The Baptism with The Holy Spirit

Baptism With Spirit

Matt 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.

(KJV)

 

John the Baptist came as a herald of the Christ.  His preaching was filled with promise of the Messiah’s coming.  As he preached to the people and baptized those who repented, John told them that the Christ was coming to baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  What is this baptism with the Holy Ghost?

One thing we must notice is that this baptism is a baptism with the Holy Ghost, or inthe Holy Ghost.    Many times people speak of the baptism of the Holy Ghost as if the Holy Spirit did the baptizing.  In reality, Jesus does the baptizing.  “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” (Matt 3:11)  The work of the baptism of the Holy Ghost is the work of Christ.

The Promise

As John spoke to the people, his preaching was a familiar theme.  That theme was concerning the coming King of Israel.  John told the people that he came in fulfillment of Isa 40:1-8.  John’s ministry was in accord with Old Testament prophecy.  Part of the prophecy concerning John’s ministry was that he would tell the people that only God and His word would endure.  Included in this message was the fact that the Spirit of the LORD would blow upon men and they would perish.  With this in mind we can see that John’s preaching about Jesus baptizing with the Holy Ghost was preaching that pointed men to the Scriptures and promises about the work of the Christ.

As we read the word of God we find that the Spirit is spoken of as “that holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph 1:13)  The Holy Ghost came according to the promise of God.  We find this promise several times in the writings of Isaiah the prophet: Isa 32:13-18  Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city:  Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;  Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.  And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.  And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (KJV)  This prophecy speaks of the fact that God would pour out His Spirit on the people and that it would have an amazing effect upon the whole of creation.  The effects of the pouring out of the Spirit would be seen in the reign of righteousness in the lives of men and in the earth.  When John the Baptist preached that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost, the people knew that he was speaking of the work of the promised Messiah who would come to rule the earth in righteousness and give peace to His people.

Isa 44:1-8 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.  For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.  Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any. (KJV) Again, in this passage we have a promise of the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the people of Israel.  The promise from God is a promise that in that day He will deliver and bless His people, and the people would take the name of the LORD unto them.  That is, they would declare Him to be their God and their spiritual husband.  (Compare this with Acts 2:38 and the command to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  This is nothing more than a call for them to identify themselves with the Christ who had poured out the Spirit in fulfillment of the above prophecy.  What a marked contrast between this simple truth and the heresy of “One-ness” believers!)  John was telling the people that the promised redeemer was coming to save Israel.  The baptism of the Holy Ghost is a fulfillment of God’s promise.

Ezek 11:19-20  And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (KJV)Ezek 36:25-26  Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.   A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (KJV) Note that once again we have before us a promise of God giving His Spirit.  This promise is to the end that men would be changed to ones who would love and worship God instead of idols.

Ezek 37:12-14  Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.  And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,  And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.  (KJV) Here, too we have a prophecy that God will restore Israel and pour His Spirit out upon them.  This promise speaks of the future of Israel when the LORD returns to raise the dead and to rule in the earth.

Zech 12:9-10  And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.   And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (KJV) Once again we have a promise of God pouring out His Spirit upon His people at the time of the end.  At this time they shall be delivered, restored, and saved.

It is abundantly evident from the Scriptures which are before us that John’s preaching was preaching that would resonate with the people.  It was doctrine that they would recognize because they were familiar with it.  The King was coming. Their deliverer and Savior was near.  The Kingdom of Heaven was indeed at hand.  The promise of the outpouring of the Spirit was an Old Testament promise that was indeed gospel (good news) to the people.  When the Messiah poured His Spirit upon the people, sin would be forgiven, captives would be set free, and the world would be changed into a righteous habitation.

 

The Promise Fulfilled

Acts 2:1-4   And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.   And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.   And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.   And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (KJV)  Acts 2:16-21   But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;   And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:   And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:   And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:   The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (KJV) Acts 2:36-38   Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.   Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?   Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  (KJV)After many years of expecting God to send His blessing and John declaring that the blessing was at hand, Jesus stated that the blessing of the outpouring of the Spirit was near.  Jesus stated before He ascended to Heaven, Acts 1:4  wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. (KJV)  Luke 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.  (KJV)    Jesus let His disciples know that God was soon to fulfill the promise that He had given them so many years before. Finally, on the day of Pentecost, it came.  The Holy Spirit fell upon the people and they were baptized in the Spirit.  As the saints began to praise God, some observers mocked and stated that the saints were drunken.  Peter’s defense was two-fold: it was too early in the morning to be drunken, and this was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise that God had given.  The PROMISE had arrived!

The wonderful thing about this blessing is the fact that it is a universal promise.  The promise is available to all who call upon the name of the Lord.  This statement is a quote of Joel 2:28.  Peter mentioned that the outpouring of the Spirit was in fulfillment of the promise in Joel 2.  He also told those men to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.  This is especially interesting to note when you contrast the present day misrepresentation of Acts 2:38 which people use to teach baptism in Jesus’ name in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins.  One thing is certain, Acts 2:38 does not contradict the plain statement “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  When Peter said, Acts 2:38  Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (KJV) he was simply stating that men must receive Jesus as the Christ and embrace Him as the true King of Israel.              Not only so, but one of the things that is characteristic of those upon whom the Spirit is come is the fact that they identify themselves with the Lord who poured out His Spirit  (See Isa 44:5).  If this is characteristic of those who have received the promise, is it any wonder that Peter would tell the Jews who rejected Christ that they must repent, accept Jesus as their Messiah, and identify themselves with Christ to be saved?  Salvation is not through the identifying, but those who deny the Lord are denied of Him (See Matt 10:32,33).  No one need think himself to be forgiven of sin if he will not confess Jesus as the Christ and as his savior. This is simply another part of Scripture being fulfilled which says, Isa 44:3-5 I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:   And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. (KJV)           

Another place where we see the promise fulfilled is Acts 10.  In this chapter Cornelius had sent for Peter to come and preach for them.  He and his family needed the Gospel, and God arranged for Peter to go and preach to them.  Peter preached and told them that Jesus was the one who would forgive them of their sins and justify them.  Acts 10:44-48  While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,  Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.  (KJV)  At this time the church was still a Jewish church.  Peter was called into question about having fellowship with Gentile people.  His defense was this, Acts 11:15-18  As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.   Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.   Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?   When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.  (KJV)  At this point we simply need to see that the Gentiles received the same promisethat the Jews received.  God had kept His promise to pour out His Spirit upon His people and to save all those who call upon Him.

The Baptism With The Holy Ghost Today

            The final question that needs to be asked is, “What is the relevance and significance of this doctrine for us today?”

Paul said, Eph 1:13-14  after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.  (KJV)  What is the sealing of the Spirit?  Often we think of the seal in the terms of a seal on a jar, or on an envelope.  We think of it in terms of security.  The context speaks to us of security.  We must, however, take Biblical terms and use them in the manner for which they are intended and not go halfway with them.  The seal is the Spirit.  There is security provided by the Spirit being our seal. The Spirit seals us until Christ comes to redeem our vile bodies and make them like His glorious body (See Php 3:20,21; 1Pet 1:3-9; Rom 8:23).  The seal is something that is enduring, however, it is not a seal of the jar lid sort.  The seal is a sign of authenticity.  It bespeaks of the genuine nature of that which is sealed.  For instance, if I were to buy a car, I would receive a bill of sale.  The bill of sale needs to be notarized before I go register the car in my name. When I get the bill of sale notarized, it is stamped with the “Great Seal of The State of _____________.” The seal is placed on the bill of sale to authenticate that it is a document that is genuine and not a forgery.  In Jesus’ day, the seal was usually made in wax by impressing it with a signet ring. That ring had a particular motif that was unique to the authority who owned it.  Thus, when a seal was set on the tomb of Jesus, it was declared off limits by the authorities.  The seal declared that the order to not open the tomb was an official government order.  So, when a child of God believes the gospel and is saved, he is sealed with the baptism of the Spirit whom God promised in the Old Testament.  Remember, Paul stated that the seal was with the Holy Spirit of promise.  The Spirit within us testifies to the authenticity of our faith.

As the great apostle Paul spoke to the Galatian churches, he reminded them of this same truth.  His aim was to defend the truth of justification by faith. For this reason he asked the question, Gal 3:2  This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  (KJV)  Paul reminded the Galatians that their receiving of the Spirit and blessing came through faith, not works of the law.  He also told them that the reason Jesus died was that we could receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  Gal 3:13-14  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  (KJV)  Finally, Paul lets us know that this receiving of the Spirit was not an indwelling alone, but a baptism.  Gal 3:26-29 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  (KJV)   It is important to note that the baptism in Gal 3:27 is of necessity a Spirit baptism.  The word “for” is a word that joins the statement to be made with the foregone statements.  We have believed in Christ and have put on Christ when we were baptized with the Spirit into Christ.  This baptism happens when we become children of God by faith in Christ. In Christ there is equality and no distinctions.  (This would not be so if the baptism were water baptism into the local body, for we know that God has placed different people in different positions of authority in the local body. Furthermore it would actually be equating water baptism with salvation if water baptism were the baptism referred to here.)  This baptism is part and parcel of our belonging to Christ and being of Abraham’s seed.  In short, the baptism of the Spirit comes to everyone who believes in Christ to the saving of his soul: and that according to the promise of God of which we have already studied.

Finally, this baptism with the Spirit is a great assurance to the child of God.  Paul told the Roman church, Rom 8:9-11  ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.   And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.  (KJV)  All of God’s children have the Spirit of God in them.  The presence of the Spirit of God, in whom we were baptized upon believing in Jesus, is our assurance of our salvation.  Remember, it is our seal of authenticity.  Rom 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.  (KJV)  Because we have the Spirit of Christ in us, we know that we are partakers of the promise.  This is not simply a subjective feeling.  God lives within us and testifies to us of the fact that we are true believers.  When we read the Scriptures about God’s promises coming to those who believe we have assurance that we are partakers in that promise, because we have trusted Christ, have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells within us giving us the knowledge of salvation according to God’s promise (See Luke 1:77).

Let us thank God that He has given us such a promise and such a blessing.  We can live our lives with full assurance that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and are forgiven of our sins.  We have this assurance because He has given us the seal of the Spirit of God who has surrounded us, joined us to Christ, and lives within us.

 

 

The Local Church

The Local Church

            While considering these things, it is imperative that we recognize that the church generally is seen and experienced as the local church. What we mean by the local church is the church as it is established and ministers in a certain area. In many places within the New Testament, the church is referred to as being within a particular location. It is for this reason that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, rather than to the state church of Galatia, composed of all of the Galatian churches. The New Testament knows nothing of a national or state church, but teaches us much about the local church composed of those baptized believers in a particular area. This is readily seen in the book of Acts. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:41–47) The Jerusalem church was comprised of those believers who were baptized and were joined together in teaching, worship and communion.

Many people contend that the belief in the general church constitutes a denial of belief in the local church. This simply is not true, and is an uncharitable statement to make. In fact, the denial of the local church does not logically follow the belief in the larger body of Christ composed of all of the redeemed. Paul told the Corinthians that we are all baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) We know that this is true, because the Spirit that we all receive is the Spirit which was promised (See Ephesians 1:13-14 cf Isaiah 32:12-20;Joel 2:28-32;Acts 2:14-21). Every believer is baptized in/by the Spirit into the body of Christ. In the same chapter, however, Paul explicity tells the Corinthians that they, the local church, were the body of Christ: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) It is impossible to both believe the Bible and reject the truth of the local church. In fact it is no more biblical to deny the local church than it is to deny the church general, composed of all of the redeemed. Scripture teaches us both.

We also read Jesus saying, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18–19) Here Jesus tells us that there is a church that is unfailing in her existence. At the same time, this church has certain functions it exercises. This church has authority to bind and loose. That is, she can either declare            something lawful or unlawful, right or wrong, as she has been entrusted with the truth of God and is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This points further to the exercise of discipline within the body of Christ in which the church has the authority to receive people into the membership and to loose them from their membership by means of excommunication, and to receive them again by means of forgiveness (See Romans 16:17;1 Corinthians 5;2 Thessalonians 3:5-16;Titus 3:10;2 Corinthians 2:1-11). This is worked out within the local body of the church. While it is true that we see in this text the larger body of Christ composed of the redeemed, it also points us to this body being experienced and showing herself in the activities of each local church.

As Paul taught Timothy concerning the ministry, he wrote to him as one who was laboring in a local church. He told him the qualifications of those who would serve the local body, and told him that he was writing for a purpose: “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15) Paul’s counsel for Timothy was for the purpose of instructing him in how he should conduct himself in the church where he was laboring and leading. The same could be said concerning Paul’s letter to Titus.

When Jesus gave us instructions concerning relationships, he did so with the understanding that the local church had authority in these matters. “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 them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:16–20) Not only does the local church have authority in matters of relationships and discipline, but Christ Jesus dwells in the local church. This is why He said that He would be in the middle of the gathering of two or there who get together in His name. When God’s people determine to do God’s work in God’s way, Christ is present with them. Considering the fact that these things always occur in a locality, we can certainly understand that this refers to the actions of a local body.

Finally, as we consider the gifts and ministries that are given by the Spirit of God, we find that they are found being used within the local body. Paul taught the Roman church about this (Romans 12:1-8). He also went into great detail with the Corinthians concerning this: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:13–27) Though there is reference to the general body of Christ, we also find that the gifts of the Spirit have their residence and benefit within the local church. Paul informed Corinth that their local body was the very body of Christ. Each local church is a complete body of Christ, established to carry out the commandments of God in her area.

 

The Church General

1. What Is The Church

 

Introduction

What is the church?  That is what we must determine before we delve into the composition and manifestation of the church.  The most basic meaning of the Greek word ekklesiawhich is translated “church” in the New Testament is “called out.”  This was a common term for a congregation or an assembly.  It speaks of those who are called out for a specific purpose and was specifically used in this manner when Luke spoke of the Ephesian assembly (which was a tumultuous mob) in Acts 19:32&39 where it is translated “assembly.”  With this in mind we can conclude that the church is a group of people called out by God for His own purpose.  In fact, Peter presents this fact to us very plainly in 1Pet 2:9 saying, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”  (1 Peter 2:9) KJV 

 

The Old Testament Church

Though very little is said about the nation of Israel being part of God’s church, the Bible does plainly present this fact to us. Stephen, speaking of Moses, said, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”  (Acts 7:38) KJV  Now, there are those who would wish to deny that this is indeed a reference to Israel as being a part of God’s church.  They would like to tell us that this is simply an assembly of people, and that is all that ekklesiais meant to convey to us in this context.  The fact remains, however, that the word ekklesia occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament, and only in Acts 19:32&39 is it translated “assembly.”  In every other instance it is translated “church” or “churches.”  The only time it is used to speak of an assembly other than the Lord’s church is in Acts 19:32&39.  The typical usage of ekklesiain the New Testament is in reference to a called out group of people. That is precisely what the nation of Israel was.  “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”  (Hos 11:1) KJV  Thus, we can be assured that, though it did not function in the same manner as a New Testament church, there was indeed a church in the Old Testament.

 

The New Testament Church

What about New Testament days?  How do we see the church in the New Testament?  First of all, the local church is certainly seen in the New Testament.  The church is there with her leaders, discipline, and ordinances.  At the same time the church is also seen as a larger body that is composed of all who know Jesus.  It is this manifestation of the church that we want to consider.

When Jesus first mentions the church, He made a special promise to the church that actually demonstrates to us that the church is more than a local body alone.  Jesus said: “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Mt 16:18) KJV  Why say that this applies to more than the local church?  Because many local churches have died. This promise must pertain to some form of church other than the local church.  Local church only proponents may say that this applies to the church in general.  To do so, however, is to concede that there is some form of church beyond the local church.  There is a church that shall never die, according to the promise of Jesus.  What church is it?

The apostle Paul was one who understood the church to be general in nature and manifesting itself in local assemblies.  It was he who told us “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:13)  KJV  Entrance into the body of Christ comes by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (See Gal 3:26-29).  The question then arises, into what body is one baptized? Historically, Baptists have required water baptism for local church membership.  I think that is the right thing to do.  If this is so, into what one body is the believer baptized into when baptized with the Holy Spirit?

Paul’s language again shows us the general nature of the church when he said “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Cor 12:28)  KJV  Having just told the Corinthian church that their local assembly was the body of Christ, he proceeds to tell them about the gifts that are given to the church.  The first gift mentioned was apostles.  Were the apostles given to the Corinthian church, or the church general which is composed of Holy Spirit baptized believers?

There’s hardly another passage in which the church general can be seen more clearly than the following: “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.   For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.   Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”   (Eph 2:14-22)  KJV  Paul states that the Jew and the Gentile have been made one.  By the cross the Jews and Gentiles are reconciled into one body. There is no Gentile church or Jewish church.  There is only the Christian church.  There is no longer Israel as the only chosen of God.  Gentiles are fellow heirs with believing Israel.  We are of the same household as the believing Jew.  Together the believing Jew and the believing Gentile are built into God’s holy temple.  God dwells in this church.  One thing that local church only advocates miss is the fact that the body of Christ is present in this passage, but water baptism is not.  Neither will it serve any purpose to insist that it is implied.  What is expressly stated is that the cross is what brings people into this one body.  The body here is a body composed of the redeemed.

The church as the body of the redeemed is seen again in Paul’s writings to the church at Ephesus.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.   For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.   For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.   Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  (Eph 5:25-33)  KJV  How does the church become the church? By the cross of Christ. This same Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  (Acts 20:28)  KJV  For whom did Jesus die?  He died for the church.  Who is the church?  Those who have been redeemed: the ones purchased by the blood of Christ.  Local church only advocates must notice that water baptism, as important as it is, is never mentioned in these two texts.  What is mentioned is redemption through the cross of Christ.  The church general is composed of blood bought Christians.

Finally, the having seen the church as the bride of Christ, we must ask the question of the composition of the bride of Christ. Who is in the bride?

 

The Bride of Christ Composed of All Saints, Both Old Testament And New Testament Saints

First of all, we must go to the Revelation to see the bride of Christ.  “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.   Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.   And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  (Rev 19:6-8) KJV   Many of those who advocate the local church only (Landmark Baptist, Baptist-Bride) position state that  the white robes come from the righteous deeds of the saints.  In other words, the ones who are in the bride of Christ are the saints who live up to a certain standard of righteousness and holiness.  This standard has never been fully defined, to my knowledge. It is supposed to begin with water baptism into the local church, however.

Does the Scripture uphold this view of the robes of righteousness being righteous works?  It is this writer’s contention that the Scriptures do not support that position. Isaiah rejoiced in God’s grace saying, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom deckethhimself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”  (Isa 61:10)  KJV  Isaiah ascribed the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness as being a gratuitous gift from God, not as something done by the saint.  Jesus alludes to this in one of His parables:  “When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.   Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   For many are called, but few are chosen.”  (Mt 22:11-14) KJV  In Jesus’ day it was common for great men to invite many people to celebrate when family members were married.  We are told by some scholars that often the host would freely provide garments for his guests.  It was a great show of disrespect to one’s host to not wear the provided garments.  Jesus is telling us that we cannot partake of the joy of His kingdom if we do not accept the garments that He gives us.  What is the wedding garment, or the fine linen in which the bride shall be clothed in the day of her marriage to the Lamb?  It is the robe of righteousness.  It is the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 3:19-28;5:1-3). Thus it is that the bride who has prepared herself and to whom it has been given to be arrayed in fine linen clean and white is none other than all those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.  The bride of Christ is composed of those who are justified by faith in Jesus.

We also see the bride of Christ portrayed in the book of the Revelation as the city New Jerusalem.  “There came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.   And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”   (Rev 21:9-10) KJV  One statement especially about this city leads this writer to believe that all of the redeemed of all ages will be a part of the bride of Christ. That statement is as follows: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.   For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”  

 

(Rev 22:14-15) KJV The reader will quickly notice that the only ones who are without the city are those who are not redeemed. By this we readily see that the city is populated with the redeemed*.  That being so, and the city being the bride, the bride of Christ is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages.  In fact, we find that Abraham and other Old Testament saints anticipated entrance into the New Jerusalem.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.    For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.   And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.   But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Heb 11:13-16) KJV  This writer knows of no city for which they could have been looking other than the New Jerusalem, and God has prepared this city for them.  This being so, we can safely conclude that the redeemed of all ages are in the church, the bride of Christ.

 

Concluding Thoughts

For many Baptists this is somewhat shocking to consider. After all, there are groups of Baptists who claim to trace their lineage all the way back to John the Baptist. The claim is often made that Baptists are the true church to the exclusion of all others.  While most of those who make these claims would accept that there are Christians outside of Baptist churches, they would not accept that these Christians share with them in being members of the general body of Christ.  We should not feel in any way threatened by this truth, however. Baptist identity should still be important to us.  We simply should not find our identity in a supposed linked-chain succession of baptisms that go back to John.  Neither should we find our identity in a supposed kinship to Christians who held Baptistic doctrines through the ages.  Our identity should be found in Christ and in faithful obedience to His Word.  That in itself is so unusual today that those who faithfully follow Jesus will certainly stand out from the crowd.

 

* If one examines the context of Rev 21:1-3 it is possible that the ones who enter the city do not actually live there, but only worship there in this holy city/ tabernacle. Either way, those who have access into this city are the bride of Christ.  It remains that this group of people are the redeemed of all ages, and the redeemed are the church.