THE LOCAL N. T. CHURCH
"The pillar and ground of the truth"
I Tim. 3:15
Godís dispensational plan for this age centers in the local N. T. church which is delineated by the apostle Paul in I Tim. 3:15 as the "pillar and ground of the truth." Its Scriptural agenda was specified by Christ in Matt. 28:18-20.
A SPIRITUAL ORGANISM
The local church is a spiritual organism. Its gestation is delineated in the Gospels, its government is described in the epistles and its glory is displayed in Revelation as a golden candlestick. The Saviour is its center-Col. 1:18, the Scriptures are its contents-Acts 17:11, and the Spirit is its controller-Eph. 5:18.
As Acts 2:42 plainly states, a local N .T. congregation is composed of (a) believing people: "they had gladly received his word," (b) baptizing people: "were baptized" and (c) belonging people": "the same day there were added unto them about 3,000 souls."
The foundation of local church is found in I Cor. 3:11, the fellowship of the local church in Phil. 1:3-5, the flock in Acts 20:28, the finances in I Cor. 16:1, the freedom in I Thess. 1:1, the fruit in Rom. 6:22 and the future in Eph. 5:25-27.
A SCRIPTURAL ORGANIZATION
The local church is a commanded assembly-Heb. 10:25, a called-out assembly-Acts 15:14, a congregational assembly-I Cor. 6:4, a convening assembly-Acts 11:26, a communicating assembly-Phil. 4:4, a constrained assembly-II Cor. 5:14 and a contending assembly-Jude 3.
The outline of the local church is given in Matt. 16:18 and Acts 15:13-15. It is not a physical building, a denomination, or a super one-world entity, but a distinct body of baptized (immersed) believers who are gathered to worship the Saviour-I Cor. 2:2, to preach the Word-II Tim. 4:2, to fellowship with each other-I John 1:7, to carry out the ordinances-I Cor. 11:2 and to fulfill the Great Commission mandate-Matt. 28:18-20.
Its organization is simple: divinely speaking, it is a theocracy with Christ as its sole head-Eph. 1:22. Humanly speaking, it is a pure democracy that is self-governing-Acts 13:1-3, self-propagating-I Tim. 5:17 and self-supporting-I Cor. 9:14, I Tim. 5:17. Its ordinances are two: baptism by immersion-Rom. 6:3-5 and the Lordís Table as a commemorative memorial-I Cor. 11:23-32. Its officers are cited in Phil. 1:1 as bishops [elders/pastors] and deacons.
A SOUL-WINNING OUTLET
The word outlet should not be defined by its commercial usage. The local church is not a commercial order house, but a commissioned outlet. An outlet is a "way through which something goes out," and "a way of releasing something." The local church is the way God has designed by which the gospel flows out to needy souls and the Great Commission goes out to the ends of the earth-Luke 24:47.
The fulfillment of this Great Commission is its sole reason for existence. The importance of this great mandate is delineated in the five times that the Lord Jesus reiterated this great mandate in the first five books of the N. T.: Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:16, Luke 24:47, John 20:21 and Acts 1:8.
The identity of this Great Commission is declared in that mandate in Matt. 28 as including three vital elements: (a) evangelism: "go ye therefore and teach all nations," (b) baptism: "baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," and (c) catechism: "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
This "outlet" includes the whole world of habited humanity as Acts 1:8 clearly states: "ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem [local evangelism]," "and in Judea, and in all Samaria" [regional and national] and "unto the uttermost parts of the earth" [world-wide]. The history of Acts records this outreach: local-Acts chapters 1-7, regional/national-Acts chapters 8-12, global-Acts chapters 13-28.
Some Concluding Thoughts
The local church is central to Godís dispensational plans for this age and believers should be rightly related to such assemblies. However, many believers in the USA are now finding it difficult to locate such a N.T. assembly within a reasonable distance of their residence. Some saints are driving great distances to fellowship with believers of like faith and practice.
The USA is now the worldís third largest unchurched country. This editor recently received a call from a believer who was driving 150 miles one way to find Scriptural fellowship. For some saints, the only real means of Scriptural instruction is via tapes, sermon CDís and computer streaming offered by distant assemblies.
The great need of the hour is for local N. T. churches to extend their ministries by planting and establishing other local N. T. churches in the USA and around the world! This world-wide extension can be accomplished only as this Great Commission burden is staunchly preached/promoted/taught and then caught within existent assemblies!
In these last days, just before the trumpet sounds, it is this writerís earnest prayer that many saints will hear and heed Godís call to carry the Good News of Christís gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth by proclaiming the good news and planting N.T. local churches. D.J.
Also in this issue:
|Editorial Ė October-November 2008The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.|