Friday, January 11, 2013

Both/And Ever

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything...His body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:18,24, NASB).

Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (4:15,16).

I know that in Church history there have been those who denied the reality of the universal Church (“...the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,” Baptist Faith & Message 2000, VI), but in my experience it is much more common to encounter those who deny the reality of the local Church (“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth,” BF&M2000, VI). May we take note of Paul, who has no problem speaking of both the universal Church while writing to a specific local Church (“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae,” 1:1,2), and by God’s grace stop separating what Scripture comfortably describes as a single vision of His Church. His Church is both local and universal. There is not one without the other in the Scripture.

“The universal Church, which may be called invisible (in respect of the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) consists of the entire number of the elect, all those who have been, who are, or who shall be gathered into one under Christ, Who is the Head. This universal Church is the wife, the body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in the exercise of the authority which has been entrusted to Him, the Lord Jesus calls to Himself from out of the world, through the ministry of His Word, by His Spirit, those who are given to Him by His Father, so that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience which He prescribes to them in His Word. Those who are thus called, He commands to walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification, and for the due performance of that public worship, which He requires of them in the world” (1689 Baptist Confession, 26.1,5).

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