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The Church Developing
By Buell H. Kazee
Chapter 5
      In the next three chapters two great lines of truth will become evident: (1) That while the church existed from the day when Jesus called the apostles, it developed over a period of time. (2) That not every believer belonged to the churches from the beginning; that is, that the church was a militant institution with a doctrine and a purpose, and that it was first made up of a select group of disciples, not the whole body of believers.

      As we have said, it was founded with the calling and ordaining of the apostles to be witnesses of His resurrection, it walks with Jesus through the offer of the kingdom and the rejection and crucifixion of the King, but there is no evidence that on a certain day or date He formally "organized" His church as we think of organizing today. They were the church without formal organization at that time.

      Certainly, there were large numbers of believers before Pentecost, but they were not called into the body which was to be known as His church. The apostles constituted the only assembly or ekklesia known during the ministry of our Lord. Undoubtedly, by the time of the ascension some of Christ's purposes in the church had dawned upon them, but it is certain that they did not possess the wisdom, much less the power, to carry out these purposes until the Holy Spirit came. So, the foundation has been laid, there is now an accumulation of some one hundred and twenty souls, and the Holy Spirit is about to come upon the house of God in a heavenly display of dedication and power as He takes up His abode in that earthly tabernacle. The instructing, adapting and furnishing of the house with

proper personnel will last until Paul writes his final episdes to Timothy and Titus.1

      A study of the commission will help us arrive at a fair understanding of how the church developed.

      As we trace the commission, the question will first arise, "To whom was it given?" It will be seen that the commission was given to the apostles, but since they constituted the church at this time, it will be clear that it was given to the church.

      The word "commission" suggests to most people the definite passage of Matthew 28:16-20. As a matter of fact, there were several commissions. Rather, the commission develops with the church.

      Going back for a summary, the twelve were sent to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6) with a message concerning the kingdom. So were the seventy. These disciples, walking in a "transition period," have accepted Jesus as the Messiah and their Saviour and are expecting the theocracy to be set up under His reign, but they wonder about His references to His death on the cross and about many other strange things which He says. They knew little of their own future.

      During the Passover week (John 13ff.), Jesus begins to tell them of the Holy Spirit and the many things which will be revealed by Him. He comforts them, instructs them, prays for them and prepares them for His death, resurrection and the many strange events which are to open up their future. He promises that the Spirit will make all things plain. They cannot yet understand

why He must suffer as a Saviour before He can reign as King (Luke 18:31-34). Their frustrated conduct during the week of His passion proves again that matters are not at all clear to them. Even after the resurrection, this great event itself is not clear to them (John 20:9).

      After the resurrection there is still no ministry to the Gentiles. The church at this point is still some distance away from what we today think of as being its ministry. It will take some time after Pentecost for these disciples to understand that the gospel is for the whole world.2

      We shall here give, a summary of the commission to date: (1) The commission to the twelve has been to Jews only (Matthew10:5-6). Also, it seems that the commission to the seventy (Luke 10) is to Jews only and for the purpose of further advertising His messiahship. The message of each group concerned the kingdom. In Matthew the twelve were to say, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (10:7), and in Luke (10:11) the seventy were to say, "The kingdom of God is corne nigh unto you."

      In each case, Jesus anticipnted rejection and proceeded to upbraid the cities where the disciples would go, pronouncing judgment upon their rejection.

      (2) In Matthew 16:19, after Jesus had announced the building of His church, He gave these disciples, especially Peter, "the keys of the kingdom," with the authority of binding and loosing. This authority seems to have been shared by the others, as is indicated in Matthew 18:18 and in John 20:23.

     Beginning with John 13, the record shows Jesus drawing the twelve into a closeness with Himself and introducing them to as much teaching as they could bear. He tells them they are to love each other, to keep His commandments, that they shall do greater

works than "these," that He has chosen them that they might bring forth fruit, and their fruit would remain, that the world would hate them and why, and that they need not fear for He has overcome the world. In His great prayer in John 17, He lifts them up to God and prays for all those who will believe through their word. But the definite commission for world-wide evangelism has not yet come.

      He now turns to the events that have been prophesied and begins His journey along the dark pathway of the cross. As we have indicated, the disciples are greatly frustrated. No instruction seems adequate for this series of dark events. All they now know is that He has been laid in the grave.

      Now Jesus begins to appear. First, the angels tell the women who have come to the tomb that He has risen; that they are to tell His disciples that He will see them in Galilee. As the women go to tell them His message, Jesus Himself appears to them (the women) in the way and gives them the same message for His disciples (Matthew 28:9, 10). Probably in the afternoon of that day He appears to Peter. Next, we find Him with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These disciples return to Jerusalem and report their experiences to "the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them." Evidently, these were gathered for fear of the Jews, and the doors were closed (John 20:19). Here came Jesus and stood in the midst of them (Luke 24:36ff.). It was on this occasion that they proved Him by giving Him something to eat.

      Here, also, it seems, He gives his first commission (John 20:20-23). This was the occasion at which Thomas was absent.

      Eight days after this (John 20:26-29), Jesus appears to the disciples with Thomas present, then (John 21) tb the seven disciples on Lake Tiberias.

      The next appearance is on a mountain in Galilee where He had appointed them. Here, according to most Bible commentators, the "above five hundred brethren at once" which Paul mentions in I Corinthians 15:6 gathered with the apostles and "the women." If this be true we have no objection to it, but frankly we are by no means sure of it. We do know that He appeared to "above five hundred brethren at once," according to Paul's statement, and it could have been on this occasion, but that is as near as we can come to certainty.

      Granted that some six hundred were present at this meeting, we see nothing to prove, as some say,3 that Jesus advertized this meeting in order to have a large crowd present to receive the commission. It is merely an assumption that they were even present. At any rate, this is the time and place of that utterance given in Matthew 28:16-20, which is commonly called "the great commission."

      Who received this commission? So far all the charges have been made to the eleven. Does the church now consist of some six hundred brethren "with the women," and are we to say, as many do, that this is the place where the whole church received the great world-wide commission to evangelize the world? If this be true, will someone please tell us why these "above five hundred brethren" were not present with the one hundred and twenty just before and on the day of Pentecost?

      Sticking close to the record, we are on the trail of the apostles. Matthew records it as if the apostles were all that mattered here, although he may indicate the presence of others by use of the little sentence "but some doubted."

      Our object is not to contradict the opinion of many good brethren, but to find some proof that all this number constituted the church at this time. With our emphasis we shall quote this passage (Matthew 28:16):

      "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, unto 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 power 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. . ." The language indicates that this address was to the eleven and not to an indefinite multitude gathered there.

      At the same time we have a very important consideration. If Jesus did address His remarks to the apostles only and not to an indefinite multitude, it must not have been merely to them as persons, but to them as the foundation of the church which He was then building. The reason for this view is the latter half of verse 20: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (consummation of the age)." The apostles would not always be living, so their successors must have been in view. Hence,

it seems that Jesus was speaking to the church which at this time is centered in the apostles.

      Thus, the church, which is at this point composed of the eleven apostles and which is to be manifested in all its concreteness at Pentecost, has now accumulated some others who will shortly be joined with the apostles in the divine dedication of the tabernacle of the Lord, the body of Christ at Jerusalem. There the Lord will move into His house which He:has been preparing since He laid its foundation with Himself and the apostles.

      It is obvious that not all who believe in Jesus up to this time are included in this body to be known as His church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

      At this point we would like to anticipate an important matter which will be elaborated more fully in the closing chapter. That is, a church is not merely an enrollment society for the citizens of Heaven. Ideally, it would seem that the Lord expected all believers to be in His churches, growing, developing, learning, witnessing and carrying out His divine purposes. However, at this point in history, the church is being molded into an institution, and, of necessity, it is a special group, called out and being formed into a dedicated body through which the Lord will preserve and hold forth the Word of life. It will be bound to a doctrine of salvation and identified by its allegiance to this truth as well as by the experience and character which this truth works in its personnel.

      In all the appearances of Jesus where the commission is mentioned, the apostles are at the center, but this fact stands out boldly in the account of His appearance just before His ascension. Here He summarizes the commission again. It is found in Luke 24:46ff., probably in Mark 16:19 and in Acts 1:3ff. As to the matter of who is present on this occasion, the account must be judged in the light of what followed. However, there is one thing we can be assured of: the apostles were there. Luke very definitely sets them in the center in the beginning of the Book of Acts. With the author's emphasis, let us read it:

"The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto his apostles whom he had chosen: to whom he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the

kingdom of God: and being assembled with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with (in) water; but ye shall be baptized with (in) the Holy Ghost riot many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they stood looking steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went into an upper room where abode (the apostles named). These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (obviously, His brethren in the flesh).

      Mark and Luke give us no help on the question of who was present on this occasion. If anything, they merely confirm that the eleven are all that we can be sure of except the women and His half brothers. Others may have been present, but as far as the record is concerned, all the remarks of our Lord are to the apostles. We know that He was seen of others after the resurrection. We also know that others had "compained with" them in some way, either as constant companions or as those who had seen Jesus intermittently from the days of John the Baptist, as Peter indicates in his preface to the election of Matthias (Acts 1:21).

      We have followed the record meticulously in order to point up the necessity of some interpretation as to the constituency of the church at this point. Whoever else has been present at any of the events up to this time, the apostles have been present. Now we suddenly jump to a known number of one hundred and

twenty, including the apostles and "the women." Of this number we are quite sure of Joseph and Matthias (v. 23) and likely some others who might have been qualified for the apostleship. From whence did this number come, and where have they been all the time of this long journey? Could some of them have been of the seventy? More than this we know nothing. So, we are left to assume that others (maybe as the ten days progressed) joined the apostles in the meeting in the upper room, and some of them had been acquainted with the ministry of Jesus from the days of John the Baptist.

      To say that all these now constitute the church is to say that most any disciple who might have drifted in on this occasion would have been so recognized. It seems to us that this is just one of those vague spots in the progressive development of the church where we have to interpret in the light of former and later events. There are some extras here which cannot be pinned down for the moment in a definite identity, but who are being drawn together for a very important event in the very near future in which the relationship will become very definite. The ekklesia has been the apostles, it is now about to be enlarged officially (that is, by authentication of the Holy Spirit), and these disciples are fittingly gathered here for the great blessing of recognition and power which is soon to fall.

      The great baptism of the Spirit has come. Who is at the center here? It is generally assumed that the Spirit came upon all present, and they were all filled with that Spirit. In fact, the account seems to say so. However, in spite of this assumption, the reading is strange. If we break away the chapter division, it will read like this:

      "And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all of one accord in one place."

      It is true that we can ask more questions about this section than we can answer, but it will be good for our thinking. Who elected Matthias, the one hundred and twenty or the eleven? Who is the "us" in verse 22? This must be the apostles, the eleven. Who gave forth their lots? This author is not sure, but Matthias was numbered with the eleven. How long after the election of Matthias was the day of Pentecost? We don't know.

Who is included in the "they" of Acts 2:1? Supposedly, the one hundred and twenty. Who spoke in tongues? Supposedly, all of them. But in verse 7 we read: "And they were all (that is, the multitude) amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?" (author's emphasis). Does it not seem difficult to be certain? Were the one hundred and twenty all Galileans, or just the apostles? (See also Acts 13:31).

      If the reader wonders what our point is here, it is simply that we want him to look at the record as we have and thus avoid the dogmatism that so often characterizes opinions about the organization of the church. As we see it, we are simply forced to make the best interpretation possible as to who constituted the church during these days just before Pentecost and just how much organization there is about it. Founded with the call of the apostles, this young institution has progressed to a point where it is about to burst into full bloom, but there is too much yet to transpire in its development to say that it has, at this point, been fully organized and authorized.

      It is true that "in those days" when Matthias was chosen as an apostle, there were altogether about one hundred and twenty names (Acts 1:15). Were they all there the first day when the apostles went into the upper room, or did many of them gather gradually as the days passed? Did they all remain there for the full number of days, or did some drop out before Pentecost? We assume that the Spirit was upon all, but we cannot say that all spoke in tongues. The apostles have been referred to as Galileans {Acts 1:11), and again in verse 7 they say, "Are not all these which speak Galileans?" Surely the apostles are at the center here. Peter stood up "with the eleven" and began to preach. In Acts 2:37 it is still the apostles: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles. . . ."

      In verse 41 we have the first record of public professions and additions to the church: ". . . there were added to them about three thousand souls." These all continued steadfastly "in the apostles' doctrine. . . ." Again, verse 43, "many wonders and signs were done by the apostles."

      The Lord continued to add to the church (ekklesia) daily the saved (2:47). This is the first time since Matthew 18:17 that it has been spoken of as an assembly or church. This does not mean

that it was not a church or assembly before this time. Rather, like the house which we used as an illustration in the beginning, it has been going through progressive development from the day when Jesus called the apostles. There is yet much to be done to bring to completion the fully informed and equipped church which the Lord designed.

      Chapters 3 and 4 of Acts have mainly do do with the experiences of Peter and John. In 4:23 "they went to their own company." Reading on through verse 31, one finds it difficult to be certain whether "their own company" means the apostles or the multitude of believers, but verse 32 states a definite fact about the church at this point: "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul. . . ." Verse 33 brings us back to the apostles: "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all."

      Here we have the apostles and the multitude together, but the apostles are still the men through whom the Lord is doing miraculous work and witness. The multitude (of believers) sold their possessions and laid the price at the apostles' feet (v. 35). So in verse 37. Chapter 5:1-11 records the story of Ananias and Sapphira, and here we find that great fear came upon "all the church." We now know that "the church" is a recognized institution. From verse 12 on to the close of the chapter, the account concerns exclusively the apostles and their persecutors.

      Chapter 6 brings us to "those days when the number of the disciples was multiplied. . . ." Verse 2 tells us plainly that the apostles are still in charge. Verse 6 shows that the apostles laid the hand of blessing upon the seven whom they (the church) chose.

      This is an important moment. At this point the church begins a participation in church matters, first under the direction of the apostles and prophets, which will gradually increase until finally the ekklesia will be left with the fully written Word and the Spirit as its guide.

      Shephen now stands forth among the seven as a "man full of faith and power" who "did great wonders and miracles among the people," and we add another miracle man to the twelve. The seventh chapter tells of Stephen's sermon and death, which brings us to one who will soon occupy mainly the scene of action, namely, Saul of Tarsus.

In 8:1 we hear for the first time "the church which was at Jerusalem." We know now that it is not a general church including all believers back to the ministry of John, but it is a specific body of believers located at Jerusalem which is being led by the apostles under the direction of the Holy Spirit in the spread of the gospel. This church was scattered abroad "throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles." This is the church of which Saul "made havoc" (v. 3).

      Now we are on solid ground. As we see it, it was a church in foundation when Jesus called His apostles, and it has continued to develop over this period to the point at which we have arrived in this study. It knew little of its destiny and work during the days of Jesus on earth, but was dependent on Him for each day's revelation; it served His purpose in His offer of Himself and His rejection as King of the Jews; it was commissioned before Pentecost and bidden to wait for the Holy Spirit's coming before attempting to carry out that commission; it had no "authority" during the days of Jesus on earth, for Jesus Himself was its authority; at Pentecost it was added to by a multitude of three thousand, with the apostles still in charge; to the corps of miracle workers was added a new man, namely, Stephen; and now we come to the absolute statement that the apostles, with all the additions of thousands of believers and seven men to handle the charities of the church, constitute "the church which was at Jerusalem." This we consider to be a specific example, and the first, of "my ekklesia" which Jesus promised to build (Matthew 16:18).

     If other churches are to be established, there must be the preaching of the Word in other sections. The spirit of evangelism has seized the church, persecution has flared up vigorously, and "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word." In Acts 8: 5 we find Philip in Samaria preaching Christ unto them, and in the same chapter we find that an Ethiopian eunuch was saved and baptized. There may have been other churches established, but the next one named in Luke's account is at Antioch (ch. 13). So now we have two known churches. The number will continue to increase.

      Yet, the churches are still not "on their own." They are under the direction of the apostles (Acts 8:14ff.). Here we are told that "when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter

and John; who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) And they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." The apostles will still be in charge as the work progresses. There is much yet to be revealed, and Saul is coming on the scene to become the one through whom God will make His most extensive revelations concerning the church.

      We have traced thus far the development of the church and with it the development of the commission, neither of which is finished in its fulness. We should like to go back now to the beginning of the church age and bring up to date the progressive revelation of the Holy Spirit. This will consume the early part of the next chapter, after which we can proceed with the record of the church from Acts 8.



      1 It is understood that our theory of the gradual development of the church will at first arouse opposition from those who hold that the church had a formal organization on some set day during the earthly life of Jesus. Some will fear that if we do not assume a fully organized and authorized church before Pentecost, we endanger our claim for the autonomy of the (local) church. Careful reading of this book, however, will show that there is better ground for this position in our theory than in that of a completely autonomous church before Pentecost.
      It must be remembered that it took the Lord a long time to establish the nation Israel. Likewise the tabernacle, almost surely a type of the earthly pilgrim church, was a long time in the making. Likewise, also, the body of Jesus, temple of the living God in this world, was some time in preparation for His great ministry. Surely such an institution as the church needs time for development, as the Scriptures so clearly set forth in detail.
      2 Some have suggested that if it had not been for the obstinacy of the apostles (for example, Peter, Acts 10) they would have known that the gospel was for the whole world. Had not the prophets declared that Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6, et al.), and did not the "great commission" tell them to make disciples of all nations? But such passages as Luke 18:34, John 15:26, 20:9, Acts 1:6 and 11:16 show us that many things had been said which they did not yet understand or remember. Have we not an abundance of Scripture on the second coming of Christ, for example, and yet many are not sure about how it will take place in certain details? All this shows why the church and its ministry had to be revealed gradually. (See also John 16:4 and 12).
     3 Carroll, op. cit., The Four Gospels, Vol. II, pp. 463-464, et al.

[From Buell H. Kazee, The Church and the Ordinances, Lexington, KY, 1965, pp. 46-57.]

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