THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH
T. P. Simmons
When one is saved the next consideration that should claim his attention is the church. Gratitude to God for salvation should make him as conscientious about church affiliation as about matters pertaining to salvation.
I. THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH
1. VARIOUS FALSE CONCEPTIONS OF THE CHURCH
(1) The Roman Catholic Conception.
Roman Catholics believe that the church is a world-wide, hierarchal organism under the visible headship of the pope at Rome. J. F. Noll, editor of "Our Sunday Visitor," of Huntington, Indiana, in "The Fairest Argument," likens the church to a tree, and says: "The leaves represent the Catholic laity throughout the entire world. They are in direct communion with their respective parish priests (the smaller branches of the mystic tree). The priests, in their turn, are in direct communion with their bishops, that is, the larger branches. And all the bishops are in direct and constant communion with the Sovereign Pontiff, that is, the trunk, or stem, of the entire tree."
Sometimes Roman Catholics expand their conception of the church so as to make it include "all the faithful who have existed from Adam up to the present day, or who shall exist to the end of time" (Catechism of the Council, as put forth in 1566).
(2) The National Conception.
(3) The Denominational Conception.
We hear of the "Methodist Episcopal Church," Then there is the "Presbyterian Church in the United States." And some people, ignorant of Baptist polity, speak of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention as the "Southern Baptist Church."
(4) The Universal Conception.
A very popular notion is that the church is composed of all the saved throughout the world at any given time or of all saved people that have ever lived, whether now living or dead. Thus the church is conceived of as being universal and invisible.
(5) The Aggregate Conception.
All churches and religious groups, taken in the aggregate, are sometimes spoken of as "the church" in distinction from the world.
2. THE SCRIPTURAL CONCEPTION OF THE CHURCH
All the foregoing conceptions of the church are false and unscriptural.
The scriptural conception of the church may be seen by noting-
The Greek word for "church" is "ekklesia." The English word "church" is not a translation of the Greek word; it is a substitution.
"Ekklesia" comes from "ekkletos" and this latter word comes from "ekkaleo," to call out or forth. But "ekklesia" does not mean "the called out."Let this statement be pondered well. Usage, not etymology, determines the meaning of words. For instance, "prevent," by etymology, means to anticipate or precede. But usage has made that meaning archaic. By usage, "prevent" means forestall, frustrate, circumvent, hinder.
"Ekklesia" had its original application to "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place (Thayer). Then it came to mean any assembly of people or gathering or throng of men, even when gathered by chance or tumultuously. See Acts 19:32, 39, 41. The resultant meaning is "assembly." The word never did mean simply "the called out." It always implied that the called out ones would gather or assemble. Thus, according to culmination, the word always did mean "assembly," and later came to mean this alone.
Nor is the simple meaning of "assembly" contradicted by the use of "ekklesia" in the Septuagint. Sometimes in the LXX "ekklesia" is used to translate the Hebrew "qahal." From this fact some have "inversely and most illogically inferred that, since qahal sometimes means the whole Israelitish people and is sometimes translated by ekklesia, therefore ekklesia must always take on a like breadth of meaning. Reference to the LXX, however, will show that the Greek translators of the Old Testament, so far from encouraging such an implication, have carefully precluded it. For when qahal has the broad sense it is never translated by ekklesia, but by another Greek word" (Thomas, The Church and the Kingdom, p. 200).
This fact is borne out by B. H. Carroll, who made a collation of all the occurrences of ekklesia in the LXX, finding them to be ninety-two; and finding that in not a single case was there given to ekklesia a broader meaning than an actual, literal, bonafide assembly.
2. The Distinction Between the Church and the Kingdom.
Those who believe the theory of the existence of a universal, invisible church, for all practical purposes confuse the church and the Kingdom. But the Bible never confuses the terms or uses them interchangeably.
"It will be readily inferred ... that the word ekklesia would call up, in the mind of an ordinary Greek, or Greek-speaking person, a conception not only not identical with, but in every particular the antithesis of, that suggested by basilcia" (Thomas, The Church and the Kingdom, p, 213).
(1) The church is an assembly; the kingdom is the domain of the King.
(3) The church is spoken of as that which was to be built (Matt. 16:18); the kingdom is never thus spoken of.
(5) The church is called a body (Eph. 1:22,23; Col. 1: 18; 1 Cor. 12:27); the kingdom is never thus spoken of.
(6) The church is a democracy under the headship of Christ, as we shall presently note; the kingdom is a monarchy.
(8) Church membership is subject to the democratic action of the body (Rom. 14:1; Acts 9:26; 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 2:6); while God, purely independent of church action, puts men in His kingdom by the new birth (John 3:5; Col. 1:13).
(9) The kingdom was preached and, at one time, was announced as at hand (Acts 20:25; 28:31; Mark 1:15); but such language is never used with reference to the church.
3. New Testament Usage of "Ekklesia."
It is rashly unreasonable to assume that Christ and the apostles took up a Greek word that had a well-established meaning and gave to it another meaning without one word of explanation. Consequently we find that in every passage in the New Testament where ekklesia occurs it can be taken in its true sense of assembly. There is not a passage that demands a broader sense. We find in the New Testament, in full harmony with the common use of words, a three-fold use of ekklesia, viz.,
(1) The Abstract or Generic Sense.
We find such a use of "ekklesia" in Matt. 16:18; Eph. 3:10,21; 1 Cor. 12:28, and possibly in some other passages.
The church as thus represented is conceived of as an institution similar to the home in the expression, the American home, and similar to marriage in the sentence, Marriage is a divine institution. "Church" in Acts 9:31, the better manuscripts have the singular instead of the plural, either refers to the members of the church at Jerusalem that had been scattered, or it refers in a generic sense to that church and various others that may have been established in Judea.
(2) The Prospective Sense.
There are two passages of Scripture where "ekklesia" refers to a future assembly. We refer here to Eph. 5:25-32 and Heb. 12:23: In Eph. 5:25-32 the church embraces the elect of all ages; but, according to the etymology of the original word, the church in this sense cannot be conceived of as actually existing at the present time. The word is thus used prospectively. The same is true of Heb. 12:23.
Of all the 113 cases in the New Testament where "ekklesia" refers to the institution founded by Christ, in all except the cases already noted, and a few others where there is possibly a mixed use, it refers to a particular, concrete, local church, or a plurality of such churches; such as "the church which was at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1); "all the churches of the Gentiles" (Rom. 16:4); "the churches of Macedonia" (2 Cor. 8:1); "the church in thy house" (Philemon 2); and "the churches of God" (2 Thess. 1:4).
A body is a compact, living, working association of parts. It is a medium through which action is obtained. It is a functioning entity. The human body exists to perform the functions determined by the mind working through the brain located in the head. It is manifestly because of the relationship between the human head and the rest of the body that the church is called the body of Christ. just as the human body carries out the purposes formed in the head, so the church exists to carry out the purposes of its head, Christ Jesus.
Now the imaginary universal, invisible church never functions collectively. It holds no services, observes no ordinances, sends out and supports no missionaries. It is simply a colossal nonentity, without function, purpose, or reason for existence.
The author, therefore, affirms emphatically that the universal, invisible church theory is without foundation in the Greek outside the Bible, it is without foundation in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and it is without foundation in the New Testament usage. It is primarily the product of wishful thinking, and it is the mother of a motley array of heresies. It is appropriate to close this portion of our study with these words from Armitage: "The Romish figment of an impersonal and invisible Church never existed until the fourth century, when it was created in order to bring the local Churches under the yoke ... The local Church was the only Church known to the Apostles themselves, the only body which they ever addressed, and which they knew collectively as the 'Churches scattered abroad"' (History of Baptists, p. 121).
II. THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
1. TWO ERRONEOUS CONCEPTIONS
(1) The notion that the church was founded on the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2.
There is not the slightest hint of the founding of anything on this day. The church that existed at the close of the Day of Pentecost, existed before Pentecost. Before Pentecost the church had the gospel and had preached it. It had baptism and the Lord's Supper. It also had a ministry and held services. Before Pentecost the church was a body of baptised believers, banded together to carry out the will of Jesus Christ. That is what a church is.
(2) The notion that Matt. 16:18 marks the time of the founding of the church.
This is quite a general notion among those who reject the Pentecost theory of the founding of the church. But Jesus did not say: "Upon this rock I will found my church." He used the word "build" instead of the word "found." And the Greek word here translated "build" means to build the superstructure. The same word occurs in Acts 9:31, and is translated "edified." Christ was then still building His church just as He said He would do in Matt. 16:18. This explains the future tense (I will build) in Matt. 16:18.
What we have said of the Day of Pentecost, we may also say of the day that Christ uttered the words of Matt. 16:18. The church that existed at the close of that day, existed before that day. There is nothing that can be called a church that came into existence on that day, so far as the inspired record informs us.
2. THE TRUE TIME OF THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
In locating, the founding of the church we must find a time when something that answers to the description of the church came into existence. This rule points us to the time, when, after a night of prayer, Christ selected the twelve disciples. With this selection, these twelve men, for the first time, became a body. They had a head-Christ. They had a treasurer-Judas. They were supposed to be baptized believers. They were banded together to carry out Christ's will. What more than this did they become on the day that their Master uttered the words of Matt. 16:18?
III. THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH
The Roman Catholics and others take the rock to be Peter. But the difference in gender and exact meaning between "Petros" translated Peter, and "petra" translated rock makes this idea untenable. In classical Greek the distinction is generally observed (see "petra" in Thayer's Lexicon), "petra" meaning "the massive living rock," and "petros" meaning "a detached, but large fragment."
Others take "petra" as meaning the faith of Peter; still others Peter's confession.
We regard Christ here as using a play upon words. We take "petra" as referring to Christ divinely revealed and implanted in the hearts of men (Col. 1:27). We think this interpretation is borne out by 1 Cor. 3:11. This passage speaks of the foundation of the church at Corinth. This foundation had been laid by the preaching of the gospel and the divine revelation and implanting of Christ in the heart.
IV. THE ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH
In the broad sense an ordinance is merely a commandment, and any commandment is an ordinance. But common usage of the present day limits the term ordinance in religious parlance to special forms and ceremonies that belong to the church and are observed under its jurisdiction. In this sense we find but two church ordinances in the Bible. The are-
Baptism, which is the immersion in water of a penitent believer in the name of the Trinity or of Christ upon proper authority and for the purpose of showing the believer's death to sin and resurrection to walk in newness of life, was the initiatory rite of New Testament churches. None were received without this rite. Paul says that it is the mode by which believers are made a part of Christ's body, the church (1 Cor. 12:13).
2. THE LORD'S SUPPER
The Lord's Supper is the memorial instituted by Christ in which His churches are commanded, by the use of unleavened bread and wine, to show forth His death. Further consideration of this ordinance will come in a later chapter wholly devoted to it.
The New Testament mentions only two ordained officers in the church. They are:
1. ELDERS OR BISHOPS
The title "elder" or "bishop" designated the chief officer in New Testament churches. The occupants of this office presided over the services, taught and led the people in Christian doctrines and duties, and took general oversight of the churches.
These two titles are used interchangeably in the New Testament, and, therefore, designate the same office. Their interchangeable use may be seen in Acts 20:17 and verse 28 of the same chapter. In the first passage it is said that Paul sent for the elders of the church at Ephesus, and in the second passage he calls then "overseers," which is the literal translation of the word which is elsewhere translated "bishops." Cf. Phil. 1:1. The interchangeable use of the two titles under discussion may also be seen in Titus 1:5, 7.
The term "pastor" is another term, used only once in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11), which seemingly designated the same office as elder and bishop.
It seems to have been the rule in New Testament churches to have a plurality of elders, as is plainly seen in the case of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17), and in the case of the church at Philippi (Phil. 1:1); and as seems to be indicated in the case of other churches from Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5.
The chief reason, perhaps, for having a plurality of elders in New Testament churches is that it was customary to have only one church in any city, with this one church likely having a number of preaching places over the city.
Cf. Acts 6:1-8; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13.
There is so much to be said with reference to the deaconship that we reserve further treatment for a later chapter devoted exclusively to this subject.
VI. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH
New Testament churches were independent and democratic in government. This fact is seen in-
1. THE SELECTION OF MATTHIAS
While the method used in the selection of Matthias is not the usual method of voting employed today, Luke's account (Acts 1:23-26) implies that the entire church participated in his selection. "They appointed" (vs. 23), "they prayed" (vs. 24), and "they gave forth their lots." The entire group of one hundred and twenty (vs. 15) is the most natural antecedent of the pronoun "they" in these expressions.
2. THE SELECTION OF THE SEVEN DEACONS
When the need arose for these seven servants of the church, the apostles did not assume the authority of appointing them, but "called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, "It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business" (Acts 6:2, 3). "And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose" the seven men whose names are given. The multitude of the disciples, that is, the church, did the choosing.
In this we see the independence of New Testament churches. The church at Antioch, although it was much younger than the church at Jerusalem, acted in this matter independent of the church at Jerusalem and without so much as consulting the church at Jerusalem. Cf. Acts 13:1-3. Neither did the church consult the apostles.
4. THE EXCLUSION AND RESTORATION OF THE INCESTUOUS MAN AT CORINTH
Paul addressed the church as a whole about this matter. Cf. 1 Cor. 5. And in his recommendation concerning the restoration of this man (2 Cor. 2:6) he speaks of his punishment as having been inflicted by "many," literally, the greater part or majority. This distinctly implies that the church was democratic in the exclusion of the man. It was not done by the elders, nor by the deacons, but by the many or the majority.
5. THE SELECTION OF TRAVELING COMPANIONS FOR PAUL
Cf. 1 Cor. 16:3; 1 Cor. 8:19, 23. Paul recognized the right of the churches to have their own representatives accompany him in his travels among the churches in making up the offering for the saints at Jerusalem. We, no doubt, have these "messengers of the church" mentioned in Acts 20:4. Thus Paul was not a lord over God's heritage, but recognized their right of self-government. He speaks of these brethren as having been selected of the churches. This implies that the churches acted as bodies in their selection. They were not appointed by the elders. The only way a church can act as a body is by some method of voting. Any proper method of voting is an expression of democracy.
6 THE DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WHOLE CHURCH TO-
(1) Maintain Unity of Action.
See Rom. 12:16; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4.3; Phil. 1:27; 1 Pet. 3:8. Strong very justly remarks on these passages that they are not "mere counsels to passive submission), such as might be given under a hierarchy, or to the members of a society of the Jesuits; they are counsels to cooperation and to harmonious judgment."
(2) Preserve Pure Doctrine and Practice.
1 Tim. 3.15; Jude 3. See also the exhortations to the churches in Rev. 2 and 3.
(3) Guard the Ordinances.
And we may conclude by saving that in no instance in the New Testament do we see the independency and democracy of the church contradicted.
The mission of the church is clearly outlined in the parting commission of our Lord as recorded in Matt. 28:16, 20. There are three elements in this commission.
The phrase "teach all nations" may be translated "disciple all nations," and this is its meaning. From Mark's rendering of the commission we find that the disciples are to be made by the preaching of the gospel. In the light of other passages it cannot be held that the discipling was done through the act of baptizing, as some would have it. We find that the Master, the author of the commission and our perfect example, "made and baptized" disciples (John 4:1); which implies that the disciples were made and then baptized, and not made by or through baptism.
We need to note that this commission authorizes world-wide preaching of the gospel. We are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), making disciples of all nations. Nor can it be sensibly held that this pertained only to the apostolic age. The promise of the presence of Christ to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20) implies a continuation of the commission to the end of the age, by which is meant the end of the present dispensation which will come at the return of Christ.
2. BAPTIZING THEM
Christ's commission expressly forbids the baptizing of infants and other unaccountable persons. The antecedent of "them" is the ones who are discipled. No one is entitled to baptism unless he can be taught, and then he is not entitled to it until he has been taught and has received that teaching. Cf. Acts 2:41; 8:36, 37; 19:1-5.
3. TEACHING THEM
We are not through when we have made disciples and baptized them. We are enjoined to teach them, and to teach them all that Christ has commanded.
We have already referred to the promise of Christ's presence that is attached to this commission. The promise not only indicates that the commission has a perpetual application to the end of the age, but it also indicates that Christ addressed the apostles, not as individuals, but as constituting the church. These apostles are long dead, and yet the end of the age has not come. Christ, therefore, must needs have been speaking to them as a body that would perpetuate itself to the end of the age. The commission, therefore, was committed to the church. The carrying out of it, then, is primarily a church responsibility.
VIII. THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE CHURCH
Of what kind of persons did New Testament churches consist? Was there such a thing as infant church membership? We may answer this latter question with an emphatic negative. Every word in the New Testament that in any may touches the matter of church membership is wholly against the idea of infant church membership. We find not even the slightest hint that there was ever received into a New Testament church any unaccountable person. New Testament churches were composed of supposedly regenerate persons only. Those who have departed from this have departed from the Word of God, and their institutions are unworthy of being called New Testament churches.
Discipline may be defined as treatment suited to a learner or disciple, or the training of one to act in accordance with established rules.
From the great commission we have seen that the teaching or training of the disciples of Christ has been committed to the church. This teaching or training must needs be suited to the needs of different classes of disciples, and it must needs consist of more than a mere announcement of the truth. We find this to be true according to the epistles to the churches and according to Christ Himself. We note, therefore-
1. THREE KINDS OF DISCIPLINE
(1) Formative Discipline.
Churches should engage themselves diligently in this form of discipline. It is the best and most satisfactory method. If it is faithfully used, other less desirable forms of discipline will not be so much needed.
(2) Corrective Discipline.
This class is spoken of in Gal. 6:1. These are not the stubbornly and persistently sinful, but such as live righteously in the main but are overcome by some temptation or habit and thus fall into sin. They are to be restored by the spiritually minded in the church. The spiritually minded in the church should go to those who have erred and, in meekness, seek to recover them from their sin. If this plan is followed out, many will be saved from greatly injuring themselves and the church.
Another instance of corrective discipline is found in Matt. 18:17. Here we have the case of one brother offending against another. After the offended one has taken the first two steps and they have been of no avail, he is to bring the matter to the attention of the church. The church is then to judge the case and seek to reconcile the two estranged brethren. This is corrective discipline.
By excisive discipline is meant the cutting off or excluding of a member of the church for some wicked offense or for a persistent course of sin. No matter how well a church may acquit herself in the use of both formative and corrective discipline, she will find the necessity, now and then of withdrawing from some person the hand of church fellowship. May we note-
A. The purposes of excisive discipline.
(a) The good of the excluded. Whenever the one excluded seems to be a saved person, this should be the uppermost thing. And even when it is clear that the offending person is lost, we should hope that his exclusion will help to bring about his salvation.
Paul recommended the exclusion of the incestuous man at Corinth first of all for "the destruction of the flesh," i.e., the carnal nature. We should pray for the excluded that God will use the discipline for their own good.
In the case of the man at Corinth we see that the discipline accomplished its desired purpose. From 2 Cor. 2:6-8 we see that this man repented. Many a disciple has been awakened and brought to his senses by exclusion from the church.
(b) The good of the church. Paul assigned another reason for the exclusion of the man at Corinth. He tells them to purge out the old leaven because "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Cf. 1 Cor. 5:7, 8. The church must exclude the wicked in order to protect the rest of her membership. The example of the wicked, if they are left in the church, will tend to corrupt the entire church.
(c) The glory of Christ. Even though the church did not need to exclude the wicked for the sake of the wicked themselves and as a protection to the rest of the membership, she would need to do it for the glory of Christ. The church is His body. It represents Him in the world. It dishonors Him for His body to be defiled with wickedness. Paul argues against divisions in the church on the ground that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Likewise we may argue against the permission of wickedness in the church on the ground that there is no wickedness in Him.
B. Offenses worthy of excisive discipline.
(a) Personal offenses. This class of offenses is referred to in Matt. 18:15-18, and the method of dealing with them is indicated. A church should not allow one of its members to bring before it a grievance against another member until the two preceding steps prescribed by Jesus have been taken.
(b) Doctrinal offenses. Cf. Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 6:3-5. From each of the foregoing passages excisive church discipline, in the case of the persistent teachers of error, is a reasonable inference. Those spoken of in Rom. 16:17 evidently were not members of the church. But suppose they had been. Could the membership of the church so avoid them as to prevent them from doing much harm without excluding them from the church? Would it be in good order to retain in the church persons that the membership as a whole would need to avoid? And suppose these false teachers insisted on speaking their errors in the meetings of the church? Answer these questions sensibly, and you will see the clear inference that such characters as referred to in Rom. 16:17, if in the church, must needs be excluded from the church in order that Paul's instructions be carried out in an orderly and effective manner.
And would it be right for Timothy to withdraw himself from members of the church? Would not such a course produce schism in the body, which should never exist in the body of Christ? Thus we have the same inference from this second passage.
But note that in both cases the false teachers are spoken of as propagating their errors and causing division in the church. Such conduct calls for discipline. However, the case is different with those who do not understand the truth as they should, but are teachable and do not conduct themselves so as to cause division in the church. It is of this class that Paul speaks when he says. "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye" (Rom. 14:1).
(c) Moral offenses. Cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-7; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14.
2. FURTHER OBSERVATIONS ON DISCIPLINE
Let it be noted that nothing is said in any of the Scriptures referred to, nor is anything said in any other passage, as to the necessity of sending a committee to see an offending member before disciplinary action is instituted.
We do not say that this should never be done. But we do wish to emphasize that the Scripture in no wise binds the church to do this in any case. In fact the Scripture never once mentions the appointment of a committee in cases of discipline. The church is left free under the leadership of the Holy Spirit to decide when a committee is needed.
Some seek to use Matt. 18:15-17 to prove that a committee must always be appointed to see the offending person. But there is here no mention of a committee appointed by the church. In this passage we have directions for personal offenses. This has nothing to do with other offenses.
(2) Personal visitation not obligatory.
It is not said in the Scripture that some one must labor privately with the person guilty of a doctrinal or moral offense before the case is brought before the church for excisive discipline. Again we do not say this should not be done. In the case of ordinary doctrinal and moral offenses we are not bound to this procedure in all cases. And in the graver and grosser offenses, it should not be followed. In such cases, only immediate exclusion can accomplish the desired results. Notice that Paul recommended immediate exclusion, without any intermediate steps, in the case of the man at Corinth. Cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-7.
(3) Church trials unnecessary and unwise.
In the matter of personal offenses, there may come occasions when the accused should be heard in his own defense. And in such cases, he should be heard, unless the facts concerning his guilt are too well known to admit of any doubt. But in such cases it is better that his defense of himself be brought to the church by a committee rather than by the accused person himself. And in other offenses, if the church deems it well, it may permit the accused to defend himself; but then, likewise, it is much better that his defense be made through a committee. Otherwise much evil may be wrought by bitter words being spoken and improper matters being presented to the church.
In any case where a church is sure of the guilt of the accused, she need not permit him any defense. A church should never exclude a member, however, without being sure of the grounds. She should always take the necessary steps to ascertain the facts. But she is not bound to any stereotyped form of procedure. The church is not a court, and cannot be forced to act under the rules of a court. We call attention to these matters because they are some of the things which the Devil uses to block discipline and injure churches in various ways. In most churches a matter of discipline will always call some traditionalist to his feet to insist that the church follow certain steps that were customary in the backwoods when he was a boy. If the church allows herself to be brought under such tradition, she will seldom ever fulfill her duty in the matter of discipline. Committees to see offending parties seldom function, and are continued from one business meeting to another until the matter wears itself out and is forgotten. If the church will refuse to be made a slave of backwoods tradition and follow the Word and Spirit of God instead, she will find herself much better off.
X. THE PERPETUITY OF THE CHURCH
The author holds that Matt. 16:18 guarantees the perpetuity of local churches. He believes, as already, indicated, that "church" in this passage refers to the church as an institution, expressing itself in local bodies.
The word translated "build" (oikodomeo) means "build up," and is often translated "edify." Christ was here talking, we believe, about the perpetual building up of His church, by means of which it would be kept alive; just as the human body is kept alive by being constantly built up, worn out cells being replaced.
"Hades" (which is the Greek word brought over into English) does not allude distinctly to the place of torment; but to the realm of the dead or abode of the departed. "Gates" signify entrance. We take it therefore, that Christ was saying, that His church would not be swallowed up in the realm of the dead, would not die, in other words; because he would build it up perpetually.
The author believes this promise has been carried out. In the second century many churches drifted away from the New Testament pattern. A break between these and most of the true churches came about the middle of the second century. The true churches came to be known mainly as Montanists. Later these true churches were known by such other names as Novatians, Donatists, Paulicians, Albigenses, and Waldenses. As early as the third century the general name of Anabaptists was given to these churches. This name means "rebaptizers." It was given because these churches refused to recognize the baptism administered by the false churches. Finally the prefix "ana" was dropped and the simple name "Baptist" was left.
It is not maintained that any of the churches under the various names given were perfect, or that there were not some called by these various names that were false. But it is maintained that these groups, in the main, held the essentials of New Testament faith.
If, as we believe, the church of Christ has been perpetuated then it is in the world today and been in the world since its founding. By what means, then, are we to identify this church in any age? In order to have a church, there must be-
1. A LOCAL INDEPENDENT BODY
The Roman Catholic Church cannot qualify as the church of Christ. Neither can any branch of the Methodist Episcopal persuasion. Nothing such as these existed in New Testament times. New Testament churches were local, independent bodies. No hierarchal institution can qualify as a church.
2. HOLDING THE TRUTH AS TO THE WAY OF MAKING DISCIPLES
The primary purpose of Jesus in putting the church in the world was that His gospel should be preached. No institution that preaches a false gospel is recognized of him who even threatened the church at Ephesus with the removal of its candlestick because it had merely lapsed in its zeal and grown negligent concerning the work He had committed to His churches.
No institution that teaches any form of salvation by works is holding to the truth about the way of making disciples. A church must teach salvation wholly by grace through faith.
Scriptural baptism is essential to a true church because it is the door into the church. Cf. 1 Cor. 12:13. Hence there can be no church without baptism. An organization that practices anything but immersion, or that does not hold to believers' baptism, or that baptizes people in order that they may he saved, surely is not recognized of Christ as one of His churches.
4. RECOGNIZING CHRIST ALONE AS ITS HEAD, AND SEEKING TO CARRY OUT HIS WILL AND COMMANDS
The church is a mystical body. Consequently it belongs to its head. If its head is Christ, it is His church. If its head is the pope, it is the pope's church. If its head is a conference, then it is the conference's church. If its head is a presbytery or synod, then it belongs to the presbytery or synod instead of to Christ.
Wherever is found a local body possessing all of the attributes, there is a church. Without all of them there can be no church.