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Origin and Nature
by Davis W. Huckabee
This study began as a conviction that the local church, "the pillar and ground of the truth," was not being given the regard due to it as set forth in the New Testament. In the modern religious world, humanistic theology and humanistic programs and organizations are exalted out of all due proportions to the disparagement of Divine truth and order. The author is convinced that one of the most outstanding examples of this, is the great regard that is paid to the "Universal Church." Yet only a moment’s reflection will manifest that, in the words of Dr. S.E. Anderson (The First Church, pp. 96–97), this supposed universal church has—
No address, locale, or building. No body, tangibility, or definable framework. No meetings, assemblies or meeting places. No discipline. No baptism. No Lord’s Supper. No deacons or deaconesses. No pastors or assistant pastors. No choir, organist or pianist. No treasury, collection or budget. No missionary collection or fellowship fund. No moderator, chairman or president. No clerk, records or membership roll. No prayer meetings. No business meetings. No evangelistic meetings. No ordination of pastors or election of trustees. No messengers or delegates. No identity. No commission. No responsibility. No organization. No association with sister churches. No missionaries. No constitution. No by-laws or rules of order. No name.
—that, in a word, it is a non-entity; little wonder that such a theory is so popular, for it demands nothing of anyone, antagonizes no one, and accomplishes nothing, but must depend upon the members of the local church for its whole existence; yet it gets all the honor and glory, while the local church, which has done all the work, gets only scorn and disrespect.
This conviction was the motivation for a series of twenty messages which were delivered in 1963 to the First Missionary Baptist Church of Kirk, Colorado, of which this writer was then pastor. Some of the material had already at that time been prepared and published serially in The Orthodox Baptist, a monthly denominational paper published at Ardmore, Oklahoma. This material was subsequently revised and enlarged until it finally became a manuscript of over six hundred pages, portions of which were also delivered at pastors' conferences and fellowship meetings. This present booklet represents the first two of the original twelve chapters, the remainder of which will, if the Lord gives His smile of approval upon this work, be subsequently published in other booklets.
The conviction still abides that when the Apostle to the Gentile's said "To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end," (Eph. 3:21). He had reference to the local body. There is but "one body" (Eph. 4:4), it is true, and this one body is the church, (Eph. 1:23); yet it is equally evident that the church is not numerically "one" else the word would never appear in the plural form, which it does over thirty-five times in the New Testament; clearly then, this body must be "one" generically—"one" so far as kind is concerned—and that one kind a local body. Proof of this is to be seen in that more than nine out of every ten usages of this word in the New Testament refer to some specific local congregation of saints, and the dozen or so other usages do not conflict with this idea, but are simply abstract, generic or institutional usages of the word, none of which necessitate the existence of a "universal church" to fulfill the meaning of the word or its usage.
Therefore, the sooner God's people get rid of the hopes of an easy Christianity, manifested in some sort of Universal Church which requires no labor or loyalty, sanctity or soundness, devotedness or discrimination, the sooner they will be prepared to studiously inquire of the local church what its requirements are for membership, what its reasons for existence are, how its members may fulfill their duties, what its history has been, etc.
It is with the hope that those who have previously held the Universal Church theory will be led to a prayerful re-examination of this theory in the light of the New Testament, and that those who have already recognized that the church of the New Testament is always and ever a local congregation will be strengthened in this knowledge, that the author sends this booklet forth. It is his prayer that the great Head of the Church will be pleased to use this humble effort to get "glory in the church" until His glorious and triumphant return. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus," (Rev. 22:20).
Davis W. Huckabee
April 15, 1970
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