Ordainment

“To be Scripturally Ordained” in the KJV

In the chart below, every occurrence of the English verb “ordain” is listed, along with its Strong’s number, its common translations in the KJV, who or what is ordained, and the entity doing the ordaining. Lines in bold are instances where a person, rather than an object, has been ordained.

The summary conclusion is, in cases where men (not objects) are ordained, the ordination or appointment is always by someone who has authority to ordain, and that the one ordained has an obligation, either commanded or implied, toward the authority of the one who has ordained him. That is, once one is ordained he is simply responsible to the one who has ordained him; he does not become independent of that authority. The ordainment can be for both short and long term periods. When a certain task is complete, that ordainment is then nullified.

Relative to the ordination of elders by the church, this does not make the elder subservient to the church. Rather, in the only instance in which it appears that ‘the church’ selected its own elders (Acts 1:22), only the “men and brethren” of that church were involved, and the context of the verse seems to indicate that all those involved in the selection were also potential candidates for the position themselves. Consequently, it was limited to a peer election rather than a church wide congregational decision.

 

Reference Strong Freq Tense Common KJV use What’s ordained? Who ordained it?
Num. 28:6 H6213 2632 Qal Do, make Daily burnt offering God at Sinai
1 Ki. 12:32 H6213 2632 Qal Do, make A feast King Jeroboam
1 Ki. 12:33 H6213 2632 Qal Do, make A feast King Jeroboam
2 Ki. 23:5 H5414 2014 Qal Give, put Idolatrous priests Kings of Judah
1 Chr. 9:22 H3245 43 Piel Foundation, lay Levitical porters David, Samuel
1 Chr. 17:9 H7760 588 Qal Put, make, set A place for Israel The Lord
2 Chr. 11:15 H5975 524 Hiphil Stand, raise up Idolatrous priests King Jeroboam
2 Chr. 23:18 Italics       Offices of the Temple Jehoiada
2 Chr. 29:27 Italics       Levitical instruments King David
Est. 9:27 H6965 627 Piel Stand up, arise Keeping Purim The Jews
Ps. 7:13 H6466 57 Qal Work, do Arrows The Lord
Ps. 8:2 H3245 43 Piel Foundation, lay Strength The Lord
Ps. 8:3 H3559 219 Polel Prepare, Establish The heavens The Lord
Ps. 81:5 H7760 588 Qal Put, make, set Praise to the Lord The Lord
Ps. 132:17 H6186 75 Qal Array, order A “lamp” for David The Lord
Isa. 26:12 H8239 5 Qal Set on Peace for Israel The Lord
Isa. 30:33 H6186 75 Qal Array, order Tophet (Gehenna?) The Lord?
Jer. 1:5 H5414 2014 Qal Give, put Jeremiah The Lord
Dan. 2:24 H4483 5 Pael Set, ordain Arioch Nebuchadnezzar
Hab. 1:12 H7760 588 Qal Put, make, set Chaldeans The Lord
             
Mk. 3:14 G4160 576 Aorist Do, make 12 apostles Jesus
Jn. 15:16 G5087 96 Aorist Lay, put 12 apostles Jesus
Acts 1:22 G1096 677 Aorist Be, be made, become Replacement for Judas Men of church
Acts 10:42 G3724 8 Perfect Determine, ordain Jesus God
Acts 13:48 G5021 8 Perfect Appoint, ordain Gentile converts God?
Acts 14:23 G5500 2 Aorist Ordain, choose Elders in Asia Minor Paul, Barnabas
Acts 16:4 G2919 114 Perfect Judge, Determine Decree Jerusalem elders
Acts 17:31 G3724 8 Aorist Determine, ordain Jesus God
Rom. 7:10 Italics       Commandment God
Rom. 13:1 G5021 8 Perfect Appoint, ordain Powers that be God
1 Co. 2:7 G4309 6 Aorist Predestinate, ordain God’s wisdom God
1 Co. 7:17 G1299 16 Present Command, appoint Instructions Paul
1 Co. 9:14 G1299 16 Aorist Command, appoint Preacher compensation The Lord
Gal. 3:19 G1299 16 Aorist Command, appoint The Law Angels
Eph. 2:10 G4282 2 Aorist Ordain before Good works God
1 Tim. 2:7 G5087 96 Aorist Lay, put Paul God?
Tit. 1:5 G2525 22 Aorist Make, ordain Cretian elders Titus
Heb. 5:1 G2525 22 Present Make, ordain Israelite high priest God
Heb. 8:3 G2525 22 Present Make, ordain Israelite high priest God
Heb. 9:6 G2680 11 Perfect Prepare, build Tabernacle stuff Moses,workers
Jude 1:4 G4270 5 Perfect Write, ordain before False teachers God, prophets?

 

Limited Atonement

Limited Atonement

Email response to a Calvinist

 

Regarding the teaching,

First, I believe the term “Limited Atonement” is a misnomer. To be “limited” in something is interpreted as being bound or restrained.  The only thing that limits, binds or restrains salvation is unbelief.  God provided unlimited atonement.  The wording of this teaching doesn’t sell me. Also, these tenets are “built upon” one another, to agree in one point you must agree in the others. Hence, five point. Just because I don’t agree with Calvinist theology doesn’t automatically make me Arminian either.

Again, I understand Limited Atonement is a logical extension of the first two points of TULIP.  If man’s depravity removes even his free choice, then he must be chosen to salvation and atonement must be limited to the chosen, otherwise God’s absolute sovereignty would be violated, and who would dare question God’s sovereignty right?

Second, I disagree with the Calvinistic teaching regarding repentance. I’ve heard the term “gift of repentance” which would naturally stem from Irresistible Grace (the Bible clearly teaches Grace is a gift Eph 2:8; Rom 5:15-21).  That gift is offered through Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts, but the problem is… nowhere in scripture is repentance called a gift.  If repentance is considered a gift as in… it is God that dispenses arbitrarily and therefore also withholds, that is not Bible my friend.  God has done His part and now Mankind must respond and make a conscious decision to repent and believe.  There is a duty for man to act and to make a choice, either to reject or accept Jesus Christ. God in His sovereignty has never dictated someone’s decision (2 Peter 3:9).

Some verses used by yourself and other Calvinists to prove repentance is given by God are Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25.

However, in Acts 5, context is the giving or granting of repentance to Israel, and the Gentiles refers to the historical entrance of the ‘preaching of the Gospel.’  In Acts 11, Peter was being criticized for preaching to the household of Cornelius (verses 1-3).  After Peter recounted what God had done (verses 4-15), the church realized that the door of faith (thus repentance) had been indeed opened to the Gentiles as well.  Finally, the giving of repentance in 2 Timothy 2:25 comes as a result of the Spirit of God working through the teaching and instruction of the Truth (the Word of God).

Third, I disagree with the Calvinist philosophy of the ‘Will’ of man. Which in your view is the belief that a sovereign God can never will something that would not come to pass. By that reasoning, if God desires to save certain men then these men will be saved; if God is willing then man must be willing also. If man is unwilling, then it was because God was not willing for that man to be willing. The fact is, Scripture is rife with teachings that a man can willfully refuse that which God desires.

I understand Calvinism can get complicated, and there could be more touched upon, but there is really no need to go further. There are “degrees” of Calvinism, based ultimately on how one orders the divine decrees. Some Calvinists will argue against “Hyper-Calvinism” (aka Supralapsarianism), while defending “Calvinism” (aka Infralapsarianism). The distinction between them is important, because the latter position anticipates the need for evangelism to “find the elect.” Which is clearly your degree of Calvinism.

They’re both contrived, but at least Infralapsarianism (and its little brother, Sublapsarianism) pays lip service to human responsibility (this was Spurgeon’s presumed position).

The atonement of Christ was offered for all mankind, and is effective (salvation) to those who choose to repent and trust him (Rom 3:22; 1 Tim 4:10b).  God has not limited the atonement in its worth or sufficiency to save only those who repent and believe.  The availability of the total sufficiency of the atonement is for all people.  Whosoever will — whoever believes will be covered by the blood of Christ. Christ died for all people, and yes for all the same way!

By conviction I must speak the truth in love.  The teaching that God has predestined some to be saved, and others predestined to possibly “remain” lost is a false gospel.  So, what is the “true gospel then?”  It must be either one or the other, not both. Some false gospels are blatant and others more subtle, by being not so insidious looking “on the outside.”  What really matters to God is what is happening to someone “on the inside” when they hear a teaching. Therefore, I don’t see Calvinism ‘in any degree’ as being spiritually profitable.

Calvinism naturally embraces a fallacy through faulty exegesis of scripture.

Preachers, whether saved or lost will give account to God of what they preach and teach, and how it affects people spiritually.  Personally, and again by conviction, I don’t want to be held accountable to God regarding some 16th century Reformed Theology, but according to the Bible.

With this said, I don’t see it as profitable calling you a false teacher and xxxxx a false church, which is what you are attempting.  We have prayed for you.  If you are as confident in your doctrine as it sounds it doesn’t matter what I think, and any insecurity regarding that won’t be soothed even if I do say it.  In the end, what God thinks is what matters.

Regards,

Missionary Rob Johnson

Interpreting Prophecy

Revelation and Prophecy

Who wrote it and the Alexandrian influence

There has been some debate as to who wrote the book of Revelation. From the letter, we know the person who wrote the contents, was named John. (Rev: 1:1, 4, 9; 21:2; 22:8) Prior to the third century, there was no dispute of apostolic authorship.  The bishop of Alexandria, Dionysius (200-265 A.D.), was the first to raise questions about the apostle John being the author.  He claimed based on the writing style and the lack of an apostolic claim in the book, that John the Elder (Presbyter) was the author, not John the apostle.

Dionysius who studied under Origen also denied the teaching of a literal Millennium.  The teaching on the Millennium is based on a literal reading of the book of Revelation (Revelation 20:1-7).  The Alexandrian school taught scriptural symbolism and allegorical interpretation, therefore rejecting a literal interpretation of Revelation.  By questioning John the Apostles authorship of the book, their Amillennial view could have greater credibility.

In reality, the evidence against John the Apostle being the author is very minimal at best, largely based on grammatical and writing style differences when compared with John’s Gospel.

Four views of interpretation

There are four main views in attempting to interpret the book of Revelation and prophecy in general.  They are the Symbolic, PreteristHistorical, and Futurist.  Each view approaches the book from a different perspective.  There are two considerations regarding these views.

First, is the book of Revelation symbolic or literal?  Do the words mean what they say in a literal sense or do they imply another meaning.  For example, does Israel mean Israel or does Israel mean the church?

Second, and related to the first is the theological view of the church. Two views, Covenant and Dispensational, view the church as compared to Israel in two very different ways.

Covenant theology: views the church as the replacement of Israel in God’s covenant relationship. The church therefore becomes the “New Israel” in scripture.  Therefore, Old Testament verses referring to Israel in prophecy, apply to the Church, the “New Israel”.  The premise of Covenant theology is God has an implied covenant of grace, from Adam’s fall. God promised salvation through the Messiah.  This promise, first administered through Israel, now is administered by the Church, which includes believing Israel. This theological view is symbolic and allegorical in interpretation.

Dispensational theology: views the church and Israel as two distinct groups with separate dispensations. The word dispensation means administration (responsibility given by God). Dispensational theology, understands verses applied to Israel to mean literal Israel as opposed to a symbolic Israel, the church. The church in the current age has the role of dispensing or administering salvation on this age by proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.  This theological view is literal and futurist in interpretation.

Symbolic or Allegorical approach

Symbolic/Allegorical: The history of this view can again be traced to the Alexandrian School of Theology, represented by Origen, which regarded the book of Revelation as one great allegory, even going beyond natural symbolism.  The symbolic view was motivated by anti-millennialism (the rejection of a literal millennial earthly reign of Christ). The Alexandrian school claimed a true “spiritual” interpretation as opposed to literalism.

This method of interpretation finds ‘principles’ that work themselves out in history, rather than ‘actual historical events’ in symbolic language. The book of Revelation represents the struggle between the righteous and wicked; the City of God verses the City of Satan.

Preterist

Preterist (Past) Interpretation: This method of interpretation regards the book of Revelation as applying specifically to the problems and persecutions of the early church existing at the time of its writing. The symbolic expressions in the book represent devices to encourage the church through its suffering under the Roman Empire, and to prevent the book from being understood by those who are not believers. Nero for example is seen as Antichrist.

The Preterist views Revelation’s date of writing prior to A.D. 70, when the Jewish Temple was destroyed.  The abomination of desolation and the destruction of Jerusalem referred to by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:15 are mostly fulfilled in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

Preterism views the Church as the “New Israel” and thereby fulfilling verses applied to Israel in scripture. It embraces the Covenant Theology view.

Moderate Preterists need to be distinguished from Hyper-Preterists. Hyper-Preterists believe The Second Coming and the Rapture were fulfilled by A.D. 70.  This view, considered heretical even by Preterists, denies the physical return of Christ.

 Historical

Historic Interpretation: This approach views events described in Revelation as symbolic and represent chronological sequences of historical events from the time of its writing until the coming of Christ and the establishment of His eternal kingdom. References to Babylon and the Beast are associated with the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. Other symbols are viewed as referring to Islamic and Napoleonic wars. The historical approach, like the Preterists, substitutes the church for Israel in verses referring to national Israel.

Futurist

Futurist Interpretation: This approach views Revelation as a prophecy regarding future events. The futurist views scripture from a literal perspective.  Words mean what they say unless otherwise defined within the context of scripture.

The book of Revelation reveals the details of end time events from chapter 4 until the end of the book. Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the Church, and chapters 4 to 19 deal with the tribulation period, followed by the Second Coming of Christ, and a literal one thousand-year period, the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-7). Since the futurist view looks to a future Millennium, the view is Pre-millennial.

The futurist view holds to a dispensational understanding of scripture, allowing for the distinction of Israel and the church in God’s end time program.

The Futurist approach is the most in keeping with a literal understanding of Bible.  God’s promises to the descendants of Jacob, literal Israel, are affirmed in the futurist approach.  With the Preterist and Historic views the Church must replace Israel and the promises of God are negated.

Conclusion: The distinction of Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology, and either its acceptance or rejection is important to not only understanding the Book of Revelation and other prophecy, but the overall revelation of God to man in the Bible.

 

 

Things about which Independent Baptists differ

Things about which Independent Baptists differ

Bible

  1. How inspired is the KJV? Some say “the inspired Word,” others say “the preserved Word.”
  2. How to handle Bible discrepancies: Some say there are “scribal errors” which can be easily identified; others say all discrepancies can be resolved without resorting to the “scribal errors” answer, which creates an additional problem regarding inerrancy.
  3. Which version? Some use the KJV only; others use the NKJV or other new versions to clarify the “archaic” language of the KJV. (ALL agree the full verbal inspiration of Scripture).
  4. 1611 KJV or 1769/1850 KJV?
  5. Is knowledge of Greek and Hebrew necessary for understanding Scripture?

Lines not crossed in Bibliology: The verbal, complete inspiration of the Scriptures in the original autographs; and the ‘full preservation’ of those Scriptures into modern languages (the KJV being this in English).

Theology Proper

  1. Apologetics to defend the existence of God: Some think Christians should vigorously defend the faith through rigorous debate, while others see it as an “empty, philosophical waste of time” taking away from the carrying out the Great Commission.
  2. God’s sovereignty: This goes to the question of how Calvinistic someone is. How much in control is God?
  3. A literal, Dispensational or Covenant Theological approach to interpreting Scripture.

Lines not crossed in Theology Proper: The eternal existence of the Trinity; the full possession of all the attributes of Deity by all three Members of the Trinity; and the full rule of God over His creation (in contrast to “Open Theism,” which sees God as not fully in control); and anything other than a literal, dispensational and futurist means to interpreting Scripture.

Christ

  1. Of what did Christ empty Himself in Phil. 2:5ff?
  2. How much did Jesus know during His life on earth?

Lines not crossed in Christology: The full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ; Jesus’ utter and eternal sinlessness; Jesus’ full understanding of humanity through His life and suffering; Jesus’ full payment for all sins for all time on the cross; Jesus’ literal death on the cross; the real, full and physical bodily resurrection of Jesus; His real, physical ascension to Heaven; and His real, literal, physical return to earth to reign.

Holy Spirit

  1. What verses in the Bible talk about the Holy Spirit? Some say just the verses where the name is capitalized.
  2. What is Holy Spirit Baptism? Some say it is the Holy Spirit baptizing the believer into the church (“Body of Christ”); others say it is a one-time event that took place at Pentecost to empower the church (there are other views as well).
  3. What ‘miraculous’ gifts of the Spirit are still active? Some hold to at least the possibility of tongues (known languages) and prophecy; others discount both in this age.
  4. What is the filling of the Spirit, and how is it accomplished? Some view it as a “second blessing” one must seek from the Lord; others see it as the normal walk with God of a spiritual Christian.

Lines not crossed in Pneumatology: The full Deity of the Holy Spirit; and the full Personhood of the Spirit (He is not just a force or influence).

Angels

  1. How much direct influence do angels have in believers’ lives?
  2. How much can demons (and Satan) get away with in a believer’s life?

Lines not crossed in Angelology: Christians CANNOT be possessed by demons or Satan.

Man and Sin

  1. What is the “Image of God” in which man is made?
  2. How much does sin affect our humanity (limits on free choice, etc)?

Lines not crossed in Anthropology and Hamartiology: Man is truly a sinner before a holy God (i.e., he’s not “sick,” or “ignorant” or anything else); and man is utterly incapable of saving himself by his own efforts.

Salvation

  1. Is the Law involved at all in the life of a Christian?
  2. How much repentance is required to be saved? What does it mean to repent?
  3. How much of salvation is dependent on God’s election (Spurgeon appears to have been Calvinistic). What does it mean to be elect or chosen?
  4. How much evidence is necessary in a convert’s life to “prove” his salvation? That is, how sanctified (separated) does he have to be, and what “questionable” activities are permissible and still be considered a Christian? (e.g., Can a Christian continue smoking and drinking and really be saved?)
  5. How “sinless” can a Christian become?
  6. How aggressive should a Christian be in soul winning?
  7. What’s the acceptable tipping point between seeking repentance in a lost person and pressing the person for a decision (i.e., when does so called “Easy Believism” start?)

Lines not crossed in Soteriology: Classical Calvinism; classical Arminianism; the removal of repentance from soul winning; and the disregard for a change of life to match the professed change of heart from a convert.

Church

  1. Is there a “universal body of believers,” and if so, should it even be called the Church?
  2. When did the church begin, with the first disciples (John 1) or at Pentecost (Acts 2)?
  3. What is the proper balance between church offices, and between the leadership and the congregation?
  4. Is there a Spirit baptism along with water baptism?
  5. Is the Lord’s Supper closed, close or open?
  6. Is tithing a Biblical concept still in operation, or an OT concept (regarding the Jews) which is no longer binding for believers today?
  7. How should the church discipline of Matthew 18 be carried out? Is “shunning” acceptable for the impenitent, at least until they repent?
  8. What should be included in carrying out the Great Commission (just preaching the Gospel and starting churches, or other activities such as medical missions, soup kitchens, etc.)?
  9. How does a Christian enter membership of a church?
  10. What baptism is acceptable?
  11. Must a local church be able to prove its lineage to be considered “properly constituted?” How far back must this go? (Landmarkism)

Lines not crossed in Ecclesiology: The primacy of the church; the main purpose of the church in carrying out the Great Commission; abridgment of any of the Baptist distinctives (notably Soul Liberty); the need for believers to be part of a church to be effective in their Christian life and service, and any teaching embracing a so-called Universal Church.

Prophecy

  1. Who constitutes the Bride of Christ?
  2. Who gets raptured?
  3. When does the Rapture occur?
  4. Can we identify the Antichrist, the time of the Rapture, etc., from current events?
  5. Are the churches of Revelation just churches, or emblematic of time periods during the present age?

Lines not crossed in Eschatology: Acceptance of either Postmillennialism or Amillennialism; denial of Christ’s imminent, bodily return; denial of the Rapture; confusion of Israel with the Church; denial of Israel’s literal part in the future; and anything other than a literal, dispensational, futurist interpretation of Revelation, Daniel and other “Kingdom” prophecies.

Miscellaneous

  1. What is fasting, and how long is enough?
  2. What is considered an effective prayer life?
  3. Are missions supposed to be indigenous?
  4. What is Biblical ordination
  5. Dating vs. Courtship
  6. Divorce and remarriage
  7. Various Biblical questions (who are the sons of God in Genesis 6; did Samuel really appear to Saul; was Saul saved; etc.).

I do NOT accept the proposition that there are insoluble contradictions anywhere in the Scriptures.

Baptists tend to completely break fellowship with other Baptists over these things listed. This is really unfortunate, unnecessary and quite common.  However, where distance will be required is in the actual work of the ministry. Fellowship with other brethren and working alongside them are distinct, and these differences will appear at some point.

How can a particular ministry be beneficial to the ‘people being reached’ if they are being taught different things by different people? There will only be confusion.

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”

Amos 3:3

 

Opportunities abound!

Recently a group from a supporting church in the States came for 10 days of outreach. It was a blessing to be able to spend time with them, and watch as the Lord moved, reaching the people of Botswana. The next process now will be any follow-up to the outreach. Contacts have been coming in from day one.

It is exciting that not only are individuals (from villages to Gaborone) asking to learn more about God, but groups of people already meeting in Bible studies have invited me to come and teach. There are three various study groups, what an opportunity! It reminds me of Paul going to places where spiritual matters were at the forefront, even if it was in error, to give them the true Gospel.

This week is the 50th Anniversary of Botswana’s Independence. It is quite busy around here with people leaving for the villages, and with event after event occurring in the city. The plan is to work on follow-up after these events have ended and things have quieted down in October. In the meantime, I have spent a lot of time on the phone and WhatsApp, answering questions these men have about the literature we gave them.

Please pray that the people will be open to the truth of the Gospel by realizing it is not through some religious experience, which is common, but through the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

– Rob Johnson

Beware the PBA’s!

Beware The PBA’s!

Attributes in individuals that are Performance Based Acceptance (PBA) in character can stand out.

  1. Intolerable of Society or Authority
  • Critical
  • Proud
  • Hard to please
  • All law and no love
  • Mostly justice and little mercy
  • Challenging to live with
  • Hard on the kids
  • Sets a standard for others they can’t live up to
  • Can make a home tense
  • Eventually burns out
  1. Immune to Satisfaction
  • Fulfillment is always just over the hill
  • They set goals they can’t reach
  • Set themselves up for disappointment
  • Steal joy while promising a prize
  • Never fully gratified
  • Have never done enough
  • Become nervous of God
  • Strained relationship with God
  • Must continually deal with failure.
  1. Idealistic without Saneness
  • Values self by what he does, or has, instead of what he already is
  • Always behind and can never catch up
  • Tries to earn acceptance
  • Can never relax
  • Continually dealing with failure
  • Tends to ‘punish self’
  1. Inability to Socialize
  • In a ‘perfect little world’ syndrome, yet always discontented
  • Got to be ‘the best’ instead of just doing personal best
  • Can’t be happy when another is honored (their candle burns brighter when they blow someone else’s out)
  • Very insecure
  • Can’t handle criticism
  • Self-worth crumbles
  • Can’t handle a compliment because they should have done better
  • They don’t like their perfectionism exposed

No person is perfect! These represent ‘consistent’ character traits (what a person is known for). If a person says they are ‘called into the ministry’ it would be beneficial to ask some serious questions.

Dispensationalism

Dispensational Approach to Interpreting Scripture

 Introduction

The question of the relation of the Old and New Testaments is a perennial one. For centuries it has been a subject of on-going “in house” debate and discussion. The reason this question has failed to find a definitive and a more universally satisfactory answer lies in the nature of the case. It is a complex issue which necessarily involves questions of hermeneutics, eschatology, law-grace, Biblical theology, systematic theology, and so on. The question requires an overall grasp of the entire Biblical revelation, and, therefore, the answers continue to find refinement as our understanding of God’s Word progresses.

Two Major Schools

The two major schools of theological interpretation are Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology.

In Traditional Dispensational teaching there are seven: 1) Innocence (Gen 1-3); 2) Conscience (Gen 3-8); 3) Civil Government (Gen 9-11); 4) Promise (Gen 12-Exo 19); 5) Law (Exo 20-Acts 1); 6) Grace (Acts 2-Rev 20); 7) Kingdom (Rev 20:4-6).

Depending on whose counting, there are anywhere from 3 to eight dispensations (some add the New Heaven and Earth as an eighth dispensation). The difference in count is usually dependent on ‘how much detail’ one sees in the various ages. Additionally, Covenant Theologians generally hold to a smaller number because the dispensations, in their view, are subordinate to the (nonexistent) eternal, spiritual covenants.

Explanation of Dispensations

It appears there are at least FIVE, based on Paul’s statements regarding his “dispensation” of the Gospel (Eph. 3). His dispensation was hidden “…in other ages…” (verse 5; see Col 1:26), but “…as is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets…” that Gentiles can now partake of the promises through the Gospel (verse 6). Consequently, God will be glorified “…in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages…” (verse 21; see 2:7).

The assumption made in the above statement is that “dispensation” and “age” are synonymous, the former referring to the content of the period, while the latter refers to the length of the period. Since there are “ages” in the past, “ages” in the future, and this present “Gospel age,” there must be ‘at least’ five throughout human history.

A “dispensation” is usually defined as a period of time in which the Lord has specific blessings and responsibilities for ALL of humanity, and which are changed as mankind fails to meet the specified responsibilities. For example, Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence which was tested by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their failure at the Fall led to the dispensation of conscience, in which ALL mankind were to live by what they believed to be right, which they again failed (Gen 6:1ff). After the Flood, ALL of mankind (Noah and his family), were given the dispensation of civil government centered on the law of capital punishment (Gen.9:1ff). Those are the first three dispensations accepted by most.

At this point it gets a bit confusing. Traditional dispensationalists see God’s promise to Abraham as a separate dispensation, and the Law given to Moses and Israel as yet another dispensation. However, if the definition of a dispensation is that it is a ‘responsibility’ or ‘revelation’ for ALL mankind at that moment, then these divisions wouldn’t be correct. I believe what happened at Babel introduced the Patriarchal dispensation, because each family, tribe and nation (ALL mankind) was now responsible before God under the leadership of their patriarchs (see Acts 17:22-31). Consequently, this is why Abraham, Job, and Jethro are seen as the spiritual heads of their families, tribes and nations.

While the Mosaic Law is said to usher in a new dispensation, it was given only to Israel, not ALL of mankind, who were apparently still under the patriarchal dispensation (though it could be argued that Israel, as a light to the Gentiles, would be using the Law as the means to bring them to the Lord). I believe the Law was God’s means of making Himself Israel’s “Patriarch,” so that Israel, like all the other nations, were obliged to serve the Lord as He had revealed Himself to them, and failed just like all the other nations.

Every dispensationalist, regardless of how they view the preceding ages, sees Christ as the start of the current dispensation, as Paul says in Ephesians 3. The Millennial Kingdom will be the next dispensation affecting ALL mankind, and some, as mentioned above, view the future eternal universe (after millennium) as the final dispensation (though there will be no concern about man’s failure to obey since ALL will then be redeemed and glorified).

In summary, I personally hold to the first three dispensations, and see the Patriarchal dispensation as continuing throughout the remainder of the OT, and then three more dispensations starting with this age of Grace, for a total of SEVEN.

Hence:

1) Innocence 2) Conscience 3) Civil Government 4) Patriarchs 5) Grace 6) Kingdom 7) Eternity

Traditional Dispensationalists typically hold:

1) Innocence 2) Conscience 3) Civil Government 4) Patriarchs or Promise 5) Law 6) Grace 7) Kingdom, and sometimes 8) Eternity

A few differences, but in general holding to a literal, dispensational and futurist approach to interpretation are crucial for understanding God’s eternal purposes regarding mankind.

I reject Covenant Theology as a means to interpreting Scripture.

Notes:

  1. Each dispensation is distinct in of itself. One must be careful to make the revelations and responsibilities cumulative in certain regards. This fact can lead to much confusion and endless debate (e.g., how much of the Law is a Christian supposed to obey?).
  2. Dispensations need to be distinguished from covenants regarding the Jews (Rom 9:4; Eph. 2:12).
  3. The dispensations are worldwide in scope; i.e., ALL men are the stewards over God’s house.
  4. Dispensationalists are accused of teaching multiple ways of salvation. Salvation is ALWAYS by grace through faith, regardless of the dispensation, and it is ultimately in Christ. However, that faith is placed in regards to the revelation of Christ which had been given up to that point, and is expressed in different ways with each dispensation.

That Which Is Perfect

That which is Perfect

 “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” I Co 13:10

This is a summary of the topic of the sign (miraculous) gifts as they relate to this passage and verse.

Three Views

There are typically three differing views of what “…that which is perfect…” represents in verse 10:

1) The completion of Scripture

2) Christ at the Second Coming (common Charismatic view)

3) The maturation of the “Church.” I reject the third since it assumes equal value, to every part of the “Church” (Christendom), hence a Universal Church.

While the first view does describe a significant event (the completion of Scripture), two points that appear to go against it:

  1. Have believers “become men” now more so than those who were saints prior to the completion of the Scripture (v 11)?
  2. Do believers today see more clearly than Paul did, since we have the completed Scriptures and he didn’t (v 12)?

As for the second view it refers to Christ himself at the second coming. This may appear viable because of the “face to face” statement in verse 12.  Some point to Eph 4:13 as “…unto a perfect man…” and in Heb 5:9 as “…being made perfect…”

However, two points against the second view.

1) I Co 13:10 does not say HE which is perfect, but rather THAT which is perfect. Context is clearly speaking in terms of someTHING and not someONE.

2) According to the Joel 2:28-32 prophecy, upon Christ’s return (visions, dreams and prophecies) will begin again, NOT be done away with. This is contrary to what I Co 13:10 mentions.            

Scripture always interprets scripture.

Process of elimination

Since there is no such thing as a universal church in scripture, I outright reject the third view. The second view is a clear contradiction to the Joel 2:28-32 passage. What remains is the first view.

Therefore, I conclude the completion of Scripture equates “…that which is perfect…”

“…We have also a more sure word of prophecy…” 2 Peter 1:19

Time Elements

Further, what we see in I Co 13 is Paul speaking of both earthly and heavenly transitions. Consider that Scripture is the arbiter by which all modern “prophecy” is judged, and we can see that prophecy (and “knowledge” as direct revelation) is not necessary in this age. Clearly tongues “will cease on their own” according to the text and according to Paul.

Additionally, we know that Joel 2:28-32, the passage used by Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-18), has not yet been fulfilled, suggesting there will be a revival of prophecy, visions and dreams just before the Second Coming of Christ. (Interestingly, while Peter used the Joel passage to describe what was happening at Pentecost, Joel never mentioned “other tongues,” only prophecy, visions and dreams in regards to the end times).

It appears according to the prophet Joel, when tongues ended, they ended for good.

So, can there at least be prophecy today?

Does this open up the possibility of prophecy (along with knowledge, visions and dreams) being at least possible today? The following verses mention prophecy during the period right after Pentecost (but before the completion of Scripture): Rom. 12:6; 1 Co. 11:4-5; 12:10, 28-29; 13:2, 8-9; 14:1, 3-6, 22, 24, 29, 31-32, 37, 39; Eph. 3:5; 4:11; 1 Thess. 5:20; 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14; Rev. 1:3; 10:11; 11:3, 6, 10; 19:10; 22:7, 10, 18-19. The Revelation passages support the argument of a renewed gift of prophecy during the Tribulation period.

The remaining references, all in Paul’s letters, are usually treated one of three ways:

1) “prophecy” still exists like it did during the 1st century (common Protestant view).

2) “prophecy” is equivalent to “preaching” today. This has the added problem of making modern preachers equivalent to OT prophets in authority, a potential dangerous assertion (reformed/covenant theology view).

3) “prophecy” in Paul’s letters is the very gift that “shall fail” at the completion of the Scripture (common Baptist view).

However, according to I Th 5:20 we are not to “despise prophesyings,” also, “…the testimony of Jesus IS the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). I’m not suggesting we should start prophesying “freestyle,” but rather that, in combination with the Word of God as we are moved by the Holy Spirit, what we preach could loosely be construed as “prophetic,” as long as it is true to Scripture.

It’s been said…

“The Old Testament prophet spoke God’s Word as revelation. The New Testament preacher speaks God’s revelation from His Word.”

 

Replacement Theology

Replacement Theology

 Have Christians replaced the Jews as God’s people?

 

Hebrews

If one reads Hebrews Chapter 8 alone at face value, it is impossible to come away with any belief that God is done with Israel, let alone the many other passages in Scripture.

Obviously, Hebrews was written for the ‘Jewish believer’ in mind. A Gentile wouldn’t relate to the language used (see also I Peter 2:1-12) basically, the focus is the replacement of the Mosaic Covenant with the New Covenant (a Biblical fact!).

It’s the ‘religious system’ that has been replaced, NOT the Jews as a people.

The problem is some interpret that this replacement is ‘all-encompassing’ by replacing Israel with the Church (Christianity), and then gives it that application.  A favorite passage for this view is Galatians 3 (which again is explaining an aspect of the passing of the Old Mosaic Covenant with the New).

The root of the issue is Jeremiah 31:31-34, a promise to Israel (and the direct source for Hebrews 8). Either this promise is yet to be literally fulfilled to Israel (the Dispensational view), or the fulfillment of this promise to Christians removes or revokes the promise to Israel (the Replacement/Covenant/Supersession view). There are variants and shades in between (Dual Covenant Theology, New Covenant Theology, etc.), but these are the polar opposites.

The Parables

 Matthew 9:16-17; Mark 2:21-22; Luke 5:36-39

New Cloth on an Old Garment

New Wine in Old Bottles

1. These parables teach an identical lesson, but from opposite points of view:

-An old religion, like an old piece of clothing, can only survive by sticking to the old ways. The Pharisees and John’s disciples couldn’t cling to their old ways and hope to add (or even understand) the new things Jesus was bringing to His disciples.

-A new religion, which Jesus was bringing, required a whole new way of thinking; like new wine, it could not be poured, and therefore mixed into the old religion without destroying both.

2. Jesus’ final comment is a pointed rebuke to the Pharisees: they didn’t want the “new wine” He was offering because they thought the “old wine” of Moses is better. This is the root of the ‘Jewish problem’ with Jesus: they simply could not understand how what He was offering was better than what they already had. Consequently, they criticized Jesus at every turn because what He was doing and offering just didn’t fit into their old style religion.

Jesus was trying to get the Jewish religious leaders to change their perspective (Mark 4:12).

Ultimately the question is: “Does Israel even matter?”

For some Christians today, sadly they don’t.

But to Paul (Rom 9:3; 10:1; 11:26); Peter (I Peter 2:1-12); Jesus and others…they did!

 

The NT Church

The NT Church

Local, Universal or Both

1 Timothy 3:15 “…the pillar and ground of the truth.”

 

Introduction: This study is local church only without apology. The term ‘local’ shouldn’t even be used as it implies there is ‘something else’ out there. However, we use the term here to help differentiate. This booklet is created to bring together into a study some of the main points regarding this topic, which sadly is one of the more misunderstood and confusing amongst Baptists. It will be confusing to Catholics and Protestants, but it shouldn’t be to Baptists! It came about to help supply a more compact version for group or one on one use.

Paul used words the way his readers and listeners understood them. Often the argument is put forth that Paul and the other NT writers gave “new meaning to old words,” providing spiritual or theological shadings that the words didn’t normally have. Every Greek lexicon says that the word “ekklesia” refers to a ‘local civic assembly’ gathered to carry out the business of that city (as seen with the Ephesian assembly in Acts 19). By this argument, one must deny the Greek definition, which is completely absurd.

Staying with the true definition of the word, obviously then, when applied to Christians, “ekklesia” doesn’t just automatically gain some invisible and universal nature. First century believers would still see it as a local, visible assembly of “kingdom citizens” gathered together to carry out kingdom business, which is precisely what happens throughout the book of Acts.

What has occurred is the attempt to apply a universal nature to “ekklesia” by giving it spiritual attributes that belong to the kingdom. The outcome will be all believers (the church) are called out (or gathered) from the world into the kingdom, which occurs through some spirit baptism (i.e. Salvation). Nowhere in scripture will you find a universal, invisible “ekklesia.” That application is contrary to the definition of the word.

The Kingdom

The kingdom of Heaven (God) and the church of God are not the same thing.

We start here because those that advocate a universal church (sometimes called the “professing church”) tend to confuse them as one and the same. A failure to differentiate will create confusion regarding the church.

The word “kingdom” is defined as “the power or authority of a king; a realm or a domain over which it extends.” Therefore, the kingdom is both the rule of God and the extent of His rule.

The kingdom is a “spiritual kingdom.” Individuals enter the kingdom at the instant of regeneration (salvation). Colossians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

The Old Testament prophets foretold the glorious earthly (millennial) kingdom, but the invisible, intangible form of it was a mystery (Romans 16:25,26). These mysteries are given in the parables of the kingdom (Matthew 13:11-13; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10).

Currently, the true kingdom of God is not seen in outward form but in the hearts of men.

The kingdom is the rule of God NOW in the hearts of willing subjects (universal, invisible) and SOON over the nations of the earth (universal, visible).

The term “kingdom of Heaven” is peculiar to the Gospel of Matthew. For this reason, there are some who distinguish it from the “kingdom of God”, teaching it to be the earthly rule of God (therefore encompassing both good and bad elements) versus the spiritual rule of God (the kingdom of God).

A clear study of comparing the Gospels show that the two terms are used interchangeably, thereby making the one synonymous with the other. The parable verses mentioned above show that in of themselves.

Matthew 6:10 “thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

There is one kingdom that has various phases or transitions. We see at least four.

  1. Currently, the spiritual, universal and invisible realm of the redeemed.
  2. The Rapture followed by the marriage supper of the lamb (I Th 4:17; Rev 19:7).
  3. Second Coming – Return of Christ with His Saints and the 1000 (millennial) year reign on earth (Rev Ch. 19-20).
  4. Eternal State – After the millennial reign Satan is loosed (along with nations that align with him to go against the Saints) and destroyed once for all (Rev Ch. 21).

How one views the kingdom will influence how they view the church.

The kingdom in relation to the family and church:

Ephesians 2:19-22 reveals three distinct relationships involving Jew and Gentile believers. Knowing where to make distinction is again where a frequent problem lies.

  1. 19 “ye are FELLOWCITIZENS with the saints” and of the HOUSEHOLD of God;”
  2. 21 “are built unto an holy TEMPLE in the Lord.”
  3. The common Baptist approach to Ephesians is that Paul was talking to several local assemblies (the “saints” of 1:1), so the three are references to the local church ‘generically’ in its civic, social and spiritual functions. Regarding this passage, immediate context is Paul speaking directly to the “Gentile believers” within the Ephesian church (verses 11-22;3:1). Paul is helping them realize a new spiritual relation with “Jewish believers” in that particular local church.
  4. Others say it refers to three aspects of our salvation: 1. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phi. 3:20, where “conversation” is the translation for the Greek word “politeuma,” “government” or “commonwealth;” the idea is that our life is now rooted in another place, not in this world); 2. Our family (household) is God’s; and 3. Our temple (metaphor for the local church) is built on Christ, the apostles and the prophets. Thus, the three refer to our future home, present family and our current center of worship and service.
  5. Others believe there is no distinction. A more universal application.

I agree “in part” that this is referring to the church. However, I disagree with any kingdom = the church equation. Spiritual attributes that belong to the kingdom are being given the church. This is THE major error, and it will only end in a universal church mindset.

  1. The kingdom is the rule of God in the hearts of willing subjects.
  2. The family consists of all the saved in Heaven and Earth at any moment.
  3. The church is a local, visible assembly (an earthly manifestation of the kingdom).

The kingdom and the church have distinguishable attributes

  KINGDOM   NEW TESTMENT CHURCH
1. Universal 1. Local
2. Invisible 2. Visible
4. Entered in through regeneration by the Spirit. Col 1:13; Mat 19:23-25. i.e. Salvation. 4. Baptism (I Co 12:13). The local church baptized, and assemblies consisted of baptized members. A qualifier of membership.
5. One Kingdom 5. Many Churches
6. Theocracy 6. Congregational
7. No offices 7. Pastors & Deacons
8. No ordinances 8. Ordinances

Again, the inability to distinguish between the “spiritual kingdom” and “the church” will lead directly to universal church thinking. It’s a fact, not assumption, that throughout history this has been the teaching within the Catholic, and therefore Protestant denominations. One thing learned; sound doctrine has never been established upon majority belief!

The kingdom is the universal sphere of salvation. Those who confuse the kingdom with the church also tend to confuse salvation with having membership in a church (1 Corinthians 12:18-27). To them, salvation itself automatically places one spiritually into the Church, which is a mystical body. Local membership then isn’t really an obligation, and in fact doesn’t necessarily exist. That is not Bible, as literal membership is clearly spoken of.

This line of reasoning also leads many to falsely assume that only Baptists will be saved.

The confusing day of Pentecost…not at all

Closely allied to universal church thinking is the view that “the church fundamentally comprehends the whole number of regenerated persons, from Pentecost to the first resurrection, united organically to one another and to Christ by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Church age began (was birthed) on this day.

By beginning the ‘Church Age’ at Pentecost, accommodation is made for the Holy Spirit to ‘organize the church’ through some invisible baptism. What occurred was the Spirit ‘filled’ the existing church, to empower them to both expand and extend further out.

Although the issue on the surface may appear to be a where one age or dispensation ended and another began, there is more at stake.

Already, before or by now.

  1. A church already existed by Matthew 18:17.
  2. The disciples already received and were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, even before the Ascension (John 20:22).
  3. Matthais received the church office of “bishoprick” that Judas already had (Acts 1:20).
  4. Many were ‘added’ unto (Acts 2:41, 47). How could they be added to something that didn’t already exist?

A functioning church did exist before Pentecost.

The NT shows a clear progression in the working of the Holy Spirit.

“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:17)

He dwelleth” shows that the Spirit was presently WITH the disciples. Like how it was in the Old Testament.

shall be” shows something YET to come. John 20:22 and Pentecost running concurrent to each other (indwelt, and then filled).

On Pentecost, we see the work of the church expand (not the church itself begin!) further out. From the church in Jerusalem, then to select people groups. Christ had mentioned these groups in Acts 1:8. As always, beginning with the Jews.

  1. Jews (Acts 2:1-4 on Pentecost) “…Jerusalem, and in all Judea,”
  2. Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17) “…and in Samaria,”
  3. Gentiles (Acts 10:44-45; 19:6) “…and unto the uttermost part of the earth”

Scripturally, miraculous sign gifts, such as speaking in tongues were a qualifier that accompanied Spirit Baptism. Pentecostals still believe this is going on today (and without following the strict guidelines according to 1 Corinthians 14). A more conservative Protestant view believes tongues have ended, although Spirit Baptism is still ongoing. This baptism saves, and then unites all saved into one universal ‘spiritual’ church body.  This is at the center of Protestant doctrine.

I have asked Baptists that believe in Spirit Baptism today if they spoke in tongues at salvation or after. Of course, they reply they have not. I reply, “then there was no Spirit Baptism.” Scripturally, you cannot have the one without the other. Again, this Baptism as it was in the early church has ceased. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Three claims by those that have issue of a ‘pre-church’ Pentecost

  1. 1. The Blood of Christ: Some assume that if Christ purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25), there could be no church before his blood was shed. A prepay (for the church) of sort. The logic of this though would mean there was no need for salvation prior to the cross (Hebrews 4:2; 1 Peter 4:6). The sequence in Ephesians 5 is that “He loved the church,” and because He loved it “gave Himself for it.” If chronological, and the church was the object of His love, this refutes the argument. Acts 20:28 is a very weak assumption. Just because it states he purchased with His blood, doesn’t mean a church didn’t exist prior.
  2. The Ascension: Since Christ became “…head over all things to the Church,” after his ascension (Ephesians 1:20-23), logically there could be no church with Christ as its head until the ascension. Christ was surely the head of the disciples. However, his headship was ‘physically limited’ during his public ministry. The events on the day of Pentecost enabled the Lord to be head over ‘many more’ churches in general, through his Spirit. The fact that both Christ and the Spirit (John 14:17) were present before Pentecost was certainly enough to help establish the first church.

His First Ascension

John 20:17 “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

The women who left the tomb later “…held him by the feet…” (Matthew 28:9). What happened to allow touching? Obviously, Christ ascended and was glorified. But why?

The mediator and testator for Mankind. The earthly things regarding the temple are a model of those in Heaven (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23). Now an even better sacrifice (Jesus Christ) has shown up to that holy place (in Heaven) to offer up a better sacrifice (His blood). He descends back down and spends 40 days with the people. The context of Hebrews 9 is that Christ provided his blood on the altar to offer himself as (a new covenant) between God and Man (“for this cause” 9:14-17). Again, Christ came and ascended to provide salvation for the World (John 3:16; I Jn 2:2) in general (v.27, 28), not only for the church. This all occurred prior to Acts 1:9.

  1. The Baptism of the Spirit: Since believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ; there could be no church until after He (the Spirit) was sent. From what has been mentioned, Scripture clearly shows there was a church prior to Pentecost, along with a ‘clear progression’ of the working of the Holy Spirit. Also, the Holy Spirit has never baptized anyone! It was Christ who baptized “with” the Spirit. The Spirit was the ‘medium’ by which, as water was the medium for John the Baptist. John claimed in (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16).he shall baptize you with;” I John 3:24 says “…by the Spirit which he hath given us.” It’s so clear!

The nature of the church

A church is compared metaphorically to several things, but primarily three things: a body, a building and a bride.

A body

Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18

Context shows a church is compared to a human body in its operation. Christ being the head, and having authority.

The New Testament makes no distinction between the so-called body of Christ and the church. In fact, in Colossians 1:18, 24, the “body” (of Christ) and “church” (local assembly) are equated.

A literal, visible church is as the body of Christ, metaphorically speaking.

The church (as a body) is tangible, and not invisible. There is the whole (Greek soma) and then various members (melos). It needs the whole to function as a body (Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 12:27).

When the church body is spoken of, it’s apparent that within context of the passages there are relationships and operations, “when ye come together” (1 Corinthians 11:18).

Semantics has had its part.

 Some universal church advocates will point out I Co 3:16 and compare it to I Co 6:19. Hence, equating the church (house, building, and temple) with an individual’s ‘physical body’ and therefore claiming some universal, spiritual church body being the Spirit dwells in both. This is a semantics issue, not a theological one (though it becomes that once terms get confused). Universal church advocates assume all temples and bodies are the same at some level.

Here is the thought process as shown by some typical statements:

The church (assembly) UNIVERSAL is something every Christian is part of and “IN” every moment of his life.

Just as my body is MY BODY, even though it is owned by Christ, so too although Christ bought the church with His blood and he is the owner, it is no less MY CHURCH too. After all, the church is the body of Christ and He is the Head (Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18). If I am THE BODY OF CHRIST, then it is my body too!

So, Christ owns our physical body and our spiritual body (the church) so it is obviously perfectly fine to say, “MY (physical) BODY, MY CHURCH”

Question: Are all lions the same? (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 5:5).

You can’t compare apples and hammers at any but the most basic level (material objects) without creating much confusion (e.g., a person is NOT a church; one Lion (Jesus) is NOT another lion (Satan)).

Figures of Speech

By calling the church a living, spiritual organism, it confuses the body analogy of 1 Corinthians 12 with the reality of what is being portrayed. That is, a church is to operate like a body, but it isn’t literally a body. It’s a figure of speech, and that’s all it is.

Again, the church is likened to Christ’s body (Colossians 2:17, 19). The Epistles show the inter-relationships of a local church body. “Knit together”; “lie not one to another” “forbearing one another” “no schism in the body” and “care for on another.”

The church is simply a local assembly. A people cannot gather or assemble and yet be all over the world. As a motor vehicle is composed of various parts, it needs to be organized (assembled) to function properly. When it comes to the obvious operations (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:4-7; Acts 5:11) and care (1 Corinthians 12:25) from within a church, the “universal church” framework does not fit.

Ephesians Chapter 5

A “classic go to” passage for proponents of a universal church is Ephesians 5:23. It says, “…Christ is the head of the church:” and it is debated that this can only mean “The (one, universal) Church” since there can be but one Head.

This reasoning may appear logical, but the same scripture passage also says, “…the husband is the head of the wife…” By the same reasoning and logic, we could then prove the existence of a universal husband and universal wife. That’s just absurd! In this context, the words “husband” and “wife” are generic – they apply to no husband or wife in particular, but to all husbands and wives in general.

Generic refers to the entire class rather than to particular ones. In other words, husbands in general are the heads of their wives as Christ is the Head of His churches.

Yes, but…

How can ONE Christ be Head over COUNTLESS churches? Answer: The same way that ONE Christ is Head over COUNTLESS saved men in the world (1 Corinthians 11:3, “the head of every man is Christ…”).

I’m surprised this is even debatable, but it does tie into the logic used regarding the Ascension (as mentioned above). Let’s try to remember this is an Omni-present God we are talking about here. So much for Him hearing our countless prayers for that matter.

The Gospels and church Epistles all contain several “generic church” references that are misconstrued as universal church references by many. Universal church proponents don’t believe in the church in its generic (earthly, institutional) sense.

Both Jesus and Paul referred to “churches in general.”

Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 15:9; Galatians 1:13

Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:4 speaks of the church in its generic sense.  “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God…”

Christ illustrated by metaphor the breaking of bread (His body). Mat 26:26; Mar 14:22 and Luk 22:19.

Practical problems in confusing the kingdom with the church.

  1. It destroys loyalty to one’s church. A local church is made secondary to the one true universal church.
  2. It promotes “church-hopping.” There is no real need to be faithful in a local church, as I am never truly ‘outside’ the church.
  3. It promotes para-church organizations. A local congregation is just a place to serve in the larger body, on par with any para-church group.
  4. It promotes compromise. It leads to inter-denominational fraternities. Fellowship is on a basis of agreement. Amos 3:3.
  5. There is no accountability. There is no need to submit (Hebrews 13:17). “It’s my way on the universal highway!”
  6. It downplays the importance of water baptism. There is no obligation. After all, if you receive the first (Spirit baptism), which is the “main thing,” it exempts you.
  7. It promotes Ecumenism. As it is accepted in a popular hymn “we are not divided, one body we.”
  8. It releases Christians from church related responsibilities. Loyalty and consistency are the big losers with this mindset.

Individuals can in varying degrees be more universal in mindset than others in these regards.

Is the “Church of the firstborn” a part of the universal church body? (Hebrews 12:23)

One of the more harmful ways of affirming bad doctrine is to claim a “spiritual” application or connection between the clear statement of Scripture and the desired doctrinal position. As mentioned at the beginning of this study, in this instance all believers are in fact connected with the kingdom of God, which, if you follow it carefully in Scripture, again, is here within us and in the future, both in Heaven and in the millennial kingdom of Christ.

By making a connection between the kingdom at present (in our hearts) with the future kingdom (Christ’s direct reign), we create both Reconstructionist (Reformed) and Dominion (Pentecostal) theologies which naturally puts the kingdom of God on earth today in the form of a universal body of believers.

There is the “church of the firstborn” in Heaven as mentioned in Hebrews 12:23, and it is being described in the present tense by the author. Yet this does not mean that a universal church of all saved, living and dead, must logically follow. Rather, believers on earth are (or should faithfully be) in local churches (as the bulk of the uses of “ekklesia” show), while this one instance of a church in glory is referring to believers who have gone on to Heaven, and are waiting for the rest of us to join them in that assembly.

This does not, however, mean we on earth are already joined to that assembly there (if we hold to local membership, then this would be impossible for us, except in some nebulous, universal “spiritual” sense). It needs to be realized that this church is also a local assembly within the kingdom.

The general assembly (verse 23). This is the Greek “panegyros,” a mass gathering of the whole kingdom.

The church of the firstborn (verse 23). This is the Greek “ekklesia,” a gathered assembly within the Kingdom. The usage of the plural “are” in verse 23 indicates the “general assembly” and “church of the firstborn” are distinct identities. They are not the same thing.

What we also have is the lack of awareness of the ‘time element’ in our doctrines. If we would clarify when a aspect of a doctrine is in play, we can clear up a lot of misconceptions.

Context! Context! Context!

The bottom line for proper interpretation is context.

When thewording of a verse” or a “verse alone takes precedence over the context of the passage or chapter, it only spells trouble! Context incorporates the audience spoken to (Jews, Gentiles, the Church), time elements, and figures of speech. Also, getting doctrine from the OT and applying it to the church (Covenant Theology) is problematic.

Examples of a few verses or passages taken out of context…

1 Peter 2:5 This letter was written to Jewish believers. The context can be pulled from verses 1-10. Peter tells them how they (saved Jews) are the true spiritual Israel (‘royal priesthood,’ ‘holy nation,’etc.). Verse 5 is part of a ‘Temple’ metaphor, using OT references (Ps 118:22; Isa 28:16) relating to Christ as the Cornerstone, and now making Jewish believers part of a ‘spiritual house’ in which they as a ‘holy priesthood’ offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God, now by faith in Christ, and not through animal sacrifice as in the past. Nowhere does the terminology being used imply some universal church.

Matthew 20:23 The cup and the baptism are equivalent, and both refer to Christ’s suffering on the cross.

Ephesians 4:5 is part of Paul’s exhortation to keep “unity” among the believers at Ephesus. The problem with arguing this verse is two-fold: First, Paul is addressing the “saints” of Ephesus, (see 1:1), which gives some a universal body view; second, this verse is quite open to reading into it what you want it to say–it ends up being interpreted by what definitions you already have for both “body” and “baptism.” Ultimately, one’s view of this verse won’t change until those definitions change (which is also true, to a certain degree, for most of the “body” verses in the New Testament).

So, what about the saints mentioned in scripture? Answer: They are those that incorporated local churches.

In particular:

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

Or generically:

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

1 Corinthians 10:2 The only way one can assume that 1 Corinthians 10:2 is referring to Spirit baptism is to assume that Israel is the Church of the OT, a Protestant notion which, sadly, is becoming more prevalent as Evangelicals (and Baptists) become more Calvinistic and Covenant Theology in interpretation. The “baptism.” in context with verse 1, refers to the pillar of cloud which traveled with Israel and the passing through the Red Sea which they did to escape Egypt.

1 Corinthians 12:13 this a central verse for the Universal Church teaching. It suffers from the same misreading as Ephesians 4:5. I did a study with a student once, showing how this verse, if read in its entirety and in context, must be talking about the church at Corinth. If so, then the “baptism by one Spirit” refers to believers being led into baptism by the Holy Spirit to join a local body (Luk 2:27a). Staying in context, the Epistle is addressed to a particular church (1:2) and applies to any church generically or respectively speaking (4:17).

Acts 2:47 The context of Acts 2:47 begins in verse 41, the epilogue of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. 3,000 souls are added “to them” (italicized so not in Greek), but verses 42-46 describe the actions of a local congregation. “The church” of verse 47, in context, has to be the assembly of verses 42-46 (unless one goes in assuming “church” must mean “Universal Church”).

Colossians 2:12 Since there is only one baptism, which one is it? It’s one or the other. That must be answered in the face of clear baptism passages, and the context of passages regarding a local church. It ties into Romans 6:3-4, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 4:5, Acts 2:41 etc.

UC proponents ignore the use of the Greek (baptidzo) in 1 Corinthians 12:13, while focusing on verses where baptism is in the technical or figurative (baptisma). They assume it represents baptism by the Spirit. It may, but only if we were to ignore all other references. What baptism is Peter speaking of in 1 Peter 3:21? Yet, in Ephesians 4:5 it is given a “spiritual application.” It just becomes a matter of pick and choose.

Ephesians 5:23 A generic use of the word “church.” that was mentioned earlier.

1 Corinthians 10:32 An important verse for universal church advocates claiming Paul is speaking of a “worldwide” church of believers. Again, a generic use of the word. The words “church” and “churches” are used interchangeably in scripture, and is never universal in its application.

A major problem at hand

Spiritual parameters (Ephesians 4:3-6) regarding the church have been broadened. Paul is speaking to the church at Ephesus in this Epistle. Again, immediate context regarding these are in relation to that Ephesian church body, and therefore each respective local church body as well. Not some universal church body! A church Epistle is not a universal church Epistle.

When any parameter is changed, doctrine on the church will change.

Whenever aspects of a so called universal church is mentioned, pointed out or hinted towards, I’m reassured (from scripture) it is the spiritual kingdom that is being referred to. We must differentiate between salvation and becoming a child of the kingdom (adopted into the family as sons of God, children of God) with the individual decision, as led by the Spirit to be baptized into a local church (body of Christ). It is clear they are separate and distinct of one another.

When a spiritual attribute is given the church that belongs to the kingdom, theological error will occur, and which can be quite damaging to the church!

It’s all about perspective

Universal church proponents believe that in the larger universal spiritual church body, there are those who ‘mutually agree’ to come together into local churches. Again, confusing the spiritual kingdom with the church, and giving it (the church) a spiritual application which is not in scripture. Note: You will hear them say they are local church, and be very adamant about it, yet it is from this perspective.

An example of a typical doctrinal statement attesting to this:

(A) We believe in the one true Church, the spiritual body and Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, composed of believers from Pentecost to the Rapture, into which believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit. (B) We believe that the local church is an organization composed of professing believers instituted for the purpose of fellowship, worship, service, and discipline. In matters of administration and policy, it is self-governing. (C) We believe that a local church is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant of faith and fellowship of the Gospel, observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by His laws; and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word; and that its officers are pastors and deacons.

Again, there are many that claim local church, yet overall are universal church in perspective. Simply telling them they aren’t local church won’t get anywhere with them!

What needs to change is the overall perspective by which they view a church.

Instead, they need to distinguish that we are not comprised of some ‘universal, spiritual’ church body, but are simply OF the family (Ephesians 3:15; Galatians 3:26) who are led by the Spirit to join up literally and physically to a church body WITHIN the ‘universal, spiritual’ kingdom.

In sincerity, for someone who has held to a universal church mentality, to suddenly change their thinking will take time, and more than likely never happen. They tend to be more ‘free spirited’ and dislike ‘local only’ aspects of the church. The local church can at times be viewed as a hindrance. Therefore, they see a universal church in scripture wherever possible. They are just naturally bent on seeing it.

Those not grounded scripturally on the church can easily be persuaded the other way. A main reason for church splits today is this very topic. An important note to make once again, is that both individuals and churches can be in varying degrees more universal than others. Because of this, universal church doctrine can creep in ever so subtly.

No church can long survive once it becomes divided on doctrine!