Vol.XX No.XII Pg.7
February 1984

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

We regret the closing of P.T. and would like to request one more article on the church. J. B. (And this was the only space I had for it. rt)

What "went forth" from Jerusalem? Well, Isaiah prophesied the "ways — paths — law — and word" of the Lord would "go forth" (2:3). Fulfillment, as recorded in Acts 2: vindicates the prediction. One searches in vain for Peter's emphasis upon some institution that would save, or stand between God and man. Oh yes, the Lord's "church" was established — for when people "gladly received" the word (that had "gone forth") they became a part of that called-out body that belonged to Christ. But it is CHRIST who saves, via His ways, paths, etc.

Now, how does Christ's church grow? An excellent example is found in Acts 11. Gospel teachers came to Antioch and preached "the Lord Jesus" (v.20). Preached the "church"? No, preached that which had gone forth from Jerusalem — the "ways, paths, law, and word" of the Lord. Verse 21 says, "a great number believed, and turned unto..." the "church"? No; "to the Lord." Oh yes, in coming to the Lord they became a part of the Lord's people, His "church;" but the record says, they "turned unto the Lord."

Barnabas exhorted them to "cleave" (be faithful) "unto the Lord" (v.23). Why didn't he tell them to be faithful to the church? I don't know — it doesn't say. But I do know what it says. And in the growth and development of this effort we are told, "much people were added unto the LORD." (rt) We have discussed, to this point, the prophecy, coming into existence, and propagation of — what? Salvation in Christ! The product of this manifestation of grace — the called out people of God (1 Pet. 2:9) — are God's FLOCK, or BODY, FAMILY, KINGDOM, etc. These are figurative designations, each emphasizing some special characteristic of these people. "CHURCH" is a collective noun (like "flock") that is applied to these people — as a whole (Matt. 16:18), with geographic restrictions (Acts 9:31, AS), and as local organized groups (Phil. 1:1; 4:15).

But individuals may be cut off from the body of Christ (Rom. 11:20-22; 2 Pet. 2:2), and local churches may be no longer recognized — their "candlestick" removed (Rev. 2:1-5). This too, is determined on the basis of that which "went forth from Jerusalem." Diotrephes could change the roster of men, but God's roll counts for eternity (3 Jn .9-10; 2 Tim. 2:16-19). Heeding "perverse things" (Acts 20:29-f), and "leaving thy first love" (Christ) is what removes individuals and local groups from God's favor.

Emphasis upon the institutional aspect of "the church" was one of the earliest steps to apostasy. The whole or universal body of people was seen as a corporate "society" which took precedence over the word of God. The "church" was soon regarded as authority for the word — "mother" of that which brought it into existence. The "infallible" church is an outgrowth of this earlier error. We quickly repudiate that fruit, but may plant its seed, if we forget that the WORD, not the "church," will judge us eternally.