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?