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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Church That Jesus Built, 1923 (Chapter 5)
"Not only did Christ promise to be with His ecclesia to the end of the world, when He gave the Commission, but when He established the memorial supper and delivered it to His church He said, 'This do in remembrance of Me till I come.' Now if the doing of a thing is to be perpetuated the doers of the thing must be perpetuated. This is a self-evident proposition."
—W. D. Nowlin, in Western Recorder.
In the preceding chapters I have shown that Jesus, during the period of His personal ministry, organized and began His church. I have further shown that the church which He began was not an ethereal, invisible, universal, unorganized something without either function or mission, but that it was the local assembly, entrusted with the greatest task that was ever given to any institution on this earth.
So, having in existence the church, and having in mind a clear idea as to what kind it is, we are ready for the further question proposed at the beginning, namely, Did Jesus Promise Its Perpetuity?
Unquestionably He did.
In the same passage where we have our Lord's first mention of the church we find the promise that "The gates of hades shall not prevail against it."
None will deny that these words constitute a promise of the church's perpetuity. Dr. J. W. Porter says (World's Debt to Baptists): "If these words teach anything, they teach that the churches instituted by Christ and the apostles would never die, but would reproduce and multiply and perpetuate themselves to the end of all time." Of the passage, "The gates of hades shall not prevail against it," Dr. Nowlin says (Fundamentals of the Faith), "Referring no doubt to its indestructibility."
But lest we should be led to depend too much upon the passage just referred to, let us ask, “Is there anything else in the Scriptures that would warrant us in believing that Christ meant to perpetuate His church?” The answer is we find abundant evidence of this. Let us look at some of the proof:
“First, the Kingdom of God, as all will agree is to be perpetuated "until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ." (Rev. 11:15). In Luke we have this statement: "Of His kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:33).
How, let us ask, is the kingdom of God to be extended and advanced in the world? The answer is, by the church which Jesus founded. Men get into the kingdom of God by being born into it. This spiritual birth comes about through personal faith in the Son of God as Saviour. It is the church that preaches the Good News of the Son of God. Through the church's message men hear, believe, and are born into God's kingdom. Thus the church stands in the position of a recruiting agency for the kingdom of God, since no one gets into the kingdom except as they hear and believe the gospel, which has been preserved and is proclaimed by the church.
So, in summing up we state it this way: the Bible teaches that the kingdom of God is to be perpetuated. It shows that the church is Christ's divinely purposed instrumentality for the advancement and perpetuation of the kingdom. This being true, the Bible's teaching as to the perpetuity of the kingdom involves as a matter of course the perpetuity of the agency through which the kingdom is to be perpetuated—namely—the church.
Again, when Christ gave the Great Commission to His disciples, as has been shown, He addressed them not simply as individuals, but as individuals constituting His church. To the Commission He added the promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." Manifestly, if the church at any time ceased to exist, Christ's promise would become of none effect. To be with the church always, or more properly, "all the days," necessarily means that there must always, every day, until the end of the age, be in existence the church to which the promise was given!
Then again, all of the great denominations, so far as I can ascertain, agree that the Lord's Supper is a church ordinance. Now when Jesus instituted and gave this ordinance to His church to be observed, He said: "This do in remembrance of me . . . as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death TILL HE COME."
Most certainly, if the doing of a thing is to be perpetuated, the doers of that thing must be perpetuated also. If the observance of the Lord's Supper is to be perpetuated until Christ comes again, then obviously the church to which He gave the ordinance must, in the very nature of the case, be perpetuated too. There is no escape from this conclusion!