In the beginning, it will be good for us to define just what a metaphor is. Webster says it is "a figure of speech by which one word is employed for another of which it is the image; a method of speech, or description, which likens one object to another by referring to it as if it were the other." So, the Bible gives us a good "description" of the church, and we shall study it as follows:
1. The Body of Christ,
2. The Kingdom of God,
3. The Household of God,
4. The Temple of God, and
5. The Vineyard of the Lord.
The Body of Christ
In Ephesians 1:22-23, we read, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." In Colossians 1:18, we find, "And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." Then in Colossians 1:24, "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." From these passages we establish the fact that the church is the body of Christ, or that the body of Christ is the church.
Often we hear that "one church is just as good as another" or "God is working through all of the various churches," leaving the impression that God is pleased with all of the churches or denominations that we see. What does the Book of God say? In Ephesians 4:4, it says, "There is one body . . . ." In Romans 12:4-5 we read, "for as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." This refers to the individual members of the body (church), showing that each has a function. But we emphasize the fact that it says one body! The apostle Paul emphasizes this same point in I Corinthians 12:20 when he says, "But now are they many members, yet but one body." How many churches are there today? The Bible is plain! There is one body, hence there is one church.
But as we progress further, we find that Christ is the Head of the body, the church. What would a body be without a head? What are the accomplishments of a body with an idiotic head? It would be apt to do anything, without proper direction. So it is with the church! We see churches today with men as their founders, their heads or their presidents. They have more respect for what these men (or women) say than do the words of the Lord. How far will churches go? Just as far as the human heads direct them to go!
The Bible says that Christ is "the head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1:22). Think of your physical body. Your body reacts as it receives orders from your head, your mind. So it is with the church. It is "subject to Christ" (Ephesians 5:24). In other words, the body of Christ or the church of Christ takes orders from its head. This leaves no room whatsoever for man to set himself up as head, president or founder of some church. Remember, too, this subjection is "in all things." Our liberal brethren need to learn that the church is "subject unto Christ . . . in every thing." Who would have thought that members of the church of Christ would say, "We don't have to have authority for every thing we do"? How sad!
Christians, as members, make up the body of Christ. Just as the proper functioning of our physical body is important to the function of the whole body, so it is with the body of Christ. Every member (joint) has a work to do, or must supply his/her part (Ephesians 4:15-16; I Corinthians 12:14-19; 21-23). The body cannot function without the members. It is not the function of the hand to do the work of the leg or the eye to do the work of the foot, etc. One Christian cannot do the work of another. The church needs workers, not shirkers!
But this body not only needs to work (every joint supplying its part) but it needs to work together! Schism, discord, division, strife - none of these things - should be found in the body of Christ. There should be interest, love, and care for one another (I Corinthians 12:24-27). How sad to see churches today torn asunder by strife and discord! Oh yes, they are teaching the truth on the "issues" as well as on other things, but they just do not practice what they preach due to the bad attitude and lack of love toward and for each other.
Are you a member of the body of Christ? If not, you are lost! Does that sound hard? No more hard than the Bible. It teaches that the body is made up of the saved (Ephesians 5:23). If Christ is the savior of the body, what is your condition, my friend, if you are not in the body? Think of yourself as being unreconciled to God (at odds with or in His disfavor). But learn that we are "reconciled to God in one body" (Ephesians 2:16).
How do I become a member of the one body? By obedience to the gospel (Romans 1:16). The initial steps are belief (John 3.16), repentance (Luke 13:3), confession (Romans 10:9-10) and baptism (Acts 2:38). The final step puts one into the body, the church (I Corinthians 12:13; Acts 2:41, 47).
The Kingdom of God
This description of the church has to do with its government. It is a kingdom. First, let me say that the kingdom does exist today and it is the same as the church. Do not be deceived by the error that says Christ was unable to set up His kingdom; hence, He left the church here instead and will one day come back to set up His kingdom. That is not what the Bible teaches, but the vain imaginations of men.
The kingdom exists today because we are "translated into the kingdom of his dear son" (Colossians 1:13). One could not be in something that did not exist! (Read also Revelation 1:9.) Also we note that one becomes a citizen of the kingdom in the same way that he becomes a member of the one body (John 3:5; Acts 2).
One of the problems people have with the kingdom/church designation is the failure to understand that Christ's kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and not an earthly, material kingdom (John 18:36; Luke 17:20-21).
When we think of a kingdom, we think of a king. Christ, of course, is king over His kingdom (Luke 23:1-3; John 18:37). He is reigning on His throne now (Luke 1:32-33) with all authority (Matthew 28:18-20) at the right hand of God (I Peter 3:22); hence, He is the "blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (I Timothy 6:15). Dear reader, if the kingdom is not here now, then Christ is not King, and He is not reigning on His throne at the right hand of God and He has no law. Who can believe it? Such a doctrine strips Christ of His authority, as well as of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.
When we think of the church as a kingdom with Christ as the King, then we (Christians) deem ourselves as His subjects (or citizens in the kingdom). "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Ephesians 1:19). As citizens, we must do the will of the Lord. God's real spiritual kingdom, where Christ rules in the heart, must be entered by doing God's will; all who remain as citizens in that kingdom must do His Will (Matthew 7:21).
As we enter the kingdom (through the new birth), we must unite under the banner of our King (Luke 11:17) and go forth to do battle against His enemies, realizing that we will be victorious in the end (II Thessalonians 1:5-10).
The Household of God
This is a metaphor describing the church as the family of God. "But in case I am delayed, I write so that you nay know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15 see also Hebrews 3:6). God is the Father of His household (Matthew 23:9) and Christ is a Son over the House of God. "But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3:6). Then, further in Hebrews 2:11-12, we see that we, as Christians, are His brethren.
What are we talking about? God's family, the church! Those who have been obedient to the truth are God's children (Galatians 3:26-27), His household, His famly, His church. God has no children outside His family; hence, those outside the church are not members of the family of God. Ephesians 2:19 says, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God."
Think, for a moment, of the family relationship or tie. The well-ordered or close-knit family is one that has respect for the family name, they would do nothing to damage it in any way. So it is with God's children. Our life should always be in keeping with that royal family name we wear (Ephesians 5:6; I Peter 1:14). Also think of the love that holds the family together. Love will cause us to work for a brother or sister to the uttermost and to see past the faults to the good. We are to love our brethren (I John 4:7); this love is explained to us in the thirteenth chapter of the First Corinthian letter. How sad it is to see families torn asunder; but what a sad spectacle indeed to see the household of God torn asunder with division, strife and confusion! On and on we could go with comparisons of the human family with God's spiritual family or house - the church of God.
The Temple of God
When we think of the temple, our minds go back to the temple built by Solomon for the purpose of God meeting and communing with His people. The church of the Lord is the antitype of Solomon's temple. It would be good for the reader to go back and study the temple; its construction (the materials and the pattern) and then make the proper analogies.
Suffice it to say that the temple of God (the church of the Living God) must be built according to the pattern given. Does anyone believe that God has not given a pattern by which the temple (or church) is to be built? (Read Exodus 25:40 and Hebrews 8:1-5.) This is the problem in the religious world today. Men have built churches according to thier own pattern and it is all in vain. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. . ." (Psalms 127:1). The pattern for denominational bodies may be found in their various creed books and manuals, but the pattern for the New Testament church is found in the New Testament!
In Ephesians 2:20-22, we read: "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." In I Corinthians 3:11, Paul said, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Put these together and we have Christ as the foundation and chief corner stone which the apostles and prophets laid and upon which they themselves rest. We know that a building is just as strong as its foundation. The temple of God has Christ as the foundation and is built thereupon. "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:5). Of course, those who become "living stones" in this house or temple are those who are obedient (he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded, I Peter 2:6). Those who are disobedient (or who stumble at his word, I Peter 2:8) are no part of this magnificent building!
When you build a house, you must build upon the foundation with the blocks being cemented together in their proper place. So it is with the temple of God. "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). If you began to pull stones out of the wall, the building will be weakened and will eventually crumble. So it is in the church. Every "lively stone" or "joint" has a work to do or must supply its part toward the building up of the body of Christ and not toward the tearing it down! When we think of the temple we think of worship. Christians are a royal priesthood who offer up spiritual sacrifices in worship unto God (I Peter 2:5).
The Vineyard of the Lord
When we think of a vineyard, we think of fruit-bearing as well as a place of labor. We, as Christians, are workers in God's vineyard. God has given us a work to do (Ephesians 2:10); we, as the sons of God, are to work in our Father's vineyard (Matthew 21:28-31).
Let me emphasize to you the need to "work in His vineyard." It is not enough just to work; we must work in His Vineyard! Ephesians 3:21 says, "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." Many religious people today are working at many endeavors, but God is not receiving the glory because they are not working in His vineyard. Brethren today are working through various institutions, and enterprizes (outside His vineyard) all the while claiming to work for the Master.
Also, we need to realize the need to be faithful laborers in His vineyard. This involves fruit-bearing. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Romans 7:4). "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15:8).
There is little doubt that there are many stragglers (the indifferent and lukewarm) who are wandering around in the vineyard, but they are not faithful laborers! What about them? (Read John 15:2, 6.) But let us pray as the Lord instructed, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2). The reward or wages will be well worth it. "Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together" (John 4:35-36). (Read also I Corinthians 15:58.)
In summation of these metaphors or descriptive phrases, we find the "fellowship feature" set forth in the body of Christ, the "government feature" in the kingdom of God, the "family feature" in the household of God, the "worship feature" in the temple of God, and the "fruit-bearing" or "laboring" feature in the vineyard of the Lord. There are other metaphors of the church, but we do not have the space to comment upon them. It is our prayer that this article has helped you in some small way to understand better the descriptions of the church given in the gospel.
1. What is a metaphor?
2. Describe the body of Christ by comparing it to the human body.
3. Comment upon the one body in comparison with the many churches today!
4. How does one enter the one body (church)?
5. How does we know that the kingdom exists today and that the church and kingdom are the same?
6. If the kingdom does not exist today, is Christ King? Is He reigning? Does He have all authority?
7. Discuss briefly the doctrine of premillennialism.
8. Does God have children outside His family or household?
9. Who is the foundation of the temple of God?
10. What kind of workers are we to be in the vineyard of the Lord?
11. Study further and see how many more metaphors of the church you can find in the Bible.
In fact, according to the popular concept, doctrine or teaching does not matter. Many say that they do not like "doctrinal sermons." Is this the same as saying that they do not like sermons that teach? Doctrine and teaching are synonyms. Then teachers should not teach.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). The Lord revealed His will to man because doctrine and religious practice do make a difference (Romans 10:1-3; Galatians 1:6-10; Revelation 22:18-19). The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but this does not make it right before God. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 16:25). "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Peter 4:11). There are many verses that deal with the sin of teaching the wrong doctrine, and no hint that whatever we teach pleases God (Galatians 1:6-10).
We should search the scriptures to see what is right (Acts 17:11). Danger is present so we should try the spirits and beware of false prophets. (See Matthew 7:15; I John 4:1; II John 9-11; II Peter 2:1-3; Acts 20:29-31; Colossians 2:8; Hebrews 2:1; Romans 16:17; Matthew 15:9, 13-14; Romans 10:1-3). Please do not teach men to be careless, and to take their own salvation for granted. Please do not be unconcerned about finding the narrow way of truth and holiness in your own case. Few there be that find it, but the Lord has pointed out the way of truth with clear marks of identity. It takes the hunger and thirst after righteousness to cause one to seek the right way of the Lord. Ignorance is dangerous and inexcusable (Hosea 4:6).
Some teach that we are saved by faith only, and some teach that salvation is not by faith only. Are both right? Is it all right to teach a man the wrong side of this issue? (Read James 2:14-26.) The Bible emphasizes obedience just as it emphasizes faith (Matthew 7:21; II Thessalonians 1:7-8; II Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 5:9; Mark 16:15-16). The Bible does not teach both sides of this issue. There ought to be more concern and more searching for the truth on the matter. Many things other than lack of faith are mentioned as keeping one from inheriting life. (Read Romans 13:1-2; James 1:26; I Corinthians 6:9,10; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8.)
Some teach that baptism has nothing to do with our salvation. Others say we are baptized for the remission of sins. These two ideas cannot both be right. We want to know God's will in the matter, do we not? We need to know the truth for it is truth that can make us free. Search and see. (Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:1-18; I Peter 3:21.) We should, as it were, leave no stone unturned in making our calling and election sure (II Peter 1:10). Does one have more freedom to say that baptism, which is evidently a clearly stated command of God, is not necessary than to say that honesty is not necessary? The teaching on both is from heaven from the One with all authority.
Some teach that one cannot fall after having saving faith. Others say that we need to take heed lest we fall. Both cannot be right. We either can or we cannot fall. It is high time to search and see. (II Peter I: 10; 2:18-22; Luke 8:13; Philippians 2:12; I Corinthians 10: 12; Hebrews 3:6, 11-14; 4:11.) We should walk circumspectly because all roads do not lead to heaven. If a man can fall, and is in great danger of falling, is it an innocent thing to tell him that he cannot fall?
Religious people differ in name, in the type music offered to the Lord, and forms of church government. Some partake of the Lord's Supper every first day of the week while others leave it off for months at a time. Do these things matter? These are called little things, and men say that they do not matter. Bricks are small building blocks, but there are large buildings that could be taken down one brick at a time. Every detail of instruction given by the Lord and His apostles concerning His church has been changed by some denomination or another. Why did He give the instruction if these things do not matter? We, as was Moses concerning the tabernacle, are given a pattern which we should follow (Hebrews 8:5). The Bible gives us 'all things that pertain to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3).
To mock at baptism, which is a picture of His burial and resurrection, and to deny its significance is no little thing. Is sprinkling the same as the burial and planting mentioned in the scripture? (Romans 6:4,5; Colossians 2:12.) It is not minor if commanded by the Lord. None of His commandments is to be treated lightly (I John 2:3-4; 5:3; John 14:15, 21, 23). Christ purchased His church with His blood, and built it according to God's eternal purpose. His testament describes in detail its terms of membership, its work, its form of worship and of government, and its standards of conduct for its members. Who has the authority to change a single detail? The facts are there for those who would follow the pattern and walk by faith. Seek and find.
It is not ours to plan its mission or work, nor do we enter it except by pleasing God so that, He of His own free will, adds us to it. We do not plan the terms of enhance any more than we plan the organization, work, or worship. Every one is accepted on the Lord's terms or he is excluded from it and has no-inheritance in it (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:23-25).
God is no respecter of persons, so He does not reject one because of the color of his skin or the color of his hair. Neither the conduct of his ancestors nor his own past life makes it impossible for him to become a child of God. He can be born of water and of the Spirit and, by the grace of God, enter the kingdom. He can be adopted into this great family and join with other redeemed people in crying, "Abba, Father." God is interested in one's present humility and worthy plans for the future. A man's sins can be washed away in the blood of Christ and be remembered against him no more (Romans 2:6, 11; John 3:5; Revelation 1:5).
He that believeth not shall be damned. It is absolutely impossible for one who does not believe to please God. There are a few things that we must believe. We must believe that God is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Unbelievers are without excuse, and the lukewarm who show no zeal for the Lord's church are an abomination to Him. We are not only to accept God, but we are to accept Jesus as His Son. The well established fact of the resurrection of Christ is the sign of signs to confirm His Sonship. In Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In this land of Bibles there are some who do not believe, so they do not study His word. If we look at this sad fact from another point of view, we could say that some do not study His word, so they do not believe. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. The Bible will produce precious faith in those honest and good hearts who study His word, but it will not produce faith in any one while it lies on the shelf collecting dust (Mark 16:16; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 1:20; Revelation 3:14-22; John 8:24; Colossians 2:9; Romans 10:17).
Repentance is also one of the essential terms of entrance into the church according to the Lord's own plan. God is not willing that any should perish but that, all should come to repentance. It is a matter of "repent or perish." God commands all men everywhere to repent, but He leaves man the power to refuse. It is man's choice. He can set his mind on things above and, by controlling himself, he can press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God. Peter made his Jewish audience, on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, aware of the fact that they had killed the Prince of life and that God had made Him both Lord and Christ. When the Jews were pricked in their hearts and cried for help, they were told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Peter was opening the door for those who believed his sermon by using the keys of the kingdom. By accepting the terms given they could enter the kingdom (Luke 13:5; II Peter 3:9; Acts 17:30; 2:38).
Heaven had no objection to Peter's giving the terms of entrance to those who had demanded the death of Jesus. Christ had prayed that they might be forgiven. They could now have this and other grievous sins forgiven by the grace of God and the blood of Christ. It was the will of Christ that repentance and the remission of sins should be preached to all nations. This is indeed a great commission, and it reminds us again of the great love of God and of our dying Savior. People may reject repentance and be lost, but they are all invited to gladly receive the word and be saved (Luke 23:34; 24:47).
The goodness of God and the godly sorrow of man lead to repentance, but the godly sorrow is not repentance. The reformed life follows repentance as night follows day, but the reformed life is not repentance. The change of will brought about by the godly sorrow and leading to fruit meet for repentance is what our Lord was commanding when His qualified ambassadors bound repentance as one of the necessary conditions of pardon which makes church membership possible (Romans 2:4; II Corinthians 7:10).
It is interesting how so-called Protestant churches can teach salvation by faith only and still recognize repentance as necessary. These two important ideas are not the same. Some can teach salvation by grace only, along with faith only, and still require repentance. The unfortunate addition is the word "only." We are saved by faith, grace, and repentance, but the word "only" does not belong even at the conclusion of this list. The Church instructed the apostles that they teach baptized believers to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them. The devil would have us stop short of accepting all the terms of admission to and service in the family of God (Matthew 20:18-20; James 2:14-26; Ephesians 2:8).
Our Lord asked the men who thought they had the highest authority at the temple about the baptism of John. He asked if it was from heaven or from men. We might ask about the baptism which is in the name of, or by the authority of, Jesus. Is it from heaven or from men? How could it be of men if it is in the name of Jesus? We should have no room to quibble over its importance or necessity if it is commanded by Jesus who is head over all things to the church. In giving the Great Commission to the apostles, He asked them to teach and baptize all nations. Actually they were to baptize those who would gladly receive the word among all nations, for obedience is individual in nature. Each will give account for the deeds done in his own body at the final judgment. The gospel is to be preached to every creature in all the world, but "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Every soldier in the army of the Captain of our salvation is a volunteer. None can be scripturally baptized except by his own consent (Matthew 21:23-27; II Corinthians 5:16; Mark 16:16).
Peter's answer to the question of those guilty listeners on the day of Pentecost was important to them, but it has also been very important to all true seekers after the way of safety in the following centuries. If he had his opinion only, or the opinion of some other man or group of men, it would not be very important. If the Holy Spirit guided him in binding the will of the Father and of the Son on earth, it was a very important answer. Those that gladly received the word on that day of Pentecost were baptized. The same has been true of all honest and true men who have had hearts open to receive the word since that day. Everyone: was told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Those who were so guilty and were convinced of their sins were eager to have those sins washed away (Acts 2:36-41, 47).
The Lord added to the church daily those that were being saved. They could eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart after they were added to the church because only saved people were added, and the Lord was the one who did the adding. He keeps the records; no hypocrite has mocked and deceived Him and, thus, had his name added to the Lamb's book of life. Men have added the names of some hypocrites to their lists of church members, but God does not go by their lists. He knows what is in man's heart (Acts 2:47).
When Philip preached Christ to the people of the city of Samaria and confirmed his message by the signs God allowed, there was great joy in that city. When they believed Philip as he taught them concerning the kingdom and the name of Christ, they were baptized. How did they know to be baptized if this picture of the burial and resurrection was not included in preaching the truth about Christ and His kingdom (Acts 8:5-12)?
When Philip received orders which led him to the nobleman from Ethiopia, he preached Jesus to him and, from this one sermon, the sincere man learned to ask for baptism. He was not refused. Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water, Philip made his way to Caesarea and the new convert went on his way rejoicing. He had changed from the Jewish religion to the teachings of Christ. That is a turning that can be called repentance. He confessed his faith in Christ as the Son of God. Those at Jerusalem on Pentecost, those who heard Philip at Samaria, and the Ethiopian treasurer were baptized as penitent believers.
Saul was a penitent believer after the Christ appeared to him; he was told by Ananias to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. The same message should be given to all who desire to be saved. The Lord adds the saved to the church. He is no respecter of persons, so the terms are the same for all (Acts 22:4-16).
The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost. He left His church on earth with the task of upholding the truth that can make men free. There are, not. two sets of rules, one of which guides a man to salvation and another which guides him in becoming a member of the church. Saved people are added to the church. Each gospel preacher who preached in the days of the apostles taught faith which one was willing to confess with the mouth, repentance which would lead to a new life, and baptism which was a picture of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Sometimes mention may not be made of faith or repentance in the brief accounts of conversions given in the book of Acts, but they are clearly implied from the things said. Baptism is the commandment most often rejected by men, and it is the term most often mentioned. Evidently God knew that men would-tend to reject it, so He was that careful students could not overlook it (Luke 19:10; I Timothy 3:15; Romans 10:9-10; Romans 6:1-18).
When God made it abundantly evident that He would accept Gentiles on the same terms that were required of the Jews, Cornelius was commanded to- be baptized. The Philippian jailer and his family were baptized after Paul and Silas preached the word of the Lord to them. They also believed and repented. The faith is mentioned, and their actions necessarily implied the repentance. Lydia and her household were baptized when their hearts were opened by God's truth. Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized. Let all of us follow the Bible pattern. Men have offered many plans, but the Bible is right. None is in the church except those who have entered through the strait gate into the narrow way that leads to life (Acts 10:47; 48; 16:30-34; 16:14-15).
1. Can we enter the church by doing our own will? How, then, do we enter?
2. What must one believe to be pleasing to God?
3. Is it enough to accept God and not accept Jesus as His Son? Why?
4. In commanding all men everywhere to repent, what has God required of man?
5. On the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, what did Peter tell the Jews they should do to be saved?
6. Is godly sorrow repentance?
7. What did Christ instruct the apostles to teach all bap tized believers?
8. Who does the adding to the church and who is added?
9. Will all whose names are on lists as church members be added to the Lamb's book of life? Why?
10. What did each gospel preacher, in the days of the apostles, teach about faith, repentance and baptism?
Apparently the much mention of baptism in the New Testament overworked the minds of some ceremonialists to the point of declaring it a requirement unto salvation; hence, no longer the elective ceremony as it properly is. Mind you the same spirit launched the doctrine of Mariolatry and Popery.
"Elective means baptism is by choice of the believer. It is a command of Christ to the disciples-saved, born again child of God. No place in the Word of God is baptism ever enjoined upon the unregenerate. Jesus'. : . made and baptized more disciples . . .' John 4:1. He in turn commissioned His church to do the same kind of work. Matthew 28:18-20. While baptism is commanded by the Word of God, no condition of condemnation is impending those who fail to comply. The failure to be baptized results in a disobedient child of God, but a child of His nevertheless. Of course, it is always better to do exactly as the Bible teaches, but this article is to point out that baptism is an elective.
"Passages from which baptismal regenerationists draw a mistaken notion and change this ordinance into a ceremony of procurement instead of what it was originally intended are such as the following:
"Mark 16:16, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.' The only safe interpretation of such passages as this is to investigate it in the light of the Bible on this subject. What it 'sounds' like and what it actually teaches may not be parallel. This is true with many passages in the Bible. The trouble is not with the Word of God, but with man's artificial taste. Man wants the Bible to say certain things and reads them into its structure.
"Were any ever saved without being baptized after the beginning of its function? Yes, obviously. (1) Luke 18:14, 'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified . . .' Now he either was justified, or he wasn't justified. Jesus said he was so. What! without being baptized? Yes! Then evidently baptism does not stand as a condition of justification. Mark 16:16, if made to mean one must be baptized to be saved, would be in contradiction with the Lord Jesus Christ who spoke these words in Luke 18:14. (2) Luke 7:50, ' . . .thy faith hath saved thee,' said Jesus to the person on this occasion. What! Salvation pronounced without being baptized? Yes! Then evidently baptism does not stand as a condition to being saved since the woman in Luke 7:50 was said to be saved without it. Again, we would have the words of Jesus in discord with Mark 16:16, if we make baptism requisite to salvation. (3) Luke.23:43, '. . . Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.' This is the promise of Jesus to the repenting thief on the cross. What! Paradise without baptism? Yes! But again our baptismal regenerationist would lean heavily on their own notion of Mark 16:16 regardless of the statement of Jesus. Here is that artificial taste of man again. There just must be some ceremony mixed with the condition of salvation according to them.
"Other cases of salvation without baptism can be multiplied in the New Testament. But here are three indisputable happenings where people were saved without being baptized. Mark 16:16 is not a contradiction. What does it mean? Let's see a parallel statement to it:
"1. Mark 16:16. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.
"2. Statement: He that gets on the bus and takes a seat arrives. Now the question concerning our parallel is this. Was 'taking the seat' what got the rider to his destination? No, of course not. It was the getting on the bus. And the seat was for comfort along the way. According to the Lord Jesus Christ in the above Scriptures, folks were JUSTIFIED, SAVED, AND headed for PARADISE without baptism. Had these folks the opportunity to be baptized, they should have done so for their own enjoyment of the Christian life as well as to obey the command of the Scriptures. But baptism is elective to the saved individual Christian and is absolutely not a condition to being saved then, now or later.
"In saying baptism is elective in no way lessens the obligation of the saved to submit to its application. It is an obligation to the disciple"
[Bedford Andrews, Missionary Baptist Searchlight, March 25, 1976, p. 2].
What Is "An Elective?"
Webster says an elective is "dependent on choice." Further, an elective is "that (which) may be chosen but is not required; optional." This is the use made of the term by Mr. Andrews. Baptism, Andrews announces, is an elective; hence, "not a condition to being saved." He says "the saved" have "the obligation . . . to submit" to baptism. "The failure to be baptized results in a disobedient child of God, but a child of His nevertheless." These statements introduce an interesting thought or two.
First, what happens to the "disobedient child of God" who refuses "the obligation" to be baptized? Baptist doctrine says, "once saved, always saved." So, one can be a "disobedient child of God;" one can refuse a divine "obligation" and still be saved, according to Baptist doctrine. Though "baptism is commanded by the Word of God," one can reject the command and be saved anyway. Let Mr. Andrews speak to the contrary if he will.
Second, since baptism is an elective and not essential to salvation, "the Pharisees and lawyers (who) rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of" John the Baptist, stand in no jeopardy whatsoever (Luke 7:30), according to Baptist doctrine. As Jews, they were children of God, and however disobedient they were in refusing "the obligation" and "the purpose of God," they were saved regardless. Who believes it?
Third, we notice a possible Baptist objection. The objection, though not given by Andrews, but which is designed to offset and overthrow the force of the last two points is this: "A true child of God will not refuse to be baptized. If one repudiates baptism, it shows he is not truly converted." But this objection cannot be valid if "baptism is an elective," something "optional." If the saved will be driven by some divine force to be baptized, then down goes the proposition that "baptism is an elective." So, Mr. Andrews, if you respond to this review, do not forget that point. Baptism cannot be "an elective" and at the same time be a thing which a sincere convert cannot refuse. The ideas are mutually exclusive.
Now, since "baptism is an elective," what becomes of "a disobedient child of God" who dies while refusing "to submit" to "the obligation" to be baptized? Will someone tell us? When they do, remember, "no condition of condemnation is impending those who fail to comply." Therefore, one truly saved, "may fail to comply;" it is not compulsory.
Mark 16:16 Bussing Illustration
See the bussing illustration near the end of Mr. Andrews' article. The same basic argument was made by Glenn V. Tingley in a debate with W. Curtis Porter in 1947. We submit Tingley's argument and Porter's answer. This shall serve to answer the bussing analogy.
Glenn V. Tingley's Argument
"'He that entereth a train and is seated shall reach Atlanta.' 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.' Now suppose a man enters a train but does not take a seat. Will he not go to Atlanta anyhow if that train goes there? The taking of the seat involves his comfort but does not involve his going to Atlanta. So baptism relates.to the privileges of the Christian life and does not secure such a life. The believer has entered the gospel train and whether he takes a seat or not, he will reach heaven if the train does (Porter-Tingley Debate, p. 106).
W. Curtis Porter's Answer
"Then to his train proposition. 'He that enters a train and sits down shall go to Atlanta.' I want to put that on the board . . . Here we have it: 'Enters the train (marking 'E' on board) and sits down (marking 'SD' on board) and goes to Atlanta (marking 'A' on board).' He that believeth (marking B on board) and is baptized (marking another B on board) shall be saved (marking S on board).'
Shall Be Saved
He makes belief equal to entering the train; and being baptized equivalent to sitting down; reaching salvation equivalent to reaching Atlanta. Since the man who 'enters the train' can 'reach Atlanta' without 'sitting down,' so the man who 'believes' can 'reach salvation' without 'being baptized.' 'Sitting down' is not necessary in 'reaching Atlanta;' 'being baptized,' therefore, is not necessary in 'reaching salvation.' So we cross them out. (Marking 'Sits down' and 'Is baptized' off the board). Entering the train is the thing necessary to reach Atlanta. My friend, did you know that I could go to Atlanta without 'entering a train? 'Didn't you know that I could go to Atlanta without entering a train? Why I could walk or go in an automobile. There are a dozen ways I could go to Atlanta without 'entering a train.' So 'entering the train' is not essential to going to Atlanta. We'll cross that out (Marking off 'Enters train'). And since faith is equivalent to it, we cross that out, too (Crossing out 'Believeth'). So we do not have to believe or be baptized either to get to salvation, according to his illustration.
"Then, we look at it from another angle. 'He that enters the train and sits down shall reach Atlanta.' The 'sitting down' is not necessary. 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.' The 'baptism' is not necessary. 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.' But in order for it to fit my opponent's theory, since he says 'He that believeth is already saved,' it should say, 'He that enters the train reaches Atlanta before he has time to sit down.' (Laughter). 'He that believeth is saved before he has time to be baptized.' Is that so, Tingley? That's your position, isn't it? 'He that believeth is saved before he has time to be baptized.' So he that enters the train is already in Atlanta before he has time to sit down.' (Laughter). Now, I know anybody can see that. You may not accept it, but you can see it. I'm just certain of that" (Porter-Tingley Debate, pp. 120, 121).
Luke 18:14; Luke 7:50 and the Thief
This is the parable concerning two men who "went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a publican." Both were children of God before they prayed since the uncircumcised could not enter the temple (Ezekiel 44:9; Cf. Acts 21). The one who was justified was an erring child of God, not one who was seeking to become a child of God. As such, the passage is not applicable to Andrews' proposition. Even so, prayer is mentioned. That makes at least two conditions for the Baptists, faith and prayer. If prayer is also required, then the sinner must do something besides repent and believe. Maybe we ought to charge Andrews with "works" salvation or "prayer" salvation. Is prayer a "work," something that one must do? On this issue, the Baptists meet themselves coming back on their "works" and "water" salvation charge.
Jesus had power on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). He forgave this woman whose faith was active in serving the Lord. This was prior to the "beginning" of remission of sins which was to be preached in Jesus' name (Luke 24:47; Hebrew 9:16-17; Acts 2:38). No, baptism is not mentioned, but neither is repentance. The text does not say the woman repented. Should I conclude the woman was saved by faith without repentance? I can as easily cut out repentance from Luke 7:50 as I can baptism with that kind of reasoning. The truth is that one must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
Jesus had the power to forgive sins. He evidently forgave the thief. Again, this was before the New Testament came into force (Hebrews 9:16-17). What the thief did or did not do does not negate the fact that in order for one to be in Christ today, he must be "baptized into Jesus Christ" (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26-27).
One final point that is pertinent to the three cases cited above is this: The Baptist position is that one should be baptized to picture or demonstrate to the world that he has been saved. But in none of the above cases were any of the characters baptized. They were not baptized in order to the remission of sins, but neither were they baptized because of the remission of sins. Because it is not mentioned before one is pronounced justified, Andrews concludes that it is not necessary, and what is more, that it never occurs before salvation. Well, if that be true, it is not referred to after their justification, either. Should we conclude that baptism should never occur after justification, using Baptist rules of interpretation? Thus, we completely eliminate baptism from God's scheme of things.
"Saved By Faith" Excludes Baptism?
That is Andrews' conclusion from Luke 7:50 and 18:14. Says he, "We would have the words of Jesus (i.e., 'Thy faith hath saved thee'-LRH) in discord with Mark 16:16, if we make baptism requisite to salvation." He thinks that salvation by faith excludes baptism. If so, it excludes repentance, too. When Baptists explain how "saved by faith" can include repentance, they will open the door for baptism.
The Ephesians were saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet, they had been "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5). Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). So, to say that one is saved by faith does not eliminate baptism. Likewise, the Romans were "justified by faith" (Romans 5:1), but their justification did not occur until they "obeyed" and were "baptized into Jesus Christ," and "baptized into his death" (Romans 6:3-4, 16-17). Therefore, to say one is justified by faith does not erase baptism.
Loose Ends-Incidental Points
Several items in Andrews article require but brief comment.
First, Andrews assumes that the term, "disciples," always refers to a saved person. That is not true. A disciple is a pupil, a learner. In John 2:11, upon witnessing Jesus' first miracle, the record says, "and his disciples believed on him." According to Baptist useage, they were saved, disciples, then they believed, for it says, "his disciples (saved ones according to Andrews) believed on Him."
Second, Andrews avows, "No place in the Word of God is baptism ever enjoined upon the unregenerate." "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Strange language, is it not, to use to a saved, regenerated man? If, according to Baptist doctrine, Saul was saved at this time, why use this' language?
Third, Andrews allows that "it is always best to do exactly as the Bible teaches, but this article is to point out that baptism is elective." In other words, it is best to be baptized "exactly" as the Bible teaches, but you can choose not to do so if you desire! How many other things can one ignore with impunity? What about the Lord's supper? "It is always best to do exactly as, the Bible teaches, but" one can refuse to eat the Lord's supper, too. If not, why not? Is not the Lord's supper also an "elective," something one can choose to ignore?
Fourth, Andrews avers that Mark 16:16 'sounds' like it teaches the essentiality of baptism. Yes, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" does indeed "sound" like that! He says, "The same is true with many passages in the Bible." That, my friends, is a reflection on the word of God. One wonders if Mark 16:16 only "sounds like" it teaches the necessity of faith.
Fifth, Andrews avouches that people should be baptized "for comfort along the way," and "for their enjoyment of the Christian life." Where does the Bible say that? According to Andrews, Mark 16:16 should say, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be comforted," or, more appropriately, "He that believeth is saved and shall be baptized for comfort and enjoyment." Does one lack comfort and enjoyment with the knowledge that he is saved? Salvation is good enough for me. How could one be uncomfortable knowing he is saved? What does baptism have to do with enjoyment, according to Baptist doctrine? See Acts 8:39; 16:34.
Acts 2:38 should read, "Repent, and be baptized for the remission of your discomfort." Acts 22:16, to suit Andrews' view, should say, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your discomfort." I Peter 3:21 should be rendered, "The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now comfort us." Romans 6:3-4, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ's comfort, were baptized into his enjoyment? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into comfort, that- like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in enjoyment of life."
This controversy seems to be a by-product of the discussion of scriptural and unscriptural ways in which such funds are spent. In the course of discussion we occasionally hear the question raised as to whether or not a church should have a treasury other than on a temporary basis, designed to cope only with emergencies. The following quotation from the Firm Foundation, November 1, 1960, p. 696, will serve to illustrate the point:
"The collection of funds on the first day of the week was commanded due to the rise of the Jerusalem emergency (I Corinthians 16:2-3) .... The church is recorded as having a collected fund on hand, that is, in their treasury, only after an emergency had already arisen (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-37; I Corinthians 16:2). In no case does one find the church collecting funds, except after an emergency had already arisen."
In this writer's judgment, the author of the foregoing, as well as those who share his views on this subject, has evidently failed to consider some matters of biblical record. In fact, it seems to us that even a superficial study of the Bible will reveal that God's people have always had a treasury. And, that such was always drawn upon to meet the normal demands "for the service of the house of God," as well as to cope with emergencies.
The Jews Had A Treasury
Turning to the Old Testament, let us note that the Israelites stored-up treasure -had a treasury -to be used for the construction and maintenance of the temple, both in its planning stage in the days of David, as well as its restoration in the days of Nehemiah. Let us read:
"They with whom precious stones were found gave them to the treasure of the house of Jehovah" (I Chronicles 29:8).
"They gave after their ability into, the treasury of the work" (Ezra 2:69).
"The governor gave to the treasury of the work" (Ezra 2:69).
"The governor gave to the treasury a thousand darics of gold" (Nehemiah 7:70).
"And, some of the heads of fathers' houses gave into the treasury of the work twenty thousand darics of gold" (Nehemiah 7:71).
Even the collection of first-fruits, tithes, free-will offerings, etc., constituted treasure, and such were given a Storage-room or treasury in the temple (Nehemiah 13:5). The prophet, Malachi, charged the people with having robbed God because they had not surrendered the tithes and offerings which were due Him. He admonished them, saying: "Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse [treasury - James Moffatt], that there may be food in my house" (Malachi 3:10).
Turning to the Gospel by Mark 12:41-44, we learn that the Jews continued to have a treasury in the temple into which the people gave of their money. Jesus once sat in the temple, these verses inform us, "over against the treasury" and observed the gifts of the people, and from his observations He taught a much needed lesson. And again: when Judas Iscariot returned the pieces of silver which he received in payment for betraying Jesus, the chief priests said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is the price of blood" (Matthew 27:6).
So, we see that the Jews always had and sustained a treasury, and used it to meet the demands made upon them as the people of God. It seems also quite evident that Jesus approved of this arrangement.
Jesus And His Disciples Had a Treasury
That Jesus and His disciples had a treasury is clearly shown from a reading of John 13:27-29. Also the fact that they used it to aid the poor and to purchase the necessary things for their worship of God.
The Jerusalem Church Had A Treasury
Passing now to the establishment of the church in Jerusalem, we observe that the early disciples, among other things, "continued steadfastly" in "fellowship" (Acts 2:42). Upon this statement, David Lipscomb commented: 'In the fellowship' means the spiritual union and sympathy for each other that all should have. This embraced the contribution and distribution of means to help the needy." - J Commentary on Acts, McQuiddy Printing Co., Nashville, Tenn., 1896.
Regarding this same verse, J. W. McGarvey wrote: "The original term, koinonia, is sometimes used for contributions made for the poor." He gave as references, Romans 15:26 and II Corinthians 9:13. In the former passage Paul wrote "of a certain contribution (fellowship) for the poor among the saints that are at Jerusalem." In the latter reference he tells the donors that "the liberality of your contribution (fellowship) unto them" both filled their needs, and was the cause of many thanksgivings to God.
Fairness of course, demands that we quote from brother McGarvey: "While this is one of the ways in which fellowship is manifested, the word is not usually restricted to this sense." With this we willingly concur. But note: although the word koinonia may have included more than just the "contribution for the poor," it evidently did include such, and so we find the Jerusalem church with a treasury before any mention is made of an emergency. It therefore follows that the liberality of the saints, recorded in Acts 4:34-37, did not result in the establishing of a treasury, but simply a replenishing of the treasury that already existed.
We might also point out that the treasury of the Jerusalem church was in the custody of the apostles. But, when its administration began to interfere with their ministry of the word, upon their recommendation, seven deacons were selected and appointed to handle it. Read Acts 4:34-35; 6:1-6. Again, David Lipscomb wisely remarked: "The first fruit of an earnest church was a full treasury, and these men were appointed to distribute it. . . . Without a treasury there is no work for deacons in a church." -Queries And Answers, P. 86, F. L. Rowe, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1918.
Judean Churches Had Treasuries
Continuing to study our theme, let us read Acts 11:29-30: "And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea: which also they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul."
Now, while it is not necessarily implied that these gifts were placed in the treasury of the Antioch church, they certainly constituted church-treasure once they were transferred to the hands of the elders of the Judean churches, and remained such until distributed to the poor among the "brethren." Therefore, the Judean churches had treasuries.
The Corinthian Church Had a Treasury
Let us now consider I Corinthians 16:1-2, which reads: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper ' that no collections be made when I come."
Let us hear the comments of J. W. Garvey and Philip Y. Pendleton on these verses: "The word "thesaurizoon", translated "in store," means, literally, "Put into the treasury; and the phrase "par heauto," translated "by him," may be taken as the neuter reflexive pronoun, and may be rendered with equal correctness "by itself." Macknight thus renders these two words, and this rendering is to be preferred. If each man had laid by in his own house, all these scattered collections would have had to be gathered after Paul's arrival, which was the very thing that he forbade. . . . It was put in the public treasury of the church, but kept by itself as a separate fund." - Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 61, Standard Pub. Foundation, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The order therefore, which Paul previously gave to the churches of Galatia and then extended to the church at Corinth was, that every member should contribute to the store or treasury of the church, when they assembled upon the first day of the week, so that when Paul arrived to receive their "afore promised bounty", it would be ready -evidently in a special fund in the treasury -- to be dispatched to Jerusalem. His order and their compliance with it did not institute a treasury in the church at Corinth, but rather involved their use of it for the receiving and distributing of their gifts for "the poor among the saints" at Jerusalem.
Works Impossible To Churches without Treasuries
Did the early churches maintain treasuries other than when benevolent emergencies were present? Let us continue the study from another viewpoint. Paul to the Corinthians wrote: "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you" (II Corinthians 11:8). How could churches pay wages to Paul unless these churches had resources - treasuries from which to pay them? Certainly, they could not. The same apostle penned these words: "Ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only; for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need" (Philippians 4:15-16). Again, it stands without argument, that the church at Philippi could not have had fellow ship with Paul in meeting his physical needs unless they had a treasury! With regard to "desolate" widows, Paul again wrote: "Let none be enrolled as a widow [to be supported by the church - GJP] under three-score years old" (I Timothy 5:9). "If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, and let not the church be burdened; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed" (I Timothy 5:16).
Surely these passages not only show that New Testament churches had treasuries but that no real church work can be done without a treasury. To, even call in question this fact does not reflect a healthy attitude toward either the Lord's church or the work that he has given it to do.