One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

There are some brothers in Christ who are so focused on the local assembly of saints that they deny there is any congregation of a universal manner; that is, comprised of all the redeemed from every generation. This focus includes an emphasis on water baptism, to the exclusion of what John foretold – that One was coming who would baptism with fire and the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:11).

One passage that is said to be only about water baptism and the local fellowship is Ephesians 4, where we find this: Ephesians 4:4-5 (ESV) There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

The context of this short passage should shed light on whether it is all and only about the local assembly and water baptism or if it’s about something greater.

We know that Paul’s letter to the saints at Ephesus was meant to be read to many local assemblies; it’s a universal letter to the body of Christ. In the first three verses of chapter 3, Paul stresses identity in Christ and the unity of believers – dealing with one another in humility, gentleness, patience, and so on.

And then we find this: Ephesians 4:4-7 (ESV) There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

This letter reveals Paul’s passion for all the saints to understand the unity we have because of our union with Christ Jesus, proclaiming there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. By this union with Christ we each have been given grace according to His gift.

Is there ANYTHING in this passage that hints Paul was addressing only the local assembly or numerous assemblies of saints? Is he not making much of the fact that ALL the saints share in these things, without regard to any temporal circumstances? One body, not numerous local bodies. One Spirit, not a separate Spirit for each locale. One hope, one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of ALL. This speaks to all saints in all locations and all generations. And one baptism.

Water baptism makes no one a child of God. The lack of water baptism keeps no one out of the kingdom of God.

But that baptism John mentioned, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire, corresponds to the circumcision made without hands (Col 2:10-11).  This baptism is what brings enemies of God into His kingdom as His friends and children; without this baptism, no one can enter into His domain.

As much as these brothers resist and insist, there is no argument that can be made from Ephesians 4 that restricts Paul’s message of union and unity to the local assembly only. They can only make assertions in support of their view. Paul’s concern as an apostle was for the whole body of Christ, redeemed saints from every nation, tribe, and tongue. To deny this universal intent is to constrain the love of God for His people to clumps here and there, denying the communion we have through the Holy Spirit to all the saints.

It’s too small a view of God’s work and of His body.

The Nature of the Church

The Nature of the Church

 Stuart L. Brogden

 Greek Word: ἐκκλησία

Strong’s 1577

Transliteration: ekklēsia

from a compound of <G1537> (ek) and a derivative of <G2564> (kaleo); a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both), assembly, church.

What is “the church”?

The Greek word ekklesia is most often presented in English Bibles as “church.” The word “church” is not a translation of the Greek word, ekklesia; it’s not even a transliterated version of that word. Strong’s concordance shows ekklesia being used in the KJV as either “assembly” or “church.” But the Greek word means “the called ones” and actually shows up in Scripture being applied to an assembly of town-folk (3 times in Acts 19:32-41). As with most words in the Word, the bare definition of the word does not reveal the meaning in every usage.

As for the use of “church” in the Bible, there does not appear to be a clear record of why it was chosen, nor of the meaning of this word. At least twice in the New Testament of the KJV, “church” applies to God’s covenant people in the Old Testament:

Acts 7:37-38 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. 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.

Heb 2:11-12 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 I sing praise unto thee.

It is not possible for anyone to make a categorical statement that every occurrence of “church” means the local assembly of the saints, as some do.

The first known use of this word in English Bibles is found in Wycliffe’s Bible, spelled “chirche.” His work was translated from the Latin Vulgate and we have no clear reason for his use of this word.

In Smith’s Bible Dictionary from 1884, page 452, we read:

the derivation of the word ‘church’ is uncertain. It is found in the Teutonic and Slavonic languages and answers to the derivatives of ekklesia, which are naturally found in the romance languages and by foreign importation elsewhere. The word is generally said to be derived from the Greek kyriakos, meaning the lord’s house. But the derivation has been too hastily assumed. It is probably associated with the Scottish kirk, the Latin circus/circulous, the Greek klukos, because the congregations were gathered in circles.

Ebenezer Cobham Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable of 1898 agrees:

The etymology of this word is generally assumed to be from the Greek, Kuriou oikos (house of God); but this is most improbable, as the word existed in all the Celtic dialects long before the introduction of Greek. No doubt the word means “a circle.” The places of worship among the German and Celtic nations were always circular. (Welsh, cyrch, French, cirque; Scotch, kirk; Greek, kirk-os, etc.) Compare Anglo-Saxon circe, a church, with circol, a circle.

The first definition in Daniel Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “church” as “A house consecrated to the worship of God, among Christians; the Lords house. This seems to be the original meaning of the word.”

There two things to bear in mind regarding the apparent definition of the word “church.” The ekklesia of God in the New Testament refers to the redeemed saints, not a location or a building. Secondly, one of the messages Jesus taught the woman at the well (John 4) is that, in the Christian faith, there are no sacred or consecrated places where we must meet God.

Since the etymology of “church” is based on location rather than on people, it is a poor choice for ekklesia. In practice, so many Christians think of the building as the church, which many refer to as “the house of God,” it is a constant battle to keep the true meaning of ekklesia in front of people. In contrast, the Scriptures use myriad examples of buildings to refer to God’s redeemed people (1 Cor 3:15-17; 6:19; Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:5; Gal 4:26; Rev 21:2), and never refers to a temporal location within the New Covenant context. Why do we carry on with this word that people consistently understand to mean a temporal location rather than the people of God?

After Wycliffe’s Bible (1382), the early English Bibles took a different view. Tyndale’s Bible (1526), the Coverdale Bible (1535), Matthew Bible (1537), The Great Bible (1539), and the Bishop’s Bible (1568) all translated ekklesia as “congregation,” a term that conveys the idea of people called to be together. The Geneva Bible (1560) followed Wycliffe and used “church” in place of ekklesia, as did the KJV.

When work on the King James Bible began, the king provided 15 rules that the translators had to follow. Rules 1 & 3 are of particular interest to the topic of this paper:

  1. The ordinary Bible, read in the church, commonly called the Bishop’s Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit.
  2. (not used here)
  3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept; as the word church, not to be translated congregation, &c.

Rule 1 shows that the king wanted his Bible to be in the common tongue, accessible to the people, who were used to having the Great Bible and the Bishop’s Bible used in the state-churches. It is not true, as some KJV defenders claim, that the KJV was a unique Bible; it was based on the Bishop’s Bible. Rule 3 came into play in two prominent words that were not translated, but merely used in place of (as with “church”) or transliterated (as with “baptism”). Translating these two words would have provided us a clearer picture of what God was communicating. Ekklesia rendered as “congregation” or “assembly” shows we are talking about people, not places. Baptizo rendered as “dipping” or “dunking” shows we are talking about being identified with Christ in His death and resurrection by going down into the waters as if unto death and rising up from them as if unto new life. Advocates of the state-church have a history of building geo-political empires with ostentatious buildings for their gatherings and sprinkling infants rather than baptizing disciples.

There are at least eight passages where ekklesia refers to what is called “the universal church,” all the redeemed in Christ, called according to His name.

Matthew 16:18 (KJV) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

1 Corinthians 15:9 (KJV) For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Ephesians 1:22-23 (KJV) 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 3:9-11 (KJV) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 3:21 (KJV) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Ephesians 5:23-32 (KJV) For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 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. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Philippians 3:6 (KJV) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Colossians 1:18 (KJV) 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 1:24 (KJV) 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.

Hebrews 12:23 (KJV) 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,

In each of these passages, the bolded phrases make consistent sense when seen as references to the total number of God’s redeemed; not as references to any given local ekklesia. In his 1858 book, Manual of Church Order, John Leadly Dagg spent chapter 3 discussing the universal church, beginning with this: “The Church Universal is the whole company of those who are saved by Christ.”

In his book, Concise Theology, chapter “The Church,” J. I. Packer, describes the universal church:

The New Testament defines the church in terms of the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes and patterns through a relationship to all three Persons of the Godhead, brought about by the mediatorial ministry of Jesus Christ. The church is seen as the family and flock of God (Eph. 2:18; 3:15; 4:6; John 10:16; 1 Pet. 5:2-4), his Israel (Gal. 6:16); the body and bride of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:25-28; Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9-27); and the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; cf. Eph. 2:19-22). Those in the church are called the “elect” (chosen), the “saints” (consecrated ones, set apart for God), and the “brothers” (adopted children of God).

The truest, purest expression of ekklesia is the vision of heavenly Jerusalem, coming down from heaven with the Lord Jesus upon His second advent (Rev 21:2). Therefore, those New Testament passages which appear to speak of the universal assembly of God’s redeemed should be embraced rather than cast in the shadow, so the references to the local gathering of saints would be established as THE “church.” The primary focus on the “local church” by some brothers is so prominent in their doctrine that one can easily lose sight of the fact that the ekklesia of Christ is a heavenly body. Our citizenship is in heaven, we are pilgrims and sojourners in this age.

It is true that the overwhelming occurrences of ekklesia in the New Testament refers to local assemblies; there is no reason to pretend otherwise. The point is that the local assembly is not the only ekklesia of God’s people mentioned in Scripture. It’s easier to see this when we use a term that clearly portrays the people of God and not merely a place on the ground. The local ekklesia is important for the saints – this is where critical spiritual growth takes place, this is where the Spirit of God gathers and gifts us as it pleased Him. But in each local assembly of saints, there is likely to be false brothers in the pale. In this way, the local ekklesia is a type of the true ekklesia, the universal church, because in that gathering, there are only true sons and daughters of our Holy God; no pretenders.

The congregation is the people of God. Christ gave Himself for His sheep – all and each of them, whether they belong to a local congregation or are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. After all, the Bible is all about the Lord Jesus and we ought to be, also. Let us not get so earthly focused that we take our eyes off Him.

Captive to the Word of God

Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores. In four parts, Captive to the Word of God examines the history of Baptists and the distinctives that mark them; how Baptists fit into and should view reformed theology; a Baptist view of the covenants in Scripture; and what these theological and doctrinal concepts look like when practiced in a local church.

Here’s what people are saying about this book:

Mike Ratliff

As a fellow Baptist I am extremely grateful to Stuart for writing and publishing this well written and well researched book. When God drew me out of the mediocrity of American Evangelicalism in 2004 I had the Word of God and works of Luther, Calvin, Sproul, Pink, Packer, Boice, Clark, Edwards, Owen, Horton, Spurgeon, and Bunyan to wade through in an attempt to get a grasp on what Stuart has clearly organized and presented in this fine work. In the above list of names only two of them are Baptists (Spurgeon and Bunyan). I did learn much of my Reformation Theology from all those listed, but I learned how to get things right Biblically through the teachings of those two men. If I had had this book back then it would have been most useful! Why? Stuart gives us the history of the Baptist very succinctly and then history of the Reformation itself and why it was necessary. In part 3 Stuart gives us the proper interpretation of Covenant Theology by Baptists which keeps us from the errors made by so many in todays mess of Evangelicalism. Lastly, Stuart gives us proper soteriology in Part 4 which is sadly missing in our day, which is a large part of why Evangelicalism has lost its way.

I highly recommend Stuart L Brogden’s new book to you. If you are being drawn by God to know Him and your role in His Church then this book is a wonderful place to start. You won’t be disappointed.

Jon J. Cardwell, pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, Anniston, Alabama and author of Christ and Him Crucified

As we live in times of enormous dysfunction, disagreement, and even disunion in local gatherings professing to have faith in Jesus Christ, Stuart Brogden’s voice rises in the wilderness as a servant and workman of Christ who, by God’s grace and in His providence, has been made manifest among us. Although his message is couched in a Particular Baptist perspective, the underlying theme of his treatise is found in the main title of his book: Captive to the Word of God. A thorough and thoughtful passion for God’s Word has always been needed by the Christian believer, and today, more than ever. Too many, these days, are departing from their First Love, Jesus Christ, because they have divorced who He is and what He has done from what has been written of Him from Genesis to Revelation. Whether you identify with Baptists or not, Stuart Brogden provokes us to love God’s Word unto loving Christ… and loving Christ and His holy Word as much as a sinner saved by grace is able, by God’s grace.

Rev. Jeff Canfield, D. Min., Pastor at Word of Life Church, Sullivan, Indiana and author of A Call to Honor and When Church and Government Collide

Stuart Brogden’s excellent work, subtitled, A Particular Baptist Perspective on Reformed and Covenant Theology, is not only rich in church history, but also in theological substance. Mr. Brogden details the Baptist view of Reformed and Covenant Theology in a scholarly and authoritative manner. Without a doubt, this work should be considered a necessary addition to any serious theological student’s study library, as well as a wonderful resource for any pastor, teacher, or professor.

Jeffrey D. Johnson, pastor at Grace Baptist Church, Conway, Arkansas and author of The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism

Eliza Spurgeon told her son: “I have often prayed for your conversion, but I never thought you would become a Baptist.” With his quick wit, the young Charles responded: “Mother, that shows you that God has not only answered your prayers, but has done exceeding abundantly above all you asked or thought.” Like Charles Spurgeon, I am joyful to be a Baptist but concerned we have lost sight of what it means to be a Baptist. With confessions of faith being stored in the attic as archaic relics of the past, it is no wonder that the labels defining denominational distinctives are being dropped from churches’ names. To recover the Baptist name, it is vital that we recover the historic Baptist distinctives. For this reason I cannot recommend Captive to the Word of God enough. Stuart Brogden covers all the major components of the Baptist faith and traces every doctrinal tenant back to the Scriptures. Above everything else, Brogden explains why Baptists are called “people of the book.” In my opinion, this helpful work needs to be required reading for all Baptist seminary students. In fact, everyone who wants to know what it means to be a Baptist should read this book. Since I love the historic Baptist faith, I love this book.

Click the pic or the link to be taken to the Amazon page. Also, now available on Kindle!

My goal in writing this is to examine my own beliefs, strengthen my fellow Baptists, provoke fellow Christians to think biblically, and be a faithful steward of all the Lord has given me. My goal in life is to serve our God for the glory of His name and the good of His people, and to be remembered by my family and our God. May all who have benefited from anything I have said or done forget my name; may it be the name of the Lord Jesus that is remembered. A more excellent way to sum this up was written by an 18th century pastor, William Mason in his booklet, The Believer’s Pocket Companion:

The design of my writings is to stir up and quicken the Lord’s children in the way of . . .

greater trust in Christ,

 more intense looking to Christ,

greater dependence upon Him,

and more consistent abiding in Him

  • so that they may . . .

enjoy more sweet fellowship with Him,

find more of the His inestimable preciousness,

and experience more of His wonderful love, which surpasses knowledge.

Amen and amen!

Evangelism by the Book

The book I mentioned last time is called Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Highly recommended. The author is Kevin DeYoung.

Evangelism: When We Scatter. I call this lesson Evangelism by the Book. Last time I reviewed several methods used by many people that simply are not evangelistic. This week, we turn to the Word of God to see how we should go about this holy task. Paul’s letter to the evangelismColossians helps. You can listen to this message here.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:2-6).

With Paul’s persistent desire to take the gospel to all the world, he asked a gathered group of God’s people to pray for him to have the open way to keep on proclaiming the gospel. Wanting the saints at Colossi at Arpelar to work with him in this endeavor, he told them and us to be wise in how we engage lost people, always speaking truth with grace to each person. We are ambassadors of His gospel not one of our own choosing; we should seek to honor Him as we scatter to take His message to our area and the world.

One of the major purposes we are left on this planet after being raised from spiritual death is to take the gospel to every nation, tongue, and tribe; being evangelists and ambassadors of reconciliation. We need to clarify what evangelism, having spent time reviewing what it isn’t. Ephesians 4 teaches that the local church is to be equipped so the sheep will not be tossed about by the wiles of men. YHWH tells us, So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured (Hebrews 13:12-13). By this, God means we are to go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19); making disciples of those that have answered the call. Evangelism is our outward work; discipleship is our inward work. No church is healthy unless she is active and obedient in both endeavors.
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The Pastor – Chapter 8, Conclusion

If you have listened to this book, you know the author desires only to please YHWH and help Solaequip His people so we will not be tossed about by the whimsy of man. Here’s his wrap for the last chapter:

Having published this book, I know I shall be accused of denigrating both the biblical work of the gospel minister, and the man himself. Indeed, I knew it before I began. But I didn’t agree with it then, and I don’t agree with it now. Yet, if such a critique of an unscriptural title really has undermined what many regard as ‘the ministry ’, then something is seriously wrong with what we think of as ‘the ministry ’. And the sooner we find it out the better. In the 16th century, men like Thomas Cartwright and Robert Browne came to realise that the warrant to preach does not depend on a magistrate’s licence, and they had the courage to destroy the noxious bits of paper which pretended to make a man into a minister. We must show the same courage and the same spirit in our day. If an elder’s authority depends on the invention of an office, on Humpty Dumpty’s misuse of biblical words, or on the use of a title, we ought to recognise where we are – and the consequences of it. To accommodate the words of the Independent, Henry Jacob: A teacher in Christ’s church has a far ‘better original’ than calling him ‘Pastor’; or ought to have! Of course, we must honour all men to whom honour is due (Rom. 13:7). In particular, as I have repeatedly stressed, we should ‘respect’ our elders ‘who work hard among [us], who are over [us] in the Lord and who admonish [us]’, and we should ‘hold them in the highest regard in love
because of their work’ (1 Thess. 5:12-13), but this does not mean we should give them a title.
While we must not undervalue the gifts of Christ to his church, pastor-teachers among them, neither must we make little popes of them! Or big!

Chapter 8 is here.

Chapter 7 can be found here.

The Pastor – Chapter 7, The All-Body Ministry

What is meant by “the priesthood of believers?” Does the Bible show “the pastor” as being the ruler of all that goes on within the local church? SolaHere’s a note from the author on this chapter:

As we have seen, church rule and care has been ruined, twisted into a monstrosity. In tandem – the one feeding off the other – the priesthood of all believers has been allowed to dwindle into practical neglect, so that it has become the poor relation of the Christian religion, rarely discussed, let alone thought about, least of all acted upon. And for those who do have some concept of it, too frequently they think of it as an individual thing, a personal thing – I can go directly to God for my self. A wonderful truth, of course, but one that fails to exhaust the breadth and depth of meaning of this priesthood.

Chapter 7 is here.

Chapter 6 was posted here.

The Pastor – Chapter 6, The Use of Titles

How men love titles! Does your “pastor” like to be called “doctor” or even “pastor”? Are such titles biblical for the gathered people of God? The Solaauthor gives this peek into today’s message:

Now to grasp another nettle. Titles. The New Testament never uses any title for any man in the church. What is more, it categorically forbids it. Nowadays, however, most Christians do use titles – or one in particular – and do so without turning a hair, even though it contradicts Christ’s plain command. Complaining of the scribes and Pharisees who loved ‘to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them “Rabbi”’, Christ said: But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call any one on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:1-12). But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for one is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call any one on earth your father… And do not be called teachers… But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (NKJV).

Chapter 6 can be found here.

Chapter 5 is here.