This sermon by D. N. Jackson will surprise some, challenge others and there will be those that will reject it out of hand without thought or study. An honest comparison of scripture will challenge those desiring the truth of God’s Word.
THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT
By D. N. Jackson
The Future of the Church
The Six “F’s” of the Church
By D. N. Jackson
(Summary of a sermon preached Sunday evening, December 31, 1961, at Calvary Baptist Church, LaVerne, Calif.)
Tonight we are here by invitation to preach a sermon on the CHURCH. I am sure you appreciate the fact that in the short time customarily allotted to a sermon it will not be possible for me to elaborate on this subject. So we must be brief and pointed.
As a basis for our message, let us note the Master’s own words: “… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
We shall deal with the six “F’s” of the church after this order: 1. The founding; 2. The Founder; 3. The Foundation; 4. The Form; 5. The Fundamentals; and 6. The Future.
1. The founding of the Church
Broadly speaking, the church was founded during the personal ministry of our Lord on earth.
TESTIMONY OF CHRIST: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). Jesus testifies while on earth He finished the work which the Father sent Him to do. The establishment of the church being part of the work which He came to do, it stands to reason He established His church before His death.
TESTIMONY OF APOSTLE PAUL: “And God set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (I Cor. 12:28). These were gifts the Lord put in the New Testament churches. Mark explains when the gift of apostles was made: “And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:13,14).
That was done during the personal ministry of Christ on earth. As the apostles were ordained by Christ in person and placed in the church, it stands to reason there must have been a church in existence, for you cannot put something into nothing. Incidentally, the gifts of healings, miracles, tongues and apostles were done away at the close of the New Testament canon, and this took place when John wrote the book of Revelation.
But the point is; the church must have existed while Christ was on earth, else He could not have placed apostles in it.
Specifically speaking the church came into existence during our Lord’s first year’s of ministry and before John the Baptist was imprisoned. The first disciples to follow Christ were John, Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael (John 1:29-51). These were with Him at the marriage in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1). His disciples were soon increased in number (John 2:23; 3:1-7). This company was authorized by their Lord to administer baptism (John 3:22; 4:1-2), and it was called the bride of Christ (John 3:29). This company, while tarrying at Jerusalem after Christ’s ascension and before the dawn of the day of Pentecost, selected as Judas’ successor one who had companied with them “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John” (Acts 1:21, 22).
To this company were added about three thousand converts on the first day of the Pentecostal feast (Acts 2:41). And the same company is called a church, Acts 2:47: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” that is “such as were being saved.” This proves the church was founded even before John the Baptist was imprisoned and that it had been perpetuated from that day until the day of Pentecost. This church to which the three thousand were added was the company that began in John’s day, saw the ascension of Christ, and waited at Jerusalem for the coming of the events at Pentecost (Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:14, 15).
2. The Founder Of The Church
Christ as founder of His church is proved by the following facts:
As the Shepherd Christ gathered unto himself a flock, which is said to be the church. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock…to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Christ declared He had a church, Matthew 16:18 “…upon this rock I will build my church.” While on earth He called His company of followers “MY CHURCH.” However, the clause “will build” does not point to His founding the church, but to strengthening it, or building it up in numbers, power and usefulness. In this sense He is still building His church, and will continue doing so until He shall come again.
Christ testified that He had a kingdom while on earth, hence He was the founder of it, John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world,” that is, not of this world’s system to wage carnal warfare, levy taxes for support of a political government, etc. The point is: Christ established a kingdom in person while on earth. The churches are the executives of His kingdom. When the first church was founded, Christ’s kingdom came into existence on earth.
In founding the church, Christ became its headstone, Matthew 21:42: “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
The material prepared by John the Baptist (Luke 1:16, 17, 77) was used by Christ in founding His church, as David prepared the material for the construction of the temple which was built by Solomon (I Chron. 22:5).
Incidentally, since Christ used the ones whom John baptized in founding His church, this identifies His church with the baptism and teaching of John. If you were to go to a Mormon, for instance, and be baptized of him, would you not be known as a Mormon? Then, since the first disciples of Christ identified themselves with John the Baptist and were baptized by him, why were they not Baptists also? And being organized into a church by Christ, why was it not a Baptist church? The name “Baptist” came from God (Matt. 3:1). If John could wear it with honor, why cannot we? And as John was a missionary sent by God (John 1:6) and was divinely called Baptist, why was he not a missionary Baptist? That’s what we are?
3 The Foundation of the Church
Christ is the foundation and cornerstone of the church.
He declares Himself as the Rock on which the church is founded. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). The church was not founded on Peter, nor Peter’s confession, nor upon truth as such, but upon the immovable Rock of Ages. “Thou art Peter,” from the Greek petros, meaning a stone that can be moved, used in a metaphorical sense of Peter whom Satan threw around yet was he never crushed. The Greek word for rock on which the church was founded is petra, meaning a large and immovable rock.
The apostle Paul declares that Christ is the foundation, I Cor. 3:11 – “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” This should settle all cavil forever.
Prophecy designates Christ as the foundation of the church, Isaiah 28:16: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” The apostle Peter alludes to this prophecy in his message to the Jewish Christians scattered abroad, and also applies it to Christ (I Peter 2:6). Furthermore, Christ is not only the foundation of the church; He is also its cornerstone, thus tying all the building and its foundation together.
The apostle Paul testifies that Christ is the foundation, Eph. 2:20: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” Christ was the foundation of the apostles and prophets, on which foundation the church was founded. He was their foundation, and He is the church’s foundation.
4. The Form of Church Government
Baptists are backed by the Scriptures in their claim of a congregational or democratic form of church government, all the members having an equal voice in the administrations of the church’s affairs. This form of church government is proved by the following facts:
- A whole church voted in the election of an apostle to succeed Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26).
- 2. A whole church acted together in the election and ordination of the first deacons (Acts 6:2-6).
- A whole church acted together in sending forth missionaries (Acts 13:1, 2; 14:26, 27).
- A church as such is authorized to receive members (Romans 14:1).
- 5. A church as such is authorized to dismiss members for bad conduct (I Cor. 5:13; II Cor. 2:6; II Thess. 3:6).
The Corinthian church expelled from her membership an incestuous man by majority vote. “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment which was inflicted of many” (II Cor. 2:6). The word “many” comes from an original word meaning “majority.” This shows beyond any reasonable doubt the church maintained a democratic form of government.
- The congregational form of government is supported by the fact a church is complete within itself and is independent. Other congregations are not necessary for the being of a church, but they may contribute to its well-being. In Acts 16:5 we note that members of a church went abroad and established like churches: “And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.”
- The fact Christ recognizes a church as being the highest ecclesiastical tribunal on earth supports the congregational form of government, Matt. 18:17a, 18: “And if he shall neglect to hear them (the one or two witnesses) tell it unto the church…Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This authority was committed to a local congregation as a whole, thus showing that all the members should have a voice in any transaction
That is the Baptist system of church government – all members of a church being equals in a perfect democracy. They may not be equals in material possessions, or talents, or resourcefulness, but in authority under the Lord.
Other forms of church government, as taught by certain denominations, include the episcopal and presbyterial forms. By the episcopal if meant a church governed by bishops; and by presbyterial is meant a church is governed by presbyters or elders. These teachings arose after the close of the apostolic period, hence not taught in the Scriptures. They take away from the churches adopting such such systems their autonomous rights, whereas the congregational form of government necessarily implies three things: first, equality of the members touching their voice in the governing affairs of the congregation; second, independence of each church, as already mentioned; and third, each church is amenable only to the Lord in the conduct of its affairs.
5. The Fundamentals of the Church
We do not hesitate to say that the doctrines taught by the churches of the New Testament days are identical with the doctrines taught today by true Baptist churches. These constitute their distinguishing marks by which Baptist identity has been known across the centuries back to our Lord’s day on earth.
Across the centuries Baptists have believed and taught all the fundamentals of the Scriptures, thus making the Bible the man of their counsel. In sum, these teachings include:
Salvation by grace without any admixture of meritorious works (Eph. 2:8-10; Rom. 11:6; Titus 3:5).
Congregational form of church government, as already discussed in this message.
Immersion in water as the Scriptural mode of baptism (Acts 8:38, 39; Rom. 6:4).
Christ as the sole head over His church (Mark 12:10; Eph. 1:21-23).
The Bible as the sole written guide and standard of authority in religious affairs (2 Tim. 3:16,17; John 5:39).
The right of private judgment in the interpretation of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15: John 5:39).
Freedom of worship, of conscience and of speech. The early Christians avowed and taught religious liberty. Tertullian, a Christian writer of the second and third centuries said:
“Every man should worship according to his own convictions: one man’s religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is accuredly no part of religion to compel religion.”
Justin martyr, a Christian writer of the second century, said:
“Religion cannot be imposed by force; the matter must be carried on by words rather than by blows.”
It is an honor to Baptists that, while they have endured persecution for truth’s sake, they have never persecuted others for their faith. Indeed religious freedom is a trophy of Baptists.
Separation of church and state (Luke 20:21-25).
Baptists in every century have championed the cause of religious freedom. They have contended for separation of church and state, but not the separation of God and the state: that the one should not control the other, but both church and state should work harmoniously for the betterment of each. There can be no absolute freedom of religion where there exists a union of church and state. God is over all.
Individual priesthood of all believers (Heb. 4:14-16; Rev. 5:10; John 14:13).
Every believer has a right to approach God for himself. He is his own believer-priest, going to God through Christ alone for himself (I Tim.2:5). It is a sin to pray to any saint living or dead.
In addition to these nine points of fundamental tenets, Baptists believe and teach the doctrines of inherent depravity (Eph. 2:3); the convicting and converting power of the Holy Spirit in connection with the word of God (Acts 16:14); the security of the believer (John 5:24); a restricted Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; I Cor. 11:17-20); the blood atonement of Christ (II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 2:9) as essentially related to His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matt. 1:23); our Lord’s resurrection from the grave (Matt. 28:1-6); His ascension back to heaven (Luke 24:51); His personal and visible and premillennial second coming (Acts 1:11; Matt. 24:37-39); a bodily resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:51-53); and eternal hell for the incorrigible wicked (Luke 16:19-26); and an eternal bliss in heaven for the children of God (Rev. 21:1-14
6. The Future of the Church
Looking through the prophetic eye in apostolic days, the future of our Lord’s church would be one of joy mingled with sorrows. There is the joy of promulgating the gospel to the ends of the earth, despite the sorrows of tribulations and persecutions to be encountered. Our Lord forewarned His people of the bitter crises they must face, John 16:1, 2: “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”
But despite such disturbing factors, the Lord assured His church of perpetual existence in this world throughout the centuries until He shall come again. This assurance is founded upon certain facts:
Christ, who defeated Satan in the temptations, will not allow Satan to overcome His church, John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.”
Christ assured His church that the “gates of hell” shall not prevail against it, Matt. 16:18: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” that is, “against her,’ as the original word is in the feminine gender.
The immovable foundation of the church, which is Christ himself, is a guarantee of the perpetual existence of the church in all Christian centuries, Matt. 7:24-27. The house built on a rock stood amidst terrific beatings of storms and floods because of its foundation.
The apostle Paul declares Christ to be the “saviour,” that is, preserver “of the body,” here used abstractly of the church (Eph. 5:23). He has preserved not only the principles of the church, but the church itself – the “body” plus its principles.
Our Lord’s promise to be with His church to the end of the world, that is, the age, is a comforting assurance to us, Matt. 28:20: “…lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
God has ordained to receive glory through His church in all ages, Eph. 3:21: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” If the church has not existed in all ages since Christ’s day on earth, this assurance has failed. But God’s promises are sure.
The world crises through which Christ has preserved His church across the centuries include:
The crisis of scorn, ridicule and misrepresentation. As Christ faced it, so His disciples must also face it. Our Master endured this crisis in His life and on the cross. The name Christian was first applied to His disciples at Antioch in derision, and not until the second century did they accept and use it with any degree of pride (Acts 11:26). During the centuries after Christ, His people have been dubbed by various epithets in scorn and ridicule. The types of scorn and misrepresentation which Christians endured especially in the first three centuries may be summed up thusly:
They were called a “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5).
Their teaching was labeled a “contagious superstition” by the Roman governor of Bithynia, whose name was Pliny. This was in the second century.
They were charged with sedition and high treason, because they refused to render worship to the Emperor by burning incense on the altar before his statue.
They were charged with atheism, because they refused to acknowledge the pagan gods. Theism denotes belief in God’s existence, but “theism” is negated, or denied, when the Greek letter “a” is placed before it – “a-theism.”
They were charged with cannibalism, because they claimed to partake of the body and blood of Christ in a symbolic way in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, which had to be done in secret assemblies. The pagan spies twisted the truth by saying the Christians secluded themselves to eat literal flesh and blood of human beings. The bread and the fruit of the vine are only symbols of the body and blood of Christ, not His real body and blood.
They were charged with arson at Rome, Nero had this charge placed against them to take the spotlight off himself, as he had come under suspicion of setting fire to the city. He said the Christians did this in order to prove their doctrine that the world would be destroyed by fire. But they proved themselves innocent of all such charges, and marched forward in a pagan world with the banner of truth unfurled. And the old Ship of Zion sailed on.
The crisis of compromise. In every century since Christ’s day, the opponents of Baptists have proposed compromise – to spare their life, if they would give up their faith. Many a Baptist has been led to the stake to be burned, or put to death in some in some horrible manner with the crucifix held before their faces in a plea for them to surrender their faith and live. But great numbers of them went to their death praising God that they were counted worthy to suffer for Him. When the martyr Hooper was led away to his death, his persecutors said to him” “Mr. Hooper, why don’t you give up your faith, for life is sweet.” “Yes, life is sweet,” answered Mr. Hooper, “but eternal life is sweeter.” He left the earth for heaven amidst the flames of martyrdom. The Old Ship of Zion sails on!
The crisis of heresy, or false teaching.Commencing with the efforts of the Judaizers at Jerusalem to conjoin works of the law with grace in order for the Gentiles to be saved (Acts 15:1-35), true Christianity has had to battle its way against the darkness of heresy to maintain its purity. Paul said in his day that the “mystery of iniquity doth already work” (II Thess. 2:7). and the main purpose of Peter’s writing his second epistle was to confirm the Jewish Christians in the faith against the onslaught of “damnable heresies” introduced by false prophets and false teachers (II Peter 2:1).
The theory of baptismal regeneration arose by the end of the second century, and along with it came infant baptism. These twin heresies have proved all along as disturbing factors in Christendom. And in the first part of the third century episcopacy arose with its bold effort to break down the independence and self-governing aspect of the churches which the loyal ones claimed was inherited from the apostolic pattern. By prophecy Paul forewarned the followers of Christ that “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith” (I Tim. 4:1) as a system of doctrine (Jude 3).
Those were the forerunners of a horde of heresies that have been introduced into Christendom since then, including the bodily assumption of Mary and prayers offered to her; the adoration of images in worship; the seven sacraments as means of divine grace for salvation; transubstantiation and the sale of indulgences for the remission of sins. But the old Ship of Zion sails on in the sea of the purity of the faith once delivered to the saints!
The crisis of persecution. The church of our Lord Jesus Christ has survived in the purity of the original faith despite persecutions from the following sources:
Worldliness in high official ranks. The first Baptist preacher suffered decapitation for denouncing the adultery of a king and his wife (Matt. 14:3-11). And in some way or other ever since then preachers have had rough sailing when they undertook to draw the line against the impurity of marriage.
Jewish. Not long after the resurrection of Christ, Christians were imprisoned and whipped for preaching the doctrine of His resurrection (Acts 4:1-3; 5:18, 40). This was done by authority of the Jewish high court.
Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the doctrine held by Baptists (Acts 7:57-60).
With the exception of John, all the apostles suffered martyrdom, and John himself was sent into exile by Emperor Domitian. They all taught doctrines now held by Baptists.
Pagan. At first the pagan rulers at Rome paid little attention to Christianity, considering it to be another sect of the Jews; but when its pattern was seen clearly and definitely divorced from Judaism, persecution by the pagans began to be waged against its devotees. Then followed ten major pagan persecutions, from Nero in A.D. 67 to Diocletian in A.D. 303. During this time some two million Christians suffered death for their faith.
Catholic. Constantine the Great, claiming conversion to Christianity, and uniting his version of the church with the state in A.D. 313, set the pattern of persecution of his opponents by slaughtering many of the Donatists in North Africa. His successor in the latter part of the fourth century, Theodosius the Great, made it punishable by death for anyone found worshiping contrary to his decrees.
Gregory the Great, who became a Romish bishop in 590, dispatched Austin to the British Isles to convert those people to the Catholic faith. He succeeded with many of them, especially the Saxons of England, but when he failed to convert the Welsh Baptists, he turned upon them with organized savagery and slew about twelve hundred of them. From these Welsh Baptists, who sprang up as early as A.D. 63, and many of whom sealed their testimony with their blood under the Austin persecution, came Baptists and even a whole church in organized capacity in the colonial days to America.
After Gregory papal power was increased until it reached its zenith under Pope Innocent III, whose pontificate extended from 1198 to 1216.It was during his time when our forefathers in the faith, called Albigenses and Waldenses, were so severely persecuted. After Innocent papal power began to wane under the impact of moral corruption in the Catholic Church all the way from the priests to the popes, and soon the morning stars of the Reformation began to shine forth. During the time of the papal rule, from Constantine the Great to the Reformation, historians have estimated not less than FIFTY MILLION people were killed for their faith.
Still the old Ship of Zion sails on!
Prostestant. The Lutheran Reformation, known as the Protestant Reformation, was officially born on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in stout denunciation of the sale of indulgences, that is, the forgiveness of sins from the pope, by john Tetzel, one of the hierarchy’s emissaries sent out to collect money for the Catholic Church under the fraudulent claim of granting remission of sins according to the amount of money expended in this manner.
Had it not been for John Wycliffe of England, John Huss of Bohemia, the Anabaptists, and others, all of whom labored before the rise of Luther, the Lutheran Reformation would never have materialized.
But no sooner had the Reformation gotten well under way, like a steam roller, it crushed under its impact many who had aided Luther in his efforts. Among these were Anabaptists whose lineage runs back to apostolic days and from whom came many Baptists to America in the seventeenth century.
Therefore the true Baptist in America have lineal descent from the church founded by Christ Himself during His personal ministry on earth. This is the true church line across the centuries back to Christ. Any believer in Christ, whether or not he is in this church line, may be saved, but without one’s identifying himself with this line he cannot receive Scriptural baptism, for the authority to baptize was invested in the church line beginning with the one in existence in Christ’s day (Matt. 28:19,20), and has been perpetuated in this line across the centuries. The disciples whom Paul found at Ephesus, who had been baptized without Scriptural authority, were baptized again after he had taught them the truth about salvation and baptism (Acts 19:1-5). You may have been baptized by someone, but unless you have been baptized by divine authority vested in a church whose lineage goes back to the days of Christ, you do not have Scriptural baptism. In this event, then, you should, if you are saved, submit yourself for Scriptural baptism.
So the old Ship of Zion sail on forever, despite fire, dungeon and the sword! Even the wholesale slaughter of the faithful witnesses of Christ failed to shove them into the “gates of hell.”
“Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18).