TWO ASPECTS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The Lord told Peter that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. The saved and the lost have all kinds of ideas concerning the Church. Some think that a church is a church building. Some think it is an organization. Some think that it is some membership club kind of association that is connected with a religion. But what really is a New Testament Church? What are the character and nature of a New Testament Church? Without studying the New Testament, it is impossible to come to a conclusive understanding of what constitutes a New Testament Church. Indeed only the New Testament reveals about this Church. To rely on what we see in practising Christendom and traditions, it is very easy to arrive at some seemingly plausible model of a Church and yet this Church has got nothing in common with Scriptural revelation.
The saints in the past called the Church with two terms – the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. The Church Militant refers to those Christians who are still on earth and those who have made it to glory land belong to the Church Triumphant. Our modern day equivalent is the Visible Church and the Invisible Church. Some groups, especially the Baptist, call the two forms of church the Universal Church and the Local Church. Notwithstanding, the two different aspects of the Church are taught in the Scriptures.
There are false teachers who will go to one of the two different extremes. The liberal who believes so much in the Invisible Church or the Universal Church will consider anyone who goes to church a Christian. It may seem an untenable position to those who know and read the Holy Bible but this is the reality in professing Christianity. This is the forefront and spirit of ecumenism. They make no distinction between the doctrines of different groups and the objective is simply to bring everyone together in Christian unity overriding all differences among themselves. Charismatic, Catholics and everyone else who go to church are Christians. This is to show a united front for political gain in dealing with the world of religions at large.
The other self-righteous group believes so much in the Visible Church or the Local Church that they will go into great pains to deny the Invisible Church. They will avoid the term Universal Church like a plague. You can recognize them in their writings by their over zealousness in promoting the Local Church. They will avoid the term Invisible or Universal Church and they use only the term Local Church. Some people who hold such persuasion will view those who disagree with them as siding with the liberals and even accuse them of involvement with ecumenism.
What are the errors of this group? They go into pastoral authority. The pastor is the dictator of the local assembly called the Local Church. Members must do what the pastor says or else they will be in trouble. They can get into cultic tendency and members become oppressed by the church leaders. Members dare not leave their church fearing they might no longer be members of the New Testament Church, which is the Bride of Christ. Their status become questionable once they leave this New Testament Church. Such fear imposed upon them by false teachers leads them into bondage and they do not have the courage to confront false teachings in the church.
They also get into the error of the Baptist Bride heresy. They believe only the Baptist, specially the Independent Baptist and those Baptist they approve of are the New Testament churches that make up the Bride of Christ. The rest maybe have to wait on table to serve them in the Kingdom Age. You cannot possibly imagine how audacious and self-righteous they can become. That is why they must hold to this extreme position of Local Church only. This position gives them power and prestige and it serves them well to garner support to keep them in the chair of authority. Once this position is established, they can decree anyone who disagrees with them on almost any issues concerning faith and practice to have lost the status of a New Testament Church.
They will also not allow outsiders to partake of the Lord’s Supper. They categorized the Lord’s Supper into three different positions. There is the open communion, which is an abomination to them. They also have the closed and close communion. One will allow those of like precious faith from other churches to partake the Lord’s Supper with them and the other only allows their own members from the church to partake the Lord’s Supper. The rationale is to keep the church pure. Nothing could be more ridiculous than this. It is only God and His words that can keep a Christian pure and not the administration of the Lord’s Supper or the local church policy. Both the liberal and the self-righteous groups are wrong as far as the Bible is concerned.
This article is taken from a chapter in the book “Biblical New Testament Church” which may be downloaded via:
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
1 Timothy 3:15