Jesus said that he loved the Church, and that he gave himself for it—the Church was an important aspect of the intent he had when he suffered at his atoning work. The Apostle Paul, whom we are called to imitate, considered the Church of great importance. He suffered many things for it and considered his greatest sin to be the persecution of members of the Church. Many books have been written on the Church—generally speaking, they are written on the life of the local church, its fellowship, the things that can be done to grow its membership.
However, the scriptural doctrine of the Church has not come in for any great amount of emphasis. In spite of the great deal of activity in churches, the current state of the Church is not very healthy. There is a great deal of superficiality, a lot of shallowness, and it is permitted to continue partially because of inadequate views of the local church. So, is it possible that the clanking of Ecclesiasticism of this day represents a great deterrent to the completion of the task of the one body of evangelisation in accordance with the will of God? From the divine perspective, the period of the Old Testament may be called the age of the Father.
This does not mean that the Son or that the Holy Spirit was not active in the Old Testament, rather that the emphasis rests on the activity of the Father in the Old Testament. Then, when coming to the period of the Gospels, the stress rests upon the second person of the Trinity. In addition, throughout the Acts of the Apostles through the Epistles there is great stress upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
From the human perspective, the present day is the age of the Church. Looking at it from the divine perspective, the activity of the Trinity through the ages with prominence on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is apparent. But from the human perspective, this is the age of the Church. The Lord Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock, Peter,” the confession, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God, I will build my church”. One of the simplest things that the New Testament teaches throughout the Book of Acts and the Epistles, is that the apostles were building the Church. Thus, to put it from the divine perspective, the Lord Jesus was building His Church through His apostles and the disciples.
Therefore, this is the age of the Church and that age has continued. One of the interesting things that may be discovered when reading systematic theologies is that most of the systematic theologies do not have sections on the doctrine of the local church. It is remarkable how this particular subject has been neglected. It is very difficult to distinguish between theological importance and scriptural importance. How many visible institutions did the apostles establish?
Did the apostles establish a theological seminary? Did the apostles establish any Christian organisations, which function autonomously from the local church? Are people not requesteda to be imitators of the Apostles, as they had followed Christ?
Does the purpose of the Church demand order and structure? Notice what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:10; he made an amazing statement about the reason for the existence of the local church. He said, “In order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places”. God is, through the Church, making known his manifold wisdom to the principalities and powers. What does that mean? That means that God has, as one of his purposes in the present day, the informing of the angelic hosts of facts that concern his manifold wisdom.
It is through the Church that God is making known “in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places”. If it is to be believed that the Bible is sufficient for the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Eschatology, and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit—but what of the doctrine of Ecclesiology when it comes to the organisation of the local church? —does it not raise the question of the sufficiency of Scripture?
It seems that if the Bible is sufficient for individual life and for collective life, that it is therefore expected to be sufficient for church life. The local church is set forth in Holy Scripture. The principles that are found there are principles that should be followed in churches. The question is between the conservatives and the liberals, and the conservatives are saying “Let’s follow the Bible, the Bible is clear”.
The liberals are saying, “No, we do not have to follow the Bible”. Like many modern Bible scholars, the liberal majority decided that these verses, having to do with contentions—for example, immoralities, which so plainly expressing God’s abomination of it—merely express the opinion of the Jewish priestly writers and Paul who were “conditioned by time and place”.
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