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Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 3-Chapter 15-The Church as the Body of Christ

CHAPTER 15-THE CHURCH AS THE BODY OF CHRIST #Ro 12:4,5 1Co 12:14-27

Text: #1Co 12:27 “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”

The word church in our English Bible is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. This word literally means, what is called “out”. It comes from a compound word-ek which means out; and kaleo, to call. A better translation of ekklesia would be assembly since it is applied to people who are called out to form an assembly.

In the Greek New Testament ekklesia occurs 115 times. It is translated church 112 times and assembly 3 times in the King James version. The word church has a religious connotation, but the word ekklesia itself has no religious meaning. And that is why ekklesia is translated assembly 3 times in Acts 19. Here it is used of the Greek political assembly and also of the unlawful assembly or mob gathered against Paul and his companions. At Ephesus, Paul had preached against idolatry, saying there were no gods made with hands. This preaching was hurting the business of those who made little images of the temple of the goddess Diana. Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen raised a mob against Paul. After a great uproar and much confusion the town clerk finally restored order and then dismissed the ekklesia or mob. He tells the complainants that they should have brought their case before the lawful ekklesia or assembly, which was the Greek court. If our translators had uniformly translated ekklesia they would not have had to change from church to assembly, but would have used assembly in every instance.

Jesus was not coining a new word when He said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my” (#Mt 16:18) ekklesia. He used a word familiar to both Greek and Jew. The Greeks had their ekklesia, which was an assembly of citizens of a free city called out to transact public business. The Jews had their religious ekklesia or synagogue. And so Christ distinguished between His ekklesia and others by using the pronoun MY. He was saying in effect, I am going to have MY ekklesia which will be different from the ekklesias you are familiar with.

The word ekklesia (translated church 112 times and assembly 3 times) occurs only 2 times in the gospels. In #Mt 16:18 when Jesus says “I will build my” ekklesia. He uses the word in the abstract and institutional sense without particularizing or locating it. Just as we might speak of the American home, or the American boy, or the American bride, without referring to any particular home or boy or bride. In #Mt 18:17 Christ used the word ekklesia the concrete sense of an actual assembly to which one might tell his grievances. And so when Christ’s ekklesia as an institution takes on concrete form and becomes operational it is an actual assembly of His followers in organized capacity.

Whenever you find the American boy, or home, or bride, it is a boy or home or bride. And so when you find the body of Christ on earth it is always a body of Christ, that is, a local assembly. That is why Paul called the church at Corinth a body of Christ, a body with many members.

There is more and more being said today about “One church in one world.” This means one big church made up of churches of all denominations. But such a thing is utterly foreign to Scripture, so far as Christ’s church or assembly is concerned. Such an idea is retrogression and not progress. It reverses the missionary program. In the early days Christ’s church as an institution found expression in one church, the church at Jerusalem. Under persecution the members of this church were scattered. They went everywhere preaching the word and wherever disciples were made a church was organized. And some years later we read of the churches of Judea. When the church at Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, we soon read about churches of Galatia and other provinces.

If and when we have one church in one world, who is to be the head of this one big church? Will the head be Christ or AntiChrist? I venture the prediction that it will be a man living in a big house in the city of Rome. Let no Protestant ever suppose that the Roman system of a graded ministry with the supremacy of the pope will ever be relinquished or compromised.

We usually think and speak of the church as a witnessing body of believers with a worldwide commission to preach the gospel to every creature. The church is to be interested in lost humanity throughout the world. Missions are essential to the perpetuity of the church and the church that does not have missions on its heart has the death rattle in its throat. Stop the missionary program and the church will soon become a relic of the past. If new members are not added by missionary endeavour the gates of hades the unseen realm of the dead will soon swallow up the church. And so Jesus Christ implied missions when He said the gates of hades would not prevail against the church. We are rightly urged to lift up our eyes and look on fields white unto harvest. But in this message we shall turn our eyes inward to see what Christ intended the church to do with respect to its own members. And now let us think of our church as a body of Christ and apply scriptural principles in the ministry to our own members.

1. We are one body, but many members. No member of the human body is the whole body and no member of our church is the whole church. And no member is the head for Christ is the head and master. He made this plain when he said, “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (#Mt 23:8). Headship belongs only to Christ and this means authority. Our pastor is our leader but not our master. Paul made the same point when he wrote, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (#2Co 4:5). And Peter writes that the elders or pastors must not lord over God’s heritage. Dr. Eades used to say that the pastor had three duties when acting as a shepherd. He is to feed the sheep, fleece the sheep, and flog the sheep. And all these things were to be done by preaching the word. The pastor is not a man with a big stick; he is a man with a big book. Dr. Pettie preached to his church on the subject of money. One of his men who did not like to be fleeched said to him after the sermon, that he ought to fleece the sheep. The doctor said, “Well, I believe in feeding the sheep and I have tried in my sermons to feed the sheep, but I also believe a well fed sheep ought to be of some value in wool and mutton. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (#2Ti 3:16). “An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law” (#Ro 2:20).

2. All our members are on the same footing so far as salvation is concerned. All the saved have been born of the same Holy Spirit, redeemed by the same blood, and have a right to membership in the same body of Christ. One Sunday morning in our capital city, Charles Evans Hughes and a Chinese laundry girl walked the same aisle to join a Baptist Church. In receiving them the pastor remarked that the ground is level at the cross. In #Ga 3:28, Paul says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

3. All members are not equal in talent and importance, but all are important and are needed. In the human body the members which seem to be more feeble are nevertheless necessary. And those parts we think to be less honorable are treated with greater honor. And so it should be in the body of Christ. And now let us consider some of the weaker members and some of the less honorable members of the body of Christ to see how they are to be treated.

3a) Some of our members are shutins; they are too feeble to assemble with us. But they are needed and we should make them feel that they are wanted. Our sick and helpless and sorrowing people furnish us a field for sympathetic and loving service. They are a challenge to us to demonstrate the spirit of Christian sympathy and compassion. The spring of compassion would soon dry up if we did not have the poor and weak and helpless with us and among us. Paul says that we are “distributing to the necessity of the saints; given to hospitality.” (#Ro 12:13). I want to commend all our members who minister to the poor and sick and sorrowing. And I want to thank all of you who have been so helpful to me and mine in our recent infirmities.

3b) There is hardly any doubt that we have some members who are in a backslidden condition. They are out of fellowship with Christ and the church and have lost the joy of salvation. We should not rejoice in their backsliding, but we should see in them an opportunity to demonstrate the Christian spirit. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (#Ga 6:1).

3c) And we have some members who are of an ugly and contentious spirit and hard to live and work with. But all such who are saved are entitled to membership. They give us the opportunity to demonstrate the Christian spirit in dealing with our enemies.

Paul says, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink, for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (#Ro 12:20,21). I expect most of us throw away many opportunities to demonstrate the Christian religion at this point. We think we are wiser than God and that to get even with an enemy is better than loving him.

Back in October last year I had a paragraph in the church bulletin dealing with the patience a pastor must have. I quoted a pastor in Florida who said that when he learned that one of his members did not like him, he would determine to win that man by loving him and showing him special kindness. I was also told of a man who made this confession. He said something like this: “Our minister had one trait which you do not often find anywhere. He never seemed to remember an injury. I was prejudiced against him when he came to us and often spoke disparagingly of him and sometimes even bitterly. And I knew he was informed of it all. But he always treated me as though I were his best friend. It breaks my heart now to think of it and if I ever meet him in heaven, I will throw my arms around his neck and beg his forgiveness.” The comment I made on this was that we cannot do in heaven what we should have done on earth.

A few days after the bulletin was mailed out, I received a letter from a pastor in another part of the state. In this letter he said in part: “Several weeks ago I began reading your paragraph on the qualities a pastor should possess. I have received a challenge from each of them, but I am writing this letter to thank you especially for the one this past week. It helped me to make a decision that kept me from making a mistake.” He went on to tell of a certain man in his church who had been very ugly and mean towards him and he was about to lose all patience with him. After praying much Saturday night, I came to the study Sunday morning and found the Madisonville Bulletin open on my desk. I began to read your paragraph and took it as a message from God. And with His help I shall try again to win this man. “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will (#2Ti 2:24-26). “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (#Eph 4:32).

“Is thy cruise of comfort failing?
Rise and share it with a friend
And through all the years of famine
It shall serve thee to the end.

Love divine will fill thy storehouse,
Or thy handful still renew;
Scanty fare for one will often
Make a royal feast for two.

For the heart grows rich in giving;
All its wealth is living grain;
Seeds which mildew in the garner
Scattered, fill with gold.

Is thy burden hard and heavy?
Do thy steps drag wearily?
Help to lift thy brother’s burden
God will bear both it and thee.

Lost and weary on the mountains,
Wouldest thou sleep amidst the snow?
Chafe that frozen form beside thee,
And together both will glow.

Art thou wounded in life’s battle?
Many stricken round thee moan.
Give to them thy precious ointment,
And that balm shall heel thine own.”

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 3

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Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 3-Chapter 1-The Definition of the Church

CHAPTER 1-THE DEFINITION OF THE CHURCH

The unity for which Christ prayed seems to be as sadly lacking among His followers with respect to the church question as any other. Christ’s prayer for unity among His people has been for a long time a serious question to the author, in the light of his belief that Christ’s prayers are always effectual. Modern Ecumenicalism is not the answer to the problem since it seeks organic union at the expense of truth. In this chapter we shall try to arrive at a Scriptural definition of the church. Observe:

1. THE COLLOQUIAL USE OF THE WORD CHURCH.

1a) The meeting house is familiarly spoken of as the church. But this is foreign to any New Testament use of the word. The New Testament Church was not the house, but “in the house.” #Ro 16:5; “The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house” (#1Co 16:19); “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house” (#Col 4:15).

1b) Christianity is usually referred to as the church to distinguish the followers of Christ from the state and from the world. Church history, therefore, is nothing more than the history of Christianity.

1c) Denominations of Christians are commonly spoken of as churches, embracing believers in various groups without regard to faith and practice.

2. SOME MODERN NOTIONS OF THE CHURCH.

2a) The Universal Visible Theory, also called the Imperial Theory. This finds expression in the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. The church is a visible empire with a visible human head.

2b) The Universal Invisible Theory. This makes all the saved, members of the church.

2c) The Church Branch Theory. This makes the various denominations mere branches of the main stem which no longer exists.

3. THE PRE-CHRISTIAN USE OF THE WORD CHURCH.

The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means to call out for the purpose of assembling. The government of ancient Greek cities was democratic, being administered by duly qualified citizens in a lawful assembly, called together from time to time to transact business for the public good. And this assembly was called an ekklesia. The Greek word ekklesia in itself has no religious connotation. It simply means assembly regardless of the kind. In #Ac 19:39 “But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly” it is used of the Greek assembly corresponding somewhat to our city council or board of aldermen. The word ekklesia is also used of the church (congregation) in the wilderness (#Ac 7:38). By accommodation ekklesia is applied to the mob gathered against Paul at Ephesus. In #Ac 19:32, we read that the ekklesia (assembly) “was confused,” referring to the mob or unlawful assembly. The townclerk told Demetrius and his craft to take their complaint against Paul to the lawful ekklesia (assembly). And having restored order, the townclerk dismissed the ekklesia (mob). “And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly” (#Ac 19:41).

4. THE EKKLESIA OR ASSEMBLY OF CHRIST.

The English word church comes from the Greek word kuriakon, which means “of or belonging to the Lord.” Kuriakon occurs only two times in the Greek New Testament. It is used of the Lord’s Supper (#1Co 11:20), and of the Lord’s Day (#Re 1:10). It is never translated church in the New Testament. Kuriakon was used by the early Greek Christians for the Lord’s house or meeting place. The Teutonic tribes, when converted to Christianity, adopted this Greek word for their house of worship. It is found in the German Kirche, the Scottish Kirk, and the Anglo-Saxon Circe. The Greeks never employed kuriakon for the people, but only for the house.

In using the word ekklesia Christ did not coin a new word, but a word in current use and easily understood by both Jew and Greek. He did not employ the word kuriakon, but ekklesia which can only refer to people, a people called out to form an assembly. In response to Peter’s confession of His deity, Christ said, “Thou art Peter (petrol) and upon this rock (petra) I will build MY ekklesia (assembly).” #Mt 16:18. He thus distinguished between His assembly and other assemblies. Paul makes the same distinction in his letter to the Thessalonians. He writes to the ekklesia which is in God the Father (this distinguishes it from the Greek political assembly), and “in the Lord Jesus Christ,” which also distinguishes it from the Jewish synagogue. In this way Paul made sure that his letter would reach the right assembly.

In the Greek New Testament the noun ekklesia occurs 115 times. It is translated church 112 times and assembly three times. The word church actually occurs 113 times in our King James Bible, but in #Ac 19:37 it is not ekklesia but the word for temples. The King James translators tried to use church for ekklesia in all cases, but in #Ac 19:32,39,41 to do so would have been manifestly absurd; and so in these instances they had to give the correct rendering; ASSEMBLY.

Christ Himself set us the pattern for the use of the word ekklesia. In #Mt 16:18 when He said, “I will build my church (ekklesia).” He used the word abstractly of an institution, without defining, particularizing, or locating it. Just as we speak of the American home, the American boy, and other institutions without referring to any particular home or boy. In #Mt 18:17 our Lord used the word ekklesia (assembly) in the concrete sense of a particular assembly to which one might tell his grievances. And so when Christ’s ekklesia, as an institution, becomes concrete and operational it is an actual assembly of His followers in organized capacity. It is a visible organization seems necessary inasmuch as it is composed of visible people. J. W. Porter says, “If there is any other sort of church than that of a visible congregation, revelation and investigation have alike failed to locate its whereabouts or define its functions. Such an inconceivable, intangible, invisible concern as the imaginary invisible church has never been known to convert anybody or to perform any functions of an actual church.”

When Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it,” #Mt 16:18. He was speaking of the church prospectively something to be built “I will build.” The church was a concept in the mind of Christ just as the building is a concept in the mind of the architect before it is erected. Christ saw all the material that was to make up this holy sanctuary, every living stone that would go into it, before it had been quarried from the hard rock of sinful humanity. “Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (#Eph 5:25-27). And so the church Christ founded to build the church for which He died, is promised perpetuity and glory.

The church of Christ as an institution finds expression in two kinds of assemblies: the local assembly here on earth; and the general assembly of Firstborn ones, now enrolled in heaven and to be gathered there as a glorious church. #Heb 12:23.

CHURCHES OF CHRIST

Whenever the word church is used in the New Testament of something larger than a particular, visible, assembly here on earth the word is always plural, like the churches of Galatia, Asia, and Judaea. The church of Christ here on earth finds expression in many particular assemblies of visible people in process of salvation; the church of Christ in heaven will find expression in one universal assembly of visible people whose salvation has been completed. But there is no such thing as an invisible church here on earth or in heaven.

To a man in Florida who would not unite with any church or particular congregation, and who insisted that he belonged to the big church of Christ, the writer said something like this: In the New Testament the churches could be located and written to. I would like to write to your church; please give me its address and the name of its pastor. Needless to say, he was shut up.

In his commentary on Matthew, Dr. Broadus says: “The word church is not used in the New Testament to denote a congregation, actual or imaginary, of all professed Christians, unless it be in #Ac 9:31 (correct text), and in #1Ti 3:15. In the former the word probably denotes the original church at Jerusalem, whose members were widely scattered throughout Judaea and Galilee and Samaria by the persecution and held meetings wherever they were, but still belonged to the one original organization. When Paul wrote to the Galatians nearly twenty years later, these separate meetings had been organized into distinct churches; and so he speaks (#Ga 1:22) in reference to that same period, of “the churches of Judaea which were in Christ.” In #1Ti 3:15, the church is naturally the particular local church with which one is connected.

The New Testament never speaks of one particular assembly or church as a part of the whole, but of each assembly as “the whole church.” In #1Co 14:23, Paul says, “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place…” Writing to the Romans from Corinth, in his closing salutation, Paul says, “Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you” (#Ro 16:23). Speaking of the church under the metaphor of the human body, #1Co 12:27, Paul says “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” The article is absent in the Greek. The same is true when the church is represented under the figure of a temple. The church at Corinth is called “the temple of God” in #1Co 3:16 and also in #2Co 6:16. In the second chapter of Ephesians the church is in view under the figure of a building or temple. Local congregations are in view in #Eph 2:21; “In whom (Christ) all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple (sanctuary) in the Lord.” In #Eph 2:22 the church at Ephesus is referred to: “In whom (Christ) ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” We have given the correct text in these quotations. In #Eph 3:21 “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” His redeemed people, making up the glory church, will be Christ’s eternal monument as Savior. “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (#2Th 1:10).

The ekklesia or church in glory will be the one real temple, body, flock, and bride of Christ. In glory the church will have been built and be forever to His glory. And because each local particular assembly on earth is a representative of His institution called the church, all the figures applied to the future church in glory are also applied to each and every local assembly of saints. (Note: See introduction of this volume as to the belief of the publisher about Bride of Christ.)

A man once said to B. H. Carroll, “How dare you apply such broad terms as ‘the house of God,’ ‘the body of Christ’, and ‘the temple of God,’ to your little fragment of a denomination!” Carroll replied: “I do not apply them to any denomination, nor to any aggregate of particular churches, but the scriptures do apply every one of them to the particular congregations of Christ’s disciples.”

In the Scriptural sense there is no such thing as the Methodist Church, or the Presbyterian Church, or the Baptist Church, etc. We should never speak of The American Baptist Church, or the Southern Baptist Church, for there is no such thing. The Southern Baptist Convention is made up of individual messengers sent to it from thousands of Baptist churches, and these messengers have no delegated authority. Naturally, we Baptists believe that our form of church government conforms more nearly to the New Testament pattern. There is no hierarchy or grades of ministry among us. All members are equal in authority and this authority is expressed by vote. One may have more influence than another, but all have the same authority.

There is more and more being said today about “One church in one world.” This means one big church made up of the churches of all denominations. But such a thing is utterly foreign to scripture, so far as Christ’s church is concerned. Such an idea is retrogression rather than progress. It reverses the missionary program. In the early days Christ’s church as an institution found expression in one church, the church at Jerusalem. Under persecution the church was scattered, and the members went everywhere preaching the word. And wherever disciples were made a church was organized. And some years later, we read of the churches of Judaea. And when the church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, we soon read of churches in Galatia and other provinces.

If and when we have one church in one world, who is to be the head of this one big church? Will the head be Christ or Anti-Christ? The writer ventures the prediction that the head of this one big church will be a man living in a big house in the city of Rome, the City of Seven Hills, on the banks of the Tiber. Let no Protestant ever suppose that the Roman system of a graded ministry culminating in the supremacy of the pope will ever be relinquished or compromised. Yet with a sad heart we fear that Christendom is headed in that direction.

Suppose history repeats itself, and there again becomes one big world church: such as the Roman Catholic Church before the reformation; suppose the reformation under Luther and others reverse itself and the Protestant denominations return to Rome; will this mean that the perpetuity promised by Christ will be repealed? Perish the thought! Just as in the past, the true churches of Christ will not be a part of the big world church, which will really be the Roman Catholic Church. The institution Christ promised perpetuity to will not perish from the earth, and this institution will always find expression in particular assemblies; which will not be swallowed up by the big ecumenical body.

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 3

Question 79-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 3Q. What is the duty of such as are rightly baptized?

A. It is the duty of such as are rightly baptized, to give up themselves to some particular and orderly Church of Jesus Christ, (Acts 2:47; Acts 9:26; 1 Peter 2:5) that they may walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (Luke 1:6)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism