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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
H. Boyce Taylor
From Why Be A Baptist, 1928
"And path put all things under his feel, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23).
"In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord in whom ye also are budded together an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:21-22).
"From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16).
Ephesians is the greatest of all the church epistles. There is much confusion in the thinking of Baptists, as well as God's people generally, as to what Paul was talking about in this epistle, when he spoke of the church as the body of Christ. There are numbers of reasons, which to me are unanswerable, for maintaining that in this epistle as well as elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul was talking about a local Baptist church -- the church at Ephesus.
First, the word ekklesia, which is translated church, as B. H. Carroll said in his discussion with W. J. McGlothlin, has as its "essential ideas, organization and assembly." The only church that has both organization and assembly is a local church. Prof. Royal of Wake Forest College, when asked as to the meaning of ekklesia, said: "I do not know of any passage in classical Greek, where ekklesia is used of unassembled or unassembling persons."
Second, the Lord Jesus used the word ekklesia twenty-three times, three times in Matthew and twenty times in Revelation. In every instance He used it of a local church. Whenever He spoke of a larger group than the members of the local church, He always said churches.
Third, Joseph Cross (Episcopal) in his book, Coals from the Altar, says:
"We hear much of the invisible church as contradistinguished from the church visible. Of an invisible church in this world I know nothing, the Word of God says nothing, nor can anything of the kind exist, except in the brain of a heretic. The church is a body, but what sort of a body is that which can neither be seen nor identified? A body is an organism, occupying space and having a definite locality.
“A mere aggregation is not a body; there must be organization as well. A heap of heads, hands, feet and other members would not make a body; they must be united in a system, each in its proper place and pervaded by a common life. So a collection of stones, bricks and timber would not be a house, the material must be built up together, in artistic order, adapted to utility. So a mass of roots, trunks and branches would not be a vine or a tree. The several parts must be developed according to the laws of nature from the same seed and nourished by the same sap.
“So with the temple of Solomon. It was no temple until the stones were quarried from Lebanon, prepared, gathered into Jerusalem and put each in its own place in the building. Whether the church is referred to as a temple or a house or a body, in every instance these two essential ideas are there, namely, assembly and organization. It is not a body unless the members are assembled and organized. It is not a house unless the materials are assembled and organized. It is not a temple unless the stones and other material are assembled and organized. Peter had exactly the same idea in 1 Peter 2:5: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
Fourth, Hort in his book, The Christian Ekklesia, confesses the necessity of finding some other than etymological, grammatical or historical grounds by which to prove the idea of a universal church. He admitted that the use of the word ekklesia was "always limited by Paul himself to a local organization, which has a corresponding unity of its own: each is a body of Christ and a sanctuary of God." Look at his statement.
That The Christian Ekklesia ever refers to anything but a local church cannot be proved by history, it cannot be proved from the etymology of the word, and it cannot be proved by the grammatical construction of the Scriptures where used. The only ground, Mr. Hort says, on which the use of the word as referring to an thing but a local church can be defended at all, is on theological grounds. That means you cannot prove it from the Greek New Testament at all, but you perhaps might read it into the New Testament from some book of theology.
Let us sum up a little.
The word church was used by the Master twenty-three times and always meant a local church. Mr. Hort, of the Westcott-Hort New Testament, admits that Paul never used it of anything but a local church. Scholars testify that ekklesia was never used in classic Greek except of an assembled or assembling body. The two essential ideas in the word ekklesia are assembly and organization. Every illustration of a church in the New Testament, such as temple or house or body, makes the veriest of nonsense, if it is not assembled and organized. The etymology of the word ekklesia makes it of necessity a local church. The grammatical construction of the passages where used cannot be twisted to mean anything but a local church.
Both Hort and Harnack testify that historically the word ekklesia was never used of anything but a local church, until long after the close of the New Testament. So you are on safe ground, when you say that the church, which is the body of Christ, is always a local Baptist church. In the three texts at the head of this chapter, the church spoken of was the church at Ephesus. These texts clearly set forth three marks of a church in New Testament days that differentiate Baptist churches from all other churches today and prove conclusively that Baptist churches are the only churches of Christ on this earth.
I. A Baptist Church the Only Body of Which Christ Is Head.
Christ is the head of a Baptist church in the sense that He is the founder of the first Baptist church. He is the head of each Baptist church in the sense that He is their only Lord and Master. He is the head of each Baptist church in that there is a oneness of life between Him and them. He is the head of each Baptist church in that His will dominates them just as your head dominates your body. He is the head of each Baptist church in that He is head over all things to each Baptist church. His word is their supreme law. He is their all and in all to them.
That is not true of any other church in the world except of a Baptist church. When Alexander Campbell went to England, he carried a letter from Henry Clay, introducing him as the head and founder of the church, which he organized. John Wesley was the head and founder of the Methodist Church. Calvin was the head and founder of the Presbyterian Church. Joe Smith was the head and founder of the Mormon Church. Henry the Eighth was the head and founder of the Episcopal Church. Constantine was the head and founder of the Catholic Church. Mrs. Eddy was the head and founder of the Christian Science Church.
The only church of which Jesus was head and founder is the Baptist church, and the only church therefore which is a body of Christ is a Baptist church. The relationship between Him and each Baptist church is as vital, as living, as real and as close as that between the head and the body or between a vine and the branches. This mark of a Baptist church differentiates it from all other churches.
2. A Baptist Church Is A Habitation of God Through the Spirit.
All other churches not only have a human head, but they are bodies without the Spirit and are therefore dead bodies. All of their born-again members have the indwelling Spirit of God in them personally, but their church is not a body of Christ and is not indwell by the Holy Spirit. The church Jesus built was built for a habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:21-22).
Every Baptist church unless the Lord Jesus has taken away the candlestick, is a living organism. The unconverted members have a name to live and are dead. But not only has each living stone life in himself, but the whole body has the Holy Spirit abiding in it. He is their life. He vitalizes them as a body of Christ. He lives in them as His home in that community. He is there to infill them with power. He is the representative of Jesus their head and makes real the presence and power of Jesus among them. He is the vicegerent of Christ in His body and all the movements of the body of Christ ought to be under His control. He said to the church at Antioch: "Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul unto the work, whereunto I have called them."
It is His to direct in the call of a pastor, in the selection of deacons, in the enduement and equipping of all officers and teachers in the Sunday School. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the finances of the church. It is His and His alone to tell each individual member of each local church how much he ought to give. Ananias and Sapphira, in a time when the church at Jerusalem was filled and mightily moved upon by the Spirit, were instantly killed, when they lied to the Spirit about their giving and refused to give what He told them to give.
In 1 Corinthians 12:11, Paul plainly tells that church that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to divide out the work to each one severally as He wills. If our churches were not so faithless and so worldly, I believe that in every Baptist church there would be gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles and discerning of spirits, just as this passage says. In the very next chapter Paul said that prophecy and tongues would cease and revelation would be done away. All other gifts mentioned there are still possible to the Spirit-filled church.
3. A Baptist Church Is A Living Organism.
Here are the three differentiating marks of a Baptist church. It has a live head. The Lord Jesus is the head of every Baptist church and His connection with each body of His is vital and lively. He works in them mightily. The heart of each Baptist church is the Holy Spirit. He indwells every one of them. His home in each local community is the Baptist church in that community. From that as a center, He works out His plans and purposes in the work and worship and walk of that church. His relationship to the living members of that church body is the same as the relationship of the heart to the members of your body and mine. Then each Baptist church is a body of Christ. The heads and founders of all other churches are dead or dying. All other churches are not bodies of Christ and the Holy Spirit does not indwell them.
A Baptist church has a living head - the Lord Jesus Christ: a living heart - the indwelling Spirit of God (Rom. 5:5), and a live and lively body. A Baptist church is not simply an organization, it is an organism. It has a life in itself. Its life, like the life of a vine, comes from within not from without. That is the difference between fruit and works. Works come from an outside pull, fruit comes from an inside push. When Baptist churches have to resort to suppers and bazaars and banquets and teas and picture shows and all other kinds of worldly entertainments to run the Lord's church, it looks very much like they have a name to live, but are dead.
The Spirit's way is to work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure and as He works in us mightily, we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. All worldly organizations connected in any way with Baptist churches are parasites that destroy their spirituality and power and will eat out their heart and destroy their life, if they are not cleaned off and cleaned out of the churches. The only living organism connected with any Baptist church is the church itself. Give it a chance and it will grow. It has life. It works from within outward.
All other organizations have no life; their connection is external, just to the extent they thrive they weaken the vitality and power of the churches. Our churches are dying at the heart because of the bloodsucking organizations that are fastened on them. Cut off the societies and the churches will take on new life and grow. Missions are dying all over the South because they have been taken out of the hands of the churches and pastors and put in the hands of the women or laymen. The Holy Spirit does not work that way. Back to the churches as well as back to the Bible is the imperative need of the hour.
A REAL NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
Now note what Paul says about a Baptist church in - Ephesians 4:16. "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
Here is what is said in that text about a Baptist church as a living, growing organism.
First, it has vital and living connection with the Lord Jesus, the Head.
Second, the whole body is fitly joined together. That will kill all hot air and high pressure emotional evangelism. That will make Baptist churches very careful to see that those who join them are fitly joined together rather than the mad rush we have now for members. Fitly joined members are praying members, giving members, going members, working members and lively members. No pep nor spizzerinctum needed in that church. It gets its life from the Word and the Holy Spirit. The useless and unscriptural appendages on Baptist churches will all slough off, when we get back to the New Testament methods of evangelism.
Third, a church composed of lively members, having the same life of the Spirit on the inside and united with the Lord Jesus as their Head, will be compacted by that, which every joint supplieth, for every member will then be an active, working, living member.
Fourth, "according to the effectual working in the measure of every part." That is the secret of a happy, united church. All at it, always at it. But back of that is the effectual working of the Holy Spirit, who works in them mightily. The effectual Spirit is the cause of an efficient church.
Fifth, "maketh increase of the body." A spiritual church is always a growing church, as well as a happy church and a united church and a soul winning church and a missionary church.
And last of all, a body of Christ, that has all these other evidences of the workings of the Holy Spirit in it, will be constantly edifying itself in love. Selah!