Ecclesiology (The Assembly/Local Church)

Great Truths About the Church

THERE IS ONE BODY According to Ephesians 4:4 there is only one Church. In spite of all the circumstances that seem to deny it, the fact remains that as far as God is concerned, there is only one body of believers on the earth today. Although this Church is never visible to man in its entirety, yet it is formed into a common body by the Holy Spirit. CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY By using the analogy of the human body (Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18), Paul teaches us that C...

The Local Church Defined



Down through the years, there has been considerable disagreement as to what constitutes a New Testament church. The usual approach is to list a certain number of requirements or marks; if a group of Christians answers to these qualifications, then it is considered to be a true local church.

Henry Barrow has given what might be considered a rather typical definition of a church. He defined it as follows: “A true-planted and rightly-established church of Christ is a company of faithful people, separated from unbelievers, gathered in the Name of Christ, whom they truly worship and readily obey. They are a brotherhood, a communion of saints, each one of them standing in and for their Christian liberty to practice whatsoever God ha commanded and revealed unto them in His Holy Word.”

First Corinthians 1:2 gives a simple, yet accurate description of a local church. “To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”

Other definitions have been far more restricted with the result that only the churches of a certain denomination or group actually qualify.


This raises a very real question. Does the New Testament list a certain number of requisites or essentials of a local church? Are the marks of an assembly stated so clearly that any believer could separate the fellowships in any area into those which ate true New Testament churches and those which are not?

The Bishops

First of all, we must distinguish between the New Testament concept of a bishop, and the title as it is used today. In the apostolic church, a bishop was simply one of several mature Christians in a local church who cared for the spiritual welfare of that church. Today, in church systems, a bishop is an appointed dignitary who has many churches under his jurisdiction. Barnes says: “The word bishop in the New Testament never means what is now commonly understood by it—a Prelate. It does not denote here (i.e. in 1 Timothy 3) or anywhere else in the New Testament, one who has charge over a diocese composed of a certain district of country embracing a number of churches with their clergy.’’


In the New Testament, the bishops were not a class of men, mediating between God and man. Perhaps it was as a rebuke to such pretension as might arise in the future that the Spirit of God listed the bishops second, not first, when Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus . . . with the bishops and deacons.”

In the New Testament, the thought of officialism is absent. Instead of a lofty office with magnificent titles, we are pointed to humble service among the people of God. Thus we read, “If any one is eager for oversight, he is desirous of a good work.”’ Overseership is work, not dignity of office.

Are Christians Who Are Gathered To The Name of the Lord Jesus a SECT?

That a number of Christians in any locality, learning the will of the Lord as revealed in the Holy Scriptures as to the mode and purposes of their gathering themselves together, are found acting in obedience thereto, in contrast to adherence to the mere tenets and traditions of men, does not constitute them a sect. The Origin of Present-day Testimony Originally Christ Himself separated His followers from the apostate religion of Judaism, and this separation continued under the guidance of the ...

Reception or Joining a Church

Christians have debated for many years the issue of membership in the local church. Some churches have taught that, unless a Christian is a church member, he cannot partake at the Lord’s Supper, be married in the church, or be involved in ministries of the church. Some have gone so far as to refuse to recognize baptism from other evangelical fellowships and insist on re-baptism. (1) What does the Bible say about fellowship in the local church? What is “Reception”? Many churc...

Reverence in the Local Assembly

Isaiah unfolds to us the holiness of God unlike any other prophet before him. The holiness of God had gripped his heart with unusual power and conviction. He was humbled by Him who is exalted high above all His creatures with infinite greatness. He saw, like never before, that there was a great chasm between the holiness of God and the unholiness of man. Israel’s corrupt spiritual condition demanded a fresh and powerful manifestation of God’s holiness.Israel’s Spiritual Conditi...

The Church: A Symposium - J.B. Watson

INTRODUCTION HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so runs Article VI of the formulary of the English establishment. It cannot be emphasized too much that Holy Scripture is the sole authority in all matters that concern the salvation of men, and it is equally true that Holy Scripture is the primary authority Governing the personal and corporate life of the Christian. It pleases God to incorporate into the Church each person who receives His Son by faith, and no sma...

Distinguishing Between Israel and the Church

Distinguishing things that differ is essential in the interpretation of Scripture and failure to do so results in doctrinal and practical consequences. This is true in all of Scripture. Church history will show that those who were cavilier concerning subtle and important theological differences have brought great harm to the Church. The failure to distinguish between justification and sanctification damages the doctrine of grace. The failure to distinguish between law and grace muddies our under...

The Priesthood of All Believers

“On the 1st of March, 1546, a scaffold was erected before the Castle of Saint Andrew in Scotland and foggots of dried wood were piled around it…When all was ready two deathsmen brought George Wishart from his prison…He knelt down and prayed before the pile; then exhorted the people to love the word of God and to suffer patiently…as he was tied to the stake he announced, “for the true Gospel which was given to me by the grace of God, I suffer this day by men, not sor...

Christ Alone - The Central Attraction of the Church

The very essence and purpose of the New Testament church has been to gather unto the Lord Jesus Christ alone. The center and focus of the church has been Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ taught, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst” (Matt. 18:20). Clearly, Christ must remain forever at the heart and soul of the New Testament church. Unfortunately, as is often the case, moral causes, social issues, and religious pursuits have distracted the church...
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