Why Be A Baptist?
Chapter 9: The Family of God, Kingdom of God, and Church of God Differentiated
Bro. Taylor Answers A Question
"Men are born into the family of God by the new birth, but men are not born into the church" H. B. Taylor, in News and Truths.
If that is the truth, if men get into the family of God by one process, and into the church of God by another and different one, it follows certainly, that the family of God and the church of God are two different institutions. He who has been "born into the family of God by the new birth" is a child of God, and, as such is an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ: "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:17). Is it possible that these "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ" are still out of the church of God? Again: he who has been "born into the family of God" has the remission of sins; for, certainly, Godís children are not reprobates. Again: He who has been "born into the family of God" is a new creature. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). We should feel under lasting obligations to Brother Taylor if he would tell us just what God must do to this person, or what the person himself must do to become a member of Godís church, after he has been "born into the family of God," after he has remission of sins, after he has become a "new creature." His declaration that "men are born into the family of God" is entirely correct, but that the family of God is one thing and the church of God is another thing, is entirely erroneous. "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). The family of God and the house of God are certainly the same, and the apostle here most emphatically declares that the house of God is the church of the living God.óGospel Message.
We gladly answer the questions herein contained. In fact, while we are at it we go a little further and distinguish between the family of God, the church of God, and the kingdom of God as used in the New Testament.
The family of God includes all the children of God in heaven and on earth. "Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:15). This family includes all believers. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). All believers are Godís children. "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43), "Therefore it is faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all" (Rom. 4:16). Since the Old Testament saints were saved by faith in Christ they are all members of Godís family.
Godís family is bigger than the kingdom of God or the church of God for it now contains all the saved from Abel to the last man who has believed, whether in heaven or on earth. God has only one family. All believers are children and heirs of God.
The Kingdom of God includes all the saved on earth at any given time. In Matthew 13 the kingdom is used to include all professors. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his motherís womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:3-5), "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19), "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:11), "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16), "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13), "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36). The kingdom as used in the above scriptures is composed of all the born again on the earth.
"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44), "And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. And they did so, and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets. And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Fatherís, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:11-27), "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6). Those passages refer to the millennium. That kingdom is yet future.
What is sometimes called the spiritual kingdom is composed only of those who have been born again, who have been "translated, out of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son" (John 3:3-5). "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established" (Matthew 18:1-16). "And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein" (Mark 10:13-15). The Master shows very clearly, that the kingdom is composed of only such as have received Him, whether children or adults. The family of God includes all the saved of all the ages, whether in heaven or on earth; the kingdom of God includes that part of the family of God who are on earth now.
The church of God is never used of any institution, except of an assembly or congregation of baptized believers in some given locality. "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2).
The local individual church is the only kind of church God has on this earth today. There is only one family of God, composed of all the redeemed of all the ages in heaven and on earth. There is only one kingdom of God, composed of all the born again on the earth now. There are thousands of churches of God on earth. Every individual Baptist church is a church of God. No others are. When a man is born again he is born into Godís family. He is in the family of God. The relationship does not change. Whether in heaven or on earth he is in Godís family. When he is born again he also enters Godís kingdom. This relationship is for life. When he dies he passes out of the kingdom of God on earth and enters "unto his heavenly kingdom to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (2 Tim. 4:18).
After he has been born again he is not yet in a church of God, but is now a scriptural subject for admission into a church of God. "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). Church membership was not something a man gets with salvation but a subsequent blessing he gets after salvation by being added to the church. Baptism is not essential to admission into either the family of God or the kingdom of God: but baptism is essential to admission into a church of God.
Men are born anew into the family of God and into the kingdom of God: but they are baptized into a church of God: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). The "one body" referred to here by Paul was the church of God at Corinth. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor. 12:27).
That local church at Corinth was the body of Christ at Corinth. The members of the church at Corinth belonged to only "one body" of Christ. That body of Christ probably did not contain all the saved at Corinth: "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth" (1 Cor. 1:2), and none of the saved anywhere else except at Corinth. Since they belonged to only "one body" and that was the local church at Corinth, Christ has no other kind of church or body except a local church. If they had belonged to a local church at Corinth, which Paul said was the body of Christ, and then to the kind of church the "Message" talks about, composed of all the saved everywhere, they would have belonged to two churches or bodies of Christ, one local and visible, the other universal and invisible. The New Testament knows nothing of such confusion as that. God is not the author of any such confusion.
Jesus Christ has only one kind of church or body on this earth, and that is the local assembly, the organized body of baptized believers in any given community. "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). The very passage cited in the "Message" is in harmony with this truth. The church of God is there called the house of God; but the house of God is not used there in the sense of a family, but in the sense of a building. That the church referred to in that passage is a local church is clearly evident from even a casual reading of the context. "This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved, then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly" (1 Tim. 3:1-14). Bishops and deacons are officers of local churches. Paul has just been telling them their duties as officials of the local church and adds that he writes these things that Timothy, a young preacher, may know how to behave himself in the house of God, the local church of which he was bishop (pastor). The church which Paul called a body of Christ, was a local church. Since Christ has but "one body" (1. e., one kind of a body) there is no church of Christ except the local church. The church which Paul called the house of God was a local church. The church that Paul said was "the pillar and ground of the truth" was a local church. The church to which the Lord Jesus promised perpetuity: "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" (Matthew 16:18). This was a local church, for He never spoke of any other kind. The meaning of the word ekklesia permits of no other kind. Oh! that we let others more competent than the writer speak.
Prof. Royal, who taught Prof. A. T. Robertson, of the Louisville Seminary, when asked if he knew of an instance in classic Greek where ekklesia was ever used of a class of "unassembled or unassembling persons," said: "I do not know of any such passage in classic Greek." With this statement agree Profs. Rurton of Chicago University, Stifler of Crozer, Strong of Rochester and many other scholars. Joseph Cross (Episcopalian) says: "We hear much of the invisible church as contradistinguished from the church visible. Of an invisible church in this world I know nothing, the Word of God says nothing; nor can anything of the kind exist, except in the brain of a heretic. The church is a body; but what sort of a body is that which can neither be seen nor identified. A body is an organism, occupying space and having a definite locality. A mere aggregation is not a body; there must be organization as well. A heap of heads, hands, feet and other members would not make a body; they must be united in a system, each in its proper place and all pervaded by a common life. So a collection of stones, brick and timbers would not be a house; the material must be built together, in an artistic order, adapted to utility. So a mass of roots, trunks and branches would not be a vine or a tree; the several parts must be developed according to the laws of nature from the same seed and nourished by the same vital sap." Exactly so.
The limbs of a body scattered on a battlefield are not a body. The material of a house in the woods or quarries is not a house. These members and this material must be put in place before you have either a body or a house. So the saved are not a church unless brought together and organized or builded into a body or house of God. There is not and cannot be such an institution as a universal invisible church on this earth, composed of all the saved, because the material has never been brought together and builded into a house or body.
When the Lord Jesus and Paul spoke of the baptized believers of a larger territory than a local church they always said churches. There was no confusion in their speaking though there is much confusion in modern thinking upon this question.
Once more we try to make the distinction clear. The family of God is composed of all the saved in heaven and on earth. Old Testament saints and babies who died in infancy are in Godís family. They are not now, nor were they ever in the kingdom or in any church of God.
All believers on the earth at any given time since the days of John the Baptist compose the kingdom of God. "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16). There are no infants in it. All true believers, whether Catholic, Protestant, Baptist or non-church-members on earth are in the kingdom; for if true believers they have been born anew. Only baptized believers or Baptists are members of the churches of Christ.