How is a Gospel Church Formed?
THIS question was answered by the Philadelphia Association: "Before there can be any orderly discipline among a Christian assembly, they must be orderly constituted into a church state, according to the institution of Christ in the Gospel.
"I. A gospel church is made by gathering divers select persons into Jesus Christ, in a spiritual body, and relation to him as their mystical head, . . . and prepares them by the work of renewing grace for such spiritual building.
"2. Christ, as the Mediator of the new covenant; ordereth the everlasting gospel to be preached, and accompanying it with his Holy Spirit, blesseth it to the turning of men from darkness to light, working faith and love in them.
"3. When sinners are thus wrought upon effectually, to such a suitable number as may be an essential church, i.e., to as many as may act properly and orderly as a church, that then it will be proper for them, by their mutual consent, to propose to be constituted a church, or that others seeing the expediency thereof may encourage the same.
"4. For the accomplishment of so glorious a work it is necessary that a day of fasting and prayer be appointed by and among such believers, and that such procure some neighboring helps as they can, especially of the ministry.
"5. The persons being first orderly baptized, according to the command of Christ, and being all satisfied of the graces and qualifications of each other, and being willing in the fear of God to take the laws of Christ upon them, and do by one mutual consent give up themselves to the Lord, and to one another in the Lord, solemnly submitting to the government of Christ in his church, and being united, they .care to be declared a gospel church of Jesus Christ.
"6. A number of believers thus united under Christ, their mystical head, are become a church essential, and as such is the first and proper subject of the keys, and the power and privilege to govern themselves, and to choose out their own ministerial officers."
Baptists hold that a gospel church is a local assembly of baptized believers, and the scholarship of the age admits that they are right according to the acknowledged meaning of the term used by the Lord Jesus. That this term is several times used to signify all the saved is certain. But it is a figurative application of the word. The saved, the blood-washed, are called sheep or a flock of sheep,
but this is not literal; they are not sheep really. It is only that in some particulars they are like sheep. So they are termed the lamb's wife and a building, but these are simply a figurative application of the term. It is misleading and confusing to conceive such figures to be facts, and to use metaphors as realities.
The Lord Jesus is called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah"; how confusing it would be to speak of a lion dying on the cross, or the believer as a lamb in the grrasp of a lion. It is just as confusing to speak of the church of all ages and centuries following the diivne Shepherd as areal veritable flock of sheep. For a flock is a number of gathered or congregated sheep. Unless assembled together they aare not a flock. But this is made more confusing still when the flock is conceived to be a house and the house a garden, and the house and garden growing up into the head. Let it be remembered as averity, that God's people (not a congregation or church as such) aare compared to an army, are compared to a bride, a building, a body, having conditions resembling these. And so Christ's people are compard to a congregation, to a chuch, because they have a resemblance to a gathering or united people.
Stripped of metaphor, a church is a company of baptized believers united together in faith and fellowship in the name of the Lord jesus for his
service. A church is an ecclesia, is a called-out spiritual congregation. It is in fact nothing more and is nothing less. A church, therefore, is not a general organization. It is not an aggregation of numerous local assemblies. The church at Corinth, a Philippi, together with those around them, were never called by the apostles "The Church of Greece," or the catholic, that is, a general church.
[The bottom half of this page has a drawing of a hand with statements written on the palm and digits:
palm: The Lord's People: Redeemed, - Saved, figuratively described as resembling in some respects, distinct things as Christ is a lion, a lamb, a stone, etc. Thumb: A Church, - like one in some respects. Jesus, the Pastor. Index: Compared to a house, building, - as like in many respects, Christ, the foundation. Middle: Compared to a farm, husbandry- like one in some respects. Christ the owner. Fourth: Compared to a bride - like one in some respects. The Lamb, the husband. Little: Compared to a flock sheep - being in some respects like one. Christ, the shepherd.] =================
[Samuel H. Ford, Baptist Waymarks, ABPS, 1903. Typed from the original document by Linda Duvall; the document was provided by Pastor Steve Lecrone, Burton, OH. - jrd]
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