A NEW TESTAMENT BAPTIST CHURCH DEFINED
A NEW TESTAMENT BAPTIST CHURCH IS A CONGREGATION OF BAPTIZED BELIEVERS, ASSOCIATED BY COVENANT IN THE FAITH AND FELLOWSHIP OF THE GOSPEL, OBSERVING THE ORDINANCES OF BAPTISM AND THE LORD'S SUPPER AS GIVEN BY CHRIST; GOVERNED BY HIS LAWS AND EXERCISING THE GIFTS, RIGHTS, AND PRIVILEGES INVESTED IN THEM BY HIS WORD, AND THAT ITS ONLY SCRIPTURAL OFFICERS ARE BISHOPS OR PASTORS AND DEACONS.
I. "IS A CONGREGATION OF BAPTIZED BELIEVERS."
A. Every place you read of the church, the definition will always include references to the invisible universal church. The Bible is the only exception to this rule.
1. This is so sad, as the word "ekklesia" always means an assembly, and all the people together cannot be assembled – at least not in this world.
2. In the world to come, all the church is together, but they are also assembled.
B. Men give three definitions of the word church.
1. Local visible – Baptists. These are the first churches.
2. Visible universal – Catholics. These churches followed after because they rejected the truth of the Bible.
3. Invisible, universal – Protestants Reformers. These churches did not like the definition of the word "church" used by so called radicals to the right – which are Baptists (although they were called many different names), and they did not like the Catholic (universal) church, so they dubbed their universal church "invisible" instead of "visible".
C. The first thing that needs to be done is to let the Bible define the word "church". The word church is taken from the Greek word "ekklesia".
1. Derived probably from the Greek kuriakon (i.e., "the Lord’s house"), which was used by ancient authors for the place of worship. In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word ecclesia, which is synonymous with the Hebrew _kahal_ of the Old Testament, both words meaning simply an assembly, the character of which can only be known from the connection in which the word is found. There is no clear instance of its being used for a place of meeting or of worship, although in post-apostolic times it early received this meaning. Nor is this word ever used to denote the inhabitants of a country united in the same profession, as when we say the "Church of England," the "Church of Scotland," etc.
2. The word "Ekklesia" appears 116 times in the New Testament, 113 times it is translated "church" or "churches" and three times it is translated assembly:
a. Acts 19:32, 39, and 41.
b. All of these times concern the riot in the city of Ephesus over the supposed plot by Paul and the disciples to destroy the economy created by the manufacture of idols to the goddess Diana.
3. The word "ekklesia" is translated into the plural "churches" 36 times, and into the singular "churches" 77 times.
a. It becomes very clear by studying these various words that the word "church" always speaks about a particular church, or the church as an institution, never to a group of churches.
b. The word churches are always used when reference is made to more than one church.
4. Jesus used the word "ekklesia" 22 times; the singular form 10 times and the plural form 12 times, making it very clear that Jesus thought of the church he organized during his own personal ministry as a local, visible church. When Jesus spoke of more than one church, he always used the plural.
a. Matthew 16:18 – singular.
b. Matthew 18:17 – singular.
c. Matthew 18:17 – singular.
d. Revelation 1:11 – plural.
e. Revelation 1:20 – plural.
f. Revelation 1:20 – plural.
g. Revelation 2:1 – singular.
h. Revelation 2:7 – plural.
i. Revelation 2:8 – singular.
j. Revelation 2:11 – plural.
k. Revelation 2:12 – singular.
l. Revelation 2:17 – plural.
m. Revelation 2:18 – singular.
n. Revelation 2:23 – plural.
o. Revelation 2:29 – plural.
p. Revelation 3:1 – singular.
q. Revelation 3:6 – plural.
r. Revelation 3:7 – singular.
s. Revelation 3:13 – plural.
t. Revelation 3:14 – singular.
u. Revelation 3:22 – plural.
v. Revelation 22:16 – plural.
D. See Acts 19:37 – "For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess."
1. The words "robbers of churches" is not the word "ekklesia" at all.
2. It is the Greek word "hierosulos", Strong’s number G2417, which means "Robbers of churches".
3. This Greek word is only used one time in the entire Bible.
E. The word church used in the institutional sense.
1. Ephesians 5:23, 25, 27, and 29.
a. In these verses the church (in an institutional sense) is clearly seen being compared to the husband and wife (also in an institutional sense).
b. There is no such thing as one huge, visible, or invisible husband or wife.
c. All of these husbands and wives are local, and visible.
d. There is also no such thing as one huge, visible, or invisible church.
e. All these churches are local, visible, and singular.
f. There is no doubt in my mind that in eternity, God has a special place for all his churches, just like he has a special place for Israel.
g. In eternity all the church will be gathered together as one – but they will still be local and they will still be visible, just as Israel will be local and visible.
2. Hebrews 12:23.
a. This verse refers to the two separate, distinct and complete groups in heaven.
b. One is the general assembly – Israel.
c. The other is the church of the firstborn – the local churches of this earth put together in heaven.
F. The church in a house - A few Christians associated together in observing the ordinances of the gospel are an ecclesia.
1. Romans 16:5 – "Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ."
2. Colossians 4:15 – "Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house."
G. I also must say that every time a form of the word "assemble" is used in the Bible, it is not the Greek "ekklesia".
1. There are twelve times a form of the word assemble is found in the New Testament, and is not ekklesia.
2. I believe it is important to study the form of the word "assembly" to clearly understand there is a difference between people gathering together and gathering together in church capacity.
a. Matthew 26:3 - Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, This is a legal assembly, not a church, that is gathered together.
b. Matthew 26:57 – And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. Here these hypocrites are gathered together to commence a illegal trial for the purpose of convicting Christ of being God.
c. Matthew 28:12 – And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, This assembly is also not a church, but a gathering together of people to determine a course of action.
d. Mark 14:53 – And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. These chief priests and elders and scribers were gathered together to consider how to kill Christ.
e. John 20:19 – Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. The early church is gathered together. The word "assembled" is much better than the word "church", which does not make sense in the sentence.
f. Acts 1:4 – And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. Jesus is here gathered together with his church, which is an assembly, and gives them instructions.
g. Acts 4:31 – And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. This church was gathered together, and God blessed their assembly and the prayer they collectively prayed for strength.
h. Acts 11:26 – And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. These people did not "church" themselves together, but gathered together in an orderly assembly for the purpose of worshipping God.
i. Acts 15:25 – It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, James states in this letter that the church being assembled together have considered the issue at hand and gives the following advice.
j. Hebrews 10:25 – Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. This passage is clearly speaking of assembling (gathering together) in church capacity.
k. Hebrews 12:23 – To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
l. James 2:2 – For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; James did not use the word "church", but the Greek "sunagoge", which is also translated "synagogue".
H. All of the New Testament is written to churches, individuals
1. When Christ inspired the apostles to write the 27 books of the New Testament, none of the letters were written to a convention headquarters.
a. At least seven of the books were written to local churches, eight to groups of people, of whom the bigger part was churches, four were addressed to an unknown people, and eight were written to individuals.
b. It must be that the invisible or visible universal church, all boards, associations, and conventions, have no word from God at all.
c. We ought to be careful what we put our stamp of approval on.
2. Every person should read to whom the various books of the Bible is written.
a. This is a good spiritual exercise in discerning whom God gives instructions to.
b. If an individual wants to receive instruction from God he must put himself in the place where instructions are given.
I. I Corinthians 1:1-13 – "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: 3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"
1. Verse 1 - The writer is Paul.
2. Verse 2 - The local church at Corinth is the recipient.
3. Verse 4 - Paul thanked God for that particular local church.
4. Verse 10-13 - Paul rebukes and instructs these baptized believers as a church, a local particular group of baptized believers in Corinth.
J. Other scriptures that teach this to be true are:
1. Matt. 18:17 – "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
a. This passage is speaking about church discipline.
b. If the church is universal, visible or invisible, this command is impossible.
c. Many believe there are two churches – the big universal church and the small local church.
2. Acts 5:11 – "And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things."
3. Acts 8:1 – "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
4. I Corinthians 4:17 – "For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church."
5. I Corinthians 14:23 – "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?"
6. III John 9 – "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not."
7. I Tim. 3:5 – "(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)"
K. There is no such thing as a universal invisible church nor is there a universal visible church on earth.
II. "ASSOCIATED BY COVENANT IN THE FAITH AND FELLOWSHIP OF THE GOSPEL."
A. Acts 2:41-42 – "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
1. Verse 41 - Only those who gladly received Peter's message about Jesus where baptized and added to the 120 members already in existence.
2. In order for the three thousand souls to be added to the church, the church had to already be in existence.
3. Verse 42 - Those who were joined to them continued with them in all things they already had.
B. Other scriptures that teach this to be true are:
1. II Corinthians 8:5 – "And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God."
a. It is plain to see these believers were saved and scripturally baptized, as they are in the church at Corinth.
b. They are obeying the will of God in giving themselves to the Lord, and to Paul.
c. It is also apparent they have already given themselves to one another, as they are all in the same church.
2. Acts 2:47 – "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Reading from verse 41 of this chapter, it is plain to see these new believers are in fellowship with one another because of Jesus Christ.
3. I Corinthians 5:12-13 – "For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
a. This passage is speaking about church discipline.
b. God judges those outside the church, while the church judges those inside its membership.
c. The most severe punishment any church can give is to exclude a believer from its fellowship, which is also removing the umbrella of God’s protection from them.
III. "OBSERVING THE ORDINANCES OF BAPTISM AND THE LORD'S SUPPER AS GIVEN BY CHRIST."
A. More will be said about scriptural baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the next article.
B. The next step in obedience; after salvation, is scriptural baptism.
1. Matthew 3:1-12 – John the Baptist always baptized believers, but refused to baptize those that did not have fruits meet for repentance.
2. John 4:1-2 – Jesus taught his early church to baptize those who believed the gospel message.
3. Acts 2:38-47 – On the Day of Pentecost and afterward, the Jerusalem church baptized believers.
4. Acts 5:13 – The Bible records that some believers were not baptized, thus did not become members of the Lord’s church because they were afraid.
5. Acts 8:12 – Philip baptized these people into the membership of the church at Samaria.
6. Acts 16:25-34 – The Philippian jailer was baptized into the membership of the church at Philippi.
C. After salvation and scriptural baptism, those wishing to remember what Christ has done for them observe the Lord’s Supper.
1. Acts 2:41 – When these people were saved, and scripturally baptized, they were eligible to receive the Lord’s Supper at the hand of the early Jerusalem church, of which they were members.
2. Acts 20:7 – This church observed the Lord’s Supper each Sunday.
3. A person who is not a member of a local Baptist church cannot take the Lord’s Supper with that particular body.
D. I Corinthians 11:1-2 – "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you."
1. Verse 1 - The churches of Jesus Christ are to observe the ordinances as Paul was instructed to observe them. See also verse 23-26 which states, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come."
2. Verse 2 - The only ordinances that are recorded, as being observed by any of the churches of the New Testament, are baptism and the Lord's Supper.
3. Foot washing is never mentioned in the scriptures as being observed by any of the churches or the apostles in the New Testament.
E. Other scriptures that teach this to be true are:
1. II Thess. 3:5 – "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ." The ordinances are not mentioned in particular, but any time we obey God, we will observe the ordinances correctly.
2. Romans 16:17-20 – "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
a. This is a good practice for all true churches.
b. If we would stay true to God’s doctrines, we must forsake the doctrines of men.
3. I Corinthians 11:23-34 – "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come."
a. This scripture speaks of the method of giving the Lord’s Supper.
b. The supper was given only to churches, never to those outside the assembly.
c. There is a responsibility of the church to judge its own members of public sins and discipline any person who is ineligible to take the Lord’s Supper.
d. There is also a responsibility of each individual to judge himself of any secret sins, unknown to the congregation.
4. Matthew 18:15-20 – "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
a. Church members must understand that if they hold any grudge against any member of their church, they cannot take the Lord’s Supper.
b. They must first get rid of the grudge; then take the Lord’s Supper.
c. Matthew 5:23,24 makes it abundantly clear that if we hold something against a brother, God will not accept our worship, whether this worship is in a regular worship service, daily prayers, or the Lord’s Supper.
5. II Corinthians 2:17 – "For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." Many corrupt the Word of God and God’s churches by giving the Lord’s Supper to whomsoever they please.
6. I Corinthians 4:17 – "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" There are trials in this world if we serve God only, but the eternal benefits are well worth it all.
IV. "GOVERNED BY HIS LAWS."
A. Matthew 28:20 – "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
1. Jesus said to "observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (the New Testament church).
2. No one has the right to change His law concerning the church and its ordinances.
B. Other scriptures that teach this to be true are:
1. John 14:15 – "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
2. John 15:12 – "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
3. I John 4:21 – "And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."
4. I Thessalonians 4:2 – "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."
5. II John 6 – "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it."
6. Galatians 6:2 – "Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
7. All the epistles.
V. "AND EXERCISING THE GIFTS, RIGHTS, AND PRIVILEGES INVESTED IN THEM BY HIS WORD."
A. Ephesians 4:7 – "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
1. Paul is writing to the local church at Ephesus instructs them that grace to serve in a particular or certain service in the church is given to each member, "according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
2. Every member is saved for a purpose by God's grace.
B. I Corinthians 14:12 – "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church."
1. Paul tells us we ought to desire spiritual gifts in order to be a blessing to the church in building it up spiritually.
2. Spiritual gifts are not to be desired tin order to prove you are saved.
VI. "AND THAT ITS ONLY SCRIPTURAL OFFICERS ARE BISHOPS OR PASTORS AND DEACONS."
A. Philippians 1:1 – "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:"
1. Paul addresses the only officers spoken of as being in New Testament churches.
2. There is no such thing or person mentioned in the New Testament kind of churches as the "pope" of Roman Catholicism!
B. Other scriptures that teach this to be true are:
1. Acts 14:23 – "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."
2. Acts 15:22 – "Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:"