Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



c. Spirit filled: The Spirit filled the believers on the day of Pentecost and we know from our study of the Holy Spirit that He indwells each believer in this age. The New Testament tells the believer to be filled with the Spirit as we gather together for worship and fellowship (Eph. 5:18-20). (The filling of the Spirit makes reference to the fact that the Spirit is in control of the believer and not the believer controlling himself.) If every believer is controlled by the Spirit of God, then they can be properly lead of the Spirit to do the will of the Head of the church, Christ. If part of the body is not controlled by the Spirit then there will be limited, if not impaired, control of the body by Christ.

d. Deliverer of the ordinances: In this point we do not want to bring about visions of the Roman church that dispenses grace through the sacraments, but we do want to help the reader to understand that the ordinances are not for bodies of people other than the church. The church should be the center of the ordinances. It is not to say that the pastor must be the only one involved in administering the ordinances either. The church leadership is to be overseeing the dispersion of the ordinances. Any lay person can be involved in the ordinances as long as the leaders have control of that involvement. We were pleased that one of our sons was baptized by a layman in the church. The church leaders had allowed the man to baptize his own children and they decided that he might as well baptize everyone that Sunday. This is perfectly acceptable.

The ordinances are two: The Lord's table and baptism. These topics will be covered later in detail, but at this point let us only mention that baptism is by immersion and that it is not an extension of grace or favor. It is only a sign of the believers' rebirth. The Lord's table is an observance which brings our mind to the death of our Lord on our behalf. These two are to be observed under the authority of the local church, and are not to be a part of individual worship.

e. Local geographical location: The church was started in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and then spread throughout the known world. The fact that it was linked to geographical locations is easily seen when we look through the index of our Bible. Paul wrote to the church at Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica etc. James wrote to believers that were scattered, but the emphasis of Scripture is on local assemblies.

We want to move on to the church and its purpose. We have already mentioned that the overall purpose is the evangelism of the lost and the edification of the saved. Beyond these two points there are many things that the church is to do, but this is the central thrust for the church.

As the believer mixes with lost people in their everyday life they will ultimately witness of their Lord and lead someone to the Lord. At that point the new believer should be introduced to the local church where the church will begin to train them in the things of the Lord. The training is to the end that the new believer will be well grounded, but also they will be sent out to do the work of the Lord.

In a real sense the church is an educational institution. In fact - one man's opinion - if the church in this country were doing its job, there would be no need for Bible Institutes, Colleges and Seminaries. The believers would be properly trained in the church, and then they would go out to do the work they were given to do.

The term "church" in the Bible is usually the Greek term "ekklesia" which means called out. The term is used of the children of Israel as they were in the wilderness, and is also used of secular assemblies of people in the book of Acts (Acts 7:38; 19:32; 39). Thus when we use the term church we are obviously talking about called out people and not a building. This is a group of people that is called out of a larger group of people, again showing the "saved" aspect of the church membership (Acts 15:14).

This is probably the most important item - the church is people NOT a building. Often times when we talk of church, the building is the concept that pops into our mind, yet that concept is in error. God is not interested in buildings, but in people. Buildings are not wrong if they are NEEDED AND UTILITARIAN IN NATURE. Many buildings today are products of a person's or group's pride and ambition.

Even more than people, we are speaking of God's people, a very special people. These are people that have great meaning and value to God, thus we ought to bear that in mind when we talk about them! We are indeed God's people, a peculiar people called out to serve Him and Him only.

Some view the church as something new - a new kid on the theological block - so to speak. This is true in that the church's organizational structure is something that is newly revealed in the New Testament however the church is only an extension of the Lord's overall program.

We must realize that God has a kingdom plan in action throughout the ages. His thought was for a kingdom for Himself. This is seen in the Old Testament in all of the prophetic information concerning the kingdom. The Millennial Kingdom will be the culmination of all that God is doing with man. The church is not something that was thought up by the Trinity on the spur of the moment when Christ "goofed and got crucified." The church is not a substitute program. The church is an extension of the program that was in progress. Christ mentions the kingdom in mystery form. I suggest a study of that thought and its relationship to the church. Christ was sent to finish provision for the salvation program, and He will return to finish the kingdom aspect of the overall program of God in the future.

The church is not a title for some new group, or some new movement. The Church is God's called out ones of this age as Israel was in the Old Testament.

Paul mentions that the Gentiles are grafted into the program because the Jewish people have been set aside for a time. We will see more on this when we delve into the Eschatology section of our study. The church is something that was planned before the foundation of the world just as the plan of redemption was planned, just as the plan for Israel was planned.


a. The church is not the Old Testament way reworked or renewed: All Old Testament and New Testament saints are redeemed but: 1.) The sacrificial system ended in Christ. Gal. 3:24-26 tells us that the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to faith. We are no longer under that Old Testament schoolmaster but under the blood of Jesus Christ. Heb. 5:9-10 tells us that Christ became the author of salvation by His suffering. 2.) The Church Age began with the work of the cross and Christ upon it.

b. The church is not Denominations: Denominations are not mentioned, nor even hinted at, in the Scriptures. What is a denomination? Webster mentions, "a religious organization uniting in a single legal and administrative body a number of local congregations."

Are Baptists a denomination? Some may be considered a denomination, however not all Baptist groups are denominations. The "Southern Baptists" and the "American Baptists" are denominations, however the "Conservative Baptists" and the "Regular Baptists" are associations. The difference between them is the organization behind them. The latter groups are loose associations of INDEPENDENT CHURCHES GOVERNED BY THEMSELVES! Now I might add that the Southern Baptists claim they are independent churches, though at last report they still were required to maintain certain ties to the overall organization which seems to fit Webster's definition.

The denominational churches are governed to a certain extent via the denominational structure. The churches support that structure by agreement of being a part of the denomination.

A denomination may require giving, may set up schools, may help select pastors for churches, may have their own publishing arm, may require churches to follow their curriculum and may manage the local church and what it does.

Are Lutherans a denomination? There are several groups that make up several separate denominations of Lutherans. Are Presbyterians a denomination? Yes they are. There may be more than one in this group as well.

SO THE CHURCH IS NOT, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Christian Science, Catholic, or any other organizational structure.

You might wonder why I take time to cover this topic. Have you ever read the "TRAIL OF BLOOD," a book that describes only certain Baptists as the only real, true believers? They hold to the fact that if you haven't been baptized by one of their men that was baptized by someone that was baptized by someone that was baptized by someone that was baptized - etc. clear back to John The Baptist, then you aren't properly baptized, and the thought often is that you may not really be going to heaven. These are sometimes called Landmark Baptists.

Others aren't quite that strong. I attended two Baptist colleges. At one of them a friend was talking with me and he mentioned the "Baptist distinctives." I asked him what they were, so he listed them for me. They were Biblical principles that all of us would hold to. I said, "Yes, those are good principles but they are Biblical distinctives." "No! They are Baptist distinctives." I said, "Yes, Baptists hold to them, but they are Biblical distinctives!" "NO! THEY ARE BAPTIST DISTINCTIVES!" I said, "How do you like the weather?" We removed ourselves from the subject.

We might also add that the church is not the ecumenical movement. Three Lutheran groups have now merged. Another Lutheran group and the Episcopalians are trying to merge. The Catholics want us all to come back to Holy Mother Church. The Charismatics of all sorts want to get together. This is not the bringing about of the Body of Christ, this is the bringing together of Christians and non-Christians in an unholy mess of doctrine they all say they can live with.

c. The church is not the Millennial Kingdom: The Kingdom is yet future and will be set up by Christ the Lord. Some in the past, and some in this time, believe that we can get the earth back to the pre-fall condition and allow the Lord to come set up His kingdom. NOT SO! The Lord is capable of setting the date of His coming. Indeed, it has been set from the foundation of the world, and nothing we can do on this earth will change that date.

d. The church is not a Sunday School: The Sunday School started in 1780 in Glouster, England by Robert Rakes in a kitchen. It WAS NOT IN 40 AD IN THE UPPER ROOM ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST! Mr. Rakes started the Sunday School to teach poor children to read and write, and he used a Bible to do it. In 1824 the American Sunday School Union brought the concept of the Sunday School to the church.

In all of the good that Sunday Schools have brought to us we must remember they are not inspired. Many believe there are some problems with Sunday Schools, and I would like to alert you to these possible problems.

(From "EMERGING PATTERNS IN CHURCH EDUCATION" by Kenneth O. Gangel in Christianity Today; July 1973 p 5)

1. "It offers a conscience - salving, though inadequate, alternative for parents who neglect Christian teaching at home." 2. "It has focused too much on children and too little on adults." 3. "It may have so emphasized evangelism that it has neglected nurture." 4. "It too often is used as a substitute for a total church program of nurture."

A number of years ago a friend took a church in Nebraska. There were two separate buildings. The church met in one building and the Sunday School met in the other. He accepted the call to the church and began talking to his board about making some changes in the way the Sunday School was operating. He was promptly informed that the Sunday School was not his business. He was the pastor of the church. The Sunday School had its own board and superintendent that took care of their program. Another friend took a small work in Denver. The group met only for Sunday School. It took him several months to add a ten minute teaching time at the end of the Sunday School activities.

Paul never started with Sunday Schools, nor with kids. He always started with the adults.

e. The church is not Israel: Saucy declares this point, "The New Testament never confuses Israel and the church. As opposed to the church, which is a religious body composed of individuals from all nations, the term Israel retains its reference to that people which came physically from the loins of Abraham." (Taken from: "THE CHURCH IN GOD'S PROGRAM"; Saucy, Robert L.; Copyright 1979, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. p 70) This is a good distinction, yet I believe that it leaves out the proselytes that came to God through Israel in the Old Testament. These too were from all nations, even though they identified with Israel. They were considered Israelites, even though they did not come from the "loins of Abraham."

Is there a better statement of distinction? Let's try. The church is that group of people who are related to God through belief and faith, since the cross, as opposed to Israel which is that people that were related to God through belief and faith prior to the cross, responding to the promise of God to Abraham. Though similarities may exist, the two are distinct and are separate from one another.

Some would have us believe that the two are the same. Some bring forth Rom. 9:6 as proof that Paul viewed Israel and the church as the same. "Not as though the word of God hath taken no effect. For they are not all Israel, who are of Israel...." If you examine the context it will be clear that this is not showing that some of the people in the church are also Israel - it is showing there is spiritual Israel and physical Israel.

Those who view Israel and the church as the same normally do so to place their followers under the law and the promises of the Old Testament economy.

The two are separate! 1.) The book of Acts portrays men of the church speaking of Israel separately from the church. Acts 2:22 "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:" (See also Acts 3:12; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:21; Acts 5:31; Acts 5:35; Acts 21:28.) 2.) Paul viewed them as separate. He, a man of the church, speaks, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, they might be saved." (Rom. 10:1) He distinguishes between "brethren" and "Israel." In Rom. 11:1 he declares himself, a Christian, to be a part of Israel, making a distinction between the two. Paul in I Cor. 10:32 mentions Jews, Gentiles and the church as separate units. 3.) The fact that the term "Israel" appears only approximately twenty times between the end of Acts and the beginning of Rev. is indication enough that Israel is to be kept separate from the church. 4.) Israel is a nation while the church is a body, an organism, and an organization. The church is never referred to as a nation, yet this is the term used of Israel over and over again in the Old Testament. 5.) God at this time is dealing with and through the church WHILE Israel has been set aside and is not active with, or for God.

It must be readily admitted that the two are similar. The term "ecclesia" is used of both groups of people. We have seen that the term is applied to Israel in the wilderness in Acts 7:38, while also in Acts the term is used of the church (Acts 14:23). Indeed, the term is related to the church 112 times in the New Testament.

Why is it important to view the two as separate? To mix the two will lead to the promises and ordinances of the Old Testament being applied to the church and the blessings of the church being applied to Israel.

It will lead to misunderstandings in the area of future things. For example, who are the people that will be governed in the Millennium? If Israel and the Church are the same then both will be in the Millennium. If they are different then only Israel will be in the Millennium.

If they are actually the same then Paul was not able to communicate well, for he certainly shows a distinction between the two in his writings.

Results of mixing Israel and the church shows up in the teachings of: 7th day Adventism, British Israelism, Mormonism, and Covenant Theology.

f. The church is not big business: Years ago a religious temple in downtown Denver occupied only a tiny part of two city blocks. Also on the property were several high rise commercial buildings. Two city blocks in downtown Denver - reportedly tax free because it was a part of the temple property. Other cults and isms are noted for their total or part ownership of large corporations.

g. The church is not what many have made it: Bruce Shelley in his "THE CHURCH: GOD'S PEOPLE," mentions a list of some myths of the modern day church meaning. He declares that the church is not just fellowship, not just invisible, not just doctrinal, not even a building, nor denominations, nor is it an influence on society. It is much more than many try to make it in our day and age. It is something special and unique in all the world, and we keep it to ourselves all too often, not extending invitation to it to those around us.

To recap, the church is not: The Old Testament sacrificial system, A denomination, The Millennial Kingdom, A Sunday School, Israel, Big Business, Fellowship, or Doctrine! By the way, it isn't a building either! As we rid ourselves of the false ideas, maybe we can focus on the facts - what is the church? It is people - specifically God's people.


1. List all of the occurrences of the term church and determine which are speaking of the universal church, local church and in some cases you might find that the reference speaks of both aspects of the church.

2. Look at the five points of our definition of the church and find other scriptural passages that prove the definition that we have set forth.

3. Attempt to find other passages which show the church's purpose is edification and evangelism.


1. Read through the November 1989 issue of Moody Monthly. It is very interesting where some of our traditions came from.

2. See appendix one for a constitution for a church that follows the multiple elder form of government.

3. Request a copy of Radio Bible Class' booklet "WHO QUALIFIES TO BE A CHURCH LEADER?" and read it. Great for ideas! (Radio Bible Class; Grand Rapids, Michigan; 49555-0001)