The Myth Of The Universal Invisible Church
By Pastor Roy Mason
How does a person become a member of the church? The answer is, just like
those converts on the day of Pentecost got into - were added - to the Jerusalem
church, by being baptized, by being immersed in WATER. A church service
is in progress today, and a person walks forward at the close, when the
invitation is given, and publicly confesses Christ as Savior. Is he a member
of that church? No. Suppose now that he is immersed at the evening service.
Is he now a member? Certainly he is. At the pastor's request he stands
down front at the close of the service, and the church members go forward
and extend to him the hand of church fellowship.
On How The Church Is Constituted
But the Universal Churchite, including some Baptists, claim that a person
doesn't become a member of the church in this way. They claim that one
becomes a member of the Church by "being baptized into the Body of Christ
by the Holy Spirit." This is some kind of a mystical (really "mythical")
baptism, into a mystical (really "mythical") Body. Really, this is conglomerate
nonsense! I must confess to a feeling of theological nausea every time
I heard some one rattle off that expression about a person being "baptized
into the Body of Christ." What sort of an experience is that? Nobody can
see it happen. No body attempts to explain what sort of feeling accompanies
this mythical experience. Nobody can show anything to prove that it takes
place. Where do people get that stuff? The answer is, they in their dire
need of something to back up a wicked theory, go to I Corinthians 12:13.
Without regard to the context, and throwing aside all right standards of
theological interpretation, they latch onto that passage - that lone, greatly
beloved passage, and they make it to mean something that it was never intended
Let us go a bit into detail, and note some things that go against such
an interpretation as I have just indicated.
1 - It is always dangerous to build a big theory on one passage of Scripture,
especially if it does not harmonize with the general teachings of the Scriptures
on the same subject. No where else do we find any intimation that one gets
into the church by some strange mystical (mythical!) Spirit baptism. If
that theory is true, then there are millions of baptisms of the Holy Spirit.
But the Scriptures restrict the baptism of the Holy Spirit to a very few
instances. In fact, I can recall only three. (1) The Holy Spirit baptized
the disciples on Pentecost to empower them, and to give supernatural signs
such as would cause people to turn to Christ. (2) When the gospel spread
to Gentiles, there was need of proof that Gentiles could be saved, so there
we have a second instance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, such that
it became unmistakably plain that Gentiles could be saved on the same terms
as the Jews. Thus, in Acts 10:44 we read, "While Peter yet
spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all of them that heard the
word." Verse 46 says, "They heard them speak with
TONGUES, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, can any man forbid water
that these should not be baptized which HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST AS
WELL AS WE?" (3) We have the instance of some men at Ephesus who
had been very imperfectly instructed. They had been baptized "unto Johns
baptism" which related to the Messiah to come, but evidently they didn't
know that the Savior had appeared. Paul enlightened them, and evidently
they received the Christ about whom he told them, for we read, (Acts
19:5), "When they heard this they were baptized in the
name of Jesus." They needed some supernatural evidence as they
came out of their befuddlement and that supernatural evidence was given
them, for we further read, "And when Paul laid his hands upon them,
the Holy Ghost came upon them, AND THEY SPAKE WITH TONGUES AND PROPHESIED."
Note that we have three instances of Holy Spirit baptism. In EACH CASE
IT WAS UPON GROUPS - never upon one individual. No mention is made that
these persons had been baptized into the Body of Christ. In each instance
of Holy Spirit baptism THE GIFT OF TONGUES WAS BESTOWED. Do those who claim
Holy Spirit baptism into the Body of Christ, receive the gift of tongues?
No. Why? The answer is, they simply do not receive the baptism of the Holy
Spirit, else they would show the manifestation of it that we read about
in the New Testament.
Note also, the Scriptures never counsels believers to be baptized by the
Holy Spirit. They are counseled to "be filled with the Spirit."
WHAT OF I CORINTHIANS 12:13?
Remember as you read this passage that originally there were no chapter
divisions. These are entirely man-made. Look back into the context and
you will see that Paul has been writing to the Corinthians about their
church observance of the Lord's Supper. He is plainly speaking about the
local church. In chapter 11:18 he says, "When ye come together
in the church." They couldn't come together in an invisible church.
Paul comes right on down to the last verse of chapter 11 speaking of the
local church. Indisputably this is true. Now why should he without any
warning whatsoever, begin to write about some sort of a Universal Invisible
Church? Of course he doesn't! He continues to write about the church -
the assembly to which they belonged, but he changes the subject and begins
to write about God's bestowal of spiritual gifts. These gifts relate to
those members of the local church. In 12:11 he says, "But
all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, dividing to EVERY MAN severally
as he will." He is not writing about invisible members of an invisible
church, but ordinary visible men. Then he makes a comparison between the
visible human body and the visible local church. He shows that various
organs of the body have different functions, and that one organ should
not look down upon another more lowly organ just because that organ is
adapted to a less important task. "The eye," he says, "cannot
say unto the hand, I have no need of thee." All of the various
organs are necessary to the proper functioning of the human body. Then
he teaches that the church like the human body needs persons with the various
gifts that God has bestowed upon them, such that there should be no jealousy
- no looking down upon those adapted to the more lowly tasks. Throughout
the entire chapter Paul is writing to local church members about the gifts
that God bestows and the use of those gifts. He shows that not all members
can enjoy the highest places. In verse 29 he says, "Are all apostles?
Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? ... But
covet earnestly the best gifts ..."
Need I remind you that no one could use the gift of a teacher in the Universal
Invisible Church. No, these are gifts that could only be used in a local
visible church. The teachings of the entire chapter are applicable to a
local church and that church alone. WHY, THEN SHOULD VERSE 13 SIGNIFY SOME
KIND OF A CHURCH THAT PAUL HAS NOT BEEN WRITING ABOUT, AND TO WHOM HIS
ILLUSTRATION HERE COULD NOT APPLY? But, if there is any question about
Paul meaning some other kind of church than the local assembly in verse
13, that question can be easily resolved by any fair minded person. Suppose
that Paul could be called before us such that we are enabled to ask him
the question, "Paul what did you mean by your use of the word church in
I Corinthians 12:13? Did you mean the Universal Invisible Church, composed
of all believers, or were you speaking to the local church at Corinth?"
If Paul should then reply and say that he meant the church at Corinth would
that be sufficient to settle the questions? Would you throw away your Universal
PAUL HAS ANSWERED THAT QUESTION! HE HAS SAID THAT HE WAS SPEAKING TO THE
CHURCH AT CORINTH! "Where you say. The answer is in verse 27. Paul,
speaking to that Corinthian church, says, "NOW YE ARE THE BODY OF
CHRIST, AND MEMBERS IN PARTICULAR."
Does that settle the question for you? It should.
I must make a confession here. For several years I babbled that stuff about
the Church being formed by people being baptized by the Holy Spirit into
the Body of Christ. This babble was based on verse 13, but I had
never carefully read or studied the context. Then one day I read the rest
of the chapter, and when my eyes lit upon verse 27 and the words.
"Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular,"
my eye balls must have nearly fallen out. I realized that I had been teaching
something that was simply not in the Bible, and that I could have known
better by reading just a few more verses. But I can say one thing: I threw
that Universal theory on the junk heap! I hope that some of you who read
this will do the same.
Now let us look a little more closely at verse 13. "By one
Spirit are we all baptized into one body." What kind of baptism
is Paul writing about here? In answering this I think we ought to consider
something that Paul - this same Paul, wrote to the Ephesians. In Ephesians
4:4 he writes, "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 BODY." He is referring to the church. The Universalite
usually believes that there is the local church and beyond this the big
Universal Church, but Paul says that there is only ONE BODY, so since there
are not two, one should be thrown away. That one body is the local assembly
- the kind that Paul wrote his epistles to, and to believe that there is
another kind of body or church is to take issue with Paul.
Then in verse 5 Paul says, "ONE BAPTISM." What
kind of baptism? Immersion in water, of course. That is the kind of baptism
that characterized the New Testament church - the kind that Paul taught
and practiced. Now did Paul teach one kind of baptism in Ephesians 4
and another kind in I Corinthians 12? Of course not. In I Corinthians
12:13 he is writing about plain old immersion in water, in the name
of the Holy Spirit. This is bound to be true, if it is true that "there
is ONE baptism" and only one for a church.
This is quite sufficient for me, but there is yet another explanation far
preferable to the Spirit baptism theory. I recall an article written by
the noted Bible scholar and writer, Arthur Pink. He told of how he had
originally been taken in by the Universal Church theory, until he began
to study the question, whereupon he threw it away as one of the worst of
heresies. He mentioned the fact that in the Greek language they do not
capitalize as do we who write English. That being true, the word spirit
in I Corinthians 12:13 is not capitalized, and there is no proof
that the Holy Spirit is meant at all. We may meet together in a group for
some purpose and in sincerity we consider the matter before us. The chairman
says, "I am sure that we have all met here in the same spirit of fairness
to consider this matter." Dr. Pink was inclined to think that such a meaning
is indicated here. Besides, the correct translation is "For IN one
spirit are we all baptized." Of one thing Dr. Pink, the thoughtful
Bible scholar was sure about - a Holy Spirit baptism into an Invisible
Church is not taught by this verse.
In addition to what has been previously said about the Universal theory,
I wish to bring some further indictments against it:
ONE IS THAT IN THE SERIOUS AND SACRED MATTER OF CHRIST'S CHURCH THIS THEORY
BECOMES UNDER EXAMINATION A BIZARRE AND STUPID THING.
Consider this with me: If the church that Christ started was a Universal
Invisible thing, and if all believers are members of it, then pray tell
me WHY IT EVER NEEDED ANYBODY TO START IT? IT WOULD HAVE EXISTED ANYHOW
WITHOUT ANYBODY STARTING IT! It would "just have been" anyhow, without
Jesus ever going to the trouble of starting it. It is made to be such a
great thing that this so-called Body was started, yet if the Universal
theory is true it would have been without starting, just the same. That
makes Christ to have done something that didn't need to be done. I repeat,
if every person who becomes a Christian just automatically is added to
the Invisible Church, they would be just as truly added had Jesus never
even mentioned church. In other words, if THAT is what Jesus built, HE
BUILT NOTHING! A foolish line of reasoning seems to be involved here, yet
I am dealing with a valid argument against the Universal Invisible Church,
for there is simply no way around the truth that if all saved persons have
been inducted into the mystical Body of Christ, and that constitutes the
real, sure enough Church, such a church would have been WITHOUT ANYBODY
GOING TO THE TROUBLE TO START IT. Deity doesn't engage in absurdities.
Jesus didn't die for - give Himself for, a church of that sort and kind.
Another indictment against the Universal theory is this:
IT MAKES JESUS TO BE A PHILANDERER. You have perhaps known young men who
engaged in the philandering practice of getting engaged to girl after girl.
Tiring of these he finally wed an entirely different woman. Something like
that Christ is made to be by the Universal theorists. Let's see if that
is not true.
In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul is writing to the Corinthian church and
he is writing about that church. That this is true is made plain in verse
where he says, "I robbed other churches taking wages of them to do
you service." So beyond question he is speaking to, and about,
that local church. In verse 2 he says, "For I am jealous over
you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that
I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
Back in ancient times marriages were usually arranged by parents, just
as they are in some lands today. A daughter was betrothed or espoused to
a certain man. In some instances the man later saw somebody else he wanted,
so he went back on his betrothal, and married someone else. Paul here uses
the illustration of such a betrothal, applying it to the church at Corinth.
He says, "I have betrothed (or espoused) you to one
husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
Now note that this local church is spoken of as a betrothed virgin, engaged
to be married in other words to Christ. The question is, WILL THE BRIDE
FINALLY PROVE TO BE THE ONE TO WHOM CHRIST IS ENGAGED? If the betrothed
is the local church, will the ultimate Bride be composed of the genuine
members of the true local churches, when that times comes when "the church
in prospect" now, becomes a visible actuality? The Universal churchites
would have Christ now engaged to the one whom Paul is speaking about in
this passage, yet they would have the wife to be a different character
entirely, for they make the Bride to be composed of all of the saved from
everywhere. If this were true, then Christ would have to break His engagement
and marry an entirely, different woman! I for one don't believe that the
wife is going to be different from the betrothed.
Another indictment against the Universal theory is this:
IT CAUSES PEOPLE TO MINIMIZE AND NEGLECT THE LOCAL CHURCH. I recall that
some women moved from another city and began to attend the church where
I was once pastor. They were bright, well educated women, and they believed
in the plain preaching that I was doing. These three women were close friends
of one of the co-editors of the Scofield Bible, and they had absorbed the
Universal church theory. They spoke to me very approvingly of my preaching,
and I said to them, "You like to attend church here, and you are in favor
of the kind of ministry I am trying to carry on, how about you taking membership
with our church?" Oh no, they didn't want to do that! Why? The truth finally
came out. They minimized the local church, and were not greatly impressed
with it, because they WERE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH THAT WAS SO MUCH MORE
IMPORTANT - THE BIG UNIVERSAL CHURCH. Of course I indicated that I didn't
believe there was such a thing, but apart from that, I pointed out that
the Universal Church had never won a soul to Christ, had never sent out
a missionary, had never taught the Bible to anybody - indeed had never
done anything. Those women continued to attend our services, but they were
completely wedded to their theory such that they felt no need of local
There are many people like those I have just described. They like to attend
Bible conferences and hear men speak about "the CHOORCH," and the "Rapture
of the CHOORCH." They are so taken up with that Universal Church theory
that a local visible church is a trifling thing in their eyes.
I was asked to speak before a group of Baptist pastors once. Most of these
were holders of the Universal theory, and I was asked to present my opposing
views, which I did with great enjoyment. In the course of my remarks I
said, "You brethren who are so committed to the Universal theory - there
is one thing that would cure you, and that would be for you to have to
DRAW AN INVISIBLE SALARY FROM YOUR UNIVERSAL CHURCH!" But no - preachers
may believe in the Universal Church, but they always want their salary
to come from their visible church!
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