By Dr. Jack Hyles
Click on image to see larger view, click "back" in your browser to return
Table of Contents
1. Have Mercy On Me
Have Mercy On Me
A young man had committed a misdemeanor and was appearing before a judge for the first time. He was fidgety and nervous. The judge, in an effort to settle him down, said, "Son, don't be nervous. I'll see to it that you get justice." The young man nervously replied, "Yes, sir, Mr. Judge. That's what I'm afraid of, but please, could you throw in a little mercy on the side."
This author pleads with the reader to please throw a little mercy in on the side as you read this book. Why do I plead for your mercy? Because this book is different. This, like my books on prayer, the Holy Spirit and others, comes from a series of Bible studies that I have taught to the membership of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, on Wednesday nights. My custom has been to take the outlines from which I taught and spend many hours dictating them for transcription and publication. Such is not the case in this book. I simply did not have the time, for many reasons. There were more demands on my time than ever. Because of that, I have simply had the Bible studies on Wednesday night transcribed, edited, proofread and prepared for publication. As you read, please consider yourself sitting in the auditorium of our church, listening to a Bible study. I think you will find it easier to forgive me for the repetition of statements and even illustrations.
I do not claim to be an author; I simply want to leave all that I can for the following generation. At this printing, I am 66 years of age, which means that I'm old enough for Social Security. I have been preaching for over 47 years and pastoring for 45 of those years. During these years I have pastored hundreds of thousands of people, preached over 52,000 sermons and had a personal acquaintance with thousands of preachers.
Please be lenient with me as you read. Have mercy on me by avoiding the position of critique, and as you give me justice, throw a little mercy in on the side.
What Is a Church?
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:15-22
One of the saddest things about our generation is that Baptists are quitting being Baptists. They are becoming too inter-denominational . I believe we should treasure our Baptist heritage. Few preachers today mention anything about the church. It is almost unheard of. They may preach on being faithful to church and attending church, but not the doctrines of the church. I am going to cover some things that I believe should be taught in every Baptist church in America.
I am a Baptist. I have no animosity towards anybody else. There are saved people in many different groups. I have dear friends who are fine Christian people, yet are not members of Baptist churches. But, I do thank God that I am a Baptist, and I love my Baptist heritage.
The word church comes from two words. One word is ek which means out, and the other word is kaleo which means to call. The word
is ekklesia and it means a called-out group. That is the word for church in the New Testament. It is a called-out group. When I refer to the church, I am referring to a called-out group. In the Bible it is often called an assembly, but it is not just an assembly. It is a calledout assembly. Let me explain further.
1. In order to be a church, the people called-out must have been a part of another group.
2.They must have been called out of that group.
3. They must have formed another group.
The church is a called-out assembly because they were called out from the world to assemble. So, they must have been in the world, they must have been called out from the world, and they must have formed a new group in order for them to be a called-out assembly.
This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us. Acts 7:38
Israel was called a church in the wilderness, but Israel was not a church when she was in Egypt because she was not yet a called-out assembly. When she was in Canaan she was not yet a church because she was not a called-out assembly. God called them out from Egypt, and they assembled in the wilderness. They were then a called-out assembly. They were called out of Egypt to assemble and form another group in the wilderness. So, God calls Israel a church in the wilderness.
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused. Acts 19:32a
Paul was in jeopardy because of the uproar of the silversmiths in Ephesus. People were getting saved and the silversmiths, who made little goddesses of Diana, were having their businesses hurt. They were upset with Paul. That word assembly is the word ekklesia. That mob of people assembled from Ephesus which was trying to do Paul harm was a part of another group. They were called together out of that group to form another group. The purpose of forming that group was to do harm to Paul. So, in the Bible there were many different churches. I do not mean religious organizations, but groups of people who were called out to assemble.
But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. Acts 19:39
Once again the word assembly or ekklesia is used. The governing body of Israel was called an assembly. It was an ekklesia, or a church. They were not a New Testament church, but anytime there was a group called out from another group to assemble, that assembly was called an ekklesia. In the United States, our Senate and our Congress are called out from us to assemble in Washington, DC. That is what was called an ekklesia or an assembly. In fact, in many states the State Legislature is called the State Assembly. That is exactly what it was in those days.
The word synagogue comes from a word which means a group of people meeting, but to be an ekklesia it had to be people of the same kind. For example, if a group of lawyers come out from the rest of society, meet in some city, and have an assembly or convention, that is an ekklesia. If there is a medical convention, it is an ekklesia. There must be a common bond in order for it to be called an ekklesia. It would be called a synagogue if there was no common bond.
In the New Testament church our common bond is that we have received Jesus as the living Son of God. It was upon this that the church was built. "Upon this rock I will build my church." What rock? Not Peter, but on the profession that Peter made when he said, "Thou art the Son of the Living God." We have a common bond. The world knows nothing about that bond. We have a common Book that we love. We have a common Saviour Whom we love. We have a common Holy Spirit Who lives in our bodies. A group of people which assembles because they have a common bond qualifies them to be called an ekklesia or a church.
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write... Revelation 2:1
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write... Verse 8
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write.. . Verse 12
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write... Verse 18
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write... Revelation 3:1
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write... Verse 7
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write... Verse 14
All of these were churches. They were assembled, they had a common bond and a common purpose, but it was not the same purpose that the church of Philadelphia had. The Catholic church across the street from our church in Hammond is a church. It is not a New Testament church, but it is a church because it is a called-out assembly. That means that the church at Ephesus, Sardis, Pergamos, Philadelphia, Thyatira, and even the wicked Laodicea were all churches. So, liberal churches are churches. They are not New Testament churches, but they are churches.
Jesus started an ekklesia of His own. He did not start the ekklesia. The word ekklesia was used before Jesus started His ekklesia. There was an ekklesia in the wilderness back in the Old Testament days. Jesus started His own ekklesia based on the bond of accepting Christ as Saviour and as the Son of God. There is no bond like the bond which is in a true New Testament church, because He is that bond.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea of Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that Jam? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock! will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16: 13-18
Jesus was building one of the following when He started the church.
1. a church consisting of all believers.
2. a denomination.
3. a congregation.
All three cannot be true, and no two can be true. Either Jesus started a local assembly, a denomination, or the church is composed of all believers (an invisible church). Jesus said, "upon this rock! will build my church." He did not say, "I will build my churches." We must then decide which one is right.
Some people say that the church is composed of all believers. Some people say the church is a denomination. Some people say that the church is a congregation of people. Which is right? Let's reason.
1. It could not be all believers. If it is all believers, what happened from Adam to Christ? If the church was started on Pentecost, which it was not (that will be covered in a later chapter), then what happened to all of the Old Testament people? Were they not saved? If, when a person gets saved, he is baptized into the church, (an invisible body of all the same people), then Moses and Abraham were unsaved. Therefore, it could not be all believers.
2. The church that Jesus started in Matthew 16:8 was not started then. He said he was going to start it. It was the same church which was mentioned in Matthew 18:17.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:17
The word church used here is the same word ekklesia which is mentioned in Matthew 16:18. How can you tell something to an invisible church? You cannot tell it to every Christian if every Christian forms the church. When He said to tell it to the church, He was referring to a group of people who have been called out of the world. When you get saved, you are called out of the world, but God has an institution he wants you to join, so you can reassemble. It must be a local body of believers. If it is the local body of believers, then it is not invisible.
The average Baptist does not believe or know this. We do not teach it any more. Jesus started only one church. It cannot be visible and invisible. So, if it is the visible church, there can be no invisible church. I take issue with Mr. Scofield when he refers to the visible and the invisible churches. The true church is a group of born-again baptized believers, who have a common bond of having Christ in their lives, having been born again, made new creatures in Christ Jesus, and trying to propagate that wonderful message, so that others can receive the message of grace. That is the true church. This needs to be emphasized. We accepted inter-denominational teaching, and, as a result, have damaged the true church.
When the invisible church-goers want to raise money, they always go to a visible church to raise the money. Isn't that interesting? They do not send their money-raisers out to invisible churches, because invisible churches give invisible money. There is a mentality that is sweeping this nation that if you "Grow in grace" you do not need to have a local church. People have the idea that you can join the Gideons, Youth for Christ, Child Evangelism, or some other group instead of being a part of a local New Testament church. Any ministry can do better in a true church than it can outside of it. The greatest child evangelism program is in the local church. The greatest youth for Christ program is in the local church. More Jewish people are reached by the local church than in all of the Jewish ministries that are operated outside of the church.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will! sing praise unto thee. Hebrews 2:9-12
Jesus said that He was going to preach and sing in the church. The church could not have started on Pentecost. It had to have been started in the personal ministry of Christ because the Bible says that He sang and preached in it. It is not talking about His invisible presence in the church. It is talking about the fact that Jesus went to church during His earthly ministry. He would not start a church, and then not show up when it met.
Often, a businessman will get saved in a church like First Baptist. He loves it. He teaches a Sunday school class. He gets a bus route. Then these "super church" believers come in and "promote" him out of the local church. Because he is a businessman, he thinks he has risen above the local church. You will never rise above the local church. Men across this country by the thousands seldom go to their own church, because they have been given some job in a spiritual service outside the true church which is the local church. They eventually die on the spiritual vine.
What America needs is not more telecasts. We need more local churches. I do not like the phrase, "Electronic Church." There is no such thing as an "Electronic Church." There will never be anything that can substitute for a place where people come and have the Word of God taught to them by a pastor, and a place where they can build their lives. The purpose of Hyles-Anderson College is to train men to go out and work in churches.
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To 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. Hebrews 12:22, 23
The word church is the word ekklesia. This passage is talking about the rapture. The church is a called-out group. At the rapture, all believers will be called out from this earth, meet in the air, and assemble in the sky. Then, and only then, will we be a called-out assembly. That is what this passage is talking about.
There is a church being built right now, but it is not yet a church because it has not yet been called out and assembled. At this moment there is only one church and that is the local body. All believers are not a church because all believers have not yet been assembled. At the trumpet, the first resurrection, all believers will be assembled, and will become a called-out assembly, or a church. That is not the same as the New Testament church. It is the church of the first born which will be assembled in the sky.
What about the Scriptures that say the church is His body? That is a term of ownership. The local church belongs to Him. He is the head of it in the sense that He is the boss of it. Hyles-Anderson College is owned by the First Baptist Church. The local New Testament church is owned by Jesus. It is His possessive body.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30
Jesus wills that every person whose name is written in Heaven be part of a local church. Romans 8:28 is not for those who do not belong to a true church. You cannot be right with God and not belong to a true church. A family, who I loved very much wrote me a letter one day, that said, "Brother Hyles, we have had a wonderful time lately. For months now, we have not gone to church anywhere. We have just stayed at home and learned to know God better." No, they did not. Nobody learns to know God better outside the institution Jesus started than they can inside of it. You cannot be right with God and wrong with the ekklesia. You cannot be right with God and not belong to the ekklesia.
Our Baptist brethren in history died for this truth, yet many Baptists today do not even believe it. Never again talk about the invisible church, or the universal church. The word Catholic means universal church. Let the Catholics have that doctrine. There is no such thing according to the Bible. Jesus started one church. That church is the church in which you can hear a message. It is a church where Jesus preached and where Jesus sang. It is a church where people meet. It is a church that has membership and has people baptized. It is a church that has pastors and deacons. It is a local assembly of believers.
People write me letters saying, "Brother Hyles, we're moving to a certain town in a certain state, but we can't find a church there. What should we do?" I write back two words. "Don't move!" If you cannot find a church, God does not want you there. God wants every Christian in an ekklesia.
What this nation needs is more soul-winning New Testament churches in every neighborhood. We need men of God to start ekklesias all across this nation. That is why the Devil has attacked First Baptist Church so viciously. The Devil does not want ekklesias. May God in Heaven bring us back to the old-fashioned doctrine of the true church and not the dreamed up invisible church.
Since Jesus started the New Testament church, there have always been New Testament churches. I am not talking about denominational succession. I do not believe in denominational succession. By succession I mean that one denomination started another denomination, and that one started another one, and that continued until you get to the church I pastor today.
I cannot prove local church succession. It may be that every church was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by a church, that was started by Jesus. I do not know, but that is not the issue. The issue is that there has never been a time, since Jesus established the church in Matthew chapter ten, that there was not a church that was descended from that first local church started by the Lord.
In a sense Baptists have succeeded each other, but that does not include all Baptists. Baptists have existed ever since the New Testament, but that does not mean that all Baptists are descended from those in the New Testament. I know Baptist preachers who will take transfers from any Baptist church, yet there are hundreds of Baptist churches that are completely liberal. Just because they are Baptist does not mean that they are part of a New Testament church. I do not care about the denominational tag.
We have the idea of the perpetuity of a denomination, which is not true. There are some Baptist churches that are not Baptist at all. It is not the succession of a denomination that has caused the perpetuity of the church. It is the splitting of the denomination that has caused the perpetuity of the church. The trail of blood from the time Jesus started the church until now has not been perpetuated by denomination, but by people splitting those denominations to start new movements. So, it is not the major denomination that has perpetuated New Testament churches. It is the split off of that denomination which has done so..
There are four steps in every Baptist movement. I am referring to the Southwide Baptist Fellowship, the General Association of Regular Baptists, the Conservative Baptist Association, the Baptist Bible Fellowship, the Southern Baptist Convention, etc.. When one of these groups starts, the four steps in the decay of a Baptist movement begins.
Step 1. It starts with a man. Every Baptist movement is started from a man. The Baptist Bible Fellowship started with J. Frank Norris. The Southwide Baptist Fellowship was the baby of Dr. Lee Roberson. The General Association of Regular Baptists was the baby of Dr. Bob Ketchum. The Conservative Baptist Association was the baby of Dr. Myron Cedarholm. That is the first step in every great movement.
Step 2. It becomes a movement. That is the best day of a group. It is moving. It is virile. It is active. It is starting and building churches. It is getting the job done.
Step 3. It becomes a machine.
Step 4. It becomes a monument.
Let me show you where some of these groups are on this progression.
The American Baptist Convention is a monument.
The Southern Baptist Convention is a machine. It was a man. Then, for many years it was a movement. Now, it is a machine. The denomination runs the churches. Someday it will be a monument.
The Baptist Bible Fellowship is halfway between movement and a machine. It is just entering into the machine stage from being a movement.
If I started a denomination, it would go the same route. Why? Because a movement is not of God. Movements are not always bad, but Jesus never started a denomination or a movement. He started a local church. God is against denominations. No denomination ever starts off intending to be a denomination. A denomination is a result of decadence that was never intended. It was intended to be a fellowship of churches, but it evolves. Denominationalism is not of God. It is the decay of a movement. That is why God is not concerned about denominations. God is concerned about local churches.
A few years ago I was preaching in Erie, Pennsylvania. They had a breakfast for pastors, and about forty-five pastors came. Nobody was trying to boss anybody. Nobody was trying to blacklist anybody. Nobody was trying to politic with anybody. Everybody was on an equal level. It was not a denomination. It was just a group of churches getting together in fellowship. One day, somebody may suggest that they elect officers. Then somebody else may suggest that they have a charter. Somebody else will suggest that they adopt a statement of faith. Then, somebody is will try to pass some resolutions. It keeps on going and going until finally it has become a denomination. It starts off as a group of preachers getting together to fellowship with each other, and ends up with somebody wanting some authority. God is not for that.
Let me give you some facts about Baptist churches.
1. Baptist churches existed before the Reformation.
We were not always called Baptists. We did not name ourselves. Our enemies named us. We were originally called Anabaptists which means rebaptizers. One of the three great doctrines which caused us to be persecuted is that we do not believe in infant baptism. When these baptizers got people saved they baptized their converts again, even though they had been baptized as babies, so their enemies called them re-baptizers.
When I first went to Hammond, a large number of unsaved people in the church got saved. We baptized them even though most of them had already been baptized, so somebody started calling me the double-dip Baptist preacher. That is why the Baptists were called Anabaptists, or rebaptizers.
There were Baptist churches before the Reformation. The Reformation was the time when Martin Luther pulled out of the Catholic church and decided that the just shall live by faith. At that time the Protestant movement was started. I am not a Protestant. Protestants are those who came out of Catholicism. Baptists did not come out of Catholicism. When Martin Luther decided the just shall live by faith and started the Reformation, Baptist people were in hiding.
2. At the Reformation the Baptists had hope and decided that it was safe to come out of hiding. Martin Luther began preaching salvation like they had always been preaching it. They were in for a surprise. Even though the Catholics and Protestants were fighting each other, they were together on one issue, and one issue only. They hated the Baptists. The Baptists thought that Martin Luther's Reformation would bring them out of hiding, but it did not, because Martin Luther persecuted Baptists just like the Catholics persecuted Baptists. John Calvin persecuted Baptists just like the Catholics persecuted Baptists. I believe that Martin Luther was a great man like Henry Ford was a great man, but he was not a great Christian, or a great preacher. He was a great leader. Martin Luther would have put preachers like me in jail.
3. The Catholics and the Protestants united to exterminate the Baptists.
4. Henry the VIII banished Baptists and gave them twelve days to leave or die.
5. Baptists were slaughtered in the Netherlands just for being Baptists.
6. Baptists were banned in Germany.
7. Much of the blood shed by Bloody Mary came from Baptist veins.
8. Queen Elizabeth gave Baptists twenty days to leave the country.
9. Switzerland killed Baptists by drowning and burning them at the stake.
In our country we have the idea that the Pilgrims came to the new land looking for religious freedom. They came looking for it, but they also came denying it. They came looking for their religious freedom while at the same time choking Baptists' religious freedom.
* In 1669 William Wickendon preached the first Baptist sermon in New York state. He was jailed for 3 months.
* In North Carolina they passed a law prohibiting the building of Baptist church buildings.
* In 1676 the first Baptist church building was built in Boston, Massachusetts. It was confiscated, and the doors were nailed shut.
* In the colonies, Baptists were jailed and whipped.
So, why were Baptists hated? They were hated for three doctrines in which they believed:
1. Their doctrine opposed infant baptism.
2. They opposed the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
3. They believed in the separation of church and state.
When the Declaration of Independence was drawn up, England declared that it was an Anabaptist (Baptist) declaration. It was considered to be a doctrine of heresy when Baptists said that they were for the separation of church and state.
How has this perpetuity of the Baptist church been made possible? Not by denominations, but by churches splitting from the denominations. So, it is not a denominational perpetuity. It is a local church perpetuity. Most Baptist denominations are not Baptist at all. They deteriorated from being Baptist churches. In my opinion, the American Baptist Convention does not have churches that are true New Testament churches. Church history courses taught in most of our colleges teach the Baptist succession. Church history is the history of local congregations. Even the history of the Baptist denomination is not true church history. In fact, the history of the Baptist denomination is the history of decay. It is not the Baptist denomination that has kept the perpetuity of the churches. It is the individual local churches that have split off others which have decayed, that has caused the perpetuity of the church.
From the American Baptist Convention came the Southern Baptist Convention. From those two major denominations have come several other movements. For example, Dr. Myron Cedarholm and Dr. Lee Roberson did not come from the same denomination. Dr. Myron Cedarholm was at one time in the American Baptist Convention. His father was a well known American Baptist preacher, but when the American Baptists became too liberal, the Conservative Baptists split off from them.
There is a group of fundamentalists today who split off from the Conservative Baptist Convention. In the early 1960's the Conservative Baptist Association deteriorated and split. Dr. Myron Cedarholm, Archer Weniger and a crowd of older men, most of whom are now in Heaven, formed the Conservative Baptist Fellowship, which came from their Conservative Baptist Association, which came from the American Baptist Convention. They made a major mistake. They pulled out doctrinally, but they did not pull out in relationship to church government. They kept the old committee idea of running the church.
From the American Baptist Convention came another group called the General Association of American Baptists. Robert Ketchum was the leader of that group. They did the same thing. They pulled out doctrinally, but they did not pull out as far as church organization was concerned, and that has destroyed them.
The Baptist Bible Fellowship split from the Southern Baptist Convention. The World Baptist Fellowship split from the Baptist Bible Fellowship, and then recently split into something else. People sometimes wonder why there are so many Baptists. That is the way the church has been kept alive. It is not the main line denomination that has perpetuated the church. It is the split that has perpetuated the church.
Revelation chapters two and three deal with seven letters written by the Holy Spirit, dictated to John, and sent to seven different churches in Asia Minor. In the Scofield Bible above verse eight of chapter two it reads; The message to Smyrna. Period of the great persecutions, to A.D. 316. Above verse twelve it reads; The message to Pergamos. The church under imperial favour, settled in the world, A.D. 316 to the end. Mr. Scofield teaches that these seven churches represent seven periods of church history. Mr. Scofield is wrong. There is not one single place in the Bible that gives any inclination of this. These were seven churches which were located in Asia Minor. I believe God gave us these churches in this order because these churches are in different places on the line of decay. God used these seven churches, to show us the decay of every movement.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of this place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. Revelation 2:4-6
The word Nicolaitanes comes from two words Greek words -Nicao, which means to conquer. and Laitans which is the word laity. It means to conquer the laity. It is denominationalism. It is what happens when somebody outside of the local church starts to run the local church. It is nobody's business what a church does. When churches want to get together in fellowship, that is fine, but when they get together to rule each other, that is not fine. But, it is inevitable that when they get together to fellowship, they ultimately will organize and become a denomination, and begin to control each other.
People say that Independent Baptists have no weights and balances, and no way to check on their ministers. That is exactly right. Jesus established the church and the church is to take care of its own business.
This church at Ephesus hated the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes. It was an independent church. It hated denominational control. But, even though it was independent, it left its first love and quit doing its first works. Here we have an independent Baptist church that is not soul winning anymore. That is the first step to decay. In the majority of independent Baptist churches in America, soul winning is unpopular.
Many years ago I preached at Southern Baptist Convention meetings. I have preached for many years at the Southwide Baptist Fellowship and Baptist Bible Fellowship meetings. It is harder now to preach at the Independent Baptist Conventions than it was thirty-five years ago at the Southern Baptist Conventions. There is as much politics going on in some of these groups as there is in the American Baptist Convention. They are independent, but they are on their way down because they have quit their first love of soul winning.
Give me a church that keeps on soul winning and I will give you a church that will stay fairly straight on everything else. As long as you do what you are supposed to do, you will believe what you are supposed to believe. So, in the church at Ephesus we see the condition of independent Baptists today.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Revelation 2:8, 10
The church at Smyrna shows us the second step of deterioration. The church quits soul winning, and trials start to come. Satan tries to get us wrapped up in those trials and quit soul winning. Independent Baptists have become so enchanted with their trials and fighting their battles that the main job is not being done. We have become issueoriented. Several years ago, one of the biggest and best soul-winning churches in America got on a "kick" concerning freedom for churches. I am for that, but you do not need to have freedom for churches to win souls if you are not winning souls. There is no reason for fighting something to exist that does not exist anyway. This church got off of soul winning and is only a shadow of the church it once was.
We must not get so wrapped up in battles that we become issue-oriented. We must not enjoy these trials, because if we enjoy them, we will not want them to end. We ought to enjoy most the obeying of the Great Commission.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; ...I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, and even where Satan's seat is. Revelation 2:12a, 13a
That word Satan in the Greek is the word meaning throne. Where is Satan's throne? He is the god of this world, soit is in the world. The church at Pergamos was dwelling in the world. When you quit soul winning and get wrapped up in other things, before you know it, you will lose your standards and convictions.
John 15 says that God will purge those who bear fruit that they may bring forth more fruit. Soul winners will become separated. Now, we have in this nation the church at Pergamos.
Notice something else about the church at Pergamos in Revelation 2:15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. They embraced the doctrine of conquering the laity from without, or denominationalism. Churches that quit soul winning get bound in denominationalism. Churches that get issue-oriented become worldly. If you are not a soul winner, you will have to get a denomination to help you grow and prop you up. That is how denominationalism gets such a strangle-hold on churches.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel. . . . Revelation 2:20a
A bad woman in the Bible is a symbol of false religion. A good woman is a symbol of the true bride of Christ. Jezebel represented ecumenicalism, or a union of bad churches. The church at Thyatira represents the stage of a movement when it turns to ecumenicalism. That is the next step in the progression.
I saw a denomination deteriorate. The Southern Baptist Convention deteriorated from being an evangelistic and separated group to being almost totally ecumenical. Just because they elect a man to moderate who is a fundamentalist does not mean that they are fundamental. Go to Southern Seminary and see how fundamental they are. Go to Baylor University and see how fundamental they are. Southern Baptist churches are now ordaining women preachers. Many are just like the church at Thyatira.
The church at Ephesus quit soul winning. Smyrna became issueoriented because of suffering. Pergamos became worldly. Thyatira became a false church through ecumenicalism.
Next was Sardis which had a reputation of being alive but was actually dead. We see that in the Charismatic movement in this country. They seem to have life, but spiritually their people are dead.
The next church was at Philadelphia. Why was that church put between the fifth and the seventh churches? Because the church at Philadelphia was the good New Testament church. It was a small church. Why? Because it represented the church that split off from the church that was one step from becoming the Laodicean church. Before Laodicea comes is the time to get out. That is why God did not put the church at Laodicea as the sixth church. God placed the church at Philadelphia between numbers five and six to show us that it was getting out time. Why getting-out time? Because my family ought to go to a good church. But, it is more than that. It is so we can have the perpetuity of New Testament churches.
If New Testament churches continue to exist on the face of the earth, they will exist because something chips off as denominations deteriorate. That is what has and will continue to happen.
If you do not take the first step down, you will never get to the bottom step. Soul winning is the best preventive for decay you can have because soul winning guarantees that you will remain separated.
There are some things going on in Baptist circles ,that most people do not understand. There are things going on because God is purging in order for the New Testament churches to be perpetuated. That happens in every generation. Every generation has to define itself, and every generation of Baptists has to be willing to stand alone.
The life of true churches is wrapped up in this willingness to split when decay comes. Life is that way. As the human body begins to decay, new babies are born, who come from the bodies of the adults. When the adults decay and die, there is new life perpetuated on the earth. If no new life comes from the old life, society will die. If no new life comes from the old denomination, it will die.
Every movement that is perpetuated has to give life before that which is decaying has completely decayed. Because of that, we have Independent Baptists.
Where We Are
The Catholic church had what we call a Reformation. The Reformation was when the Protestants (as we call them now) pulled out of Catholicism. The Reformation was not a spiritual revival. We have the mistaken idea that when Martin Luther pulled out of Catholicism there followed a great spiritual awakening and revival. Nothing could be further from the truth. In that day the church was associated with the state. Luther and Calvin were both trying to start another state church. Martin Luther did not believe in the separation of church and state. Neither did John Calvin.
Consider some facts about the Reformation.
1. The Reformation was not a spiritual revival.
2. It was not a return to the New Testament church. Basically, it was a hatred for Catholicism. It was not started by
a desire to return to something, but by a desire to leave Catholicism. In that day there were other groups besides the reformers. For example, Zwingli's position was not the same as Calvin's, and Calvin's was not the same as Luther's. In fact, for part of their lives they were bitter enemies and never became close friends. They did have a common hatred for the Catholic church and wanted to start another state church.
3. There was a third group of people in those days called the Anabaptists, which means rebaptizers. The Justinian Code from which we get most of the framework of our laws had a death penalty for rebaptizing people. That was the law of the state because the state and the church were one. The Anabaptists were hated by everybody. Zwingli hated them. So did Martin Luther and John Calvin. They agreed even with the Catholics in their hatred for the Anabaptists. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all either consented to, or encouraged the death and martyrdom of Anabaptists.
There were three groups of Anabaptists. I will not go into much detail except to list and describe them briefly.
1. One group of Anabaptists believed in building a local church according to the Word of God. The Anabaptists never believed in an invisible, universal church. They always believed in the local church. In fact, that is the one major thing that separated them, because Luther believed in the invisible church as did Calvin, Zwingli, and the Catholics. This group was like our Baptists are today. They believed the Word of God was the final authority, and built their churches accordingly.
2. The second group was called the Pietists. They got their "word" from within, in a message from Heaven, or 'a word of knowledge," if you please.
3. The third group of Anabaptists was so militant that they wanted to take over the government and force everybody to be Anabaptists.
In every generation we have the same basic alignment of Christian people. I want to show you the alignment of Christian people in our day. Why do fundamentalists not get along? Why do we not agree on so many things? There are different kinds of fundamentalists. The word fundamental means a group that returns to the original purpose. practice and doctrine of an institution. I am going to take fundamentalism as we know it in America and show you why it is divided.
There are three basic fundamental groups in America. There is an American Baptist fundamentalism which came from the American Baptist Convention. There is a Protestant fundamentalism which came from the Protestant churches or denominations. It could also be called Reformation fundamentalism. Then, there is a Southern Baptist fundamentalism of churches which came from the Southern Baptist Convention. These are the three groups that form the body of what we call fundamentalism today.
These have basic disagreements which have caused an invisible fence to come between them. That invisible fence is becoming more visible all the time. Let me show you what I mean.
I. American Baptist Fundamentalists
American Baptist fundamentalism comes from the old American Baptist denomination which was the original Baptist denomination in America. It was originally called the Northern Baptist Convention. There are two basic groups of people in American Baptist fundamentalism. First, there is the General Association of Regular Baptists, or GARB. They split off of the American Baptist Convention and formed a group. Then, the Conservative Baptist Association split off of the American Baptist Convention and formed another group. Dr. Bob Ketchum was probably the most famous man in the GARB. Dr. Myron Cedarholm was probably the best known man in the Conservative Baptist Association. Both of these groups are splits from the Northern Baptist, or American Baptist Convention. Let me tell you more about these groups.
1. They were first basically a northern movement.
You will seldom find a GARB church in the south, and you will seldom find a Conservative Baptist church in the south. Basically, these are northern groups.
2. They pulled out mainly over doctrines. They did not leave many of the practices of the American Baptist Convention. They did not change the church government of the American Baptist Convention.
3. They are also more formal than the Southern Baptist fundamentalists, or those who came from the Southern Baptist Convention.
4. They are more highly organized than the other fundamentalist groups.
II. Protestant Fundamentalism
Protestant fundamentalism is probably the most impressive of all fundamentalism. These are the inter-denominational fundamentalists. They are Bible churches, or IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America). They are not Baptist churches. They are Bible churches or have names like Church of the Open Door, Central Church, Fellowship Church or something similar to that. These are not bad people. They are good Christian people. They believe the Bible, but they came from the Protestant group, so they are Protestant fundamentalists. That is why they usually believe in the invisible church. That is also why they are not called Baptists. Let me tell you more about these Protestant fundamentalists.
1. They look like Protestants, in the same way that Protestants look like Catholics. If you go to a Lutheran church next Sunday, you will have a hard time discerning whether it is Catholic or Lutheran. They are Protestant. If you go to an Episcopalian church, you will have a hard time discerning whether it is Catholic or Episcopalian. I am not being critical. I am being factual. Lutheran preachers wear robes because they came out of Catholicism, but did not change everything. Why does a Presbyterian sprinkle babies? When they came out of Catholicism, that was not an issue. So they still in some ways look like the mother.
2. They came from Reformation people.
3. From them we get the doctrine of the invisible church.
4. Basically, they are the result of the union revivals that were so popular many years ago in America. Many churches would go together for a revival campaign. From these revivals came people who were genuinely born again, but did not know anything about Baptist churches, Baptist polity, Baptist programs, or Baptist doctrine. These people started Bible churches, or inter-denominational churches. They are good fundamental people. They include men like H. A. Ironside, R. A. Torrey, Dwight L. Moody, and Bob Jones. D. L. Moody was not a Baptist. He was a Congregationalist. Although he was a great preacher, he never belonged to the New Testament church.
H. A. Ironside did not pastor a New Testament Baptist church. He pastored a church that came from Protestantism. These men deserve our admiration. They did not know anything else. They wanted something that was not Presbyterian, Reformed, Methodist, Episcopalian, or Lutheran. They wanted something that believed the Bible, so they came from their Protestant denominations and started inter-denominationalism. They had a second Reformation.
5. This was largely a northern movement. They are a little more in the south than the GARB or the Conservative Baptists, but basically it was a northern movement.
6. It was also more formal. Individuals who came out of the Presbyterian church to start independent churches would obviously be more formal than those who came out of Baptist churches to start other Baptist churches.
7. These are good people, but they did not build New Testament churches. New Testament churches must have pastors and deacons. They must believe in New Testament doctrine. Billy Sunday did not belong to the New Testament church because he belonged to a church that came from Protestantism. Billy Sunday was a Protestant. The same fundamental people who supported Billy Sunday's meetings went back to their formal services on Sunday mornings. New Testament churches did not come from Catholicism. They came from Jesus when He started the New Testament church Himself.
I am not criticizing these people, but they did not build New Testament churches. They promoted the invisible church doctrine in addition to the local church doctrine. The only group of people in the history of Christianity that has promoted the local church doctrine has been Baptists.
III. Southern Baptist Fundamentalism
These are the groups that came out the Southern Baptist Convention. There are some great leaders of Southern Baptist fundamentalism. I am talking about men like J. Frank Norris, who started what is now the Baptist Bible Fellowship; Dr. Lee Roberson, who was basically responsible for the Southwide Baptist Fellowship; and Dr. G. B. Vick, who became famous by perpetuating the ministry that Dr. Norris started.
1. This is where the action has been in fundamentalism. These people are a part of the big circle of fundamentalism, but we have some basic disagreements. There have been some invisible fences between us that are now rising up and becoming more visible. We did not build those fences. They started saying that we are shallow and too evangelistic. They started accusing us of promoting easybelievism. We have no choice but to say that they are wrong They criticize us because of our excitement and our informality. The action in fundamentalism in this generation has come from Southern Baptist fundamentalists, that is, those who left the Southern Baptist Convention and those they have influenced.
2. The main issue of difference is on the matter of separation. The GARB and the American Baptists divided basically over doctrine. When Dr. J. Frank Norris pulled out of the Southern Baptist Convention, most Southern Baptist preachers believed that the Bible was the Word of God. The Bible was not issue in those days. It was an ecclesiastical issue, a type of worship issue, and a separation issue. They pulled out over mixed bathing being wrong. They pulled out over social drinking being wrong. They pulled out over teaching evolution. They pulled out over matters of separation, and matters of type worship.
Consequently, the hottest group in America over the last forty years consists of those that pulled out of the Southern Baptist Convention.
That forms the entire circumference of what we call fundamentalism. If you wonder why fundamentalists do not get along, it is because we are not all the same type of fundamentalists. When some American Baptist fundamentalists visit First Baptist Church in Hammond, they may think that we are too wild. That is because they still have some American Baptist left in them. They think we should have committees to run everything in the church. They are fundamentalists in the sense that they became fed up with what they were in, but, they did not come out totally. They rebelled only against the things that irritated them.
* Pastors' School Fundamentalists *
Today, there is another group of fundamentalists quietly becoming the largest group in the nation. I call this group the Pastors' School fundamentalists. Without anybody planning or organizing a thing, God raised up the Pastors' School at the First Baptist Church of Hammond. Its annual meeting is larger than the Baptist Bible Fellowship annual convention. The Southwide Baptist Fellowship does not have as many preachers as Pastors' School has every year. Preachers from all over this country who want to do something for God have come to a Pastors' School and have had their lives and ministries transformed.
In addition to that, the First Baptist Church Youth Conference draws the largest group of fundamental young people of any youth conference in the nation. Other of these groups have copied and have not attracted a fraction of the young people. Without any effort to organize, God has raised up this movement.
Let me make several observations.
1. Groups one and two are very much alike. The American Baptist Fundamentalists and the Protestant Fundamentalists are very similar to each other.
2. Group two provides most of the schools. Consider the schools which came from group one. Cedarville, Maranatha, and Pillsbury are schools that came from the group that came from the American Baptists. Now, consider the schools that came from the Protest ant fundamentalists such as Wheaton, Moody, Pensacola, and Bob Jones University. That is the group that has been educating our Baptist preachers. I have nothing against a plumber, a cabinet maker, a lawyer, an accountant, or a doctor being trained by those schools, but I think a Baptist preacher ought to go to a Baptist school. That is why so many Baptist preachers do not know Baptist doctrines. Group three has allowed group two to train their preachers, and group two has trained them to believe in the invisible church. Group three is not the same as it used to be because we have gone to group two to get our training for our preachers.
I have some very dear friends in groups one and two. I am not criticizing them. I am merely giving you the history of the fundamentalist movement.
Consider the schools in group three. Baptist Bible College was probably the best when it started. When Tennessee Temple came along, it was probably the best. Today, Hyles-Anderson College is known to be the best school for training Baptist preachers. I thank God for the new Baptist colleges which are coming on the scene. Dr. Bob Gray has one in Longview, Texas. Dr. Jim Vineyard has one in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I am glad for these other Baptist colleges because I believe that group three must train its own.
3. Another thing that has hurt group three is that group two has basically provided all of the literature. When you provide somebody literature, you have a tremendous influence on them. The AWANA Clubs are an example of this. These were good clubs which came from group two. They ought to be used in group two churches, but we have put them in our group three churches. The AWANAS came from churches that were very formal and less evangelistic.
Most of the Christian school books come from Pensacola and Bob Jones. They are good books. There is nothing wrong with them. I am just simply showing you that the Protestant fundamentalists have provided most of the literature for the Southern Baptist fundamentalists, yet the Southern Baptist fundamentalists are the ones that have been red-hot. Why is that the case? Because the guy that is redhot does not want to take time to write a commentary. Most of the literature being used in the group three churches is being provided by the people in group two. We simply are not providing our own.
4. There has always been an unseen wail that we have not allowed to divide us. Those of us in group three have not said much about the more formal services of group one and group two. But, in recent days, groups one and two have begun attacking group three. As a result, those of us in group three are going to need to defend those things which we believe to be important. We must defend altar calls. We must defend the old-time religion, because groups one and two are basically going back to their origin of formal worship services. In order to preserve what we have had through these years those of us in group three are going to have to stand for what we have had. They are shooting at us, and we have no recourse but to defend our position.
What about the new evangelicals? They are the soft part of each of the three groups. They are compromising part of all three groups. The GARB has deteriorated some. The deteriorated crowd are new evangelicals. The CBA has deteriorated some. The deteriorated portion are the new evangelicals. The Southern Baptists fundamentalists have deteriorated some, and they have some new evangelicals.
When a church in group three calls a pastor from group one, there is a catastrophe ahead. As long as we stay apart, we can get along. I happen to think that we are as smart as they are. We have become such a melting pot that the average church does not realize that there is a difference. There are some good men in group one, but let them be good in their own group. They are in their element. There are some good men in group two, but they will teach our people that the local church is one church and the invisible church is another. They also will have their formal worship services. I am not against group two, but let them stay in group two. Let us continue to be group three.
I am not going to spend my life fighting groups one and two because I admire them in some ways. I will keep admiring them as long as they do not try to influence group three, because group three is the hope of the nation.
of the Church
The autonomy of a church means that a church is supposed to run by itself. The word automobile means a car that is a self-running instrument or piece of machinery. Likewise, the autonomous church means that the church is supposed to be self-running.
But this thou hast, that thou ha test the deeds of the Nicolaitanes which I also hate. Revelation 2:6
So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes which thing I hate. Revelation 2:15
The word Nicolaitanes is a word which means to conquer the laity. It is referring to an outside force that takes control over a part of a New Testament church. When a church ceases to be autonomous it forfeits the right to call itself a New Testament church. It can still call itself a church because the word church means assembly. A Catholic church can call itself a church, but it is not a New Testament church. It is an assembly, but not the one that Jesus started.
1. Each church is a self-operating entity. Each church is supposed to be totally self-operating. It is not the business of any other church what the First Baptist Church does. It is likewise not the business of the First Baptist Church what any other church does. Every church is supposed to be a self-operating entity.
There is no mention anywhere in the Bible of a denomination. Denominations are man-made. Churches are God-made. If a church yields a part of her authority to any external source, she ceases to be a New Testament church. A New Testament church is self-operating or autonomous. Denominations have done more to destroy the work of God than taverns have. In fact, it is tragic how denominations destroy churches.
2. Each church is a self-operating entity and should stay that way. Churches are destroyed because they lose their autonomy. The Southern Baptists like to claim that they have 33,000 independent churches. That is not really true. They voted me out because I would not support their colleges and their cooperative program. Their churches are not independent; they are under the control of the convention.
3. This is the only way a church can claim perpetuity. A church cannot claim the promise of Matthew 16:16-18 unless it is a self operating entity. Consequently, when a church ties itself to a denomination, it ties itself to something that is dying, so life joins up with death. The denomination destroys the life of the church, because life plus death equals death. God never said, Upon this rock I will build my denomination and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. God did not say, Upon this rock I will build my fellowship and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. He said, Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The independent local church was promised divine perpetuity.
4. When we unite, we lose that claim. When churches unite, the organization becomes bigger than the church, so it ceases to be a church. It becomes churches. Since they are united, they cannot claim divine perpetuity.
5. Let us not unite. When I was in the Southern Baptist Convention, I often heard it said by denominational leaders, "Let's not split." The Southwide Baptist Fellowship is saying the same thing now. The Baptist Bible Fellowship is also saying it I would like to say, "Let's not unite." I am not an isolationist, but if you do not unite, you do not have to worry about splitting. In fact, every church ought to be its own split. It should operate itself and run its own business without interference from other churches.
6. Union brings death because when something that has been promised life unites itself with something that
has not been promised life, it has attached itself to death and therefore will die. I have been warning Baptist people across America for years about the AWANA program. The AWANA is a inter-denominational program for children that churches use. Because it is not Baptist, it is not right on some things. I have warned Baptists about AWANA, not because I thought the AWANA Program was bad, but because every organization like it is eventually going to die because it is not operated by a church, which is the only organization promised divine perpetuity. If we get attached to an organization like that we will die with it.
A pastor went to a church and tried to stop the AWANA. The people threatened to vote him out. They were more loyal to an outside organization than they were to their own pastor. Every youth program ought to be local church centered and operated. Every children's program ought to be local church centered and operated. A local church should not allow an outside influence as powerful as the AWANA inside the church because it will create loyalties outside of the church. Churches all over this nation that have AWANA are going to have one of three things happen to them.
1. They have a strong enough pastor to get it out of the church.
2. They are going have to have trouble in the church.
3. The pastor is going to have to compromise and stay with the AWANAS.
When living organizations join up with dying organizations, death enters into the living organization.
For many years I had a high regard for the Gideons, but I was worried about them because they were not affiliated with the local church. I spoke at National Gideon Conventions in Canada and the United States. The day came when I could no longer support the Gideons. One day in a motel room I picked up a "Bible." It was not the King James Bible. They are now putting out different kinds of "Bibles."
Let me explain what happens. A man from the Gideons comes to speak in a church to raise money to help place Bibles in motels and schools across America; then, that organization changes. While an organization is good, we join up with it, but in so doing, we build the machinery for self-destruction. The best philosophy is not to join up with that organization at all. The local church should operate itself. People often ask me to print literature for churches to use. I do not do it because some people would become more loyal to me than to their local pastor. Then, if the pastor decided not to use my literature, some people may follow me instead of him. The church would no longer be autonomous. There is not one program at the First Baptist Church of Hammond that subscribes churches to be a part of it. If somebody wants to start a Phoster Club, they can start a Phoster Club and call it anything they want. We do not tell them what to do, nor do we send a representative to keep their club going. Union brings death. As the other thing dies, the church dies as well. When churches unite and one church dies, it affects all of the other churches.
7. Our mistake is that when we divide, we do not have enough sense to stay divided. The split does not have enough sense to remain a split. Churches often decide to leave a denomination, yet turn right around and unite with another organization.
What should be the fellowship between churches?
1. No denomination.
2. No outside interference whatsoever.
Let me give you an idea of how it should be. I preached for a pastor in Mocksville, North Carolina. The pastor sent out letters to other churches announcing that I was going to be there, and inviting them to attend and to bring some of their people. It was one church's meeting. All the churches in the area did not get together. One church sponsored the meeting. The pastor did not ask the other churches to do anything. Buses came from all over the area, but nobody was blacklisted if they did not come, voted out if they did not cooperate, or reprimanded if they did not bring their people. That is God's plan. I am not suggesting that we should not cooperate, but that we should not unite.
Tragically, when we divide, we often do not have enough sense to stay divided. When we split we do not have enough sense to stay split. We want to start something else. That something else is a uniting in a fellowship of churches, and the minute it starts, death sets in, because human organizations start off dying. The church, however, can always stand. Churches die because they unite.
8. We unite not realizing that we are uniting. Let me show several ways churches unite without realizing that they are uniting.
(1) Ministerial groups. I am referring to fundamental ministerial groups, not liberal ministerial associations. There is a city in this nation where a group of fundamental preachers organized a fundamental ministerial group. That sounds good. It is not a sin. There are groups like that all over the country, so what is wrong with these groups? Before long, they elect a chairman who is over the ministerial group. That means that he has been given a title above the title of pastor. There is a group like this that I used to preach for every year.
Several years ago, in the midst of the attacks against me, one of the preachers in that group turned against me. I contend that he has a right not to be for me. But, what happened? Many of my friends blacklisted him. Even though I felt he was wrong in the position he had taken against me, they had taken away his freedom. They did to him what the Southern Baptist Convention does to churches.
It is not slavery we are against, it is our being enslaved we are against. We do not mind being the boss. We do not want to be in Egypt under Pharaoh. We want to go out into the wilderness, reorganize, and become a Pharaoh ourselves. There is nothing sinful about a fundamental ministerial group. In itself, it is not bad, but it creates the machinery for decay in the future.
(2) Union meetings. There are fundamental churches that get together every year and conduct a joint, area-wide revival meeting. I have had preachers criticize other men because they decided not to cooperate with those meetings any more. They call him a loner and say he is uncooperative. That is the same thing the Southern Baptists did to me. A preacher has a perfect right not to cooperate. This is what causes churches to die. We ought to work with each other, but we ought to work in a way which maintains our independence from each other. For example, our Pastors" School is like a cafeteria. A preacher can take what he wants and leave the rest. It is our own meeting, and nobody is blacklisted if he chooses not to come. We are supposed to cooperate with each other when a local church has an endeavor, if we so choose; but it is always unwise to build a canopy over all of us.
(3) Joint schools. All across America there are schools that are started by groups of churches. Church-schools ought to be started by a church. If ten churches start a school, the standards of that school will only be as strong as the weakest of those ten churches. Eventually, the pastor of the weakest church may be elected as president of the school board. One church should start a school and if other pastors want to send their students they may, but if they choose another school, that is perfectly acceptable. The inter-denominational, cooperative schools do not remain useful nearly as long as church operated schools.
First Baptist Church operates Hammond Baptist Schools. First Baptist Church owns Hammond Baptist Schools. It is on our property, we have our own principals and teachers, we operate it, and we have our own board. Other Baptist churches send us students every year, but it is not those churches' business how Hammond Baptist Schools are operated. We operate it like we think God wants it operated. If they like that, they can come, but if they do not like that, they can send their students elsewhere. If a group of preachers start a school, the standards will deteriorate quickly. God's plan is the local church.
(4) Self accreditation. Across America many states require that church-schools be accredited. The state says we must have our schools accredited, yet many preachers have refused to allow the state to accredit their schools. In some cases the state has come back with a suggestion of a compromise. They said that we could set up our own accreditation board and accredit our own schools. They are basically saying that we must answer to somebody. We are not to answer to anybody outside of the local church! There is no divine institution above the local church!
Churches get together and set up a fundamental accrediting association. It sounds good, but it is machinery that will deteriorate and someday become just like the accrediting association they could not cooperate with in the first place. It is not just the accreditation by the North Central Association that is wrong. It is wrong when any church accredits another church. Nobody has a right to inspect the local church outside the local church. Any accreditation leads to death. The only difference between bad accreditation and good accreditation is how much longer you are going to live before you die.
(5) Literature. I do not want to determine what is taught at another Baptist church. I want their pastor to decide. It is not my business what another church teaches. I could have literature going out from First Baptist Church of Hammond to thousands of churches all across America. Preachers beg me to publish materials that they could use in their churches. I do not feel that it is the right thing to do. I do not mind them using my materials for ideas to create their own, but I do not want their churches to become more loyal to me than they are their own pastor.
There was a day you could trust some publishing houses. Many were fine as long as they were doctrinally correct, but they have deteriorated and taken some of their loyal churches with them. Nothing causes the decay of a denomination as much as its literature.
Many years ago, when I was a Southern Baptist, we had study courses which met five nights a week. We would study from a book put out by the Southern Baptist Convention's Broadman Press. Diplomas were given out when a person finished one of the courses. One day, I decided to teach one of the lessons straight from the Bible without using their study books. At the completion of the course, I wrote and asked them to send me the diplomas. They wrote back and asked me what materials I had used. I wrote them back and informed them that I had used the Bible. They wrote back to let me know that they would not send me the diplomas because we did not use Baptist literature materials. That was the last time I used their materials.
The preacher should decide what materials are used in the church, or he should write the Sunday school lessons. Let the church decide what is taught. There is nothing wrong with having outside literature, but you are subscribing yourself to something that will change you when it dies. Every church in America needs to stop and realize that the Nicolaitanes doctrine is creeping in. While we say we are independent and autonomous, we yoke up with death and do not know it.
(6) Fellowships. Every year at Pastors' School people ask me to start a fellowship. Fellowship means that we get together to enjoy each other with no strings attached. We do not need any more organizations. Dr. Jack Trieber in southern California has a Pastors' School every year. Anybody who wants to can attend. It is his Pastors' School, so he ought to operate it without the interference of an organization. I do not tell him how to run his Pastors' School. If he wants to ask my advice, I will give it to him, but it is his Pastors' School.
(7) Missionaries. The Southern Baptist Convention calls it their cooperative program. Southern Baptist churches do not individually decide which missionaries they will support. The church sends money to the Cooperative Program. Much of that money goes to operate their neo-evangelical and liberal schools, but they do not advertise that. They put missions out as the bait.
What is God's plan? When a man decides to go to the mission field, he should go to New Testament churches and preach, and let the churches individually decide whether or not to support him. That is the New Testament plan. The Southern Baptist Convention told me that I had to support the cooperative program or I would get my walking papers. I took my walking papers. They told me to support their schools or not be a Southern Baptist. I would not give a dime to a school that does not believe that the Bible is the Word of God.
(8) A group gets together to start churches. The problem is that the group will want to control the churches they start. There is nothing wrong with a church controlling the start of a church until it becomes a church as long as they are answerable to a church, and not to a group. Otherwise, you have the framework of death.
What is the danger?
1. An organization is placed above the church. A preacher in Texas used to say that there is as much Scripture for having a tavern as there is for having a denomination. The problem with a denomination is that you end up with a district superintendent who is above the preacher. Nobody is supposed to be above the office of pastor. That is the highest office in the Bible.
2. Teaching from without the church is deadly. Much of the wrong doctrine that infiltrates our churches comes from these types of unions that never should have happened in the first place.
3. An office is established which is above the pastor.
Unfortunately, these in the position of helping the pastor eventually become a power trying to tell the pastor what he can or cannot do.
4. They are formed because of the lack of faith. Union is always caused by the deterioration of faith. The centralization of power is caused by the deterioration of faith. The reason a group of farmers form a co-op is in case God does not send rain. This is a substitute god. America got along pretty well before there were any co-ops, and before everybody got together so much.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was a great leader, but he caused America to become a united movement by starting various co-op programs. The Bible says that God will supply all our needs according to His riches. So, why do we need a denomination? I will tell you exactly why. We lose some of our faith in God.
What more could we want than, Lo, I am with you alway, or, For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them, or, upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
My heart aches for what has happened to churches across this nation. Many churches that call themselves Independent Baptists are not really Independent Baptists.
When Dr. Ironside was the pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, he decided to form a group of men to run the business of the church. He basically turned the leadership of the church over to that group of men and decided that he would just do the preaching. It worked beautifully because these men loved him, and wanted to please him, but when he died, he had created the machinery for the destruction of their soul-winning program. What happened? A good pastor and some good men set up some bad machinery that worked as long as they were alive, but self-destructed when they died.
A Church Losing Its
Independence and Not
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness ?And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ?for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. II Corinthians 6:14-18
You do not have to come out from among them if you never were a part of them. If you do not go in, you do not have to come out. That is a great statement. More great soul-winning fundamental churches have fallen by the wayside in the last twenty years as a result of what I am going to cover in this chapter than over any other reason. These were good churches that did not intend to become liberal, but they became useless because they lost their independence and did not know it.
Most fundamental churches do not go liberal first. They go useless first. Once they go useless they have to find some reason to explain their uselessness. They end up explaining that growing churches and soul-winning churches are shallow. Then, they become new evangelical and eventually change their doctrine and become liberal. The first step is the step to uselessness. Let me explain to you exactly how this happens.
1. We unite for a good cause. Liberals want to join up with a fundamentalist, because a liberal wants the fire from the fundamentalist. A liberal can not start a fire, nor keep one going unless somebody else starts it. So, he wants all the fundamentalists that he can get. That is one reason why they have lured Billy Graham through these years. They do not have any fire of their own, so they need somebody who still believes the Bible to join their camp to help them.
The fundamental preacher has conviction, so he will not join with a liberal. When I was a young preacher, there basically were no new evangelicals. There were liberals and there were Bible believers. When I was a young preacher, you could not find a Southern Baptist preacher who did not believe the Bible. Last year the Southern Baptist Convention voted by a small margin to have a Bible believer as its president. When I was a young man, you would not have gotten 2% of the people to vote for a man who did not believe the Bible.
No fundamentalist ought to join up with a liberal. The Bible says, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." That does not give any specifics as to what not to link up with an unbeliever to do. It does not say not to be religiously unequally yoked together with unbelievers. It does not say not to be politically unequally yoked together with unbelievers. It simply says, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." That includes any type of cause.
The Devil is not finished. He will continue trying to get a fundamentalist yoked up with a liberal, because he wants to destroy the testimony of fundamentalism in America. The Devil knows that if he can get the fundamentalist yoked up to the liberals that this country is gone. So, the Devil invented something else.
When I was a young preacher, a new kind of person came on the scene known as the neo-orthodox. A neo-orthodox is someone who believes the liberalism, but talks like a fundamentalist. He says he believes the Bible, but he does not mean it in the same way we do. He believes the Bible is inspired like Shakespeare is inspired. The Devil is trying to get the fundamentalist and the liberal to join together, so he finds somebody who talks like a fundamentalist eto deceive many fundamental people.
A preacher says he believes the Bible is a good book and that parts of it are inspired. He does not believe what we believe. These neoorthodox people talk well, but the Devil uses them to get the fundamentalist to join up with the liberals, by putting them in between.
Most fundamentalists did not fall for this trick, so the Devil decided to take it a step further. He brought someone else into the picture, called the new evangelical. That is the new neo-orthodox. The neo-orthodox believes like the liberal, but talks like the fundamentalists. The new evangelical believes like the fundamentalist, but talks like the liberal. He does not want to associate himself with the old hell-fire and brimstone crowd.
I was watching an interview with a Nashville leader one day who said, "I am a born-again Christian. Now, of course I am not a fundamentalist. I am an evangelical." He did not want to associate himself with the fundamental crowd. He wants the have the popularity of the liberals and believe like the fundamentalists. The evangelicals do not want the stigma of the old-time religion. They do not want the stigma of an altar call. They do not want the stigma of hell-fire and brimstone preaching. The evangelicals would rather associate with liberals than with fundamentalists, because they are more concerned with how sweet you are, than how right you are.
Most of us did not fall for that, but the Devil was still not through. He finally knocked a home run. He brought in a political campaign. The fundamentalists fell for it and joined up with the new evangelicals. That has destroyed more churches than any single thing in this generation. What the liberal could not do, the neo-orthodox could not do, and the new evangelical could not do, the political campaigns did.
I was invited to a meeting of about twenty-five leaders in America. One stood and said, "Gentlemen, it is time that God's people decided to take over the politics in America. We are going to organize and take over the precincts of America and the Republican Party."
That sounded good. It would sound good to anybody if you do not stop and consider what II Corinthians 6:14 says. At first I was all for it. Later, we were sitting around the table talking. The man beside me had a tremendous personality. He had charisma and I was really impressed with him. I was just like a fish ready to bite. I said, "By the way, what church do you pastor?"
He said, "I do not pastor any church."
I said, "Well, what ministry do you lead?"
He said, ''I am the director of the denomination.''
It was a group that believes you must get baptized in order to get saved. I was about to join in a campaign to save America by yoking up with a man who was a leader of a false doctrine. This is exactly what has happened to churches all over this nation.
What the liberal could not do, the neo-orthodox could not do, and the new evangelical could not do, the gay rights issue has done. Preachers have linked up with others who are liberal in their doctrinal beliefs, but who are like minded in their views on gay-rights. The same thing has happened with the abortion issue. I hate abortion, but I wonder how many churches in America that once were great soul-winning churches have lost their zeal for the lost because they got wrapped up in the gay rights, or abortion issue. Those issues have joined the fundamentalist with the liberal when nothing else in this world could do it. I have seen this happen over and over again.
We worry that our churches are going to lose their freedom and that we will be forced to get our Sunday schools licensed. We fear that they will take away our freedom and force us to have a license to preach. So, we join up with the liberals to fight for freedom. We ought to fight for our freedom, but we ought not to join up with the Devil to fight for our freedom. It is wrong to join up with a group of people who think that Jesus Christ is the illegitimate child of an adulteress, and who make fun of our Bible, our Christ, the Virgin birth and everything that is decent and sacred.
We have destroyed fundamentalism in our generation because of these good things that brought us together when nothing else could. The same is true about the issue of the separation of church and state. A group of fundamental Baptists and others joined with false teachers to have big rallies, because both were being persecuted by the government. Some of my good friends went to those meetings. They asked me to speak in Washington, DC at one big rally. When I found out who was involved, I refused.
My Bible still says that we are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Not doing so is destroying many of our churches in America.
2. We unite for a good cause; then we discover that we differ on more important things than those about which we agreed. The man in early American history who did more to make it possible to have our religious freedom was James Madison. He was the man who stood, not just for separation of church and state, but who also said that the church should stay out of the state's business and the state should stay out of the church's business. He compared it to two kingdoms, like Canada and the United States. Here is what happened.
George Washington, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson joined this campaign and won for us our freedom. When they were through, they found that they differed on issues which were more important than the issues which had united them. Let me illustrate. In the Bible days, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection from the dead. The Pharisees did. Paul was hated by both. The Sadducees and the Pharisees got together on a common cause, which was their hatred for Paul. That is what is happening in America.
Many years ago a couple visited one service at the First Baptist Church, and I preached against Communism. They belonged to the John Birch Society. They joined the church because we hated Communism as much as the John Birch Society did. That is not a good reason to join the church. You should join a church because it believes the Bible. You should join a church because it hates sin. You should join a church because it hates all sins, not just Communism. You should join a church because it believes that every word in the Bible is the Word of God. Watch out for one-issue churches, and watch out for one-issue people.
The Bible says, If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will hear from heaven, and willforgive their sin, and will heal their land. The way you save a nation is not for God's people to get involved in politics, but to get involved in prayer and repentance.
Fundamentalists had never before been big shots. We got invited to a Presidential Prayer Breakfast, where fundamental preachers joined with Jews who believe that Mary was an adulteress and Jesus was an illegitimate child, Catholic Priests who do not believe anything, and compromising members of the National Council of Churches. We became big shots and got our pictures in the paper. What happened? Churches all over America got wrapped up in trying to save America man's way instead of God's way. We lost our churches by the hundreds.
I know of Hyles-Anderson College graduates who became wrapped up in secondary matters. If we are supposed to come out from among them, would it not be wisest not to even go in among them?
The Bible tells us not to be yoked up with some things. We are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. We are not to be unequally yoked together with worldly denominations. We are not to be unequally yoked together with darkness or sin. We are not to be unequally yoked together with infidels. We are not to be unequally yoked together with unfaithful people. We are not to be unequally yoked together with idols. Once you have started, there is no stopping.
I received a copy of the program for a film festival program being held on the campus of a Christian college which was started by a fundamental church just one year before we started Hyles-Anderson College. They were promoting Hollywood films on the campus of this Christian college. I spent a day in Atlanta, Georgia, begging the founder of this college not to run with the wrong crowd. I have preached against Hollywood my entire ministry, and I do not intend to stop. That shows you how quickly a college can change. It started with their affiliation with the world through political campaigns.
Years ago, I was preaching in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Two fine-looking young men walked in the back. After the service they asked if they could drive me to the airport. One of those young men was the founder of that school, and the pastor of a church. He invited me to come to his church and to give him advice on how to build a great church. I went to his church and helped him organize his Sunday school. I helped him organize his bus ministry. He came to Pastors' School, and brought his staff with him. He built a great soul-winning church. How did he get to the point of allowing a Hollywood film festival to be held on his college campus?
He decided to join hands with the politicians, who join hands with the new evangelicals, who join hands with the neo-orthodox, who join hands with the liberals. When you start speaking well of new evangelicals, you are in trouble. If young people go to a Christian college to see these movies, they are going to learn these actors and eventually go to the local theaters to see R-rated movies.
I am determined to keep soul winning as the main thing at HylesAnderson College. America must have some old-fashioned rock-ribbed fundamental colleges.
That is one reason why the gates of Hell have not prevailed against the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. We preach against every sin known to man. We teach the Bible, warn people, exhort, preach the word, go soul winning, try to get people right with God, get folks to pray and to believe in the Bible. It is not a one-issue church, and Christianity is not a one-issue faith.
Literally hundreds of churches have died because the Devil has succeeded in getting the liberal joined up with the fundamentalist. He could not get the fundamentalist to do it, so he introduced the neoorthodox, who believes like the liberal, but talks like the fundamentalist. Then he introduced the new evangelical who believes like the fundamentalist, but talks like the liberal. Finally, he introduced one big issue that every decent person hates, and started a big campaign. That one issue did what the others could not do. It broke down the wall between fundamentalists and the liberals.
Where Most False Churches Lost Their Charter or Franchise
After these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich to the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. Revelation 18:1-4
The church is a family. I do not mean all Christians, but the local body of believers like First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, is a family. Do not forget that. I will come back to that thought at the end of this chapter.
Most churches are really not churches. A church must earn the right and qualify to be called a real church. Most Baptist churches are not churches. In fact, there are very few real churches. I will go a step further. Many of the churches in America called First Baptist Church have lost their franchise and are no longer churches.
1. A charter or the right to be called a church can be lost. A local church is like a franchise. God gives us the right to be called a church. Certain conditions must be met in order for a McDonald's restaurant to be allowed to keep the McDonald's sign over its building. Certain conditions also must be met in order to keep the Kentucky Fried Chicken sign over a building. If those conditions are not met, the right to be called McDonald's or Kentucky Fried Chicken will be lost. It is possible for a group of people who once were a church to cease being a church in God's eyes.
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Revelation 1:20
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. Revelation 2:4, 5
God told the church at Ephesus to straighten up or they would not be a church anymore. They might still meet and have church services, but God threatened that they would lose their franchise or charter. In other words, they would no longer be a church.
There is something that a church can do to cease being a church in the sight of God. In verse five we see what exactly that it was that caused them to be on probation with God as a church. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works. What are the first works God gave the New Testament church to do? Jesus was going back to Heaven, and was on the mount. He met with the disciples and He gave them the first command.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Ihave commanded you: and, lo, I am with you aiway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19, 20
The first command to the New Testament church was soul winning. God was telling the church at Ephesus that if they continued not being a soul-winning church that they would no longer be a church, and would lose their franchise.
I was talking to a preacher one day about soul winning. We were preaching on the same program, and after the meeting was over he said to me, "It was good to have such a blend on this program. Your church is a soul-winning church, and my church is more of a Bible teaching church rather than a soul-winning church. It was nice to have two different types of churches represented here in this meeting?"
I said, "We do not have two types of churches represented on this program. Yours is not a church."
He said "Why?"
I took him to Revelation chapter two and showed him what God said to the church at Ephesus. The truth is, a church that is not a soulwinning church is not qualified to be called a church.
There are literally thousands of churches in this nation that at one time were soul-winning churches, but they became enchanted with the so called "deeper-life" movement, and are no longer winning souls. A church that is not a soulwinning church is not a church. It can call itself a church all it wants, but God says it has lost its candlestick, or charter.
2. Often the charter is lost because the church is not coming out of this world. Most churches cease to be churches or lose their charter, because they did not come out of the world. That usually happens before they quit soul winning.
3. So to be coming out is as much a requirement of being a New Testament church as assembling. You must assemble to be a church, but there is more. You must be called out of something in order to be a church as well.
The word church is the word ekldesia. ek means out of and Idesis means called. The word ekldesia means called-out assembly. It is not just an assembly. It is a called-out assembly. The word paneguras in the Greek meaning assembly. The word ekklesia is not just an assembly. It is leaving a larger assembly and going to a smaller assembly.
This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: Acts 7:38
This was referring to Moses. The church was in the wilderness. The Israelites could have assembled in Egypt and not have been called a church. If all of the Jews had come together and met somewhere in Egypt, they would not have been a church. They would have been an assembly, but they would not have been a called-out assembly. God told Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. Moses went to Pharaoh and said, "Let my people go."
Pharaoh refused, so God sent the plagues.
Finally Pharaoh said, "Stay here in Egypt and sacrifice to your God."
Moses said, "No, we cannot do that."
Pharaoh said, "Then, do not go very far."
Moses said, "We are going to go as far as we are supposed to go."
He said, "Then do not take your wives and your children."
Moses said, "Not one hoof of one animal is going be left here."
If they had assembled in Egypt they would not have been called a church, because the word church is a called-out assembly. That shows us two things.
1. A church assembled in the world is not a church.
That is why many charismatic churches are not churches. They live like the world. They are assembled in the world. They dress like the world, talk like the world, sing like the world, wiggle like the world while they are singing, and use the beat of the world in their music. They are in the world. You are not a church unless you come out of the world and assemble.
2. A church that brings the world out with it is not a church.
A church must leave the world. It means that a church must leave the world's music, the world's dress, the world's lingo, the world's fun, and the world's pleasures. These unseparated churches and their preachers like to say that being a Christian does not make you a "dud." It does to the world. We are not to bring with us the values and activities of the world.
A man came to my office one time and said to me, "Dr. Hyles, I have a plan that will save America."
I said, "Let me hear it."
He said, "I am going to go to Hollywood and become a movie star. I am going to become the idol of the American people and a hero to the young people. At the peak of my success I am going to announce that I am a born-again Christian and that I want all my fans to become born-again Christians too. All America would get saved."
My Bible says that even if one would rise from the dead, they would not believe. That is not God's plan. Too many big churches today are popular because they give some Bible and allow the people to stay in the world. They are not really churches because you must come out of the world in order to be a church. The out of part is just as important to being a New Testament church as the assembly part.
It is not an assembly in the world. It is a called-out assembly. so to be coming out is as much a requirement as being an assembly in order to be a New Testament church.
No group of people have a right to call themselves a church if they are not out of the world. People sometimes get a little upset with the rules at First Baptist Church and transfer their membership to other churches. Actually, they often transfer their membership to a Baptist country club. People will hide behind different facades, but the real reason is our soul winning and separation.
From what are we supposed to come?
1. Out of the world.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. I John 2:15
John 17:6 tells us that we are to come out of the world. Many years ago I had a young college football player come to my church in Texas and preach. He was a good fundamental preacher, but he decided to play professional football. They had a chapel service for about fifteen minutes before each game and called it "church." That is not church. This man said to me, "I can become an All-pro football player, and God will use that." God does not need our athletic talent or physical strength. God does not need our beauty. God needs us to give Him our lives, but He also demands that we come out of the world.
2. Out of the Catholic church.
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication... Revelation 17:1, 2a
A whore in the Bible is a symbol of false religion. The tower of Babel was an effort for man to work his way to Heaven. False religion started under Nimrod, and was the beginning of what would become the Catholic church. The word waters in the Bible often symbolizes nations. The word Catholic means universal.
The Bible tells us that this whore wanted to commit fornication with the kings of the earth. That means that whatever church this is referring to is a proponent of not separating church and state. She wants to control the state. If you go to South America, you will discover that the Catholic church controls the government. Go to Italy and you will find the same thing. In fact, in any nation where the Catholic church is strongest, you will find the union of church and state.
And the woman wasarrayed inpurple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. Revelation 17:4
Go to the Vatican City, and you will see this right before your eyes.
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. Revelation 17:5, 6
The Catholic church has probably killed more people than all the wicked kings in the world put together.
And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. Revelation 17:9.
Rome is the City of Seven Hills. This is a church that is the union of church and state. It is a church that is wealthy. It is a church that is all over the world or universal. It is a church that is headquartered in the city of Rome.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people. that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not her plagues. Revelation 18:4
I am weary of television evangelists interviewing Catholic priests on their telecasts. It is of the Devil. The Bible says to come out of the Catholic church.
3. Out of Protestant churches.
The whore has a bunch of harlots for daughters. At the Reformation a bunch of little harlot denominations came out of the whore. Who are they? Methodism. Presbyterianism. Episcopalianism. Lutheranism. No church is a church that came out of the mother of harlots. The New Testament church came from Jesus Christ Himself. I dare you to find a person that can prove that Baptists came from the Catholic church. We did not. Protestant churches are not churches. For one thing, they do not baptize. How can a church be a church if it disobeys the second thing that Jesus told it to do which was to baptizing converts in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost!
I was preaching in Minnesota on a Monday and Tuesday, and I went to the restaurant next to the motel for breakfast. I got a newspaper, and in the headlines it read, Catholics and Lutherans join together. That is one of the daughters coming back home to mama. Eventually all of the babies will come back home. They are already coming back. The National Council of Churches is basically a reunion of the children with their mother.
4. Come out of liberal and worldly churches.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? II Corinthians 6:14
The word unequally is an interesting word. It comes from two words which means coupling or uniting something together which is a different sort. God is saying not to be unequally, or coupled up with a different type, or in other words, do not be yoked up with unbelievers.
(1) In II Corinthians 6:15, the Bible says not to be coupled with an infidel. An unbeliever is somebody who is not saved. An infidel is somebody who is not faithful to Jesus and to the Bible. Do not be yoked up with unsaved people. Do not be yoked up with denominations that do not think that Jesus is the son of God, and the Bible is the Word of God. It does not mean to hate them. If they get hungry we should feed them. If they are cold, we should clothe them, but we are not to yoke up with them in the Lord's work. We must not be yoked up with people who are unbelievers. We must not be yoked up with people who are infidels.
(2) In II Corinthians 6:16, the Bible says not to be coupled up with idols. The word idol means the likeness of God. We are not to be yoked up with people that have likenesses of God. We are not to have any likeness of God and Jesus is God.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. II Corinthians 6:17-18
At the beginning of this chapter I brought out the fact that the church is like a family. God the father said, "I will be like a daddy to you, if you will come out from among them."
The Catholic church.
The National Council of Churches.
The Hollywood crowd.
The Charismatic crowd.
God said that if we will do that, that He will come to our house. That is why they call the church God's house, because the Father is there. He said that if you do not come out, you are not a church and He will not be like a father to somebody who has not come out.
A small child from a Catholic family came to the First Baptist Church one Sunday morning. After church the child went back home and the child's mother asked, "Did you go to God's house this morning?
The child said, "Yes, I went to God's house, and God was home this morning."
The local priest went to their house and warned them about sending their children to First Baptist Church. The mother was scared, so she sent the child back to the Catholic church the next Sunday. When the child came home, she asked again, "Did you go to God's house today?"
The child said, "Yes, but God wasn't home today."
That child was right, because God said that we must come out from among them before He would be our father. All across this nation Baptist churches are losing their charters. They do not believe in soul winning any more. Something else has happened, too. The Holy Spirit came and took their charter away. There were signs on the front, but God does not see those signs. They are not listed on Heaven's directory of churches.
The Church As a Family
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting was gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. Job 1:1-5
God chose a family in the patriarchal age, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to use as an example of a typical Jewish family. They knew that some day God would provide a sacrifice, and they looked forward and trusted in that future sacrifice in the same way that we look back and trust in that past sacrifice. With that in mind, follow this logic.
The New Testament church is supposed to be a family. I often say at the beginning of a service at the First Baptist Church, "Welcome to our thrice weekly family reunion." Every Sunday morning and Sunday night we have another family reunion. That is a scriptural term because it is in keeping with the fact that the church is a family.
1. The book of Job is a perfect example of the Old Testament family.
2. The book of Job is a perfect example of the Old
Testament church. There was an Old Testament church. The word church means, a called-out assembly. In the seventh chapter of Acts, the Israelites were called out to assemble in the wilderness and were called the church in the wilderness. The New Testament church was not founded in the Old Testament, but there was an Old Testament assembly. That Old Testament assembly was the family. I am not referring to the little unit, of mom, dad, and the children. I am referring to an extended family that included grandparents, great-grandparents, as well as mom, dad and, children. The church unit of the Old Testament was the family.
When Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, there were three things involved in that birthright, including the right to the priesthood of the family. The worship or public gathering of the Old Testament was the family.
3. Notice what size these families were.
Job had ten children, which in those days was really not that large of a family, but I will use it as the average size of a family.
If each of Job's children had ten children, there would have been a total of one hundred.
If each of them had ten children, there would have been one thousand.
If each of them had ten children, there would have been ten thousand.
If each of them had ten children, there would have been one hundred thousand.
That is five generations. A Bible generation is usually considered to be thirty-five years. Five generations would have been 175. In 175 years there would have been 111,111 people in that extended family. In the Old Testament patriarchal days, a man who died at 175 was just a boy. The average man lived much longer than that. For this example we will assume that everybody died at 175 years of age. That means that each family consisted of over 100,000 people. I am referring to the extended family.
Each of these families formed the Old Testament unit of a church or a called-out assembly. They were the worship unit. They assembled for sacrifices and worship to God.
4. The oldest or firstborn son was in charge. The other firstborn sons in all the individual family units assisted him. In each
family the oldest son held the priestly rights in his own family.
5. Soul winning was within the family. Cities were not
popular in those days. Most people lived in the country. A family of 100,000 people covered a large amount of land. Many of the children were not going to believe. Soul winning was to be within the family. They had plenty of prospects. One family could have been larger than the city of Hammond, Indiana. They had no cars or buses, so they had to walk or go on a beast of burden to get to each other. They would explain to the family members who did not believe that one day God was going to send a sacrifice, and that sacrifice was going to pay the penalty for their sins. The lambs, bullocks, turtledoves, pigeons, doves and goats were offered according to God's sacrifice. God one day would provide Himself as a sacrifice.
God told them audibly that by faith Abel believed, and they passed this story down from generation to generation. Every person had to believe in the coming Messiah to be saved, just as we must believe in the Messiah Who has already come. Somebody had to tell them these things, but there were some who would not listen. Some people would not even come to the assembly, just as we have family members who will not come to church. Those people were human beings also. They had to reach them, so there was Old Testament soul winning. Somebody had to tell every person in those days about the Gospel.
I reject the heresy that there is one Gospel in the Old Testament and another in the New Testament. Anybody who goes to Heaven will get there by faith in Jesus Christ. God uses human instruments to get us saved. Most of those human instruments are through the local New Testament church. Likewise, most of the instruments that got them saved were through the Old Testament assembly.
When the Jews came to the promised land, God gave them certain places to live. God not only gave certain land for the tribes, but for their families. Each family was given a certain job in the tabernacle and lived in a certain place. They may have gone many miles before they found somebody who was not in their own extended family. (The Mennonites and Amish have done much the same thing. They settle by families.) It was a matter of geography, or of transportation. They could not get to somebody else's family to go soul winning because they lived too far away. They went to their own relatives and witnessed to them.
6. The entire life was built around the family. This
group of people or relatives assembled on a regular basis for worship, but their social life was also built around this extended family unit. Their business life was together. Their education was together.
7. The family was the city. They did not live in cities; the family was the unit of organization, especially spiritually.
1. Cities came. Cities have been the destruction of civilization. When the cities came, it broke down the family life.
2. Families scattered. They went to cities. We are a perfect example in America today. We have two daughters who live a thousand miles from us, and a son who lives five hundred miles away. Many families have grown children scattered across the country.
3. Many families lived near each other. This caused the building of cities. With the coming of cities, people migrated together and many different families or portions of families lived together in the cities.
4. They started synagogues. A synagogue was not a patriarchal term. It came about because of cities. Any time ten responsible Jewish men were together, they were allowed to start a synagogue. These were not the same family members. God still wanted His people together.
5. The synagogue became what the big family had been. The synagogue was an alternative measure started by God to form a family of these people in cities, so that they would have what they had back home when they were together in families. The synagogue was started so God's people could have a family even though they did not have a family.
6. The church became to New Testament Christianity exactly what the family was to Old Testament Judaism. It is an improvised family. God wants His people to have what the old patriarchal families had, so He started a New Testament group called the assembly, or ekklesia where His people could gather and form a family.
Did you ever wonder why no rural churches are mentioned in the Bible? Every church mentioned in the Bible was in the city. With the breakdown of the family and with the coming of cities, God wanted a family atmosphere for His people, so they could have the same thing they had when they lived in the rural areas and all the families lived near each other.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42
That sounds like what Job's family did. Job's family got together to have a feast and to have a service for God.
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people... Acts 2:45-47a
That sounds like family. The local church is exactly what God intended to take the place of the Old Testament family. God wants his people to get together and God wants his people to belong to a family. That is what the church is to be. We must build our lives around the church. That is what they did. Our children's activities ought to be centered around the church and not the world. The same is true for our teenagers.
The church was not primarily started as a place where we come to meet God. Nor was it primarily started as a place where we preach the Gospel and get people saved. We are supposed to do that outside of the church. The church was started so that God's people could get together and have a family to encourage each other to be stronger. The church is to be as close as the kinfolks were in the Old Testament because we are the improvised Old Testament family.
That is why we call each other brothers and sisters. We are in the same family unit, and that means we should be there every time the doors are open. We are to support it with our tithe: We are to have our fun through the church and educate our children through the church.
We are supposed to build our lives around the church.
God did not intend for the people in the Old Testament days to spend all of their time at the meeting. They had crops to harvest, and they had work to do at home, but they had regular meeting times.
The New Testament church is not the successor to the Temple. The Temple was not a place where God's people came to learn in fellowship.
The church is not the successor to the Tabernacle.
The church is the successor to the Old Testament family.
When they came together for their services they were so glad to see each other. They shook hands and fellowshipped with one another. That is what it was all about. The church is not a place where we come to worship God. We can worship God much better alone with Him. The church is a place to assemble as God's people so we will have a family. We must get born again before we can join the church just as we must get born before we can join a family.
What a wonderful institution the local church is! It is the New Testament family.
Although we are in a church family, it is also important that we train our own little family where we are. It was not the job of the leader of the entire extended family to do all the training. Every little local family unit was also supposed to do training. In our homes, we must teach the Bible to our children, sing Gospel songs with our children, and should praise God with our children. Then we come together as individual units into a big family meeting just like Job's family did in his day.
for the Church
How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou host said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, and did shake kingdoms; Isaiah 14:12-16
1. Satan wanted to become king. Satan was one of the three archangels, along with Michael and Gabriel. Satan even had authority and rank over the other two. The Bible calls him the anointed cherub. Lucifer was perhaps God's deputy. Nobody knew God like Lucifer did. However, he decided that he wanted to become king. He wanted to be equal with God and take over God's throne.
2. He fought to be king. The angels were divided into three groups. Michael had his group, Lucifer had his group, and Gabriel had his group. Lucifer took his group of angels and rebelled against God and fought a war in Heaven, trying to take over Heaven.
3. He was defeated and cast out of Heaven.
4. He then wanted to hurt God. Nobody has ever wanted to hurt God like the Devil. He decided to find God's most vulnerable spot to do so. What is it that would hurt God the most?
5. He knew that the best way to hurt God was through His children. If you really want to hurt somebody, hurt them through their children. You will not find a more painful way to hurt a person than that. Satan knew he was defeated, and that he was consigned to Hell: Matthew 25:41 says that he and his angels will be in the lake of fire forever, so he decided to do as much destruction as he could by striking at God where it would hurt him the most.
6. Satan does not have a way for you to go. Satan has no plan for your life. He has no alternative plan that he has devised for your life.
7. He wants you to go any way but God's way. Satan knows that we will not consciously do what he tells us. The Devil is not concerned about which way we go as long as it is not God's way. He is not dedicated to making us do what he wants us to do; he is dedicated to making us do anything but what God wants us to do. God has a purpose for our lives. Satan has set out to keep us from fulfilling that purpose. For example, God has a person he wants an individual to marry. The Devil is not concerned about his marrying a prostitute or a harlot, as long as he does not marry the person God has chosen.
8. His best shot is to get you to go your own way.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way Isaiah 53:6a
We go astray when we go our own way. The Devil does not want us to follow his path. He wants us to follow our own path. He wants us to do our own thing. He wants us to choose the profession we want, or go to the college of our own choice. That is the devil's plan. He knows that we are more likely to satisfy our desires than we are to satisfy his, so he tries to keep us away from God's plan.
A man came to me and said, "Brother Hyles, I have four children. I am proud of them. All of my children have turned out good. My son is a coach in a Christian high school. He always liked sports, so he chose to be a Christian coach. My daughter always liked music, so she chose to go to college to study music and is an organist in a church. Another son always enjoyed working with cars, so he chose to go to mechanics school and become a mechanic. I am proud of my children."
In each case, his children had chosen to do what they wanted to do. In that case they did not turn out right. In fact, they turned out for the Devil because they turned each to his own way. That is exactly what the Devil wants us to do.
The devil's way is not what most Christians think is. The devil's way is our own way. The Devil does not care what we do as long as we do not do what God wants us to do. His best shot is to get us to go our own way. We are not a success in life unless we find what God wants us to do and do it.
9. In every area of the Christian life, he makes a counterfeit that we can choose without having to yield to God's plan. The devil's counterfeits are not bad. They look good. But, each of them is designed to get us to do something other that what God wants us to do. Let consider some examples.
1. Baptism. Baptism is to be by immersion after salvation, so the Devil gives us a counterfeit baptism. It looks sweet. The grandparents are there, and the godfather and godmother are there. Little Johnny is going to get baptized or confirmed. That looks and sounds good because church is considered to be good. But, it is the devil's counterfeit. Satan does not offer a wicked alternative. He offers an alternative that looks like the real thing.
2. Lord's Supper. God gave the Lord's Supper to the local church. It was to be a time to remember that Jesus died for us. The Devil made a counterfeit called the Sacrament.
3. Spirit fullness. God wants us to be filled with the Spirit so we can be witnesses unto Him. God has given us a power to be soul winners. That power is called the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The devil's counterfeit is the charismatic nonsense, where people babble in some unknown tongue and nobody gets saved. That is the devil's counterfeit. God gives His power in order to keep people out of hell, not to give us some type of emotional high.
4. Tongues. God gave a wonderful thing to the church in Jerusalem. Peter preached at Pentecost to people from every nation under Heaven. Many people could not understand the language in which Peter was preaching, so God miraculously gave these people the ability to hear the Gospel in their own languages making it possible for more people to hear the Gospel and be saved. That is the purpose of it. Christ Jesus came in the world to save sinners. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. The purpose of tongues is to get people saved. Satan has produced a counterfeit in the charismatic movement.
5. Bibles. The Devil has a lot of Bibles which are counterfeits.
6. Love. Lust is Satan's counterfeit for love.
7. The church. In order for something to be Satan's counterfeit, it must have several qualities.
(1) It must be something close to the real thing.
(2) It must be something we can choose.
(3) It must not in itself be bad.
The Devil knows that most Christians will not leave a fundamental Baptist church and go to a Buddhist church. He knows that he must have something as near to a fundamental Baptist church as possible in order to get us to leave a New Testament church and go our own way. How does he accomplish that?
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9
Notice the words synagogue of Satan. That word synagogue is not capitalized, so it is not talking about a particular synagogue of Satan.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan.
The word synagogue means assembly. The word church means a called-out assembly. If God's people belong to an institution that is not out of the world, it is not a church. To be a church it has to be a called-out assembly. A group of people who are religious and assemble, but are not called out of the world, are a synagogue. There are two types of groups that call themselves churches, an assembly and a called-out assembly. An assembly of people calling itself a church, but is living like the world, is not a church. It is a synagogue or assembly. No group has a right to call themselves a church, if it is not separated from the world. It are merely an assembly.
The synagogue of Satan is a religious assembly other than the church. The Devil is not proud of his worshippers who are killing little babies on altars. The Devil is trying to make us believe that it does not matter where we go to church, as long as we go somewhere. He will really try to get us to go to a church which is not a church at all. The Devil will try to get us to join something that accomplishes some good in order to get us out of the local church. These institutions are sometimes good institutions, but they are not local New Testament churches. I am not implying that these institutions are of the Devil, but the Devil uses these institutions to get us away from the church.
Consider a few of the institutions that Satan uses as substitutes for the church.
1. Non-church organizations. No matter how good an organization is, there is no substitute for the local New Testament church. It is not bad, but it not a called-out assembly. The Devil wants to prevent us from building our lives and the lives of our families around the church. He knows the church is where God wants us to be, so he will do anything to cause us to substitute something else in its place. He does not want our children's lives to be built around the programs of the church. He does not want us to hear preaching three times a week. He wants us to join something that looks like a New Testament church, but which is really not a New Testament church to get us out of the institution that Jesus started.
Regardless of how spiritually mature a person is, he needs to be active in a local New Testament church. We cannot be the Christians we ought to be if we are not.
2. Home Bible studies. Wealthy people are especially prone to fall for these, because they think they have risen above hell-fire and damnation preaching. Athletes are also big for these. They have
chapel services on Sunday morning to salve their consciences for no being in church, where they belong. There is some good done a these, and some people get saved at them, but much more good can be done in the local New Testament church. The Devil is afraid o the church, so he will look for any organization he can, including Christian one to keep us out of the church. He wants us to settle for good instead of best. It is not wrong to have a Bible study in the home if we are faithful to the church.
3. Radio preachers and television preachers. It is tragic how many preachers are struggling and having a hard time making ends meet, because their church members sending money to these nationwide preachers. These pastors are being bypassed for the glamour boys. Why not put the money in an institution that Jesus started? There is no such thing as the electronic church.
4. Schools. College students often go to colleges which have their own Sunday morning services. They require the students to go there instead of going to a local New Testament church. That is no a church. I am not opposed to colleges having services. We have five chapel services a week at Hyles-Anderson College, but we do not cal them church. We do not have them during church to compete with church. It is a disgrace for a student to go to college for four years and never darken the door of a church. The Devil is trying to keep these young people out of the church. Where we go to get out of the church does not concern him. He just wants us to go our own way.
There is no such thing as a college church, but there is a church college. When a college runs a church it is not a church. Jesus is head of the church, not the college.
5. Non-church churches.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent Revelation 2 :4, 5
. . and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Revelation 1 :20c
If a religious meeting is not a soul-winning group, it is a synagogue. It is just an assembly. If it is a Biblical, New Testament soulwinning church, it is an ekklesia, or a called-out assembly.
What is the devil's church? Any church we choose. We have no right to choose where we want go to church. God is to lead us to the church. We are not to join a church just because we like the choir, the youth program, or the children's activities. That is not in the Bible.
Fundamentalism has left the great doctrine of the church. We have allowed the inter-denominational doctrine to infiltrate. We go to their schools, we get their literature and they have indoctrinated us to believe that the church is not a really important institution.
Many years ago I pastored a little church in the country, outside of Marshall, Texas. I was still a student in college when they called me. It was the policy when school opened each year, for all of the local pastors to come, sit on the platform and take a few minutes to tell about their church. I was a local pastor, but I was considered to be a renegade. They saved me until last, hoping that time would run out before I could speak. The pastor of one got up and said, "We are having a hayride Saturday night. We want you to come to our hayride. We are going to have hot dogs, barbecue and baked beans."
Next, the pastor of another church got up and said, "We are having a big party at the church Friday night. We are going to show some movies, play some games, and have a banquet."
Every pastor got up and told the students of some fun activities they were having at their church, trying to lure them to their church. Reluctantly, they finally came to me. I stood up and said, "I would hike to welcome you to East Texas Baptist College and to our area. Grange Hall Baptist church will not be having a hayride Saturday night, we will serve no hot dogs, we will serve no hamburgers, and we will have no barbecue. We are not going to have a party or a banquet. I am not going to try to get you to come to our church that way. But, as far as I am concerned, there is only one church in this area that you ought to attend. It is the one the Holy Spirit leads you to attend. Next Sunday morning there will be a bus here, and anybody who feels that God wants you to attend our church can come on that bus."
Sunday morning I received a call from the bus driver asking me what to do. There were enough people waiting to fill three buses. I pastored more students at East Texas Baptist College than any other pastor. The wisest thing a Christian will ever decide to do is to build his life around a true local New Testament church, the only institution other than the home that Jesus never started.
For many years the Bible belt has been in the south. There has been just as much religion in the north as there is in the south. What's the difference? The influence of Christianity in the north during the last one hundred years has been inter-denominational, not emphasizing the church. The emphasis in the south has been on the church That is the difference. Every one of these institutions that try to substitute for the church are parasites off the church and could not operate if there were no real churches.
the Body of Christ
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came intoAsia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Acts 20:17, 18, 27-29
The word elders is plural and the word church is singular. We know that the church in Ephesus had more than one pastor. Luke asked them to come to Miletus to meet with him.
There is a doctrine that teaches that the church consists of all believers who also form the body of Christ. It is popular because we have listened to inter-denominational people teach the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches that all believers do not form the body of Christ. The local church is the body of Christ. We have developed a total misunderstanding of what the term the body of Christ means.
There are three titles given in the Bible for the position of pastor.
The fourth chapter of Ephesians refers to the title of pastor, which means shepherd.
The second title for that position is the title elder, meaning protector and feeder of the sheep. It implies that a pastor should have experience and that he should be able to counsel and lead wisely.
The third word is the word bishop, which is the word for overseer. It is his job as the bishop to oversee all the work of the ministry of the church.
The church at Ephesus was a large church. It was the church to which other churches looked for leadership and guidance. It had several pastors. Paul called for the elders (plural) of the church (singular). This could not be the invisible church, because it had elders. The flock spoken of here was the church members. The word overseers, in the Greek, is the same as the word bishop. God says to feed the local church over which the Holy Ghost had made them the overseers. These men or pastors could not have overseen every Christian in the whole world. It is not talking about all Christians. It is talking about the local church at Ephesus. So it is speaking in this passage about one church, not a worldwide invisible church.
Note what is said about this church in this passage.
1. Jesus purchased the church at Ephesus with His own blood. That does not mean that Jesus did not die for everybody. In this passage He is referring only to the church at Ephesus. There are so many things that happened on Calvary. We will never know all of them. For example, our healing was on Calvary. The Bible says: By his stripes we are healed. We know that Jesus died for all sinners. He also paid the penalty and shed His blood for the church at Ephesus. You cannot refute that.
Paul called for the elders of the church in Ephesus and told them to take heed that they feed the church of God, which He had purchased with His own blood. He was referring only to the one church. Jesus purchased that local church with His blood. This was not a reference to all Christians, although He did die for all people. He also died to purchase the individual church.
2. He chose to call the local church His body.
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:22, 23.
This word church is the word ekklesia, which means a called-out assembly. All believers have not yet been called out and assembled. They will not be assembled until the rapture when the church of the firstborn will be assembled in Heaven and all believers become a church. All believers are not now a church. He is referring to the called-out assembly or local church in the city of Ephesus.
He calls it His body because Jesus purchased the church, so He owns it. He calls it a body. The word body means, a complete instrument. Jesus was talking about ownership. It is His body. He owns it. He purchased it with His own blood. The local church is not the body of Christ in the sense that it is His arms and legs. It is the body of Christ in the sense that He bought it and owns it. So, the church and the body are the same.
The same thing then is true about each individual local church. Each church on earth is His body that is to carry out the work of God. That is why we should do His business. It is His church. We have no right to organize it like we want to organize it. We have no right to do things we should not do. We have no to make His church into a social club. It is a place where God's people come to be strengthened to go out in the world and tell the people about the Saviour.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18
Since Jesus owns the church, and it is His body, He should be the own who gets the preeminence in all things. He should have preeminence in the choir. He should have preeminence in the church-school. He should have preeminence in the college. He should have preeminence in the youth program. He should have preeminence in every single ministry of the church.
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Colossians 1:24
This is referring to the church at Colosse, one church. Again in both of these verses, the word church is the word ekklesia, or a called-out assembly. Again, the Bible refers to the church as the body of Christ. He owns it. Jesus owns only one body. He owns only one organization. He does not own any other institution except the church. It is His body.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; Ephesians 5:25
If anything refutes the invisible church, this is it. Jesus compares Himself and His church to a man and wife. Consequently, if there an invisible church, then a man has an invisible wife. Jesus does not love an invisible church. He could have chosen another relationship to compare it with. He could have chosen angels because they are invisible to us. He could have used spirits or souls, but He chose to use the visibility of a man and his wife. Jesus is talking about a visible organization which is His church and His body.
Here are several observations in light of these things.
1. His body is His called-out assembly.
2. He purchased it with His own blood.
3. It is His only body.
4. He loves it dearly.
It is a tragedy how many Christians place outside Christian organizations over their own local church. I have seen it happen all over the country. If Christ feels the way He does about the church, then each one of us should likewise recognize its importance. Many Christians are more offended when their pastor tells the truth about the decay of a parasite organization than they do when a similar organization criticizes or speaks ill of their local church. The New Testament church is the institution He loves, and we are to love it and be an active part of it.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. I Corinthians 12:12
A called-out assembly is the same as the church. The church is the same as the body. The body, called-out assembly, or local church has many members, and all members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. We do not belong to the body that He purchased just because we are saved, because He purchased the local assembly. What difference does all of this make? It makes a big difference because there are many Christian people who are not a part of a local church. There are Bible colleges where most of the faculty and students are not actively involved in a local church. I am not talking about liberals. I am talking about fundamentalists. They believe that the church is not as important as the college.
You are as right with God as you are with the institution for which He died. All over the country there are Christian people who minimize the importance of the church, His body. Hyles-Anderson College has a right to continue to live only as long as it stays under the thumb of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.
For 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. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because Jam not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because lam not the eye, Jam not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. I Corinthians 12:13-23
What does it mean by one spirit? Are we all baptized into one body? He is talking to the church at Corinth, and telling them that the Holy Spirit immersed them into that church.
People like to say that we should go to the church of "our choice." That is not right. We should go to the church of the Holy Spirit's choice. The Holy Spirit is supposed to lead us where we go. People choose to leave churches for the wrong reasons. The Holy Spirit puts
us into the body. The ekklesia, or called-out assembly, is His body. He purchased that body with His own blood. The Holy Spirit will show us what body we are to go to and will immerse us into that body.
Each of us has our own place in the body. Each part of the body has a particular function. Each part is important to the overall functioning of the body. No part should look at another part as being of less importance. I cannot say to the PA man, "I have no need of you." I cannot say to the organist and pianist, "I have no need of you." I cannot say to the custodians, "I have no need of you." Each of us has been placed there by God. That means that it is important that we be where God wants us to be. We have need of every single person in the church. Every person in a church needs every other person in a church. God has put us there.
The part of the body which is the weakest is the one that needs our attention the most. If you cut your finger, you will suddenly pay more attention to that finger. In the church we want to cut off the finger. If a member backslides, we cut him off. We treat him as if he were not worthy to be in the body. None of us is worthy to be in the body.
When a part of the body is less attractive to us, we should give the most attention to that part to help make it more attractive. We should not ignore it. We do not need to pamper the part that is working right. We need to pamper the part that is not working right.
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. I Corinthians 12:25-3 1
We have been influenced by this invisible church idea. We need to get back to the fact that the local ekklesia is the called-out assembly, and that all believers have never been a called-out assembly. All believers are not members of the church. If people are going to be reached, it will be through the ministry of local churches.
The military of this country is a good example. When a man joins
the army, he does not go visit a camp in North Carolina this week, a camp in Wyoming the next week, and then a camp in Virginia the next week. No. They put him in a working unit, and that unit is a body of soldiers that belongs to the United States Government. It is the body of the army, and the individual fighting unit. If you allowed soldiers to go where they want to go, you would never win a war. Men are placed in a division, in a battalion of that division, in a company of that battalion, in a platoon of that company, and in a squad of that platoon. That is the way you win battles, and that is the way you win wars.
The church is God's institution, for which Christ died. He purchased it to be His body. It is that body to whom He has given the responsibility to take the blessed Book and spread His message to a lost and dying world. That is the way to get the job done by being a part of the local body, called the church, for which He died.
Why Jesus Started Churches
and Not a Church
Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church. Hebrews 12:22, 23a
There is a very interesting play on words in this passage. There are two different words used, the word assembly which in the Greek is the word paneguris. meaning any kind of assembly, and the word church which in the Greek is ekklesia, meaning a called-out assembly.
I have made it very clear in previous chapters that the word church is the word ekklesia, and that is a called-out assembly. There is no church now other than the local church. Over and over again, in the Bible, it talks about the churches. Jesus did not start a church, He started churches. When He said, upon this rock I will build my church, in Matthew 16:18, He was referring to the church at Jerusalem.
There will be a day when all believers will be a church, but not now. All believers have not yet become a called-out assembly. There has never been a time in history when all Christians assembled, consequently there is no way that all believers could be called a church.
Mr. Scofield troubles me when he refers to two churches, but even more when he implies that the local church is not the true church! The true church is the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, or any
local assembly of called-out believers. There will be a day when believers will become a church. That is when all believers a assembled at the rapture. The word rapture simply means a calling out or a snatching away. When the rapture takes place, all believe will be called out into the air and will become the church.
I want to make an issue about something. We often hear people use the term the rapture of the church. There will not be a rapture the church except when we are all raptured and form a church in the sky. Most often it is used referring to the false idea that all believe already form the church, and that the rapture will be the church that already exists. That is not scriptural.
Ephesians 5 speaks of a glorious church without spot and wrinkle holy and sanctified. No matter how great a church may be, there is n church that qualifies to be described in this fashion. First Baptist Church in Hammond is not a holy church without a spot or wrinkle. We have some good people, but none of them is perfect. We will not be without spot or wrinkle until we are raptured and receive our glorified body Then we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. When it talks about Jesus presenting to Himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle holy and sanctified, it is referring to the time when all believers are called up in the air and given a glorified body. Then we will no longer have sin in our bodies, and we will be just like Jesus. At that time we will be glorious church, without a spot or wrinkle, holy and sanctified.
For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all ~e one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. Hebrews 2:11 & 12
The Bible says there will come a time when all believers will become a church, and in our glorified bodies will come back to the earth. Jesus said, I will sing in the midst of the church. Won't it be wonderful to hear Jesus sing? I believe that in the millennium Jesus will take the Lord supper with us because in the millennium all believers will be assembled. We will assemble in the sky and become a church, but we will live all over the world, during the millennium. It will not be any problem for us to assemble because we will have glorified bodies.
I was flying over a little town in Idaho. I looked down and saw a little airport. They have a computer in that little airport, and in a matter of seconds they can get the schedule of anybody, on any flight, in the world. I looked down and saw all of the houses. Almost every house down there had a television set and the people could see a picture of something happening on the other side of the world. That is man s technology.
I wonder how it will be when we have our glorified bodies. If Jesus decides to call a church meeting or gathering, all He will need to do is say it, and we will all be there in a matter of seconds. We will come from China, Africa and all over the world in just a matter of a few seconds. All believers will not become a church until that time.
Let me explain the philosophy behind the fact that Jesus has local churches and not one great church of all believers. God wants there to be a wall between us in every single human relationship. There needs to be some kind of a wall between every single human relationship.
Jesus started the local New Testament churches, and each church is autonomous and indigenous. No church has the right to tell another church what to do. The devil's most effective idea is union and unity, and that sounds good. God does not want churches uniting. God is a separation of authority God. God is a state's rights God. One of the saddest things in America is that the Federal Government is taking over things that the states ought to be running. God does not want that.
1. There should be some kind of wall between individuals. Part of that wall should be the person. Somebody said that every man is an island. In a sense, that is true. You are born alone, you live alone, and you die alone. Not many people will totally sympathize with any problems you have.
A husband and wife should have some type of wall between them.
A pastor and people should have some type of wall between them.
Friends should have some type of wall between them.
There ought to be a certain kind of reserve between us and a certain amount of a formality. I call it mystique, and it needs to be in every relationship.
Husbands and wives sometimes do not get along with each other because they know each other too well, and there is no mystique. They have already conquered all there is to conquer. She is no longer intriguing to him. She is no longer a little mysterious to him. There s nothing more in her mind, soul, or heart that he thinks he can pull from her.
I think it is unwise for people to go around the house half naked. do not believe in a lack of reserve. I am not saying you should wear a tie to dinner in your own home, but I am saying that there should be some walls. I have often said that when Sarah called Abraham Lord, he was not running around the house in his shorts and undershirt. America used to have propriety. Many years ago, the head of the house sat at the table like a king.
In any human relationship each person ought to have an identity. You do not have to be together all the time to be best friends. In fact, if you are together all the time, you will not remain best friends for very long. Many boys were with their girlfriends too much, and then wonder why they broke up. They may have been meant for each other, but they did not get married because they broke down the entire wall between them and there was no mystique left.
In a marriage, each person is still an individual. The wife is still an individual. Someday he may die and she will be left. If they were one, she would die at the same time. He is going to like her better if he lets her retain her identity. Men should not smother their wives. As individuals go their separate ways, they are gathering things which they can share with one another in conversation. She is having things happen to her that he does not know about, and he is doing the same. When they come together, they can talk to each other and share those experiences with one another.
I am not talking about having secrets. I am talking about remaining as separate individuals by retaining some wall of separation. Almost every time I talk to a couple who have had a third party coming into their marriage, it is because the person who's been associated with the third party says that they could talk to each other. The reason some people philander is because they have nothing to talk about at home. The reason they have nothing to talk about at home is because their lives are so attached that they know everything there is to know about each other. Keep a little wall there. I do not care what the human relationship is, there needs to be a little wall between it.
I have seen college kids standing around in the hallways at Hyles-Anderson College groping for something to say. They have already said everything to each other that can be said.
Friendships are the same way. No two people should always be together. If they are, they will eventually lose the mystique in their relationship. It is the mystique, the conquering, the freshness, and the discovering of something new that causes people to enjoy each other's company. Being together most or all of the time takes all of that away.
There is such a break down in our country in the relationship between parents and their children. There ought to be a mild form of worship in a child for their parents, especially for the dad because he is God's deputy in the home. It is good to take boys to ball games, or fishing, but that is not the most important thing about being a dad. We have the idea that we are supposed to be a child's brother or buddy. There is nothing wrong having fun together, but there should remain a certain amount of restraint. A little wall ought to be there.
Do not give all your time to any one person in any relationship. Do not choose one person with whom you spend all of your time.
Jesus started churches, instead of the church, in order to have a wall of some kind between us.
2. There should be a wall of dignity between families.
A couple should not spend too much time with one other couple. When you break down the wall between you, a bigger wall will be built in its place. Dr. Evans, the president of Hyles-Anderson College, and I are good friends, but he has a life to live and I have a life to live. Our paths cross a few times a week. That does not mean that we do not love each other as much as we would if we were together twenty-four hours a day. We probably love each other more than if we were together twenty-four hours a day. Why? Because there are always new things to learn about each other.
A woman who shares with others the intimacy between herself and her husband is being foolish. That is breaking down the wall. Your personal life should be kept personal. The same thing is true about a man laughingly sharing some intimacy between him and his wife to other men. That is betraying something that is holy and sacred. There ought to be walls in the relationships between families.
Nobody should be able to walk inside your house without knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell. Our youngest daughter, Cindy, does not just come to our house and walk in. That is our house. We live there, and we need to keep some walls built. Couples should not buddy with the same couple over and over and over and over again. You should not bare all and you should not be together too much.
Do you know why people smother a friend? Insecurity. They feel threatened if another friend comes between them.
Brother Colsten, who is on our church staff is my friend, but Brother Colsten has other friends and I want that for him. Some men spend so much time together that they have no room for other friends. The same is true for women. Often this leads to putting up gigantic walls in their relationship, as they become too close and begin to lose the delight of the friendship. In every human relationship there should be some kind of a wall of dignity, identity and mystique. Without that, there is a danger of the relationship eventually breaking down.
3. There should be a wall between churches. God believes in a delegation of power.
I was on the airplane one day, and beside me sat a very nice man. We started chatting and he told me that he was in the insurance business. At the time he lived in Chicago, but had moved there nine months earlier from Salt Lake City. I discovered that he was a Mormon and that his great grandfather had been the fourth president of the Mormon church. I asked him many questions about his church, and he told me some very interesting things. The Mormon church has no paid pastor or staff on the local level. Although the people tithe, all of the money goes to the main church in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they tell the local congregations what to do. The people have nothing to say about who owns the buildings. The Temple in Salt Lake City owns the building and makes all of the decisions. That means that one man could become a "heretic" and destroy the whole Mormon church.
There is freedom in delegation. If you have ten churches and one goes bad, you still have nine that are good. If you have one universal church and it goes bad, everything goes bad with it. That is what happened to the Roman Catholic church.
That is why Jesus started many churches and not just one church. There is to be a wall between them so that no church has authority over any other church. The same is true about denominations. The same is true about nations. There ought to be a wall.
If two churches spend too much time together, they will get to know each other's weaknesses. If two people get to know each other too well, they will get to know each other's weaknesses.
I want to make some general statements.
1. When the wall is broken down, a bigger wall is built. Most people who do not speak to each other were at one time closest friends.
2. A little wall between people, families, couples, and churches keeps our differences from surfacing. Those differences cause other walls to be built that are even bigger than the little wall we have kept between us. If there is no wall of identity between churches, couples, families, individuals, denominations, and nations all competition is gone.
The reason why Hyles-Anderson College is thriving is because it is different. You cannot find another college like it anywhere. We have tried not to attach ourselves too closely to any other group or college. The distinctiveness is what draws people to us. We have our own identity. We do not dip our sails. We do not lower our convictions. We do not change our rules in order to get students. If we decided to break down our walls and become like everybody else, we would not have enough identity to draw students.
Parents send their daughters to Hyles-Anderson College because of what we believe, and because they know that we will protect them and not allow them to run around the area without knowing exactly where they are. It is our distinctiveness that draws people, and life is that way. We cannot all be the same. A church cannot be like any other church.
There is no church like First Baptist Church. We are located in the old run-down section of town. Yet people drive many miles to get here because they know they will receive something they cannot find anywhere else. Every church ought to be unique. Every church ought to have its own identity.
3. There is one place where there is no more wall because it was broken down when Jesus died on the cross. You can know God just as well as you want to know Him because you will never know everything about Him. He is always fresh and new. You do not have to be separated from God for God to learn something new He can talk to about. That wall has been broken down.
Our daughter, Becky, has lupus. She feels miserable most of the time. I called her one day and I said, "Puddin,' how do you feel?"
She said, "I feel fine."
I said, "Do not lie to me, tell me how you really feel."
She said, "Terrible."
I said, "Does anybody know you feel terrible?"
She said, "No. My boss does not even know I have had any trouble at all."
I said, "Why?"
She said, "Because I want him to think I can work as much as I have always worked. I tell my family sometimes that I do not feel well, but I do not tell them exactly how I feel, because I do not want them to think that I am complaining all the time."
I said, "For the next few minutes I am going to be quiet, and I want you to cry on my shoulder. Tell me every pain you have had since I talked to you yesterday."
There is a Heavenly Father to Whom we can bare everything in our hearts and hives.
There ought to be an identity between people, between couples, between families, and between churches. Jesus starting local churches because the very nature of God is for us not to be bundled, but to be separated. That way we will love each other more.
I was teaching our preacher boys one day on how to get potential out of those who work for them. I taught them that a pastor should allow every member of his staff to excel him in one area. Because if they can excel him in one area, it will give him more respect for each person. I may know more about the ministry of First Baptist Church as a whole, but I want each person on my staff to be an expert in one area. Otherwise, I would not respect them as much. I want to see to it that each one of them has an area where he is my superior. I know pastors who have trouble with their assistant pastors because they want to keep binoculars on them all the time.
The same thing is true about a wife. There ought to be an area where she excels. Mrs. Hyles is an artist, and I am not. She is a singer, and I do not sing very well. She excels me in those areas.
Life can be so wonderful if we will allow every person in our lives to be an individual. Christianity can be so wonderful when churches are individual churches, each with its own identity. That is why Jesus started churches. This philosophy should spill over into every area of our lives.
The Purpose of
Going to Church
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for the fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you. John 20:19-23, 26
Not many people know the true reason why Jesus started the church. Let me give a couple of things which are not legitimate reasons, even though most people think they are.
1. The church was not started to be a place of worship.
You can worship God better alone than you can with others. You can also pray better alone than you can with others. When two people pray together, their prayers will too often be designed to impress each other. Every Christian should worship God in the beauty of His holiness. We should adore Him, worship Him, magnify Him, and honor Him. The idea that the church is a place to worship God came from Rome, not from the New Testament. There is only one place in the New Testament where the word worship is connected to a public service, and that deals with worshipping the Devil. There is no example in the entire New Testament of a Christian worship service.
God told the people in Amos 5:21-23, 1 hate, I despise your feast days, and! will not smell in your solemn assemblies.... I will not accept them.... Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs.... The church was not made to be a place of worship.
2. Jesus did not start the church as a place of evangelism. The evangelistic church is not in the Bible. The soul-winning church is. I am not against people getting saved at church, nor am I against an occasional evangelistic sermon. But, that is not the main purpose of the church, nor was it why the church was started. The New Testament church was a soul-winning institution where all of the members won people to Jesus.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts 5:42
Some people believe that the New Testament church won the lost in the church and in house-to-house soul winning. That is half true. They did go house-to-house soul winning. The temple, however, was not the church, nor did they have church in the temple. The temple was the location of the big gala occasion when they had their feasts and when all of the people would gather in Jerusalem. The temple was also the place where they conducted their daily business. It was like our business district. This was not talking about witnessing in church, but about witnessing in public places as well as in people's homes.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. Acts 8:1, 4
They witnessed everywhere. There was no place they did not go. The jail is part of everywhere. Downtown is part of everywhere. The street corner is part of everywhere. Rest homes are a part of everywhere. Neighborhoods are a part of everywhere. The homes where the poor, the lame, the halt, and the blind live are parts of everywhere. The New Testament church was not an evangelistic church. It was a soul-winning church, and they went everywhere doing so.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
Jesus gave the Great Commission on several occasions. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts all give different phrasings of the Great Commission. That does not mean that Jesus spoke it only one time, and that each of them gave it in their own words. They each quoted Jesus. He did not just give it once. One of those times was quoted in Mark. It is not talking about standing behind a pulpit and preaching. It is not directed to a congregation. It is directed to every creature.
An evangelistic church is where a preacher gets up and preaches on salvation. I am not against that, but it is not why the church was started. The evangelism was not to be done at the church. Soul winning was to be done where the people were.
Paul said For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. Some preachers take that as a mandate to preach on nothing except Jesus. That is not true. Paul wrote Timothy and said, Preach the word, but he said something else. He said to exhort. He said to rebuke. Sometimes the preacher is to preach the Word. Sometimes he is to be lovingly stern and rebuke. Sometimes he is to give advice, or exhort. God wants more than just the plan of salvation preached in the church.
Jesus said in Matthew to teach all nations. That word in Matthew is the Greek word "ethnos" which means ethnics or races. Mark 16:15 says, to go into all the world. The word "kosmos" is the word arrangement. When Jesus started the church, he started a soul-winning church. Soul winning was not the purpose of the church, it was the fruit of the church and the result of the church.
In the first century the local churches were soul-winning churches. They were scattered abroad everywhere with everybody preaching or soul winning. Peter did not preach the evangelistic sermon on Pentecost as many think. The Bible says that every nation under Heaven was represented at Pentecost and every man heard the Gospel. Many people were doing the soul winning. It was not just Peter. I am not against having an evangelistic service, but that was not why Jesus started the church, nor was it the way the New Testament church operated.
In the first century, our churches were soul-winning churches. The people came to church for the real purpose of the church. Then they went out from the church and won folks to Christ in the public places and neighborhoods and brought them back to church. Something happened shortly after the early church. The churches became evangelistic rather than soul winning. What is the difference?
A soul-winning church is where the people go out and win them and bring them back in to make a public profession.
An evangelistic church is where you invite sinners to come and the preacher tries to get them saved through his preaching. There is nothing wrong with that except the people go unfed.
For 1900 years the soul-winning church was lost.
In our generation the soul-winning church has been rediscovered. The First Baptist Church of Hammond has had a big part in that. All across America preachers are baptizing more converts than Spurgeon did. I am not nearly the preacher Spurgeon was, but First Baptist Church is a better church than Spurgeon had because we discovered the soul-winning church instead of the evangelistic church.
Evangelists have been being forced to change their ministries.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Ephesians 4:11, 12
The word perfecting means maturing. God gave apostles for the maturing of the saints. God gave prophets for the maturing of the saints. God gave evangelists for the maturing of the saints. God gave pastors and teachers for the maturing of the saints. All these were given for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry. Every saint is commanded to do the work of the ministry. Every Christian is commanded to be a soul-winner. It is the evangelist's job to mature the Christians so they will better do the work of the ministry.
For many years evangelists were men who traveled across the country and preached revival meetings. These were actually evangelistic crusades, and they basically preached on salvation. I believe that God raised them up, but I do not believe that God had this in mind for the New Testament church. Evangelists were given for the perfecting or maturing of the saints, so the saints could do the work of the ministry. Nobody in the New Testament went around preaching to great crowds of people in churches just to get people saved. They taught, exhorted, rebuked, and perfected them so that the saints could do the work of the ministry.
I am not against the evangelists who went into churches and preached on Heaven, Hell, salvation, the great white throne judgment, etc. Thank God for them, but they had to do it because churches were not doing the job of soul winning. God raised up these evangelists to go to churches and get people saved.
In our day, the evangelist is a preacher who does more of what the Bible says he is to do, the perfecting of the saints. We have lived in the age of the rediscovery of the soul-winning church.
Let us now look at the reasons for the starting of the church.
1. The church was started for comfort.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you. John 20:19
These people went to church because they were scared. That is one reason Jesus started the church. It was the place they could receive comfort in the midst of persecution.
Jesus met in the upper room the night that he was betrayed. (John 13 & 14) From there He went to the garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed that night. It was on Wednesday that our Lord was crucified, so the church meets on Wednesday. Sunday was the day that our Lord rose from the dead, so the church meets on Sunday.
It had to be a church that met in the upper room because they had the Lord's Supper, which was given by the local church. It was also in the upper room that they met when He rose from the dead. (John 20:19 & 26) Consequently, they came to church for comfort. Our Saviour met with the apostles and said: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. He was comforting them.
The church is a place to dispel the fears of the people. When somebody comes with an incurable disease, the church is supposed to help him dispel his fear. When people have a fear of financial reversal, the church is to help dispel their fear. The reason they assembled in the upper room was for the fear of the Jews. Coming together gave them more courage and strength than being alone.
2. It is a place for encouragement. Often people will not come to church because they have problems or because they are discouraged. That is why the church was started. That is why we are supposed to come. When you want to be alone is usually when you do not need to be alone. That is the time we most need to be in church.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
That means we are not to forsake the churching of ourselves together. It is especially true as we see the second coming of Jesus Christ coming closer. Why? Because there is a certain element of fear there. You come to church to be comforted in the fact that we are all going up together. When we come to church we get encouraged.
For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? James 2:2-4
There is one place in this world where a poor child can go and be just as important as the children of the Pastor, the deacons or the Sunday school teachers. The church is a place of encouragement for those who are looked down upon or despised in this world.
3. It is a place to give tithes to God.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in the store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when! come. I Corinthians 16:1
They tithed on the first day of the week, which is when they went to church. Sundays we are to bring our tithes and offerings to the church as well. The tithe or tenth is the smallest portion given in the Bible. Consequently, we go to church to give.
4. It is a place for maturing.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: Ephesians 4:11-15
The body of Christ is the local New Testament church. He owns it. God has given us the church, so that every time someone tries to deceive us with a false doctrine, we will not fall prey to the error. God has given us the church in order for us to become mature. He wants us to grow up. That is what it is all about. We are to come to church to mature. We will never outgrow the church. The church is there to help us to grow up. The preacher is there to help us grow up. The evangelist is there to help us to grow up. The quickest way to be deceived by false doctrines is to become unfaithful to church.
5. It is a place for inspiration to go soul winning.
And when they were assembled with the elders
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All powers is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever! have commanded you: Matthew 28:12, 16-20a
The church is to inspire and instill in us the importance of going soul winning. Most people will never walk inside the church, but we can go to them. Most people where we work will never walk inside our church, but we can take the message where they are. As a pastor, I am to inspire everybody to go soul winning. Four thousand people go soul winning from First Baptist Church every week. I am not satisfied with that. I want everybody to go soul winning every week. It is not the preacher's job to preach the unsaved down the aisle. It is the preacher's job to preach and inspire the individual Christians to go soul winning. That is God's plan.
6. It is a place for fellowship, to take the Lord's supper, to learn the Bible and to learn how to pray.
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:41, 42
The word fellowship means communion. It is not referring to the typical fellowship of the church. It is referring to a communing in Christ with one another. It is a place where we share a "God Bless You" and "1 am praying for you" as we unite in the work of God. It is a place for the breaking of bread in the Lord's Supper as we remember together the price Jesus paid for us on Calvary.
These are the real reasons for the church. When we get away from these, the church fails to do that which we were called by the Saviour to do, and we look to church to be something different than what God ordained it to be.
The History of the Church
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness:
and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast. full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs ofJesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. Revelation 17:1-6
The church was started some time during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. It was not started on Pentecost. They added to the church on Pentecost, but the church already existed. The church was probably started in Matthew chapter ten when Jesus called his disciples to a mountainside and named them as His disciples. For the first time there was a called-out assembly. It is very plain in the New Testament that the church started by Jesus had several characteristics.
1. It was independent. Each church was independent of every other church.
2. There were only two offices in that church - pastor and deacons. Those are the only two offices mentioned in the entire Bible concerning the church. There are three titles given for pastors - (1) Pastor, (2) Elder, and (3) Bishop - but the only two offices mentioned in the Bible for the church are for the offices of pastor and deacons.
3. There were two ordinances in this church - baptism and the Lord's Supper.
4. These churches believed in the doctrine of the local church. For the first 300 years, maybe even the first 700 years of the church, there was no such doctrine as the invisible or universal church. It was a doctrine that came from Catholicism (the word Catholic meaning universal). The doctrine of the universal, or invisible church mentioned in the Scofield Bible, had not been thought of for the first several centuries of the church. The independence of the local church body and the doctrine of the local church were maintained until about the third century.
5. Around the third century big city churches came on the scene and became prevalent. These churches hired men to start churches. The churches united and hired men to be like missionaries and go about starting churches. For example, there are many churches in or near Ephesus, Colosse and Galatia which were started by men who were hired by the churches for that very reason.
6. As these men began to get some authority, they became the bosses of the churches. When I was a Southern Baptist many years ago, they had what were called district missionaries. These district missionaries did exactly what these men did in the third century. They went out and started churches in little towns, rural areas, and city neighborhoods which had no churches. They held their positions for so long that if a church wanted a pastor, they would contact these men to recommend a pastor. These district missionaries soon began practically assigning pastors to churches.
When the churches had problems, they would call these district missionaries to help them solve the problems. Gradually these men became in charge of groups of churches. In the Southern Baptist Convention, the men who were called district missionaries years ago are now called district superintendents. There is a big difference between a superintendent and a missionary.
The same thing happened in the third century. Churches got together and hired people to work for them. Eventually these men gained more authority and more influence until finally the churches worked for the people. This is what is called an episcopalian form of government. It increased until some areas had bishops over them. These bishops had somebody over them called the archbishop, and by the seventh century it had evolved into the Papacy.
7. The Papacy came on the scene as a result of the churches hiring people to start churches. There has never been an office higher than that of the pastor. It is nobody's business outside of the First Baptist Church of Hammond what goes on in the church. The Southern Baptists should be ashamed of themselves. There should not be such a title as a district superintendent, A church can supervise itself. It does not need a denominational "big-shot" to tell it what to do from the outside.
8. The true churches retained their independence.
These churches were persecuted unbelievably by the Papacy. They were persecuted from the first century, but even in the seventh century, incredible persecution came to the churches that would not submit to the control of these bosses. The churches that refused to be a part of the Bishopry continued to operate with a pastor and deacons, with the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and with the doctrine of the independence of the local church, not the invisible or universal church.
9. There were now two groups or categories calling themselves churches.
1. The Papacy with the Pope and his Archbishops and Bishops strangling the churches.
2. Independent churches who would not do what the Bishop said. The line of the New Testament churches kept going through them. There always has been and there always will be churches in this world which believe in the autonomy of the local church; with a pastor and deacons, baptism and the Lord's Supper, and the doctrine of the local church rather than the invisible universal church.
10. The true churches fled to valleys.
11. These churches were called the Valenses by the pope and the Catholic church because they dwelt mainly in the valleys because of intense persecution against them. The name was changed to Waldenses because a man named Peter Waldo was given credit by the Catholic church for starting these independent churches. The Catholic church would like to claim that Baptist churches started after the Catholic church started. That is not true. The Baptist church goes all the way back to Jesus when he said upon this rock I will build my church. The Catholic church doctrine goes back to Nimrod in Genesis 10, but it was not put into practice for hundreds of years.
12. The Catholics changed four basic things.
(1) They changed the doctrines of the church.
(2) They changed the positions of the church.
(3) They changed the ordinances. Baptism was no longer a sign of salvation, but it preceded salvation. Then they changed it from immersion to sprinlding. They changed the Lord's Supper from being a memorial supper to being a sacrament necessary to salvation.
(4) They changed the doctrine of church independence. They taught that there was one big church and that one man should control it. Consequently, the doctrine of the universal church became very prevalent. The doctrine of the universal church, which Mr. Scofield teaches, was started by the Catholics. I will explain later how he got it from the Catholics.
There was a group of people preaching salvation by grace through faith. They were baptizing converts, observing the Lord's Supper properly, they had pastors and deacons, and they believed in the doctrine of the local, independent church, not the universal church. Then there was the Roman Catholic church, or the universal church, with the ordinances, the church officers, and the doctrine changed.
13. Then came the Reformation with Martin Luther and others. During the Reformation many people pulled out of the Catholic church. Some of these people did not intend to pull out, they just intended to rebel within the church, like people today who are trying to clean up the Southern Baptist and the American Baptist conventions from within. From the Reformation a group of churches came out of the Catholic church. Revelation 17 and 18 refers to the Catholic church as a harlot. The Roman Catholic church is also called the mother of harlots. Now, if you are a mother of harlots, you must have some children who are harlots.
Who are these harlots? A child comes out of the body of its mother. Out of the body of Roman Catholicism came the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Lutherans, etc.. All of the reformed theologians and churches that came out of the Reformation came from Roman Catholicism. When you come from the body of a woman, she is your mother. Reformation brought forth little harlots.
14. When these reform ationists pulled out, they did not pull out in every way, therefore the protestants inherited some of the characteristics of their mother, the Catholic church. They pulled out concerning justification by faith, but they did not pull out concerning formal services. Go to a Presbyterian church on a Sunday morning and you will get about the same thing you would get from a Roman Catholic service. It is not exactly the same, but it is nearly as formal. The children rebelled concerning some doctrines, but not in the area of formal worship services.
They did not rebel concerning the unscriptural organization. The Catholic church assigns a priest to a church. The church does not choose its own priest. The Methodist church does the same thing. They send the preacher they want a church to have. The church does not have total choice in the matter. A Baptist church chooses its own preacher because we still believe in local congregational government. These Reformation Protestants inherited formal services and unscriptural organization from the Catholic church. They also continued to believe in the doctrine of the universal church.
15. Eventually, the Protestants had their own Reformation. From each of these protestant denominations, there came other denominations that rebelled against them.
16. Each of these new Protestant groups eventually had its own Reformation.
17. From these groups came other denominations until there were many different denominations. Each of the groups that rebelled were good, but none of them had anything to do with the true church. Every group of people on the face of the earth that calls itself Christian came either from Roman Catholicism or from Jesus Christ. The Bible of Roman Catholicism as well as all of the Bibles being interpreted today are coming from the Roman Catholic manuscripts, the Wescott and Hort, whereas the King James Bible is the one that came from the Texus Receptus, which are the non Catholic manuscripts.
I am not implying that these groups were all bad. I am merely pointing out the fact that they came out of the mother. When a group comes out of Roman Catholicism they are her children and she is the mother of harlots.
18. The harlots had children which are the interdenominational, fundamental people. I am not against these groups. I am simply showing you that these groups do not have New Testament church origins, because they came from the mother of harlots. They may be good kids. They may be good grandkids, but they still came from the mother of harlots. Notice what they did not change when they came out.
They kept their formalism, just like their mother or grandmother.
They kept their high church worship.
They kept their high church organization. They did not have just pastors and deacons like the church at Philippi. They openly organized the church and often took the power away from the pulpit making the pastor a puppet.
19. All during this time the New Testament churches continued. The New Testament church was just moving right along. Should it be unusual then for Baptists to have a loyalty to their name? Should we not have a church spirit and pride? I thank God that I am an American. I thank God that I live in Indiana. I thank God that I live in Hammond, and I thank God that I am a Baptist. That does not mean I hate those who are not Baptists. I simply do not believe that they belong to true New Testament churches.
20. Now the grandchildren are beginning to go back to the harlot. There is the Catholic church, there are Protestant churches, and now we have the inter-denominational movement. Institutions that are inter-denominational used to fight Roman Catholicism, but now many of them are beginning to snuggle up to their mother and grandmother.
The harlots have been going back to the mother all along. Lutherans are uniting with Catholics. Presbyterians are going back to Catholics. Methodists are going back to the ways of Catholicism. The harlots are going back to the mother, but now the grandchildren are also going back to the harlots.
Any organization started outside of a New Testament church weakens with every generation. Some of our fundamental colleges are allowing things now that they would not have allowed years ago. I picked up my newspaper one morning and looked at the basketball scores. I saw the score given for one of our former fundamental school's girls' basketball team. A Christian college should not have their girls in shorts running around a gymnasium while a bunch of people watch them play basketball. Under that was the score of another fundamental college that was founded just one year before Hyles-Anderson. Young ladies are supposed to dress modestly and cover their thighs in public. Why are these institutions deteriorating? Because they are going back to the harlots and the harlots are going back to the mother.
I picked up a newspaper in Minnesota and read an article about the Lutherans and Catholics making an alliance. That is the harlots going back to mother. Most "Christian" television and radio stations are operated mostly by money from the harlots. They are the children of Catholicism. That is why they have Catholic priests on a so-called Christian television station. They are going back because they are operating outside the canopy of God's promise of divine perpetuity.
The best way to avoid the ecumenical trap is to stay with the local independent Baptist church. Stay with the First Baptist Church of Hammond, and I guarantee you that you will never get involved in ecumenicalism in this generation. I have talked to preachers all across this country who have their hands tied. The AWANAS have gone to other Bibles besides the King James. Their churches are splitting because the people are more loyal to the AWANAS than they are to the local church. AWANAS is carrying them back to the harlots, and the harlots are carrying them back to the mother.
Somebody has to tell this. If we do not tell people that these things are gone, they will stay hooked up with them and be swept into the ecumenical movement by some organization they did not know was going back to the mother. There are still some good grandchildren. There are still some good inter-denominational people. Because they do not belong to New Testament churches, and they do not have the promise of divine perpetuity, they are going to die. What is the safest thing to do about these good grandchildren? Let me give you several things.
1. Accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ.
2 Thank God for the good they do.
3 Accept them as dear friends.
Accept them as dear friends, but do not join up with them organizationally. If you do, they will eventually pull you into the ecumenical movement. You will probably see the day in your generation when the only non ecumenical people in this world will be independent Baptists. God has promised us divine perpetuity.
Who is preaching on standards today? Nazarenes? No. Church of God? No. Southern Baptists? No. Who is preaching against mixed swimming? Who is preaching on men getting haircuts? Who is preaching that women ought to wear modest clothing? Who is taking a stand against social drinking? Who still takes a stand on standards? A few independent Baptists and that is just about all.
Who is left that believes this Bible? Who is left that believes the King James Bible has been preserved word for word? Who is left? The Church of God? No. Nazarenes? No. Children of God? No. American Baptists? No. Southern Baptists? No. Inter-denominational Bible Institutes? No. Inter-denominational Bible colleges? No. Who is left? A few independent Baptists. That is all.
It is not getting very popular to be an independent Baptist. It was not very popular in the seventh century either when they fled to the valley.
Who is still for soul winning? A few independent Baptists.
Who still believes in the doctrine of the local church and not in the doctrine of the universal church? A few independent Baptist people. That is all. We do not have a mother or grandmother to go back to. We have a Saviour Who started our church. We can trace our history very quickly. It is the New Testament church which was started by Jesus in the book of Matthew.
Thank God that my mama and daddy moved two doors away from a Baptist church. My mama was a Methodist until she was forty. That was back in the days of the old-fashioned shouting Methodists. Mama was baptized in a Baptist church after she was forty years old. Thank God that we did not have a car and could not attend anywhere but that Baptist church. Thank God that I became a preacher in the church that descended from Jesus Christ.