The Saints, the Saved, the Church
Larry Ray Hafley
"And at that time there was a great persecution against the church . . . and they were all scattered abroad" (Acts 8:1). "I wrote unto the church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not" (3 Jn. 9). The "church" is "they," "them," the saved.
Saul breathed "out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1). He laid waste "the church " (Acts 8:3). Saul did "much evil . . . to (the Lord's) saints" (Acts 9:13). He "persecuted the church of God" (Gal. 1:13). Saul "destroyed them which called on (the Lord's) name" (Acts 9:21). He "persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:9). Saul put "many of the saints . . . in prison" (Acts 26:10). He was zealous, "persecuting the church " (Phil. 3:6).
The believers whom Saul beat and imprisoned were the saints which called on the Lord's name - note it well - "in Jerusalem" (Acts 9:13,21). Who were these people "at Jerusalem "? They were the ones who believed, repented and were baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" "at Jerusalem" (Acts 2:5,36-38). These people are collectively referred to as the "saved," "the church" (Acts 2:47; 5:11), "which was at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1).
People in Antioch heard the preaching of the Lord, "and a great number believed and turned to the Lord." Further, "much people were added unto the Lord." These saved people were "the disciples (which) were called Christians first in Antioch." Collectively, they referred to as "the church" (Acts 11:20-26).
Why Such Repetition?
Why be so redundant about a point that no Christian denies; in other words, the saved are the church? First, the fact often is acknowledged without its implications being fully appreciated or clearly understood. Second, certain brethren are uncomfortable with the "exclusivistic" nature of the church. They rail and revile against being "legalistic, narrowminded, bigoted," but they offer no scriptural alternative to the body of the saved. Third, many devout souls in denominationalism repudiate "the one true church" concept. Their prejudice against the truth is born partly of ignorance. They need to be instructed in the way of God more perfectly. Fourth, sincere believers, hearing the taunts of brethren and religious friends, begin to question the truth which they mentally accept. They must be reminded, grounded and settled, rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith.
(1) Does the Bible teach the saved constitute the church, the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22,23; 2:16; 4:4; 5:23)? Are there saved people who are not members of the church (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:12,13,20)?
(2) What must one do to be saved (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:36-38,41; Heb. 5:8,9)? What does it mean to obey the gospel (Rom. 5:1; 6:3,4,16,17; 10:9,10)?
(3) When the Bible refers to "the church," does it refer to a Protestant denomination, i.e., a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran Church? Does it refer to the Roman Catholic Church? If not, to what does it refer? If yes, prove it.
(4) If one contends for the New Testament system as outlined in the first segment of this article, is he doing wrong? If one argues for something other than what the New Testament reveals as shown in the first section of this essay, what authorizes him to do so (Gal. 1:8,9; 1 Cor. 4:6; 1 Pet. 4:11)?
(5) Were the saints and disciples, whom Saul persecuted, redeemed by the blood of Christ? Since this group is the church, are they the church which Jesus "purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28)? If not, what church was it?
Finally: No sympathy should be extended to compromising, apologizing brethren who seem bent on blurring the New Testament's vision of the church. No Christian should feel guilty or ashamed of the truth regarding the church. Rather than draw back unto perdition, the saved need to be more bold, more militant in their efforts to make known the spiritual nature of the body of Christ. The church is the sphere of salvation. It is the room and realm of the ransomed and the redeemed. It is the glorious church, the product of the glorious gospel. It is th6 blood bought Spirit born, heaven bound, kingdom of the Prince of Peace. God purposed it, promised it, preached it, perfected it. Jesus loved it and gave himself for it, and all who have been born again are in it.
The greater man's unbelief of these fundamental, elementary facts, the more aggressively they must be pressed and presented. When brethren who ought to know better begin to hedge and equivocate and throw out sops for denominational consumption, when they insinuate that the kingdom's borders may include those in alien camps who have not obeyed the gospel, then the faithful must open their mouths and speak boldly as they ought to speak. There is nothing to be feared in proclamation and declaration of the truth regarding gospel obedience and the church. Do not cower; do not blush, but stand and speak the truth in love, in faith, in hope. Souls are not saved by obscuring and perverting the truth. The lost do not need to be consoled with the thought that they may be in the kingdom though they have not obeyed the gospel as it is written. No, they do not need to be comforted. They need to be convicted and converted. Only the truth heard, believed and obeyed can accomplish that. Preach the word.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 14, p. 431