Getting along is necessary to support a universal church.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not writing this because of the problems that the universal ecclesiology (contradiction in terms) has caused, causes, and will cause. I'm writing it because there is no universal church (contradiction in terms) in the Bible.

I'm going to write this in at least two parts, and part one is this introduction so far, and then point number one in my little outline, there is not a single Bible verse or even phrase that defines the church as universal. There are at least 118 usages of the Greek word ekklesia, translated "church," in the Bible. One would think that if there were a universal church (contradiction in terms) and it were such a major point, as it is presented by evangelicalism and fundamentalism and listed in many church doctrinal statements, then you would find it defined as such in at least one place in the Bible, just one solitary verse. Out of these 118 usages, below are listed the verses in which the "church" is defined as universal:

There's your list. That ought to give pause to Bible scholars, teachers, and students. If it is a biblical teaching, a doctrine to be embraced and received, that it would be found in the actual Bible. A doctrine book about the Bible is not a Bible. Tradition is not the Bible. Catholic dogma is not the Bible. A confession of faith is not the Bible. A universal church, which is a contradiction in terms, because something universal doesn't assemble, isn't found in the Bible. The Bible is sufficient. It has all the teaching we need in it. What's in it is our doctrine. What's not in it is not our doctrine. So universal church doctrine is false doctrine. It is unbiblical doctrine. It shouldn't be believed.

This is point one. We will head to point two next. This hasn't been hard so far, has it? And yet, something does tell me that we are going to have this very uncomplicated issue to be very complicated in a hurry, when we make words in the Bible turn into silly putty. There is a conspiracy against the nature of the church, because altering it affects all doctrine and it is the final stage of Satan's plan to where we know we are heading. The Catholic church really is an invisible church---you can't see it anywhere in the Bible. But it is very resilient and pugnacious and desperate in its desire to stay around. Satan wants it around, because it is the way he plans to fool the most people and take the most people down with him in the end.


J. Hornick said...

Dr. Brandenburg,

I see in your post that you stated that no where in the Bible does the possability for a universal church exist. My question for you (as one who is preparing to enter into the ministry and would like your oppinion in this matter) what about John 4:20-24. The reason I ask this is I see two localities where people worshiped but Jesus said that God was seeking those who worshipped in spirit and truth. For one to worship in spirit is to come before the Throne of God, which is something that any Christian throughout the world can do so it (in my oppinion based on my study of the Bible is a reference for the universal church as we gather together before the throne of God.) Please do not misunderstand me, I do believe in the local body but, I also see the universal aspect as well. Anyways, I was just wondering about what your take is on this.

Thankyou for your time,

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi J,

I am very familiar with John 4:20-24 and the Lord Jesus' preaching to the Samaritan woman. With all due respect, there is nothing there about the church. You use the terminology, "gather together before the throne of God." Where do you have that found in Scripture? All believers can come individually to God spiritually, but that isn't a church. It isn't a church and there is no reason to see a church in it.

Thanks for coming by!!

d4v34x said...

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

from Hebrews 12

J. Hornick said...

Dr. Brandenburg, I hope this doesn't sound rude or like I think I know everything, but if God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth does that not imply a church? A church is not a building but rather the people that gather to worship the LORD.

I guess that what one believes on this matter goes back partially to his view of philosophy. There are those who have stated there is the "chair behind the chair" meaning where did we get the pattern for the chair, or the pattern for a house, in the same way I am asking where did we get the pattern for the local visible church? You stated in another post that the term ekklessia was a term in the Greek that could only be used in the local context, and this is the word that Jesus used when He said He would build His church, as this is in the singular which local church did this refer to? Or could this refer to the universal church from which we get the pattern for how a local church is to be?

Thanks again for your time,

Gary Webb said...

J. Hornick & d4,
There will be an assembly in Heaven that will be made up of all saints, but of course that assembly will be local - that is, gathered in one place just like every assembly is now. A person can worship God in spirit & in truth anywhere, but a "church" is an assembly = a group of gathered people. This is what the word ekklhsia means.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You don't sound rude. It's not a real gathering and it isn't a church. "The church" (1 Timothy 3:15) has a pastor (1 Timothy 3:1), just as an example. Thanks.


The church (assembly) in heaven is only local. It isn't universal, because it does assembly. A non assembling thing shouldn't be called a church. Since it is assembling in heaven, at that point it can be a church, but then it isn't universal either. At the same time, that assembly in heaven doesn't practice the ordinances or fulfill the Great Commission, so it isn't like the church in the age in which we live. I think Heb 12 is someone's best shot though. By the way, that assembly will have perfect unity though.

J. Hornick said...

Dr. Brandenburg,

Again, I hope I am not coming across as being rude but I have a few more questions on this matter.

Which is more litteral God or man? I believe that God is more litteral than man. Now since God is a Spirit, that would make the spiritual more litteral than the physical does it not? So what is a more real assembly the one which I brought up or the local physical church?

You also stated that the spiritual assembly is not a church because it does not have a pastor, but I would submit that it does indeed have a pastor (1 Peter 2:25) this verse indicates that Jesus is the Shepherd and the Bishop of our souls as both are capitalized. Now if Jesus is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls where is His local church located?

Thanks again for your time,

Kent Brandenburg said...


You are going to have to make your decision, but you are writing is reading into Scripture. God has given us enough teaching on "church" to know what it is and it isn't ever universal and invisible. There is not a verse that says that the church is a spiritual entity made up of all believers. We have the family of God and the kingdom of God, J, that express that concept. If you are saved you are in both the family and the kingdom, and those two are not ecclesiological, but soteriological.

Jesus walks in the midst of churches, see Matthew 18:15-17 and Revelation 1:19-2:1. He relates with the assembly, because that is His church. And where He is in the midst is in the assembly, and where discipline occurs, which is local only again.

I don't understand this need to have something bigger than what the Bible actually teaches. God could have easily communicated a universal church if He wanted to, and He didn't. And we have 118 usages for this to have been accomplished.

Anonymous said...

I must admit that I don't grasp your understanding of local and universal. Like J Hornick, I don't see "church" relating to a building, even though we use the word in common usage to mean the place we are assembled. I see "church" more as the believers who are assembled on planet Earth. The believers that attend my local gathering are in agreement with other like minded believers who may attend a local gathering in South America or Canada, or.... In the vastness of space and time, we ARE local! Plus, a local assembly can be made up of both believers and non believers at any given moment, as unsaved folks may sharing that locale with saved persons. So I can't equate a particular spot with church. I interpret the church universal as the group of all believers, no matter where on the earth they may be. This is the Bride of Christ, which will be caught up together in the sky. I am not trying to negate the vitality and importance of a local gathering in a particular building or area. But I see that as only one of the meanings for "Church".

Joshua said...

"I don't understand this need to have something bigger than what the Bible actually teaches. God could have easily communicated a universal church if He wanted to, and He didn't. And we have 118 usages for this to have been accomplished."

Very relevant point. We were talking about this in Bible Institute the other night and it really struck home just how many classic opportunities to expound on this fantastical subject of a "universal invisible" church were missed. When Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God and Heaven, then he started describing it as invisible (cometh not with observation, is within you etc), so clearly He had no problem ascribing invisibility and universality to groups that merited it. But the church is not the Kingdom of God/Heaven, and thus is never described in that fashion.

It also made a lot of sense why the Catholics were so keen to conflate the Kingdom and the Church. If they're not the same thing, then a lot of their false teaching is left without any Scriptural leg to stand on.

Unknown said...

Pastor B.
What about being "in Christ?" Is this strictly speaking in soteriological terms, or is there any ecclesiological ramifications to it. For me, and as long as there is Scripture I can be persuaded and corrected, btw, I think many say they are "in Christ" but not in, at least not in the Scriptural sense. A person who confesses Christ and is joined to the church through membership is truly "in Christ." Is this good, bad, or ugly? Your thoughts please.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Anonymous,

I've never said it was a building. Church is an assembly. This idea of a spiritual assembly that is really taking place isn't in the Bible. That is the platonism that I mentioned. Certainly in the Bible there is no 'we're local because earth is local compared to the vastness of time and space.' That defies language. Local doesn't mean anything any more if that is local. And assembly isn't assembly any more if something that never assembles is an actual assembly. None of these attempts are in the Bible.




"In Christ" is soteriological terminology. Our union with Christ is our salvation, not a church. "Church" and "in Christ" are not paralleled in the 118 usages.

As a for instance, if the church is the "in Christ," then how would Christ also be the "head of the church"? These are two different aspects of biblical theology.

Unknown said...

Thank you. I need to think about this.

J. Hornick said...

Dr. Brandenburg if one says that to be truly "in Christ" he has to be in the local church, is that not what Detrich Bonhoffer said? Correct me if I am wrong but didn't he believe that instead of Jesus Christ having a litteral bodily ressurection he rose as the church. Also on this question if a person who is truly saved but has to leave his church is he no longer in Christ?

Kent Brandenburg said...


What are you talking about? Who said that "in Christ" and "in a church" were the same? Not me. Show where I said that. "In Christ" is soteriological and "in His body" is ecclesiological. Becoming "in a church" requires baptism and becoming "in Christ" does not.

J. Hornick said...

I was referring to Bill's post "a person who confesses Christ and is joined to the church through membership is truly in Christ" if one says that you have to be joined to the church through membership to truly be in Christ, it sounded like DB as I said before.

I addressed it to you as it as you are the moderator of the blog and thus are the one who is in charge

Kent Brandenburg said...


You are welcome here to talk to Bill directly. You don't have to talk to me to talk to him---that's not how moderation works. I don't believe Bill, however, said anything like you are intimating. He was simply asking about the relationship of "in Christ" to ecclesiology. Do you understand that if you are universal church, you believe that "in Christ" does mean "in the church," the universal church? That is a problem since there is nowhere in Scripture that says that. On top of that, you have Acts 2:41, which says that they were baptized and added to the church. Baptism is a church membership requirement.

Unknown said...

Hi J, I certainly don't believe in equating "in Christ" (at the point of Salvation) with church membership (via believer's baptism). I just wanted to know Pastor B.'s point of view re: the meaning of being "In Christ."

My point is that it is difficult for me to treat a person who professes Christ, and yet is obstinate about joining the church. There is a terrible disconnect with what one says he believes with what one practices. When a person prays to receive Christ as Saviour, I expect to see them in church (and relatively soon, too). If I don't see them in church, I go back and talk to them about their profession. I really do think, that when a person gets saved, they want to and are hungry for more of God and His Word (and you don't get that apart from church).

My apologies to you for sounding like DB. I know Hillary Clinton likes DB, and that is enough for me not to like DB :-).

Jonathan Speer said...

Bro. Brandenburg,

The original post in this comment thread has reminded me of an old conversation I once had with some folks who wanted our church to join the "praise and worship" movement.

My contention was that it seems that our "gathering together" or "assembling" is to be about learning, growing, teaching, exhorting, and even public rebuke, among other things. I searched for references in the NT of the church to corporately "worship." (I believe your passage list concerning ecclesia's universal denotation is more comprehensive than the passages that specifically describe worship as one of the purposes of the gathered local assembly.)

Hornick is right when he talks about the spirituality and universality of the worship of those who are blood-bought saints, but wrong in the assumption that that spiritual worship has anything to do with the church.

I believe that this is a topic that is often missed in ecclesiological discussions.

The premise that our purpose in gathering is corporate worship has led many churches from their true calling and roles down the path to apostasy.

Let me know how this strikes you. It is the first time I've mentioned this in years outside of my own head. :-)

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Jonathan,

I believe that preaching, praying, singing, and exhorting, things done in the assembly as regulated by Scripture, are worship (Rom 12). And worship should occur in an assembly as seen in Romans 12 too. "Service" in v. 2 is worship (latreia, translated worship in other places in KJV). If someone were not to fit into the assembly, I think it's v. 3 there that says he thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think. But this would back up our point, that being, that corporate worship would be an assembly not something unassembled out there. Being unassembled for the preaching, praying, exhorting required in the NT would be not to worship corporately. It would be to skip the worship. Personal worship on your own somewhere besides the assembly can't replace the assembly. People who think it can do think too highly of themselves.

I actually don't know what J was talking about, and I have been preaching through the Bible for 24 years, and this idea of all believers being a church because they all do "gather" at the throne of God was absolutely new to me. I don't see it in the Bible, and somebody else may have written it, but I have never read it anywhere. The Bible, of course, is much more clear than that kind of speculation on what the church is and how it functions. It doesn't leave it to doubt, but those types of mushy spiritualizing of Scripture do cause confusion to people. They allow for people who have a high view of their own opinions to free float around and do things how they want to do them, which is a contradiction to true and spiritual worship.

Jonathan Speer said...

I agree that obeying God's commands for the church is worship because it is obedience. Every form of obedience as the result of a practical application of Godly wisdom can be said to be worship in that way.

I should have contrasted the personal worship via prayer and devotional times of meditation as opposed to corporate worship via obedience as a church a bit more clearly.

I certainly do not believe that any personal obedience trumps corporate obedience, but seems that folks are more interested in bringing evangelism, prayer, singing, and other practices to a place of prominence IN THE SERVICE TIMES that it is not given in the NT. Think of all the scripture devoted to giving instruction to church and then consider what the church is actually commanded to do as an assembly. The true purposes of our assembly have been undermined by the insistence of outwardly religious people that our service revolve around public displays of worship that are designed by God in his word to be much more private.

Take music as an example: when Christ met with the disciples, they closed with a hymn. Nowadays, most "worship services" begin with anywhere from 3-4 or more songs and then end with at least 1. Then the songs get old and trite feeling to the congregation so they look for something new and, boy, do they find it! :-) And that's in the churches that proclaim fundamentalism.

The same can be said of evangelism: for all the NT teachings on what we do when we are together as a body of believers, only in one place in 1 Corinthians is there mention made for unbelievers being present in the assembled church. It was expected that church was for believers and that, while lost folks may be in attendance, they weren't to be the focal point of the worship service. The church was assumed to be a witness wherever they were as individuals. What do many churches practice as their main mode of evangelism nowadays? They bus in the lost or have bring a friend Sunday so they can preach a watered down gospel and publish their numbers in the periodical of the month.

What I am getting at is that so much of what the assembled church is clearly commanded to be doing in the NT has been replaced with things that we should be doing individually (because of the exhortation and edification received during the true worship that comes as a result of obedience in meeting with our brothers and sisters) and that leaves obedience to God out of the picture which in turns leaves out true worship.

I hope I am being clear.

(You don't have to publish this to your comments... it is way off topic now.)

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't think you were too off the thread---thanks.

Jon Gleason said...

Jonathan, the mention of closing with a hymn hardly precludes the possibility, even probability, that other hymns were sung. We are commanded to sing to one another, and to teach one another in song. I see that as worship, and as instruction for within the church.

I Timothy is about how we are to behave ourselves in the church (3:14-16), and chapter two gives extensive instruction on prayer.

I agree with Pastor Brandenburg's treatment of worship here, it sounds just like something I preached a few weeks ago in Romans 12. But the things that are often called "worship" such as singing and prayer seem to me to have specific Biblical endorsement of their important role within the church.

As to the problems which often come with music, those don't arise because singing is too prominent, but because of fleshly attitudes about the role of music. It isn't entertainment, and it isn't to make me feel good. It is about declaring the glory of God and instructing one another in the things of the Lord.

-formerly known as "jg", I'll post by my name going forward.

Gary Webb said...

You have missed one of the most important passages on church worship: Ephesians 5:18-21. Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus, & he specifically says "speaking to yourselves" in verse 19. We are to be "singing and making melody in our hearts" - that is, it must truly come from our hearts, but that does not negate or supersede the command to be singing to each other and admonish each other with Scriptural music [Colossians 3:16]. I agree with your other points, but I reject the contention that you seem to be making that singing and instrumental music are not a part of corporate worship. It was in the OT, & these NT passages are explicit. Music in the church is not for entertainment, but it is commanded to be a part of the worship of our assembly.

Jonathan Speer said...


I appreciate the responses and am aware of the passages you mentioned. I just don't want to read anything into the Bible that isn't there and assume that music had any more of a prominent role in the NT church than the Bible says it had.

Concerning public prayer, Jesus was clear in the Sermon on the Mount that our prayer is personal and shouldn't be a public spectacle.

That certainly doesn't negate the prayer of the body of Christ by any means, but it should cause us to reconsider our priorities when we meet together.


Anonymous said...

A couple of you guys have mentioned music as "entertainment." While I agree in principle that I should not go to church to be entertained, I fail to see that any music which I may not happen to like, or which happens to be new should be classified as "entertainment." I see too many condemn any new song as being entertainment. So what if it offers praies to our Lord? So what if it clearly states the Gospel and truth? It's not in our old hymnal so it must just be entertainment. Give me a break. Why can't a more contemporary song be worshipful? Why does anything different have to be sneeringly called "entertainment"? If I happen to not care for "Give of Your Best to the Master", does that make it just entertainment?

Jon Gleason said...

Anonymous, nobody said on this thread that "new music = entertainment". That's a silly straw man -- nobody said it. Few churches would refuse to use any music that isn't in their hymnbooks. We composed our own hymnbook and still use music that isn't in it occasionally.

As to what I don't like, if music standards are based on what "I like", that would be just as much entertainment-based as if they were oriented to what "you like".

No one was "sneering" on this thread until you arrived, actually. Since you yourself have acknowledged the principle that >church< is not about entertainment, why get all upset about someone saying that >church music< shouldn't be about entertainment?

I doubt Pastor Brandenburg wants this to degenerate into an argument about music standards, though.

Unknown said...

I think I can see what Jonathan Speer is saying. People do go to churches looking for an emotional high. The lifting up of hands, the slurpy music (which is called "Praise and Worship" - which isn't), the "worship leader" does his/her thing, with the "worship band" to create a "worshipful atmosphere." This in contrast to the Biblical model of worshiping God in spirit and in truth. In the contemporary church services Aaron and the Golden Calf wins.

Jonathan Speer said...

Thanks, Bill!

Precise and succinct summary of what I was trying to say.