The Myth Of The Universal Invisible Church
By Pastor Roy Mason
There is not the slightest difficulty in understanding the meaning of the
words church and churches as they occur in most of the New Testament. Assembly,
local and visible is unmistakably meant. There would likewise be no difficulty
in understanding the meaning of church in the remaining instances were
it not that men have a theory to seek to substantiate. Such persons usually
use a few verses in the writings of Paul to the Ephesians and Colossians.
Has Paul labored to establish churches - assemblies - and has he often
felt "the care of all the churches," as he expresses it,
and has he involved his very life with the welfare of the churches, and
then has he all at once originated an entirely new church conception? Has
he decided that there are really two churches, one kind local and
visible, and the other Universal and Invisible? How utterly foolish to
assume this! It is wholly unnecessary to assume an entirely new kind of
church. The only thing necessary is to construe words according to the
established law of language. The institutional abstract meaning of church
in some instances, the generic meaning of the word in other instances,
and the concept of the church win prospect, will take care
of the problem without the need of a new church entirely different from
the kind of church signified by the word ecclesia, and taught most plainly
in nearly all of the instances where the term is used. Let us take note
of a few of the Scriptures where church is used in a way that enables the
Universal Church heretic to seek to bolster his theory.
I Corinthians 15:9 - "I persecuted the church of God."
Small help to be derived by the Universalite from this.
far as the Scriptures reveal, Paul never persecuted but one church - the
church at Jerusalem. It was a large church composed of several thousand
people, and Paul "made havoc" of it, scattering it all over the country.
His persecution affected one local, visible assembly - the church at Jerusalem.
Ephesians 1:22-23 - "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 fulness of him that filleth all in all."
There is nothing in this to justify the idea that Paul was writing about
a new kind of church. He is using the term church in the institutional
sense, but had he particularized, according to the law of language, he
would have signified a local assembly.
For illustration, one might speak of the American home as being based on
marriage. Wouldn't it be foolish to think of the American home as some
sort of Universal, invisible home? No, to particularize one would have
to designate an actual visible home.
But the argument is made that this Scripture requires something bigger
than a mere local body, since Christ is head over all things to it. Why?
The truth is each local assembly is a body of Christ, and He should
be head over all things to every such church. Paul, the writer of this
Scripture likewise writes to the Corinthians as expressed in I Corinthians
12:27 and says, "Now ye (the Corinthian church) are
a body of Christ and members in particular." The King James translates
it "THE body of Christ," but the definite article is missing from the Greek.
If the Corinthian church was "A body of Christ," then every
other such church is likewise the same.
Ephesians 3:21 - "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ
Jesus throughout all ages, world without end."
Is this a different kind of church than the kind spoken of so many times
in the New Testament? By no means. Reference there is to the church in
prospect. We can conceive of a time when there will be a general assembly
composed of all of the saved members of all of the local assemblies of
all time. This will be both local and visible. Such a church does not now
exist, but we can conceive of such church in prospect. It will come to
exist, and it will glorify Christ throughout the eternal ages.
Ephesians 5:27 - "That he might present it to himself a glorious
church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should
be holy and without blemish."
How the Universal churchites do love this passage, but the truth is, it
does not bolster their argument. Here again we have the church in prospect.
This Scripture looks beyond this age, out to that time when there shall
be a general assembly, composed of all the saved members of the true local
assemblies of this earth. I shall later deal with this question in more
detail. The language used here does not militate against the usual use
of the term ecclesia, for when the church is presented to Christ in the
sense mentioned here, it will be both local and visible.
Local, visible churches - the only kind known to the New Testament, are
imperfect. They have spots and wrinkles. The Universal Invisible Church
wouldn't have such, and if it did, being invisible they couldn't be seen.
These visible assemblies will at that wonderful time in the future, be
purged and cleansed of all imperfections forever.
Colossians 1: 18 - "And he is the head of the body."
Colossians 1 :24 - "For his body's sake which is the church."
The Universalite seems to think that it would be wholly unbecoming for
Christ to be the head of each local church - it must be some big, hazy,
Universal, Invisible something worthy of His head ship. Well, let me say
that Christ IS THE HEAD OF EACH GENUINE CHURCH, and it is the big, hazy,
Universal, Invisible mythical Thing that is unworthy of Christ's head ship.
Earlier in this chapter, I proved my point when I pointed out that Paul
wrote to the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 12:27) and said, "Now
ye are a body of Christ."
Since the Universalist theorizer sets so much store on it having to be
a Big Universal Church for Christ to be the Head of it, let me go a bit
further to show that this is not true. Turn to I Corinthians 11:3 and
you will read these words,
"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and
the head of the woman is the man ..."
This says that the Head of every man is Christ, and if Christ is head of
every man (no doubt he is writing of saved persons), then what is presumptuous
about believing that Christ is the Head of every true church?
And note something else: It says here that the "head of the woman
is the man." Does that mean a big universal in visible woman? Ridiculous!
Yet no more ridiculous than the theory of a big Universal Invisible Church.
No, "woman" is used here in the abstract sense, but when the abstract is
made concrete and the meaning exactly defined, an actual woman must be
specified. Failure or refusal to accept this law that relates to language,
is at the bottom of the continued existence of the Universal Church theory.
People who without question speak of institutions and things in the abstract
sense, then particularize with the concrete meaning, go right ahead refusing
to allow the same law to operate in the use of the term church. For instance,
it is said, "The automobile kills more people than does war." What automobile?
A big universal invisible automobile? No, none have ever been killed by
such. When one gets down to the concrete and particularizes, it is always
a local, visible automobile that perpetrates the deed. Why not have as
much sense concerning "church" as we have about automobiles? Those who
come to their senses concerning the significance of the word, throw away
their Universal theory, just as I did.
DID CHRIST MEAN?
The first recorded instance in which Christ used the term church is in
16:18 - "Upon this rock I will build my church ..." If
He meant a Universal, Invisible something, as say the Universalites, then
we are faced with the fact that He twisted the usual, well established,
universally understood meaning of the word.
If it was the Universal Church that Jesus started, then we are faced with
the fact that SOMETHING ENTIRELY DIFFERENT CAME INTO EXISTENCE. The
local, visible church in that case would have to be a miserable counterfeit.
In such case would not Jesus have said to His disciples, "No, I didn't
mean that I would build that sort of church. You have things all wrong.
I meant a Universal Invisible Church?"
FACE THIS PLAIN FACT: JESUS CHRIST DID NOT START TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF
CHURCHES - ONE LOCAL AND VISIBLE - THE OTHER UNIVERSAL AND INVISIBLE!
The truth is, Jesus started only one kind of church - the local visible
assembly. The Universal Invisible Church did not begin in the mind of deity,
but in the mind of his Satanic Majesty!
I suggest proof that Jesus meant the local visible assembly. It has already
been pointed out that in the very next mention of church, (Matthew 18:17)
Jesus used the word in the sense of the local assembly. If you should hear
a speaker use a term that you didn't exactly understand, and if he should
then subsequently use the same term in a perfectly understandable way,
you would cease to be puzzled about his meaning. Such is exactly true in
this instance. If there should be any room for doubt as to what Christ
meant by church in Matthew 16:18, His later use in Matthew 18:17
should make it perfectly plain.
But MORE THAN THIS! In the Book of Revelation we find Jesus sending a series
of messages to the seven churches of Asia. Did He say, "The seven stars
are the angels of the CHURCH in Asia?" He did NOT? He used the term "churches."
Then He went further and sent a definite message to each church. He said,
"Unto the angel of the church at Ephesus write - " and so on to the whole
seven. Several things stand out clearly:
(1) Here we have defined Christ's meaning of the term church. He meant
local, visible assemblies.
(2) Here we have Christ's approval expressed concerning the kind of church
(3) Here we find nothing to indicate that He started the Universal Church,
but that His followers ignored that and went ahead and started local visible
assemblies. Christ was displeased concerning some of the things that existed
in these churches, but no word of His indicates that He was displeased
with the churches being of the local visible sort.
Table of Contents
Landmark Bible Baptist Doctrine
Landmark Bible Baptist Home