Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Vision (9/9/10): What is a Church?

Image:  CRBC Lord's Day Fellowship Meal, February 2010

Recently I have been reading James M. Renihan’s very stimulating book Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists 1675-1705 (Paternoster, 2008). This book is a study of how early Reformed (Particular) Baptists functioned. In one section Renihan surveys various definitions that some early Baptist Pastor-Theologians gave for a “church.” Here are a few (some punctuation altered):

Hercules Collins (c. 1646-1702) said a church is:

A society of persons called out of the world, or their natural worldly state, by the administration of the Word and Spirit, into the obedience of faith or the knowledge of the worship of God in Christ, joined together in a holy bond, or by special agreement for the exercise of the communion of the saints and due observance of all the ordinances of the gospel.

Benjamin Keach (c. 1640-1704) offered this definition:

A Church of Christ, according to the gospel-institution, is a congregation of godly Christians, who as a stated-assembly (being first baptized upon the profession of faith) do by mutual agreement and consent give themselves up to the Lord, and one to another, according to the will of God; and do ordinarily meet together in one place, for the public service and worship of God; among whom the Word of God and sacraments are duly administered, according to Christ’s institution.

And Hanserd Knollys (1599-1691) gave this definition:

A true, visible constituted Church of Christ under the gospel is a congregation of saints (1 Cor 12); called out of the world (Rom 1:7); separated from idols and idol temples (2 Cor 6:16, 17), from the unbelieving Jews and their synagogues and all legal observations of holy days, Sabbath days, and Mosaical rites, ceremonies, and shadows (Acts 19:9; Col 2:26. 27); and assembled together in one place (1 Cor 14:23) on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) to worship God visibly by the Spirit and in truth (John 4:23, 24) in the holy ordinances of God (1 Cor 11:2) according to the faith and order of the gospel (Col 2:5).

As we move forward in our process of particularizing as a distinct local church, let us meditate on what a church is supposed to be.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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