The Churches of Christ Consist Only of Elect Persons
By the use of the terms "bodies of Christ" or "Churches of Christ" I understand the subject to be the assemblies of Christians and has to do with His spiritual kingdom, a kingdom given Him by His Father when election was established, for at that time the kingdom must have a King and a Savior. The term "church" that we use today comes from the Authorized Version of King James 1 of England who gave the translators some sixteen rules that had to be adhered to in the new translation and one was that they were to use "church" rather than "assembly" which is the true meaning of the Greek ecclesia. Not only was Jesus appointed to His work by the Father at the time of the decree that established election and all of its benefits but that He should stand in relation to those who are truly of His "body" as their Prophet, Priest, and King. This threefold office He holds peculiarly toward the elect. His body consists of his elect and exclusive of all others and their number is certain and entire, and cannot be broken neither by addition nor diminution. Of this the tabernacle in the wilderness was a figure, first, in respect to its symmetry which produced a singular beauty to which nothing could be added or taken away, else that beauty would be destroyed. Second, in that all the parts and the dimensions were predetermined by God and not left in the least to human idea, desire or arbitration, for these dimensions, furnishings and appearance are expressly said to be "patterns of things in the heavens" in Hebrew 9:23. In other words, Paul is saying that the parts, etc., of the heavenly church of the Firstborn will be gathered together at the appointed time, at the appointed place just as Solomon gathered the parts and materials of the Temple of God to Mt. Moriah, Heb. 12:23, "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." And so we see once again that the names of the elect are known and written in heaven and are waiting until the time they are to be brought together. The Lord knows His own and He will gather His body to himself at the appointed time. It is true that God has given to Christ all power and to be Head over all things but His Lordship over men in general and His headship over the church are very different indeed. He is God of the whole earth, but Jeshurun's God in a way peculiar to them; Deut. 33:26, "There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky". Note that Jeshurun comes from a root word in the Hebrew meaning upright and is another name for the nation of Israel. It is used three times in the Old Testament to mean the nation of Israel. So there is none like the God of Israel, the chosen nation of Jehovah, for He rides upon the heavens to help His people and for His elect He will do the same. There is no God like our God for He is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is in the heavens and the earth.
Christ has dominion over even the unbelievers and rebels and they serve Him though they do not think so and would deny it if one called it to their attention. Men do the bidding of Almighty God whether they would or not. Consider Nebuchadnezzar who was God's whip hand against Tyre, Ezek. 26:7 and 8, "For thus saith the Lord God; Behold I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people. He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee." Nebuchadnezzar did not know that he was serving the God of the Jews but God did. Then consider Cyrus who was sent against Babylon; Isa. 45:1 and 2, "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings. to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:...." Cyrus was not even born when God said that he would be His servant and do His bidding. There are other examples we could call on but these two should suffice.
But the elect are His natural subjects though not born to it but they are in waiting and they will be called on the predestined day of their call. They are His subjects before salvation but after salvation are much more so for they know Whom they serve and their relationship is so intimate that they are said to be of His flesh and of His bones: Eph. 5:30, "For we are members of His body, of his flesh, and of his bones."
Let me take this time, and I should have said it sooner, that when I use the term "church" in this book I am speaking of the local churches, not some universal visible or invisible church but the visible local churches which will one day gather together with the Lord, some to everlasting rewards but others who are saved as though by fire. All saved will not be the same in heaven for position will depend on our service and obedience here on the earth. We need to be the peculiar and separate people that the Lord would have us to be, trusting, serving, and obeying, building with gold, silver and precious stones.
We find by studying scripture that the terms "church" and "elect" are the same for in both instances we are speaking of people, for the churches are made up of living stones; people. The elect are those people chosen of God from before the foundation of the world for His particular love and blessing. The elect are the chosen of God unto salvation and so if they are obedient they become a part of a local New Testament Baptist Church to serve God and these living stones are "sanctified by God the Father" in Jude 1, "Jude the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James. to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:". We find in John 17:6 that there are those that were committed to Him by the Father, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word." It is of these that were committed to Him by the Father that he would be building His kind of assembly as He says in Matt. 16:18 "...I will be building my kind of assembly..." (translated from me continuous present tense of the Greek by the author). We can, by noticing the way the apostles addressed their letters to the churches, see that these were of those congregation! that were His elect such as: Rom. 1:7, "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:...", and 1 Cor. 1:2, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,...", and Eph. 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:...", and Paul to the Colossians, "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse:...". Now turn to 1 Cor. 14:33, and here Paul speaks of the "churches of the saints". Paul again in Heb. 12:23, "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,...", and Peter in 1 Peter 1:1 and 2, "Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit,...". All of these can do but one thing, the thing that God meant for them to do when He inspired these salutations - inform the reader that the churches are made up of the people who are the elect of God, that these various names are just so many terms for the same people and all make them a people distinctly different from the rest of the world.
Now do not think that I am saying that every elect person is in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ for I do not believe that is true. I believe that there are many saved people out there who are in those organizations that were built by men and are called churches but are not churches of the Lord Jesus Christ for they have not the doctrine of our Lord, or they practice those things that I do not believe are acceptable to Him such as infant baptism. There are also saved people out there who have not come out from among the people of the world. We often hear them referred to as "carnal Christians."
Let us recognize that there are three distinct categories of believers: 1) the assembly that Jesus said He would be building, 2) the Kingdom of God, and, 3) the Family of God. All of these are the elect of God from before the foundation of the world. Those of the assembly that Jesus said He would be building are those elect that have followed the true doctrines of the Bible, and these are the doctrines of Grace. These are New Testament Christians. The Kingdom of God is made up of all true believers no matter what religious organization they belong to but they are not a part of the assembly that the Lord built. Finally, there is the Family of God, which is all believers from Adam to the last believer that will be saved; that is, it is made up of the assembly of God's people, those of the Kingdom of God and all those who have died be they Old Testament or New Testament saints, when I say saints I mean those who were obedient, those who trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ and served Him with the willingness and desire that makes a real child of God. There are those, like the five foolish virgins who are saved but were not ready, not obedient, not among those who will hear "Well done thy good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things:...".
When Christ appears in His glory then His churches will be gathered to Him, this is spoken of in the Old Testament in Zach. 14:5, "...and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee." Paul also speaks of this in 1 Cor. 15:23 when he is writing about the same subject, "But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." And so connecting this verse to the introduction of the book, which is naturally part of its context, we can see that those referred to in the introduction as "saints and faithful brethren in Christ" are those who in 1 Cor. 5:23 are said to be "Christ's at his coming." And these can certainly be seen to hark back to the Zachariah verse for he, too, speaks of the coming of Christ with all His saints. If these, then, belong to Christ then there are those who do not belong to Christ for all the people at Corinth were not believers nor were all the people there members of that assembly. If only certain people then are meant in these verses, then these same persons who are said to be His and will come with Him in the Heavens, must be those to whom He gives these specific names, such as "saints," "beloved of God,” “sanctified in Christ," "church of the Firstborn," "elect," and among others, "saints and faithful brethren in Christ."
When He comes the tares of Matt. 13:25 will have already been gathered by his angels as Matt. 13:30, which says, "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them:...". His elect will then be gathered by His angels for we read in Matt. 24:31, "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other," but as for the rest of the dead, turn to Rev. 20:5, which says, "but the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." The word "rest" here tells us immediately that these were no part of His body or His churches or of His elect. Note that those who did not rise with the saints are specified here by the same word or note of distinction as those not elected are in another place, Rom. 11:7, "...but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded." These, then, who are part of the first resurrection are the same persons that are "written in the Lamb's book of life," Rev. 21:27. But this is evident if we compare Rev. 20:4 with Rev. 13:8. Rev. 13:8 "All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world". Here we have the Beast who shall be worshipped by all those who are not of the elect for we see that he is being worshipped by those whose names are not in the Lamb's book of life.
Names that should be there from the foundation of the world are there for He was slain from the foundation of the world and the Father certainly had Him die for specific people and not for whoever might just happen to believe. This couldn't be for God had inspired David to write in Psalm 14, "...there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They were all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one." The Father looked down and saw none that would believe and so would not have committed His Son to such a project, instead the Father chose for Himself and the Son died for those whom the Father chose. They are the elect of God.
In Rev. 2:4 we read, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Here the elect are shown in opposition to those of 13:8 who worshipped the Beast, the elect are seen sitting upon thrones and are judging and they are reigning with Christ during His thousand year reign here on the earth.
It was necessary that the churches of Christ should be composed of the elect because: (1) None were fit to be of this body but such as should be like the Head. Carnal members would be as uncomely to a spiritual Head as one of the animals viewed by Adam as his companion. The elect bride must be a suitable match for the Son and to this end must be "All glorious within", Psa. 45:13, "The king's daughter is all glorious within:..." she must be like Him in all parts. Every member of the body must be like Him, Judges 8:18, "Then said he unto Zeba and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou are, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king." If the Head be heavenly so must the members for they cannot walk together except they be agreed. (2) This likeness to Christ is proper to the elect: it is a royal privilege entailed upon them and cannot descend or revert to one out of the line. This likeness to Christ is requisite to all His members and so peculiar to His elect, both are attested to in Rom. 8:29, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." This implies that those whom He foreknows, or the elect, are the only ones predestinated to be "conformed to the image of his Son." It also implies mat were it not for election the Firstborn would have none to rule over; indeed. His birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection would be for nothing.
In Eph. 1:3-5, He further appropriates those spiritual blessings, by which men are conformed to the likeness of Christ, to the same persons, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." By these two scriptures it appears that God's children and Christ's brethren are the same persons and that they were made so by election. (3). This likeness to Christ is not attainable by any unless they are first in Him as their Head: for which cause the elect were chosen in Him, as we read above in Eph. 1:4. It is out of Christ's fullness that all grace is received, and in order to receive that grace, there must be a union. The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, nor, indeed, can it even be a branch unless it grows out of the vine. Therefore, for this end, the chosen members of His body by decree separated from their wild olive-root and put into Christ by election and so made partakers of the fatness of that root and vine; that is, they partake of the Spirit of Christ which is called "the anointing" in 1 John 2:27, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
In this respect the first and second Adams are set forth as parallels touching headship to their respective bodies. As from Adam, their natural head, all mankind has derived their being so from Christ their spiritual head do all the elect seed receive their spiritual being and nature. These elect were and are all in Christ from eternity as truly, but spiritually, as mankind was in Adam when he fell, or Levi in Abraham's loins when Melchisedec met him. As to the manner of Eve's creation it was a pattern of this for she was made of Adam's substance, they are "bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh," spiritually speaking. The quote is from Gen. 2:23. And so it is understood that none can then proceed from Him but such as were in Him by decree from before the world. Men are blessed with these spiritual blessings only as being in Christ, and never otherwise as in Eph. 1:3, which is quoted above and Titus 3:5 and 6, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour."
Let no man pretend to this relationship to Christ without something to show so that it can be rightfully claimed. The surest mark is, of course, a man's conformity not to the world but to Christ the Head for we as Christians must be seen to be dominated by Him alone.
Do not be deceived, in His day the Lord Christ will know none but such as "...have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.", Rev. 7:14. There will be no hangers-on. The tares will have been pulled and burned and then the wheat brought into the Master's store house. Many will plead their works but His answer will be that He does not know them.
My friend, if Jesus Christ be your head, be confident then of all love, counsel, care and protection from Him, for union with Him entitles you to all that is His. It is only natural for the head to love and cherish the body, and every member of it, to see to its welfare and safety, "For no man yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church," Eph. 5:29.
Every one of us that are His Body should be well pleased with our lot: be glad and rejoice for ever in our portion for this is the exaltation of the "...brother of low degree" that is mentioned in James 1:9. We are all of low degree and should rejoice in any place that the Lord places us and serve where we are. As the song says, "Brighten the comer where you are."