Vol.XIII No.III Pg.5
May 1976

Means Or Result Of Salvation?

Robert F. Turner

(continued from previous page)

The Catholic concept of church — sometimes called historical or institutional concept — puts a society between Christ and His people. Study this statement from Catholic Encyclopedia, V. III, p. 752: It is to the Church that Christ has committed those means of grace through which the gifts He earned for men are communicated to them. The Church alone dispenses the sacraments. It alone makes known the light of revealed truth. Outside the Church these gifts cannot be obtained. This gives the Church sole right to teach truth, to baptize, and hence to establish new congregations. It explains why historic churches claim succession from the Roman or other mother churches. It denies the restoration concept, whereby an individual may learn truth from the written Word, obey, upon no authority save that inherent in the Word, and thus become a child of God.

The Bible alone was accepted in pioneer restoration days; but as the church grew this product took on new status. We alone can scripturally baptize, we must send (authorize) preachers, we must validate the Lords Supper. Unintentionally, and without realizing logical implications of our statements, many have accepted the Catholic, institutional concept. We have been slow to face this problem, thinking we might minimize the importance of the church for which Christ died. But Christ did not die for a society or institution; He died for Sam, Ann, !ke, Ned, Tom, and Sue--and that spells SAINTS. Ironically, our reluctance to fight the basic institutional concept is due to our own institutional concept. Should todays conservative churches all go liberal to the extent of complete apostasy, would an individual have the right to study the Bible for himself? Learning what he must do to be saved, could he obey without resorting to the apostate church? Teaching others, could he baptize them? Could they form themselves into a local church, partake of the Lords Supper, etc.? Does the authority for or validation of any divinely decreed service hinge upon approval of any man or group of men? I believe an individual could learn truth, obey, and serve God acceptably; for I believe succession is in the seed, not in the sower (Lu. 8:11-15).

This does not reject the N.T. concept of church — for the obedient individual is a member of Christs church; and his kind, the world over, make up the universal church on earth. This does not reject the local church as an organized entity, for faithful followers of Christ must and will associate themselves with other saints as opportunity permits, to worship together and promote the cause of their Lord collectively as well as individually. To this end the scriptures authorize local church oversight, treasury, and function. But the authority for divine things comes from divinity, not from man. We reject the idea that God has given into mans hands (elders or church) either legislative, executive, or judicial authority. Christ is absolute monarch, ruling directly through His Spirit-filled Word. We are individually and directly responsible to our King, to serve Him in all good conscience. We pray for Gods help in doing this.