Distinguishing Differences: The Church and the Churches (2)

We now desire to consider the implications of the teaching of Scripture relative to the differences we have touched upon between the Church and the churches. Is it really that important to see the differences? The points we will touch upon will appear to some believers as quite obvious, but it is necessary to emphasize them, because many young believers especially, have some confusion with regard to this subject. A careful reading of the NT should reveal that the distinction between the Church of the dispensation and the local assembly is important both in a practical as well as a doctrinal sense. What serious consequences then are there by failing to see these differences? We believe that it can only lead to wrong conclusions and disobedience to the Word of God. If there were no differences between the Church and the local church of God it would mean:

No Women Could Be Debarred From Participating Publicly In The Assembly

The apostle Paul in Galatians 3:28 teaches that there is a unity and equality in the Body of Christ. All national, social, and sexual distinctions are eclipsed. In Christ “there is neither male nor female.” Yet some Christians today use this very verse as justification for allowing women to participate in church gatherings. It is simply amazing how a verse in the context speaking of positional truth in Christ, can be so misinterpreted. Paul is not speaking here of gathering as an assembly, nor is he referring to some external or man-made unity. He is teaching the wonderful truth of our standing in Christ. In England, each summer, there is held the well-known Keswick convention where Christians from different denominations all over the United Kingdom and other parts of the world gather for one week. Their motto is “All one in Christ Jesus.” Their motives may well be sincere but, sadly, after the convention is over, all return to their various sects! The same apostle, who gives us this positional truth in Galatians, also gives us apostolic commands as to the silence and subjection of sisters in the local assembly. Does this contradict his teaching concerning sisters in 1 Corinthians 14:34-40 and 1 Timothy 2:8-15? Assuredly not! The way to balance the differences is to see that Paul is dealing with two aspects of truth. In Galatians 3:28 it is positional truth relative to all believers, whatever their color, status, or sex; in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy Paul is teaching truth for the local assembly. Thus there are no differences as to spiritual standing between male and female in Christ; but in the local assembly there are distinctions between the men, exhorted to pray audibly in the assembly, and the sisters, who are commanded to remain silent.

No Believer In The Body Could Be Denied Reception To The Assembly

While it is true that all who are saved are in the Body of Christ, nowhere are we told to receive believers to assembly fellowship because they are in the Body. Yes, every born again believer is in the Body, but the truth is that not every born again believer is in the assembly. Some teach that assemblies gather on the ground of the Body. If this were true then assemblies would be duty bound to receive any believer whatever his doctrine, associations, or manner of life. In Ephesians 4 we are told to keep the unity of the Spirit, but not the unity of the Body. It must be remembered that the early believers in Acts gathered in simple assemblies without any thought that they were gathered on the ground of the body. The apostle Paul had yet to come on the scene and reveal the truth of the Church, the Body of Christ. If they had been asked on what ground they gathered, surely in the light of what the Lord taught them in Matthew 18:20 they would have replied, “We meet in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

No Sin Could Be Denounced In The Assembly

In the Church of the dispensation there is no exercise of discipline. No sin committed by believers can put them out of the Body. All who are in the Church are in it forever. How different in the local assembly! Sin, immoral acts, and wrong doctrine must be dealt with. A believer in the Body, but not in a local assembly, may sin grievously, but he cannot be dealt with by the assembly. An assembly can only execute discipline and excommunicate those who are within its fellowship. No assembly has jurisdiction over another in the matter of discipline. God alone has the responsibility of those who enter the Body. Man has no responsibility whatsoever as to who becomes a member of it. Man cannot put away from it. In contrast, even a cursory reading of 1 Corinthians 5 will show that an assembly may be called upon to put away a wicked person.

No Rule Could Be Demanded In The Assembly

Christ is the Head of the Church His Body (Eph 1:22; Col 1:18). He is its Builder, Sustainer, and Preserver. There is no need of any rule in this Church. Presently, and in the future, the Lord Jesus alone takes care of His Church, as is beautifully seen in Ephesians 5:29. The idea of man having anything to do with this Church is entirely out of place. In the local assembly, however, God has committed rule in it to men. They are expected to feed and lead the saints (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5- 9; 1 Thess 5:12, 13 show the need for such rule). An assembly without godly rule will be exposed to many dangers, for while man or the devil cannot corrupt the true Church, sadly, many assemblies lacking proper spiritual leadership can be corrupted and harmed.