Some Doctrinal Considerations
Raymond Nohl, Florida
Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, wrote a letter to the saints in Ephesus in which he made this statement: "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all", Eph. 4. 1-6.
The "unity of the Spirit" consists of seven truths, seven in the Bible being the symbol of perfection or completeness. The "unity of the Spirit" begins with "one body, and one Spirit", these being linked together because it is "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit", 1 Cor. 12. 13.
In this paper, we shall use the word "assembly" instead of "church". When the New Testament was written, there was no Greek word equivalent to the English word "church". This word "church" is derived from an old West Germanic word derived in turn from late Greek: kuriakon, the neuter of kuriakos "of the Lord", from kurios "lord, master", from kuros "authority, power". Thus from this conglomerate, the word "church" is derived.
By contrast, examine the Greek word ekklesia, compounded of ek or ex (a primitive preposition denoting origin, the point whence motion or action proceeds; from or out of place, time or cause) and a derivative of kaleo "to call". Thus it is clear that the Greek word ekklesia means "a calling out", a public meeting. This calling out may originate with man, Satan, or God. The Authorized Version correctly translates the Greek word ekklesia in Acts 19. 32, 39. This assembly, or meeting, originated with a pagan silversmith named Demetrius, who feared that he and others of his trade, making silver temples of Diana, would be deprived of their business through the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This man was responsible for the "calling out" of the populace to oppose the servants of the Lord. In verse 32, "the assembly was confused", but the town clerk quieted the crowd; after giving them a lecture, he said, "But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly, ekklesia". Finally, in verse 41, "he dismissed the assembly". We believe that it is unfortunate that the Authorized Version introduces elsewhere the word "church" as a translation of ekklesia. Man attaches a double meaning to this word "church" (a building, and a congregation), but the Holy Spirit refers only to God's dwelling as the calling-out of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Tim. 3. 15.
In Acts 20. 28, where Paul the apostle takes leave of the elders of the Christian assembly at Ephesus, he says, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the assembly (church) of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood". In the New Testament, the term "assembly of God" refers either to a local company of Christians, or to the entire body of Christ. No local company of believers should therefore capitalize the word "assembly" by using the name "Assembly of God", for to do so is to form a denomination, a schism in the body of Christ.
Men who usually employ the word "church" imply that it means the "Lord's house". We know from Scripture that "the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands", Acts 7. 48, and "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit", Isa. 57. 15. Moreover, we can see the folly of referring to a congregation of heretics as a "church". Heretical cults deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Of such Scripture says "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son", 1 John 2. 22. Of such the Lord said, "Ye are of your father the devil", John 8. 44. The calling-out, the ekklesia, of such cults is therefore of the devil.
We now return to the study of "the unity of the Spirit". A perusal of any list of so-called Christian churches, such as in newspaper announcements, presents indisputable proof that there is a widespread lack of knowledge as to the meaning of "the unity of the Spirit". As a result, many who have been born again, and are true believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, are not endeavouring to do what the Holy Spirit exhorts in Ephesians 4. 3. Furthermore, we need to do what Paul exhorted Timothy to do—to hold faith and a good conscience, 1 Tim. 1.19. The assembly, as the body of Christ, is one body, having only one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. "And he is the head of the body, the assembly (church): who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence", Col. 1.18; God "gave him to be the head over all things to the assembly (church), which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all", Eph. 1. 22-23.
Alas, Christendom is a mixture of truth and error, with its many bodies: its denominations, sects and parties, most having their own heads, are in violation of "the unity of the Spirit". Does this grieve us who are believers on the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, then we are not maintaining faith and a good conscience.
"One hope of your calling", Eph.4. 4. This hope is found in verses such as: "looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works", Titus 2. 13-14; "For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body", Phil. 3. 20-21. "One Lord"—His Word and authority take precedence over any religious and civil authority. "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power", Col. 2. 9-10; "far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come", Eph. 1. 21.
"One faith". Concerning this, Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me", Gal. 2. 20 r.v. Faith is but one faith, the Christian faith, 2 Tim. 4. 7. As opposed to "the unity of the Spirit" wherein there is but "one faith", Christendom speaks of a denomination as "a faith"; of "many faiths" and of "interfaith movements". Ephesians 4. 7-16 reveals that we who have been born again are to "come into the unity of the faith", v. 13, marg., not in heaven but on the earth. Hence the endeavour to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" is outside denominationalism. "One baptism". We believe that this refers to the believer's baptism in water. The baptism in the Holy Spirit has already been contemplated in the phrase "one body, and one Spirit", a baptism which is unto life. Water baptism is a baptism unto death, as Paul wrote, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death ? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life", Rom. 6. 3-4; "Buried with him in baptism", Col. 2. 12. Concerning baptism, W. E. Vine has written, "Baptism, a word transliterated from Greek into English, is derived from the verb bapto, to dip, and among Greek-speaking peoples the lengthened form baptizo, to baptize, signified the acts of immersion, submersion, and emergence; no other meaning was attached to the word till a considerable time after the first century of the Christian era. The Greeks used the word, for instance, of the dyeing of a garment, in which the whole material was plunged in and taken out from the element used, or, again, of a boat which had been wrecked by being submerged and then stranded on the shore". Vine also has pointed out that there is. not a word in the English language which combines the acts of immersion, submersion and emergence; therefore the translators transliterated the Greek words into baptize and baptism. In the light of the Word of God, there is only "one baptism"— there can be no such thing as "modes of baptism". When a believer is baptized in water he publicly confesses that he is identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Immersion represents death; submersion represents burial, and emergence represents resurrection.
"One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." These words, addressed to the entire congregation of believers at Ephesus, apply to believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, past, present and future. These believers were called "saints", Eph. 1.1, those set apart unto God from the world by faith in the Lord Jesus. It is God who makes saints of those who were once lost sinners, by the preaching of the gospel. "One God and Father of all" tells us that God is the sovereign Ruler of the universe, and that every person is responsible to Him for his conduct. Paul states that all men are "the offspring of God" as far as creation is concerned, Acts 17. 29, but He is the spiritual Father only of those who believe on His Son. When Paul wrote to the assemblies of Galatia, he asserted, "ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus", Gal. 3. 26. This is the only way by which a sinner can become a member of God's family, calling God His Father by the Spirit, 4. 6. There is abundant proof in the Scriptures that all men are not the children of God, because unbelievers are spoken of as "children of this world", Luke 16. 8; 20. 34; "children of disobedience", Eph. 2. 2; 5. 6; Col. 3, 6; "children of wrath", Eph. 2. 3; "cursed children", 2 Pet.
2. 14; "children of the devil", 1 John
3. 10. We may also quote the Lord's
words to the Pharisees, "Ye are of your
father the devil", John 8. 44.
"In you all" refers to all believers, God dwelling there through the Spirit, Eph. 2. 22. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you ?", 1 Cor. 3. 16, was written not only to the assembly at Corinth, but to all believers everywhere, "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours", 1. 2.
To be concluded