“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence, He saw two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and called unto them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:18-20)
In quick succession the other eight of the original twelve disciples were called by Christ to be fishers of men, and His church was birthed and blooming. The original twelve disciples were first the disciples of John the Baptist, and having received John’s baptism they were qualified for the work whereunto the Lord called them. John had instructed them concerning his relationship to the Messiah, saying: “… I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him” (John 3:28). The angel in announcing the birth of John the Baptist, said John was being sent “… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). John, being faithful to his calling, pointed his disciples to Jesus, saying: “… behold the lamb of God,” and many of John’s disciples followed Jesus (John 1:30,37).
John further said, speaking of Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). This “increase” of which John spoke was twofold, Jesus must increase, not only in His following, but in importance befitting the Son of God. Thus it is, John said: “… He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me.” (John 1:15).
Not only was the church incepted during the early days of Christ’s public ministry, but the church also experienced a steady inflow of members, and to stabilize this growth, the Lord gave His church a supplement of various offices, and other augments to solidify the expansion of the church. Luke refers to the origination of the apostolic office, saying: “And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles” (Luke 6:12,13). The apostle Paul, speaking of the divine fitness which Christ gave to His New testament churches vividly details the number and order of this gracious enhancement, expressing it on this wise: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (I Corinthians 12:28).
It is a self evident fact, before something can be added to something else, that to which it is added, must of necessity be in existence at the time it receives the addition. When Paul says: “God hath (past tense) set some in the church,” he is referring directly to the earthly and personal ministry of Christ, wherein He strengthened His existing and infant church in Jerusalem by endowing it with the aforementioned appendages. Subsequent to equipping the church with apostles and power to perform miracles, Christ sent the twelve out to preach and heal the sick, and upon their return, He asked them: “… Lacked ye anything? And they said nothing” (Luke 9:1-6, 22:35). This is an attestation of two verities: 1) The church was already in existence at the time the twelve were sent out, 2) and that the church is provided with everything necessary to the success of its mission.
The three years of Christ’s public ministry on earth was a transitional period in God’s evangelistic program. For fifteen hundred years prior to the incarnation of Christ, and His entrance into the world, Israel was the divinely designated and exclusive institution to whom God gave His ordinances, through which the gospel in type was to be preached to the nations round about Israel, and to Israel only did God promise His perpetual presence and protection (Deuteronomy 1:30; Psalms 147:19,20). During the Mosaic economy many Gentiles were saved, including Rahab the harlot, Naaman the Syrian, the widow of Sidon, Ruth the Moabitess, etc. Israel’s blessings and usefulness in God’s redemptive scheme was conditional, and for realization of the presence and favor of God, Israel must strive with an undeviating consistency to meet and fulfill all the conditions of the Sinaitic covenant (Exodus 19:5).
The infant nation of Israel received the covenant with great enthusiasm, and said: “… All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8). Israel’s succeeding history proved these words to be presumptuous and vain, and Israel’s incompetence as the custodian of the oracles of God became more acute with the passage of time. By the time Christ appeared on earth, Israel had become utterly inept as the officiaries of God, and Christ, while in their own temple, scathingly rebuked the Jews, saying: “… None of you keep the law …” (John 7:19). The transition from the temple services with its pomp and ceremony to the church with its uncomplicated worship was fully accomplished. The church was incepted, inaugurated, and made the repository of the immanent presence and unabatable power of God.
Christ knew that the Jews had a malformed concept of the promised Messiah, and that He would be rejected and crucified by them. He also knew that His church would be the object of their scorn, and that the message of the church would be met with vehement resistance by the Jews. So as to counter, meet and defeat this satanically inspired opposition, Christ gave His church miraculous powers and unflinching courage (Acts 4:19; I Corinthians 12:28; Galatians 2:8).
With the inception of the church, a new concept of the economy of God was introduced, a concept unprecedented and unending. The miraculous gifts with which the Lord favored the New Testament churches served as unimpeachable credentials, and attested to the veracity of the gospel of Christ. The author of the book of Hebrews, speaking of the confirmation of the gospel message by those whom Christ sent to proclaim it, and of God’s corroboration of their preaching, said: “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:2-4). Signs, wonders and power to perform miracles, was given to the churches for their edification, to let Judaism and paganism know with whom the power of God resided, and that the message of the church had God’s stamp of approval upon it.
However, the miraculous gifts and powers, and the offices of apostle and prophet were transitional and foundational in nature, and their duration was for the time when divinely inspired knowledge was yet in part. Paul, speaking of himself, the other apostles, and all who were blessed with the gift of knowledge; said: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (I Corinthians 13:9,10). Paul did not question the authenticity of the gift of tongues in the Corinthian church, but he did reprove the Corinthians for their incontinence in the use of the gift. The Corinthians were misusing and abusing the gift of tongues, and to erase the resulting confusion, Paul in addressing the subject, told them: “…Whether there be tongues, they shall cease,” and after informing them of the temporal nature of the gift, he gave them a long discourse on the proper use of the gift (I Corinthians 13:8, and chapter 14).
In reference to His newly established church, Christ praying unto His Father, said: “I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them …” (John 17:8). The church was created by the oral word of the Incarnate Christ, and the first century churches by divinely inspired revelation, gave the succedent churches the New Testament. As to chronology, the church antedates the New Testament, but in the sense of antiquity, the New Testament pre-dates the church, for its source is the eternal and infinite counsel of God. So it is, the Bible and the New Testament church are one in source, and purpose. The scriptures flowing from the omniscient mind of God are infallible, immutable, and is the all exclusive rule for the faith and practice of all Holy Spirit incepted churches (Titus 1:9).
In due season, the revelation which was in part was made whole, and the Lord’s churches, having the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”, has gone forth “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The book of Revelation (Apocalypse) of Jesus Christ, written by the aged Apostle John (AD 95-96), was the final part which made up the fullness of the word of God, and since that concluding measure of Holy Writ was added there has been NO NEW REVELATION from God. With the coming of the perfect and consummate word of God, the miraculous gifts and powers which demonstrated heaven’s verification of the ministry of the church was done away with. The gift of predictive prophesy had served its purpose, and expired. The miracles of healing, diversity of tongues, and the gift of the discerning of spirits reached their terminus with the “A-men” of Revelation 22:21. This does not mean God has forfeited His power to perform miracles, for God is eternally sovereign, and does whatever He pleases whenever He pleases. It simply means the Bible, God’s holy and inspired word is all that is needed to guide His churches and ministers unto every good work (II Timothy 3:16,17).
Christ said unto His church: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). The ”candle” and the ”candlestick” as used by Christ in this scripture are metaphors referring to the born again person, and the church. Christ explicitly teaches that God receives greater glory from the saint who spends his life in one of His churches, than from one whose life is hid in the ecclesiastical darkness of this world. The Apostle John, in his Patmos vision saw ”seven golden candlesticks,” and the Lord said unto John; “… The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:4,12,20), Paul, in writing to the church at Philipi, said: “… Ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15).
God, like the sun, can be seen only by His own light. Unlike the sun, the moon has no inherent light, and can only be seen by the light of the sun. Thus it is, the term “moonlight” is a superlative misnomer, for the moon is only a reflector of the light of the sun. So, like the moon, the church has no light in and of itself, but is a perpetual reflector of the glorious light of the Son of God, Who through and by the Holy Spirit freely and profusely shines upon His church, and the church by radiating that light scatters the spiritual darkness of this world. The ministry of gospel light reflection was given to the church before Pentecost (Matthew. 5:14; Luke 12:35), and that glorious light was penetrating the darkness of Judea. Judaism was chaffing under this light, and in an effort to relieve their discomfort, they crucified the Lord of glory, but to their chagrin, gave the whole earth to the evangelizing ministry of His church (Acts 1:8).
As distant as the sun and moon are from the earth, neither is invisible, and both are essential to the perpetuation of physical life on earth. While all spiritual life and light is not bound up in the church, it is for official exercise restricted to the church, for the church is God’s executive body on earth (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18). When the church is removed from this earth, spiritual darkness will cover the earth as waters cover the sea.
In reference to the Holy spirit, Christ said to His church: “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (John 16:14). It was through and by the omniscient medium of the Holy Spirit that the church finalized the infallible record that God gave of His Son, and it was this self same Spirit that pronounced the fearful curse upon all who would add a jot or tittle to His word, or delete the least fraction there from (Revelation 22:18,19). Romanism and fanatical Pentecostalism violate this heavenly mandate. Pentecostalism adds to and detracts from the Bible by claiming special revelation from God, and Romanism having ill bestowed the title of “Vicar of Christ” upon their popes, claim infallibility for the pontifical office in the matter of doctrine and morals. Thus it is, Rome has inundated the whole earth with extra biblical decrees. Error drives men into great extremes in a vain effort to defend it.
The Bible teaches with irresistible force that Christ originated and organized His church before the Pentecost of Acts chapter two, and that the pentecostal experience was the empowering of the already existing church. On the day of Pentecost Christ immersed the church in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:2), and it is utterly illogical to assume that He immersed a non existing church. Pentecost did not add any executive ability or authority to the church, for Christ, prior to His crucifixion had created and commissioned His church (Matthew 28:18-20).
Christ, speaking to His disciples of His concern for and providential care of His church, said: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). His flock or church was numerically little at the time, but it was the proto and ideal church, from which would be birthed all scriptural flocks of the future in view of the fact Christ had a flock before Pentecost, and that the metaphor “flock” is a definite reference to the church (Acts 20:28,29; I Corinthians 9:7; I Peter 5:2,3), the contention that the church had its origin on the day of Pentecost is merely a theory, and a bad one at that.
The origin and organization of the church was not in the “upper room” on the day of Pentecost, but on the day of Pentecost three thousand souls were added by baptism unto the already existing and organized church (Acts 2:41). Scriptural proof of the existence of the church prior to Pentecost is so abundant and overwhelming, that only a mind arrested by an obstinate prejudice, would even dare to deny so great a measure of inspired evidence. All argument to the contrary, be it the voice of lettered ecclesiastics, does not diminish ought from the profoundness of this God honoring and saint edifying truth.
Following is a compilation of biblical proofs of the being and manifestation of the church ere the day of Pentecost:
1. The apostles were in the church prior to Pentecost (Luke 6:12-16; Mark 3:13-19; I Corinthians 12:28). Hence, the church had an ordained ministry before Pentecost.
2. Prophets and teachers were “set” or installed in the church before the day of Pentecost (I Corinthians 12:28).
3. Jesus had a number of dedicated disciples before Pentecost, with whom He often assembled (John 1:35-47, 20:19).
4. The church had the same gospel before and after Pentecost, that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1; Romans 1:16).
5. It was before Pentecost that Christ gave His church the earth wide, and age long commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16; Acts 1:8).
6. The church had the authority to baptize before Pentecost, and exercised that authority (John 4:2).
7. The church observed the Lord’s supper before Pentecost, which is indisputably a church ordinance (Matthew 26:26-30; I Corinthians 11:2).
In Hebrews 2:12 we are told that Christ did sing in the church, and in Matthew 26:30 we are told when and where He sang, i.e. in the church, at the institution of the memorial supper.
8. The church had a rule of discipline before Pentecost (Matthew 18:15-17).
9. The church had binding and loosing power before Pentecost (Matthew 16:19, 18:18).
10. The church had a membership roll before Pentecost, with 120 names on the roll (Acts 1:15).
11. The church had a treasurer before Pentecost (John 13:29).
12. The church conducted a business meeting before Pentecost (Acts 1:15-26).
13. Etc., etc., etc.
The contemporary New Testament church worship service has preaching, teaching, praying, and singing. These four basics are by and large the sum which constitute the official gathering of the church. Notwithstanding, when necessary church business is conducted, and on blessed occasions baptism is administered and the Lord’s supper is observed. All of these elements of worship was in the pre Pentecost church, and will be in the post Pentecost church until the heavenly Bridegroom calls His blemish less bride to her celestial abode (Matthew 28:19,20; John 14:1-6; Ephesians 5:27).
However, it is an awesome thought, but the far greater number of contemporary churches are man wrought, rather than Christ bought, and their church services are permeated with anti scriptural innovations. Their minds have been corrupted by the gleam and glitter of the world, and they have left the simplicity that is in Christ (II Corinthians 11:3). The Lord’s churches are not pretentious or pompous, and purposely avoids excessive display. New Testament churches know what constitutes a God honoring worship service, and all that is not necessary thereto is summarily rejected by them.
Christ, before Pentecost, during His personal ministry on earth established a living, local, and indestructible church. It may be decimated, but it can never be eliminated. New Testament churches witness while they wait, and will not merely survive the age, but will gloriously succeed in it.
We invite you and your family to come worship with us at Grace Missionary Baptist Church, located at the Glowmar Bridge. Sunday School 11:00 am Worship 12:00 Prayer Meeting and Bible Study Book of Ephesians Wednesday 7:00 pm. Elder Charles Minks Brother Fred Minks.