Church: Meaning of the word
Doctrines from Darby
and the Plymouth Brethren:
(1) the church did not exist before Pentecost; (2) the visible and the invisible church identical; (3) the one assembly of God; (4) the presidency of the Holy Spirit; (5) rejection of a one-man and man-made ministry; (6) the church is without government. Also the following heresies: (1) Christ's heavenly humanity; (2) denial of Christ's righteousness, as being obedience to the law; (3) denial that Christ's righteousness is imputed; (4) justification in the risen Christ; (5) Christ's non-atoining sufferings; (6) denial of moral law as rule of life; (7) the Lord's day is not the Sabbath; (8) perfectionism; (9) secret rapture of the saints,-caught up to be with Christ. To these we may add; (10) premillenial advent of Christ.
The Covenant-Promise and the church
Our hope is the same hope which the twelve tribes had. Paul preached the Old Testament hope to the New Testament church.
Church, terms of admission
Church from the Beginning
Old vs New Testament
New when nothing is New?
The True Israel of God
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it,
The following was "forced" upon me as I was studying Zechariah. The need to do the following study impressed upon me until I put it together to my satisfaction. As usual, the following is not new with me, though much may be new to me. Everyone is influenced by someone, whether college, pastors, teachers, friends, a church, &c. Those who claim to live in a vacuum with no outside influence other than Scripture, are fooling only themselves. Everyone takes ideas which they consider proper, and make them their own. The following is a result of my research into the doctrine of the church as taught by some of the greatest theologians of the past.
"But you are just repeating what others have said."
Answer: Doesn't everyone? We might not repeat what they said, but their thoughts and ideas will become ours, if we find them Biblical. We will examine the doctrines that we have had contact with, either from the writings of men from before our time, or from men in our personal past. That is, pastors, teachers and various authors. If such is not the case, and every man is his own teacher, then why go to college, or sit at the feet of pastors and teachers?
We met a young man, maybe 25 years old, at a motorcycle rally in Southern Virginia. He had come up from Tennessee. He was proud of the fact that he was a preacher. Upon questioning, he proudly announced that he did not study for his messages. He simply got up and said whatever came to his mind. Is this what we want in the pulpits?
No man is inspired today as were the authors of the Scriptures. Nor are we to start over developing doctrine with every generation, though Darby and the Plymouth Brethren did. Starting about 1830, they intentionally threw out all past understandings of Scripture, and started anew. The result was that they developed some strange, new doctrines that were so considered heresy in his day that Darby requested police protecton as he presented his newly formed doctrines, which are with us today.
Growing up in a lay pastor's home, I do not remember my dad taking a stand on this issue, though he might have. However, after I returned from the military, I started attending and became a staff member of a local church with a Bible Institute attached. The young men in that Institute were very radical "Local Church Only."
The next two churches where I served on the staff were also "Local Church" oriented. All three churches were strong followers of Jack Hyles, and "Local Church", for lack of a better term.
After I became pastor of my own church, the other pastors I fellowshipped with were also "Local Church", and were quite vocal about their conclusions concerning the church.
Though all of my contacts and teaching had been strong "Local Church", the teaching I heard did not seem to fit with what I was seeing from Scripture.
For me, the following is the only way the doctrine of the church will stand. All our doctrine must be based upon the indisputable fact that all men are sinners, and that there are none that seek after God; therefore, it requires the grace of God to call people unto Himself. Furthermore, we must conclude that God's grace had to reach all the way back to the garden. (In fact, the grace of God reaches into His very presence, i.e., the elect angels, 1 Tim. 5:21. See my document on election.)
When we take into consideration the inborn fallen state of all people ever born (except Christ, of course), we have no choice but to view the church as we do herein.
There has been much teaching upon it to say the least. The doctrine of the church which is taught today, on a whole, (especially Baptist doctrine), was developed by J.N. Darby, around 1840. He did not really develop the doctrine; a better term would be, "further developed and refined." As he further developed a doctrine already in existence, he did so in opposition to the accepted Baptist doctrine of his day. To a large extent, Darby's doctrine won out, and the Baptist are Darbyites in most areas, including the doctrine of the church. Of course, the Scofield Bible is Darbyite doctrine systematized, which the vast majority of the Baptist hold to.
The historic stand of the church in general, and the Baptist in particular, has not been "Local Church Only".
Church, meaning of
The word church is used in Scripture and in everyday life in many different senses, (C. Hodges, Theology III, pg. 574).
1) It means the whole body of the elect. In Eph. 5:25 it is said to be the body, or the bride of Christ and the church is to be filled by his Spirit.
2) It means any number of believers collectively considered. Or it means the whole number of believers living in any one place, area or throughout the whole world. This is the sense in which we pray and ask God to bless and strengthen His church wherever it might be.
3) It is used as a collective term for the body of professed believers in any one place, i.e., the Church of Jerusalem, of Ephesus, or of Corinth, as would be used today when speaking of a local church, or congregation, e.g., Gal. 1:2.
4) It is used of any of professed believers bound together by a common standard of doctrine and discipline. Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church, &c.
5) It is used for all the professors of the true religion throughout the world, who are considered as united in the adoption of the same general creed and in common subjection to Christ.
Really we can sum up the above into three main groups.
(1) All of the redeemed, whether in heaven or on earth. These would be the whole body which Christ loved and gave himself for that He might sanctify it, and present it to Himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, Eph. 5:25-27. Some would include the elect angels within this body, Heb. 12:22, 23.
(2) Those who profess faith in the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, are baptized and assemble together. These come to the table of the Lord, are instructed from His word and encourage one another. They submit to the Scriptural authority of the local assembly and contribute to the support its work, and follow its creed. They unite for the purpose of public worship of Christ, for the exercise of their mutual watch and care, and for the spreading of the gospel. (Some include "baptized" infants in this group.)
(3) Then we have really a misuse of the word church as it is used to refer to a building and property. This would be far closer to the use of the New Testament word synagogue, or gathering place for the congregation of the Lord.
The buildings which housed the worship of Jehovah God, whether the tabernacle, Solomon's temple, Ezra's temple, Herod's temple and even the many synagogues scattered world-wide in the New Testament, were only gathering places for the congregation of the Lord. The congregation was the church, the kingdom of God upon the earth. The buildings where this congregation meet in worship were only physical representations of the congregation of the Lord, the kingdom of God upon earth. These buildings were only the "outward edifice: the shell which housed the kernel, (E. W. Hengstenberg. [October 20, 1802 - May 28, 1869]. Christology of the Old Testament, vol. II, pg. 998)." We will come back to this.
It is easy to identify which "church" the three Scriptures speak of as we consider the doctrine of the church.
First, we need to see that God ordained the visible church (2 above) as a divine institution. God ordained offices, and assigned them responsibilities and privileges. He gave commands to the people of the visible church as well as His power to obey those commands. He gave the conditions of membership, including restrictions upon who can partake in the ordinances which He gave to the church. (This do in remembrance of me.) He gave laws for its government and established the punishment of the violation of those laws. The church is the kingdom of God on earth which our Lord talks about so often, and is easily traced throughout Scriptures, from Genesis through Revelation. Everything points to His kingdom's ultimate victory and all nations of the earth included within it (by His grace). (Note that the Book of Daniel clearly establishes the fact that all the earth is God's kingdom.)
Who is included in this visible assembly of the congregation of the Lord (contrasted with the invisible assembly in Heb. 12:22)? For some reason, known only to God, it was/is not His purpose to include only the redeemed in the visible church. It is built upon a profession of faith in the Redeemer (Matt. 16:18) and upon following of the law of God, (1 Cor. 5). The church has not been given the power to read the heart, but it has been commanded to "read" the actions of its members (1 Cor. 5, &c), which are often misread. Therefore, the Lord admits into this visible assembly all who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and live accordingly, which allows within this congregation both saved and unsaved, Mat. 7:21-29; Heb. 12:25-29, &c.
The above fact is confirmed many times by the Lord Jesus in His parables spoken while He was here upon this earth. He compares His visible kingdom (church) to a field in which both wheat and tares are allowed to grow, Matt. 13:24, 30. (Note therefore that preachers are not permitted to try to "weed out" the tares; doing so will harm the wheat. We are to preach the whole counsel of God, and the Holy Spirit will do His work as pleases the Father.)
Another point which shows that the congregation of the Lord is made up of saved and unsaved is that the Lord, in His eternal purpose, allowed Judas to join the Apostles. Here we see that even the unsaved within the visible congergation of the Lord fits within His eternal purpose. Accordingly, any attempts to make a church exclusively of the regenerated will fail. We do our best to allow only professing believers (in word and deed) within the congregation, but the rest is up to him.
Now we come to another very misused and abused part of the doctrine of the church. Here we will see that THE CHURCH IS THE SAME, whether under the old dispensation or under the new.
"It is not a new church, but one and the same." (Ibid.) In Rom. 11:16, 17, Paul points out that God did not uproot the olive tree, but cut off the original branches and grafted in the wild branches. The root stayed the same, and the original branches can be grafted back on the original root; in fact, they must be if they will inherit the blessings, vv. 18-24.
Thus we see that the church (congregation of the Lord, people of the Lord or covenant people) is founded on the same covenant, or root, that God made with Abraham (and Adam). All of the book of Galatians is clear on this with chapter 3 so clear a blind man should be able to see it, (blind= unsaved. See Gal. 3:9, 16, 29; 6:16). The congregation of the Lord is given the identity of Israel when God renamed Jacob. This new name, Israel, is carried by the covenant people (congregation of the Lord) of God until the end of time.
In addition, let us consider some points made by A.H. Strong. Under his Definition of the Church, he says:
(a) The church of Christ in its largest signification, is the whole company of regenerate persons in all times and ages, in heaven and on earth (Mat. 16:18; Eph. 1:22, 23; 3:10; 5: 24, 25; Col. 1:18; Heb. 12:23). In this sense, the church is identical with the spiritual kingdom of God; both signify that redeemed humanity in which God in Christ exercises actual spiritual dominion (Jn 3:3, 5). (A.H. Strong, Baptist minister, President and Professor of Biblical Theology in the Rochester Theological Seminary, 1907. Systematic Theology, Three Volumes in One, p. 887. For three years president of the American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society. When the Northern Baptist Convention was formed in 1905, he became its first president. All of Strong's statement here.)
Under, ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH, p. 895, Strong writes:
As indicative of a developed organization in the N.T. church, of which only the germ existed before Christ's death, it is important to notice the progress in names from the Gospels to the Epistles. In the Gospels, the word "disciples" is the common designation of Christ's followers, but it is not once found in the Epistles. In the Epistles, there are only "saints," "brethren," "churches." A consideration of the facts here referred to is sufficient evidence of the unscriptural nature of two modern theories of the church:
A. The theory that the church is an exclusively spiritual body, destitute of all formal organization, and bound together only by the mutual relation of each believer to his indwelling Lord.
The church, upon this view, so far as outward bounds are concerned, is only an aggregation of isolated units. [That is, individual bodies of believers, or local assemblies, ed.] Those believers who chance to gather at a particular place, or to live at a particular time constitute the church of that place or time. This view is held by the Friends and by the Plymouth Brethren [J.N. Darby and the Plymouth Brethren. Ed.] It ignores the tendencies to organization inherent in human nature; confounds the visible with the invisible church; and is directly opposed to the Scripture representation of the visible church as comprehending some who are not true believers...
The Plymouth Brethren would "unite Christendom by its dismemberment, and do away with all sects by the creation of a new sect, more narrow and bitter in its hostility to existing sects than any other." Yet the tendency to organize is so strong in human nature, that even Plymouth Brethren, when they meet regulary together, fall into an informal, if not a formal, organization; certain teachers and leaders are tacitly recognized as officers of the body; committees and rules are unconsciously used for facilitating business...
Dr. Wm. Read, Plymouth Brethrenism Unveiled, 79-143, attributes to the sect the following Church-principles: (1) the church did not exist before Pentecost; (2) the visible and the invisible church identical; (3) the one assembly of God; (4) the presidency of the Holy Spirit; (5) rejection of a one-man and man-made ministry; (6) the church is without government. Also the following heresies: (1) Christ's heavenly humanity; (2) denial of Christ's righteousness, as being obedience to the law; (3) denial that Christ's righteousness is imputed; (4) justification in the risen Christ; (5) Christ's non-atoning sufferings; (6) denial of moral law as rule of life; (7) the Lord's day is not the Sabbath; (8) perfectionism; (9) secret rapture of the saints,-caught up to be with Christ. To these we may add; (10) premillenial advent of Christ.
On the Plymouth Brethern and their doctrine, see British Quar., Oct. 1873: 202; Princeton Rev., 1872:48-77 ; H. M. King, in Baptist Review, 1881 : 438-465 ; Fish, Ecclesiology, 314-316; Dagg, Church Order, 80-83; R. H. Carson, The Brethren, 8-14; J. C. L. Carson, The Heresies of the Plymouth Brethren ; Croskery, Plymouth Brethrenism ; Teulon, Hist. and Teachings of Plymouth Brethren.
B. The theory that the form of church organization is not definitelyprescribed in the New Testament, but is a matter of expediency, each body of believers being permitted to adopt that method of organization which best suits its circumstances and conditions.... (Strong, pp. 895, 6.)
Obviously, there are two "Churches" in Scripture: one made up of only the elect (thus, spiritual), and the other made up the local assembly. Darbyism restricted the church to consisting only of the local addembly.
To clarify this further, let us identify a covenant. Covenant can be defined as a promise suspended upon a condition (C. Hodges). Or a mutual agreement between two parties.
A covenant (promise) is given: "The blessings of redemption through the promised seed, Christ", which defines the gospel. "THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PLAN OF SALVALTION, AND THE OFFER OF THAT SALVATION, TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVES (C. Hodges)."
This is the covenant, the promise, (salvation, redemption, forgiveness of sin, free access to the Father, fellowship restored, the dominion mandate restored), suspended upon a condition, (believe in the promised seed, Christ). Faith in the promised seed resulted and results in salvation, Gal. 3:6.
Also included in the covenant would be, "And I will be your God, and ye shall be my people, (Lev. 26:12, etc.). This involves the complete restoration of our normal relation to God which Adam lost. All of the grounds for separation from a Holy God are removed through his covenant people's faithful conformity to His will and devotion to His service, and they become special objects of his divine favor. Accordingly, it is through the covenant that everything Adam lost, (i.e. free access, fellowship with the Father as well as the promised dominion through obedience), is re-established in the promised Seed.
Eph. 1:11, for some reason, known only to the Godhead, and in accord with His eternal purpose, He has not chosen to restore all of His fallen creatures into this special favor. He has chosen to leave many to go their happy way to the just results of their sin.
We see four things concerning those whom He has chosen to restore into proper relationship. (1.) It is apart from any merit on their own, Eph. 1:5-7; 2:8,9. (2.) They are His peculiar possession and special objects of His divine favor, I Pet. 2:9, (Deut. 14:2; 26:18; Ps. 135:4). (3.) He reveals His glory to the surrounding world through them, Eph. 3:10. (4.) These alon are justified, sanctified and glorified. These are the ones conformed to His divine image, (Rom. 8:29), dedicated to His service and obedient to His will, Titus 2:14.
Now let us trace this covenant promise back to its roots, which is very important because the church is built upon this root.
First, here we see that this promise was originally given in the garden, Gen. 3:15. Bruising the head implies fatal injury or overthrow. It was here promised that the evil one who triumphed over our first parents would be overthrown, cast down, stripped of his power and trampled under foot. This overthrow was to be accomplished by the Seed of the woman. This man, (the Seed), was to triumph over the enemy of man, Satan.
Eve's statement in Gen. 4:1, 25 shows that she fully believed that the Lord would provide that Seed which would conquer Satan who had conquered them. She believed that that Seed would come through her. That Seed was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil, 1 Jn. 3:8. That Seed alone had the power to bind the strong man, (the devil), and spoil his house, Matt. 12:29; Mk. 3:27.
This confidence in the promised seed surfaces over and over. Gen. 5:28, 29, whether or not Lamech believed Noah was the One, (his name means rest or comfort), I cannot say, but we do see the confidence displayed in the One who would give rest.
We pick up this confidence in the promised seed again in Abraham, Gen. 12:1-3. Then a fuller view of this confidence in Abraham's statement to Isaac, 22:8. As the promised of the coming conquering Seed is renewed to Abraham, Paul clearly tells us that the seed is an individual, not a nation, (although a nation would be built upon this Seed), Gal. 3:16.
Therefore, within the promise, both to Adam and to Abraham was found the promise of forgiveness of sins, restoration to the Father's favor, the renewing of the heart, and the gifts of the spirit, all of this through the Seed of Gen. 3:15.
The covenant promise is easily followed through history. We see it revealed again to David as the time of the fulfillment draws near, II Sam. 7:10-17. David tells of his faith in this promised seed, vv. 18-29.
When we look at the record of these Old Testament saints and how they viewed the promise, we have no way of knowing how much instruction they had concerning the redemptive work of the Seed, Christ. We will see from the New Testament references to these saints of old, that they had far more instruction than what is recorded in the Old Testament. Remember, they had no written revelation from God concerning the redemptive work of Christ until Moses. God has not given us a complete record of His dealing with people in history. He has only given us what is necessary for us to know. He gives nothing to satisfy idle curiosity.
We also need to keep in mind that the covenant promise is redemption through the coming Seed. The gospel is the offer of salvation to everyone who believes in that Seed, (believes the promise), Christ Jesus. (See above).
The definition of preaching. The PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL is the revealing of God's plan to save sinners, (from the power and penalty of sin). This is Old Testament as well as the New Testament doctrine. 2 Pet. 2:5 identifies Noah as a preacher of righteousness, or how to be right with God. This righteousness could not have been through the law because the law not yet been given. Thus it had to be righteousness through faith in the promised seed, as we will see.
Therefore, in the gospel we have God's call for sinful man to return unto Him and His law-word as a way of life. Adam transgressed the law-word of God, so in him all died. Christ obeyed that law-word perfectly so in Him all who will turn from their way to his way are made alive, 1 Cor. 15, (v. 22). All who follow His way will inherit the promised blessing.
"On the ground of this redeeming work of Christ, God promises salvation to all who will comply with the terms on which it is offered (C. Hodges)."
The definition of grace. We here need to define grace and return to it later. Hodges give three definitions as to the meaning as used in Scripture and in religious writings: (1.) Unmerited love; i.e., we could do nothing to merit the love of God for man. (2.) Any unmerited favor of God toward man, esp. spiritual blessings. The fruits of the spirit in the believer are referred to as, "Christian graces or the unmerited gifts of God to the believer." (3.) Supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit. This is the primary usage of grace. This grace is secured by the work, merit, of Christ, which identifies salvation as a covenant of grace. (God did not have to give the promise in Gen. 3:15 which required the sending of His only begotten Son. This promise was given totally by a sovereign act of grace, an act of God apart from any and all outside influence upon Him. Then through faith in this promise, the believer gains the grace of God, or His power to please Him.) (a.) This grace originated in the mysterious love of God toward His fallen creatures because man only deserves His wrath and curse, Eph. 3:9. (b.) This grace promises salvation apart from any work or merit on our part. It is an unmerited favor, a covenant of grace. (c.) The benefits of this grace do not come through the use of any natural powers or abilities on the part of the sinner. The benefits of this grace are by the benefits of the supernatural influence of the Spirit of God granted to the individual as an unmerited gift. (Again, through and because of the merit of Christ.)
This grace, (supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit working upon and within the spirit of man), gives men the desire and strength to please God and thereby inherit the promises of the blessing. God alone chooses in whom to do His marvelous work of grace, Eph. 1:1-14.
A further definition of grace and maybe a easier one to comprehend would be: "GOD'S SOVEREIGN EXERCISE OF HIS POWER AND PREDETERMINATION."
Going back to the promise of salvation based on the redemptive work of Christthe true congregation of the Lord or the covenant people, (Israel, if you please), would be any and all persons who believe in the promise or trust in the promised seed, Christ.
(Let us mention that this is consistent with The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, chp. 7, "Of GOD'S COVENANT. 3. This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterward by further steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the NT".)
This means that the church originated in the garden at the first giving of the promise Gen. 3:15. (Hengstenberg. Christology of the Old Testament, Vol. II, p. 998). The power to believe that promise or trust in the promised Seed is grace which is a sovereign act of God, Rom. 9.
The promise, that is the root of Rom. 11, is the same from the beginning, (Adam), to the end. That covenant promise is redemption through the seed, who was revealed in the New Testament as the Christ. Faith in that promise inherits the heavenly Jerusalem. The exact same faith which Abraham had and which caused him to inherit the promise, still inherits the promise, Heb. 11:14-16. See Gal. 3:29, &c.
The doctrine of the church can be stated: "The church now rests on the Abrahamic covenant, in other words, that the plan of salvation revealed in the gospel was revealed to Abraham and to other OT saints, and that they were saved just as men since the advent of Christ are saved, by faith in the promised seed... (Hodges)." Actually, it reaches back to the Adamic covenant over 2,000 years previously. See Jn. 8:56. How did Abraham see Christ?
The very substance of the gospel involves all of the teaching of our Lord as He pointed out that He came not to destroy, but to fulfill the law, Matt. 5:17. See Jn. 1:45; Lk. 24:25-27, 44-48. Note in 44-48 that all of the law and the prophets required the basic points of the gospel: a.) That Christ suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. b.) AND that the gospel be preached among all nations, LK. 18:31; Matt. 26:56. All of these passages clearly teach us that the gospel of His death, burial, resurrection for the remission of sin, followed by His enthronement in heaven, WAS NOT A NEW DOCTRINE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Also here we need to mention a point concerning the covenant. There are actually two convenants:
(1.) Between God the Father and the Son. Within this covenant we see Christ, though being equal in all things with the Father, agreeing to accomplish a stipulated work which was assigned by the Father. The completion of His assigned work (condition), resulting in a reward (promise). He would accomplish a specified task and would receive the promised reward. This everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son cannot be understood by fallen man, other than what is taught throughout Scripture. See places such as Ephesians one and two for the stipulated work and reward. This covenant work is all within the eternal, past, present and future, purpose of the three-part Godhead. This eternal covenant was made in eternity past, in which Christ represented all of God's people of all time in this covenant, Rom. 5:12-21. This is redemption.
See Heb. 12:2. The promise is referred to as joy in providing redemption, and the honor of being at the place of all honor and power.
(2.) The second covenant is between the Father and His people. Of course, this covenant is founded on the original one between the Father and the Son. This is the covenant of grace, of which Christ is the mediator. He is one of the contracting parties of the former with the Father.
In covenant #1, the Father promised to exalt the Son, Christ, and save those who would trust in Him. Christ merited His exaltation. #2, the promise is made with the people. If they will trust in the finished work of Christ, they will be His people and inherit the promised blessings. This is the covenant of grace, and revealed in the gospel of grace. No man can do anything to merit this promised blessing.
This gospel was preached to faithful Abraham. Paul points out that the faithful Hebrews before the advent were the ones who believed in the same Christ as we since His advent, Eph. 1:12, (v. 13, we who believe today are compared with those who had already trusted, [believed], even before He came).
Acts 26:6-7 shows us that the godly in the twelve tribes served God day and night with the same hope that Paul had and which we have. That hope is in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, v. 9. Read the context of Paul's defense before Agrippa as well as the message he preached to him. Notice 26:22- 23 as Paul identifies the gospel which saves us today. Our hope is the same hope which the twelve tribes had. Paul is pointing out that his hope and message is identical to the original message delivered to and believed by the true Israel of old. The ones persecuting him are the ones with the false message.
The above means that those of our day who refuse to believe that the gospel message of Acts 26:22-23 was the method of salvation for the Old Testament saints are in the class with these false religious leaders who sought to get rid of Paul. Paul clearly tells us that it was the same gospel before the incarnation of the Son of God as it is after His advent.
In Acts 28:20, (23:6; 24:15 also), Paul tell those whom he called to come to him as he is in bonds, that he is in bonds for the hope of Israel. He, under divine inspiration, had told them, (28:17-19), that he had preached NOTHING contrary to the traditional Hebrew, or Israelite doctrine. He then, at an appointed day, spends a day, using the Old Testament law and prophets, preaching to them the gospel of the kingdom of God, v. 23. Of course, this gospel had to include the gospel of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul's message contained nothing new, whether that message is found in Romans, (The "Romans Road"), Galatians, Eph., Col., &c.
Acts 13:32-41, Paul tells those gathered in the synagogue that his gospel about Jesus is exactly what was promised to and believed by the Hebrew, Israelite fathers and fulfilled in Christ. The gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah for the remission of sins was NOT NEW. In fact, (v. 33), the resurrection of Jesus fulfilled Ps. 2, which threw the Jews into a "turmoil" because they wanted and expected a physical ruler to enforce Jewish law with a rod of iron. They did not want a king to give victory over sin and death. We might mention that the idea of the same gospel in both Testament throws many modern dispensationalist, (Darbyites), into a turmoil also. (There are several more Psalms identified as being fulfilled in his ressurection, vv. 33-37.)
Acts 17:11, The people at Berea searched the Old Testament Scriptures to see if the gospel message of redemption through the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection was indeed true. Paul's gospel message is found in v. 3, the redemptive work, and v. 7, Christ's authority (enthronement on David's throne) over not only his people, but over the whole world. Again, the gospel message presented in the New Testament was and is NOT NEW.
Rom. 3:21, Paul points out that righteousness apart from the law was witnessed by the law and the prophets, which is the gospel Paul preached and upon which the church is founded. It is the gospel that was presented to Adam and to every believer since. Also notice that Paul points out that the condition for being a Jew has always been the same, Rom. 2:28, 29. Even the law of Moses spoke against any kind of righteousness apart from the redemptive work of Christ. It is a false doctrine of the worst kind that attempts to present righteousness in any way through the works of the law, whether under the old Israelite, or Jewish economy or under the New Gospel Church economy.
We can go back further as we read that the blood of Christ which was shed for us was in fact, shed from before the foundation of the world, (Rev. 13:8; 1 Pet. 1:20), and was also for the redemption of the transgressions which were under the first Testament, Heb. 9:15.
Therefore, the conclusion we must reach here is this: The covenant promise is the promise of redemption through the promised Seed of Eve, Christ. His death, burial and resurrection was NOT a new doctrine, but taught in the law and the prophets. The promised blessing (covenant) is that whosoever believeth in him would not perish, but would have a heavenly home. The promised originated in the garden, expanded in Abraham, identified in David and personified in Christ and trusted in by the saints of all ages. If Adam is in heaven, it will be because of his faith in Christ as his redeemer. Job, speaking even before the law was given, gives voice to this very promise, 19:25-27. No one could talk him out of it.
The method of salvation is faith in this promised Seed. It always has been, and will always be. Anyone who will place their trust in that Seed is a member of the congregation of the Lord, His covenant people.
In the Old Testament, the elect congregation of the Lord was called Israel; in the New Testament, the elect congregation is called the church, or as called by Paul, "the Israel of God". But the promise (covenant) is the same. Therefore, if the convenant is the same, not one jot or tittle difference, and the church is built on that promise, then the church started in the garden, Matt. 16:18. The church did not commence with the coming of Christ, but was essentially the same under both the Old and New Testaments.
Before we leave this section, there is another point which we should make. That is, the congregation of the Lord, in both Testaments, is the house of God. See Hosea 8:1; Zech. 3:7; 7:2. Compare these with Heb. 3:1-6. Neither Moses nor Christ built a physical house for God. There are a large number of New Testament passages which fit within Heb. 3:1-6. As we mentioned previously, the buildings, Old or New Testament, were only a figurative representation of this true "house of God", or church. The congregation of the Lord was and is the church, Acts 7:38. (See also Heb. 2:12 and Ps. 22:22.) The buildings are the assembly places for the church. Of course, 1 Cor. 4:17, &c., identifies the believer as the house of God, i.e., temple of God.)
We will see that the terms of admission are the same before the advent and after the advent of Christ. Those terms were/are a "credible profession of faith in the true religion, a promise of obedience, and submission to the appointed rite of initiation". (Hodges.) Every sincere Israelite had to genuinely receive Jehovah as his one and only God. He relied upon His promises, especially His promise of redemption through the "promised Seed" of Abraham, (although this promise was first given in the Garden). This true Israelite had to commit himself to obey God's law in his heart as well as in his actions.
His commitment to the covenant, promise of the heavenly city, Jerusalem, attached to the condition of faith, was shown in the outward observances of the rituals given, i.e., circumcision and the passover, &c. Even an Ammonite or Moabite could become an Israelite if he became and remained faithful to the covenant law of God for ten generations, Deut. 23, &c. Therefore membership into the visible congregation of the Lord was by faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacobthat is, Israel's God, Jehovah God. Faith was to be followed by obedience to the requirements placed upon His people as revealed in His law-word. There are many illustrations, viz. Ruth, Rahab (Joshua 2:12-22; 6:23-25), and others. Remember David's mighty men of whom Uriah the Hittite was probably the best known? There is no doubt that these might men became part of the covenant people, 1 Sam. 11.
If the Israelite failed to be circumcised, failed to keep the passover, or failed to keep the law of the covenant, (commandment), he was cut off from the congregation of God. None of these "rituals" were given until the time of Abraham, and expanded upon by Moses. In fact, one's acceptance into the covenant people was conditioned upon the circumcision, keeping of the passover and dedication to the law of the Lord.
Anyone could join with the convenant people who would meet these requirements. Being the physical seed of Abraham was never the requirement to be an Israelite. Profession of faith in the God of Abraham and observance of the required outward signs would make even the stranger a member of the covenant people, congregation of the Lord. In addition, if any person renounced the religion of his fathers (worship of Jehovah God), he was cut off from the people, or even killed. Deut. 13.
Scriptures? The original circumcision command was given to Abraham in Gen. 17:9-27. In Ex. 12:44-51 the stranger is permitted to partake of the passover, if he had made the required profession and been circumcised. All who obeyed came out of Egypt as Israel. There are many passages which tell of cutting off of the covenant- breaker, Ex. 12:15, 19; Lev. 7:20-27; Chapter 17; 18:29, 30this person was cut off for picking up heathen, worldly practices and customs. Immorality required separation also, Lev. 20:17-27. There are many Old Testament Scriptures requiring "cutting off" of the covenant-breaker. Lot was regarded as a righteous man though not of the physical seed of Abraham, 2 Pet.. 2:7. The "stranger" who abided by the law of the covenant was protected within the promise while those "born" within the covenant were cast out for disobeying the law of the covenant. Birth had nothing to do with being an heir to the promise. Heirship was by faith.
We also see several Scriptures requiring circumcision of the heart for one to be a true Israelite. Jer. 4:4 and 6:10. The law of the covenant never applied to outward actions only. It always required the heart to serve God. Deut. 6:4, 5.
In addition, we see that Christ is the covenant for the people of God, Isa. 42:6; 49:8, and the ten commandments are the law of the covenant, Ex. 34:28; Lev. 26:15; Deut. 4:13; 9:9, 11, 15. If Christ is the covenant, then membership in the people of the covenant is conditioned on being in Christ, Gal. 3:17.
Therefore, we see that we have the same basic requirements in the Old Testament as we do in the New Testament. One of Paul's strongest indictments against the Jews is found in Rom. 2:28, 29. The Jews felt they were the covenant people of God; therefore, they were the heirs of the promise because they observed all of the rites and rituals. In fact, they even added many more to prove how spiritual they were. Paul, with his statement in Gal. 6:15, For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature, destroyed their false hope, and drove them back to the original intent of circumcision, the inward man.
The application of the Old Testament principles of membership in the covenant people of God is very obvious, so we will not spend much time here. First, requirement for membership into the visible church is profession of faith followed by believer's baptism and commitment to follow the Lord. After which the professed member of the congregation of the Lord is permitted to partake of the communion, (new passover feast). Second, we have the conditions established by God for continuing in this membership in the visible congregation of the Lord. We find in 1 Cor. 5, that the covenant-breaker is to be removed, cut off from the congregation of the Lord, if you please.
The terms of membership in the congregation of the Lord have not changed making the church as old as Gen. 3:15.
So what is the difference between the Old Testament church, congregation of the Lord, and the New Testament church, congregation of the Lord? This we will have to answer that the New Testament church is based in a covenant of grace.
First, we must consider what grace is. This is far too lengthy of a subject for this study; therefore, we will sum it up in as few of words as possible. (1.) It is the desire to do God's will and then the power to do His will, Ph. 2:13. (2.) This desire is placed in the human heart by God. This action by God is necessary because, in both the Old and New Testaments, God tells us that the human, natural heart of man is in total rebellion against Him and His ways from the Fall on. Ps. 14 & Rom. 3:10-20. Giving us # (3.) God must place this desire to please Him within the depraved heart, and God does this apart from any merit on the part of the sinner. This divine favor of God given the depraved man gives that person the desire to please God, and is done totally and completely on God's part as He pleases, and for His good pleasure, Eph. 1:11. He alone knows why He choose to give His grace to some and others He does not. We do know, however, that it done apart from any "respect of person"; therefore, it must be with respect of God.
In the Spirit's words, God will have mercy on whom he will mercy. Man cannot question Him as to how nor why. Therefore, the person who is left in his rebellion and hardness has no just complaint against God. All God does is leave him to the righteous recompense of their enjoyed rebellion and sin. Rom. 9:15-22.
Second, if all living persons are hardened and in rebellion against God since the fall, and the only way out of their rebellious condition is for God to place within the rebellious heart a desire to please Him, the logical conclusion is that the Old Testament saints had to be saved by grace also. There were none who sought after God in the Old Testament, Ps. 14, and there are none that seek after God in the New Testament, Rom. 10. Therefore, any desire to seek after God must come from God.
The Garden. Adam fell, and in his fallen condition, he did not rush out to meet the Lord; rather he did all he could to avoid Him. Listening to the average theologian today who teaches free will, here is what Adam would have done: He fell, and said to his wife, "Oh my, now look at the mess we are in. We had better check with the Lord this evening when He comes to see what we can do now."
When the Lord comes that evening, Adam, with his spark of good that seeks after God, brought Eve with him, and said, "Lord, we disobeyed you and ate of the tree. We see now that we have done wrong. We see now that we are naked. We have done the best we could to cover ourselves with these leaves, but we need your help." To which the Lord replied, "I'm glad you see this. Here, let me show you what to do, and help you do it."
This is not at all what happened. They hid from God with no desire whatsoever to face Him and face up to what they did. The Lord had to seek out Adam, confront Adam with his sin, and almost force Adam into a corner to where Adam would accept his responsibility. That fallen nature has not changed. The Lord did not have to do seek Adam out. He could have said, "Okay Adam, I warned you, and you wouldn't believe me. Now, you go ahead and face the results about which I warned you." The Lord would have been totally justified in this approach. No one could lay any charge against the Lord for not providing a means of redemption.
Of course we know what God's plan was as we look back. We need to see that the principle of grace started in the Garden. Adam only deserved the death of which he was warned. God laid aside what Adam deserved, and, totally unmerited by Adam, provided a plan of redemption for him. God's grace and undeserved mercy is absolutely consistent throughout all of history. Abraham, the father of the faithful, did not deserve God calling him out of paganism, Josh. 24:2. Israel did not deserve God calling him out of Egypt. Moses, the murderer, did not deserve God calling him. The list is endless, David, Isaiah, &c. See Heb. 11. No man, then nor now, deserves God giving them a desire to depart from his rebellion and hardness against Him, but He does. God must cause the sinner to approach Him, Ps. 65:4. Grace and mercy is clearly an Old Testament doctrine.
Third, people are hardened and in rebellion against their Creator from their youth up, and from the beginning of time. They have done nothing to deserve God speaking to them; therefore, if any person has any desire to please God, that is the grace of God working in him, whether Old Testament or New Testament saint. This is the doctrine of TOTAL DEPRAVITY. Either mankind is depraved in every area of his being, or he is not. If not, then man can redeem himself as he fans the spark of good that was left in Adam after the fall.
We have seen that the promise (covenant), the covenant people (church), the person in whom the covenant is contained (Christ), and the conditions (means of entering into the covenant), are all the same whether in Old Testament Israel or in the New Testament Gospel Church, defined by Paul as the Israel of God. It was first established with Adam, actually in the Lamb which was slain before the foundation of the world, and will continue until the end. So what is the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament?
Before we go into the difference, we should consider the different "dispensations" or periods of time and revelations of the promise.
The first dispensation (first revelation) would be from Adam to Abraham. The first promise was made with Adam, but it was very general. It really did not contain much other than the promise of the coming Redeemer who would provide victory over the enemy. It contained no real command to make the sacrifices and offerings, yet there was a built-in knowledge of the Holy God, and that the Holy God required the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. The knowledge started with Abel. Man was held accountable for the in-born conscienceness of sin and remission through the shedding of blood, (Cain and Abel), Rom. 1:20. This is probably why we have no record of Adam offering a blood sacrifice, (although we do from Abel on). Adam nor Eve was created with a sin nature, and with that sin nature realizing the need to offer a sacrifice for sin. Cain and Abel were born with the sin nature, so they both realized the need for a sacrifice. One sacrifice looked ahead to the promised Seed to remove sin, while the other looked to his own way to remove sin, which has been the warfare since. God's way for removal of sin, (Christ and his finished work), or man's way, (whether through political means or even humanism which removes sin by calling wrong right and right wrong).
The second dispensation or revelation of the promise would be from Abraham to Moses. Abraham's promise was based upon the promise to Adam; therefore, it includes Gen. 3:15. But now we see a more specific revelation of the promised Seed, as it comes through Abraham's family.
In Abraham, there are several things added to the original promise at this point: (1.) The coming Redeemer. (2.) The Lord God will be their God, and they will be His people, which would be accomplished in the Seed of Abraham, Christ; with Adam it was just a promised Seed. (3.) In this further revelation of the promise to Abraham, there was a visible sign given which will separate those who believe in the promise of the Redeemer from those who do not, i.e., circumcision. (4.) The promise is expanded in the sense that through this Seed, Christ, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Gen. 12:1-3.
The third dispensation or further revelation of the promise is from Moses to Christ; it includes the promise to Adam and to Abraham. Nothing was changed from the first two. They are simply expanded again. We are given more details of the original promise. Under Moses we see many things added: God prepares the world for the fulfillment of the original promise to Adam, which was fulfilled in the coming of the promised Seed to redeem His people from the curse and power of sin and restore them into the proper relationship to Himself and to empower them to do what Adam failed to do. Titus 2:14. As we have seen, at no time has the promise changed; it was simply expanded and explained.
Under Moses, many things are added to the promisenot really added to, but expanded on. We have many types and symbols given that were to speak of the true, and better which was to come. Heb. 3:5. Let us keep in mind that every dispensation is only built upon the original promise as given to Adam. Under Moses, the covenant is made with a nation, and the nation promised to do all the words of the covenant. Exo. 19:5-8. Under Moses, the covenant is made with a nation, the Hebrew nation of Israel. There was the promise of national security and prosperity, conditioned upon obedience of the covenant people to the Mosaic law. Deut. 27-29. The mediator, go-between between God and man, was Moses. The covenant made at the mount was a legal contract, to which the people as a nation agreed. "Do this and live; inherit the land, and keep it." Also in this expansion under Moses, we see a covenant based on works as it also was with Adam. The Mosaic covenant of works contained a promise of material prosperity. The covenant of works was not a covenant of salvation, for that was obtained through faith, as it is now. Job 19:26.
In Rom. 3:19-22, Paul clearly tells us that a person who desires to live under the covenant-law of Moses for his eternal hope will be judged by the law. The religious leaders of Paul's day desired to live under the law, to which they added many things hoping to make themselves more "spiritual". But the problem they ignored is that from the time of Adam, all have sinned. Therefore, God made a provision through faith. A sacrifice was promised and the need for a sacrifice placed in human nature from the time of Adam's children on. God's provision of a sinless Sacrifice is provided for those who realize they are incapable of keeping the law for salvation. If a person rejects the gospel and refuses to be under grace, then he is under law, will be judged by and will die by the law. From the time of Moses, the emphasis has been on the spotless sacrifice for the sinner. Rom. 3:21, and all of chapter four.
Under Moses we have several expansions of the promise, or covenant:
(1.) The law of the covenant is given which revealed to mankind how to please the Holy God, while at the same time, showed the inability to do sothus, the necessity of the promised Seed, Christ, Rom. 3:19-21.
(2.) We see the sacrifices and offerings given for those who see their inabilities to keep the law. Those sacrifices and offerings also pointed to the promised Seed, Col. 2:14, &c. Also given within this requirement are many sub- principles: Must be blood shed, and the sacrifice must be spotless.
(3.) We see the establishment of a priesthood, which points to the necessity of a high priest in order to approach the Holy God. The Epistle to the Hebrews explains the priesthood.
(4.) We see the establishment of a Tabernacle, later a Temple, where God dwells among his people, which illustrated many spiritual truths, including the physical body of Christ, and later the body of believers. 1 Cor. 3:17, &c.
There are many other things given through Moses. Moses expanded on that which was given to Adam and to Abraham. Primarily, Moses established a system which clearly spoke of Christ and His work. The prophets built on what Moses presented. Therefore, when the nation rejected Christ, they were rejecting all that Moses wrote. Jn. 5:46, 47. Their judgment, destruction, was justified and complete in 70 A.D.. Moses showed man's sinful condition and his need for a Saviour. Nothing changed under Moses from Gen. 3:15. The covenant, or promise, was the same, and only expanded and clarified as time proceeded.
Fourth and final dispensation: It is commonly called the New Testament period, which is from Christ until the end, when Christ delivers up the kingdom to God, even the Father, 1 Cor. 15:24. As was Moses' dispensation, this one also is built on the covenant, or promise given in Gen. 3:15. Rather than speaking in "dark sayings with hidden meanings," The New Testament, or covenant, fully reveals what was promised in the Seed.
In reference to the one it replaced, (the Mosaic economy), it is new. The old Mosaic methods of the sinners approach to the heavenly Father is about to pass away totally and completely:
1 Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
It started to pass away with the death on the cross by the promised Seed, and completely passed away with the final destruction of the Mosaic economy in 70 AD. Christ restored free access to the Father lost by Adam when the temple veil was rent. He defeated the enemy who defeated our parents in the Garden. He was exalted as was promised to the right hand of the Father in his rightful place of all power and authority. He accomplished what the first Adam failed to do, and fulfilled the promise of a Seed to destroy the works of the Satan.
C. Hodges gives six ways in which the covenant is now new.
1. It is confined to no one people. It is open to all nations and classes of people.
2. It is more spiritual. The old covenant had many rites and rituals, types and ceremonies. These are all done away with as the Seed fulfilled all of which they spoke. What was then known through the types and symbols is now to a greater extent, written on the heart, Ezek. 36:26, 27; Heb. 8:8-11.
3. It is more evangelical. The New Testament, Covenant, still contains a legal element. The law is still binding, but the spreading and application of the gospel into all nations is emphasized in the New, whereas the law was emphasized over the gospel in the Old. Again, as the law was emphasized in the Old, it showed man's inabilities and his need for Christ as his substitute, and God's power for man's obedience. Because Christ came, that emphasis is no longer there in the New, although the law is still the law of God. The emphasis is different.
Let us mention here under this heading of the law: All have sinned. Therefore without faith in the promised Seed, death resultseternal separation from God. The law demands separation, whether Old or New Testament. LEGALISM is the futile attempt to use the law to avoid that death. No one ever avoided death through the law. See Romans as mentioned above.
4. Under the Christian economy, (in contrast to the Mosaic economy), we have the dispensation of the Spirit, as was promised in the Old Testament, and fulfilled in the New. The ministry in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit was not a permanent one, Ps. 51:11. Under, the new covenant, He lives in the body of the believer, of which the Old Testament temple was but a dim shadow.
The Psalms show us that the Spirit of God in the Old Testament had a very similar work in the hearts of people including comfort, teaching, conviction, instruction, strength for labor, &c., yet He did not permanently dwell in the believer. Under the New, He does as a result of what Christ did, Jn. 7:39.
5. The old dispensation, (of which the Mosaic was the "peak"), was temporary. It had to pass away because it spoke of the better, Christ, as defined in Hebrews. The New, Christ and His church, is new, and will never pass away. It is permanent and final:
"In his sending forth of his disciples to preach the gospel, and in promising them the gift of the spirit, he assured them that he would be with them in that work until the end of the world. Therefore, this dispensation is the last one before the restoration of all things; the last, that is, designated for the conversion of men and the ingathering of the elect. Afterwards comes the end; the resurrection and the final judgment."
The Old Testament spoke many times of a new, better economy.
The New Testament gives no indication of anything better than
Christ. When the gospel is fully preached and God's eternal purpose
is accomplished, then the end will come. 1 Cor. 15:24.
Let me add this to Hodges. The previous three covenants, Adam, Abraham and Moses, all passed away, or rather, were fulfilled in Christ. They are ALL in him, there is neither any room or any need fo anything more to replace him.
6. We have the new offering, the blood of the better covenant, the blood of Christ. What can we add to that? (According to Scripture, that blood was shed before the foundations of the world). Salvation has ALWAYS been through faith in the work of the promised Seed. Either what he would do or what he did.
7. Let us add another one in here, the Church. It is founded upon the profession of faith in that Seed, whether that Seed was yet to come, or had already come. Therefore, Abel was the first martyr in the church, and if Adam trusted in the promised seed, he was the first member even though he was neither circumcised nor baptized. But before Christ, the facts of the church were not really hidden, but were not clearly understood. Not until Christ was the doctrine of the church clearly presented even though it was already in existence. The chief corner stone of the foundation of the church was and is the Seed of Promise. Eph. 2:20.
Until Christ, "the church" was only revealed in a shadow of what was already there. It was only a clouded image. After Christ ,the "image" cleared up, and can now be clearly seen. Under this present dispensation, we clearly see and understand what the saints of old only dimly saw. They desired to see what we see, and they trusted in what we trust in, yet it was all very dim, Jn. 8:56. It would be like a figure off in the very far distance. As you get closer to it, it is clearer. When you stand next to it you have the clearest view of all. Adam was four thousand years from that figure, Christ. The record given to us lets us stand near to that figure, Christ and His Body, the church.