12 Hard Nuts For Universal Church Proponents

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
More anti-universal church stuff coming your way. How would you respond to this tract?

"12 Hard Nuts For Universal Church Proponents"
by Pastor Curtis Pugh


1. A universal invisible church defies the Greek definition. By definition of the Greek word used, a church (ecclesia) must be an organized gathering (assembly) of persons with a common interest and common officers. This is the N.T. usage as well as the Septuagint and secular uses. There can be no such thing as an assembly that does not assemble.

2. The invisible church definition is based on unsound exegesis. To make up a second definition for the word church (or any other word) to fit preconceived doctrinal notions is not sound Bible exegesis. Such a practice allows any doctrine to be taught simply by saying that a word means one thing in one place and quite another in a different place. If “ecclesia” means a gathered, organized assembly of persons called out from daily duties, to assume that Christ or Paul used it differently is unsafe, unless Christ or Paul explained such a different usage – which neither did. Personal bias is no justification for saying that there is a second definition for the word “ecclesia.”

3. Pentecost nowhere stated or hinted to be the birth of any church. Universal church theorists often teach that the church was born on Pentecost. there is no Scriptural proof or even hint that any kind of church was on the first “Christian Pentecost,” a Jewish feast day.

4. The day of Pentecost not the end of the law. The Old Testament did not end on Pentecost. While Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe, Jesus Himself said, “The law and the prophets were until John” (Luke 16:16). So then the law system ended years before “Pentecost.”

5. An invisible church requires more than one baptism. John prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost. Christ was to be the administrator, the Holy Ghost was that into which they would be immersed. To try to manufacture a “baptism” by which the Holy Ghost baptizes one into the mystical body of Christ [?] would make the Holy Ghost the administrator and this “mystical body” the element into which the believer would be immerse – an altogether different thing. An invisible church requires an invisible “baptism.” The Bible teaches only ONE (kind) of baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Which will it be, real water baptism like the New Testament church or Protestantism’s spirit baptism?

6. The teaching of a “universal invisible church” was popularized by Martin Luther, some 1450 years after Christ. He did so to counteract the “universal VISIBLE church” teaching of the Roman church from which he had just been excommunicated. Since he had been ejected from the “universal VISIBLE church” he had to come up with some kind of church of which he could be a member so that it would not appear that he was starting one of his own – which in fact he was.

7. A church born on Pentecost would have a different founder. Jesus promised to “build” (literally “to build up or continue to build”) His assembly (church) as opposed to any other kind of gathering. He did not promise that the Holy Ghost would do it on Pentecost. He was no failure. If the church began on Pentecost, its founder would be the Holy Ghost and not Christ.

8. A church born on Pentecost must have “Old Testament baptism.” John instituted baptism. Jesus personally baptized no one (John 4:2). If the first church was born on Pentecost and necessarily with it the New Testament dispensation, it must reach back into the Old Testament era for baptism, for baptism was instituted prior to Pentecost and thus according to this theory, prior to the birth of the church.

9. A church born on Pentecost must have an “Old Testament supper.” If the first church was born on Pentecost and with it the New Dispensation, it has an Old Testament supper. For the Lord’s Supper is an Old Testament ordinance since it, like baptism, was instituted according to these theorists in the Old Dispensation – that is, prior to Pentecost.

10. A church born on Pentecost has no commission from Christ. If the church did not begin until Pentecost then she has no commission, for the Lord Jesus gave the second and “Great Commission” PRIOR to Pentecost. It is unthinkable to have a New Testament church operating under an Old Testament commission!

11. An invisible church must be a corrupt church. Christ’s church is pictured as His “bride.” Paul said of a “local” church (the only kind addressed in the New Testament), “...I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2nd Corinthians 11:2). Purity, loving service and fidelity are hallmarks of such a church. A universal church cannot be pure for all the redeemed are members of such a church, even one excluded from churches for idolatry, immorality, etc. How can a pure bride (church) be made up of excluded church members? The Romish church is pictured in Revelation 17 and 18 as a grossly immoral woman having daughters like unto herself. A universal invisible church must of necessity include in it persons who are part of the Harlot and/or her Harlot daughters. How can a pure bride be made up of an impure Harlot?

12. An invisible church can do nothing. Just what does an invisible church do? It cannot meet. It never gathers for fellowship or worship. It cannot send out a missionary. It cannot ordain a preacher. It cannot ordain a deacon. It cannot baptize converts. It cannot exclude a member or discipline its members in any manner. It cannot receive tithes and offerings. It cannot observe the Lord’s Supper. It cannot agree on doctrine, nor even support the most basic of Christian truths. It cannot do any of the things churches in the New Testament did. It can do nothing.

Surely every truly repentant believer in Christ is saved and safe. All God’s elect shall be someday with Him in Heaven. Salvation is not related to church membership. A church is a “body” constituted for service and is a “pillar and ground of the truth” (1st Timothy 3:15). Are you a member of one of Christ’s churches where you can serve Him in a way that is acceptable unto Him?


---------- Post added at 01:17 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:16 AM ----------

I would love to answer point by point these sorts of assertions.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
7-10 are easily enough countered by pointing out that the church began long before Pentecost.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Truly! There's only so much time you can devoted to maniacs.

Did anyone else notice the similarities of number one to the Federal Vision? It's so much easier to just say all baptized babies are elect. Not that the dufus who wrote the OP article has ever thought it through that far.
 

buggy

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm surprised that there are even Calvinists who adhere to Landmarkism. I thought this belief is only restricted to some fundamental Baptists. Is this the "Trail of Blood" belief?
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
buggy, many Landmark Baptists hold to the 5 points, but they aren't considered Calvinists my many of us. And yes, Landmark Baptists are associated with the fairy tale "The Trail of Blood".
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Many, many calvy baptists have Landmarker traits.


Many, many churches and folks that support me have Landmarker tendencies.

Therefore, I am trying not to call them Crackheads, but I am trying to reason with them in such a why that we know the glorious truths of the eternal and universal Church (with a really big C) of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Iam trying to formulate a kind response to them.

I have already won a few Landmarkers over to my view, but this strain of wrong teaching continues to be a gnat in my face and a constant sore to me as my own ecclesiology often gets questioned by them.
 

southern

Puritan Board Freshman
Pergamum,

I would like to comment on the first two.

The first states:

1. A universal invisible church defies the Greek definition. By definition of the Greek word used, a church (ecclesia) must be an organized gathering (assembly) of persons with a common interest and common officers. This is the N.T. usage as well as the Septuagint and secular uses. There can be no such thing as an assembly that does not assemble.

I believe that the Greek word holds to its essence an "assembly". My Landmark brethren have often used this argument against the 'Universal Church' of the Westminster and 1689 LBC. The argument is that since 'all of the elect' have never assembled then they cannot be an 'ecclesia' (assembly). However, this is to misunderstand the nature of the 'Universal Church' that is being argued for.

Jesus said all the Father gives to Him will 'come to Him'. This verse teaches that all believers have indeed assembled. They have assembled 'in Christ'. So it is simply untrue to say that they have never assembled. Now they will be quick to point out that this is not a 'literal' and 'physical' assembly. That is correct as stated. However, this is one of the reasons that we make a distinction between the Visible and Invisible Church. It is not a different meaning, only a different application, hence the distinction.

2. The invisible church definition is based on unsound exegesis. To make up a second definition for the word church (or any other word) to fit preconceived doctrinal notions is not sound Bible exegesis. Such a practice allows any doctrine to be taught simply by saying that a word means one thing in one place and quite another in a different place. If “ecclesia” means a gathered, organized assembly of persons called out from daily duties, to assume that Christ or Paul used it differently is unsafe, unless Christ or Paul explained such a different usage – which neither did. Personal bias is no justification for saying that there is a second definition for the word “ecclesia.”

No one is arguing that the word has changed. We are only applying the meaning in a different sense. This is very common in scripture!

We know that 'Baptism' has a literal meaning. However, it is applied to the sufferings of Christ as well as to judgment (ie baptism of fire). This is not making a difference in the meaning but only its application. We could point to many other words that meaning is changed from literal to spiritual in the scripture (kingdom, family, brother, etc.). Again, this doesn't mean were inventing a 'second definition' but a different application of that meaning.

If you would like me to respond to the rest, I would rather do so by PM. I come out of a similiar institution and my Bible College was of this persuasion. I have many books and articles to recommend.
 

Iconoclast

Puritan Board Junior
Southern,
You said this;
Jesus said all the Father gives to Him will 'come to Him'. This verse teaches that all believers have indeed assembled. They have assembled 'in Christ'. So it is simply untrue to say that they have never assembled. Now they will be quick to point out that this is not a 'literal' and 'physical' assembly.
I do not see that this verse teaches this at all. This assembly will happen on the last day, visibly.
Your interpretation sounds allegorical. Nothing in Jn.6 suggests otherwise.
In the original post point number one does not mention "all the elect" he said;
There can be no such thing as an assembly that does not assemble.
That is what is at issue. A church is a called out assembly
This tract with it's 12 points can be found wanting, but i do not see this as the way to go to prove the point.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Why isn't Hebrews 12:22-24 sufficient to crush this view once and for all?
 

southern

Puritan Board Freshman
Iconoclast stated:
I do not see that this verse teaches this at all. This assembly will happen on the last day, visibly.
Your interpretation sounds allegorical. Nothing in Jn.6 suggests otherwise.
In the original post point number one does not mention "all the elect" he said;

and

That is what is at issue. A church is a called out assembly
This tract with it's 12 points can be found wanting, but i do not see this as the way to go to prove the point.

I think all Christians (including yourself) would agree that we are all in Christ by faith. When Jesus says in Jn. 6:44 that no man can 'come to me' unless drawn by the Father, I tend to take this as not referring exclusively to the last day but something that is a present reality. If you agree with this, this is all I am referring to. You are in essence agreeing that we have all come (assembled) at the same place in some shape form or fashion. This was simply meant to argue against the idea that all the saved have never assembled.

If you mean that the actual word 'ecclesia' wasn't used in Jn. 6 you are correct. I think Ephesians 5 where Christ died for the 'church' would be an example that includes all the elect. However, the idea of the universal church, I would argue, is much wider (ie body of Christ, etc.). Also as with John 6, the use of Ecclesia in Ephesians 5 cannot be viewed as simply something that will exist in the last day, In my humble opinion. Notice the use of present tense verbs used in reference to that church (ie 'is' subject). However, the idea of the universal church, I would argue, is much wider (ie body of Christ, etc.).
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I've talked with crackheads that made more sense....

Alot of those in Jersey.

Unfortunately yes. The Crips & Bloods have a thriving underground economy based out of the low income housing areas in our town. A woman who used to be part of our former congregation has just about fried her brain on this stuff. If you ever talked with someone who has used it long term, you would totally understand what I mean. The thought process is fragmented and logic is a foreigner.
 

southern

Puritan Board Freshman
Why isn't Hebrews 12:22-24 sufficient to crush this view once and for all?

Those such as A.W. Pink and John Gill do in fact believe this is speaking of all the elect.

However, some Landmarkers believe this verse is only speaking prospectively (see B.H. Carroll for a representative of this view). In other words, this will be true one day and they will literally assemble one day. However the Hebrew writer mentions that "ye are come" (vs. 22, perfect tense I believe).

Others such as Calvin have seen this as referring to the OT saints in heaven.

However, I like John Owens explanation that these are the whole church of elect believers then in the world, which would be called the 'church militant' (see his exposition of Hebrews).
 
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