*WHAT IS THE CHURCH?* (part 2 of 2)
*III. THE ORIGIN OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH*
In Matt.16:18, the Lord considered the Church to be a future institution: “I WILL BUILD My church.” In John 17:11 and 21, Christ prayed that all believers WOULD become one. According to 1Cor12:12-13, the oneness in the body of Christ, the Church, comes about by Spirit baptism. Therefore, the origin of the Church must be traced back to the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s baptizing ministry.
Throughout the gospels Spirit baptism is presented as a future work. At the ascension, the Lord said that Spirit baptism would occur “not many days from now” (Acts1:5). Peter in Acts11:15,16 teaches that Spirit baptism had already occurred and did so “at the beginning.” Therefore, the Church was formed not long after the events in Acts 1:5 but long before the times of Acts 11:15,16, at Pentecost in Acts 2.
*IV. THE CHURCH AS A UNIQUE WORK OF GOD*
*1. The Importance of “DISPENSATIONALISM”*
Dispensationalism is a school of thought that maintains that God’s work in the world has been operated by different systems or administrations (Dispensations: Innocence, Conscience, Promise, Law, Church, Millennial Kingdom, followed by Eternal Kingdom; in all these salvation is received by grace on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ, some looking forward to the cross in time, others backwards). Ask me for a more detailed study on dispensations.
Those who confuse God’s various administrations will make serious mistakes in secondary areas of doctrine. Those who do not realize that the Holy Spirit works differently in the church administration may, for example, believe that Luke11:13 teaches we must plead with God in order to obtain the Holy Spirit. This verse, however, pertains to the disciples who were living under the Law dispensation when not all believers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Denominations that call clergy “priests” confuse the difference between Judaism and the Church. Under the Law, believers HAD a priesthood (Jesus sent someone he had healed to a priest Mat8:4). Under the Church, believers ARE a priesthood. Furthermore, it is important to realize that the “servants” in the gospels who are cast into outer darkness (e.g., Matt8:12;25:30; Luke12:46 etc.), refer to unbelieving Israelites under the Law of Moses, not to believing servants in the church. Thus, the doctrine of Eternal Security need not be compromised. Example after example could be given to show errors that will result from a failure to distinguish between the dispensations (administrations), especially between the dispensations of Law, Church, and Kingdom. See Rom.6:14,7:4,10:4,Jn.1:17,2Cor.3:7-8,11, Gal.3:24-25, Eph.2:15,Col.2:14,Heb.7:11-19,22,8:7,13. See our study ”Old Covenant vs. New Covenant”. Many Christians mix these up.
*2. The Church is UNDER A COVENANT BETWEEN GOD THE FATHER AND JESUS* and beneficiaries of this covenant are those who believe in Jesus: 2Sam7:12-16, Ps89:3,4, Ps89:28,29, Ps89:33-37, Mat26:28. The word ”covenant” in Greek is ”diateke”, which can also be translated ”testament”; we are beneficiaries of a testament through faith in Jesus, we are not in a works or merits contract with God.
The Old Testament prophets also spoke of a New Covenant that would be made with Israel. The New Covenant is based upon Christ’s blood (Matt. 26:28). It is in force with the Church but will eventually also be ratified with the nation of Israel (see also Heb8:7-13). This New Covenant is unconditional. It cannot be broken, and thus, guarantees a future for Israel. This means a Kingdom dispensation will follow after the present Church dispensation. Amos9:11, Jer31:31-37, Is55:3, Jer30:8,9, Hos3:4,5, Jer.32:40;Ezek.36:24-26;37:12-14;Isa.2:2-4,60:3,5.
The Old Testament promises that Israel will be the center of a worldwide and enduring Kingdom. Unless we are to believe that either God is a liar or is too weak to keep His promises, we must maintain that there is coming a future Kingdom for Israel. (See also Jer31:3, Micah4:1-3, Zech8:20-23,14:11,14;Ps2:6, Is9:6,7;Jer23:5,6;Dan.7:13,14)
All these promises (covenants) find their ultimate fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ who will return to give Israel her eternal right to the land and her eternal Davidic throne. Many verses focus upon Messiah’s role in a coming Kingdom.
*3. The Church as a MYSTERY revealed*
In the New Testament, the word mystery does not refer to a truth that is so difficult that it is virtually impossible to understand. A mystery is a truth that had been secret or hidden for a while. The Church was a brand new aspect to God’s work in the world. Truths about the church were completely unknown to the Old Testament saints who lived under the Law of Moses. This establishes that a great distinction exists between Israel and the Church. When God inaugurated the Church, He was initiating a completely new administration in His divine government.
Many texts speak of the new truths being given to the apostles as being a mystery in general terms. They, in a general sense, were unknown under the Law (Rom.16:25-26; 1Cor. 2:7;4:1; Eph1:9;6:19, 5:30-32;Col2:2;4:3; 1Tim3:9,16).
Another mystery that had been unknown to the Old Testament saints is the truth that Israel would be temporarily set aside and then restored at a later time in God’s program Rom11:25-29
The Old Testament saints never dreamed there would be two Messianic advents with a time period in between them. They did not know God would cease working through Israel for a time. Additional references to the mystery show the mystery that the Church was a brand new revelation and that the Church did not exist under the Law (this is the essence of dispensationalism) Eph3:2-6. The word stewardship in Col1:25-27 means “dispensation.”
God began a brand new work when He instituted a body composed of both Jews and gentiles. No longer did He work through Judaism, but all believers became one in Christ. Take note that the context calls this new union of believers “the church” (Eph3:10) and that Paul said this new revelation (mystery) brought to light a new administration that had been secret. The words for stewardship in Eph3:2 and administration in Eph3:9 mean dispensation. They are the same Greek word.
Another mystery that was unknown under the Law was that God Himself would INDWELL this group of believers comprised of both Jews and gentiles. Under the Law only a few believers were indwelt temporarily by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit came UPON them, but in the church the Holy Spirit comes INSIDE the believer. Old Testament saints did not experience an actual union with God. Once again the Church is shown to be a new work of God in great distinction from Israel under the Law.
–The moment someone places his faith in Christ as Savior Jn3:16, he is placed in Christ, becoming part of the universal church 1Cor12:13, being saved forever 1Jn5:13; that person then should choose a local church (assembly), which is not a condition for salvation, but for spiritual growth (ask me for the study ”How to choose a local assembly”).
–The universal church is not separated in denominations, but the local churches are, for different good reasons: doctrinal, organizational, administration, geographical, or often for bad reasons (personal ambition, wrong doctrines). There are about 40,000 denominations today (from 1600 in year 1900). A denomination is a Christian branch of Christianity that agrees with the major biblical doctrines; cults are not Christian denominations as they reject major Christian doctrines (examples of cults: Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science and others).