For What Saith The Scriptures About The New Testament Church?
John Isaac Edwards
The church is the greatest institution under heaven. Yet, it is widely misunderstood. The church is not what most people think. It is not a political organization (Jn. 18:36), a social club (Rom. 14:17), or a material building (Acts 5:11). The church is, however; a body of people who have been called out of darkness (1 Pet. 2:9), to be saints (Rom. 1:7), in one body (Col. 3:15), by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14).
When studying about the church, or any other topic, one must make his appeal to "For What Saith The Scripture?" Therefore, "For What Saith The Scripture" about the New Testament church?
According to the Eternal Purpose
The Scriptures say that the church is according to the eternal purpose of God. Paul wrote, "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:10-11). The apostle Paul declared that the church was a part of that plan "which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God" (Eph. 3:9). The book of Ephesians displays the place that God, "according to his eternal purpose," ascribed to Christ and the church (Eph. 3:11).Before the creation of the world, God purposed for Christ to found the church. This does away with the idea of the church just being a mere afterthought. The New Testament church is made known by God's wisdom!
Prophesied And Revealed
The New Testament church was prophesied in the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament. Isaiah, the Messianic prophet, looking down the stream of time through the prophetic eye, saw (1) that the Lord's house would be established in Jerusalem; (2) that all nations would flow unto it; and (3) that it would come to pass in the last days (Isa. 2:2-3). What is the Lord's house? In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul speaks of "the house of God, which is the church of the living God." Thus, the house is the church and the church is the house. Daniel pictured the church as an indestructible kingdom which would be set up during the days of the Roman kings (Dan. 2:36-44). Throughout the Scriptures, the words "kingdom" and "church" are used synonymously (Matt. 16:16-19). In Mark 9:1, Jesus said "that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." So whenever the "power" came, the church came. In Acts 1:8, Christ told the apostles that they would receive power "after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Whenever the Holy Ghost came upon the apostles, the power came, and the church was established. Acts 2:1-4 records that the apostles "were all filled with the Holy Ghost" on the day of Pentecost. Consequently, the power came and the church was established on the day of Pentecost. Further, we have the establishment of the New Testament church in the "last days" (Acts 2:16-17), in the lifetime of some disciples (Acts 1:15), while the Roman kings were in rule (Lk. 20:22-25), in the city of Jerusalem, and all nations flowed unto it (Acts 2:5). Hence, the Scripture says, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).
Built By Christ
The church of the Bible was built by a divine builder, Christ. In Matthew 16:16, Peter confessed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus said unto Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). The church could not have been built by just anyone. The Psalmist proclaimed, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1).
Built Upon A Sure Foundation
In construction, it is essential that one build upon the proper foundation. Otherwise, the structure would collapse (cf. Matt. 7:24- 27). The church is no exception! Its stability depends entirely upon its foundation. Isaiah revealed, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa. 28:16).Notice that the foundation would be laid in Zion, or Jerusalem. Thus, any church which did not begin in Jerusalem cannot be built upon a sure foundation. The Psalmist announced, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner" (Ps. 118:22). Jesus applied this prophecy to Himself (Matt. 21:42), and Peter in Acts 4:11 applied this prophecy to Christ. The New Testament church is not built upon the weakness of human flesh, but upon the divinity and Son ship of Christ (Matt. 16:16-18). Paul said, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11).
Purchased With The Blood Of Christ
The Scriptures affirm that the New Testament church was purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ. As Paul delivered his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, he commanded them, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). The blood of Jesus Christ has buying power. Paul went on to tell the Corinthians, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor. 6:19). The New Testament church was purchased with the blood-redeeming price that Christ freely paid on the cross of Calvary. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The fact that the church was blood-purchased by Christ, emphasizes its surpassing value and importance.
Sometimes the word "church," in the Scriptures, is used to refer to a church at a certain locality (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2). Other times the word "church" is used collectively, so as to include a group of independent churches or all churches everywhere (Gal. 1:2; Acts 2:47; Rom. 16:16). In New Testament times, every church was independent, or autonomous, of every other church. Each independent church was scripturally organized with elders, deacons, and saints (Phil. 1:1). The elders and deacons consisted of men who met specific qualifications (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9). The church can exist while being scripturally unorganized, that is, when there are men who do not meet the requirements of Scripture. But when there are men who meet the qualifications, then they should be appointed (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5). The oversight of the elders begins and ends in the local church (1 Pet. 5:1-2). It would be unscriptural for the elders of one church to oversee any other flock than their own! The elders of the local church, as well as the deacons and saints, are subject to Christ, the head of the church (Col. 1:18). Therefore, elders do not, and cannot enact or enforce any other laws than the laws of Christ which are revealed in the Scriptures. Since Christ is in heaven (Acts 2:30-36), the church has no earthly headquarters. Its head-quarters are in heaven, where the head is located.
Will Be Delivered Up
In 1 Corinthians 15:24, Paul reveals the future of the New Testament church. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." Ultimately the kingdom, the church, will be delivered up to God. All of its faithful citizens will be delivered out of a hostile world unto God. The deliverance of the church will take place when the last enemy, which is death, is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:25-26). Then the redeemed of all ages will spend the ceaseless ages of eternity with God and with Christ in the beautiful city called heaven.
*John Isaac Edwards is sixteen years old.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 8, p. 19-20