By Larry Ray Hafley
(Continued from last week)
“16. The Bridegroom had His bride before Pentecost. ‘He that hath the bride (church) is the Bridegroom (Christ)’ (John 3:29).”
The statement quoted above was made a year prior to the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:17, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” If the Lord had the church, why, a year later, did He say the kingdom is “at hand?” Nearly two years after John 3:28, 29, Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18).
This argument entangles the Baptists is some webs from which they cannot escape. According to reason number 16, the bride is the church. That bride is the Baptist Church says Baptist doctrine. Question: Are there other churches that are the bride of Christ? If so, Christ is a polygamist; He has a number of brides or churches. If not, then the Baptist Church is the only bride or church of Christ. All others are false. No other church is married to Christ except the Baptist Church, therefore, they are the only one who will be saved (Eph. 5:23). Smells like “Campbellism,” does it not? To teach that the Baptist Church is the only true church will not suit many Baptists (that would be too much like those narrow-minded folks in the “so called” church of Christ!). However, they can ill afford to say Christ has many brides or churches. Thus, once again Baptist doctrine runs into a dead end.
When Jesus died, was the church widowed? Remember that a wife is freed from her husband at death (Rom. 7:1-4). Was the church freed from Christ for three days during His death?
“17 .Prophecy had said Jesus would sing in His church and the record says He did. `In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee’ (Psa. 22:22; Heb. 2:12). And when they had sung a hymn they went out into the Mount of Olives’ (Mk. 14:26 ).”
Psalm 22 is generally regarded and received as a Messianic Psalm. Compare the sufferings of Christ:
(1) Psa. 22:1 and Matt. 27:46. (2) Psa. 22:8 and Matt. 27:43. (3) Psa. 22:15 and John 19:28. (4) Psa. 22:16 and John 20:25. (5) Psa. 22:18 and John 19:23, 24.
In Psalm 22, David is a type of Christ. The Hebrew writer has described sufferings of Christ (Heb. 2:9, 10). He says Christ, the Sanctifier, and “they who are sanctified are all of one,” that is, they all have one Father. The sanctified ones are “brethren” of whom the Lord is not ashamed. After Christ’s suffering of death, after His being made perfect through sufferings, after Christ had brought “sons unto glory” and sanctification, He was not ashamed of them. Indeed, He called them “brethren,” declared God’s name to them, and “in the midst of the church” sang praise. When did this transpire? After the cross, not before, hence, Mk. 14:26 does not apply. Christ had not been made perfect through sufferings is Mk. 14:26, but Heb. 2:12 and Psa. 22:22 obviously refer to the time after the death on the cross.
If it was the New Testament church in which Jesus sang in Mk. 14:26, view again the fact that the New Testament church observed the passover of the Jews (Mk. 14:12, 14, 16). Paul says if they did so, they are debtors to do the whole law, and if they are justified by the law, they “are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:1-4).
“18. They had the Lord’s Supper before Pentecost. ‘Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave to the disciples, and said, Take sat, this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ (Matt. 26:26-28).”
Verse 29, the very next verse, says, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” We find the communion of the body and blood of the Lord, the Lord’s supper, in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:23f). So, the Lord’s supper was in the kingdom, the church. But if the church was in existence is Matt. 26:26-28, why did Jesus say in verse 29 that He would drink it “new” with them? He should have said, “I will not drink this fruit of the vine until I drink it again with you in my Father’s kingdom.” He did not say “again;” He said “new.” How could He later drink it “new” with them if He was doing so at that time? He drank it then, but not in the church. He was to drink it “new” (not “again”) with them in the kingdom.
Jesus’ blood was “shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). The church of the Lord is purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28), but if this is the church Jesus is sitting with in Matt. 26:26-28, then we find a church that has not yet been purchased with the blood of the Lord. That would fit the Baptist Church, but the church of God is that which He hath purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
“19. If the first church was instituted on Pentecost, the great commission was given to individuals, and not to the church, for Jesus had been in heaven ten days, and the great commission was given before He ascended (Acts l:ll).”
This argument rests on an unnamed assumption. That assumption is that baptism is a “church ordinance.” Baptism is a command gospel preachers are to give to penitent believers (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16). It is not a church ordinance. If so, what church authorized the baptism of the Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8:35-39)? Baptism is no more a “church ordinance” than is repentance or faith (Mk. 16:16; Lk. 24:47).
Jesus Himself specified that His commission was not to go into effect until a later time-“not many days hence,” “in Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:47; Acts 1:4, 5). If the church existed prior to Pentecost, it existed without the great commission, without repentance and the remission of sins in the name of Christ, for that was not to commence until the Holy Spirit came. He came on Pentecost (Lk. 24:47-49; Acts 1:1-8; 2:1-5).
This “reason” also presumes the Lord could not give the commission unless the church was in existence. That premise is false. Jesus gave instruction concerning the church before the church was in existence (Matt. 18:18).
“20. If the church was set up on Pentecost, the ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, were given to individuals, and not to the church, and for the same reason, Jesus was not there, He was in heaven.”
Baptism and the Lord’s supper are not called “church ordinances” in the Bible. (See the comments on baptism under “reason” number 19.) The Lord’s supper is charged to individuals, not churches as such. “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). The communion of the body and blood of the Lord is to be partaken when the disciples come together on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
Baptists assume what they need to prove. Who says the Lord must be personally present before an ordinance can be charged to the church? The Lord was in heaven in 1 Corinthians 5:4, 5, yet He gave a “church ordinance,” if we may use the Baptist term. The- fact the Lord was not bodily present had nothing to . do ‘with whether it was an individual or a collective duty.
The Lord was present when He washed the disciples’ feet. Does His presence make footwashing a “church ordinance?” If a law cannot be given to the church without the Lord’s presence, it follows that His presence makes a thing a “church ordinance.” At least, that is the substance of the Baptist argument cited above. So, we should expect to find “footwashing” as a Baptist “Church ordinance.”
“21. When Jesus went to heaven He left his house and gave authority to his servants’ with a work to do. 1 Timothy 3:15 says ‘The house is the church.’ If the house is the church, as Paul says, then the church was in existence when He ascended, which was before Pentecost (Mk. 13:32-37. ).”
Note the answer given to this argument by N. B. Hardeman in the Hardeman-Bogard Debate, pp. 171, 172.
“Friends, the word ‘house’ in the New Testament, is used 195 times. The context shows it refers to the church five times; but in every case, there is a phrase or clause indicating that it is the church. For instance, ‘How thou oughtest to behave thyself in, the house of God’-now watch-‘Which is the church of the living God.’ Well, all right, now note again. Heb. 3:6, Christ is Lord over his house. What do you mean by it, Lord? ‘Whose house are we.’ Again, Ye also are built up a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5), and again in Heb. 10:21 where you have this statement that Jesus Christ is unto us a priest over the house of God. And futhermore, If judgement begins at the house of God (which is with us) what shall be the end of them that know not God (1 Pet. 4:17)? Hence, every single time that the word `house’ is used in the New Testament, referring to the church of God, there is something in that passage further explanatory of that idea.” Such a reference is not in Mk. 13.
No, the church was not established at this time. Later, Joseph “waited for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 23:51).. Why did he wait for it if it was “in existence?”
Finally, if the Lord’s words in Mark 13 have reference to the church, then we have a clear cut case of apostasy. According to Baptist doctrine, the Lord here tells the Baptist Church to “watch.” Why? “Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping” (Mk. 13:36). When the term “sleep” is not used to refer to physical sleep or death, it often refers to laziness, indifference, separation from God (Cf. 1 Thess, 5:6, 7). In its use in a spiritual sense, it is never commendatory (1 Cor. 11:30). Thus, in Mk. 13:36, Jesus tells the saved to “watch” lest he come and find them “sleeping,” unprepared to go to heaven. So, this text turns on the Baptists, since they do not believe it is possible for a child of God to sin and be lost.
“22. The great commission, baptism and the Lord’s Supper necessarily had to be given to an institution that was to be permanent, and that would carry on until Jesus returns, for Paul said in instituting the Lord’s Supper, do this ’till he come’ (1 Cor. 11:26 ). In giving the church the great commission Jesus said, ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. . . and lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world’ (Matt. 28:19; 20 ).”
The first segment of the initial sentence is an assertion of an assumption. Who said . “baptism and the Lord’s Supper had to be given to an institution that was permanent?” Likewise, the second sentence. Who has proven Christ gave “the church the great commission?”
Using the same presumption, I may argue, “Prayer necessarily had to be given to an institution that was to be permanent, for Paul said, ‘Pray always’ (Eph. 6:20).” Therefore, prayer is in the church. Further one’s prayer will not be heard until he is in the church. So, there is no use to “pray through” to salvation. Of course, I have not proved that prayer is an exclusive “church ordinance” but by using Baptist logic I have.
Incidentally, the first sentence contains a useless qualification. The tract mentions “an institution that was to be permanent and that would carry on until Jesus returns.” Yes, I suppose an institution that was to be permanent would indeed carry on until Jesus returns!
Look further at Matthew 28:19. It not only mentions baptism, but it also refers to teaching-“teach all nations.” Is teaching all nations a “church ordinance?” Must all teaching be sanctioned by the Baptist Church as baptism must be, according to Baptist doctrine? If so, this makes the Baptists a “narrow, exclusive, Pharisaical bunch,” like those trouble-making “Campbellites.” If baptism must be authorized by a Baptist Church, then so must all teaching. This is the logical consequence of their use of Matthew 28:19.
“23. They had instructions in church discipline before Pentecost. ‘If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican’ (Matt. 18:15-17).”
In John 3:3, 5, Jesus gave instruction unto Nicodemus as to how to get into the kingdom of God, but later He sent men out to preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” If the Lord could give information on how to enter the kingdom before the kingdom came, could He not do the same with regard to the discipline of the local church?
If the church was in existence in Matt. 18:15-18 it was under the law of Moses, for in Matt. 23:2, 3, Jesus said, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.” A Baptist Church under the law of Moses? It could not have been a New Testament church, for the New Testament was not of force or effect until after the death of Christ (Heb. 9:16, 17).
Note that it is a “brother” who is the object and subject of the discipline of Matt. 18:15-18. This “brother” who remains adamant and impenitent is to be “as an heathen man and a publican.” Is one still saved in this condition? Is a “heathen man” saved? This brother is a saved man, else why confront the church with him? He is an erring brother who is not strictly, literally an unsaved heathen or publican, but insofar as his spiritual condition is concerned, he is as lost as they are. Thus, we have a case of apostasy. Once again the Baptist tract has gone against its doctrine of “once in grace, always in grace.” If the church in the text is a Baptist Church, the brother is a Baptist brother who will not repent and who is to be regarded “as an heathen man and a publican.” Will some Baptist argue that he is bad enough to be kicked out of the Baptist Church, but good enough to go to heaven?
“24. God sent John the Baptist from heaven to prepare a people with whom Jesus would set up His church. ‘There was a man sent from God whose name was John’ (John 1:6J. 7n those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying repent ye’ etc. (Matt. 3:1-3). ‘Make ready a people prepared for the Lord’ (Lk. 1:17). Jesus said, I will build my church’ (Matt. 16:18); this He did after He had continued all night in prayer’ (Lk. 6:12, 13; Mk. 3:13, 14). And God hath set, some in the church, first apostles’ etc. (1 Cor. 12:2). The apostles were the first in the church and that was before Pentecost.”
The first sentence contradicts the fifth reason. Earlier, the tract intimated the church’s existed in Matt. 3:5, 6. Now it argues for a later time. See reason number five above.
The statement of Jesus. in Matthew 16:18 is regarded as prospective-“I will build my church.” But this declaration of the Lord was made nearly two years after the words found in John 3:29 concerning the bridegroom. In reason number 16, the tract argued for the existence of the church based on John 3:29, so the author crosses himself again.
Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:18). “This He did after He had `continued in prayer all night’ (Lk. 6:12, 13; Mk. 3:13, 14)’ Unfortunately, for the Baptist argument, the events of Mk. 3 and Lk. 6 are nearly one year before the promise of Matt. 16:18. If Jesus built His church in Mk. 3 and Lk. 6, why, a whole year later, did He say, “I will build my church?” If He built His church in Lk. 6, why did He tell His disciples to preach that the kingdom was “at hand in Luke 10:9? (“Come nigh” is translated “at hand” in Mark 1:15.)
See the reply to reason 7 for the argument made on the apostles.
“25. Those who teach that the first church originated on the day of Pentecost, do not cite a single passage of scripture that says so. If there were any, surely they would find them.”
The above reason is very poor even if it is true. Imagine, their position is proven to be true because of what someone else fails to do! If I did not use a “single passage of scripture” to substantuate my position, that would not prove the Baptist claim is the truth. If I do not cite a “single passage” why might it not also infer that the church began after Pentecost? If my failure proves, to the Baptist, that the church began before Pentecost, why could not someone else take the same logic and say it proves the church did not begin until after Pentecost?
Jesus said the kingdom of God would come “with power” (Mk. 9:1). He said the apostles would be clothed with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Lk. 24:49; Jn. 15:26,, 27; Acts 1:8). So, the power and the kingdom were to come when the Holy Spirit came. When did the Holy Spirit come? He came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Hence, the kingdom came on that day. For the very first time, “repentance and remission of sins” was preached in the name of Christ (Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38).
In Acts 11:15, Peter referred to the falling of the Holy Ghost on Pentecost as “the beginning.” The “beginning” of what? If the church, the gospel, the New Testament system were all complete before Pentecost, what could Peter have had reference to? “The beginning” of what?
Scriptural Reasons Why The Church Could Not Have Existed Before Christ’s Death
(1) If the church was in existence before the death of Christ, that is, during Christ’s personal ministry on the earth, it was in existence before the New Testament became “of force” (Heb. 9:16, 17). “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” The Old Testament was not abrogated or abolished until the death of Christ (Col. 2: 14-16). The idea of having the New Testament church under the Old Testament law is absurd, but that is what we have if the church was in existence before the death of Jesus (Gal. 4:4; Matt. 23:2, 3).
(2) If the church was established before the death of Christ, it was a church that could not preach: (a) To Gentiles. Give one instance of Gentile conversion during the personal ministry of Christ-can you? See Matthew 10:5, 6. (b) That Jesus Is The Resurrected Redeemer, The Son Of God. Imagine the New Testament church in existence and yet it could not proclaim Jesus as Lord and Christ (Matt. 16:20)!
(3) If the church originated before the death of Christ, it existed without Christ as head of it. Jesus was not made Lord and Christ; He was not made “head over all things to the church” until after His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God (Acts 2:36; Eph. 1:20-23; 1 Pet. 3:22).
Are you a member of the church you can read about in the Bible? In the first century, men and women who believed and repented and were baptized were added to the church by the Lord (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38, 47; Acts 8:5, 12; 9:31; 18:8; 1 Cor. 12:13). Have you done as they did?
Truth Magazine XIX: 13, pp. 199-202
February 6, 1975