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Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:22-32
Bible Authority, Part 8
The Church of Christ
1. Failure to understand the church leads to many other errors, including denominationalism, devaluing the importance of the church and leading to “choosing the church of your choice.”
2. Many in churches of Christ do not understand the church, either. This leads to the liberal view that “whatever the individual can do, the local church can do” (loosing where the Lord has not loosed), and the factious view that “whatever the local church cannot do, the individual Christian cannot do” (binding where Lord has not bound).
I. DEFINING AND UNDERSTANDING THE CHURCH.
A. Church: “Called Out Ones,” an Assembly, cf. Acts 7:38 (Hos. 11:1).
1. Used among Greeks of “an assembly of the people convened at the public place of council for the purpose of deliberating,” (Thayer, 196), Acts 19:39 (32, 41).
2. Assembly of the saved; called out of darkness (1 Pet. 2:9-10) by God through the gospel (Acts 2:39; 2 Ths. 2:14), Matt. 16:18.
* 3. To understand “church” we must think “people,” not “institution,” Acts 2:47.
a. Disciples, Acts 6:1, 7.
b. Believers, Acts 5:14.
c. Those of “the way,” Acts 9:2.
d. Saints, 1 Cor. 1:2.
B. “Church” is a Collective Noun (like “herd,” “flock,” “tribe”, “family”).
1. Applied in a geographical sense, Acts 9:31; Gal. 1:2.
2. Applied of the group comprising it, Rom. 16:4; Col. 4:16.
3. Applied to whom it belongs, Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 15:9; Ro. 16:16.
II. THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH, Heb. 12:23. (General)
A. God’s People wherever they are Found, Matt. 16:18; Eph. 5:23-27.
1. The body of Christ to which the saved are added, Acts 2:47.
2. The one body of Christ into which one is baptized, 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4.
3. The family of God into which one is adopted (Gal. 4:5), 1 Tim. 3:15.
4. Consists of those in (true) fellowship with God, 2 Tim. 2:19.
B. Universal Church Denotes a Relationship with God, not an Organization.
1. Universal church is not a single-functioning organization (institution); does not act as an organized unit here on earth.
a. No universal, organizational structure and oversight on earth (cf. Roman Catholic Church).
b. No universal organization and/or work and no universal treasury to fund it.
2. Functions distributively as each Christian lives for Christ, Eph. 5:24.
C. The Universal Church is Composed of Individual Christians, not Local Churches, Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23, 30.
1. “The position that the local congregation is not a part of the church universal is a weird and novel contention, which has never been advanced by any Bible scholar, preacher, or commentator of any note in the two thousand year history of the church so far as I know.” (Gaston D. Cogdell, The Cogdell-Turner Discussion, 18)
⇒ But, others dispute the “novelty” and “weirdness” of this position:
2. “So far as we know all brethren have always understood that the individual Christian is the unit of the ‘church universal.’ The body is Christ’s, and we are members of it. We were unaware that any thought or taught that congregations were units of the body of Christ, in the sense that individuals are. Congregations are nothing more nor less than groups of Christians. Groups are not members of the church; individuals are. We believe the scriptures are perfectly clear, and brethren in full accord on this point.” (Reuel Lemmons, Firm Foundation, Vol. 77, No. 31, August 2, 1960; cited in The Cogdell-Turner Discussion, p. 19, emp. Turner’s)
3. “In this general sense the church is not a denominational institution composed of a sisterhood of local churches ‘of the same faith and order,’ but a spiritual body composed of all Christians…” (F. D. Srygley, New Testament Church, page 7, published by Gospel Advocate; cited in The Cogdell-Turner Discussion, p. 19)
1. Denominations subdivide the church into groups - never in the New Testament.
2. The universal church is all the saved without respect to time and place.
3. The local church is a specific group of Christians in a given location. The local church is organized and has work to do; if it is not done, that local church is no longer a church of Christ (forfeits identity and fellowship with Christ), Rev. 1:20; 2:1, 4-5.