Monday, September 30, 2013

Answering David Cloud on the Church, pt. 4

Part One     Part Two     Part Three

In a context about listening to preaching, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:21:  "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."   Teaching should be proven, tested, which is also a loving thing to do, because if it's wrong, it's not helping the person who believes it or the people listening to him.  With that in mind, consider the following tweet about one of this series:

For the bitter, carnal scoffer, the narrative must be that these IFBs eat their own ("cannibalize").  Does it deserve any analysis for its shallowness, hypocrisy, and fallaciousness?

Cloud implies that local-only proponents are false teachers, who start with a pre-conceived definition of church and then force it on every usage of ekklesia.  He buttresses that point by referring to three times in Acts 19 that the KJV translators translate ekklesia, "assembly."  In all three instances, it is not the ekklesia Jesus started.  However, the translation does more to damage Cloud's cause, since they translate it "assembly," because that's what ekklesia means.  Of course, ekklesia is not always a "church," but that doesn't mean that it is anything other than an assembly.  Cloud shows his ignorance of Greek, when he says a meaning of ekklesia is "called out assembly."  That's like saying, "pizza pie."  You're actually saying "pie pie," because the word "pizza" means "pie."  Ekklesia means "called out" (ek - out of, klesia - called).  Called out to what?  To assemble.  The original usage of the word was the citizens of a Greek city state called out of their homes to assemble for governing.  It still means assembly.

Cloud says that local-only advocates say that "church" must always be used as an assembly, because that's what the word means.  He says the Holy Spirit can adapt Greek words to mean something different than their standard usage in the first century.  What he is saying is true in certain instances, but not in very many.  Almost exclusively the word was used in the Bible the same way it was in secular literature.  In the case of ekklesia, this is true.  It is always an assembly, which is why that word was used.  We can easily see that ekklesia is used as an assembly.  We don't have one instance of a usage that would have us know that it means anything different than assembly.  Cloud doesn't give one in his article.

Then Cloud states that Ephesians 2 could be referring to a spiritual church in heaven that is gathered there already, since believers are already seated in the heavenlies.  He writes:

For example, Ephesians 2 says that every believer is made alive and risen from the dead and seated in heavenly places together with Christ (Eph. 2:5-6). That’s present tense.

If you look at the verbs in the Textus Receptus (or the critical text for that matter), they aren't present tense verbs.  They're aorist.  "Hath quickened," "raised us up together," and "made us sit together" are all aorist tense.  None of them are present tense.  None.   So the kind of action of those verbs is not continuous.  When you make a theological point, a teaching, based on the verbs being "present tense," and they're actually not present tense, that really does undermine completely your argument.  They are not said to be continuously sitting in heavenly places, as if you've got a functioning assembly already in heaven made up of all the saved people.  An obvious point is that you don't have the word "church" (ekklesia) appearing in Ephesians 2:5-6.  Cloud reads that into the text.  There is no doctrine of the church there.

Cloud starts then to answer questions about the church.  I'll talk more about those later.


Mike Allison said...

Excellent series on the Church. Where Cloud does hit a number of issues correctly, it almost seems astounding that he could be so far off on this one. As Elihu put it, "Great men are not always wise." His idea that "local Church only" proponents are false teachers, comes from what you stated in the first part of your series, he wrongly equates "Baptist Briders" with "Local Church only" proponents. Truly he should know better. That is like concluding that all 'KJV only' believers are Ruckmanites.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks. I agree.

Anonymous said...

I have been on Facebook too long, I am looking for a "like" button!

Dan Knezacek said...

This is a tough subject, and maybe I'm wading in over my head. It occurs to me that just as the word "Trinity" does not exist in Scripture, yet the Trinity is clearly taught, it is also possible that the bible teaches a "universal Church" without actually using the word.

The word "rapture" is not present in Scripture, except in some Latin versions, yet the concept is clearly taught, in both Testaments.

When the rapture itself occurs, who will be snatched? Entire local assemblies, or only the saved from those local assemblies? Personally I doubt that there will be any assembly in the world where everyone will be taken.

Will believers be left behind because they can't find a local assembly that is truly faithful to the Word? ie. they are out of the Church? Is my salvation dependent on my attending a local assembly? I know pastors who say it is!

In Jesus' teaching of the kingdom of God being like a loaf of bread, the yeast is not the Church. It is the same with the parable of the mustard seed; the birds are not a part of the tree, though they are in it. In these parables Jesus did not use the word Ekklesia, but the phrase "the kingdom of God". Does His choice of this phrase remove the concept from this debate?

I would argue that the kingdom of God is larger than the local Church. By definition it is a kingdom, and not a local assembly.

What would you say to a new believer who has not yet joined a church? Is he not saved until he signs on the dotted line?

When I was saved I got "in Christ" before I joined any local Church, and when I left that Church I did not get "Out of Christ"!

Sorry, but it looks to me that you are engaging in an argument in semantics, and are failing to observe the big picture of Scripture. (careful attention to detail is important, but this does not take away anything from a correct view of the big picture) Men of God are called to preach the whole counsel of God and not to focus on only one part.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Dan,

Where does the Bible say that the rapture is only for the church? Nowhere--the rapture is for all the saints. The Bible never equates the categories "kingdom of God" and "church." The kingdom and family of God are universal entities, but the church is local and visible only.

KJB1611 said...

Also, the Bible never equates the categories "in Christ" and "church." You are "in Christ" the moment of faith/regeneration, but are in the church at the moment of being immersed into a Baptist congregation.

Please read the study here:

I believe it will help a lot.

Have a good day.

Daniel said...

Kent, I am well aware that the word Ekklesia means "assembly". There is no debate about that.

I have been reading your study and it seems to me that your post about Paul's persecution of the church is missing something.

As you said (you wrote the article?) "-here the church at Jerusalem is called the church of God—the members of this church are the ones Paul had a commission to persecute in Acts."

The author forgets that Paul had a commission to persecute the church in Damascus, as well as Jerusalem. That is at least two churches which are called "the church of God" in 1 Cor. 15:19.

Going back farther to Acts 2:41 we see that the church in Jerusalem had three thousand persons added in one day.

Is there any evidence that these three thousand souls, plus the number that was constantly being added to their number (v 47), ever met together at one time, apart from the day they were saved?

I am not aware of any. Are you?

It seems the Church in Jerusalem was made up of a number of assemblies which met at different locations within the city, yet are called one church.

I could be wrong, but I would need evidence that they met at one location, in one assembly. Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

The mustard seed parable (Matt. 13, Mark 4, Luke 13) is another interesting comparison. The mustard seed, the kingdom of God, grew to be a great tree, and the birds of heaven took shelter in its branches. I am sure you are aware that the "birds" in this illustration are unbelievers. So the kingdom of God has unbelievers in it. The birds are IN the tree, but are not a part of it.

Isn't this exactly what we see in every local church?

Going further in the same passage, He gives us the illustration of the lump of leaven. The leaven represents, sin, or unsaved persons, and yet they are in "the kingdom of God", exactly as we see in every local congregation. Isn't this a picture of the local church. It is strange that they would look so similar if he was talking about something entirely different.

Of course the leaven represents apostasy, and He is telling us that it will grow to the point that it fills every Ekklesia, so that by the end of the Age it will affect the whole kingdom of God...every assembly.

Going throughout the epistles and the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, and we see constant evidence of unbelievers in almost every church. I guess I just don't see a difference between the "kingdom of God" in Jesus' sermons of Matt. 13, Mark 4, and Luke 13, and any particular church mentioned anywhere else in the NT.

Anyway, I am not done the entire article. These are just some thoughts that came to be as I was reading it.

Daniel said...

Hi Kent,

It is months ago since I posted that last comment, and you haven't addressed it.

Maybe I wasn't clear;

When the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem they killed about 1.1 million people, and took some 700,000 captives. That means the city had a population close to 2 million. That is a very large city even by today's standards, and it must have taken several hours to walk from one end to the other.

There was no venue available to Christians to meet all in one place. And being persecuted, they were forced to meet in houses, and small locations. There was never a time when the whole Church in Jerusalem met in one location.

The Church in Jerusalem was a group of assemblies, which met in different locations throughout the city, yet it is called one Church. So if the Church is a local-only term then it is a pretty broad locality, spanning a large area of geography, and several assemblies.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Daniel,

The conclusive evidence that the ekklesia in Jeruslem assembled is the fact that the word means "assembly."

You cannot prove that there was no place in the entire city of over a million people where a large crowd could meet together. Why would there be no place like that in a large city? Why can thousands of people assemble in large church buildings today, but they could not back then?

Furthermore, it would not take even as much room as a single large church building today, with its pews or chairs, etc. to hold that many people back then, since the preacher sat down and everyone else stood up during the message (John 8:2; Mt 5-7, etc.). You could pack a lot of folks in that way.

Furthermore, they actually met in Solomon's porch, Acts 5:12, which standard Bible commentaries say could easily hold thousands of people.

Rather than changing the meaning of ekklesia because of an alleged argument from silence, please consider that arguments from silence are weak, and you actually don't even have an argument from silence here.

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I have been studying this debate for some time, and have even had personal correspondence with Dr. Cloud about his views. I will admit that I have settled at a very similar position with him, through my own study. I though it would be fair to let everyone know where I coming from before I ask my hones question...

Why do you use the phrase "The local church" instead of saying "local churches." I believe that there are thousands of local churches in the world (I don't think you would disagree with that), but I wouldn't say that any of them is "The local church." To say that would exclude all others from being a local church.

In practice, I find that most "Local church only" proponents use the term "The Local Church" to mean what I say when I use the term universal church. The only difference is that the term universal is actually accurate to the English language, whereas saying "The Local Church" would literally mean that the church only exists at that location.

To boil down my point to a simple question: Why would someone say local when they mean something that exists in more than one place?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Anonymous,

Could you point out a time in the above article I use the terminology "local church"? We'll start there, and then I'll answer your question.

Anonymous said...

This is the same anonymous from above. I am sorry for the delay in getting back to you to answer your question.

As I mentioned previously, I have been doing a lot of research, including on-line, about the "local only" church concept. As I also stated, I have contacted several of the writers I found had interesting thoughts, including David Cloud. That is what led me to your site.

After re-reading many of your posts on your belief about the church, I have to conclude that I have falsely accused you of a statement. I could not find anywhere that you used the phrase "The local church" to mean local churches everywhere.

Though I still do not come to the same conclusion that you have about the church being "local only", I want to thank you for being consistent in your terminology. Unlike many "local only" that I run into, you do not say "the local church" when you actually mean local churches. Thank you for using words properly so as not to confuse people.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Anonymous,

Have you read the study here:

If not, I would commend it to you. What word study of all the uses of ekklesia have you read which proved sometimes ekklesia is universal and invisible? I am not even aware of such a study--uusually universal people just pick and choose their texts. Have you found a classical Greek lexicon that gives ekklesia a universal meaning? Liddell-Scott doesn't. Did this meaning exist in classical Greek, and, if not, is the NT clear enough to give a new and radically different meaning for thee word?



KJB1611 said...

Sorry about the typos--"usually" and "the" were correct.

Anonymous said...

Dear KJB 1611,

I have looked through the article enough to find that I am not in disagreement with the author. At least not in his opening sentences. I particularly agree with his statement:

"As a preface to the following study, it should be noted that there is no disagreement about the fact, held to by both universal and local-only views of the church, that in the future all believers will be assembled together in the heavenly city, so in a prospective sense, every believer has a place in a church/assembly that is to come."

When I use the term universal church, this is what I am speaking of. The church that will be assembled in Heaven. At this time, the church is not in one location, it is all over the world.

While you are arguing that I don't understand the meaning of Greek words, I question if some "local only" understand the meaning of English words. According to Websters 1828 dictionary, the word local means 1. Pertaining to a place, or to a fixed or limited portion of space 2. Limited or confined to a spot, place, or definite district (3. is a legal term that does not pertain to this discussion but also refers to a particular place).

To say that the only usage of church in the Bible means one local congregation, then Christ only died for the sins of the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 5. Also, if it only means the congregation in a particular placed, then church discipline can be ignored by church hopping instead of each congregation respecting discipline given at another congregation.

Going back to my point, to say that local refers to two or more congregations at the same time is abuse of the word local. That is why I use the term universal, in the since that we are talking about those members of churches throughout the world

P.S. I am curious if Bro. Brandenburg has lived in a foreign mission field for a length of time.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for the reply. The article takes a notably different view than does Bro Cloud. The word ekklesia means "asssembly." In the future all believers will assemble in one place. They are not so assembled now, hence, they are not one assembly/church now. Bro Cloud thinks that people that never assemble in one place all over the world are one ekklesia/assembly, and this simply is not what the word means.

Where does Eph 5 say Christ died "only" for the sins of the church? Does Gal 2:20 mean Christ died only for the Apostle Paul? Christ died in a special way for each local and visible assembly of immersed believers, just as He died in a special way for the elect while also dying for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

1 Cor 11:3 says that the man is the head of the woman, similar to how Eph 5 says Christ is the head of the church. Is there a universal, invisible man made up of all men in the world? Is Paul creating a new usage of the word "man" and the word "woman" in 1 Cor 11:3?

Please explain what the difference is between a generic noun ("man/woman," 1 Cor 11:3) and something universal.