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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


The Universal Invisible Church

Versus

The Local New Testament Church

R. Reaves

When Jesus came to this earth he had two purposes. He came to start HIS church, and he also came to die for the sins of the world. He fulfilled both of these intentions. Other religions have invented theories trying to disprove this. The most prevalent of these is the Universal, Invisible Church theory. The writer will attempt through this paper to refute this theory, and to defend Jesus Christ's Local Church.


The Universal, Invisible church is the "(so-called) Body of Christ into which all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion." This makes every one who has ever accepted Christ as their Saviour, a member of a "World Church", regardless of doctrine or beliefs, which is totally unscriptural.


This theory can only be proved by taking Scripture out of context, or by changing Scripture altogether. The Universal, Invisible church theory began to emerge as early as the beginning of the Catholic Church around 300 A.D. It was officially presented as a new theory of the church at the end of the Reformation. Therefore, this theory does not have a biblical foundation, but was, rather, conjured up by men, to back up their Protestant doctrines.


The Local New Testament Church, on the other hand, is defined as "an assembly of baptized believers, organized to carry out the Lord's work." This is the definition of a fundamental, independent, Baptist Church today. The Local New Testament Church and the Body of Christ are identical as proved in Col. 1:18, 24, and Eph. 1:22, 23; but we are baptized by water into a local assembly, not by the Holy Spirit into a world-wide, invisible "church".


One of the foundations of the Universal, Invisible Church theory is the Pentecost Birthday theory which states that the church began at Pentecost and was started by the Holy Ghost. These theorists believe that there was no church prior to Pentecost. The Universal, Invisible Church theory, according to the definition, holds that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what places you in the "Church".


Therefore, in their reasoning, there was no church until the Holy Ghost "baptized" the apostles at Pentecost. This is a very unstable foundation, however, because Christ said in Mat. 16:18, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." If the Pentecost Birthday theory is true, then Christ never built HIS church, for He died, rose again, and ascended before Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit built the church. This theory cannot be true though, because Mat. 18:17 says, "...tell it to the church."


There had to be a church in existence for this Scripture to be applied. Acts 2:41 also supports this statement, it says "...the same day" (The Day of Pentecost) "there were added unto them about three thousand souls"; and verse 47 says, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." You can't add something to nothing. If the church didn't exist before Pentecost, it couldn't be "added to". Jesus Christ came to this earth, was baptized of John the Baptist and built HIS church, the Baptist church, with the twelve apostles as the first members. He completed the work which He came to earth to do.


This theory was concocted mostly by confusing the Local New Testament Church with the Kingdom of God. Note the differences as shown in the chart below:


                                                


 


 


 

 









The attributes of the Kingdom of God are very similar to the attributes of the Universal, Invisible Church. However, the Kingdom of God is NOT the Church and its characteristics should never be attributed to those of the church.


The ramifications of the Universal Invisible Church on the Local New Testament Church are severe.


First, it destroys loyalty to one's church. Local assemblies of the "Church" are not as important as THE Church, Universal and Invisible.


Second, it promotes church-hopping. Since every local assembly is just a small part of THE Church, you can, technically, go to any church you desire and still be in THE Church.


Third, it gives rise to substitute organizations to do the work of the invisible. With every variety of religion still being a part of THE Church, other organizations can carry out the duties given to the church. For example, the church was given the duty of caring for the widows, Acts 6:1, but now welfare does that. The church was also told to take care of the poor and needy, Gal. 2:10; but now the Salvation Army has taken over that role.


Fourth, it promotes compromise. Just so that every one can get along, other religions will compromise their beliefs and doctrines. They yield up what they know is right and accept what they know is wrong. They surrender and stop fighting and battling. They make concessions for the sake of settlement and unity. They push aside anything that can't be agreed upon.


Fifth, it erodes Scriptural church discipline. In Mat. 18:15-17 matters are to be taken ultimately before the church. If the church is Universal and Invisible, who is the matter going to be presented to?


Sixth, it downgrades Bible baptism for Holy Spirit baptism. According to the Universal, Invisible Church theory, proper Biblical baptism by immersion is not necessary, because Holy Spirit baptism places you in THE Church.


Seventh, it promotes ecumenism. The unity of all religions, or the One-World Church, is the very substance of the Universal, Invisible Church theory. They must cater to ecumenism or their entire theory crumbles.


Lastly, it releases Christians from church related responsibilities. An excuse or a way out can be found for every task assigned to church members, because the members are not accountable to a local assembly, but to Universal, Invisible Church.


Each of these eight categories are extremely important to the Local New Testament Church:

 

1. Loyalty is a must. Without it you have divisions within the church and ultimately you end up with a church split.


2. Church-hopping is never acceptable. You are a member of a specific, local church that God has established, and you have obligations to that church until your membership is transferred to another Local New Testament Church.


3. Substitute organizations should never take over the duties given to the church. The Church is responsible for carrying out these duties, and must give account for its conduct, concerning them.


4. Compromise is defined as "a settlement of differences by yielding up what you know and believe is right and allowing certain things which you know are wrong so as to allow some settlement to make a combination possible". This is totally against all we stand for. If we as a Local New Testament Church do not stand for truth and doctrine, we have no foundation to stand on and we are no better than the Universal, Invisible Church theorists.


5. Church discipline is absolutely necessary to keep members in subjection and in obedience to God's Word. Without church discipline there is chaos.


6. Scriptural baptism by immersion is the only way to gain membership in a true, independent Baptist church. This is an ordinance given by God, (Matthew 28:19) and must be adhered to.


7. Ecumenism is out of the question. If others do not believe as we do, we separate from them, for, as the Bible says in II Cor. 6:17, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate" and in Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" If two "faiths" can't agree, they shouldn't be fellowshipping together.


8. Christians cannot be released from church-related responsibilities. Whether it be teaching a Sunday school class or sweeping floors, God has placed you in that position and you have a responsibility to carry it out until you are told otherwise. You will be held accountable to your Pastor and to God for what you do or don't do.


The Universal, Invisible Church cannot be the "church" defined in the Scriptures. The Greek word for church, ekklesia, means "a called-out assembly". To be an assembly, you must fit four criteria:


First, you must be local. People cannot assemble if they are all over the world. Something universal cannot assemble in one place.


Second, it must be visible. People cannot assemble and not be seen. To carry out the duties given by God, the church must be visible. Mat. 5:16 says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven." Men can't see you or your works if you're invisible.


Third, it must be organized. People cannot assemble and be in complete disarray. An assembly cannot operate if it is in total confusion and chaos. I Cor. 14:40 says, "Let everything be done decently and in order." If the assembly is unorganized, the purpose is defeated, for nothing will get done. Local New Testament Churches have organized leadership; God and the Pastor. The Universal, Invisible Church has no leadership at all, therefore it is unorganized.


Fourth, it must be constituted. There are qualifications for membership in any assembly. The qualifications for membership in a Local New Testament Church are, Salvation, Baptism, Membership. Not just any Christian may belong to a New Testament Church (as the Universal, Invisible Church believes), they must fit the qualifications.


A Local, Visible New Testament Church fits all of these criteria. A Universal Invisible church doesn't fit any of them. This theory is just that, a theory, not fact, not truth, just a theory that has no foundation. Believe what God says, not what man can dream up in his own mind.


Jeremiah 5:31 "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye have in the end thereof?"


Jeremiah 14:14 "Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart."


Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."


Matthew 15:9 "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."


Matthew 24:11 "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many."


Galatians 2:4 "And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage."


Colossians 2:8 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."


Hebrews 13:9 "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines."


II Peter 2:1 "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction."


I John 4:1 "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."