**This will be a mutlipart series**
So many times today, we see that the ‘Church’ is loosing ground in humanity’s fight against ‘organized religion.’ (Here, Here, ) Too many times, the Church is merely seen as a building contrary to that of the Biblical usage of the community, the bride, and the body of Christ. Granted, the building tells the story of what is going on inside, but one has to realize that very few ‘church’ buildings existed before the late second, early third century. Luke tells us that the very first converts,
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
(Act 2:46 KJVA)
Yet, ‘the Church’ is mentioned nearly ever New Testament book and always in reference to an organized group of believers who share the common salvation, the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints, and Jesus Christ has Head. They were all baptized into His name, received salvation by His name, and wore His name. To remove the Church as ‘organized religion’ is to remove a key principle that united the primitive Christians.
People will shout down ‘organized religion’, calling themselves faithful or spiritual, but not members of a religion or a Church. They seek to deny anything that seemed organized in the Bible, yet, we read that the Apostles and Elders held a council to discuss the application of certain dietary laws Gentile converts. This was the Church, the Body of Christ.
But, just how central is the Church, especially when it concerns salvation?
Returning to Acts, chapter 2, we find that after Peter’s startling sermon, full of doctrine and calls to repentance, some 3000 souls were saved.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
(Act 2:42-47 KJVA)
I have heard this preached, and I do not think that I am the only one, to represent a Calvinistic viewpoint of God adds to the Church those that should be saved, indicating that their are souls that should not be saved. This is a faulty reasoning based on a faulty translation.
John Gill, a Calvinist commentator from the 18th century, calls those in v47,
whose hearts the Lord inclined to give up themselves to the church, and walk with them in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord; and these were such whom God had chosen to salvation by Jesus Christ, and whom he had redeemed by his precious blood, and who were now regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit of God, and so should certainly be saved
The phrase in question is a translation of a participle – τοὺς σωζομένους (tous sōzomenous) and should be translated as ‘those being saved’, indicating a present action. The correct sense is found in the New King James, which reads,
(P)raising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
(Act 2:47 NKJV)
Thus, we see the Church as the harbor of those saved. (It can be said that in both translations, the Church is given the central role that she deserves.) Those which were saved did not exist outside the Church. In a previous sermon, I noted what the Church was. Here, though, we note the necessity of the Church. We also have to note that the souls which were saved was added to what Paul would call the Body of Christ which has Apostles, Elders, Deacons, and the Laity. It was organized, even here. Luke says that the souls continued in the Apostle’s doctrine, meaning that they constantly turned to the Apostles for that doctrine, that meat.
The Church is the place where the Saved resided. Outside the Church of Jesus Christ, there is no salvation, or as Cyprian said, “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” (It must be noted that Rome has a similiar doctrine but generally makes allowances to individuals). Those that think that they can be saved and exist or subsist out of the Church will find themselves alone on the great Day of Judgment.
Concerning those that say that the Church is merely the believers, Paul would remind us through Titus of the particular part of Order in the Church, saying
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you–
(Tit 1:5 NKJV)
If the Church was to be unorganized, then why was order, or conduct, such an important thing to the Apostle Paul? If the Church was such an unimportant part to the primitive Christians, then why is it given such a prominence in the writings of the New Testament? It is called the house of God, the body of Christ, the New Jerusalem and the bride adorned for her husband, and yet the centrality of the Church is often loss on Christians who view ‘church’ as a place of worship generally reserved for Sundays. We know from Scripture that it was established by Christ on an unmovable rock, with the foundation being the Apostles and Prophets. We know that as Paul was ending his race, he sought to ensure that the Church was well organized and set in order, waiting for her husband. Again, why is it that so many fail to see the Centrality of the Church to the Christian?
Is a wife not central to her husband? Or children to their parents? Or a body to the head? Is not Israel/Jerusalem central Judaism?
Where the bishop is, there let the people gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church. – Ignatius of Antioch (50-107)
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