What is the Church?

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Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
One thing that has shaped much of my theology is my study of what the church is and to whom it belongs. As a Baptist, I view the church as those who are Christ's elect, both Old and New Testament. The church is made up of "those sanctifed in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1:2). The Bible says "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25) "that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). The church, the true Israel of God, has always existed and always will, since the Lord has made an everlasting covenant with His elect. This pure view of the church is something that has shaped how I view baptism, eschatology, and the Lord's relationship to His church.

The thing that I think I would differ with Presbyterians or other paedobaptists is that they see the church being both visible and invisible. They view the church as a community of both the elect and the damned. I believe this is an errant view of the church and confuses people of the proper definition. What do you think??
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Spencer,

May I remind you of our own confession?

1. The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
( Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23; Ephesians 5:23, 27, 32 )


2. All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.
( 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:20-22 )
Baptists readily confess that there is an invisible and visible church. We believe in regenerate church membership, but that is based on theological certainty, not perfect knowledge about the inward state of each professing individual. Therefore, if I may take license, we believe in professed regenerate church membership. Presbyterians and Baptists are alike in that we concur there are believes and unbelievers within the visible church. Where we disagree is applying the covenant sign to individuals who have not professed faith.
 

Particular Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
I must admit, that I didn't use the right wording in my thread opener. I guess, for me, it's hard to use the term 'visible church' because I don't like to use anything other than the term, church, for anything other than the elect of Christ. But, in the end, I do agree that there are many people amoungst the church that are damned and yet have some form of church membership.

The thing I guess that I was trying to drive at is the difference between what the visible church should be. This is where I disagree to some extent, and think you would too, with the Presbyterians and, yes, John Calvin. Baptists (and Congregationalists) have viewed the church in terms separate from the state, this is not the case with Presbyterians and other Reformed folk. Calvin and Luther both embraced the idea of the state church, it was simply how that entity should be run and what the church should believe that they battled for. This is where more in line to where I was meaning to head.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I must admit, that I didn't use the right wording in my thread opener. I guess, for me, it's hard to use the term 'visible church' because I don't like to use anything other than the term, church, for anything other than the elect of Christ. But, in the end, I do agree that there are many people amoungst the church that are damned and yet have some form of church membership.

The thing I guess that I was trying to drive at is the difference between what the visible church should be. This is where I disagree to some extent, and think you would too, with the Presbyterians and, yes, John Calvin. Baptists (and Congregationalists) have viewed the church in terms separate from the state, this is not the case with Presbyterians and other Reformed folk. Calvin and Luther both embraced the idea of the state church, it was simply how that entity should be run and what the church should believe that they battled for. This is where more in line to where I was meaning to head.

Well, now you're getting into a subject that even divides Presbyterians; the subject of a state church. I won't answer for my Presbyterian brethren. Baptists historically are against any state intrusion into the church.

Get used to the idea of the invisible and visible church. While not biblical terms, they do describe the dichotomy between professors and possessors.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I have posted this before, but the thoughts are apt here, I think.

The Baptist view differs from the Presbyterian view in (at least) the following way:
For the Baptist, at its essence the church on earth is an imperfect (mixed) gathering of perfect (elect/ideal) people.

For the Presbyterian, at its essence the church is a perfect (heavenly/ideal) gathering of imperfect (sinners) people.​
I won't say it isn't possible to see or even agree in some sense with the point the other side makes here; but truly, as the OP (Spencer) points out, these two are inverted perspectives.

Presbyterians say church contained sinners of uncertain destiny before Christ; and even by the witness of the New Testament, it contained sinners of uncertain destiny Anno Domine. Because we do not know who the elect are.

Attempting to reduce the church to a gathering of the elect is what we (on our side) refer to as "over-realized eschatology." Bottom line: we aren't in heaven yet.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
The thing that I think I would differ with Presbyterians or other paedobaptists is that they see the church being both visible and invisible. They view the church as a community of both the elect and the damned. I believe this is an errant view of the church and confuses people of the proper definition. What do you think??

So all credo Baptists who have been baptized are in fact saved? I don't think so. Even credos have to make a distinction between those that are the elect of God throughout all time, and those who profess belief and deceive even themselves who are not known by God. Mat 7.22 speaks of people that say to Jesus with disbelief that they thought they were Christ's. If our hearts are wicked and deceive even ourselves, there are going to be those in the visible church who are tares and not wheat.

The visible and invisible church is not paedo, but necessary regardless.

-----Added 9/18/2009 at 01:21:09 EST-----

Baptists (and Congregationalists) have viewed the church in terms separate from the state, this is not the case with Presbyterians and other Reformed folk. Calvin and Luther both embraced the idea of the state church, it was simply how that entity should be run and what the church should believe that they battled for. This is where more in line to where I was meaning to head.

Excuse me, but I think Herald had it right ... this is NOT part of American Presbyterianism in the least. WCF chapter 23 (OPC version ... modified in the 1700's to preclude state church):

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

The bold above was to point out the sections that are most salient.
 
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