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facts and principles already adduced, however, we may safely assert that a local church is a church The line of of God only so long as it is able distinction
to function properly as a body. As long as the Spirit of God is in the ascendency, so that the people of God as a body manifest the power of God, maintain the truth of God, are filled with the Spirit of God, and are actually used by the Spirit in performing the works of God, so long they are the church of God. Whenever another spirit gains the ascendency and the divine, spiritual characteristics are lost to view, then is brought to pass the saying that is written, “I will spew thee out of my mouth.” Beyond that time they may continue their formal services, singing hymns, saying prayers, and making speeches; but the real message of God describing their condition is, as was true of Sardis, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1). Such dead congregations are no longer a part of the true church and are unworthy of the recognition of spiritual congregations.
CHAPTER IV THE ORGANIZATION AND GOVERNMENT OF THE
CHURCH We have already shown that the words of Christ “I will build my church” have a deeper The fact of meaning than the simple preachorganization ing of the kingdom. They imply the formation of an organized structure against which even the gates of hell should not prevail. They can signify nothing less than the visible establishment of the church among men as the concrete embodiment of the divine kingdom or family. The church, then, as made up of local congregations, is an institution of divine appointment. This is shown by the words of Christ in Matt. 18:17, according to which it sometimes becomes necessary in admonishing and disciplining trespassers to “tell it unto the church”; and the appellation "church of God'' is frequently applied to individual congregations (1 Cor. 1: 2, et al.).
Many teachers hold that Christ did not build a church and that the “form of church organization is not definitely prescribed in the New Testament, but is a matter of expediency, every body of believers being permitted to adopt that method of organization which best suits its circumstances and condition.” Such is the Protestant view put forth by those who seek an excuse for the modern
system of sect-building. The incorrectness of this theory is easily shown. First, as we shall see, it underestimates the need of divine direction in church relationship and ignores well-established facts in the New Testament history. Secondly, if it proves anything, it proves too much; for to admit such a principle of “church powers” is to admit that the papacy and every other human system of church control is justified-systems which can be historically shown to be subversive of the church as a spiritual body.
That the church was actually organized into local assemblies in apostolic days is abundantly shown by the New Testament record. They had regular meetings at stated times (Heb. 10: 25; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:12); officers (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2; Eph. 4:11, 12); recognized authority (1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17); discipline (1 Cor. 5:13; 2 Thess. 3:6, 10-14); a system of contributions (1 Cor. 16:1, 2); ordinances (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11: 23-29); a common work, etc. On one occasion Paul instructed Titus to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city” (Tit. 1:5).
The words of Jesus “I will build my church" point us to the Christ as its real founder. Since the life and genius of the church is the superhuman element, which element must at all times be given precedence over mere outward forms and human characteristics, and since this life proceeds
from Christ as the Redeemer of men, therefore in all fundamental aspects he is the personal founder By whom
of the church. But more than effected
this, working by proxy, Jesus gave even external form to his church, employing for this purpose his chosen apostles, to whom he gave special instruction and authority. Even during his personal ministry Jesus performed some of his work by proxy. It is expressly stated that he baptized many (John 3: 22; 4:1), and yet explanation is made that “Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples" (John 4:2).
So also in the organization of the church. The germ of that organization existed during Christ's personal ministry. Doctrine was given, ministers preached, baptism was administered, and people believed, but this embryonic organization could not be completely established as a church before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Therefore provision was made for its progressive development under the tutelage of specially inspired apostles. Doctrine was given gradually, yet invariably through the oral and written teaching of these inspired apostles. Therefore we can not but believe that the same invariable guidance of the Holy Spirit also perfected through them God's own plan of church organization and work. The gradual development of church organization under the labors of the apostles, therefore, no more proves the theory of a constant historic development than