Dr. Henry Waiters: The true church
Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
“The Rock” is Christ himself (1 Cor. 10:4). He it is on whom the church is built. Against the true church, built upon Christ as the Son of the living God, “the gates of hades shall not prevail.” No effort of Satan and his hosts can destroy the church or to stay the progress of its testimony. The only real hindrance comes from within the church itself. Note, He does not say, “I have been building” or “I am building,” but, “I will build.” The assembly, “My Church,” was still in the future. The building of this spiritual temple did not begin until after He had ascended to heaven, and the Holy Spirit came as the promised Comforter. Before His ascension, He also said:
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever (John 14:16).
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-1)
This comforter, the Holy spirit, is distinctly called God and names are given to him that properly belong to God (Acts 5:3, 4; Isa. 6:9; Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 10:15; 2 Cor. 3:17,19). Divine attributes, such as knowledge, sovereignty and eternity, are ascribed to the Holy Spirit (Isa. 6:3-10; Acts 28:25-27; 2 Cor 13:14); also note the fact that the sin against the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:31,32).
Of paramount importance is the office and work of the Holy Spirit. He is the immediate source of all life, physical and intellectual (Psa. 104:29; Isa. 32:14,15; Job 32:8; 33:4; Gen. 2:7; Exo. 31:2). He bore an important part in the coming of the Christ in the flesh, and the qualifying of his human nature for his work (Luke 1:35; John 1:32; 3:34). He is the revealer of all divine truth. The Holy Scriptures especially are the product of the Holy Spirit (Mic. 3:8; John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Tim. 3:16). He moves upon the hearts and consciences of all men, and even where it is not known, affording some measure of divine light and gracious influence (Acts 2:17; John 16:8-11; 1 Cor. 2:4). He convicts men of sin, graciously aids them in repentance and faith; regenerates, comforts, and sanctifies believers; bears witness to their acceptance with God and adoption as God’s children; dwells in them as the principle of a new divine life (Rom. 8:14-16; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 3:18). He also exercises guidance in the ministrations of the church, calling men to various offices and endowing them with qualifications for their work (Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 12:4-11).
The distinctive ministry of the Spirit for this age is His baptizing work. This occurred for the first time in Acts 2; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:14-16, marking the birth day of the Christian Church.
Paul writes to help us better understand the Christian church: “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” (1 Cor. 12:12). Here, the Holy Spirit is using the human body to illustrate the one true invisible church. I believe it is included in His program; I believe every regenerated, born again person should unite with a Bible way local assembly. But, the church of the Living God is ONE church, of which Jesus is the head (Eph. 5:22,23), and the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11), and all born again, blood washed believers are members of that ONE church. This scripture points to the invisible Spiritual (body) church of which Jesus is the head, but it also refers to the local visible church. Christ is in the whole body; He operates throughout the whole body. He is the Savior of the body, the Savior of the church (Eph. 5:23).
“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” (1 Cor. 12:23). This verse is very clear and easily understood. The Word of God simply states, “By one Spirit we all are baptized into one body.” It does not refer to water baptism because it very clearly declares “by one Spirit.” This, then, is a Spiritual baptism.
Positionally, we were baptized into the body of Christ at Pentecost. Therefore, on the day of Pentecost the church as a whole was baptized into the body of Christ.
To Nicodemus Jesus said, “Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” I believe that when any unbeliever is convicted (John 8:9); repents (Acts 2:38); converts (Matt. 18:3); confesses (Rom. 10:9); and trusts Jesus as Savior, that individual is born again and by the Spirit is baptized into the invisible body of Christ. Afterward, that individual will search for a visible representation of the invisible true church to join where they can learn and practice the five objectives of the church: Evangelism, Discipleship, Ministry, Fellowship, Worship.
Belief is so often misunderstood. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life” (John 5:24). “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).
Paul seems to be indicating that John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24, refers to head belief; while Rom. 10:10 refers to heart belief. Accepting that distinction, one might conclude that head belief is theoretical, superficial, human spirit-directed, lacking the required seriousness; but heart belief — which is also soul belief —indicates that depth of faith that moves one to believe the message that God has given concerning Christ, simply because it is Holy Spirit-directed.
If we believe at all, it is with the heart. Otherwise we do not really trust. One then confesses to God Himself, which clearly indicates conviction, repentance, conversion, regeneration (new birth), and that he takes Jesus as Lord. This action and confession is Holy Spirit-inspired and directed, not minister- or pastor-directed.
This person has just been born and spirit baptized and now seeks membership in the local assembly, the visible representation of the invisible true church. So then salvation is available only in the true church. Grievous statistics say that in a local assembly with 200 members, only 10 of them could be members of the true spiritual body. Maybe this is what Jesus was telling us in Matt. 7:13,14; 7:21-23; 15:7-9.
The Scofield Study Bible describes the age of apostasy as the predominant sign of the near ending of the sixth dispensation of grace, the church age, which ends with the rapture. Rapture is not in the Bible, but is described in 1 Thess. 4:15-17. The rapture ends the church age with the true church being caught to meet Jesus in the air, and avoiding the great tribulation’s period of severe persecution that Israel and the visible church will experience. Apostasy, “falling away,” is departing from the faith (2 Tim. 4:3,4), but not from the outward profession of Christianity (2 Tim. 3:5). Apostate teachers are described in 2 Tim. 4:3; 2Pet. 2:1-19; Jude 4,8, 11-13, 16. Apostasy in the church, as in Israel (Isa. 1:5,6; 5:5-7), is irremediable, and awaits judgment (2 Thess. 2:10-12; 2 Pet. 2:17-21; Jude 11-15; Rev. 3:14-16).
The nation Israel still rejects Christ as the messiah, but will accept Him near the end of the seven year period. The visible church rejects God’s Word for admission and administration, but will accept it near the end of the seven year period. God’s mercy is extended to those who have rejected and rebelled and they, after unexampled suffering, will convict, repent, convert, confess and become tribulation saints.
Dr. Waiters can be reached at 704-636-3369.