Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Answering David Cloud on the Church, pt. 3

Part One          Part Two

The New Testament uses some form of ekklesia ("church") at least 117 times.  If you don't know what that word means, you're getting a lot wrong, and it won't stop there.  If you don't understand what a church is, you will disobey many other teachings of the Bible.

We have no basis in the text of scripture to believe that ekklesia means anything other than the one obvious thing you find in the text.  You have a large sample size, so it isn't difficult to see what a church is.  So what happened?  If you know history, then you also know why people get the meaning of ekklesia wrong.  Very early after the completion of the New Testament, very powerful influences had already distorted its meaning for obvious purposes.  There hasn't been a total apostasy on the doctrine of the church, but the false teaching has take predominance in the mind of professing Christianity.  Add David Cloud.

Cloud doesn't see how Ephesians 2:13-20 (he probably means 13-22) could fit a local only interpretation.  Earlier in his article, he talked about "we" and "ye."  This would be a good moment to go back to that thought.  In v. 10, Paul says that "we" are Christ's workmanship, created in Him, including himself with the same conversion as the church at Ephesus.  But in v. 11, he switches to "ye," giving a spiritual account of the church at Ephesus, talking about them, excluding himself, because he's talking about that church in that city.  Paul wasn't a Gentile or "uncircumcision in the flesh" (v. 11).  Then notice how Paul goes back to the first person plural, speaking about salvation again, in vv. 14-18.  He switches back to "ye" again, obviously speaking to the church at Ephesus again in v. 19, telling the story its membership.

Between verses 18 and 20, Paul uses soteriological terminology to tell the tale of what occurred in the conversion of the church at Ephesus, putting a special emphasis on how that God had saved them as Gentiles, and included them in the kingdom of God and the family of God, again soteriological terms.  The saints at Ephesus were now "fellowcitizens with the saints" (kingdom of God) and "of the household of God" (family of God).

Notice how in verses 18 and 22, Paul says "ye," excluding himself.  If the temple of God and the habitation of God were a universal church, then Paul would be saying that he was an unconverted non-member of the universal church.  He says "ye," because each local church is a temple of God and an habitation of God.  If Paul were talking about all believers everywhere or even any believers anywhere, he would say "we," just like he had earlier in the chapter.

There are some parallels between Ephesians 2 here and 1 Corinthians 3, both written by the Apostle Paul.  Speaking of the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:9, he says, "ye are God's building."  It was God who had given the increase (3:7).  Paul had laid the foundation.  How?  By preaching the gospel.  He talks about that later at the beginning of chapter 15.  He says that the foundation for that church is Jesus Christ (3:11).  Then he says "ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" (3:16).  If Paul was talking about all believers, he would have said "we" in 1 Corinthians 3:16, and not "ye."  The church at Corinth was the temple of God.  The church at Ephesus was the "habitation of God."  Same thing.

In Ephesians 2:21-22, the church at Ephesus ("ye") was "a holy temple." They were not the only holy temple.  Other churches were also that, like the church at Corinth.  It too was the temple of God.

Cloud writes:  "This holy temple is a habitation of God, whereas there are unsaved people in the local churches."  That's actually another argument from him, like the one in which he said that the gates of hell prevail against individual churches, so the church couldn't be local only.   He's saying that because there are unsaved people in churches, they couldn't be God's holy temple and habitation.  The church at Corinth was the temple of God.  Argument over.

God dwelt with the "congregation of the LORD" (Jehovah) in the Old Testament.  Were there unsaved people there?  God chose to make Israel His holy habitation, even though Israel was rife with unbelief.   God's immanence doesn't corrupt or pervert His transcendence.  Can Cloud not believe that the church of Corinth was the "temple of God" because there were unbelievers in that temple?  The glory of the Lord finally left Israel, and Jesus' special presence will not remain in a church, as seen in the church at Laodicea, when He removed His candlestick.  There was a Jezebel in the church at Thyatira (Rev 2:18-28), but Jesus still dwelt in that temple, walked in the midst of that church.

There is nothing unique about Ephesians 2 to be a problem for understanding "church" like one would in any other of its usages, as local only.  This is a total stretch for Cloud to write what he does.

Cloud then goes into a few paragraphs broad brushing local only teachers, that many of them are bullies.  How?  Really.  This is the kind of argument that Cloud should keep to himself.  It does not add anything to his position.  Does he really think that his "universal/local" position is going to be less welcome than a "local-only" one?

The Catholic position is that the true church is universal (catholic) and visible.  The Protestant position is that the true church is universal and invisible.  If he believes the Protestant position, he should embrace it.  He says he doesn't believe in a Protestant universal church, but his position is a Protestant universal church position.  He has some unique twists to it, some oddities that do make him one of a few at least.  That doesn't help him.  It leaves him with something very, very confused.  He says the church started with the ministry of Christ, and he uses passages to indicate that.  But he takes a position on 1 Corinthians 12:13 that contradicts that.  If the church doesn't start until the Spirit baptizes into the one body, then it couldn't have started before Pentecost.  He gives an exegetical basis for saying that it had to start before Pentecost, some things that are very clear, and contradicts that by saying:

At the same time, I do not see this as a fundamental issue one way or the other. If the Lord had wanted to make the matter more clear, He could easily have done so, but He didn’t.

It is actually clear.  It's just not clear to David Cloud.  The Lord did make it clear.  The Bible is clear.

Cloud makes an incredible argument in these paragraphs.  Just follow it.  It's clear.  I'll put it in a logical syllogism to help you get it.

What is the truth, God promises David Cloud will know.
David Cloud knows the church is universal and invisible.
The church being universal and invisible is the truth.

You catch this line of reasoning from him.  This logic is flawed.  Knowing it doesn't make it true.  I would actually be more concerned about agreement from my church (1 Tim 3:15).  You are not always better off studying something out on your own with no one else involved, and then depending on a kind of subjective validation of that knowledge, crediting God for giving that to you.  As well, does a person who writes a Bible encyclopedia know what words mean?  I have a few Bible encyclopedias.  Half a dozen of those tell me what a church is and I don't believe them.  There is something to preaching the truth to a congregation, and getting the input and fellowship of a church, if someone is humble to other's instruction and correction, that brings objective accreditation.

Look also how Cloud is saying that because it isn't clear, it isn't a fundamental issue.  It seems that what he's saying is that the nature of the church isn't a separating issue, because it isn't fundamental.  And again, the reason it isn't fundamental is because Jesus didn't make it clear what His church was or when it started.  That all sounds very familiar.

More to Come


DLF said...

Sounds like Cloud is making a difference in essentials and non-essentials when he says,

"At the same time, I do not see this as a fundamental issue one way or the other. If the Lord had wanted to make the matter more clear, He could easily have done so, but He didn’t."

This is something I thought he was opposed to because of what he said in one of his Friday Church News Notes articles -

"Those who hold the 'in essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty' doctrine cannot show us where this principle was taught by Christ or Paul or any of the apostles. They cannot show from the clear teaching of Scripture how to identify a 'non-essential' doctrine, nor can they show how a list of 'non-essentials' can keep from growing larger with each generation as it has everywhere this principle has been accepted...The biblical way is to reject the 'essentials/non-essentials' philosophy and to respect the whole counsel of the New Testament faith (Jude 3)."

If the doctrine of the church isn't important then I'm in the wrong business--that is, the Lord's business of being an under-shepherd in the body of believers in this location.

D. Flaming

DLF said...

By the way, I agreed with Cloud's statements on "essentials and non-essentials" but you can't have it both ways.

D. Flaming

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Bro. I agree. He turns the nature of the church into a non-essential because it isn't clear to him, when God told him that he would know the truth, so God has told him it's not fundamental.

The Preacher said...

Brother Kent,

It might not be clear to Cloud, nor even some of you, but "the church" is bigger than some local assembly, though it is made up of local assemblies.

You did not bother to answer my rebuttal in Part II on the position that "the church" found in Hebrews 2:12 CANNOT be the church in Jerusalem.

KJB1611 said...

Dear George,

There actually is a reply to your comment, although it is by me and not by Pastor Brandenburg. However, I'm not likely to have time to engage in an extensive discussion on this right now, so if you reply again it is very possible that I will not.

The Preacher said...

Brother Kent,

Why not also discuss the following which I used as an example that it is IMPOSSIBLE for the church in Hebrews 2:12 to be identified with the only the Jerusalem church?

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.
2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

v1- It says "the church" which was at Jerusalem, BUT NOW "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria". That verse alone, in context destroys any idea that "the church" is a LOCAL congregation! The church by 34-35AD had begun to go from Jerusalem to all the WORLD according to the command of Jesus Christ.

v3- Paul was going to "the church" which was found in MANY houses! Again, your local church understanding has been destroyed by the scriptures.

The Lord made is CLEAR that he wanted "the church" to go into the world and the bible made it CLEAR that it has.

This "local church mentality" is some man-made doctrine that originated because the body of Christ cannot get along, much like this American individualism that fits well by the scripture that "every man did that which is right in his own eyes"! It is that same mentality that has crept in unawares so that "local assemblies" can limit there responsibility to the corporate body of Christ.

You will never understand that unless you have ministered to "the church" that is poor, has much need, persecuted, cast down and requires much help in all aspect of the life of Christ.

2 Corinthians 8:2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
2 Corinthians 8:14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:

You see that Brother Kent? An EQUALITY that the church in Corinth was responsible for the body of Christ assembled together in Jerusalem. That is the love that Jesus Christ expected from each local assembly, one assembly toward another!

KJB1611 said...

In Acts 8:3 Saul made havoc of the church by taking the members of the assembly and imprisoning them. He entered the different houses where the people lived and took the members of the church to prison.

How this is supposed to prove that the word "assembly" does not mean assembly is beyond me.

The Preacher said...

To KJV1611:

He was going from house to house in many cities imprisoning the saints. That could mean as you say or he was going to where they assembled (in their house- Romans 16:5), or both. What is evident from v1, the church is not a reference to one local location.

The body of Christ assembles in many local locations. What is so difficult to understand, except that you want it to ONLY mean local assembly. The bible makes it clear that it is BOTH.

Anonymous said...

George - The greater context of Acts 8:3 makes it apparent that the entirety of the actions of Saul at this time were taking place in Jerusalem. In ch. 9, he went to the high priest (Jerusalem) to obtain letters allowing him to go elsewhere (Damascus) to bring believers back to Jerusalem. This was because he had no independent authority outside that city, and needed to be given it by the high priest to be able to bring Christians back to stand before the Sanhedrin. The "church which was at Jerusalem" in v. 1 is a controlling geographical reference in this paragraph.

As for your argument from II Corinthians 8, it does no damage to the local church only position at all. Saying that local assemblies can and should have a care and concern for other assemblies is not the same thing as saying that these assemblies are all part of some mystical, mythical, worldwide organisation of all believers called "the church" which contradicts the very semantical meaning of that word in the Greek.