Words relating to the word "church"

        The Holy Spirit uses several words to describe God's gathering of believers.  Among them:

        Each of the above words presents a distinctive aspect of God's truth regarding His elect, and it would be well worth everyone's efforts to search out these distinctive meanings.  For the purpose of this study, however, we will primarily confine ourselves to the words "body," "holy temple," and "church," which are frequently used to describe that company of God's elect He is calling out, and that we form a part of.

Meaning of the word "church"

       Several years ago a construction company placed an advertisement in Christianity Today stating, "Let us build your church. . . ."  We frequently hear news reports of churches that were set on fire, built, renovated, etc.  However, the word “church,” ekklesia, does not mean a physical building, such as a tabernacle, cathedral, chapel or gospel hall.  It refers, rather, to people who assemble together, whether that assembly of people takes place in a building, a private home, a cave, or in an open field.  This word occurs about 115 times in the New Testament.  Three times it is used to describe an unruly protest crowd (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), twice to describe an Old Testament congregation of Israelites (Acts 7:38; Heb. 2:12), and 110 times to represent a corporate company of Christian saints.  Dr. E. W. Bullinger defines the word as follows:  [Note, we have eliminated the Greek characters present in his original lexicon.]

ekklesia the common term for a meeting of the ekkletoi (those summoned) to discuss the affairs of a Free State; the body of citizens summoned together by a herald kerux.  The lxx. transfer the term to the assembly of the people of Israel, whether summoned or met for a definite purpose (1 Kings vii. 65), or considered as the representative of the entire nation.  In N.T. it denotes the redeemed community in its two-fold aspect.  (i)  The entire community of all who are called by and to Christ out of the world, the Church universal,  (ii) every Church in which the character of the Church as a whole is seen in miniature.  The summoning is expressed by the latter part of the word kalein, and out of by the first part ek.  (Ethelbert W. Bullinger, D.D., A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament")

Scriptural background of the church

         The ministry of John the Baptist paved the way for the eventual formation of the early church.  The prophet Isaiah had predicted:

     "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 
     "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her time of suffering is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of Jehovah's hand double for all her sins.
     "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight in the desert a highway for our God!
     "Every valley shall be raised up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places a plain.
     "And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken." (Isa. 40:1-5)

        This prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist.

     "Now in those days comes John the baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh.
     "For this is he who has been spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying, Voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." (Mat. 3:1-3)

        John's baptism was a baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins.  He called for all Israel to get right with God.

     "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the country round the Jordan, and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mat. 3:5-6; see Mark 1:4)

        John knew that his own ministry was only a forerunner to that of the Messiah.  His baptism looked forward to the time when Israel as a nation would repent, be baptized, and receive remission of sins.  That baptism envisioned the day when the Lord Jesus Christ would baptize believers with the Holy Spirit.

      "I  indeed baptize you with water to repentance, but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire;
     "whose winnowing fan is in his hand, and he shall thoroughly purge his threshing-floor, and shall gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable." (Mat. 3:11-12, see Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16)

        The purpose of John's baptism with water was to declare the Messiah to be Israel's Lamb of God, and to ceremonially cleanse individual Jews from their sins as part of their repentance from these sins.

     "On the morrow he sees Jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
     "He it is of whom I said, A man comes after me who takes a place before me, because he was before me;
     "and I knew him not; but that he might be manifested to Israel, therefore have I come baptizing with water. . . .
     "Again, on the morrow, there stood John and two of his disciples.  And, looking at Jesus as he walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of God." (John 1:29-36)

        In Matthew 16 the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, declared His intention to form His "church" (ekklesia).  We quote the entire passage in order to give the context. Note that Caesarea was the place where images of various 'gods' were displayed, and where much public debate occurred as to the true nature and importance of each of these heathen gods.  Thus the query of the Lord:

     "But when Jesus was come into the parts of Caesarea-Philippi, he demanded of his disciples, saying, Who do men say that I the Son of man am?
     "And they said, Some, John the baptist; and others, Elijah; and others again, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
     "He says to them, But ye, who do ye say that I am?
     "And Simon Peter answering said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
     "And Jesus answering said to him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in the heavens.
     "And I also, I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and hades' gates shall not prevail against it.
     "And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens; and whatsoever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be bound in the heavens; and whatsoever thou mayest loose on the earth shall be loosed in the heavens.
     "Then he enjoined on his disciples that they should say to no man that he was the Christ." (Mat. 16:13-20)

        In the above passage the Lord said: "on this rock I will build my church," indicating that it had not yet been built.  Lest anyone be confused, the identity of  "the rock" in this passage is clearly defined in other Scriptures not as 'Peter,' but as the Lord Jesus Himself.  Nevertheless, what the apostle Paul calls the "holy temple" (Eph. ____), was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the head of the corner (or the chief corner stone).  And, it is to be noted, that the apostles possessed a God-given authority to make decisions here on earth which were ratified in heaven.  (   )

     "According as it is written, Behold, I place in Zion a stone of stumbling and rock of offence: and he that believes on him shall not be ashamed." (Rom. 9:33)

      "For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank of a spiritual rock which followed them: (now the rock was the Christ)." (1 Cor. 10:1-4)

     "Because it is contained in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be put to shame.  To you therefore who believe is the preciousness; but to the disobedient, the stone which the builders cast away as worthless, this is become head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and rock of offence; who stumble at the word, being disobedient to which also they have been appointed." (1 Pet. 2:2)

        Note the fact that Christ Himself would build His church.  What the Lord would build would be perfect, in contrast to the outward 'house' that would be the aspect of the church that men would build, and that might prove to be either gold and silver, or, more likely, hay, wood, and stubble.  Confusion on this point has led to drastic consequences by sectarian Christendom by misidentifying the many failures of outward 'churchianity' with the true, perfect, invisible church.

        The word ekklesia occurs more than 100 times in the Greek scriptures.  When the Lord announced He was about to build His "church," He was referring to building a company of believers called out of the world and spiritually joined to Himself.  As to its inward, spiritual character, Paul describes this company of called-out-ones as a "church," a "body," and a "temple."  As to its external character, the professing church is known as a "house."  Note particularly the "great house" of 2 Timothy:

     "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
     'Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
     "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
     "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
     "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." (2 Tim. 2:17-21)

        It is shamefully true that much of the outward 'church' has miserably failed to honor its Head.  Our study, however, has to do primarily with the inward spiritual 'body' which has a Divine foundation, Christ Himself, and which foundation is made and built by God.  So we now look at the words which describe this inward spiritual organism, this glorious church that he will present to himself "not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing", a church that is "holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).

    Occurrences of the words "Church,"  "Body," and "Temple" in scripture

GREEK WORD

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Acts

Hebrews, James, Peter, John, Jude

Paul’s Pre-prison epistles

Paul’s Prison epistles

Rev

ekklesia

Church, assembly,  or gathering, when referring specifically to the church in both its external and internal aspects,  at and after Matthew 16:18

1

20

6

43

19

20

soma

Body, when it refers specifically to the church, or compares the structure of the church to a human body.

0

0

0

About 35

About 18

 
naos Temple, when referring to God's elect as part of that temple 0 0 0 6 1  

        The table presented above indicates there are 20 references to God’s “church” in the book of Acts, 43 in Paul’s pre-prison epistles, and 19 in the prison epistles.  The word "church" is a general term.  It is not dispensationally distinctive, because the word "church" is associated with at least three diverse dispensations.  In the following paragraphs we briefly describe these three dispensations. There is, however, no obvious scriptural passage that splits these three groups of ‘churches’ into separate 'bodies,' as is done by some dispensationalists.

 

Paul’s apostolic ministry is historically recorded from Acts 9:20 through Acts 28.  This ministry of Paul spans the time period identical to when he wrote his six 'pre-prison' epistles (Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans).  In these twenty chapters of Acts, the word “church,” ekklesia, referring to God’s elect people, occurs 18 times (Acts 8:1, 3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3, 4, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 20:17, 28).  Both "church #1," and "church #2" (above) are referred to by the same word ekklesia.  There is nothing in the word ekklesia to distinguish the earliest “church #1,” created on the day of Pentecost, from "church #2" which existed during Paul’s pre-prison ministry, (Acts 9 - 28).

Interestingly, Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, recognized the church at Jerusalem as being the very same church with which he identified during his ministry to the Gentiles.  When a question arose as to whether physical circumcision was a requirement for Gentile salvation (Acts 15:1), Paul did not simply say, "Well, we are independent of the 'old Jewish' church, we are not in the same 'church' as they, so I will simply announce my independent determination of this matter, and this determination will apply to those in the 'new Gentile' church."  No, Paul returned to Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit brought the mind of God to the apostles and elders and the whole assembly there.  Thus the matter was settled in a way that brought unity to all parts of God's church (Acts 15:22).  To announce their conclusions to the Gentiles, these Jewish apostles and elders, and the brethren at the Jerusalem assembly, sent "chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul," and "Judas and Silas" (Acts 15:25, 27).  It was not enough for them to simply send Paul back with their decision.   Representatives of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem had to go also, presumably to make the decision official and authoritative.  Thus Paul recognized the moral authority of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.  Both Paul and the Jerusalem saints were members of the same church.  It is very difficult to reconcile a "two-body" position with this section of Scripture.  In addition, if a 'new' church was born at Acts 9 or at Acts 13, why is Paul allowing himself to be subject to the decisions of the 'kingdom' church that began at Acts 2?

This governmental 'chain of authority' is referred to in Ephesians, where the "holy temple" is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus being the chief corner stone.  Moral "authority" during both halves of the Acts, and, apparently even in Ephesians, flowed from Christ (the corner stone), to the apostles & prophets (the foundation), then to all the rest who make up the holy temple.  (See Ephesians 2:19 - 22).  But direct Divine revelation, such as flowed from the Holy Spirit to and through a specially appointed apostle, Paul, was another matter.  He it was who communicated God's changed message to the twelve apostles at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:7-9; Eph. 3:5; 2 Pet. 3:15), not the other way around.

        If the “church” in each of these three dispensations was a distinct “church,” meaning each “church” had a distinct historical starting point, or “birthday,” we are not so informed in Scripture.  Nevertheless, Mr. Welch is correct in his observation:

It is not enough to point to the word "church" and thereby set aside the distinctive callings of God. (Charles H. Welch, An Alphabetical Analysis, part one, p. 161)

        Here Mr. Welch almost recognizes the point we are attempting to make, namely, that God's "church" can have many "callings" (or dispensations), depending upon God's sovereign purposes.  The fact that the word "church" does not in itself define a particular "calling" or "dispensation" leads us to examine an additional descriptor Paul used to define the church.  By adding this descriptor the Holy Spirit narrows down the meaning of the word church and reinforces our belief that one single church existed during the three dispensations cited above.  That church began at Pentecost and continues today.  The additional descriptor is the word “body.”

        The word soma, “body,” occurs 61 times in Paul's pre-prison letters and 20 times in the prison epistles.  By our count, soma, when referring to Christ's body, the church, or to the figure of the human body as an illustration of the structure of the church, occurs about 35 times in the pre-prison letters and 18 times in the prison epistles.  Describing the church as a “body” is exclusively Pauline.  The church is never described as a “body,” or the “body of Christ,” in the Gospels, Hebrews, the epistles of James, Peter, John, Jude, or in the Apocalypse.  Even in the Acts, which records Paul’s ministry during the time he was actively writing about the "body of Christ" in his epistles, Luke never once mentions the word “body” to describe the church.  The reason for this is that Acts is not primarily a doctrinal record.  It is a historical record of God's offer of the millennial kingdom to Israel, of their rejection of this offer, and of God's inclusion of Gentiles into His program to provoke Israel to jealousy, and eventually to completely suspend that kingdom offer at their sentence of spiritual blindness at Acts 28.

      “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Rom. 12:4-5)

     “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:16-17)

     “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
     "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.
     "For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
     "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.
     "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.  Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked:  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.
     "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (Cor. 12:12-27)

     “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 fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:22)

     “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” (Eph. 2:16)

     “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6).

     “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)

     “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:12)

     “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:16)

     “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23)

     “For we are members of his body.” (Eph. 5:30)

     “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.” (Col. 1:18)

     “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.” (Col. 1:24)

     “And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” (Col. 2:19)

     “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Col. 3:15)

        Thus, both the earlier and the later epistles of Paul use the word soma, “body,” to describe the ekklesia, "church."  Scripture makes no attempt to distinguish 'churches' or 'bodies' in different time periods or in the various dispensations occurring during the historical period represented by the book of Acts.  Furthermore, several of the above passages specifically define the church as “Christ’s body,” or, “the body of Christ:”  This is true in both the earlier and later writings of Paul.

     “Now ye are [the] body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Cor. 12: 27)

     “[God] gave him [to be] head over all things to the church,  which is his body.” (Eph. 1:22)

     "Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23)

     “For we are members of his body.” (Eph. 5:30)

     “And he is the head of the body, the church.” (Col. 1:18)

     “for his body's sake, which is the church.” (Col. 1:24)

        C. H. Welch argues that 1 Cor.12:15-26 is not the body of Christ.  His reasoning is:

Verses 15--26 give a detailed and graphic analogy between the parts of a human body, and the various diversities, yet withal unity, of the saints. . . . It cannot be the 'one body' of Ephesians, for that had not been revealed, neither is there in that one body members who are 'the ear, the eye, or the nose," all of which belong to the head;  neither are some members of the body of Christ 'uncomely.'   (Charles H. Welch, Dispensational Truth, p. 162)

        Welch implies that the body of Christ could not exist until the full doctrinal truth of that body was set forth.  But, taking that assumption a step further, does that suggest that the Ephesian believers could not have been part of the dispensation of the mystery until the physical parchment describing this calling 'came in the mail' to them, perhaps months after Acts 28:28?  The apostle Paul, for example, states that Abram was justified by faith without works (Rom. 4).  This establishes the fact that God has only one soteriology, only one plan of eternal salvation for believers of every dispensation.  Yet this feature of truth, though it existed from day-one, was not as clearly revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures as compared to the crystal clear manner in which it was revealed by Paul.  We suspect there were many things that saints possessed positionally, by God's sovereign grace, before they knew the doctrine concerning them.  Certainly that is the case with many of us today.  Therefore, to say that the 'one body' of Ephesians could not exist because the doctrinal truth of that body had not yet been fully revealed is not sound hermeneutics.  Furthermore, Welch attempts to explain away the passages in Paul's pre-prison epistles that, in my understanding, clearly speak of Christ's body the church.

        Regarding 1 Cor. 12:27, "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular," Welch said:

The verse reads, "But ye are body of Christ, and members partially."  It is not the body; it is simply 'body,' the absence of the article showing us that a description (not a definition) is intended.  The word 'partially,' or 'in part,' is a translation of two Greek words, ek merous, and they occur together nowhere else except in 1 Cor. xiii.  (op cit, p. 162)

        Regarding his translation of ek merous, as "partially," as though the believers at Corinth may have been "partially" members of "body of Christ," but not fully members, unlike the glorious position enjoyed by the Ephesian believers, please consider the following collection of Bible translations to see if any resemble his interpretation.  Caution!  A number of these translations are definitely not on our "recommended" list, but I list their rendering nonetheless.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. KJV
Now ye are Christ's body, and members in particular. Darby
Now ||ye|| are the body of Christ, and members severally;  Rotherham
Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof. (marg. Or, members each in his part) RV
Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof. ASV
Now you are Christ's Body, and severally members of it.  Moffatt
Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.  New KJV
And ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. Youngs
As for you, you are the body of Christ, and individually you are members of it. Weymouth
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  Websters
Now you are Christ's body and individual parts of it.  ISV
So you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it.  William's
Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.  Montgomery
and you are a body for Christ, and participating members.  Ferrar Fenton
Now you are Christ's body, and each of you a limb or organ of it.  New English Bible
But you are Christ's body and members with assigned parts.  Berkeley
Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.  New American Standard Bible
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  RSV
Now YOU are Christ's body, and members individually  New World Translation
And you are the body of Christ, and members in part.  Modern King James
Now you are the body of Christ, and members of a part.  Concordant Version

W. E. Vine says the following about this phrase:

In 1 Cor. 12:27, R.V., the phrase ek merous, lit., out of a part (meros), is rendered "severally"  (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

        The Companion Bible has notes on the words "the body" and on the words "in particular":

the body.  There is no art. because soma is the predicate.  Cp. [1 Cor.] 3:16 [temple of God]

in particular.  Gr. ek merous.  The meaning is "Each in his part", as R.V. m.

        Regarding the absence of the definite article before the word "body," although its absence sometimes lends a 'characteristic' sense, it should not be translated "a body of Christ."  One false religion uses the fact that the Greek definite article does not appear in John 1:1 before the word theos in its quest to deny the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, mistranslating the verse "and the Word was a god" (sic.).  But, as several translations above indicate, the verse in 1 Corinthians 12:27 can be correctly translated either:

"Now you are [the] body of Christ"   

or

"Now you are Christ's body"

        The reader can decide for himself whether Mr. Welch's rendering of ek merous as "members partially" is the proper rendering, or whether the 21 renderings presented above, and the rendering of Dr. Bullinger's Companion Bible are closer to the intended meaning.  We feel the meaning is plain.  Paul was telling the Corinthian believers "Now ye are Christ's body, and members in particular."  In other words, the "body of Christ" was in full existence when Paul wrote his early epistles, even though the full truth of that doctrine had not yet been fully revealed.  And, just as the Corinthian believers were "Christ's body" the believers in Ephesus were "His body" (Eph. 5:30).  Both passages mean exactly the same thing.

        It is this writer's opinion that there is no need to "force" the plain meaning of scripture into a "system" of interpretation.  There are many things we do not know this side of the heavenlies, but we should be "Bereans" who are open to hearing and believing the scriptures.

Did the Lord Jesus Christ have two churches, two bodies?

        There was “Christ's body” in Corinthians, and “His body . . . the church” in Colossians.  Do these references point to two separate bodies, or to one and the same ekklesia?  If they are separate bodies, separate churches, how is one supposed to tell which is which?

        It is certainly true that different ministries, different stewardships, different dispensations were carried out through Christ's body, the church, in different time periods, but does this mean when God modifies what He is dispensing, that 'church #1' must end and a new 'Christ's body the Church #2' begin?  Then, does 'Christ's body the church #2' come to an end, allowing 'the church the body of Christ #3' to begin?  It is certainly true that God was dispensing some strikingly different outward features of truth to, and through, “the body of Christ” in the various time slots successively occupied by that “body,” but, does the fact that God changed his ‘marching orders’ necessarily require that He transplant members of one church into a new one?  Or, that God has several 'churches,' existing at the same time, each with its distinct sphere of blessing?  Did "the body of Christ" in Corinthians end at Acts 28:28, and an entirely new "body of Christ" come into existence and take the place of the first?

        That erroneous line of reasoning has led to such non-scriptural complications as: “Were the members of the Acts 2 church automatically transferred into that church which was supposedly created thereafter?”  “Did two churches (bodies) coexist simultaneously?”  “Did Peter, James and John belong to a different body than Paul?” When Saul became a believer, he was baptized by Ananias.  Were Paul and Ananias in separate 'churches?' (Acts 9:17-18)?  If so, how could a 'member' of one 'church' baptize someone who was not part of that church?  Did Paul, who was part of 'church A' submit to the authority of James and Peter who were in 'church B?'

        As a matter of fact, even in his prison epistles, Paul refers to the original church that had its inception at Pentecost.  In these references, Paul gives absolutely no indication that the 'old' church of which he writes is in any way a different 'church' than existed subsequent to Acts 28:28.  Ponder the following:

     "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
     Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
     But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." (Phil. 3:5-7)

     "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only." (Phil. 4:15)

        In fact, one might well imagine that the events at Acts 28:28 could have produced some degree of unsettlement amongst the believers at Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi.  After all, they had been “grafted into” the olive tree of Romans 11 as “wild” branches during the time Israel was still "first."  They had been instrumental in provoking Israel to jealousy.  They no doubt spoke in tongues, and performed miracles and signs intended to upset the callous consciences of the Jewish nation.  But now, suddenly, Israel was no longer being dealt with as a nation.  Was God pulling the rug out from under them also?  Abandoning them?  Presumably they could no longer speak with tongues or perform healings and other Jewish signs. Imagine the insecurity this loss of physical gifts might have created in their hearts.  Was their relationship with God in jeopardy?

        On the contrary, Paul went to particular lengths to unfold the “mystery” to them, assuring them that, rather than losing something because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, they were now given much more than they had before.  We can not now delve fully into those blessings of the “mystery” except to briefly touch upon a few of the blessings Paul says they were now in possession of, to confirm their faith and to make up for their presumed loss of the gifts of healing, tongues, etc.

        Although the saints had lost the ability to perform some physical signs, they had not lost their standing in Christ. In fact, they now learned of features of truth that had never been revealed before.  They learned of their spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3).  They learned of their Divine election and predestination which had taken place before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5).  And they learned much, much more.

        Thus, although certain outward manifestations of the past dispensation had disappeared, and although some of their blessings had been modified, God did not divorce them from the church, the body of Christ, that they had been identified with by the baptism of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) the day they first believed.  In fact, he reinforced their link with the work of God, all the way back to Pentecost, the birthday of Christ's church.

Links between the new and the old dispensation

        In Ephesians 1:13, Paul the apostle specifically linked this body of believers with those first believers who were added to the church on the day of Pentecost.  How did He create this link with Pentecost?  By reminding them that both they, and the believers at Pentecost, shared the same Divine internal work of the same blessed Holy Spirit.

        We have previously seen that John the Baptist had prophesied that the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

     “I  indeed baptize you with water to repentance, but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to bear;
     "he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Mat. 3:11-12; see also Luke 3:16)

        John's prophecy that the Messiah would baptize "with the Holy Spirit" was directly fulfilled on the Jewish feast of Pentecost:

     "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them [the household of Cornelius], as on us at the beginning.
     "Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost." (Acts 11:15-16)

        Thus, Peter plainly taught that Christ's baptism with the Holy Spirit took place at Pentecost as a direct fulfillment of John's prophecy.  The following 'outward experience' was what happened to the Jewish believers on that day.  

     “And when the day of Pentecost was now accomplishing, they were all together in one place.
     "And there came suddenly a sound out of heaven as of a violent impetuous blowing, and filled all the house where they were sitting.
     "And there appeared to them parted tongues, as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them.
     "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave to them to speak forth.” (Acts 2:1-4)

        Paul refers to this “baptism” in 1 Cor. 12:13 where he explains that in addition to the 'outward physical manifestations' experienced by believers at Pentecost, there is an 'inward spiritual' act that occurs when the Spirit of God baptizes believers into the body of Christ.

     “For also in the power of one Spirit we have all been baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bondmen or free, and have all been given to drink of one Spirit.   For also the body is not one member but many.” (1 Cor. 12:13-14)

        In Ephesians, one of the “prison” epistles, written after the momentous events of Acts 28:28, Paul also refers to John’s prophecy.

     “That we should be to [the] praise of his glory who have pre-trusted in the Christ:
     "in whom ye also [have trusted], having heard the word of the truth, the glad tidings of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, ye have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
     "who is [the] earnest of our inheritance to the redemption of the acquired possession to [the] praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:12-14)

        Note that here, in this dispensation of the mystery, Paul speaks of the promise, meaning the prophecy, of John the Baptist.  Why?  Because while the doctrine of being "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" was not spelled out before Ephesians 1:13, the actual event was accomplished.  It was a matter of prophecy, not mystery.  The sealing with the Spirit was not a feature of truth hidden in God until revealed to and through the apostle Paul. Many of the soteriological truths we rejoice in were not hidden in God, but have been revealed throughout the ages by holy men of old.  Paul was well aware of the difference between "prophecy" and "mystery."  The Divine mover of Paul's pen could have omitted the words "of promise."  He could have simply stated that "having believed, ye have been sealed with the Holy Spirit" [period].  Instead He intentionally made reference to the Baptist's prophecy.  Why?  We believe it was to show the Ephesian believers, and to show us today, that we have a direct spiritual link with the historical beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost.  Because Pentecost was the day when the "promise," referred to here in Ephesians 1:13, was fulfilled.

        As pointed out earlier, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13, and Philippians 3:6, laments the fact that before his conversion he had persecuted "the church."  Most Mid-Acts dispensationalists would have to agree that the particular church Paul persecuted had to be the church that had its historical beginning at Pentecost, because they believe that the church, the body of Christ, did not begin until the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  And those who believe the body of Christ began after the final blinding of Israel at Acts 28:28 would likewise hold that the particular church Paul persecuted had to be the church that was created on the day of Pentecost.  Since Paul, in this passage, does not distinguish between the "church," the body of Christ, of which Paul and the Philippians were members, and "the church" Paul had persecuted, we feel the conclusion is inevitable;  the "two" churches are actually one and the same.

        It is also clear from Acts 15 that Paul did not act independently of the church at Jerusalem regarding the matter of whether Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved.  He made no independent pronouncement of the position held by a so-called new church, "the body of Christ", but instead traveled to Jerusalem to obtain the discernment of the "apostles and elders, with the whole assembly" at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22).  There were not two separate churches.  There was only one, and Paul was completely determined to maintain the unity of the faith within that one body.

        If a new and different “church” was created after the Holy Spirit fell upon believers at Acts 2:1-4, where is the Scriptural proof that any such new church came into being?  The Lord's promise to build His church was accompanied by a series of very specific requirements as has been pointed out earlier in this article.  No equivalent theologically significant boundary conditions appear to mark the beginning of another church, either at Acts 9 with the conversion of Saul, or at Acts 13 with the commissioning of Paul, or even after the blinding of Israel at Acts 28:28. 

        It seems confusing that these different “churches” would not be specifically and unambiguously identified by the Spirit, if, indeed, they did exist.  One would have expected some distinguishing label to have been given to each, such as “kingdom body” versus “heavenly body.”  But no such labels are provided us in scripture.  Today we have several distinct denominations and varieties of Baptist Churches, Presbyterian Churches, Plymouth Brethren Assemblies, holiness groups, Mennonite Churches, etc., each holding their own distinctive doctrines.  During the book of Acts all Christians seemed to have been one body, although meeting together in different homes, and in various cities.  But let us take this thought a bit further.

        Most Bible students would probably agree that the “church” referred to by Luke in the second half of Acts, (the period where the apostle Paul established Christian gatherings during his three missionary journeys), is the same church mentioned in his early pre-prison epistles (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians), because these epistles were written during the same time period Paul was performing his ministry as recorded in the Acts..

        Nevertheless, the word “body,” referring to Christ’s body, the church, does not occur anywhere in the Acts, even during the period where Paul was the prominent apostle.  Why not?  Because Acts is a historical book, not a book of doctrine such as would set forth a detailed description of "the body of Christ."  However, Paul, in the early pre-prison epistles, does distinctly speak of the church that existed in that period of time, as "Christ’s body."

     "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." (Rom. 7:4)

     "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Rom. 12:4)

     "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." (1 Cor. 10:16)

     "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." (1 Cor. 11:29)

     “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
     "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.
     "For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
     "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.
     "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.  Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked:  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.
     "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (Cor. 12:12-27)

        So, Paul, in his pre-prison epistles, clearly identified the believers who comprised the church of that time as being “the body of Christ.”  Now we must compare similar passages in Paul’s prison epistles, those written after the great dispensational event of Acts 28:28, to see what is there taught regarding the “body of Christ.”

"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the churchWhich is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22)

Eph 2: 16.  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

 Eph 3: 6.  That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

 Eph 4: 4.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 Eph 4: 12.  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Eph 4:16.  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Eph 5:23.  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.

Eph 5: 30.  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

Col 1: 18.  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.

Col 1:21.  And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled  In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Col 1: 24.  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:

Col 2:16.  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Col 2:19.  And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.  Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

Col 3:15.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

        Thus, in the prison epistles we also have clear evidence that Christ is the “Head of the church” (Eph. 5:23), He is the “Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23), He is the “Head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18).  Now we must ask, “does Christ have two bodies?”  Christ's body in Romans 12:7, and 1 Corinthians 12, plus an altogether separate “body” in Ephesians and Colossians?  Since the Author of Holy Scripture does not distinguish between this or that "body" or this or that "church," neither do we distinguish between the church, the body of Christ in Corinthians and the church, the body of Christ in Ephesians.  It is one and the same.

        We believe the church in early Acts is the same church that existed in the second half of Acts.  We also believe the church Paul defines in Ephesians is the same church that existed in the second half of Acts.  If this is true, the Ephesian church had its beginning on the day of Pentecost.  The two links he inserts in Ephesians supports this conclusion.

        Having said this, does this mean God’s program for the church at Pentecost is the same as His program for the church in the second half of Acts, and in the pre-prison epistles of Paul?  And does it mean that His program revealed as a “mystery” in Ephesians and Colossians is the same program in force during Peter's offering of the kingdom to Israel?  Of course not.  There are major differences in what God was dispensing in all three periods! 

        In the first period God actively offered the “times of refreshing” and the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, conditional upon repentance and belief by Israel.  In the second period Israel’s unbelief and opposition to God’s message led Him to break off the natural (Israelite) branches of the olive tree and graft in Gentile branches, in order to provoke Israel to jealousy.  In both of these periods, miracles, signs, wonders, tongues and healings, continued to be practiced for two reasons:

        But in the third period, God has already hardened the heart of Israel, and has sent the gospel of salvation to the Gentile nations (Acts 28:28).  No longer is God ‘bending over backwards’ for Israel as a covenant people.  Their time has passed.  The Jew is no longer first.  They no longer have special access to God's blessings.  They are simply reckoned as everyday sinners just like every Gentile.  "Whosoever will" may come to God through His Son, without any covenant relationships that would grant Israel any special favors.  And whosoever does believe should expect no Jewish signs to accompany their salvation.

        Note:  It is the same body of Christ, but once Israel became judicially blind at Acts 28:28, there is no longer a need for the miraculous powers, gifts of healings, and the gift of speaking in tongues.  Those gifts would have been a believing Israel’s credentials under the new covenant.  But after Acts 28:28 Israel is temporarily out of the prophetic picture.  God is no longer provoking Israel to jealousy by giving Gentiles the sign gifts that a repentant Israel should have possessed.  See Rom. 11:14 and 1 Cor. 14:21-22.