The Church of God - Its Members and Unity: Review

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Such is the title of a little tract just given for a brief notice to help souls. The writer follows the traditional view that the church means all believers from the beginning. When proof is required, he falls back on another tradition about Hades, and again on the promises given to Abraham, which occupy the most of his argument. But where is the direct, distinct, and full evidence of scripture? Even he admits that “the building of the Church began in Christ risen and glorified” (p. 4). How then could it consist of all saints, not merely from Abraham, but from Abel? The foundation laid efficaciously is Jesus Christ; dogmatically, it is that of the apostles and prophets who taught what we have now written in the new and final revelation of God. There was therefore no building together for God’s habitation in Spirit before Christ came, wrought the work of redemption, and ascended on high as head over all things. The church existed only in divine purpose when Abel, Enoch, and Noah bore witness, or when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob followed in due time. In Jehovah’s dealings with Israel was a state of things manifestly incompatible with the church; for by divine authority Jew and Gentile were severed peremptorily till the death of Christ. Compare the mission of the Twelve, while Jesus lived, in Matt. 10:5, 65These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5‑6). His death, resurrection, and ascension laid the ground for the Spirit to baptize the believers into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free (1 Cor. 12:1313For 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 Corinthians 12:13)). There is not a word about the antediluvian saints, nor yet those from Abraham downwards, when scripture speaks of the new gathering into one in union by the Spirit with the glorified Head. Scripture never tells us of the departed spirits in this connection. It was a new work for God’s glory for men on earth associated with Christ in heavenly places by the Holy Spirit sent forth to dwell and form into unity, as could only be by His divine presence since Jesus was glorified.
Heb. 12:22-2422But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22‑24) (here misunderstood and perverted) gives us a beautiful view of the various objects to which the Christian is come by faith, in contrast with Israel at Sinai. Each is distinguished from the preceding by the connecting particle “and,” which clears away the confusion of “general assembly, and church” &c. “Ye have come to mount Zion,” he says, the mountain of grace, not to Sinai of law; “and to a living God’s city, heavenly Jerusalem,” the general image of heavenly hope; “and to myriads of angels, a universal assemblage” (the natural denizens on high); “and to a church of first-borns, enrolled in heaven” (by sovereign grace); “and to God, judge of all”; “and to spirits of just [men] made perfect; and to Jesus, mediator of a new (or, fresh) covenant; and to blood of sprinkling speaking better than Abel.” The spirits of just men made perfect are beyond doubt the O.T. saints, expressly a company distinct from the “church of first-borns” as associated with Him who is in the highest sense the First-born. To say that the subject here “is unity not diversity” is to miss the mark and to assert a glaring error. “General assembly” or “universal assemblage” is a further description of “myriads of angels”; and “blood of sprinkling” is for a blessing on the earth (not to bring a curse like Abel’s blood); whilst “a fresh covenant” is to comfort the Israel of the future when restored: the virtue of the covenant will be as new as when their progenitors rejected the apostolic preaching of it.
Equally perverted is the plain truth of Heb. 11:39, 4039And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39‑40), wherein it is taught that the O.T. saints, though they obtained witness through faith did not receive the promise at Christ’s coming, “God having foreseen some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” We are both to enter on our respective place in glory together when He comes again; but to say that they are to share a “better thing” with us is to deprive the passage of its only possible meaning. God foresaw it for us, of which they had no notion whatever, any more than the writer sees the truth now.
Further, the gathering of all things in Eph. 1:1010That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10) is the future restitution of all things in Christ, entirely distinct from that unity of believing Jews and Gentiles which the apostle subjoins. Of course the members of Christ’s body share saintship with the antediluvian faithful and all others; as they are spiritually Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise. But they have their own special privilege as members of His body, which only began when He had the place of Head given Him in heaven after redemption.