Monday, January 2, 2012

What Is The Church?

The following scripture study is from "The Church of God, or What is the Church and What is Not" by D.S. Warner. While I classify this with my ordination reading, this small pamplet was not required reading. This was read to show that I am exploring past writings of the Christian affiliation I am a part of.

1. What is the Bible definition of the Church? Eph. 1: 22-23, Col. 1:8, 24. "The Church is the body of Christ.  And being the body of Christ, it necessarily includes all his members...No sect contains all the body of Christ, therefore no sect is the Church of God.  Then as honest men, who expect to be judged by the Word of God, let us never call anything the Church but the body of Christ;i.e., all the saved, either universally, or in any given locality."

2. Who Is The Founder Of The Church?  Christ purchased, founded and built the Church.  Heb. 11:10, 22-24, Heb 3: 3-4, Acts 20:28, Eph. 5: 25-27, Mt. 16:18.

3. When Was The Church Built?  Mt. 16:18 speaks of the Church being built in the future; 1Cor 3:9 speaks of the Church being already built. See also Eph. 2: 20-22, 1Pet 2:5.  "In A.D. 29 Christ said, 'I will build my church.'  In A.D. 56, and after that the apostles said, 'Ye are God's building'; 'are built up a spiritual house.'  So the Church was built between 29 and 56 A.D.  It is true that the church began under the labors of John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostles, before the day of Pentecost.  Many beleived and entered the kingdom then, and constituted material for the Church.  But the coming of the Holy Spirit was the point of time when the church was really built and set in order as seen in 1Cor 12:6, 11-13, 18, 24.  The church is defined as 'his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all' (Eph. 1:23).  The church proper then did not exist until the fulness of Christ came,which was on the day of Pentecost..."

4. Who Is Its Foundation?  Is. 28:16, Ps. 18:31, 1Cor 3:11, Eph 2: 20-21. "In the last text we see that the apostles were the foundation-stones. If we were held to apply 'the rock' in Mt. 16:18 to Peter, there is nothing in such an application of the text that conflicts with the Scriptures. The apostles all being foundationstones, of course Peter was one of them. He does not single out Peter here because he had any preeminence over the rest, but because he was conversing with him, and his name, Cephas--a stone--called out the assertion. For evidence that all twelve were foundations, see Rev. 21:14. Christ is the all-underlying foundation. The apostles, being first chosen and inspired to give us the New Testament, were foundation-stones occupying a connecting position between Christ the Rock, and the rest of the building. Christ is then the only Rock. 'Other foundation can no man lay.'..."

5. Who is the head of the Church? Christ.  "The head of an institution is its lawmaker.  'For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us' (Is 33:22)"  See Eph 1:22, 4: 15-16, 5: 23-24, Col. 1:18, 2: 18-19, James 4:12.

6. What is the door of the Church? Christ.  Jn. 10: 7, 9, Eph. 2: 18.  "In these scriptures we see clearly that Christ is the door of the church and salvation the mode of induction, and that it is a door that stands open continually, and no man can shut.  Christ is not the door of any sect, therefore no sect is the church of God.  The experience of salvation does not constitute a person a member of any sect on earth; therefore they are not the church of God.  All sects have a door, a manner of admitting members, that is open and shut by men; hence they are unlike the church of God, whose door no man can open and shut.  They are therefore not his church." (This is not to say that any specific Christian fellowship is not part of the universal Church.  No particular fellowship can claim to either constitute the entirety of the Church or can declare someone to be saved or unsaved based on membership in that fellowship.)

7. Who takes members into the Church?  The Triune God.  Acts 2: 46-47, 1Cor 12: 13, 18.  "Here the setting of the members into the body, or adding to the church, is ascribed to God, to Christ, and to the Spirit.  Of course these are one, the Triune God."

8.  Who are members of the Church?  "If, as we have seen, salvation is the process of entering the Church, it follows that no one is in the Church who has not salvation."  See Eph. 3:15, 2:19.  "Then it follows that only the sons of God, such as are born of the Spirit, are in the Church.  See 1Jn. 3: 8-10, 5:18.

9.  Who organizes the Church? Answer: The Holy Spirit.  See 1Cor. 12: 8-11, 27-28, Acts 20:28, 2Cor. 3:5-6, Eph. 4: 10-13, 1Cor. 12: 18, 24-25.  "Other scriptures also show the harmonizing of the body of Christ by the hand of God and through the Spirit.  But those given are sufficient.  One thing, however, we shall mention, and that is the laying on of hands by the elders in ordaining elders, etc.  That this pertains to the organization of the Church, we freely allow.  But it is never called organizing the Church.  God ordains a way of qualifying and choosing, and his ministers ordain in the sense of recognizing the divine call and dedicating thereunto.  This order is clearly seen in Acts 13: 1-4...The Church, then, is organized by the Lord, who sets all the members in the body as it pleases him and distrutes the gifts and callings through his own wisdom to all the members of the body. Men may organize a human compact, but never the divine body which is the Church..."

10. How many Churches has God? Answer: One.  "Every description of the divine church shows its oneness. 'Other sheep [Gentiles] I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring...and there shall be one fold [church], and one shepherd.'" (Jn 10:16) Rom. 12: 4-5, 1Cor12: 12, 13,20, Eph. 2: 14-16, 4: 4-6, Col. 3:15. For verses comparing the Church's relation to Christ to the relationship of a wife to a husband, Hos. 2: 19-20, Rom. 7:4, 2Cor. 11:2, Jn. 3:29, Is. 54:5, Eph. 2:19, 3:15.

11. But does the Bible speak of more than one Church? Answer: No.  "The word 'church' frequently occurs in the plural form, but never in the sense of sects or denominations. When more than one church is spoken of it is always the one church of the living God in different localities." Acts 9: 31,14: 21, 23, 15:41, Rom. 16:4, 1Cor. 4:17, 7: 17, 16: 1, 19, 2Cor. 8: 18, Rev. 1:11.

12. Does the Bible teach the unity of all believers? Answer: Yes.  Jn. 17: 11-12, 20-23, 1Cor. 1:10, Gal. 3:28, Phil. 1: 27, 2: 2, Rom. 15: 5-6, Acts 4:32.

13. What is the basis of union? Gal. 3:28, Rom. 12:5, Jn 17: 11-12, Is. 62:2, Eph. 3:15 ("From whom the whole family in the heavens and on earth is named."), Acts 20: 28, 1Cor. 1:2, 2Cor. 1:1, 1Cor. 10:32, 1Cor. 11:16, 22, 15: 9, Gal. 1:13, 1Thess. 2: 14, 2Thess. 1:4, 1Tim. 3:5, 14-15.  "Here are twelve instances of the title, 'church of God.'  This corresponds with the Saviors prayer, and is the common appellation.  But as there was but the one church, the qualifying part of the name was not needed in every instance."

14.  What is the bond of union? Answer: Love.  Col. 3:14, 2: 2, Rom. 8: 35-39.

15.  What experience perfects us in oneness? Answer: Entire sanctification.  "In connection with his prayer for oneness, the Savior prayed the Father to sanctify the disciples and all that would believe in him through their word, which includes us. 'And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfect in one.' Jn. 17: 22-23. Sanctification, perfection, or the glory of Christ, each relates to the same experience, and this makes God's children one.  'For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them bretheren.' Heb. 2:11." See Eph. 4: 11-13, 1Pet. 1: 18-19. "The salvation of the Lord, which qualifies us for heaven, makes us one on earth...All efforts at union but that of God's holiness is as pounding cold, crooked pieces of iron against each other to make them fit together. The more blows the more crooks and differences. Put them into a furnace of white heat and they will lose their cold, stiff , crooked individuality, and flow into one mass.  That is God's way of uniting his people in the fire of the Holy Spirit...Freedom from sin knits together in love...On the plain of Bible holiness no outward observances are made a test, in fact, nothing is made a test of fellowship.  For holy men 'judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.'  'If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin' 1Jn. 1:7.  Fellowship is of the Spirit (Phil. 2:1) and exists where heart-purity exists. It is the conscious blending of hearts filled with the same Holy Spirit...One may have been lead into all truth; the other not.  This does not interupt fellowship. Nevertheless it is the duty of such as 'know the truth' in meekness to instruct those who do not. Ignorance of some truth does not destroy fellowship, but resisting the truth does because it forfeits salvation. We must not sanction people's errors, but if they are saved show our love and fellowship to them so long as we do not get the evidence that their wrong doctrines have become wilfil, or they have in some way lost salvation.  Then fellowship ends, but love and kindness still continue in faithful efforts for their salvation.To ignore fellowship simply because of some doctrinal error is bigotry.To agree to disagree, or to put on equality truth and error, is Babel confusion."

16.  What does the Bible say of sects? 1Cor. 12:25, Rom. 16: 17-18, Titus 3: 10-11, 1Pet. 2: 1-3, 1Cor. 11: 18-19 ("Here we see 'heresies' means the same thing as division.' "), 1Cor. 3:1-4, Gal 5:20.

17.  Can we observe the ordinances outside all sects? "The New Testament clearly shows that Christ enacted certain ordinances, namely baptism, or in plain English immersion; the washing of the saints' feet; and the Lord's Supper. But we need join no sect to observe these. They do not belong to any sect on earth; but they are placed in the body of Christ for the exclusive observance of its members."

18.  Can we meet to worship without a sect? "Is it so that God's children cannot meet to worship him unless they meet in some sect name, some name other than the one Christ told us to meet in?  Thank God, we find no difficulty in assembling together outside all sect names and inclosures. But sectarians are actually so blind that they think holy men cannot convene together to worship God and enjoy any means of grace unless they join some eartly craft; as tho all grace were in a sect, and nothing in Christ."

19.  Is the Church visible without a sect organization? Answer: Yes. 1Cor. 6:15.

20.  In coming out of sects do we have to form another sect? Answer: No. "When a non-professing sinner is converted to God and born of the Spirit, he is thereby made a member of the Church of God, but is in no sect at all.  And since there is no command in the Bible to join any sect, he can obey all the Word and keep salvation in the church without ever joining a sect, and so can every saint of God on earth do the same...The question is not , What system is most practical for all Christians to adopt as a basis of union? but, What foundations do all Christians actually and necessarily stand on?  By abiding only in Christ, his body the church, we stand on the foundation which includes all Christians in heaven and earth; and not as a member of any sect, or cut-off faction...But since the Word of God commands us to abide only in Christ and declares us 'all one in Christ Jesus,' 'one body in Christ,' by staying in him only in whom all Christians must abide and in whom there are no sinners, we are joined to all saints and seperated from all sinners and stand free before God of the great transgression of sectism."    

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